The Don’t Call Me Chef columnists make their own versions of food chain items. Four recipes included.
Fast food is called that for a reason – you line up, make and pay for your order, and you’ll have something to eat within minutes.
Recreating your favourite dishes from fast food chains at home is definitely a slower process, but what you will have is food that hasn’t been sitting around all day. Also, you’ll know exactly what went into the stuff that you make yourself.
That’s what we have tried to do here with fried chicken, coleslaw, apple pie and pretzels. If you’ve recreated a fast food dish you like at home, let us know by leaving a comment below.
By Ivy Soon
The only coleslaw I knew for the longest time was Colonel Sander’s version. It was only later when I was introduced to other types of coleslaw that I realised they don’t all come chopped coarsely and soaked in dressing.
Since then, I have enjoyed crunchy coleslaw made from roughly shredded cabbage and doused lightly in dressing. I also like how the Japanese do coleslaw with a rice vinegar dressing and sprinklings of roasted sesame.
But it’s still KFC’s coleslaw that I like best in all its sweet creaminess; it’s even better cold from the refrigerator. It never occurred to me to try making it at home, until now.
It turned out that there are many fans out there who have posted the recipe, and buttermilk seems to be a favourite “secret” ingredient. With a food processor to chop the cabbage and carrots, it’s also really quick to make and not that hard to replicate.
1 head of cabbage
1 small onion
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup buttermilk
¼ cup milk
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp sugar, or to taste
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Chop the cabbage, carrot and onion finely. Set aside.
Combine all the dressing ingredients and whisk well.
Pour dressing over the salad mixture, and mix well.
Refrigerate and serve after four hours or overnight.
NEXT: McDonald's apple pie
Pie-ning for more
By S. Indramalar
Many years ago, I got the chance to visit Hamburger University, the training institute of McDonald’s Corporation located in Oak Brook, Chicago in the US. It was on a media trip where the fast food suits briefed us on strategies – both business and culinary – that have made them so popular. Of course, no secrets were divulged even though we were taken into the “top secret” food laboratories where they put us to the test – eat three different servings of French Fries and pick out which one was theirs.
We ate a lot of fries that day but left none the wiser about how they achieve “just the right amount of crunch and salt” in their fries.
Wasted trip? Not quite. Those fries were tasty.
I am not a fast food fan. I’d rather eat a bowl of piping hot curry mee or a plate of hot ghee-thosai with coconut chutney. But, once in a while, I give in to my cravings – not for fries but McDonald’s Apple Pie. It’s really good.
I’ve baked conventional apple pies before but this was my first attempt at replicating Ronald’s fried hand pies. The filling was pretty easy to guess at but the big challenge was maintaining the crispiness of the pastry.
Right out of the wok my pies looked quite good: nice and golden and crispy too. However, after some time they lost some of that crunch. Perhaps I need to go back to Hamburger University, this time as a student.
ALMOST PERFECT APPLE PIE
makes 10 pies
4 red apples (I used Washington Reds)
1 tbsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp nutmeg powder
5 tbsp brown sugar
Puff pastry (store-bought)
Skin and core the apples and then cut them into 0.5cm cubes. In a small saucepan put in the apples, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. Add 2 tbsp of water, stir and cover. Leave to cook on low heat for about 10 minutes. Remove the cover and continue cooking until the liquid becomes thick and syrupy. Turn off the heat and leave to cool.
Cut the puff pastry sheets into four equal squares. Put a spoonful or two of the pie filling on the bottom half of the pastry square. Fold the top half over and press the edges close. Crimp the edges with a fork.
Place the pies in the fridge to harden slightly.
Fill a saucepan with about 5cm (2 inches) of oil. When the oil is hot, fry the pies one or two at a time. They should take about three to four minutes to cook. Remove when golden all over. Drain on paper towels and serve.
NEXT: KFC fried chicken
The failed KFC chicken project
By Melody L. Goh
Growing up, fast food was never welcome in our family because my mother, and sometimes my father, would cook all our meals daily. Buying fast food would just be a waste of money; my parents were also not big on burgers, hotdogs and fries mainly because of the lack of nutritional value in them.
The only fast food that was allowed in our home was Kentucky Fried Chicken, known today as simply KFC. Because of this, KFC is also pretty much the only fast food that I like as an adult, even though I no longer eat it.
For this month’s Don’t Call Me Chef project, I thought it would be interesting to try and replicate the taste and texture of the internationally famous fried chicken.
Scouring through endless online articles and recipes on how to get the “perfect” KFC taste, I realise that the reason it is such a difficult thing to replicate is because there is no single spice, seasoning or herb that stands out. The perfect combination of supposedly 11 herbs and spices create a signature flavour that has been Colonel Sanders’ secret formula for almost a century.
Also, I notice that almost all of the available recipes mention a single ingredient that is neither a spice nor an herb – monosodium glutamate (MSG). Could this be true? Did the good colonel actually use MSG in his recipe way back in the mid-1930s?
One useful article gave a list of tips for making the perfect fried chicken. Unfortunately, one of the tips mention that the only way you can confidently get your chicken to be as crisp and tender as KFC’s is to use a pressure fryer or a cast iron pan, which I do not have.
You can still use your regular pan or a heavy wok (a better option, actually) to make your chicken. Just remember to control the heat – the temperature of the oil should remain the same throughout the cooking process.
It may take some time but it will be worth it.
I may not have gotten the exact taste of KFC this time around, but at least I now know how to make proper deep fried chicken.
KFC-INSPIRED FRIED CHICKEN
500g chicken, bone-in
For the dry rub
1 tsp oregano powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
A pinch of cinnamon
A pinch of cumin powder
1 tsp MSG (most recipes will tell you to add 2 tbsp but you can omit this, really)
For the coating
Mix 1 cup all-purpose flour with ½ cup corn starch
2 eggs, beaten or 1 cup buttermilk
300ml oil (use anything BUT olive), depending on the size of your pan
Season the chicken thoroughly; it’s up to you which parts you prefer to use. Just remember that white meat (breast, wings) cooks faster than dark meat (thighs and drumsticks).
You might want to wait a few hours for the spices and seasonings to flavour the meat but you can also start frying straight away.
Lightly cover the chicken with flour before dipping it into the egg/buttermilk, then roll it into the flour mixture again before dropping it into the oil. Do one piece at a time.
It should take about 15 minutes for the chicken to cook through. If your oil is too hot to begin with, the exterior will turn dark or worse, burn, before the meat is even properly cooked.
Once you take it out of the pan, drain the chicken on a wire rack to cool and for the skin to remain crisp. Do not put it on a paper towel or straight onto a plate as the steam will make the skin soggy.
Serve with your favourite dipping sauce.
NEXT: Auntie Anne's pretzels
Knot your usual bread roll
By Jane F. Ragavan
If not for its alluring shape – a loop with the ends (called toes!) twisted into a knot – a pretzel would simply be a bread roll.
Well, not quite. Traditional Bavarian pretzels have a distinctive crisp “skin” and flavour thanks to being poached in a lye bath (which should be handled carefully). They’re usually seasoned with salt and eaten with plenty of mustard or sweet butter.
Auntie Anne’s makes what is known as mall pretzels. These are soft, chewy and buttery, often as large as a toddler’s head, and come with a variety of toppings. My favourite is sour cream-onion (recipe included below).
You need plenty of work space to roll out the dough into pencil-thin ropes – Auntie Anne’s are about 90cm long, but I find that 60cm is sufficient for a homemade version. They are dipped in a (much safer) baking soda solution before baking.
What’s important is to slather them in butter when they come out of the oven before adding the toppings.
Makes 18 medium pretzels
330g all-purpose flour
130g bread flour, plus extra for kneading
3g (1 tsp) instant yeast
7g (1 tsp) fine salt
25g (2 tbsp firmly packed) brown sugar
375ml boiled water, at room temperature
Coarse sea salt
60g butter, melted
500ml boiling water
2 tbsp baking soda
Sour cream-onion topping (combined)
1 tbsp nutritional yeast (or cheese powder)
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp milk or buttermilk powder
Salt, to taste
Combine the two flours, yeast, salt and brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the water and stir the mixture until a rough dough forms. Cover the bowl and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Gently fold the dough onto itself several times, adding only as much extra flour as necessary to form the dough into a smooth, elastic ball. Return to the bowl, cover and leave to double in size, 60-90 minutes.
Note: For better flavour, place the dough in the fridge to rise slowly, about eight hours. It will also be easier to work with when cold.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 210℃. Line a large baking tray with non-stick parchment.
Divide the dough into 18 roughly equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece into a rope as thin as a pencil. Each rope will be about 60cm long. If the dough starts sticking, lightly flour your hands instead of the work surface. If the rope shrinks back on itself, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll out the rest of the way.
To shape the pretzel, lay the rope out in a U-shape. Twist the ends together twice, then bring the two ends towards the bottom curve and stick them down. Leave the pretzels to rise until slightly puffy, 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200℃. Place a clean tea towel next to the prepared tray.
Pour the boiling water into a large shallow bowl and stir in the baking soda. It should start to fizz. Pick up the pretzels by the toes and dip them completely and as quickly as you can into the solution (remember, it’s hot!), then blot the bottom side on the tea towel before placing the pretzel on the prepared tray. If making salt pretzels, sprinkle the top wih coarse sea salt.
Bake the pretzels until golden, about 12 minutes. Once out of the oven, brush each pretzel liberally with melted butter (salt ones included). If using a topping, sprinkle it on liberally. Eat while still warm.