Any culinary pro will be familiar with Le Creuset, the iconic French brand of cast iron pots. Its Cocotte (French Oven) graces many ovens and recalls simmering dishes that fill the room with deep aromas when their lids are removed. Curious to uncover more about how Le Creuset is used in Asian cooking, NOSHtrekker reached out to Cheryl Yuen, Commercial Manager at Le Creuset in Singapore, to ask her about how she cooks at home and which kitchen hardware she finds indispensable.
This three-part interview is full of vivid descriptions and warm memories. In Part 1, Cheryl gives us a personal look at the food she eats and cooks at home, and reminds us of how food connects generations.
Photo credit: Le Creuset
NOSHtrekker: Our theme for this quarter is about the utensils and hardware we use in the kitchen. What do you find indispensable when it comes to your own cooking?
- Oven: I entertain a fair bit at home, so an oven is quite necessary. Oven cooking is a dream for cleanliness freak like myself, because most of the cooking is contained within that “box”. Plus, I simply place the dish into the oven and let it do its thing while I fuss over other dishes, the table setting or get dressed.
- A good knife: For all the chopping, cutting, slicing needed for the mise en place.
- Le Creuset Spatula: I love the Le Creuset silicone spatulas. They withstand heat well when I’m cooking, they scrape the sides of the mixing bowl clean when I’m baking, hard enough so I can break up meats yet pliable. And they are gentle to my cookware and wash like a dream; no staining even after cooking curries, no oily residues.
- Hand blender: I recently bought myself a hand blender. I find it quite useful for soups, milk shakes and dressings. Why did I wait so long to get one?
- A wide selection of serving plates and bowls: I’m all about presentation. People eat with their eyes first, so plating is always important to me.
NT: What kind of food do you eat and cook at home?
CY: Nothing beats a home cooked meal. My mom is of Shanghainese descent, and there are a few dishes which my mom learnt from my late grandma that I really love – Shanghainese Rice Cake, Shanghainese Wantons, Shanghainese Egg Dumplings “dan jiao” and Shanghainese Pork Chop. None of these dishes are fancy, but these are my food memories and they are my link to my grandma.
Photo credit: Cheryl Yuen / My partner and I cook quite a fair bit at home. This is our homecooked Nasi Lemak.
NT: What is one dish you cook well and how did that mastery come about?
CY: About 8 years ago, an ex-colleague and I traded his Chicken Curry recipe with a customer for her Braised Pork Belly “kong bak” recipe. This is my go-to, never-fail-me dish. The pork belly is marinated overnight, then caramelised with orange sugar before being braised for two hours in a soy sauce mixture scented with dried mushrooms, star anise, shallots, garlic, bay leaf and dried chilli.
The result is a pot of tender, succulent, sinfully fatty pork belly in a slightly sticky umami gravy. It can be served in so many ways – with steamed Chinese baos sandwiched with Japanese cucumber slices, cut red chillis and coriander or with good quality fresh egg noodles (I get my stash from a local noodle manufacturer at www.handpicked.sg).
I’ve braised chicken thighs in this same sauce as well, and it works beautifully too! Usually, I will grab one of my larger Le Creuset Round French Oven and braise about 2kg worth. Some get eaten immediately, a portion gets delivered to my mom and the rest frozen for a rainy day.
Photo credit: Cheryl Yuen / A huge pot of my kong bak happily stewing away in my trusty Le Creuset Round French Oven 28cm in Dune.
Something else which I love preparing are Shanghainese Wantons. My second aunt quietly whispered one day in my ear that my wontons are so well made, not only are they better than my mom’s (of course my aunt never told my mom this) but they remind her of my grandma’s. For me, this is the greatest compliment!
Shanghainese Wantons are humbly made of minced pork and chye sim only. But they symbolize family to me. When I was young, making wanton was a whole family affair. My grandma along with my mom and all my aunts would gather around to prepare this dish.
4kg of fresh fatty pork has to be hand minced and 8kg of chye sim has to be washed, blanched and hand-diced. After the filling is seasoned, we will all sit around the table again to wrap the wontons. The cooking sounds and endless chatter from 7 women would fill the house, this is the sound of love to me. Now, making wontons is too much work for my mom and aunts. So once every couple of months, I would prepare a whole batch of wontons, freeze them and deliver to each of them.
Photo credit: Cheryl Yuen / Wrapping my family’s Shanghainese Wontons
About Cheryl Yuen
Cheryl loves her food. She can often be found scouting for new places to try or revisiting personal favourites. During the weekends, she can be seen pottering about in the kitchen — perspiration running down her temples, a small frown of concentration on her face — as she tests out new recipes or prepares meals for friends and loved ones. But really, Cheryl is a lot more comfortable being in the dining room, then she is in the kitchen.