Borscht Soup in Hong Kong

The last time I was in Hong Kong I ate at a neighborhood ‘diner’ style restaurant. They had a similar layout to the familiar, western style diners – leatherette banquettes, sticky ketchup bottles, surly wait service and plastic covered menus. The menu was a mystery, full of Chinese characters and colloquialisms which Google Translate had a hard time deciphering. Luckily for me, some items were in English and I found unexpected western classics like steak, club sandwiches and borscht soup.

Here’s an article which outlines the interesting history behind how this Russian dish became a Hong Kong staple.

“How Russian borscht became a Hong Kong staple” – Terence Lau



Bread update

I have been busy.

Whole Grain Breads

Buttermilk WW and Spelt

Get ready to be bored by a weekly barrage of bread. I’m back to school at George Brown College learning all about Whole Grain Artisan Bread.

This being the first of twelve weeks of classes, I was embarrassingly unprepared. I remembered the essentials of my uniform (pants, jacket, apron and hat)  but I had to re-assemble my kit. This being a bread making class I packed the minimum (scale and scrapers) and removed the unnecessary (scissors and knives.)   Or so I thought.  After all, we were  going to make flat bread and pan loaves in Week #1. For what would we need scissors and knives?

Lesson #1:  Scissors are absolutely necessary.  Many whole grain and specialty flours are vacuum packed in one kilo packages.  Ripping them open with your teeth is not allowed.

Lesson #2:  Flatbread flavored with a whole head of garlic and two hanks of fresh herbs requires chopping.  A lot of chopping.

Luckily my bench partner and I were a complementary pair.   She had all the tools I hadn’t packed and I had all the items she’d forgot.

Here’s a look at the bread we made:  Stone ground whole wheat bread made with buttermilk and honey.   Flatbread made from spelt flour and flavored with garlic and herb infused olive oil.

Both were tasty, especially  the WW bread which was dense, chewy and slightly sweet.  These were hearty, European style  breads, perfect for open faced sandwiches, teamed up with steaming bowls of soup.

Cody’s Box

The Sandy Chronicles

Cody's Veggie Box Cody’s Veggie Box

Cody is an organic farmer who sells veggie boxes every other week or so.

In olden days people would push carts of fruit and vegetables around and call out what they had to sell. Housewives would poke their heads through the window, flag them down and buy the makings for dinner.

In new-present day, Cody pushes out a Facebook post:  He’s coming through town with boxes to sell!   I message him and he comes directly to the front door. First to Message, First to be Served.

The model doesn’t  work for big cities but it scales just right for Ucluelet.

So here’s my box of vegetables.

Gigantic Zucchini’s.  I’d heard that zucchinis can get big but this is ridiculous.

Kale.  Lots and lots of Kale. Much too much. I’m still trying to figure out why Kale is so popular.  I think it falls in the category…

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Giving Rye a(nother) Try

The last time I made Rye bread it was at the King Arthur Flour Baking School in Washington. It was a 100% rye brick. It was so hard I could not cut it with a knife.  Since I didn’t have an axe on hand, I threw it into the garbage bin where it landed with a thump and a din.

Since then I’ve only used rye in very small quantities in my sourdoughs. However at 30g a batch, it’s going to take a while to work through my 5kg bag. I decided to give Rye another try.

Paging through my Gisslen’s “Professional Baking” book, I chose his version of Pain de Campagne. This is a straight dough made with a rye poolish. Overall it’s 30% rye-70% wheat combination with 65% hydration. It is very sticky dough to start (now I remember) but it firms up nicely when developed.

I couldn’t resist cutting it soon after cooling. The crumb is fine & even (which I think is typical) and the crust chewy & nutty. I had it with a slash of cold butter and it was good. I could imagine this with as an open faced sandwich: cream cheese and smoked salmon or grilled cheese with tomatoes or smoked meat with honey mustard.  Hmmm. I  could make this again.

Campagne Rye 2

Campagne Rye

Ucluelet, BC. August 2018

Hong Kong style Buns

A recent article on Tangzhong breads got me yearning for Hong Kong style buns.

In Hong Kong and Singapore it’s hard to find a bakery not selling these pillowy soft breads.  They are slightly sweet, tender and chewy with a butter slicked soft crust.  Fillings tend towards sweet – red bean paste, coconut and custard – and salty sweet – cha sui buns, curry beef and onions, ham, cheese and onions. My kids favorite were hot dog buns – unadorned sausages wrapped in a spiral of bread.  In Singapore, variations included bright green pandan, light brown gula melaka and brilliant yellow mango flavored buns.

Nice though it was, this sweet bread was the ONLY style of bread available in Singapore bakeries.  Good on its own for snacks,  they are less than satisfying with soups, meats and meals.  Eating them at dinner was like eating Twinkies with your roast beef.   The unavailability of ‘regular’ bread was the reason I started making artisan breads at home.

Now that I’m back in Canada and living in remote British Columbia, the situation is reversed.  In my little town, there is no bakery.  There is a supermarket with an in-store bakery.   It does passably well with white and whole grain pan breads. Their  danishes and croissants are of the pre-made, mass produced variety.  Their Hong Kong buns?  Nonexistent.  My solution? Start making it at home.

Here’s my first batch. Shaping is not as good as it could be and it’s a bit too brown on top but the taste – it’s just as it should be.    Want to give it a try? Here’s a recipe.

Ucluelet, B.C.  August 2018



Hakka cuisine in Hong Kong

Poverty forced Hakka people to be creative cooks, and the result was salty, rich and hearty dishes that reinvigorated the body. While the cuisine is still popular in Hong Kong, chefs are unsure how long Hakka culture can endure

Interesting article on Hakka cuisine in Hong Kong , published by the South China Morning Post.

Read full story by following this link:

via The Hakka cuisine in Hong Kong that brings diners to tears, and why restaurants serving it may be on borrowed time | South China Morning Post

California Jerk

Google Jerk

This is a photo my daughter sent to me.  Here’s the chat* session we had. 

Hi Mom! This is what the cafe at work made for lunch today.

It looks like Rice & Peas ?

It’s Jamaican Rice & Peas with Jerk Chicken.

It don’t look like Jerk Chicken

The Rice & Peas was so-so and the chicken tasted

It looks like Curry Chicken

of  curry

But there’s no Curry in Jerk.
There’s no potatoes and gravy in Jerk.
All Jerk spices are black !

It didn’t taste of home at all

You should protest this

I can give them feedback

It is cultural misappropriation
of an iconic Jamaican dish.

Mom I have like
WORK to do

It’s OK dear.
You can come home and
I’ll make you real Jerk chicken

Thanks Mom!


(*) or something like it … same as much as this is Jerk.

Montreal Brunch

20160806_112614The brunch menu said ‘brouillade d’oeuf, croissant, echalote verte grille and sirop d’erable.

“What’s brouillade?” I asked.

“Scrambled eggs,” hubby replied.

“With maple syrup?”

“Yes!” Emm, the resident Montreal-er said. “We put maple syrup on everything.  Pancakes, beans, meat pies. Eggs, no problem.”

Canada  produces 80% of the world’s pure maple syrup and is the leading supplier of maple syrup and maple products. Quebec produces over 90% of Canada’s supply, with the Federation of Québec Maple Syrup Producers controlling the supply and sale of the product.

In 2012 the news world was rocked by the theft of over 10,000 barrels of syrup from a warehouse near Montreal.   At the time, grade A syrup was trading at $1,800 a barrel (approximately 13 times the price of crude oil) and the loss was valued at nearly $20 million dollars. It focused attention on the cartel-like Federation and dubbed Quebec as the Saudi Arabia of maple syrup.

Referred to as the Great Canadian Maple Syrup heist, the theft was remarkable for the size and scale of its organization.  Moving that many barrels would have required one hundred tractor trailers trucking through the warehouse site, unchallenged and undetected.

Hmm … sounds like a good heist movie. I could imagine Donald Sutherland as the criminal mastermind and Keanu Reeves as the lead driver in a convoy speeding across the Trans Canada highway.

Meanwhile, my brunch plate had arrived.  It looked like  I’d found one of those missing barrels. It had been poured all over my eggs.

Les Québécois have famously sweet tooth(s). They love sugar – tire sur neige (maple syrup taffy on snow), sucre à la crème l’érable (maple fudge), tarte au sucre (sugar pie) and pouding chômeur (poor man’s pudding) which is  a kind of maple syrup cobbler with no pretensions of fruit.

20160806_112620Not being a Quebec native myself, I found the dish a bit too sweet.  I traded it for hubby’s sandwich.

His meal violated another axiom of heart healthy foods. Cholesterol rich with braised beef, melted cheese and sauerkraut, it was fried in butter and accompanied by frites cooked in duck fat.

Delicious, heart clogging Québécois fare.

Montreal, Canada. 2016