A dominant character in local bakeries across HK, pineapple bun a.k.a. polo bun 菠蘿包 is popular among the young and old across the region.
Best served warm, with its top crust still crisp, and the plain bun underneath still fluff. Best-er if served with a thick slice of butter 菠蘿油 ; and Best-est of all when served (warm or otherwise) with sweetened azuki bean 菠蘿紅豆包.
Grass jelly is a universally loved Chinese herbal chilled dessert across the region.
Having grown up scoping this black delight from tall glasses of syrupy drinks or cold soy milk under hot tropical sun, enjoying the refreshing jelly on a chilly day in Hong Kong is a different experience altogether. Reason being, grass jelly seems to also go well with fruits and ice cream! While single servings of this beautiful combination can be eaten in most Chinese sweets shops, to actually eat it from a jumbo sized container/bowl…. to be honest, to have anything served in a super sized bowl all the way to the brim… is pretty overwhelming.
And, yet, here we are, feeling both thrilled and intimidated. But, we know the best manner to quench that intimidation. And it is called gormandising.
How curious! The lettuce is more expensive than the pineapple, mushroom, and 4 mini oat rolls combined. Perhaps it’s good to opt out the green and go for the other shades: teriyaki mushroom and pineapple sandwich… without the lettuce, of course.
A lazy eater as yours truly, it’s likely to take a lot of work for me to succeed at French desserts despite my open adoration for them.
It’s just easier to go with guts feelings. Besides, I don’t have measurement cups/spoons.
Recipe for the LAZIEST Teriyaki Mushroom and Pineapple Sandwich (Serves one):
Marinate the mushroom and pineapple ring in teriyaki sauce for a few hours. I left mine in the fridge overnight.
(To make teriyaki sauce, add syrup/honey, a dash of soysauce, a dash of mirin, and some Japanese cooking wine…. 2 tablespoons each. Adjust according to need.)
Grill mushroom and pineapple.
While waiting for the mushroom to cook, butter two rolls and top with slice of cheddar, add a dollop of yuzukosho for an extra kick.
Then transfer the mushroom and pineapple to bun.
Tuck it into bento box. Or, serve with your favourite salad :)
These chewy savoury traditional Cantonese snacks are a delight. Amicably known as 鷄仔餅 “gai chai pheng” or its literal translation: little chicken cakes or little chicken pies, this is among my childhood favourites.
What always astounds me though, is the absence of chicken. Unlike chicken crackers, it doesn’t even boast to be “chicken flavoured”. Apparently, the first gai chai pheng was made by a creative maid servant. Hearsay, this young woman used some left over dough, added in some lard, Chinese spices, and soy sauce… popped it into a stove and voila!
But but but… where is the chicken?!
Maybe that isn’t even the core theme to the history of gai chai pheng.
Some time in the mid 1800s, a young maid servant girl invented what is to be this popular goodie…. Today, gai chai pheng is synonymous with Cantonese pastries. This creation transcended boundaries; its recipe travelled to wherever Chinese communities settle on this globe.
How it became this big, I have zero inkling.
Legend says that this young servant girl was plain lucky that the cook was out when her master’s honorable guests dropped by. As a servant, it was natural for her to quickly ensure that the guests were well taken care of: being served food and drinks. There was nothing much in the kitchen but ingredients to make her humble petit pastry. To her amazement, it was extremely well received, and later went on to be the talk of the town.
While a certain online encyclopaedia claims gai chai pheng is an accidental recipe, I believe otherwise. It sounds too far-fetched to be an accident if the guests were that deeply impressed.
According to Malcolm Gladwell, the prerequisite to great success is putting in 10,000 hours of practice into a specific task. The cakes served to the guests must have had been perfect in texture and taste… and so well-made that the soy sauce didn’t burn, instead caramelised beautifully.
With that, I think the real story behind the birth of gai chai pheng is all about one’s diligence and intelligence. Without which, there would be no gai chai pheng to begin with. Let alone passing down the recipe from generation to generation, even to its current status as the star edible-souvenir from Guangzhou.
As for the missing chicken… well, I don’t think it’s that important anymore.
Having lived in Japan for a handful of years, Japan is my de facto second home. I remember the sense of denial upon seeing the 3.11 Tohoku earthquake footage when I first learnt about it. I had murmured, “It’s absolutely gotta be some movie… Cannot be real.”
For many months, I couldn’t talk about the devastation in the lives of people, even though I could discuss the dent in ecnomic charts (which too, I would usually avoid). Living outside Japan then till now, I often put up a cheerful front… as if the smiles represented tenacity and strength of Japanese people. I staunchly believed that the last thing Japan and Japanese people needed was sympathy.
The unshed tears were packed in a box and left in a deep corner in my heart. It’s been two years since the disaster, and I still often choose not to talk about Tohoku.
A couple of Sundays ago, I sketched a simple map of Japan in my prayer journal, praying for Japan in view that Japan ushers in new economy changes. After that, I commuted to church, with earphones plugged in and Economics forecast material open.
Then I came to a page – complete with charts and graphs - touching on the impact of the 3.11 earthquake. Tears welled up as my eyes ran through the passages. I started desperately to hold the hot tears and emotions in. “No statistics or monetary figures could measure the pain and brokenness in the souls of the people,” I thought, frustrated.
It was that time, I heard this playing on my mp3 player…
♬ How high, How wide
No matter where I am,
Healing is in Your hands
How deep, How strong
And now by Your grace I stand,
Healing is in Your hands♬
I was immediately jolted awake from my despair.
How could I have forgotten that I have a God who loves Japan much much more than I do? He is the same God who is eager to deliver good news, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom to those trapped in sadness, release those imprisoned by negativities, comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve.
And, as for Japan and the Japanese people, I shall continue to pray and speak blessings over this beautiful country — my second home – and the wonderful people.
(Continue to) Pray for Japan!
Mother regularly packed lunchboxes for me. Most of my schooling life and work life, I had the privilege to enjoy mom’s cooking for lunch. I would request for certain types of food the night before and would get them packed neatly in a box the next morning before leaving home.
Being mother, she reminded often about not wasting food. Despite living in another country, I can still hear her voice ring, “It’s disrespect towards those who grow the food, and disregard of those who sleep hungry.”
I don’t know hunger…. But, I know a little bit about farming.
I had the opportunities to visit animal farms and fishing farms. I also had opportunities to bend my back toiling under the sun all day in a rice field, talk to prawn farmers, and tea planters. I went to school with the child of a vegetable and rice farmer. A few months ago, I ran into a university mate who had recently started his own animal farm.
I remember talking all these different people, and dirtying my shoes and hands, and tanning under the sun…. I hold much respect for these farmers who constantly think of ways to make better quality food for us. One farmer said, “My dream is for everyone to enjoy healthy and delicious food.”
Even though I would not make any claims that I understand the hardwork that go behind the array of harvest lined in a supermarket, I can definitely imagine the sweat and appreciate the wonderful thoughts that go behind the production of food. I also appreciate the taste of love that mother poured into each lunch box she prepared, specially for me, all those years.
What’s truly lovely upon removing the tupperware’s lid are not exactly the neatly arranged mini dishes. It’s the heartbeats of farmers, and love from my mother…. which I enjoy with much gratitude.
**Image above shows what went into a shopping cart, and what came out from the stove afterwards.
Around this time last November, the church ran a mega multicultural fiesta to raise funds for the poor communities in Tin Shui Wai. Tin Shui Wai was known for the high suicide rates, high poverty rates, and high new immigrants ratio. The name Tin Shui Wai conjured a depressive image in the heart of all Hong Kong citizens.
A long list of VVIPS including Ambassadors, Consulate Generals, commercial and business leaders, and famous musicians joined hands with the church to make the event possible. After months of planning, recruiting sponsors, volunteers, and arranging invitation of VVIPS, it was through everyone’s generosity, time, and resources that the church successfully raised approximately HKD1million, of which 100% of the funds went to the development of Tin Shui Wai.
The church is made up of 12 different language congregations: from English to Cantonese to Portuguese. Every member came together to create a colourful and fun fiesta, bringing flavours from all five continents through cultural performances and food fair. It should not surprise to hear Tagalog from one’s right, and from the left ear, Korean. The event highlighted multiculturalism (which was often overlooked) in Hong Kong.
Where was I?
I was unning up and down, in and out, serving in the media ministry (directing, script, and coordination with different parties etc), and also also in and out of the booth manned by her cell group, at the same time hosting friends from outside the church. By the time dusk set in, I remember feeling muscles aching, eyelids dropping, and taking a short nap in the MTR. Nonetheless, for smiles on the faces of present and future beneficiaries of the funds raised, it was all worthwhile.
Next big event? Transporting out of busy Hong Kong to the beautiful beaches in Guimaras, Philippines for a short trip!