Saturday, 31 July 2010

Spicy aubergine with basil

For all the aubergine (eggplant) fans out there, if you like my aubergine recipes here is another one for you. The recipe is something I put together what I can find in my fridge and overload of basil in the garden. It's Thai flavour combining some of my favourite ingredients together. It's not pretty but very yummy. If you do try hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


2 medium aubergines (about 700g), cut into 2 -3cm cubes
about 200 - 250g pork mince (ground pork) or you can use chicken or turkey
3 - 4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 - 3 tbsp thai chilli paste in a jar (nam prik pao or similar), much as you dare
about 3 tbsp fish sauce, or more if you like a bit more salty
about 1 tbsp sugar
about 1 - 1.5 tbsp lime juice
handful of Thai or normal sweet basil without stalks, roughly sliced or chopped
about 5 tbsp cooking oil


  • Heat oil in wok till hot, add garlic stir till fragrant. Add pork stir fry till pork is getting brown and any liquid is reducing. Add chilli paste, fish sauce and sugar. Stir for a little while.
  • Add aubergine, stir fry at medium - medium low heat for about 15 - 18 minutes without any water. No need to stir continuously just stir every other minute briefly to ensure aubergine is evenly cooked and nothing is sticking to the wok. Keep doing this till aubergine has softened to you liking. I like it very soft, you can have it a bit more solid if you like.
  • Have a taste see if you need any more fish sauce, chilli paste or sugar. When you are happy, stir in the basil and some lime juice.

That is it. Simple isn't it.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Konjac or konnyaku

Have you ever eaten S E Asian style Konjac candy, rubbery jelly/jello cups that look like these? I like them but in recent years this candy had very bad press and banned in some countries due to some children choked to death eating them. I reckon children could eat these jelly cups without chewing and also sucking the jelly out of the plastic cup can be dangerous because the lump of jelly can slip down into the throat before one has the chance to chew, leading to choking or worse fatality.

Konjac is also called konnyaku or 蒟蒻 in Chinese, a gum (gelling agent) extracted from konjac plant or elephant foot yam or devil's tongue. Konjac is widely used in Japan, China and other S E Asian countries for various products. Japanese used konjac to make black or white yam cake for soup or stew. Another common use of konjac for translucent noodles (yam noodles or shirataki noodles).

Konjac is not deadly if consumed with care and there are other benefits. It is zero fat, zero calorie (if no sugar is added) and very high in fibre. A very good slimming product because it fills you up without the calories. If you like noodles with carbs free, konjac noodles are great. These noodles are similar to mung bean or glass noodles, texture a bit more chewy or rubbery.

In S E Asia you can buy pure konnyaku powder or one already mixed with sugar. I have never seen this product anywhere in England. Most people use this pure powder or ready mixed powder to make jelly/jello dessert, adding flavourings and fruits. Here is a picture of the packet I normally buy. I stock pile every time going back to the far east. This powder will keep for years (beyond its used by date) without deterioration.

Pure konnyaku powder is very concentrated. One sachet can make about 1 litre of jelly/jello. By adding fruits you can double the volume. The other advantage of adding fruits is likely safer for children because it is less likely a solid piece of rubbery plug (causing choking) and needs to chew to eat it. Also homemade konnyaku jelly/jello I think is softer than commercial jelly candy because more water is added.

Konnyaku jelly/jello is easier to mould into any shape, less fragile than gelatin or agar and it is crystal clear if dissolve in sugar and water without fruit juice. The only negative IMO is it is tricky to dissolve, cook and it sets very quickly on contact with cool surface. Pure Konnyaku powder will congeal forming lumps in contact with water, cold or hot. Best way to handle it is mixing the powder with sugar first. That is why they also sell konnyaku readily mixed with sugar. Once mixed with sugar the starch is diluted and less like to form lumps when wet. Always add cold water to mix. And during boiling needs constant stirring or the mixture can be lumpy or stick to the pan.

Here is how I make yummy konnyaku jelly/jello. If you can find this powder give it a try. And if you like the texture it's very addictive.

Konnyaku jelly/jello with canned fruits and red ones with added grenadine syrup


1 pkt konnyaku powder 蒟蒻粉 (10g)
** if using the powder already mixed with sugar, follow the packet instructions and omit extra sugar.


about 1/4 - 1/3 cup sugar if use canned fruits with syrup or fruit juice. If using fresh fruits without fruit juice or syrup, use about 2/3 cups sugar. This is just a guide you can add as much sugar to your taste. You can also use artificial sugar, adjust to your taste.

about 1 litre of canned fruits with juice or syrup incl. (I like lychee and/or mixed cocktail fruits). You can also use fresh fruits like strawberry, raspberry, kiwi, fresh pineapple, melons etc... Kiwi and fresh pineapple do not react with konnyaku like gelatin. You can also add nata de coco, like the candy cups.

** Some people like to add a little citric acid powder to the jelly mix. I was told this will make the jelly more rubbery (more Q, Chinese expression for bounciness or rubbery texture). I don't find citric acid is necessary when using canned fruits, fresh fruits or juice there is plenty of fruit acid. If you do use citric acid add 1/2 tsp.

  • Mix powder with sugar.
  • If using canned fruits, drain. Keep the juice or syrup. Put juice/syrup into measuring cup and top up with water to 900 - 950ml.
  • If using fresh fruits. Measure 900 - 950ml water. If you like to add fruit juice or fruit squash or grenadine/rose syrup, replace water.
  • If you want to make the jelly/jello without adding fruits, use 1 - 1.1 litre of water or water mixed with fruit juice or fruit squash or grenadine/rose syrup. Grenadine syrup is a good one to use if you like a red colour jelly.
*If you only use water and sugar without any fruit juice the jelly will be crystal clear.
  • Put fruits into moulds or small cups, or you can add fruits to the jelly mixture at the last minute when it is ready to pour into moulds.
  • Add water or other liquid slowly while stirring into konnyaku mix. When no longer lumpy add remaining water/liquid at once.
  • Boil at medium to medium low heat, stirring more when liquid starting to get hot and mixture is getting thick. Try not to splash the liquid too much onto the side of the pan above the liquid level, the liquid will set hard if dried by heat or set into jelly rapidly if on cooler surface. This mixture will boil and become very frothy if unattended. When the liquid is hot and konnyaku has dissolved completely (liquid looks clearer and no lumps). It is ready. You can add fruits at this point to the mixture if you preferred.
  • Ladle or pour the liquid into the moulds or cups. Try not to spill this will set very quickly on contact with cooler surface. If you are not working quick enough and liquid is congealing, reheat the liquid, scrape down any congealed bits heat till dissolve.
  • The jelly/jello will set once cooled to room temperature. To remove from moulds, use a cocktail stick, tilt the mould downwards, lightly dig the cocktail stick into the jelly/jello from the side of the mould and flip it out. Put into container and chill. Will keep in the fridge for 4 - 5 days if they last that long.


Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Stir fried rice noodles with beef 乾炒牛河

I love all kinds of stir fried rice noodles to name a few like Malaysian/S'porean/Bruneian chow kway teow 炒粿條, Thai pad thai, Hong Kong beef with soft scrambled egg 滑蛋牛河 (wat dan ngau ho), but today I am cooking Hong Kong style dried stir fried rice noodles with beef 乾炒牛河 (kon chow ngau ho), similar to chow kway teow.

I have eaten many kon chow ngau ho 乾炒牛河 in Wong Kee (London China town) years ago when I was still a student. Those days we have no money to splash out on expensive meals we tend to order what we the Cantonese called dip tau fun 碟頭飯, meaning a all-in-one plateful of rice/noodles.

Rice noodles can be a pain to stir fry. If you don't know what to do you will end up with a pile sticky horrible looking mess and half sticking to your wok! I find fresh rice noodles bought in the far east are much easier to stir fry. I seldom buy fresh rice noodles in England find them stick to the wok or clump together most of the time, same experience in US. I don't know why.

With this Kon chow ngau ho 乾炒牛河, I am using dried wide flat noodles. Not too bad, quite tasty. Need a bit of time to prepare the noodles though before ready to stir fry. Or you can prepare the noodles in advance leave in the fridge within a day and cook when needed.

kon chow ngau ho 乾炒牛河


250g beef, rump or sirloin, thinly sliced
1.5 tbsp water
0.5 tsp bicarb (optional, this tenderises the meat if you don't like it leave it out)
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1.5 tsp light soy
pinch of pepper
1 tbsp cornflour

about 300g dried flat rice noodles, about 5 - 8 mm wide
2 tsp cooking oil
2 tsp sesame oil

2 cups of bean sprouts
2 - 3 stalks of spring onion (scallion), shredded long and thin
2 - 3 tsp sliced chilli (optional)
some cooking oil

1.5 tbsp light soy
2 - 3 tsp dark soy
0.5 tsp chicken stock powder (optional, if you don't like this leave it out)
1 tsp sugar

  • Soak the noodles in cold water for about 30 - 40 min till soften. Drain and put noodles in a colander. Boil about 1.25 little of water. Put colander in the sink. Pour boiling water onto the noodles, while shaking the colander. The noodles will become more pliable. Shake the noodles vigorously to remove any last trace of excess water. Immediately toss the noodles with some cooking oil and sesame oil. Making sure noodles are evening coated with oil and nicely separated. Use a pair of chopsticks to toss is much easier. Leave noodles aside to cool.
  • Mix bicarb with 1.5tbsp water then mix with beef. Leave aside for about 15min. Then mix with remaining marinade. Leave for 20 - 30 min.
  • Mix the sauce together in a small bowl.
  • With a very clean wok. add a little oil and swirl oil around to evenly coat the wok. Remove any excess. Heat the wok till lightly smoking. Put in the noodles and gently tease apart with pair of chopsticks and turning lightly. Cook noodles till heated through (about 2 minutes, not too long or the noodles will start to clump together), drizzle on 3/4 of the sauce while stirring to evenly coat noodles with sauce. When done remove noodles, put aside.
  • Heat wok till hot. Put in about 1 tbsp oil and add garlic. Add in beef. Stir fry till colour changed but still a bit pink. Remove and set aside.
  • Put in a little bit more oil, stir fry the bean sprouts till lightly soften, add in the beef and spring onion. Stir then add in the remaining sauce. Mix evenly. Then add in the noodles. Stir and tease apart with pair of chopsticks to ensure noodles are separated. This will take about 1 - 2 min. When everything are evenly mixed. Plate up.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Caramelised wings

This recipe is based on Vietnamese caramel pork belly. I have been cooking this repeatedly for many years and still not tired of it. It's a rewarding recipe with only few ingredients and simple method. The wings are succulent and full of flavour, sweet and salty. Finger licking good. Whenever I cook this, all I need is just plain white rice, nothing else.

If you like cola wings you will love this recipe.

Caramelised chicken wings


about 800g chicken wings, about 8 large or 10 medium wings
about 1/4 cup sugar
3 - 4 cloves garlic, chopped
about 3.5 tbsp fish sauce
about 10 - 12 black peppercorns, crushed
few drops dark soy sauce, optional if you like the sauce a bit darker

  • Check wings and remove any feathers. Cut wings into half.
  • Heat the wok or a large saute pan till hot, put the wings in without any oil. Spread them out and fry till skin is lightly browned turn over and fry the other side. (if you are not too sure your wok/pan will stick badly, add a touch of oil to grease wok or pan before adding the wings)
  • Add in garlic, stir fry for about a minute. Remove wings and garlic bits, leave aside.
  • No need to clean the wok/pan, it should be quite clean. Put in the sugar, spread it out a bit. Heat the sugar at medium heat without stirring till sugar beginning to melt, stir lightly, continue heating till sugar has turned reddish brown, like colour of rich black tea. Once the sugar started to caramelise the colour will turn quickly, make sure not to burn it.
  • Then add in a little water at a time, the sugar will boil rapidly. When the sugar stops bubbling add in the wings, stir and add fish sauce. Then add 1 cup of water.
  • High heat cover with lid. When the liquid is rapidly boiling, turn heat down to medium. Continue simmer for about 5 minutes.
  • Then remove the lid. Add in few drops of dark soy. Heat on high to reduce the liquid while stirring. Add in black pepper. The wings will be ready when the liquid has almost all evaporated leaving about few tbsp of sauce and coating the wings nicely.

If you find wings very fiddly to eat you can replace them with small chicken drumsticks.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Japanese style potato salad

I haven't posted any Japanese recipes. This recipe today isn't traditional Japanese it's western influenced potato salad. I love this, it has so many bits added giving it interesting texture and colourful. It's a meal on its own. Great for a hungry munchy anytime of the day or night. Lovely as filling for crunchy baguette or serve with BBQ.

Here is how I make this tasty potato salad.

Ingredients: Makes about 5 - 6 cups of salad

500 - 600g potato (I like to use waxy new potatoes, you can use any type you like)
2 medium carrot
1/2 large or 1 whole small red bell pepper
1/2 cucumber
2 large hardboiled eggs
100g ham, whole piece or sliced
1 cup mayonnaise (Japanese mayo if you have some if not use std mayo)
3 tbsp Japanese rice vinegar (if not use any plain colourless rice vinegar or lemon juice)
1/2 tsp salt (more if you preferred)
1 - 2 tsp sugar
good pinch of ground pepper
some milk or water

  • Boil or steam potatoes with skin. When cooled peel and crush. Better lumpy than smoothly mashed.
  • Dice carrot. Steam (or simmer with few tbsp of water for about 10 minutes till water has evaporated) till carrot softened. Leave aside to cool.
  • Dice red pepper.
  • Dice cucumber. Remove centre soft core
  • Chop or dice ham.
  • Chop eggs
  • Put crushed potato into large mixing bowl, mix with mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, sugar, ground pepper.
  • Then add remaining ingredients. Mix. If the salad looks dry add enough milk or water to soften the texture. I normally add up to 1/3 - 1/2 cup milk or water.
  • Can eat right away or chill. Ok to keep in the fridge for couple of days.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Almond tofu 杏仁豆腐

Almond tofu is the Chinese version of panna cotta but much much healthier without the heavy cream and vegan friendly.

Almond tofu in Chinese is 杏仁豆腐 read as 'sin ren do fu' in Mandarin or 'hung yen dou fu' in Cantonese. This is a Cantonese cold dessert great for the summertime. Most Cantonese dim sum restaurants will have this dessert on their trolleys whizzing around you with all the other tempting dim sums.

Most recipes use milk and almond essence to make the tofu or jelly, normally set with agar. My recipe uses real sweet almonds and flavoured with Chinese bitter almond or apricot kernels. I used soy milk instead of milk.

If you like this dessert here is my recipe:

Almond Tofu 杏仁豆腐


100g blanched almonds (skinless almonds)
30 - 40g Chinese bitter almonds 杏 (apricot kernels)
1 cup warm water
2 cups of unsweetened soymilk (best use homemade), or you can use low fat milk
7 - 8g of agar strips
3 cups water, room temp or tap water
about 1/3 cup sugar (or enough to your taste)

Chinese bitter almonds

* If you cannot find Chinese bitter almonds you can use few drops of almond essence. If you hate the almond flavour you can leave the bitter almond or essence out.

Agar strips

*Agar strips are easily available in most Oriental grocery stores. You can also use agar powder but I am not sure how much you'll need to set the liquid to a medium soft solid.

  1. Put both almonds together in a bowl and soak with 1 cup warm water for 2 - 3 hours to soften them. I use the soaking water later, it has a nice almondy fragrance.
  2. Soak agar strips with some water for about 20 - 30 min. Drain off the water and chop the agar into small pieces. Soaking and chopping the agar strips will dissolve easier when heated.
  3. Put almonds, the soaking water and the remaining 3 cups of water together in a liquidiser and blitz for about 1 minute or till the almonds are pulverised to very fine pulp. If you use a small liquidiser cup, blend in two batches. Filter the almond milk with a muslin or cotton bag see soy milk making or a large piece of muslin. Squeeze out as much milk as you can. The remaining pulp should be quite dry. You can throw it away or use to make cake or add to bread mix. I have a cake recipe to use this pulp. See recipe later.
  4. Put the almond milk and soy milk in a pan, add soaked agar. Heat and stir till agar has completely melted (when you don't see any more translucent agar strips).
  5. Sweeten with enough sugar, stir to dissolve. Pass the mixture through a sieve if you like to ensure the mixture is without any unwanted solids.
  6. Pour mixture into containers. Can use small pudding containers, jelly moulds or two larger rectangular/square boxes ( I used plastic lunch box). Remove any froth/bubbles floating on top. The almond tofu will set when cooled to room temperature.
  7. Keep in fridge till cold before serving.

To serve. Two ways.

To remove the almond tofu from the mould. Use a cocktail stick, glide it around the edge. Then tap it hard against a serving plate or bowl to pop it out. Serve with any fruits you like, fresh or canned. This picture I served it with canned lychee and mandarin with some of the juice/syrup. To make it pretty garnish with a sprig of mint. Lychee juice (syrup) is very tasty with almond tofu. For fresh fruits I like a mixture of different sweet melons. Sour or sharp fruits I find don't compliment the subtle flavour of almond tofu very well.

The other way to serve it is cut the almond tofu into small cubes. Mix with fruits, in this case canned cocktail fruits (like how they serve in restaurants) and some crushed ice to keep it really cold and refreshing.

To use up almond pulp

Almond and cherry cake - Sorry no picture. I made the cake but forgotten to take a picture before it was eaten!

The almond pulp should be touch dry and not wet.

about 100 - 110g almond pulp
180g softened butter
180g sugar
3 large eggs
150g self raising flour mixed with 1 tsp baking power, sieved
few drops of almond essence or grated zest of 1 lemon (your choice)
about 2 tbsp milk

180g glace cherries, wash to remove syrup and pat dry with paper towel, cherries can be halved or whole
about 1 heap tbsp plain or S R flour (to coat the cherries only)

handful of almond flakes for topping

If you don't like cherries you can leave them out or replaced with other dried fruits.

  • Cream the butter with sugar. Add one egg at a time, in between add in a little flour to blend. Mix till all eggs are added and flour mixed in.
  • Stir in the almond essence or lemon zest.
  • Mix in almond pulp. Add enough milk to make a dropping consistency.
  • Toss cherries with 1 heap tbsp flour so cherries are generously coated with dry flour. Very gently mix cherries into cake batter do not over mix or the cherries will sink to the bottom of the cake
  • Pour mixture into a greased or lined 20 - 21cm round cake tin. Smooth the top.
  • Sprinkle on handful of almond flakes.
  • Preheated oven, bake at about 165 - 170 deg C for about 1 hr - 1 hr 1o minutes. Test with skewer to ensure cooked through before taking it out to cool.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Spam and XO sauce fried rice

Spam is my regular store cupboard ingredient. A slice or two fried till golden on a bowl of instant noodles with a fried egg will always satisfy the junk food mood I am in sometime.

To show my continuous support for all things spamalicious, spam fried rice does occur on my dining table every now and again, another fast food fix.

Today's spam fried rice is slightly different. I have a jar of XO sauce hiding at the back of my cupboard that needs using. So I thought why not XO sauce fried rice with spam. Great idea!

Before I continue, you may ask what is XO sauce?
XO sauce is a spicy seafood sauce (more like a paste than sauce) created in Hong Kong by some Cantonese restaurant first then mass produced by big sauce producer like Lee Kum Kee. Why is it called XO? The word XO derived from the expensive connoisseur XO cognac, to make this sauce sounds very posh. XO sauce is considered the connoisseur class sauce because it has expensive ingredients like dried scallops, dried shrimps, some Chinese dried fish, and not forgetting the expensive Chinese dried cured ham, all ground up. It is spicy with dried and/or fresh chillies, garlic and shallots as a base. The mixture is fried with plenty of oil till very fragrant till most moisture has evaporated leaving a concentrated spicy paste sauce full of umami. The sauce texture is similar to Thai chilli paste (nam prik pao). Most brands of XO sauce are very expensive, one small jar can be around £8 -10. I won't pay for this much for a sauce. The one I bought is at bargain basement price of £2.99 and big jar too. Doubt there is much dried scallops. The taste is not bad, not as tasty as the expensive ones, but still good value for money. Here is a picture of this cheap XO sauce. Once opened keep in the fridge.

Back to this spam and XO sauce fried rice. This recipe was born today. You are the first to witness this! :-)


3 cups (loose) cooked rice. preferably cooled in the fridge overnight
1 small tin of spam, cut into small cubes
1.5 - 2 sticks of celery, cut into small cubes
1 medium size carrot, cut into small cubes
2 eggs, beaten
pinch of ground pepper
about 0.5tbsp light soy sauce
2 heap tbsp XO sauce. avoid the oil floating on top if you can
2 stalks of spring onion (scallion), chopped
a little cooking oil

extra XO sauce for topping


*If you have problem with fried rice sticking to the wok, this tip may help you.

Make sure you use a clean work. Heat the wok without any oil till very very hot. Add a touch of oil and spread it all over the wok. Heat till smoking hot. If there is any excess oil in the wok pour it away or wipe with paper towel, this oil may taste burnt. I have used this method never have rice sticking.

Next thing I always do is stir fry rice with egg first till fragrant and hot. Then stir fry the vegetables and meat separately. Never add wet ingredients (like meat and vegetables) to stir fry together with the rice. This is likely to make the rice turning soggy and sticks to the wok. When the vegetables and meat are done, add in the hot egg fried rice last, stir and ready to serve.

Another point to remember is the rice should feel quite dry and easily separated into individual grains. If the rice is soggy, it is no good for any fried rice.

To make the egg fried rice. Good to eat on its own or add vegetable and meat later.

Continue from when you have heated the wok and lightly greased it with oil and heated till smoking hot. Keep the heat at maximum. Now add some fresh oil about 1 tbsp and immediately add in chopped garlic. Before garlic getting too brown add rice, stir and stir and break up any large lumps of rice by pressing with a cooking spatula, heat the rice till hot. Then push the rice to one side, tilt the wok if you can. Add a few drops of oil to the empty side of the wok, pour in the beaten egg. Scramble the egg till lumpy then fold in the rice. Stir and break up any large lumps of egg. Season with some light soy and ground pepper. Remove. Ready to eat as plain egg fried rice or leave aside to add in some vegetables or meat later.

The wok after frying the rice should be very clean. Now add few drops of oil to the wok. Stir fry the spam pieces for about a minute. Then add in the carrot and celery. Continue stir frying till spam is lightly brown on the outside and vegetables are soften. Now add in the egg fried rice. Stir and add 2 heap tbsp of XO sauce. Stir and add chopped spring onion. Ready to serve.

Put rice on serving plate or bowl. To accentuate there is XO sauce in the rice put a small dollop of XO sauce on top of the rice.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Mashed aubergine salad 拌茄泥

Another aubergine (egg plant) recipe? You must think I am mad. Yes, every week when I go shopping if I see aubergines on offer I must bring some home. I bought four yesterday. I wanted to use half straight away because of limited fridge space and the other half later in the week.

So what tickle my tastebuds this time? I want something guilt free (reasonably low fat), easy to make and tasty. Thought of baba ghanoush but I was reluctant to turn on the oven to roast the aubergine it's too warm. So back to oriental recipe. Then I thought of mashing it then dress it with oriental sauce. Quite yummy, soft and easy to eat.

So here is what I did. It's simply called mashed aubergine salad 'bun chair nee 拌茄泥'. Once the aubergine is mashed it's not a lot so I cooked two at once.


2 aubergines (egg plant) about 700+ g

Sauce (dressing):

1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Chinkiang black rice vinegar
1.5 tbsp oyster sauce (vegetarian version* or original)
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic, about 2 cloves
1.5 - 2 tsp sugar
2 tsp sesame oil
2 - 3 tsp chilli oil best with a bit of the chilli solid at the bottom of the jar

* other names for vegetarian oyster sauce is stir fry sauce or mushroom (oyster) sauce.


1 stalk of spring onion (scallion)
a little coriander (cilantro)
1 small longish piece of ginger


Using a pointed sharp small knife score the aubergine skin lengthwise into very fine thin strips. The reason why I score the skin is when the aubergine is cooked and then mashed the skin will form into long thin shreds. If you do not score the skin it will leave as big pieces. Remove the stalk and cut the aubergine lengthwise into halves. Straight onto a steamer rack. Steam for about 20 - 25min or till very soft and tender. Remove and leave to rest for few minutes, there may be some juice running out remove this juice. Then using a fork or a pair of chopsticks lightly tease/ mash/ fork through the aubergines into shredded mash. Do not mash it too fine.

Here is a picture when the aubergines just been cooked.

While steaming the aubergines, make the sauce. Mix everything together and leave aside.

Finely shred (about 2" long) the spring onion and ginger. Cut coriander into 2" long. Tip: Soak the finely shredded spring onion in cold water the fine shreds will curl up prettier as garnish.

To assemble the dish. Pile the mashed aubergine onto a plate. Pour on the sauce/dressing. Either scattered the garnish all over the aubergine or pile it up high at the centre like the picture shown.

Serve warm or cold.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Beijing style courgette pancake 老北京糊塌子

I didn't know they have courgette (zucchini) in China, all the time I thought courgette is a Western vegetable. Oriental courgette (zucchini) is similar to western type but the skin is usually much lighter in colour, like pastel green. In China they called courgette 'si hu lu 西葫蘆'.

There is one Beijingnese favourite snack 'xiao chi 小吃' it's courgette pancake which the Beijingnese given it a funny name called 'hu tat zi 糊塌子or 葫塌子' loosely means fallen paste. This pancake is very easy to make and nothing special about the ingredients. What I love is the dipping sauce its strong and tasty but not too friendly if you are on a date or expecting to kiss someone :-)

Here is the recipe:

1. Dipping sauce

4 tbsp Chinkiang black rice vinegar
1.5 tbsp light soy
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1.5 - 2 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil

Mix everything together and leave for a while. This sauce is very garlicky if you don't like it too strong use less garlic.

2. Pancakes

2 - 3 courgettes (zucchini) about 500g, grated using a coarse cheese grater, I used a extra coarse microplane

2 large eggs

150 - 170g white bread flour, you can also use plain or all purpose. I find bread flour makes better pancakes is easier to flip without worrying pancake will break.

1 tbsp light soy

1/2 tsp chicken stock powder (optional if you don't like using it)

plenty of freshly ground pepper

about 80 - 90ml water

oil (for frying pancakes use only not for batter)

Mix everything together except water, then gradually add enough water to make a spreadable pancake batter consistency. Amount of water depends on juice content of the courgette and flour used. Leave for about 10 - 15 minutes before cooking.

To make the pancakes, I used a 8 inch frying pan. Heat the pan till hot. Lightly brush the pan with oil (I used a silicone brush). Pour in about 1/3 cup batter then spread the batter as thin as possible with a cooking spatula. You can also make mini pancakes or larger one if using a large frying pan. Fry the pancakes at medium to medium high heat. When the top layer is almost dry, brush lightly with a touch of oil. When the bottom is brown, flip over and fry the other side till brown. Fold into quarters. Cover cooked pancakes with clean tea towel to keep them warm while you make the remaining pancakes.

Serve pancakes with dipping sauce.

Great for lunch or snack with plenty of beer.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Thai beef with sweet basil and roasted rice

I have a bumper crop of Thai sweet basil at the moment. Every summer I grow quite of lot of this favourite herb from cuttings. I bought a pack of basil, trimmed and put the stems in water, covered the leaves with perforated clear plastic bag and put in a cool light area. Change the water and clean the stems every few days to remove any decays. In about 10 - 14 days the cuttings would have long roots ready for planting.

I used Thai sweet basil for Thai dishes as well as Chinese like three cups chicken.

When I was in Thailand the last time, there was one unforgettable beef dish i really like but I just can't remember what it was called. It's a stir fried beef with Thai sweet basil and ground roasted rice. It's spicy, sweet, sour, salty and remarkably fragrant from sweet basil and ground rice. I have been trying to recreate it at home, the result been pretty good.

Here is the guesstimate recipe, much as I can remember the taste, texture and flavour.


about 400g beef steak (rump or sirloin)

2 large cloves of garlic, chopped

1 tbsp of Thai chilli paste in a jar (nam prik pao), more or less to your taste

1.5 - 2 tbsp fish sauce

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp lime juice

about 2 tbsp ground roasted rice, kao kua (see below how to make this)

about 1 handful of basil leaves, rinse and shake off as much moisture as possible

about 1/3 cup of oil

  • Chargrill or fry the beef like a steak, medium rare. Leave to rest and cool. Then cut into thin slices.
  • In a clean wok, heat the oil till almost smoking hot. Then drop in half the basil. The oil will sizzle rapidly. Stir and fry the leaves for about 1 minute till darker in colour and turning crisp. Remove and leave to one side.
  • Remove most of the basil frying oil and leave about 1.5 tbsp. Heat and add in the garlic, stir till fragrant. Add chilli paste, sugar and fish sauce. Stir and reduce the sauce till quite thick.
  • Then add in the beef and remaining fresh basil, stir till fresh basil wilted and and beef is coated with the sauce. Then stir in lime juice. Heat off stir in fried basil leaves and ground rice. Ready to plate up. Can sprinkle on some more ground rice on top

How to make ground roasted rice - kao kua

Quite easy just take a handful of glutinous rice (sticky rice) and dry roasted with a small frying pan. Keep the heat fairly high and keep stirring till rice grains turning rich golden brown. Leave to cool then ground using a coffee grinder or a mini blender till very fine like powder. You can sieve it if the grains look a bit coarse. Any leftover can keep in an airtight container for weeks.

If you don't have glutinous rice, you can use jasmine rice but the rice grains can be harder, more difficult to grind and can feel gritty to the taste.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

New blog format

I have just found out Blogger has a new blog template designer facility. Very easy to use and I quite like this new design I selected. Simple and easy on the eye. What do you think? Do you have any comments or things you like me to include.

I am still in the process of formatting the design may change things around. So excuse the work in progress.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Dry fried green beans 干煸四季豆

Sichuanese dried fried green beans. i.e. 'gan bian si ji dou' 干煸四季豆, are delicious with rice or just with beer. The beans are tender sweet and a bit spicy with yummy salty bits of dried shrimps and Sichuan preserved vegetable (zha chai). Many recipes like to add minced pork (ground pork) I find it unnecessary.

The beans are fried in oil then stir fried. You may be disgusted how oily it can be, but I have a way to remove most of the oil so it is not too bad. Without frying in oil you won't get the authentic taste and texture of the beans.

Here is how I make this if you are interested.

Ingredients: Will make one plateful enough for few people

About 1lb or 450g fresh green beans, trimmed (you can also use flat stringless beans)

about 3 tbsp dried shrimps, soaked for 10 - 15 min then chopped

about 50g pc of Sichuan preserve vegetable (zha chai), finely chopped then rinse with water. Drain and give it a light squeeze to remove salty excessive water.

4 - 5 cloves garlic, chopped

about 4 - 5 long dried chilli (or much as you like), deseeded and remove stalks then cut into small pcs and soak for 5 - 10 minutes then drained

about 1 cup of oil for frying

dash of light soy sauce

about 1.5 tbsp of cooking wine

a little black rice vinegar

  • After rinsing the beans, make sure to shake off as much excess water as possible. This will prevent oil spitting.
  • Put oil in wok, heat till just warm then drop in the all the beans. At medium heat gradually heats up the oil while stirring the beans. Continue stirring every 15 - 20 second intervals for about 8 minutes at medium heat or till the beans turning a darker shade of green and the skins look wrinkled
  • Remove all the beans straight onto a large metal sieve/colander. Immediately rinse with warm tap water to remove as much oil sticking on the beans as possible. Shake to remove excessive water. Put on one side.
  • Remove frying oil. Leave one tbsp of the frying oil or use fresh oil. Heat then add in all the garlic. chilli, dried shrimps and preserved vegetable. Dry fried for few minutes till very fragrant and the bits are turning slightly browner.
  • Add in the fried beans. Stir on high heat to remove excess water moisture. Add dash of soy, vinegar and dash of cooking wine. Not too much soy the preserved vegetable and dried shrimp can be quite salty. Stir till all combined.
  • Ready to serve hot or warm.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Cold chicken noodles with sesame dressing 麻醬雞絲冷麵

It hot hot hot over here. I just want to keep away from cooking as much as I can.

Cold noodles is something which is quite appetising in this warm weather. Cold noodles with sesame dressing 'ma jiang ren mian' 麻醬冷 is common in northern part of China as a snack for the warm summer. This cold dressed noodles can be plain (vegetarian) with a bit of vegetables like bean sprouts and/or cucumber. For meat eaters add some precooked/cold shredded meat (any type), boiled, steamed or roasted. I have a cold roasted chicken and some chicken jelly from the chicken juice collected during roasting, so ideal to make up some cold noodles. The sesame paste dressing is a classic Sichuanese/ Beijingnese style.

The good thing with cold noodles is it can be made in advance eaten at room temperature or eaten cold after cooling in the fridge. Minimum cooking is required.

Here is the rough idea how to make this noodles:

Noodles: Any kind of dried noodles or homemade rustic noodles. Cooked then cooled with room temperature/ice cold water. Mix with a little plain cooking oil or sesame oil if you are not going to eat right away, so the noodles will not stick together.

Vegetables: Shredded cucumber and/or lightly blanched bean sprouts. Blanch the bean sprouts with boiling water for about 10 - 15 seconds then rinse with cold water. You can also add shredded carrot, lettuce, tomato slices, or even pineapple pieces if you wish

Meat: Any kind of cold meat. Preferably shredded or sliced

Garnish: Chopped spring onion, chopped coriander (cilantro) and roasted sesame seeds.

The dressing: Recipe enough for 2 people

2 - 3 tbsp of thick sesame paste, preferably Chinese like this one bought or homemade, if not can sub with tahini or less authentically with peanut butter

2 tbsp Chinkiang black rice vinegar or other rice vinegar

1 - 4 tsp chilli oil, or much as you like preferably with some of the chilli sediment in the bottle which has more flavour. Can use any type of chilli oil, incl. this Sichuan style or HK style

2 - 3 tbsp soy sauce or to your taste, or depends on if the stock is salty

a little stock bullion powder (optional if stock/stock jelly is not available mix with some water or if the stock you have is not flavourful enough)

pinch of ground sichuan pepper

2 - 3 tbsp of fairly concentrated stock (vegetarian) or meat juice/jelly/stock (like chicken or others) or some of this Knorr real stock in a tiny tub. For this recipe I used the chicken stock jelly collected when roasting the chicken. How I make this jelly is put about 1.5 cup of water in the roasting tin, put the chicken on top on a rack. Let the chicken juice drip on the the water. When the chicken is done, the water is reduced and leaving a concentrated chicken stock. Put the juice into container, chill and remove the fat on top.

a little toasted sesame oil or oil floating on the jar of sesame paste.

* If you like garlicy flavour you can add some grated/finely chopped garlic, I find garlic overpowered the flavour of nutty sesame.

To make up the dressing:
  • Warm the thick sesame paste in the microwave for few seconds till softened or stirred briskly till mixable.
  • Warm the stock if it is in jelly form to dissolve.
  • Then mix all the ingredients together, taste and add more of any if required to your own taste.

To assemble the noodles:
  1. Put the noodles onto individual deep dish or pasta bowl.
  2. Pile on chosen vegetables and meat.
  3. Sprinkle with garnishes.
  4. Drizzle on the dressing.
  5. Serve.

Mix everything together and get something like this: