'The true cook is the perfect blend, the only perfect blend, of artist and philosopher. He knows his worth: he holds in his palm the happiness of mankind, the welfare of generations yet unborn.'

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

笑口棗 Fried sesame balls for Chinese New Year

As I write, it's New Year's Eve in Chinese calender, and soon we'll enter the year of the sheep. It's also the first time in five years that I'll spend the holiday in Hong Kong. Like Christmas, this is a time of homecoming when long separated family members reunite and gather round the parents' home. The customs vary in different parts of China, but it always involves 1. red packets (which I have received a couple) which are essentially pocket money from the elders to the young, and 2. lots of seasonal food.

Most of the food consumed in this time is made with rice, as the word for rice cake (年糕) rhymes with 年高 (a better/higher year). They come in many varieties and in Guangdong the three main varieties are radish, yam and cane sugar. Since these can be bought everywhere now even outside of China, I'm sharing another New Year's snack that is popular in Hong Kong: 笑口棗 which literally means 'laughing doughnuts'. Traditionally Cantonese families would fry crispy treats before the New Year to stock up their pantry for guests to nibble on. These doughnuts are essentially the same as a scone dough except that no dairy is used, and are fried as little balls coated with sesame seeds (rather than baked). The name 笑口棗 refers to the white interior which looks like a laughing mouth that puffs up after frying. To achieve this, the oil temperature mustn't be too hot or the protein on the surface of the dough will coagulate prematurely and the ball will not puff up in a 'laughing' manner. Who can resist crunchy fried doughnuts studded with sesame seeds? Forget the storebought versions that are as hard as a rock and taste of rancid oil and get frying!

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Green tea ice cream... sort of!

Too sweet!
One of the nice things about living in Asia is easy access to green tea desserts. They have always been popular here in Hong Kong, but in the past few years vendors selling green tea soft serve ice cream have popped up everywhere in the city. You will see very long queues at these places paying pretty steep prices (US$5?) for a cone of green tea ice cream.

For a matcha addict like myself, it's nice to be able to slurp on matcha ice cream while hanging out, but they are invariably TOO sweet and rather stingy on the amount of matcha they put in. I want more green tea! (Well, some of my friends actually think they're matcha enough, but not for me!) Much better, then, to whip up your own icy matcha dessert! Since not everyone has an ice cream machine, I'm opting for a parfait which is in essence whipped egg yolks folded with whipped cream - similar to the Italian semifreddo. It is then frozen and usually sliced for serving. This frozen dessert is very popular in the UK and France but rarer in the US, where 'parfait' means some kind of layered dessert. This version as a pure, unadulterated matcha flavour unhindered by excessive sugar. It can be served as it is or as a component of plated desserts.

Friday, 30 January 2015

I'm back!

If any of you happen to still be following this blog, I sincerely apologise for the prolonged neglect... I know it's been donkey's years since I attended to the blog... but I had a excuse reason! Last year I was focusing on finishing my doctoral degree in music in Cincinnati, Ohio and I just had to cramp all my coursework and recital in that year. I still cooked a bit but somehow my mental focus just wasn't there to update the blog.

In July, I left Cincinnati after five years of study back to Hong Kong. I never expected to miss the place as much as I would, but above all it's the people I met there that I miss the most. Life has to go on, but the people and the events that I met and experienced in Cincinnati will always stay with me wherever I go.

Have you ever wondered why my blog is called 'Food Locker'? The profile picture you see is an actual locker at the university where I used to put baked goods for friends. I would text them if I'd baked something, and they would go fetch the sweets - yes, they did know the code!

My office as a teaching assistant... not focusing on my job!

My health hasn't been great, either. Ever since coming back to Hong Kong I have been almost constantly ill with some ongoing issues. BUT I decided it's time to for a fresh start and not to remain idle! Sorry to have missed your comments and messages for so long - I'm back!

My piano studio
The beautiful Greek Orthodox Church where I was organist