I bought the moulds for making these lovely crispy appetizers for a food styling gig, but ended up not using it. Since it was Chinese New Year, I thought I might as well use the moulds to make the pai tees. I looked up for a few recipes on the internet to make the pai tee cases, and thought to myself “how hard can it be?” Boy, I was terribly wrong.
The first attempt was a complete failure, well almost. Basically you could use anything for the filling, and I made something similar to spring rolls/popiah, consisted of sengkuang (also known as jicama or yam bean) and carrot strips, and shredded french beans. That part was a piece of cake. But the killer was getting the cases right. I have phobia with deep frying. Firstly, I am really bad at getting it right. Whenever my food styling gig calls for deep fried foods, I always ask my assistant to do it. Secondly, deep fried foods are unhealthy…I can’t deny they are yummy and addictive, but they are definitely fattening and unhealthy. Thirdly, I despise the oil that splashes out onto the stove, which normally have me spending hours cleaning the entire stove, table top, and the tiles. And the list goes on…
Anyway, my first attempt on the fourth day of Chinese New Year was made using this recipe. I had a tough time dislodging the cases from the mould, and in the end, I finished eating the filling by wrapping it with lettuce leaves, and dumped the deformed cases into the trash bin. Only one word to describe the experience: disastrous. And I spent 2 hours cleaning up the kitchen! (oil splashes all over the stove, wall and table top)
The next morning, with the determination of not giving in, I made the second batch with the same recipe. This time, I managed to get about 30 + pieces of edible (but not well-formed) cases. The texture was a little too doughy, even though this time I managed to dislodge the cases easier from the mould. For photography purpose, I used some freshly cut sengkuang and carrot strips, and blanched French beans. The taste turned out not bad though, the sweetness of the sengkuang combined with the crispy texture of the pai tee case seemed fine, though no seasoning was used.
My perfectionism did not compromise with the results of the second attempt, so after a few days, I decided to make another batch. I would have made the them earlier, but my dad was admitted to the hospital on emergency due to brain haemorrhage (bleeding) and everything had to be put on hold. Thank goodness he’s discharged now after the surgery but he is still under close observation in case of a relapse.
So when dad got home and I had a little free time, I made them for the third time. I finally found a recipe for the batter that has been tried and tested. This time, it worked really well! The cases turned out to be a lot lighter, crispier and easier to dislodge from the mould. I made about 70 cases this time! Since there were so many, I have to find a way to finish them…and they ended up at my client’s office :). The recipe was adapted from here, with detailed step-by-step instructions (I reduced the quantity of the ingredients used by half). There is one problem though: the cases seem to turn stale and not so crispy within a very short time after I took them off the oil. Looks like there’s still room for improvement!
Cases from the third batch. First two photos show cases from the second batch. First batch was a complete failure.