Monday, 20 May 2013


Here are some creations – less Chinese, more British style!

Hello Kitty cupcakes:


Baby cupcakes:

Icing cake with fondant ribbons and silver edible beads:

Sugar roses:

My mum is the masterchef here.  I tell her she should open a shop!


Chinese prawn noodles (蝦子面)

Instant noodles was something that I lived on while I was away from home: after a hard day's work, I'd switch on the kettle, pour hot water over dehydrated noodles and add some flavouring.  Voilà, dinner is served!

But while it is so easy to cook, it is also easy to prepare the noodles from scratch too.  Here is a way for making Chinese prawn noodles  (蝦子面):

To make enough noodles for eight servings you will need:

3 cups of plain flour with maybe a little extra for dusting
2 eggs
4 teaspoons of vegetable oil
1/2 cup of water
2 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoon of dry prawn powder
corn flour for dusting at the end.

You will also need a pasta machine.  If you don't, then you can just use a rolling pin.

To make the prawn powder, take a packet of dried prawns - you can buy this from most Asian supermarkets.  Grind this up and keep in a tightly sealed jar at room temperature until use.

In a bowl, add the flour, salt and dry prawn powder.  Mix these dry ingredients together.  In the centre of the mixture, make a hole:

Beat two eggs together and add to this four teaspoons of oil.  Pour this into the hole of the dry mixture.  Also add half a cup of water.

Start mixing everything together.  Knead the dough mixture until it feels smooth and moist throughout and that there are no more lumps.  If you feel it is too sticky, then dust with a little bit more plain flour.  Knead the dough for at least 15 minutes.

The dough will be fed through a pasta maker.  Depending on its size, it maybe better to cut and separate the dough into smaller pieces.  Our pasta is quite small, so we separated the dough into equal pieces, roughly 160 g each.

Cover the dough with a cloth and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes.

Afterwards, take each piece of dough, roll it out lengthwise until it is at most 0.5 cm thick.  Sprinke and rub a little corn flour over the dough to stop it from sticking.  Set the pasta maker to an appropriate wide setting and feed the dough through.

Repeat this with each piece of dough several times with a narrower setting on the pasta maker.  Try to make the dough as thin as possible.  Now with the cutter attachment on the pasta maker, feed the dough through the narrowest setting.  Allow the dough to be "pulled" through slightly so to stretch the noodles out.


If you don't have a pasta maker, use a rolling pin and roll the dough out until it is very thin in a long strip.  Rub some corn flour on to the dough to stop it from sticking.  Fold the dough over on itself in waves.  Then, using a sharp knife, cut the dough to form noodles - you can choose how wide the noodles can be. 

Allow the noodles to rest at room temperature until they feel dry and no longer sticky -this can take up to an hour.  You can then keep the noodles in the fridge in an air-tight container until use.  Sprinkle a little corn flour over the noodles to stop them from sticking together.

A very nice way of serving these noodles is with a little sesame oil and chopped spring onions (油面).  Cook the noodles in a pan of boiling water for a few minutes.  Drain the noodles, run cold water through this and drain again.  Then in a separate pan, heat up some vegetable oil.  Fry some chopped spring onion.  When done to your liking, turn off the heat and add some sesame seed oil and maybe some soy sauce.  Add this mix to the noodles and toss well.

Voilà, dinner is served!


Saturday, 11 May 2013

Hong Kong's Tiger Tutors and education system - coming soon to the UK?

Marcel Theroux with Richard Eng.

An insight into Hong Kong's education system is being brought to light in Unreported World on Channel 4 - Hong Kong's Tiger Tutors.  We follow high school student, JJ, as he prepares to undertake the Hong Kong state exam - arguably one of the hardest exams in the world.  Since the education offered to students at school is deemed insufficient by the parents, most, if not all students enroll for extra classes outside school hours.  Among the tutors running such classes is Richard Eng, a teacher of English with top celebrity status within the Hong Kong's elite tutoring group - the Tiger Tutors.  A self-made millionaire, he drives a Lamborghini and lives in a penthouse suite in one of the richest parts of Hong Kong.  Reporter Marcel Theroux exclaims "I regret not becoming a teacher!" 

From what I hear from family and relatives tutoring is indeed big business - grown on the long-standing belief that education provides the key to success and fortune.  Failing the state exam means no place at university and no chance of getting a decent job.  Therefore, the amount of pressure placed on the young shoulders of  students like JJ is immense.  Expectations from parents, tutors and fellow students are also high.  However, it is estimated only one out of four students make it to university - the rest as Eng puts it "stand at the door and sigh." Eng admits that the education system is a failure, and is a factory churning out "losers" with little or no prospect of going any further in life.  The only winners are the tutors themselves as they receive more bookings for further lessons.

It was mentioned in the report that the UK government wishes to have a similar system of education in place - one formal state exam that will  determine your future forever.  This sounds horrific, but it also makes sense.  In the UK where once a degree was viewed as an advanced achievement, now it is the norm.  There are now so many people with a degree that it is losing its value, nationally as well as internationally.  Not a good thing, since education is the UK's biggest export.  

Therefore, the glimpse of Hong Kong education system could be one of our own some day - a harsh, brutal system to separate the wheat from the chaff, as they say.  Will it also come with UK Tiger - or should I say - Lion Tutors? Suave and sophisticated demi-gods, making millions at the expense of desperate students and parents? Will it also be a factory churning out a generation of "losers", forever damned because they, for whatever reason, did not perform well on that day?

We can only wait and see.   

Channel 4 Unreported World - Hong Kong's Tiger Tutors

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Pandan-Coconut Chiffon Cake

Look at all these lovely pictures of pandan desserts! The bright green colour makes them look so fresh, cool and delicious!

Pandan cake (from

Kuih Talam - Pandan agar with a salted coconut on top (
Coconut-pandan panna cotta (

Pandan extract is derived from Pandanus amaryllifolius, a tropical plant that is used widely in Southeast Asian cooking.  Apart from its bright green colour, the fragrance of the pandan is also a speciality - in fact, it is pandan that gives jasmine and basmalti rice their delicate aroma.  Pandan extract and also pandan leaves are used in  rice dishes, cakes and pancakes.  A popular method of using pandan is in combination with coconut.    

We decided to have a go too, and followed a recipe we found online for making pandan-coconut chiffon cake:

One tin of coconut milk
5 eggs with the yolk and whites separated.
50ml vegetable oil
100g self raising flour
90g caster sugar
15g baking powder
1 tsp of pandan extract

Preset the oven to 160-180ºC.

Mix in the vegetable oil with the coconut milk and the pandan extract.

Whisk the egg yolks with 20g of sugar.  Add this to the pandan-coconut-oil  mixture.

Fold in the self raising flour, mis well and set aside.


Whisk the egg whites with the baking powder and 70g of sugar until it forms a soft peak.  Add this to the mixture.

Spoon the mixture into a cake tin that has been greased and lined with baking paper.  Bake this for 40 minutes at 160-180ºC.  Remove, let cool and serve.

The cake itself is soft and fluffy.  The delicate, piney, nutty taste of the pandan combines well with the sweet coconut.  All in all, very delicious, especially when served warm.  Indeed a lovely dessert!


Sunday, 5 May 2013

Chinese Roast Belly Pork (燒肉)

Hello! It has been a long time, I hope everyone is well! :-)

Now that I am spending a lot more time at home I am getting to cook more too.  In my last job, things got so hectic I rarely had time to sleep never mind eat!

One of my family's favourite food is Chinese roast belly pork (肉) - slices of moist, spicy, salted pork topped with crisp, crunchy crackling.

The following is a recipe for a small to medium size piece of belly pork.  You will need:

Salt - lots of it.  Have a whole carton to hand.
A roll of kitchen towel.
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice.
3-4 garlic cloves.
1 teaspoon of sugar.
Four long meat skewers that is the length and width of the piece of meat (metal is better as wood can break, and you won't be able to get the pieces back out due to the thickness of the meat).
A multi-pin spiker - to make the crackling rise.  You can find this in many Chinese supermarkets.
One sharp knife.
Oven set to 250ºC at the start.
An oven tray with a rack.

Working in the kitchen sink, submerge the piece of belly pork in a large bowl or tub of hot water.  This is to wash the skin and meat of impurities and is the first step to removing excess oil from the skin.

Remove the meat from the tub and place on a large-enough meat board or a clean worktop, skin-side up.  Dry the meat and skin with kitchen towels.  Using your fingers as a rake, run your fingers all over the skin, pressing down hard.  Now, sprinkle salt over the skin.  Using the palm of your hand,  rub the skin all over, hard.  Leave the meat for 20 minutes.  These abrasions help remove the oils from the skin, so to make the crackling less fatty and more crunchy later on.

Take the meat to the sink and rinse the meat under very hot water.  Place the meat again on the worktop and dry the meat and skin well.  Ensure that the worktop is also dry.  Have the belly pork meat-side up this time.

Using a sharp knife, make multiple straight cuts in the meat, approximately quarter the width deep and of equal lengths apart.  This is to ensure that when roasting the meat it is cooked all the way through.  Now using the skewers, insert carefully these through the meat, one quarter the width deep, with two skewers going through longways and two lengthways, each going all the way through.  When roasting any kind of meat the loss of water causes the meat to shrink in size and lose shape.  By skewering the meat this way you are creating a structure, so that the meat stays flat and square-like.

In a small bowl, mix together 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice.  Peel and finely chop the 3-4 garlic cloves.   Mix the dry ingredients well first, then add the garlic and sprinkle the mix all over the meat.  Using the palm of your hand, rub the salt, sugar, spices and garlic into the meat carefully and push some this into the cuts you made in the meat earlier.

Carefully turn over the belly pork and place skin-side up onto an oven tray that has a rack.  Now with the carton, generously pour salt all over the skin, so that you get a thick white layer all over with no skin visible.  Take real care NOT to get salt on to the meat -when doing the edges of the skin, use one hand to hold the carton and the other hand to block the edges, so that the salt will not go over on to the meat underneath.  Failing to do so will result in extremely salty meat at the edges - so much so, it will not be edible and you will have to cut these bits off...which is a waste. 

(The purpose of the high amount of salt is to draw off as much water as possible from the skin in roasting without it burning and also keeping it dry).

With the meat on the oven tray, place this carefully into the oven preheated to 250ºC.  Turn this down now to 200ºC.  Roast the meat with the salt on for 1 hour.

When 1 hour is up, remove the tray from the oven.  Carefully scrap off all of the salt.  Using the multi-pin spiker, spike the skin all over and place the meat back into the oven.  Roast again for 45 mins to 1 hour. 

And there you are - Chinese roast belly pork! The meat should be slightly salted and spicy and moist.  This is despite the roasting time as the fat in the belly pork preserves the mositure.  The crackling should be crisp and crunchy.  You can carve this into rectangular pieces and serve with rice and vegetables.  You can also cool the meat and store it in the freezer.  We find that after thawing when you reheat with tin foil around the meat and leaving the crackling exposed makes it the crackling even more crispier.

Many thanks to my Dad for teaching me this - 爸爸!