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Asian Peanut Pancake 面煎粿

November 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

I have fond memories of this dessert. It’s a flapjack-like base but is commonly called a pancake. My buddy, Candice, came over the other day and my mama made this for us. Biting into the soft cake-like dough contrasted by the crunchy brown sugar and flavoured with toasted ground peanuts takes me back to my childhood. Like generic pancakes, the recipe is simple and extremely easy to make.

My mama said she used to buy it at the markets and she’d have to wait up to 20 minutes in a queue for this warm and fresh Asian peanut pancake.

Check out the recipe here :)

Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節)

October 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

The Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節) also known as Full Moon Festival usually occurs over late September or early October (this year it was September 30). Traditionally, we eat “Moon cakes” and pomelo after a family dinner. Family dinner has evolved into barbeques, allowing you to enjoy the beauty of the full moon while eating a family-orientated meal. The “moon cakes” are something quite special. My favourite flavour is made of a sweet lotus paste, salted pickled duck egg yolk (symbolising the full moon) and a light pastry on the outside. These guys symoblise harmony, family reunion, and good fortune.

This picture was taken from here.

Last night, my cousin (Christine), my brother (Frank) and I celebrated this festival with our loved ones at one of our favourite Chinese restaurants, Heng Sheng. We stuffed ourselves with dumplings, glutinous rice cakes, won ton noodle soup, then finishing it all off with a moon cake.

The story behind the Mid-Autumn Festival is quite a romantic one. And the moon plays a very important role. Check out a nice write up on the story taken from here:


The story of Chang E is the most widely accepted tale regarding the origins of the Mid-Autumn Festival. It is said that in ancient times, ten suns existed and the extreme heat made people’s lives very difficult. It was the hero Hou Yi who, owing to his great strength, shot down the nine of the ten suns. On hearing of this amazing feat and the hero who performed it, people came from far and wide to learn from him. Peng Meng was among these people. Later, Hou Yi married a beautiful and kind woman named Chang E and lived a happy life.

One day, Hou Yi came upon Wangmu (the queen of heaven) on the way to meet his old friend. Wangmu presented him an elixir which, if drunk, would cause him to ascend immediately to heaven and become an immortal. Instead of drinking the potion himself, Hou Yi took it home and presented it to Chang E to keep. Unfortunately, Peng Meng secretly saw Hou Yi give the potion to his wife and three days later, while Hou Yi was out hunting, Peng Meng rushed into the backyard and demanded that Chang E hand over the elixir. Knowing that she could not win, she took out the elixir and swallowed it immediately. The moment she drank it, she flew out of the window and up into the sky. Chang E’s great love for her husband drew her towards the Moon, which is the nearest heavenly body to the earth.

On realising what happened to his wife, Hou Yi was so grief stricken that he shouted Chang E’ s name to the sky. He was amazed to see a figure which looked just like his wife appeared in the Moon. He took the food liked by Chang E to an altar and offered it as a sacrifice for her. Hou Yi’s neighbours also burned incense and prepared food to express their good wishes to the kind Chang E. This became a custom later every year.”

Hope you all enjoyed staring at the Full Moon, as much as I did, last night.

This was originally posted on Butterfingers.

Chinese Cream Corn Soup with Poached Egg

September 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

I recently started a new job as a copywriter at Liquorice Digital Agency and I’m loving it! The agency oozes team-spirit juice and I have to say, it’s quite infectious. Every Wednesday, the Liquorice soccer teams plays Fives Futbol together and every Friday we have Liquorice Fridays, in which the agency organises food and treats for everyone to enjoy. This really helps all the new kids get to know the old crowd.

I haven’t been able to cook and take rad photos – see why here. So this picture comes from here.

I joined the Soup Club, and this club is only active during winter. Once a week, one member brings a soup to work, enough for all club to enjoy. I decided to make a Chinese Cream Corn Soup.

Chinese cream corn soup, warm, creamy and filling, is ideal for cold and windy nights. This recipe uses canned cream corn, I usually purchase the KOO Cream-style Corn – it’s even better to make your own, but using canned cream corn will decrease your cooking time to a mere 10 minutes. I used to love making this when I was a student.

This recipe makes 5 servings, (Warning: 1 person never has 1 serving only.)


  • 1 tsp sunflower oil
  • 1 salad spring onion (finely sliced)
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 3 mielies/corn cobs (cut kernels off)
  • 1 Tbsp corn flour/Maizena
  • 1 1/2 can of cold water (simply fill water into creamed corn can after use)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt (add to taste)
  • 3 pinches of white pepper
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • fresh coriander to sprinkle
  • In the soup pot to be, fry 1/2 the sliced spring onion with olive oil, till lightly browned.
  • Add the creamed corn.
  • Add the fresh kernels cut from mielies.
  • Use the empty can to add 1 can of water to pot.
  • Allow the soup to boil.
  • Add 1/2 can of water mixed with corn flour.
  • Slowly add to soup, while stirring – this will thicken the soup.
  • Add sugar, salt and white pepper.
  • Mix the eggs in a separate container (I usually use a measuring jug for easy pouring).
  • While stirring the soup in one direction, slowly pour the egg liquid in one spot and it’ll poach automatically
  • Serve hot!
Serve with a spoonful of sesame oil on top, garnished with spring onion slices, fresh coriander and a dusting of white pepper on top.

Zhongzi – Glutinous rice pyramids wrapped in bamboo leaves 粽子

June 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

I love my folks and visiting them always includes many foodie highlights. This visit up, my mama taught me how to make zhongzi, also known as rice pyramids, Chinese tamales, glutinous rice cakes and glutinous rice tamales.

Zhongzi is traditionally eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu Festival 端午節) period, which falls on the 5th of the 5th on the lunar calendar. This festival commemorates the poet Qu Yuan 屈原. I remember this story well from my Chinese classes and storybooks and it’s one of those stories all Asians should know. This year 2012, it falls on the 23rd June.

“Qu Yuan (c. 340 BCE – 278 BCE) was a patriotic nobleman who served in court in the state of Chu 楚国, in the Warring States Period of the Zhou Dynasty 战国时代. However, after resisting the alliance with the corrupt state of Quin, Qu Yuan was banished.  While living in exile, Qu Yuan spent his time writing poetry, becoming one of the most well-known Chinese poets throughout history. Sadly, 28 years later, the state of Chu was attacked and dominated by the state of Quin. After Qu Yuan heard the devastating news, he drowned himself in the Milo River 汨罗江 on the 5th of the 5th in 278 BCE.
The locals, who admired his patriotism, made glutinous rice pyramids wrapped in bamboo leaves and threw them into the Milo River, in hopes that the fish in the river would eat the zhongzi and leave Qu Yuan’s body’s alone. The locals then searched for the body in boats and thus, the dragon boat race became a tradition to mark the occasion.”

Zhongzi flavours and fillings vary from city to city and country to country. My family is from Tainan, which is south of Taiwan – the ingredients that my mama prepares are more on the savoury side and also, adapted for my family’s taste buds (I secretly add more pickled duck egg yolk and shiitake mushrooms to the ones I make). This dish is made with glutinous rice, which is also known as sticky rice, sweet rice, waxy rice, botan rice, mochi rice, biroin chal and pearl rice. Even though it’s called glutinous rice, like all rice types, it is completely gluten-free.

Makes 10


To prepare the zhongzi requires quite a bit of time, as all the ingredients for the filling needs to be cooked before being encased in bamboo leaves and rice. For a vegetarian version, add more mushrooms and veto the pork.

  • 5 cups glutinous rice (soaked in warm water)
  • 20 bamboo leaves (soaked in warm water)
  • 1 tbsp Shallots mix (purchasable in Chinese stores)
  • Oil to fry shallots and to add to rice
  • 10 shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp dried shrimp
  • 1 cup peanuts with husk (boiled, but intact)
  • 2 strips of cooked pork rashers or pork belly (slice into 10 pieces)
  • ½ cup soya sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 10 strings

Method(To see method in step-by-step pictures, click here to the original post)

  • Add a tbsp of oil to the rice and water, this will prevent your zhongzi from sticking to the bamboo leaves at the end.
  • Cut the mushrooms into halves and make sure to have already soaked them if they were dry.
  • Fry up the shallots and when it becomes golden brown with some oil, add the shrimp into the frying pan for another few minutes.
  • Separately, fry the pork belly till golden brown then add the soya sauce and sugar till caramelised.
  • This is the tricky part (see steps). Place two bamboo leaves, with the shiny side facing upwards, on top of each other, opposite ways. Fold it 4/5ths of the way to the right, with the right end on the inside and the left holding it on the outside.
  • Drop in a few peanuts, then press it down gently with a tbsp of rice.
  • Add the filling in – 2 mushroom halves, a yolk, shallots and shrimp, and pork.
  • Fill it to just under the brim with rice, making sure there are no air spaces in between.
  • Fold the leaves over the top, pressing the rice down.
  • Steam for 1 hour and serve.

What’s in Chinese 5 Spices

June 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

Chinese 5-Spices provides a myriad of flavour bursts and can be found in a wide variety of dishes in Asia.  The five different spices consist of cinnamon, cloves, fennel seed, Sichuan pepper and star anise – they don’t need to be equal in quantity.

You can find Chinese 5-Spices from any local supermarket or Chinese supermarket (click here for listings of Asian Supermarkets in Cape Town).

This picture was sourced from here
  • Cinnamon

Cinnamon is one of the most well known spices in the world because of cinnamon and sugar pancakes. True cinnamon is actually the bark of an evergreen tree from Sri Lanka, but most cinnamon sold throughout the world comes from a plant relative called ‘cassia”. Unlike true cinnamon, rougui (cassia bark) offers a stronger flavour, is cheaper and has a thicker texture.

  • Cloves

This spice can be used whole or ground and is found in various dishes in Asia. Cloves are buds (unopened flowers) of an evergreen tree native to Indonesia.

  • Fennel Seed powder

Fennel seeds provide a liquoricy taste and is often used to flavour breads, marinades, sauces and liqueurs. This flavour comes from a chemical known as “anethole” and also exists in star anise. Cool thing about anethole is that it’s 13 times sweeter than sugar.

  • Sichuan Pepper

Sichuan pepper, also known as Szechuan pepper, is actually not even pepper. This spice originates from the Sichuan province in china and is merely the husk of an ash tree fruit. Sichuan pepper also contains a chemical component called Hydroxy-alpha-sanshool which cases a numbing sensation in the mouth.

Warning: Don’t consume in large amounts, can become poisonous to the human body.

Served in Chinese hot pot.

  • Star Anise

One of my favourite spices is star anise. It originates from China and (as mentioned under Fennel Seed), it contains enethole, which creates the liquoricy flavour. Star anise is a star-shaped brown pod and used in both sweet and savoury dishes.

Found in Taiwanese beef noodle soup.

This was originally posted on Butterfingers.

Sweet Douhua (Black Bean/Soy Pudding) 豆花

June 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

Asia’s equivalent of panacotta, but a gluten-free, vegan-friendly pudding.

Douhua 豆花 (dòuhuā) is a soy pudding made from soy milk with a velvety smooth and silky texture that’s served drenched in a brown sugar syrup. My papa told me stories of his childhood, where there’d be food vendors pushing around a little cart selling food to the locals. He said if the dohua was still warm, it usually meant it was fresh.

This black bean/soy pudding is a soft tofu dessert. It forms as the soy milk coagulates into curds when it cools down and reacts to the gypsum powder. In Taiwanese cuisine, dohua is often served with sweet toppings, including:

  • soft and sweet cooked peanuts
  • tapioca pearls (used in bubble tea)
  • sweet mung beans
  • sweet red beans
  • grass jelly
  • agar agar jello

My family serves it with a simple brown sugar syrup, but ever since I had douhua from Taiwan in December, I add tapioca pearls in mine as well now. Simply boil 1/4 Cup brown sugar to 1 Cups of water till it thickens in a pot on the stove, then allow to cool.

There are two ways to make this dairy-free pudding. You can buy a premix packet, follow the quantity instruction on the bag and mix boiled soy milk with the powder from the bag (this is often a guaranteed fool-proof method) or make the mixture from scratch. Unlike premix boxes for muffins, cakes and brownies, the mixture is a mere combination of corn flour and gypsum powder. For the pictures, I used a premix pack that can be bought at any local Chinese supermarket in Cape Town.


This is a useful recipe using gypsum powder and cornstarch if you plan to make from scratch. Honestly, it’s easier making it with a premix.  If you’re using a premix, follow the instructions for quantities of liquids.

  • 1tsp gypsum powder  (熟石膏粉)
  • 1tsp cornstarch/Maizena
  • 1 000 ml/1l of unsweetened soy milk (you can also used sweetened soy milk, just remember to add less syrup when serving)
  • 1 Tbsp of hot water


  • Heat the soy milk up until it boils for a minute (keep stirring in between to avoid burning)
  • In a bowl, mix the gypsum powder and hot water, until it’s completely dissolved. *
  • Add the corn starch into the mixture and mix until even. *
  • In a separate container (I used a ceramic bowl as the cooling process will be distributed more evenly), scoop the mixture into the centre of the container.
  • Pour the boiled soy milk into the container and stir the mixture into the soy milk very quickly while it’s hot, this prevents coagulation before the pudding is completely even (try achieve in under a minute).
  • Cover the container and let it sit for 30 minutes – do not move the container, the slightest movement can cause irregularity in texture during coagulation. The longer it sits, the firmer the pudding will be.


The trick when serving is to use a sharp and large spoon to scoop pudding up into a serving bowl without breaking it. Serve hot or cold (refrigeration), with toppings and a simple brown syrup, sometimes flavoured with almond or ginger.

When served cold, it won’t be as smooth as it is when it’s warm. Try eat as fresh as possible.

Originally posted on Butterfingers here.

Sautéed sliced Lamb and Chinese Spinach in Chinese BBQ Sauce 羊肉燴飯

April 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

For the past few days, waking up has been more difficult than usual with winter creeping up on us, and I think back about my most fond food memories. My ultimate favourite winter dish is my papa’s Sauteed sliced Lamb and Chinese Spinach in Chinese BBQ Sauce with rice dish. When my papa used to make it, this belly-warming BBQ lamb and Chinese spinach swallows the whole house in its heavenly fragrant scent of fried shallots (which comes from the Chinese BBQ sauce).

Bull Head Chinese BBQ sauce 沙茶酱 (sacha jiang), also known as Chinese Satay, is one of the top ingredients to have in your kitchen if you’re mad about cooking Chinese or Taiwanese cooking. This savoury and thick BBQ sauce contains ingredients like soybean oil, garlic, spice, shallots, sesame, coconuts powder, dried shrimp and chilli powder. This unique flavour is often mixed with soya sauce to make a marinade or sauce. Just the other night, I had oolong noodles with soya and Chinese BBQ sauce. There are a few options you can buy including original, spicy and vegetarian, and in South Africa I’ve seen the original and vegetarian.

For this dish, you’ll need this sauce and Chinese spinach or hollow stemmed vegetable – kong xin tsai (空心菜) (which you can buy from most Chinese supermarkets). You can also order this dish in most Chinese and Taiwanese restaurants.


Marinade and refrigerate for 2 hours

  • 1/2 kg lamb (less fatty)
  • 2.5 Tbsp soya sauce
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • 1/2 Cup oil (only add after refrigeration)

To cook

  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 chilli*
  • 250g of Chinese/Water spinach
  • 1 Tbsp sunflower/canola oil
  • 125 ml Bull Head Chinese BBQ sauce
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 Tsp sugar
  • 3 Tbsp Maizena (corn flour)
  • 2 Cups water


  • Slice the lamb into small thin slices and marinade in the fridge for 30 minutes. (my papa usually leaves it in for 2-3 hours, the longer the time, the more tender the meat)
  • Prep the vegetable by washing and chopping it into thumb length pieces.
  • Add 1/2 Cup of oil to the marinaded lamb after refrigeration (this helps separate the lamb slices once cooked)
  • Heat the 1 Tbsp of oil in a large frying pan on high heat.
  • Add and fry the garlic until lightly browned, then add the marinaded lamb and stir-fry for 2 minutes. *You can also add the chilli.
  • Add  the chopped vegetables and Bull Head Chinese BBQ sauce and stir-fry for 3 minutes.
  • Mix cool water and Maizena together in a container, then pour the milky combination into the stew.
  • Let it boil for a minute or two until it thickens.


Serve with rice, or in a Toasted Coffin Loaf.

Originally posted on Butterfingers







Doujiang (Soy Milk) 豆漿

April 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

Growing up, soy-based products were never strangers in my home, but it took me a good few years before I could truly appreciate and enjoy the flavour of soy milk. Ironically, I was given soy milk for babies when I was a young warthog. And by warthog, I mean infant.

In Mandarin, we say “doujiang” – ‘dou’ meaning bean and ‘jiang’ meaning liquid/beverage/drink. The reason why the word “nai 奶” (which is milk) cannot be used is because the word includes a feminine element (女). The reason for this is that “milk” technically comes from female mammals and doujiang is far from being an animal product, i.e vegan-friendly.

soya milk / doujiang

Doujiang is part of a traditional oriental breakfast. This liquid is an extraction of the soybean and the substance is milk-like, providing incredibly nutritious properties. You can drink soy milk hot or cold and since it’s so easily accessible in most retail supermarkets, many people don’t know how to make their own.

Making your own allows you to have fresh soy milk and avoid all the preservatives and additives used in cartons. I suppose you can buy a soy milk machine that can make it for you, but it’s, honestly, such an easy process – all you need is a blender, muslin cloth and a large pot. My papa showed me how to make the perfect soy milk.

Makes about 2 litres


  • 2 Cups of soybeans
  • 8 Cups of water (excluding soaking water)
  • sugar to taste*


  • Sift through the dry soybeans, remove stones and bad soy beans, and rinse it a few times with water.
  • Soak the soybeans overnight in water. Make sure that there is twice the volume of water compared to the beans. The beans will grow twice their original size when ready.
  • Blend half the beans with 4 cups of water for 1 minute.
  • Prepare a colander in a deep soup pot, with a muslin cloth lining the colander.
  • Pour the blended pulpy mixture into the muslin cloth.
  • Squeeze all the liquid out into the pot – that is straight soy milk.
  • Blend the rest of the beans and water and repeat the process.
  • Once all the liquid has been squeezed out, heat the pot up on the stove at a low temperature. The heating process is amazing because this is when you can smell the fragrant soy milk.
  • Keep a close eye on the heating process and mix it every few minutes to avoid the soy milk from sticking to the sides.
  • Scoop the foam up that’s collecting on the top.
  • When it starts boiling, simmer for 5 minutes. Don’t forget to keep mixing.
  • *Add sugar to taste (1/2 cup at most) – this is optional.


Serve hot or cold or use as an ingredient in another recipe.

In Cape Town, you can buy fresh soy milk from some Chinese supermarkets. I usually go to Live Mart in Durbanville.

For pictures of the basic method, please visit the original post at Butterfingers.

Listings of Asian Supermarkets in Cape Town

March 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

I often shop at two specific Chinese supermarkets, living in the northern suburbs in Cape Town: Live Mart and 96 Chinese Supermarket. These two are Taiwanese-owned stores, which means I can always purchase brands that I grew up with and they both make bubble tea! There is imported junk food, cooking essentials, exotic spices, Asian beverages and duck eggs, Asian supermarkets have quite a diverse selection of products compared to your average South African grocery store.

Southern Suburbs:

Korea Mart
451 Premier Centre, Main road, Observatory
021 448 3420

Lian Shin Supermarket
Chinatown in Ottery (on the corner of New Ottery road and Woodlands road)

Mainland China Supermarket
Grove Building, Grove Ave, Claremont
021 683 7298

Sake House Food Store
15 Old Stanhope Road, Claremont (next to Sake House Restaurant)
021 674 7534


Cape Town:

Myriad Chinese Supermarket
126 Main road, Sea Point
021 434 2325

New Asian Spice Supermarket
186 Main road, Sea Point
021 434 0598

South Asia Chinese Supermarket
48A Main road, Sea Point
021 434 0654


Northern Suburbs:

Ding Ho Asian Foods,
Unit 2 V.R.P Park, Track Crescent, Montague Gardens
021 555 2426

Lian Shin
China Town at Sable Square

Live Mart
Shop 2, 112 Edward Street Bloemhof Building Tygervallei Bellville
021 910 4950

Mun Fong Chinese Supermarket
Fruit & Veg City Centre, Monte Vista Boulevard, Monte Vista
021 558 7840

N1 City Asian Supermarket
Shop 22A N1 Value Centre, 1 Solly Smiedt Street, Goodwood

96 Chinese Supermarket (next to the butchery)
94a Monte Vista Boulevard, Monte Vista
021 558 0199

Tian Tian Chinese Supermarket
Porterfield Road, Blouberg

Tong Lok Supermarket
18 Link Road, Parklands
021 556 8722

If you know of one in Cape Town that is not on the list, feel free to comment and I’ll update the list.

Bubble Tea in a roasted Barley Black Tea (Boba Tea 珍珠奶茶)

March 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

Bubble tea, a Taiwanese beverage that has become quite a popular drink amongst all Asians. Bubble tea, also known as milk pearl tea, boba tea and boba milk tea, originated from tea cafes in Taichung (central Taiwan) during the 1980s. In Cape Town you can actually buy these tasty Taiwanese drinks in the northern suburbs. On a daily basis, Live Mart Taiwanese Supermarket in Durbanville make bubble tea in various flavours and on weekends at 96 Taiwanese Supermarket in Monte Vista make the traditional roasted barley black tea version.

The ingredients can easily be purchased in almost any Chinese or Taiwanese supermarket. The one I usually buy is a DIY Taiwanese brand, as seen in the original post.

There are many and various tea flavours, such as pudding, almond, vanilla, green tea and fruit, but the original flavour is a milky black tea with roasted barley and tapioca pearls. This is one of my favourite treats and is quite easy to make. The texture of the bubbles is quite unique and amongst Taiwanese folk, we call it “Q”, which is a chewy, al dente texture.

Most kitchens in South Africa probably don’t have this steamer, so the recipe provided will help you make bubble tea simply using the stove.

Serves 2


  • 1 cup tapioca pearls
  • 3 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp of barley
  • 2 black tea bags (Ceylon or 5 Roses tea)
  • Milk to taste
  • 3 cup ice (cubes)


  • Boil a medium-sized pot of water and put the tapioca pearls in once bubbling.
  • Leave the pearls to boil for an hour, checking at 15 minute intervals, then mix to prevent them from sticking to the pot.
  • Once the pearls are cooked, strain them and place into a bowl of ice (2 cups) immediately to cool.

While waiting for the pearls, brew the tea:

  • Lightly roast the barley in a pan.
  • Boil 2 cups of water in a saucepan, add the barely and tea bags – boil for 5 minutes, take the bags out and add the sugar into the pot and mix.
  • Once the sugar has melted, sieve the tea to separate the bags and barely.
  • Allow tea to cool.
  • Place the tapioca pearls into glasses.
  • Pour the roasted barley black tea into the glasses
  • Add milk to taste and ice blocks to serve.
See pictures of how the tapioca pearls should look like once cooked here.


When we buy bubble tea, we often purchase them in cup containers with a thick straw to drink the tapioca pearls through. If you can’t find the straws, simply offer a long handled dessert spoon.

Originally posted on Butterfingers.