November 20, 2011

Tiramisu - What More Could You Ask For?

chocolate, cream, dessert, hong kong, ladyfingers, mascarpone, recipe, savoiardi, tiramisu,

In a rather delightful story of origin the story goes that tiramisu, which means "pick me up", was a dessert favored by courtesans of Venice who needed quick sweet bursts of energy throughout their busy days.  I liked this very much because it seemed so right that this lusciously decadent dessert belong to the category of sexy. Cream, chocolate, cake, coffee and luscious mascarpone cheese.  And a generous drop of rum.  What more could you ask for?

November 17, 2011

Oil Poached Salmon - Simply Tender

fish, oil poached, recipe, salmon, seafood

I don't know about y'all (as they say in Texas), but for me watching cooking shows is one of my favorite forms of relaxation.  It just always seems so interesting and...comforting, I guess.  Yes, I know that sounds kinda weird, but surely it is more relaxing than watching the endless blood and violence and perversity that seems to populate the usual TV shows these days.  

So anyways as we were watching all these cooking shows we noticed a cooking technique that, frankly, we had never heard of before.  Oil poaching.  It seemed so weird the first time we saw it but we quickly realized that the technique is similar to water poaching, which is commonly done to excellent effect in Chinese cooking.  

So one day we decided to do some deep fry (which we seldom do) chicken midjoints (which didn't come out so great) and as a consequence of having all that oil in the pot already we decided that we might as well try oil poaching the nice salmon fillet that we had also bought for dinner.

November 15, 2011

Chinese Steamed Crab 清蒸花蟹

chinese, crab, flower crab, recipe, seafood, steamed

Actually in a way there is nothing particularly Chinese about this Chinese Steamed Crab 清蒸花蟹.  It's a simple straightforward preparation that celebrates fresh seafood for its sea sweetness and tender succulence.  

Or maybe I should take that back.  Thinking about it, this dish is actually very representative of the manifestos of Cantonese cookery.  Freshness first, then simple yet subtle preparation to bring out the best of the natural taste of the fresh food. Anyways this is one of the many styles in which the Chinese eat crab which they love in general with a passion.

One of my earliest food memories is of having my mother, who loves crabs but for some strange reason will never admit it, absolutely astound me with the dexterity and speed with which she crunched her way through a mountain of crab shells with the utmost of ease.  I mean, from my youthful perspective, those crab shells were like iron shields and my mother was Superman or something.

October 23, 2011

Hong Kong Noodle Dishes - Food Toys

Bubble Toys, food toys, hong kong, noodles, traditional, Fish Slices, Fish Ball Noodles, 魚片魚蛋麵

I got hooked on these bubble toys when our baby was just walking and one of our favorite outings was going for a short walk around the neighborhood in the evenings when the usually chaotically traffic choked streets got quieter.  These bubble toy dispensers have always been around in Hong Kong dropping forth all sorts of cool toys packaged inside the 'bubble' and are usually located at the local convenience stores or in stores that only specialize in bubble toys.

It was just that I never really took much notice of them before.  At first it was just a diversion for the baby, something to interest her and have fun together with.  But then I discovered that they also dispensed really cool food toys and from that moment on I secretly became just as obsessed with them as my little girl and nowadays we argue over who gets to choose the machine we buy from that day.

October 21, 2011

Tomato Egg Stir Fry 蕃茄炒蛋

chinese, comfort food, egg, organic, recipe, stir fry, tomato, vegetable, scrambled eggs

You know how there are some foods that, when you smell, see or taste them, take you straight back to when you were just a wee girlie or laddie and were just tall enough to sit in the 'real' chairs and eat with the big people?  Ah, life was good then!  I didn't have to do a thing back then, just sit in my wee chair and eat to my heart's content all the yummy food that Grandma cooked each day.  Oh dear, I'm getting a tear in my eye...  How I miss Grandma and her wonderful cooking!  

She's the real reason that I have all these strong food memories for real Chinese home-cooking.  Grandma cooked proper delicious Chinese meals everyday of the year.  One favorite dish of mine that she made a lot was Tomato Egg Stir Fry 蕃茄炒蛋, a homey dish that, when well done, is a perfect combination of tastes and textures as well as being simple and quick to make.

Nowadays, whenever I gobble down the first couple of bites of this delicious Chinese comfort dish, I swear I can almost hear my dearest Grandma pottering about the pots and pans in the kitchen.

October 17, 2011

Hong Kong Honey - Wing Wo Bee Farm

Hong Kong Honey

You probably wouldn't believe that a 'Blade Runner' city like Hong Kong has its own local honey, I sure didn't at first. I was doing some research on honey as an alternative for sugar and looking for places to buy some quality honey.  We wanted to find alternatives to sugar so we could sweeten food for our little girl without too much worry what with all the bad tales about refined sugar these days.

To my amazement I discovered that there is a little bee farm, Wing Wo Bee Farm, or 永和蜜蜂場, right smack in the middle of Hong Kong, in Shatin in fact, run by Beekeeper Yip Ki-hok since 1983. A real bee farm in the land of skyscrapers! Amazing!

October 15, 2011

Berry Tart - Summer Dreaming

berry, blackberries, dessert, fruit, hong kong, raspberries, recipe, tart, vanilla pasty cream

There is always the magic of unknown pleasures inside the covers of any cookbook as you hold it in your hands for the first time.  And then if you do commit to the cookbook and try the recipes inside, you may find that you are punished for your hopes, merely satisfied, or amply rewarded.  

We found a little cookbook of Italian dessert recipes at a used book store one day and bought it out of curiosity (even though there were no pictures inside which is kinda weird for a dessert cookbook) and, honestly, because it was quite cheap.  And this time around we were very well rewarded with the sublime pleasure of the Summer Berry Tart.

October 13, 2011

Drunken Shrimp 醉蝦 - Easy Breezy

chinese, drunken shrimp, recipe, rice wine, seafood, shrimp, 醉蝦

Ah, the humble shrimp!  Sweet and succulent crustacean!  How can one resist the call of the just cooked shrimp, so tasty inside its armor of shell, so beautiful to look at, so crunchy yet tender, so brimming of sea flavor!  Well, if one has a problem with eczema like I do, one has to should resist it most of the time, just to save myself from the scratching and itching.  But in the special case when the suggestion of making Drunken Shrimp for dinner is proposed; well, how can one possibly refuse to make this easiest and tastiest of shrimp dishes?

October 12, 2011

Hong Kong Late Night Snack 食宵夜

Hong Kong, 食宵夜, Late Night Snack
Published: 2011-10-12
In Hong Kong there are the usual standard three meals a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner; and then there is the special Hong Kong style forth meal: late night snack or 宵夜.  You don't have to 宵夜 but the opportunity and the luxury is always there.  

So there we were one late, late night, hungry as wolves for some reason and looking for some good hot satisfying food.  We ended up at our local late night Hong Kong style roasted meats eatery, or 燒味舖, which sells the classic Cantonese roasted meats atop of rice or noodles or a la carte.  This little eatery is open until 4 am every night, proving the 'Oh So Seriousness' of the Hong Kong people towards 宵夜.

October 8, 2011

Chinese Festival Cake - For Tea Time

Published: 2011-10-12 
It is always fun, if you have a sweet tooth, to discover new delicious pastries, cookies and cakes that you can bring home.  In this we are lucky as Hong Kong has more than its fair share of yummy pastry shops and bakery shops that sell all kinds of sweets from Chinese style to Western style.  

My relatives (usually female and always on a diet) always go berserk when they come here and see all the yummy pastries presented so nicely in the store windows.  And the sweets here are not over-sweetened like they are in the States.  Recently we picked up this Chinese Festival Cake at the wet market where they were selling all kinds of goodies for the Mid Autumn Festival.

October 7, 2011

Marinated Kelp Salad - Manna from the Seas 涼拌海带

chinese, marinated, kelp, cold dish, kelp, seaweed, recipe, seafood, vegetable, 涼拌海带, 醬油

You're probably wondering what this is.  Why is the weird green curtain thingy showing up a food blog?  Well that's because we ate this weird green curtain thingy last night and it was delicious.  

This is Korean dried kelp, a recent discovery of ours and a now firm favorite with my 老公 who swears that it is improving his memory by leaps and bounds (a good thing too, that is.)  After tossing a handful of the dried kelp into a big bowl of water the resulting hydrated kelp was almost two feet long by a foot and some wide. 

October 6, 2011

Durian Ice Cream - No Machine Needed 榴蓮雪糕

dessert, Durian, durian ice cream, fruit, ice cream, recipe, no machine, 榴蓮雪糕

Hard on the heels of our Durian Taste Test, I decided to make 榴槤雪糕, or durian ice cream, with the leftovers of this fruit known as the King of Fruits. I had never made nor tasted durian ice cream so I was very curious to see how this would turn out.  In concept it seemed a perfect match, given the creamy and sweet nature of the durian and the cold creamy sweet character of ice cream.  

The only thing was that there was not that much durian left over after my daughter and I had munched on it that first day I brought it home; the 熱氣, or heat to the body, from the fruit causing me an slight outbreak of my ezcema and my little daughter to have her very first wee pimple, right in the middle of her perfect little nose.

October 4, 2011

Durian King of Fruits - Taste Test

smelly,taste test,durian taste test,Durian,fruit, king of fruits, tropical fruit
Published: 2011-10-04
Durian, or 榴槤, is one of the most fiercely hated and at the same time one of the most fiercely loved of fruits. Enrobed in a prickly armour that defies all unprepared suitors, tearing shreds through any material silly enough to get close (like my skirts), it finally opens through skilled knifework to expose golden, tender, meaty and very smelly globes of fruit.

My ex brother-in-law politely held down his bile at the appearance of this fruit, even though he is from France and surely must have suffered similar sensory traumas in his introduction to French cheeses?!

Those who love it can delicately dispose of great amounts of this fruit which I always view with awe since a tad too much causes me to wake up with pimples the next morning.  And I never get pimples!  So how to put durian, this King of Fruits to a real test of the human palate?  I finally realized the solution the other day when I brought some durian home from the market and my little girl began jumping up and down with her wee hand clamped over her nose.  'Smelly, mom, smelly!' she cried.

October 1, 2011

Soybean Sprouts Tofu Stir-Fry 清炒大豆芽豆幹

chinese Soybean Sprouts Tofu Stir Fry recipe

The apparent simplicity of the Chinese stir-fry often deceives the uninitiated.  I remember an Australian woman, passing through Hong Kong, who, when asked how she liked the local Chinese food, made a face and said, in a haughty tone, 'Oh, you mean all those stir-frys?'  

Yes, we do mean all those stir-frys, for there is nothing on this earth quite like them.  A few ingredients, simply and freshly prepared, a good wok, a hot hot fire, a few basic condiments and a brief few minutes of frantic cooking time will present you with a dish to remember.  Bright fresh flavors simple and true, the special wonderful aroma of wok hay, or 鑊氣.  A sophisticated cooking style that seems deceptively simple yet produces results that can wow.

Guide to Choosing Tofu 豆腐

Tofu Guide, tofu, guide, how to choose

Personifying simplicity and minimalism.  Yet so obliging and ready to please.  Oh wonderful Tofu!  What other food stuff could compare to you, so coy and sculpturesque on my little kitchen counter?  Tofu, or 豆腐, is indeed a magical food.  It is so yummy and versatile that you can find it everywhere and in everything.  In order to choose what type of tofu best suits your needs, here is a simple guide.

September 30, 2011

Make Your Own Pizza - New York Crust

NY Crust Pizza recipe

Sometimes when I'm real hungry, something will happen: maybe the word 'pizza' will occur to me, or I'll get a sudden whiff of that yeasty, hot, impossible to resist baking pizza smell; and then from that moment on I can't think of eating anything besides pizza.

The pizza in Hong Kong is okay but it somehow always tastes 'Chinese' (which is okay just weird) plus it's definitely on the expensive side for the teensy tiny pizza sizes you end up with.  A large pizza here is similar in size to a small elsewhere.  And I can eat alot of pizza- my grand record being 12 large slices (real 'large' slices) in a old-styled pizza duel.  Pretty good for a skinny Chinese girl, eh?  Well, to tell the secret truth, I threw up the last couple of slices in the ladies room as fast as I could get there without being found out.

NY Crust Pizza

September 28, 2011

Thousand Year Old Eggs and the Easter Bunny

Thousand Year Eggs
Published: 2011-09-28
When I was a little girl a favorite treat for me was eating thousand year old eggs or 皮蛋.  At our family dinners I would wait impatiently as my grandmother ate her share first (at Chinese dinners the elders always had the first pick).  She loved the shining smooth black and green eggs with the unique creamy/jellyish texture as much as I did.

But always, when my dearest grandma caught me greedily eyeing the diminishing pile of thousand year eggs she would quickly choose a nice piece with her chopsticks and gently place it in my rice bowl.  Yum, yum!  Thank you 奶奶!

September 25, 2011

Dad's Guide to Choosing Watermelon

Watermelon Guide
Published: 2011-09-25
What is summer without watermelons, right?  It's the perfect fruit, both humble and sublime.  Some of you are probably wondering why I am writing about watermelons in late September, but you must realize that in Hong Kong summers last forever, or at least until end of Sept or sometime even until end of November!

My Dad, or 爸爸 taught me the way to choose a good watermelon long ago when we were living in Texas.  Like me, he loved watermelons with a passion and we would come home with huge whoppers of melons, the like of which I haven't seen since (everything really is bigger in Texas), and then it would be scoop after scoop of that red, juicy, to die for watermelon flesh filling you up with all the coolness and loving sweetness that you could desire. 

In Hong Kong we haven't eaten that much watermelon, mostly because the watermelons always suck once we get them home and open them. I thought it was me or us, that we just didn't get the, you know, the Tao of the Melon.

September 20, 2011

Almond Bean Curd Dessert 杏仁豆腐

chinese Almond Bean Curd Dessert recipe
A beautiful to look at and easy to make Chinese dessert, gently scented with the flavor of almonds.  It rather reminds me of elegant Chinese ladies from the 1920's, slim, pale and delicate in their silk cheongsams like flowers in a field.

September 18, 2011

Lotus Paste Double Yolk Mooncake 雙黃白蓮蓉月餅

chinese, dessert, double yolk, festival cake, how to make mooncake, lotus paste, mid autumn festival, moon cake, recipe, salted egg yolk, 雙黃白蓮蓉月餅
Every once in a while I veer off the path of sanity and attempt the uncharted, the dangerous, the unsurmountable.  All in the name of good food, of course.  This time it was mooncakes or 雙黃白蓮蓉月餅, Chinese mooncakes for the Mid Autumn Festival, 中秋節.  

I decided that this year I would attempt to make my own mooncakes despite never having made them by hand before and, actually now that I think about it, never having eaten homemade mooncake ever in my life.  But once the delectable thought entered my mind, who was I to resist?

September 15, 2011

Mid Autumn Festival Hong Kong Traditions

Mid Autumn Festival Chinese Lanterns
Published: 2011-09-15
Caught up in the Hong Kong's simmering excitement in the leadup to the Mid Autumn Festival, or 中秋節, we did alot of walking and more than our customary exploring.  Since the baby was old enough to tag along without too much trouble, we took her to experience for the first time the many and varied Mid Autumn Festival traditions that abound even in a modern city like Hong Kong.

Mooncake Toys - Mid Autumn Festival

Mooncake Toy
Published: 2011-09-15
A very cute mooncake indeed.  Just in time for Mid Autumn Festival, or 中秋節. Did you guess?  It's not really a mooncake at all, but a mooncake toy, purchased from one of the ubiquitous toy vending machines that are found everywhere in Hong Kong.  In recent years around the dates of the important festivals, these vending machines have featured special toys that go along with the festivals.  Usually food items (very Chinese!).

Anyways, we got lucky this year and spotted this beautiful, perfectly made miniature mooncake with its own metal mooncake box.  It's just like the real thing!  But cuter, of course.

September 10, 2011

Hong Kong Organic Milk 香港有機牛奶

Hong Kong Organic Milk
Published: 2011-09-10
Ever since the baby came to us, there was always a concern about what kinds of food to feed her.  When we got to the stage where baby was ready for milk, we were at first stumped because after some research it seemed that modern milk is quite a manipulated and slightly strange thing (at least for a baby.)  Not wanting to give the baby milk that was over processed and stuffed with hormones and additives, we proceeded to search for imported organic milk in Hong Kong.

It never occurred to us that there might be a local source for organic milk.  But lo and behold, and quite by accident, we discovered Hong Ning Dairy, or 康寧牛奶, a Hong Kong source for fresh local organic milk.

Century Egg and Tofu 皮蛋豆腐

chinese, century egg, cold dish, egg, tofu, hundred year egg, recipe, shanghai, 皮蛋豆腐, thousand year egg, soy sauce

Century Egg and Tofu 皮蛋豆腐 is a classic Shanghainese dish that requires no cooking at all and is simple to make.  For us it is a kind of comfort food.  It relies on the made-in-heaven combination of two very Chinese ingredients: tofu 豆腐 and century egg 皮蛋.

There is the delicate silken texture as well as the rather bland taste of the tofu which lends well to absorbing introduced flavours.   To counter that there is the pleasing slipperyness and luscious gooeyness of the century egg with its strong distinctive flavors.  Rather like some kinds of good western cheese, there is at first a unique smell and texture and then the scrumptious flavor comes to you.  Once you are acquainted with its flavor and texture, century eggs become a special sensory taste treat.

September 3, 2011

Organic Rosemary Chicken Wings

chicken wings, recipe, organic, rosemary, rosemary chicken wings, baked

This recipe is a tribute to the wonderful wild organic rosemary that grows in my mother's garden in southern California.  A couple of years ago a landscaping contractor suggested to plant rosemary as a border plant along the bottom of the hilly slopes that enclose the garden.  I don't think my mother really knew then exactly what rosemary was as most Chinese from her generation don't bother too much with Western food as they are quite satisfied with the beauties of Chinese food.  

Anyways, she said yes and now organic rosemary grows in beautifully wild profuse abandon along most of her garden slopes.

August 22, 2011

Soy Sauce King Prawn Stir Fry 豉油王煎蝦

chinese, king prawn, stir-fry, prawn, recipe, seafood, shrimp, soy sauce, 豉油王煎蝦

This simple yet sophisticated stir fry of the Soy Sauce King Prawn, or 豉油王煎蝦, is a dish that tests the wok skills.  It is one of those fast and furious stir frys where your skill makes or breaks the dish.  So be forewarned.  And be challenged.  If you succeed you will have the sweet reward of succulent King Prawn cooked and flavoured to perfection.

Tomato Anchovy Pasta with Chives

anchovy, anchovy paste, chives, pasta, recipe, tomato, vegetable

There nothing else that has the simplicity, elegance and good taste of pasta.  One night we were too tired to go shopping for groceries and just scrounged around the kitchen to find cookables and ended up with this beauty of a pasta dish.

Poached Egg - The Holy Grail of Eggdom

egg, poached egg, recipe,

The debate on the methods for achieving the perfect poached egg were overwhelming the first time we decided to try making poached egg for ourselves.  We tried various methods that were vouched for including some rather exotic methods (such as cling film wrapped egg, which did not work but ended up giving us an endless laugh at the final strange looking product). In the end nothing really worked and we gave up for a time the search for the holy grail of eggdom.

Choi Sum 菜心 - A Gentle Blanch

boiled, blanched, choi sum, vegetables, chinese, recipe

As a newcomer to Hong Kong, one would be inclined to wonder about the popularity of a certain humble green vegetable, otherwise known as Choi Sum or 菜心 which translates literally as 'vegetable heart').  Compounding the mystery is the way it is usually served, simply blanched and then piled high on the plate with perhaps a splash of oyster sauce on the side.  It doesn't look like much.

For myself, it took a long time before I began to appreciate Choi Sum, preferring for many years the more obvious crunch and spiciness of the Gai Lan, or 芥蘭, another popular vegetable in Hong Kong.

August 14, 2011

Cauliflower Stir Fry 清炒椰菜花

chinese, Cauliflower, Stir Fry, recipe, vegetable

We always like to investigate new food happenings and so it was with the recent rash of small neighborhood 'organic' markets.  Especially so since we have been feeding our wee toddler with a mostly organic diet.  We had checked out the 'organic' market organized at the Star Ferry in Central on the weekend and were disappointed.

But then one quiet humdrum day, just around the corner from where we live, we discovered a new little organic market shop, rough and ready, rather with the charm of a farmer's market: surly shopkeeper, mouser cat and all.

August 12, 2011

Cherry Frozen Yogurt - No Machine Needed

cherry, frozen yogurt, ice cream, no machine needed, recipe

Making our own ice cream, or frozen yogurt to be precise, for the first time was a revelation. Luscious, creamy, bursting with flavor, tasting of, gasp!, sun-ripened fruit, it was something to long achingly for on lazy summer days. And all this without an ice cream machine!