Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Three Cup Chicken (3 Cup Chicken)

Three Cup Chicken or 3 Cup Chicken (Chinese: 三杯雞) is one of the most authentic Taiwan food that truly represents Taiwan culinary. Three cup chicken literally means using 3 cups of sauce or condiments to cook the chicken, that's how the name came by.

We decided to cook Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞) today because we really love the taste and secondly, our basil has grown to a healthy length. So it's time to harvest our leaves of labour!

Little Frederic Fox grabs a huge scissors to cut the basil. Gardening is not our forte but we read here that you're supposed to cut these kind of plants with a scissors. If you pluck it, it won't grow. Sounds familiar isn't it?

Basil abhors the hot sun and adores the rain, the leaves have shrunken as a result of the high afternoon temperature, its normal don't worry. On a rainy day, the basil will look very energetic!

Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞) and basil, what is the link between them you might wonder. If you're from Taiwan, you definitely know what's going on. So for those who doesn't know, basil which they call 九層塔 in Chinese is one of the core ingredients for cooking Three Cup Chicken. You will be overwhelmed by the aromatic basil taste in this authentic Taiwan delicacy.

Also if you have noticed, this type of basil (九層塔) looks different from the usual sweet basil you see in Italian food. Taste wise they are almost the same, sweet basil is the ex-owner of the pot that this current basil is growing now but it could not survive the warm weather near the equator. This type of basil (九層塔) however can survive well in this all summer country as long as you give it lots of rain.

Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞) ingredients are as follows:

1 whole piece of boneless chicken leg (thigh+drumstick) 2 inch diced
5 stalks of fresh basil (九層塔)
3 stalks of green spring onion 2 inch length
4-5 slices of ginger
4-5 cloves of garlic whole peeled
2 tablespoons of sesame oil
2 tablespoons of sugar
4 tablespoons of soy sauce
8 tablespoons of white rice wine

Let's introduce you the 3 cups for cooking the Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞). The first cup would be white rice wine. Taiwan cuisine cannot live without rice wine, they literally cook every dish with rice wine. However it's not so popular here in Singapore nor Malaysia so there weren't many choices to buy from.

The second cup of Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞) is soy sauce. This is the main contributor to the saltiness of the Three Cup Chicken, so I would advise getting a high quality soy sauce like this one or any expensive ones.

In Three Cup Chicken - the third cup and final would be sesame oil. Many people actually have a misunderstanding that Three Cup Chicken means adding one cup each for the rice wine, soy sauce and sesame oil. That is wrong, it would be too salty and oily. Our recommended ratio is 1:2:4 sesame oil : soy sauce : rice wine respectively. Sugar's portion is also 1 please take note.

The best thing about homegrown vegetables is they are the real deal of organic vegetables, some simple washing will do. Now pluck the basil leaves out from the stalk, the stalk is too hard to be eaten.

Remember we taught you before to always remove the chicken skin and set it aside for frying chicken oil? You better! Okay now, par boil the chicken cubes for about 30 seconds in boiling water. This is to get rid of any foul blood smell from the chicken. The better way would be either deep frying it until it's crispy and dry or soaking it in medium low oil. We opted for boiling as oil is expensive recently and it's the healthier choice.

Heat up the pan real well, until you see smoke coming out from the sides. Put the chicken skin into the empty hot pan to fry until the oil comes out and the skin turns brown.

On the other side of your stove, slowly heat up the claypot in low heat. Be careful of heating an empty claypot, if you set the heat too high it will crack. We usually add some water inside for it to boil until dry to prevent cracking.

Continuing on the frying pan on the other side, you can see you don't need to add any additional oil, it's all natural chicken oil and very fragrant. Now put these ingredients in this order - ginger first, then spring onion and garlic.

Now add the par boiled chicken, 4 tablespoons of soy sauce, 8 tablespoons of rice wine and 2 tablespoons of sugar in

Sugar gives the sauce a very nice brown color and it softens the saltiness of the soy sauce. Adding sugar is also a very authentic way of cooking Taiwan cuisine. Let the whole thing boil for about 5 minutes, lids covered would be better.

Add a tablespoon of sesame oil into the claypot. It is very hot now, so be careful.

Quickly add a portion of the basil leaves right after.

Transfer the chicken from the frying pan to the claypot. Now you can add another tablespoon of sesame oil spread it across the chicken.

Add the remaining basil leaves on top and you're almost done.

The final step would be adding an extra tablespoon (estimate) of rice wine on top of the closed claypot lid. The effect of adding this extra rice wine is, later when you open the lid, the sweet smell of the rice wine will explode right to your nose.

Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞) the authentic Taiwan cuisine is complete! Now give the claypot a nice stir, the smell of the basil would be rushing to your nose like streaming torrents. Frederic, you are one lucky NICI plush that gets to eat this 3 cup chicken with us!

You may visit our recipe page for the list of all the food we've cooked.
Its been a while since we posted any recipes. Hope you like today's Three Cup Chicken recipe!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Blue Jolly Mah (Jolly Mäh)

Blue Jolly Mah arrivesA blue Jolly Mah (Jolly Mäh) appears in NICI-Mania and other Jolly Mah sheep curiously gathers around to see this peculiar looking blue color Jolly Mah.

2 blue jolly mahNo one at NICI-Mania had seen this blue Jolly Mah sheep before as it is an extremely rare breed. Much to our surprise, there were 2 blue Jolly Mäh where we found it.

Jolly Mah cute round faceThe even bigger surprise is, out of the 2 blue Jolly Mah, one of which has a cute round face with eager eyes saying "Please bring me home". You are looking at him now, he is the one NICI-mania brought home.

flying jolly mah blueFlying blue Jolly Mah! Jolly Mäh is already super happy to have finally found a home as they have been around in the market at least 3 years ago.

That was the time where the NICI retailers in Singapore have a whole lot of Jolly Mah sitting and lying in all kinds of colors - white, black, blue, pink, grey. All of which were sold out pretty fast and never got restocked. It was a rainbow array of colors back then.

lying nici plüsch Jolly Mah blueIf you're searching for a blue Jolly Mah sitting plush, its almost impossible now unless you look for those fake ones from China. NICI-Mania was originally not a big fan of lying nici plüsch but this blue Jolly Mäh pretty much captured our heart.

sitting jolly mahSee, blue Jolly Mäh can be a sitting nici plüsch too! Look at how cute the way he sits.

jolly mah nici tagThe classic blue Jolly Mäh tag. This is the only one we have still in good condition. Our previous classic Jolly Mah tags are all crumpled and messed up because we did not cut it off and keep it nicely.

15cm jolly mah compareThis lying blue nici Jolly Mäh is 15cm but look how much bigger it is than the normal sitting 15cm Jolly Mäh plüsch. The face of blue Jolly Mah is clearly much bigger. Jolly Rosa: Why are you using me as reference?!

Jolly Mah brown and blueJomo the brown Jolly Mah and blue Jolly Mah are now the only 2 really rare nici plüsch here at NICI-Mania. 25cm sitting Jolly Jomo was found in Malaysia NICI shop which was also a huge surprise for us.

nici jolly mah blue with telecasterBlue Jolly Mah poses with a Telecaster. Because of his unique color, other Jolly Mah nici plüsch seems to be a little jealous of him. Our next mission, we hope to find a grey sitting Jolly Mah somewhere. If we can't find one, we would probably get one of the many lying grey Jolly Mah in Singapore.

As we mentioned earlier, there is one last blue jolly mah left, hurry down to Raffles City CNS to get it before its gone. Update: This post is about one month belated after we got this jolly mah, but the last one could still be there as it is not that popular. It also took us for about more than a month before we eventually decided to buy this blue sheep from the shop.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Growing Rosemary Plants - Rosemary Plant Care

Growing Rosemary Plants
Rosemary plant is an attractive evergreen shrub with needle-like leaves and brilliant blue flowers. Rosemary plants are also commonly used as ornamental plantings in the landscape. The flower part will probably never happen on our rosemary plant but this beautiful herb is noble not because of its aesthetics but because of its sublime fragrance for seasoning meat, especially lamb and beef. Growing rosemary plants is a simple gardening chore, they do not need much care. Rosemary plant can simply rely on the strong humid weather to survive, which is one of the specialty for countries here near the equator but apparently our rosemary doesn't exactly like the hot weather here. A few months ago, our rosemary plant almost died while we were cooking beef stew (dying rosemary plant picture here) but it somehow miraculously revived itself.

Strange as it may be, but we are not going to debate why our rosemary plant is still alive. The consistent rainy days in the past couple of months could be the main reason giving our rosemary plant  enough humid and moisture. Not until recently the weather is going through some drought period with extremely high temperatures which is not a good sign for our rosemary plant but we'll see how it grows.

Growing rosemary plants indoors is a big challenge as every rosemary plant loves sunlight, that is why you see our rosemary decided to start growing in another direction which is towards the sun.

Rosemary Plant Care
We are by all means no expert in growing rosemary plants but Jolly Liselle here is going to show you NICI-mania's Rosemary Plant Care 101.

Ingredients you will need:
1. Water in spray bottle
2. Organic fertilizers
3. Small shovel
4. Lots of sunlight
5. A caring heart

Jolly Liselle is now spraying some midst to the rosemary plant. Using a spray bottle ensures that we do not over-water as rosemary plant unlike basil, don't like to be flooded. Carefully spray a few times.

Organic sheep fertilizers are most recommended for growing plants that we eat, in this case the rosemary. Jolly Liselle is a nici sheep, so it is most perfect for her to give us some 100% natural and pure organic sheep fertilizers. 1..2..3...poop!

Liselle, one is not enough. Can you try harder for us?

poo poomp

Great job liselle!

Its definitely not Jolly Liselle's poop on the rosemary plant. Buy a pack of organic sheep fertilizers which cost $2-4 per pack. These organic sheep fertilizers are great for growing rosemary plants, it is a mandatory investment in rosemary plant care.

The plus side, these organic sheep fertilizers aren't very costly and you are only required to give it to your plant once every fortnightly (2 weeks) each time ranging from 3 to 10 pieces depending on the size of your plant. In our rosemary case we gave it 3. We have a big pot of basil plant and that gets 10 sheep fertilizers.

Next, Jolly Liselle adds some soil to cover up the fertilizers nicely.

Neatly fertilized rosemary plant

Who wants to play water gun with our nici sheep?
Liselle sprays some water on the newly added dry soil

Let's put more deco on our rosemary plant! We have jam and cookie here.
Garden pick selection from Daiso! Our favorite source for gardening materials.

Jolly Liselle picked the cookie to go with the teapot for the rosemary plant. Tea+cookie equates to a nice tea break, its a perfect match in heaven.

Rosemary Plant Care after notes:
Terra cotta pots are a good choice for rosemary plants, these pots allow the plant to dry out faster. The pot we use here came together with the rosemary plant when we bought it. Rosemary prefers to remain dry, so do not water them like you do with other plants; Water your them delicately with spray bottle when the soil is dry and allow the rosemary plant to dry out between watering intervals. Even indoors, rosemary plants require lots of light, so pick the perfect spot in your house.

Trimming Rosemary:
Trimming rosemary will help make a bushier plant. Herbs love being trimmed every now and then, especially plants like rosemary that is used for flavorings. The general rule for trimming rosemary is not to take more than one-third of the plant at any time and make the cut just above a leaf joint. Same concept applies to basil plant too. Always use a scissors, do not pluck your rosemary plant. They die if you pluck them, they grow more if you cut them.

Wonder where our rosemary plant is planted?

Hope you enjoyed our growing rosemary plant care edition with Jolly Liselle! She enjoyed it!