Easy winter melon soup

Winter melon soup

 

Winter melon soup sometimes appears at Chinese banquets, often steamed and grandly served in a whole melon. You don’t need to wait for a banquet to eat this delicious, soothing soup. It’s easy to make a simple version of this Chinese classic at home.

winter melonLook for the frosty white-tinged green-skinned melons with snowy white flesh at farmers’ markets and Asian supermarkets. The melon’s size can equal that of a large watermelon so it is often cut and sold in chunks. When simmered in broth the flesh softens into delicate morsels with a mild, soothing, refreshing taste.

This Hakka home-style version uses ground meat for a quick weeknight soup. Feel free to embellish with bits of ham, seafood, or mushrooms.

Easy Winter Melon Soup

Makes 6 servings as part of a multi-course meal

8 cups chicken broth

6 slices fresh ginger, lightly crushed

2 pounds winter melon

1 large carrot, sliced 1/4-inch thick (optional)

8 ounces ground pork, chicken, or turkey

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine (shaoxing) or dry sherry

1 tablespoon soy sauce

About 1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

 

1. In a 4-quart pan over high heat, bring broth and ginger to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, cut skin off melon and scoop out and discard seeds. Cut melon into about 1-inch chunks. Add melon and carrot to broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until melon is almost tender when pierced and translucent, 10 to 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, mix pork, garlic, cornstarch, wine, soy sauce, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Drop 1/2-inch wide lumps of pork mixture into soup. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until pork is no longer pink in center of thickest part, about 5 minutes. Remove ginger slices, if desired. Skim off fat and discard. Add salt to taste and cilantro. Ladle  soup into bowls.

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A Literary Feast

A literary feastThanks to all who came to our Les Dames d’Escoffier’s “A Literary Feast” last Sunday afternoon. In the light-filled mezzanine of the San Francisco Ferry Building, about 35 cookbook authors shared food samples from their books, autographed copies, and met with interested followers.

Guests sampled Pickled Mustard Greens (page 147) from The Hakka Cookbook. They loved the crunchy texture and sweet-sour taste of these easy refrigerator pickles. Best of all it is one of the easiest recipes in the book.

Our visitors were enthusiastic and interested. Loved meeting so many book fans. Thanks for coming and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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Hakka stuffed tofu

I have been following The Sandy Food Chronicles as she explores Hakka heritage recipes. In a recent post, she discovers the complexities of Hakka stuffed tofu (釀 豆 腐 nyiong tiu fu, yong dau foo) in Singapore.

Cantonese stuffed tofuI remember eating this Hakka classic there in 2004. On our first day, we wandered into a food court and tasted the Singapore style of stuffed tofu. The filling goes into many options besides tofu–chilies, eggplant, bean curd skin, bitter melon. This vendor used the Cantonese filling, a rather bland, smooth fish paste.

Singapore Hakka stuffed tofuA few days later, we ate lunch with a Hakka family. The Hakka version of stuffed tofu appeared on the table. The filling, pebbled with ground pork, boasted a deeper, more robust flavor and coarser texture than what we had eaten a few days earlier. Doreen Ho explained that the Hakka version always contains some pork. Since the Hakka originally lived inland with no access to seafood, they used pork for the filling. As they migrated to coastal areas, some adapted to local ingredients and often added seafood to the filling. There are as many variations to this filling as cooks. Some fillings contain all pork, some add fish, fresh or salted, and some add shrimp, fresh or dried. For recipes in The Hakka Cookbook, see pages 31 to 34, 76, 215, 106. What’s your favorite filling?

In her post, Sandy mentions The Food Canon’s recipe for Auntie Ruby’s Hakka Yong Tau Foo. The recipe looks mouth-watering, as well as authentic and achievable. The blog’s author, Terry Wong, has a new cookbook, Mum’s Classics Revived coming out soon. It is about home-cooking in Singapore and Malaysia. The book looks promising, check it out.

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A Literary Feast

Join me and other cookbook authors at “A Literary Feast” at San Francisco’s Ferry Building on November 13, Sunday afternoon, 3 to 6 pm. Come to meet your favorite cookbook author, taste samples of theirlde_cookbookstack-web recipes, and buy signed copies of their books. It’s a great opportunity to shop for holiday gifts. Meet authors such as Paula Wolfert, Leslie Sbrocco, Diana Kennedy, Georgeanne Brennan, and Dorie Greenspan. This mass-cookbook signing event is hosted by the San Francisco Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier, an international culinary organization.

Buy advance tickets ($10) at www.cellarpass.com or at the door for $12. Funds raised benefit the Culinary Scholarship Fund of Les Dames d’Escoffier San Francisco and www.gardenproject.org (empowers at-risk young adults with job training and life skills.)

Visit www.lesdamessf.org for more information about our group. See you there!

 

 

 

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New ways with Hakka pork belly

Pork Belly with Preserved Mustard Greens

Pork Belly with Preserved Mustard Greens at the Hakka Restaurant in San Francisco

One of the most popular Hakka dishes is Pork Belly with Preserved Mustard Greens ((扣 肉 梅 菜 kiu ngiuk moi choi or kou rou mei cai). In a recent post on The Sandy Food Chronicles, Sandra Lue writes about the version she tasted at The Hakka Restaurant in San Francisco. I  also love Chef Li’s version–dark, soft, succulent, salty, and a bit fatty– he captures the Hakka flavor.

img_4046In my book research, I found every cook seemed to have their own version of this dish. Lue shares a few recipes she discovers which I am eager to try. Her post reminded me of another version from Fah Liong, a Hakka from Indonesia. I used many of her recipes in The Hakka Cookbook, but did not have room for her variation on Pork Belly with Preserved Greens. She replaces the salt-and- sugar preserved mustard greens (moi choy) with a more natural salt-free option, sun-dried bok choy (also called cole). She layers the pork slices in the center of the greens so the meat juices can travel through the greens more evenly. Since the pork hides in the center, there’s no need to unmold the dish; just dig in. Serve this homey dish with plenty of rice.

 Hakka Pork Belly with Dried Bok Choy

Makes 4 to 6 servings as a main course or 8 to 10 servings as part of a multi-course meal

3 ounces dried bok choy (also called cole), about half a package
1 piece (1 to 1 1/2 pounds) boneless pork belly with skin, preferably with a high proportion of meat
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 1/2 cups Chinese rice wine (shaoxing) or dry sherry
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce (or 2 tablespoons light soy sauce and 1 tablespoon molasses)
2 teaspoons sugar

1. In a large bowl soak the dried bok choy in hot water until soft and pliable, changing water occasionally, at least 2 hours or up to overnight. Drain and rinse vegetable. Gather the stem ends together, wring out the water, trim off and discard tough ends, and cut the vegetable crosswise into 1 inch pieces.

2. With a knife tip or fork, prick the skin of pork belly all over. Place a 14-inch wok or 12-inch frying pan over high heat. When pan is hot, about 1 minute, add the oil, and rotate the pan to spread. Set the pork, skin-down, in the pan. Cook, pressing down on pork, until the skin is well browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking on all sides until well browned. Lift out of pan and cut the pork across grain in 2- to 3-inch sections. Then cut each section with the grain into 1/2-inch wide slices.

3. Remove all the fat from the pan except for 2 teaspoons. Return the pan to medium-high heat. Add the garlic and stir until soft, about 30 seconds. Add the wine, dark soy sauce, and sugar. Bring to a boil. Add the bok choy and pork. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until 1/2 to 3/4 cup liquid remains, 15 to 25 minutes.

4. With a slotted spoon, lift out and arrange half the bok choy in a shallow 5- to 8-cup bowl. Arrange pork slices, overlapping slightly, if needed, in an even layer over vegetable. Cover with remaining vegetable. Skim off and discard fat from any remaining pan juices and pour evenly over vegetable.

5. Set the dish on a rack over 2 to 4 inches boiling water in a steamer (at least 1 inch wider than dish) or wok (if bottom is round, place on a wok ring to stabilize). If the steamer lid is metal, wrap the lid with a towel to reduce condensation dripping on the food. Cover and steam over high heat until the pork is very tender when pierced, about 2 hours. Watch the water level, adding more boiling water as needed. Carefully remove the dish from steamer and serve from bowl. Or if desired, set a plate on top of the bowl and invert. Lift off bowl.

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Hakka pork-stuffed tofu

pork stuffed tofuLast weekend, Lorraine Witte, The Chinese Lady and author, invited me to her kitchen to cook some dishes from The Hakka Cookbook. We cooked a famous Hakka classic, stuffed tofu (niong dou fu). This dish was invented as a result of migration. When the Hakka migrated to the south, they wanted to make the dumpling they had eaten in the north. They could not find the wheat flour needed to make the dumpling wrappers so they improvised and stuffed the meat filling into chunks of tofu.

You can watch us cooking pork stuffed tofu here. The full recipe appears on page 33 of The Hakka Cookbook and originally came from Natalie Com Liu who taught me in her kitchen in Lima, Peru.

IMG_3774There are many variations to stuffed tofu. The original filling was pork because the Hakka lived inland. As they migrated to the coasts, they often added seafood. The tofu could be steamed, deep-fried, poached, or pan-browned and braised. This steamed version is one of the simplest. Feel free to embellish the ginger-scented pork filling to your tastes.

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Hakka radish dumpling

-2At the end of my talk at the Toronto Hakka Conference someone asked me if I had a recipe for Radish Dumplings (lo pet ban 蘿蔔粄). She described it as a steamed dumpling filled with shredded daikon radish that her Hakka grandmother had made in Jamaica. She had been trying to recreate it. Unfortunately, I did not know this dumpling.

Later another new friend Sandra Lue, author of the The Sandy Food Chronicles, also asked me about the dumpling. She, too, tried to create the dumpling but had problems with the dumpling skin.

When she mentioned dumpling skin, I recalled that I did develop a recipe for a Hakka steamed dumpling I had seen in Singapore. I could not recall the filling but remember testing it many times but left it out of the final manuscript because I wasn’t sure if it was good enough. It was a long recipe and a bit tricky to make, so I decided to omit it. I promised Sandra I would look for my recipe and perhaps she could make it work. I finally found the recipe and find it isn’t the same dumpling. My version does not contain the key ingredient–daikon radish.

However in my search, I discovered I had saved a couple of links to blog posts with recipes or descriptions of this Hakka Radish Dumpling. I am sharing these links so those who know this dumping can refine these recipes to recreate their grandmother’s dumpling.

http://morethanonemoreday.blogspot.ca/2010/07/jamaican-hakka-chinese-lo-pet-ban.html

http://alittlebitofplumleaf.blogspot.ca/2011/02/hakka-steamed-radish-dumpling-law-pet.html

Please share your recipe if you do!

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Hakka community

Opening ceremony at Toronto Hakka Conference 2016

Dr. Vivienne Poy and lion dance opens Toronto Hakka Conference 2016

Growing up in a small primarily all-white town, I never felt like I belonged to a Chinese community. I didn’t know any other Chinese besides a few relatives. I understood some Hakka but never was very fluent.

Even when I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where lots of Chinese lived, I never identified with any specific Chinese community. I rarely met any Hakka.  Most Chinese spoke Cantonese or Mandarin, which I tried studying, but never really mastered. The only language that spoke to me was the food. I grew up eating Chinese food and it was always my go-to comfort food.

It wasn’t until I went to Toronto that I felt I belonged to a Chinese community. There I met Hakka who had migrated from all over the world. They were like me. We had a shared history of migration. Many didn’t speak or write Chinese but we could communicate in English.

When I went to my first Toronto Hakka Conference in 2008, I had never seen so many Hakka gathered in one place. Finally, I found my Hakka community.  At the most recent 2016 Toronto Hakka Conference, I recognized people I had met on previous trips. I also met new people who were also searching for their cultural identity through food, through their ancestry, and through the conference. One of the greatest benefits of the Toronto Hakka Conference is connecting with Hakka from all over the world. This year some attendees came as far as India, Portugal, Australia, Hong Kong, Jamaica, and Mauritius. The majority of the attendees live locally because the greater Toronto area is home to many Hakka.

For me the conference celebrates being part of the Hakka community.

 

 

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Being Hakka

Dr. Shui Loon Kong at Toronto Hakka Conference 2016

Dr. Shui Loon Kong at Toronto Hakka Conference 2016

What does it mean to be Hakka? It’s a question that I sought the answer to most of my life.

Keynote speaker Dr. Shui Loon Kong answered my question at the Toronto Hakka Conference 2016. I could identify with his remarks.

Being Hakka means adaptation. We Hakka learn to fit into the environment and transcend it. We achieve it in five ways: Accept, Access, Activity, Achievement, and Appreciate, said Dr. Kong.

A long history of migration forced the Hakka to new environments, often harsh and inhospitable. To survive, the Hakka learned to adapt. They accepted their new phase, figured out how to best survive in these new conditions, and acted to succeed. This is the Hakka story, repeated over and over, as they migrated all over the world. For me, Dr Kong distilled the essence of being Hakka in just one word, “Adaptation.”

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Toronto Hakka restaurants

Chili Chicken at Royal Seafood Chinese Restaurant

Chili Chicken at Royal Seafood Chinese Restaurant

In my last post I asked for Hakka restaurant recommendations in the Toronto area. With my upcoming trip to the Toronto Hakka Conference, I wanted to try some of the local Hakka food. Interestingly, most of the suggestions feature Hakka-Indian food (aka Indian-style Hakka Chinese Cuisine). Hakka chefs from India created this cuisine by blending Indian spices with Chinese cooking techniques. Often the resulting dishes such as Chili Chicken, Crispy Ginger Beef, and Shrimp Pakoras have a crisp texture and spicy flavor that customers love.

A few people also mentioned a couple of new restaurants run by young Hakka chefs who grew up in Canada and trained in Europe. Their parents are Hakka who migrated from  Jamaica or South Africa and India. Their cooking reflects their multi-cultural background.  Based on their online menus, a few dishes reflect Hakka inspiration, but most of the dishes are creative fusions cooked with Western techniques.

With the concentration of Hakka population in Toronto, I am puzzled why there aren’t restaurants that feature Hakka Chinese food. At Royal Chinese Seafood Restaurant and Esquire Great Eastern Restaurant–both Hakka Indian restaurants–I have eaten Hakka Chinese food in the past. Friends called the restaurant in advance to arrange for a Hakka Chinese meal. So perhaps, you need to call in advance to see if the chef is willing to cook a Hakka Chinese meal. I see on the website of Royal Chinese Seafood Restaurant, they now offer some Hakka Chinese dishes. Also where are the Hakka-Caribbean, Hakka-Singapore/Malaysia, Hakka-Taiwan, Hakka Mauritian restaurants?

Following are the suggestions from local Hakka. I haven’t tried them yet except for Royal Chinese Seafood Restaurant who I interviewed for The Hakka Cookbook.

Royal Chinese Seafood Restaurant, 735 Middlefield Rd. Unit 4- 5, Scarborough, ON M1V 5H5, Tel. 416 292 8888

Fedrick Restaurant,160 New Delhi Drive (off Markham Rd) , Markham Tel. 905 472 1682 OR 1920 Ellesmere Rd, Scarborough, ON M1H 2V6 Tel. 416 439 9234

Lotus Garden, 3460 Danforth Ave. Toronto, ON M1L 1E1 Tel. 416 686 7500

Lin Garden Restaurant,1806 Pharmacy Ave. Scarborough, ON M1T 1H6, Tel. 416 491 8484

Wanlee Loy, 5651 Steeles Ave. E. #7, Scarborough, Toronto, ON M1V 5P6, Tel. 416 291 4699

Patois,794 Dundas Street W, Toronto ON  M6J  1V1, Tel. 647.350.8999

Dailo, 503 College St. (at Palmerson Blvd), Toronto, ON M6J 2J3,  Tel.647 341 8882

 

 

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