Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Chips off the ol' bulb

One of our favourite Chinese New Year snacks is nga ku (arrowroot bulb) chips. Nga ku chips have a distinctive taste, and are very addictive. To satisfy a whole family and the many guests expected over the festive period, we sometimes fry up two or three big batches (the store-bought ones just don’t pass muster).

They’re a bear to make, though. The tedious part of the job is cleaning, peeling and slicing the bulbs (above). Second Sis however has perfected the art; in fact, she’s taken over making most of the snacks and cookies from Mum. The skill lies in making sure the thinly sliced nga ku are fried evenly, with as little oil as possible clinging on to them.

The trick then is to fry in small batches; to make sure the oil temperature is moderately high at first, and to ensure the slices do not hit the oil clumped together, making it difficult for them to be evenly cooked. To that end, we lay out one layer of nga ku slices on a largish platter, making it easier to slide them quickly into the oil almost individually.

Second Sis keeps a hawk’s eye on them, making sure they’re all feeling the warm love evenly. Just as they start to brown a little, she removes them from the wok, and shakes off all the extra oil. Meanwhile, she turns the heat up high, waits for the oil to boil again, then throws the chips in for a last quick fry that browns them evenly and quickly without the oil seeping into the chips. Then it’s up again and onto the side, for any more excess oil to drip away. Yummy!

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