Monthly Archives

October 2014

In Other, Recipe on
October 18, 2014

DIY Sous Vide Steak at Home (Without special equipment!)

My favourite challenge for the uni assignment I did a while back was the one where I had to choose an unfamiliar cooking method. Because I couldn’t think of much that I hadn’t tried before, I decided to go all out, attempting sous vide…..without the machine. 

For those who do a bit of light food reading, you probably have heard of the beer cooler (esky) solution in which an esky is used for the water bath (apparently it does a great job at keeping water temperature stable) and ziploc bags for sous vide bags (it doesn’t quite make a vacuum, but is close enough to do the job). Unfortunately, recounts of coolers looking misshapen after such experiments as well as official statements from the Ziploc bag company clarifying that their bags were not for use in high temperature environments scared me away, despite how genius it did sound.

Instead, I formulated my own solution, using sealable oven bags (designed for high temperature environments) to place the steaks in. It worked particularly well as the thin plastic seemed to stick to itself quite well, thus making its own ‘psuedo-vacuum’ if I may. For the warm water bath, I had a thermal cooker on hand, which is like a giant thermos. Read more

In Hong Kong, Travel on
October 12, 2014

Travel | What to Eat in Cheung Chau, Hong Kong

Island Day Trip

Although I’ve visited Hong Kong numerous times through the years, I have rarely set foot on one of their many islands. Both because I’m not a huge fan of boat as a mode of transport, and also because the one time I do remember visiting an island (Lamma island), it consisted of countless hours of tiresome walking up and down hills. I wasn’t really too keen on visiting another island until a couple of TV shows and stories from relatives who visited convinced us that there was plenty of good food and fun to be had at Cheung Chau, so we decided to make a day trip of it!


It always amazes me how convenient transport in HK is. Getting to Cheung Chau is simple- take a train ride to Central, short walk to the pier and then a half to an hour’s ferry ride depending on which type you catch. The total trip takes less than the time it takes for me to get to uni, and costs around half as much as well. Oh Sydney transport…how I dislike you!

Drying Chickens in the Sun

The difference between the city and the islands is quite noticeable from the moment you leave the pier. It’s a much more relaxed atmosphere, much less noise and much less crowds. Unfortunately, I can’t say that the locals are too friendly, with an old lady screaming at us to move out of her way (who, might I add, was actually some 50m away from us) when we stopped to take a picture and the constant speeding of small trucks through the shared road without much warning than a hostile beep when you got too close. The shopkeepers were much more pleasant though!


Yum Cha

First things first- we needed breakfast!

Although the main road was filled with plenty of dining options, there was nothing we really felt like having for breakfast, so we wandered off to alley behind, running parallel to the main road which had a surprisingly large number of interesting options. We stopped by this old-style restaurant for some yum-cha, and were disappointed to find that it was packed, but luckily, there was additional seating in the adjacent cafe, which was run by the same owners.

Siu Mai


Service is minimal, as there is no ordering of food- you simply hop out the front where all the steamers are, choose everything that you want, then the lady will stamp it off and you can bring your food back to your table. 
We were really surprised at the quality of the food here- it may not look it, but we unanimously agreed that this was definitely one of the best yum-cha’s we have ever had. The sui mai, one of our yum cha favourites was perfect- the right about of bounce, not too soft and not too dense. 
Chive Dumplings

As they didn’t have har gow, we chose the chive dumplings instead, which were also quite enjoyable- generously sized dumplings with a soft, bouncy skin.

Steamed Duck Claws
Instead of the classic steamed chicken feet, there are steamed duck claws here, which is great since I like them better anyway 🙂 They’re longer, bonier and have skin that’s not so soft and loose in comparison to chicken feet, and are cooked in a deep, flavoursome lu shui (鹵水)-like sauce. 


Steamed Meat Balls
Although I’ve had many versions of these steamed meat balls in Sydney, none have been quite like these ones, with an bouncy texture, whilst retaining the slight chew of meat as well as the taste. 

In addition to the yum cha classics, they also offer some old-school yum cha dishes which don’t seem to be around much nowadays. These are what I like to call the ‘reverse’ sui mai- a small ball of glutinous fried rice, covered in the sui mai wrapping. Sort of like bite sized Lo mai gai (糯米雞).

If you’re a fan of offal, then you must try the steamed tofu skin with pig stomach. I’m a huge fan of both tofu skin and pig stomach so it was no surprise I loved this- the combination of the too goes surprisingly well together!
After this satisfying breakfast, we headed off to find more food (and things to see), making a mental note that we’d come back next time we’re in HK, even if it were only for the yum cha!

Strongly recommended ‘must eat’ in Cheung Chau (if you like yum cha)

The restaurant is called 漢軒茶樓 (no english name) and is located on 58 Hing Lung Back St. Just enter second alley running parallel to the main street, turn right,
keep walk and eventually you should be able to find it!

We trekked a bit towards the Cheung Po Tsai Cave (one of the main attractions there), but decided against it when we got lost, realised that it was a long walk away, and although reception was good, both maps on iPhone and Android were nothing like what the roads were actually like there. 
We strolled around the main tourist area, and stumbled upon these homemade red bean pudding cakes (砵仔糕) by a friendly old man sitting by the waterside. Unfortunately, they weren’t as good as I had hoped, but it was still nice, especially since I hadn’t had some for quite a while!
We saw racks and racks of neatly lined seafood drying in the sun (I’m guessing the island gets quite a lot of sunshine compared to city!)- not sure if it would pass Aussie food safety standards though haha. 
There’s plenty of old-school things to be found on this island. These huge tins of cookies were apparently quite common when my parents were young. 
The beach isn’t a long walk away, and isn’t too busy, although it’s quite small and the water is all littered up. Not sure I’d want to swim in there, though I’d assume it’d be cleaner in summer when there are more people and people actually bother cleaning up.
On the walk back, there’s a couple of small stores and snack stalls. These japanese style red bean cakes at Hometown members club (which I later learn are quite well known) look quite interesting, though they weren’t as soft and as I’d hoped, probably because they weren’t very fresh (it seemed like a slow business day). 


There’s also a bar, which belongs to the b&b featured in one of the TVB dramas last year 😀



And of course we couldn’t come to Chaung Chau without trying their famed mega fish balls. You probably can’t tell from the picture, but they’re pretty big- the size of golf balls. 
We’d had them before, when someone brought them back from a trip to Cheung Chau, but fresh is so much better! They are nice and tasty, though not quite worth the hype they create. 
Mega sized fish balls aren’t particularly hard to find in Cheung Chau- they’re everywhere!
Definitely give it a go if you’re on the island!

Recommended ‘must eat’ in Cheung Chau

There’s plenty of fish ball places around the Island. This one is easiest to find because of its central location and huge signs/posters with celebrities on them. It’s called Welcome Food Court (時來食坊_ and located on G/F, 150 San Hing Back Street, Cheung Chau 長洲新興後街150號地下 and definitely hard to miss. 

We thought we’d have lunch before heading back home, so we walked around again looking for a place to eat. We see this cute little police car parked in the middle of the road- the local policemen are having their lunch break too, and we figured since they probably know the area best, we couldn’t go wrong trying the restaurant they chose too!


Stir Fried Noodles
It’s a small HK style cafe with your typical menu items, and we’re lucky enough to step in just before afternoon tea, so we’re able to choose something light from the afternoon tea menu (we were still pretty full from breakfast!). The stir fried noodles are good, with a good breath of wok, and strong taste, though it’s nothing amazing. 
I quite enjoyed the burger, with the soft fluffy white bun, crunch fried chicken fillet and plenty of mayonnaise. Be prepared to make a mess!
We saw lots of dumplings being made when we walked in so we ordered a couple to try. They take a while to come though as they are pan fried from raw, but it is worth the wait, as they are pretty delicious dumplings. It actually reminds me a lot of the ones we make at home 😉

The restaurant is called 為食堡 and is located on G/F., 10 Kin San Lane, Cheung Chau 長洲建新里10號海景樓B座地下. Turn right along the main street and keep walking down til you get to the intersection at the end.


And just when we thought we couldn’t fit any more into our stomachs, we came across this bakery selling egg tarts, coconut tarts and other snacks. 
How cute are these individual new year cakes! I love how everything is organised into beautiful neat rows. 
We couldn’t choose everything so we ended up only getting coconut tarts and egg tarts which were just as delicious as they looked!

Recommended Snack in Cheung Chau

Eat there on the spot if you have the stomach space or buy some to take home! Definitely try this if you’d like to try some HK style baked foods (they also do the Cheung Chau buns during festival season). The bakery is called 康蘭餅店 (no English name) and is located on 91 Praya St, Cheung Chau 長洲海傍道91號B地下. From the pier, turn right along the main road and walk for around 2 minutes until you see trays of baked goodies!


I’d been seeing these chip on a stick things all around the island since morning so I decided to grab one before I left. Yes, I know you can get them in Sydney too, but here, you can add your own flavouring onto your chip!. I sprinkled a bit of everything on, but my favourite was the seaweed flavour!
There’s plenty more snack stores on the way, selling all sorts of things from waffles to shaved ice. As much as we’re tempted to try those as well, we couldn’t really fit much more into our stomachs. Oh well. There’s always next time!
In Asian Treats, Recipe on
October 6, 2014

Steamed Tapioca Layer Cakes (Banh Da Lon)

We used to buy these steamed cakes from the Asian supermarket every once in a while- they were always cleverly placed near the checkouts so that whilst we were waiting in line, we’d be tempted by the bright colours of the many varieties available. My parents liked buying the nice round ones with red bean, but I liked the off cuts because it tasted the same, but you’d get a lot more than with the nicely shaped ones. They were always soft and chewy (unless we kept them for too long) with a fragrant pandan coconut taste but one packet was never quite enough for our family of four!

It took me a while, but I eventually managed to find the name of these cakes, and a recipe too! 🙂 Turns out they’re Vietnamese (although there’s Indonesian/Malaysian versions as well, they’re just not quite the same as the ones I used to have), and are made of tapioca, which gives them the nice chewy texture.

As I had all the ingredients in the pantry, and the method was quite simple (i.e. mix everything together and steam), I got to work quickly. There is a bit of skill involved in the layering- add the next layer too early and the two layers will mix, resulting in less defined layers (like my bottom later). Add the the next layer too late, and the layers will be too distinct and will peel off each other when cooled (like my top few layers).

To save time, I made mine all in a big pan and cut it into diamonds- they don’t look as impressive as the store-bought ones, but they tasted every bit as amazing! Only thing was they didn’t keep past a day, because they turned hard afterwards. It’s alright though- we could easily finish off the whole batch in one go next time anyway!

Steamed Tapioca Layer Cakes (Banh Da Lon) Recipe

1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
400mL coconut milk
1C water
2 cups tapioca starch/flour
1/2 cup Rice Flour
a few drops pandan essence

  1. In a sauce pan over low heat, dissolve sugar and salt in coconut milk and water. Let cool. In a large bowl, combine tapioca , rice flour and the coconut mixture. Stir well until dissolved. Divide the mixture into two bowls. In one of the bowls, pour a few drops of pandan essence to make a green batter.
  2. Grease a pan or mould with oil. I used a round cake tin.
  3. Fill pan with a layer of the green green mixture and steam until surface is dry, then add white mixture onto the green layer.
  4. Continue steaming until the white layer is dry (it will turn translucent) and then continue to add some green mixture to create another layer on top. Repeat this, with alternating colours until the mixtures are used up.
  5. Let cool completely and cut into pieces with a greased knife. It is best eaten within a day, but if you keep it longer and it goes hard, just put it in the microwave for a bit and it will soften again.