Friday, July 19, 2013

quanto basta, agak-agak and aggaration

Frantically busy week - even the piano lessons were postponed - but I thought I'd pop in to share this little gem.

This week, I came across the Italian phrase "quanto basta". The literal translation of quanto basta is "how much is enough" and apparently means (for Italian cooks) 'what you think is the right quantity', 'as much as is needed', or 'to taste'. It appears in older Italian cookbooks and it just means that the cook should use whatever quantity of whatever (oil, salt, sugar etc) he/she thinks is enough.

I was delighted to come across this phrase. Truly, if there is one motto I cook by, it would be the Singlish phrase - aggaration. It's a phrase that is really and truly Singlish - an Anglicized version of the Malay phrase "agak-agak" which is generally taken to mean "just go estimate it to your liking". Quanto basta sounds just like the Italian phrase for the exact same idea and I love it. It's so nice to know that cooks everywhere kind of do the same thing, tasting as they go along and fiddling about with the dish.

Bearing that in mind, I shall now reproduce here (for the second time) my youngest Aunt's recipe for ginger dry rubbed chicken wings which is a pretty perfect example of a recipe that is simple and short on ingredients but is all about the aggaration.

Ginger chicken wings


1 kilogram chicken wings, drumsticks
Ground ginger powder (you should probably aggarate it to your liking. I use about 3-4 tablespoons)
Salt (Q.B.)

Rub the ginger power and salt into the chicken wings, taking care to massage it into all parts of the wing, especially the tips.

Refrigerate for a few hours or over night.

Roast in 200 degree oven for about 20-ish minutes - go and agak-agak the timing yourself.

Important Note:

Aggaration is a technique probably best used for cooking. Now baking is a different beast altogether. Whatever you do, do not attempt to "aggarate" a baking recipe unless you are an experienced baker. Some things can be adjusted without affecting the overall result much (e.g. reducing the amount of sugar used by about 20-30%) but some things cannot be adjusted as easily (e.g swapping plain flour for other kinds of flour).

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