Hong Kong Steamed Rice Noodle Rolls, 豬腸粉


豬腸粉 steamed rice noodle rolls, Hong Kong style

豬腸粉 steamed rice noodle rolls, Hong Kong style

豬腸粉 steamed rice noodle rolls, Hong Kong style

Other than rice congee, the second item of food we always get after our flight back into Hong Kong, is rice noodles. Be it rice noodles rolls, simply served with a trio of sauces and sprinkling of sesame seeds (豬腸粉) or the steamed rice rolls at yum char with fillings such as prawns, beef mince/coriander/water chestnuts or char siu Chinese Bbq pork (蒸腸粉) . Both are made with a rice flour batter, creating thin sheets of noodles that are slightly elastic and bouncy.

Both are J’s favourite and I have promised her to write this recipe up for a while. It only took a week-long hospital stay for me to find the time to do so. Over the recent long weekend, we got to test it a few more times to make sure the quantities in the recipe are right. These reheat well and tastes just like the ones we have in Hong Kong!

Be sure to first figure out your steaming station and consider whether the size of the steaming dish will fit your steamer. Here’s a not so glamorous photo of my set up:

豬腸粉 steamed rice noodle rolls, Hong Kong style

Ingredients (makes 6-7 rice noodles)

  • 120g rice flour 粘米粉
  • 30g wheat starch 澄麵
  • 30g cornstarch 粟粉
  • 450ml water
  • pinch of salt
  • 20ml neutral oil, such as rice bran

Instructions

  1. Set up your steaming station. Find a metal tray that fits into the wok, sitting on top of a steaming rack. Oil the tray and line it with a piece of baking paper, with about 2 cm hanging over the tray on one side. Trim so that the paper sits flush to the edges of the other 3 sides.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together. Whisk the batter until there are no lumps.
  3. With the water at a rolling boil, pour about 1/4 cup or just enough batter onto the lined tray (this depends on the size of your tray). Make sure it’s very thin, barely covering the bottom is just enough. Gently spread the batter into the corners of the tray as well.
  4. Steam for 3 minutes, covered.
  5. Remove the lid, and carefully, using a pastry scraper, roll the rice noodle sheet up from one end of the tray to the other. It’s easier if you hold the baking paper slightly taunt on one side with one hand and roll/push with the other towards the opposite direction. Place on a plate and keep warm. Repeat with the rest of the batter.
  6. If you are making filled rice noodles, place fillings in the first third section of the sheet and steam for 4 minutes. Remove the lid and roll the rice noodle sheet from the filling side. (for fillings that doesn’t need more cooking, like fried dough Yau Cha Guai, simply place the filling on the rice noodle sheet after the sheet is cooked. Roll the sheet with the filling inside.
  7. Cut them into shorter pieces. Drizzle with sweet soy sauce, hoisin sauce and most importantly, sesame sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional) and serve warm.

豬腸粉 steamed rice noodle rolls, Hong Kong style

Chocolate brownie crinkle cookies with powdered sugar and olive oil


chocolate brownie crinkle cookie with powdered sugar and olive oil

chocolate brownie crinkle cookie with powdered sugar and olive oil

Chocolate Brownie Crinkle cookie with powdered sugar

Chocolate Brownie Crinkle cookie with powdered sugar

Chocolate Brownie Crinkle cookie with powdered sugar

These reminds me of the view from 35,000 feet high, flying from Auckland to Christchurch for work. It was in the middle of winter and the Southern Alps was thickly covered by a blanket of snow – it was such a serene and beautiful scene.

J requested these cookies after sampling a version of them at a birthday party many years ago: “the icing sugar dusted chocolate cookies” was mentioned every now and then. Last weekend I finally got around to it.

They are brownie-like: soft and tender inside, but have a cookie-like crisp exterior. I have been blessed with a delivery of olive oils from Te Wheke Olives and they worked so well in this recipe. As the batter is very soft, it requires a minimum of 4 hours fridge time. You can speed that up by placing it in the freezer for 2 hours. Before you bring the batter out, have a few cookie sheets lined and the oven preheated, so that once you have two trays of 12 cookies each rolled in icing sugar, you can bake the first two trays straight away. This ensures they don’t loose too much height. I managed to complete rolling out dough for two more trays while the first batch is baking (I do have 6 identical cookie sheets – they were imperative for the large batches of macarons I make!)

The other option is to skip the icing sugar step, this creates brownie cookies with beautifully random cracks.

If you would like to make these gluten free, as I did for colleagues, just substitute the plain wheat flour with gluten free flour. The Countdown branded gluten free flour packs had corn and maize as the main ingredients. Be sure to check that your baking powder and icing sugar are free of gluten as well. They turn out a tad softer than the ones made with wheat flour, and my tasters actually prefer these!

Ingredients (50-60 cookies)

  • 125ml olive oil
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 95g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 eggs (size 7, about 60g each)
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 80g icing sugar, for rolling

Instructions

  1. Place olive oil, caster sugar and cocoa powder in a mixing bowl. Paddle on a slow speed until homogenous. Add in eggs one at a time, making sure each has been incorporated before adding the next. Add in the vanilla paste.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt then add into the cocoa mixture. This will look just like a brownie batter, thick and runny. Chill batter for at least 5 hours, best over night.
  3. Preheat oven to 180C. Line baking trays with baking paper. Using two teaspoons, drop small scoops of thick mousse-like batter into a bowl of icing sugar. Roll the balls until they are covered with powdered/icing sugar.
  4. Place on lined baking trays.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Let stand on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

chocolate brownie crinkle cookie with powdered sugar and olive oil

Borscht soup, Hong Kong style 羅宋湯


Borscht soup, Hong Kong style

Borscht soup, Hong Kong style

Borscht soup, Hong Kong style

Borscht soup, Hong Kong style

The other night the topic of food trends came up at home. S and I talked about the food we had in our teenage years and shared with J, our fond memories of Hong Kong restaurants that were born out of the then-growing western influence in the 1980s. Their menus typically include pasta, pizza and grilled meats. Often, there will be set menus (which is still a very common thing to have on all restaurant menus) that goes typically like this:

1) choice of soup: soup of the day, creamy mushroom (“white” soup), tomato borscht type soup (“red” soup)

2) main of grilled meats (chicken thigh, pork chops and beef rump, or a mixture) with choice of pasta, potatoes/vegetables or rice. You also get to choose between a black peppercorn, belchamel or tomato sauce.

3) coffee or tea, and of course the “combination” drink yin yeung.

Sometimes you also get for dessert a small bowl of jelly or ice cream served in a tiny aluminium bowl.

This became in my mind, the iconic western meals in the 1980s to 1990s for the previous British colony. A step up from the cha chaan teng, which serves the more basic Hong Kong fare, like macaroni soup, pineapple buns and “stocking” milk tea.

For 99% of the time I will choose the borscht soup, which is an adapted version of the Russian Ukrainian tomato soup. It doesn’t normally have beets, and can have a variety of stable vegetables from any Hong Kong vege market. It’s the most popular soup in my childhood days, and is now J’s favourite soup.

My mum makes this with oxtail or beef shin. I’ve been able to source end-cuts of parma or prosciutto and prefers that now for the depth in flavour it adds to the soup (one time I didn’t use prosciutto and S and J both asked me about the lack of flavour. Seriously!) You can also use bacon or ham bones too.

This soup tastes better when cooked for longer. Cook on the stove for a few hours, in a crock pot, Instant Pot or a thermos, it will all work!

This quantity easily serves 5-6 people.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, cut into large chunks
  • 2 carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 2 small potatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into large chunks (I sometimes leave out)
  • 1/2 cabbage, cut into large chunks
  • 1 can of whole peeled tomatoes
  • 50g tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp beef stock (I use Simon Gault’s)
  • 2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 300g parma ham, end cut or substitute with other meats like beef shin, oxtail
  • 2 – 3 litres of water

Instructions

  1. Lightly oil a hot pan, sautée the onions, carrots and celery. Transfer into a large soup pot (I use a Thermos pot, similar to a Crock Pot, except it has no heating function).
  2. Add potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, tomato paste, beef stock, Worcestershire sauce and parma ham into the soup pot.
  3. Add enough boiling water to cover, about 2 litres, and bring it to a boil.
  4. Let it boil for 15 minutes and then turn it down to a simmer for 2 hours. If using a thermos cooker or Crock Pot, after the initial boiling, transfer that into the thermos/Crock Pot and let it continue to cook for a few hours. I often prepare this the night before and leave it to cook overnight.
  5. It’s ready when the cabbages and other vegetables are soft. Taste and add salt as required.

Borscht soup, Hong Kong style

Brown Sugar Iced Milk with Boba Pearls


Brown sugar milk with boba pearls

Brown sugar milk with boba pearls

Brown sugar milk with boba pearls

Brown sugar milk with boba pearls

My favourite boba/bubble drink used to be Taro milk tea. In my uni days there weren’t many Taiwanese tea houses in Auckland and I considered these a treat, rather than for a weekly consumption. I remember purchasing big bags of the drink mix to make bubble teas for friends at a gathering. It was manic having to brew so much tea and the pot of tapioca pearls took forever to cook through.

Fast forward to 2014, J was 6 and had been introduced to these milk tea drinks, but prefers chocolate milk with rainbow jelly. She said tea wasn’t really her thing and much preferred chewing on flavoured jelly rather than a tasteless blob.

Then came the Brown Sugar Milk drink in 2018. These were nick named “dirty” as warm brown sugar syrup were drizzled around the insides of cups, and when mixed with cold milk, it created a streaky effect, hence “dirty” illusion. It was a relatively simple drink, pearls cooked till tender and then soaked in unrefined brown sugar syrup to give the pearls a caramel taste. The best thing was the fresh milk that was used in the drink, no tea at all and is the reason why J didn’t mind trying it at first. In fact she drank most of that first introductory cup of brown sugar milk and was reluctant to share the rest with me 😅

One problem I have with the current tea houses selling such drinks: there seems to be no uptake of reusable cups for boba drinks. I guess the marketing strategy relies on customers seeing the layered drinks and contents. It makes me crinch everytime I buy one. At least I bring my stainless steel straw now, (the surprised look on the staffs’ face when I refuse their straw and pull out my own though) but one day I will bring my glass bottle or jar to the tea house and see if they will sell a drink to me in those. For now, this recipe to make these at home will suffice.

It’s really important to point out here that the quality of your milk makes or breaks this liquid delight. Use your favourite one, with fat retained. We used the gold class milk from a Jersey breed, by Lewis Road Creamery, from Waikato, New Zealand.

If you can, choose milk that has no permeate, a by-product of milkprocessing, which waters down milk. Jersey milk is naturally higher in butterfat and milk solids, making it a creamier milk with a full bodied taste.
This was perfect for this recipe. (this post is not sponsored nor have I been gifted the product. We truly love the milk).

Have fun making! (feel free to double or triple the amount of sugar syrup – you can easily use it on ice cream and desserts.)

Ingredients (makes 3 glasses)

  • 1 cup tapioca pearls
  • 5 cups water, boiling
  • 1 cup Mascovado sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 600ml Lewis Road Creamery Jersey Milk
  • Ice cubes, optional

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan, bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Add the tapioca pearls to cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.
  2. Cover with lid and turn off the heat, to keep it slowly cooking in the residual heat for another 40 minutes.
  3. While the pearls are cooking, place sugar and water in a separate pot. Bring to a slow simmer till thick and sticky, and turn off the heat. Pour about a third of this syrup into a small squeezy bottle. Reserve the rest in the pot.
  4. Once the pearls are cooked, strain them into the pot with the sugar syrup. Let it sit for 30 minutes before using.
  5. When ready, scoop the boba pearls into 3 glasses. With the glass on a tilt, rotate the glass so that the syrup from the pearls glide onto the sides of the glass. From about one cm from the top of the glass, squeeze a line of syrup from the bottle along the insides of the glasses, while rotating the glass.
  6. Pour cold milk over the warm boba pearls.
  7. Give the drink a good stir before drinking.

Brown sugar milk with boba pearls

Chawanmushi 茶碗蒸し


Chawanmushi - Japanese savoury egg custard

Shiitake mushroom chawanmushi

Shiitake mushroom chawanmushi

Shiitake mushroom chawanmushi

Shiitake mushroom chawanmushi

Shiitake mushroom chawanmushi

Little tiny dishes with delicately plated ingredients, perfect execution of cooking and tastes of deliciousness. I love Japanese meals that are presented as several courses, and especially when they integrate well, following naturally from one to the next.

One iconic dish, Chawanmushi, is often served as part of the course. This savoury egg custard is cooked with a fragrant dashi broth, hiding amongst it treasures to be revealed when you dig in. Made with delicate and seasonal ingredients, the best ones are silky smooth and very light. The dashi broth is very important as it is the unique flavour of Japanese food. I used packets of dashi powder mixed with water.

Dashi

Until recently, fresh Shiitake mushrooms were not commonly found in New Zealand. This is key to Asian cooking and I’m excited that Meadow Mushrooms, the 50 year old mushroom producer in NZ has extended their range to include these now. Grown on sawdust logs which have been inoculated with Shiitake mushroom spores, these grow quickly and are harvested in 14 days. They are bold in flavour, with a strong umami taste adding depth to most dishes.

Here I have also added wakame and fish cake. Other fillings such as prawns, crab meat, clams, small pieces of chicken thighs and onion slices are also excellent options. Traditionally steamed, you can also cook this in a water bath.

Using all my small sized cups and ramekins, I made mini portions. They were 60ml to 80ml each and I made seven with these quantities below. Increase your steaming time by 3 minutes if your bowls are larger.

Ingredients

  • 400ml water
  • 1 x 8g packet dashi powder
  • 3 eggs (180g)
  • 1.5 tsp soy sauce
  • 1.5 tsp cooking Sake or mirin
  • 2 tsp dried wakame
  • 4-5 Shiitake mushrooms, sliced and halved
  • 14 thin slices of Japanese fish cake

Instructions

  1. Using a measuring jug, make up dashi stock. Add wakame to rehydrate it within the stock.
  2. Lightly beat the eggs and strain it through a sieve into the dashi stock, to remove any clumps of egg. This helps with the smoothness of the dish, ensuring no clumps or air pockets inside the custard. Add soy sauce and cooking sake.
  3. Place your fillings in the chawanmushi cups, reserving a few pieces of mushroom and fish cake for the top.
  4. Pour egg mixture into chawanmushi cups.
  5. On top of the mixture, add 2 small pieces of Shiitake mushrooms and a piece of fish cake, allowing it to float.
  6. Using a bamboo steamer over a wok, gently steam chawanmushi cups on low for 12 minutes. (mine were tiny 60ml to 80ml portions so steamed quickly. If you are making bigger portions, steam for 15 mins).
  7. If not using a bamboo steamer, where water vapor is allowed to escape, use aluminum foil to cover the tops of each cup to prevent condensation from dripping into the cups. You can also wrap a large clean tea towel around the steamer lid to contain the condensation from the steaming.
  8. Insert a wooden toothpick to check if it has cooked through. They are ready if clear juice comes out.
  9. Serve warm.

Shiitake mushroom chawanmushi

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