Spring Onion Pancakes (葱油饼)

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Spring onion pancakes – 葱油饼 – are a common street food in China and Taiwan. Available any time of the day, they're particularly popular for breakfast.

Contrary to its name, spring onion pancakes are an unleavened, fried bread, not pancakes. And "葱油饼", strictly speaking, means spring onion oil pancake. But I guess it's good marketing to omit the word "oil"!

A good 葱油饼, best enjoyed hot from the pan, is crispy and flakey outside whilst the inside is chewy, interspersed layers of dough and spring onions.

There're only four ingredients – flour, spring onions, oil and salt – but when done well, freshly fried spring onion pancakes are absolutely delicious, especially when they're washed down with sweet soya bean milk or teh halia.

Minced Pork & Olive Vegetables Stir-Fry

Sunday, 17 October 2010

If you're wondering what on earth "olive vegetables" are, it's olives and salted mustard greens cooked in vegetable oil till everything is a dark green mush. And what a marvelous mush it is!

The strong flavours from the olives and mustard greens meld together and mellow during the long hours of cooking, creating something that tastes like olives, but better. It's more complex, more nuanced, rounder, smoother . . . an absolute delight with plain rice porridge, straight out of the bottle. But I would say that, wouldn't I? I'm Teochew and "olive vegetables", aka 乌橄榄菜, is a Teochew specialty. It's one of our many ways of preserving vegetables.

Honestly though, I swear I'm not biased. Why would anyone eat an oily, inky black mush – since the Sung dynasty, apparently – unless it tastes really good?

Pear Sweet Soup (银耳雪梨糖水) – Cantonese Health Food

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Cantonese sweet soups or 糖水 are usually served as a dessert, but they're not like desserts in any other culture. Everyone regards desserts as an evil temptation that they should avoid as much as possible, except the Cantonese. To them, desserts aren't indulgent or sinful but a necessary health tonic for the body. That's right, desserts are a health food! Isn't that an awesome idea?! Forget the nasty stuff like wheatgrass and flax seeds. Heath food Cantonese style is what you want!

In Hong Kong, there're many restaurants that serve only sweet soups. A lot of these specialty eateries are packed with people even late at night. Do the customers feel guilty when they're tucking into something sweet and yummy, sometimes just before going to bed? Not at all! Why would anyone feel bad about eating health food? If they're feeling listless and tired, a bowl of red bean soup would give 'em an energy boost. Having an acne breakout? Red wouldn't be the right colour. Instead, go for green bean soup which is also good for eczema and lowering cholesterol. Looking for smooth, milky white complexion? That'd be almond milk or steamed custard. Been coughing lately? Sea-coconuts and pears to the rescue. Does black glutinous rice with coconut milk and mangoes sound good? I hear it improves digestion. Worried about hair turning grey? Forget coconuts; black sesame soup would do the trick . . . .

I haven't come across a sweet soup that cures cancer but there's something for just about everything else!

I had two bowls of Pear and Snow Fungus Sweet Soup (银耳雪梨糖水) after dinner. My throat, which been quite dry for a few days, feels ok now. Worked like a charm, and it was a light and refreshing dessert to boot.

Who says you should avoid desserts? When it's a Cantonese sweet soup, you should have a second helping!

Check these out:
Sambal Timun
(Spicy Pork
Cucumber Salad)
Har Lok (Dry-
Fried Prawns,
干煎虾碌)
Durian
Seeds
Sweet Glutinous Rice
(湯圓)

Lemon Tarts

Sunday, 10 October 2010

When life gives you lemons, make lemon tarts. They're much better than lemonade! And if you don't have free lemons from life, go buy some. Lemon tarts are worth it!

I gave one of my lemon tarts to a friend once. As I watched him eat, waiting for some compliments, he said, 'It's sour.' I was quite happy, thinking that he liked it, then I realized he meant the opposite. Duh? I'm proud of my lemon tarts precisely because they're sour . . . or rather tart, which sounds much nicer. There's about half a lemon in each small tart!

Poached Spinach with Salted and Century Eggs

Saturday, 2 October 2010

There're a couple of vegetables I refer to as Chinese spinach, and yin choi (苋菜) is one of them. I think the proper name is Amaranth or, more specifically, Amaranthus dubius. But please don't take my word for it 'cause I'm not very good with plant names. I just eat them . . . the plants, not the names. Oh yes, eating is my forte!

I love yin choi because the texture is smooth when I cook it with minimal oil, unlike other dark green veggies which can be gritty. It goes very well with dried anchovies, and yin choi in dried anchovy stock – with maybe some fishballs or pork meatballs – makes a quick, delicious soup. Or it can be stir fried with dried anchovies that have been fried till crispy. That's also quite nice.

When I'm tired of pairing yin choi with dried anchovies, I use a mix of century and salted eggs. And the veggies are poached, a nice change from soups and stir fries. I love the dish 'cause it's fresh tasting and there's hardly any oil. I first had it in Chinese restaurants and after ordering it several times, I decided to hack the recipe. I thought it should be an easy dish to make at home, and I was right. It's just poaching a few leaves. How difficult can that be? Sometimes, I use yin choi; other times, I use kow kei (枸杞, aka boxthorn and matrimony vine) like the restaurant version. Nothing to it at all.

Have I stopped ordering poached spinach in restaurants after poaching the recipe? Nope, 'cause I really like the dish. Besides, we should always eat lots of veggies whether we're eating in or out, right?

Recent posts:
Buddha's
Delight (罗汉
斋, 什菜)
Spicy Poached
Pears
Durian with
Sticky Rice
Roasted Cauliflower