Monday, 3 September 2012

Back to Basics - Post #1 : Onion Braised Chicken and Steamed Tofu

Just last week a friend who follows my blog commented "Esther, can you post some really super duper easy recipes for busy working mothers like us, who come home from work already half brain dead, but still want to serve something nice for the family".  She called these the "no-brainer" recipes.  Something that can be whipped up in less than 30minutes. 

I said "Sure can!".  Boy, do i remember those days when i was in their shoes.  I would come home from work physically and mentally drained, but still eager to cook something simple and nutritious for the family.

So to all full time working mothers, the next few posts and recipes are dedicated to you.  I called these the Back to Basics series - no frill recipes that are extremely easy to prepare, nutritious, do not require those "I-only-used-these-once-in-a-blue-moon" kinda ingredients, and very importantly, kid friendly (I am a firm believer in having our children eat as much of what is served on the dinner table as possible). 

Not all recipes here can be whipped up in 2 minutes in the wok - some are braising recipes that take about 20min, which is fine coz it gives time for the rice to cook and for the chef (you) to have a quick shower and relax before dinner time. That works too, doesn't it?

I hope these recipes will add to a wider repertoire in your regular dinner menu and give you more ideas for future recipes.  Most importantly, your family will enjoy these recipes and appreciate the effort you put in :)

Initially I thought of just posting one recipe per post, but these recipes are so simple, and I know there are mommies who are uncomfortable serving just one dish on the table (something to do with our upbringing or it is culture?  As long as I can remember, my mom never fails to put at least 3 dishes on the table in all our family meals!).  So I have decided to do a twin posting - two recipes per post - a combination of either meat with veg or seafood, or meat / seafood with quick soup (not long boil soups) or simply a one-pot-all. 

To kick-start things are two simple and delicious dishes.  Firstly the Onion Braised Chicken.  This recipe came about on a day when all I had in the entire kitchen were three big onions, some sad looking garlic bulbs and some chicken drumsticks.  In moments like these, one improvised.  And what came out was a delicious, hearty pot of braised chicken with a robust flavour of onions.  It was actually very yummy, and we happily ate it all with hot steamed rice. 

The second dish is a simple Steamed Tofu with Dried Krill and Baby Whitebait. This is such a homey and easy dish I am sure some of you will already be cooking this.  I used krill and whitebait in this recipe, but really, the options for topping are endless - you can use dried shrimps, salted fish, shredded scallops (yum!), or even as simple as plain fried garlic and oyster sauce (nothing wrong with that).  I prefer to serve this hot as my little boy will also be eating, so I like to pop this into the rice cooker at the last 5 minutes to heat it up.

Onion Braised Chicken

  • 6 large chicken drumsticks - keep the skin on as it retains the moisture in the meat, you can discard it when eating)
  • 3 large onions, sliced
  • 1/2 bulb of garlic, smashed, skin removed
  • 3/4 tblsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp shaoxing wine
  • 2 tsp oyster sauce
  • Generous pinch of white pepper and freshly grounded black pepper
  • 4 tblspn water

1.  Choose a casserole that you can cook and serve to table - corningware is the best.  Pour the water into the casserole, add in the sesame oil, soy sauce, shaoxing wine, all the seasonings, onion and garlic.  Bring to a boil.

2.  Add in the chicken drumsticks and coat evenly with the sauce mixture.  Bring to another boil, turn down the fire and let simmer for 20min or until cooked.

3.  Stir once or twice to prevent the bottom from being burnt.  There should be quite a bit of gravy in the pot.  If it is a bit too watery, remove the cover, turn up the fire a little and let the gravy evaporate a little to thicken it.  Adjust the taste with some salt if preferred.  Serve with steam rice.

Steamed Tofu with Dried Krill and Baby Whitebait

  • 1 packet of silken tofu
  • 2 tbs of dried krill
  • 2 tbs of baby whitebait
  • 2 pips of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 tbs of soy sauce
  • 1 tsp of sesame oil
  • 1 tsp of normal cooking oil

1. Rinse the dried krill and baby whitebait
2. Heat both oil and fry the krill, whitebait and garlic until crispy and golden, set aside
3. Remove the tofu from the packaging, put it in a steam proof dish and drain the excess liquid
4. Pop the tofu into the rice cooker in the last 5 minutes to steam (or steam in the wok for 3 min)
5. When the rice is cooked, remove the steamed tofu and poured away the excess liquid.  Pour the crispy topping on top of the tofu, drizzle with the soy sauce and serve.

Note: If you intend to cook the above dishes for the same meal, then choose a casserole that you can cook and serve.  Fry the toppings for the tofu first, set aside, then use the same casserole to cook the chicken.  Serve the chicken in the same casserole.  This way you save time, and there's one less wok/cooking pot to wash ;)


  1. Hi Esther, thanks for sharing. I am always looking for easy recipes as well! Love these home cooked style food.

  2. At one time, I also posted lots of easy recipes cos of my cousins went to study in UK and she kept asking me what can she cook in the kitchen, cos she rarely cooks in KL.

    My kids eat porridge most of the days, supplemented by some of the vege and meat from our dinner. So it is important that we eat well too.

    1. Totally agree Yen. What we eat is the basis of what our kids eat. If we love soft drinks, our kids will love em too :p heehee. I like ur dinner meals, so much variety.

  3. Hi you think it's ok to replace the chicken drumstick with pork ribs? Will it still be the same?

    1. H Woon Sim, yes can use pork ribs but they take longer to get soft, so you will need to cook them longer.

    2. I think I'll give it a try...OH NO !! You have so many recipes that I want to try !!

    3. Hahaha, no worries, i hope you will like this one, pork ribs will be very nice.

  4. Simple and delicious meals are what I love. Am looking forwards to more of such recipes from you.

  5. Hi Esther, both the dish look delicious and very appetizing. I love the steamed tofu. Yours look so tempting....yum yum

    Have a nice week ahead.

  6. Hi Esther,

    Your chicken dish and steam tofu look amazing!!! I like steam tofu but never cook for just myself because my husband and son didn't like tofu but I believe the delicious tofu toppings on your steamed tofu will make them change their minds :D

    Glad that I found your blog and I'm now your latest follower :D


    1. Zoe, thanks! Glad you like the recipes, hope you get the chance to try them ya :)

  7. good morning esther, nice to know you! Thnks for coming by my blog on the tau foo fah post. hope one day you will also be making TFF at home. Both of these are very comforting dishes and yes, we like easy cooking. I hvnt tried drill krills on the steamed tofu, thnks for the idea! have a good day!

    1. Lena, thanks for dropping by. I undstand from our blogger friends that you are also Perakian, ipoh or taiping yes? Me also got ipoh and taiping ties :) i would love to try making tff one day, it is my absolute #1 fav dessert.

  8. Hi Esther! I'm in their shoes too. With children's activities everyday, I need fast 30 mins cooking for dinner! The braised chicken has flavor that my kids like, and oh boy the soft and sweetened onion in the sauce is something I enjoy along with this chicken too! Delicious recipe!!! And tofu is great - very nutritious fulfilling menus!

    1. Yes, busy fulltime housewife mummies like us are defintely included :) you are right Nami, the sweetness of the onions is what makes this chicken dish stands out. It actually reminds me of something similar to the western onion soup, with chicken !

  9. thanks for sharing.


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