Friday 31 January 2014

恭喜發財!!! Happy New Year!

恭喜發財!!! Happy New Year! 祝您龍馬精神,心想事成,身體健康! Wishing you great strength and spirit, that your heart's wishes come true and good health!

Winter Cooking Part 2 - Chinese Radish Steamed cake (蘿蔔糕)


A Winter/Spring treat, that makes use of the cured meats and sausage:

You will need:

A round metal tin, preferably with hooks, about 9cm deep, 24cm in diameter.
A large wok for preparing the ingredients
A large flat-bottom metal pan and a  small metal stand (for the steaming part)
A kettle
1.5 kg of Chinese radish, peeled and grated
9 g rice flour
4.5 g corn flour
cooking oil
one small cup of lap cheung, chopped
one small cup of dried shrimp, chopped
one small cup of rehydrated chinese mushroom, chopped
Coriander leaves and sesame seeds to garnish

Using a small piece of kitchen roll, oil the insides of the round metal tin, this is to stop the cake from setting and sticking to the sides.

In the wok, stirfry the lap cheung, shrimp and mushrooms and put to one side.

Now add into the pan the grated radish.  Add a cup of cold water and on a low heat, wait for the radish to turn from white to translucent and the water to start bubbling.

At this point prepare for the steaming: in the large flat bottom pan , place the metal stand in the middle and add boiling water until it covers the metal stand.  Replace the lid and wait for it to boil.

In a separate bowl, mix the rice flour and corn flour and 3 cups of water.  Add this to the radish and add in the other ingredients.

Transfer the mix to the round metal tin.  Smooth the surface with a spoon.  The water in the large pan will be boiling now, carefully place the round tin on top of the metal stand in the pan and replace the lid.  Steam the cake on high heat for at least 45 minutes while checking now and again the water levels in the pan - DO NOT go too far away!

After 45 minutes, you can check if the cake is ready by inserting a chopstick or pin into the center of the cake - if the chopstick or pin comes out clean then it has been cooked thoroughly.

Remove the round tin carefully from the pan.  If there is any condensation on top of the cake after the steaming, you can carefully tip this off into the sink.  Place the tin onto a table mat to cool.  You can now add sesame seeds and coriander leaves to garnish.

Serve immediately or wait until cool and wrap in cling film and store in a cool place for up to one week.  When serving you can slice it into square chunks, fry it in oil so the radish goes crispy and serve with soy sauce.


Wednesday 1 January 2014


Wishing everyone a very Happy and Prosperous 2014!

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Happy ThanksGiving!

Wishing all my American readers a very Happy ThanksGiving holiday!  Here is a small gift from our very own Stephen Fry:

Heheheh! Have a wonderful holiday! :-)

Winter cooking part 1: Chinese style cured meats ( 臘腸/臘肉) .

Back to the important matter of food!  :-)

Historically a luxury food item, cured meats  is traditionally prepared at the beginning of November in time for the coming winter.  They provide a wonderfully tasty addition to an evening meal and are highly nutritious.  Traditionally made using pork, (although duck and turkey have also been used) lap cheung and lap yuk were viewed as such treats that you could really only have it at New Year!  Now, the cuts of meat are easier and cheaper to come by. 
Lap yuk (肉) being hung to dry

There are two types that we prepare: cured sausages (臘腸 - lap cheung) and streaky belly pork strips ( - lap yuk).

To prepare lap yuk, you need pork belly strips.  These you can find in your local butchers and supermarkets (remember to shop local!)  Make sure that there is a generous layer of fat on the strips, as this is what gives it moistness and flavour.

For lap cheung, find a cheap cut of pork.  We used pork shoulder joints.  Again, make sure this comes with a generous layer of fat.

To prepare the sausages, you need to separate the fat from the meat of the shoulder joint and then chop these into small pieces.  You then need to marinade the meat in alcohol - a lot of alcohol.  A favourite type to use is Chinese rose liqueur (玫瑰 - mui kwe lo) that provides the fragrance of rose petals but no sweetness.  This can be expensive though, and you can also use others.  We used a cheap brand of gin, the most of one litre.  Allow the meat to absorb the alcohol for at least two hours before adding the rest of the mixture: soy sauce (a lot of this), dark soy sauce (for colour), sugar and a little bit of salt.  Allow this to marinade for at least 24 hours.  To the fat, you need to add a small quantity of alcohol first and allow this absorb in, same as the meat, before adding a generous amount of sugar and a little bit of salt.  The sugar is essential in making the fat hard and crunchy, thus adding texture. 

Pork meat and fat mixed together to make lap cheung (臘腸)

Marinade the meat and fat separately for at least a day before mixing the two together.   Leave for another two hours before putting through a meat grinder and into sausage casing.  Segment the sausages by twisting the casing.  Inbetween the twists you can use string to tie and handle the sausages.  Using a needle, prick plenty of holes into the sausage, as this will allow air to enter and help the drying process.  In a wok, or big pan of boiling water, pass the sausages through the water to shock and shrink the meat and casing.  Then find a place to allow them to hang and dry for a few days.  In a commercial premises they would have rooms especially for this.  We used a long beam supported on two radiator hanging brackets in the kitchen.  The heat from the radiator will speed up the drying process.  You will of course need something to cover the floor underneath!

 Meat/fat mixture being put through meat grinder into sausage casings

Sausages ready to be hung for drying (note: the sausages we made are alot thicker than the traditional ones but that is because we couldn't find sausage casings thin enough! This is British-Chinese Lap Cheung!!!)

With lap yuk, it is essentially the same thing, except you don't separate the fat from the meat.  You marinade the belly slices in the same way as with lap cheung, pass them through hot water and find a way to hang them - we have home-made hooks for this made out of wire.  

Once the meat or sausages are dry you can dry them a little further in a small compartment to force the flavour out.  The best temperature for this is at 50 degrees celsius.  We used an empty tin biscuit box and the oven.  Dry the meat for several hours.

Afterwards, without opening the box, allow the meat to cool.  This is then ready for immediate cooking or freeze storage.  You can serve lap cheung or lap yuk sliced up on its own, or chop it up and stir fry it with green vegetables.  You can also keep chopped up pieces of pre-cooked, dried lap yuk soaked in Vietnamese fish sauce that has been boiled and cooled - when needed you can take out and steam the meat, and serve with rice (note: the meat must be completely dry before putting in to soak; otherwise it will become moldy).

A favourite and famous way to serve is with sticky rice (糯米 - lap mei lor mai fan) where the lap cheung or lap yuk is chopped into small pieces along with Chinese mushrooms, dried shrimps and shallots, stir fried and then added to cooked sticky rice.  This can be served with sprigs of coriander and chopped peanuts.

Lap Cheung served with sticky rice (糯米 - lap mei lor mai fan)

Another winter treat involving lap cheung is steamed white raddish cake (糕 - lor bac go)!  I will write about this next time!    

Sunday 24 November 2013

Support your local businesses on Small Business Saturday - UK 7th December

Here in the UK there is a grass-roots campaign going on that I would like to tell you about - Small Business Saturday.  From the internet I see that this is being derived from a very successful campaign that was held in the US, so I am sure readers based in America will be familiar with this:

From the 7th of December - two weeks from now - a nationwide campaign will start, focusing on bringing small businesses to the attention of the public.  Small to medium size businesses in the UK generate almost half of the private sector's turnover and provides two thirds of private sector employment.  However, with competition from the high street, the internet, supermarket convenience stores as well as the rising cost of supplies, bills and rent, small businesses are in danger of being wiped out from our towns, cities and communities.  Small Business Saturday is the key to fighting back and a chance for small, independent businesses to receive the recognition that they deserve.

Over the years I have seen drastic changes happening to the shops in my local area.  Slowly but surely, independent businesses like the local grocery shop, the tailor, the general store, the cafe, the florist and the baker began to disappear.  Very close to me, a small business set up seven months ago already has its shutters down and a "To Let" sign by its top window.

The decline of independent shops and small businesses fuels the presence of betting shops, pawn brokers and pay-day-lenders.  Skills, liveihoods and the prospect of jobs in the area are a struggle to retain due to lack of diversity, lack of identity and lack of local economic interest.  It is a very, very sad state of affairs.  Hopefully now, things can change.

I believe that this campaign can make a huge difference to the fortunes of small independent businesses and have a positive impact on the communities where they are based.  I hope that if you are reading this that you are encouraged to take part.  On Saturday 7th of December, please do go out into town and visit independent shops in your area - some of them will running special discounts for the event.  Please do out and visit the farmers market/market fairs your community might be hosting.  Through your custom, big or small, and your continued interest we can all help breathe a little life back into our towns and villages and help support our local economy.  This in turn will provide opportunity and growth, jobs and liveihoods.

If you would like to help spread the word online, you can follow Small Business Saturday on Twitter and on Facebook @SmallBizSatUK and you can use #SmallBizSatUK to help take part.  There is also another initiative going on with @LiveShopLocal / #LiveShopLocal.

Thank you very much! And wherever you are - even if you are outside of the UK, please support your independent shops!


Small Business Saturday UK


Thursday 31 October 2013

Another Chinese ghost story - Encounters of the Spooky Kind

Another ghost story from the collection: Encounters of the Spooky Kind - directed by Raymond Chow and starring Sammo Hung.  The story begins with a man who has a nightmare about ghosts.  A kung-fu comedy with plenty of references to Chinese superstitions and folklore.  Enjoy!