Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Grassroots Pantry

I would like to write a few words on a sweet and cosy restaurant, a place completely different than the dai pai dong I described in my previous post.

I visited Grassroots Pantry (GP) about two months ago but suddenly realised I had not yet recorded my experience there. GP is the 3rd place I discovered via Table for Two - Hong Kong. I already wrote about my visit to Teakha ( - ) and Light (both introduced by TFT last August.)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Eating at a dai pai dong is an interesting and fun experience

What is a dai pai dong?
Dai pai dong are located at street levels, with quite often tables set on pavement (particularly in the evening), or indoor in cooked food centres (like the one in Tai Po Hui Market I am going to talk about.) 

Cooked food centres are rather crowded and noisy places. The stalls are close to each other and the tables (also side-by-side) all look alike. You’d better check that the table you want to sit at belongs to the dai pai dong you have chosen.

Note: The Cantonese pronunciation (Yale Romanization) is daaih-pàaih-dóng - 大牌檔 - literally means: big licence stall.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sweet Potato / Yam and Sweet Soup

This is the season of sweet potatoes (or fàan-syùh 番薯 in Cantonese) and thus the time to make sweet soups with them. Fàan-syùh tòhng-séui* in Cantonese (番薯糖水) is my favourite sweet soup: it is made with sweet potatoes, ginger, and raw cane ( – je, in Cantonese). I love the strong spicy flavour of ginger and the soft texture of the root.

* tòhng-séui 糖水 (lit .sugar-water) is both the name for simple syrup (sugar syrup) and sweet soup.
Sweet potato sweet soup

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Flowering Chinese Chives / Garlic Scapes

I had stir-fried garlic scapes at one of the dai-pai-dongs in Tai Po Hui Market Cooked Food Centre (the latter will be the subject of another post) last weekend.
Flowering Chinese chives (also called garlic scapes) are called gáu-choi-fâa (韭菜花) in Cantonese. They also go by the name of syun-mìuh (蒜苗; lit. garlic sprouts / shoots) and syun-sâm (蒜心; lit. garlic-heart).
This summer vegetable (which blooms late in the season) is commonly found at wet markets (but hardly ever at supermarkets). I seldom cook it (there is no special reason - only that maybe I forgot about its existence) so I was very happy when the waitress listed it among other few vegetables available at this time of the year.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hong Kong's Dried Food

It’s definitely feeling like autumn now.  The air is crisp early in the morning and late in the evening and the weather is hot during the day but dry. It’s the perfect weather for hiking and drying food.  
Last weekend when hiking I saw many different types of foods left drying in the sun. As you know Cantonese use a lot of dried produce in their cuisine: fruits, vegetables, plants, seaweeds, fish, nuts, pulses, etc. and of course fish and seafood. The common method for drying food here doesn’t require any dehydration equipment. It is not surprising to see food drying in the sun on the crowded pavements of busy districts, for example in Sheung Wan which is famous for its numerous shops selling dried seafood products.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Taipei Zhongshan Market

If you are familiar with my blog and previous posts you already know that I love wet markets, their colours and atmosphere. Whenever I am visiting a new town or new country I need to find out what produce is being sold and how it is displayed (and sometimes like to compare prices).

Recently, while I was in Taipei (Taiwan) I visited Zhongshan market which is a few minutes walk from Zhongshan MRT station.

Zhongshan market

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Papaya - muhk-gwâa - 木瓜

This is the papaya season in Hong Kong and I bought a large unripe fruit when I visited e-farm last week to make a soup  (to view my post on the visit- click here>>>.)
A good news: if you want to try to make this soup or another variation you don't have to go to the New-Territories as many local farmers are selling their organic produce at Island East Markets (IEM) on Sunday in Quarry Bay.

Teresa – owner of e-farm (an organic farm) at IEM

Monday, October 1, 2012

E-farm – 川上農莊 : a local organic farm

E-farm or chyûn-seuhng nùhng-zhông in Cantonese (川上農莊lit: river-up/above- farmstead) is an organic farm located in Fanling in the village called Hok Tau Wai 鶴藪圍 [lit: crane-marsh-walled/encircle].
I met its owner, farmer and educator, Teresa, a lovely lady at Island East Markets’ happy hour at the end of August. Teresa kindly proposed to bring me to visit her farm and this took place last Wednesday.
Here is some info I’d like to share on this organic farm and its owners who are growing healthy produce for us to enjoy.

Teresa at IEM on 30/09/12

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tea & Moon-cake Pairing

Last Saturday I joined a Tea & Moon-cake Pairing class run by MingCha. We were introduced 4 types of tea, or I should say 5 if I include the jasmine tea Vivian Mak, MingCha director and our instructor, offered us before the beginning of the lesson as a “palate cleanser”.

We first started with a beautiful demonstration of a jasmine blossom slowly unfurling in hot water making a lovely “Jasmine Tea Martini”.
Jasmine blossoms are made with dried flowers wrapped in tea leaf buds scented with jasmine flowers.

Jasmine Tea Martini

Monday, September 24, 2012

Snowy moon-cakes 冰皮月餅

Mid-autumn festival is around the corner. To be precise it will be celebrated (this year) on Sunday 30 September.  Also called the moon festival this is one of the liveliest fetes in the Chinese calendar. People of all ages go to parks with relatives and friends to view the moon, chat and eat moon-cakes (yuht-bíng月餅), fruits (such as persimmon, pomelo, etc) and other snacks (boiled taro wuh-tauh 芋頭, water caltrops 菱角 lìnhg-gok, etc.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Water spinach / Ong-choi 蕹菜 + recipe

Water spinach, ong-choi 蕹菜 or tûng-choi (通菜lit. hollow-vegetable) in Cantonese, is plentiful these days at wet markets. With its long, slender, hollow stems and arrowhead-shaped leaves you cannot miss it Water spinach is different than Chinese spinach (amaranth) or yihn-choi 莧菜.

Bunches of water spinach

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hairy Gourd, Mungbean Vermicelli and Dried Shrimps - Recipe

Hairy gourd (or fuzzy melon) is a member of the gwâa family and you should know if you have read my latest posts that gwâas are in season.
Hairy gourd is called jit-gwâa (節瓜 joined-squash) or mòuh-gwâa (毛瓜 hairy- squash) in Cantonese. Its flesh tastes very much like zucchini but with a firmer texture. Its skin is very thin (to peel it just needs to be rubbed with the blunt edge of a knife) and it has a light layer of hair, hence its name: hairy gourd!

Hairy melon / mòuh-gwâa / 毛瓜

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Light Radiant Food, black bean burger and more

After walking for 15 minutes in the scorching heat and amid the traffic noise I found an oasis of peace, a cool place, called Light. Why did I choose to visit this place?
I know it is a bit late for writing this post but I really want to record this news as it is very meaningful for me.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cabbage, Bean Curd and Pork Ribs Casserole & The vegetable (Choi菜) family

Cruciferous are vegetables (choi ) of the family Brassicaceae (also called Cruciferae). They are said to contain a good amount of calcium and phosphorus as well as many other minerals and vitamins. They are our good friends and should be included in our daily meals.

Although most of the cruciferous are available all year round they are cool season crops.
Here are the most common cruciferous vegetables (in alphabetical order) found at Hong Kong markets (most of them are pictured on my Local Vegetables Page).

Lace pattern of superimposed cabbage leaf-layers

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Teakha 茶-家

I finally went to t-e-a-k-h-a (chàh-gà – 茶家) a boutique bakery / tea room which has been mentioned numerous times by Hong Kong bloggers.
Teakha is located in Sheung Wan on Tai Ping Shan Street which is a 10-minute walk from Western Market. It was so hot on that day that I arrived at Teakha drenched in sweat.

Teakha, Shop B, 18 Tai Ping Shan Street

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wax Gourd 冬瓜, Straw Mushrooms & Pork Soup

Squashes are in season now. In my previous post on the members of the melon (gwâa - ) family I said that I would write a post on wax gourd and would give the recipe of the soup I love to make with it.
Sliced wax gourd/winter melon

Friday, August 17, 2012

Chicken with Bitter Melon & The Gwâa (瓜) Family

Summer is the season of melon/gourd/squash or “gwâa” (瓜),in Cantonese.  I have taken a photo of most of the "gwâas" we can find in Hong Kong and you can view them on my Local Vegetables Page.
Those who are reading my post and live in Hong Kong should rejoice about the forthcoming opening of Island East Markets.  I am sure they (we) will find lots of locally grown gwâas there!  

Here is below a list of the most popular types of melon that you can find at Hong Kong markets right now. As you will notice each one of them has the Chinese character - gwâa - at the end of its name.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Virtus Foundation, Lamb Paomo, Sour Plum Soup & Xian

I recently tried a bowl of “Paomo” in Xian and found this soup worth mentioning here. Before telling you more I am going to explain why my husband and I went to Xian. Our first destination was Yinchuan, Ningxia. We went there with a group of volunteers who joined the Virtus Foundation to select students eligible for a scholarship. How does this foundation work? I am going to share it with you. It's so meaningful that I cannot but not mention it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Summer Holiday & Chocolate Bar on Bread

Saturday afternoon I was thinking of the holiday I spent in a farm when I was small. I remember this vacation very well and most particularly how I first made my own tartine au chocolat.
Why not making one right now? I cut one slice of my homemade no-knead bread (I follow Paola’s recipe and add quinoa and flax seeds. @ paosinis - cannot find her blog "thekitchennomads" today...strange}, cut it in half, put a bar of dark chocolate on top of each part and toasted it in my small oven (no patience to wait for the chocolate to melt naturally). Nice & sweet souvenirs!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fish Maw - Yùh-Tóuh - 魚肚

Last week I went to Tai O 大澳 (Daaih-ou – means big-cove) with a group of friends. We stayed one night at the Tai O Heritage Hotel (TOHH) a newly renovated old police station turned into a hotel. If you have read my previous post on Tai O you already know that I often go to this former fishermen village. It was the first time I stayed overnight and furthermore in this exceptional place. 
If you want to know more about the history and story of the hotel click here >>>.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Dracontomelon – yàhn-mihn - 仁稔

Dracontomelon (or dracontomelum) is the no.4 on my wish list of vegetables/plants that I want to try in 2012.

July is the season for dracontomelon. It is also the time of the year where you can find stem ginger, one of the main ingredients required to make the “yàhn-mihn and minced pork” recipe Martha gave in her book. She used the Chinese characters 人面 which means person/man-face but this is only a nickname. N, one of my friends, told me the real characters were 仁稔 (lit. means human/seed - ripe grain) which are also pronounced yàhn-mihn.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Making Cookies with Friends

I am not going to give a cookie recipe. I seldom make cookies and I have no particular talent at making them. Is it due to a lack of practice? I would like to believe that! I just want to record a special time I had while making cookies with two of my friends.

This was our 3rd "culinary meeting". The 1st one was at Ice’s place where she taught us to make Hakka Tea Cakes (chàah-gwó 茶粿), the 2nd one was at my flat and we made Quiche Lorraine (click here for recipe); and last Wednesday we met at Angel’s home to make double chocolate chip cookies.  

While mixing the ingredients (see list below) we kept talking about various things. Haha!! And I did not take any picture. 

Golden sugar, light muscovado {unrefined sugar cane - gives a treacle flavour}, butter, egg, flour, cocoa powder, dark chocolate chips, chopped walnuts and almond essence.

Forming the dough into small balls

The cookies placed on a silicone baking sheet

While the cookies were in the oven we stood on the balcony and admired the beautiful sea view. From time to time the sun was breaking through the thick layers of white clouds and brightening up part of the sky and the sea below. Big cargo ships were entering the fragrant harbour at a slow pace and some were leaving far away in the distance. As Angel pointed out it the traffic was unusually quiet for a week day.

Then the alarm went on and reminded us that we had cookies in the oven. We waited a few minutes just enough to be able to handle them with our bare fingers. They were soft in the middle and crunchy on the outside. One little comment: I just wonder if less sugar would work (a tad too sweet for my liking).

Our 1st batch of cookies

Our double chocolate chips cookies
cooling down before being savoured

We ended our morning by visiting Cyberport Arcade and Shopping Centre and had lunch at La Dynastie Restaurant. This Shanghainese restaurant was empty (it seems the whole building was empty) when we arrived at almost 2pm. We ordered a few dishes: sweet and sour grouper fillet, pork dumplings (xiao-long-bao), steamed vegetable buns and rice cakes (年糕)with syut-choi (preserved mustard cabbage), shredded bamboo and pork. 

Rice cakes with syut-choi, bamboo and pork

The food was okay (I have had much better food and service for the same price) but anyway we went there to have a simple lunch together before heading back to our respective home.

Cooking and baking together is a good way to get to know each other better and exchange ideas on food.
We realise that some people enjoy cooking but leafing through the pages of recipe books and looking at the photos of beautiful desserts is a good way to relax and make them happy. 
Do you find this strange? Not particularly. Recipe books have no bad ending. The macarons always look awesome (mine are terrible), the meringue is always perfect (I never tried to make some), and the bread is always perfectly raised (sometimes I succeed!!).  Aren’t recipes books similar to fairy-tales?
What about foodie blogs? They might not be like fairy-tales but besides the purpose of sharing recipes or reviewing a restaurant most of them are also entertaining and have amazing pictures. I don’t look at recipe books but like to visit food blogs, look at their photos and read their stories. I even sometimes found myself reading the list of ingredients of a particular dish even though I have no intention of making it! 

To conclude here are a few photos I would like to add as they are related to that day (and post):
I love Klimt’s paintings and I cannot resist posting a picture of the artwork I saw in Angel’s complex’s lobby.

Artwork, inspired from “The Kiss” by Kustav Klimt  

I have not been impressed at all by Cyberport (數碼港 Sóu-máah-góng In Cantonese), its buildings, layout, and more particularly its atmosphere, but there are nice landscape gardens around the residential areas, and the views from the high-rise apartments are simply breathtaking.

Flowers in the garden areas around the residences

Lantau Island (far away)

View from my friend’s balcony

Thanks Angel and Ice for this beautiful day!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Green soy beans, Mouh-dauh, 毛豆

Edamame are locally knows as hairy beans or 毛豆 mouh-dauh (means: hair and bean). Their name (in Japanese) means “beans on branches”. They are usually consumed as a snack, simply boiled or steamed in their pods in salted water (like you would do with fresh peanuts). Then just squeeze the beans out of the pods and enjoy them either warm or cold. They are also used in Chinese cuisine. I especially like a Shanghainese dish with green soybeans, bean curd leaf and (salted) preserved mustard cabbage.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fresh Lily Bulbs, Baahk-hahp, 百合

Did you know that the lily is not only a beautiful flower with a delicate scent but also an edible plant?
Although there are many varieties of lilies (the lily-of-the-valley with grapes of small white bells, the asphodel, the stargazer, the calla lily, etc) only a few are grown and harvested for their edible bulbs. The two most common types are the lilium lancifolium and the white trumpet lily, or lilium brownii.

Fresh lily bulbs

You can find fresh lily bulbs in packages at the wet market and supermarket. They are grown in Lanzhou (蘭州 làahn-jàu) in Northwest China at about 3,000 meters above sea level. The fresh onion, plump and milky, can be eaten raw in cold dishes, stir-fried or in soups (savoury or sweet).
I remember the first time I tried fresh lily bulbs in a sweet soup with lotus seeds and longan (dried dragon eye fruit). I had never tasted something similar before. The sight of creamy scales in the brown sugary liquid, the crisp, fresh and slightly starchy textures as well as the delicate and unique flavours were all new to me.

A pack of 3 fresh lily bulbs (HK$22)

Not only the frest lily bulbs are consumed but also the dried ones. The latter are also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as they are said to relieve cough and quite a few other ailments.

Fresh daylily buds and dried daylily stems are also edible but come from another variety: the daylily or Hemerocallis fulva. 
Last year at about the same period I found fresh daylily buds at the wet market and bought a small batch. I had never tasted this plant before and adapted a recipe from Northern China  which includes bamboo shoots, black fungus and pork. I wanted to buy more to try again my recipe but could not find some. It makes me think that it is time to check if the stall on Argyle Street where I purchased them last year has some. They should be in season now. As for the dried daylily stems they are more popular. Every year I buy some to make Buddha's Delight before Chinese New Year for my family to enjoy during the festivities. 

Silk gourd with lily bulbs, dried bean curd and black fungus stir-fry

  • 300 g angled luffa / silk gourd 
  • 3 pieces dried bean curd
  • 6 water chestnuts
  • 10 g black fungus (see photos below)
  • 3 fresh lily bulbs
  • A few slices of carrot
  • 4 cooked dried Chinese mushrooms
  • 2 slices ginger
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp rice wine
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • A pinch of ground black pepper

Gravy mix:
  • ½ tsp cornstarch
  • 1tbsp water
  • ¼ tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil

  1. Peel and slice the angled luffa. Soak in cold water.
  2. Clean and slice the bean curd. Peel, rinse and slice the water chestnuts.
  3. Rinse, clean and remove the petals from the bulbs.
  4. Soak the black fungus in cold water until softened. Trim and blanch in the boiling water together with the sliced carrots. Refresh and cut the black fungus into pieces.
  5. Slice the mushrooms. Shred the ginger and slice the onion.
  6. In a large frying pan heat oil and add salt. Stir in the ginger, onion, black fungus, angled luffa, and water chestnuts to stir-fry.
  7. Add the mushrooms, carrots, lily bulbs and dried bean curd pieces.
  8. Sizzle in the wine. Pour in the seasoning and stir well.
  9. Add in the gravy mix to thicken the sauce.
  10. Add in the sesame oil; toss evenly and transfer to a dish.

Stir-fry all the ingredients in the wok

Bon appétit!
Black fungus or hâk-muhk-yíh in Cantonese ( 黑木耳,means: black- wood - ear) also called cloud ear (雲耳 wàhn-yíh) will expand many times once soaked in water, as shown on the photos below:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bamboo Shoots - jûk-séun 竹筍

I love bamboo shoots (竹筍 - jûk-séun). I have so far tried 3 varieties: the winter, the spring and the horse hoof. I don’t know if there are any more kinds but these are the 3 types available here in Hong Kong.

From May to mid-August this is the season of the “horse hoof” called máah-taìh - 馬蹄 in Cantonese. Then from mid-August to January we have the winter bamboo shoots (冬竹筍 - dûng-jûk-séun), followed from March to end of April by the spring (春竹筍 -  cheûn-jûk-séun) variety.