THE most popular menu item at any wedding and festive banquet is the four season platter that is served at the start of the course meal.
The platter is divided into four quadrants and generally contains something raw, something fried, something steamed and something boiled.
The dish in the fried quadrant that I always look forward to is the Chinese chicken roulade which is wrapped in beancurd skin and split open to reveal a sunset-red salted egg yolk in the centre.
My colleague says it is almost like a luxury version of the lor bak, with the constellations of earth, sun and moon held within each appetising morsel. The seasoning for the chicken is essentially the same as for lor bak, so her analysis is quite accurate.
Preparing this dish turned out to be fairly simple. The only time-consuming component was peeling the water chestnuts. You just have to make sure that all the black skins are removed and try to maintain a round shape for the “moon”.
I made the mistake of buying exactly eight salted eggs for the recipe and ended up with two spoiled ones, so two of the roulades did not have egg yolks. When buying the eggs, give them a gentle shake to ensure the yolks have solidified during the brining process.
Some recipes call for the egg yolks to be steamed separately before assembly, which will result in a fluffier yolk. It also means that it is prone to crumbling while being handled. I opted to assemble the roulade with the uncooked yolk, because I know I’m not gentle in the kitchen, and it turned out well.
The coating of minced parsley on the egg yolk added an interesting halo around it that contributed to the flavour. I feel it cuts down the sulfuric taste associated with eggs.
I saved a bit of salted egg white to use as seasoning for the chicken and the batter. Because the saltiness may vary, dip a finger into the egg white to taste the salt level before adding to your seasoning.
Also beware of the saltiness of dried oysters. Soaking it in water removes most of the salt but that has to be taken into account when seasoning the batter.
I happened to get circular beancurd skin that had been imported from Hong Kong.
I folded it into a quarter and cut along the folded lines. Then fold it again into wedge and cut the whole stack on the folded line.
If using local beancurd skin, cut into nine rectangles with one extra if you are making eight roulades.
These roulades can be prepared ahead of time and cooled completely after steaming. It may also be stored in the freezer at this stage, and fried directly without thawing out when needed.
Serve immediately after frying while still crispy, with mayonnaise for a dip. It may be enjoyed on its own as an appetiser or for your Chinese New Year reunion dinner.
Salted egg chicken roulade
2 pieces chicken chop
2 sheets nori (seaweed)
8 salted egg yolks
1 stalk Chinese parsley (kan choy) finely minced
8 dried oysters
8 water chestnuts
1 sheet beancurd skin
3 cups cooking oil for frying
½ tsp five-spice powder
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1 tbsp garlic, finely minced
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp salted egg white to taste
4 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp cooking oil
2 tbsp salted egg white to taste
½ cup cold water
Remove bones and joints from the chicken chops and cut each chop into four pieces. Pound each chicken piece with a mallet or the back of a cleaver until flattened. Season with marinade for at least 30 minutes.
Soak oysters in cold water for about 30 minutes, then drain and set aside.
Roll the salted egg yolks in minced parsley and set aside.
Peel the water chestnuts and set aside.
Cut the nori sheets into quarters and set aside. Combine all the batter ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Cut a circular beancurd skin into eight wedges, or a rectangular beancurd skin into nine rectangles (one extra) and set aside.
To assemble, prepare all the components and place them within reach.
Brush the beancurd skin with batter and place a piece of chicken on one end of the skin. Place a piece of cut nori on the chicken, then arrange a yolk in the centre with a water chestnut and an oyster on each side. Wrap the chicken together with the beancurd skin into a tight roll.
Steam roulades over boiling water for 10 minutes until cooked, then cool until the steam dries out and the skin tightens as it shrinks. Deep fry in hot oil until light golden and crispy. Cut each roulade into two pieces length-wise to reveal the filling.
Serve immediately as an appetiser or part of the main course.