Braised Pork Belly (Tau Yu Bak)

Another example of those typical home-cooked Chinese dishes which doesn’t look all that appetising, but tastes absolutely delicious! It’s a perennial family favourite and always goes down well on a cold and dreary late-winter evening.

The secret to this dish is you have to use fatty meat, ideally you want the pork belly, but if you can’t find this you can always use other cuts, as long as they have a fair amount of fat. The second secret to this dish is the combination of spices which gives the dish a very slight medicinal taste (I know that doesn’t sound too good, but when accompanied by the dark, sweet sauce, it’s to die for).


600g belly pork, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
3-4 whole peppercorns
1-2 star anise
2 inch stick of cinnamon bark
2-3 cloves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6-8 tablespoons caramel soy sauce (I buy this from Singapore and I’m not sure if you can find it in the UK so alternatively use thick black soy sauce with a few tablespoons on sugar)
400ml water
4 eggs


  1. On a high heat put the oil in a large pan and fry the garlic, peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon bark and cloves until fragrant.
  2. Add the pork to the pan and fry until cooked through.
  3. Add the soy sauce and stir well making sure that there is more than enough to coat the meat (you can always add more later to taste).
  4. Add the water to the pan, you may not need to use all as there should be quite a lot of liquid from the pork juice. Just add enough to submerge most of the meat. Remember, the more water you add the more diluted the taste will be so it’s a good idea  to taste and check the colour (it should be a very dark brown colour) and add more soy sauce if needs be.
  5. Cover the pan and bring to the boil. Then leave to simmer on a medium-low heat for about 30mins or until the meat is tender.
  6. Boil the eggs in another pan until almost hard boiled and shell.
  7. When the meat is done, keep on a low heat and add the eggs, turning them over in the gravy until they take on the dark brown colour.
  8. Serve with stir fried vegetables and boiled rice.

Eat it, don’t tweet it: Do table manners still matter? | Food & Drink | The Independent

Ashamedly, this is something I am guilty of. In restaurants and at home, my phone is always either on the table, or close to hand. And yes I know, this is an awful habit. It’s so sad that these days we are all so concerned with being connected that we can’t even last one hour without checking our messages/ emails/ Twitter feed/ Facebook updates. And it’s quite alarming to realise that my phone almost NEVER gets turned off, unless it has run out of battery and even then I have this inexplicable sense of impending dread and panic.

In my defence I will only ever have my phone physically on the table if my other dining companions also do the same but I still did feel uncomfortably like I was being told off when I read this article on The Independent website the other day.

I like the idea of the phone stack game which requires all diners to place their phones in a pile on the table and the first person to crack and check their phone picks up the bill for the table. It really is shocking when I think about how much time I spend idly looking at my phone and the phone stack is an ingenious way of, if nothing else, raising awareness of how much these days our finger tips are basically grafted to our phone key pads.

Pancake Wednesday!

I didn’t have time procrastinated and ran out of time to make pancakes yesterday…. so I have christened today as Pancake Wednesday. On the crepes vs. American pancakes front I was outvoted and had to settle for lemon and sugar and Nutella crepes instead of blueberry and maple syrup pancakes. It was still delicious though. Unfortunately I don’t have any pancake-related anecdote or anything particularly intelligent to say about Shrove Tuesday so I shall leave you with this article from The Guardian, a collection of pancake tips and ideas, just in case there’s anyone out there who, like me, did not get to eat pancakes on Pancake Day :)

Mexican Street Food at Wahaca

I haven’t eaten much Mexican food in my life, and when I have done, I haven’t been too impressed. Soggy tacos, bland guacamole, not enough flavour; sub-standard Mexican food is in abundance. It’s a shame because on the odd occasion that I have had good Mexican food (I’m thinking of delicious home made quesadillas), I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

Last week I was pleased to visit Wahaca with a Peruvian friend who I hadn’t seen for a couple of months. I watched it’s owner, Thomasina Miers, win Masterchef in 2005 and ever since the first Wahaca opened in 2007, I’ve wanted to try it. And it wasn’t a disappointment. We ordered dishes from the Street Food Menu, small plates with 2 or 3 portions each, made for sharing.

Pork pibil tacos

The pork pibil tacos are made from pork, slow cooked until  impossibly tender and then served on a soft taco with pickled onions. Definitely the must have dish from the taco section. The tender, marinated chicken taquitos were exactly as described. Soft, juicy chicken stuffed inside a crunchy, fried taquito shell with salsa, sour cream, cheese and salad.

Tender, marinated chicken taquitos

We also ordered the black bean toastada and the chicken guajillo toastada. Oh, and the chorizo and potato quesadillas which were understated but absolutely divine…and they had disappeared before I had a chance to take a photo. :p Needless to say, they were my favourite dish of the day.

Left- black bean toastada; centre- pork pibil tacos; right- chicken guajillo toastada

The one thing that disappointed me about Wahaca was that the website seems to promise a real Mexican cultural vibe. Now, I’ve never been to Mexico but Wahaca seems less traditional South American market and more modern minimalist. Not a bad thing, the ambience of the restaurant was very nice, but not entirely what I was expecting.

Having said that, it was a quiet lunchtime and I am no expert on Mexican atmosphere or cuisine. All I know was that the 5 dishes we ordered were thoroughly enjoyable, the service attentive and the prices affordable. My one regret is that my stomach and that of my dining companion were too small to accommodate dessert. I had my eye on the chocolate y churros, a classic case of the mind being willing but the body giving up :( Luckily, there is always next time…

80 Wardour Street, London, W1F 0TF
Nearest tube: Leicester Square/ Piccadilly Circus

Vanilla Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

If you’ve read my “About” page you will know that my parents run a cake and cupcake business. They are currently in the process of researching and developing a new recipe for their vanilla cupcakes….which naturally means there is an abundance of vanilla cupcakes lying around the house. These “research and development” cakes don’t normally get iced and decorated, but since it is a friend’s birthday this weekend I whipped up some white chocolate buttercream and topped them off with some cute sprinkles.

Here’s where I’d normally like to share the recipe with you, but unfortunately the recipe isn’t mine to share so you will have to make do with these photos.

I should also take this opportunity to shamelessly plug the parents’  cakes, but their website is currently under construction. However if you are interested to know more about Rose Apple Bakery then you can visit the old website here (and I do apologise in advance for the painful lack of aesthetics and general unusability [that is a word, I promise!] of the site).

Chicken Rice: smells of home :)

Ginger paste, dark soy sauce and chilli sauce

In my opinion, the best food is often the simple, unfancy dish which sometimes doesn’t even look that appetising… but whose smell wafts through the house and reminds you of home. For me, chicken rice is that dish, a regular presence on our kitchen table since childhood. The dish originates in Hainan, in the south of China, but is most popularly sold (and eaten) in Singapore and Malaysia.

In a nation of professional food-lovers I would dare to say that chicken rice is one of the most loved dishes in Singapore. No hawker centre is complete without it and whenever I visit I will take my time browsing the stalls selling fried noodles or fish ball soup, but will inevitably double back to the old uncle making chicken rice from the same recipe he has used for the past 20 years. I can go out on a limb and order a spicy laksa or char kway teow (and enjoy it immensely) but there would always be a small part of my stomach wishing I had ordered the chicken rice. In short, it’s all about the chicken rice.


    • 1 whole chicken or 6-8 chicken drumsticks/ thighs
    • 1-2 tsp salt
    • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
    • 4 slices fresh ginger, peeled
    • 4 spring onions
    • 2 tbsp sesame oil
    • about 12 cups water, or enough to cover the chicken
    • 2 cups long-grain rice
    • 3 tbsp peanut oil
    • 5 shallots, peeled and minced
    • 3.5 cups chicken stock
1. Wash chicken and remove excess fat (keep this aside for later). Rub the inside of the cavity with salt, if using individual pieces rub skin with salt making sure to get some underneath the skin as well.
2. Bring water to the boil in a pot large enough to hold the chicken.
3. Cut spring onions into 1 inch lengths. Smash garlic and ginger lightly with the flat side of a knife. Add these to the pot along with the chicken.
4. Simmer, covered, for 30-40 minutes until the chicken is cooked (when pricked with a fork juices will run clear).
5. Carefully remove the chicken from the pot and plunge into ice water for 5-10 minutes to stop the cooking process and tighten the skin. Then drain, rub with sesame oil and leave to cool to room temperature.
6. Wash the rice and heat oil in a wok. Add the shallots, garlic and trimmed chicken fat and stir-fry until fragrant. Add the rice and stir-fry for 3-4 mins until glossy and fragrant. Remove fat.
7. Transfer to the rice cooker and add chicken stock and salt.
8. Once cooked serve with chicken and a bowl of the remaining chicken stock.


  • make sure the pot is just the right size for your chicken. If the pot is too large you will need to use more water to boil it and the stock will become too watery.
  • the chicken is normally eaten at room temperature, but if you can warm your chicken in the stock before eating if you prefer.
  • the dish is usually served with sliced cucumber, but I find that some stir-fried vegetables are more substantial.
  • a recipe for chicken rice chilli and ginger paste can be found here.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Not bad for a first try at making iced biscuits. More practice needed though :)

By the way, if you’re single this Valentine’s Day, don’t worry…there’s no hurry. ;)

How to survive a restaurant on Valentine’s Day | Life and style |

I am somewhat of a Valentine’s Day skeptic. Why must we choose this one day to present our beloved with hideously expensive chocolates and flowers and go to a posh restaurant where we spend the entire evening feeling a little bit out of place?

I say somewhat of a V-Day skeptic, because inside I am actually a romantic, who is all for displays of affection. But probably not those which involve flashing your wallet around (please nb. any future suitors :p).

Although I’m guessing that by now it’s too late for you to change your restaurant reservation this evening, maybe this article can give you some food for thought for next year :p

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! *runs off to bake heart-shaped cookies*

Found: The Best Burger in London

A few weeks ago (when I was still working at the cookery school) I was bored and hungry so I Googled “best burger in London” and happened across Daniel Young‘s blog, “Young and Foodish” which recommended the Top 10 Burgers in London. I scrolled to number one on the list, and from the photo I knew I had to eat one. Immediately.

Unfortunately I was in no position to skip across town for a burger, so instead I wiped the drool from the desk and suggested to the girls at work that we make Goodman Steak Restaurant the venue for our next monthly dinner date (required for the relieving of pent up work-related stress).

Although we were about 20mins late for our reservation at the Canary Wharf branch of Goodman (nb: location adds £1 to the cost of everything on the menu), the maitre d’ was more than accommodating and didn’t seem at all annoyed by our tardiness. We were led past racks of meat in their glass-fronted walk-in refrigerator and seated in a quiet corner of the restaurant. To the waitress’ surprise we ordered almost immediately (of course, the burger!) and waited patiently whilst we confused her with what combinations of extra cheese, bacon and gherkins/lack of gherkins, medium/medium rare/rare we wanted.

Whilst we waited for our order we were presented with a bread basket, a delicious selection of white and brown rolls, crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. As we are four girls whose unspoken mantra is “the diet starts tomorrow” I would have preferred another portion of butter, but luckily for our waistlines the waitress wasn’t to know :p

Then our burgers arrived *hallelujah*:

NB: The photo on the Young and Foodish blog is much more representative of the burger than this poor attempt.

And what a burger it was. Toasted brioche bun, tomato, fresh lettuce, tangy gherkins, just the right amount of cheese and about 200g of moist, smokey beef patty.  What more could you want in a burger? I’m told the meat is seasoned with fish sauce which I assume contributes to its intense flavour and the bun was soft, fluffy and yet robust enough to maintain the structural integrity of the burger. The chunky hand-cut chips made the perfect side along with glistening dollops of mayo and ketchup.

At £14 it’s the highest price I’ve ever paid for a burger, but a price I would pay again. Great service, great ambience, great burger and great company :)

Goodman, Canary Wharf
3 South Quay, London, E14 9RU

Nearest tube: Heron Quays

The Unexpected Dim Sum

I’m sure we’ve all had that wonderful feeling when something good happens that you weren’t expecting in the slightest. Well yesterday’s unexpected dim sum gave rise to that wonderful feeling.

I had just finished an epic journey from High Wycombe to Marylebone to Oxford Circus to Bank to Canning Town to Custom House (phew!) for my Olympic Games Maker interview (fingers crossed!) when my dad called to tell me that his meetings had been cancelled and did I want to meet up for lunch. Never one to say no to a free lunch, I made my way down to Chinatown and my brother, my dad and I found ourselves at The Golden Pagoda.

We looked at the menu and ordered the usual suspects:

I have to admit that, possibly due to several below average experiences, I have always been wary of eating in Chinatown. However The Golden Pagoda went a long way towards restoring my faith in Chinatown’s restaurants.

The cha siu baau were cloud-like and fluffy, the ha gaau was well seasoned and the cheung fan delightfully slippery with large, juicy prawns inside. I was particularly impressed with the egg tarts, the one dim sum dish which tends to disappoint me the most, which presented a smooth, rich custard filling surrounded by the trademark flaky pastry. If I could pick one fault with the food we had it would be that the siu lung baau were a little dry, but this is really one small niggle in what was otherwise a very satisfying meal.

As we chatted over lunch we made comparisons with Royal China, a well-known restaurant, celebrated in dim sum-eating circles, and came to the conclusion that the dim sum at The Golden Pagoda is in many aspects ( egg tarts, cream buns and cheung fan) superior to Royal China. And in all other aspects just as good.

The dim sum dishes range in price from £1.50 to £3.50 and so you can be comfortably full on around £10 per head. If you are looking for excellent service and an up-market dining experience, this restaurant, or indeed most of the restaurants in Chinatown, is not the place for you (try Royal China instead) If, however, you are looking for affordable, good quality, authentic dim sum then head down to The Golden Pagoda where lack of service is definitely made up for in the dim sum.

The Golden Pagoda
15a Gerrard Street

Nearest station: Leicester Square