Steaming chicken or fish with a simple salted soy beans sauce (Indonesian: tauco) is a healthy way to prepare a quick dish for lunch or dinner. Salted soy beans can be found in many Asian grocery store. My favorite salted soy beans is the one from Yeos, a Malaysian brand, which happens to be very similar to the ones I grow up eating in Indonesia. There will be slight different in taste if you choose other brands of salted soy beans, feel free to experiment to find out which one you like best.
If you opt to use chicken meat, I suggest a mixture of skinless boneless breast and thigh, or 100% thigh meat if you don’t mind the slightly higher calories. A pure 100% breast meat is still good, just not as juicy. You can also use white fish fillet slices (again, make it bite sizes) such as tilapia, rock fish, or red snapper, but be sure to reduce steaming time to 5 minutes since fish cooks much faster than chicken.
I love this dish so much and since my parents are still here in the States, I made two batches back to back! They are staying with my younger brother so I am packing one batch for them to enjoy 🙂
You want to know what’s the most time consuming this in this tofu dish? It’s frying the tofu actually, so if you can buy already fried tofu cubes from your nearby grocery, or better yet, if you live in Indonesia, and your street food seller is selling fried tofu, go grab some to make this tofu in spicy soy bean sauce in under 15 minutes!
If, like me, you prefer to prepare your own fried tofu cubes, you can still go about it the easy way by making a big batch of “fried” tofu with your oven. Alternatively, the old fashion way of deep frying tofu cubes will always work, though a bit much of work in my opinion. Or, if oven is out of the question, and you are not up to deep frying, you can always pan fry your tofu. In this recipe, I am going to show you how to pan fry your tofu cubes, but you can use whichever method you want, just make sure you have some fried tofu cubes to prepare this dish.
Two other key ingredients in this dish is tauco (salted soy bean) and kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce). Most Asian grocery should carry these items, but you can also buy them from Amazon, but be warned that the online price is almost always more expensive. For tauco, I like the one from Yeo’s, but you can use other brand too. For kecap manis, my favorite is the one from Bango, but the one from ABC is also pretty good. Once you have everything ready, let’s go to the recipe.
Let’s talk a bit about this 15 minutes eggplant spicy soy sauce. I think this is an awesome summer dish because one, it takes less than 15 minutes from start to finish, and two, you only need your microwave for this.
I don’t know about you, but I try to avoid staying in the kitchen for long in the summer heat. So, dishes like this that is not only easy, but also delicious, and virtually no cooking time is godsend.
I use Chinese eggplant, which is slimmer and lankier compared to its American sibling. Try to find one that is about 400-450 grams (slightly under one pound) in weight.
To retain the nice purple color of the eggplant skin, the trick is to brush them liberally with oil (I use olive oil, you can use whatever oil you have at home). Then, I just arrange the eggplants in two plates, cover with saran, and cook with the 2-serving fresh vegetable setting in my microwave.
Since each microwave is slightly different, please experiment or consult your microwave manual for the appropriate cooking time.
Spicy soy sauce
Once the eggplant is out from the microwave, make the sauce by simply mixing together soy sauce, sugar, rice vinegar, sambal oelek, and sesame oil. Pour the sauce over the cooked eggplant, and garnish with some thinly sliced scallions.
If you are in the mood for some spicy dish, may I suggest giving this ayam goreng saus tauco – fried chicken in spicy soy bean sauce a try? There is two parts to this dish, fried chicken pieces, and the spicy soy bean sauce. Once you master this recipe, feel free to switch the chicken with fish, tofu, or tempeh, and I guarantee it will work with any of my suggested substitute.
For the juiciest possible result, stick with chicken thigh. That said, if all you have at home is chicken breast, it definitely will work so don’t worry too much about it. For a speedy cooking time, cut chicken thigh (or breast) into strips, and marinate with bruised (or roughly minced) garlic, lime juice, and salt. Once it has rested for 15 minutes, start preparing oil for deep frying. You can then whisk all purpose flour, tapioca starch (corn starch is okay too), and salt. Dump the chicken into the flour mixture and coat really really well, there shouldn’t be any liquid at all at this stage. Fry chicken until golden brown and set aside.
Tauco and Terasi/Belacan
Some of the key ingredients for this delicious sauce is tauco (salted soy beans) and terasi/belacan (shrimp paste). The links I provide are for products that should be available in your Asian market, such as Marina or 99 Ranch. Of course, you can always buy from Amazon, but the price is more expensive online. Another ingredient that you may consider getting online is Indonesian bay leaves (Indonesian: daun salam). You cannot substitute regular bay leaves with Indonesian bay leaves, and if you cannot get them, my suggestion is to omit from the recipe.
Spicy Soy Bean Sauce
Once you have all the ingredients for the sauce together, first, make the spice paste by grinding with a food processor/blender. I find that if I add a teaspoon of oil into my food processor along with the ingredients, the blended paste is much smoother. To prepare for the spicy soy bean sauce, simply fry the spice paste, lemongrass, and Indonesian bay leaves until fragrant. Add tauco, sugar, mix well, then add water and bring to a boil. Once the sauce is reduced and look slightly dry, add fried chicken to the pan and toss to coat well. It is best to serve this dish hot with some steamed white rice.
Ayam suwir (shredded chicken) is one of Indonesian favorite comfort food. The idea is to poach one whole chicken, or in the US, just a pair of chicken breasts since the chicken in US is humongous compared to the one back home. Then, the chicken meat is shredded and cook further in a myriad way. Today, I am going to share this easy ayam suwir tauco pedas – spicy soy bean shredded chicken recipe with you.
Let’s Get Cooking
Once you have your poached chicken, the rest is a simple stir frying job.
First, sauté the aromatics (shallot, garlic, daun salam, and galangal) over medium high heat.
Next, add chilies, tauco, shredded chicken, all the seasonings and water/stock. Simply cook until liquid is almost dry and you have yourself an ayam suwir dish.
If you want an even easier approach, get a rotisserie chicken, and use that instead of poached chicken. The rotisserie trick makes this simple dish even simpler, and to be honest, the taste is even better.
Eggplant is a very mild and bland vegetable, so I like to pair it with bold tasting sauce like Indonesian kecap manis and plenty of chilies. If you haven’t gotten to try Indonesian kecap manis, you are really missing out. Do yourself a favor and get one bottle already. Once you do, give this terong kecap pedas – spicy sweet soy sauce eggplant recipe a try.
Typically, Indonesian use the thin lanky Chinese eggplant regularly available in Chinese grocery store. But if your home is far from any Asian grocery, you can use standard American eggplant too. In fact, I am using American eggplant in this very photo shoot 🙂 They are pretty interchangeable, so no need to worry.
Have you ever tried chayote before? You can find this beloved squash in many traditional Indonesian dishes. Today I will introduce you to sambal tauco labu siam, a spicy vegetable (and vegetarian) stew dish. This is usually a side dish for many Indonesian rice dishes, such as nasi rames, nasi liwet, e.t.c. But you can always prepare this as one of your many sides to create an Indonesian feast.
How to handle chayote (labu siam)
This is a quick guide to handle chayote. Prior to cooking, we peel the skin, and remove the seed from the chayote. You can cut it into chunks, wedges, thin slices, julien, etc. The simplest way Indonesian enjoy chayote is to cut into big chunks/wedges, and steam until soft, and enjoy with other vegetables in a lalapan. Note that if you handle chayote bare-handed, your fingers and palms might be covered with a thin film that makes your skin tight. I usually just wash it away with soap under warm/slightly hot water. But you can always wear a pair of gloves to avoid this problem in the first place.
Tauco (fermented/salted soy beans)
The second important ingredient to prepare this dish is of course tauco (fermented/salted soy beans). In my experience, even a tiny Mom-and-Pop Asian grocery store carries them. And there are quite a bit of varieties too, from the still solid beans, to a mix of solid and ground beans, to a totally ground version. Preferabbly you choose the ones where the beans are still solid, but if all you see are the ground variety, they are also okay. If your neighborhood store doesn’t carry them, you can also buy it online from Amazon. I like the ones from Yeo’s and Dragonfly.
Pan-fried fish with soy sauce is one of the most classic Chinese recipe to enjoy white fish. Chinese restaurants love to serve their fish whole, and only sometimes thinly sliced, or in fillet form.
This recipe with fish fillets is the easiest and most straightforward, and you can have a really nice fish dish for lunch/dinner in 30 minutes, including prep time. ♥
Which fish is commonly used in Chinese cooking?
Most Chinese fish recipes call for whole fish, and some of the more popular fish we use when cooking Chinese dishes include red snapper, rock rish, pomfret, flounder/sole, sea bass/striped bass, tilapia, and cod.
If you are using cod, we usually use cod fillets/steaks only and not the whole fish since cod is a very large fish.
The best fish to use is live fish
I prefer using whole fish when I can buy them still living and kicking in their tanks, which you should be able too if you have access to a big Chinese/Asian grocery stores.
In almost every store that I have visited in the US, most will happily clean and cut the fish for you if you ask, so you can save some prepping time.
Be sure to ask for ice if you do this to keep the fish as fresh for as long as possible.
Also, cook the fish on the same day you buy it, preferably immediately once you reach home. 🙂
What if I can’t find live fish?
You can still use whole fish, even when you can’t find live ones. Be sure to select very fresh fish. It should have clear eyes, shiny scales, and fresh smell of the sea, not fishy or stinky.
Can I use fish fillet instead?
If your grocery store doesn’t sell live fish and the whole fish selection is not great, you can use fish fillet too. In fact, I develop this recipe around fish fillets, though you can definitely use this recipe to prepare whole fish too. 🙂
Please make sure that your fish fillet has firm flesh, and if possible, with skin on so you get to enjoy the contrast between crispy skin and tender flesh.
Feel free to use frozen fish fillets as those can oftentimes have higher quality than the ones already sitting for hours in the meat section.
How to prepare fish fillets so they will be crispy.
First, let’s prepare the fish fillet for pan-frying so you will end up with perfectly crispy pan-fried fish fillets. 🙂
1. Pat dry each fish fillet with really well.
This step is super important, especially if you use thawed frozen fish.
2. Salt, pepper, starch/flour.
Sprinkle each side of the fish fillet with salt and pepper, then dust with corn starch. If you don’t have corn starch and you are not aiming for a gluten-free dish, you can also simply dust the fish fillet with all-purpose flour.
3. Shake off excess starch/flour.
You want to coat your fish well, but not excessively. Too much starch/flour will actually lead to less crispy fish.
How to perfectly cook a pan-fried fish fillet.
Once you do all the steps above, your fish fillets are ready to be cooked. Here are the steps to follow to ensure crispy fried fish:
1. Use a heavy pan/skillet.
My preferred choice is a cast-iron skillet, and you really don’t need a non-stick pan to cook a perfect pan-fried fish.
2. Hot pan and cold oil.
Always heat the pan first before adding oil. So what you want to do is to heat the pan until you start seeing thin smoke, then add oil and swirl to coat the pan, then proceed with cooking.
3. Let the fish fillet releases itself from the pan.
Almost 100% of the time, the fish fillets will initially stick to the pan. But, once the surface is cooked and becomes golden brown, the fillets will release itself naturally from the pan.
So have patience and don’t try to move your fish in its early stage. You should at least wait until the edges of the fillet are golden brown before you try nudging it.
Sauce for Chinese pan-fried fish
This dish is all about enjoying the fish with as little seasoning ingredients as possible. And you can see that we use only garlic, ginger, and scallions for our herbs/aromatics.
As for the sauce, it cannot get any simpler than this. You will only need three ingredients: water, light soy sauce, and sugar. For most people, that’s practically just soy sauce, right? 🙂
When you want something quick (30 minutes), easy, delicious, and healthy to boot, you may want to give this soy bean paste fish a try. This soy bean paste sauce is one of my favorite sauce, and if you are like me, you will want to pair it with everything, from fried tofu cubes, to something heavier such as bite size fried chicken.
Choosing your fish and how to pan fry fish fillet
Red snapper, rock fish, swai, cod, grouper, halibut, and tilapia are some of my favorite white fish fillet for pan frying. As long as the fish fillet of your choice has firm flesh, it should be good. If white fish is not your favorite, you can even use salmon or trout fillet. Whichever fish fillet you choose, be sure to pat them dry with paper towel, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and dust with all-purpose flour (or cornstarch for gluten-free option).
Salted soy beans (tauco)
The key ingredient for making soy bean paste fish is salted soy beans. We call this tauco in Indonesia. You can find salted soy beans in most Asian market, and sometimes they are also called fermented soy beans. I typically go either with Yeos salted soy beans, or Dragonfly fermented soy beans. You can use other brands, but try to select the ones with whole soy beans, not the ones with ground soy beans.
Curry leaves (or kaffir lime leaves)
Another key ingredient is curry leaves. Stores that only sell East Asian (Chinese, Korean, Japanese) and Southeast Asian fares (Indonesian, Singaporea, Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese, e.t.c.) are usually not a good place for fresh curry leaves. It is better to try Indian or Middle Eastern markets for some fresh curry leaves. I usually buy them in bulk, as in I buy half a gallon worth of zip lock bag of curry leaves, then freeze them. Curry leaves can last for months and months when frozen like this. If fresh curry leaves is not something that is easy to come by, you can substitute with kaffir lime leaves.
This is my Grandmother’s version of chicken in ginger and soy sauce. This is the dish she made for us when we were still snotty little kids and stubbornly picky with our food. But she knew how to win our hearts, or at least which dish she needed to prepare to get me and my brothers to sit on the dining table and eat properly and not giving her more headache. And this is one such dish.
What you need to prepare chicken in ginger and soy sauce
There are not many ingredients needed to prepare this dish, and from the title, one can surmise that chicken, ginger, and soy sauce are involved. To be exact, you will need the following:
1 chicken, chopped into 8 pieces, or just use 8 drumsticks
4 inch fresh ginger
6 cloves garlic
1 bunch cilantro, about 1 cup full
2 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 tablespoon kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
salt and sugar, to taste
How to prepare chicken in ginger and soy sauce
This is one of the very first recipes I learn, and it didn’t turn out bad all those years ago, or perhaps I was simply very very hungry. But in any case, this recipe is quite simple.
First, fry the ginger, garlic, scallions, and cilantro.
Next, add the chicken and cook until no longer pink.
Follow this with the two soy sauce, sugar, water, and let it boils.
Simmer until the sauce is quite reduced and the chicken is fully cooked and tender. Done!