Mar 27, 2011
Chefs' TOP TIPS
LifeStyle teases out 10 cooking tips from five chefs.
1 How do you minimise odours when frying fish in the kitchen?
Chef Devagi says: Boil a pot of water with lemon and orange peel, unwanted parts of lemongrass, or smashed ginger and keep it bubbling as you fry the fish. The vapour will help dissipate the fishy smell.
2 How do you cut onions without crying?
To prevent tearing, chef Leong recommends cutting onions in half and soaking them in iced water for five minutes before dicing them.
Another way is to store the onions in the refrigerator. Onions release a volatile vapour when they are cut, which is what causes the tears; keeping the onions cold retards the release of the vapour.
Oon has a simple solution: Cut the onions such that the side you are cutting faces away from you.
3 How do you tenderise beef?
Chef Devagi suggests using pineapple, grated green papaya or mashed kiwi fruit. The natural fruit enzymes help break down the meat fibres, making the meat more tender, she says.
Alternatively, buy tender cuts such as fillet and tenderloin, and always cut against the grain, recommends Oon, who favours the ribeye.
4 How do you tell if an egg is fresh?
Put the egg in a glass of room- temperature water, says chef Chan.
If the egg is fresh, it will sink to the bottom. If it is stale, it will float.
Adds chef Chan: 'Stale eggs have air inside them, which causes them to float, or sink slowly.'
He also looks at the texture of the egg white. If the white is thick and does not separate from the yolk, it is fresh.
5 Why and how do you use toasted spices?
Singapore's humid weather causes spices, such as cumin seeds and cardamom pods for making curry powder or pastes, to become damp. Chef Sovani recommends toasting spices in a dry pan which removes the moisture and in turn helps release its flavours. Spices to be cooked in hot oil need not be toasted.
6 How do you cook vegetables with thick stalks without overcooking them?
Leafy vegetables with thick stems, such as kai lan, often take longer to blanch or poach. Chef Leong's trick is to add a smidgen of soda bicarbonate into the boiling water before adding in the vegetables. This keeps the leaves green and helps to soften the stems, without the need to boil the vegetables for an extended period of time.
7 How do you get rid of garlic odour from your fingers?
Chef Devagi recommends rubbing a cut lemon over your hands. The acidic juices will help remove the odour. Another option is to wash your hands in milk, she says.
8 How do you prevent your fingers from turning orange when peeling turmeric?
To remove the bright orange stain from turmeric root, wash your hands with lime or vinegar. If dealing with turmeric powder, make sure your hands are dry and use a teaspoon where possible, chef Devagi advises.
9 How do you tell when the oil is hot enough for deep-frying?
Put a small piece of bread in the oil to check if it is hot enough. The bread should puff up and rise to the surface immediately.
Oon says: 'The bread should be bubbling at the sides with little droplets of hot oil all around it.'
10 How do you store fresh herbs in the refrigerator?
Chef Leong wraps fresh herbs such as coriander, parsley and spring onions in newspaper, and stores them in the chiller.
The newspaper-wrapped herbs may look slightly limp when you take them out of the fridge. Chef Leong suggests soaking them in some iced water - they will spring back to life.
To ensure that these herbs last longer, soak them in cold water for 10 minutes before storing in the fridge. You should trim and dry the herbs thoroughly with kitchen paper towels, and place the herbs in a zip-lock bag or plastic container. They should stay fresh for about four days.
This is the start of an occasional series.