kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
Description follows.

[Image: Three long, deep-fried, rice-paper-wrapped cylinders sitting on a white paper doily on a white plate. The pink-orange colour of the prawn filling is visible through the wrapper.]

I have no recipe to offer you for today's dim sum dish. I tried to find one in my cookery books and on the internet, and failed on both counts. So instead, have a photo of it (above), and an encouragement to order it in restaurants!

Paper-wrapped prawns (紙包蝦/zhǐ bāo xiā) can be found in the "fried" section of the dim sum menu. The English name and Chinese name match up quite simply: 紙 (zhǐ) is paper, 包 (bāo) means "package" or "to wrap", and 蝦 (xiā) are prawns. The paper here is rice paper — not the very thin, shiny stuff that Brits of a certain age may remember purchasing from sweetshops, but the sort of thing used to wrap Vietnamese spring rolls.

You may also see these listed as 威化紙包蝦 (wēi huà zhǐ bāo xiā). Don't try to extract meaning from the characters 威 and 化, since this is another phonetic Cantonese transliteration ("wai faa") of an English word, "wafer" in this case, referring to the texture of the deep-fried rice paper wrappers.

Characters mentioned in this post:
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If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
Description follows.

[Image: Three small, round, crispy deep-fried croquettes sitting in red paper cups on a white plate. The exterior of the croquettes is honeycombed with small holes.]

As promised earlier this week, here's more on taro croquettes! These are small, round croquettes formed primarily of mashed taro, filled with minced pork and prawns. The exterior is wispy and crispy; this gives way to the smooth mashed taro and then the filling in the centre.

The most common Chinese name I've seen these under on Chinese menus is 蜂巢炸芋角 (fēng cháo zhà yù jiǎo). I won't attempt to transliterate the Cantonese pronunciation of the whole thing, but the essential part is 芋角, which in Cantonese is wu gok. 芋 is taro, and 角 means horn-shaped; the latter is a common descriptor for deep-fried dumplings and croquettes, though do note that it also appears on menus in another significant context, as 豆角 (dòu jiǎo), or green beans.

The rest of the name varies between restaurants. The 蜂巢 (fēng cháo) in 蜂巢炸芋角 means "honeycomb", and is a reference to the texture of the crispy exterior of the croquette. 炸 (zhà) simply means "deep-fried". I've also seen a variation of this name, 蜂巢荔芋角, in which 炸 is replaced by 荔 (lì). I have no idea what this is about, since as far as I know 荔 means "lychee", but I've seen it on at least three different menus. Top Of The Town in London Chinatown uses an even more perplexing name: 荔甫炸芋角 (lì fǔ zhà yù jiǎo).

In English, they're usually just called "taro croquettes", or, confusingly, "yam croquettes" — they're definitely made from taro rather than yam (see my post on 芋 for more on this). Some restaurants expand on this, for example "crispy taro croquettes with pork" or "deep-fried yam croquettes", but since they're always deep-fried and they always contain pork (unless marked as vegetarian: 齋芋角/zhāi yù jiǎo), this doesn't indicate a difference from those described simply as "taro croquettes".

There seem to be two schools of thought for making these at home. One, exemplified by a recipe posted on the about.com forums, mixes everything together — taro, filling, and all — before deep-frying. The other, which is more like the versions I've seen in restaurants, mixes the filling and the taro dough separately, and then stuffs the one inside the other; see for example taro dumplings from Edibly Asian. I decided to try the all-in-one method, which unfortunately didn't work out too well — details below. Next time I'll try it the other way.

It started well. I bought my taro frozen from Wing Yip — conveniently, it was already peeled, and in chunks of roughly 300g (the amount I needed for the recipe). I defrosted a chunk, sliced it around 1/2 cm thick, and steamed it for 20 minutes. It was easy to mash then.

The rest of the carbohydrate component comes from a dough made by mixing boiling water into wheat starch. I wasn't really sure what texture I was aiming for here, and I also found it a bit tricky to combine this dough with the mashed taro.

After mixing in the fillings, the dough really was very sticky — I found that unless I kept my hands wet while shaping the croquettes, it would stick to them and make a mess. I'd read different opinions on whether to just fry them straight away or not, so I tried a few experiments.

A few I tried coating with cornflour before frying; these sucked up loads of cornflour and after frying the texture was completely wrong on the outside. I also tried frying some with no coating, immediately after shaping them. The texture was much better and I even got something approaching the characteristic laciness on the outside. They had a tendency to stick to my fryer basket though, and bits still came off to the point where I stopped halfway through to strain the bits out of the oil.

Finally, I tried chilling some in the fridge for an hour before frying — this was a bit of a disaster, as putting them in cold cooled the oil down to the point where they simply disintegrated. (The about.com thread linked above warns that this will happen if your oil's not hot enough.)

So I think I must conclude that these aren't particularly easy to make! (Though I'm not that experienced with deep-frying — maybe others will find it easier.) All the more reason to order them in restaurants...

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If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
Description follows.

[Image: Three deep-fried spring rolls sitting on a white doily on a white plate, garnished with a sprig of parsley. The skins of the rolls are blistered from the frying process.]

Although as I mentioned earlier this week dim sum is a Cantonese tradition, it has a fair number of influences from other cuisines, both Chinese and non-Chinese. Grilled pork dumplings/potstickers (鍋貼/guō tiē), for example, are actually from north China (whereas Cantonese cuisine originates from Guangdong province in the south), which is why they're often referred to in English as "Peking dumplings". Similarly, soup dumplings/xiao long bao (小籠包/xiǎo lóng bāo) originate from the Shanghai area.

Today I'm posting about one of those influences that comes from outside China — Vietnamese-style spring rolls, or 越式炸春卷 (yuè shì zhà chūn juǎn). "Vietnam" is 越南 (yuè nán) in Chinese, and 式 (shì) means "style", so 越式 is "Vietnamese-style". 炸 (zhà) is "deep-fried", 春 (chūn) is "spring", and 卷 (juǎn) is "roll".

One difference from Cantonese spring rolls is the wrapper — Vietnamese spring rolls are wrapped in rice paper skins, which is what makes the outsides blistered rather than smooth. The filling is also different, being a mixture of minced pork and prawns, shredded vegetables, and bean thread noodles (粉絲/fěn sī). Finally, the recipes I've seen tend to use black pepper rather than the white pepper that's more common in Chinese cuisine, though I don't know whether this is original to Vietnam or an adaptation to Western kitchens.

The owner of Vinh Phat once told me that within Vietnamese cuisine, the skins used for deep-fried spring rolls are not the same as the ones used for fresh summer rolls, but I'm not sure exactly what the difference is — I was a bit short of time so didn't press him further. In any case, Viet World Kitchen has some tips on choosing rice paper.

When I made these, I mostly followed the Rasa Malaysia recipe, but taking hints from the method of another recipe I found on vietnam.com — I made sure to mix the filling well, smooshing it down with the spoon I was using (the noodles didn't seem to mind the smooshing, but I put them in towards the end anyway), and I also set it aside in the fridge for half an hour before rolling.

Other changes I made: I wanted to add some wood ears as suggested in the vietnam.com recipe but I couldn't find them in the mass of stuff that got shoved in my pantry after my recent house move, so I used dried shiitakes instead. Also, I used finely-chopped water chestnuts instead of carrots, since I had some to use up. I didn't have crabmeat, so I used an extra ounce of minced prawns instead.

While my filling turned out great, the end result was not really a success. My wrappers almost all came apart during frying, even though I followed the advice of vietnam.com to make sure that the fold of the roll touches the oil first to stop it unravelling. I also followed the advice of both sources to use a fairly low heat to fry the rolls — vietnam.com says the frying time should be about 15 minutes, and I tried to stick to this, but it still didn't help. The best results came from the rolls that I didn't have time to fry on the day of making and hence let sit in the fridge for a couple of days, but even then only two of the three made it through without coming apart.

I will definitely be trying this again, though, perhaps with a different brand of wrapper, and will report back if I ever get them to work!

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If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.

kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
Description follows.

[Image: Four dumplings arranged in a bamboo steamer basket. The skins of the dumplings are translucent, showing the orange-pink colour of the prawns inside. Each dumpling is sealed with several pleats.]

Har gao (蝦餃) are perhaps one of the most iconic dim sum items, so they seem a fitting thing to start off my month of dim sum. The Chinese characters simply mean "prawn dumpling" — 蝦 is "prawn", while 餃 is "dumpling". However, it's understood that this is a particular type of prawn dumpling, with a translucent wrapper made from wheat starch, sealed with several neat pleats and thin enough to show off the colour of the prawns inside.

The pronunciations of 蝦 and 餃 in Mandarin are "xiā" and "jiǎo" respectively, but as I've mentioned before, dim sum is a Cantonese tradition and so in English-speaking countries the dishes are usually referred to by their Cantonese names. Hence: har gao (or har gow, har gau, har kau, ha gao, ha gow, etc, depending on your preferred transliteration). I will be giving the pinyin for all the characters I mention this month, though, for consistency with the rest of my posts.

I've seen har gao listed on menus both simply as 蝦餃 and with more elaborate names. 鮮蝦餃 (xiān xiā jiǎo) is one; 鮮 (xiān) means "fresh", a characteristic you definitely want to find in connection with the prawns inside these dumplings.

晶 (jīng), which means "crystal" or "clear", is another salient characteristic, in this case associated with the translucency of the dumpling skins. It often appears in combination with 瑩 (yìng), meaning "bright" or "lustrous", giving names such as 晶瑩鮮蝦餃 (jīng yìng xiān xiā jiǎo) or 晶瑩蝦餃 (jīng yìng xiā jiǎo).

Finally, you may see reference to the bamboo shoots (筍尖/sǔn jiān) which often form part of the filling: 筍尖鮮蝦餃 (sǔn jiān xiān xiā jiǎo) or 筍尖蝦餃 (sǔn jiān xiā jiǎo).

There are basically two types of har gao that I've come across — the proper type, pictured above, which are wrapped and pleated by hand, and the other type, which are made in some kind of dumpling press with wobbly lines to suggest the folds (see the bottom left hand corner of this photo). This latter type tend to turn up in restaurants that have a small dim sum section on the menu but don't actually specialise in dim sum, and are best avoided — see my dim sum overview for more on this.

Although har gao are perhaps the epitome of dim sum — according to the Discover China documentary Dim Sum Odyssey, there's a saying in the trade that translates as "See how good a chef is, watch how he makes har gao" — I was very pleased to find that it's actually possible to make a decent rendition at home. The ones I made the other week were at least as good as the frozen ones I've bought before, even though it was my first time of making them.

I followed Sunflower's recipe and it was pretty straightforward — much easier than I'd been expecting! The dough for the wrappers held together very well while I was making them; it was easy to knead, and very easy to flatten out into circles (possibly too easy — it got thinner than I was comfortable with at some points). It's worth noting that I found it easier to use the heel of my hand for the flattening out than to use a rolling pin, though it might have been better with a small Chinese rolling pin than with my gigantic British one.

The only thing I was unsure of was the steaming time. Sunflower said to steam them for 4 minutes, while other sources give times of up to 15 minutes. I experimented a bit, and 7-8 minutes seemed to be the sweet spot for me. I suspect the thickness of the wrappers has an effect here; I'll try for thinner wrappers next time as my filling got a little overcooked in the time it took to cook the wrappers through. The filling was also a bit fally-aparty — I'll try marinading the prawns with a little egg white next time.

One thing I learned during this is that it's not a good idea to try to lift the har gao directly after the steaming is finished — the skins will be fragile. They firm up after a minute or so. Serve them in the basket like the restaurants do :)

I also froze some uncooked ones and steamed them a couple of days later for 14 minutes from frozen — this worked fine.

Here are a couple of alternative recipes, using slightly different flavourings and proportions: one from iLearn Culture and one from Rasa Malaysia. Both worth a look.

(Edit, January 2012: See also [blogspot.com profile] eatlovenoodles' informative post on har gau.)

Characters mentioned in this post:
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If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
Description follows.

[Image: Three cha siu bao in a steamer basket — soft, white, fluffy, slightly sweet steamed buns filled with barbecued pork. The tops of the buns are "smiling" to show the filling.]

Cha siu bao (叉燒包/chā shāo bāo) are probably familiar to most people who've ever been out for dim sum. I'd been intending to cover them during this year's dim sum month (which will again be in August), but since this week's character post was on 包/bāo/bun, they were the obvious choice for today's post.

I didn't want to get too complicated for my first attempt at these, so I decided to buy the 叉燒 instead of making it myself[see footnote]. Many Cantonese restaurants will sell you a chunk of cha siu to take away, at a reasonable price; it's best to go around lunchtime, as it's fresher then. Look for somewhere that has roast meats hanging up in the window, and ask to have your cha siu whole rather than cut up, so it doesn't dry out on the way home. If you do want to make your own, check out [identity profile] sung's cha siu recipe.

To turn my purchased chunk of 叉燒 into 包 filling, I followed Sue-On's instructions to dice it and then stirfry it with hoisin sauce and oyster sauce, before adding chicken stock and thickening it with cornflour slurry (the Tigers & Strawberries post linked below has a more complex recipe). I have to confess that, not being the greatest fan of 叉燒包, I hadn't eaten one in recent memory, so I wasn't entirely sure what flavour I was going for here. Instead, I aimed to get a decent amount of sauce that was thick enough to be folded up in a dough wrapper without leaking everywhere, but that wasn't too stodgy. I did make one mistake, in that I didn't dice the meat quite finely enough. I left this filling to cool completely before filling my buns.

The other important component is the bread dough. There are two main schools of thought on this: yeast-raised, or non-yeast-raised, though many yeast-raised doughs, such as the one from Tigers & Strawberries, also incorporate some baking powder for extra lift. There's another yeast-raised dough posted by Tepee on eGullet; note though that I haven't tried either of these yet, since I decided to go for a non-yeast option.

Non-yeast-raised doughs might use baking powder or ammonium bicarbonate as the raising agent. Some are kneaded and then left for 20-30 minutes to relax the gluten, while others are used straight away. Some people use water for the liquid, others use milk.

In the end, I tried two ways of making the dough; the boxed mix described below, and the dough recipe from Sue-On's bao page linked above. Sadly the latter simply didn't work for me — I thought all along that the proportions looked off, so I measured carefully and followed the instructions to the letter, but even using the most generous conversion I could find (1 cup flour = 5 oz weight), I still ended up with a batter rather than a dough, so I chucked it in the bin and had toast instead.

The boxed mix was a serendipitous discovery. I read online that Vietnamese "banh bao flour" was a good flour to use, so I went to our local Vietnamese supermarket and asked for some. The owner pointed me at a box of Thai "salapao mix" (photo of salapao mix box), which contained flour, sugar, and raising agents. I thought this was worth a go, so I bought some. The dough turned out quite soft, which surprised me, since according to the Tigers & Strawberries recipe linked above, the dough should be stiff, but I figured this was probably just a difference between the yeast-raised and non-yeast-raised versions, and indeed it was fine in the end.

Most recipes ask you to form the dough into a roll and then cut it into however many pieces it's meant to make — I prefer to weigh it, work out how much each one should weigh, and then pull off pieces and check the weight, but then I like doing long division, so just use whatever method suits you :) Sue-On's post, linked above, mentions using a tortilla press to make the flat circles, but I just rolled them out with a rolling pin.

For steaming, it's best to use a steamer with a bamboo lid, since it absorbs the condensation better than a metal lid does, and you don't really want condensation dropping back onto your 包. Note that they do get quite a lot bigger when you steam them, so make sure to leave plenty of room between them when you put them in the steamer.

To stop the 包 sticking to the base of the steamer, I used these circles of parchment paper stuff that I bought from the Chinese supermarket; they're cut to a standard size, and they have holes in them to let the steam through. They worked very well, no sticking at all. I've read that you can also use lettuce leaves, though these can make the bases of the 包 a bit soggy; I've also read that if you don't mind having to peel the paper off the buns afterwards, waxed paper works OK.

A number of sources on the internet suggest that adding some white vinegar to the steaming water will eliminate any "off" colours or smells, but I have no idea if this is true, nor what the mechanism might be. Similarly, many sources state that the 包 should be steamed over as high as heat as possible to get them really fluffy and to get the characteristic "cracked" or "smiling" top — I certainly noticed that the ones in the lower tier of my steamer (i.e. closer to the fresh steam) were smiling more than the ones in the upper tier. Finally, according to Tepee on eGullet, you should avoid overcooking (12-15 minutes is a good time), and uncover your 包 as quickly as possible once they've finished steaming, making sure not to let any condensation fall on them.

If you have leftover 包, let them cool down, then freeze them. Reheat by steaming from frozen for 10-15 minutes.

Footnote: [0] Since I was planning to be in central London anyway, I googled for where to buy cha siu in london chinatown and was amused to see a post by [identity profile] sung come up as the top hit. In his post, he recommended Hung's on Wardour Street, so I decided to go there, but was thwarted by an earlier appointment over-running; however, we met up for dinner the next evening so I got to wander along Gerrard Street with him afterwards peering in all the windows to select the best-looking cha siu for me!

If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
A checkbox-style dim sum menu offering around 60 options.  Written in black marker at the bottom is: Dim sum until 4:45pm only.

So, that's the end of August and the end of my dim sum extravaganza. I hope you all enjoyed it! Especially those of you who came and ate dim sum with me in real life :)

Here's a list of all the dim sum posts, in case anyone missed some:

I think I will do this again next year! So please let me know which of your favourite dim sum items I didn't cover this time, and I'll do my very best to fit them in.

And I mean that — I want to hear from you! Yes, you! Even you lurkers thinking "nah, she doesn't mean me!" If you have trouble leaving a comment, just email me and let me know.

If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
A bamboo steamer basket with a large piece of steamed sponge cake rising up out of it.  The cake is a light brown colour due to the use of a small amount of soy sauce in the batter.  The very open crumb of the cake shows how well-risen and light it is.

Fittingly, the final dim sum dish I'm posting about this month is a dessert — 馬來糕, which is a steamed sponge cake. The pinyin is mǎ lái gāo, the Cantonese is ma lai goh, and the English translations I've seen include "sweet sponge cake", "Malaysian sponge cake", and simply "sponge cake". On dim sum menus, this sometimes appears in the steamed section and sometimes in the dessert section.

The literal translation of 馬來糕 is "Malaysian cake" — 馬來 (mǎ lái) is the "Malaysian" part, and as mentioned in my post on 蘿蔔糕/luó bo gāo/loh bak goh/radish cake, 糕 (gāo) refers to some kind of cake. I'm not really sure what the Malaysian connection is, but this is what it's called!

You may see different spellings — 馬拉糕 (mǎ lā gāo) seems to be quite common on the menus I've seen. I'm not sure whether this is best described as a spelling mistake or a spelling variant though. I've also seen it on menus as 牛油馬來糕 (niú yóu mǎ lái gāo), which I think refers to the use of butter as the fat in the cake (牛油 literally means "cow oil"). Another one I've seen is 吉士馬來糕 (jí shì mǎ lái gāo), which I have no idea of the meaning of Carolyn J Phillips tells me refers to the custard powder (吉士粉/jí shì fěn)[1] that forms part of the recipe.

To make this at home, check out Sunflower's ma lai goh recipe. I must admit that I haven't quite got this recipe to work yet. The first time I tried it, I made the full recipe and it never set properly, even when I steamed it for half as long again as the recipe said to. The second time I made half-quantities, which worked better, though it could still have done with a little more steaming and it was nowhere near as light as the one pictured at the top of this post.

I had the one in the picture at Harbour City in London Chinatown, where it was listed on the menu as 牛油馬來糕 — perhaps the use of butter instead of oil had something to do with the lightness, though I would have thought this would affect the flavour more than the texture. Perhaps I simply didn't whisk mine enough.

Edit, June 2011: It's worth also checking out Carolyn J Phillips' 馬來糕 recipe.

1 吉士 is a transliteration of "cheese", and so since cheese and custard both involve milk, 吉士粉 ended up being used for custard powder (I've posted about 粉/fěn before; one of its meanings is "powder"). According to CantoDict, 吉士 is also used in Cantonese to mean "courage".

If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
A neat, square, lotus leaf wrapped parcel sits on a plate waiting to be unwrapped.

Today's dim sum item is a little more substantial than the ones I've posted about previously: 糯米雞 (nuò mǐ jī). This literally means "chicken with glutinous rice" — 糯米 is glutinous rice, and 雞 is chicken. Usually left implicit in the name is the fact that this chicken/rice mixture is wrapped up in a lotus leaf before being steamed, though you may sometimes see the lotus leaf explicitly mentioned, as 荷葉糯米雞 (hé yè nuò mǐ jī). 荷 means "lotus", and 葉 means "leaf" [see footnote].

The most common Cantonese transliteration I've seen for this is "lo mai gai", while English translations include "steamed mini glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaf", "glutinous rice with meat in lotus leaves", "mini glutinous rice in lotus leaves", and other variations on the same theme. As well as the chicken and rice, the ingredients include Chinese sausage (臘腸/là cháng) and Chinese mushrooms; these savoury items are seasoned with soy sauce, ginger, etc, and then buried in the centre of the rice parcel, to be revealed when you open it up and dig in (illustrated below).

The glutinous rice used in this dish is not the same as the rice used to make, for example, fried rice or plain steamed/boiled rice. It's also known as "sticky rice", and is a different variety from jasmine and other long-grained rices. As well as its culinary uses, it's also been used historically to make masonry mortar for walls and buildings.

As mentioned above, 糯米雞 can be quite filling, so you may not want to eat an entire parcel on your own, at least if you want to try lots of the other dim sum dishes! Though this does depend on the size of the parcel — some places just give you one big one, others give you two or even three smaller ones.

If you'd like to try making this at home, check out Sunflower's 糯米雞 recipe. I like it with the chicken on the bone, but you can always use boneless chicken if you find the bones too fiddly.

The parcel from above has now been unwrapped, revealing a quantity of steamed glutinous rice with a number of small chunks of bone-in chicken gathered together in its centre.  Some of the sauce from the chicken has soaked into the rice.

Footnote: [0] Regular readers may recognise 荷/hé/lotus from my post on 豆/dòu/bean, since it appears in one of the names for mangetout — 荷蘭豆 (Hélán dòu, literally "Dutch bean", as 荷蘭 is a phonetic representation of "Holland"). Similarly, 葉/yè/leaf has also appeared here before, as 牛柏葉 (niú bǎi yè), or leaf tripe.

If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
Three small round pastries sit in individual paper cases on a plate.  The layers of the pastries are flaking apart in a pretty spiral pattern, and the pastry itself is an even golden-brown with a few blisters showing that it was deep-fried rather than baked.  A few other types of pastries are visible in the background, and a fake red polystyrene flower decorates the centre of the plate.

I'm not normally a fan of pastry, but I'll make an exception for certain Chinese pastries, particularly these light, deep-fried puffs filled with shredded daikon. The Chinese name is 蘿蔔絲酥餅 (luó bo sī sū bǐng), though you might also see this abbreviated as 蘿蔔酥 (luó bo sū). 蘿蔔luó bo) is daikon/mooli/Chinese radish (though as discussed before, the term also covers a few other root vegetables), 絲 (sī) means "shredded" (referring to the 蘿蔔), 酥 (sū) means "crispy" (referring to the pastry), and 餅 (bǐng) denotes a biscuit/cake sorta thing.

English translations I've seen for 蘿蔔絲酥餅 include "deep fried turnip puff pastry", "crispy turnip puff pastry", "shredded turnip puff pastry", "crispy shredded turnip", and, slightly bizarrely, "mooli croissant". They're sometimes available in vegetarian versions (for example at Shanghai Blues in London), but if they're not explicitly marked as vegetarian, there may be lard in the pastry and/or pork mince in the filling.

Like European puff pastry, the pastry used to make 蘿蔔絲酥餅 consists of multiple layers which separate and flake up on cooking. However, instead of the layers being separated by pats of butter, they're separated by a rich, lard-heavy dough — you essentially make two doughs, one including water and one not, and layer them up, then fold and reroll a number of times to increase the number of layers. Another difference is that the folding process aims to expose the edges of the dough layers, so when the pastries are cooked they make a pretty pattern as shown in the photograph above (which was taken at Gerrard's Corner in London Chinatown).

I looked at a few different recipes when making these: Sunflower's recipe, Lily Ng's recipe, and two Red Cook recipes for beet puffs and durian puffs. All of these make different quantities and use different amounts of flour, water, and fat — and Sunflower's recipe substitutes oil for part of the lard, while Lily's recipe adds an egg to the water pastry. I thought the best way to figure out what to do was to work out the ratios of the ingredients by weight, and compare these ratios between the recipes.

I eventually settled on a fat:flour:water ratio of 30g:100g:40g for the water pastry and a fat:flour ratio of 60g:100g for the lard cake — this fitted pretty closely to Sunflower's and Lily's recipes (which were given in weights), and also to one of the Red Cook recipes (the beet puff ratios were very different to the other three, and I do wonder if the use of volume measurements may have led to inaccuracies). I made one batch using all lard, and one batch using Sunflower's suggestion of replacing some of the lard with oil. The eventual flavour wasn't noticeably affected by the lesser quantity of lard.

Regarding methods, there seem to be two main options: either treat the pastry as a whole, and repeatedly fold and roll the two doughs together before cutting into pieces against the layers (Lily's recipe), or divide each dough into portions and combine them individually (the other three recipes). I tried both, using Lily's method with the all-lard dough and the other method (as described by Sunflower) with the lard-oil dough. I found that Lily's method was much less faff, but the other method produced better results for me, with the flaky strips more apparent. I don't know how much of this was down to the difference in dough composition and how much to the difference in method. (Edit, April 2011: here's an illustrated guide to different folding methods.)

Finally, there are also two options for cooking the things — bake them at 200°C (400°F) for around 20 minutes, or deep-fry them. I cooked half of each batch with each method. Unsurprisingly, the deep-fried ones were flakier while the baked ones were more solid. The all-lard baked ones ended up lighter in colour than the lard-plus-oil baked ones, but that might have been partly because they went in colder, due to the chilling of the dough. The all-lard fried ones were darker, denser, and less flaky than the lard-plus-oil fried ones, but that might have been partly or entirely because I fried them second and the oil was hotter and already had bits in (which can speed up browning).

The main mistake I made was in not putting enough filling in — I was worried that they'd come apart, but in the end only one or two of them leaked slightly. Next time I'll roll the pastry thinner and add more filling.

If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
Three cheung fun rolls sit on a small oval metal plate.  Each roll consists of a thin, white, slippery rectangle of steamed rice-flour sheet, rolled up around some cooked king prawns.  A puddle of soy-sauce-based sauce sits underneath the rolls.

I've mentioned cheung fun (腸粉/cháng fěn) before, in my post on 粉/fěn. These white, floppy, slippery noodles are considered to resemble intestines, particularly when rolled up to serve, and hence are literally named "intestine (腸) noodles (粉)".

Cheung fun are generally served in portions of three, rolled around fillings such as char siu pork (叉燒腸粉/chā shāo cháng fěn), beef (牛肉腸粉/niú ròu cháng fěn), fresh prawns (鮮蝦腸粉/xiān xiā cháng fěn — pictured above), or scallops (帶子腸粉/dài zi cháng fěn). Many places will also offer "three treasures" cheung fun (三寶腸粉/sān bǎo cháng fěn), which includes three of the above fillings, one in each roll. You don't get to choose the fillings here, and the menu doesn't usually specify which ones you'll get, but beef+pork+prawns is not an uncommon combination.

Vegetarian cheung fun options are actually surprisingly common, given how tricky it can sometimes be to find vegetarian dim sum — the noodles themselves are vegetarian by default, which helps. The most ubiquitous vegetarian 腸粉 filling is probably fried doughsticks (油條/yóu tiáo, literally "oil sticks"). On most if not all of the dim sum menus I've seen in London, fried dough cheung fun are listed as something along the lines of 炸兩腸粉 (zhà liǎng cháng fěn). I'm not entirely sure how to translate this — 炸 is deep-fried, and 兩 means something like "pair" or "couple", so perhaps it's a reference to the carb-in-carb nature of the dish, or maybe to the fact that you usually get two 油條 per roll?

Sometimes 腸粉 will arrive already cut into pieces (photo), while other times they arrive whole (as shown above) and you have to cut them up yourself. The doughstick-stuffed variant usually comes pre-cut, since it's not too easy to cut through the doughstick filling.

Cheung fun are usually served with a slightly sweetened soy sauce. Often they arrive with the sauce already underneath, as pictured above, but sometimes they'll come with the sauce on the side (photo). Sauce on the side is considered preferable by some people, since it stops the cheung fun skins from absorbing too much of it while they sit.

You can, I am informed, make cheung fun at home. I've never done this, but if you're interested in trying it, it's worth looking at the eGullet thread on the subject, as well as these recipes by Lily Ng, by Alison Foo, and by Feast To The World; and here's a video (which is in Cantonese, with English captions for the important bits). Note however that both recipes and video include extra flavourings (spring onions and dried prawns) in the batter — if you're making filled cheung fun like you get in restaurants, you'll want to leave these out and make plain noodles. The spring-onion-dried-prawn variant is usually served unfilled.

A final note for Londoners: Lo's Noodle Factory and See Woo in Chinatown both sell fresh cheung fun to take away and reheat at home, but they only stock the spring-onion-dried-prawn version as a rule. Lo's will do the plain ones if you order in advance, but you'll need to buy at least five or six packets, which is rather too much for a single household — they don't keep well. The best way I've found to reheat purchased cheung fun at home is in the microwave (steaming works too, but is slower and no better than microwaving).

If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
A dozen squares of roast belly pork with golden-coloured crackling, arranged neatly in a white rectanglar dish garnished with a small clump of shredded lettuce and carrots.
This photo is a CC-licensed derivative work of a photo by cshan.

Next in my dim sum series — crispy roast pork belly. Although strictly speaking this is not a dim sum dish, it's been part of so many of my dim sum lunches that I sort of had to include it. Like dim sum, it's (as far as I know) a Cantonese speciality, and (at least in London) is often available at restaurants offering dim sum.

I've seen a number of transliterations for this — siu yuk, siu youk, siew yoke. The Chinese characters are 燒肉 (shāo ròu in Mandarin), which simply means "roast meat" — remember, the default meat in most Chinese cuisines is pork, so wherever you see 肉 without further qualification, it almost certainly means pork. Don't confuse 燒肉 with 紅燒肉/hóng shāo ròu! It's completely different.

On a menu, this might also appear as 脆皮燒肉 (cuì pí shāo ròu) — the 脆皮 part means "crispy skin". This makes a lot of sense, since perhaps the most important aspect of siu yuk is the crispy, savoury crackling. If you're making this at home, you really do need to make sure that the skin of the pork is cooked thoroughly all the way through to the meat, or your crackling will be chewy. I can personally recommend Charmaine Mok's method for this, which involves actually letting the crackling go far enough to burn, and then scraping off the charred parts with a serrated knife. It's also worth checking out Sunflower's hints on choosing the best piece of meat for the job.

When I made this, I used Charmaine's recipe and it worked out pretty well (though note that I think the 45 minutes cooking time is meant to be 45 minutes total, not 20 minutes in the oven plus 45 minutes under the grill — I took mine out in time to avoid the house filling with black smoke).

There's also extensive discussion on the eGullet thread about making 燒肉, including an interesting experiment on the best way to treat the skin to get a good crackling — the surprise winner was vodka. I haven't tried this yet, but I certainly will next time.

If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
A bamboo steamer basket with the lid propped ajar and four siu mai dumplings sitting inside.  Each dumpling is topped with a few cubes of carrot.

Next up in my August dim sum series is 燒賣, a type of open-topped dumpling. 燒賣 has various transliterations, some of which are listed on its Wikipedia page. In Mandarin it's shāo mài, though as I've mentioned before, dim sum menus generally use Cantonese transliterations — the ones I see most often are "siu mai" and "shu mai".

Slightly confusingly, siu mai often appear on menus as something along the lines of 蟹皇蒸燒賣 (xiè huáng zhēng shāo mài) or 蟹黃蒸燒賣 (xiè huáng zhēng shāo mài). The 蒸 (zhēng) in the middle simply refers to the fact that the siu mai are cooked by steaming, but the 蟹皇/蟹黃 part is a little more obscure — though for those who want the literal translations, 蟹 (xiè) is "crab", 皇 (huáng) is "imperial" or "emperor", and 黃 (also huáng) is "yellow".

However, the most common siu mai filling is pork-and-prawns, and often these very dishes are translated as either "pork and prawn dumplings" or just "pork dumplings". According to a thread on the CantoDict forums, the mention of crab simply refers to the fact that these dumplings are often topped with a dab of orange crab fat, while according to a comment from the ever-informative Mr Noodles, xiè huáng means crab roe, which is another common topping. I've also seen them topped with tiny cubes of carrot, as in the photo above, but this is pretty clearly just an attempt to save money while retaining something of the aesthetics.

燒賣 are easy enough to make at home; unlike many other dim sum items, the shaping is really very simple, due to the open-top shape. There's actually a specific kind of dough used to make the wrappers, but pre-made wonton wrappers work fine. Again in comments, Mr Noodles points out that wonton wrappers are used for Cantonese siu mai (pre-made ones are fine), while Shanghainese siu mai use a different, special kind of dough. The type you'll see in dim sum restaurants, at least in the UK, is the Cantonese style.

I have two recipes for pork-and-prawn siu mai: one from Sunflower (of Sunflower Food Galore) and one from Appetite For China. Note that Sunflower recommends a vigorous beating of the filling, to make it firmer, while Appetite For China skips this step. I'd additionally point out that I don't think using lean pork mince in this dish is the best idea — use the fattier stuff from the Chinese butcher, rather than the normal supermarket stuff, since it gives a better texture.

Finally, I recently found an interesting variation while browsing around on Flickr — vegan siu mai based on minced carrots. I haven't tried making these, nor have I ever seen anything similar in a restaurant, and mention them merely as an aside.

If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
Three rectangles of pan-fried radish cake sit on a small plate.  Each rectangle is a little over 1cm thick, white and wobbly on the interior, and with brown marks from frying on the outside.

The second dish of my August dim sum series is 蘿蔔糕. This is not only a common dim sum dish, it's also a popular dish at Chinese New Year. The Mandarin pronunciation is luó bo gāo, but as with most dim sum items the more common pronunciation is the Cantonese one, lo bak goh.

蘿蔔 (luó bo) is daikon/mooli/Chinese radish, and 糕 (gāo) refers to some kind of cake (often a steamed one). In essence, 蘿蔔糕 is a steamed savoury cake/pudding made from grated daikon and rice flour, studded with little savoury tidbits such as Chinese sausage, dried prawns, and soaked dried mushrooms. When served at dim sum, this cake is sliced thickly and then grilled/panfried to get a nice browned crust on the two largest sides.

This often appears on menus as 臘味蘿蔔糕 (là wèi luó bo gāo), with the 臘味 part referring to the preserved meat included in the dish. The fact that the 蘿蔔糕 is panfried is not usually specified in the name, but the dish will most likely turn up in the "fried dim sum" section of the menu.

You can make your own lo bak goh at home; I haven't yet tried this, but I've bookmarked three plausible-looking recipes: one from Sunflower, one from Charmaine of Tasty Treats, and one from the Fresh From The Oven blog. (Sunflower also has another version which uses pumpkin instead of daikon, while Egg Wan offers a recipe including soaked puréed rice as well as rice flour.)

As Sunflower points out, the home-made version generally includes more of the "savoury tidbits", while the restaurant version is generally plainer. I am a fan of the restaurant version, since I prefer the soft, melting texture to not be impeded by too many chewy "bits". Some people like to have a few large visible chunks of daikon; others prefer all the daikon to be very finely grated so the texture is more homogenous. In this regard, I like both styles.

Happily, in London I can buy ready-to-fry restaurant-style 蘿蔔糕, from Lo's Noodle Factory in Chinatown. I find it pretty handy for breakfast, snacks, etc. I haven't yet tried freezing it, but I'm going to try freezing some next time (Lo's sells it in big blocks).

Be careful with the temperature you use to fry it — while you do want to achieve a nice browned crust, and while I have nothing against a burnt flavour in certain dishes, I think that the overall flavour of this particular dish is better if you keep it from burning even slightly. I would suggest a moderate heat for a longer time, rather than a high heat for a shorter time.

Another point is that if you want an evenly browned exterior then you should make a point of pressing the 蘿蔔糕 firmly down against the pan every so often as it cooks (just use a fish slice or spatula of some kind; don't worry about it sticking or breaking, since it's quite robust). I prefer to do this, though some people don't mind the browning being a bit uneven (as in the photo above).

If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
A small white dish of sliced leaf tripe (book tripe) tossed with shreds of carrot and root ginger, with two slices of fresh red chilli perched on top.  The dish sits inside a bamboo steamer basket.

What better dish than tripe to start off my month of dim sum? Tripe may have a reputation for being smelly and rubbery, but when properly prepared it is neither of these things. The tripe pictured above (from Gerrard's Corner in London Chinatown) was perfectly textured, with a bit of a bite to it yet yielding easily to chewing, and with no hint of any unpleasant smell or taste.

The generic name for tripe is 肚 (dǔ) [see footnote]. However, the type of tripe used in this dish also has a couple of more poetic names, as mentioned in my post on 白/bái — 牛柏葉 and 牛百葉. Both of these are pronounced in Mandarin as niú bǎi yè; the first literally translates as "cow's cypress leaves" and the second as "cow's hundred leaves". Like the English names "leaf tripe", "book tripe", and "bible tripe", they refer to the appearance of the tripe slices, each with a long, firm "spine" from which softer, thinner "leaves" spread out. This kind of tripe comes from the omasum, the third chamber of the cow's stomach.

When served as dim sum, 牛柏葉 is generally flavoured with ginger and spring onions, often with a few sliced red chillies thrown in too. You might see this listed on the menu as 姜蔥牛柏葉 (jiāng cōng niú bǎi yè) or as 蔥椒牛柏葉 (cōng jiāo niú bǎi yè) — 姜 is ginger, 蔥 is spring onions, and 椒 is peppers/chillies. Some menus use the alternate character for ginger, 薑 (also pronounced jiāng). Other preparations include tripe in black bean sauce (豉汁牛柏葉/chǐ zhī niú bǎi yè) and plain poached tripe (白灼牛柏葉/bái zhuó niú bái yè).

To make this at home, make sure you get the right kind of tripe. As mentioned above, you want beef tripe (not pig tripe), and you want the third-chamber tripe, not the honeycomb stuff. I found it frozen at See Woo in Chinatown, amusingly labelled in English as "beef manifold".

When served in restaurants, the dish is usually cooked in advance, reheated by steaming, and presented as pictured above in a small dish nestled inside a steamer basket. The initial cooking takes rather longer than the reheating. Some tripe is pre-cooked, but if yours isn't, you may need to boil it for a couple of hours in order to get it soft enough.

English-language recipes for this dish seem to be few and far between. Foodblogger Nooschi has a recipe which involves stirfrying as a final step. (The FoodiePrints blog has an amusing pictorial of making Nooschi's recipe, first the wrong way, and then the right way.) Nooschi also suggests doing the initial boiling in chicken stock if you want a little more flavour, a suggestion seconded by the Gourmet magazine version (though Gourmet use the wrong tripe, and their suggestions of using low-sodium chicken broth and sherry look to me like house style sub-editing decisions rather than decisions made for the sake of flavour).

As an aside, you may also see stewed tripe on the menu (often as stewed tripe with daikon). I think this is usually honeycomb tripe, which comes from the reticulum (second chamber of the stomach).

Footnote: [0] I read on the ChinesePod forums (in a post that appears to have since been deleted) that 肚 is pronounced with a different tone depending on whether it's stomach-the-organ (dù) or tripe-the-edible-thing (dǔ), but I don't know how general a practice that is.

If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
A large table covered with a white tablecloth and with several dishes and steamer baskets arranged on top.  The steamers contain rice in lotus leaf, siu mai, har gao, and suchlike items.  A dish of cheung fun is in the foreground, and saucers of various dipping sauces sit between the steamers.

As mentioned last week, I've declared August to be dim sum month! I'll be posting two of my favourite dim sum dishes each week this month, so today I thought I'd give a quick overview of what dim sum is all about. (Update, August 2011: here's a list of all the dim sum dishes I've ever posted about.)

Essentially, a dim sum meal consists of a number of small dishes of mostly savoury, mostly snack-like food, accompanied by large quantities of Chinese tea. In the UK, the term "dim sum" is used both for the type of food served, and for the occasion itself. Elsewhere, "yum cha" (literally "drinking tea") is a more common term for the act of going out to eat dim sum. A dim sum meal may last less than an hour — a good few of my dim sum outings have been on weekdays with the London Perl Mongers, so people need to get back to work — or it may be slow and leisurely. I think my longest dim sum lunch ever lasted just over three hours.

The Chinese characters for "dim sum" are 點心, which in Mandarin is diǎn xīn. However, dim sum is a solidly Cantonese tradition, and so the names of dim sum dishes, as well as the overall term "dim sum", are almost always transliterated with Cantonese spellings and pronunciations. (Note: I'll still be giving the Mandarin/pinyin for the dishes I post about this month, since many of the characters also appear on non-dim-sum menus.)

Dim sum is a breakfast/brunch/lunch meal, not only out of tradition, but also because it involves plentiful tea-drinking — evening drinks like wine and beer don't really go with this sort of food, and you probably wouldn't want all the caffeine from the tea in the evening. Like 火鍋/huǒ guō/hotpot, it's a highly social occasion, and the more people you have along the better. All dishes are shared, and there's no concept of starters or mains — it all arrives as and when it's ready, and it's fair game for whoever wants it. Some items (e.g. dumplings, pastries) come in multiples of three or four, and others (e.g. rice, chicken feet, tripe) come in a single bowl which you can serve yourself from as required.

Generally when I go out for dim sum, I find things go smoothest when one person puts themselves in charge of the ordering. Having one person in charge means you're more likely to get a nice spread of dishes — ideally, you'd have a mix of steamed, fried, and baked dishes, with a variety of ingredients. Often, instead of ordering by telling a member of staff what you want, you'll be given a paper menu with tickyboxes on which you check off the required items (photo). Some restaurants even still have dim sum carts, which can be fun — these are heated trollies filled with steamer baskets of dim sum, pushed around the dining room by various waitstaff (photo). As they pass, their proprietors will show you what they have, and you just tell them which items you want. This works nicely in terms of getting food on your table without any waiting, but the quality of the food can suffer as it sits around in the trolley. (Londoners: trolley dim sum is available at Chuen Cheng Ku and the New World.)

The most important thing to bear in mind when trying to find good dim sum is that while some restaurants will have a dedicated dim sum chef (or team of chefs) to make the dishes from scratch, other places just buy the items pre-made and frozen. If you see a Chinese menu that includes ten or fewer dim sum dishes, it's a pretty good bet that these aren't being made in-house [see footnote]. For proper dim sum, you want to look for places that have entirely separate dim sum menus with dozens of items — and bear in mind that it's usually different chefs in charge of dim sum and in charge of the regular menu, so a restaurant with indifferent à la carte may well do good dim sum, and vice versa. Take a look at Mr Noodles' post on old school dim sum for some more hints. Dim sum is normally only served until late afternoon; common hours in London are 11am-5pm.

One aspect of interest in the UK at the moment is the rise of the "dim sum chain" (example). Unlike the traditional dim sum places, these chains feature cocktails, snazzy decor, cool music, dim sum served right through to the end of the evening, and polite (even obsequious) service. Prices tend to be higher than in the old-school dim sum joints, and the menus can occasionally be frustrating if you're already familiar with the usual terms and would like to know exactly what something advertised as a "pork dumpling" actually is. Having said that, they're not all bad, and they can work well both as an accessible introduction to dim sum and as an occasional diversion for those tempted by the terribly aberrant practice of eating dim sum in the evening rather than at lunchtime :)

Speaking of aberrant practices, going out for dim sum on one's own can be frustrating, since it's hard to get a nice spread of dishes without being forced to over-order. If you're lucky, you'll find a place that offers a dim sum taster platter and does dim sum that's actually good. One such place is Pearl Liang, near Paddington Station in London; their nine-piece dim sum platter is shown below.

A wide circular bamboo steamer containing nine pieces of steamed dim sum, including a char siu bao sitting in the middle.

Footnote: [0] There are two exceptions to the "short dim sum menus are a bad sign" rule.

The first is if they mention hand-made dumplings. Chinese dumplings per se are not purely a dim sum item, though the non-dim-sum version is more rustic and less delicate. On most menus these are listed with the rice etc, but sometimes they're set aside in a "dim sum" section, presumably for marketing reasons. They aren't really dim sum, but they can be good, particularly if you see the character 手/shǒu/hand in the name, for example as 手工水餃/shǒu gōng shǔi jiǎo/"handmade boiled dumplings". Dumplings that are offered in large quantities (≥10) at cheap prices are likely to be hand-made in-house. Some menus may list both the pre-made frozen items and those made in-house (example — note the relatively expensive steamed items, in contrast to the 30p-per-piece pork/chicken "Chinese Dumplings").

The other exception is one mentioned in comments by Sung a.k.a. Mr Noodles — ultra-posh places (see his comment for more).

Related posts:
If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.
kake: The word "kake" written in white fixed-font on a black background. (Default)
On Monday I went to Fulham to take some RGL photos. I also had a very nice vegan lunch at 222 Restaurant. Then I got the Tube all the way over to East Ham, where I had dinner at Chennai Dosa before heading on to choir in Leytonstone.

On Tuesday I went out for dinner with [livejournal.com profile] lozette, bellaphon, and MsMarmiteLover to Ganapati in Peckham. It was even better than the last time I went there.

On Wednesday I went down the Northern Line to take some more RGL photos. I went down to Tooting and had lunch at Sree Krishna, then worked my way back northwards, popping into the Jackdaw & Rook and the Nightingale on the way. Then I got a bus from Elephant and Castle over to Surrey Quays, and met [livejournal.com profile] claudacity, [personal profile] bob, [personal profile] flick, and [personal profile] drplokta at Whelan's for a drink before dinner at Royal Palace. Royal Palace is the place I went to a few weeks ago that has a Chinese-only menu; luckily, [livejournal.com profile] claudacity can read Chinese, so we managed to order a vast and delicious spread of dishes, all of which we polished off happily.

On Thursday I went to Camden for london.pm dim sum at Yum Cha. I then dragged Richard around on a mini pub crawl before getting the Tube down to London Bridge to meet [personal profile] bob and the other usual suspects for Mongolian food at the Horseshoe Inn.

On Friday and Saturday I did loads of work to make up for all the fun I had earlier in the week.

On Sunday I joined in the Discworld MUD Bugfix Sunday.
kake: The word "kake" written in white fixed-font on a black background. (Default)
On Monday I went to choir and sang music by Elgar and Freddie Mercury. I went there via East Ham this time, since I've given myself a project of trying out all the small Indian restaurants along the High Street. I started with Hyderabadi Spice, where I had a very good biryani. (Haven't written the review yet since I need to go back and clear up some confusion over their billing practices.)

On Tuesday I was inspired by a Shaun Hill recipe to make seared scallops with lentil sauce. I used leftovers from the dhal I made last Tuesday to make the sauce. It worked pretty well; I hadn't been sure it was possible to sear frozen scallops without overcooking them, but they turned out fine.

On Wednesday I went for an epic two-hour dim sum lunch at Dragon Castle with [personal profile] amuchmoreexotic, [livejournal.com profile] thekumquat, and the [livejournal.com profile] quatlet. Then [personal profile] amuchmoreexotic and I headed south down the Northern Line to take some RGL photos and visit some pubs in Clapham. We then met up with [personal profile] ewan and [livejournal.com profile] mjg59 for drinks at the Tooting Tram & Social followed by curry at Radha Krishna Bhavan.

On Thursday I looked at the Tooting Tram & Social website to see which other pubs in their chain (Antic) we didn't have yet on RGL, and realised there was one near Liverpool Street, which is a short bus ride from me and technically on the way to the pub I was meant to be going to later. So I summoned some london.pm people and went and checked it out. It was subterranean, and rather noisy despite being deserted apart from us and the staff. Turn the bloody music down a bit! Then I went on to the Pakenham Arms to meet the lovely (and post-exam) [personal profile] superpitching. Other friends turned up too!

On Friday I mostly sat around going "ow, my womb". [personal profile] doop persuaded me to order a takeaway from Everest Inn in the evening.

On Saturday I worked, and on Sunday I rested.

By the way, you are allowed to comment on these posts if you like... even if it's just to say "hello!"
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On Monday I didn't go to choir because it was a Bank Holiday and the Jubilee Line was closed for engineering works, and I was tired anyway.

On Tuesday I was meant to go out for fun, but I was still tired so I went to bed early and watched House.

On Wednesday I went for dim sum at Joy King Lau with Sarah and Lex, then wandered around taking photos for RGL before meeting people for curry at Gaylord. I tried to pop in to the Crown again on the way home, but it was closed again.

On Thursday I made congee for the first time ever, using the century eggs I bought from See Woo on Wednesday. It was really tasty.

On Friday I made aubergine and prawns in XO sauce, and pork and tofu in black bean sauce. Both were pretty tasty. I think I might have to start ordering XO sauce dishes in restaurants... though they do tend to be a bit expensive, since the sauce itself is expensive.

On Saturday I did some work and then finished knitting a scarf that I was making for my sister.

On Sunday I ventured to Southall with [personal profile] doop, [livejournal.com profile] ewan and said sister, to go on a pretty enjoyable food walk. We had lunch at Mirch Masala and did a bit of grocery shopping. When we got home I made pani puri and they were ace.
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On Monday I went to choir again, and it was again awesome. I sang alto 2 this time. I sang alto 1 last week, but although I can cope fine with the high notes, I like singing the low ones and I missed doing that. I mentioned to a couple of people that I'd be interested in giving tenor a go at some point, and this was greeted with great enthusiasm since like many choirs this one has a fairly low proportion of tenors. I have sung tenor before, but I don't want to go straight into that after such a long break.

During the break, I chatted with [livejournal.com profile] techiebabe and another of the singers about stuff I can explore in the area before coming to rehearsal; the plan is to use this to improve RGL's coverage of Leytonstone and the surrounding areas (Leyton, Stratford, Wanstead, Woodford, etc).

On Tuesday I finished importing my old A-Z walk entries from LiveJournal to here. (New ones will just appear here.) I also made braised cauliflower for dinner (along with pork chops and home-made oven chips); there's something about the combination of cauliflower and red bell pepper that works really well.

On Wednesday I spent far too long deciding where in Earl's Court to go for lunch, and eventually settled on Mohsen. Then I wandered around and took some photos and eventually met [personal profile] bob for dinner at the Botanist on Sloane Square. We tried to pop in to the Crown again on the way home, but it was closed.

On Thursday I went to London.pm dim sum at Leong's Legend, and then took the Tube up to Holloway and did a mini pub crawl down Holloway Road (including the very promising Landseer) before meeting [livejournal.com profile] lozette, bellaphon, and MsMarmiteLover for dinner at Dastarkhan, London's other Kazakh restaurant.

On Friday I had a quiet night in, during which I did some knitting, watched some No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and made prawn bisque with some prawn heads that [personal profile] bob stashed in the freezer a while ago.

On Saturday [personal profile] bob and I went to a beer festival at the Crosse Keys, then walked home along the river and stopped off for dinner at Lovage, a new(ish) modern(ish) Indian(ish) restaurant near Shad Thames.

On Sunday I did some Bugfix Sunday bugfixing on the Discworld MUD and then popped downstairs for a few civilised cocktails with [livejournal.com profile] ali_in_london and [personal profile] montag.
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Here are some things I did last week. I don't normally lead such a decadent lifestyle; I'd given myself a week off work because I'd been working too hard and I needed one. (Links lead to my writeups and photos elsewhere.)

On Monday, I had lunch at Sedap, a new and pretty good Malaysian restaurant on Old Street. Then I wandered westwards (via a half in the Trader on Whitecross Street) to take some photos and check out some reported closures for RGL, ending up at the Queen's Head and Artichoke near Regent's Park, where I tried (and quite liked) the pork belly skewers (photo) from their tapas menu. Then I walked back along Drummond Street, buying some almond burfi at the Ambala Sweet Centre on the way, to meet some friends at the Bree Louise, where we sampled the milds they had on gravity and ate heretical pies (photo).

On Tuesday, I met a friend for lunch at Inn Noodle in Bayswater, which claims to be the UK's first pork-free Shanghainese restaurant; the dim sum were a little disappointing, though. Then I wandered around the area doing some more RGL research and photography, popping in to the Prince Bonaparte for a sit-down in the middle. Finally I got the Tube over to Hammersmith for dinner with [personal profile] bob at Tosa, a Japanese restaurant on King Street specialising in tasty grilled things on skewers. I took a lot of photos, and made a photoset of them on Flickr.

On Wednesday I went out for dinner with [livejournal.com profile] uon to Royal Palace (photo), an unassuming-looking Chinese restaurant near our house which turns out to have a secret Chinese menu with Sichuan and Northern Chinese specialities on it. I don't read Chinese, but the waitress helped me pick out a few dishes. I'll be going back next week to try a few more before I write the RGL review; I think she gave us the "safe" options, which is not a good basis for a review.

On Thursday I went to the bleak industrial wasteland of Park Royal with [livejournal.com profile] hoshuteki, and had lunch at Omnia, a small deli-cafe attached to a Middle Eastern bakery and wholesale business on a one-bus road lined with small-scale factories. Then we got the Tube back into town and had some wine and a few bar snacks at Terroirs, a surprisingly decent wine bar just off the Strand. I was very pleased with the boquerones (photo), less so with the duck scratchings (photo).

On Friday, I did my tax return!

On Saturday, I went out for dinner with [livejournal.com profile] secretlondon, [livejournal.com profile] lozette, and [livejournal.com profile] uon to Kyrgyz Kazakh House, a Central Asian restaurant concealed within a hotel on Camberwell Road. The food was OK, but it was the decor that truly amazed us (photo).

On Sunday, I rose from the dead rested.

(Let me know if this post is interesting, and I might do another one next week!)


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December 2012


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