Stephanie celebrates Lunar New Year on TV – Recipes

S. Yuen recipe dish - crispy vermicelliWords & Pix: Stephanie Yuen

Jan 28 (Tuesday) Global News Noon

Pan-fried vermicelli, shiitake mushroom & bean sprouts with Kalbi Sauce (Gold & silver noodle)

Recipe:

1 pkg 300 gms Taiwanese dried vermicelli

6 pcs T&T brand shiitake mushroom

8 oz. bean sprouts

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

¼ carrot, skinned and julienned

3 slices of ginger; leave skin on

2 cloves of garlic; crushed and remove skin

3 Tbsp T&T brand Korean Kalbi Marinate Sauce

1 Tbsp fish sauce

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp sea salt

2 stalks green onions, into 2 inch julienne

Preparation:

-Soak vermicelli in cold water for at least 60 minutes, transfer to large drainer and let dry 10 minutes before cooking time.  Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cross cut the noodles a few times.

-Rinse mushroom well, hot water for at least 30 minutes or until softened

-Rinse bean sprouts and let dry in a drainer

Method:

Remove mushroom and squeeze off excess water, cut off stems and julienne. Keep 3 Tbsp of mushroom water and discard the rest.

Heat wok on high heat, add oil. Place ginger and garlic in oil, sizzle for 10 seconds, add mushroom, stir and cook for 2 minutes, add in bean sprouts and carrot. Stir and cook for another minute.

Add vermicelli, mix well. Add in all seasonings and mushroom water, stir and mix well. Cover and cook for 3 – 5 minutes. Add green onions. Ready to serve.

 

Jan 29 (Wednesday) CTV Morning – 8:40am

1/ Pan-fried Nian-gao (New Year cake) with shrimps and spinach, seasoned with Kalbi sauce.

Recipe:

2 cups of water

6 slices of ginger; leave skin on

8 oz. shelled shrimps

¼ tsp sea salt

4 Tbsp. vegetable oil

2 cloves of garlic; crushed and remove skin

1 pkg. 300 gm Nian-gao

3 Tbsp T&T brand Korean Kalbi Marinate Sauce

1 tsp chili bean sauce

1 tsp oyster sauce

1 tsp sugar

8 oz. spinach, cut in halves

Method

Place 3 cups of water and 3 slices of ginger a small pot; bring to a full boil. Add shrimps and ¼ tsp sea salt. Cook for 30 seconds or when shrimps turn orange-red. Scoop shrimps into an icy bath. Drain and let dry when cold to the touch.

Heat oil in wok on high;  add remaining ginger and garlic, sizzle for few seconds. Add in Nian-gao. Stir and mix well, add in all seasonings. Stir and pan-fry for 2 minutes. Add in mushroom water, stir in spinach.  Mix and cook for another minute;  ready to serve.

2/ 10 mulit-grain rice pudding with coconut-milk (Sweet & harmony) garnished with  dried mango

Recipe:

Makes 4 bowls

½ cup T&T brand 10 multi-grain rice

1½ cup water

4 Tbsp brown sugar (more can be added as desired)

½ cup T&T brand coconut milk

4 slices T&T brand Philippine dried mango, thinly sliced.

Method:

Place rice in a medium stock pot, rinse 3 times and drained. Add 1½ cup water and bring to a boil on high, covered. Remove lid and stir the rice. Reduce heat to medium low, cook for 5 minutes, covered. Reduce heat to low and cook for 5 – 8 minutes or until water is almost all gone. Add sugar and coconut milk, mix well. Cover and simmer for 1 minute. Scoop into 4 even bowls; add mango slices on top, ready to serve.

Jan 30 (Thursday)  CTV Noon News

Dish: Dumplings with Kalbi dipping sauce (Pan-fried or steamed)

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 pkg Frozen Chinese dumplings (your choice of stuffing) – keep frozen until cooking time

½ cup water

Method:

Place wok or pan on high heat. Add oil. Place dumplings in wok; bottoms down. When all dumplings are  in; cook for another 30 seconds. Empty water into wok, cover and cook for 4 – 5 minutes. Turn heat to medium, cook for another 2 minutes. Check for doneness by poking a sharp knife into a dumpling, if juice comes out clear, turn off heat. Serve with dipping sauce.

Veg dumpling

Kalbi Dipping Sauce Recipe (This can be cooked ahead of time)

¼ cup T&T Korean Kalbi Marinate sauce

2 Tbsp Chinese dark vinegar

1 tsp garlic chili bean sauce (optional)

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp chopped ginger

Place all ingredients in a small pot, bring to a boil and serve in a bowl.

 

Jan 31 (Friday) The Rush on Shaw TV

Broiled dumplings in T&T brand chicken stock, seasoned with Kalbi sauce, garnished with julienned T&T brand shiitake mushroom, chopped green onion & cilantro.

Recipe: Serves 2

6 cups of water for boiling the dumplings

1 tsp vegetable oil

1 pkg T&T brand dumplings

1 can T&T brand chicken stock

½ cup water

3 pcs T&T brand Shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated, stem removed and julienned, keep mushroom water.

1 stalk green onions, chopped

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro  

1 tsp T&T brand Korean Kalbi Marinade Sauce

Salt & white ground pepper to taste

Method:

Add 6 cups of water to a medium pot and bring to a boil.  Add oil. Place dumplings in the pot, cover and cook on high heat and bring to a boil. Remove lid and cook for another 5 – 8 minutes or until they are cooked through.

While waiting for the dumplings to be cooked, put chicken stock, ½ cup of water,  mushroom and mushroom water into a pot, bring to a boil on high, reduce to simmer.

When dumplings are ready; scoop 10 each into 2 large bowls. Distribute green onion, cilantro and Kalbi sauce evenly into each bowl. Using a slotted ladle, transfer dumplings into the bowls.  Bring soup to a light boil on high, ladle into the bowl and serve.

 

A Chinese New Year Feast prepared by T&T

IMG_6042

Words & pix: Stephanie Yuen (http://taiyangbao.ca/food/311675/?variant=zh-hans )

Want to find out what the Imperial Emperor’s Chinese New Year dinners were like? No need to go to China, just head to T&T!

T&T has been doing a fine job when it comes to celebrating Asian festivals, especially Chinese New Year, which is just around the corner – Jan 31! As the Year of the Horse approaches, what greets you at T&T is a sea of red and gold.  Aisles lined with arrays of New Year goodies attract extra flows of traffics, even my non-Chinese friends are drawn in by that robust and joyous atmosphere.

IMG_6045Fares of all kinds: Savouries, sweets, nuts and seeds, ready to be popped into eager mouths; all bears auspicious meanings to render positive energies to this significant celebration. Their take-out Chinese New Year dishes are so well-received; the kitchen team at T&T has been working hard to come up with a more engaging menu.   Hence this year, the most eye-catching display is awarded to Imperial Chinese New Year dishes; designed and prepared by Chef Ge Fen, T&T’s very own culinary master leading their central kitchen. He delivers not only the divine flavours enjoyed by the emperor and his royal family, but the authenticity and blessings of traditional Chinese New Year gourmet!IMG_6037

In the large clay pot is layers of delicacies including abalone, sea cucumber and large shiitake mushrooms. Over there is a tea-smoked Fraser Valley goose, accompanied by fluffy buns.  Behind the goose is a poached to perfection whole chicken, complete with head, tail and a red sash for extra good luck.  The double-cooked and slow-steamed Pork Belly with fresh bamboo shoots glitter with shiny and seductive colour. In the other pot is the famous and very healthy herb and ginseng chicken soup which I tried and loved.  I also tasted the pot of Japanese meets Taiwanese pot of sticky rice topped with grilled eel.  And of course, everyone must have a little, no matter how full – the traditional round and steamed New Year cake for dessert.IMG_6040

Do not just adore the big and obvious platters; do take a look at the fine details Chef Ge attends to. What about the cone-shaped fluffy steamed buns? Those who’ve enjoyed the hot to the touch 6” steamed ‘Long John’ style white buns consist of soft strands known as “yin-zhee-juen” in Mandarin restaurants will find themselves biting into the same delectation – cushion- soft, silky, aromatic and reach-for-the-second buns.

All these imperial dishes are yours to take home, complete with re-heating instruction, so you can stay at home to enjoy a gourmet multi-course Chinese New Year dinner with your loved ones, but without the hassle of chopping and cooking!  Do phone in ahead to order so T&T can prepare them accordingly.

Happy ‘Year of the Horse’ to you all!

Tea with Dad

 

TeapotsWords: Stephanie Yuen

We lived in a government housing estate near the old Kai-Tek airport where we would go anywhere within 20 kilometer radius of home on foot. My dad used to walk us to the park to throw basketball, to the dock side to watch ferries rolled in and to catch half-priced matinees in the Kowloon-Seng district. Having a dad who’s a teacher gave us plenty of outdoor activities together. As the daughter who showed immense interest in anything edible even at a young age, Dad had endowed me with special trips to home kitchens, snack joints and this hold-in-the-wall tea shop his friend Uncle Wong owned. As much as I enjoyed family playtime, the recollection of those tea shop visits were endeared moments that belonged to just Dad and I.  The tea sets, tea stories and the many shades of gold and green colour teas in those tiny tea cups casted the fondest childhood memories.

The tea shop, whose name I never registered, located in Kowloon-jai, the ghetto adults warned their kids about. It housed many strange shops, legal or not, and was the source of many nightmares and crime stories. To be able to go inside was an adventure; to walk through the winding alleys, my little hand in Dad’s big, warm palm, was simply fascinating.

The 5’ by 8’ tea shop, dark and shabby and looked every bit like a closed-in patio, occupied the front portion of a ground-floor suite in an old building. We had to step over a narrow ditch running along the alley-side in order to get in.

The soft-spoken Uncle Wong, upon seeing us, would grin and stand up from a bamboo stool, and fetched another stool for Dad to sit on. Since there’s no more space to put in another stool, and no more stool in fact, I stood and observed. As a kid growing up watching my father perfecting the pleasure of drinking tea; and later on as a teenager learning how to brew and sip different kinds of tea, there was this one tea shop occasion that planted my love of Pu Erh Tea, which I treasure dearly to this day.

While chitchatting with Dad, Uncle Wong started to maneuver around while busy with his two hands. Like magic, he pulled up a beautiful old wooden tray in which a 4” dark colour tea cake in a piece of thick yellow silk wrap, a set of Zhi-za teapot including a bowl and six cups laid. Reflecting a nostalgic glow under the 20 watt light bulb, the brownish-purple tea set was as delicate and adorable as a set of fancy toy we could never afford. Uncle picked up the tea cake and with the help of a teeny wooden hammer, broke off a corner and dropped it into the teapot.

Somehow in the tight corner to the left of the narrow counter, a small kettle started to breathe out hot air. He turned off the single kerosene stove, removed the kettle and poured hot water into the teapot which was then emptied onto the cups. After rinsing and warming up the cups with the tea, he dumped every drop from the cups into the bowl.  He filled the pot with hot water once again and then picked up the teapot and distributed into each cup ¾ full of the greenish-brown tea. Without waiting for the invitation, Dad picked up one cup, drank it empty; and the second cup, then the third. “Ahh…” he signed, putting the empty cup back onto the tray. Sitting next to him, Uncle Wong did the very same thing. This they repeated five or six times. The colour of the tea was getting darker and darker but gradually lightened up.   藍標宋~1 

“Wow, such good tea!” They said in unity.

“You still have a few left?” Dad asked, pointing to the cake.

“May be four or five,” Uncle answered. “I left one for you!”

“Thank you!” Dad said with a smile, and to my surprise, handed the cup of tea, now almost dark as ink, to me. “Take a sip!” he told me. And I eagerly obliged.

“What is this?” I took a small sip and started feeling the indescribable sensation that attacked my tongue and side. red label puerh photo[1]

“You find it bitter?” Dad asked.

“Just a bit, but it’s now getting sweeter!” I took another sip, and another.

“This is one of the best old Pu-er tea cakes Uncle keeps.”

“How old?”

“Oh, may be 50 year-old. That’s why it’s so smooth and delicate. It’s very good for you!” said Uncle Wong, as he brought the cake closer to my nose, he added, “Smells very good too!” Absolutely unprepared, I smelled nothing, but the tea certainly was flavourful.

“It’s OK.” Said Dad gently, turning to Wong, he continued, “this should help settle my upset stomach, too much oily stuff in the last couple days!.”

“You bet!” Wong replied, filling the cups with another round of hot tea.

Their conversation with the 9-year old on that day may be short but the arc-shape, firm Pu-er teacake and the dark-brown cups of tea stirred up my interest in Chinese tea to no end. The more I learn about Chinese Tea culture, the stronger my love of tea.

Years later in Vancouver, I met up with Eliza Lam of Aroma Tea House on Granville (at W. 65th) who shared her immense tea knowledge with readers of a magazine I was editing for. I had the pleasure of meeting her Dad Mr. Lam, a tea master who owned one of the major tea shops in Hong Kong over a pot of Jasmine blossom tea he picked out and brewed for me. We talked about all aspects of tea culture and the different kinds of Chinese Tea, from white tea to herbal tea; for drinking pleasure and for healthy life style; from tea sets to tea ceremonies. With a display of different shapes and sizes of Pu-er teacakes, he explained to me the history and folklores behind Pu-er tea and the significance of the teacakes. The tea dialogue with Mr. Lam that afternoon opened another door that led me into the ancient tea wonderland. Thanks to Mr. Lam and Eliza, the taste of every cup of tea, expecially Pu-erh has never been the same!          

Mr. Lam brewing tea (HK)

 Special notes on Pu-erh tea cakes: Eliza told me real Pu-erh tea cakes of 50 years or older are now rare commodities. Anyone who has such tea cakes lying around in the storage room or hidden in trunks but has no desire of ever drinking them, dig them out and send them to Aroma Tea House for verification and if the price is right, sell them! Drop by Aroma Tea House or call Eliza at 604-266-7738 to find out details.

Chili Oil Supremacy – XO Sauce

Stephanie Yuen

My sister gave me a jar of home-made XO sauce she brought back from Hong Kong which we opened and consumed spoonfuls right away with my wok-fried vermicelli. What a mean jar of flavourful hot chili oil this Hong Kong friend of hers made!

When eating out Cantonese these days, don’t be surprised to see a charge of $3 or more added on to the bill for the XO sauce you asked for. There are exceptions of course, but you have to either be a regular customer, a VIP, a friend of the manager, the chef or the boss. 

A few fine dining restaurants do offer complimentary XO sauce but only at dinner time for obvious reason – to flatter you the paying customers who in fact are already paying for it indirectly without knowing so!

Some Chinese restaurants here are selling house-made XO sauce for around $15 to $20 per 250-300 gram jars.  Price tags on imported ones, available at Asian markets, are $10 to $25 each depending on the size, the producer and what ingredients are used. 

What is XO sauce? Why so expensive? 

XO Sauce

The name ‘XO’ is in fact a term borrowed from the same cognac label referring to the luxurious extra old age brandy.  This symbol of exquisite quality best defines the superbly prepared XO sauce filled with fine ingredients such as dried shrimp, dried scallop, cured ham and even abalone, the very same reason why it is regarded by as the supreme chili oil!

XO sauce’s rich flavour and versatility makes it the most sought after condiment in Cantonese restaurants. Quite often, it is the only sauce customers ask for and may have perhaps replaced other sauces including chili paste and mustard.  The demand and supply rule certainly applies here, all those fine ingredients do not come cheap! The time, labour and particular skill, plus the chef’s very own secret touch… all combine to put XO sauce in the gourmet category.  If there is such a sauce that compliments 90% of the food on Chinese and even other ethnic dinner tables, say with stews, meatloaf, pulled pork, pasta with tomato sauce, baked short ribs and roasted chicken, it’s got to be XO Sauce.  

XO sauce debuted in the 80’s as a marketing idea; a delicious lure created by top-ranked Cantonese chefs in Hong Kong.  In order to stay ahead in a fiercely competitive market, chefs have to constantly come up with new culinary concepts to please the diners.  Like food trends, majority of those concepts come and go, but XO sauce catches on and manages to stay forever.  “It is all about the ingredients, the colour and flavour that promise to sensationalize your palates.” Executive Chef Gordon Chan whose XO sauce calls for pre-ordering well in advance stated, “Good XO sauce with the right heat, is absolutely addictive!”

It took a few years before XO sauce came to Vancouver but soon after landing, it gained huge popularity.  Nowadays, chefs of most fine-dining Chinese seafood and dimsum restaurants are expected to come up with their own XO sauce to stay in the race and to keep customers happy.

The all-purpose chili oilChinese restaurants offering awesome XO sauce:

1/ Sun Sui Wah Restaurant (Richmond & Vancouver)

2/Empress Seafood Restaurant (Richmond)

3/ Hon’s Wunton House (Available in jars)

4/ Gingeri (Richmond)

5/ Rain Flower (Richmond)

6/ Red Star (Richmond & Vancouver)

 

 

BC Spot Prawns

Words: Stephanie Yuen

 Spot Prawns

My neighbour was in the kitchen ‘handling’ live spot prawns in the sink when I popped by this afternoon. “Lots of work!” she said to me, with a pair of scissors in one hand and a 3” prawn in the other. “I’m cutting all the pointy stuff off and will pan-fry them with chopped ginger and garlic. I got these in Chinatown for $13.99 per lb. We love it!”  She’s totally excited about dinner.  Obviously, she’s a big spot prawn fan. “I used to go with my Mom to the seafood store on Victoria Drive when the prawns are in season. I grocery-shop in Chinatown now since I work close by.”  And a savvy eater too, this neighbour of mine, I say.

Spot prawns swimming in tanks are familiar sights to those who shop in seafood stores in Chinatown, T&T Superstore or Chinese-frequented shopping areas. When we say fresh seafood, we often mean ‘live’!  I for one, has been shopping for live fish, crabs, oysters, geoducks, lobsters and of course, spot prawns, usually few hours before dinner to keep it ‘fresh and to allow enough time to prepare them for a sumptuous dinner. Thanks to Spot Prawn Festival which takes place in May at Granville Island, this proud products of  BC is now embraced and enjoyed by those who may be used to eating frozen, breaded and deep-fried seafood.   

prawn(ningtu)Well, another short BC spot prawn season has begun.  I had the fortunate pleasure of biting into them few times already. The season lasts usually about 2 months so lot of folks buy them in large quantities and put them in airtight plastic bags or boxes and freeze them for consumption later on. But Chinese prefer them as fresh as possible and defintely are not keen on buying lots of them but freeze half.

 “Do you know BC spot prawn are the largest of the commercial species in Canada’s west coast waters?” My neighbour asked me who gave her an encouraging look. “Large female prawns can be as big as 9 inches.  65% of the prawns are harvested from the inside waters in Vancouver Island.” Ah, someone did her research, or may be she was simply paying attention to what the fishmonger was telling her.

Since a large percentage of the commercial catch is exported to China and Japan, do take advantage of the short spot prawn season while you can.

 

The simplest way to enjoy the natural taste of live BC spot prawns at home:

Bring a pot of water to boil, add in salt and few slices of ginger.  Pour in the prawns. Remove when the prawns turn orange red.  Pour into a drainer. Enjoy with Ginger sweet soy sauce.

Ginger sweet-soy sauce:

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. shredded ginger

1 stalk green onion, thinly sliced

2 tbsp. cilantro, coarsely chopped

½ tsp. white sugar

2 oz. vegetable oil

1 chili pepper, seeded and sliced

1 tbsp. dark soy sauce

1 tbsp. light soy sauce

Place ginger, green onion, cilantro and chili pepper in a bowl, add sugar. In a small pot, bring oil to a boil on high. Pour into the bowl. Add dark and light soy sauce. Mix and serve as a sauce on the side.

Wine pairing suggestions:   

McWatters Collection 2011 Chardonnay1/ McWatters Collection 2011 Chardonnay:  The well-balanced body and lengthy finish goes exceptional well with prawns pan-fried with soy, or grilled with a buttery lemon-garlic sauce. The oak character and hints of jack fruit bring out the nuttiness in the prawn shells and the flavour of the meaty body.

 

Oak Bay Schonburger2/ Oak Bay 2012 Schonburger:A lovely and truly delicious wine filled with floral notes and lively topical fruit flavour – aromatic Chinese pear, sweet mangosteen and refreshing pineapple –  is perfect with chili-spiced spot prawns or poached prawns with a ginger sweet-soy sauce.

 

Suckling Pigs and Chinese Wedding Banquets

Stephanie Yuen (Chinese blogs: http://taiyangbao.ca/author/stephanieyuen/?variant?zh-hans )

Ever wonder why the first course of a Chinese wedding banquet is a platter of crispy-skin suckling pig?The first course at a Chinese wedding banquet - roasted suckling pig

In the old days, the suckling pig was a symbol of ‘virginity’, referring to the purity of the bride who before the wedding night has never courted anyone; and from that night on she is the ‘woman’ of the groom.  Evidently and thanks to the widely practiced ‘freedom of the body and mind’ and ‘woman’s liberty’, the symbolic meaning no longer holds true.   

Thankfully, Chinese stick to their wishful thinking regime and ritual practices, the suckling pig still leads its way, in the form of a platter, at most Chinese banquets. As far as the goodness of us epicureans’ glutton enjoyment is concerned, who (sorry, my vegan friends!) would want to forfeit the succulent texture and the symphony of flavour of the suckling pig?

A plate of perfectly roasted suckling pig

According to Richmond’s BBQ King Chow Hung who runs ‘Master Hung’s BBQ House’ on Garden City (at Blundell), the perfect weight of a suckling pig is around 8.5 kilos. Those with short snouts, short tails and small ears are the best. Authentically, suckling pig is roasted by hand over open fire of wood and charcoal which takes approximately 3 hours to complete the roasting. Today’s high-tech equipment taking over the sweating labour and manual skills, this also becomes a history.

While it is very likely to see suckling pigs hanging in the vertical oven inside the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant or BBQ store, the flavour and texture withheld nicely, but of course, it will never be the same as the hand-held roasted ones. The crackling (crispy skin) of a young pig is so divine and delicate; it is what the real gourmand goes after.  The skin should never be chewy or dried if roasted to perfection. To keep the skin crispy, ask the store clerk to slit open a tiny opening at the four corners of the take-out box when purchasing an order or two of the Crispy skin roasted pig.

These days, you can even pre-order a whole suckling pig for special occasions, parties and celebration. The price tag runs from $150 to $200 per pig.

Oh yes, you can make your own home-version of the roasted pig (not suckling pig). Master Hung has given me his easy-to-do recipe to be shared with readers of my newly released ‘East Meets West’, available every where, including Barbar-Jo’s Books To Cooks on W. 2nd (Burrard & Fir).

 

My first Asian-recipe cookbook – East Meets West

Stephanie Yuen

                                                                                                                                                                   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My sincere thanks to the chefs and friends who never stop to send me their encouragements and supports from day 1, and to my colleagues,  friends in the hospitality industry and readers who want to know when and how to get hold of a copy! You are the true inspiration!

Well, here is the information!

Official book title: East Meets West

Traditional and Contemporary Asian Recipes from Acclaimed Vancouver Restaurants

http://www.dmpibooks.com/author/stephanie-yuen

March, 2010 came the first email from Lucy, Senior Editor at Douglas & McIntyre inviting me to meet with her to discuss a book project. The luncheon meeting took place soon after. Yes, we agreed that it’s time for the great food cityVancouver to dedicate a cookbook to local Asian restaurants and chefs!  We agreed to meet to discuss further details upon my return from a working trip to Hong Kong andMalaysia in May.

June, 2010: Lucy and I met again and drafted out a synopsis for the book. And that, officially kicked off my 20-month long book project – the 200+ pages cookbook!

July, 2010: Embarked on a recipe-seeking journey. Many desired recipes, including regional ones were those I tasted and always enjoyed, some are signature dish, some are newly-created master pieces.

September, 2010:  Sent out verbal and/or email invitations to Asian chefs for their favourite recipes and to Western chefs for their unique Asian-themed recipes. As a matter of fact, quite a few recipes were obtained through way of stenography – chef dictated and I scripted! Love chatting with the chefs who gave me tons of cooking tips!

October, 2010: Visited restaurants and chefs to deliver the invitations in person. Though there were more than expected refusals, there’re lots of welcoming smiles and opened-arms.

November, 2010: Received the first lot of recipes and started working on the  editorial and recipe-testing.  Thank goodness, my kids and their friends, neighbours and their friends were always-ready tasters! 

The rest, as they say, is history!!

While online pre-order is already available, ‘East Meets West’ will be published April, 2012.

 

 

Let the magic of BBQ Duck enchant the New Year tables

Peking duck is a delightful party food great for New Year celebrations, at home!

Stephanie Yuen

No matter how it’s done – roasted, curried, braised or barbecued, with or without the bone – duck has always been my meat favourite.  So when it comes to holiday celebrations or festive meals, there has to be one or couple duck dishes.

When there is more time on hand, I would start off from scratch.  The best place to buy frozen ducks is at Asian supermarkets where they charge less than $20 for one.  After defrosting and cleaning the duck, prepare a double soy marinade by mixing brown sugar, a tablespoon of red wine and 2 oz each of light and dark soy sauce and brush evenly on the inside and outside of the duck, and marinate for at least 6 hours and hang it dry overnight (place a large bowl underneath to catch the dripping).  The next day, deep fry the whole bird till golden brown.  While waiting for the duck to cool down, stir fry 1 cup of glutinous rice, 1 each of diced lap cheung (Chinese sauce), deiced shitake mushroom and 1 tbsp of dried shrimp till the rice is semi-cooked. Stuff inside the duck and steam for 4 hours.  Yes, this is one time and effort consuming recipe, but the tender fall-off-the bone duck meat and the amazing-flavoured sticky rice are worth every minute!

What about one very easy, fun-to-do and great party food (each duck is good for around 10 people) and very appealing duck recipe – a DIY 2-course Peking duck: Duck skin wrap and lettuce wrap.

To kick start, go to your favourite Chinese BBQ shop and purchase a BBQ duck; make sure you tell the butcher not to cut or chop the duck. You also need 1 head of lettuce, a bundle of green onions, 1 Japanese cucumber, 1 carrot, 1 medium onion, 1 red pepper and 6 shitake mushrooms. Don’t forget to pick up a package of 10” flour tortilla!For seasoning, you’ll need both light and dark soy sauce, hoisin and oyster sauce, and a small amount of peanut sauce.

Place the duck on a large plate once home. Line a baking pan with tin foil and put the wire rack on top of the foil.  Use a pair of scissors and a paring knife, remove the skin while cutting into 2” X 1.5” pieces and place them onto the rack.  Cover lightly with wax paper or foil, put aside. Remove as much meat from the duck, the carcass is great for making congee (or soup), so save and freeze it. Dice the meat and put in a bowl. Put aside.

Cut 4 pieces of tortilla into 4 even quarters, stack and foil-wrap them and put aside. You can prepare more later when needed.

With the help of a pointed knife, carefully take the lettuce leaves apart.  Try to keep the leaves intact since they will be used as containers for the 2nd course.

Julienne the white parts of 3 green onions and the cucumber; put them into 2 separate bowls. Small-dice and place everything else in separate bowls.

While start serving your guests with dips and cheese, preheat the oven to 300F. .

For an easy peking duck sauce, just squeeze it out of the hoisin sauce bottle. But for a better-tasting sauce with the right texture, this is a good time to make your own. Bring 2 oz of water, 1½ Tbsp of brown sugar, 2 oz of peanut butter, 1/2 cup of hoisin sauce in a saucepan on medium high heat to a soft boil, stir in 1 tbsp of sesame oil. Turn off heat and empty sauce into a serving bowl.

When the oven is ready, remove the wax paper or foil cover, place both the duck skins and the foiled-tortillas inside and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. While waiting for the skins and tortillas to be re-heated, why not cook the duck meat?

Place wok on high heat. Bring 2 tbsp of cooking oil to a medium boil. Add diced carrot, onion, red pepper and mushroom respectively at 10-seconds intervals and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add 1 tsp each of hoisin, oyster sauce, dark and light soy sauce, brown sugar, cold water and mix well.  Add duck meat and sauté for another minute, empty into a large bowl and serve with lettuce leaves and peking duck sauce.

Place a whole tortilla on a large round plate.  Remove duck skins from the oven and transfer the skins onto the tortilla (to absorb the grease) and serve with the quartered tortilla.

Enjoy these fun duck courses and help yourselves to a delicious, healthy and happy 2012!

Cheap and Cheerful – Bubble Tea Cafe

These days, they are everywhere! Big or tiny; fancy or enclosed; bubble tea cafés are so popular they might well be one of the top competitors to other beverage joints.

As daunting as Starbucks in N. America, bubble Tea café is the place to hang out for the young generations, especially high school kids that are still underaged to go boozing in public. Perhaps this explains why the Drink Menu outlists the food menu most of the time. To these youngsters who somehow roam freely even at mig-night, these fancy drinks are make-shift cocktails without the alcoho. Look at the names: ‘Blue Baby’,‘Passionate Love’ or ‘Young Girl’s Dream’, obviously, the fantasy and pleasure is far beyond what’s in the drink!

And yet, to call these cafés ‘bubble tea café’ is somewhat misleading, since they offer a genre of Taiwanese snacks as well. In fact, more and more bubble tea cafés categorize themselves as Taiwanese bistros and have successfully expanded their client base to include families and boomers.

Taiwanese cuisine; influenced by Japanese culture and aboriginals; is also an adaptation ofFujianand Hakka cooking. The Japanese gives them an artistic approach found in room décor, the wares, the plating and the sculptured icy drinks. Set meals, come with soup, side dishes rice are often served Bento-style. Taiwan-aboriginals’ rural form of food preparation and the usage of roots, herbs and wild vegetables; along with authentic Fujian and Hakka recipes, turn out intense flavoured soup, noodles, meat and seafood, along with other one-of-a-kind dishes and comfortating table-top hot-pots.

Don’t worry about exotic dishes, though they will be some, but 90% of the menu items are Joe and Jane proof.  Dishes like Minced pork on rice, Wok-fried live clams, Taiwanese chicken nugget, assortment of noodle soups, original beef noodle soup loaded with deliciously braised shanks, grilled pork chops, pan-fried vegetables and fried rice…the list goes on and on. There has to be a dish or two that appeals to even the fussiest diner.

And the best reason to dine in a bubble tea bistro? Extremely wallet-friendly!  How friendly?  What about $10 – 12 for a eat-till-you-drop  shared multi-course dinner?