Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sisters taught me: P.U.S.D. cake

The clock strikes at 1 a.m. and it happens again. Cravings for something delish from home awaken in my pit of a stomach; obviously she refuses to change time zones. The pineapple on top of my fridge is finally ripe and begging me to use it. The first thing that comes to mind is the wonderful pineapple upside down cake I ate every Saturday at the St. Joseph of Cluny residence. I pause to thank the Sisters of this house for the unconditional love, support and teaching throughout my adolescent and adult life and this cake that is forever seared in the memory of my food sac stomach.

P.U.S.D cake is traditionally made with a base/cover of caramelized tinned pineapple, maraschino cherries and shredded coconut but as you know at Watermelon and Cheese we have to adapt a lot...but hey, we never lose the here goes.

Pineapple -Where Have You Been- Upside Down Cake

Make 2 8 inch cakes

1 medium sized pineapple, sliced
3/4 cup demerara brown sugar
3/4 cup butter

Top: Adapted from the 'Real taste of Jamaica' 1-2-3-4 plain cake recipe
3 cups sifted flour
2 cups white sugar
1 cup butter
4 eggs
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice (made by boiling the skin. if using actual pineapple juice, decrease white sugar by 1/2 cup)
Silvers of lemon peel

1. Cream butter and sugar together using a electric mixer (Mommy please forgive my laziness) for 2 minutes or until fluffy.  In a small bowl, beat eggs with lemon peel. In a total of four additions, mix eggs with butter and sugar mixture. Result should be creamy. Remember to remove the lemon peel.

2. In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together. Add dry mix and pineapple juice to the butter and sugar mix in additions of 4 and 3 respectively, beginning and ending with the dry mix.

3. To make the caramel, first melt butter in pan. Using low heat, add brown sugar and constantly stir for no more than 4 minutes. In warmer climates, this can be done before making the batter. Place caramel at the bottom of the baking dish and cover decoratively with pineapple slices. If you happen to use diced pineapples, the taste is not affected, however it may appear a bit mushy as you will see below.

4. Add batter to the pan and pop into the oven for about 40 mins or till an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

5. If you are patient enough, allow to cool for 10 minutes and then remove from pan. Slice and distribute. Note to self and others: Never walk out of the room before saving yourself a slice because a slice is all you will get.
Top: Cake using diced pineapples
Bottom: The slice I almost never had

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bite me Christmas: Guinness Stout Punch

No coincidence the supermarket had this in stock for Christmas

As a kid, I recall being bombarded with multiple TV ads of  "Guinness, it's good for you", "I got the power" remixes and a superhero named Micheal Power who could escape fires and land unscathed from high buildings. An after-work Friday lime was not complete without a Guinness (T.G.I.F = True Guinness Is Forever). With the addition of milk, angostura bitters, a dash of spices and sometimes an egg, it evolves into a punch for contenders of the World Strongest Man competition or at least makes you feel like one.

If Barbie drank Guinness....

For the ultimate hookup recipe check Chris at and bring in your Christmas Eve feeling unstoppable.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bite me Christmas: Malta

I absolutely love and miss malta, especially the Vita Malt brand. Although it is available all the time, my parents always kept a case around at Christmas, so I tend to associate it with this season. Malta is made by brewing barley and hops and is later sweetened and carbonated. It's non-alcoholic so its smooth, creamy taste can be enjoyed by all.

Vita Malt, in particular, is said to provide energy and a great amount of nutrients (Vita stands for vitamin).
According to the website a 330ml bottle contains 50g carbohydrates, 42g of which are sugars, 2g Protein and 30mg Sodium.Yes, you saw right, no fat! Celebrate! Celebrate! Please continue to drink in moderation. I've got my eyes on you. On another website, it was stated that a malta beverage usually contains various amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc, Iron, Phosphorus, Manganese, Selenium, Copper and Sodium. No wonder those Vita Malt sponsored teams were so hard to beat.

Taste varies from brand to brand and also within the brand. After all every customer in every region must be satisfied. Denmark's, the original producer, is lighter and less frothy than the Caribbean produced. What can I say? We always go all out. But I'll tell you, the more I think about that dark-brown mountain, the more I need to be home for Christmas. Not much could compare to sipping an icy Vita Malt and ole talk. So no more talking. Let's look at some photos.

Update with pictures from home coming soon....

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

真的吗?:Winter Coming Day 冬至

What I actually meant to say was Winter Solstice Day which occurs the 22nd of December every year. Roughly translated, it can be called Winter Coming Day although honestly, it really felt like winter 'done came' through these parts. Any advice for this island girl on how to keep warm?

The longest night of the year is usually spent with family and friends eating a dinner of dumplings and mutton, both of which are considered heating foods. One mao ( a Chinese ten cent) is placed in one of the dumplings, so everyone bites carefully until it is found. The winner is granted good luck for the rest of the season and the dumplings are eaten at leisurely pace one more.

Lovely bowl of steamed dumplings

Sauces and soups are the key to a great dinner

Mutton and vegetables cooking in a well seasoned soup

Recently, I found my own form of 'luck' in these sequential one yuan (a Chinese dollar). So happy that they were not hundreds so I am perfectly content with saving them.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bite me Christmas: Spicy Cocoa Tea

呵呵呵圣诞节快乐!! Merry Christmas to all my readers!! Well in advance hehehe.....This Christmas season's countdown features Grenadian cuisine that warm the heart, mind and most importantly the body.

This wonderfully flavored chocolate is the proof of my country's resilience in the face of Hurricane Ivan's destruction in 2004.

It's earthy, fruity and all over rich. It can be eaten raw but I love to make cocoa tea with it. Not to mention that it much easier to use than the traditional method :P

This tea is brought to life by organically grown spices and raw brown sugar. Condensed milk is a must have or else my ancestors will cry a rainstorm from the heavens.

Spicy Cocoa Tea

4 cups water
1 1/2 cups plain milk
3 tbsp condensed milk
1 tbsp demerara brown sugar
1 ounce (4 blocks) of  'The Grenada Chocolate Company' 100% Cocoa
A rich assortment of fresh ginger slices, cinnamon pieces, dried citron leaves, and dried bay leaves
Pinch of salt

1. Bring spices and water to a boil. Continue boiling for 5 mins while your nose enters olfactory bliss.

2. Lower heat and stir in plain milk, condensed milk and sugar. Boil on high heat for about 3 mins.

3. Add cocoa block by block, gently stirring and melting.  Boil another 5 minutes, allowing flavors to combine.

4. Lastly, add a pinch of salt to give your tea some depth.

5. Curl up your favourite cup, book or someone and sip slowly.

6. Makes about 4 servings. Extra can be frozen in paper cups for about a week for easy reheating.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bite me: 冰糖葫芦 Bing Tanghulu fruit

Don't they look yummy....I guarantee you they taste even better than they look. These fruits are placed on a bamboo stick and then coated in a sweet syrup made from rock sugar 冰糖 Bīngtáng. Rock sugar is preferred because it offers a more complete flavor than ordinary white sugar.  Although it contains mor e calories, its full taste allows you to use less of it, therefore eliminated that concern, if it is one of yours. All this transforms the fruit, already packed with nutrients, into a super duper snack for the winter.

Originally, Chinese hawthorns were used because of their contrasting sour taste. Over time, however, other tart fruits and even nuts have been introduced to this enjoyable winter snack.

Chongqing winter weather rarely drops below zero, so we can safely thank the northern states of China for sharing this with the rest of the country.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cooking @ Dawn: Baked Pineapples

Living in the south of China has its perks. While my friends are complaining of knee-deep snow, I'm still sporting my sneaks. But I must be clear. These warm days are totally sporadic, so unfortunately the flu crept up on me. My aversion to pills had me up at dawn searching for soothing throat relief. With no citrus in sight, I turned to the next best thing: Pineapples.

The following recipe is great because 1) pineapple has a rich Vitamin C content, the official go-to for colds and flu, which gives the immune system a boost 2) pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain which can reduce pain, swelling and mucus 3) ginger, in addition to that beautiful burning sensation, also contains antioxidants and nutrients that you body needs at this time 4) honey has wonderful antibacterial properties and 5) dawn...need I say more....actually I do. My original intention was temporary comfort but then the next day I felt so much better: headache and sore throat all relieved. Thank God for pineapples!

Baked Pineapple

1 Pineapple, peeled sliced and ready to go
2 tsp red wine of your choice
1 tsp honey
2 tsp ground ginger

1. In a bowl, mix wine, honey and ginger.

2. Slightly base your pan with the mix, since the pineapple slices will release its juices.

3. Bake until pineapple slices slightly reduce in size. We don't want to lose the nutritional value after all.

4. Munch the flu away....

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bite me: 我们跟土家族一起吃吧!Lunch with the Tujia people

People often compare life to a 'Rat Race' but across here I feel more like a part of an ant colony. We  They all walk the same, headed in the same direction and if one person breaks pattern then confusion is amiss. But if you are one of those who think that all Asians look alike, like me, you would discover differently.

China is mainly comprised of the Han nationality, along with 55 recognized minorities. But you don't notice it at first. I'll admit I was one of those who though everyone was cut from the same cloth and at one point even distinguished my classmates by hairstyles. But now, I graciously admit my error and even discovered that most locals have a hard time distinguishing me from other foreigners. So please, no need to take offense. Now back on topic.

The Tujia minority (土家族) are considered the native citizens of Chongqing and are known as a cultivating people. Grains and provisions such as potato accompany sour and spicy meats.

What struck me at first, wasn't the food but the bowls. In previous articles I have shown that dishes are served on personal sized plates which are impossible to finish by one person but at this restaurant, there were the cutest bowls for a perfect bite size.

Personal sized plates

Various dishes prepared Tujia style

Actually everything had a rustic and earthy feel to it, including the seating and decor and you could really experience the spirit of the people. Definitely have to note that the rice was mixed with corn grain, which is a rare find but a true testament to the essence of Tujia.

Without a doubt, the flavor and heart of this new discovery has guaranteed it as one of my weekly lunch stops.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

真的吗?: Brown Sugar fortified with Donkey Hide Gelatin

Compliments Google

When shopping in China one must not leave the house with this one thing...sunglasses.... because cashiers, customers and even babies are undercover paparazzi. What is most important though, is a translator. My Pleco translator always saves the day when I'm in the vegetable section and despite names like Granny Lettuce and Moonlight Tomatoes (no I didn't make those up), my meals are always healthy and tasty. Today however, we hit a bump in the road. While perusing the brown sugar section, I encountered an immense challenge. As hard as I searched for raw brown sugar, I only found ginger, pepper, jujube and lots of something called Ejiao brown sugar. Excited about a new product, I plugged in '阿胶' into Pleco and got the following result:

Yup...that's right. Donkey skin. After all these years, I can still come face to face with food that leaves me speechless. Needless to say, brown sugar shopping was left for another day.

All of my Caribbean childhood, I was taught that brown sugar is healthy because of its unrefined state. In China, however, the clean appearance of refined white sugar is preferred and so in order to sell brown sugar, it is often enhanced with various functional foods and nutrients. The appearance of these sugars are usually dark, powdered and sometimes damp. Ginger provides antioxidants and can sooth the digestive system. Pepper provides antioxidants of a different family which are considered anti-bacterial and anti-carcinogenic. Jujube or Chinese dates nourish the nerves, strengthen skin and intensifies the effects of other herbs.

Donkey hide gelatin
Donkey hide gelatin steals the show. It promotes stronger bones, improves immunity, helps with anxiety, improves the function of the circulatory system and here's the bonus, enhances natural beauty. Who said no new friends for 2014?

Donkey hide gelatin brown sugar

Any of these sugars can be mixed with herbs and hot water at the beginning of the day to promote a healthy lifestyle. Interested anyone? Let me know below.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mommy taught me: Fried Rice

One beautiful week in September, Ochro appeared in the supermarket. Mind you, I hated this vegetable at home, but when you're thousands of miles away from the people and things you love, all of that goes out the window. I immediately hauled a bag and raced home to prepare it. Problem was, since I didn't eat it that much, I didn't know where to start. So I did what any hungry person would do; I got creative or as Tim Gunn would say: Made it work. Here's a fried rice that takes Caribbean seasonings and local ingredients for the perfect blend of two homes in one.

Island Chao Fan (fried rice)

2 cups cooked rice, cooled (I usually flavor with rosemary and garlic)
1/4 cup carrot, diced
1/4 cup ochro, thinely sliced
1/4 cup tofu gan, diced
Chopped onion
Chopped green peppers
Dash of cumin
Black pepper and salt to taste
Favorite oil

1. Pour about 2 tsp of oil in the heated pan. Add seasonings and saute for about 30 seconds.

2. Add vegetables and tofu and stir constantly until cooked. When the ochro begins drying up is a good sign.

3. Add rice and mix together with vegetables.  When thoroughly cooked, serve with your favorite side dish.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bite me: 饺子 Chinese dumplings

Freshly wrapped dumplings ready to boil
Let's have a quick vocabulary lesson: A Caribbean dumpling is a tight dough of flour, water and salt that is boiled and served with salted fish, stewed chicken or steamed provision. Shapes vary from island to island and include long rods, table tennis balls or flat pancake. A Chinese dumpling uses a flat, thinner dough which is wrapped around minced meat or vegetables with a sophisticated, decorative close. Like Caribbean dumplings, technique is of paramount importance, and a skilled master can fold as many as 100 dumplings in 15 mins.
Boiled dumplings, best eaten hot.
The name is said to come from the Chinese word for horn (Jiǎo, 角) because of its shape, until it was eventually given its own character (Jiǎo,饺). Pork, beef, cabbage, and mushrooms  are common and delicious fillings. Dumplings can be boiled, steamed or fried and trust me, they taste AH-MUH-ZING.  They are mainly served with soy sauce and in Chongqing you gotta add that chili. Although enjoyed all year round, they are the must-have of Chinese new year, especially in northern China..sort of like salted ham is to Caribbean Christmas.
Steamed dumplings eaten fresh from a bamboo basket
I'm not sure why the dumpling lost its filling when it got to the Caribbean but I am grateful for both versions. So whether it's fighting over the last dumpling from a pot of Grenadian oil down or finishing a bamboo basket of steamed pork dumplings all by myself, you can ALWAYS count me in.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bite me: 柿子 Persimmons

I've never seen the supermarket look so orange or filled with oranges. That's my indication that autumn is drawing to a close. And to think I nearly missed out on the most amazing fruit this season. My first thought was a sun-burnt tomato but that was impossible in this weather. Then I thought maybe a hybrid of some sorts. Yep, I was pretty lost. If you haven't figured out what fruit I'm referring to, then like I was, you're in for a sweet surprise.

Persimmons are abundant in autumn and when ripe, literally burst their skins like water balloons. The insides of this particular species are soft, pulpy and sticky sweet. Let's talk nutrients. Here in China it's said, 'Only eat an apple a day, if you can't find a persimmon' meaning it is basically twice as nutritious as your average fruit. What persimmons lack in copper and iron, they make up for in Vitamin C (daily requirement in just 100g). While you ponder on how to make persimmons a part of your life, take a glance at the table below.

Nutritional value per 25g of fruit

Vitamins (mg)

Minerals (µg)

A (µg)
B12 (µg)
Biotin (µg)
K (µg)

P (µg)


Folate - B9 (µg)

Niacin - B3

Pantothenic acid -B5

Persimmons are also great for the healthy function of your heart, lungs and stomach and removes 'heat' from your system, a necessity for us Chongqing residents. But as tempting as it is to do otherwise, only consume after a meal, using as little skin as possible.

Dried persimmon snack

Here's a little tip: If you can find this fruit in your area, freeze the pulp and make yourself a moist, lush fruit cake all year round. With health and taste in one bite, you can't go wrong.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bite me: 山东杂粮煎饼 Shandong Multigrain Pancake

Heading back to the streets, I bring you le pancake. First let's take a glance at Shandong, one of the coastal provinces of China. With Korea and Japan as neighbours, the city maintains quite an economic presence but is obviously also well known in the cuisine department. How else would I taste a Shandong pancake in Shanghai, Hubei, Chongqing and Guangzhou....made by non-Shandongnians. So you know, somewhere on my 'Things to taste before I'm kicked out of China' list is a 100 % genuine Shandong pancake.

Starting with a multi-grain batter (杂粮),the skilled master spreads it unto a heated plate. This is joined by an egg and some chives which are heated just right to finish the race together.

It's time to fill 'er up
Now for the inside. Standard filling is meat sauce, pickled veggies, cilantro, lettuce and bumpy biscuit ( I'm pretty sure that's not the name).  Optional fillings are meat floss (肉松), pork or corn sausage and if you are in Chongqing, surely some pepper flakes.

Then it's cut in half and bagged. It's always prepared fresh because it should be eaten hot. Wish I could send you guys one because it's sooo good.  In the meantime, I'll eat as many as I can for you. Farewell till next post.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

真的吗?: Heating and Cooling foods

My supermarket is on fire this month. These rich, warn colors fill me up and over with joy and happiness. But what if I told you, they actually cool me down. Chinese medicine teaches that the body's yin (cooling) and yang(heating) can be balanced by an individual's diet and so accordingly, have arranged food into groups based on the energy they provide the body.

Let start with peppers, chili and ginger. When we consume them, we feel a burn  from mouth through tunnel to end, even hours or days later. These are considered heating foods. Other examples of high energy foods are chicken, mutton, shrimp, pumpkin, onion and some red-colored fruits. This is not a myth. Prior to my knowledge on this topic, there were two occasions where eating pumpkin soup lead to me removing my a 15 degree Celsius environment. I must also clarify that a hot meal does not guarantee making you feel hot but in fact, may cool you down depending on its main ingredients. For instance while hot green tea cools your down, hot chocolate heats you up. In Chongqing, high energy foods are often eaten to balance the effect of high humidity on the skin by literally 'pushing' the water out.

Milk, eggs, pork, beef, most beans, nuts and  fish, and in contrast to its color, carrots produce neither high or low energy and therefore serve as fillers in most meals.

Foods that remove heat are tofu, seaweed, most green vegetables and citrus fruits as well as fruits with a high water content like watermelon, pineapple and dragon fruit. What a blessing to have fruit and sunshine!

Expert holds various opinions on foods and their energies. Cooking techniques and the presence of other ingredients etc. also have the ability to change their effect. For instance, pig heart and meat are considered neutral whereas pig liver is considered heating. Therefore, these aren't hard and fast rules, just assistance when you experience different seasons and climates and need to cool down or heat up as necessary. Experiment sometime and let me know your experiences below.

For more reading check out the following links:

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bite me: 蛋挞 Egg tarts

KFC is best known for its 12 foot long smell but it's also known for its tasty desserts e.g. apple pie and parfait. In China, the most popular KFC dessert is the egg tart. It's a basic update of the European egg tart from the days when Portugal ruled Macau, south of China. It traveled further up to menus in Guangzhou, Chongqing and Chengdu and now, can be found in any Asian branch of KFC. Always served fresh and hot, this egg pudding is baked in either puff pastry or pie crust for a great snack to nibble on.
The popular KFC egg tart

The filling is slightly sweet in taste, with some versions including fruit or meat. Since it became a star (got its own television commercial), it can be found in bakeries and guess egg tart shops where they are bought by the dozen! With the winter close by, keep warm and eat with the fam.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Daddy taught me: Infused Oils

Rummaging through my spice basket, I came across some home-grown and dried rosemary. I always cook rosemary and garlic flavored rice but I longed to do something more challenging. Then I remembered the oil bottles that lined our kitchen counter.  Infused oils are really simple and gives food a whole different scope.  Seasonings such as rosemary, cloves, chili pepper and garlic are a great place to start. They are great in salads, meats, baked goods etc. Here are two simple recipes, one for the cooks and one for team natural hair. As always, I encourage experimenting in the kitchen.

Rosemary infused oil

small bottle/jar 
olive oil (preferred for its flavor but not necessary)
dried rosemary

1. On a clean surface, crush rosemary into smaller bits to increase the richness of the flavor.

2. In your container of choice, pour in the desired amount of oil and cover adequately with rosemary. Ensure that the oil is completely covered to maintain oil quality. Tightly cover the container.

3. Place container in a dark, dry place e.g. a cupboard for about 21 days. 

4. Once ready for use, you can strain and place in a fresh container. I prefer to keep it in the original container and strain at the time of cooking. Whichever is more convenient for you.

5. For long lasting taste, keep in a shaded area.

6. For team natural, simply add lavender to the mix, for a soothed scalp and stronger hair.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bite me: 老婆饼 Wife cake

I have a deep love for pastry that followed me all the way to China so I am always on the lookout for a new sweet treat. After eyeing this lady for awhile, I finally got the courage to take it to the next level. Turns out she is quite the romantic herself. Wife cake, also known as sweetheart cake, is linked to many heartfelt, love sacrifice stories as is common in Chinese culture. This pastry is very popular in my city Chongqing and most of South China. Tasty puff pastry layers hug a sweet, sticky paste of wax gourd, sesame seeds, rice powder and sugar and is easy to fall in love with. The fact that there's more filling than pastry is a plus. I always eat these when there's no chocolate to pick up my mood. After all, who doesn't like a good wifey to make the day all better?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bite me: 凉糕 Cool Cake

Cool cake or 凉糕 Liáng gāo is another great snack for the summer and even autumn months. It's a starch jelly-like pudding with a very simple taste that makes it easy to eat. And you actually feel cooler after a few minutes of eating. I had the amazing opportunity to make my own, free of preservatives and had so much fun making different flavors.


The original version is made with rice powder, Amorphophallus konjac powderCarrageenan powdersalt and water. Amorphophallus konjac is a root plant that is very common to the Asian region. When powdered, it is extremely low in calories (no protein, carbs or fats) and high in soluble fiber, so it plays a huge role in the weight loss industry and regulating diabetes. Carrageenanlike agar, is found in seaweed and is a vegan alternative to gelatin. Adding sweet potato powder produces a purple brown version and a soft hint of sweetness for a more delicate taste. Adding  powder of the Prema plant gives a green shrubby color and slight bitterness. But if it's one thing I've learnt, bitter flavors shadow a whole ton of health advantages. Check them out here

Some serve it with brown sugar syrup for a sweet dessert or lime and soy sauce for a more savory snack. Either way Cool Cake is fun to eat.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Bite me: 雪耳汤 Snow Fungus soup

When it comes to Chinese desserts, 'chocolaty' and 'creamy' aren't the first words that come to mind. And that's actually a good thing. After eating heavy meals, something more relaxing on the tummy should be considered and that's where Chinese desserts take the cake, no pun intended.  They balance salty with sweet, spicy with bland or hot with cold right next to yin and yang, food for the spirit man.

One night, after a pepper-laden dinner, there came Snow Fungus soup to rescue my roaring insides. From the first bite, I immediately knew that the world would be a little safer that night.

Tremella fociformis is commonly known as Snow, White Wood or Silver Ear Fungus and is the main ingredient in this soup. It works well for anti-aging, dry coughs and boosting the immune system when eaten over a long period of time. In the short term, it cools down the digestive and circulatory system so it's perfect on hot days with hot food.

The soup is so easy prepare. It can be flavored with nuts, fruits and spices to blend with the soft, yet crunchy yumminess of the fungus so feel free to make it as nutritious as possible.

Snow White Forest Soup

30g dried Snow fungus
Handful of Goji berries
Handful of dried Jujube (optional)
Sugar to taste

1. Soak fungus in hot water until well swollen.
 Strain and cut out any discoloured pieces.

2. Bring fungus to a boil for about 3 minutes.

3. Place goji berries and jujube in a bowl.
 Add fungus and boiling water and then sweeten to taste

4. Refrigerate and served chilled.