While cleaning out the cutlery drawer, mom found an old recipe given to her by a colleague for cheese biscuits.  This morning, I woke to warm cheesy smells wafting up from the kitchen.

By the time I ventured down, they were still slightly warm. Soft, cheesy with bits of bacon and spring onion, they were flavourful and moist.  Lovely with cut of coffee or tea!

INGREDIENTS:
2 C all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt *
1/3 C butter
1 1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese
1 greenonion, chopped
1 1/4 C milk

*if adding bacon or ham, cut down the salt

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
1. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cut butter into mixture with fingers or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. 
2. Stir in cheese and green onion (and bacon/ham if desired).
3. Stir in milk to make a soft, sticky dough.  Divide dough into 12 portions.  Drop onto greased baking sheet. 
4. Bake for 18 - 20 minutes or until edges are golden.  Serve warm or cool.
 
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Rice Cake has a chewy texture and dense like Italian gnocchi.  The Chinese have a sweet version dished out during the New Years.  The 'guo' in Nian Guo sounds like the word 'high' as in achieving high status or promotions.  There's the savoury version and this is how mom cooks these Korean rice noodles .  Apologies to my Korean friends for not going full-out Korean with this... being culturally creative here :p

INGREDIENTS:
-Korean Rice Cake (can buy the pre-cut version to save time and can be found in the frozen food section of most Asian supermarkets)
-sliced shitake mushroom
-sliced chicken or pork*
-chopped cabbage
-thinly slivered carrot and/or celery
-soy sauce, sesame oil

*eliminate meat for vegetarian option

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Cut rice cake (they are rather hard/stiff when uncooked) into bite-size pieces.  Set aside.
2. Marinade chicken/pork with some soy sauce, sesame oil, dash of sugar and cornstarch. Set aside.
3. Head some oil in the wok. Stir-fry the carrots, mushrooms and marinated meat. 
4, Add the rice cake and when soft, add the cabbage. 
5. Toss in the wok until cooked and well mixed. Lastly, add some cut spring onion.
6. Add a bit more soy sauce or chilli oil if desired.  Dish and serve hot. 

 
FIsh was on sale and mom decided on a new project...Homemade salted fish!  I must warn you, it does get a bit fishy smelling!  It's a great time to do pickling and salting...Weather's warmed up and flies aren't out yet and as you can see, our three fish are hanging happily in the sun. 

The old Chinese expression of living by salt fish and vegetables describe the folks with unable to buy fresh meats and produces and brings to mind of a simple life.  It is usually associated with older folks, but it could be the preference for stronger flavour foods due to weakening taste buds or the desire to have food which reminds them of their yesteryear.  For myself, while I tend not to eat it as a dish on it's own, I do enjoy 'salt-fish and chicken fried rice occasionally.  

It is interesting to think about how different cultures preserve or eat their salt fish differently.  The Portuguese has their codfish and then there's the ever versatile herring fish enjoyed differently by many European countries from raw, smoked or in a brine. 

INGREDIENTS:
-cheap fish or whatever is on sale
-salt

DIRECTIONS:
1. Clean and wash fish thoroughly.  Pat dry and drain.
2. Rub salt all over the fish and cavity. 
3. Attach string to fish and hang outside in sun for about two days.  It should be firm and dry in the end.  
4. Wrap and store until ready to eat. 
 
Traditionally, Chinese people don't eat a lot of sweets ( or cold dishes).  However, some sweet dishes or special festive treats do exist though may take a bit of getting used to.  Chinese steam or sponge cakes are a healthier option to the traditional buttery pound cake and seem to be readily accepted or liked whenever I bring these into the staff room for sharing.  The Mooncake, a festive treat available annually during the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival can be a bit odd...I never thought about it before, but it was pointed out to me that a salted egg yolk tucked inside a dense mini-cake of sweet lotus or red bean paste seems a bit, well, unusual.  After thinking about it, I have to say, this colleague did have a point.  

Another commonly seen desert is the red-bean soup. This is often served for free at the end of meals at many of the Chinese restaurants.  Another colleague pointed out that beans are vegetables and it's odd to think of it as a dessert.  Another good point made.  I didn't tell him that there a is a wide variety of sweet bean soups...green bean, barley...Not to mention tofu, yams corn and taro.  I had the most delicious corn-flavoured pop-sickle while in Malaysia and numerous desserts featuring the ube (taro) in Japan.  An acquired taste?  Maybe, or maybe Asians are just genetically wired up to use beans and root vegetables in desserts.  

Regardless, with the lower sugar content or the use of the natural sugars from the ingredients, Asian desserts are a healthier option.  Often, nourishing ingredients are included to make it a health tonic as well. 

Here's a common homemade sweet soup.  If you use just four of the below ingredients, it's the Four Treasures Sweet Soup.  If you use 6, it's the Six Treasures Sweet Soup.  

I haven't figured out all the ingredients in English...It's a bit of a work-in-progress.  Also, mom is one of those who eyeball things...A lot; and so it's tough to get accurate measurements from her.  Thus, the combination of adjectives of handfuls, small bunch, cups and teaspoons.  One day, maybe I will be as good as her and can eyeball measurements too.

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 C lotus seeds
10 wai shan (sliced) 
1/4 C dried white lily pieces 
1/5 C dried raw almond
10 red dates (optional - nourishes blood)
1/5 C Sze Sut (nourishes kidneys)  optional

For Six Treasure Sweet Soup, add the following:

1/4 C sa sum 
small handful Yuk Chuk 

Rock sugar -quantity varies...The more you add, the sweeter it is.

DIRECTIONS:
1. Rinse ingredients to remove dust or dirt.  Soak overnight (this is mainly for lotus seeds which require a long soaking time.)
2. When soften, use a small paring knife and split the lotus seed in half.  Remove any of the green stems that may have sprouted within.  These are bitter.
3. Bring a pot of water to boil.  Add lotus seeds and bring to boil.  Lower heat and simmer until lotus seeds are soft.  About 10 minutes.
4. Add all ingredients except the white lily (this turns mushy if overcooked).  Bring to boil and reduce heat. About 20 minutes. 
5. Add white lily and rock sugar and slowly simmer for another 10 minutes or so. Serve hot.
 
INGREDIENTS:
1.25lb fresh fish (can be any kind)
2 strips of Preserved Mustard Green Vegetable
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cornstarch
3 tsp oil


DIRECTIONS:
1.  Rinse clean and soak the preserved vegetable in water for about 30 minutes (to remove salt). 
 2. Clean fish and pat dry with towel. Make 2-3 cuts diagonally across the fish and put in steaming dish.
3.  Sprinkle some salt in and out of fish. Add some sliced ginger inside and outside fish.
4.  Squeeze the preserved vegetable dry  and coarsely chop.  Put into a small mixing bowl.  Add 2tsp oil, the sugar, soy sauce and cornstarch.  Mix well and then place around the fish.
5.    Add 1 tsp oil over the fish.
6.  When water boils, lower the fish dish into the pot
carefully.
7.  Steam for about 12 minutes. Then add some cut
spring onion.  Turn off heat and cover with lid for a few extra seconds. 
8. Remove dish and add a little more soy sauce.
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Add dash of soy sauce and garnish with spring onion.
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Another variation; steamed with shitake mushroom.
 
If you have any leftover meats such as BBQ pork or roast pork, this is a great way to eat it up!

INGREDIENTS:
1 package tofu (can be firm, median, soft...I prefer soft)
Whatever leftover cooked meats (sliced up) you have on hand.
1/4 C water
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp cornstarch diluted with 2 tsp cold water
1/4 tsp sesame oil

DIRECTIONS:
1. Cut tofu into small pieces.
2.Heat 1 tsb oil in the wok.
3. Add tofu and brown a little.
4. Add 1/4C of water, add oyster sauce and sesame oil and cover lid until water boils. Then, add the cooked meat and green onion.
5. Stir in the diluted cornstarch and heat until the sauce thickens. Serve hot.
 
INGREDIENTS:
-1 or 2 slabs of spareribs (depends on how many hungry mouths you'll be feeding)
-1 tsp of salt
-1 tsp of soy sauce
-2 tsp minced garlic
-2 tsp Korean meat sauce (Bulgigi sauce)
-2 tsp of sugar

DIRECTIONS:
1. Rinse whole slab of sparerib meat under cool water and pat dry.  Place in dish.

2. Add all marinating ingredients and rub into meat.  Cover dish with plastic wrap and place in fridge overnight.

3. Roast as a whole slab for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  Then flip to the other side and roast for another 8 minutes or so. Brush honey over the top and let carmelize another 2 minutes.  Flip back to original side and brush with more honey.  Turn off heat and let the spareribs carmelize a bit more in the remaining heat. 

4. When cool to touch, carve and serve.
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Marinated spareribs.
Unfortunately, I didn't have the camera the day we enjoyed the ribs.  But it was flavourful, tender and I just love the slightly burnt, carmelized tips of the ribs.
 
Bamboo Girl #3 has just moved home and mom is cooking up a storm.  There's pork belly marinating in the fridge and in a couple of days, it'll be ready for roasting.  I'm looking forward to delightful CRUNCH of the pork skin!

BBQ pork, Roast pork, Roast duck, Soy sauce chicken are familiar sights in Chinese restaurants and in larger supermarkets.  There are also numerous BBQ speciality shops as well and while all the gleaming roasted meats and birds on display may turn some away, the delicious aroma will definitely draw most people in.

While we usually buy our BBQ meat, mom sometimes get into a cooking mood and this is one of those times!
INGREDIENTS:
-1 slab of pork belly (or two if you're hungry)
-5 spice, salt, sugar, soy sauce

DIRECTIONS:
1. Scrub the pork belly clean and pat dry with paper towel.
2. Rub a bit of soy sauce over the meat side of the pork belly.  Then repeat witha mixture of 5-spice, salt and sugar.  Leave the skin free of spice or soy sauce. 
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Rub a little soy sauce over the meat side of the pork belly. Then do the same with the spices.
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Ensure the skin is clean and dry so when roasted, it will extra crunchy!
3.  Marinate in fridge uncovered for two days.  You want the skin to dry out so that it will be crunchy and crispy when roasted.
4.  When the pork skin is hard and dry to the touch, it is ready for roasting.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Set pork belly skin-side down on a roasting rack...Do not let it sit in it's own juice or else the skin will not crackle.  
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After two days, the pork belly is dry enough for roasting.
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Set skin side down on rack.
5. Roast for 30 - 40 minutes depending on thickness of cut.  Meat can burn easily so do check every 15-20 minutes.
6. Flip over so it is skin-side up and broil for 10 minutes.  Again, check regularly to prevent burning.  The pork skin will turn to crackle.
7. Remove from heat and using a knife and fork, make a cut to check if meat is cut through.  If not, flip pork belly onto side and roast for another 5-10 minutes.  Do not put skin-side down anymore to ensure the skin crackle does not spoil.
8. Remove from heat and let cool completely before cutting and serving with mustard or Hoisin sweet sauce.
 

The nest is made from the saliva of a type of swallow's, the most expensive being the red nest.  The soup made, also known as bird's nest soup is considered an expensive delicacy; prized for it's healthy and beauty enhancing properties.
Mom went a little crazy and got talked into making a large purchase...Let's just say it was it hit the four digit mark.  With all three Bamboo Girls home, she was at a mothering instinct high...To ensure her girls radiate health and beauty.

The soup can be made savoury or sweet.  My favourite is sweet and really think this is the best way to go.  However, mom had some fresh chicken broth and decided to go savoury.  You want to ensure all ingredients are as fresh as can be so as to not spoil the expensive nest.

INGREDIENTS:
5 pieces of bird's nest (more or less depending on how many you are feeding)
4C fresh chicken stock

DIRECTIONS:
1. Sock the desired amount of nest in water until soft.  Pick out any loose feathers or dirt.
2. When soft, drain overnight.
3. Heat water in a double boiler.
4. Put the nest and chicken stock into a steaming pot and place in double-boiler.
5. Steam for 45mins - 1hour.  The nest will take on a soft yellow colouring from the chicken broth and will float to top.
To make sweet bird's nest soup, instead of using chicken stock, use water and add some Chinese rock sugar.
 
Juicy, moist chicken accompanied with minced ginger-spring onion dipping sauce...You know you're in a Chinese restaurant when you see this dish.  But Chef Mom makes this dish regularly, especially when chicken is on sale. 

Asians served their chicken dish and fish dish 'whole' meaning with head and tail.  Why?  I often wondered too as a kid.  Eating fish or chicken fillet is so much easier and less messy.  But I'm told that it's the restaurant's way to show their customers that they get everything they're paying for...No waiters/servers with sticky fingers stealing a piece or two.  Also, the Chinese believe in good beginnings and endings...Thus, you get the head and the tail when ordering these dishes.

The reason I'm telling you this is because the photos I'm posting are slightly 'graphic' and not necessarily the most, well, appetizing.  But trust me, the taste is great.
 
INGREDIENTS:
1. one 3lbs chicken with gizzards, kidneys, heart removed.  (For bigger chickens, steam longer)
2. sliced ginger and spring onion, salt

Dipping Sauce:
-minced ginger, spring onion/scallions, salt, cooked oi;

DIRECTIONS:
1. Clear the cavity of the chicken.  Give the chicken a good rinse.  Rub salt all over the chicken and marinate overnight.

2. Place chicken in a steaming dish.  Place some sliced ginger and spring onion on top and inside of the chicken.

3.  Once the water in the pot has boiled, place the chicken on the steaming dish inside.  Cover with lid and steam for 10-15min.  Reduce to medium heat and continue steaming for another 30mins.  Finally, turn off heat and keep chicken covered in pot for another 10-15mins.  (Total cooking process is approx. 1 hour).

4. When cool to touch, cut chicken and serve with ginger/onion dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce:
-In a small dish, add salt to minced ginger and spring onion.  Heat a little oil in pan and once hot, spoon over the minced giner/spring onion.  Mix well.