Have any of you guys seen the Pixar short film Bao? Obviously though, I am here to do my usual talk about food not movies! 😂 ‘Bao’ is the Chinese word for ‘bun’ as in bread. I grew up eating bao regularly whilst living in Hong Kong, though mostly outside when we are eating dim sum during our weekly family Saturday brunch.
Growing in an Asian household, baking wasn’t something that came naturally to me as steaming was the more prominent cooking method my family used. Likewise, bao is a steamed bun rather than those being baked in the oven. Yesterday, I decided to use my mum’s giant wok to do some steaming.
The bao I made is officially known as ‘Gua bao’ – a popular Taiwanese street food, though more well known simply as ‘bao’ in the Western world in the recent years. The recipe I used for the buns is from BBC Good Food (Link👉 https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/steamed-bao-buns) I adapted the recipe with a fairly traditional stewed pork belly and cucumber filling. It’s a very straight recipe to use, so give it a try! 😉
Winter has most certainly descended here in London now, and I am still getting used to waking up and walking to work in the cold. (Summer seems such a far dream now lol.👋) Nonetheless, my week began on a high after celebrating my birthday in the weekend. (Thank you for all of you who commented and liked my birthday post. ❤️❤️) But, honestly, the high did hit some bumps this week, but when is life truly a smooth sailing?
After work today, I was definitely craving for a hearty dinner and the first thing that came to my mind was a good, old hot pot. A hot pot is a Chinese cooking method where individuals cook raw ingredients such as meat and vegetables in a simmering pot of broth. It is a very prominent thing in family gatherings, and I grew up being used to my family surrounding a hot pot every winter.
My favourite hot pot place in London is a restaurant called Shuang Shuang in Chinatown (located above the ramen shop that I visited a couple of weeks ago). The restaurant is different to many traditional hot pot places in that every customers has one pot to themselves, instead of sharing one. And the raw ingredients are transported around through a conveyor belt, where the customers can pick up their selections like in a sushi bar. Not going to lie, initially I was quite sceptical the first time I visited the restaurant, but now this place has become one of my favourites in town. 😋
A standard procedure of mine every hot pot is to create my own dipping sauce. My favourite is a hefty amount of sesame sauce topped with lots of spring onions and coriander, with a bit of chilli sauce. For me, a good dipping sauce is always the soul of a delicious hot pot! ❤️ And I did get carried away picking lots of food from the conveyor belt lol.
But I wont’t fall to a food coma yet until I finished the evening with my favourite ice creams. 😋😘
Having been swamped by work this week, I, like a lot of people, can find it difficult to truly relax and separate myself from the stress and business of work life. This also unfortunately kept me away from blogging in the past week, but I am determined to hopefully balance between two and continue to update here whenever I can. 💪 Honestly, this Friday feeling could not have come sooner! 😝
For me, autumn is the season of beginnings. Whether starting a new school, new college or new job, this time of year signifies the turning of a fresh page in many people’s chapters. As the weather becomes chillier after the long heat wave that was last month, I always craved for something warm and hearty. And, for me, no other food is better than a proper bowl of Japanese ramen in that retrospective. 😋
It’s a short and sweet moment of comfort which we all need in this busy time. And, speaking of sweet, I also dropped by to my favourite ice cream shop in London. 😉 (I wrote a post about the place months ago which you can see here👉 https://tangosbaking.home.blog/2019/05/29/its-never-too-cold-for-ice-cream/) If you’re looking for some unique, new or Asian-inspired ice cream flavours, do pay this place a visit if you happen to be in London!I promise you would not be disappointed! 😁
As I enjoy every spoonful of my sweet treat in the bright street of Central London, I wish you all the best in the weeks to come! 😉
How often do you spend time reminiscing about your childhood? A few days ago, I managed to dig up my old diaries from over 10 years ago, hidden behind piles of books on my old book shelf in my family home. Reading back, I felt a wave of nostalgia. Come to think of it, so much had happened within these past 10 years with many ups and downs. Yet, I don’t feel much different from who I was back then. I always seem to have been the kind of person who strives for and wants more in life, no matter how tiring it can get. But at times I feel lost, not knowing where to go next, questioning what I am doing and feeling demotivated.
I remember when I was a child I used to get so excited over the simplest things in life. Cartoons, comics, games… But my passion in these things slowly somehow dwindled. One of the many things though that get me all hyped up back when I was a little kid was the agar jelly that my mum used to make.
Agar is a type of seaweed that can be used as a substitute for gelatine, and it is widely used in many Asian desserts. It is also suitable for vegetarians and vegans. My family often used strips of dried agar and rock sugar to make jelly as snacks since the recipe is very straightforward (see below). Most of the times we have them plain, but we also sometimes like to incorporate other things such as coconut milk into the jelly.
My mum taught me how to make them today, and the process really made me reflect about things now in my life. Why make things complicated when you can have them so simple? Perhaps simplicity really is the best policy to happiness. 🙂🙂 Do you agree? 🤗
Plain Agar Jelly
Quantity: about 30 small jellies
7g dried agar strips
80g rock sugar
1. Heat the water in a saucepan to boil.
2. Add the agar and sugar to the boiling water. Continue to heat until they have fully dissolved.
3. Pour the mixture into moulds of your choosing. Place in fridge for about 15 mins, or until set. (It should set quite quickly.)
4. Remove from moulds gently.
For the coconut agar jelly, substitute about half of the water with coconut milk.
In the Hobbit, Gandalf said to Bilbo Baggins, ‘The world is not in your books and maps. It’s out there.’ There is something about travelling to different places that is vastly different and so much more exciting than simply seeing or hearing about them on TV and on the internet. Compare to the old me who preferred the comfort of staying at home, I now often find myself not being able to stay still on the same spot!
Hence, yesterday, my mum and I headed out for a brief 2-day trip to Glasgow by taking a bus from home. (It was quite last minute as we only decided for sure a few days ago.) The weather, however, was not on our side as the roads were all drenched by the heavy rain all day. But we still made sure that we made the most of it after we arrived.
Marching our way through the rain ☔️ , we dropped by Lychee Oriental for lunch. It is a renowned Chinese restaurant in the area run by Jimmy Lee who once appeared in the Great British Menu on BBC. The restaurant offer a nice two-course lunch every day for a very reasonable price of £11.90. No surprises here except it was a nice, rustic, homey meal that quickly filled us up for the day. (I personally quite liked the chicken satay and the fried noodles.)
The weather though really wasn’t appealing enough for us to stay any longer outside, so we decided to check into the hotel and rest a bit first before the evening.
We stayed at easyHotel which was a very cheap stay, costing under £44 for a twin room for one night. When we arrived though, we were still an hour too early for the official check-in time (3pm). This meant we ended up wondering some more in the rain before hiding inside the hotel opposite to it for the time to pass! 😂
Though the room was generally pleasant and very clean, the shower was very tiny (there was no actual cubicle and the curtains kept sticking to me as I was showering 😅), and also annoyingly (which I only noticed after booking…) WiFi and even the TV are all extra charges. However, for those of you who may be just looking for a quick night of sleep, this is the ideal place for it!
While I was napping, my mum was looking at the tourist information leaflet she got from the hotel reception and found this Japanese restaurant called Ichiban. We decided to head there for dinner, squeezing together under one umbrella ☂ (the rain was even worse at that time… 😓😓) We ordered the signature ramen and a mixed sushi platter, plus some char siu (roasted pork) on the side. The ramen was good with a hefty portion and a good broth, and the sushi was also well-made. The char siu though we found was a touch too salty.
It would be unlike me (or rather us lol) that we didn’t have some desserts after meal. The restaurant also offers Yee Kwan ice creams on their menu (which I knew before from watching Dragons’ Den 😂 ). We ordered the black sesame seed ice cream and pink guava & passion fruit sorbet. The sorbet was perfect with its lightness and sweetness with a slight tang, and the black sesame was very flavourful with the nuttiness from the seeds. (My mum was loving them both lol.) If you see these ice creams for sales anywhere, I would strongly recommend you to grab one! 😋 😂
Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel just as the rain thankfully died down. My mum especially was ready for bed after a long day, but it seemed that our day was not over yet when we discovered there was no hot water in the shower… 😓❌❌ (P.S. we ended up moving to the room next door. 😛)
On this Throwback Thursday and continuing the theme of bread week, I would like to talk about a very memorable bread from my childhood called Bolo Bao, literally translated from Chinese as ‘Pineapple Bun’.
Bolo Bao is a sweet bun originated from Hong Kong. It is an extremely popular treat there (being apparently named as a cultural heritage in 2014), and many people including those in my family enjoy it so much to the point that it is consumed almost every other day. There are many bakeries and eateries in Hong Kong that specialise in this bread, and my mum used to regularly go to a particular eatery to get fresh Bolo Bao that had come straight out of the oven during her work days.😋 Now, just to clarify that despite its name, it has absolutely no pineapple in it! What it does have is the signature sweet, crunchy pastry on the top, which to me resembles a craquelin on a choux bun and tastes like a sugar cookie. And, this crust is the very thing that leads to its name due to its pineapple-like texture and appearance. 🍍🍍 😂
A few years, I tried to make this bread at home and actually turned out to be quite successful with it.😊 The dough is an enriched dough but otherwise the rest of the procedure is fairly straightforward including the crust.
Bolo Bao (‘Pineapple Bun’)
Quantity: 16 buns
For the dough:
450g strong white/bread flour
60g unsalted butter
110g caster sugar
2 tsp yeast
1 large egg, beaten
For the pastry crust:
200g plain flour
60g unsalted butter
110g caster sugar
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 large egg yolk
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
To prepare the dough, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar.
In a separate bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk. Add the beaten egg to the yeast solution and mix.
Pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture. Use a wooden spoon and then your hands to bring the mixtures together. Knead for about 10 minutes to form a smooth dough. (The dough will be quite wet but try not to be tempted to add more flour.)
Cover and allow it to rise for 1-2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
Knock the air out of the dough and transfer it to a lightly floured work surface. Knead again for 2 minutes.
Divide the dough into equal portions and place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Leave the dough to rise for about 20-30 minutes.
While waiting for the bread dough to finish its second rise, get the crust ready by starting with rubbing the butter and lard into the plain flour. Mix in the sugar, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder.
In a separate small bowl, mix the yolk, milk and vanilla extract together. Add it to the flour mixture and mix with your hands to bring the mixtures together to form a smooth dough.
Transfer the dough for the crust to a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough to equal portions and roll them into balls between your hands. Dust the balls with a small amount of flour and, using a rolling pin, roll them out into even, thin circles.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Place a baking tray with a cupful of water at the bottom of the oven to create steam.
Place the crust on top of the buns and brush with an egg wash.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden. Then, leaving on a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.
Do you have any memorable bakes from your childhood that speak about your culture? Let’s share in the comments below! 😊
It had been so nice this week to catch up with many of my closest friends.😊 But, before I leave London for a couple of weeks, I met up with my best friend for one delicious food date. We (or rather I lol) decided to visit Yauatcha in Soho, a Chinese restaurant that specialises in contemporary dim sum as well as high-end patisserie.😋 Got to say I felt right at home here! 😉
I really enjoyed the Cheung Fan and the black truffle dumplings (though my friend who didn’t like the flavours of black truffle preferred the lobster dumplings and the Cheung Fan.😂) Not only were the dishes really delicious, but they also filled me with many memories from my childhood growing up in Hong Kong. The Cheung Fan (steamed rice rolls) in particular was a common street food I used to eat regularly back then after school.
The desserts though were something that I was the most excited about coming into this place and they certainly did not disappoint. I had the Strawberry Zhu and the Matcha Lychee Pot. I was very impressed by the classic strawberry and cream combination in the former. The flavours worked very well and I particularly enjoyed the surprise of the strawberry-shaped chocolates which were also filled with a strawberry sauce.😋 (I didn’t realise they were not real strawberries until I bit into them.😂) The Matcha Lychee Pot was very light and refreshing, and almost remained me of a granola and yogurt pot but much more refined. The jelly component especially was very delightful to eat.
The only downside here was that this place was a bit expensive. Still, it didn’t stop us going for a frozen yogurt afterwards.😂
Hope you all have a fantastic weekend ahead of you! 😉
I am always very intrigued by fusion cuisines. Being an Asian that grew up in Britain, I often found myself being inspired by the cooking on both sides. Even when I was baking, I often found an urge of being drawn to using Asian ingredients.
A couple of weeks ago, I made some deliciously classic chocolate profiteroles for a BBQ. (The link to that is here 👉 https://tangosbaking.home.blog/2019/07/06/barbecue-and-strawberries-🍓/) But do you know that choux pastry is also often used for savoury recipes, especially in canapés? A while ago, I created these bite-size treats of Japanese nori choux buns with tuna tartare and avocado. I can tell you that savoury is just as good as sweet! So why don’t you give it a try too? 😉
Japanese Nori Choux Buns with Tuna Tartare and Avocado
Quantity: 15-20 choux buns
For the choux pastry:
50g unsalted butter
65g strong white flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1 large sheet of sushi nori
For the filling:
200g fresh sashimi tuna, diced
2 tbsp Japanese mayonnaise
1 large avocado, slightly mashed
1 lemon, juice only
Chives, diced finely
A pinch of salt
1. Place the butter in the water in a saucepan. Heat until the butter has completely melted and the water is boiling.
2. Keep the saucepan over heat and tip in the flour in one go. Beat vigorously until a smooth dough is formed. Remove it from heat.
3. Add the beaten eggs a bit at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition, until you have a smooth, soft batter. Take care as you may not need all the eggs. The batter should not be too stiff or too runny. You can check if you have the right consistency by lifting a bit of the batter up with a spoon, and it should just hang off it, holding a V-shape.
4. Chop up the nori finely. (Make sure you save some for decorations.) Add the nori to the choux batter and mix until well-combined.
5. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6.
6. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Sprinkle droplets of water over it. Pipe the choux batter onto it in small circles, leaving enough room between them for the choux to rise. Cut the remaining nori to thin stripes, and place them in a cross pattern on top of the choux.
7. Bake the choux for about 25-30 minutes, or until they are golden and fully cooked inside. As soon as they are taken out to cool, use a sharp knife to slice them across in halves. Cool the choux on a wire rack.
8. While the choux are baking, prepare the filling. Add the chives and half the lemon juice to the mashed avocado. Season with salt and mix. For the tuna tartare, add the remaining lemon juice and mayonnaise to the raw tuna. Mix and season with salt.
9. Once the choux is cooled, fill the choux buns with the tuna tartare and avocado before serving.
One thing that can really remind me of being back home in Hong Kong is a plentiful, delicious family gathering meal. This was something I used to have with my relatives every Saturday night when my grandparents used to cook up a feast in the kitchen for us all to enjoy. Now with my grandmother no longer with us and relatives scattered around places, the tradition slowly become less frequent. I wonder when will be the next time I can have this with my family again?
Yesterday’s evening, my friend and I decided to visit Bang Bang Oriental Food Hall. Though we didn’t have the best start when I was screwed over by the maps app on my phone that led me to somewhere 1 hour away from the actual location! 🤯 After a long bus ride, we were finally able to meet up and might have gotten too carried away with how much we ordered in the end! 😂 (An Asian feast for two!) Even then, we only selected a very small sample from a handful of stalls this time, so I definitely will be coming back for more! 😉 Meanwhile, let’s rank the dishes I had last night!
This one was a bit of a let-down . The otherwise perfect pastry was spoiled by the bland filling that was underwhelming in flavours and texture.
Xiao Long Bao is a Chinese classic that is known to be very hard to execute perfectly. Unfortunately the deliciously juicy pork filling was not matched by the overly thick pastry on the outside.
I actually rather enjoyed this one and the noodles were rightfully the star of the show here. However, my friend thought the mince was too salty. 😅 (I thought it was okay though lol…)
If you are a fan of any Korean TV shows, you would have seen this one before. This Korean street food favourite was very flavourful and delicious, though personally I think the sauce was on the heavy side.
A beloved spicy classic! Always a joy to eat! 😁
Substance over style! 👍 Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. These were almost as good as the ones my grandmother 👵 used to make. A taste of home!
This was so good I couldn’t stop eating it! 🤤 Kimbap is basically the Korean adaptation of Japanese sushi rolls. Flavourful with a punch! 🤛 I honestly can eat this all day!
This was a delicious surprise! The fried dumplings were perfectly crispy with a fish filling that very much reminded me of a street food called “fish ball” in Hong Kong (For those of you who don’t know what I mean, you can look it up in google 😂), and they paired up perfectly with the spicy chilli sauce they were served with. Definitely one for a second round! 😋
And how can I forget grabbing a bubble tea on my way out? 😉
After a few days of less than ideal weather, London finally welcomed back the sun. In fact it was so hot today, I had been constantly filling myself up with cold drinks and ice creams! 😅
Despite the heat in the underground threatened to melt me alive, I continued my search for good food and arrived in Eat Tokyo. Those of you who lived in the city might be somewhat familiar with it as they do have a handful of branches dotted around London. Japanese cuisine is definitely one my favourites to eat. Before it has become such a mainstream cuisine internationally, it used to be quite a high end thing to eat back in the days. During my childhood whilst growing up in Hong Kong, my family and I used to spend ages queueing to eat in Japanese restaurants. It was quite a luxurious treat to me back then!
The one thing I like about Eat Tokyo is that, besides big, bold flavours, they serve large portions for around the same price you will get in similar restaurants. My first dish was a yellowtail sushi. Yellowtail is one of the best fish to eat raw in my opinion. It has a very tender and light texture, and pairs very well with the pickled ginger that accompanied the sushi. I must confess I have an obsession with pickled ginger, which my grandmother used to make regularly when she was still with us.
The second dish was a foie gras with daikon. Most people when they think of foie gras, their mind immediately jump to French cuisine but it’s actually also a fairly commonly used ingredient in Japanese cuisine as well. Daikon, for those of you who are not sure, is a Japanese radish. This radish is famous for its juiciness and sweetness, and it is best served after cooking for a long time in a broth or sauce, where the daikon will become very soft and flavourful. (My family is obsessed with daikon and used to fight over who gets to eat the last pieces!) In this dish, the richness of the foie gras contrasts very well with the lightness of the daikon, though I do think the sauce is slightly on the heavy side.
The last dish was what they called a katsu sara, which to me was a katsudon with rice served separately. Katsudon is a classic Japanese dish consisting of breaded pork cutlets cooked in eggs, vegetables and a sweet soy sauce, and then served over a bowl of rice. It is also an old favourite of mine since I was young. I had so many happy memories eating this dish as a kid.
I wasn’t able to finish it however, so I got a doggy bag with me when I left. At least that’s my lunch set for tomorrow!
(P.S. As if it wasn’t enough to fill me up already, I also went for a gelato afterwards…. 😂 You heard of the saying that “you always have room for desserts”?)