Category Archives: Recipes – Asian

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.

Peking duck with Chinese pancakes


This is the cheats way to a Peking duck dish. I didn’t make the roast duck – I bought it. I really don’t have the time to make the roast duck and when these are so readily available, how could I not buy them instead? The time saved could be used to make another batch of macarons or, watch a movie with J! Equally pleasurable. The pancakes are a totally different story. These should be homemade. The aroma of the pancakes cooking will draw everyone to the kitchen and they will wait at their seats patiently, for you to say, ‘Dinner time!’ or in Chinese ‘Sik Fan la!’

This recipe will make about 30 smallish pancakes. Here’s how:

340g plain flour
240ml boiling water
1 tbsp sugar

Combine plain flour and sugar 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.


Cut your dough in half. Roll out the first half on a floured surface to about 3-4mm thick and cut with large round cookie/ pastry cutters. Gather the off-cuts together, re-roll, and re-cut until all the dough has been cut, including the other half.


Lay out all the dough circles on a baking sheet, and brush the tops of every other circle with sesame oil.


Sandwich each pair together, with the sesame oil inside.


Roll out each pair as thin as you can – don’t worry about it sticking, it just won’t because of the oil which makes it elastic and very flexible.


Heat a pan on medium heat, pick up the rolled out pancake, and lay it into the dry pan. You should be able to place two pancakes in the pan at the same time,
It will start to bubble within 30 seconds. Not like a eggy pancake, but you will see the pancake rise in places.


Turn it over and cook the other side. Once you see nice brown spots on it, they are done! It will take about 45 seconds for each side.


Lift out, and place on a plate and let it rest for about a minute before carefully peeling the two paired pancakes by running your finger between them to break the seal, let the steam escape, and then carefully peel the top pancake from the bottom pancake.


Finished pancakes


How the inside looks like of a paired pancake


They look quite inviting with the irregular shapes.

20120503-215418.jpgA quick tip: get yourself into a bit of a pattern while making them:
1) roll out 2 pancakes pairs
2) place in hot pan to cook
3) roll out 2 more pancakes pairs
4) flip first 2 pancakes pairs, wait 30 seconds for it to cook
5) remove from pan and set aside
6) place second lot of pancake pairs in hot pan to cook
7) roll out third lot of pancake pairs
8) flip second pancake pairs (and now you are at the point where you starting repeating these actions)
9) tease apart the first lot of cooked pancake pairs which had been set aside in step 5).
10) remove second pancake pairs from pan (8) and set aside
11) place third lot of pancake pairs in hot pan…

So essentially you move between your board, the pan and the plate with the cooked pancakes.
Once you get into a pattern, it will take no time to finish them all, and they will look identical in colour.

The duck and condiments
The hero of this dish is the duck, so don’t carve into it too early or risk draining the wonderful juices that are inside.
I have to admit I don’t like to eat the visible fat that lines the duck skin, so when slicing I would try to remove as much of them as possible.
I removed the legs and wings first, so that I have a wider surface to carve the skin and meat from (traditionally only the skin is eaten! The meat is reserved to make a secondary dish, like Sang Choy Bow, but I like the meat in these pancakes so I would carve the meat out along with the skin).
Chop cucumber and spring onions into similar sized lengths, usually the length of your finger, and put some Hoisin sauce in a small dish for serving.

To assemble, you pick up a piece of the pancake. Spread a little spoonful of hoisin sauce on it and place a piece of duck on. Top with some cucumber and spring onion slices, and roll it up tight. The gorgeous smell of the flour pancake mixed with the duck is purely addictive. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, so make you make enough for everyone.
Give it a try, this is a fun dish!