Tuesday, December 18, 2012

MY FAVORITES! (H for Hotpot)

On chilly, windy, rainy days I need the caress of steam emanating from hot broth, the silky kiss of long strands of noodles, the body heat from a mixture of spices, the firm touch of springy balls, the meaty aroma of marbled sliced beef. I don't need a lover, I need the deep-in-your-soul satisfaction guaranteed by my favorite hotpot place. The name is Western sounding and they do serve some funky, gimmicky soup bases, but their classic ones are pretty solid. They also serve Cantonese dishes and reasonably-priced set lunches. If you have time, walk around the area. The wet market here is complete and there is a wealth of small specialty food shops.

We usually order 2 kinds of broth served in a yin yang pot, but today we just got the winter melon soup with lotus seeds. The spicy satay one is our other broth of choice.

The table set-up


Spices and sauces
I heart my sauce

Fishballs which were bouncy- the mark of a good product with no extenders

Homemade cuttlefish balls in a rainbow of colors and flavors

Konyaku or shiritake (diet noodles which papa declared tasteless, but I survive on these for my carb fix)

One of the most abundant, cheapest vegetables in HK. One of the most delicious too. Watercress.

The only kind of marble I like
One of the many bowls I enjoyed

Megan's Kitchen (what a Western name!)
5/F, Lucky Centre, 165-171 Wan Chai Rd., Wan Chai, Hong Kong


When my mom came to visit I only had one request: let's make Chinese lumpia. It's a labor-intensive recipe, requiring strong limbs and sharp knives, a tolerance for heat and standing by the stove.
It also requires a big appetite and a talent for rolling it up into one humongous piece that you have to push and shove to fit into your gaping maw. As the Chinese say, the bigger, the better (more luck and money for the New Year)!

So off we went to market to buy a fat pig (and more than a dozen ingredients). Then we set to work peeling, cutting, slicing, chopping, simmering, sauteeing, tasting and seasoning.

I did most of the tasting, by the way. My mom is a drill sergeant and watched over the choppers and slicers like a hawk. Everything had to be uniform size and a certain length. She would make a French chef teaching knife skills cower in fear. Which, I think, is fantastic! I, however, escaped knife duty because dutiful me "had" to bring Papa and my sister to our favorite hotpot restaurant. We were so tired from the market and watching all the action back home we needed to rest and fill our bellies with hot soup.

I won't bore you with details on how we made this treasured family recipe. I am actually bound by an unwritten family rule to pass this on to my daughters-in-law (who, I hope, will appreciate it and cook it for my sons and grandchildren).

Street market in Hong Kong

Vegetable stand-how I love the deep colors

All manner of soybean products

These were the old ones, being sold at a discount. I think they still looked good enough for this shot.

Lettuce here, there and everywhere!

Tomatoes in various hues

Look at those yellow zucchinis!

Papa used to say only goats ate these, but I loved them as a kid. Does that make me a semi-goat?

An expensive array of sea creatures

Plump razor clams

Pork slabs

Chicken stall-with my favorite black chicken

Do I spy a few stray pieces here that escaped my mom's ever watchful eye?

The fingers that sliced these needs some TLC

More itsy bitsy teenie weenie slices

I came home to this. My childhood in a pot.


Wrapn'roll- too bad we couldn't find crunchy hoti -the seaweed used for this recipe
Papa used to make much much bigger ones than this. I guess as he grows older his appetite has waned a bit.

What can I say? The pictures tell a thousand stories. I froze a part of this bounty and enjoyed it twice after my family went back home. You could also fry this and dip in vinegar. It's such a heartwarming dish and never fails to make me happy. Thank you, Ma.

YANG MAMA (Cooking with a Taiwanese Mom from California)

Yang Mama is Taiwanese, used to live in the Philippines, now resides in California, can understand and speak English and Tagalog but is most comfortable with her native Mandarin. She cooks Taiwanese specialties learned from her grandmother, and this year, 2012, is my lucky year because she graciously accepted our plea to teach us some of her treasured recipes.

I've attended many cooking and baking classes and demos, and I have to say this one tops the list because it was peppered with irreverent asides and funny anecdotes, it includes a slow-mo video that needs major editing work or else it should be rated R-18, and while waiting for the dough to rise we exchanged stories on "how we came to be in Hong Kong". So it was an afternoon of kitchen tips and tricks, love stories and "green" jokes galore. I'm not sure how Yang Mama thought of us (and our craziness) afterwards...but when we saw her again at a Christmas Party she seemed warm enough. At least I think she hasn't warned her daughter yet to remove us from her friends list on FB. :)

Preparing the dough. She could not stress enough how important water temperature is.

Mixing the dough

All honest to goodness home cooks use whatever they have on hand- like a small plate instead of a spatula or scraper

This ball will soon rise. In the meantime, we made the filling.

We chopped and chopped and chopped.

And chopped.

Mixing the meat using chopsticks

Yummy filling with the right texture that went straight to the chiller

While letting the bao dough rise and filling rest, we made the dough for the green onion pancake

Those hands- best dough kneader

Here comes the fun part!

Laying the dough flat and discovering the secret way of brushing the oil

Sprinkling it with green-like splashing paint on a canvas

Rolling it up and letting the ends kiss

Flattening it-the onions are now embedded like microchips

Pan-frying then drum roll please....ta-da!

Tip number 100+: Do not rest pancake flat on surface so the undersides crisp up

The dough for the bao is ready after an episode of "HK love stories"

We pinched and poked it- this was definitely a hands-on class

Yang Mama's strong hands...

shaped this beauty! If only my cheeks were this soft and smooth.

Cutting it up

After placing the filling inside, Yang Mama did some deft hand twirling and here it is!

My feeble attempt that is no match for Yang Mama's bao

Pan -frying these babies

Adding water to steam the insides

A few other beautiful things made from the same dough: siomai, dumpling and empanada

Wheeee! Look at 'em golden brown buns!

They were steaming hot and oh so good! Gone in seconds!

Thank you Tehlin and Yang Mama for a wonderful afternoon. Can't wait for the next lessons! (Yes, plural form lessonS)