Ah, my favorite veggie of all time, but especially now as it is in season. I remember the excitement over this green beauty when eating at restaurants with my parents, who always ask the waiters what seasonal vegetables are on the menu (for most dishes, you should always ask for what’s in season!). Snow pea leaves are known as pea shoots, sprouts, tips, or “dou miao” in Chinese. These leaves carry a mildly sweet taste that pairs so well with garlic and has such a delightful crunch. Snow pea shoots, as their name indicates, include the shoots and curly tendrils that grow on the stalks of snow pea plants, so don’t toss them aside when picking the snow peas. The dietitian in me might speak highly of their nutrient density, rich in vitamin C, beta carotene, and fiber, but really, I’m in it all for the taste! Simply stir fry these with a bit of garlic for a quick dish. There really is no other way I would eat this!
Embracing my culture and holding onto traditions is a forever goal of mine. During a time where incidences of xenophobia is increasing, I hold onto this goal just a bit more closely. It’s disheartening to hear all the racist remarks that accompany the coronavirus outbreak rather than words of empathy for those who are sick. I hope we all stay safe and healthy through good hand hygiene and self-care and not by the avoidance of anything Chinese-related, including its food. With that said, here is my short post I had started two months ago.
Nian Gao – the beautiful rice cake that sits gleaming beside a plate full of tangerines and pomelo at my house signify a start of a new year. For us Cantonese speakers, we call it “neen go,” which literally translates to “year cake.” I used to love watching the steam rise out of the wok as my grandma lifted the cover to reveal the caramelized brown color of the cake. Some years, she would make a “thousand layer” version of it, which was so fun to eat. This is the first time I’m making this cake, so I’m keeping it simple. One day, I will work my way up to my grandma’s level!
I originally planned to collaborate with my dad on this, but was unable to get around to it. I scoured the web for different recipes and went with the simplest version using ingredients I already had – glutinous rice flour (you have to buy the bagged version with the green text with Chinese grocery stores), and brown sugar bar. I simmered some ginger in the sugary syrup, which gave it a really nice flavor, and added a western touch by putting in vanilla bean paste! It tasted pretty decent. Recipe was loosely translated from here.
I fully intend on being better about posting my own or family recipes in the future though!
This is the first-ever birthday card I designed to sell. I thought a lot about how I would like to celebrate with the birthday guy or gal…well, over a delicious cake, of course! I was inspired by the bakers in my life who motivated me to pick up some baking over the years. Since it’s not always possible to bake a cake for each person I know, I wanted to present the idea of a homemade cake in this card by illustrating some of the tools and ingredients used to bake one. For the added touch, my husband helped me film this fun little video. I hope you enjoy.
“Yum tong la.” I thought it would be appropriate that my very first post be about soup, one of my favorite types of food. This was a huge part of my upbringing in a Cantonese family, so much that you would always hear me asking for soup or “tong” at home. I recall all the times my dad asked me to “watch the fire” when he stepped outside because these soups would brew for long, long hours. That’s when you know you’re brewing some “slow cooked” soup. Each type of soup includes a mix of meats or meat bones and vegetables, layered with many herbal ingredients that lends its unique flavors and health benefits. Some ingredients are supposed to provide “cooling” effects, some detoxifying while others nourish certain organs or help you age gracefully. The list goes on. Depending on if I was sick with a cold or maybe ate a bunch of unhealthy foods, my family would brew different soups to maintain a healthy balance.
Drinking soup is a huge part of Cantonese culture, certainly in my own home. Perhaps, I will dig up more history for a future post! It is the one thing my dad makes me when I come home, what I drink first before meals, what my relatives will bring over to the house. I am just now starting to learn more about how to make these soups, so I can hold on to this tradition.
This is coconut chicken soup with snow fungus and goji berries, which is one of my favorites! Cracking the coconut definitely was a tough feat – My dad used to crack it open with his cleaver so easily, and then save all the coconut water for me after. I soaked the snow fungus in water to rehydrate it – it was so lovely watching this beautiful fungus open up. I pretty much threw 3 bone-in chicken thighs, 2 snow fungi, 1/4c goji berries, half coconut’s worth of meat, and salt into my cast-iron pot and let it brew for >1hr. For a more detailed recipe than this one, see here.