Recipes

No knead artisan Cinnamon Raisin BreadBy Yun Zhang JohnDo you find that a lot of cinnamon raisin breads to be too sweet? I do. While they taste amazing with lashings of butter (just the way I like it), I always feel that they’re more akin to a treat than a wholesome breakfast item. But this no knead artisan cinnamon raisin bread is the real deal. It’s got a mix of whole wheat and white flour, no added sugar, tons of juicy sweet raisins and an intense cinnamon fragrance throughout. And as the title suggests, the method is also incredibility easy and completely foolproof. Anyone can make this crusty, artisan bread at home!

The no knead method

Most artisan bread uses the no knead method because of the high ratio of water to flour which makes the dough impossible to knead. So in lieu of the mechanical motions, a couple sets stretching and long length of time is employed to develop the necessary gluten and flavours of the bread. It is a very easy technique to master and once you learn it, doors open up to many other artisan bread recipes. Similar to my French bread and my olive focaccia recipes, the five foolproof steps to make this artisan cinnamon raisin bread are: 1. Thoroughly mix up all the ingredients in a bowl. 2. Do one or two rounds stretch and pull to start developing the gluten structures 3. Leave it alone to ferment for a very long time (12-18 hours) 4. Shape and let it rise again 5. Bake in a dutch oven or any bakeware with a oven safe lid In fact, this recipe is so forgiving that if you wanted to skip step two, you’ll still end up with an amazing loaf of bread that rivals those from your local bakery.

Cinnamon, raisins and other variations

Obviously this cinnamon raisin bread has ground cinnamon and raisins, lots of it! But you can also include nuts like walnuts and pecans to added flavours and textures. It so, I would reduce the amount of raisins by a tad. I’ve also made variations of this bread with other aromatics and fruits. For example, orange zest and dried cranberries or fennel seeds and dried currants. They are less traditional than cinnamon and raisin but can be delicious for those with more adventurous palates.

Pro tips

- Preheat your dutch oven with an oven safe lid in a hot oven before baking the bread. When the dough hits the hot dutch oven, you'll get a burst of steam to ensure that crusty exterior. Baking the loaf with the lid on will trap all that steam while finishing the baking without the lid will brown up the crust nicely. - Don't skimp on the fermentation time. While it might seem that the dough has risen and is ready to be baked before the 12 hour mark, you would be sacrificing on flavour if you bake it too early. 12 hours is a good bench mark to follow for the first bulk fermentation time. But in fact, I've had amazing resulting bread when I left the dough in the fridge instead of on the counter for the first 12 hours, then another six to eight hours on the counter and then again 12 hours in fridge before baking. Now, you don't need spent three days on the making of this bread, obviously... I'm just saying that this no knead artisan cinnamon raisin bread recipe is very easy and forgiving...if you just leave it alone to do its own thing!
Scallion Oil Spaghetti 葱油意面By Yun Zhang JohnScallion oil spaghetti came into being one day when I had a ton of scallions/green onions and no Chinese noodles in the pantry. I thought - why not use spaghetti and cook the dish using Italian methods? The rest, as they say, is history. Or more specifically, it’s turned into this blog post 🙂

Chinese scallion oil

Scallion oil spaghetti starts and ends with a classic Chinese master sauce…the scallion oil. To make scallion oil, you’ll need a lot of scallions or green onion ( I think they’re one and the same). Cut them into thin slivers and slowly fry in some neutral tasting oil until charred and crispy. Remove the onions and voila, you will be left with an extremely fragrant oil. The oil is then combined with Chinese pantry staples like soy sauces, vinegar and oyster sauce. Together this make an amazing multi purpose sauce that is mostly popularly used in scallion oil noodles. However, you can use it on a variety of other ways, check out my scallion oil three ways post! This sauce is easy to make and does not take a lot of time or ingredients. As you can imagine from the list of ingredients, the taste is deeply savoury and fragrant…I guess that’s why it’s become a classic condiment.

The Spaghetti

Using spaghetti in place of Chinese wheat noodles for this scallion oil spaghetti is a no brainer. After all, they are both long strands of wheat-based carbohydrate that is served with sauces and toppings. Whereas scallion oil noodles are normally just tossed in the sauce, the spaghetti gets the Italian treatment of being cooked with the sauce, along with an appropriate amount of pasta cooking liquid. By using this Italian cooking technique, the spaghetti can soak up more of that scallion oil sauce within rather than just on the surface. If you don’t have spaghetti, any other pasta shape would work wonderfully here.

Parmigiano Reggiano

And what’s a spaghetti dish without Parmigiana Reggiano cheese? It would be wrong to serve sans a good shaving of freshly grated Parimigana. At first, it doesn’t seem right to add Italian cheese to a soy sauce based sauce, but if you think about it, the cheese imparts another dimension of unami-ness. A saltiness from aging and time that is unique all on its own. Similar to what Japanese miso would bring to the party…um there’s an idea… Back to the cheese though, I must stress that using the real deal Parmigiana Reggiano is imperative to achieving the balance and coherence in this dish of east meets west. Any imitation powered “Parmesan” should be left out entirely…of any pasta dish in fact.

Storage

This recipe makes enough sauce for two servings of spaghetti, but feel free to double the recipe and have extra on hand. I mean, if you are going through the trouble of frying scallions. It keeps really well in the fridge for weeks so any time you’re in the mood for scallion oil spaghetti or noodles, it’ll be ready for you!
Restaurant style Yu Xiang Eggplant 鱼香茄子By Yun Zhang JohnWhenever I visit a Chinese restaurant, a must order vegetable dish is the Yu Xiang Eggplant aka. “fish-fragrant” eggplant 鱼香茄子. This is a dish that showcases the almighty eggplant in a balanced, savoury, sweet and sour sauce with a hint of spice. If you’ve never heard of Yu Xiang or “fish-fragrant” dishes before, check out my Yu Xiang Rou Si 鱼香肉丝 and Yu Xiang Rou Si buns recipes. All three dishes features the same flavour profiles and are well-known Sichuan dishes that can be found in most restaurants.

Yu Xiang Sauce

A common question is always, why call this “fish-fragrant” eggplant when there is no fish at all in it? Well, the name refers to a combination of flavours that comes together from using garlic, ginger, green onions, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and Sichuan style picked red chillies. While picked red chillies are readily used to spice up Yu Xiang sauces, it’s not always easy to find (unless you pickle them yourself!) Pi Xiang DouBanJiang can be found in most Chinese grocery stores. Other famous Sichuan dishes that has Fermented broad bean chilli paste - Pixian DouBanJiang (郫县豆瓣 are Mapo Tofu 麻婆豆腐, Red Braise Beef 红烧牛肉 and even Sichuan Fen Zheng Rou 粉蒸肉.

Restaurant style eggplant

In most Chinese restaurants, to prep the eggplant for Yu Xiang Eggplant, they deep fry them with a coating of corn starch. This works the eggplants fast and helps keep the purple colour of the skin, plus it’s sinfully delicious. I’m not going to pretend that eggplants cooked in the fashion is going to be light on the oil. But I am convinced that if you are looking for a restaurant style Yu Xiang eggplant recipe, deep frying is important to get that same texture which taste so good. If however, you just DO NOT want to deep fry the eggplant. I would still stir fry the eggplant on its own with 1-2 tbsp oil before cooking it with the sauce. I’ve been wanting to share a eggplant recipe for a long time and this restaurant style Yu Xiang Eggplant is one that I am so proud of. I hope you can give it a try!
Sandwich bread : Classic White and Whole WheatBy Yun Zhang JohnOnce you start making sandwich bread at home, you won’t want to ever pick up a bag of store bought, preservative laden bread again. I promise. I’ve been making these whole wheat and white sandwich breads on repeat these past few weeks and let me tell you…they’ve completely transformed our weekly bread intake. The doughs are simple and forgiving, comes together quickly. You can start mixing the doughs at breakfast and have freshly baked bread for your sandwich by lunch time.

Whole Wheat bread

My favourite of the two sandwich breads is the whole wheat. I always like to pumped with the nutritional value wherever I can for my kids, so adding whole grains and seeds to their bread is a definite must. Plus, they like the nuttier taste so why not? You can adjust the whole wheat to white flour ratio. For this recipe, I would stay below 50% whole wheat to maintain that soft texture that sandwich breads are known for. As for seeds and toppings, add any that you have. I used a mix of seeds that includes flax, chia and hump hearts, which tastes great and boost up the protein levels.

Classic white bread

But you can’t share a recipe for sandwich bread without including a classic white loaf. These six simple ingredients will yield a fluffy, tender loaf of bread that is perfect for sandwiches and toasts. It'll become your go-to everyday bread recipe. Furthermore, the olive oil added helps to keep the loaves moist and soft for longer. Bake two loaves and they'll last a whole week stored in bread boxes or plastic bags on the counter.

Mixer or no mixer?

Make these loaves with or without equipment, it makes no difference in the final product. Obviously, with a stand mixer, you are saving 10min of elbow grease but some people, like myself, enjoy the process of kneading dough by hand. So you decide whether or not to get the machine out! The shaping is also super easy and straight forward. The pans do all the work of forming the loaves, all you have to do is flatten the dough with your hands or a rolling pin and pinch it into a cylinder shape that fits into your pan. Can’t get any easier than that! Looking for more everyday bread ideas? Check out these very different bread recipes that are great for the home baker. Honey Oat Bread - 2 ways Shokupan - Japanese Milk Bread No Knead French Bread
Asian Tomato Beef StewBy Yun Zhang JohnThis Asian tomato beef stew is a favourite amongst us moms. Packed with wholesome, easy to source ingredients. It’s got a mellow taste that'll suit most kiddies, but also packed with savoury and umami flavours that we adults love. It’s basically the Asian equivalent of Italy’s “Sunday sauce”. Meaty, tomatoey, and comforting.

Beef

To get started, you'll need to choose a cut of beef that suits you and your budget. In many Asian kitchens, fattier cuts like brisket or shin of beef are chosen for that extra flavour that comes with cooking fatty meat low and slow. During the long cooking process, the fat, tendon or connective tissue breaks down and imparts unbelievably rich beefy flavours to the sauce. However, regular stewing beef (like the ones I used in the video) will be perfectly fine too. They are usually from the shoulder of the cow with consistent marbling throughout. A tougher cut of meat that is meant to be used in long braising recipes like this this Asian Tomato Beef Stew or my Sichuan Red Braise Beef 红烧牛肉

Tomatoes

When I named this dish, I put tomato in front of beef because this stew is as much about the tomatoes as it is about the beef. I used a large quantity of fresh tomatoes as a flavour agent as well as the cooking medium. As there is no additional liquid is added, there is nothing to dilute the tomato essence. And after a couple hours of simmering, the tomatoes are transformed into an intense, robust, savoury sauce. In season tomatoes will be ideal for this Asian Tomato Beef Stew, but even when they are not at their prime, cooking them low and slow will bring life back and make them shine. Can you use canned tomatoes you ask? I would say not for this recipe. We are after the freshness and liquid of those fresh tomatoes and using canned would compromise that. Pro tip: Freeze tomatoes whole is a great way to preserve fresh tomatoes for longer. Plus they'll be super easy to peel after a hot water bath straight from the freezer.

Stone pot

Now, you don’t need to use a stone pot or earthen cookware for this Asian tomato and beef stew. For me, the stone pot works well because not only does it retains heat well in a slow cooking situation, it also does a good job of preventing excess moisture from evaporating. And as we are not adding any additional liquid, it’s important to keep the tomato juices in the pot as the beef simmers and not run the risk of running out of liquid before the meat becomes tender. So, get a heavy duty pot with a lid if you don’t have stone cookware. Of course, Instant Pot and pressure cookers will be great too to cook this stew in. They will help cut the cooking time down significantly, although the final product might be more watery...which really is a matter of preference.
Bird’s Nest Chocolate Caramel Pretzel BitesBy Yun Zhang JohnI don’t know about you but I LOVE salty and sweet treats. One of my favourite things to get at Starbucks were these long, thick pretzel sticks covered with chewy caramel and rich dark chocolate. Sadly, they are no longer on the menu. And every Easter, I love buying chocolate mini eggs. So this Easter, I decided to treat myself, and those around me with these Bird’s Nest Pretzel Bites. They are easy to make, delightful to look at AND tastes exactly like those Starbucks ones!

Caramel Sauce

As these are Caramel Chocolate Pretzel Bites, the caramel is an important component. You don’t need to make your caramel sauce from scratch but why not when it's so easy to do and results in a divine concoction that is yummy on anything? The thing that needs practice is knowing when to take the caramelizing sugar off the heat to add the butter and cream. Too many times, I wait until a dark amber colour to appear before I cut the heat, which was always too late. That’s because the caramelizing sugar is so hot that it continues to cook even after you take it off the heat. Which means burnt sugar and a bitter caramel. So be sure to consult my video to see the precise moment where you need to lift it off the heat. You won’t need too much caramel sauce to make these Bird’s Nest Pretzel Bites so there will be plenty of sauce left. Store it in an air tight container where it can last up to a couple of weeks. But don’t worry, this delectable sauce is good on all sorts of desserts. Spoon it over ice cream, added to a pie, drizzle over cake or even mix it into bread. It’s an instant boost of flavour!

Pretzel sticks

The pretzel sticks added the crunchy component and provide the necessary structure to the Bird's Nest Pretzel Bites. And the shorter the sticks, the more flexibility you’ll have in shaping the nests...making smaller treats in the process. Many other bird’s nest cookie recipes calls for the use of fried, crispy Chinese Chow Mein noodles, but I think the saltiness from the pretzel sticks work so much better in balancing the sweet chocolate and caramel. And it’s because of all that salt in the pretzels that I do not add any salt to the caramel sauce.

Easy, no bake sweet treat

This is one of those simple yet perfect combinations. It’s so simple to put together, requires almost no cooking. Plus it looks fantastic! Pull a tray of these Bird’s Nest Pretzel Bites out of the fridge and you’ll make many people super content. So go make them while those chocolate mini eggs are still on store shelves! Want more chocolate treats? Check out my traditional Swiss Carac tart recipe! And my chocolate peanut butter teddy bear buns
French Bread – Easy to make BaguetteBy Yun Zhang JohnI hesitate to call this a baguette recipe because I feel that the only French bakers in boulangeries françaises can qualify themselves to share authentic recipes for these symbols of France. But I am qualified to say that this is a damn good, easy-to-follow recipe for crusty, long French bread. Bread that’s got a crispy, crunchy exterior and a chewy, moist interior. Bread that’s flavourful and perfect to enjoy as is or used to make the most delicious sandwiches. But above all, bread that is so easy to make that anyone can do it in their home.

No knead bread

Many artisanal breads like the baguette or focaccia contain a lot of water, in baking talk, these are called high hydration doughs. This baguette recipe is a 70% hydration dough which means that there is roughly 70g of water to every 100g of flour. The resulting bread will have a more open crumb structure and be more moist. The techniques with working and handling high hydration doughs are different than regular yeasted bread doughs. Instead of mechanical kneading of the dough, as the case with my Japanese Milk Bread. High hydration doughs like these baguettes, rely on time and stretching to develop and strengthen gluten structures. And the method is so easy that anyone can learn it, making these bread completely manageable for the average home baker, even for a beginner!

Long fermentation

Aside from flour, water, yeast and salt, time is added to give this baguette their robust, complex flavour. Basically, you mix up the dough the night before and stretch it twice before putting it into the fridge overnight. It can sit there for anywhere between 12-24 hours. The next day, you bring it out, shape it, let it rise for a short time again at room temperature and bake it! Super simple right? It takes a bit of planning ahead but the dough and the yeast does all the work, no extra effort from you! In return, you are rewarded with a superior, strong flavoured bread than if you were to bake it on the same day.

Water and steam

Water is not only an important component within the dough, it is also necessary during the baking process. We need to generate steam to help keep the exterior of the baguette soft in the first minutes of baking in the very hot oven. If a hard crust forms immediately, the interior won’t have enough space to rise and puff up as much as we would like. Most home ovens are not equipped with steam functions so we must create the steam by other methods. Enter: hot water baths and spray bottles. They are the economical way to inject steam into the baking process, essential tools to get that crispy, crunchy, chewy crust.

Storage and reheating

This baguette recipe makes two long breads and while it takes no time for my family to go through them, I must admit that it might be too much in one go for others. So my suggestion would be to par-bake one of the baguette and take it out after 12-15min in the hot oven. Cool it down and freeze it. When you want to eat a freshly baked French bread, just bake in a preheated 482F/250C oven for 8-10min, with steam of course!
Flower brioche buns with jamBy Yun Zhang JohnBread with jam, it’s pretty classic, my husband and kids like to eat this combination daily. So why not put them together in a bread recipe? Thus these flower brioche buns with jam were born. Easy to make, fun to shape and perfect for breakfast or a snack.

Soft enriched bread dough

These flower shaped jam buns start with an enriched brioche bread. All you’ll need is a mixing bowl and a few minutes of kneading by hand. This dough is really easy to work with and comes together quickly.

Milk powder

I added the milk powder to boast the milky richness but it is entirely optional. If you don't have it, leave it out altogether or substitute with some condensed milk.

Egg

I only added 1/2 of the egg into the dough because I didn’t want to open a new one for the egg wash before baking.

Shaping tools

To make the flowers, you just need a small shot glass and some oil. If you don’t have a small size glass, use a bottle cap instead. And cutting the dough is easy with just a butter knife if you don’t have dough scraper. Really fun and easy way to shape some fantastic looking flower buns.

Toppings

Obviously the topping for these flower brioche buns with jam is - jam. Get your favourite(s) and fill about 1 tsp in the centre where we’ve made the dent. The streusel topping is optional but it does add extra buttery sweetness. And it also helps to weight down the jam because the rising bread during baking can cause the topping to run off from the centre of these buns. There you have it, an easy recipe for those who like buttery soft bread topped with jam. Make these flower brioche buns with jam today for breakfast, store the extras in air tight plastic bags to keep them soft for the morning. Rather have peanut butter with your bread? Check out my cute teddy bear chocolate peanut butter buns!
Biang Biang Noodles with Hot Oil Dressing 油泼面By Yun Zhang JohnYou need only five simple ingredients for Biang Biang noodles. 1. All purpose flour 2. Water 3. Salt 4. Oil 5. Time With them, anyone can make an authentic and scrumptious bowl of hand pulled, thick and wide wheat noodles at home.

What are Biang Biang Noodles?

Biang Biang noodles originated from Shaanxi province in China where noodles and wheat based dishes are regularly consumed. The noodles are made right before cooking by stretching out pieces of dough into strips of wide, belt width noodles. Also, the action of pulling the noodles involves slapping it against the table surface, hence the name “Biang Biang” which is imitates the sound that this action makes. "Biang" also happens to be the most complex Chinese character to write. It takes 58 strokes to write it out in its traditional form. Which adds complicity to this rather simple dish. A relatively obscure noodles dish, not well known outside of Shaanxi, has gain a cult like following on social media as of late. No doubt due to its name, its simplicity and its delicious taste.

How to make hand pulled noodles

For my Red Braised Beef Noodle Soup 牛肉手拉面 , I showed you a fool-proof way of making hand pulled noodles at home. The only difference with making Biang Biang noodles is its width. The method is the exact same, and it goes like this: 1. Mix up the dough, and leave it to rest for 10min so it’s easier to knead it smooth. 2. Divide the smoothened dough into smaller pieces (5) and roll them into cylinders. 3. Cover each piece completely with oil and leave it to relax in an air tight container at room temperature 4. for minimum two hours. 5. When you are ready to eat, take one piece at a time, flatten and start pulling while slapping it against the table surface. The way this works is that by allowing the dough to sufficiently rest, the gluten within develops and strengthened, making it malleable with little effort. As well, the oil plays a critical role in that it keeps the dough from drying out as it rests and it acts as a lubricant during the pulling process.

The Hot oil dressing and toppings

While you can eat Biang Biang noodles in soups or stir fried, the easiest and best way to enjoy these thick, wide hand pulled noodles is with a flash fried, hot chilli oil dressing. Called You Po Mian 油泼面, it is simple and delicious. Just top the cooked noodles with lots of chopped/minced garlic, green onions, chilli powder (choose a less spicy variety because we are after fragrance, not heat) and white sesame seeds. Of course, adjust the amount to your taste, but be quite generous as it is the fragrance these aromatics give out as the hot oil hits them that brings out the soul of this dish. Season with good amount of soy sauce and Chinese black vinegar and the dish will taste amazing.

Pro move

If you want to make it even better, make a tomato and egg topping. This classic and comforting stir fry dish is the perfect compliment to Biang Biang noodles aka. You Po Mian. The eggs adds protein and richness and the tomatoes, another dimension of tartness in addition to the vinegar. So go give this a go, you'll be amazed at the results and how easy it is to achieve it!
Pork Floss Milk Bread 肉鬆面包By Yun Zhang JohnPork floss is a polarizing ingredient. Some are turn off by the shelf stable meat jerky with the texture of cotton candy, while others find it to be a delightful snack. I don’t often eat pork floss but when I do, I prefer it a top of soft, fluffy milk bread. And like my Asian Coconut Bread 椰蓉面包, pork floss milk bread bun 肉鬆面包 is another Chinese bakery classic that you’ve got to try!

What is pork floss (aka Rousong 肉鬆)?

Pork floss or any kind of meat floss are typically made with lean meat cooked in soy sauce, sugar and a few mild spices. It is then shredded and repeatedly turned about under low heat until it’s all dried up and becomes fluffy and floss-like in texture. The taste is mostly savoury with tinge of sweetness and it’s enjoyed as is or as a topping/filling for milk bread buns, sandwiches rice congee or even in-between sweet roll cakes.

The Milk bread

Many recipes for pork floss milk bread bun requires a Tongzhong roux which help to keep the bread moist even after several days. I go into detail on this method in my chocolate peanut butter teddy bear bun recipe. However, this pork floss milk bread does not require it. The key to this milk bread is its extensively kneading. Use a stand mixer if you have it and knead it dough until you can stretch it so thin that it becomes see through without tearing. Do this and I promise that you'll end up with a soft, fluffy and bouncing milk bread that keeps. The recipe also calls for a combination of water and milk powder. Though feel free to replace the water with milk and omit the milk powder altogether. Or include milk powder with the milk for that extra richness.

The mayo spread

Use Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise, because it’s simply the best. And also that's what Asian bakeries would be using for that authentic flavour. Normally the mayo is spread on the baked bread after the bread has been cooked and cooled. Which would mean that the buns themselves require refrigeration. But here, topping and bread are baked together into a loaf and therefore the cooked mayo becomes more shelf-stable. So you can keep this on the countertop for a day or so, no problem. Aside from the Kewpie mayo, some like to add equal amounts of condensed milk to the spread. Now this is a pro move if you like that salty/sweet vibe. Highly recommended if you’ve got condensed milk on hand.

Additional toppings

As the pork floss, mayo and green onions are weaved into the bread, they are the complete package and nothing else is necessary to make these the best pork floss bread you’ll ever have! However, if you want to go all out, spread more mayo and pork floss on top the the loaf after second proofing or even right before you eat. Baked on grated cheese would be amazing too!

Storage

As mentioned, you can store these loaf in plastic bags on the countertop for a day or in the fridge for up to five days. All you need to do before eating is to slice the bread and toast it up, it’ll be warmed though, crunchy on the outside while soft within and dare I say, even better than the day you made them? I really hope you give this one a try!
Malatang: Ready-to-eat Spicy and numbing Hot Pot 麻辣烫By Yun Zhang JohnMalatang is one of those dishes that you either never heard of OR you can’t get enough of. If you are the former, let me enlighten you, Malatang 麻辣烫, is a ready-to-eat version of the Sichuan spicy and numbing (Mala 麻辣)hot pot. Directly translated, it means numbing, spicy, scalding, three very accurate description of what this dish taste like. If you’ve ever had Chinese hot pot, you know you cook as you eat at the table. With your chosen ingredients in your preferred broth(s). Whereas Malatang comes out in one big pot with all your ingredients already cooked and ready to be devoured. It is the lazy man’s hot pot and found mostly in small shops and street vendors. If you ever ventures to Sichuan or Chengdu, its capital city, you'll find so many different variations of Malatang…with varying names. Whether the ingredients are skewered or sold by weight, they are all cooked in a spicy and numbing hot pot broth that'll make any spice lover weak at the knees.

The spicy and milky soup base

Authentic Sichuan spicy and numbing broth is made by frying tons of dried chillies, Sichuan peppercorns, spices, fermented bean chilli sauce in beef fat. It takes a true master to make it balanced and fragrant. Lucky, most of us can take the easier route and pick up a pre-packaged hot pot soup base from the grocery store or online. Some are better than others in terms of potency, you’ll just need to try and find the one that suits your taste. For this Malatang recipe though, I do like to pump up the flavours by adding additional aromatic and spices. It wakes up a pre-packed soup base, and for those who like strong flavours…well you’ve just got to go that extra mile! In lieu of the bone broth, milk along with water is added in this recipe to give the soup the desirable richness. And the further addition of the sesame paste increases the depth of flavour and thickens the broth with a nuttiness that works so well. So don’t skimp!

What to cook in your Malatang

Any type of meat, veg, tofu, starches that you like. Some of my favourites are: - Spam - Tofu skin - Seaweed - Intimation crab meat - Thinly slices fatty beef - Beef tripe - Lotus root - Potato - Enoki mushrooms - Soy bean sprouts - Wide sweet potato noodles (a must!) And the list goes on and on. Really, this is a completely customizable meal that differs from person to person. Just know that anything cooked in this spicy and numbing milky broth will be amazing! The only advice I have here is to cook the ingredient in order of how long each needs. The longest go in first and so on. The noodles last because once you do, the starches thickens the broth and makes cooking other things harder.

How to eat Malatang

Alone. I like to eat this alone. A solitary pleasure that I so enjoy. I can pick whatever ingredients that I fancy, adjust the spice levels to my taste and devour it without worrying about how all those chillies will makes my face look like. For those who know, you know! An intense, satiating meal like this can offer comfort, sooth wounds and bring deep deep satisfaction. So go give this a try and report back!
Bunny Tang Yuan 汤圆 with black sesame fillingBy Yun Zhang JohnThe Lantern Festival Yuánxiāo jié 元宵节 falls on the 15th day of the first month of the Lunar New Year. Tradition dictates that lanterns be lit at night and Tang Yuan 汤圆, glutinous rice balls, be eaten. This festival of light and colour caps off two weeks of Chinese new year celebrations.

Chinese dessert

Tang Yuan 汤圆 is often called a Chinese dessert because they are rice dumplings stuffed with sweet fillings like sesame, peanut or red bean pastes. Similar to a mochi ball, the gelatinous rice dough cooks into a sticky and chewy texture while the interior should be smooth and semi-liquid. When you bite into a tang yuan, the filling should run out. But in my experience, they’re most often eaten for breakfast and not at the end of the meal. Tang yuan are served floating in a bowl of warm liquid. Most often, the liquid is simply the water the rice balls were boiled in, but sometimes, it can be sweetened ginger or fermented glutinous rice wine 酒酿 broths. Personally, I prefer to eat tang yuan with just plain water because it helps offset the richness of the decadent filling. Take spoonfuls of the warm liquid as you eat tang yuan will ensure a balanced bite.

Glutinous rice flour

Contrary to its name, glutinous rice flour is actually gluten free. “Glutinous" refers to the rice flour’s sticky and gluey texture when cooked. Also known as sweet rice flour, it is made from milling long and short grain rice. Due to its beloved chewy texture, glutinous rice flour is frequently used in Asian desserts like mochi, boba pearls for bubble tea and my sweet potato balls. But do not confuse it with regular rice flour which is less sticky and made with long or medium grain rice.

Black Sesame filling

Black sesame tang yuan is a classic, it is tang yuan 101 and it can't be beat. If you've never tried this dish, I would say to start here. And it's pretty simple...just toasted black sesame seeds, sugar and some form of fat. In my recipe, I've also added a few roasted peanuts and couple spoonfuls of water. The peanuts doesn't add any flavour, just another type of richness and the water helps the filling to stay semi-liquid and gooey when warmed up. And while traditional tang yuan relies on the mild taste of pork lard or suet for fat, I've substituted for butter because it's easier to find and you do not need to cook it down yourself as you would lard or suet. The only downside is that butter does impart some of its flavour to the filling while lard does not, but for most, this is not a problem.

Cute bunnies

Ok, I know assembling these bunnies does take a bit of finicky work and a bunch of time that you probably don’t have. BUT, come on, they are too cute! You don’t need any special equipment, just a toothpick and some patience and you too can make these adorable novelty bunny tang yuan to surprise your loved ones. Boil them right away and watch the bunnies dance around in the pot, or freeze them for next time, you know you won’t get these anywhere else besides in your kitchen. Happy year of the rabbit!
Dill and Pork DumplingsBy Yun Zhang JohnChinese dumplings, or Jiaozi 餃子 are probably the most emblematic of foods to eat during Lunar New Year. It’s auspicious to start the new year with dumplings because they represent togetherness, abundance and prosperity. Togetherness for they're often made with families gathered together around the table; abundance because numerous are often consumed in one go. And prosperity due their resemblance to gold nuggets of currency from ancient China.

Dill and Pork Dumplings

Chinese dumplings can be filled with many different things. Meats, shrimp, veggies, noodles, tofu, eggs…you name it! Our family favourites are my Pork & Cabbage Jade Dumplings 翡翠饺子 recipe and the classic chives and pork. But since I started making them, dill and pork dumplings 茴香餃子 have become a fast favourite. Dill is not a common ingredient in Chinese cooking, and yet, here it is, wrapped into a dumpling. Although an uncommon pairing, it is one that is enjoyed by many in northern China. The anise-y fragrance of the dill brings an unique, strong flavour that works well with the mild taste of the fattier pork. I can attest that dill and pork dumplings are not only delicious, but you need to make them at home! Simply because they're not easily found elsewhere!

Handmade dumpling wrappers

You can of course use ready-made, perfectly-round jiaozi wrappers from an Asian grocery store. Here in Canada, even mainstream grocers now carry fresh dumpling and wonton wrappers. But I started making wrappers from scratch when I was in Switzerland, where fresh wheat dumpling wrappers weren’t readily available. And the truth is that homemade is almost, always better. My family got hooked on the chewy, robust texture of handmade wrappers and now there is no convincing them otherwise. The dough is really basic, just flour, water and salt. However, the technique of portioning and rolling out the wrappers takes practice and patience. So share the making of these dumplings with your family and friends. Together, it can be a fun tradition to go back to year after year.

The Sauce

If I haven’t yet convinced you to make dill and pork dumplings yet, then my secret sauce certainly will. It is a simplified version of a famous dumping/jiaozi snack dish from Chengdu called Zhong Shui Jiao 钟水饺. The sauce is a pungent combination of spicy, savoury and sweet. It may look identical to many chilli oil dumplings or wontons dishes from Chinese restaurant anywhere. But the secret to Chengdu Zhong Shui Jiao is the liberal addition of sugar….and I do mean liberal. Adjust to your taste of course, but don’t be shy! In any other dish, this amount of sugar would be alarming, but here it just works. The added sugar actually compliments the dumplings and enhance their savouriness, making these these dumplings even more additive.

Cooking, storage and more

Boiled

1. Bring a big pot of water to a rolling boil on high heat. 2. Carefully drop in the dumplings and then stir it immediately to prevent sticking. 3. Allow them to come up to a boil. When they are a floating on top, splash with cold water. 4. Repeat this process 2 more times and when they float up to the top again, the dumplings should be cooked through.

Pan Fried

1. Get a wide pan that has a tight fitting lid. 2. Turn the heat to medium high and add some cooking oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan. 3. Arrange dumplings to fit the pan with a bit of space in-between. 4. Add enough water so it comes half way up the dumplings and then clamp on the lid. 5. Cook on medium high heat until the water are almost all gone, then open the lid and cook uncovered until dumplings are crispy in the bottom.

Steamed

1. Get a steamer of your choice and line the bottom with some parchment paper or leafy vegetables to prevent sticking. 2. Arrange dumplings to fit the steamer with a bit of space in-between. 3. Steam on high for around 10min. **Fresh and frozen dumplings can be cooked the same way, obviously cooking from frozen will take a few extra minutes.

Storage

These dumplings keeps really well in the freezer, so definitely make a big batch and freeze them for another day. To freeze, put them on a tray, spaced apart. Once dumplings are frozen, they can be detached from the tray individually and put into bags for easier storage.
Hot and Sour SoupBy Yun Zhang JohnBelieve it or not, hot and sour soup is not part of Sichuan cuisine. Growing up there, I never once had this corn starch thickened soup filled with shreds of mushrooms, bamboo shoots, tofu…etc. It wasn’t until I moved to Canada as a child that I first tried this Chinese restaurant staple. At the time, my dad had a friend who owned a Chinese restaurant, and I vividly remember tasting my first wonton soup and hot and sour soup there and instantly loving it! I don’t know if it was the sourness from the vinegar or the different textures of the vegetables but I would crave it often. I would order it whenever we ate out growing up. Then after awhile, the taste worn off. I moved on to new and exciting flavours and forgot about hot and sour soup. From time to time, I would revisit it in Chinese restaurants all over the world out of nostalgia, but somehow, they never captured those first memories again. Until I started cooking it myself.

A simple soup

Turns out, hot and sour soup is easy to make at home! Essentially, it’s just a vegetable soup heavily flavoured with ginger and white pepper for the “hotness” and Chinese black vinegar for the “sourness”. Except of the tofu and egg, everything else can be substituted to suit your preference. Although traditionally, veggies used are: - dried wood ear mushrooms - bamboo shoots - dried shittake mushrooms The most important detail is that all the ingredients need to be cut into similar sized stripes.

The broth and sauces

Chicken stock is not needed for hot and sour soup, water would suffice because it doesn’t compete with the main flavourings of the ginger, white pepper and vinegar combo. Having said that, a mild veggie stock can be used if you so choose. Sauces too, are kept simple. Soy sauce and Chinese vinegar of course and optionally some Sambal chilli paste for added spice. Be quite aggressive with the vinegar because it is that which make hot and sour soup tangy.

Corn starch and white pepper

But without a doubt, the Most Valuable Players (MVP) in a classic restaurant style hot and sour soup have to be corn starch and white pepper. White pepper is used liberally as it is that that make this soup its heat, please don’t under estimate the power of white pepper, it packs a mighty punch. And corn starch give this soup body, making it more interesting than pieces of vegetable floating in water, corn starch thickens the soup making it heartier and smoother in texture.
Carac – A Traditional Swiss Chocolate TartBy Yun Zhang JohnHoliday traditions around the world centre around food. Prepping elaborate meals that may take hours or even days to cook. In our house, we’ve been planning and baking for days now leading up the big day. But there are times you just need something that is “homemade” but doesn’t take too much effort. This Swiss Carac chocolate tart is the perfect solution in those moments.

Carac

This traditional dessert is hugely popular in Switzerland where they’re sold in grocery stores and bakeries year round. Normally, the tarts are small in size and filled with a dark chocolate ganache. The main detail that makes this simple chocolate tart a Carac is the addition of a green icing as well as a sole dark chocolate button on top. However, sometimes, you will find it as a large tart that can be sliced and shared. Even though it looks like a pie, traditional Caracs use a cookie like tart shell rather than the a pie pastry. It’s not hard to make and there are decent recipes out there for it. But I wanted to keep this recipe entirely fuss-free and easy to assemble, so a good store brought shell will also do the trick.

The Chocolate ganache

A good Swiss chocolate tart starts and ends with top Swiss quality chocolate…and perhaps that is true for all Swiss desserts! As for the Carac, a rich dark chocolate is needed to balance out the sugary icing. Eaten separately, the chocolate ganache can be too bitter and the icing too sweet, but together, they are just perfect. Add a chocolate button on top for another dimension of chocolate and you’ve got a great bite. Also, you can substitute butter in the ganache for margarine or use a combination of both (I’ve seen recipes for both) because margarine can help make the ganache more supple. But we like butter in this house so that’s what I use.

Dressed up festive

As mentioned, a traditional Carac chocolate tart is green. But you can absolutely dye it what ever colour you like. For Christmas, red and green are the obvious choice. The amount of food colouring used depends on the brand you buy so just add one or two drops at a time until you have the desired shade. Same goes for the icing itself. Adjust the amount of liquid used slowly as you mix in to the icing sugar. You’ll want to end up with a thick but spoonable consistency in the end. Also, the lemon juice is not essential but I think it adds a nice tang to the otherwise sweet tart. There you have it! An easy to make and quick to set festive looking dessert for your holiday gathering…at any time of the year!
Garlic Monkey BreadBy Yun Zhang JohnThe holiday season here and many of us, for the first time in a few years will actually be attending Christmas gatherings with extended family and friends…YAY! And what’s better to bring than a gorgeous crown of fragrant garlic monkey bread. Why is it called garlic monkey bread? I have no idea. Perhaps it’s fun to eat as you pull it apart one by one? Perhaps it’s because you can monkey around while you make it? Whatever the reason, put this garlic bread recipe in your baking arsenal and you’ll be covered for all sorts of party occasion where food is shared.

The Bread

You’ve seen this bread in a previous iteration - as my Chinese hot dog buns. The soft, fluffy, tender crumbed bread is also perfect as the body of this crown of garlic monkey bread. As the dough is forgiving, easy to make and neutral in flavour to be able to accommodate the strong flavours of the garlic butter.

The Fried Garlic Butter

There is no one in the world that does not love the smell and tastes of garlic butter….is there? I don’t think so. However, for those people with sensitive stomaches or taste buds, raw garlic can be too acrid and harsh. While my other garlic loaf bread relied on a raw garlic butter paste as the filling, this time, I have chosen to cook it down just a bit to reduce the pungency. The result is a wonderfully aromatic, milder garlic monkey bread, ideal to be shared with others at a party…because who wants garlic breath at a party, right? Having said that, I would recommend to make a little extra garlic herby butter and serve along side the bread for those who want more intensity.

The bunt pan

You obviously do not need bake this garlic monkey bread in a bunt pan, you can do the same in a regular round or square metal baking pan or even a Pyrex baking dish. In which case I would increase the amount of baking time by a 2-5min to ensure that the centre is cooked through. But if you are after a glorious crown of bread for presentation, then a bunt pan is the answer.

Not into garlic monkey bread?

Then forget the garlic herb butter and go sweet! Replace the garlic herb butter with: - Cinnamon butter and add raisins to the bread dough, top with a cream cheese icing. - Chocolate ganache and add chocolate chips to the dough, top with royal icing. Now, you’ve got yourself a crown of dessert monkey bread to share. Sweet.
Jing Jiang Rou Si 京酱肉丝 – Peking pork stir fryBy Yun Zhang JohnJing Jiang Rou Si 京酱肉丝 is a well known stir fry pork dish from Beijing, in fact, the name directly translates to “Peking sauce meat slivers”. If you’ve ever had Peking duck, then you'll probably know what Jing Jiang Rou Si taste like. They’ve got the same flavour profile of sweet and savoury from the dark sticky sauce. And they are both eaten the same way...wrapped with scallions in pancake and beancurd sheet respectively. But forget all that! The reason why this is a great recipe is that there are only 2 main ingredients: pork and scallions…making it a goto meal on a week night in my house.

Sweet Bean Paste

I’ve talked about Sweet Bean Paste 甜面酱 in my Pork and Pepper stir fry. Essentially, it is a thick, dark brown condiment made from fermenting wheat flour and soy beans. Packed with sweet and savoury umami tastes, and it is a star player in Jing Jiang Rou Si. My recommendation is to add this sauce to your kitchen because its universally appealing flavour goes a long way to add oomph to any stir fry.

The scallions

The scallions in a Jing Jaing Rou Si are not just for looks. We use a lot of it and in 3 different ways: 1. Distilled in a scallion/ ginger liquid that adds aromatics to the marinating meat. 2. Used as a base as you plate the cooked pork. The thin scallion slivers will impart its oniony fragrance as it wilts under the hot stir fry. 3. Add pop of freshness and crunch as a garnish. Traditionally, Chinese large scallions are used as the taste is more mild and sweet. But those can be hard to find, so green onions and normal scallions are just as good.

Pro tip

Cut the scallions really thin and long and dunk it into cold water. This way, the scallions perk up and separate nicely. As well, drain really well before plating.

The Pork

Jing Jiang Rou Si is always made with pork. Like most of my other pork stir fries , lean cuts are best for fast cooking because there isn’t time for the fat and connective tissues to breakdown. So use loin or tenderloin of pork or …and don’t tell anyone I said this, but in a pinch, you can also use chicken breast…shhhh.

Accompaniment

In a restaurant, when you oder Jing Jiang Rou Si, you will be served pieces of fresh beancurd sheets to eat with it. What you do is take the sheet and fill it with slivers of pork and scallions and eat it like a taco. It’s a protein packed bite. At home though, my kids like it on top of white rice or even noodles. I think it’s good every which way.
Custard Steamed Buns 奶黄包By Yun Zhang JohnWhat is there to say about custard steamed buns 奶黄包? Only that if you’ve never had it…you are missing out! A velvety filling of eggy custard enveloped by an enriched soft and fluffy steamed bread, it’s a dessert that that's packaged like breakfast. And if you already like other sweet steamed buns like sesame, red bean or pumpkin, then you will also love this custard bun recipe!

Custard buns: A dim sum classic

Custard steamed buns are enjoyed readily in Dim Sum restaurants. Dim Sum, if you are unfamiliar, is a way of brunching originating from the Canton region in Southern China. The meal includes a meze of small, mainly steamed savoury and sweet dishes. The custard buns are normally eaten to end the meal on a sweet note. I love Dim Sum meals, but to be honest, by the time you get through eating all "must eat" items on offer, there isn’t always room for rich, decadent custard buns. So naturally, the best way to truly indulge in these treats is to enjoy them on its own.

The custard bun filling

Obviously the most important component of custard buns is the custard. Making egg custard can be tricky if you are using a bunch of eggs and cream and trying not to curdle it whilst cooking over a double boiler. Luckily, this recipe saves you all that trouble! You just have to purchase a few choice ingredients to go with the normal pantry items. Namely; - Bird’s custard powder - Milk powder - Pastry or cake flour - Sweeten condense milk And when you've got all the ingredients on hand, it’s just a matter of mixing over medium low heat until the custard is formed. No skills needed except the ability to whisk continuously.

The bun

I have share many sweet and savoury steam bun recipes in the past. In addition to the recipes, I’ve also written extensively on the proven methods that helps you to achieve that smooth, fluffy bun. Check out my beef vermicelli steamed bun to read my tips and tricks to make the perfect steamed bun. The techniques used for this custard steam bun are the same. The one thing that differentiates this custard steamed buns recipe is the use of milk and butter in the dough, as the rich filling requires an equally robust partner to hold it up. The added fats makes for an ultra soft, tender, smooth bun.

Storing and reheating

If you manage to not eat all the custard buns in one go, you will need to store them. For a couple of days, leave them in an air tight container in the fridge. However, if you want to keep them for longer, freeze in zip lock bags. To reheat, the superior way is to steam again in a bamboo steamer for a few minutes. However, for the sake of saving time, a microwave is also a good option. 10-20sec straight from the fridge will do the trick. And from the freezer, cover with a damp paper towel and microwave in 20sec intervals until it’s warmed through. I simply love having these homemade custard steamed buns in my freezer because I know that I’m never too far away from a delicious dim sum classic.
Youtiao 油条 aka. Chinese Donut SticksBy Yun Zhang JohnWhen I was little, I hated eating breakfasts. So much so that I’d secretly throw it away piece by piece as my mom took me to school on the back of her bicycle. But then every once in awhile, there would be Youtiao 油条 and soy milk 豆漿 on the table. That, I loved. The grown ups would wake up early to buy freshly fried youtiaos 油条 and bags of warm soy milk from the street vendors who fries them on the spot. Everyone’s got their favourite vendor and everyone gets there early! A fresh youtiao is deep fried dough stick that you can either eat as is or dip into warm liquids so that the airy interiors can soak it all up. A tried, tested and beloved breakfast meal that also happens to be completely vegan.

A bit of back story

A good youtiao aka. Chinese donut sticks aka. Chinese crullers, should be airy in texture with a crispy exterior and a pleasant chewiness on the inside. Very often, they are sold by street vendors in wet markets or little mom and pop shops at breakfast time across the country. Some, like me eat it with soy milk, some with congee or rice porridge and some will use it as part of a filling for other breakfast wraps. In fact, it is also popular across different Asian countries. Now, the average home cook does not make youtiaos at home because it can be time consuming and finicky to deep fry foods first thing in the morning. However, unless you’re living in a country where these are made to order, you likely won’t find a good tasting youtiao in the stores. They are amazing as soon as they are fried so if you want the best result, make them yourself! Luckily the traditional recipe is very simple and easy to do at home.

Eggs and milk?

There are recipes that adds milk and egg, but not this one. I feel that those do not add extra value to this humble food. Follow the right techniques, and this recipe will yield airy, crispy and chewy youtiaos just like the ones on the streets.

The Timeline

My recommendation for making youtiao is to start the night before. The dough needs to rest over night in the fridge to - A. relax and thus make it easier to roll out and stretch. B. develop an airy texture that produces open pockets of air on the inside. However, you can get good results on the same day, provided that you let it rest at room temperature for at least 3 hours. The dough will still puff up nicely but you might lack some airiness on the inside.

Tips for frying the youtiao

- The optimal temperature for frying is 190C / 375F. Although I’ve seen recipes that calls for as high as 200C /410F. So I think somewhere in between is the sweet spot. Which is why having a thermometer is very useful for deep frying foods. - Choose a pot or pan with a wide opening to accommodate the expanding youtiao as it fries. You'll need just a couple of inches of a neutral tasting oil that can withstand high temperatures. - As soon as you drop in the dough, continuously rotate it in the oil. This motion helps the dough to puff up and expand. Once it stops expanding, you can leave it to fry stationary on one side for a few seconds to get extra crispiness before doing the same on the flip side. - Take it out to drain as soon as you have a golden youtiao. Over frying will not yield that chewiness we want on the inside.
Wonton Soup Two ways : Spicy and SoothingBy Yun Zhang JohnWhat’s better than a hot bowl of hearty wonton soup when it’s cold and wet outside? —— Two bowls of wonton soups! One spicy and one soothing. If you are searching for a quick handmade wonton recipe that can be done in 30min, you are in luck! My comforting wonton soup, two ways is THE thing that’ll warm you up from the inside out.

What are Wontons?

Wontons are a type of Chinese dumplings that are usually boiled and filled with varying meats and seafoods. Even its name differs greatly around the country. In Canton, they're Wontons or 雲吞; in Sichuan they’re Chāoshǒu 抄手 or 包面 Bāo miàn; in Shanghai, they’re 馄饨…and so on. But regardless of name, in every region, wontons are distinctively different than Jiaozi 餃子 (the crescent shaped dumpling) that most are familiar with. In that the filling is normally less and the wrapper is thinner…perfect to be slurped up in wonton soups.

The filling

Growing up in a landlocked province in China, our wontons or Chāoshǒu 抄手 are filled with pork, not seafood. As well, Sichuan wontons are super delicate pure pork filling that melts in your mouth! This is achieved by whipping the minced meat with an aromatic liquid. Incorporating liquid into the meat adds juiciness and lightens up the protein. I’ve previously shared a chilli oil wonton 红油抄手 recipe with this pure meat filling. But in this wonton soup recipe, I added a crunch element in the form of fresh lotus root. If you don’t have such a special ingredient, water chestnuts are also great.

Wonton Wrappers

Unlike Jiaozi dumplings, wonton wrappers are much better store bought. They are square in shape and is thinner than the round dumpling wrappers. Both dumpling and wonton wrappers are made with flour, salt and water, Wonton wrappers sometimes include duck eggs or alkaline water so it's more supple and elastic. Which is why some have a yellow hue. You can easily find these in the refrigerate or freezer section on the Asian grocer. But since Chinese dumplings have gone so main stream, you can even find them at large retailers like Walmart.

The Soup bases

So what about the soup? After all this is wonton soup. To be honest, the soup of this soup recipe is not as important. You can of course make homemade chicken or bone broth by boiling bones for a long time OR just warm up a good tasting chicken stock and call it a day. To enhance any store brought broth: season with salt, white pepper and sesame oil to taste and then toss in some herbs like green onions and serve! These homemade wontons are so good that the soup is simply the delivery vehicle. As for the spicy version, no need for stock at all. With all the strong flavours, just use the wonton cooking water and the soup is made. And the results are completely addictive and satisfying.

Pro tips:

- Because these wonton fillings have liquid worked in, don't make them to sit around in advance. Cook them as you make each portion so the liquid won't make the wrappers too soggy. - Do not over cook. Once the wontons float up to the water surface, another 2-3min will be sufficient. - Don't be tempted to boil the wontons directly in the broth, this will ruin the texture of the wrappers and murky up the soup base.
Fast and easy Pork and pepper stir fryBy Yun Zhang JohnHi there, you must be looking for a quick and easy stir fry dish that’s got few ingredients yet packs huge flavour! If so, this pork and pepper stir fry 青椒肉丝 is the answer. Believe it or not, this plain sounding dish did not come together because that was all I’ve got in the fridge. It’s actually a popular and beloved stir fry dish all over China. As the name states, the dish is just tender, marinated pork with crunchy, spicy green peppers or chillies. A classic combination that works...but also an excellent weeknight meal that comes together in 20min - the same amount of time to cook the accompanying rice.

The Green peppers

Traditionally, the peppers used in a pork and green pepper stir fry needs to pack some heat. Because the dish is simple with only a few ingredients, each is there for a reason. And the green pepper is there for texture and heat. With that said, I used a green bell pepper and a couple of fresh mild green chillies because I’m cooking for children but you can definitely substitute a different type of pepper or chilli that has more spice. Some great choices include: Cubanelle peppers, Korean peppers, Anaheim peppers, Serrano, cayanne…etc.

The pork

As with other stir fry pork dishes like Yu Xiang Rousi “Fish-Fragrant” Stir Fry Pork 鱼香肉丝, a leaner cut is best. Because this dish is cooked really fast over high heat, any fat or connective tissue in fattier cuts will not break down enough to be pleasant to eat. So for your pork and pepper stir fry, use a cut like tenderloin, loin or even chops and cut them up into uniform slivers similar to the size and shape of the peppers.

Sweet Bean Sauce 甜面酱

Sweet Bean Sauce or tián miàn jiàng 甜面酱 is a thick, dark brown condiment that is found in many Chinese kitchens. Directly translated, its name means “sweet flour paste”, which is telling as it is made from fermented wheat flour and fermented soy beans. It is also the predominant seasoning for this fast and easy pork and pepper stir fry. No chopping of garlic and ginger, no additional aromatics needed because we’ve got the umami flavours from the sweet bean sauce which goes excellent with pork. But if you can’t find tián miàn jiàng, substitute with hoisin sauce, Sweet Bean Paste 豆瓣酱 – Dou Ban Jiang or even Oyster sauce. They are all slightly different, but will all taste good in a stir fry. And there you have it, another delicious solution to your - what's for dinner? problem. Try it out and let me know how you and your family liked it.
Pumpkin Yeast Bread with pumpkin fillingBy Yun Zhang JohnDon’t let the name fool you, this pumpkin yeast bread is truly delicious. It's got it all! Soft and tender crumb; rich buttery flavour with sweet notes from the pumpkin, a cinnamon spiked pumpkin filling and crunchy, fragrant toasted pumpkin seeds on top. Honestly, if you like pumpkin anything, you must make this loaf!

Pumpkin yeast bread vs. quick bread

Try to search pumpkin bread on Google and you will be met with pages upon pages of spiced, quick pumpkin bread recipes which are more cake like than bread. If you made it to this page…thank you for coming! You must be looking for a yeasted bread that is less about the spices and more about the pumpkin. Obviously, a yeast bread uses yeast as leavening agent. They requires more time for fermentation but less time baking. Where as quick breads are the opposite, they use baking powder or baking soda for leavening which requires no time but takes double the time to cook. While both are excellent ways to enjoy the fall season’s star ingredient, I feel that this pumpkin yeast bread with pumpkin filling relies less on spices and more on the natural flavours of pumpkins. Which I truly love.

Fresh pumpkin or canned?

Well, both are great and can be used in the making of this Pumpkin yeast bread and filling. Canned saves you time and energy but costs more, while making your own pumpkin puree can be a bit of a process. With a bit of an effort, making pumpkin puree is as simple as 1, 2, 3. 1. Open it up and scrap out the seeds and flesh 2. Cut into small pieces and steam over high heat for 10min. 3. Puree in a blender until completely smooth. I make a big batch of this to store in the fridge because it’s such an versatile ingredient. And throughout the week, I use it to make steam buns, soups, donuts, and pasta dishes. It’ll last up to a week in the fridge and way longer in the freezer.

Milk powder or condensed milk?

I used milk powder in this recipe because it adds a beautiful richness to the bread that I love. While most supermarkets have this product, it’s not always easy to find or essential to have for the average kitchen. So, do substitute with sweetened condensed milk. If so, half the weighted amount or else it’ll add too much moisture.

Storage

This pumpkin yeast bread with pumpkin filling is amazing to enjoy the day it’s baked, warm out of the oven, but also several days later. I tend to make 2 loaves at a time because it also keep really well in the fridge, stored in plastic bags. There, it’ll last a good 3-5 days. Whenever I want a slice, I just cut it and put it in the toaster….good as new!
Pumpkin Spice DonutsBy Yun Zhang JohnAh, fall is upon us….and here comes all the pumpkins! Every grocery store has piles and piles of pumpkins on sale and every food blogger has piles and piles of pumpkin themed recipes on offer. And I’m no different! Here’s a great little recipe for pumpkin spice donuts. It’s easy to make and a really good snack for those who like their doughs fried.

Making donuts at home

Why make donuts at home when you can buy really great ones in the stores, you ask? Well, these are not just any donuts, they are Pumpkin spice donuts with a good amount of actual pumpkin inside. Furthermore, the added yogurt and eggs pumps up the nutritional value, so you might say that these are high-protein healthy donuts! Plus they are less sweet, which to my Chinese parents means the greatest compliment of all for a sweet dessert. And they’re not too finicky to make at home. Easy to shape with just a twirl of the finger and fried to order in 2min.

Spices

For this pumpkin spice donuts, I purchased a pumpkin pie spice blend that includes ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves…. which of course, you can absolutely just make yourself. But if you want to just keep it simple a tried and true combination is simply cinnamon and sugar. Dust that on anything and it'll taste amazing. Just be generous with the spices as only a small amount actually gets stuck onto the donut themselves.

Special tools

To fry these pumpkin spice donuts or any other food with ease, here are some specific tools that would be useful to have. - A frying vessel with a wide opening which can accommodate multiple donuts. Yet not so big that requires a ton of oil to deep fry. - A thermometer so you can accurately gauge the correct temperature for frying. This is important because donuts cook fast and if the oil temp is too high they’ll get too dark. - A long pair of LONG chop sticks to flip the donuts while keeping a safe distance between you and the hot oil. Bonus, you can also use it as a drainer for classic shaped donuts. That's it! you are all set to make these fragrant, seasonal pumpkin spice donuts for your family and friends. Want more pumpkin recipes and breads? Check out: Pumpkin steamed buns with pumpkin filling Pumpkin swirl loaf bread
Chinese Hot Dog Buns | Lunch Box Series #2By Yun Zhang JohnChinese Hot Dog Buns are a great equalizer. They are adored by adults and children alike. They make a handheld meal even more portable. And they bring up nostalgic memories for those who grew up eating them from Chinese bakeries. As part 2 of my Lunch box series, the Chinese Hot Dog Bun is also a great make ahead solution to the “what to put in the packed lunch problem”.

Why is this a good Chinese Hot Dog Bun recipe?

1. They taste great! Soft, fluffy, slightly sweet enriched Asian style milk bread contrasts the salty, smoky hot dogs perfectly. 2. You don’t need a machine to make this bread. As this rather wet dough does not need to be kneaded until it passes the “window pane test”, it's just as easy to knead it by hand. 3. They will last a long time. Stored in air tight containers in the fridge, they'll be good for up to a week. Just warm it up in the microwave or low oven before eating.

Best quality hot dogs

I didn’t grow up eating Chinese Hot Dog buns, it’s more of a Cantonese bakery classic. So I have no fond memories of biting into a soft, sweet and salty bun on the way back from shopping with mom and dad. Nor do I eat many hot dogs…I mean once in a while in a BBQ, sure…but they not the healthiest of foods. However, I am a mother of 2 young kids and they are big fans of the hot dog. So if I am to serve them these processed tubular meats, I like to make these Chinese hot dog buns whilst using the best quality hot dogs that I can find. Quality hot dogs made by butchers are the better because they contain less synthetic additives and nitrates. So for those hot dog lovers, make these Chinese hot dogs buns from scratch is definitely the healthier way to go. Don't forget to check out part 1 of my Lunch box series: Pizza bread twists...and stayed tune for part 3: Easy healthy granola bars.
Peach Galette with easy homemade pastryBy Yun Zhang JohnHere in Canada, summers come fast and furious and leaves the same way. While I don’t mind saying bye to the hot humid weather, I will dearly miss all the local fruits that we’ve been gorging on all summer. Especially the peaches…there’s nothing better than biting into a ripe, juicy, sweet and fragrant Niagara peach. That’s why it needs to be baked into my end-of-summer peach galette, possibly the simplest and best peach dessert.

What is a galette?

A galette is a free-form pie. It’s got the same components as a fruit pie, ie. buttery pastry, macerated fruit…but without the structure of a pie shell. Casually shaped but with the flavours and textures of traditional pies. And this peach galette is got to be one of the simplest pastry to make from scratch, because all you need is an all purpose pastry dough with some gorgeous summer fruits. Even for a first timer, you can easily pull this delicious peach galette out of your oven.

An homemade buttery pastry

Another reason I wanted to share this peach galette recipe is because I have THE best and easiest butter pastry dough recipe. It comes from my Swiss mother-in-law’s repertoire. She’s been making this pastry dough for years and it is one of the recipes that she’s taught to her students in cooking classes. There are just 4 easy to find ingredients, it’s easy to remember, easy to measure. Just grab a mixing bowl and 2 clean hands and the dough practically make itself in 5min. No need to worry about the butter melting or keeping the dough cold as you mix because the key here is to sufficiently chill the dough before rolling it out. Let the fridge do all the work! And because I don’t add sugar to the dough itself, this pastry works wonderfully for both savoury and sweet fillings and toppings. One dough, a million possibilities.

Cooking Fruits

To be honest, I was never a big fan of fruit pies because I prefer to enjoy my fruits uncooked and unadulterated. But my husband grew up eating his mom’s fruit pies so I had to try my hands at it. Although it seems to be a shame to cook in season, ripe peaches, but in fact, it's just another way of enjoying this awesome fruit. Baking it low and slow creates a jammy-ness and concentrates the peachy flavours to provide you a whole new eating experience. And when the fruits aren’t in season and not ripe? Well, then they would definitely benefit from a tour in the oven all wrapped up with buttery, flaky pastry dough. Finally, what I like about making this peach galette or any other fruit galette at home is that you can control the amount of sugar added. Taste your fruits and adjust the amount of added sugar according to the sweetness already in the fruits. Some ripe, in season fruit require no more than a spoon full of sugar to accentuate the natural sweetness within.
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