Thursday, October 30, 2008

Golden Inside-Out Tofu Boks

Deep-fried inside-out tofu boks

This is the third time I've cooked fried tofu boks in the last few months. Each time, the pictures didn't turn out good so I didn't do a post on them. The boks look dry and boring. They also look like Critters eggs, perfect for Halloween. But these boks are absolutely delicious despite their looks. Wey and Yi loved them and insisted I post this recipe. So do not judge a recipe by its looks but try this out yourself. The boks can be served as a snack or finger food.

Tofu boks are fried spongy tofu balls which are hollow inside. The boks are added to stews and soups, but very often are stuffed with a meat filling and simmered in stock. An unusual way of stuffing the boks is turning them inside out and filling the pockets with meat before deep-frying them. The result is super crunchy fragrant boks with springy meat stuffing, guaranteed to keep a man from straying (to the restaurants, what were you thinking?) especially if you allow him a free flow of beer to go with the boks. Seriously, these fried boks are really that good. In my house, we never get to eat these golden boks at meal times because they never make it to the table. Serve them with a creamy dip, such as mayo or tomato or chili ketchup or English mustard (use vinegar to blend the mustard flour) or honey dijon mustard and before you know it, the whole plate'll be gone. And guys, don't wait for your princess gfs to cook these boks for you. This is a super easy dish to cook and I expect all you guys out there to cook it and report back to me. If she won't eat them ("Too oily!") or doesn't like them ("Too oily!"), reconsider your relationship. You don't want to spend the rest of your life eating steamed asparagus with the princess.


Turn the boks inside out, stuff the pockets with meat mince and seal or cover the meat with the tofu flaps.

These are tofu boks before they are turned inside out. When I ran out of boks, Yi bought rectangular boks instead of the square ones but when cut into half they were just as good, except the meat will be more exposed. Choose thick, meaty boks.

Inside-Out Tofu Boks
400g ground pork*
about 25 square tofu boks
1 T cornflour (if using home mince)
a few shakes of white pepper
a smidgen or good pinch of salt (not too much if you use bought ground pork)
oil to fry

*Best to mix half home-ground pork (use machine for finer texture) and bought ready-ground pork to get a springy bite and smooth texture. If you use 100% home mince pork, the filling will taste too coarse and dry unless you leave enough pork fat in when you mince the meat. You'll also need to turn and twirl the meat around until it reaches a springy consistency, so that the cooked meat will give a nice bite. Sure you can use bought mince only but that not only has more fat, it costs twice as much as home mince. If concerned about the pork fat, use fish paste wholly (for a different taste) or mix with minced lean pork.

1. Mix the pork/meat with cornflour, salt and pepper.

2. Do not wash the boks. Make a break on the bok with your thumb and turn it inside out. Fill the pocket with about 1/2 to 3/4 T meat filling. Don't overstuff the bok because it will take too long to cook.

3. Heat about 4 to 5 cups of oil (if the oil is enough to cover the whole bok, it will turn out more spiky, which is nice. I always scrimp so my boks turn out flattened) and deep-fry the boks in medium-hot heat until golden brown and firm. Takes about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

4. Serve hot with a sweet chili sauce, or mayo or English mustard or a honey dijon mustard sauce.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bacon Fried Rice

Wey's bacon fried rice. The rice here is too broken up and soft because it was leftover rice from a restaurant.

I've been requested to post some simple recipes that don't need much preparation or ingredients. Now that most kids are done with their exams and are nearly into their year-end holiday (the longest school holiday period in Malaysia begins in mid-November to early January), here's a recipe for a bowl of fried rice you kids can cook for your tired long-suffering mother. Or, in Wey's case, for himself whenever he's hungry. His sister brought home 2 kgs of beautiful Australian bacon (we get Danish bacon here, but I don't like them because they are very salty, cut too thin, and are frozen--in contrast to the thick-cut, lightly salted, very fresh and very long strips of Australian middle bacon) and I ration the amount of this preserved meat (all that nitrite) Wey eats so he has found that the best way to eat one rasher of bacon is to cut it up and fry it with rice. And I can tell you bacon fried rice is truly one of the yummiest and satisfying things to eat.

For good fried rice, you must start with cooked, overnight (chilled) rice. Freshly cooked rice will be too wet and will result in clumpy, starchy fried rice. Years ago, my friend Meng gave me a great tip (from her chef friend) on getting overnight rice separated into individual grains: put the hard, overnight rice into a colander and quickly run some water over while using your hands to crush or break up the grains--they will separate easily. Let rice drain well. This is how those restaurants are able to fry huge amounts of rice, say for wedding banquets, perfectly without any tasteless clumps. However, this must be done at least 1 hour or more before you intend to fry the rice because after running the water through the rice, it gets soaked. If you are in a hurry and are only going to fry a small amount of rice, you can skip this step but break the rice up first with your wet hands as much as possible. Because you need high heat to fry a good plate of rice, you don't want to struggle with breaking up your rice during the frying time or some of the rice will burn.

My Shanghainese MIL likes to fry the eggs first, cutting the fried omelette up with her frying ladle after the egg has set, remove them to a plate and then fry the rice. This way, you get to see and bite the egg bits. I grew up eating Cantonese fried rice, and I (and The Sniffer) think it's the best (I get to have the last say since MIL doesn't read this blog). For Cantonese fried rice, the egg is added to the rice as you fry, so that you don't get obvious pieces of egg but instead each grain of rice is coated (and flavored) with egg. Sometimes I combine both methods.

To add soy sauce or not is really a matter of your taste and what you are used to. Fried rice served in restaurants are spiked with msg, which gives the rice a savory sweet taste. You can omit the msg, but your fried rice will never taste like the restaurants'. To give home fried rice some extra taste, it isn't against the rules to add a dash of soy sauce, especially Maggi soy sauce which is tasty and flavorful. I suspect it has msg too.

Lastly, you must have strong heat/fire (you still have to adjust the heat depending on its level) when frying rice. If you can't turn the heat up too high, I suggest you fry in small batches so that the heat is kept to the max.


Bacon Fried Rice
1 rasher middle bacon (a whole streaky and lean strip), cut into small 1.5 cm squares
2 cups cooked overnight rice (treated as stated above)
1 t finely chopped garlic (optional but yum)
1 egg
1/8 t (or to taste) salt
a few shakes of white pepper
a dash of Maggi soy sauce (optional but yum)
some finely sliced spring onions
1 T oil

1. Heat up a wok or frying pan, add the oil and the garlic if using. Stir for a couple of seconds (heat on high), lower the heat and add the bacon. If you like your bacon more fried, add it before the garlic.

2. When bacon fat is transparent, add the rice. Stir and turn the rice quickly, sprinkle the salt. and pepper and the soy sauce.

3. Keep frying to mix everything up, braking up any clumps. Now crack the egg into the rice (or you can whip it up with a fork first; I don't bother), and use your ladle to break up the yolk, shoving and mixing the egg into the rice to coat. Continue frying (you can lower the heat to medium now) until the egg dries up, throw in the spring onions, mix well, and dish into a bowl.

p.s. Fried rice in Mandarin is chow fun ("fun" as in having fun, but in rising intonation), but that in Cantonese means fried noodles although the fun is pronounced "fen" with a falling intonation. Generally chow fan is the more accepted term for fried rice, and that's in Cantonese, but the fan is not pronounced as in "ceiling fan" but "fun" with a falling intonation. Are you as confused as me?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cempedak Fritters

Cempedak fritters: sweet, creamy, strongly flavored with soft and stringy texture

Lucy (a new cell member, so there's advantage to leading CG) just gave me 2 "very special, the best" cempedaks ("jumpulut" to the Chinese). Lucy was right. These are the best cempedaks I have ever ever eaten. The regular cempedaks have yellow, pulpy edible mesocarps (let's call these compound seeds) inside but these ones had deep orange 'pulps' that were very sweet and full of cempedak flavor. Each compound pulpy seed was twice the size of regular cempedak pulpy seed, so that in one 2 kg fruit, I could only get 15 compound seeds. Cempedaks belong to the same Moraceae family as the decorative pot of fig (ficus) in your living room. Many of our fruits in Borneo belong to this family, including the tarap and the nangka (jackfruit).

The bulging cempedak placed on 12"/30 cm tiles.

My daughter said that cutting this open was like performing an operation.

Inside the tough outer 'shell' are pulpy seeds slightly bigger than golf balls. The usual cempedak color is light yellow, but the new breed of cempedak is deep orange, large, creamy, highly scented and sweet.

It just occurred to me that tropical fruits, being compound fruits, are BIG. Maybe God made them big because he knew people in the tropics love to share their fruits; all those who eat durians will attest to the fact that even though they love their durians to death, it's best eaten with at least one other person. Unlike an apple or a strawberry which you can gobble on your own, our jackfruits (that's probably the world's biggest fruit?), tarap, durians, cempedak, coconuts, soursop etc are too big to be eaten alone.

I just love tropical fruits. While I think berries are pretty, and peaches are delightful, I would pass them over for a good mango or pineapple or mangosteen or rambutans or langsat or tarap or guava or chiku or longans or lychees...Tropical fruits have intense, exotic flavors that are distinct and exciting. Other than being naturally flavorful, tropical fruits have stronger taste and scent because in KK they are usually grown in backyards and small orchards, not on large farms as most temperate fruits are. Because of that, supply is limited and so the prices of tropical fruits are surprisingly high. For example, durians are now RM10 to RM16 per kg, mangosteen RM10 per kg. These cempedaks would be quite costly in the city (much cheaper in kampungs/village) but my friend got them for RM5 each because they were grown by her friend.

If you have been away from home, or if you intend to visit Borneo, come in October for 2 reasons: the local fruits season and the rainy season when temperatures are in the mid to low 20s. Okay, maybe rain isn't so good if you are a tourist, but seriously, get here during fruits season (there's a short fruits season in July but it's hot then) and check out the fruits at one of the tamus or meeting markets.

Back to my cempedak. We ate one au natural and fried the other. It is common to batter and deep-fry cempedak compound seeds whole, that is the pulply mesocarp with the hard seed inside. The seed can be eaten. Tastes nutty. I like to use rice flour batter because it gives a hard crisp that stays longer than plain flour. No sugar is necessary. I would suggest you also make a pot of local black coffee, no sugar. Sit back and let those thighs s=t=r=e=t=c=h as you eat these yummy, creamy, aromatic golden fritters with your coffee.

Oil your knife before (and after) cutting the cempedak because the center stem has sticky white sap. Use plastic bags as gloves to keep your hands free of the sticky sap which can only be removed with lots of oil.

Remember to place cempedak on old newspapers (with the appropriate news) so the sap doesn't mess up your work surface.

Cempedak Fritters
compound fruits of one cempedak, hard seed intact*
1 cup rice flour
1/2 cup (+ 2 T) water
large pinch of salt
oil to fry

*If the pulpy seed/fruit is big, cut it into half and fry each one separately so that the seed will cook.
1. Mix the rice flour, water and salt until smooth. The batter should be thick like heavy whipping cream.

2. Heat up 5 cups of oil until a drop of batter dropped in immediately rises to the surface of the oil. Lower the heat to medium. Drop a pulpy seed into the batter, drop the battered cempedak into the hot oil. Repeat with another 3 to 4 seeds, reduce heat to low. Do not fry too much at one time. It takes quite a while-about 3 to 4 minutes-to get the cempedak to cook through.

3. Remove onto paper towels when golden. Eat when hot.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Momoya Seaweed Paste Okra

Okra tossed with momoya (a seaweed and dashi paste).

Been sluggish recently? Get something slimy like the okra (known as ladies' fingers here; do not confuse with sponge fingers which are known as ladies' fingers elsewhere) and the tough will get going. I learnt that when I drank a whole glass of red dragonfruit juice one day before I travelled to Singapore, and within 24 hours I was--how shall I put it nicely--violently throwing out the contents of my colon. The same thing happens if I eat too much okra. So next time you need to loose some inches off your tummy before some big function, reach for some slimy veg like the okra and 'emperor veg'. Red dragonfruit juice is a last resort because it can make you quite sick for a few days.

This simple okra dish is quick to cook and light on calories so you can serve it with some thing more heavy like karaage chicken or yakitori chicken. I'm not sure if you can get the Japanese seaweed paste called momoya where you are; I got these two bottles from Hong Kong. Tina , who gave me this recipe, told me that Japanese like to eat the salty savory paste with rice, like I eat my Marmite.

Momoya paste.

Seaweed Paste Okra
1/2 kg okra
1 T dried wakame, soaked in warm water & sliced thinly
1 t toasted sesame seeds
2 t (or less) momoya/Japanese seaweed paste
1/4 t fine sugar (I don't even add this)

1. Do not top or tail the okra to minimize the slime. Boil some water and drop the okra into the water. Do not overcook. Scoop the okra out and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Drain well and slice into thin 1/2 or 3/4 cm slices.

2. Mix everything together and serve.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Very Good Egg Sandwich


Hi! I feel like I've abandoned this website. But I wouldn't do that, because I would miss all of you. And I would not feel prompted to cook anything but noodles if I don't bother to blog.

My daughter's back and the last two days were filled with 'overhaul' sessions. I'm pleased that she has shaken quite a few kgs off but as usual, she has not taken care of her skin. I picked at her face the afternoon she arrived, leaving it all dotted and inflamed. She has resorted to wearing caps again. Then I packed her off to my hairdresser Julia for an attack on her tresses which haven't seen any scissors for the last 6 months. Then it was to the optician to get her contacts. Next she'd be wanting to shop for clothes since I noticed she hardly brought anything back but her easel and a ton of paint tubes. I tend to spoil her, so it's a good thing I only have one daughter or I'll be broke. But most of all, she's been driving (and giving me heart attacks and causing me to step on imaginary brakes) and we've been yakking.

As you can tell, I'm still not doing much cooking for you all. Yes, when I cook, it's partly to blog. But you wouldn't want to read about everyday boring food would you? You would? Okay, you get what you want ...sometimes (haha, WMW, excuse my plagarizing).

If you are a morning sleepy head like me, boil the eggs the day before and leave them in the fridge. In fact, you can chop and mince everything first and then combine them with the mayo in the morning. The kids can slap the filling on and make their own sandwich by now don't you think. Now I've even told you how I steal an extra 5 minutes in bed.


A Very Good Egg Sandwich

4 eggs
3 T good mayo
1 T Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
3 T grated Cheddar cheese (optional)
white or wholemeal bread, sliced thick

*Use chopped cuke (I like Lebanese cukes), celery, red onions (don't really like them but they look good in pictures, don't they), watercress etc

1. Put the eggs into a small pot and when water boils, count 2 minutes and switch fire off. Let eggs sit in the covered pot for 15 minutes. Throw water away and run tap water into the pot. Wait 10 minutes. Peel eggs. Cut into small cubes. Be careful not to mash up the yolks or the sandwich filling will be too creamy.

2. Mix everything together and spread on white or wholemeal bread.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hakka Yong Tau Foo

Hakka stuffed white tofu.

Cantonese stuffed fried tofu balls.

This Hakka dish is something I don't bother to cook, simply because I never make it as good as the Hakkas. Another reason is because yong tiew foo (stuffed tofu in Hakka) is so everyday and everywhere, I don't even bother to eat it when it is served. That's how common it is. In fact, if you ask what the most famous Hakka dish is, it'd be either kiew nyuk or yong tiew foo.

I know an aunty who makes the yummiest yong tiew foo, just like any authentic Hakka aunty. She recently gave me a pot of her yong tiew foo, and I ate 5 pieces (with plenty of thick sour chili sauce) before I realized it. Suddenly, I wanted to learn how to make good yong tiew foo. Home-made stuffed tofu is satisfying because the meat filling goes deep into the tofu, unlike restaurant stuffed tofu which have a thin layer of filling only. This recipe is from the aunty but like anything, practice makes perfect and you need to cook it a couple of times to adjust the seasoning to your liking. I find it hard to to keep the filling from falling out of the tofu, especially when frying them.


Hakka Yong Tau Foo
6 pieces white tofu
200 g lean pork
200 g ready-minced pork*
1/2 bulb garlic, minced
5 shallots, minced
salt and pepper

1 heaped t cornflour
4 cups water
2 T light soy sauce
1/2 T dark soy sauce
1/2 t sugar (optional)
2 shakes of msg or 1/2 t chicken granules
--mix together

*Aunty said it's best to use a half-half combination of home-ground and ready-ground pork from the market because the ready ground pork has some fat and gives a smooth taste and good bite. If you are health conscious, use home ground pork only but the filling will be coarser.


1. Cut the tofu into half each. Using a paring knife, cut a small piece of tofu out from the center to make a well. Not too deep or tofu will break up. Also, if the filling is too deep, it will take longer to cook, and that would result in tofu that's coarse with bubbles of air.

2. Chop the lean pork, adding half the garlic and shallots to the pork while chopping. Add some salt and pepper but not too much if you are going to add ready-bought ground pork because that is already seasoned. When pork is minced finely, mix it well with the ready ground pork.

3. Take a small pat of the mixed ground pork and stuff it into the 'well' of the tofu. Repeat with all the tofu pieces. There may be some leftover meat.

4. Put 2 T oil into a wok or pan and fry the remaining shallots and garlic. Aunty puts in the tofu pieces meat-side down and turns them over after a minute. But I find that tricky to do because the meat filling sometimes fall out or the tofu will break. So what I do is just put the tofu meat-side up.

5. Pour the sauce over the tofu, cover and let tofu simmer under medium-low heat for about 20 minutes. Cook the tofu too long and you'll get bubbles in the tofu, not a good thing because you want a smooth soft tofu. Undercooking results in the filling not being thoroughly cooked. The sauce will thicken with cooking so do add a little bit of water to prevent the sauce from getting too thick. However, because cornflour will burn, make sure the fire is low.

Note: my mom's way of cooking Cantonese stuffed tofu balls is to place a ceramic plate over the bottom of a pot, then arrange the stuffed tofu balls (we use half fish paste and half lean pork and chopped chives) over the plate and add a few bowls of water and boil under low-medium fire. Tofu balls take longer to cook, 40-60 minutes depending on how high you pile the balls, so you'll have to add water now and then. The plate will prevent the tofu balls from burning, and you can cook dozens of stuffed tofu balls in one go this way.

When the tofu balls are cooked (test one), arrange a dozen or two on a serving plate. Then put the above sauce ingredients (but reduce the water to 1 cup only) and 1 T oyster sauce in a small pot and heat until the sauce becomes clear and thickened. Pour sauce over the tofu balls.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cashew Nuts N Raisins Rice


Yes, you guessed it, I'm in my lazy mood. Again. This time of the year, I am at my most relaxed. School's almost out, Wey's done with his exams (and now we just wait for the dreaded report card. I don't know if it feels worse to get his report card or mine when I was in school. No I didn't do so bad, but my Dad never praised us so it was terrifying to give him our report cards. Whenever we go see Wey's teacher for his report card though, Hub always ends up encouraging, no, almost begging, him to do better next time. In my time, my brothers would've gotten a butt-splitting whacking if they came home with the report cards Wey gets. Me and sis got off easier; sis always starts her 'taps' and Dad never spanked us girls. I got off because I made sure I got better marks than her. Survivals skills came early; there were 5 of us), Ming starts his course today and Yi is coming home Wednesday at noon. Even the weather is pleasant. I love the rainy afternoons. By 2 or 3 pm it's cloudy and gloomy and most of all, it's cool. I can smell the impending rain, feel the strong breeze that makes me nostalgic for this time of the year when everything starts to slow down a little and the excitement of Christmas starts to build up. Then the rain comes, loud and pouring, and the whole place is washed clean and by night time, it is almost cold out. Cold is relative, I'm talking about 23, 24 degrees which is 'cold' in tropical Borneo, colder when there's a breeze.

So in my lazy mood I'm hardly cooking. Actually I have been baking, testing out green tea recipes that failed and failed--either not moist enough or soft enough. I am a tenacious being, and I still want to trudge on, but my tongue's turning green and wrinkled (green tea powder has a drying effect on the mouth) from eating those failed cakes so I think I'll take a short breather. Now that Ming's not home, I find myself hopelessly lazy to cook. If not for Wey, I think I can exist on instant noodles and durians, which are in season.

But I've got some lazy days back up recipes. This is what I 've dug out. It's not the tandoori chicken but the rice that I want to tell you about. I saw this done on the food channel long ago and tried it out, and we loved it. I didn't have basmati rice so I made do with fragrant long-grain rice which was just as good. So next time you do a curry, do jazz up your plain rice with cashew nuts and raisins instead.

Cashew Nuts & Raisins Rice
1 1/2 metric (or 2 rice cups) basmati or long grain rice, washed & drained
5 shallots, sliced
1 handful cashew nuts
1/2 handful raisins, washed & dried
3 T butter
1/2 t (or less, to your taste) cinnamon powder
a large pinch of cloves*
chopped cilantro

* I've also tried substituing this with cumin seeds with equally good results

1. Fry the shallots in oil until crispy, remove the shallots
2. Fry the cashew nuts in the shallot oil until golden, remove.
3. Fry the raisins until lightly browned.
4. Put 3 T butter into the pot you'll be cooking the rice in, or if you are using an electric rice cooker, do this in a frying pan. Add the cinnamon powder and cloves to the melted butter, stir well (low heat) until fragrant.
5. Add the rice and stir for 1 - 2 minutes, then add 2 cups water. Cover and cook.
5. Just before serving, stir in the fried cashew nuts and raisins and top with chopped cilantro.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Home-Made Lei Cha

Lei cha

To those who don't read but speak Chinese, lei cha (mandarin) sounds like 'thunder drink/tea' but it really means 'milled or ground drink/tea'. I think it's only in Nanyang (Malaysia and Singapore) this this mistake propagate because many Chinese here speak but not write the language.

It is to Pat of Bento Pet that I should thank for my discovery of lei cha. I first read about it on her blog, then a coffeeshop near my house started selling leicha and now once in a while, when I want something vegan, I'd have leicha. Leicha really refers to the green bowl of chlorophyllic 'soup' made from milled herbs such as mint, basil and at least 3 other plants. The cha is served with a bowl of rice topped with blanched veggies and nuts, almost like a vegan bibimbap. I read somewhere that long ago during hard times, the Hakka in China used whatever forage they could get and came up with this meal. To meat eaters, leicha can be the ultimate nightmare. I think it is an acquired food and you need to have an open mind and try it at least once.

In one of her recent posts, Pat showed a bowl of lei cha she'd made. Pat used ikan bilis (dried anchovies) to flavor her soup which would make the soup more palatable for most people because of the savory sweetness. I thought, yes, why not make lei cha at home? I hesistated in posting this, because lately I've been posting a few veg dishes and I suspect they don't go down well with most of you. But we had oxtail stew last night, 2 kgs of it between the three of us. All finished in one meal. So today is damage control day. Hub got home for lunch and said, "Lei cha? Home-made lei cha?!" The way he said it, it was as if I made cyanide soup. I know what I can do to drive him into another woman's arms (that'll be his mother, as usual). Wey refused to come down until 2 pm when he heard what was for lunch. I felt sorry for him (the guy's writing his final exams this week) and salvaged a tiny bowl of leftover oxtail stew sauce to dress his lei cha. For Hub, I added a salted egg and a piece of the precious salted fish I brought back from Hong Kong. I think the salted fish was the star of the meal. The skin was fluffy-crispy and the meat salty and delicious. Must get more salted fish next trip.


My lei cha soup had only two herbs from my garden--basil and mint. I think authentic lei cha soup has about 5 herbs. Frankly, lei cha soup tastes like what it is--juice from green plants. But it's good for you, and as far as food goes, good for our body means bad for or tastebuds and vice versa.

If you ever want something light, this is it. Only thing is, I always feel hungry half an hour after eating lei cha. But I also feel very light and refreshed, so trust me, lei cha is good for you.

Lei Cha
2 kinds of greens*
french beans (I used angled beans bc I have them)
Chinese preserved white radish, soaked and minced
dried shrimps (use plenty; without this the lei cha tastes really bland), washed and minced
chopped garlic
semi-hard tofu (I sub this with fried soft tofu)
roasted peanuts, chopped
toasted sesame seeds

*I used chinese spinach and cabbage. I think sayur manis the better veg for this dish because it is sweet and has a stronger flavor that livens up the dish.

The Soup
mint, ground finely
basil, ground finely
water or chicken/ikan bilis stock

The Rice
Plain boiled brown rice

1. Blanch the greens separately and cut them finely. Do same with the beans.

2. Put a little bit of oil in a wok and fry the garlic and dried shrimps until fragrant. Add the preserved radish and fry under low heat for about 5 minutes. Taste and add some salt and suger if needed. Dish up. It is good to make this slightly saltier because salt is not added to the other veg. If you prefer to salt the water used to blanch the veg, then adjust the salt accordingly.

3. Boil the tofu for about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool. Cut into small pieces. You can either leave it plain or season it with sesame oil and a flavored light soy sauce like Maggi.

4. For the soup, heat up the stock and add the ground herbs. When soup begins to boil, take it off the heat and strain it into a bowl. Don't salt it. This is de-tox food remember.

5. When you've done all that:

Assemble everything. Do cut your toppings finer than mine.


Put some brown rice into a nice bowl (to make up for the food).


Top the rice with the toppings. If you feel bad about it, serve a side dish like I did.


Mix everything up and watch them eat (you have to eat some to be a good example). Once in a while, it won't kill them to not eat meat.

p.s. A reader (thanks!) has directed me to this recipe which seems more authentic than the lei cha in my regular leicha shop.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Restaurant Review: Coast


Leila and Lily are going back to China for good, after spending 3 years studying in Sabah. I am sad to see them go, but I also have to accept the fact that China now holds more promise than ever before. The girls love it here, "because of the people and the relaxed lifestyle," they said, wiping away tears. It's hard to say good bye again--last Friday it was Ming, now these two girls, and in December my friend Linda and family will also go, to live in Melbourne. I am feeling like the last person left at the train station. One thing I am happy about is that both Leila and Lily became Christians while here.

F and I decided to take them somewhere special, and I chose Coast, the restaurant with the best ambience and decor in KK I think. They had a baby grand and a beautiful singer the last time and the food was good too on the 2 or 3 occasions I have eaten there. I haven't been there in a while. It is a long 45 minutes drive from the city, but as the Swiss lady seated next table to us said, it is truly beautiful and quiet out there at Shangri La's Rasa Ria Resort at Dalit Bay, Tuaran. She had a choice of Hong Kong or Bangkok or Penang and she's very happy she chose KK.

Coast, a Californian-style restaurant, has been awarded many restaurant and tourism awards over the years. Despite that, not many locals go there because it is out of town and the prices are steep. However, don't think they are begging for diners. It was a good thing I booked a table because the place was packed, mostly with Korean and Australian tourists. I think it was partly because the rain discouraged the hotel guests from going out, and also Naan, that lovely Indian restaurant in the hotel, was closed for renovation.

Assortment of bread, on the house.

This was the first sign of trouble. While the bread was as good as most major hotel's, the pesto sauce was flavorless. I asked what pesto it was, but the waitress didn't seem to understand.

Cream of mushroom RM10++/US$2.80++.

I had very conservative dining friends. They unanimously went for mushroom soup; I wanted seafood chowder or bouillabaisse. I remembered they had kids' menu the last time I was there, and the waiter surprisingly said we could order from that menu even though there wasn't any kid with us. The cream of mushroom was RM36/US$10.20 (I think) on the regular menu and only RM10/US$2.80 on the children's menu, so we each had that. The only thing though was the soup came in cartoony plastic plates. Which was okay by me, but the soup was the worst soup I've tasted in a long time. It was thin, and it tasted and looked like they'd been keeping it boiling on the stove all night--oil bubbles speckled the soup. But worst than that, the shiitake mushrooms tasted bitter. I am so glad we didn't pay nearly 4 times for a refined bowl of the same soup.

Cod with saffron linguine, RM80++/US$23++

Both F and Leila opted for this dish. I had a taste and the cod was disappointingly bland while the linguine was too soft and oily. What has happened to Coast?? Maybe my friends should have ordered Catch of The Day, sea bass, which the Swiss lady said was very good and which a couple on my left also had.

Chicken breast stuffed with couscous and doused with beurre blanc creme (white butter cream), RM70++/US$20++.

I never order chicken in western restaurants, because I don't like chicken breast, which always turn out dry, but lately I've had too much beef and also, the last time I was at Coast, the steak was served with a small piece of foie gras, which was heavenly, but now they don't do that anymore. Again, this was disappointing--whatever flavor there was just didn't please and it was a drag having to eat it. I also never liked couscous--and this dish confirmed it for me--it's just too fine on the tongue.

Duck breast, RM80++/US$23++.

Lily's pick was the best of the mains and there was a surprise tucked beneath the strips of veg--foie gras. Still, I think it could've been better if she had allowed them to slightly undercook the duck.

Baked potatoes, RM20++/US$5.70++

This was ridiculous, two so-so tasting potatoes, the size of my fist, with a hardened crust of cheddar and bacon bits for that price.

Mashed potatoes with rosemary and truffle oil, RM18++/US$5++

This was quite good because the rosemary and truffle oil went well together (if any restaurant can't even do mash, they better close down) but the portion was only about 5 spoonfuls.

The bar at Coast, after everyone had left. I finally figured out at this point that in this lighting the party mode on my camera was most suitable. See the difference?

The bill totalled RM320/US$91 for the 4 of us, which was surprisingly reasonable for Coast but that was because I used my Trio card which took 20% off the bill. Also, we didn't have any drinks but hot water because it was a cold and rainy night, nor wine because I was the only one who drink but I had to drive.

We decided that we wouldn't risk dessert there (I don't think that I'll go there again for a long long time) and opted for durians in Foh San. Btw, I was in Foh San 2 nights ago and one truck had one precious 'red prawn' durian. I called Ming in Melbourne to taunt him. However, the durian seller said the red prawn durians don't grow so well here and he didn't recommend it.

On the way home, we passed the durian stalls near Yayasan Sabah and decided to eat there just in case the stalls in Foh San were closed (it was drizzling and around 11 pm). Big big mistake. The durians were lousy (wet and too light in flavor), I am sure the scale was faulty (the two durians weighing 3 kg were much smaller than the two 3 kgs of yummy durians I had in Foh San), the fella charged me RM18/US$5 per kg even though I had bargained for RM15/US$4.30 and he proceeded to open the durians without saying no, and he was hitting on me (must've been too dark there) and Leila! We gobbled the durians (Leila and Lily love durians, my influence) and scooted, keeping an eye on the rear view mirror.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

5 Degrees Of Separation

I was reading that copy of Newsweek with Obama on the cover last month and it struck me that Obama's half-sister Maya's surname (last name) is Soetoro-Ng. Immediately I suspected she was married to somebody from either Hong Kong, Singapore or Malaysia because 'Ng' (and 'Goh' and 'Ang', to confuse you further) is the other version of 'Wu' or 'Woo' in China and other places.

Then I found out that Maya's MIL (click onto the link on Sabah in my last para; her MIL's quite a looker) was from Kudat, and FIL from Sandakan, Sabah. No kidding how small the world is! Her husband, Dr Konrad Ng, an assistant professor in media arts in The University of Hawaii, was born in Canada where his parents Howard and Joan had migrated to.

Based on the 6 Degrees of Separation , every body on earth is just 6 steps away from the person they want to meet. Kind of like the 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon for movie people. Now I think I can make it in 5 steps to meet the would-be (like every citizen of both friendly and unfriendly countries of the world, I hope he wins. America needs a president that the whole world can trust and like) President of the USA. I imagine it like this: Obama-Maya-Konrad-Joan/Howard-Konrad's parents' friend-me. Actually it's just 4 steps if Konrad goes directly to his BIL, 3 if his parents call Obama directly but I doubt they'd do that. Why me? Well, for one I'm Sabahan. Not good enough? Well, I'm Ng too, and all Ngs are related. They can't deny this relative! Just kidding. I thought you were having a slow day and need a celebrity gossip post.

maya wedding
Looking handsome on his wedding day, 2003.

maya 3
Looking like the arty farty professor recently.

Looking like a certain pastor in Melbourne who probably wanted to look like a sex symbol. Or a shaolin master. Or do all bald Chinese look alike?

Btw, I hate how my surname is pronounced in English. I'd rather it be in Chinese, 'Wu' like my relatives in China. At Uni, the lecturers called me 'Ning', "Neg" and some sounded like they were being strangled; those Canadians just couldn't pronounce anything without a vowel. But the Australians, they are good. They say it perfectly, too perfectly, like they do it all the time. Because they do--parents here tell their kids to "ng ng", a word that refers to the sound many people make doing their potty business. And Ng is a negator. One of my HK friends told me, in between hysterical laughter, that she knew a guy called "Yuk Teck". His full name was "Ng Yuk Teck", sounding like "cannot move". Don't name your daughter "Mei Lei" or your son "Chung Ming" if your surname is Ng. Somebody should tell Maya.

They even dug into the origin of the Ng surname because of the link to Obama, here :" On to Ng, a common name among Southeast Asians who descend from Hokkien- and Hakka-speaking migrants from the southern Chinese province of Fujian. It's pronounced [ŋ], but very often it is said as [εŋ] ("eng") by Westerners who might have difficulty with a syllabic velar nasal. The spelling is sometimes romanized to match the Western pronunciation as Eng (or occasionally with another initial vowel, as Ang, Ing, Ong, or Ung). Wikipedia explains that Ng is "a Cantonese and Hakka transliteration of the Chinese surnames / (Pinyin: Wú) and 伍 (Pinyin: Wǔ), and Hokkien (Taiwanese) and Teochew transliteration of the Chinese surname / (Pinyin: Huáng)." Konrad Ng's parents are from Sabah on the Malaysian portion of Borneo, so in this case Ng likely represents a Hakka transliteration. (According to Nicole Constable's Guest People: Hakka Identity in China and Abroad, 57 percent of Sabah's ethnic Chinese population is Hakka.))"

p.s. the Indonesians can meet Obama in even less steps. His sister's father is Indonesian.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Our Silent Screams

Johnathan of Singapore directed me to this article posted in Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang's site last month. These are some of the points I have gleaned from the article which was written by A True Sabahan.As a true Sabahan also, I am qualified to answer many of the accusations and issues raised. This will ruffle a lot of feathers, to put it lightly, but I have always been opinionated so there.

The question Johnathan asked was: How true is the article in depicting Sabah? Very roughly, these are the major points:

1. Water Rationing

According to A True Sabahan, due to water shortage, people here do not flush their toilets until "the stench is really became unbearable, looking yellowish in color", "we are only allowed to wash our hair on Monday and Thursday, the days when there are water supply coming in". I take a deep breath. In my house, the color is not yellow, it's brown and the stench sends you reeling. We have water supply everyday, the pipes gush and pour with great force. The toilet condition is only in the toilet used by my boys. It is a constant battle to get them to flush, and they think I am a witch because I am always going on about their not flushing. So my answer to this is, if your toilet stinks, it's plain bad habits. Also, I wash my hair every other day.

However, I live in the state capital, Kota Kinabalu or KK or short. A True Sabahan lives in Sandakan, the ex-capital of Sabah. Sandakan is well known for 3 things: timber (now depleted), seafood (now threatened) and being a hard-core opposition town.

Timber brought in so much wealth to Sabah that in the 70s, Sabah was known as the richest state in Malaysia. Timber businessmen in Sandakan were called 'tycoons' and they had big gaudy gem rings on every finger and gold and diamond Rolexes on their fat wrists. You aren't a tycoon if you don't have mistresses, and many rumors circulated about how HK and Taiwan actresses and singers were flown into Sandakan (just like causcasian girls were sent to Brunei in the 80s). The biggest houses and best cars were found in Sandakan. Revenues that the state received from timber were not re-directed into development and industries; timber tycoons were often working hand in hand with government officers cutting thousands of hectares of protected jungle. And then the town fell into the hands of the Opposition, the DAP. For a long time (over a decade) the town was left to rot as the Federal Govt far away in Kuala Lumpur punished the people of sandakan for sticking to their guns. I for one respect the people of Sandakan who had more values and brains than the rest of the people in the state. When PBS came in, I celebrated too. I voted for them, I respected them, I had hopes they would do the state proud. Look what happened. They betrayed us all for their own gain. They sold the state. That's all I want to say on this.

Back to the water issue. Once in a long while, we do experience a water cut but that's mostly because some pipes nearby need fixing. So as far as water is concerned, we have plentiful. We should sell some to the Australians. They can't water their plants or wash their cars and I'm sure they don't wash their hair (and body) as often as we do. You can't blame them, because the country is mostly desert. But here, in tropical Borneo where the rain (as it is doing now) POURS nearly every afternoon, there is no reason for A True Sabahan's suffering. So who is to blame?

2. Power Outage

This one is true. After living in Canada for 4 years where I never once experienced a power blackout, I came back to frequent blackouts in the 80s. Even now, we still get a sudden power cut once in a while. Things have improved, but still, this is 2008. Try baking a cake and halfway when the cake is puffed, the power goes. Or blogging and pop, your draft is not saved. Or it's pouring and your auto gate is down. Or it's a muggy night and your aircon and fan stay still. Or you are at the lights and 2 hours later your're still there because there's no lights and the traffic police is nowhere. Or you are having your appendix removed and pop! they can't get the generator going...That's why every time there's a power cut, I call SEB and shout, "Ini 2008! Apa kau ini potong potong saja, hah?!"

3. Neglected State

This one is so true I don't know where to start. If flyovers, as A True Sabahan said, is a sign of development, then I am pleased to announce that this year, 3 flyovers have opened in KK. The first flyovers in the state. I hate flyovers.

The fact that this was the richest state in Malaysia only 30 years ago and now is the poorest of all the 13 states is already proof of the neglect, rape and destruction of this state. I was watching the Palin-Biden live debate a couple of weeks ago and much as I tried to not like her, I found myself really rooting for Palin so much so that I wished the Americans have a choice of an Obama-Palin ticket. I salute Palin for standing up for voting against fuel taxes because Alaska is an energy-producing state. So is Sabah, you stupid Sabahan leaders! One by one our Chief Ministers come and go, each time kowtowing and kissing the arses of the Fed leaders. Giving away 96% of our oil revenues. Giving away Labuan. Giving giving giving. The state now has to beg for help while politicians continue with their fast lives and big mansions. Who's to blame??

note: there are many more issues raised. I will stop here. It's too upsetting to continue. I need a coffee.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cold Bittergourd


As requested by my son Ming two minutes ago (now I have even more reason to post my recipes), this is the recipe for cold bittergourd which 6th Aunt taught me and which has since become Ming's favorite bittergourd dish. He arrived in Melbourne yesterday morning and has eaten nearly everything he wanted in the last 24 hours ("Mom, the gyudon at Don Don is value for money because there's sooo much beef!" "I'm so full I wanna throw up! "Portions are so big!" "Jehjeh fed me well but she left me to discover the city myself while she was holed up in RMIT all day and night!"--that bad Jehjeh (sister)!) so he badly wants to go on a veggie diet. One of the things I'm still getting used to with Ming away is to buy less veg because the two guys now at home can go without veg if they had their way. Ming and I eat veg by the platefuls; we love meat too but feel sick if we eat too much of it.

A word of caution though: this way of preparing bittergourd is strictly for those who love the veg. I found our bittergourd more bitter than HK's. The greener and irregular or crinklier the surface of the bittergourd, the more bitter the gourd so be guided. I like my bittergourd bitter and always choose the younger greener fruit for stir fries but for this dish I choose the paler and more mature gourds. I don't know how true this is, but bittergourd is a cooling food and so balances any 'heatiness' condition brought on by too much deep-fried food. Many people also swear that it lowers blood pressure and blood sugar levels. I just know that my mom always told us "Sig dek foo gwa sig dek foo", meaning if you can eat bittergourd, you can 'eat'/withstand life's bitterness. Btw, my MIL and her sister never ate bittergourd until they came out of China. Apparently there was no bittergourd in Shanghai, bittergourd being a southern Chinese veg. Maybe that's why southerners are tougher people.

Try it and tell me if you like it.

Cold Bittergourd

1 large bittergourd
salt, sugar & sesame oil
ice-cold water

1. Cut the bittergourd into half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Liberally sprinkle salt (say 1/2 teaspoon each) into the cavity of each half and leave 1/2 hour. This will decrease the bitterness.

2. Without washing away the salt, cut the bittergourd into finger size and lengths.

3. Heat a small pot of water until boiling and then add the bittergourd, keeping the flame on at high. When it comes to a boil again, let it boil 30 to 40 seconds, until just cooked. Do not overcook. Scoop out immediately and plunge into a bowl of ice-cold water and let it soak until bittergourd is cooled. This is to stop the cooking so that the bittergourd is crispy and remains green.

4. Drain very well, put into a bowl or plate and toss with a bit (1/2 to 1 teaspoon) of castor sugar and lots of sesame oil. No salt. Or dress it just before you eat so that the sesame oil flavor is not diluted. Cover and chill in fridge until ready to eat.

p.s. I just saw a comment from a reader called Chris. So Chris, here's the recipe :)) Lots of bittergourd lovers out there. I'm surprised. These are the ones who will be able to ride through this financial crisis better based on that Chinese saying. Those who don't eat bittergourd (like my Hub) better start soon.

Nature's Cups

Monkey cup stuffed with rice.

My friend Stephanie went to a Hari Raya Open House and came away with these for me:


Has anyone ever seen monkey cups (also known as pitcher plants) used this way before, because I haven't, not until now. I almost feel guilty having them because I'm not sure if these are protected species as most Nephentes are. I can't imagine how many of these cups were taken from the jungle for this use. I'm all for using natural materials but if rare plants are used, then it isn't right. No wonder the world's plants and animals species are threatened with extinction. However, these do look like the more common monkey cups that are cultivated in nurseries and sold at weekend markets, so maybe I'm just ignorant. Maybe people use them all the time.


Just in case you are wondering, the palm-sized cups did not impart any particular flavor to the rice. I thought I had a slight furry feel and slight 'pull' on my tongue but nobody had that feeling so I guess it was my imagination. The glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk was very fragrant, smooth and soft. And that chicken rendang! I must get the recipe!

p.s. I am kind of shy to post this. People already wonder if we live on trees in Borneo. Monkey cups are such wondrous yet primitive plants.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Congee, Fely's Way

Pork and dried oysters congee.

Congee is nearly oiless, packs lots of water and cleanses the digestive system. Most Chinese, especially the older folks, eat congee for breakfast everyday of their lives. Just like cereals and milk to some.

I had a neighbor, Fely, who cooked a different congee from mine. Her chicken congee was so good you could smell it even when the wind wasn't blowing. This congee recipe is based on Fely's Filipino way of cooking congee, using onions, garlic and ginger, The Asian Trinity (you read it here first). Fely always uses kampung (village) chicken chopped into pieces. I like to use kampung chicken too but with bones on. The resulting congee is very xien (savory sweet).

I think congee is eaten in every Asian country. Even among Chinese there are different congee, such as plain congee which is mostly for invalids and highly effective for someone with the runs. Then there's congee where meat and other ingredients are added. I like both types, plain and otherwise.

Chinese congee is just plain rice boiled with lots of water until the rice disintegrates into a thick watery gruel. Some people add fresh bean curd skin for better flavor, but mostly congee is just plain water and rice. Something so plain will require the best rice of course, and lots of patience so that the congee does not burn. This means it must be simmered instead of boiled. A rule my father often said when cooking congee is that you must start with enough water. Never add water during cooking. I have stuck to his rule with very good results. I don't know if it's just my imagination but rice cooked with water added during cooking does not 'open' up as much and is not so smooth.

This morning I cooked congee for breakfast (I am making an effort to wake up early the past 2 days so that Ming will follow my new habit. But my good example comes too late because he is still sleeping now). I've cooked the congee thicker than usual because Wey likes it that way. Another reason is because congee is mostly water, you'd get hungry soon after eating very thin congee and you'll need to take more leaks than usual. Don't eat congee when you are traveling on the highway in China. Surely you have heard of their toilets?

Congee, Fely's Way

1 1/2 cups fragrant rice*
5 liters water for thick congee (increase by 1 liter if you like congee thin)
2 slices ginger (5cm X 4 mm each)
1 to 2 heaped T doong choi (preserved veg)--optional but highly recommended for extra flavor
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 brown onion, minced
any meat or fish, sliced thinly & seasoned with salt & pepper
1 T veg oil
salt and pepper to taste
spring onions for garnish
sesame oil (optional)

*Rice must be of good quality. Cup here is the metric cup which is = to 1 1/4 rice cup.

1. Wash the rice. Put about 1 T oil in a heavy-base pot and fry the onions, garlic and ginger until fragrant. If using kampung chicken (true home-reared kampung chickens are older, tougher but boy, so tasty) with bones on, add it now and fry for a minute. Add all the water and the rice. When water boils, lower the heat until the water just simmers. This may take an hour or more. Stir once in a while so that the rice doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. If the congee is too thin for your liking, turn heat up and take off the lid. Make sure you keep stirring to prevent burning.

2. Turn heat off. Add the doong choi. Let the congee sit for at least about 1/2 hour. It will swell further and thicken.

3. Re-heat the congee. If it's too thick, which is very likely, you have to add some water. If made perfectly, no extra water should be needed. Add the meat, stirring well. Season to taste. Top with sesame oil and spring onions. You can serve some crullers on the side.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pistachio Cake With White Choc Frosting


This is a cake from the Christmas 2005 issue of Better Homes and Gardens which I've wanted to make for a long time. I waited so long because 1) the photo of the cake was beautiful and a lot of effort seemed to be needed. The cake was decorated with shaved white choc, caramelized stars and chopped pistachios. 2) I've never had any success with cakes from magazines.

The cake recipes that work for me are those from baking classes and friends. To my surprise, this recipe turned out a very delicate cake that is quite pleasing except for the frosting, which I knew would be too sweet, as American frostings usually are. I'm still going to post this recipe because I really love the texture of the cake (not too airy or too firm, not too dry or too moist) and if you change the frosting to another that's not too sweet, you've got a winner.

This recipe is also good if you want to make a white cake. The yolks aren't added to the batter (although I did add 2 yolks out of not wanting to waste them) and the cake is a pleasant cream color. I am going to use this recipe as a basic recipe for times when I want cakes of medium texture. The flavor can be altered by changing the ground pistachios with hazelnuts or other nuts. I've amended the recipe but also given the ingredients amount of the original recipe.

Pistachio Cake With White Choc Frosting
5 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 t cream of tartar (my addition)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose (reduced from 2 cups)
1 T baking powder
1/8 t salt (reduced)
3/4 cup (150g) butter, softened
1 cup castor sugar (reduced from 1 1/2 cups)
1 t pure vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1/4 cup salted roasted pistachios, finely ground
2 t orange zest/peel, finely chopped (I whizzed it with the pistachios)

1. Grease and line bottom of three 7 or 8" pans (20 cm) or two 9 or 10" pans with wax paper. Grease the sides of the pans. Preheat oven at 180 C.

2. Beat butter in mixer at high speed for 30 sec. Add vanilla and 1/2 the sugar, beat until combined. Alternately add the flour and milk to butter mixture, beating on low to medium speed until just combined.

3. In another bowl, add the egg whites and 1/4 t cream of tartar, beat the egg whites for 30 sec, then add the remaining sugar and beat until glossy stiff.

4. Fold 1 cup of beaten egg white into the butter batter thoroughly to lighten the batter, then add the remaining egg whites. Fold in the ground pistachios and orange peel. Pour batter into the pans.

5. Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Test with a wooden skewer; if cake is done, the skewer will come out clean. Cool pans on wire racks.

6. Spread frosting between layers and cover sides and top of cake. Decorate with chopped pistachios ,caramelized stars (put this on only when ready to serve. If you put it on the cake and chill it in the fridge, the stars will melt upon thawing) and choc curls.

White Choc Meringue Buttercream*
6 oz white baking choc
3 egg whites
150g fine sugar
300g butter

*I suggest replacing the American frosting with this cream which is lighter and fluffier and not very sweet.

1. Melt the white choc in the microwave or over a pot of boiling water.

2. Put egg whites and sugar into a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water and stir well. The sugar will melt and the mixture will become frothy and white. Remove and, using a machine, whisk whites till stiff and glossy.

3. Beat the butter in by the spoonful till well-combined with the egg whites.

4. Beat in the melted choc.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Dinner At 6th Aunt's

Hub's 6th Aunt cooked us a 'yumtious' dinner the first day we arrived in HK. She is a fantastic cook, and in the words of her DIL, "Her food is as good as any HK restaurant's" and that is some compliment because the restaurant standards in HK are just so high.


A well-planned Chinese home-cooked meal like the above will consist of meat dishes that include poultry, seafood and pork/beef, one or two veg and a good nutritious soup.

Braised ducks' tongues.

I can't quite understand the Shanghainese's love for duck tongues. Duck giblets, especially those from Nanjing, I love, but duck tongues? There's not much meat and they are not particularly flavorful except for the sauce they are cooked in. I think it is more for nibbling, for "chi xuang", eating fun.

Steamed 'gweiyue'.

Gweiyue (sounds like 'expensive fish' in Mandarin & Cantonese) is a shang deng yue/superior fish and if your host serves it, it is an honor. I am beginning to love fresh water fish. Living in KK where there's abundant tropical fish such as grouper and mackeral, I have always preferred fish with thick chunky flesh. However, I realise now that tropical fish, though sweet, are rather bland in flavor while fresh-water fish, like the gweiyue, are fine-fleshed and more flavorful. These days they rear freshwater fish that don't taste of mud.

Roasted goose.

6th Uncle bought this from his favorite roasted meat shop in North Point. Yummy. I swear the next time I go to HK, I'm going to eat half a goose, no sharing business.

Liang bun koo gua (cold bittergourd).

I've never eaten bittergourd cooked this way; love it. I will share the recipe soon, but it's strictly for bittergourd lovers.

Bai ye pork stew.

Bai ye is a Shanghainese bean curd 'skin'. Apart from adding it to stews, it is also used to make a yummy soup.

Fried kai lan.

Hot and sour soup.

This hot and sour soup made with a superior dried scallops stock bought from the market was excellent. Notice how fine the mushrooms and tofu strips are. Even the egg 'flower' are very fine strands. I'll have to re-post my hot and sour soup photo; the ingredients for my hot and sour soup were cut as thick as french fries.

I totally agree with Fiona that her MIL's cooking skills can rival any HK chef. What I learnt from this meal is that I must put in more effort in my dao goong, knife skills. Chinese food is taste first, looks second, so presentation is usually kept simple. If the ingredients are cut well, most of the battle is already won as far as presentation is concerned.
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