Monday, 31 January 2011

Javanese Ginger Squares

I never really understood where the ginger and chocolate combination came from. Why ginger specifically? If you’re going for spices, why stop there? Why not try parsley, or coriander, or even garlic?

I think I just answered my own question.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

You know you’re addicted to chocolate when…

  1. Chocolate becomes an adjective for everything.
    That’s chocotastic!

  2. Even though you’re supposed to be buying it for your little sister, you start munching through her advent calendar. In October.

  3. Christmas comes early when Thorntons has a sale.

  4. You try to eat malteasers using a straw, like they do in the advert (Bonus points if you succeed).

  5. Chocolate can distract you from the most important of tasks…ooh, is that a bar of Galaxy over there?

  6. Even though you’ve never won as much as a thumb war, you wrestle – yes, to the ground – those in front of you in the queue for the chocolate fountain.

  7. You buy exactly 100g of chocolate like Nigella said, but somehow only 50g of it makes it into the cake…

  8. A nice glass of red wine bar of Dairy Milk is just the thing to wind down after a long day.

  9. You start buying brown items of clothing to hide the evidence.

  10. You try to bake through every single recipe of the Green & Black’s cookbook.
Lesson learned today: It’s really important that every- oh, sorry, what was I saying? I got distracted by the KitKat I found in the bottom of the cookie jar.

In Kuala Lumpur airport at the duty free…now who wouldn’t prefer this to condensed red grapes that people squish with their feet?

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Chinese Dongpo Pork 东坡肉 (Braised Pork Belly)

I am proud to say that this blog post is the first recipe on the Cambridge University Gastronomic Discovery website - you saw it here first!

Update: I've also added it to the BBC Good Food website (you can see it in all its delicious soy saucy glory here), it's pretty much the same thing, but it's on an ACTUAL WEBSITE!


A little bit of research tells me that Dongpo pork is a very famous dish from Hangzhou in China, named/insipried/something-along-those-lines from the poet Su Dongpo, some almost-millennia ago. He was very wealthy (I’m guessing therefore he could afford to buy meat) and made a modified version of the very famous Chinese red-braised pork, by simmering it for a longer time in the traditional sauce plus caramelised sugar.

The emphasis on this dish is really on the fat; the cooking method means that the oiliness seeps out and leaves a gelatinous wobbly bit left, which no longer makes you feel queasy when you eat too much. So you can keep on eating!

I bet Su Dongpo died of a heart attack.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Chocolate Brownie Meringue Cake

Probably the longest and most complicated cake I made made in a while. To me, it seemed the person writing the recipe couldn’t really make up their mind: do I like brownies…or cake…or, meringue! Or fruit cream? And…nuts, of the hazel or pistachio variety? Hm.

I’ll add them all!

So off I plodded through the recipe, one hazelnut at a time.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

From China With Love: Departures


I’m not sure that I will be choosing to fly on New Year’s Eve again.

It was –6C outside, it was about –4C inside, but this time, I wasn’t sure if I had just lost the feeling in my toes, or if they had actually fallen off and I just hadn’t noticed.

We were catching the coach from Nantong to Shanghai airport, which was pretty standard. Except we forgot that it would be heaving with people, so carrying four suitcases between two people across a sea of people who don’t seem to quite grasp the concept of personal space was an effort. But (hurrah!) in the end we made it to Shanghai, to the airport, and to the check in desk. Happy happy :)

Only problem now was that our hand luggage exceeded the allowance. But, being Chinese (gross generalisation here? I hope not?) they were stuffed with… food (and, you know, good food, the sort that your mother would tell you off for eating the whole packet of when you were little). So it was either throw it away or eat it all.

We choose the latter option.

However, we realised after about 20 minutes of furious power-snacking that if we were to munch through 7kg of food (it was like Mary Poppins’ bag… don’t underestimate our packing skills!) we’d die. Feeling sick is probably more likely, but saying dying makes me feel less guilty about the amount we had to throw away.


We’d also come up with a ingenious plan – fill our pockets with the excess food – they won’t weigh our coats.

…there’s nothing quite as satisfying as walking around an airport with a bag of pickled cabbage smuggled in your hoodie pocket. One word: stealth.

Then we got on our flight and went home, spending every single time zone’s New Years on the plane. (But I think next time, I will rather be out in the garden watching the fireworks instead!)

I’m always ready to leave China when I do, then on the way to the airport I always miss it. I don’t really have a photo to sum it up, just a collection of some more (mostly foodie) photos to end my trip.

Lesson learned today: Chinese food rules! (And puddings and pies, too, of course.)

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This is the Dong Po Pork (braised pork belly) that I made for my family the day we left. Recipe blog about this to some soon – a bit time consuming to make but definitely worth it!

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Three little pigs: steamed custard buns. I can’t make these…yet ;)

And now, me sat at the airport waiting for my transfer flight, typing and finalising my blog posts.

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Oh and…


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Wednesday, 5 January 2011

From China With Love: Christmas


I’d say Christmas in China is more of a thing than Chinese New Year in the UK. I even managed to find a Santa walking around the electricals bit of the department store handing out leaflets. He was evidently embarrassed by the outfit and didn’t want to be recognised; either that or didn’t know that beards don’t usually grow around the eyes…

But the main part of this post is of course: CHRISTMAS DINNER! We had two meals, the first was in a restaurant with about 40 family members, and it wasn’t really a Christmas meal. As in, my grandparents invited all of these people for a meal because we needed to thank them for visiting my granddad in hospital, and the 25th worked – not because it was Christmas, but because it was a Saturday. But hey, beats turkey and pudding any day :)

And three guesses as to what this is…

So that was lunch. Moving on (absolutely stuffed, so we were moving on pretty slowly), we took a quick walk to work up the appetite again.

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Next stop, sushi!

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There was salmon sashimi, tuna, octopus, some white thing, squid maybe? And something else yellow and slushy which I just ate and it tasted…slushy (if my taste buds allowed for colours, I’d say it probably would have tasted yellow too).

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I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much raw fish in my life.

And I liked it.

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This was a platter thingy that we ordered. Most interesting was the chicken heart (second from left). I was offered some – “Xinmei, have some chicken heart!” and my gut instinct was to reel away and protest “euurrgghh, no.” Which as soon as I said that I regretted but it was too late and was snapped up (or chewed up and swallowed) by my cousin.

It came out to about 158 yuan per person (about £16), which is very very expensive in China (though that might have just been the restaurant, I have no idea, I followed my uncle… and the smell), although I would choose this over Yo Sushi any day!

Lesson learned today: Christmas isn’t just about turkey and stuffing, it’s about food that brings people together, for instance, duck tongue. (Yes, that’s what it was, how many guesses did you use? Ha! Bet you weren’t expecting that! ;)

p.s. duck tongue tastes like rubber.

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Monday, 3 January 2011

From China With Love: Rice.


So originally I said I was going to leave out the boring part where ‘we eat lots of rice’, but my friend wanted a post on it, in which I replied that I had already done one, but he was persistent, so I took up the challenge and wrote…an ODE TO RICE! Oh yes, you’d better believe it.

Ode To Rice
by Xinmei Wang, age nine…teen.

Oh rice, oh rice, why are you so nice?
You fill me with carbs but I guess that’s the price.
”I just made some rice dumpling, would you like to try it?
Oh, I’m sorry, you’re on a gluten free diet”.

It’s rice, it’s always rice! Can even make it into drinks,
Let it ferment, it’s alcohol in two winks.
Be careful not to boil too much, remember 8 cups is a lot,
It would be heart breaking just to see all of this rice rot :(

And rice, and rice, my bowl is full of you,
Wouldn’t have it any other other way, and that is the truth.
So dedicated am I, that I eat you with chopsticks,
Hope you appreciate that, I can’t use them for…toffee. (I know, let down, sorry)

Dear rice, dear rice, you’re so easy to make,
But saying that, you’re quite versatile to bake.
I can cook you in the oven and I can cook you on the hob,
I can even cook you in the microwave slot!

My rice, your rice, his rice, her rice,
That old lady who works at the checkout’s rice!
We all eat rice! We all love rice!
And now I’m at the end of the poem, if I say rice one more time I think I might die.

IMG_7991Authentic Chinese ‘sao mai’ – gluntinous (sticky) rice wrapped in wonton skin type things and steamed. Nothing like the Hong Kong version of ‘siew mai’, which doesn’t even have rice in it! :O

Lesson learned today: You can love the afore mentioned foodstuff, then write a poem on it and lose all craving to ever eat it again (note to self: never, EVER, write a poem on desserts).

Sunday, 2 January 2011

From China With Love: Out and About


As soon as I got used to the freezing temperatures and accepted the fact that I probably wouldn’t regain the feeling in my toes for the next two weeks, I finally left the house and went scouring the streets for food and photo opportunities. There are loads everywhere, literally about 2 minutes down the road from my grandparent’s house will be someone selling fruit and vegetables:

And two minutes down the road from that, will be street vendors selling ‘little eats’. I once found the best Chinese sweet onion pastry thing, and wanted a fresh one for breakfast the next day.

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Except breakfast for everyone here is about 8am, which (ha!) isn’t going to happen, so when I woke up at 10.30am, I ran out in my pyjamas (it’s er…a fashion statement back in England), but to my dismay, they had gone :(

Most of the street vendors set up at night, usually on a busy road or next to the street markets.

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Xiao Long Bao (‘Little Lion Buns’), are like steamed buns but with soup inside, which annoyingly always seems to dribble out when you bite into it. Tasty though!

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Here, she’s making omelette with potato strips, egg, frankfurter sausage, and seaweed. Who would have thought, “I think it’s missing something… I know! Let’s add ALGAE!!”. And this wasn't the type that you normally put into soup, it was the crunchy, and slimy (does that have bad connotations? Is there a way of saying nice-slimy?). Just to Asian-fy what could have turned into a Western dish.

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All the tea you could ever want – or think of – in your life. Also makes great pot pouri.

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’Old Beijing’ toffee apples…and now they’ve also branched out to strawberries, pineapples, kiwis, oranges, even cherry tomatoes. Which is probably good, because I swear those apples were a bit rotten under that mountain of sugar crust.

And last but definitely definitely not least, cakes! Surely they can’t beat my ‘baked with love’ cakes? We shall see (I bought two of each, came to about 80p)….damn, these things are nice.

Lesson learned today: it’s not just sugar that you can put onto anything to make it taste nicer, it seems seaweed does the trick too!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

From China With Love: Arrivals


A big snowy dizzy blur. No update on the food front as of yet, having been in China for four hours and only managing to briskly stomp past the ‘restaurants’ selling 20p dumplings and noodles.

This was because my mum and I needed to catch the train from Shanghai to Nantong. See now, I am going to emphasise the plan to ‘catch the TRAIN’. So obviously as soon as the bus from the airport dropped us off some half mile or so away from the train station,, we were bombarded (and I wish I were exaggerating) with private (i.e. illegal, but we shall use that term very loosely here) taxis asking us where we were going:

”Where are you going? Take our taxi!”

”To Nantong, but we’ve already sorted out our transport.”

”What, no! Take our taxi, only 300 yuan! You’ve got too many suitcases. There’s no way you can carry those yourselves!”

”We’ve already got transport, we’re taking the train.”

”Don’t be absurd. Take our taxi, 280 yuan.”

”We’ve got transport!”

”Take our TAXI!!! There’s no fricking way you can carry all of those suitcase by yourselves!!! We’ll drop you by your door!”

”No, we’ve got transport, okay?! Leave us alone.”

”260 yuan?”


Oh, I have missed China ;)

Lesson learned today: The customer is ALWAYS wrong. Or absurd, apparently.

Update: when we got to my grandparents home, my grandma was so sweet and waited up for us, and cooked us a lovely dinner (which I preceded to take many photos of) which we were eating at 11pm:

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All I can say is nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom.