Fried Aubergine Pockets (炸茄盒 – zhá Jiā hé)

IMG_3866I’ve had some good feedback for my dumpling recipe and I’m glad to hear so many people have been inspired to make it for themselves. In particular an office competition for the best dumplings. The result ranged from 60 plus dumplings following the recipe to just 2 whole dumplings (very high standards) including ones the size of cornish pasties. The general feedback is making the skin and filling it seems to be the most difficult part.

So here is a simple solution to avoid the pesky dough, and it’s more healthy for you! I still love the classic dumpling but this one comes pretty close and it’s much quicker!


For the ‘dough’:

2 aubergine (Serves 4 people)
200 ml vegetable oil
4 tbsp cornflour
4 tbsp water

For the filling:

See the various recipes in the dumplings page;饺子-jiao-zi/

For the sauce:

2 crushed garlic
2 spring onions, finely chopped
3 parts balsamic vinegar
3 parts rice wine vinegar
1 part all purpose Kikkoman gf soy sauce (or light soy sauce)
1 part water
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp white sugar
1 chilli finely chopped (optional for extra kick)


1 chopping board
1 sharp knife
1 flat based frying pan


  1. First chop both ends of the aubergine, then cut 5 mm from the end vertically down but don’t cut through. Leave about 5mm at the end. Then move 5 mm horizontally back and down again this time all the way. This creates a pocket to hold the filling. IMG_3837
  2. Fill the aubergine pocket with filling, then press together making sure the filling doesn’t spill out.IMG_3839IMG_3849
  3. Heat the pan on high heat with a thin, 5 mm deep, layer of vegetable oil.IMG_3850
  4. Dunk the aubergine dumpling in the cornflour mix.IMG_3853
  5. Place batches into the pan and fry each side for 3 minutes or until browned and thoroughly cooked.

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  6. Move the cooked aubergine dumplings onto a plate with kitchen towel to drain the excess oil.IMG_3862
  7. In the meantime make the sauce, by finely slicing the chilli, spring onion and garlic mix together with the sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, water and sesame oil.
  8. Plate the aubergine dumplings and pour the sauce on top.IMG_3866
  9. Serve and enjoy!

Fast Stir Fry Pork (过油肉 – Guò Yóu Riu)

IMG_3778This is another favourite of my childhood years in China. It originates from the ShanXi region of China and the making of it can vary quite a lot even within the province. This is my take on it and although it doesn’t compare anywhere near some of the best I’ve had, it’s close enough to make me miss them. The key to this dish is plenty of oil and high heat, everything should be done in as little as 5 minutes! In Chinese the name literally means meat passing through oil by oil they mean very hot oil!

There’s two new ingredient introduced in this recipe which might not be familiar with everyone, I certainly don’t see them in the supermarkets of the UK. So you’ll probably have to pay a visit to your nearest Chinese supermarket with a decent vegetable selection.

The first is garlic shoots, it is absolutely delicious! I can just eat it in everything and as the name suggests it tastes kind of garlicky! Take care when taking this on a bus as the smell will make everyone within a 2 meter radius look at you with suspicion. If it doesn’t smell then it might not be the freshest stuff.

The second ingredient is wood ear. It’s a fungi like mushrooms, but unlike mushrooms, I love this stuff! It adds a very interesting taste and texture to a dish. Due to its large surface area, it’s amazing at absorbing a lot of taste. It usually come dehydrates and will require soaking in warm/hot water for 30 minutes before use.



200 g pork shoulder finely sliced
10-20 fresh garlic shoot shopped in 3 cm chunks (I love it so the more the merrier) if you can’t find it then replace with roughly chopped onion.
1 spring onions roughly chopped
1 large handful of wood-ears soaked and with the slightly hard knobbly bit removed
2 medium tomatos sliced
1 thumb-sized ginger, sliced into strips
3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 large egg
3 tablespoon corn flour
1 tsp black pepper
3 tablespoon all purpose Kikkoman gf soy sauce (or light soy sauce)
2 tablespoons Sanchi gf soy sauce (dark soy sauce)
2 tablespoons rice wine
3 tablespoon rapeseed oil or groundnut oil/vegetable oil


1 medium flat pan


  1. Thinly slice the pork shoulder.IMG_4414
  2. Marinate the pork in egg, corn flour, back pepper, rice wine and light soy sauce for at least 30 minutes (ideally longer).IMG_4415
  3. Cover the bottom of the wok with plenty of oil (essential for this dish) then add the pork and fry until browned. whilst frying, prepare the garlic shoot, spring onion, ginger, garlic, tomatoes and woodear. Once the meat is done, set aside for later.IMG_4417IMG_3760IMG_3764
  4. Heat the pan with some oil and add the spring onion, ginger and garlic. Fry for 2 minutes until fragrant.IMG_3766
  5. Add the fresh garlic shoot and fry for another minute.IMG_3770
  6. Add the woodear and stir together.IMG_3771
  7. Add the pork, tomatoes and salt and dark soy sauce to taste. Stir everything together on a high heat very quickly.IMG_3774
  8. When everything is hot and mixed, add the corn flour mixed with 4 tablespoons of water.IMG_3775
  9. Stir fry for another minute and serve!

Papa Liu’s Mixed Stew (刘家大烩菜 – Liú jiā dà huì cài)

IMG_3689In a recent discussion with a friend, who I consider a good authority on all things Chinese having studied it for 5 years at University, she mentioned a lack of good comfort good in chinese cooking. While I would argue red roasted pork with rice is true home comfort, I thought I would throw something new into the mix.

This dish is a northern china classic and every (probably) family makes a version of this. It’s a great everything in one pot recipe and fantastic if you have lots of different vegetable left over. It’s my father’s favourite and he makes it at every opportunity, even if no one asked for it. My grandmother subsequently makes it every time he visits. It also happens to be one of my girlfriends favourites too, and that is after all why this blog exists in the first place.

So here it is, on a freezing winter day, delve into this cozy deliciousness!

IMG_3610Ingredients (Serves 4)

400 g pork diced
400 g Firm Tofu (Beancurd)
2 bundle sweet potato starch noodles (or bean starch noodles)
1 large potato
400 g Butternut Squash
200 g mushroom
200 g fine beans
3 spring onions (4 or more depending on preference), roughly chopped
1 thumb-sized ginger, cut into fine slices
5 large cloves of garlic, finely sliced
6 dried bird eye chillies (optional)
75 ml cooking wine
1 tbsp white sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black peppercorn
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorn (powder is fine if prefered)
1 star anise (½ tbsp powder is fine if prefered)
3 tablespoon all purpose Kikkoman gf soy sauce (or light soy sauce)
3 tablespoons Sanchi gf soy sauce (dark soy sauce)
5 tablespoon rapeseed oil or groundnut oil/vegetable oil
500-700 ml chicken stock (or water)


1 medium flat pan


  1. Marinate the diced pork with plenty of cooking wine, 1 tsp black peppercorn, 3 tsp soy sauce light and 1 tsp dark. Leave for a minimum of 30 minutes.
  2. Soak the potato starch noodles in warm water for at least 30 minutes.IMG_3619
  3. Roughly break the potato into chunks, this creates a greater liquid to surface area which will make the dish more delicious!IMG_3617
  4. Cut the tofu, butternut squash, mushroom and fine beans into edible chunks, but not too small as it will fall apart when cooked.IMG_3625
  5. Add the oil to a wok, enough to cover the base.IMG_3628
  6. When the oil is hot, add the sugar and allow to dissolve.IMG_3630
  7. Add the pork to the wok, leaving behind the juice from the marinate. Stir fry until browned on all sides.IMG_3632
  8. Add the chillies, spring onion, ginger and garlic and mix well. Fry for 1 minute until fragrant.IMG_3651
  9. Add the potato, fine beans, butternut squash and mushroom to the wok. Season with salt, soy sauce light and dark, then mix together.IMG_3664
  10. Add the stock and turn the heat to high with the lid on. Cook until boiling then turn the heat to medium.IMG_3667IMG_3671
  11. After 30 minutes, add the tofu and potato starch noodles. Stir in carefully and leave to cook for another 30 minutes.IMG_3686
  12. Keep an eye on how much liquid is left, when there’s 100 ml or so left it ready!
  13. Serve and enjoy!IMG_3689

Dumplings (饺子 – Jiǎo zi)

IMG_0439Chinese new year fast approaches, hailing in the year of the Monkey. This was my favourite time of the year, school is out for the winter, there’s lots of snow and fireworks to play around with, people I meet gives me money if I say happy new year and best of all I get to eat lot and lots of dumplings. It wouldn’t be Chinese new year without dumplings, at least not when I was growing up in China.

It just so happens to be my grandad’s favourite too, so we (by which I mean he) makes it all year round. But there’s something special about this time of year. I guess it’s a combination of everyone being home together, each taking on the unspoken but very well define roles in the conveyer belt like process with efficiently produces hundreds of identical pockets of steaming deliciousness. Set that against the freezing winter outside and it’s perfect, there’s is simply nothing in the world better. Can you tell I’m a real serious fan?

Just writing about it brings back nostalgia, and whilst sadly I have to spend this new year away from family in China, at least I can still have dumplings… it just takes a bit more effort. Of course it will never be as good as my grandad’s, even if I have ‘borrowed’ his recipes.

I should mention there are three variations of dumpling, boiled (水餃 – shuǐ jiǎo), steamed (蒸餃 – zhēng jiǎo) or pan friend (鍋貼 – guō tiē), the making process is essentially the same. Boiled is my favourite, and if there’s any left over (almost never) you can always fry them the next day to change things up a little.

As for the fillings, there come in even more, much more varieties. Actually that’s one of the beauties of dumplings, you can put almost anything as a filling and it works… kind of. Same for the dipping sauce, this various across the country. Here I will describe a couple of my favourite fillings and my personal favourite dipping sauce.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 00.26.22Ingredients

For the dough:

500 g gluten free plain flour
5 tsp xanthan gum (not necessary for non gluten free flour)
1 tsp salt
250 ml water around 30 C (200 ml for normal plain flour)

For the filling:

500 g pork mince (ideally containing 10% fat or more)
150 ml Sichuan peppercorn soaked water (place a handful of Sichuan peppercorn in hot water, ideally overnight but at least for 30 minutes)
1 large egg
1 thumb-sized ginger, very finely chopped
1 tsp white sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp all purpose Kikkoman gf soy sauce (or light soy sauce)
1 tbsp Sanchi gf soy sauce (dark soy sauce)
1 tbsp groundnut oil/vegetable oil (only if the mince contain less than 10% fat)
2 tbsp rice wine
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp Chinese five spice


From the basic meat filling you can create a variety of different fillings. Two of my personal favourites are;

Mince and Chives

Equal part mince and chive very finely chopped, for best result you want to buy the Chinese chives leafs from your local Chinese supermarket.

Mince, prawns and spring onion

1 part mince
1 part prawns finely chopped
1 part spring onions finely chopped

For the sauce:

3 parts balsamic vinegar
3 parts rice wine vinegar
1 part all purpose Kikkoman gf soy sauce (or light soy sauce)
1 part water
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 crushed garlic
1 chilli finely slide (optional for extra kick)

For non coeliacs:

6 part Chinese black vinegar
1 part light soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 crushed garlic


1 chopping board
1 large pot
2 large bowl
1 rolling pin


  1. Add the xanthan gun, plain flour and salt and slowly add the water whilst kneading. Take care not to add too much water. IMG_3420
  2. The dough should be done after about 10 minutes of kneading, the resultant dough should not stick at all to the touch, light and springy. IMG_3421.jpg
  3. Cover with a lightly damped clothe and leave for 30 minutes.IMG_3422.jpg
  4. In the meantime make the filling by adding the egg to the mince.IMG_3432.jpg
  5. Then add Sichuan peppercorn soaked water, ginger, Chinese five spice, rice wine, sesame oil, light and dark soy sauce. Mix in one direction until the mixture is well blended, then add the sugar and salt to taste. Mix again until everything is uniformly blended, you basic mince is done.IMG_3437.jpg
  6. Chop the desired vegetable as finely as possible.Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 00.24.53
  7. Add the vegetable to the mince and the finely chopped prawn.Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 00.29.26
  8. Leave the filling aside, take the dough and knead it for another minute. IMG_3465
  9. Now roll the dough evenly until it’s about the width of a 2 pound coin or about 3 cm.IMG_3466.jpg
  10. Cut the dough into 1.5 cm slices.IMG_3467.jpg
  11. Mix some flour into the dough chunks.IMG_3468
  12. Use the palm of your hand to squash the dough flat.IMG_3469
  13. Use a rolling pin to further flatten the dough, try to roll out the edges more than the centre. This is important for later when actually making the dumpling.Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 00.45.16.png
  14. Take the filling and place at the centre of the dumpling skin.IMG_0428
  15. Carefully seal the filling inside, take care not to let any filling poke out. This will disrupt the seal and may cause the dumpling to burst when boiling.Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 00.48.34IMG_0430
  16. Once sealed around the edges, place the dumpling in both hand, with the edges held by the index and thumbing squeeze in palm. This further seals the dumpling. If you are experience then you can really skip the last step and do this straight away.Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 00.51.22.pngIMG_0435.jpg
  17. Leave the ready dumpling on a surface which will not stick (these look kind of sad but it was hard to get the right consistency with gluten free flour, it’s not as elastic). IMG_3473.jpg
  18. Boil water in a large pot on high heat.IMG_3479
  19. When the water is boiling, add the dumplings which will sink to the bottom. After a minute carefully move them off the bottom so that they don’t stick.  Eventually the dumplings will float to the surface.IMG_3482
  20. In the meantime make the dipping sauce. Crush the garlic and add the vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil together. It ready!IMG_3490
  21. When the water is boiling again, add 100 ml of cold water. Repeat this 3 times and the dumplings are done!IMG_3484
  22. Taken them out carefully with a straining ladle.IMG_3491IMG_3494
  23. Serve and enjoy!

Red Roasted Pork ( 红烧肉 – Hong Shao Rou)

IMG_9163It’s Monday and the weather is miserable outside, just another day in the UK some might say. So I’ve selected this deliciously warm and cosy dish which makes it just a little more bearable.

I also want to take the opportunity to clear up any misconceptions surrounding this dish. Most people probably have never heard of it before, but recently I was watching my favourite pass time show – come dine with me (that’s cdwm to fans out there), and one contestant made this dish. Initial excitement was soon followed by despair. She claims to have first come across this dish whilst living in Dubai at her favourite Thai restaurant (what, right?) and got her recipe from there… So far still ok, but then one of her first ingredients was red food dye to colour the meat… oh spare me.

Whilst the colour (red or hong) is essential, it’s in the name, it comes from the way the meat is cooked and not artificially added. Another common misconception is mixing this dish up with Char Siu (literally means fork burn/roast) which is a cantonese dish and is also red on the outside (this colour does often come from food colouring).

Although not as iconic as Kung Pao chicken (certainly outside of mainland China) it is still a very symbolic. To me it represents an era of China before the modern day industrialisation machine really took hold. Perhaps it’s the colour (red) or because it was supposedly one of Mao Zedong’s favourite dishes but I always associate it with the period around the revolution when food was scarce and meat was rare. When people preferentially picked meat which had more fat as it gave the meat more taste and you more energy (I still remember first being in the UK and finding it astonishing how lean all the meat in the chilled isles were). This dish is typically made with streaky belly pork, known in China as ‘wu hua rou’ which literally translates to ‘five flower’ meat because of the 5/6 layers of fat and lean.

This might be the reason why its popularity has fallen in recent years as people in China becomes more health conscious. But I still think on occasions this dish can be a fantastically sensational treat and there can be no arguing with how it tastes… delicious! I’d usually eat this with a couple of other vegetable dishes with rice.IMG_9104


500 g streaky pork belly (with skin optional)
3 spring onions, finely chopped
30 g thumb-sized ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon white sugar
3 tablespoons groundnut oil or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons all purpose Kikkoman gf soy sauce (or light soy sauce)
3 tablespoons Sanchi gf soy sauce (dark soy sauce)
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (Shaoxing Wine if you’re not coeliac)
½ a star anise
500 ml chicken stock


1 medium non stick pan with lid
1 medium pot
1 sieve


  1. Cut the pork into 3 ± 0.5 cm chunks, try to ensure each piece has a good mixture of fat and lean meat, and blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes.IMG_9117
  2. Drain the meat and set aside.IMG_9133
  3. Add the oil and sugar to the pan over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the pork and turn the heat up to medium and cook for 2 minutes until lightly browned.IMG_9143
  4. Add the stock and all the other ingredients, then stir well.IMG_9151
  5. Bring the whole thing to boil, then simmer with the lid slightly uncovered over a very low flame for about 1 hour 40 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid burning, until the liquid is significantly reduced to a glistening coating.IMG_9155
  6. Serve, eat and enjoy!