One day while back in Taipei, I was watching TV with my grandmother and smelt this really awesome dish coming out of a neighbour’s home. So I asked grandma to make this dish for me. I know people might think I’m horrible asking my grandmother to cook for me but grandma is a very old fashioned traditional Eastern lady. Few things make her happier than cooking a big meal for her family. She loves cooking for he children and grandchildren and when we say something along the lines of “Oh grandma, the food you made is so DELICIOUS! We love it!” you can often here her giggling. For a lot of Elder Eastern ladies, most of them are housewives their whole lives. They sacrifice themselves to their family and children so the “kitchen” is their stage. When my grandmother came to the UK in 2012 she brought her rubber gloves with her and when she was cutting vegetables she refused to let me help her, even though I’m a trained chef. This kind of thing always makes me laugh.
I cook most of the meals at home for my husband and daughter but a lot of times I really don’t know what to cook. I’m used to people ordering food from me at work so I guess this carries over at home so I usually present Chris with the question “Eastern or Western food” “noodles or rice?” then I have a pretty good idea about what to cook. I believe for a lot of mums who cook most of the food at home they must have the same feeling so whenever I go back to Taipei I always prepare a “list” of food for my grandma or my mum. This way everyone is extremely happy.
While I was back in Taipei recently dealing with the death of my father, I was away from home sorting things out and grandma, being the cute old lady she is, even phoned me to ask me if I want her to put tomatoes in this beef stew she was cooking. I told her to cook it anyway she likes, which she will really love hearing but in all honesty the addition of tomato was perfect. It made the beef stew less fatty/greasy. I cooked a very similar dish in my cookbook without tomato and I have to admit this recipe tastes so much better.
So this is my grandmother’s recipe for Chinese Daikon, carrot and tomato beef stew:
1 kg flank of beef (or you can use shin and any part of beef that’s suitable for slow cook), cut into big dice
480g vine tomato, chopped roughly
120g onion (or 1 medium size onion), chopped roughly
10g ginger, thin slice
200g carrot, peeled it and slice into 2cm thick
600g daikon, peeled it. Slice into 2cm thick and cut into quarters.
1 liter water
200ml light soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
70ml rice wine
2 star anises
1/4 cinnamon stick
(Could add some tangerine peeled for extra flavour, optional)
- Boil a big pot of water and add the beef. Boil for 5 minutes to clean any dirt off the beef. After 5 minutes, use cold water to wash away any dirt on the surface of the meat and drain the water. Leave the beef aside for later
- Heat up 2 tablespoons of oil and stir-fry the ginger and onion until the fragrance comes out. Add the beef and stir-fry for another 3-5 minutes
- Pour the rice wine in and cook for 30 seconds. Add light and dark soy sauce and boil
- After step 3 has boiled, add tomato, water, star anise, cinnamon stick and tangerine peel (optional)
- Cook for 1.5 hours. The beef should be nearly soft and then add the carrots and daikon. Cook until the carrots and daikon are soft. Check the seasonings to suit your taste before serving
Last October I got a surprising email from an international publisher called “Marshall Cavendish” asking me if I’m interested in publishing my first cookbook. After the initial shock I didn’t hesitate at all and immediately agreed, once I read the terms of the contract of course, to publish this book with them. The result is Home Style Taiwanese Cooking
Publishing a cookbook has always been one of my dreams and this invitation from a large international publisher has made this dream come true. So for the last 6 months Chris and I have been really busy with this book. I was originally contacted around September/October and we were asked to provide 60 recipes and photographs of these recipes before Christmas. However, without really diving into photographic techniques, the core lighting in our food photos is natural lighting but here in Scotland during the winter it’s dark from 3pm to 8am (sometimes seems later if the weather is really bad which this winter it really has been).
This was a huge headache so it meant lots of extra nursery sessions for Amelia and literally I would have days where I would prepare 8 dishes and present and photograph them in rapid succession. Stressful doesn’t even come into it. It was also difficult as Chris is out working everyday as a photographer so his time is also a major factor but just yesterday I received a few copies of my cookbook in the post and I’m absolutely delighted with it.
Naturally through the process of making the book there were some “interesting” moments where the publisher wanted something but we wanted to do it differently but in the end, with a little compromise on both ends, I think the book looks absolutely fantastic.
So the first photo below is how the cover of the book will look like and the photos following that are photos of the book taken in the back garden. I might redo these photos but when I received the book I was so super excited that as soon as Chris got back from his morning photo job we quickly rushed outside, took some photos, then I went to work.
This book is literally about Home Style Taiwanese Cooking. I chose dishes that I will eat when I go home, dishes that many Taiwanese mothers and grandmothers will cook at home. Many of these dishes I learnt from my grandparents on both sides of my family and there are also dishes that I know are very common in other people’s homes. There are a couple recipes that are more Taiwanese street food style but street food is a whole other thing and if the sales of this book go well I would love to be able to make another book about street food.
This book contains 65 recipes and 99.9% of the ingredients are available in local Chinese supermarkets and normal supermarkets. The only ingredient I can think of off the top of my head that I definitely couldn’t buy in Edinburgh (bearing in mind Edinburgh doesn’t have a China town) was marinaded cordia but otherwise practically everything else I sourced locally.
Here is Amazon UK link for my book
Here is Amazon US link for my book
Here is Waterstones link for my book
Book Depository link for my book
Here is Penguin Books Australia link for my book.
There are many other online bookstores in different countries that sell my book. So if you need to help to find my book in your home country please leave message or comment for me and I will be more than happy to search for you or contact my publisher and ask them for information. To be honest I’m not too sure how many countries will sell my book but so far all of the English speaking countries that I can think of do sell it.
From the first time I heard about three cup chicken I thought it was a Taiwanese dish, but after doing some research I discovered it’s actually a Chinese dish.
Wen Tiansiang was the Duke of Xinguo and famous in Chinese history for his loyalty to the Song Dynasty. He refused Khubilai Khan’s demand for the Song forces to surrender to the Khan invasion, so he suffered for 4 years in a military prison before his execution. He wrote a lot of good poems in the prison and one of his famous quotations is “None since the advent of time have escaped death, may my loyalty forever illuminate the annuals of history.”
This three cup chicken was cooked by a kind prison warden who was also from Jiangxi Province (Wen Tiansiang’s home town is Jiangxi.). He made this dish with limited ingredients; one cup of sweet rice wine, one cup soy sauce and one cup of lard to stew the chicken for Wen Tiansiang before his execution.
In Taiwan, three cup chicken has evolved into one cup of rice wine, one cup of soy sauce and one cup of dark sesame oil. The smell and the taste of this three cup chicken is just divine. In Taiwan, especially the area around Yangming mountain (Yangmingshan) has a lot of hot spring B&B and restaurants. The guests can use hot spring first and then have meal in the restaurant after. One of the more popular dishes is this three cup chicken.
4 Chicken legs including thigh, de-boned it.
10 cloves garlic, just peeled it.
6 thin slice ginger
1 Chilli, slice it.
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup rice wine
½ cup dark sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
- Heat up wok with dark sesame oil and fry the ginger until the ginger dry up.
- Add chicken legs to stir fry it until the chicken meat turn into white colour.
- Add garlic, chilli and all the seasonings and cover the wok to simmer the chicken for 15~20 minutes until the sauce is dry out.
- Add basil to stir fry it before place the chicken into plate to serve.
It has now been six weeks since I became a “mum”. Every day my little girl grows healthier but also happier. She occasionally has a little colic, especially at night, but apart from that she is healthy and happy. She’s also growing in size and strength. When she was born she was immediately too long for newborn baby clothes but 0-3 months clothes were a little big. Now she’s six weeks, seven this Saturday, she has to wear 3-6 months clothes but she’s not a fat baby at all.
Whenever she holds my finger, I can really feel her growing strength and while I love being a mother, my sincere advice is to try to take as much rest as you can whenever you can, even if it’s just a nap for an hour or two. If your partner gives you a chance, sleep for 12 hours if you can and really don’t feel any guilt if you do manage to sleep that long.
Just before I gave birth I had a really big college project to complete, which really tired me out, then literally a couple days after the project had been completed I started having contractions which lasted 3 days, so I had absolutely no rest! In the first two weeks we (meaning me, Chris could sleep through a war!) found it was completely impossible to sleep for more than 2-3 hours. Now several weeks along we’re able to sleep for up to 4 hours without any distraction but only because we’ve made some big changes in our lifestyle. We basically now follow a routine which goes as follows.
8am: Baby wakes for feed. Feed baby, change nappy, baby goes back to sleep for 2 hours.
10am: Feed baby again and check nappy. Change her into day clothes. Clean her face etc
Afternoon: This is the most important. Take her out! The longer you take her outside, whether it’s to the supermarket, to the park or even a walk around the block, the more tired she will be and the better you will sleep at night. Typically we will take her to the shops then take her to the Botanical Gardens/seaside or wherever, every day. Also note, even if your baby sleeps while you are out, she will still become tired from all of the sounds, sights and smells.
8.30pm: Give her a bath. Babies are incredibly cute but they’re extremely dirty. They pee a lot, have giant poos, they dribble, they puke milk sometimes. They’re dirty! A bath also hopes the wee one relax and feel sleepy. Feed her, change her nappy, swaddle her as normal then she will sleep. Takes about an hour to put her to sleep at this time.
1-3am: Amelia wakes up for a feed and change of nappy somewhere between 1 and 3am. Usually she will wake for about 30 minutes, maybe a little longer.
7.30am: Usually just a really quick feed, nappy change and after a quick cuddle she’ll pass out almost immediately afterwards
10am: Starts all over again
So, seriously if you’re a mother to be who is reading my blog at moment, turn off your computer now and take a nap or have a good sleep. Book a massage for yourself, because you will need all your energy for giving birth and look after baby!
One other piece of advice I have is don’t be too harsh on yourself when it comes to breastfeeding, especially if you’re a first time mum. In the first couple of days, I followed the strict rule of “you’re not allow to feed your baby with a bottle and you can only feed your baby breast milk or formula, but not both!”. But just like many new mums, at first (and still now to an extent) I simply was unable to provide enough breast milk (I found this out after two days when I hand expressed my breasts and found very little milk coming out), so for the first two days at home Amelia was practically starving. Because of this Amelia basically latched onto my breast for two days which gave me really sore cracked nipples and meant neither of us could get any rest at all.
After two days at home, one of our favourite midwives, Nelly, came round (Nelly is awesome) and she advised it’s ok to give babies both breast milk and formula. This was the perfect news so Chris ran over to the supermarket and bought a big tub of SMA Gold, came home and made up a bottle and Amelia drank the whole lot (about 50ml if I remember correctly). Since then, Amelia has been an absolute sweet little angel and she is a really happy baby. So now, what I do is express milk every 3-4 hours and then give Amelia the breast milk first and then top up her, so to speak, with formula. This ensures she gets all of the nutrients from the breast milk but also ensures she doesn’t starve. I’m still unable to provide Amelia with enough breast milk to last her a day but I can now easily provide enough for 2-3 big feeds per day.
Another thing I’ve found is green papaya with pork ribs soup really helps me to produce breast milk. Remember I mentioned in a previous post this dish gives you big breasts? Well, it also helps to produce a LOT of breast milk. I can’t guarantee this will work for everyone, but for me it really does.
So this is how my motherhood journey is going so far. Amelia will be four weeks old this coming Saturday but so far the experience has had it’s challenges but I absolutely love being a mother. I hope my little experiences will help other mums.
Back to food! The recipe today is oriental pork chop. When I started this blog, one of the very first recipes I did was oriental pork chop. At that time we were learning about food photography as well and the resulting photos were (in Chris’s words) horrendous! So I decided to remake it. As before, this recipe is really easy to make (perfect for a new mum!) and it’s also really delicious. I’ve also shared a couple new photos of Amelia as well.
Ingredients for oriental pork chop:
4 pork chops
Seasonings for oriental pork chop:
2 spring onions
4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons soy sauce
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine
1 teaspoon Chinese five spices powder
½ teaspoon black pepper powder
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons plain flour
2 tablespoons potato starch
* you can also put ½ teaspoon baking soda to make the pork chop texture more tender.
Procedures for oriental pork chop:
- Use meat hammer to beat the pork chop and make the pork chop bigger and more tender.
- Marinade pork chops with all the seasonings for 1 hour at less and massage the pork chops with seasonings for around 30 seconds. This procedure can help the pork chops marinade better and tastier.
- Heat up 3 cups of oil in a wok or deep frying pan to 150c around medium gas power and fry the pork chops to medium well done. Place it onto a plate aside.
- Heat up the oil by full gas power to 180c degree and fry the pork chops until well done, then it’s ready to serve.
Like father like daughter
I’m now 38 weeks pregnant and both my mother and grandmother arrived in Edinburgh this last Wednesday. It’s a huge relief for me as they’ve both come to Edinburgh partly to do some sight seeing (they’ve never been to Europe before) but most importantly to give me support during and after I give birth to Millie.
In my culture, one’s mother or mother-in-law will cook lots of Chinese medicine and some dishes that we believe can enrich one self and are good for helping women recover from giving birth. We call this tradition [做月子] (in Pingyin: Zuo Yue Zi). Yue Zi means “month of time” which starts from the time you give birth.
During this month the mother/mother-in-law will cook loads of food for the daughter who has given birth to help them recover. They will also help with cleaning one’s home and everything else that needs to be done. This isn’t an excuse for the new mother’s husband to take it easy / go down the pub (or whatever he does) but any additional support is good).
Today’s recipe contains one of my favourite foods on the planet; New Year Pork. In Taipei there is a shop that opens for just one month every year and they only cured pork. New Year Pork is the Taiwanese/Chinese equivalent of Pancetta and one of our traditional ways of preparing New Year Pork is to steam cook it with rice. This allows the juices that come out of the pork to be soaked up by the rice, making everything super delicious.
The other way I like to cook New Year Pork is as an ingredient for fried rice. This is my recipe for New Year Pork Fried Rice, which incidentally Chris said is the tastiest fried rice he’s ever eaten, which I hope you like.
For me to explain the taste of Chinese/Taiwanese New Year Pork is quite difficult as it’s something I’ve literally forever but Chris described it as “much stronger than bacon/pancetta/parma etc. New Year Pork has a really strong smoked flavour and in the case of the sausages some of them are really spicy”. As a note about the sausages below there are three kinds of sausages. One is just a pork sausage with a strong Chinese alcohol flavour. Another sausage is really hot and spicy (makes your nose run!) while the last kind is a pork and tofu sausage.
3 small bowls of cold rice (for the purpose of this recipe the bowls are rice bowl size, approx 9cm in diameter)
1 bowl of peas
3 small carrots, finely diced
2 spring onions, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
3 large eggs
200g of New Year Pork cut into small dices
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Pinch of white pepper powder
- Boil a pot of water to cook the carrots and peas separately (due to the carrots taking longer to cook). Refresh each in cold water after they have cooked.
- Beat the eggs with one teaspoon of soy sauce and half a teaspoon of sugar. Heat up the wok with a little bit of oil to first of all scramble the eggs. Leave the eggs aside for later.
- Heat up a little bit of oil in a wok and add the New Year Pork to fry it for 3-5 minutes, or until the pork is cooked. Add the rice into the wok and stir fry both evenly until cooked. Make sure as with all fried rice dishes there are no lumps in the rice.
- Add the eggs, spring onions, garlic and the vegetables into the fried rice and stir fry evenly until cooked. Add the seasonings, mix evenly and taste the fried rice. Note I didn’t use a lot of soy sauce or salt as the New Year Pork can have a really strong taste which can sometimes be quite salty.
- Note: If you can’t find New Year Pork in your local Chinese supermarket (only a Chinese supermarket will sell this) you can use as alternative; pancetta or bacon lardons. They won’t be as strong but has the same principle.
The first row of sausages are “pork and tofu”. The second “hot and spicy pork”. The third is “pork and alcohol”.
When I lived in Taipei there was a particular Taiwanese rice noodle soup which I really loved called “Swordfish Rice Noodle Soup”.
Whenever my parents and I went out for weekend brunch, I would almost always eat a bowl of Swordfish Rice Noodle Soup. Unfortunately due to my pregnancy I’m absolutely not allowed to eat Swordfish due to it’s mercury content (which could harm the baby) so I swapped swordfish to salmon. So now we have Salmon Rice Noodle Soup
Salmon Rice Noodle Soup is a really light and low fat dish. This is absolutely perfect for myself right now as high fat foods give me chronic heartburn and also if I eat a lot of high fat foods I would probably get really fat, which I absolutely don’t want to do.
You can use any kind of stock for this salmon rice noodle soup. I used really simple ingredients to make my stock which contains spring onions, bonito flakes, shallots and ginger. You can use any vegetable, chicken or fish stock if you wish to do so. It all depends on your personal flavour.
Ingredients for stock:
1 bunch spring onions, cut into 3cm lengths
2 pieces of ginger
3 shallots. Get rid of the head and the bottom, remove skin
1 handful of bonito flakes
2 litres of water
Procedure for stock:
- Heat up a little bit of oil in a stock pot and when the oil is hot, stir fry the ginger, spring onions and shallots until they are soft and they produce an aroma
- Add water and bonito flakes and boil it
- Once the stock pot has reached the boil simmer for 1 hour
- Pass the stock and leave it in a pot for cooking with the salmon and rice noodle later.
Ingredients for rice noodle soup:
2 bunches rice noodle, soften in warm water (water temperature should be a little warmer than bath water)
250g salmon fillet, remove skin and cut into 2cm dices
Dried pre-fried shallots
Spring onion and coriander as garnish
White pepper powder
Procedure for rice noodle soup:
- Boil the stock and use stock to poach the salmon. Keep the salmon in a bowl for later
- Cook rice in the boiling stock
- Add sesame oil, salt, fried shallots and white pepper powder into a soup bowl. Pour rice noodle and hot stock into the bowl. Put salmon, spring onion and coriander on top. It’s ready to eat!
* Please note I didn’t write any measurements for the seasonings as it really depends on your personal taste. Adjust accordingly.
Time to prepare: 1.5 hours
Serves: 2 people
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