Sunday, 31 August 2008

Shanghai Bean Paste Pancake

Chinese: 豆沙鍋餅 (do sa war bin)

This stuffed bean paste pancake is typical of Shanghainese snack or dim sum. Very easy to make and nice to go with a cup of tea.

Recipe - Serve about 4

For the pancake:
1 egg
110g flour (about 1 cup)
1 cup of water
1 tbsp of oil

1 tsp of oil for greasing the pan

about 250g of red bean paste 豆沙 (homemade as recipe or in a tin from supermarket)

2 tbsp of flour paste (mix about 1 - 2 tsp water with about 2 tsp plain flour to make a paste or can use some of the leftover pancake batter)

6 - 8 tbsp of cooking oil

Method: (see slide show)
  1. Mix the pancake batter ingredients together.
  2. Grease a 30cm frying pan lightly with oil and make about 4 -5 pieces of 20 - 21 cm round thin pancakes/crepe. Only fry the pancake on one side, when the top is dry it is ready to take out.
  3. Leave the pancakes to cool slightly.
  4. Spread about 40 - 60g of bean paste (about 3 - 4 tbsp) in the centre of the pancake, evenly to a rectangular shape. (You can stuff as much bean paste as you like)
  5. Spread the flour paste around the edges, and fold the pancake to a rectangular parcel.
  6. In a frying pan, add about 6 - 8 tbsp of oil and fry the pancakes maybe 2 at a time till crispy and brown on both side.
** other than red bean paste, other typical fillings include lotus seed paste 蓮蓉 or chinese dates paste 棗泥.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Red Braised Pork

Chinese: 紅燒肉 (Hong Shao Rou)

Nearly every Chinese family in China and all over the world has their own method and secret recipe for Hong Shao Rou. Vietnamese and Thai also have very similar method of cooking pork. This stewed pork is the ultimate comfort food. Hong Shao Rou should always use belly pork with skin which is stewed till very soft and tender.

For my version, see recipe below:

Recipe - serve 4 - 5 with other dishes

800g belly pork , cut into large chunks

2 tbsp of light soy
2 tbsp dark soy
2 tsp five spice
2 tsp of sugar
2 cloves of garlic grated
2 tbsp of grated ginger
2 tbsp of cooking wine

Cooking ingredients:
2 - 3 tbsp of cooking oil
2 - 3 tbsp of sugar
2 cloves of garlic chopped
3 star anise
1/2 tsp of crushed peppercorn
1 small piece cassia bark or cinnamon
4 tbsp of cooking wine
light soy sauce (optional to taste)

  1. *Blanch the pork pieces for about 1 min in boiling water. Wash away any impurities on the meat.
  2. Mix the pork pieces with the marinade mix, and leave for few hours - overnight.
  3. **Put few tbsp of oil in a wok add sugar and heat till caramelised.
  4. Add chopped garlic, star anise, crushed pepper and cinnamon. Stir till fragrant and without burning the caramel.
  5. Add the pork pieces without the excess marinate. Stir fry till the meat juices has dried up. Add a splash of cooking wine and the remaining marinate.
  6. Add enough water (just over 1 cup) to cover meat. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for around 1 hour till the meat is tender and the sauce has reduced. Taste and see if you need more soy sauce. There may be quite a bit of fat floating on the sauce, skimmed if you want to. This oil is very fragrant and nice to stir fry green vegetable like pak choi to go with the pork.

*Blanching the pork give a clearer sauce with less impurities.
**caramelised sugar give the pork a brownish red colour.
1 -2 dried or fresh chilli can be added for a spicy taste.
Many people like to add shelled hard boiled egg to be stewed with the pork.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Chinese Roast Belly (Siu Yuk)

Some of you may have seen this recipe which I posted on the BBC food board ages ago.

I bought a big piece of belly from Morrisons (ask the butcher), so it is time I make some of this fattening but very yummy and crispy belly pork.

Thin belly slices will not work with this recipe. You need a whole piece of belly pork at least 2 lb (l kg) in weight up to 2 kg. To get the thick and crispy crackling best find a piece of belly pork with a firm and thick skin. Floppy and soft skin will not give you very good crackling. The thickness of the meat is quite important too, try and choose one which is fairly thick at least 3 - 4 cm and with good proportion of lean meat and fat. If there are rib bones on the meat you can either leave them on or cut them out. The meat need to be at least 11 -12 cm wide (wider if the meat is of a bigger piece) and 18 – 22 cm long to get a good crackling and will stand on a wire rack evenly.

The Siu Yuk turned out to be very crunchy and nice except for two areas (as seen on the photo the redder spots) which did not get harden and puffed up. I could rescue it with spot grilling but I was too lazy, it's nearly perfect I am happy.

Chinese:燒肉 ('siu yuk' in Cantonese or 'shao roa' in mandarin)

Recipe (serve 4 or more with other dishes)

1 large piece of belly pork (this piece I had was around 1.4 kg)
For every 2 lb (about 900g) of meat you need this much of seasoning
1-1/4 to 1-1/2 tsp of salt
1 tsp of sugar
1-1/4 to 1-1/2 tsp of five spice
1/4 tsp of ground black pepper
2 tsp of minced/grated garlic (about 2 – 3 cloves)
2 small squares of preserved red bean curd (not white), mashed**
a dash of Mei Kui Lo wine (chinese rose wine) - optional

**Salted preserved red bean curd is called ‘nam yee’ in Cantonese. It is either sold in a jar or in a tin with squares of red looking tofu pieces in red pickling solution. Smells awful on its own but great in cooking like shrimp paste. If you cannot find preserved red bean curd, leave it out and add a bit more salt.

  1. To prepare the meat, first scraped the skin with a knife to remove any dirt or dead skin or hair. Place a rack on your sink and put the meat (skin side up) on the rack. Then pour a kettle of boiling water slowly and evenly over the skin to blanch it. (The hot water will be drained off straight into the sink). The skin will shriveled and the sides will be white(slightly cooked), that’s ok. Leave the skin to cool slightly. Score the skin with a small sharp knife in a tight diamond pattern or prick with a sharp skewer all over the skin, the more you score or prick the skin the better the crackling. Turn the meat over skin side down, make deep cuts lengthwise (1/3 deep the thickness of the meat) and 3 cm apart. If there are rib bones, cut along the rib bones. This is to help the seasoning to absorb into the meat.
  2. Mix the marinate ingredients together, rub all over the meat side only, a bit more between the cuts.
  3. Turn the meat over, if there is any marinate on the skin wipe it off with a damp kitchen towel. No seasoning on the skin at all.
  4. Put the meat on a dish, meat side down, covered with cling film and leave to marinate for at least 3 - 4 hours up to 36 hours, for longer hours leave in the fridge. The longer the meat is marinated the more tender and juicier it is.
  5. To prepare for roasting, preheat the oven to about 210 deg C.
  6. Use a deep roasting tin bigger than the piece of meat. Put a metal rack on the tin (the rack needs to be about 3 - 4 cm high). Pour boiling water into the roasting tin (about 1 - 2 cm deep).
  7. Rub the belly skin with some cooking oil (to prevent skin sticking to the rack). Rest the meat on the rack, skin side down.
  8. Roast for 25 – 30 minutes, then turn the meat over (skin side up). You can prick the skin some more if you wish. More pricking the skin will be more crispier.
  9. Return the meat back into the oven, roasting for another 25 – 35 minutes till the meat is done. (longer if the meat is over 1 kg, calculate using 20 minutes per lb + 20 – 25 minutes extra). Turn the heat up to 220 deg C during the last 15 minutes of cooking to help the crackling to puff or if you have a fan grill function turn that on and lower the heat to about 200deg C.
  10. The skin will crackle and pop forming a nice crackling. Wait till all or nearly all parts of the skin has puffed up nicely then take it out to rest and cool before cutting into small chunks.

If the skin is still soft without a hard crackling when the meat is done, turn the grill on, put the meat skin side up about 8 cm under a medium grill and heat it till the skin started to pop and crack for few minutes. Keep a close eye when grilling as the crackling will burn easily.

The best crackling to achieve is one which is quite puffy and very crunchy and tasty. This depends on quality of meat, cut of meat, oven and experience.

Serve the pork with the following:
Spice salt made with 1/3 salt, 1/3 ground Szechuan pepper and 1/3 five spice
Plum sauce + chilli sauce
Chilli oil
Chilli sauce
Or chinese style barbeque sauce (see recipe at end of this post)

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Chilli Crab

One thing I really miss living in the UK is live crabs. In UK we get boiled crabs but live crabs are so difficult to find and can be very expensive. I have tried frozen cooked crabs from Lidl they were full of water and hardly any meat at all. Today I saw some frozen raw crabs from the Chinese supermarket. I have to give this a try. Chilli crab is something I have in mind that I have not had for many years.

This recipe is lip smacking and finger licking good i.e. if you like eating with fingers and crunching crab shells. Dressed crab don't work with this recipe. If you don't like crab shells, you can sub with extra large king prawns with shell or lobster cut into chunks. If using prawns use less water/ pineapple juice.

The crab turned out to be rather nice though not as good as live. I will try again when I have a craving.

Chilli Crab (serve about 2 on its own - 4/5 with other dishes)


1 kg of crab with shell, cleaned and in large chunks (best use live, if not frozen raw, boiled is fine too, don't use boiled & frozen it's useless)
1 thumb size ginger piece cut into thin slices
about 5 tbsp cooking oil
4 - 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 - 3 tbsp yellow bean sauce/ paste
dash of light soy sauce (optional)
some sugar (optional)
about 3 - 5 tbsp chopped chillies* (amount depends on individual taste and hotness of chillies)
splodge of tomato ketchup
1 tsp of shrimp paste or belachan
about 2 - 3 tbsp tamarind puree/juice (extract from 1 walnut size of wet tamarind and hot water)
1/2 - 3/4 cup of water or light beer
1 small tin of pineapple cut into bite size with juice, can also use fresh pineapple (if using juice from tin use less water/beer)
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 large egg beaten
a little conflour and water for thickening (optional)
2 stalks of spring onion, roughly chopped
Small handful of coriander, roughly chopped.
some chilli oil (optional)
Extra spring onion, coriander and chillies as garnish

  1. Heat wok or large pan with oil and fry ginger for about 30 sec, add garlic and stir till slightly brown, then add yellow bean paste, shrimp paste and chilli and stir fry till the mixture gives out very strong fragrance.
  2. Add crab pieces turn the heat to the highest and stir fry for a minute or two (if using raw crab cook a bit longer). Taste if it is salty enough if not add dash of soy sauce, sugar to taste, tomato ketchup, tamarind, water, pineapple and its juice, tomatoes pieces and stir, covered and cooked for about 5 minutes till steaming hot and the sauce is bubbling hot. Pour the beaten egg in long thin stream into the boiling sauce and stirring the crab slowly at the same time so the egg cooked like ribbons. If the sauce is not thick enough, add enough cornflour solution to thicken. Add chopped spring onion and coriander. Ready to plate up. Drizzle some chilli oil to make the sauce looks glistening and reddish if wish.
  3. Decorate with more spring onion, coriander and chillies.

* If the sauce is not spicy hot enough can add in as much hot chilli sauce like Sriracha.

Serve hot with rice and plenty of cold beer.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Fish Fragrant Aubergine

Lidl's aubergines were less than 30p ea last weekend. I got to buy some.

Aubergine is probably one of my favourite vegetable, if you cook it right it’s sweet, soft and scrumptiously good but if it is not cooked through it’s like eating paper pulp, strange vegetable.

Moussaka and Fish Fragrant aubergine are probably my favourites. I am no expert in Greek cooking so I will just post a Chinese recipe.

魚香茄子‘Yu-xiang qie-zi’ or simply read as ‘ye siang chair jie’)

There is no fish in the dish. ‘Fish fragrant’ is a classic name for a Sichuan sauce made up of various ingredients like chilli bean paste, garlic, ginger, black vinegar etc… make a sauce which is hot, salty, slightly sweet and slightly sour.

I normally brush the aubergine pieces with oil and pan fried till brown. Most Chinese and traditional way is to deep fry. The aubergine pieces do absorb most of the oil if deep fried, so it can a bit high in calories for people watching their diet. I will deep fry occasionally, it’s worth doing because deep frying gives a lovely nutty flavour a lot better than pan fried, the aubergine is so much sweeter and the the texture just melts in your mouth with a lovely red oil oozing out of the aubergines when cooked.

Recipe (serve about 3 – 4)


2 large aubergine or about 4 Chinese aubergines (long thin and paler than the western cousin)
80 - 100g minced pork*
cooking oil (qty depend on if deep fried or pan fried)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp grated or chopped ginger
from 2 tsp – 3 tbsp chilli bean sauce/paste 辣豆瓣醬(or normally called ‘dou ban jiang’ ), much as you like, I like it very hot and quite salty, so I normally use 3 tbsp

1/2 - 1 tsp light soy
1/2 tsp dark soy
1 - 2 tbsp chinese cooking wine
1 - 2 tbsp chinese black rice vinegar
1 - 2 tsp of sugar
boiling water or stock
1 - 2 red chilli, chopped (optional if you like it hot)
1 tsp of cornflour with a little water to mix
2 stalks of spring onions, chopped
2 – 3 tsp of chilli oil or sesame oil

extra chopped spring onion and chilli for garnish


1. To prepare the aubergine, you can either peel or leave the skin on. Cut in 1.5cm (1/2”) thick, cubed or in thick julienne. Do cut just before cooking or it will turn brown very quickly. If you like to prepare in advance, cut and soak in water. There is no need to salt the aubergine at all, I have never found it bitter.

2. a. Normally the aubergine is deep fried for few minutes in about 1 cup of oil till brown and softened. Fry the aubergine in two batches. When done take them out and drain on a sieve for at least 15 minutes, some excess oil will come out which you can remove.

2. b. To fry with as little oil as possible, brush the pieces with oil, fry till brown and softened for about 5 – 10 minutes. Leave aside. It is not necessary to cook the aubergine till completely soft, the rest of cooking is done during the simmering stage.

3. In a clean pan/wok add some cooking oil heat till hot, add the garlic and ginger stir for few seconds, add the mince pork, stir fry till fragrant and brown. Push the mince aside and add the chilli bean sauce and stir for about 30 seconds till fragrant, add light soy sauce, dark soy sauce. Add a splash of cooking wine, black vinegar and some sugar to taste. Add the aubergine pieces and enough water or stock, covered and leave to stew for few minutes till the aubergine is soft and the cooking liquid has reduced to nearly dry.

4. Thickened with a little cornflour and water. Stir in most of the chopped spring onion. Sprinkle on some chilli oil or sesame oil, do not stir. Ready to plate up.

5. Sprinkle with some more spring onion and maybe more chopped chillies for garnish.

* For a vegetarian version sub mince with soaked and chopped shitake mushroom (about 3 – 5 mushrooms). You can also have this dish without any mince or mushroom.

Monday, 18 August 2008


In Chinese various names depending on region:
餛飩(Mandarin, mainly from northern or north east china, pronounced as 'hun tun')
雲吞(Cantonese, pronouced as 'won ton' as we all know),
抄手(only in Sichuan, pronouced as 'chau shou')

Wontons are quick and easy snack for a lot of Chinese. I haven't met anyone who doesn't like wontons.
I like them deep fried or boiled as dumplings with a spicy sauce Szechuan style, with a Cantonese style sauce or in soup with or without noodles.

You can make your own pastry if you have a pasta machine, but it is so much easier to buy from Chinese supermarket, chilled or frozen. Cantonese wonton pastry is usually yellow in colour while Shanghai or Szechuan wonton skin is usually creamy white, and wonton skin is always cut in square not round.

How to wrap wontons:
There are various ways, the most common is these two.
1. Fold diagonally into a triangle then with both hands squeeze the pasty toward the centre, pleating and sealing it at the same time. See slide show . I like this method for deep frying.

2. Fold diagonally again, press the pastry gently right outside where the meat filling is, then pull both pointed ends of the folded side downward and to meet each other, wet the inside of the jointed ends, press and seal. See slide show. I like this method for wonton soup.

I had some wonton and noodles soup yesterday with some left over meat filling from the stuffed cucumber. Good stock is important don't use instant stock cube, boil some chicken or pork bones and flavoured with some salt, dash of light soy and some ground pepper. Many chinese like to add a little of Knorr chicken stock granules to make the soup base more tasty. Wonton and noodles soup is always very basic just good soup base, fresh chilled cantonese noodles from the chinese supermarket, wontons and some chinese green (cook with the soup base or boil with noodles till tender) with a sprinkling of pepper and maybe few drops of sesame oil or garlic oil before serving. Always boil the noodles separately in a large pan of boiling water, never boil with the soup, only takes about a minute, same with wontons if they float they are cooked.

To go with the noodle soup I had deep fried wontons with S&S sauce. My favourite snack or finger food. For the filling just seasoned pork or 50:50 pork and prawn, don't add any vegetable or spring onion, vegetable will make the pastry soggy. For the S&S sauce, no colouring like in takeaways or restaurant, just plenty of tomato ketcup, dash of favourite chilli sauce, dash of oyster sauce or light soy sauce, sugar to taste, about 3 times water to dilute, some cornflour to thicken and dash of sesame oil for a nice flavour. If you like the sauce tangy, add few tbsp of lemon or lime juice at the end of the cooking. For the wontons deep fried in about 1 cup of oil in several batches, for about 3 minutes till golden brown and crispy. Do not heat the oil too hot, if the pastry sizzle that is ok, if too hot the pastry will burn in seconds and the meat will not get cooked.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Nutella cake

Sunday baking as usual.

I found this nutella cake recipe from Good food mag . Was inspired by it but like to use more Nutella than just 4 tbsp in a large cake and don't like the cinnamon in chocolate cake . So I made up my own mix with less butter, sugar and a lot more nutella. The mixture filled about 1/2 the tin, it grew and grew in the oven to more like a little mountain. I was really pleased with it, had just tried a piece after I have taken the photo. It was nice and light. Will definitely made it again, maybe I will try peanut butter next time. I reckon the cake will be even nicer and moister if sliced in half and filled with cream or ground hazelnut chocolate garnache.

Nutella Cake
Tin size: 20 - 21 cm round tin

225g of S R flour
25g of cocao
1 tsp of baking powder
125g butter, softened
125g light brown sugar (or any sugar you like)
200g nutella
4 large eggs
4 tbsp milk
handful of chopped hazelnut or almond (no hazelnut which will go with nutella, so use almond)
handful of whole skinned hazelnut or flake almond for the topping

  1. Sieve the flour, cocoa and baking powder together
  2. Beat the butter and sugar till light, then add nutella continue beating till very light.
  3. Add the eggs in one at the time till all combined and very light.
  4. Add in the flour mixture a bit at a time and some milk till till the mixture is smooth.
  5. Stir in the nuts.
  6. Fill the tin. Top with more nuts
  7. Bake at 170deg C fan oven or 180deg C non fan over for about 1 hour 10 minutes or till the cake is cooked through.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Stuffed cucumber

If you like stuffed bitter melon but don't like the bitterness you will like stuffed cucumber. The sauce for stuffed bitter melon is normally quite strong to cover the bitter taste while the sauce for stuffed melon is normally very mild not to interfere with the delicate taste of cucumber. Chinese winter melon or courgette can also be used for this recipe. If using courgette do not peel.

Ingredients: (will serve 2 - 3 people)
1 large cucumber (best use homegrown cucumber it's firmer and tastier)

50g of minced pork
50g of raw peeled prawn, chopped
2 medium size dried shitake mushrooms, soak, squeeze out excess water and chop very fine
2 - 3 water chestnuts (fresh or tinned), chopped (about 3 tbsp)
1 tsp of cornflour
2 tsp of light soy sauce
pinch of pepper

2 - 3 tsp of cooking oil
1 tsp or 1 medium clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp of oyster sauce
2 tsp of light soy sauce
2 - 3 tsp of cooking wine
about 3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock or water
pinch of pepper
dash of sesame oil

  1. Peel the cucumber, top and tail then cut into 2 cm thick slices. Use a small knife and cut out the centre and leave about 12 -15mm hole in the centre. You will probably get about 12 - 14 pieces. Blanch the cucumber for about 5 minutes in boiling water. Drain.
  2. Mix the stuffing ingredients together.
  3. Stuff the cucumber slices. Leave some stuffing sticking out at both ends spread the stuffing large than the hole (this will prevent the stuffing falling out). Very easy to stuff, take not time at all.
  4. In a wok/pan, add the oil and fry the garlic till fragrant. Add in the stock or water and oyster sauce, bring to the boil, add the stuffed cucumber slices. Cover and simmer for about 5 - 10 depending on how soft you like the cucumber, the longer you cook the softer the cucumber. Push the cucumber gently to one side of the wok/pan, there should be quite a bit of sauce leave, if not add more water, add some soy sauce to taste, some cooking wine, pinch of pepper and dash of sesame oil then thickened with a little cornflour mix with a little water. The sauce should be lightly thickened not gloppy. Ready to dish out and eat while hot.
* If you don't like a brown sauce using oyster sauce and prefer a very light colour sauce you can just use chicken stock lightly seasoned with few drop of light soy and few grains of salt.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Braised Fish with tofu

This is a common type of every day home cooking without a classic name. Nothing exotic just yummy good food.

For the recipe: (serve 2 -3)

Ingredients: (all ingredients are approx., use more or less to your taste)
1 whole fish (like trout, sea bass or sea bream. You can also use fish fillet or fish steaks, allow for 2 - 3 servings)
2 - 3 large squares of Chinese tofu* (about 300 - 400g)
cooking oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 large clove garlic, chopped
1 thumb size ginger, sliced
2 - 3 large red chillies, sliced
about 3 tbsp of yellow bean sauce/paste
about 2 tbsp of oyster sauce
1 - 2 tbsp chinese black vinegar
3 - 4 tbsp of tomato ketchup
1 - 2 tsp of sugar
dash of sesame oil
1 heap tsp of cornflour mix with some water
handful of chopped spring onion + 1/2 the amount of chopped coriander

  1. Fried the tofu with some oil till lightly brown all sides, leave to cool and cut into bite size.
  2. Fried the fish till brown (not necesarily cooked through), take out and leave aside.
  3. In the same pan with a bit a oil, fry the garlic, ginger, onion and half the chillies till softened and fragrant.
  4. Add in the yellow bean sauce, stir for about 1 minute. Add in 1 cup of water, add in oyster sauce, vinegar and ketchup. Taste to see if you like to add a bit of sugar to balance the taste. Bring the sauce to boil.
  5. Add in the fish and tofu pieces, cover and braised till the tofu and fish for about 10 - 12 minutes till bubbly hot. Drizzle in cornflour water and stir gently to thicken, add sesame oil. Add in 3/4 of the spring onion and coriander, stir and heat off. Ready to dish. Sprinkle on remaining chillies and herb on top.

* If you buy pre-fried tofu that will save you some time. Just cut up into small pieces.
Can also use puffy tofu if you like.
If you don't have or don't like tofu, you can use a 2 - 3 sweet pepper, sliced and any colour you like.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Laksa Lemak or Nyonya Laksa

Some of you may have seen this recipe before. Nothing new just thought of adding this to the blog together with last post Penang Laksa. Picture a bit dark I will replace it when I make it again.

Laksa Lemak is sometime called Nyonya laksa – this is a coconut curry soup base noodles. Sambal belacan and lime (or local lime called limau kasturi) is commonly serves with this laksa, which you can stir some into the soup or as a dip.

Spice paste or rempah, I normally make double the following qty of the spice paste and keep 1/2 in the fridge, will keep for 4 - 6 weeks.

Recipe will serve 4

1 1/2 tbsp of coriander seeds
1 tsp of black/white peppercorns
1 small piece (25g) shrimp paste, Malaysian if you can find if because it is easier to roast than the Thai shrimp paste in a tub
few fresh red chillies (for a nice fresh chilli flavour)
6 – 15 dried red chillies (much as you like, dried chillies gives a nice deep orangy colour and red oil floating on the soup, if you don’t like it spicy, you can use some deep red non smoked paprika)
6 - 8 (about 100 - 120g) shallots, peeled and cut in half
3 – 4 cloves garlic
2 stalks of lemon grass, top and tail and remove woody layer. Then slice very thin
1 pieces (35g) of galangal, peeled and sliced
5 – 6 candle nuts (kemiri nuts), if not available can leave out
1 tbsp of sugar
1 small piece of fresh turmeric or 1 – 1.5 tsp of turmeric powder
1/4 cup of oil
1/2 cup of water

1.5 – 2 litres of good chicken stock (not stock cube)
1 tin (400 ml) of coconut milk
Salt to taste (if needed)

1 large chicken breast
12 - 16 king prawns (about 3 – 4 per person)

375 – 450g rice vermicelli, soaked or use thick wheat noodles like udon.
1 packet (335g) of bean sprouts
16 chinese fish balls or 1 fried fish cake (slice into 16 pieces)
1/4 cucumber sliced or shredded
2 hard boiled eggs (quartered) - optional
a little chopped laksa leaf/ daun kesom (if you can find this, if not use some mint or Thai sweet basil)
1 or more lime cut into quarter
Some sambal belachan (recipe see end of this or a different cooked belachan recipe at end of this post)


  1. Roast the coriander seeds and peppercorns. Put in coffee/ spice grinder and ground or you can pound in a pestle and morta.
  2. Cut shrimp paste into thin slices and roast on both sides in a dry pan for about 10 – 12 minutes. If using Thai shrimp paste just scrape some into a pan and fry till dry.
  3. Put all the spice paste ingredients (incl. oil and water) in a mini blender or food processor and blitz.
  4. Cook the paste in a deep large saucepan, gentle heat for about 20 -25 minutes, stirring frequently, till the paste begins to separate and thicken.
  5. In another pan, add few ladles of stock and gently poach chicken for about 15 minutes till cooked. Removed then poach the prawns for few minutes till cooked and turned pink. Shred chicken. If you use shelled prawn, peel and leave for later use.
  6. Add poaching stock and remaining stock to spice paste and simmer for 20 minutes.
    Strain the spice soup using a large sieve.
  7. Pour stained soup back to the pan add coconut milk simmer till boiling hot. Taste and seasoned with salt if needed. The soup should have a layer of very rich yellow/orangy red oil floating on top. The oil has a lot of flavour. Skimmed if you want to but not all of it.
  8. While the soup is simmering, in another large pan fill with boiling water and blanch noodles, drained and divide into bowls. Then blanch bean sprouts, drain and lay on top of noodles.
  9. Lay shredded chicken, prawns, fish balls, cucumber slices and hard boiled eggs on top of bean sprouts in each bowl.
  10. Pour hot soup into bowl. Sprinkle with a laksa leave or little mint or Thai sweet basil.
  11. Serve with a wedge of lime and some sambal belachan in a separate sauce dish.

100g of shrimp paste (Malaysian belachan if you can find it, if not use Thai but you will not be able to slice it)
6 large medium chillies, seeds incl., cut into chunks (more if you like it hot)
4 – 5 dried chillies, seeded and soaked (more if you like it hot)
6 -7 (120 – 140 g) shallots
5 - 6 tbsp cooking oil
2 - 3 tsbp sugar

Cut the shrimp paste into thin slices and toast both side for 10 -12 minutes
Put every thing in mini blender and blend till smooth. You can use a pestal and mortar.
Cook the mix for 15 – 20 minutes till the mixture thickened

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Penang Laksa or Assam Laksa

This laksa is very popular in Penang, Malaysia. It is a tangy, spicy fish noodles soup, not to be confused with the creamy coconut laksa normally called laksa lemak or Nyonya laksa.

Traditional laksa does not use fish sauce or fresh coriander, but you can add some if you like.

It is quite difficult to replicate the exact flavour of Penang laksa due to some of the ingredients not easily available in the west, eg.

Laksa leaf/ daun kesom/ Vietnamese mint, I have not seen it before in any Chinese supermarket in England, have heard Sakkarin (BBC food board poster) bought some before.

Pink torch ginger flower/ bunga kantan, I have never seen it in any oriental supermarket.

Ikan kambong, a typical fish similar to mackerel but smaller is the normal fish use for this laksa.

Black shrimp paste/ haeko/ petis udang – a black sticky paste not to be confused with the belachan or terasi. This is made with boiling shrimp shells and the liquor is reduced to a thick and black paste. The look and texture is very similar to marmite. This shrimp paste is an essential ingredient for making Malaysian/ Singaporean Rojak (salad). I have seen it once or twice in Chinese supermarket, not easily available.

Without the hard to find ingredient, you can still make a fabulous fragrant and spicy soup noodles with a recipe like below. My version is closest to what I know, there may be other recipes with other ingredients not found in this recipe.

Recipe: (enough for 3 - 4 servings)

500g or about 2 – 3 mackerels or ikan kembong, ½ for the soup and ½ for garnish

Rempah (spice paste) for the soup
1 small piece about 1 tbsp of belacan or shrimp paste
1 small piece (25g) fresh ginger
2 stalks of lemon grass, top and tail and remove woody layers
1 small piece(30g) galangal
1 small piece fresh turmeric (about 15g), if not leave out, don’t think turmeric powder goes well with this soup
5 - 6 shallots (about 80 – 100g)
few fresh red chillies (depending on how spicy you like, I normally use 2 fat medium red chillies)

Few dried chillies, seeded and soaked (dried chillies gives a deeper red colour to the soup, as many as you like and depends on the strength of chillies, I normally use about 5 - 6)

Other ingredients for the soup base:

2 - 2.25 litres boiling water/ fish stock (you can use the mackerel bones to make the stock or prawn shells)

2 - 3 tsp oil

½ to 1 pink torch ginger flower sliced – optional

1 cup sieved tamarind juice made with assam gelugor /assam keeping/ assam skin (about 8 -10 pieces) or wet tamarind (about 2 walnut size piece) or ready to use sieved tamarind concentrate/ juice (few tbsp depending on concentration) – if you don’t have tamarind can substitute with few tbsp of lime juice - amount of tamarind or lime juice depend on taste, you can use as little or as much as you like. To make tamarind juice from wet tamarind or assam skin, soaked with 1 cup of hot water, squeeze and sieve. (see bottom of page to see the various type of tamarind)

Salt to taste

1 tbsp sugar

About ½ of the mackerals, flaked meat

For the noodles
1 to 1-1/4 pkt about 375 - 450 g, thick rice noodles (lai fun)* or rice vermicelli

or you can use udon (about 1 to 1 ½ packet per person)

For the garnish:
Remaining 1/2 of the mackerel, flaked meat
1/2 cucumber, cut into fine strips
1 - 2 leaf of iceburg lettuce, finely shredded or large handful of bean sprouts
1 cup fresh or tin pineapple cut into small slices/chunks
few tbsp chopped laksa leaves (daun kesom) or mint leaves or Thai sweet basil (not authentic) or coriander(also not authentic ingredient)
few tbsp chopped Thai or normal basil - optional
2 fresh chillies – finely sliced for garnish (optional)
Few fresh shallots or 1 red onion - thinly sliced or some crispy onions
Lime wedges
Few tbsp pink torch ginger flower/ bunga kantan thinly sliced - optional

1 tbsp per serving of black shrimp paste/ haeko/ petis udang – optional


Grill the fish, skinned and boned and flaked into chunks, 1/2 to be boiled with spicy soup and 1/2 for garnish. Can save bones and heads for the stock.

Blend the spice, don’t have to be very smooth.

Making the soup base: Put the blended spice mix and a little oil in a large pan with water/fish stock, and the sliced ginger flower and boil for 15 -20 minutes then strain with a large metal sieve. Pour the spiced soup back into the pan. Seasoned with salt and sugar. Add the tamarind juice, add half then taste, if like more keep adding. Pour soup back in the pan, add 3/4 of the fish pieces and simmer for few minutes till hot and bubbly.

For the noodles, if using dried noodles, soaked then blanch in boiling water till softened. If using lai fun, make sure you soak in boiling water for at least 10 -15 minutes or till the noodles is soften, then boil till soft time depends on brand sometime takes about 20 mins. Lai fun is similar to spaghetti but a bit more chewy.

If using udon just blanch for about 1 minute till hot.

To assemble the dish, put enough hot noodles in deep soup noodles bowls, garnish with all the ingredients above, ladle over boiling hot soup. Serve immediately. Lime wedges on the side (squeeze juice into soup) much as you like. For the black shrimp paste you can either dollop on top of the soup or put in a Chinese soup spoon or small plate on the side, to be stirred into the soup if preferred.

If you like also serve this noodles with sambal oelek or sambal belacan if you like it.

Donkey Roly Poly

Chinese: 驢打滾 (Re da Kun)

When you read the title you probably think what the hell am I talking about?

Ever seen a donkey doing a roly poly on dusty yellow sand? That is how the name of this sweet cake came from. I think the name is really cute and sweet.

Basically this is a sweet rice roll with aduki bean paste filling and rolled in toasted soya flour. A bit like sushi with a sweet bean filling. A popular sweet cake in Beijing.

Many recipes use glutinous flour pastry but I like this one with cooked sticky rice.


200g of glutinous or sticky rice

2 tbsp of sugar

150g of red bean paste (recipe see here)

50 - 60 of toasted soya flour* (see instruction below how to make this) + icing sugar** or sesame seeds*** (optional)

Method: (slide show click here)
  1. Wash and soak the rice for few hours. Put the rice in a container, water level should be just on the top of the rice, add sugar and stir. Steam for about 30 - 35 minutes or till cooked through. Leave to cool.
  2. Divide the bean paste into two equal portion and roll it into a long thin sausage.
  3. Line the working area with a piece of cling film, put half the rice on. Spread it out a bit, then fold the cling film over and spread with fingers till you get a smooth long rectangular block of rice.
  4. Put the rolled out bean paste in the middle and roll it up with the help of cling film and shape it like sushi. Press to firm up the roll.
  5. Put the roll onto the toasted soy bean flour. Roll and coated then cut the cake into pieces. This cake is best eaten within 1 day or it may be a bit hard.

* Toasted soy bean flour:
Traditional method is to roast the beans till golden brown then ground to powder.
The cheat method I used in the recipe is soya flour, available in Tesco or many other places. Roast the flour in a dry pan in medium low heat, stirring all the time for about 15 minutes till light golden brown, the flour should taste a bit sweet and nutty. See the slide show the colour of unroasted to roasted flour. IMO soya flour is less tasty than the traditional way using roasted beans then ground.

**Soya flour has a light sweetness if you like the flour to be sweeter add in some icing sugar after the mixture is cooled.

** If you like the coating to be even more nutty, add in some toasted sesame seeds and blitz with the flour using a mini blender.

Toasted soya flour may be an aquired taste if you are not used to it. If you don't like soya flour, you can use finely ground roasted peanut with or without sesame seeds.

Red Bean Paste

Chinese: 紅豆沙 (hong dao sa)

Red bean paste is a very common sweet filling for many chinese buns and cakes.

Easy to make but take a bit of time and patient.


1lb or 450g Aduki bean or red bean (in chinese)
about 2 litres water
1 cup of sugar or more if you like it sweeter
1 cup of cooking oil (don't skimp on the oil or the bean paste will taste sandy and look crumbly, for traditional recipe amount of oil used is about twice this recipe)

  1. Wash and boil the beans with water till soft. I use pressure cooker which took about 30 - 35 minutes. If you boil on the stove if the water is drying up top it up with a bit more but not too watery.
  2. When cooked, leave to cool for bit. Then blend till very smooth.
  3. Sieve the beans. Force it through a metal sieve with a large metal spoon. If you don't mind the bean paste with bits of skin. Forget about this step.
  4. Stir in the sugar and oil.
  5. Cook at medium heat for about 30 - 35 minutes (or longer if your mixture is more watery than mine, see slide show). You need to keep stirring and scraping the bottom during cooking all the time. The mixture when hot will spit rapidly, so stand back a bit while stirring. If the spitting is too fierce turn the heat down a bit. Keep stirring if you get fed up turn off the heat have a cup of tea and come back continue cooking. When the mixture gets drier, the spitting will stop. You need to reduce the mixture till it looks like a thick paste (see slideshow). When you are happy, heat off and transfer to a bowl or container and leave to cool. The paste feels much thicker when cooled.
  6. Can keep in the fridge for couple of weeks if not tainted with dirty spoon or fingers. This bean paste can also freeze.
  7. When you are ready to use, if it feels a bit hard, warm it up a bit in a microwave for a minute.

I like bean paste quite thick, can roll into a ball without being sticky.

Red bean Ice lollies

I made a batch of red bean paste yesterday. I cooked extra beans to make some lollies and red bean sweet drink.

Red bean lolly is popular in the far east but never seen any in the west. I wonder why, it's tasty and full of goodness than artificial colouring and flavouring in most lollies these days.

So how do you make it? Very very easy. Boil some aduki beans till really soft. Water to beans volume ratio about 4 :1. If you like a nice flavour you can add few pieces of pandanus leaves to boil with the beans removed later. When this is done, add in some coconut milk/cream or double cream and sugar to taste. Get your lolly maker fill it up and freeze. That's all!

Here are some I'd made earlier. The plastic handles are a bit naff I know I don't have any wooden sticks. I am actually eating a lolly while typing this, yum!

On top of the lolly last night dessert was red bean sweet dessert with black pearls (oriental large tapioca for bubble tea) top with crushed ice and coconut milk. Picture on the left is the packet of the dried black pearls.

Mapo Tofu

Chinese called this Mapo tofu 麻婆豆腐, loosely translated in English as 'pockmarked woman tofu'. Several legends all slightly different telling the story how this dish was developed. The story I read said at the end of Ching Dynasty, in Chengdu (Sichuan) by the Wan Fu bridge, a pockmarked woman took over her husband restaurant after he died. There were few street traders who frequently ate in that restaurant always bring in some beef and had the lady to cook something for them. The lady concocted a lovely spicy sauce to flavour meat and tofu which had become very famous till today.

Recipe will serve 4


400 - 500g (about 1 box) chinese tofu from chinese supermarket from the chiller cabinet soaked in water
200 - 250g of minced beef or pork
2 tbsp of cooking oil
2 fat clove of garlic, chopped
1.5 - 2.5 tbsp of chilli bean sauce (I normally use this brand and about 2.5 tbsp, I like it spicy)
0.5 to 1 tbsp dried fermented black bean or yellow bean sauce, roughly minced with spoon(most people like black beans, I like yellow beans)
1 medium mild chilli, chopped (optional if you like it spicy)
1 tsp dark soy sauce
0.5 to 1 tbsp oyster sauce (optional, not authentic but I find it tastes very nice with this dish)
1 tsp of sugar
good pinch of freshly ground pepper
0.5 cup chicken stock or water
1 heap tsp of cornflour mixed with a little water
2 stalks of spring onions, chopped
2 - 3 tsp of chilli oil or sesame oil
a little roasted and ground sichuan pepper (optional)

Extra chopped spring onion and fresh chilli for garnish.

  1. Heat oil in wok add garlic, stir for 10 -15 sec, add the chilli bean paste and yellow bean paste (or black beans) stir till fragrant, add mince, stir till browned then add soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, ground pepper, stock and chopped chilli (optional).
  2. Cut tofu into chunks, add to meat sauce, stir gently and simmer till hot. Add cornflour, when thickened add chopped spring onions. Sprinkle on chilli oil or sesame oil but don't stir. Transfer onto serving dish, sprinkle with Sichuan pepper if like.
  3. Sprinkle with more spring onion and fresh chilli.
Note: qty of all types of sauces is a guide, you can add as much or as little as you like, don’t add too much, it can be salty. You can always add more after you add the stock. Many people like to add loads of oil or chilli oil, I don't like it bathing in oil but if you like it use much as you like.

For a vegetarian version, sub beef with chopped shitake (handful after soaked) and some chinese preserved vegetable like this. If you use zha cai either soaked to reduce the saltiness or reduce some of the sauce.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Shanghainese Noodle Pancake

Chinese: 兩面黃
(liang mein huang)

This a Shanghai street food, in translation this is called 'two yellow faces' (or two sides brown). This noodle dish makes excellent lunch. Cook like a stuffed pancake. Outside crispy inside soft and filled with a meat and vegetable filling.

Very easy to make. Best noodles to use are those fresh thin noodles available from Chinese supermarket.

recipe enough for 1 or 2


2 coiled bundle of fresh thin noodles
2 tsp of soy sauce
few drops of sesame oil

80g of lean pork, cut into fine strips
2 tsp of soy sauce
few drops of sesame oil
pinch of ground pepper

1 fat clove of garlic, chopped
1/2 carrot, cut into matchstick size
small handful of bamboo shoots, sliced fine (optional)
2 dried shitake (about 4cm wide), soaked and cut into fine strips
1 - 2 sprig spring onion, chopped
(or you can use Chinese chives)
1 large egg, beaten
cooking oil

  1. Boil half kettle of water, loosen the noodles put in a large bowl. Pour boiling water in, stir then drain. Lift the noodles up and down till no more steam coming out. Season the noodles with soy sauce and drizzle of sesame oil. Leave aside.
  2. Season the pork with soy sauce, sesame oil and ground pepper.
  3. Cut and prepare the vegetables.
  4. In a non stick fry pan, put in a small drizzle of oil and add the garlic, stir till fragrant add pork and mushrooms, add carrot and bamboo shoots (if using). Cook till carrot slightly soften. Heat off add spring onion. Take the filling out, leave aside.
  5. Put about 2 - 3 tsp of oil, evening coating the pan, add 1/2 the noodles in spreading evening. Then spread the filling evenly on top of the noodles. Spread the rest of the noodles on top or the filling. Fried till the underside is brown and crispy. Take a large plate and turn the pancake onto the plate. Add another 2 - 3 tsp of oil on the frying pan and return the pancake onto the pan uncooked side down. Cook till brown and crispy. Then pour the beaten egg along the edge evenly and let it brown. Then ready to plate up. Can top pancake with some chinese green vegetable or just a sprinkling of spring onion.

For a vegetarian version, leave out the pork sub with chinese pickle vegetable or puffy tofu. If you don't eat egg leave it out.

A New Look

Just downloaded a three coloumns layout which I have been looking for sometime, so I can squeeze in more information.

Bear with me for a while there will be few changes here and there.

Let me know if you like this format.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Fried chicken buns

I find fried buns much easier to make and cook then the steam type. Here I am again making another batch fried buns, this time with chicken. Can also make this as flat buns, same as the beef buns posted earlier.

For the bread dough:
200g white bread flour
100g plain flour
2 tbsp sugar
¾ tsp of salt
¾ tsp of quick acting yeast
2 tbsp of cooking oil
160 – 175 ml of water

For the filling:
350g chicken breast cut into small pieces
1 ½ tbsp of grated ginger
2 tbsp light soy
1 ½ tbsp of Shaoshing wine
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
2 – 3 tsp of sesame oil
1 heap tsp of cornflour
2 stalks of spring onion chopped
Few sprigs of coriander (about the same qty as spring onion) chopped
Small handful of bamboo shoots (optional), cut into small piece
Few woodears, soaked and cut into fine strips – optional

some water and little oil for cooking


Slide show click here

  1. to make the bread dough, mix dry ingredients together, then add in oil and gradually add in the water till you get a soft dough. Mix well and knead (machine or by hand) for about 5 minutes. Leave to rise for about 1 hour till double in size.
  2. While the dough is rising, mix the chicken filling together.
  3. When the dough has double in size, tip onto a floured surface and give it a quick knead by folding. Then leave to relax for few minutes and stretch the dough to a rod shape and cut into 12 – 13 equal pieces. Then shape each piece of dough into a ball. With hand dusted with flour, stretch the dough ball into a disc about 8cm round then put on a lump of filling. Gather the edge together, keep going round till you have sealed the bun. Give it a final pinch to seal. See slide show. Coat the bottom of the bun with flour then place on a tray to rise for about 20 minutes.
  4. In a large frying pan with lid, heat on (medium low heat) and brush a little oil evenly. Carefully lift up the buns with a spatula and place onto the heated pan, cover and cook for about 1 – 2 minutes (lift one buns up, check if it is light golden) if yes, drizzle about 4 tbsp of water around the buns, the pan will sizzle, lid on and let it steam fried. Check about after 2 minutes, if all the water has evaporated, add another tbsp or two of water and continue steam frying. After about 6 minutes steam frying the buns should be ready, all the moisture should disappear. The bottom of the buns will brown and crispy. If they are burnt the heat was too strong.
  5. Serve immediately.
  6. If there are buns left over, can keep in fridge, can be reheated using the same method by steam frying.

Chicken, mixed vegetables and tofu with gravy

This tofu dish is a common cantonese home cooking. Simple, colourful and quite delicious. Once you have done all the prep and cutting, it only takes 5 - 8 minutes to cook.

Chicken and marinate
1 large chicken leg or chicken breast, remove skin, deboned and cut into 1 cm cubes
1 tbsp of light soy
pinch of ground pepper
dash of sesame oil
1 heap tsp of cornflour

Other ingredients
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp of finely chopped ginger
2 – 3 tbsp of cooking oil
2 tbsp cooking wine
3 - 5 shitake mushrooms, dried or fresh, if using dried soaked and cut into small cubes
few cloudears or woodear**, soaked (you need about 1 handful when soaked), cut into small pieces
1 large stalk of celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 handful of frozen peas
2 - 3 tbsp of oyster sauce (normal or vegetarian)
2 - 3 tsp of light soy
pinch of pepper
2 - 3 tsp of sesame oil
About 1 -1/4 cup of water
1 heap tbsp of corn flour mix with a little water
about 3 stalks of spring onion, chopped

About 250 - 300 g of fresh chinese tofu, cut into small chunks

Few leaves of coriander for garnish - optional


  1. Mix chicken and marinate, leave aside for about 30 minutes
  1. In a wok, heat some cooking oil till hot add ginger and garlic, stir till fragrant. Add chicken and wine and stir till brown. Add mushroom, cloudears/woodears and carrot and ½ cup of water, stir then cover and cook for about few minutes till tender. Add celery, oyster sauce, soy sauce, pepper and remaining water. Cover for another minute. Add peas and confllour to thicken. Then add enough sesame oil and pepper to taste. Cook till everything is piping hot stir in the spring onion. Turn the heat to minimum. Remove all the solids with a slotted spoon onto the middle of a large plate. Leave behind the gravy.
  1. You should have about 1 cup of gravy in the pan. If not add a bit more water, there should be enough gravy to cover the tofu. Turn the heat up and add the tofu pieces and cook till hot through. Carefully spoon the tofu piece around the dish. Any remaining gravy just pour over the dish. Sprinkle with a little bit more sesame oil on top to keep the dish shiny. Garnish with a few leaves of coriander if wish.

* Suitable for vegetarian. For a vegetarian version, leave out chicken and marinate and add oyster mushrooms and/0r button mushrooms. You can have a variety of mushrooms mix.

** cloudear (雲耳) is not the same as woodear (木耳). Cloudear is smaller, thinner, dark and smooth on both sides. Woodear is much larger, thicker with one side which is smooth and black/brown the other side is sandy in colour with a suede texture. In this recipe I used cloudears.

Spicy fish (Ikan Panggang)

Had a small bbq yesterday with some spicy mackerals. They are very easy to make and tasty. To bbq best use a bbq fish holder to prevent the fish breaking into pieces. If you don't fancy a bbq, the fish can be grilled.

To make a rempah or spice paste:
3 - 4 shallots (about 100g), peeled
2 fat clove of garlic, peeled
1 small piece of galangal, peeled
1 stalk of lemongrass, use only the middle less woody part and cut into very fine slices
2 - 3 tsp of shrimp paste (belacan)
2 - 3 dried chillies (deseeded and soaked)
1 - 2 fresh red chillies (deseeded)
1 cm cube of fresh turmeric - optional
about 2 - 3 tbsp of tamarind concentrate (watery type, if it is a very thick paste then 1 heap tsp)
about 1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of sugar
2 - 3 tsp of cooking oil

fish - 3 to 4 mackerals or you can use other whole fish like sea bass or trout

Put all the spice paste ingredients into a mini blender and blend till smooth.
Score the fish diagonally, quite deep into flesh. Make 2- 3 slits on each side of the fish.
Use a serving knife and smear the spice paste inside the fish stomach and within the cuts and some on the skin.
Carefully place fish on a bbq fish holder, bbq till nice and brown.
*Or if you have banana leaf you can wrap the fish with the leaf, secured with cocktail sticks and put the whole parcel on the bbq till the leaf wilted and charred.

** Serve fish with plenty of raw red onion, pineapple, cucumber and tomatoes. You can also squeeze lime over the fish.

***This fish can also cooked under the grill.