Chicken

Snow fungus (雪耳), goji berries (枸杞) and chicken soup

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Snow fungus, goji berry and chicken soup

Cantonese love soups.

There are soups for every weather condition, every season and very occasion. There are soups to warm your body, or to cool your temper. The key to a good soup is to balance all the ingredients for maximum nurturing effect. Snow fungus with goji and chicken is one of these well-balanced soups that can rejuvenate your mind and soul.

Snow fungus, also known as the silver fungus, is sometimes recognized as the champion of all fungus.  Historically it was used by the royals and rich families as a remedy to boost their health, with supposedly nurturing effects for internal organs, skin and brain, as well as anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects.

Goji berries as a herbal remedy, was documented in various ancient Chinese medicine compendiums dated as early as the 1500’s. Today, it is a common Chinese ingredient with supposedly positive effects on liver, kidney, sore back, joints, tiredness and poor eye sight. Families use it frequently in soups and teas.

Sounds like a magic, doesn’t it. The soup is warm, gentle and comforting. Hope you will like it.

Easy method is as follows:

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Meals for the homeless – chicken siumai dumplings

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Winter is finally here, and it rained most days last week. This means it was very uncomfortable for our rough sleepers, with many of them having to seek shelter at temporary accommodation. However, I was assured that they would not miss our homemade hot meals on Saturday night. So I made an extra effort to provide them with some nice food – apricot chicken, prawn and chorizo pilau, and chicken siumai dumplings.

Although time consuming, chicken siumai dumplings are very easy to make. My simplest version has only a few key ingredients – wonton wrappers, chicken mince, chicken bouillon powder, salt and white pepper, and cooking oil for pan frying.

Meals for the homeless - chicken siumai dumplings
I first made the meat filling, then the dumplings. I steamed the dumplings, following by pan-frying the dumplings slightly, so they won’t stick during transit to the homeless feed.

The easy method is illustrated as follows:

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Shandong shredded chicken, memory of a cranky Mr. Chen (FODMAP friendly option)

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Shandong Shredded Chicken

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:

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Meals for the homeless – chicken and apricot terrine, with ham fat, raisin, strawberry jam, thyme and bay leaf

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Last Saturday my 10 year old boy bought a ham for the homeless feed out of his own pocket money. He and his dad sliced up the ham and left a pile of ham fat behind.

This Saturday was the Christmas dinner for our homeless friends.  So I made this colorful chicken terrine with left over ham fat. I also added apricot, raisin, saute onion, corn kennel, cumin powder, cinnamon powder, thyme, bay leaf, strawberry jam, salt and black pepper.

Looks and tasted great, and so easy and cheap to make.

Chicken and apricot terrine, with ham fat, raisin, strawberry jam, thyme and bay leaf

 

Chicken and apricot terrine, with ham fat, raisin, strawberry jam, thyme and bay leaf

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Meals for the homeless – simple roasted chicken drumsticks (FODMAP friendly)

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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.

Simple roasted chicken drumsticks (FODMAP friendly)

Fresh cactus flower soup 曇花汤

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I had been waiting for my  cactus flowers ‘tanhua’  to bloom. Such beautiful dedicate living wonders, with flowers only open up for one precious night.

The unusual weeks of Sydney rain stopped briefly on Sunday afternoon. The flowers quietly bloomed during the night. I harvested 3 flowers,  but hesitated on the thoughts of making a soup,  Traditionally, the flowers are sun dried, then boiled with meat for hours, ending up all marshy and  grey like the rainy weather. What a depressing thought.

 

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I gently washed and sliced the flowers into quarters. I dropped the flowers into a saucepan of water with thinly julienne chicken breast;  brought it to a boil, added a dash of sesame oil, a dash of dark soy sauce and a few pinches of white pepper. The soup was done in 3 minutes.

And here it was, a simple soup to show my appreciation of these natural beauties.

Fresh cactus flower soup

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Salt and pepper chicken (low FODMAP, gluten free)

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I work in an unremarkable looking building in the city that was built in the 70’s. When I started working there 12 years ago, the food court were ordinary but cheap. Then the landlord renovated the food court and increased the rents. Now the food is still uninspiring, but expensive.   I had a salt and pepper chicken there last week – and it ended up in the garbage bin.

With an unsatisfied craving for salt and pepper chicken, I made my own today.

Salt and pepper chicken (low FODMAP, gluten free)

Recipe is as follow:

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