Synosis by Timothy Ng
Daliang County, Shunde District, Foshan City, Guangdong Province of China, has been renowned for the production of water buffalo dairy. Many classic dishes from this area employ this milk as its fat reaches from 7 to 10% (the regular whole milk has 3.5% fat), as its richness is much appreciated. The water buffalo milk could be purchased at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, its milk fat is at 8%.
Talented chefs tried to invent dessert, savoury dish, and even a cheese with this special water buffalo milk, and one showcased his creativitity through the conception of Scrambled Milk.
How would one scramble milk? The end result would be a bowl of hot milk, still in liquid form. Clever thoughts of adding egg white and two kinds of starch to help the milk to congeal to a semi-solid form, a savory version of a softer and lighter form of French creme patisserie. However, diners may find the plain scrambled milk to be monotonous in flavour and texture, the classic structure of garniture is of a pair of ingredients with high umami (fresh water shrimp and sea crab), a pair of crunch (fried olive kernels and dried rice vermicelli), and a pair of charcuterie (dried ham and preserved duck liver). I see the dish as a juxtaposition of the symphony of the scrambled milk and the cacophony of the garniture. Here in Toronto, it is impossible to find olive kernels, even if found in Hong Kong, the cost is around CAN$100 per pound, and toasted pinenut is used instead. Duck confit could replace preserved duck liver, unless you may feel so inclined to make your own preserved duck liver, which I must congratulate you for the efforts for keeping the authenticity.
Water Buffalo Milk 2 cups
Egg White, large 6
Cornstarch 8 tsps
Potato Starch 8 tsps
Salt 1 tsp
Lard or Clarified Butter 1 tbsp
Shrimp, shelled 1 oz (Rinse well, pat dry, then marinate with a pinch of salt and white pepper, and a dash of Shaoxing wine for 5 minutes. Blanch for a minute and a half, and pat dry.)
Crabmeat 1 oz
Dried Rice Vermicelli 1 oz (Break up the vermicelli into small pieces.)
Pinenut 1 oz
Smithfield Ham, chopped 1 oz
Duck Confit, diced 1 oz
Peanut Oil 1 cup
Lightly beat egg white until lossened, add water buffalo milk, cornstarch, potato starch and salt. Mix well, and set aside.
Set aside a teaspoonful chopped Smithfield ham as final garnish.
Heat peanut oil in a small sauce pan to 250F / 120C, add pinenut to fry till light golden. Drain on kitchen paper towel. High peanut oil to 350F / 180C, add a tablespoonful or two rice vermicelli. It will instantly puff up and remove almost immediately. Do not let it brown. Continue to fry until all vermicelli is done. Drain on kitchen paper towel. Once drained well, place the fried vermicelli on a serving bowl or platter.
Add shrimp, crabmeat, ham, duck confit to the water buffalo milk mixture.
Heat a wok over high heat until light smoke appears. Add a ladleful peanut oil, swirl around to coat the wok well, and drain the oil. Add lard or clarified butter and swirl till melted. Add the milk mixture to wok and slowly push the mixture from the bottom of wok as scrambling egg. Being slow and easy will do the job till the mixture forms.
Dish up to the bowl on top of the fried vermicelli, sprinkle the pinenut and the reserved ham. Serve immediately.
The Raw and the Cooked, MYTHOLOGIQUES is a new column on the culture of eating and cooking, with contributions by various authors. The column name is borrowed from the title of a book by Claude Levi-Strauss. It is spontaneous, a little amusing but serious at the same time.