General Tso Chicken Recipe

General Tso chicken is a really popular Chinese dish all over the world. There are several stories behind this dish but my favourite is about General Tso‘s son who is a drug addict. During a period of time when the Chinese government tried to ban people from using opium, General Tso was really worried about his son so he lost all of his appetite. General Tso‘s chef was really worried about him so he made up this chicken dish and hoped the flavours from this dish would help General Tso to enjoy food again.

 

authentic general tso chicken

I honestly don’t know if this dish actually helped General Tso or not but this dish and the story has certainly helped my appetite after recent events that have happened.

On the 30th August my father passed away after suffering a heart attack. He needed open heart surgery but due to other underlying health issues which needed fixing first he wasn’t able to make it to surgery and suffered a heart attack at home from he sadly passed. So one week after he died I flew back to Taipei for three weeks to sort out his funeral and other family things.

The last time I spoke to him was just two days before he passed away and on that day he looked well so when I received the news on the 30th I completely broke down and I’m still in total shock one month on. Right now I’m suffering badly. I’m completely depressed, I have no will to illustrate and I can’t even think about going back to work right now. During the last conversation I had with my father on Skype the only positive I can give is that he saw Amelia playing and being really happy. A lot of my conversation was me complaining about my work situation. I won’t name where I work but suffice to say as a part time worker and a woman working conditions are pretty awful. We don’t get breaks and the more senior chefs bully the junior and part time chefs. I could honestly write a whole book about the disgusting things that have been said to myself and other colleagues but of course this conversation has left me riddled with guilt. Why couldn’t I have been more positive or even told him I loved him? Now I don’t have a chance to do so. Even the day before he passed away he told my mother that he was really worried about me and my mother.

After my father passed, all I have left from him is his diary and on every single page he wrote about how much he loved me and wished he could spend more time with me. He felt like he never did a good job in raising or looking after me but now he has passed I really understand that he was a great father and did the absolute best he could despite all the problems he faced. But still, even now I wish I could tell him once more how great he was, how much I loved him and tell him about all the great memories I have with him.

Right now, all I want to do is curl into a ball and hide inside my bedding. But unfortunately, life has to move on. I still have my family to look after, although my husband has been great with his support, and I still need to complete my University degree which my father always wanted me to achieve. I was expecting he and my step mum (I refer to her as my mum as she is 1000x times a better mother than my birth mother) would come to the UK to see my graduation. This won’t happen now.

So. Food has always been a big comfort for me and I feeling cooking (not for work) and eating is one of the best remedies when you feel sad. While I was back in Taipei my grandmother cooked a lot for me and her food always has a tremendous amount of love in it, so that was a huge comfort and really helped me. So I’ve decided to start cooking for my food blog again to try to help me find some peace. I love cooking for myself and my family and I’ve always loved sharing recipes and receiving wonderful feedback so here is my first dish for this blog in a really long time.

I’m really sorry this is not a happy blog post but no matter, I really wanted to share this really simple but really delicious recipe with you. I’ve got a whole load of new recipes in the pipeline so I promise there won’t be anymore five month gaps between posts in the future.

As a final note, for General Tso chicken you can adjust the usage of sugar if you would like this to be a little sweeter.

Authentic General Tso Chicken Recipe

 

General Tso Chicken Recipe

Course Main Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 3 people

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 500 g chicken thigh fillets
  • 2 chilis remove the seeds and slice 3cm lengthways
  • 2 spring onions slice 2-3cm lengthways
  • 1 ltr oil to fry the chicken. Use sunflower or vegetable oil

Seasonings for chicken thigh fillet marinade

  • 1 tsp rice wine
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 egg beaten
  • 2 tsp potato starch or corn flour
  • 1 tsp oil sunflower or olive oil

Seasonings

  • 1.5 tbsp ketchup
  • 1.5 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp rice wine
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1/2 tsp rice vinegar

Instructions

  1. Cut chicken thigh fillets into big dices and marinade with seasonings for 10 minutes.
  2. Heat up 1 liter of oil in a wok and add one chicken dice at a time into the wok. Fry until the chicken turns golden brown in colour. Drain any liquid/oil from the chicken and leave aside.
  3. Mix all the seasonings in a bowl. Heat up 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok and stir fry the chilli for 20 seconds until the fragrance comes out of the wok.
  4. Add the chicken into the wok and stir fry for 10 seconds. Pour the seasonings form the bowl into the wok and stir fry until the sauce has reduced down. Add spring onion and stir fry it for 10 seconds.  Sprinkle a few drops of sesame oil and add a little bit of ground pepper. The dish is ready to serve.

 

Fen Jen Ro Steamed Pork Belly in Rice Powder with Sweet Potato

fen jen ro

After finishing off my cook book and breaking up from University for the summer I’ve suddenly had some spare time (shock!) which I’m really happy about. I’ve been running this blog since the end of 2009 and I have so many great memories from this blog. From all the great people I’ve met through my blog and all the great feedback it’s been a great experience sharing my recipes. Of course there are some smart-arses who like to make snide comments but they really are an absolute minority so, with great joy, I’m now back cooking for this blog and my first recipe is one of my husband‘s all time favourite dishes called Fen Jen Ro.

Fen Jen Ro (粉蒸肉 in Chinese) or probably easiest translated as “Steamed Pork Belly in Rice Powder with Sweet Potato” is a commonly served dish in Chinese and Taiwanese households. This is also one of my grandfather’s favourite dishes so I’m very familiar with this dish. In Taiwan, we use rice cookers to steam most dishes and for Taiwanese people or even people who have spent some time in Taiwan will know, rice cookers in Taiwan and possibly Chinese are used for a lot more than just cooking rice. Taiwanese people will use rice cookers to steam cakes, make soups, make Chinese buns, make rice of course(!) and many more uses.

For the first few years I lived in Edinburgh and the UK I just used a really cheap rice cooker solely for cooking rice and even though I have now bought a more expensive one that can steam, make soup etc, I haven’t gotten round to messing around with the functions so I still use a very traditional method of steaming my food. The way I steam food is to place a steam rack in the middle of a wok, pour some water inside (measurements below) and steam.

There are a few different origins and stories about this dish. One of my favourite stories is about a couple who ran a small restaurant that had poor business. The husband also had a terrible gambling habit and when his wife one day gave him some money to buy some plates, bowls and food from the market he squandered it on gambling. Upon returning home his wife was really angry and they had a big fight. After the fight they were both really hungry but they thought they had no food to eat. The husband then suddenly remembered he had some pork so he marinaded the pork with some soy sauce and he picked some lotus leave to hold the food (they were so poor they didn’t even have bowls or plates). The wife steamed the pork and when they unwrapped it they discovered the pork was really tender.

Even though the pork was really tender it lacked some flavour so they combined it with jenrofen powder which is basically a glutinous rice powder, steamed it some more and it was absolutely delicious. They then served this dish in their restaurant and people came from afar to eat this dish which is still immensely popular to this day and the husband also managed to quit his gambling habit. Here is my favourite recipe for Fen Jen Ro.

 

Fen Jen Ro

Course Main Dish
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 45 minutes
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 800 g pork belly
  • 250 g sweet potato peeled and sliced 1cm thick
  • 150 g jenrofen powder only this kind of powder

Seasonings

  • 1 tsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp chili bean sauce
  • 1/4 tsp Chinese five spice powder
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 70 ml light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp rice wine
  • 1/2 tsp ginger finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp spring onion finely chopped

Instructions

  1. Slice pork belly into 5cm wide and 1cm thick sections. Marinade with all the seasonings for at least 1 hour
  2. Coat the pork belly with jenrofen powder/rice powder and leave it aside
  3. Prepare a 21.5cm wide bamboo steamer or similar size heat proof bowl and line it with baking paper
  4. Place a layer of sweet potato on the bottom of the bamboo steamer then layer the rest of the bamboo steamer with the pork belly. Sprinkle some extra jenrofen powder on top and cover with the bamboo steamer lid
  5. Place a steam rack into the wok and pour 1 litre of water into the wok. Boil the water first then put step 4 on the rack and cover everything with the wok lid. Turn the gas power to medium and steam it for 2 hours. Check occasionally but make sure there’s always water in the bottom of the wok

 

fen jen ro ingredients
fen jen ro ingredients

Zha Jiang Noodles Recipe

Monday afternoon has officially become my food blogging day. Monday is the one day each week that I definitely don’t have work and Amelia is in the nursery in the afternoon. Right now with the summer holidays she goes to nursery on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and while recently I’ve been working on both of those days, I’m not on the Monday.

So on Mondays Chris is always out working the whole day so I play with Amelia, do some houseworks but in the afternoon I cook. If you read my last blog post you’ll see that I’ve started baking, which I’m really enjoying, but I wanted to cook something savoury for my blog. Monday is kind of like my preparation day for the week. I cook for my blog but I also cook many days worth of food for the week. For example I cooked the recipe below today but I also cooked fish pie which will last us at least a couple of days,

It feels really nice to be able to cook for my blog again. I love sharing recipes that I know and once I start university this autumn I really hope I can find time to keep updating this blog.

And yes, I mentioned university. University! One of the dreams I had as a young adult was to study at university and while I studied the equivalent of a diploma in Taiwan in cooking, I’ve always wanted to study something to do with art. Towards the end of my college course most of my class mates, including myself, applied to study illustration at Edinburgh College of Art (part of University of Edinburgh) and I was the only one to get a place on the course. I’m both really excited and nervous about starting the course but this is a real “dream come true” for me and I’m anxious to get started.

I feel nervous about starting a new course and meeting new people but fingers crossed my new classmates are at least as nice as my college classmates (well, most of them!).

Back to this blog post, today’s recipe is for one of my favourite noodle dishes; Zha Jiang Noodles (Zha Jiang Mian, 炸醬麵). My grandfather and my mother used to cook this noodle dish very often when I lived at home and I believe this was for quite a few reasons. First of all it’s really easy dish to prepare, has lots of vegetables and it’s pretty cheap. Essentially you can have a big bowl of hot delicious noodles in the same time it takes to make mash potato.

I altered the recipe a little bit by adding edamame beans as all of my family love these beans. The original recipe had things like finely chopped green beans but for preference I added edamame beans instead.

So that’s Zha Jiang Noodles, hope you like them.

Zha Jiang Noodles Recipe

 

Zha Jiang Noodles Recipe

Course Main Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 3 people

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • dry noodles no exact amount
  • 200 g pork mince or beef mince
  • 120 g bean sprouts
  • 1 carrot
  • 6 pcs dried bean curd finely chopped, you can find it in Asian supermarkets
  • 1 bowl edamame beans
  • 2 tbsp shallots finely chopped
  • 3 spring onions

Seasonings

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp corn flour
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp sweet bean sauce
  • 1.5 tbsp chili bean sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar

Instructions

  1. Boil a big pot of water and blanch the carrot and bean sprouts. Use the same water to cook the noodles. Once the noodles are cooked, refresh in cold water and toss some oil on the noodles to prevent the noodles sticking together.
  2. Heat up two tablespoons of oil in a wok and saute the spring onions and shallots until soft.
  3. Keep the stove at full power and add the pork mince until cooked (the mince should turn white). Add dried bean curd and stir fry for another 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add sweet bean sauce and chilli bean sauce, stir fry for another 3 minutes. Add edamame beans (optional), water, soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar. Mix evenly.
  5. Mix corn flour with a couple tablespoons of cold water and add into step 4 and mix evenly. Cook for another couple minutes and it’s ready to serve.
  6. Serve with noodle, bean sprout and carrot.

 

Zha Jiang Noodles Recipe

Braised Chinese Chestnut Chicken

Hello everyone, I’m back!

It has been a very long time since my last blog post. I’ve finally completed my Lauriston Castle 2013 workshop brochure for Edinburgh council. That project went very well and I’ve learnt a lot and gained a lot of interesting and valuable experience working as an illustrator. Here is the link for the images I created for this brochure. Please have a look if you have interest.

My life has been very busy with Amelia, work, college and building up my freelance illustrator business. A lot of the time I really wish I have 36 hours in a day instead of 24 hours. Because of deadlines for various projects as well as work and family commitments I haven’t even been able to celebrate Chinese New Year this year. But even though I didn’t celebrate Chinese New Year in the traditional way I still managed to cook a couple really simple recipes, one of which I’ll share with you now.

Do you remember my Chinese new year dishes last year? I explained that Chinese people like  foods that have a lucky meaning behind them, especially when celebrating Chinese New Year.

Today’s dish is Braised Chinese Chestnut Chicken. In Chinese language, chestnut is pronounced  “li-zi” (栗子) and “Li” sounds like the other Chinese word, which means “profit” also could mean “mean”. So people will feel really happy when they have this dish in Chinese new year dinner.

Here is the recipe for Braised Chinese Chestnut Chicken and I hope you will be very happy, very healthy in this coming year.

braised chinese chestnut chicken

 

 

Braised Chinese Chestnut Chicken

Course Main Dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 3 people

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken thighs de-bone and cut into big dice
  • 1 pack chestnut I like Merchant Gourmand whole peeled chestnuts
  • 2 pieces ginger
  • 3 spring onion
  • 3 cloves garlic

Seasonings

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup rice wine
  • 2 tbsp water

Instructions

  1. Heat up 1 table spoon oil in the wok and stir fry ginger, spring onion and garlic. Add sugar in the wok when you can smell the fragrant.
  2. Add chicken after the sugar is melted. Stir fry it until chicken’s colour turn into golden brown.
  3. Add all the seasonings and boil it. Add chestnut once the sauce is boiled.
  4. Reduce down the sauce until it’s nearly dry and it’s ready to serve.

 

Ma Po Tofu Sichuan Recipe

It feels like months since I last updated my blog and prior to giving birth I used to update my blog every week or so, but recently I’ve spent a lot of time working towards my new illustrator business, setting up a website for it and most importantly working on my portfolio. While I have still been cooking in recent times, with both Chris and my workloads we don’t really have time to sit down and eat elaborate meals so we’ve been eating fairly simply.

One thing I have felt though is a bit lost for not having time to cook. I’m due to go back to working in the same restaurant I worked in before part-time and I do actually miss the feeling of cooking properly. I also spent roughly two years working on this website so it’s upset me a litle not being able to update it.

Just recently as well, Chris has been incredibly busy with his photography business so he hasn’t had the time to photograph any dishes for me and we’ve both been really sick with baby flu which Amelia picked up at nursery. Seriously, if you haven’t had a baby, be warned(!), baby flu is literally 10 times worse than adult flu.

So to get back into the run of my blog, I had a re go at cooking and photographing one of my original recipes from this website, Ma Po Tofu. Here is the orignal blog with the story behind this dish and the recipe. I hope you will like it. 🙂

麻婆豆腐) Ma Po Tofu is a well known dish from Sichuan. The creator is a lady who has pockmark on her face and pockmark is Ma in Chinese and Po is a respectful form for a old lady. Ma Po had this small restaurant in Chengdu city and the most of her customers were porters. They usually bought some tofu and mince to ask Ma Po to cook them something to eat. After a long time, this tofu dish got more and more popular and famous, so people named this dish after Ma Po’s name. That’s how we called this dish Ma Po tofu.

I also know of a British chef called Fuchsia Dunlop who is a so called expert on Chinese food after she learnt some Chinese and spent some time at a cookery school in China. The way she pronounces this dish in Chinese translates to “Pock-Marked Mother Chen’s Bean Curd” but if you ever go to a Chinese restaurant in Sichuan or Sichuan restaurant in Taiwan and China . ” Ma Po Tofu “ is the proper way to call this dish.

I went to the original site of Ma Po’s restaurant in Chengdu when I was 14 year-old. But this restaurant was burned down in 2005. Many people felt really sad about this as Ma Po’s restaurant plays an important part in the history of Sichuan cuisine. So, the Sichuan government rebuilt it again at another address in Chengdu city.

Here is one of the cooking methods for Ma Po tofu which was taught to me by my grandpa. My grandpa originated from Sichuan and was a really excellent cook and some of my happiest memories are of the time I spent with him in the kitchen learning to cook many different delicious dishes.

ma po tofu sichuan recipe

 

 

Ma Po Tofu Sichuan Recipe

Course Main Dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 600 g tofu
  • 230 g pork mince or beef mince but I used pork
  • 2 spring onions chop really fine
  • 2 cloves garlic chop really fine

Seasonings

  • 1.5 tbsp chili bean sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1.5 tsp Sichuan pepper powder

Instructions

  1. Remove the hard edge of Tofu and cut it into 1.5 cm cubes. Place it into a plate with kitchen napkin to suck the water from tofu.
  2. Heat your wok with two tablespoons of oil and sauté pork mince. Add spring onion, garlic and chilli bean paste in. stir it constantly for another 20 seconds. Season it with soy sauce, salt, sugar and add tofu cubes into it, gently mix everything together but do not damage the shape of the tofu.
  3. Pour a cup of stock to reduce it down. This way can make tofu suck all flavour from sauce and stock.
  4. After reducing the stock, place it into a shallow bowl. Sprinkle a little bit of chopped spring onion on top to garnish it.

ma po tofu sichuan recipe

Stuffed Lotus Root with Sweet Sticky Rice

Recently I’ve been going through a really busy period. I just had my final year exhibition and graded unit which along with looking after Amelia really has taken up all of my time. Chris has also had a lot of photography work to complete so I’ve been doing the extra rounds with childcare while he got his work done.

But finally, I now have some free time for myself. I’ve been thinking about posting a recipe for this Chinese dessert called “stuffed lotus root with sweet sticky rice” for a long time but because of my college course and works I’ve decided I want to try to illustrator the procedures for most recipes from now on. Of course if the dish is really simple I probably won’t illustrate it but this dish does need some guidance.

It’s really good fun but also a pain doing these illustrated procedures. It requires a lot of time to finish one recipe but it’s really good practice, really therapeutic and I hope I can eventually produce an illustrated cook book. If you remember I started designing a cook book a couple years ago and while it looks really professional, I want something a lot more fun so over a period of time I’ll re-illustrate a number of recipes while adding new recipes.

When I worked as a chef, drawing was always really important for remembering recipes. Every restaurant has completely different recipes and some recipes can be quite complicated, so I use a small notebook to illustrate the final dish and I would write the ingredients and procedure in the book. Sometimes I would have to remember 20 or more dishes in one day so the quicker you learn then better. So that’s how and I why I started drawing these recipes. I think this is also one of the reasons I got a place on my college course as the teacher seemed to be really impressed about my recipe book.

So here is my another illustrated recipe for this Chinese dessert “Stuffed lotus root with sweet sticky rice”. I hope you will enjoy it.

Also a few weeks ago, Chris, Amelia and I discovered a very cool castle in West Scotland called “Kelburn Castle”. It was built in the late 16th century but what makes this castle so special? What makes it different to all of the other castles in Scotland? Well, the castle walls needed some repairs back in 2007 and rather than just re-plaster the walls and apply a plain paint, the owner of the castle hired a group of Brazilian graffiti artists to paint the West wall of the Castle.

If you come to Scotland and have a fascination with castles, you should definitely check Kelburn Castle out. The painting on the castle looks amazing but just as importantly the grounds of the castle are fantastic for both adults and children. There’s a secret forest and many playgrounds for children, there are cafe’s and shops for adults, you can go horse riding but also the staff are extremely friendly.

I’ve put some photos of Kelburn Castle on this post, hope you like them.

stuffed lotus root with sweet sticky rice

 

Stuffed Lotus Root with Sweet Sticky Rice

Course Main Dish
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours
Servings 3 people

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sticky rice
  • 2 lotus roots they should be 12-15cm long ideally
  • 5 dried jujubes
  • 50 g rock sugar
  • 50 g brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey

Instructions

  1. Soak the sticky rice in a bowl of water for 2 hours.
  2. Cut the lotus root as per the steps in this procedure picture. Make sure you keep the top of the lotus root as you will use this as a lid.
  3. Stuff the sticky rice from step 1 into the lotus root and use chopsticks to push the rice into the lotus root, effectively stuffing it.
  4. After you have stuffed the lotus root use 2 or 3 toothpicks to fasten the lid to the lotus root.
  5. Boil a pot of water and add 4-5 dried jujubes and 50 grammes of rock sugar. Stir until the rock sugar has dissolved. Add step 4 into the pot and cook for 1.5 hour. Make sure you have enough water to cover the lotus root.
  6. Use 200ml of the liquid from step 5 and add brown sugar and honey. Boil this mixture and simmer until the sauce has reduced by 50%. Use this as a sauce for the lotus root.
  7. Leave the lotus root to cool down. Once it has cooled down, slice it to serve with the sauce from step 6.

 

stuffed lotus root with sweet sticky rice
kelburn castle
kelburn castle
kelburn castle
kelburn castle
kelburn castle
kelburn castle