As the years went by, I found myself complaining more – the traffic, the bad drivers, so many conflicts around the world. Why can’t everyone just do the right thing, and the world could be a better place?
Some days, I thought I might have turned into a cranky person, like Mr. Chen.
Mr. Chen was a university friend to my father. During the culture revolution, his family was labeled as the enemy of the state. His house was searched, and wealth stripped; his father was prosecuted and thrown into jail; and Mr. Chen himself without a job or means to support himself. Like many others ahead of him, he took the dangerous journey to the Pearl River Delta, jumped into the river, and swam across the sea to seek freedom. He was shot at by the soldiers, but fortunately landed safely in Hong Kong. Worked as an engineer, he married a lady 10 years younger. He was very fond of Mrs. Chen and constantly praised her achievements, such as being able to speak fluent English, and had worked as an executive assistant to a hotel general manager.
The Chens migrated to Australia in early 1980s. With their savings, they bought a small grocery store at Rose Bay and an apartment at Point Piper, both are rich suburbs of Sydney. Their apartment, although had wonderful views of the Sydney harbor, was dark, miserable, and quite a mess.
When I arrived in Australia in late 1987, my father asked the Chens to provide me with guidance and helps. Whenever Mr. Chen had the opportunity, he would talk about Chinese politic. He spoke with the deepest anger and hatred, teeth crunching and fist waving. He yelled at me from time to time, for my lack of interest of his topics, and I did not keep my mouth firmly shut.
Within a few months, I found a job at a Chinese restaurant. The restaurant specialized in mid-north cuisine, such as Peking ducks and spicy Sichuan dishes. The Chens had dinner in the restaurant one night, and particularly liked the Shandong shredded chicken. They asked me to get the recipe, which was refused by the chef. The Chens did not speak to me ever since.
I found out many years later, that Mr. Chen told my parents, who were afar, that I was very naughty – I enjoyed working as a waitress; and I went out for suppers with with co-workers after work.
The last time I heard of the Chens, they were running a small restaurant in a suburban office park. Every morning at 3am, Mr. Chen, then 78 of age, got out of bed to collect supplies; then he joined his wife at the restaurant to work.
I can’t say that I appreciated my experience with Mr. Chen. But I sincerely hope they are enjoying their life, and are happy.
And here is my version of a Shandong chicken, recalling the ingredients and method I learnt from the restaurant. I first placed the chicken in brine overnight, then shallow-fried the chicken with soy sauce, steamed the chicken, shredded the chicken, and served the chicken with a tangy and spicy sauce.
The most important element of this dish is the sauce. It is sweet, sour, salty and spicy – just like life, never boring.
Recipe and easy steps are as follows:
Meals for the homeless: stir fry pork with soy sauce, lemon juice, tomato sauce, port wine, turmeric and cumin (gluten free option)
Pork shoulders are cheap this week – $6 a kilo at the supermarket, perfect for a tasty budget meal for our homeless friends.
I bought two pork shoulders, which gave me about 3kg of good quality meat after I trimmed off the fat and skin. I marinated the pork slices with dark soy sauce^, light soy sauce^, lemon juice, tomato sauce, brown sugar, port wine, turmeric, cumin and white pepper. I also added a cup of corn flour. I mixed the ingredients well, and left the pork in the fridge overnight, covered.
The next day I pan fried the pork in small batches, using a generous amount of cooking oil. I used the highest temperature possible, so I could achieve an intense ‘dry fry’ texture and taste. After I finished cooking the pork, I added some saute capsicum slices and saute green shallot (scallion) for colors.
It tasted delicious. I hope our homeless friends enjoyed the dish.
^use a gluten free soy sauce for a GF option.
Beef flank stew (牛腩) with Asian spices and soy sauce, my memory of the hawker stall on the ‘Poetry Book Road’ ( FODMAP friendly)
When I was a little girl, I walked to the primary school each day. I ate breakfast along the way. I had a ten cents allowance for two plain steamed buns each morning.
I walked down a street commonly known as the ‘Poetry Book Road’. For many years, the street was renamed as the ‘Red Book Road’ in honor of Chairman Mao’s red book of quotations.
At the end of the street, there was a tiny hawker stall selling beef flank and pig intestines. In winters, the hot steam rose from her big pots. The aroma of soy, star anise and clove lingered in the air, mouth-watering and irresistible. The stall operator was a middle age woman, short, chubby and never smiled. She had a pair of gigantic scissors that made loud ‘chop chop chop’ sound. When she received an order, she cut some small pieces off a larger piece, skillfully threading them to a bamboo stick without touching them with her hands. A stick with 3 pieces of juicy, fatty and heart-warming meat cost 10 cents. It was a difficult decision for a little girl – spending the 10 cents on a meat stick and be hungry for the rest of the morning, or two plain buns. I took some deep breaths (the aroma was so good) and nibbled on the tasteless buns.
Now I remembered, the two buns never filled me up anyway. At school I sat next to a boy whose name was ‘Bin’. We enjoyed a few laughs as our stomachs rumbled at the exact same moment.
I cooked beef flank many times over the past many years. It always brought back memories of the hawker stall on the Poetry Book Road.
Recipe is as follows: Read the rest of this entry »
When I was growing up in China, tofu was the cheapest protein and it was always plentiful. At the fresh food market they sold tofu on a large timber slab, carefully cutting out the required portion for each customer – 10 cents, 20 cents…
My grandmother loved pan frying tofu with load of cooking oil. She cut the tofu into little triangles then fried them until golden brown. She then finished cooking with a splash of soy sauce. What a mouth watering aroma!
Tonight I pan fried some tofu with soy sauce for dinner – the tofu was soft and heart warming.
* Use plain tofu for a FODMAP friendly recipe; use gluten free soy sauce for a gluten free option.
It was so easy to make: Read the rest of this entry »
An Italian man at my husband’s work keeps a few ducks in his back yard. He gave us some fresh eggs last week. The eggs reminded me a $20 fried egg dish I had at a posh Asian restaurant, garnished with plenty of green shallot and dark soy sauce.
‘I can cook that’, I said to myself. It was easy, I cracked an egg, shallow fried it in hot oil with some green shallot (scallion); then transferred the egg to a plate, splashed a little dark soy sauce on top. It looked colorful and delicious.
* Use the green part of the scallion for a FODMAP friendly version; use a gluten free soy sauce for a gluten free option.
Over twenty years ago I lived and worked in Tasmania. I fell in love with the stunning landscape and its beautiful bays. Recently we took our little boy to the east coast of Tasmania. The highlight of the trip was the walk at the Bay of Fire, jumping and running among the colorful rocks. I took many photos. Here are two of my favorite:
I was so fascinated by the ‘kiwi fruit’ on the rock, I decided to make a dish. I sauteed some finely chopped cauliflower and Spanish onion with a little cooking oil, spiced with some turmeric, cumin, garam masala, a little fresh chili and sea salt. The veggies were served with lightly grilled kiwi fruit slices – the ingredients complemented each other very well, sweet, sour and spicy.
So simple, no recipe required.
Cooking something nice in bulk and with a budget is not an easy task, often involving extra preparation time to trim and slice a cheaper cut of meat. Pork shoulder is one of the easier meat to prepare and cook in bulk. It is also so tasty and nutritious.
Last week I bought 2 large pork shoulders, about 5kg in weight. I trimmed off the skin and most of the fat, then thinly sliced the meat. I marinated the meat with BBQ sauce, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, maple flavor syrup, sherry, sesame oil, sesame seed and some potato starch. I left the meat in the fridge to settle for 2 days in a tight sealed container.
On Saturday for the homeless feed, I simply pan fried the sliced pork with some oil, onion and capsicum The meal looked and tasted delicious. At the street banquet, the dish was very popular and it disappeared quickly.
The simple method is as follows: