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.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

真的吗?:How to treat burns

There is nothing like your lips making contact with your cup of tea when you're suddenly interrupted by a scorched tongue. You hope your tongue would man up so you can finish drinking but instead you have to abandon the whole idea.

Those kind of burns are pretty easy to get over. In two to three days, if that long, the numbness and dryness of the area is healed. In the meantime, ice chips and yogurt are great for soothing the pain. Some have even suggested honey and tea but I say who lets a fly back in, after chasing it outside.

Skin, on the other hand, doesn't heal as quickly as the tongue, for reasons you can read about here, so the outcome of your burn and scar depends on how you act in that moment.

Firstly, turn off whatever you're cooking (the chicken and chips can wait) and focus on YOU. So long as you feel that sizzle, your skin cells are frying away. A wet cloth is very soothing but your best option is running water. Water helps to carry heat away from the area. You should do this for a couple minutes or until the pain has subsided. If you notice water balloons under your skin, you officially have second degree burns. Please don't pop them. Clean your hands and the area with water and soap. Depending on the area, you can apply gauze but the best option is open air healing. Clean and reapply gauze every couple days. When the skin has dried and healed, treat daily with coconut oil to lessen any darkening of the skin.

How do I know all this? These are the things I should have done. I experienced second degree burns that left me immobile for 2 weeks because I wouldn't stop frying that chicken (the struggle is real for this vegetarian).

Finally a little True or False:

Toothpaste be used on burns? True. Works very well on minor burns e.g from a flat iron or pot graze. Speeds up the healing process.

Petroleum jelly be used on burns? False. My granny used to slather me in lard so I know. No form of oil or grease should be used on a fresh burn as it blocks air from reaching the bruise and slows down the healing process.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bite me: 刨冰 Crushed Ice

Compliments Dwain Thomas Photography
As a kid, my Saturday was not complete without 1/ flying fish lunch meal at Royal Castle and 2/ condensed milk-covered snow cone. It became a special ritual for me. Crushing the ice with my straw and watching the red and yellow syrup slowly blend into each other, defenseless against the milky swirls. But you know what really made this snow cone special? The spicy tones of the syrup. They transformed sugar and ice into a sacred delicacy and poignant childhood memory.

Crushed ice has a similar hold on Chinese kids. Actually in some translations, it's called 8 Treasure Ice and comes in a variety of options, the only constant being the ice. Toppings include jello, coconut jelly, chilled fruit, nuts, beans, and ice cream. It's definitely a mouthful of texture and flavor with that 'put together' feel.

Even though I saw the contents beforehand, every time the spoon hit my tongue, I felt I was in the middle of a calculus problem.

The rice balls were new to me, so I took awhile to adjust.

Then a beautiful angel whispered to me "You have to turn it up to TURN IT UP" (must have been from Atlanta or something). And sure enough mixing it around did the trick. I left the cafe with fruity breath and a smile on my face.

Basically, you can find this at any local cafe *in the summer time, when the weather is fine*. Give it a chance and this treasure may just reach the top of your dessert list.