Category Archives: Recipes – Asian

Hundred flower chicken – 百花鸡 – Chinese New Year prawn cake


A hundred young chickens? Or a new species of chicken called ‘hundred flower’ that is being cooked here? Don’t be fooled. I’ll let you in on a secret: There is no chicken in this except the skin and the hero of the dish is prawn actually.
I’m sure if you google this you will find some mythical story behind the birth of this dish, involving some ancient Chinese palace kitchen maid who was forced to create something for the king who has demanded a new dish or else heads will roll. Said maid thought long and hard and came up with such a dish – crispy on the outside and springy on the inside. King loved it and everyone was saved. The End. Anyway they all seem to have similar stories like that.
This isn’t one of those recipes that then passed from the palace kitchen to the general populace, from one generation to another in the family home. At least not to our family home. It was a case of ‘wow that’s an expensive dish! Should we try to make it at home with ingredients on hand?’
My mum went about trying it and it became one of those special dishes we do for special occasions or guests. I’ve simplified it a bit here by removing the crushed cashews – they just burn too easily and I reckon I could save on the calories for dessert instead!

500g raw prawn cutlets
1 ‘sheet’ of chicken skin from two chicken breasts (tear the skin off a double chicken breast)

2 tsp chicken powder
2 tbsp mirin
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp ground white pepper
1.5 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp cornflour (corn starch)

Drain excess water from prawns and tip them onto a chopping board.
Stand tall, roll your shoulders back and prepare yourself (well your arms at least) for a good workout. Using first 1 knife chop the cutlets small. Best to use a chefy technique where you hold the tip of the knife down with your left hand while moving the blade up and down with your right.

When they have been all chopped, proceed to use two knives to give the prawn meat a good hammering. This is also good for your mind as you channel all your negative energy into moving your arms and mincing the prawns.


Scrape the flattened prawn meat into a heap and give it another hammering.


Repeat for a few times until you feel calm and all zen-like. I would suggest 4-5 times is enough. If not, you may benefit from some kick boxing classes!!

Put the prawn meat into a bowl and add the marinade in. Give it a few crazy stirs and when your arms are tired, leave it for 10 minutes.


Dry the chicken skin and pat a good amount of cornflour on the inside of the skin, covering it all over.


Using a large soup spoon, smear the prawn meat onto the chicken skin. Smooth it down and even. Now you have a large pattie.


Heat the pan up and add a tiny teaspoon of oil. When it is hot, place the pattie in, skin side down.


Pan fry for 1 minute on high and then 2 minutes on medium, till golden. Turn over and fry for another 3 minutes. Watch it to make sure it doesn’t burn.


Remove from pan and cool on some kitchen paper. (the edges look a bit dark and it is really just the lighting!)


Slice and plate up.

Served here with some magic sauce – better known to most children as tomato sauce.
Wish you all a joyful and bountiful year of the Snake! (like what I did with the sauce squiggle?)


Ps. If I ever have the guts to apply for a spot in Masterchef, this would be my audition dish!!

Chinese Barbecued Pork and Buns (Char Siu Bao/叉烧包)

It went like this:

You were about 13 and one afternoon your friends or cousins came over to play, and no one wanted the party to end. What to do for dinner, your parents wondered.

There were no ”chinese take away” as such where you can order sweet and sour pork or beef with vegetables in black bean sauce with a side of fries (no this isn’t a typo, I have seen fries ordered instead of rice!) Your parents would have some idea of what to have for dinner, but needed some extra dishes to feed everyone.

This was when you were sent to the nearest “Barbeque shop” to pick up some char siu, roasted pork, roasted goose (in Hong Kong goose is much preferred over duck) or soy sauce chicken.

We grew up knowing which cuts our family like the most and discovered how to ask for it; that we absolutely cannot forget asking for the sauce that went with the char siu; that the spring onion/ ginger/ oil sauce was going to go really fast as it is addictive and simply the best condiment to chicken so we must must must ask for more.

We watched in amazement when the See Fu (master – we call the staff that was responsible for getting our order ready as a sign of respect) sliced off exactly the amount we ordered ($10 char siu please!) and threw it onto the round-shaped, well-used chopping board. He would raise the cleaver and masterfully slice the pork into pieces and then place onto waxy paper, with a ladle of sauce drizzled on top with a flourish. He would bring the paper up and scrunch the top up so that the sauce will stay inside the parcel and chug it into a bag for us to take away. Later as life became more modernized, they moved on from the waxy paper to styrofoam, which is far worse from an environmental perspective.

As fast as we could we would take the lovely warm meats home, our little legs taking us closer and closer to our wonderful meal.

Mum would have everything timed perfectly for the arrival of the prized “take away” – steaming hot rice ready to go with the glistening red, moist and juicy char siu. I still vividly recall opening these parcels, the smell of the waxy paper and the smoky smell of the roasted char siu – this would be one of the scents of my childhood.

No one in Hong Kong ever made char siu at home. Why would you when you have access to perfectly cooked char siu within 5 minutes of leaving your housing estate? Char siu, which literally translates to “fork burn” is made by roasting marinated pork over a fire. It is a long process as it requires many turns to achieve the consistent caramelisation. No one would bother.

While living aboard you become very reminiscent of traditional food, or food that you grew up with. Char siu is on the top of my list and here is my version. I choose pork scotch fillet because I want meat that is tender, juicy yet not as fatty. I use a mixture of honey, hoisin sauce and char siu sauce for the marinade. I would use maltose instead of honey, if I had any left in my pantry from the last maltose lollipop snack party. I stick them in first the microwave and then the oven, to ensure it is cooked in time (I am not known for my patience!).

Lastly, I have included my mother-in-law’s bun recipe here to make yet another prized chinese Yum Char dish – Char Siu Bao. This is my daughter’s latest favourite food, I hope you will enjoy it as much as she does.

Chinese BBQ Pork Recipe (Char Siu/蜜汁叉烧)

1 kg pork scotch fillet (cut into 4 pieces)

2 tablespoons maltose or honey
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons char siu sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil

1. Marinade the pork pieces with the sauce overnight. Keep in the fridge.
2. The next day, heat the oven to 200 degree C.
3. Place the pork pieces into a microwave safe dish and cook it on medium high for 4 minutes.
4. Remove from microwave and place on a tin foil and baking paper-lined baking tray.
5. Roast the char siu for 10 minutes.
6. Reduce the temperature to 180 degree C and continue to roast it for another 20 minutes.
7. Brush the char siu with the remaining char siu sauce every 10 minutes until the char siu are perfectly golden.
8. Rest for 10 minutes.
9. Slice the char siu into bite-size pieces, drizzle the remaining char siu sauce over and serve immediately with rice.

Char Siu Bao (Chinese BBQ Pork Bun) Recipe
Makes 20 buns

Ingredients for dough:
260g water
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
250g high gluten flour
250g low gluten flour
1 tbsp milk powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp yeast


250g char siu, diced

1. Place bun ingredients in the order in a large mixing bowl bring together flour mixture. Alternatively you can use a bread machine, set on the dough setting and knead it for 20 minutes.
2. Divide dough into 20 pieces and roll into small balls.

3. Flatten with your hands to make a circle. Then place a heap teaspoon of filling in the middle, wrap and pleat the dough to seal. Place it on a square parchment paper, seal side up.

4. Let it rise for 30 minutes in a warm oven (that had been turned to 50 degree C before, and turned off).

5. Doubled in size after 30 minutes. Resting makes a fluffier bun.

6. Arrange buns into a steamer, leave space in between buns. Moisten the surface of the buns by spraying a water mist. Add a few drops of vinegar into the steaming water (this produces a whiter bun, optional) and steam in a preheated steamer on high heat for 15 minutes. Remove buns from steamer and cool on rack to prevent the buns going soggy.

The little one in the middle is J’s mini one with no fillings. She likes eating the buns plain sometimes.

Chinese dumpling pancakes

I struggled to name this dish actually. Call them ‘filled pancakes’ and it sounds like crepes. Call them ‘patties’ and you think of meat ones. I think I told J they were ‘Chinese dumpling pancakes’ – well they have the same filling as my usual dumplings, wrapped in the same plain flour pancakes I made for my Peking duck. These are very common street food but I’ve never made them before, not knowing how to make the dough. After my Peking duck practices, I’m now quite confident with these dough and whipped these out in no time. Makes 10.


300g pork mince
half a bunch of chinese chives

1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp corn flour
1/2 tsp chicken stock powder
1/2 sesame oil

330g plain flour
240ml hot water


Place plain flour in a bowl. Add hot water gradually to the flour, stirring with a fork as you go.


Keep pouring and mixing with a fork until the mixture starts to get sticky.


Bring the mixture together with your hands. Knead the dough on the countertop until the dough is not sticky anymore, and feels elastic.
Add more flour/water as required (you shouldn’t need to!) It should end up quite smooth and elastic and non-sticky.


Cover with a wet tea towel, and leave to rest for 30 minutes.


Divide the dough into 10 pieces and roll each out slightly, but not too thin. Aim for it to cover the palm of your hand.

Spoon the mince mixture onto the centre of the dough.

Gather the sides in and pinch the end together, with a twisting motion at the top.

Flip the pancake over and flatten.

Fry in medium heat for 4-5 minutes till it is thoroughly cooked.

Chinese dumpling pancakes filled with pork mince and chinese chives

Don’t forget to check out my earlier post for a chance to win $200 to spend at a camera shop!

Hand-shredded chicken with Japanese roasted sesame sauce

Who doesn’t love juicy, succulent chicken? Especially when it is cooked healthily with minimal effort? This dish only takes 20 minutes to make too – perfect for weeknights. By keeping the skin on the chicken while it’s steaming it helps retain the moisture of the chicken. I’ve used store bought Japanese roasted sesame sauce here. Previously I have tried mixing my own, using sesame paste, sugar and vinegar for a Sichuan flavour sauce. It isn’t as tasty as this Japanese style sauce though! So I’ve given in. I’m all for letting J participate in the makings of a dish. This one I let her pour in the sesame sauce just as we are about to serve it, she loves her ‘job’!


4 boneless chicken thigh cutlets or chicken breasts, skin on
1/4 telegraph cucumber, julienned
2 spring onion, whites only, juilenned
A handful of coriander, leaves only, washed and dried
About 4 tbsp Japanese roasted sesame sauce (more if you prefer a stronger taste)

Marinate the chicken with 3 tbsp light soy sauce, 1.5 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp corn flour, 1 tbsp of shao shing wine (or sherry).

Steam the chicken in a wok for 10 minutes.
While the chicken is cooking, prepare your vegetables and place in a bowl.
Remove the chicken and let it cool a bit.
Put on some disposable gloves (making sure there is no powder on the gloves! Or wash your gloved hands). Remove the chicken skin and tear the chicken meat into strips, following along its natural contours.
Pile into the bowl with the vegetables.
Pour over sesame sauce.
Mix and serve.
Simple. Easy. Delicious.

Thai Beef Salad

This is another all-time favourite in our household. It looks so vibrant in a glass bowl you just want to dig in straight away. It is also quick and easy to prep and cook, making it an ideal weekday dinner when you have no amount of spare time. If you only have 15 minutes, you could have the vegetables sliced and diced the night before, and have the sauce prepared and bottled in the fridge ready to go. This way, all you are doing when you get home is cooking the steak, the carbohydrate that goes with it (rice of course) and then plating up. Simple!


300g Beef Sirloin, 1 inch thick cuts
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges and then halved
1/2 cucumber, sliced
1/4 red onion, sliced into small strips
1 small shallot, diced
1-2 spring onions, julienne
handful of coriander leaves
6-8 mint leaves
1 Kaffir lime leaf (optional)


Juice of 3 limes
2 Tbsp fish sauce
3 Tbsp palm sugar, shaved
1 red chilli, sliced (optional)


Prepare your vegetables: chop the tomatoes, slice the cucumbers, slice the red onion, juliene the spring onions, pick the coriander leaves, wash and dry them, roll up the kaffir lime leaf and thinly slice through.


Prepare your sauce by mixing it all together.

Heat a pan. Season both sides of your sirloin with salt, pepper and rub all over with 1 tsp of oil. When the pan is hot, place the sirloin in and cook for 3 minutes on each side. This will be medium to medium rare. Remove from pan and rest on a plate for 6 minutes.

On a slight angle, thinly slice the sirloin.

Mix the sirloin with the vegetables and sauce. Taste and adjust by adding more lime, fish sauce or shaved palm sugar. Tear the mint leaves at the last minute and mix through.