Thursday, March 31, 2016

Hakka Salted Pork Stir-fry 蒜苗炒鹹豬肉

This is actually the first dish I made after deciding to revive this blog, but because it takes a few days to marinate, it sort of fell out my priority post list.

Salted pork is something I love ordering when we eat out, it's just so simple but packed with flavor. It also goes down really really well with a bowl of rice. To my knowledge, salted pork (鹹豬肉 Xián zhūròu) is a Hakka dish that can be found in almost all Hakka restaurants. It's usually served by itself, sliced, and paired with fresh garlic sprouts (may be replaced with leeks). Or they can be stir-fried into another dish which will be featured below. It's marinated in a brine of mainly Sichuan peppercorns, black pepper, rice wine, and salt for about 2 - 3 days and the end product tastes like a Hakka version of bacon. Sure, it does take a few days to produce salted pork, but once you go that extra mile, the possibilities with this piece of meat is endless! Pan-fry it and throw it into a bun for an instant sandwich. Or maybe cut it into small pieces and add it to your omelette. Give your typical western dishes a kick of Asian flavor with this pork belly. But I do have to warn you though, like many other Hakka dishes out there, salted pork is kind of greasy. But who cares, bacon is greasy as sin and nobody seems to care, so why should you!

Hakka Salted Pork 客家鹹豬肉

  • 300g pork belly
  • 2 teaspoons coarse black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine


  1. Rinse the pork belly and pat dry with paper towels. Cut in half in the pieces are too long/big. 
  2. In a heated pain, add the black pepper, Sichuan peppercorns, salt, and sugar. Fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. 
  3. Remove the spice mixture and grind coarsely with a mortar and pestle. 
  4. In a ziplock bag, add the spice mixture, garlic, rice wine, and pork belly. Zip it up and mix until the pork belly in evenly coated in the marinade. 
  5. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 days. 
  6. When ready to cook, remove the pork belly from the ziplock bag and rinse off the excess spices on the surface. 
  7. You can roast the pork belly as a whole and slice into thin pieces once the meat is done. OR you can slice the meat first and pay fry it. Serve with sliced garlic sprouts (or replace with scallions or leeks). 

Hakka Salted Pork 客家鹹豬肉

Hakka Salted Pork Stir-fry 蒜苗炒鹹豬肉

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil 
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • Fresh chili peppers, sliced (optional)
  • Salted pork, rinsed and sliced
  • Handful of garlic sprouts


  1. In a heated pan or wok, add the oil. 
  2. When the oil is heated, add the garlic and chili peppers, fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. 
  3. Add the salted pork and fry until the meat is cooked. 
  4. Throw in a handful of sliced garlic sprouts (may be replaced by leeks or scallions). Stir-fry on high heat for 30 seconds. Plate and serve. 

Hakka Salted Pork Stir-fry 蒜苗炒鹹豬肉

Sunday, March 27, 2016

My Pregnancy Must-Have List

Just a heads-up, this list is going to be short. I honestly did not do a lot of extra shopping for myself during my pregnancy. The most I spent was probably on maternity clothes, and one visit to H&M MAMA was pretty much the only shopping I did (even though I practically bought every maternity article available on display). But then again, I can wear them again if we decide to have another baby, so it's a good investment! (typical female rationalization right there).  Other than that, there are a few essentials that I would still recommend everyone getting. So here you go, my pregnancy must-have list!

  1. Mamma Mio The Tummy Rub Butter (120 g)
    Mamma Mio The Tummy Rub Oil (120 mL)

    Other than my child's health and safety, stretch marks were my number 1 concern during pregnancy. I did a lot of online research and most people recommended the Mama Mio Tummy Rub. This tummy rub is sold in two forms: a butter/lotion or oil form. I used both and they worked just as well, so it really comes down to personal preference. As for me, I preferred the oil because I thought it was much easier to apply and massage onto the belly. The oil might also be more comfortable during winter since the butter may feel cold on the skin. But hey, that's just me. The Mama Mio tummy rub oil has a pleasant citrusy lemon smell which I enjoyed much more than the Clarins Tonic Body Treatment oil. I applied it generously once a day (at night, after showers), and 1 bottle lasted me about 1 - 2 months. As for results, i still got some stretch marks around the lateral sides of my tummy, but come on, I gained 20 kgs throughout my pregnancy, so I wasn't going to dodge that bullet anyway! I'm just glad they're barely visible now, so I'm a happy customer!

  2. Clarins Tonic Body Treatment Oil (100 ml)
    Clarins Stretch Mark Minimizer (200 ml)

    Clarins is another top contender in the pregnancy stretch mark prevention category. I tried Clarins along with Mama Mio during my pregnancy, but because I really didn't like the Clarin's Tonic Body Treatment Oil's herbal smell, I ended up saving it for my postpartum recovery period. But because I barely anytime for myself after Nolan was born, I only used Clarins for about 1 month postpartum. You can use the Tonic Body treatment oil alone, or in combination with the stretch mark minimizer. Some people pre-mix the two together before application but I usually use the oil first, then top with off with the stretch mark minimizer. This product has great reviews, so if you don't mind spending a little bit more on skincare, it's also a great buy.

  3. Maternity Pants / Leggings

    As I've mentioned above, I gained A LOT of weight during my pregnancy, but I was able to hold out until I was 20 weeks before I finally switched to maternity pants. During the 1st trimester, I would just wear loose fitting clothes that were able to cover my unzipped pants and go on with my day (I later learned there are things called maternity bands which are used to cover up your zipper area so you can continue wearing your regular jeans). When i tried on my first pair of maternity pants, all I could think of is why I didn't do the switch sooner...they're super duper comfortable! I know it doesn't sound like a big deal, but once you try them on, you'll understand why mom jeans are still huge among, well, moms... SO COMFY! If I could, i would still be wearing maternity pants now, but can't let the husband think I'm already giving up after baby number 1. So until next time, maternity pants! Miss you guys already.

  4. Maternity Coat                             

    Nolan was born if February, so my 3rd trimester was spent in the cold, wet winter of Taipei. If you don't want to spend 10 minutes every morning putting on layers and layers of clothing during the winter time, definitely invest int a nice, warm maternity coat. Unless you're one of the lucky ones, there's no way you're going to zip up your regular coats without looking like you're going to burst. One good thing about being pregnant in the winter is having a higher body temperature, so one cozy coat over a knit sweater kept me warm all season. This was one purchase that even JLo agreed was a great buy, i wore it every single day for 2-3 months. Don't know what I'd do without it!

  5. Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby (by Tracy Hogg)


    Last but not least, this book is something I urge every expecting mother to read before the baby arrives. Yes, BEFORE!! Trust me, between the pumping, feeding, and diaper changing... you're NOT going to have any time to yourself, even with the help of your husband!! This book will tell you all you need to know on how to train your baby into a routine. And a routine is most important if you want to survive the first 5 months of infancy. I really can't go into detail about what's inside because it's been 10 months since I read this, but Tracy does include very helpful schedules that you can just follow if you become as desperate as I did.
So there you go! It's not a long list, but these 5 items are probably the more practical things that I can think of right now, and it can suit the needs of most expecting mothers. I'll definitely come back to this post if there are more things I'd like to add in the future, but this is it for now. Hope it was helpful!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Salted Egg & Squash Stir-fry 鹹蛋炒南瓜

Salted eggs (鹹蛋) are one of those Chinese food staples you'll see stocked in the fridge of most Chinese households. What they are, are duck eggs soaked in a brine of water, sugar, and wine for about 1 to 2 months, then boiled when they're ready to be used.

When eaten alone, the egg whites taste like pure salt with a plasticky/rubbery texture. There's not much you can do with salted egg whites other than pairing it with some plain rice congee in a traditional Chinese breakfast. The uses for the salted egg yolk, however, ranges from desserts (like moon cakes 月餅) to savory snacks (like rice dumplings 粽子).  It seems like the yolks are always wrapped inside something, so when I know my food consists of salted egg yolks, I usually just tear it open and go straight for it-- a.k.a Asian kinder surprise. Unlike the normal egg yolk which can be dry ask heck and annoyingly hiccup-inducing, salted egg yolks have a perfect balance of sandiness and creaminess. They're not as salty as the whites and I can basically eat them forever and die of a stroke happily.
Salted Duck Eggs

Other than their individual uses, salted eggs are probably most famous for a dish called 鹹蛋炒苦瓜 (salted egg and bitter gourd stir-fry). The reason this dish is so popular owes it to the salted eggs' magical ability to balance out the bitterness of gourd in a surprisingly complimentary way. I wanted to make that dish this time, but since bitter gourds aren't in season, I opted for a more crowd-pleasing alternative and used kabocha squashes.

Kabocha Squash

Please don't ask me anything about kabocha squashes, all I know is that they're green on the outside, orangey-yellow on the inside. Size-wise, they're small, round, and kind of flat. They're much more firm in texture compared to the typical orange pumpkin and sweeter in taste. Ok, that's about all I know, and to be honest, I pretty much just got whatever the market ladies were selling and it worked. So if you have no idea what kabocha squashes are, I'm sure other types of squashes can work too... They all belong to the same family, don't be too technical about it. Just remember to pre-cook them before stir-frying to shorten cooking time. This can be done by either boiling or steaming them until you can just about make a dent on the squash with your chopsticks. You'll continue to cook them later so don't worry if the squash pieces are still kind of firm. You rather spend more time stir-frying than having the starch dissolve into mush when they're overcooked! And if you're really feeling lazy, just throw the yolk and whites in at the same time. One last thing, don't add any more additional salt! You're using salted eggs for a reason!

Salted Egg & Squash Stir-fry 鹹蛋炒南瓜

  • 400g squash, pre-cooked (boiled or steamed)
  • 2 salted duck eggs 
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, for frying egg yolks
  • 1 bunch of scallions, chopped
  1.  Cut the salted eggs in half and seperate the egg yolks from the egg whites. 
  2. Remove the egg yolks from the shell and chop them up roughly, set aside. 
  3. Mash up the egg yolks and set aside. 
  4. In a head wok, add 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Add in the garlic and fry for a few seconds until fragrant. 
  5. Add in the chopped egg whites and pre-cooked squash. Stir-fry briefly until just mixed. Add in the water and let it cook until half of the water has evaporated and the squashed has softened to your desired texture. Plate and set aside. 
  6. In the same wok, add in 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add in the mashed egg yolks and fry until the foamy and bubbly. Throw in a handful of scallions and quickly fry for a few seconds. 
  7. Spread the egg yolk mixture over the squash and serve. 

Salted Egg & Squash Stir-fry 鹹蛋炒南瓜

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Chinese Crackling Pork Belly 脆皮燒肉

This week's recipe is one that has been on my to-cook list for a while now. I've been putting it off because that golden, bubbly layer of pork skin looks so intimidating and I didn't want any meat to go to waste in case I didn't succeed. I'm sure anyone who has been to Taiwan (or more specifically Hong Kong) will not be a stranger to this dish. You can most likely find these crispy slabs of meat hanging over the windows of the 燒臘 (Shāo là) stores all over the city. They can be bought in bento boxes for less than 100 NT, or served in high end restaurants for thousands more... and they will be worth your money either way. Just look at that layer of crackling roasted pork skin! So good, and so worth your time if you decide to make it yourself.

I started off small, with only 400~500 grams of pork belly to kind of test it out. The trick is the keep the skin as dry as possible: poke tons of holes all over the skin and leave it in the fridge (uncovered) overnight to get rid of all the moisture. The salt layer during baking further dehydrates the skin and once you remove it, your pork belly will crisp up nicely in the oven. It's a one day process, but definitely worth the effort. Things I would change next time is to use a thinner cut of meat. As you can see in the picture, the meat I used had a thick fat layer which ended up making my pork belly kind of greasy.  Still tasty though, so I'll definitely revisit this recipe some day or maybe just buy a thick roll of pork skin and roast it as is. Mmmmm, pure collagen, yum!

Chinese Crackling Pork Belly 脆皮燒肉
  • 400g pork belly 
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Generous amount of coarse sea salt (or regular salt is fine)
  1. Rise the pork belly and pat dry with paper towels. 
  2. With a spiked meat tenderizer (or anything sharp and needle-like), stab holes all over the pork skin. The more holes, the better. 
  3. Flip the pork belly skin-side down. Drizzle over 2 tablespoons of rice wine and rub it in. 
  4. Next, add the salt, five-spice powder, black pepper and rub it into the meat.
  5. Flip the pork over (skin-side up) and wrap it snugly in aluminum foil, making sure the borders are higher than the meat to prevent the grease from overflowing. Pat the skin dry with paper towels. 
  6. Place the pork, uncovered, in the refridgerator overnight or 12 hours.
  7. When ready to roast, preheat the oven to 375'F or 190'C. 
  8. Remove the pork from the fridge and evenly distribute a thick layer of salt over the skin, making sure not to touch the meat or else your pork will be super duper salty.
  9. Place the pork in the middle rack and roast for 45 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160'F (71'C).
  10. Remove the salt layer carefully and place the pork on the top rack of your oven and broil the skin for 30 minutes. Every oven is different, so check up on your meat regularly so it doesn't burn. 
  11. Once the skin is bubbly and crackling, remove from oven and drain off the excess grease on an elevated stand. 
  12. Slice or cube into desired thickness and serve. 

Chinese Crackling Pork Belly 脆皮燒肉

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Thai Basil & Eggplant Stir-fry 塔香茄子

After long thought about how I should restart my food blog, I have decided to go another direction. Instead of collage pictorials, I have decided to increase my work load (as if I didn't already have enough things to do) and switch to videos! Yes, it's a scary step, but thanks to my video-editing guru husband, he made it simple for me to start out with my iPhone and its built-in functions. I'm still getting used to this, but so far it's been fun planning out meals and trying new recipes again.

The first wave of videos will be a series of simple stir-fries. Why? Because they're so easy and each dish takes less than 5 minutes to cook. It's also easier for me to find Asian ingredients living in Taipei so I'll be updating more often, I hope!

This first video is a recipe for a Thai Basil & Eggplant stir-fry. That's an english translation for 塔香茄子. This recipe is fairly easy if you don't mind spending a little time frying the eggplants. Why go that extra step to deep fry them? Because if you don't, they will most likely turn out soggy and won't retain its purple color. I love fried foods but I hate frying them myself... so this is probably the first time I've cooked eggplants in 5 years. Another ingredient you'll need is Thai-basil. In Taiwan, we call it 九層塔 (Jiǔcéngtǎ) and according to google, Thai basil is its direct translation... so don't blame me if I'm wrong. The taste of Thai basil is a lot stronger and more distinctive than your regular Italian basil, so a little goes a long way... but for me, the more flavor the better! If you can't find Thai basil near you, I guess you can substitute it with regular basil too. It won't be as fragrant, but i'm sure it'll still be yummy! Enjoy the video, watch in HD, and subscribe to my YouTube for more in the future!

Thai Basil & Eggplant Stir-fry 塔香茄子 

  • Oil for deep frying
  • 400g Eggplants, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of minced fresh ginger
  • Red chili peppers, as desired (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 100 mL water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • One bunch of Thai basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil


  1. In a pot, heat up oil until 180'C and fry eggplants for 1 minute. Remove the eggplants, drain, and set aside. 
  2. In a heated wok, add in olive oil. Next, add the garlic, ginger, chili peppers and fry until fragrant. 
  3. Add in the soy sauce, water, sugar and cook on low heat until the sugar has dissolved. 
  4. Mix in the eggplants and stir-fry for another minute. 
  5. Add in the Thai basil, quickly fry for 30 seconds. 
  6. Drizzle a little bit of sesame oil before plating. Enjoy!

Thai Basil & Eggplant Stir-fry 塔香茄子