Cooking for the homeless – easy pulled pork with plum sauce, Char Siu sauce, dark soy sauce and cumin
I have been cooking for the homeless feed on some Saturdays. Trying to cope with work and the endless chores around the house, I was only able to cook simple meals for our homeless friends.
This week I made a simple Asian flavored pulled pork with plum sauce and Char Siu sauce. I used 5kg of pork shoulder. I first removed the skin and most of the fat under the skin; then I rub the meat with a jar of plum sauce, 1/2 jar of Char Siu sauce, 2 teaspoon of cumin powder and a few generous dashes of dark soy sauce; I marinated the meat in the fridge overnight.
The next morning, I placed pork in a pre-heated 180c (360f) oven for 30 minutes, tightly covered with foil; after 30 minutes, I reduced the temperature to 160c (320f), cooked the meat for further 30 minutes; then I turned the heat to 140c (280f) for further 2 hours. After that I left the meat in the oven for another 1 hour to settle, before I pulled the meat with 2 forks.
For the sauce, I mixed some corn flour with water; transferred half of the meat juice to a sauce pan, added the corn flour mixture, brought to a slow boil and stirred briefly as the sauce thicken. I poured the sauce on top of the meat.
We had some for dinner too, with boiled rice – tasted great.
I run an Asian food stall at the school fete each year to raise money for the school. It was load of work – a whole month of preparation rolling thousands of dumplings; the 2-hour sleep the night before the fete; and the stress about food quality and logistics.
But I loved it. I loved the families who helped to cook and served. I loved the families who enjoyed our food and left great comments on the social media. It is somehow all worthwhile.
Here is a quick video clip to share – families gathered at our house to wrap 1,000 dumplings a week before the fete. We then freeze the dumplings, boiled and then pan fried them on site at the school fete.
Here is a simple and delicious chicken drumsticks I cooked this afternoon, FODMAP friendly too.
I first frenched and marinated the chicken legs (skin on) overnight, with a dash of BBQ sauce, a dash of hoisin sauce, a dash of soy, a dash of sesame oil, a dash of maple syrup and some turmeric and cumin; The next day I roasted the drumsticks in oven; Once fully cooked, I heated up a frying pan with some cooking oil, rolled the drumsticks in hot oil then added a splash of dark soy sauce. The smell was delicious.
In Australia, my father is getting old. His back is aching and legs weak. “I ought to take my grandchildren to China,” he said, “to visit the villages where our ancestors lived, and see our countless relatives”.
We arrived at TaiShan on a beautiful sunny day. TaiShan is a county in the province of GuangDong, in Southern China. My late mother’s family came from a small farming village. My mother’s sister in law, my aunt and my cousins, still live there. There is not much farming nowadays, villagers live a simple life and rely mostly on family members working in the big cities.
We were lost at first, went to a wrong village. A loud and friendly woman spoke to one of my cousins on the phone, then pointed to a pathway along the rice fields. The woman and my cousin knew each other – they all do, living in small villages.
The villages were strikingly beautiful – lush rice paddock surrounded by small streams; aged buildings with white-washed walls fading away.
Our aunt and cousins were waiting for us outside the village. There were huge fig trees, with tables and chairs under the trees. Aunt cooked us a delicious lunch. Villages gathered around and watched us eat, talking and laughing.
After lunch, we walked to aunt’s house, along lane ways lined with houses built with blue and grey bricks.
I was fascinated by the doors, colorful and vibrant.
At the meantime, my little boy entertained himself trying to figure out how to break up a large block of ice, and pumping water from a well.
The huge block of ice was for a 2-year old girl’s ‘shaving party’ that evening. It is a tradition to have a banquet for a one-month old birthday; if any of the little ones didn’t have an one-month birthday party, he or she could have a ‘shaving party’ as a replacement. The whole village was invited, quite a big event.
Under the beautiful fig trees, men were busy cooking up a feast, using the simplest cooking equipment and utensils.
Their equipment and utensils were borrowed from the village houses, well used and battered.
We visited many houses, enjoying homemade traditional snacks – pork and rice wrapped in banana leafs, sweet red bean & tapioca wrapped in banana leafs, steamed water chestnut cakes, glutinous rice dumplings, and steamed sweet rice balls.
I have not seen my aunt and cousins for over 35 years, but I still remembered vividly how poor they (and we) were. During my teen age years, I once stayed with them over a summer holiday. We fished for frogs, clams and snails to eat, and barely had enough rice to fill our tummies. I remember my late uncle, skinny and hunching, carrying a heavy load of organic (e.g. human) fertilizer to the field, using a bamboo stick and two wooden buckets.
Today, my eldest cousin, Zhong, is a trained mechanic. His son and his beautiful wife have a 2-year old daughter. Zhong travels with his son across China, maintain and repair equipment. They live in a newly built house that is modern and spacious. My second cousin, Yuan, married a dim sim chef. They have a lovely teenage daughter. They are wonderfully warm people who opened their homes and their hearts to us.
We said goodbye to my aunt, cousins and their families. We hope to return one day very soon.
Tomato and egg soup, with Chinese mushroom and miso, memories of friends from the GuangYa Middle School (廣東廣雅中學)
In the 1980s, I attended a local selective school called “GuangYa” in Southern China. It was one of the few schools with boarding facilities. During high school years, boarding was compulsory so the school could control the kids academic progress with minimum disruption. We worked really hard and rarely did anything remotely exciting. On the weekends, other kids were eager to return home to their families. I liked to stay in the school over the weekends to avoid home, a place lack of warmth.
There were a few other kids staying behind too, mostly boys. It was scary to stay in the empty dormitory on my own. It was a huge room lined with over 20 bunk beds, dimly lighted with a few bare bulbs, and filled with dark shadows. There were no cleaners, the kids took turns to sweep the floor. So the room was full of spider webs and dust.
I tried to persuade some other girls to stay behind too. Two of my good friends, Yi and Qin, stayed with me sometimes. We studied the whole weekend at our own pace without bells and patrolling teachers – it was rather peaceful. The school canteen was closed and we were to manage our own meals.
At the back of the school, there was a busy bus terminal, a noodle shop and a few small grocery shops. A strip of the street was occupied by a few vendors that sold fruits, vegetables and some other basic essentials. We often ate noodles for dinner, and brought back a few eggs and vegetables to make soup for supper – we were peckish after our evening study sessions. With no cooking equipment available, we used a small electric kettle.
One of our favorite soups was the tomato and egg soup. It was the simplest soup you could imagine – drop some diced tomato and an egg in the boiling water, a quick stir, salt to taste (or a little soy sauce), and some chopped coriander. The soup is done in 2 minutes, light and delicious.
Ah, good old days – hardship and friendships.
I am visiting China in a few weeks, and I will be seeing Yi and Qin. It has been 30 years since we said good-bye to each other. I crossed the oceans and moved so very far away from my friends. Today, Yi is a devoted Buddhist and Qin is an energetic entrepreneur.
Here is my more creative version of an egg and tomato soup, with a Chinese mushroom and miso base. I am looking forward to see Yin, Qin and some of my school friends again in a few weeks.
I didn’t write up the recipe – imagination and creativity work best for this dish.
This morning, I soaked a few dry Chinese mushrooms in hot water no particular recipes in mind. Dinner time, I found some fresh mushrooms and a capsicum at the bottom of the fridge, and made this simple stir fry.
So simple, no recipe required +- slice everything and throw them in a frying pan over high heat; Add a dash of cooking oil, a little oyster sauce, a little sesame oil and white pepper; toss for a few minutes; and it is done; garnish with sliced shallot (scallion) and sesame seeds.
Tradition Chinese herbal tea with ‘dang gui’ 當歸, goji berries 枸杞 and red dates 红枣 – a quick pick-me-up (vegan)
There are so many different types of Chinese herbs, some of them are gender specific. ‘Dang gui’ 當歸 is a traditional ‘female ginseng’ for boosting health and wellness. It was said to increase blood supply and improve circulation, reduce menstrual pain, assist with hydration and anti-aging. My mother used to make me a remedy with ‘dang gui’, goji berries and Chinese red dates. It worked like a magic as a quick pick-me-up.
Overworked and tired, I made myself some ‘dang gui’ tea today.
Here the simple instruction on how to make the herbal tea. Dan gui, goji berries and red dates are available from most Chinese grocery stores in Australia.
Please consume in moderation.