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Chinese doughnuts 笑口棗

Chinese doughnuts

Chinese doughnuts

Chinese doughnuts

I have fond memories of going shopping with mum around CNY and she would always pick up sweet treats from this Chinese pastry shop in an older suburb.

There would be fried sweet dumplings with nuts and sesame, large hollow sesame dough balls that are crisp when you first bite into it and then chewy from the thin glutinous flour mixture. Another favourite is a red bean paste-filled sweet dumpling that is super hard to stop at one.

One of her favourite sweet treat is the little doughnuts that puff and open up, like a smile, hence their Chinese name of “laughing mouth bite”.

Turns out these are super easy to make and requires basic ingredients from your pantry.

I’m slowly building up a treasure trove of Chinese New Year-related dishes here on the blog. Good news is that now you can enjoy these year-round.


  • 130g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 5 tbsp cold water
  • 8 tbsp white sesame seeds, for coating


  1. In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder and sugar. Add oil and water, mix well to combine into a dough.
  2. Knead for a few minutes till the dough is smooth.
  3. Roll the dough into a log. Cut into 24 pieces (for bigger balls, cut into 18 pieces).
  4. Roll the pieces into a ball shape. Wet your hands a little to wet the surface of the balls, then coat with sesame seeds.
  5. Heat a deep pan of oil till 180C, and fry doughballs on low heat until they crack open slightly. Continue frying till golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve straight away. Can be kept in an air tight box for 2 days.

Chinese doughnuts

Chinese doughnuts

Chinese doughnuts

Chinese doughnuts

Healthy Banana Ice Cream

Banana Ice Cream

Banana Ice Cream

Looking for an activity with the kids? How about making this healthy banana ice cream. It’s super easy and all you need is a bunch of ripe Dole Bobby Bananas. Simply freeze them and blitz in a food processor/blender with the option to add additional ingredients depending on your desired flavour. This creates a creamy ice cream without the dairy, fat or extra sugar.

I used Bobby Bananas because they grow at the lower end of the stem and are specifically selected for their size and sweetness.

They are also now packaged in a new, smaller tape that will reduce approximately 16 tonnes of plastic from entering landfill in NZ each year. The Bobby Banana tapes can be recycled at Love NZ Soft Plastics Recycling Scheme drop off points (lots of major supermarket locations), where they are collected and made into useful items such as fence posts and parking bumpers. The packaging update is one of the first steps in Dole’s journey towards achieving zero fossil-based plastics by 2025 as part of the global Dole Promise initiative.

Bobby Bananas are available at New World, PAK’NSAVE, Fresh Choice and Super Value and independent grocers.

#DoleNewZealand #petitesweetsnz #contentcreative #ad #spon


1 bunch of ripe Dole Bobby Bananas (7-8 fingers)

2 tbsp cacao or cocoa powder

2 tbsp liquid honey

1 tbsp cardamom powder

2 tbsp hazelnut spread


Remove skin and tape from banana fingers. Remember to recycle your Bobby Bananas tape via Soft Plastics Recycling Scheme drop off points!

Cut each banana into 5-6 pieces.

Place the cut banana pieces into the freezer for a minimum of 2 hours, best to leave overnight.

Place your frozen banana pieces into a food processor or blender and blitz on high for 3 seconds until it turns into fine crumbs.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and process on high speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the side of the bowl. The mixture should be slightly thick now.

Add your choice of flavours. Cacao or cocoa powder for chocolate, honey and cardamom powder, or hazelnut spread are all delightful.

Process on high two more times for 30 seconds. The mixture should now be very creamy.

(If you want plain banana ice cream, just omit the additional ingredients for flavours and serve straight away).

Place in tubs and freeze for a few hours before serving for firmer ice cream, or serve straight away as gelato.

Banana Ice Cream

Sweet and sour pork (咕噜肉)

Sweet and sour pork

The most iconic of all cantonese cuisine would have to be sweet and sour pork 咕噜肉. I dare say there would be a Chinese takeaway shop in any town any city, selling a variant of this.

The Hong Kong version I grew up with is sweet and tangy, with thick pieces of meat thinly coated with a crisp batter (it’s not called Sweet and Sour Batter ok?) I’m salivating just thinking about it!

The sauce has to taste of tomato sauce and not some sort of industrial grade vinegar with artificial colouring.

Some versions uses ribs (which makes it a 生炒排骨 / fried pork ribs instead), meaning less meat for me. Remember to get either pork belly or tenderloin, with the latter being most satisfyingly tender.


  • 350g pork belly or tenderloin, cubed 3cm by 3cm
  • 230g pineapple pieces (save juice)
  • 1 green capsicum, cut into 3cm long pieces
  • 1 red capsicum, cut into 3cm long pieces
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 6 tbsp corn starch for coating
  • Oil for frying


  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp shaoxing wine
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp worchestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp corn starch

Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • 3 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 120ml white vinegar
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 100ml pineapple juice
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp corn starch (for thickening at the end)


  1. Mix pork with the marinade. Add the egg and leave it to develop flavour for an hour.
  2. Mix the sauce ingredients (except corn starch for thickening) together and set aside.
  3. Place 6 tbsp corn starch on a large plate and evenly coat marinated pork pieces. Fry in medium heat for 5 minutes, turning once. Fry in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.
  4. Remove the pork pieces and drain on a paper towel for a few minutes.
  5. Add a tsp of oil to the wok and stir fry the pineapple and capsicum, cooking them for 2 minutes. Return the fried pork belly to the pan.
  6. Give the sauce a good stir and pour the sauce into the pan and stir till well coated.
  7. Mix corn starch with 2 tsp cold water to form a slurry. Pour into the hot pan and stir to thicken sauce.
  8. Serve with hot rice.

Basque cheesecake

Basque cheesecake

Basque cheesecake

Basque cheesecake

Fool-proof baked cheesecake without cookie crumb or water bath? Sign me up!

When I first read about this recipe, I couldn’t believe how simple and straight forward it is. Could it truly produce glorious results like so many others?

My version is done in two small 6 inch wide, 3 inch tall* cake pans instead of a single springform pan. All because I prefer small cakes. One to eat and one to shoot, or to give away. Feel free to bake this in a 10 inch pan if that’s what you’ve got. Because I had lined the pans with two pieces of baking paper, it was sturdy enough for me to lift the cakes out.

One tip – serve this with vanilla ice cream for the ultimate sweet/savoury hit. It’s now the one dessert I can’t resist having. Creamy cheese flavours, fragrant vanilla and oh so simple to throw together.

Shortly after photographing this, J ate a wedge (the cut wedge ) with vanilla ice cream on the side.

I don’t usually eat a whole portion of desserts I make, so took a bite out of her plate, and it blew my mind!

The caramel taste, creamy texture, salty and sweet combo had me wanting more.

This reminds me of the Portuguese custard tarts I had as a child when visiting Macau.
Lately my food cravings all have a link to a childhood memory – all the things happening the world over has an effect on everyone, regardless of who we are. Subconsciously I searched for comfort and calmness, and my heart took me back to a more peaceful time in my life. I also miss my parents who live in a different country, so perhaps all of that was tugging at my heart.

If you make this, tag me in your photos so I can share the happiness.

*Note: as my baking pans are deeper than normal (3 inch tall), it meant that I needed more baking time for it to be cooked through. If you are using a wider sized pan but not increasing the batter volume, adjust your baking time to 35-40 mins.


500g cream cheese, at room temperature
150g caster sugar
3 large eggs (size 7)
250ml double cream, I use Lewis Road Creamery
1/2 tsp vanilla paste, I use Heilala
1/4 tsp salt
24g plain flour


1. Oil two 6 inch cake pans. Push a large piece of baking paper into each pan, allowing the paper to naturally crease and fold, overlapping around the pan. Push a second piece of baking paper in, again allowing it to mould and pleat. Make sure there is at least 2 cm of paper rising up from the rim of the pan, as the batter will double in height during baking.

2. Preheat the oven to 200°C, fan bake mode.

3. In a mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until completely smooth and the sugar has dissolved. There should be no grit when rubbed between finger tips. Add eggs, one at a time, careful to scrape down the bowl after each addition.

4. Add the cream, vanilla and salt and beat on low to combine *I pulse the machine slowly first to avoid covering my front with the batter, and that’s speaking from experience*. Sift in flour and beat again for about 30 seconds until just combined.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake on the lower third shelf of the oven for 50 minutes until the top is nicely brown and the centre has puffed up – there should still be a wobble when you gently jiggle the pans. Leave to cool completely in the pans, about 40 mins. Don’t worry when you see it drop in height after a while – it’s meant to.

6. Carefully lift the cakes out of the pans by the paper. Gently lift (with your hands or a large cake spatula) the cakes off the baking paper and place on a cake plate. Slice into wedges to serve.

7. Best served with vanilla ice cream and fresh berries.

Basque cheesecake

Basque cheesecake

Basque cheesecake

Truffle Pate and Beef Dumplings

Truffle pate and beef dumplings

Truffle pate and beef dumplings

Truffle pate and beef dumplings

Truffle pate and beef dumplings

Truffle pate and beef dumplings

What’s your favourite dumpling flavours? For me it’s always been pork and chives as that’s what mum makes at home. When we go out for dinners though, we will get a variety: pork and cabbage, beef and onion etc but I’ve not made any with beef at home… Until this week!

This truffle and beef flavour is based on a yum cha dish – steamed beef mince balls with coriander – which is one of my favourite dishes to have at any yum char place. The truffle pate I’ve added is of course non-traditional, but it’s rather magical as the earthiness of truffle works so well in this recipe. We couldn’t get enough of them when I trialled the recipe in the weekend.

Pan-fried and then steamed; this is the perfect way of cooking these dumplings. The left overs went into my daughter’s lunch box the next day.

Definitely making more of these for the freezer, as part of our meal prep solutions.

What other flavours of dumplings have you tried? Let me know in comments!


  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 small bunch coriander, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, grated
  • ginger, 5cm long, grated
  • 1 egg, size 7
  • 2 Tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp mirin (or Chinese wine)
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp potato starch
  • 2 Tbsp truffle pate
  • 2 tsp black pepper, grounded
  • 60 sheets (1 pack) dumpling wrapper

Vinegar-soy Dipping Sauce

  • 4 Tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Black vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil


  1. Grate the garlic and ginger with a micropane and add to ground mince. Add all the ingredients in and stir to mix thoroughly.
  2. Add Truffle pate and mix well.
  3. In the mean time, take the dumpling wrappers out of the fridge and let it return to room temperature before starting to make the dumplings. They are more pliable when rested i.e. if you are greedy you can fit more into each dumpling.
  4. Take a little spoonful of filling and place it in the middle of the wrapper. Dip your finger into the bowl of water and wet the edges of the wrapper lightly.
  5. Fold the wrapper over the filling, forming a moon shape.
  6. Hold the dumpling in your left hand, like holding a taco.
  7. With your right index and middle fingers, flex the dough towards the left to form one pleat.
  8. Press the dough down together against your left thumb, which is just supporting the other side of the dumpling.
  9. Repeat 5 times. (There’s a short video on my Insta highlights, under “Savoury recipes” .)

Here are 2 ways of cooking dumplings, both delicious! The pan-fried way produces dumplings that have more bite in the wrapper which we quite enjoy.

If you aren’t ready to cook them all, you can freeze them in trays. Just dust with plenty of flour to ensure they don’t stick to the bottom of the tray or box. Once frozen, you can store them in sealed bags too. Cook from frozen, never defrost!

For boiled dumplings:

Fill half of a large pot or saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. (note not to fill over two-thirds of the pot as you will be adding more water later on.) Add 1 tsp salt to the water and add 30 dumplings in, be careful not to over crowd the pot.
When the water returns to a boil, pour in half a cup of cold water and wait for it to return to a boil. At this point, you add a second half cup of cold water. This is repeated until you have added water three times in total and the water has returned to a full boil. The dumplings are ready! Repeat to cook the rest of the dumplings, if not freezing for later.

Pan fried dumplings:

Heat a large pan with 2 tsp of oil. When the pan is hot, place dumplings in, flat bottoms down, in a circular pattern. Cook on medium high for 1-2 minutes till the bottom is nicely crisp. Pour in hot water that goes to a third of the height of the dumplings. Note: it will bubble like mad! Cover with lid and let it cook for 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Keep an eye on it to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated too quickly. Once the water has evaporated, a lattice skin will form on the bottom of the pan. Take it off the heat, and carefully place a plate over the dumplings. Flip the pan while holding the plate with the other hand so that the cooked dumplings are transferred over to the plate entirely, without breaking the lattice skin. (Imagine flipping an upside down cake on a plate) If flipping isn’t an option, just remove dumplings with tongs.

For the vinegar-soy dipping sauce, mix ingredients together and serve alongside warm dumplings.

Truffle pate and beef dumplings