Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012: A Blog is like a Dish – It Needs some Flavour

Today, Saturday December 31, 2011, last day before the start of 2012! It’s time to assess what I have done this year and think of what I would like to do in the coming year.

What have I done?  A number of new things, all related to my new interest in food, started to be part of my life in 2011:
1/ writing this blog & communicating via Twitter,
2/ doing more cooking myself & trying new recipes, and
3/ resuming my long-time love of making bread.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thanks & Best Wishes To My Readers

Merry Christmas!
Happy and Healthy 2012!

This is a very short post where I simply like to wish all my readers

a happy festive season
all the best for this coming new year 


Also a BIG thanks to you all for supporting and reading my blog


Monday, December 19, 2011

Stir-Fry Rice-Cakes

2012 is around the corner. Soon after the end-of-year celebrations are over we will welcome in the Year of the Dragon, on the 23rd of January exactly.

During Chinese New Year festivities people like to eat a pudding called in Cantonese “níhn-gôu” or year-cake which is quite chewy and sticky.  
The Cantonese pronunciation “níhn-gôu” (年糕) sounds exactly the same as year-high” (年高).  Hence Chinese people like to enjoy rice cakes during the Chinese New Year festivities as pronouncing the name of this dessert will bring them good fortune (symbol of raising oneself/being promoted).
This type of year-cake is made of glutinous rice and brown sugar giving it a yellow-brownish colour. It is cut into thin slices, which are afterward dipped into an egg batter and then shallowed fried.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chinese Vegetables

When I recall how I got to know about the different vegetables Hong Kong has to offer “A popular Guide to Chinese Vegetables” by Martha Dahlen, came immediately to my mind. Martha’s book helped me a lot and I highly recommend it to any newcomer in Hong Kong


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Lotus Root, Dried Octopus and Pork Soup

Dried Octopus

Whenever I prepare lotus root, dried octopus and pork soup I cannot help but think of Tai O and its stores displaying dried products: octopus, fish maws, shrimps, scallops, etc under rows of bright red lights. I already wrote about Tai O village in a previous post.  At week-ends tourists and locals alike packed the former fishing and salt-making village to enjoy its charm and fresh seafood.
Street hawkers selling live fish in plastic buckets from carts

Tangerine peel and fish hung up in the sun to dry


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Braised Pig’s Trotters with Fermented Bean Curd

This is the time of the year when we yearn for hearty meals and for families to prepare roasted meat and soups. We are now in November and the cooler months approaching special winter dishes such as braised goat is back on the menu of restaurants.
Goat, mutton, eggs, chicken, etc. belong to the yang category. According to Chinese beliefs yang foods are believed to increase the body heat, nourish and replenish us during the cold season.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pork With Hard-Boiled Eggs Stew

Autumn is here....I can now feel it!

Although the weather can be quite hot, particularly at mid-day, there is less humidity and it gets cooler in the morning and evening. I like this season: this is my favourite!

This is the time to enjoy chestnuts from the street hawkers. At this time of the year I know my parents (in France) are roasting chestnuts at home and eating them in a soup plate filled with hot milk and a tad of sugar. My Dad loves sweet treats and chestnuts are never sweet enough for him. 
It is also the time for hearty meals. I no longer feel being in a sauna when I am in my kitchen but feel like baking (I already posted my sourdough bread tribulations), making stews and experimenting with bôu-jái-faahn (or little rice pots) recipes (not yet posted). 

But first, before sharing my Pork and Hard-Boiled Eggs Stew recipe with you I would like to show you the pictures I took this afternoon.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mizu Desserts House

Recently I went with some friends to Mizu Desserts House in Tai Kok Tsui. I hardly ever go to this part of Hong Kong, or I should say Kowloon.  I don't have any occasion to go there.  TKT is an area west of Mongkok with a mix of light industries (in the old area) and residential buildings.
We planned to visit Stephanie (we all know her) who is one of the owners of Mizu. But what we wanted most was to try her desserts!

In the street where Mizu / Séui-gei (in Cantonese) [ 水记甜品屋]  is located there are plenty of  restaurants: seafood, Cantonese hot pot, desserts. Diners can enjoy outdoor dining at tables set out on the pavement (outside the shops). We noticed the similarity between the street full of outdoor diners and Taiwan's night markets.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wet Markets in Mongkok

I just want to share a few photos I took in Mongkok a few months ago .
(I did not add any comments)
I hope you enjoy looking at them and 
can feel the wet market atmosphere. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My 1st Sourdough Bread w/ Pumpkin & Chia Seeds

I spent the last 10 days mixing flour and water together (flour and pineapple on Day 1) each day and waiting eagerly for the next day to see how well the dough had risen (checking the ribbon marking the previous level) tyring to make my own sourdough starter.

The rising process was not as successful as I would have hoped and although I knew I should have waited to have a better (more active) sourdough starter I could not wait any longer to use it to bake my first sourdough bread.

I decided to follow one of King Arthur Flour's recipes and added pumpkin and chia seeds.

My 1st Sourdough Bread w/ Pumpkin & Chia Seeds 

  • 1 cup of sourdough starter
  • 1½ cup lukewarm water
  • 5 cups bread flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds

  • Combine starter with water and 3 cups flour.  Beat vigorously.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let it aside for 4 hours. Then, put in the fridge and let aside for 12 hours.
  • Add the remaining ingredients (salt + sugar + 2 cups of flour + seeds) kneading and forming a smooth dough.
  • Cover and allow the dough to rise (depending on starter and temperature – it can take anywhere from 2 to 5 hours).

dough before 2nd rise

  •  Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into oval loaves and place them on lined baking tray. Cover and let rise until puffy (about 2 – 4 hours). [Note: the dough did not rise and was very sticky. It was difficult to form 2 nice oval shapes.]
  • Preheat oven at 220º C for about 15 minutes.
  • Spray the loaves with lukewarm water. Make 2 slashes on top of each loaf. [Note: The recipe said “bake the bread for 25-30 minutes (until it is golden brown)”. However, after 30 min the bread was not cooked enough and I baked it 15 min more].
  • Remove bread from oven and let it cool on a wire rack.

Here is how my bread looked like!

flat bread....

crumb ...compact but yummy!

I hesitated before adding these 2 photos but I prefer to be frank and show you how it really looked like. I can hear you saying: “terrible…it took her such a long time to make and write about this ugly thing…”
Yes, you are right! My bread was flat. The dough has not risen. It could have been cooked a little bit longer to get a browner crust {but I was afraid it would become too hard and the bottom would burn}.  
However, the crust was delicious and the texture of the crumb although heavy (too compact and not enough air) and not cooked enough had a light and pleasant sour taste. 

Overall it has been a nice experience making my first sourdough starter with pineapple juice and the bread does not taste that bad. I will experiment further and try to make better and lighter bread in the future. Sure, will let you know (in a shorter post...hahaha!)

Warning (keep in mind): “To have good bread the rising is the single most important process”. (

“Until next time, may your bread always rise!”  Peter Reinhart

My 1st Sourdough Starter

It is going to be a long post as I want to record the whole process of making a sourdough starter – my 1st sourdough starter.

Feel free to jump directly to Day 9 where after having completed the process I am finally making the starter that will live in my fridge for the next 100 years (but still don’t know if it will work) or just go the next post where you can see how my 1st sourdough loaves looked like.

A few months ago I started to be interested in making my own sourdough starter. It began after reading Grégoire Michaud "the sourdough supremacy" in which he wrote: “all started with water and raisins”. I was intrigued.
Then I read other bloggers’ recipes of sourdough starter and compared 2 recipes both using pineapple juice. The first one, published by NY Times was adapted from “Artisan Breads Every Day”  by Peter Reinhart.
The second was from Pinch My Salt (another adaptation of Peter Reinhart’s).

Last week I finally decided to try to make a sourdough starter with pineapple juice and flour as per Pinch my Salt’s instructions (they seem to me easy to follow). Here is how I proceeded: 

Day 1:  
In a mixing bowl I put 1 cup of whole meal flour with ¾ cup of unsweetened pineapple juice (at room temperature) and stirred it until the flour had absorbed the juice.

whole meal flour mixed with pineapple juice

Then I transferred the dough into a glass jar, covered it with a paper towel and attached a ribbon (I could not find any rubber band!) around the jar to mark the level (so I could check the progress of the sourdough as it was rising).
As per the instructions I let it aside for 24 hours at room temperature (the kitchen temperature was ~26 Cº).

mixture in a glass jar (let to sit at room temperature)
Day 2: To my disappointment there was no visible sign of change. No growth at all! Therefore I did not take any picture. But I continued to follow the procedure as instructed for Day 2.
I transferred the dough into a mixing bowl, added ½ cup of juice + 1 cup of unbleached bread flour and stir well all ingredients together. Then I transferred the dough back into the glass jar, covered it and let it sit for another 24 hours.

Day 2: after adding more pineapple juice and flour

Day 3: The dough had risen by 2-3cms. Hurray! Its consistency was thick and rubbery and filled with air bubbles.  It had a slight pineapple smell.

dough has risen!

Sticky texture - lightly scented

As per the instructions I discarded ½ of the dough and fed the remaining with 1 cup of bread flour + ½ cup water (tap water at room temperature ~ 26 C°) and then let it sit at room temperature for another 24 hours.

mixing dough with water and flour

pink ribbon marking the level

Day 4: The instructions said: “The mixture should have doubled in size. Repeat Day 3 procedure. Otherwise let it sit for another 12 to 24 hours.”
The mixture not having grown much (a mere 1.5 cm) I let it sit for another 24hours. 
Day 5: Normally, we should start to feed it twice daily.
The starter had only risen by 2cms (it should have doubled in size!). However I decided to repeat day 3’s step.
Day 6: When I woke up I was disappointed (again). The dough had not changed. I waited until late afternoon to repeat day 3’s step.
Day 7: Although not much growth, I fed it twice daily, morning and evening. According to the recipe the starter is ready to use (bake with) only if it has been active (= always doubled in size between feedings).  I was starting to be impatient. I checked other recipes on Internet and found John D. Lee's. Surprisingly his starter does not need to be fed twice daily. 
Day 8: I fed it in the morning and late afternoon and as there was not much growth I decided to pretend that my starter was ready and proceeded with John D. Lee’s Day 4’s step.  I took 1 cup of the dough and mixed it with 3 ½ cups of bread flour + 2 cups water and covered it with a plastic film.
before final step (John D. Lee's day 4)
I let it sit at room temperature overnight and the following morning put it in the fridge. I left it until mid-afternoon (almost 24hours).

Day 9: Here is how my pre-starter looked like before reserving part of it to make the starter that I am supposed to be able to keep for 100 years!


1 used 1 cup to make my starter (a)
I reserved 1 cup of the pre-starter as it was. I will call it starter (b)  

Starter (a): I used 1 cup of the above dough and fed it with 2 cups of bread flour and 2 cups of water.  I stored the starter in the fridge (in a closed glass jar). [Note: I put more flour and water than what I should have as I thought the dough was too stiff].

starter (a)

starter (b)

Feeding: Take away ½ of the starter and mix the remaining ½ with equal amount of flour and water.  

Some bakers recommend a 3/2 ratio. Others feed the starter every 3 days, others once a week [some even have no problem with feeding it once every 8 weeks]. Some advise to feed it 2-3 days (each day) before using it, as well as after every time you use it.
Some bakers recommend stirring the starter 2-3 times a day.

After further reading I know that it is best to use tap water that has been set out for 24 hours (I did not wait that long). An inappropriate amount (ratio) of starter, flour and water is also important to get an active starter, as well as a cool (~ 20ºC) temperature (my kitchen was ~26-28ºC).

It takes time to take care of a sourdough starter although it is not complicated.  With time and practice I hope I will be able to know how to keep my starter alive (for the next 100 years! I am repeating myself…I know but it seems so funny to keep it for that long) and make delicious bread.

But before I am going to "show" you how my 1st sourdough bread looked like. Please read "My 1st sourdough bread w/pumpkin and chia seeds" . 

Thank you for taking time to read this long post.

Friday, September 30, 2011

5R - private kitchen

Last Wednesday I had a late lunch with my friends as the latter were on duty (volunteer jobs) and finished their service at 2pm.  We went to 5R a private kitchen run by Kenneth and Edith Chan. The couple opened their first restaurant in North Point (Jupiter Street) in 2007 and a few years later moved to Tai Po. 4 months ago they came back to Hong Kong Island.  

The venue is a bit tricky to find but very well located.  Large windows cover one side of the dining room and allow for the natural light to radiate through. Being located in the heart of Wanchai I was pleasantly surprised to find such a bright place and no building obstructing the view. It felt like having lunch outdoors.

The dining rooms' view of the plaza

Kenneth Chan Leung-chong is the chef and Edith is taking care of the customers. She is a pleasant, friendly and talkative woman. She is also the mother of 5 kids. Yes 5!  When my friends and I asked Edith what did the name 5R stood for we were told that {if I understood clearly as the conversation was in Cantonese} 5 stood for their number of children and R for restaurant. 
Edith and Kenneth had 3 girls at the time they were in North Point thus the name of the restaurant was 3R, then came a 4th child and since last year another boy joined them.  Thus 5R!  My friends and I could not resist asking Edith: “When will the name become 6R?” To my surprise she said that it was complicated in terms of name registration formalities. I would have thought this would be relatively easy compared to having a 6th child! I can only say that Edith is an amazing lady, full of energy.

We started with a cream of tomato soup served with homemade squid ink bread.

Homemade Squid Ink Bread

I forgot to take a photo of the soup. We were quite hungry as it was almost 3pm when we started eating. We had chatted a long time before ordering! The bread was piping hot and so yummy! {The recipe is in Kenneth’s book “Party Guide” and I will try to make it.} You know I love bread… more than desserts! 

Then we shared the main dishes.

Mussels with white wine and cream sauce. I forgot the name on the menu but it must be Mouclade. At home I usually omit the cream and do a simpler version called “moules à la marinière” or “sailor’s mussels”.  

Mussels in white wine and cream sauce
Green leaves and fresh fruits salad with orange reduction sauce. The dressing was a bit too sweet for my liking but I liked the after-taste of olive oil. The frisée and rocket leaves as well as the peach and orange slices were very fresh and tasty.

Green leaves and fresh fruits salad
Lamb rack, and Grilled Kurubuta (kurubuta literally means black pig in Japanese).  Both meats were tender and juicy. I think it was the first time I tried black pig. The taste is stronger than pork - pink (?) pigs.  What I liked most was the potatoes and veggies served as accompaniment. The potatoes were very tender and not too oily. They had been first partially cooked in boiling water, and then pan-fried.

Lamb rack with sautéed veggies
Grilled Kurubuta
Pan-fried potatoes

Then, it was dessert time! We started with what it looked like a soufflé. In fact, it was a hot cheese cake served in small individual ramekins. This was really delicious. I thought there was ricotta cheese in as the taste was stronger than cream cheese. But it seems that cream cheese has a tangier flavour when it is eaten hot. Again I forgot to take a photo. I was in a hurry to try this little hot cake! Then, Tiramisu , and Apple Crumble with vanilla ice cream. The crumble was made with crushed brown cookies and had a different texture and taste than the usual mixture of flour, butter and sugar. Very yummy! I took a photo but I don’t like it …so no photo! (But you know how a crumble looks like, don’t you?)


We enjoyed our desserts with fresh brewed coffee while continuing chatting. Lovely lunch with friends!

Note: Photos taken with my iPhone.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Provencal Style Squid and Chayote

I love chayote. I already shared a few chayote recipes. Actually I just noticed that my firs post (on February 25 of this year) was on this particular squash.
On that day I shared the Chayote Gratin Recipe .Then one week later (March 1, 2011) 2 other recipes:  Sautéed Chayote, AND Chayote Soup.

As I already mentioned it chayote is called faht-sáu-gwâ in Cantonese which literally means Buddha - hand – squash.

Last Saturday I bought 2 large fresh squids and 1 medium size chayote at the wet market. I know that Cantonese people make a stir-fry dish with squid and chayote but I wanted my dinner to have a more Provencal style and planned to sauté the chayote with garlic and prepare another dish with squid, tomato, onion and aromatic herbs. I also wanted to add basil. I still have basil leaves in my freezer that I brought back from France this summer. I stored them to add in home-made tomato sauces or stews.

The 2 dishes were cooked and the rice was piping hot in the rice cooker. Then came dinner time.  What a surprise when I saw one dish only on the table next to my bowl of rice!  My domestic helper thought that the chayote had to be added in the squid dish and mixed the 2 dishes together. But after looking at the dish and tasting it I realized that her idea was brilliant! The light green colour of the gourd added a spring feel to the dish and the chayote’s mild flavour went very well with the Provencal sauce.  Thanks Jane for this idea! 

 Provencal Style Squid and Chayote

  • 1 lb squid (cleaned and sliced)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ large onion (chopped)
  • 1 tomato (remove skin and seeds) – diced
  • 2 sprigs dried thyme
  • 4 dried bay leaves  
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 sprig of basil
  • 100ml white wine
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 sprig spring onion
  • 1 garlic clove (sliced)
  • 1 chayote (peeled and sliced)

  1. Clean squid: cut tentacles from the head, pull out ink sac, insides (guts) and gristle; remove skin (membrane-type) and wash thoroughly the tube and tentacles.  (My fishmonger did it for me! Thank you)
  2. Wash well squid under running water. Slice it into thin strips. Pat dry with paper towel
  3. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in saucepan; add squid and onion. Stir and cook until onion is translucent.
  4. Put dried thyme and bay leaves in a cloth sachet or tea packing paper
  5. Add tomato, the sachet/pack, garlic, basil (I put frozen leaves), salt, black pepper and white wine.
  6. Bring to a boil. Cover with lid. Lower heat.
  7. Cook on moderate heat for about 25 minutes.
  8. During this time heat 1 tbsp olive oil in wok or frying pan, add garlic and chayote and cook until tender (the flesh should not be too soft).
  9. When the squid is cooked turn off the heat and discard cloth sachet / tea packing paper.
  10. Mix sautéed chayote with squid.
  11. Serve with chopped spring onion on top and accompanied with steamed rice.
The white wine brought out the herbs flavours and the chayote blended perfectly well with the light Provencal style sauce. It was absolutely delicious.

Lovely colour accents and chayote/squid combination

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pesto & Potato Gnocchi

Aromatic herbs and carnation leaves!

Before sharing my grand-mother's pesto and potato gnocchi recipes with you I would like to "tell" you a short story. Here it is:

Bouquet garni is commonly used in French cuisine. A typical bouquet garni is made of fresh parsley, thyme, and bay leaves. Other aromatic plants can also be included such as leek, celery, etc. depending on what you have in your kitchen and the season. 

My mum uses freshly cut herbs from her garden. She spends a lot of time in her garden. Not only does she cultivate aromatic herbs to add flavours to her dishes but also herbs believed to have medicinal properties. 

Every day she visits her garden to check if her plants are growing well. She grows basil, bay (du laurier sauce), chamomile, chives (de la ciboulette), mint, parsley (du persil), rosemary (du romarin), sage, sorrel (de l’oseille), thyme (du thym), tarragon (de l’estragon), and others.

However, one has to be careful in selecting plants for cooking! I recall a funny story.  My sister loved to cook when she was a teen and always made us try new and delicious recipes. One day my parents found the dish had a peculiar taste but could not figure out why until they asked my sister where she went to get the sage required in her recipe. To our surprise we learnt that we had just tasted a carnation-flavoured sauce as she mistakenly used carnation leaves instead of sage. Luckily for us this plant is not toxic. As for its taste, I can’t recall it, which means it must not have been that bad!

Here in Hong Kong I always have dried thyme and bay leaves in my kitchen (that I bring back from France each summer) to make bouquet garni and also for my home-made vegetable broth. These are a few of my favourite herbs. Another important kitchen plant is sweet basil. This herb brings to mind summer time and Mediterranean-style food, such as pistou, pesto sauce, tomato & mozzarella salad, etc. Basil is not used frequently in traditional Cantonese cuisine although many other Asian countries add some sprigs into soups, salads and noodles dishes.   

The two most commonly used aromatic herbs in Cantonese cooking are coriander and spring onion or scallion (la ciboule). These two plants are used for accent both in colour and taste.
Coriander, also called cilantro, is added in stir-fries at the last minute and gives a strong and pungent flavour. But the most popular aromatic plant is certainly scallion. It is present in nearly every dish and makes a nice garnish. Wet market sellers usually give you a few sprigs free of charge when you buy a few catties of vegetable or are a regular. The famous Cantonese-style steamed fish would not be what it is without thinly chopped spring onion. The fragrance of spring onion tossed in oil and sprinkled on top of the dish, as well as its flavour, are unique and simply awesome! miam miam.

Potato Gnocchi al Pesto

My father pounding basil, parsley, garlic and
coarse salt in his mother's wooden mortar

  Adding olive oil
Ingredients for pesto:
o       10g basil + 10g parsley
o       50g pine nuts
o       1 garlic clove
o       70ml olive oil
o       1 pinch salt
  1. Put all the above ingredients in the food processor. Pulse until obtaining a smooth paste.
  2. Transfer paste into a glass jar. Cover with a little bit of olive oil and close lid tightly and store in fridge (can be stored for up to 1 month).

Note:  Pesto ingredients were traditionally crushed into a cream with a mortar and pestle. The typical Pesto alla Genovese has grated hard cheese (parmesan) in. 

Potato gnocchi is an Italian dish. Gnocchi are small balls of dough shaped into dumplings. They are made with potato and flour and cooked in boiling water. They are often served with a tomato sauce or better (to my liking) pesto sauce.
Shaping the gnocchi to make a concave shape requires some skills and speed. However, dumplings don’t have to be perfect and identically-shaped!

Ingredients for gnocchi:
  • 350g potatoes (mashed through a sieve)
  • 75g flour, plus extra for rolling out - sifted
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the potatoes and cook for 12-15 minutes or until tender (do not overcook). Drain and leave to cool.
  2. Peel and then mash the potatoes. Add salt, pepper, and sifted flour. Mix together with your hands to form a smooth ball.
  3. Flour a board and your hands. Roll the dough into a sausage (1.5 cm thick). Cut the sausage into 1.5 cm long pieces.
  4. Press your index finger into each piece to create a concave shape OR  Press each piece with a fork to make a series of ridges 
  5. Bring a large pan of water (w/ vegetable oil) to the boil and cook the gnocchi, in batches, for about 2 minutes. They should rise to the surface when cooked.
  6. Drain and transfer in a serving bowl.
  7. Spoon sauce on top (tomato, pesto or any sauce you like). You can also add grated cheese. Serve hot.

Chicken chasseur w/ potato gnocchi & sugar snap peas

Gnocchi w/ tomato sauce