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.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Pumpkin Sprouts 南瓜苗 nàahm-gwâa-miùh

Recently while at the wet market I saw greens that looked a bit like bracken fern.

The seller told me that those were not fiddleheads ferns but pumpkin sprouts (nàahm-gwâa-miùh南瓜苗) and they would only be available for a short period of time (about one month).
I had never tried this veggie before. I knew that pumpkin blossoms could be deep-fried or stuffed and baked but did not know that pumpkin sprouts were also edible. As I usually do (when I discover a “new” veggie), I asked the stallholder how to prepare it. The lady vendor told me to simply stir-fry the plant with or without meat.