Giveaway Reminder : If you read my last post, you'll know about the upcoming giveaway I have planned to celebrate the completion of work on my second cookbook, Mum's Not Cooking and to say "thank you" to you, my readers for following, subscribing, reading and commenting. Without readers, blogs would be unheard voices in the wilderness. I am giving away 3 copies, one each to 3 lucky readers from anywhere in the world, not just Singapore. If you've been a silent reader so far, please introduce yourself during the giveaway - there's no better time to say hello as you stand to win a great prize.
Nona Nona is a celebration of our friendship, our love for food and culture and the camaraderie and fellowship that arises from the confluence of both. The choice of the name Nona Nona (Ladies) for our little cooking circle is particularly apt for Biren and myself as it is a term commonly used by both the Nyonya and Kristang communities and hints at the single origin of both groups, Malacca.
So here we are again, barely a month later, this time, each putting our kitchen spin on a familiar favourite in the south east Asian kitchen, canned sardines. Before you even think, "cat food!", let me tell you that any domestic feline would be a pampered and ever so lucky little kitty to find these in her dinner bowl....*meeeeeoow*
As always I haven't a clue what Biren, my partner in crime is up to, with her little fishies, but I give you today, a perennial favourite on afternoon tea trays in this part of the world, the humble but incredibly tasty and devilishly moreish morsel, the epok epok sardine.
Epok epok (ay-pohk ay-pohk) is what we call these little parcels of delight, which are traditionally filled with curried potatoes (epok epok kentang), meat (epok epok daging), sardines or stir fried shredded vegetables (epok epok sayur). My favourite is of course the sardine version, though I sometimes stuff them with a pan fried mixture of canned corned beef, onions, red chillies and pepper (epok epok serani?), when my boys crave a richly savoury tea time treat.
In Malaysia they are known as karipap, so don't go there in search of epok epok or you would be laughed right out of town. While essentially the same thing, epok epok are usually smaller than karipap or curry puffs and are a two bite deal; two bites and they are gone. Oops! Just ate three more! Did I tell you how moreish they are? ;)
What makes a good epok epok? Different people may tell you different things, but we all like a generous filling, nicely but not overly spiced, a brittle, perfectly salted crust peppered with bubbly blisters (a sign of light, nicely layered and flaky pastry) and a good crust to filling ratio, which means as thin a crust as possible to hold it all together.
Their true origin though may be British (the Cornish pasty), Arabic and Indian (the samosa) or Spanish and Portuguese (the empanada) but let's not split hairs, not when there's cooking and more importantly, eating to be done!
When Biren suggested we do something themed on sardines, these IMMEDIATELY came to mind, and I did not want to do anything else, even at the risk of duplicating Biren's dish.
You see, about 80% of the canned sardines swimming around in Singapore and Malaysia, end up stuffed into epok epok! No, I'm kidding, but say "sardine" in Singapore and chances are the rejoinder will be an enthuthiastic and lusty "epok epok!!" We do love our food.....
I love eating epok epok, but making them, to use a pretty euphemism, is a labour of love, so when I do make them, it's my mum the pastry pinching phenom who does the pinching and twirling of the pastry edges into a beautiful braid like edge. This intricate procedure, called fluting, makes me want to pull my hair out but I decided that to present these for you, here, it's time I became a big girl and did it myself, so what you see now is all my own honest but clumsy handiwork. One day, I'll get it right mum......one day!
Prep 45 mins Cook 20 mins Makes 20
2 large onions peeled and thinly sliced (see photo)
3 large green chillies, thinly sliced
2 small cans sardines (Ayam brand preferred)
2 tbsp meat curry powder (my secret for good fish curry)
½ tsp cumin powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp sugar
Juice of 1 calamansi lime (limau kasturi)
300 g (3 cups) plain or all purpose flour
2/3 tsp salt
100 g (2/3 cup) cold firm butter
120 ml (slightly over ½ cup) chilled water
· Heat 4 tablespoons oil and fry the onions and green chillies until fragrant and beginning to brown. Add sardines with the tomato sauce and stir for 2 – 3 minutes.
· Break up the sardine and mash them into the onion mixture. Sprinkle over the curry powder and cumin and stir over moderate heat for about 3 minutes or until fragrant. Add salt, sugar and lime juice and stir well.
· Turn off heat and set aside until cold, while you make the pastry.
· To make pastry, combine flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir with whisk to distribute salt. Cut butter into the flour with a blunt tipped knife until in small, rough cubes. Keep tossing the pieces of butter with flour as you cut so nothing sticks.
· Use your hands to rub the butter into the flour, squeezing the pieces of butter to get them smaller. Keep rubbing and tossing the butter pieces until the mixture looks like very coarse crumbs, with bits of butter still visible here and there. The mixture should be very rough.
· Pour in the water all at once and stir quickly with a spatula until a rough dough forms. Push everything together but don’t knead the dough or you will toughen the pastry.
· Divide dough into 5 large equal pieces, cover and chill for 15 minutes. Divide each piece of dough into 4 equal smaller pieces to make a total of 20 pieces.
· Roll out each piece of dough into a small circle the size of an espresso saucer. Put 1 heaped teaspoon of cold filling on the lower half of each pastry circle. Fold pastry over to cover filling and press down on edges to seal.
· Pinch and twirl the pastry edge to form a rope like design. Repeat with the remaining pastry and filling. When done, cover epok epok and chill for 20 minutes.
· Heat enough oil for deep frying and when hot, gently lower in the epok epok in batches of 4 or 5 depending on the size of your pan or pot. I use a small deep pot to reduce the amount of oil used and fry 3 at a time. Don’t crowd the pan. Control the intensity of the heat so inside of pastry is cooked though in the same time that the outside turns crisp and golden.
· When golden and blistered, remove from oil and drain on crushed kitchen paper. Serve warm with coffee or tea for breakfast, afternoon tea or as a snack at any time.