My 15 seconds of fame!

Okay, so this is the first time I’ve ever been quoted as a dietitian and I’m going to flaunt it just this one time because I might not ever get quoted ever again…!

DAA quoted me on their Facebook page today!

DAA Facebook quote

I also just searched for my name together with ‘dietitian’, and it’s all over Google!

So here’s the tip to getting famous: fill out surveys from DAA! Just kidding :P

On DAA documents:

Australia’s Three Worst Diets Shunned by Nutrition Experts

http://daa.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Australias-three-worst-diets-shunned-by-nutrition-experts-FINAL.pdf

Top 50 Fad Free Diet Tips from DAA Members

http://daa.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Top-50-fad-free-diet-tips-from-DAA-members_2013.pdf

Healthy Cooking Tips
(another quote as a suggestion for healthy cooking tips, but isn’t quite as famous…!)

http://daa.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Background-Healthy-cooking-tips-FINAL.pdf

There are some other really good tips on healthy eating in the documents from other dietitians too.
External links that quoted DAA:

http://ahha.asn.au/news/australia-s-three-worst-diets-shunned-nutrition-experts

http://www.itsmyhealth.com.au/healthy-living/weight-management/worst-three-diets-of-2012

http://www.virtualmedicalcentre.com/news/worst-diets-shunned-by-nutrition-experts/18263

http://www.expertguide.com.au/news/article.aspx?ID=1505

http://www.motherpedia.com.au/article/62506/the-3-worst-diets-for-2013

http://tamborinedailystar.com/Home/OfftheHill/tabid/279/ArticleID/2007/Default.aspx

http://myhealthyfamily.com.au/5-ways-to-ditch-the-diet-in-2013/

http://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/news/three-diets-to-skip-in-2013

http://www.mumsdelivery.com.au/news/diets-to-avoid-in-2013/

http://marketing4models.com/Diets/worst-diets-shunned-by-nutrition-experts/

http://www.seniorau.com.au/index.php/more-seniorau-news/3431-three-worst-diets-shunned-by-nutrition-experts

http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE|A319130348&v=2.1&u=c_hrca&it=r&inPS=true&prodId=HRCA&userGroupName=c_hrca&p=HRCA&digest=608852c2ef4f34aa0546455c9af7893d&rssr=rss

http://womanbuddy.com/content/unhealthiest-diets-revealed

http://www.sj-foodmachine.com/article.asp?id=63

Blogs:

http://www.fernwoodfitness.com.au/weight-loss—exercise/weight-loss/dodgey-diets-you-need-to-avoid/

http://femaleweight.com/?p=4416

http://besttruehealth.com/nutritional-supplements/long-term-high-protein-diet-increases-cvd-risk/

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?id=266166676828833&story_fbid=269171406543409 (The Global Institute for Life & Leadership through Seafood)

http://dietsforhealth.net/worst-diets-shunned-by-nutrition-experts/

No names to the quotes but still quoted haha!

http://www.ausfoodnews.com.au/2013/01/15/australian-dietitians-label-the-%E2%80%98lemons%E2%80%99-in-list-of-worst-diets.html

http://www.sheknows.com.au/health-and-wellness/articles/961253/do-you-need-to-detox

http://www.destinationfood.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Destination-Food-January-eBroadsheet-2013.pdf

http://www.lifestyle.com.au/health/why-nutrition-experts-are-shunning-detox-diets-and-cleanses.aspx

http://womansday.ninemsn.com.au/healthanddiet/diet/8590885/the-three-unhealthiest-diets-revealed

Okay, back to being humble again… so much to learn as a new graduate! I’m packing for Singapore and it’s quite a big move…

Hopefully this mass media will overtake the silly fad diets out there for a greater focus on healthy eating in 2013…

Congratulations QUT Nutrition and Dietetics Class of 2012!…and jobs!

I’d just like to take this opportunity to say a word of congratulations to all my fellow dietitians graduating from dietetics at QUT in 2012. Our graduation ceremony was on 12/12/12, a memorable date indeed!

I requested for a class photo after 4 yrs; the first and last one! But not everyone was there as it was the last class on the last day of our degree :P

I requested for a class photo after 4 yrs; the first and last one! But not everyone was there as it was the last class on the last day of our degree :P

This year has been a truly amazing one full of new experiences. I did my placements while juggling assignments in-between (two in Brisbane, Australia, another two overseas). I went to Auckland City Hospital (NZ) for my clinical placement and saw the quaint and beautiful sights around Auckland, went to Vietnam (Can Tho and Ho Chi Minh City) to do my research project on the prevalence of malnutrition in hospitals and enjoyed the delicious Vietnamese food. In September, I attended the International Congress of Dietetics in Sydney as one of the >2000 delegates from dietitians all over the world. And I made a lot of new friends I’ll never forget along the way.

Thanks to everyone for the support, and thank you to those who could make it to my graduation. Thank you to my family and friends, without whom I wouldn’t be here today. Thank you to everyone I’ve met throughout these four years of study, including my fellow dietitian colleagues, teachers, and everyone who’s shared some part of my life journey, as short as a few days or as long as decades. Whether we’re still on the same path or have diverged our own ways, you have all left footprints in my heart and shaped who I am today.

Photo credit to Chris Huang (amazing photographer friend!)

Photo credit to Chris (amazing photographer friend!)

Which nut is healthiest?

I think I’ll be doing a FAQ tag on the blog so I can answer some of the questions many of my friends ask me in relation to nutrition.

A friend asked me which nut is healthiest? Or the unhealthiest?

To answer the question, let’s take a look at what nuts are.

nut |nət|
noun
a fruit consisting of a hard or tough shell around an edible kernel (Oxford Dictionary, 2011).

Let’s not get finicky in botanical classification, so basically it’s just a seed. Peanuts are actually legumes, not nuts, but they are very similar in characteristics of other nuts. (the difference between nuts and legumes are also best left to the botanists. Both nuts and legumes are encased on a shell, but nuts contain one (or at most, two) seeds, while legumes contain multiple seeds, among other differences nicely summarised here).

Nuts have long been known to be healthy and a nutritional powerhouse, packed full of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre. Many people think that nuts are unhealthy as they are high in fat; while the latter is true, they are the mono- and polyunsaturated kind (good for your heart) and nuts are actually very healthy. Although they are high in fat, studies have shown that a moderate intake of nuts can actually lower the risk of weight gain and obesity. This is because nuts are very satisfying; just a handful, and all the fibre, protein and fat can help make you feel fuller. Research has also shown that about 10-15% of the energy in nuts are not absorbed in the gut, passing straight out of your body as stool (cell walls are resistant to the enzymatic breakdown in the GIT, so some cells don’t rupture and thus don’t release their fats; this is also why nut butters have greater bioavailability than whole nuts). I learned that yesterday when my supervisor (for a summer research project I’m involved in) was teaching a patient about weight management. But it’s really interesting. There are more mechanisms as to why nuts can help with weight management, which you can read further in the reference above.

Regular nut consumption can also lower your risk of other chronic diseases like cardiovascular (heart) disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. So, having a small handful of nuts everyday as a snack can be beneficial to your health. They’re also great as snacks because they’re small and handy to carry around, great to ward off the vending machine temptations!

Now to answer the question you’ve all been waiting for! Each different nut has their own unique nutritional profile that have different benefits to offer. Generally, unsalted, unroasted nuts of any kind are healthier. Salt can raise blood pressure (acting like a sponge in the kidney, so the more salt in your body, the more water is reabsorbed), whilst roasting nuts reduces their antioxidant content and alters the lipid profile, potentially raising the content of harmful chemicals (however, the effect is probably not enough to warrant complete exclusion of roasted nuts in your diet, especially if you enjoy roasted more, although it is best to have most of your nuts raw!). Roasted and salted nuts also make them tastier and harder not to overeat!.

Despite these answers, I wasn’t actually too certain of the specific answer. So I searched it up on Google (hehe..) and found that a study claimed that walnuts are the healthiest of the nuts (sorry about the newspaper link, I tried searching for the original article for 30 mins and couldn’t find it! Oh wait I finally found it!). The scientists found that walnuts contain twice the antioxidant content as other nuts (nine nuts were tested).

You can watch this video for a little more info on the study:

0,32068,868001661001_2062208,00.html

Antioxidants are the new buzz word going around in nutrition news, and rightly so. They are substances found in food that can help mop up free radicals in our bodies to prevent oxidative damage. Free radicals are molecules that have one or more unpaired electrons in their outer shell, making them unstable and highly reactive, formed when oxygen reacts with body compounds during metabolism. These free radicals will oxidise substances in the body, stealing their electrons to gain stability. The attacked molecule (that lost the electron/s) becomes a free radical itself, starting a chain reaction of electron-snatching, that produces more free radicals. This can cause oxidative damage of tissues, such as in phospholipids of cell membranes (disrupting the transport of substances across cells), DNA (creating mutations), and proteins (altering their functions).

 Antioxidants are substances in foods that inhibits this chain reaction of oxidative damage, protecting substances in the body from being oxidised by free radicals. Antioxidants neutralise free radicals by oxidising themselves (acting as a reducing agent): donating electrons to the free radical to stabilise their outer shell, whilst they don’t become free radicals themselves as they can receive electrons again to become reactivated. Examples of antioxidants include the vitamins A C E, as well as polyphenols.

Because that is a whole heap of science that I copy and pasted from revision I did for my exam last year (!), I shall sum it up using layman’s terms! An easy analogy of an ‘oxidative reaction’ is the rusting of iron (or the browning of apples, that’s how quickly oxidative reactions occur!). The iron naturally rusts, and if you do something to protect the iron from rusting, then the rusting won’t happen. Now imagine that’s what happens in our body, with oxidative reactions, which ultimately lead to damage to tissue. This can lead to diseases like cancer, heart disease, and accelerating the ageing of the eyes and brain. So if we can protect those oxidative reactions from occurring using antioxidants which mop up free radicals, we can protect the tissue from damage and help us stay healthier for longer.

Back to Vinson et al’s study, it found that walnuts contained 69.3 units of polyphenol/g walnut (and polyphenols are up to 15x the potency of vitamin E). Another suggestion was that walnuts are usually eaten raw, hence there is a higher chance that more antioxidants are eaten (vs. other nuts that are often roasted). Here is a graph of the total polyphenol content of different nuts, courtesy of TIME.

Brazil nuts come a close second, and hazelnuts third (it is also evident that raw nuts are generally higher in antioxidants than roasted counterparts). Of course, antioxidants aren’t the only factor in health, and it isn’t the only reason walnuts deserve the title of ‘healthiest nut’ (and this title is certainly not entirely true, since different nuts have different benefits!). Walnuts can also protect the elasticity of the arteries, which can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis (plaque forming on the arteries that blocks blood flow), and are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid; the only nut that contains this), those very hard-to-find fats, which can help with many functions in the body such as reducing inflammation and cholesterol, and promoting heart health).

However, the key is balance and variety. Even though walnuts are ‘healthiest’, each nut possesses a plethora of unique merits. By ensuring a varied intake, you can reap the benefits of other nuts too.

  • Almonds help stabilise blood sugar and are a great source of calcium.
  • Brazil nuts are excellent sources of selenium (a mineral that helps vitamin E (antioxidant!) operate). They also have more methionine than other nuts, making them of slightly higher protein quality (although still not excellent).
  • Cashews are high in magnesium which can help build strong bones. Cashews have a greater carbohydrate and lower fat content than most other nuts. And they taste so good. :)
  • Hazelnuts are a good source of vitamin E and beta-sitosterol which contributes to cardioprotection and chemoprevention.
  • Macadamia nuts are high in monounsaturated fat and thiamin (vit B1).
  • Peanuts are often victimised into being labelled the ‘bad/unhealthy nut’, but such a label is clearly unfair and untrue. Peanuts are healthy and high in monounsaturated fat, folate, and resveratrol (the phenolic antioxidant more famously known in red wine) which can help protect the heart. When buying peanut butter (which, in moderation, is perfectly fine), avoid any varieties that list “hydrogenated fat/oil” in the ingredients list. Buying the pure/organic type with nothing but pure peanuts (no sugar, oil, or salt) is the healthiest, but often a lot more expensive, and arguably unnecessary if you are on a budget and not consuming excessive amounts.
  • Pecans are high in vitamin E and regular consumption may help decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood.
  • Pistachios are rich sources of calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, and iron.

Just like how eating a variety of fruits and vegetables are recommended, to take advantage of all the different nutrients in different types, so too are nuts. Having a variety of nuts also confers benefits of factors that have not been studied or are less black-and-white (which is also true for fruit and vegetables). For example, some research shows that pine nuts can help suppress appetite, thus helping with weight management. So the answer to the question is, conventionally, walnuts are probably ‘best’, but the healthiest nut a mixture of nuts! So, while some nuts contain more cardioprotective nutrients than others, the type of nut you eat isn’t very important, and what’s important is that you do include a small amount of nuts in your regular diet (whatever nuts you choose). Nevertheless, most people don’t eat much walnut, preferring peanuts instead (I admit to being one of them!). So if you’d like to make the most out of the nuts you eat, consider trying a mix of walnuts and other tree nuts instead of just peanuts!

There is no nut that is the most ‘unhealthy’ or the ‘worst nut’. However, if you are watching your weight, macadamias and pecans are the most energy-dense, and although coconut is formally classified as a drupe, if classified as a nut, it is the least healthy due to its high saturated fat content .

I’ve been extolling the virtues of nuts throughout this whole post, but of course this doesn’t mean that you should eat a few cups a day! As with everything, you can overdo a good thing, and it’s all about moderation. Nuts are very energy-dense and too much can lead to weight gain, so the general rule is to have around a small handful each day (~1/3 cup is equivalent to a Meat & Alternative serve of the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating [AGHE]). And raw, unsalted nuts are best. Try them au naturel as snacks, sprinkled on pasta/stir-fries/cereal/yoghurt/ice-cream, baked into cakes, or blended to make butter or vegan cream (I have a yummy recipe for cashew cream for cakes, which I’ll post later!).

Blueberry Chiffon Cake

This must be the longest record for a hiatus I’ve had from the food blog. I still am very in touch with the foodie scene (self-professed claims aren’t very convincing, but my foodie friends can assure you of this!), I’m just getting lazy and not writing about them. That, plus uni is getting more and more hectic as the years go by… Although my procrastination is still going strong wahaha! I just spent the past few days watching Masterchef almost non-stop, which I suppose is the catalyst behind igniting my desire to come back here to gratify a need for some self-indulgent blogging. I was kind of gawking at how little blogging I have done regarding nutrition or dietetics, considering I’m spending the bulk of my time (supposedly, anyway!) studying about it. I’ll get to it soon, so stay tuned with some fascinating insight and commentary about nutrition!

I wanted to share a recipe that I love: a blueberry chiffon cake that my now sister-in-law taught me. It is a delightfully light, fresh-tasting cake, that, if executed well and with some TLC, will not fail to impress. I did not have a chiffon pan at the time so it doesn’t look as tall or appealing as it should be, but it still tasted amazing. I was also too lazy to make the cream but the cake still tasted really good without it.

It is a recipe from a Japanese cookbook, and the cake certainly exudes the dainty and delicate art of Japanese cake-making, although my version is an unfortunately crude attempt, as my pictures show… The blueberries impart a soothing blue tinge to the cake as well as a subtle fruity aroma.

Now’s my chance to shine with some insider knowledge about food science! The recipe states not to grease the cake tin, and the reason behind that is so that the cake can ‘grip’ on to the sides of the pan to achieve maximal height, which would not be possible if you greased it with oil and make it too slippery for the poor batter to hold on to as it wants to rise to fame in all its chiffony goodness. That also probably is the rationale behind the existence of that ‘holey’ thing in chiffon tins: the more support the cake gets, the higher it rises. I think, anyway. Which is the reason behind the dismal heights achieved in my cake. No matter, it still tasted good.

Although the batter was grey, the cake’s flavour was anything but dull! I hope you enjoy making and eating it as much as I did :)

 

Blueberry Chiffon Cake

 

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3 egg yolks

100g blueberries/strawberries (about less than one punnet (125g).

30g sugar (1/8 cup granulated sugar)

5 cc. (mL) lemon juice (1 tsp)

Few drops of vanilla oil (essence)

50 cc. (mL) vegetable oil

80g plain flour (low viscosity) (2/3 cup flour = 80g)

2/3 tsp baking powder

Whites:

4 egg whites

1/10 tsp cream of tar tar

60g sugar (¼ cup)

Surface cream:

250mL fresh cream (whipping cream)

25g icing sugar (10 tsp)

10mL orange liquer (preferably) or brandy

Decorations: crushed almonds and mint

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C (gas).

  2. Cook blueberries, sugar and lemon juice together in a small saucepan. Simmer a little till berries start to leak and colours the syrup slightly. Cool down completely.

  3. Sift baking powder and flour into a bowl.

  4. Put egg yolks into a large bowl. Mix with an electric beater/whisker till fluffy and creamy coloured (you may need to tilt the bowl to make it whip). Add in blueberry syrup and mix it in with a hand whisk.

  5. Put egg whites and cream of tartar into a separate bowl. Use a (clean) electric beater at low speed first, then progressively go towards the highest speed, while also simultaneously gradually adding sugar, beat till thick and fluffy (if you move the whisk up out of the egg white, the tip of the egg whites droops down very slightly (ie. Not horizontal, not drooping down a lot). Soft peaks.

  6. Using a hand whisk in one direction, gradually pour oil into the blueberry and egg yolk mixture, gradually adding one at a time and mixing till fully incorporated.

  7. Add flour and beat briefly on electric beater till combined (can use the beaters used to beat egg whites, even without washing).

  8. Place 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter. Use a hand whisk to fold it in slowly and gently till combined (with the whisk at right angles vertical to the bowl, use a circular motion to make one semi-circle of the bowl in one direction, first surrounding the edge of one half of the bowl, then cutting through the middle. Repeat on the other semi-circle). Add a further 1/3 of the egg whites and continue folding in using the same technique, this and subsequent times using a plastic scraper to fold it in to combine (‘cutting’ the half with the ‘blade’ of the scraper). Add the last 1/3 and again fold in with plastic scraper.

  9. Prepare a chiffon tin (do not grease). Use a spoon to put a layer to cover the base of the chiffon cake tin (to prevent large bubbles). Pour the rest in, careful not to let any onto the edges (otherwise it will burn).

  10. On a piece of cloth on a hard surface (counter), bang the tin 5 times to get rid of big air bubbles.

  11. Place the cake in the oven for 40 minutes, or until skewer comes out clean.

  12. Invert immediately on a metal rack and leave to cool.

  13. Ice with chilled surface cream and decorate with berries.

Cream

Place icing sugar and cream into a glass bowl. Place this bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cold water. Beat this with an electric beater on low speed for about 1 minute till a little thick. Add 10mL of orange liqueur/brandy, then beat again on electric beater starting with low speed, then gradually high speed, beating until thickened (thick but still liquid enough that if you lift up the whisk, some cream should drop down). Chill. Frost cake with a flat spatula.

Source: Yoko

Rating: *****

Baked Pork Chop with Egg Fried Rice, Onion and Tomato (焗豬扒飯)

Apologies for my 2/3 year hiatus from the blog… Don’t worry, I’m still the ardent foodie I was before, still loyal to frequenting my favourite food blogs, partaking in new food adventures and trying new recipes.

I’m really surprised that my blog views haven’t declined over these months, and even has been escalating! (the sharp drop is because we’re only midway through May)… I was predicting the blog would eventually dwindle into a void of nothingness as I haven’t updated it for so long. I guess it might be because Google leads a lot of people here. This might motivate me to update it more frequently and write in a better quality (this post doesn’t reflect the best of my standards, by the way, as I’m feeling a bit rushed to start studying for exams coming up!), maybe even develop a fan base (highly unlikely with the poor quality of photos and infrequent posts haha!)

It’s really not so easy to update this blog. First of all, pictures are important in a food blog. More important than whether the recipe itself is worthwhile; because imagery sells. You don’t see famous food blogs with substandard photography. Unfortunately, I am neither endowed with photographic talent nor a good SLR, plus the fact that I usually cook dinner, which means the lighting makes the food look horribly unphotogenic and looks quite unappetising reheated as leftovers the next day.

Another reason is that I’m simply lazy. I’ll try to rectify that, surely it would be good for my studies as well. Oh, about studies… I’m in my second year of N&D now. It’s getting interesting, but also getting harder. I’ll write about it in another blog post. Right now, I just want to get into the food!

This recipe is one of those really excellent ones that fail to disappoint. I’ve cooked this for my family as well as several ‘visitors’ (mum’s friends) and they always gorge themselves on it, not having enough room for any fruits/desserts. You can’t really blame them (and me): it’s just like the ones you get in Cha Chaan Tengs (茶餐廳) in HK, but even better because it’s not drowning in too much cornstarchy sauce, or lacking in meat/vegetable ingredients (and filled only with rice). The dish is made up of a (one-dish-meal) medley of lightly fried rice as the base (I also stirred in some vegetables (including frozen vegetables)), topped with fried pork chops (flavoured with ginger and garlic, lightly crumbed if desired (I did in the photos shown)), with pre-cooked sauce of tomatoes, onions, capsicum, ketchup and worcestershire sauce poured over to seep into the meat and rice. Really, it’s the sauce that makes the dish as amazing as it is. Grated cheese can be sprinkled on top, and the whole concoction placed into the oven to bake until the top is browned. I got this recipe originally from my uncle, but have since tweaked it very much with other recipes I’ve found on the internet.

Granted, it is a very time-consuming recipe, so save for weekends.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Baked Pork Chop with Egg Fried Rice, Onion and Tomato (焗豬扒飯)

3-4 eggs (beaten with salt and pepper)

1 ¾ cups (2 ½ rice cups) raw rice (or a large bowl of leftover rice)

400g boneless (3-4) pork scotch fillet/(half a piece of) pork loin chop

(Whichever is preferred: Skotch fillet has CT, pork loin has less CT)

1 medium onion (peeled, stems cut, sliced thinly)

3 large tomatoes (sliced thinly)

1 clove garlic (minced)

Optional vegies (chopped): mushrooms, capsicums, carrots, peas, baby corn etc.

(optional) ½ cup mozerella cheese

Marinade: a little light soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, (optional) 1 clove minced garlic, 1-2 tsp grated ginger

Sauce: 4-5 tablespoons ketchup or tomato paste, 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon rice wine, 1 tablespoon light soy sauce (don’t use dark: sauce will be ugly!), 2-3 tablespoons sugar, dash sesame oil, black pepper (mixed in a bowl)

Method

  1. Cook rice as usually. Put into an oven-proof dish and cover to retain heat.

  2. Scotch fillet: Use knife to ‘squash’ the fillets on both sides, using criss-cross patterns. Cut fillets into halves. Pork loin: slice into 0.5-1cm slices across the grain, then cut in half to shorten.

  3. Marinate pork 30 mins.

  4. Preheat oven to 200°C.

  5. (optional) Just before cooking, pour some of the beaten egg into the fillets to coat them evenly, then dredge each fillet individually into plain flour or dried breadcrumbs.

  6. Heat a generous amount of oil in a large flat wok over high heat.

  7. Place however many fillets fit onto wok, arrange so all surfaces touch the wok. Pan-fry over high heat (or medium, if it burns), flipping fillets over occasionally. Pork should be hard and springy if it is all cooked, and browned on both sides: test by poking with chopstick. When a fillet is cooked, remove from the pan, continuing to add more uncooked fillets. (optional) Cut the cooked fillets into 3cm wide strips.

  8. Heat oil in pan over high heat. Scramble eggs until half cooked, then toss in the rice. Stir-fry quickly (then add a little soy sauce if desired), then place into an oven-proof baking dish, cover with a lid to retain heat.

  9. Heat oil in wok over high heat. Fry onions and garlic (plus hard to cook vegies eg. capsicum) for 3 minutes until browned, add tomatoes (and optional vegies) and saute a further 3 minutes, until tender. (optional: Take out 1/3 or 1/2 of the vegetables to stir into the rice.) Add the sauce ingredients and let it simmer over low heat for 3 minutes. If sauce is watery, thicken with cornstarch and water, if too dry, add water.

  10. Lay pork chop in one layer over fried rice, evenly pour the sauce over this.
  11. (optional) sprinkle cheese over the top.

  12. Bake for 10-15 minutes uncovered, until top is browned.

Source: Lobus Kaufu and http://en.christinesrecipes.com/2008/09/baked-pork-chops-with-rice-classic.html

Rating: *****

Search terms

Funny. These are the phrases that people get to my blog from search engine results, of course, sifted through to find the most amusing ones. (text in brackets is my own commentary) A bit silly, but I’m getting swamped with uni work and a bit of comical humour is always nice. And there’s a cool website that can convert any mundane text such as this into a graphic design masterpiece! http://www.wordle.net/

Picture 1

November 2008-July 2009
November: first touch with the alphabet,  australian alphabet soup,  hello alphabet soup

December: distribution taste buds tongue, “healthy” “mind” “diet”, curry soup, rolling stones early stuff, albert einstein tongue

January: art of kagaya, taste buds on my tongue is raw (oh really?)

February: 咕嚕肉 hand writing

March: slight tongue burns, pictures of healthy/unhealthy eating for (yeah, my blog does have a juxtaposition for a fair few of those), vegemite pancakes (yuck?!), moist kitty tongue, taste buds going crazy (haha), eat explode stomach, tasting dan dan noodles, anthropology family recipe, msg at palace chinese restaurant sydney, haw [sic] to make fried rice, scallop shield with fish, is roasting marshmallow on stove bad? (I hope not. XD) , art in marshmallow (that would be lovely… creating masterpieces from melting marshmallows), “carrot used to describe incentive,potato” (what’s this? like the thing they do with donkeys?), “she inflated, and her stomach exploded.”, yum cha kitchen to seating ratio

April: roasting marshmallows on gas, burning spear, anatomy chicken ear (hm.), japanese eating teriyaki faeces (?!!), true story about taste buds at the back (tell me! oh do tell me about the true story!), manatee, 10,000 things to do with cream of mushroom (wow.), how to cure burnt taste buds (I’d like to know too. ice cream apparently, deceivingly offers no alleviation), marshmallow monkey, marshmallow explosion

May: “see through ceiling” (awesome. can that be in my bedroom?), snoppy burning marshmallow (haha, I’d like to see him do that), avoid hardening of marshmallows when roasting, exploited ginger (oh the poor ginger is getting exploited!), exploded taste bud on tongue piercing (ow), sydney haymarket greasy spoon, how long do taste buds last- 10 minutes? (what? where do people get these notions from?), edible string made of marshmallows

June: fat ginger actor, silkie chicken (and not ‘silky’.. apparently silkie is a type of chicken), oxford dictionary spelling of dietitian (I think they spell it with a ‘t’ and not a ‘c’ as the main one), one ordinary marshmallow (poor ordinary marshmallow…), vegetables hands (now wouldn’t that be nice? we can just eat ourselves!), don’t eat the marshmallows korea (why? I can just imagine somebody in slow-mo soccer defending footage of a marshmallow hurled towards Korea, protecting the country from this most ghastly monstrosity), monk kok obscure food, who roasted the first marshmallow (I’d like to know too), crab eating marshmallow, taste buds only taste pork (now that would be terrible), leaching australian seeds, tender buds chemistry blogs (yeah, little kids sure like to make chemistry blogs), first australian to roast a marshmallow, barbecue marscmellos, taiwan pancake made of rabbit poo, recipe cloud in cream (doesn’t that sound lovely?)

July: custard prestige (I can just imagine a pan of custard crowned with gold amongst a backdrop of luxurious prestige of awards), burnt rice, can chickens eat jackfruit, pasta chemistry (My first result: “Occurrence of protein-bound lysylpyrroaldehyde in dried pasta…”), make marshmallow mushrooms (doesn’t that sound adorable? When I was a kid these were two words I got confused…among many other embarrassing ones…), seafood stylists (can you imagine a crab with sunglasses, or octopus with gold studs on tentacles? I can.), images of rice in fibrous root,  how to get jackfruit resin off your hand (I’d like to know too), thousand layer pancake (what’s this?), fried tofu with molten liquid inside

Also, funny link from a discussion forum to my blog:

http://coquinaria.it/forum/showthread.php?t=100561

“purtroppo blog che parlano dei marshmallow arrostiti ne trovo solo in inglese. Perdono!!!” (translated from Italian) “Unfortunately blogs talking about marshmallow roast will find only in English. Pardon!”

Writing food reviews

Although there are quite a lot of people who like to eat, and quite a lot of people who like to write, not many people like both. Eating is a rather sensual and worldly affair, distinct from the interests of literary folk who are often more concerned with deeper, more profound, metaphysical issues. So outstanding food bloggers are rare, and you find that when browsing through the food blogosphere, the same ubiquitous names pop up everywhere (101 Cookbooks is an example: iGoogle has even set it as the default for the recipes tab, and nearly every food blog has placed it on their blog list, puzzling me at first since it was always listed prominently at the very top, then I realised it was because of its numerical beginning!).

I never knew it takes so long to write up restaurant reviews… I say, on average, it takes about 40 minutes to write up a review for one restaurant… it’s probably because I’m trying to remember back to such a long time ago (well, in part due to my procrastinating tendencies..), googling for their online menu, looking through photos in an attempt to treat food as an artwork (and translating that into words!), fumbling over the adjectives to use to describe something as subjective as taste, searching the thesaurus to avoid repetitive and lacklustre descriptions, researching the restaurant/food to get some inspiration for story-telling and finding diplomatic ways to express any criticisms. I guess, particularly for the first point, that’s why it’s smart for people to write down little comments/notes when they’re actually in the scene of the restaurant? But the downside to that is that while I’m there, I want to concentrate on the food and have fun with it, rather than getting bogged down with having to write down things. I guess that also explains why I enjoy writing restaurant/food reviews: because I can recount the pleasurable encounters I have had with food glorious food!, rather than finding ways to critique it, and also because it’s a creative outlet for me.

Well… now I know I’ll never want to become a professional restaurant critic! Yet I find it strange that, as someone who is a proud aficionado of art, I did not start up an art blog.

It’s not that I enjoy food more than art; it is hard to compare things that way. But with art, it invokes such emotional, subjective responses, and in such intangible ways that it is hard, nay, almost impossible, to express with words. I also have many many more encounters with food than with art, and that is also true for the rest of the population, so it gives a lot more room for connection. Food is, I admit, much easier to talk about than art, which requires lengthy investigation into the context, motives, symbolism, etc. of the artwork, rather than the simplicity of food. Lastly, there isn’t much out there about restaurants or particular food types (aside from the occasional magazine/food blog articles), but when you type in the name of an artwork into any search engine, you are inundated with a flood of reviews/critiques; so food gives me a little niche to write about, something that has not been explored as much, something that is flexible and subject to change.

Well, that’s enough of my ponderings… better get back to study! (four exams in the coming week…)

Jackfruit Seeds – pine, ash wood, and mahogany

My three month lull in recipe-posting has come to an end, that is, if you can call this a ‘recipe’. It’s probably more of an introduction to an interesting food, than a recipe per se. Come to think of it, that marshmallow post wasn’t a recipe either. Whatever. 

jackfruit-seeds-1

If you love the flavour of banana, mango, papaya, lychee, longan or pineapple, you’d like jackfruit, because all these fruits have been likened to the multifaceted flavour of jackfruit. But the good thing is that it doesn’t have that gross mushiness of banana and papaya, or the tart tongue-burning effect of pineapple. The texture is a bit harder to describe, but I can tell you, if you are fond of peeling off the little peely cheese sticks, one by one, you’ll love doing that to jackfruit. So imagine strands of peely cheese, with a mouthfeel not unlike firm longan. Jackfruits come in an interesting morphology: the main eating component are lunar-shaped units, which, after gauging out of the very thick skin (a process which would require the barrier of gloves, as they produce an incredibly sticky ‘resin’), leaves many strands of fibrous thingies still attached and resembling a bed of anemone, edible, but requiring a knife to cut out and also very chewy). The main drawback lies in the aftertaste: a rather pungent odour that lingers for a day, and on rare occasions, jackfruits can have a foul, detergent-like taste.

 jackfruit-seeds-2

The seeds are also edible, surprisingly (isn’t googling random things so good as a procrastination tool?!). They are similar to chestnuts, but less moist, less starchy, less sweet and a little more savoury/acidic, with a hint of jackfruit notes. Every time you eat a jackfruit sac, one of these little seeds, with a beautiful pinewood-like pattern, are encased within. Pop it out of the membraned pouch and rinse with water; there will still be a sticky film of slime, that’s okay. Place in a container, storing it for several days (up to two weeks, and the seeds were still fine, but they become a washed-out ash wood grain rather than the deep pinewood when fresh, as the photo juxtaposes), until you have accumulated enough seeds to cook with. I boiled them in water for 10-20 minutes (more towards 20, if you like it a bit more soft, and the acidic flavour also fades with more cooking)… but apparently you can roast them or stud them on rice in the rice cooker (works well), and used in the manner of potatoes for mash or curries.

 

jackfruit-seeds-3-waterA most peculiar thing happens to the water it’s boiled in: it turns to a crimson liquid like it’s for X-ray developing, which must have leached out of the mahogany-hued inner skin (isn’t it amazing how the colours of the seed can exhibit features of such a variety of wood species?) (I don’t think X-ray developer is actually crimson-coloured. Being a dental assistant, I should know it’s actually brownish. But oh well, first imagery that came to my mind for crimson water was X-ray liquid. My mind is rather strange).

 

There are two layers of husk: the tough outer husk that you need to peel after it’s cooked (which is usually effortless with just your hands, because it usually cracks a little when dried raw (as you can see from the photo above)), and the thin skin that’s edible, albeit chewy (like the peanut skin).  

 

A word of warning though: like baked beans, it is recommended this food is consumed in well-ventilated areas. :P

jackfruit-seeds-4jackfruit-seeds-5 

Feast in Hong Kong (Feb 2009) III – Restaurants Part 3

Here is the long-awaited (not that I am implying anybody is waiting for it!) second half of the restaurant series in Hong Kong. This is 2623 words long, over the word limit for my current assignment on privatisation of health services. (seriously, how do they expect me to discuss such a complex issue indepth with such a constraint of word limit, when I can easily write so much about something as simple as eating!??)

Lamma Mandarin Seafood Restaurant (Peach Garden Seafood Restaurant 世外桃源海鮮酒家) (Lamma Island)

If you’re a nature lover in need of a respite from the metropolitan buzz of downtown Hong Kong, the outlying archipelago are the perfect sanctuaries. Only a short boat cruise away, peaceful scenery, meandering hiking trails, quaint villages, traditional farming fields, charming fishing boats, with not a car in sight and fresh seafood awaits you. Enchanting historical remnants of Hong Kong have been preserved in these isolated old-world islands.

Pretty ain't it?

Pretty ain't it?

One such island is Lamma Island 南丫島. Departing the ferry, you are greeted with a continuous strip of seafood restaurants, all overlooking the harbour with plastic dining tables and fluorescent lighting. Rows of fish tanks piled one on top of the other cover the shopfronts forming square mosaics, some even have underground pools, and I wonder if there have been anybody careless enough to step into them?! Competition is fierce among the restaurants, and the waiters always advertise (pester) passers-by.

The Rainbow Seafood Restaurant is traditionally the most eminent, with their windows adorned with a photo entourage of celebrities ranging from Joey Yung to Martin Yan, and I do remember last year, the meal I had was very delicious. However, my dad insisted that it was overpriced and so went to this restaurant instead, which has a very interesting name: (translated) Otherworldly Peach Garden Restaurant. We were lucky enough to procure a seaview table, and despite the discouragement of the waiter, we got the set meal for three (I didn’t know why they said the set meal isn’t good: later my aunty explained that of course they wanted us to order separately since they would make more profit!).

lammaislandseafood1

lammaisland2The whole meal costed around $HK300+ from what I remember. It had several dishes, some of which I have forgotten. There was garlic and chilli prawns (prawns were so flavoursome!), deep-fried garoupa (amazing: super crispy batter with a tender meat), fried rice (most people can make fried rice, but only the skilled can make it taste really good), whole crab (sauce wasn’t anything special, but crab was fresh… I don’t like poking, prodding, cracking and sucking the meat out of the shell though!), and the standard dish of vegetables (lettuce I think). In the end, we finished off by ordering an abalone dish: $HK30 each abalone, which came in its shell with a simple sauce and dried tangerine peel. I didn’t think I would like it, but it was

Abalone

Abalone

so succulent yet chewy textured, and a wonderfully light seafood sweetness, complemented perfectly with dried peel (even though I usually hate that!). So if you’re looking for a fresh, exquisite seafood dinner, look no further than Lamma Island.

Food Republic (Tsim Sha Tsui and Taikoo Shing)

(another review)

A chain of food courts that originates from Singapore, Food Republic is inspired by local hawker fare (Wikpedia, 2009): an impressive variety of ‘fast food’ stalls from a wide array of cuisines. Not surprisingly, there is HK cuisine and other regional varieties of Chinese cuisine, but also Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, Indian…  Typically, I spend over 30 minutes walking around trying to make a decision from the abundance of choices, especially because it seems like all the outlets are of high quality and relatively cheap.

Amos and I had been walking around the Art Museum in TST and figured this place would be great for a cheap feed. This time, I had Japanese pancake and foodrepublicomusoba, around $HK25-40 (the price has completely slipped out my mind). It was very tasty, but the Japanese pancake was pre-made and not hot, and consequently not soft enough, but filled with tasty cabbage and other fillings. I love the cute bonito flakes that squirm around like a gymnast’s cloth swirling around over the lingering warmth, and one must admit it is hard to go wrong with something as deliciously simple as omusoba (ketchup and Kewpie mayonaise helps too ;) ).

Le Petit Bistro (Sham Shui Po)

Escargot

Escargot

Tucked into a street that gives an industrial atmosphere, this French restaurant is owned by my aunty’s relatives (again!). Not exactly authentic French food, but I hear that some of the ingredients are sourced from France, and the cosy atmosphere makes it a pleasure to dine in. The set menus are the best value: soup, entree, main and dessert for $HK80?, with cream of spinach (not cornstarchy, but made with real cream!)/tomato boullion (I do remember eating a mussel broth last year which was fantastic), pan-fried duck breast salad/escargot atop mashed potato for entree (not the most photogenic of foods, but it’s tasty, and not slimy at all!), a large range of hearty mains (many pastas, I ordered a creamy fettucine), and dessert of which I highly recommend the baked chocolate mousse: slightly charred, chewy layer that cracks to reveal a hot, creamy and airy sighs of chocolate mousse within; it’s a delightfully enchanting treat. Other picks include butter-sauteed button mushrooms (butter and herb go together like (wait.. thinking of a witty analogy here… yes…still thinking…), okay.. you know what I mean…

lepetit2

Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐 (Tsim Sha Tsui)

dintaifung

As a sequel to my trip to this acclaimed restaurant chain in Sydney, my foodie aunt brought me to Din Tai Fung in Tsim Sha Tsui, the only one store in Hong Kong. The decor was not as embellished as Sydney’s, being less modern and more traditional, and it was located on the top floor of the shopping centre which they exploited with a continuous wide window offering a panorama of the multi-storeyed building from above.

A word of advice: come early to avoid the rush! We arrived at 12 or so, and it must have been a slow day, because there were actually seats remaining the hour later when we left, unlike Sydney where there was a long queue (the restaurant here was, smart of them, much larger than Sydney’s). Browsing the menu, we decided to (of course) order the signature xiao long bao, as well as some other dishes. Xiao long bao was just as good as Sydney’s standards (if not better… I don’t know, that’s what you can probably assume considering Hong Kong is supposed to be more expert when it comes to food?), but the highlights for me were the other foods.

din-tai-fung

A very distinctive entree was the ‘shredded special vegetable and tofu’ (translation is probably off), which wasn’t offered in Sydney’s branch. Tiny pieces of minced firm tofu and the ‘special vegetable’ (don’t even know the name in English! Must be a rather rare plant) flavoured with sesame oil and adorably moulded as a dome. The taste was very unique, resembling the dintaifung3taste of spinach, but with a slightly crisp texture rather than gooey (it’s not raw), the mouthfeel was great: cold and refreshing with a big surface area to savour the sensation. Taiwanese-style dan dan noodles came next: a neat bundle of lai mein (拉麵) surrounded with a rich, spicy peanut sauce sprinkled with ground peanuts. It was a lovely explosion of intense peanut flavour, with sweet, spicy, savoury and nutty notes playing together. I really lked the smoothness of the springy noodles and the silky, sticky sauce that coated it. One thing I recommend though, don’t ask for ‘less spicy’ unless dintaifung41you can’t tolerate any heat, because there was hardly any hotness to it. The cute coral-shaped dumplings in the picture are “Sticky rice and pork mince siu mai”, which were very interesting, but because we had so much to eat we had left it to cool for a few minutes, which made the skin a little tough. I thought it was nice anyway, a very novel dish. We also had a hot and sour soup which I didn’t take a picture of, which tasted very authentic (spicy!). Lastly, we ended with a sweet note of black sesame dumpling, which was recommended over the red bean dumpling that my aunty said wasn’t good. The black sesame dumpling was cut into three (as we were all stuffed after finishing the savoury), exposing the hot, molten black sesame paste enclosed in the bun. The paste was just right: rich, smooth yet slightly gritty with finely ground black sesame, with a very aromatic black sesame kick.

dintaifung5

Presentation was impeccable, as would be expected with an award-winning restaurant, food is of a consistently high standard (no matter which country you visit!), and price is reasonable.

Tsui Wah Restaurant 翠華餐廳 (Central, Causeway Bay, Aberdeen, Tsuen Wan, Tsim Sha Tsui)

(another review)

tsuiwahThis chain of restaurants is perhaps the epitome of typical no-frills chain of cha chan teng in HK. The menu is very extensive, exemplified by the countless sheets of different menus scattered haphazardly underneath the glass slide of the table, with lots of set meals of rice and noodles. My second aunty brought me here to sample their signature pork chop crispy bun and crispy bun with condensed milk ($20? and $12 respectively). Made tsuiwah2with extra large dome-shaped halves of a bun very similar to the “English muffins” you’d find in Australian supermarkets or McMuffins (slightly chewy bread dusted with a little powder) enhanced with toasting it to a lovely crunch with browned edges, and sandwiched with flavourful pan-fried pork chop, mayo and lettuce, or slathered with generous pools of butter and condensed milk. Cut in half, they make for a nice shared lunch with a friend, the ‘main’ and the ‘dessert’ made from the same base!

Super Star Seafood Restaurant 鴻星海鮮酒家 (Wan Chai, Causeway Bay)

This chain of restaurants is quite famous in Hong Kong as serving high-class fine Chinese food, winning many local culinary awards. I have been to the Causeway Bay (Times Square) and Wan Chai restaurants, both of which have the highly embellished theme characteristic of fancy Chinese restaurants. Excuse the lack of photos; the presentation of the dishes were very winsome, but I was with a large group of family and thought it might be strange if I took pictures of the 15+ dishes we ordered!

We were greeted with their iconic appetiser of crispy deep-fried whitebait fish, while the menu boasts a dazzling array of bizarre, exotic, decadent delights, including this (warning: picture may frighten!), like shark fin, abalone, fish maw, sea cucumber and stone fish. Perhaps feeling not so adventerous, my dining companions ordered more down-to-earth dishes that seemingly never-endingly came in a banquet-like fashion, like a claypot stew with vegetables and beancurd sheets (so tasty! I love beancurd sheets), deep-fried fish soaked in thick sauce (a bit too much batter for my liking), scrambled egg whites with large succulent prawns (smooth and light-tasting), yi mein (Chinese E-Fu egg noodles 伊麵) (just the right texture), and the star of the night (for me anyway): braised pomelo skin with scallops or some other sort of seafood. I say ‘some other sort of seafood’ because it was the pomelo skin that shined through! It is oh-so-nice, with an amazingly melt-in-mouth tenderness, flavoured with an oyster sauce that gives some savoury to the otherwise bland taste of pomelo skin. I tried to look up a recipe on the net, and apparently it involves scraping the yellow rind off, soaking in water for a few days, occasionally squeezing it to render the spongey  toughness to a more pulpy texture, and then braising with oyster sauce.

Each main dish costs around $HK75-$170. The banquet was concluded with yet another banquet of desserts: a sweet soup of glutinous red rice and coconut milk, the usual platter of fresh cut fruits, New York cheesecake (creamy and cheesy) and steamed creamy (molten) egg custard bun. The custard bun was lovely, hot and truly had a molten liquid core of smooth creamy, eggy custard, enclosed in a soft bun (that was yellow! usually it’s white).

custard-bun

I even had the honour of having a souvenir to take home: my aunty gave me 5 packets of their crispy whitebait, with various flavours of original, curry, tomato, spicy, and seaweed (my favourite), bulked with super crunchy peanuts. I later saw that they sold it in supermarkets too! Best of all, this is not considered contraband by customs, despite being an animal product.

Kowloon Tong Club Cafe (Kowloon Tong)

View from another part of building

View from another part of building

Apparently Bruce Lee used to live in this wealthy, expat-dominated classy suburb. The buildings here are considerably shorter and classier than the tall, homogenous skyscrapers in the less wealthy areas, with only 2-4 storeys high. This modern, exclusive club reflects the prestige of the suburb, with beautiful fountains on the side of the entrance, and swanky, hotel-like decor, which (I think) only membership would permit entry to. Walking along the corridor adorned with framed paintings leads to the restaurant/cafe.

tuna-kowloon

I heard that the Hainan chicken rice here is very good, but I ordered a set menu (around $HK100?) of entree with grilled tuna salad and fettuccine with cream sauce and cured salmon. The tuna was a bit dry and the edible bones maybe increased its throat-tickling factor, but maybe tuna itself is a fairly dry fish especially when grilled. The pasta was nice, cooked al dente (unlike the soggy cream-pasta-kowloonstuff that Canto restaurants make) with lots of cream sauce (look at the pool!), capsicum, mushrooms, and the cured salmon, although very salty, gave a nice texture and contrasting piquancy cut the richness of the sauce. I also ate some wonton noodles which tasted excellent, the wontons filled with plump juicy prawn and meat, and the noodles sufficiently springy, and a cake which was light-textured.

Jade Leaf Desserts 玉葉甜品 (Soho, Central)

(other reviews)

jade-dessert1

One of the few remaining truly authentic dai pai dongs (大牌檔) in Hong Kong, this adorably unpretentious sidestreet food stall is on one of Soho’s many steep slopes, making the seating uncomfortably slanted. This place would probably be a local’s secret, as I’m sure any tourist may be a bit put off by the scruffiness, and indeed it was my cousin who brought me here. The little ‘shed’ is located adjacent to the outdoor no-frills dining area with fold-up stools and tables barely shielded from the elements by an overhanging fabric canopy.

jade-dessert

The stall sells a range of quintessential Hong Kong goodies like sweet soup and noodles, all priced at a bargain of $HK7 (hot) sweet soup, $7.50 (cold) sweet soup (thought it was strange that the nicer one would be more expensive, but figured that refrigeration costs money), and less than $20 for other savoury meals (which the shop is also quite popular for).

海帶綠豆沙 (seaweed green bean soup) was very nice, the thick strips of smooth seaweed imparting a gentle flavour and slippery texture to the soup. 香草綠豆沙 (herb green bean soup) which was served cold, tasted a bit weird to me, maybe because I don’t particularly like herby tastes in sweet food, and I also think that sweet soup tastes better hot since the sweetness and flavour is jadedessertmore strongly detectable. My cousin found a piece of newspaper in the soup, but a waiter was happy to replace. I think they use newspaper somehow in the preparation process, like they did in the old days before food sanitation was a worry, but I’m not too alarmed, since everything is made the traditional, home-style method; there are much worse things that could have come into contact with food! 芝麻糊 (black sesame soup) tasted as if the black sesame had been a little burnt, but not too much so, and the texture of the gritty black sesame was just right, not watered down. The 糖不甩 (“sugar won’t come off’ literally translated) ($HK8) hot, chewy, plump glutinous rice flour balls coated with desiccated coconut, sugar and white sesame seeds, tastes so good, but then this is also something easily emulated at home. The tong sui (sweet soup) were a little on the sweet side, and they are made in a crude manner, probably resulting in many inconsistencies in the cooking, but that’s what sets it apart as authentic from the generic ‘dessert food stalls’ in shopping centres. It’s also a lot in part to do with the experience of eating at a traditional HK stall with all the old-world charm: my cousin said that by the next time I visit Hong Kong, this stall may have closed down already (because ownership can’t be transferred to other family’s hands. or something along those lines)!

Feast in Hong Kong (Feb 2009) II – Restaurants : 四點金潮州料理 Four Golds Chiu Chow Cuisine Restaurant

Answer to previous post’s question: compressed dried wood ear 木耳.

My dining companion was my aunty, whose husband’s relatives own this restaurant. Like I said before, my mother’s family’s heritage is Chiu Chow, and I don’t know if it’s because it’s ingrained in my genes, or because anybody with a tongue would concur, but Chiu Chow cuisine is awesome. It seems like most Chiu Chow people have still remained connected to their roots: of the many of my Chinese friends, I only know the heritage of those who hail from this region (even if the ancestry was a hundred years ago!)! And indeed, why wouldn’t you be proud of such heritage, especially when it boasts subtle and delectable food that is also espoused as being one of the healthiest of Chinese cuisines ?

You’d expect that with two dining companions, there wouldn’t be much variety, yeah? We actually ordered, in much excess, six dishes and, amazingly, we managed to stuff more than half of that into our stomachs. Located a distant walk from the MTR station, in an unassuming street of Yau Ma Tei, this small restaurant has a cosy feel with warm-tinted decor. The menu is filled with an extensive array of authentic Chiu Chow dishes, and we sampled the most famous ones.

First up were the appetisers, which technically speaking, aren’t really Chiu Chow exclusively: jellyfish and chicken salad, and goose liver. Very tasty and light as they were cold, and the goose liver was, fortunately, not as pungent as I had remembered; perhaps the slight tang of the sauce countered the richness (which would usually be overemphasised in a dish like foie gras). Then came the deep-fried tofu, which I don’t think words can do justice. I don’t know what the batter they used was, but it was so crisp and crunchy, unlike any other ordinary batter I’ve tasted that goes soggy after a while. Have a look at the picture, the patterning is so cute, it’s like a coral! The dish came with a bowl of ‘broth’ (maybe it’s just salty water with spring onions) with which the tofu is dipped in, much like tempura; probably to reduce the 熱氣 (‘yit hei': heatiness). Even after dipping the tofu in the stock, the batter retained its unique crunchy, ridgey texture, and actually made it taste nicer since the tofu itself was quite bland, and the salty spring onion broth gave it more body (the juices exude out from the crunchy skin that gave depth to the taste and mouthfeel). This was my favourite dish, and even though it’s a well-established fact that anything deep-fried will taste great, this version puts all other batters in the world to shame.

Next came the congee (潮州糜 Chiu Chow mue). I’m very familiar with this since my mum often created her own rendition by putting rice into Chinese soup, and I sometimes liked to do that too. Chiu Chow mue is different from Cantonese congee in that the rice still maintains their integrity and the soup is not as viscous: basically, just like putting cooked rice into soup, as apparently many Chiu Chow families do!  But the soup that was served was much more full-bodied and flavourful with a delightful combination of meaty baby mussels, gobbets (oh my gosh, don’t accuse me of being the bio nerd I am, but I accidentally typed in ‘goblet’, as in the goblet cells of the respiratory tract that secrete mucus…yeah, just ignore all that ;) ) of mince pork, dried salty fish, some kind of preserved vegetable and spring onion, all of which infused flavour throughout the soup while the character of each still remaining intact and not boiled to death like many Cantonese people like. I do not like congee, but this delicious dish might just make me a convert.

And yes, the most well-known and integral dish of any Chiu Chow banquet, oyster omelette (蠔烙). I had actually tried it before, in Brisbane! I also really like this dish, but I can’t really put my finger on what was missing in this one, maybe not enough herb? Nevertheless, with the texture of the omelette and generous servings of succulent oysters, I still loved it.

The last dish we had doesn’t quite share the same acclaim as the oyster omelette, but not deservingly so! 潮州糖醋麵 (Chiu Chow sugar vinegar noodle) are orange-coloured Chinese egg noodles (伊麵 yi mein) pan-fried to crisp perfection and sliced much like a pizza, then topped with dark vinegar and granules of sugar (very typical Chiu Chow idiosyncrasy: a friend of mine also of this heritage said her family also sprinkles sugar onto everything! (eg. toast, bread, yam…)). The flavours don’t sound right but it complements each other in a strangely appetising way, and the sugar granules gives an extra nice crunch to the crispy noodles. This is probably a dish that could be easily made at home (and I will!)

Some other samples from the menu which looked enticing include 韭菜餜 chive dumpling, which are chopped garlic chives enclosed in wrapping shaped like a disk and always cutely stamped with a pink dot, other varieties include radish or peanuts: steamed and sauteed for crispiness. I believe this was my mum’s family’s favourite childhood snack, and my uncle still goes back to Hong Kong to buy these from markets to bring back to Australia. Google searching this (as I do), I was surprised to find no pictures so I decided to upload this from my Sydney trip (after my uncle transported them, of course). I never knew this was such a rare delicacy!guo

A dessert dish I remember is the taro coated in sugar (very nice, and it is easy enough to be cooked yourself). And the cost? Honestly I don’t remember, but it ranged somewhere between $HK30-$70 per dish.

This may not be the most renowned Chiu Chow restaurant in Hong Kong, but if you’re just craving for a little pecking for this wonderfully delicate and hearty cuisine at reasonable prices, I would recommend it (but then again, I’ve never given a bad review. If you’re a picky eater, you’d know by now I make a terrible food critic :D).

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