Saturday, March 22, 2008

Ba Kui or Foochow Rice Sticks

One very special food of the Foochows is the White Rice Cake which is sliced and fried with an assortment of garlic,slices of pork, prawns,eggs and leeks. It used to be served only during the Chinese New Year. But today in Sibu, fried ba kui or white rice cakes ,is available throughout the year.

Most Foochow women can make the White Rice Cake from scratch. The recipe is quite simple to follow and each cake is about half an inch thick and 3 inches in diameter. The cakes are steamed and are then ready for slicing. The slices are then fried with the other ingredients. Sesame oil is a must for this dish.

The freshly made White Rice Cakes are available in the wet market in Sibu. All one needs to do is buy them, take them home and slice them. They will be ready for frying. If you know someone who can make them, it is even better as you would then have a good deal, as good home made White Rice Cakes are precious items.

If fresh rice cakes are not available, you can buy the dried type , usually important from Fuzhou, China. They are now available in the better supermarkets throughout Malaysia.

When I was a young bride I was very interested in making this bak gui from scratch but unfortunately I did not know anyone who would want to share the recipe, even at a price. Recipe books were also not easily obtainable in Sibu. So I tried many times to make the rice sticks. Each time I failed, I had to turn the recipe into something else in a creative way...most of the time they became tang yuan or glutinous rice balls. It was a good thing I used only a handful of rice flour.

Almost thirty years later I met a very nice lady, the late Kim Hua, a cook in the Miri General Hospital. She was so kind to me that she not only taught me to make the bak gui,but also a few other traditional dishes. I cannot thank her enough.

The secret lies in a cup of very hot water. I will let you know in another posting.

Here's the recipe for cooking the rice sticks. (for 2 persons)
1. Soak 25 - 30 rice sticks or less overnight for 2 person.
2. When soft and ready to cook, mix the rice sticks with a bit of sesame oil and salt, steam them for about 10 minutes or until soft.
3. The Sauce: 4 pips garlic, chopped finely
4 -5 pieces of spring onions
2 tablespoons of thick soy sauce.
1 tablespoons of sugar
2 eggs - beaten
10 prawns shelled and deveined
4 leeks - sliced thinly
pepper to taste
80 gms of sliced pork
(optional - 2 pieces of Chinese sausages,
sliced very thinly)
some water mixed with a teaspoon of corn starch

4. Just before your meal,
fry the garlic in two tablespoons of sesame oil
add chinese sausages, pork,and then prawns
next throw in the leeks, stir fry quickly.
add the steamed rice sticks,stir fry the ingredients quickly.Add some water
add the beaten eggs and cover the pan for about two minutes to let the eggs settle.
Take the cover off the pan, add soy sauce, sugar and pepper. Give it a quick little stir.
Add the spring onions finally. Stir again.

The dish is ready for serving. White pepper powder is one of the secrets of Foochow cooking.

The rice sticks can replace any pasta . Use the sauce of any pasta recipe and it will taste just as good. We use a lot of these rice sticks because many of my relatives are not encouraged to eat yellow noodles or yew mien medically. And it is a very convenient substitute.

Enjoy the dish!!

Note : It is called Fried Bak Kuih, or Fried Ba Guo if you cannot read Chinese(depending on the dialect of the stall owner) Do not confuse this with another kind of Bak Guo which is Gingko, a famous nut which can give one a longer life.

You can always replace the nonhalal meat with halal chicken or beef and it will taste just as nice. Use more pepper and add chillies too. This dish is not just for the Foochows. It is for all who love food.

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