Jan 27, 2014

Senoko Fishery Port & Fish to Scale & Gut

We wandered over to Senoko Fishery Port one fine midnight to buy seafood – flash-frozen fish, big ol’ prawns and slimy squid.

The haul was for Chinese New Year (the Chinese version of Christmas without religious undertones & oversights) where food, food and gut-bursting food is the norm.

Source: Facebook Friends (like I’ll tell you)

My Haul: 1 kg of Tiger prawns, 1 small parrot fish

What I wanted to get out of it wasn’t just relatively fresh and relatively cheaper seafood. I wanted to scale, gut and prepare a fish from scratch.

Preparing a Fish

Simple 3-step process: scale, gut, and keep.

Images taken from the web.

Scale the Fish

Get a fish scale scrapper and run it against the scales to pull them off the fish. Do it all over the fish – head, tail, body, everywhere. You’ll know when it’s done when the fish is smooth all over to touch.

This is the messiest  step. I do it outdoors now especially after I clogged up the sink with fish scales.

Gut the Fish

Not for the squeamish. It gets bloody here. I’ve outlined the steps below:

  1. Remove the gills
    Lift the side flaps on the fish’s head, grab a hold of the gills and yank them out.
  2. Slit the fish along the belly
    Use a short and sharp knife. Cutting through the skin and belly requires effort. Place your hand above the fish, press down on it, and commence slicing. Make sure that your fingers are nowhere near the cutting zone.
  3. Open up the fish and pull out its guts
    Basically reach in and pull out the intestines, liver, ballast pouch etc. I use pliers as it can get slippery. Essentially you’d want a clean, hollowed out fish.
  4. Scrape out the blood residue
    Use a knife or point of a chopper to scrape out the now clotting blood. This helps to reduce the fishy smell and taste. Clean throughly with water.

Keep the Fish

If you’re not using the fish now, sprinkle a little salt inside and outside of the fish, and freeze it.

Now that’s how we scale, gut, and clean a fish.

Jan 20, 2014

Food Experiment #6: Porchetta (aka Roast Pork Belly)

Zedy and I saw images of Porchetta (like the one below), and we couldn’t get it out of our heads or bellies, for the matter.

Porchetta (Roast Pork Belly) - from Iamafoodblog
Source: Iamafoodblog

As true foodies, we thought: “Let’s make one Porchetta and eat one Porchetta.” Off we went searching for recipes and decided on this really nice step-by-step recipe from Kenji of Serious Eats.

It turned out pretty OK. And we finished it all… At least I think my dinner guests weren’t humouring me.

You’ll Need These Ingredients:

  • 2 kg of pork belly (remove the hairs on the skin and wash the entire belly in salt water)

For the Marinade

  • 3 tablespoon of peppercorns (it don’t matter if they’re white or black) 
  • 5 tablespoon of fennel seeds  
  • 7 chillies
  • 10 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 handful of thyme
  • Lots of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda

Instructions and “Did it Work?”

1. Make the Marinade

Toast the peppercorns and fennel seeds. Once it turns brown and smells toasty, chuck the lot into a blender (or mortar and pestle) and grind them up into powder.

Porchetta (Roast Pork Belly) - peppercorns & fennel seeds

Mince up garlic, chilli and thyme.

Porchetta (Roast Pork Belly) - Garlic and chilli Porchetta (Roast Pork Belly) - Thyme

Put the minced garlic, chilli, thyme and peppercorn-fennel seed powder on separate plates.

2. Preparing the Roast

Put the pork belly skin-side up.

Stab into it with a sharp knife or scissors. This helps to make the skin crispy – at least that’s what my dad says and that’s what the roast meats guy says too. It’s not easy and it feels like I’m stabbing into rubber.

Once done, flip the belly so it’s meat-side up.

Now slice into the  meat in diagonal lines, rotate it, then slice it again in diagonal lines so that you get diamond-shaped cuts on the meat. Try as much as possible to cut into the meat until it reaches the fat. 

Now the meat’s prepped.

3. Marinade the Roast

All the chilli, garlic, thyme and peppercorn-fennel mix that was ground up earlier now comes in play. Don’t go lightly on the seasoning, I find that heavily-seasoned meats tend to get better taste results.

Porchetta (Roast Pork Belly) - After marinating with garlic, chilli, peppercorn-fennel seeds, Thyme (close up)

Keeping the pork belly meat-side up, we scatter and rub the spices into the meat and the grooves in this order:

  1. Lots of salt
  2. Garlic
  3. Chilli
  4. Peppercorn-fennel mix
  5. Thyme

The end result looks like a run-over chia pet.

Porchetta (Roast Pork Belly) - After marinating with garlic, chilli, peppercorn-fennel seeds, Thyme

Once happy with chia-ing the meat, roll up the pork belly.

I tie up the belly in the middle, then tie up the sides at regular intervals. I like to keep rolls contained within itself, but slicing the meat means that some of the pork loin will spill out on the ends. To rectify it, I tied up the meat lengthwise too.

Porchetta (Roast Pork Belly) - Front view

Porchetta (Roast Pork Belly) - Tied Lengthwise

Final step before the refrigeration, mix 2 tablespoons of salt with the baking soda and rub it liberally onto the pork roll. Wrap the roll with clingwrap and leave it in the fridge overnight.

4. Roast it! 

Take out the rolled pork belly. Leave it on the table for 1 hour to let it come to room temperature first.

I chucked it into the oven for 160C at 3 hours to slow cook the insides. Watching it spin around and around in the oven is mesmerising. At this point in time, the pork belly looks and feels hard but spongy to touch.

Once the bell goes “DING!”, crank up the heat to 250C for 30 min to cackle the skin and give it a brown all-over colour.

Porchetta (Roast Pork Belly) - After Roasting, Top View

After roasting, take it out and sit it for 10 min under an aluminium foil tent.

Once 10 min has gone by, start carving the roast into thick, stuff-your-face-in slices. The trick here isn’t to cut from the top (aka the skin) as it’ll break off into shards of cackling. What I did was to flip it so that it faces meat-side up and cleave it into slices.

This keeps the skin intact like the picture below.

Porchetta (Roast Pork Belly) - After cutting


I’m glad that I experimented with the Roast Pork Belly on a smaller scale before this big-ass roll. I shouldn’t have removed the strings before the final roast cackling. That’s why this Porchetta looks flatter than the usual rolled up version.

Otherwise, succcess!

Jan 9, 2014

Sleep Deprivation Screws You Over… No Shit (Or I Look Like a Panda!!!)

This explanatory infographic from Huffington Post shows what happens if you don’t get enough sleep.

Scary stuff. That’s why I’m sticking to my 8 hours and screw-you-whoever-gets-in-my-way!

Source: Huffington Post

Jan 3, 2014

Food Experiment #5: Si Beh Slow Roast Lamb & Mint Jelly

My dad bought a massive leg of lamb to roast. So why not a freakin’ slow roast lamb for New Year’s Dinner. Buoyed by my earlier success with lamb, I decided to keep it simple and cook  it for 8 hours as directed by Andew McConnell (src: Gourmet Traveller).


Oddly enough, it’s not as tender as the earlier recipe…but I’m getting ahead of myself. Onwards foodie folks!

You’ll Need These Ingredients:

  • 1 leg of lamb, 4 lbs. (I used boneless), tied
  • 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (I used cumin powder)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 teaspoon sea salt

For the Mint Jelly

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1½ cups firmly packed mint leaves
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons gelatine, dissolved in ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup chopped mint leaves, extra

Instructions and “Did it Work?”

1. Make the Spice Rub

Do I really have to go through this?… Alright, crack the peppercorns and  toss it with the cumin, garlic and salt.


2. Marinade the Roast

Stab into the lamb. I mean it. Stab deep and long into the trussed up lamb leg. Stab it like you got a vendetta to spare. Because you’re supposed to rub the tossed-up spice mix onto the lamb and into those nice clean holes.

Done with stabbing and rubbing?

Cover and leave in the fridge overnight.

3. Make the Mint Jelly

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, mint leaves, vinegar and water. Bring to boil on high, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat. Simmer for 10 minutes. Stir dissolved gelatine through. Strain, discarding mint leaves. Pour hot mixture into sterilised jars.



Allow to cool until thickening, stir extra fresh chopped mint through.

Seal well. Chill until required. (src: NineMSN)


4. Roast it! 

My reference recipe calls for roasting covered with foil for 2 hours in the oven at 160C. Reduce to 100C and roast for another 5 hours. Remove the foil and roast for 1 hour at 100C.

That’s a total of 8 hours!


After roasting, take it out and give it 10 min of sitting time under an aluminium tent.

Once 10 min has gone by, start carving the roast into thick, stuff-your-face-in slices.



Not as tender as my previous food experiment Mechoui Lamb and lacking the spiced flavour, but  it’s bursting with muttonly goodness and crust of fat made it worthwhile.

Went surprisingly well with the tart Mint Jelly. I think I’ll slow roast it without the foil next time.

Almost success!

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