And what is a ham yue ching yok peng, you ask? It’s a meat patty flavoured with fermented fish. For those of you who haven’t immediately closed this blog, I’ll continue to give the recipe. It’s a pretty easy thing to make and if, like me, you are crazy about all things fermented, preserved or pickled, you will LOVE these things. They are traditionally make with pork, but they are just as delicious with minced chicken. We mince our own pork and chicken (I hear some of my friends say: “But of course you do!”) and if you have a mincer attachment to your Kitchenaid or whatever you are using, it’s really easy to make. We mince a few kilos, put 500g into freezer bags, flatten the mince out evenly and then use a ruler to divide them into two and presto! Now you can easily break off portions of 250g without defrosting the whole half kilo and save bags into the bargain!
Before you start thinking about making this, you will unfortunately need to find the right fish. This is not simply salted dried fish, but the more funky fermented variety. I forgot to take a picture of my bottle, so I just stole this one from the net. It doesn’t need to be tenggiri, any firm oily fish will be fine. I get mine from a little dry goods shop on Jalan Tun HS Lee and guess what? They have a website and will deliver: https://www.chaihuathin.com/ They have a whole load of other handy things you need to cook Chinese food proper like and they speak English are mostly cheerful and helpful, which any pink person can attest is not always the case when there are communication problems (pink person’s fault for not speaking the lingo, of course).
If you are mincing your own chicken, mince it with the skin on and if you can find chicken fat, add some in for good measure and pass it once through the medium blade. If you are mincing pork, use half leg and half belly and pass both once through the largest blade. Now, friends, do not start mincing 250g of anything. It’s a waste of time and the wastage left in the machine may well be 30% of the total you stick into it. Make it a kilo. Believe me, you won’t regret the work that goes into it. Store bought mince is mostly wet and sloppy, flooding your pan with liquid. Homemade mince will not do that at all!
For the cakes:
- 250g roughly minced pork or chicken
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 pinch salt
- white pepper
- 1 pinch baking soda
- 1 Tbsp rice wine
- 2 tsp corn starch
- 1 Tbsp water
- 15g finely diced ginger
- 25g chopped spring onion
- 20g cilantro stalks, cut into small rounds
- 2 water chestnuts, finely diced (optional)
- 35g salted fermented fish
Salt the meat very lightly. Your fish is really salty, so prudence is advised. I use the stalks of my cilantro and finely diced water chestnut for crunch, but sometimes the chestnut is hard to find, so I just chuck in a little more stalk. Take the fish out of its oil and scrape off all the meat, leaving the hard center bone for the cat (not recommended unless you don’t like your cat very much). This is messy work, but if like me you like the fish right out of the jar, licking your fingers can be rewarding.
Mix all the ingredients and vigorously stir it all together with a wooden spoon. I dissolve my corn starch in the water before adding it, but that’s not strictly necessary. You will notice the texture change and become more gluey as you beat the thing. That’s what you want. If you’re lazy, you can beat it with the blade attachment in the bowl of a mixer on low for two minutes, but I find it isn’t worth all the cleaning up you’ll have to do. Portion your meat into 8 – 10 meatballs and stock them into the chiller until you need them, but at least half an hour.
For the coating:
- 5 Tbsp plain flour
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 pinch of salt
- a little white pepper
Beat the eggs in one flat plate and salt and pepper them lightly and put your flour into another flat plate. Heat a generous amount of oil in a pan. Roll each meatball in flour, then egg and then once more in flour. The mix is quite soft, so this can get a bit messy. I do this just before frying, because the things tend to stick if you don’t drop them into the oil right away. If you want to make this in advance, you can give each patty a quick fry in hot oil and them keep them and refry, or even deep fry them before serving.
Here’s another piece of great news: These things are as good cold as hot, so make smaller ones for snacks. They are perfect with a cold beer on a hot day, which here is pretty much every day here in Malaysia.