Cast Iron Magic

I usually do not explicitly endorse any products or brands on my blog, but I cannot keep this cast iron secret to myself anymore. I was lucky enough to be invited to a Chinese (yes! more surprise to come…) cooking demostration at Le Crueset to witness the power of cast iron that turns simple ingredients easily into gourmet food in the home kitchen.

Cooking Chinese food with Le Creuset’s famous cast iron series

As an amateur cook, I have prepared mostly Western comfort food with Le Creuset so far, anything from a hearty casserole to truffle mac and cheese, basically all guilty pleasures on the dining table. And this demonstration has really inspired me to explore alternative use of one of my favourite tools in the kitchen cupboard.

Fresh chicken fat from ‘tori momo’ i.e. thigh area

Long before non-stick pans (made with perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) which is a known carcinogen…) became popular in home kitchens, cast iron provided the original non-stick cooking surface. This is especially important for cooking rice without an electric rice cooker. Traditionally, (Southern) Chinese people cook their rice in cast iron or clay pots over open fire, and this labour-intensive cooking method produces the special by-product that’s the crispy and charred part on the bottom. For the Hainanese Chicken Rice, rice is the soul of the dish, and elaborate preparation with chicken fat is key.

Rendering chicken fat down


For the rice:
Chicken fat (from 2 thighs)
Chicken stock (enough to cook the rice)
Garlic (finely chopped)
Shallot (finely chopped)
Fresh pandan leaves
Fresh lemongrass

For the chicken:
Half chicken, cut into smaller pieces
Fresh ginseng
Dried goji berries
Dried longan
Dried red dates
Shaoxing wine
Seasame oil
Light soya sauce
Dark soya sauce
Potato starch

To make authentic Hainanese chicken rice, the rice must be coated with real chicken oil, and the best way is to make your own by rendering down chicken fat from the thighs. Do not use chicken skin for this.

Fresh pandan leaves

Another secret ingredients to add flavour to the rice is fresh pandan leaves and lemongrass. Cannot stress enough the importance of using fresh herbs as dried ones does not release the same aroma into the rice.

Turning up the heat – shallot + garlic go before the rice

In the Round French Oven goes some finely chopped shallot and garlic, then rice and slowly stir fry until the rice starts to turn white, and add chicken stock and pandan leaves until it resembles porridge consistency. Boil for 1 minute then turn off the heat and keep the lid on. Set aside for 30 minutes.

When your rice looks similar to this, put that lid on!

While your rice cooks with the contained heat in the cast iron pot, time to steam those chicken that will go on top of the rice.

Marinade for chicken

To tenderise the meat and add a slight ‘drunken’ herbal flavour to the chicken, first marinate the chicken in Shaoxing wine, dried goji berries, longan and red dates (chopped up). I like this Shanghainese twist to the conventional Southeast Asian versions of Hainanese chicken. Shaoxing wine is essentially Huangjiu (yellow wine) which is undistilled, which acquires its reddish colour from red yeast rice.

Chicken with marinade and fresh Ginseng

Keep the skin on the meat and marinate for at least 20 minutes. Cover with aluminium foil and steam in the buffet casserole for around 8 minutes.

Steaming away in the buffet casserole

The key to make sure the meat is thoroughly cooked without drying it out is to ‘double steam’ i.e. turn the heat off, keep the lid on and set aside
for another 10 minutes, turn the heat up and let the water boiling up again before serving.

Cooking rice without rice cooker

Steamed Chicken – tender and firm

Once we have the rice and the chicken ready, time to assemble into the beloved Hainanese chicken rice that we have been waiting for!

Hainanese chicken rice

This was delicious, healthy and easy to make in the home kitchen. Definitely an entry level signature dish for those who have been wondering about the mystery of cooking Chinese food.

Le Creuset
Add: G/F & M/F, 31C-D Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2790 1808

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Healthy Summer Dining Experience

Even though we all live and breathe on this blue planet, why do some go to bed hungry while others suffer from obesity?

To put this phenomenon into context, almost 1 billion (yes, with a ‘b’) people face hunger every day, when 1.5 billion others are eating too much. You may think that increasing food production can solve the problem of hunger. Food is obviously vital. However, distribution is key. Increasing the size of the pie means nothing to those who are not even allowed near the table.

Why don’t we transfer excess calories from our plates to a hungry child’s plate? How do we do that?

Sharing is caring – Table for Two

To encourage those in developed world to eat healthily, while feeding hungry children, Table for Two was founded in Japan in 2007 to help address food imbalance. More than 14 million TFT-branded meals have been sold in partnership with restaurants globally since, from which HK$2 is donated towards school lunches in countries including Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia and China.

Healthy Summer Dining Experience!

There is now a Hong Kong chapter, and to celebrate the glorious summer, the lovely team behind TFT is bringing us ‘Healthy Summer Dining Experience’ (HSDE) for the month of August with 9 partnering restaurants/bars. I was very honoured to be invited along for a restuarant crawl for a preview of 6 of the 9 venues with the team on Saturday, which coincided with the first blue sky since Typhoon Vincente hit earlier in the week.

1) Grassroot Pantry

Chef Peggy with Red Quinoa salad for TFT

As I sadly missed the first stop at The Genie Concept (please see Janice and Ale‘s write up on the pineapple and kale juice), I arrived a little bit earlier than the rest of the group at Grassroots Pantry and had a little chat with the darling chef Peggy Chan. A vegetarian herself, this is her outlet to make a change in the food industry. Everything is homemade from scratch in house, and all ingredients are local, organic and sustainable produce sourced from local farms (Zen Organic Farm is a favourite). Can’t have a more perfect partner for healthy eating!

Lovely hand-drawn menu for the TFT dish

The hand-drawn menu not only shows you what the quinoa salad looks like, but also with a brief explanation of the ingredients. Look out for the TFT sign which indicates HK$2 from each salad will go towards funding school lunches in Africa and China!

Quinoa Salad with Orange Hazelnut Dressing

Quinoa, dubbed the ‘king of grains’ for its nutritional values, provides complete protein which makes it a staple for vegetarians and vegans alike. This salad is filled with boiled red quinoa (slightly lower fat and higher in fibre content than white quinoa), drizzled with orange hazelnut dressing. You can also find dried figs and cranberries hidden among the greens and browns which bring a natural sweetness to the dish. Perfect for a hot summer afternoon.

Grassroots Pantry
Add: 12 Fuk Sau Lane, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
Tel: 2873 3353

2) Light Radiant Food

Light Radiant Food

Perched on the steep Eastern Street is Light Radiant Food, a popular vegetarian restaurant. Hidden behind 2 giant potted plants, it is unpretentious and welcoming, just like its owner and long-time Lamma resident Stephanie Ng. Blessed with high ceiling and airy decor, this is an escape from the hustle and bustle right outside the doorstep.

Light Radiant Food interior

Stephanie and her no-nonsense style

Her philosophy is simple. She wants everyone to come in, taste her food, and feel better when they leave. Someone who believes in the power of food that is good for you, not just tastes good.

Black bean burger with salad

This vegetarian burger rivals any beefy version I have tried. The salad was fresh and a great complement to the burger, on homemade wheat bun (love the slightly-dry texture) and the black bean patty (with bell peppers and spices) that came with a crispy edge was so moist and flavourful. Not to mention the handmade pickled Chinese zucchini. This instantly wowed and won us carnivores over.

Light Radiant Food
Add: 1 Second Street, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong (entrance on Eastern Street)
Tel: +852 2559 9098

3) Mana! Fast Slow Food

Mana! has already become one of my favourite pit stop in Central for a quick healthy bite. They are also on board with their signature platter to support TFT this summer.

Organic Mezze Platter for TFT

Filled to the rim with hummus, baba ghanouj, black & green olives, freen salad and the famous classic flats topped with zaatar, it has everything that I love about the Mediterranean, but a healthy version.

Organic Mezze platter in the recyclable paper box

Mana! Fast Slow Food
Add: 92 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2851 1611

4) Teakha


This quaint and cute cafe / zakka / lifestyle shop all under one roof was masterminded by the equally adorable Nana. I was so glad that our restaurant crawl includes this as our dessert stop as I tried to visit a month ago but it was closed.

Teakha – lovely tearoom / zakka / lifestyle shop

Try Something Different!

In line with its philosophy to love our community, Teakha is supporting TFT with its lemon tart with ginger crust. There is something about citrus scent/taste and summer. The two are just match made in heaven.

Lemon tart with ginger crust

The lemon cream is light and just sweet enough, with the distinct refreshing scent of lemon. But the highlight has to be the crust. I have always loved ginger, be it Chinese or Western, savoury or sweet. This gingersnap crust was gingery and spicey in the best way possible. Definitely coming back to chill out on a sunny weekend afternoon.

Add: Shop B, 18 Tai Ping Shan Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2858 9185

5) The Flying Wine Maker

The wall display of the Flying Wine Maker

The Flying Wine Maker is the only wine bar participating in HSDE this summer. On the corner of Wyndham and D’Aguilar, it was the perfect location for a glass or two to kick start your evening out. Owner / winemaker Eddie McDougall has kindly offered his Australian 2010 Cabernet Merlot as the TFT wine of choice.

King Valley Cabernet Merlot 2010

Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are amongst the most popular red wine varieties throughout the world. When blended together, they form a classic
combination that is identified by breeding and distinction. Dubbed ‘the perfect mellow red’, it is a medium-bodied yet robustly flavoured red. I love its incredible intense blackcurrant aromas with a full rich ripe palate of berries and plums.

Unfortunately we did not have enough time to sample all the partnering restaurants for this campaign, but please check out the full list including Veggie SF, Fofo by El Wily, and Pure Bar + Restaurant.

Order for one, feed two, and help the world eat better.

For more information on Table for Two please visit Table for Two. Also look out for the exciting Facebook campaign in conjunction with HSDE

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Char Siu aka Barbequed Pork

Being born in this weird and wonderful city of Hong Kong means I have grown up eating and loving a lot of Cantonese dishes, and many have evolved over time to become our very own staples.


Char Siu (or Cha Shao), a great example of the flexible dialect of Cantonese, is made up of 2 verbs, which can sometimes double as nouns just to confuse you. The first part means a fork, and this is no ordinary fork that you find on the dining table. The second part means roast or burn. Picure a long piercing fork that you would skewer through long strips of seasoned boneless pork, and roast in a covered oven over a charcoal fire, and you get the idea.

Pork Cuts

The choice of cut has a great impact on the texture of the barbequed pork. Typically 3 cuts are used and, depending on preference, one would specify how fatty they would like the meat to be. If you love your char siu tender, juicy, moist, and a little fatty, go for pork belly; a lean, meaty char siu, then pork loin will be your choice. If you like it somewhere in between (“half fat-thin”), pork butt.

Siu Mei shop – Wing Hap Lung

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Siu Mei shops around Hong Kong selling Chinese barbequed meats, roasted on spits over an open fire or a huge wood burning rotisserie oven. It creates a unique, deep barbeque flavour which gives this type of meats its name. And here is where we will find our favourite charred pork coated in maltose and dark marinate.

Hanging in the window

It is quite a sight to see all sorts of meat hanging in the window.

Char Siu in all its glorious glaze

Every great Siu Mei master will have his own secret recipe for the over-night marinate, and here is one from my chef uncle adapted for home cooking (shhhhhh…). Unfortunately I have sworn to secrecy the exact proportion. If you ask me very nicely I may tell you in private…

Hoisin sauce
Light soya sauce
Dark soya sauce
Oyster sauce
Chinese rose wine
White pepper powder
Five-spice powder
Ginger juice
Sesame oil

Char Siu is usually purchased whole or sliced and wrapped and taken home to be eaten on a bed of rice. If you prefer to eat-in, my latest go-to is surprisingly not known for its meat dishes but for Hong Kong style milk tea.

Lan Fong Yuen

Lan Fong Yuen started as a little diner on Gage Street in Central in the heart of the wet market, and it branched out to Tsim Sha Tsui and now its latest outpost in the Macau Pier. As a new addition to its popular menu of creative dishes based on instant noodles (seriously), we can now enjoy the barbequed pork in an indoor Dai Pai Dong prepared by Mr Ng, ex-Siu Mei master of Dynasty Restaurant at Renaissance Harbour View Hotel.

Lan Fong Yuen’s Siu Mei counter

Master Ng favours shoulder butt over other parts for his barbeque pork, and its juicy tender texture is oh-so addictive. There is also no glaring bright red colour found on the surface which is often a signal of cheap substitution of dark soya sauce and Hoisin sauce. It is just sweet enough from the glaze and perfectly charred at the right places.

Barbequed pork on a bed of rice

The milk tea that I washed down this pork is legendary. It has been almost 60 years in the making, and definitely requires its own post. One cannot understand the local food culture in Hong Kong if one has not tried a cuppa of the milky velvety concoction.

Wing Hap Lung
Address: 392 Portland Street, Prince Edward, Kowloon
Tel: +852 2380 8511

Lan Fong Yuen
Address: Shop 304D, 3/F, Shun Tak Centre, 168-200 Connaugh Road Central, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2517 7168

Pork cuts illustration by Bill Charmatz

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Breakfast – Island Style

Koh Samui is as close to tropical paradise as one can get. And what’s better than waking up to beautiful view of the Gulf of Siam and taking your morning cuppa surrounded by groves of coconut trees?

The hillside full of coconut trees on the Gulf of Siam

At the top of the Four Seasons Resort was Lan Tania, where we breakfasted almost every day (if and when we can get out of our lovely villa).

Lan Tania – Lounge

Named after the local blue palm, Lan Tania is the main restaurant at the resort. As it was drizzling, we chose to sit in the Lounge area under the high thatched roofs. For me, eggs are a must have for a proper breakfast. And I was so impressed by the Thai-style omelette prepared by our butler New, that I just had to have it again.

Khai Jiao

Fresh from the egg station, my Khai Jiao arrived in the form of a soft yellow cloud with crispy edges, along with a small mountain of rice and sweet chili sauce. Made from such simple ingredients, the Thai people created a universal comfort food out of eggs and whatever extra ingredients they can find in the kitchen, entirely optional. This Four Seasons version has little shrimps and spring onion in it. The multiple inner layers and jagged crispy edges really hit the spot. I am now ready for all the fun waiting for me on this beautiful island.

Although I ordered this for breakfast, Khai Jiao is generally regarded by the Thai people as a rice topper to create a complete meal or a member of an all-out Sam Rap (family-style multi-dish feast) to complement a sour dish or take the edge off a chili relish.

Let you in one little secret. In addition to the obvious list of ingredients (eggs, vegetable oil, a little fish sauce to taste, and a few drops of lime juice), the secret to the crispy edge is rice flour. Just a little bit will go a long way, about 1 tablespoon will do.

Beautiful view looking out onto Gulf of Siam

On a slightly dryer morning we opted to sit out on the Terrace which offers a slightly different view of the Gulf of Siam, and to satisfy my sweet tooth I went for pancake, but this is not just any ordinary pancake.

My morning pancake

My pancake, which was moist and flavourful, was adorned with grilled plantains, not the usual bananas that you would expect back home. Plantains are easily available around the country, and as they are firmer and lower in sugar content than bananas, plantains are used generally in cooking. The char gave it the perfect smokey touch that’s needed to balance the sweet syrup on the pancake.

All these amazing hot dishes made to order, plus a huge tropical fruit buffet, made up my daily breakfast in Koh Samui. Now you would wonder how I could stomach everything else that I will (soon! I promise!) share with you for the rest of my trip in Thailand.

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Meat Free Monday

I am no vegetarian, in fact I am a carnivore, but this summer I have decided to support and follow Meat Free Monday, something easy to practise and helps reduce the environmental impact of the livestock industry on this planet we call home.

Meat Free Monday – One day a week can make a world of difference

Sir Paul McCartney and his family launched Meat Free Monday in the UK as the livestock industry produces more greenhouses gases than the entire transportation sector put together. It is also very water- and land-intensive. A third of all cereal crops, and well over 90% of soya, goes into animal feed, not food for humans. Eating less meat will free up a lot of agricultural land which can revert to growing trees and other vegetation, which, in turn, will absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Sir Paul McCartney, and his family Stella and Mary, founded Meat Free Monday

It’s amazingly easy to take one day in your week, Monday or any other day, and not eat meat. When you think about it, there are so many great alternatives, for instance, in Italian cooking, so many of the dishes are vegetarian already and Thai and Chinese cuisine are the same. All it means is that you have to think a bit about what you’ll eat that day but, in actual fact, far from being a chore, it’s a fun challenge.

Here I am sharing with you one of the simplest yet most popular vegetarian dish that you can try at home, using fresh ingredients straight from farm to table.

Egyptian Vegetable Dip

Egyptian Vegetable Dip

1 Red bell pepper
1 Onion (optional – quartered)
1 Zucchini (small)
3 Garlic cloves
3 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
60g Cream cheese
10g Tomato paste
1g Thyme (leaves only)
3g Parsley leaves (minced)
Salt & pepper to taste

Herbs in blender to be minced

1. Trim all the vegetables and cut the bell peppers into chunks, and the zucchini into strips
2. Put the bell pepper, onion and zucchini into a baking pan and sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper
3. Roast at 475F (246C), stirring a few times until well cooked with charred spots
4. Blend with the rest of the ingredients and refrigerate to allow the flavours to blend

Roasting the red bell pepper and zucchini

I love this dip.  Its smoky, rich flavour of the roasted bell pepper and zucchini goes well with wedges of pita bread or with raw vegetables. Try using it as a sandwich spread or rolled up in wraps as well. It is best to prepare the night before use, but it does not take long to prepare at all.

It is a great reason to visit your local farmers’ market, talk to the vendors about local fresh produce, and experiment with some amazing vegetarian dishes. Love your community, your local market and the love you share with your friends and family for this planet.

Some photos courtesy of Meat Free Monday

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From Wasting to Tasting

Hong Kong is glossy and glamourous in many ways, but there are hidden pockets of poverty where people go without a full stomach, or forced to feed low-cost processed food that is not nutritious to their children. As one of the lucky group of people who gets to be picky about what to eat, rather than worrying about where my next meal may come from, I have been conscious about how wasteful we have been with our food.

Luckily, one of my favourite charities in Hong Kong has been working hard to eliminate food waste by delivering surplys food from F&B outlets and hotels to those in need.

Foodlink – Replacing Hunger with a Smile

Auntie Vanessa, who is one of the most inspiring and generous person I have met in my life, founded Foodlink as she could not bear the thought of people throwing away perfect good food while thousands of people suffer hunger and neglect in the poorest parts of our hometown. She went from hotel to hotel and convinced them to save the surplus food from buffets and banquets for their vans to ferry hot meals to shelters and other partners, reaching out to those in need and warming their hearts.

Picking up sweet bites and pastries from Four Seasons‘ pastry kitchen. See if you can find Pastry Extraordinaire in the photo 😉

The logistics team currently made up of 2 happy and smiley Misters Chan and Leung would pick up the pre-packed surplus food from donors and deliver by refrigerated vans to partner shelters and outreach centres, where the food will be reheated and distributed locally.

And the food they pick up can be anything at all, from good old mac and cheese to extra croissant from breakfast buffet, and even chocolate and red velvet cupcakes.

Hot meals to be delivered

S’more, Oreo, red velvet cupcakes from Sift

To do all this amazing work, Foodlink needs HK$1.5 million a year to support its daily operations. The team picks up 2,200 kg to feed 4,400 people every week, and that is a lot of trips between hotels, restaurants and the beneficiaries. They are also planning to get an additional van to reach out deeper into Kowloon and New Territories, to areas such as Sham Shui Po and Tin Shui Wai where there is high unemployment rate/low education level and high concentration of new immigrants.

And YOU can help this Saturday.

Foodlink Hong Kong Annual Fundraising Pool Party

This year, my dear friend Charlotte and the fundraising team is bringing back the pool party with a line-up of impressive DJs, great giveaways and silent auction, with many amazing prizes to be won. Amping things up even more this year for the Hawaiian-themed evening are fire dancers and other exciting live music and performances.

Infinity pool with view over Admiralty/Central

Can you think of a better way to spend your weekend than enjoying a dip in the waterfall infinity pool or chill out on the outdoor terrace as you take in the panoramic views of Central?

Who can resist this night view from the pool?

Foodlink Annual Charity Pool Party
Date: 7 July 2012 (Sat)
Time: 6:00pm – late
Venue: Private residence at 12B Bowen Road, Mid-levels, Hong Kong

There are still limited tickets. Get your hands on them quick:

  1. Online with credit card or paypal:
  2. Direct bank transfers: HSBC: 640-102398-838 (Please email payment receipt to
  3. In person at The9thMuse (Cash only)

Let’s Party!

Some photos courtesy of Foodlink

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Happy Cow Makes Happy Steaks

As industrialisation has forever changed the way we produce food, generations of farmers have tried to boost livestock production through breeding and feeds to shorten growth cycles, getting more meat to the market to feed the increasing population. Unfortunately, there is little room for sensitivity in commercial farming.

Belgian Blue – Meet the Super Cow

Selective breeding techniques have led to these genetically superior beef cattle that have incredible muscles and strength known as “Belgian Blue” (Race de la Moyenne et Haute Belgique). Modern breeds of Belgian Blue cattle are the creation of genetic engineering, with the specific goal of expanding the muscular content of the animals as much as possible. Each cattle weighs over a tonne.

Double-muscled Belgian Blue – Front and Back

The Belgian Blue’s sculpted, heavily double-muscled physique is the result of a mutation in a myostatin gene that prevents control of muscular growth. This mutation causes extreme over-development of muscle in the cattle, which provides great benefits to producers and consumers, but causes harm to the animals.

Feed is converted into lean muscles, which causes this particular breed’s meat to have a reduced fat content. Since the Belgian Blue’s bone structure is the same as normal cattle, however holding a greater amount of muscle, causes them to have a greater meat to bone ratio, a muscle yield of about 20% more on average than other cattle breeds. Because of this breed’s increased muscle yield, a diet containing higher protein i.e. high-energy (concentrated) feeds, is required to compensate for the altered mode of weight gain. They will not yield the same results if put on a high-fiber diet.

Belgian Blue – Meat vs Health

The price of this double-muscle physique is not cheap. These cattle are susceptible to many medical complications, including macroglossia which causes a swelling of the tongue that may interfere with a calf’s ability to nurse and cause premature death; congenital articular rigidity, a chronic ailment that affects a calf’s ability to stand on its legs, also affecting its ability to nurse; cardio-respiratory problems which can cause death in calves within two days of birth due to insufficient oxygen intake; and dystocia. These birthing complications necessitate operative assistance, specifically caesarian sections, which occur in double-muscled cattle as often as 89.5% of the time.

This need to undergo constant operations is a topic highly open to ethical criticism. These animals have been bred for specific characteristics which include the inability to safely give birth to healthy offspring. So, in a sense, unhealthy and unnatural breeds are being created for the benefit of commercial producers, with no thought to the discomfort and pain of the animals. It is assumed that caesareans cause a lot of suffering to the animals, but also that their high incidence is an indication of the excessive instrumentalisation of these animals.

OBE Organic cattle in the Channel Country, Australia

Having spent some time living in Australia as a kid, happy cows wandering peacefully through rolling grassland was not an uncommon sight in the Outback. And I would rather eat beef from naturally-reared cattle than any genetically enhanced breeds. Therefore I jumped at the oppportunity to learn more about organic cattle rearing and beef production by the invitation of OBE Organic and Plug PR.

Flood Plain in the Australian Outback

OBE, a family-run farm, has been practising pastoral rearing of cattles for generation, where the cows are free to roam on many acres of natural, pesticides-free grassland. It made me happy to see these animals with ample room to graze, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. It seems right and proper that farm animals, who help us nourish our families, should be given respect and a comfortable life.

OBE Organic’s beautiful pasture in Channel Country

Australia is blessed with large areas of flood plains full of 250+ species of native grasses and herbs, the natural diet of the cattle. Even though the traditional ‘free range’ method requires a lot more land than conventional commercial cattle farming, the cattle are allowed to roam freely over large areas, grazing their preferred choice of native pasture. The daily exercise results in lean meat and even fat distribution, and the diverse grass-and-herb diet gives the meat a lot of nutrients such as Vitamins B & D, Iron, Zinc, Protein and Omega 3.

OBE’s free-roaming cattle in the Australian Outback

A self-confessed carnivore, I was delighted to be invited to a tasting of the prized tenderloin last week by OBE Organic. The organic beef supplier is currently partnering with a few old favourites of mine, but for this particular tasting it was held at the popular Soho osteria Posto Pubblico.

Posto Pubblico

The tenderloin is an oblong shape spanning two primal cuts: the short loin and the sirloin. The tenderloin sits beneath the ribs, next to the backbone. This muscle does very little work, so it is the tenderest part of the beef. I have always preferred a good rib eye for the beefy flavour and marbling. Just a personal preference for a little bit more flavour at a slight expense of tenderness.

Beefy anatomy

I have been assured that the grass-fed tenderloin will change my mind as it is so flavourful. It started off as a ‘Chef’s special’ but due to overwhelming demand it is now on the regular menu too.

Grass-fed tenderloin with salad and roasted potato

The tenderloin was cooked to a perfect medium rare, still delightfully pink in the middle and only lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. You really do not need anything else on such a tender piece of beef. And this was completely different from any other tenderloin I have tried before. This was very tender, lean and clean, with a distinct beefy flavour, thanks to the natural grass and herb diet and the daily roaming on the beautiful flood plains.

The salad was a fresh, low key but naturally sweet complement to the beef, just as one would expect from Homegrown Foods, the organic produce arm of IHM. Chef Jay may have been a little bit too generous with the salt on the salad but nonetheless it did not overwhelm the natural goodness of the rocket and tomatoes. Those who know me would know that I am not a fan of potatoes, but this roasted version was earthy and a natural companion to the beef.

Vinny, Executive Chef and Head Chef Jay

Vinny, the Executive Chef of the IHM Group, and Head Chef Jay are passionate about sourcing the best ingredients for the customers. They believe in the philosophy of respect and following traditions of rearing cattles organically, especially when the meat quality and nutritional value are superior versus commercially farmed beef.

There is no life without energy, and food is the energy that fuels us as human beings. It makes sense to me that the purer the energy we put into our bodies, the healthier we become. Happy cows definitely made some very happy steaks via OBE, and once you have tasted the beefy tender goodness of organic beef, there is no return.

Posto Pubblico
Add: G/F, 28 Elgin Street, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2577 7160

OBE Organic beef is also available for retail purchase. Feel free to contact me for a list of stockist

Some photos courtesy of OBE Organic

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Oh Koh Samui!

The glorious tropical island of Koh Samui was the first stop of our trip around the Land of Smiles, and despite being greeted by the stormy rainy at the beginning of the rainy season, we still got to see the natural beauty on this island, and of course sampled a lot of seafood and classic Thai dishes. As I had such a great start on this trip, knowing the eating god was smiling upon me, I could not hold my excitement.

View of the island from Four Seasons Reception

The lusciously green Koh Samui

We were invited to stay at the wonderful Four Seasons Resort, and it is the perfect base for us to explore Koh Samui. All the villas are surrounded by native plant species and coconut trees, which were all preserved during construction. It was so refreshing to be staying in the hills and still get to enjoy the beach and a lovely ocean view.

Our first welcome gift Phuang Malai – beautiful handmade flower garlands

Everywhere you go in Thailand, you can experience both the traditional and modern side of this nation. This unique style of chained Jasmines and Orchids is often used as offerings to the Buddha/monks, elderly as a show of respect, or as an aromatic welcome gift to guests. Such a sweet touch.

Welcome snacks waiting on our dining table – healthy and refreshing

However, the highlight has to be our lovely smiley live-in butler, New, who has received culinary training as a former chef.

New showing me how to prepare Thai style omelette

New busy at the stove

Thai Style Omelette

Thai style omelette is thin, savoury, full of local flavour from the chopped spring onion and little orange dried shrimp, and usually served with rice. This may as well be a Thai invention. Nothing about this dish resembles omelette as we know it. Not included in the picture is actually a little dip made of fish sauce, chopped garlic and green chili which gave the omelette just enough of a nice kick.

We will eventually venture outside for a wider variety of food, but with a villa that looks like this who would ever want to leave?

Main pool

Master bedroom pool

Chill out area

Private beach at sunset

Beautiful sand

Unfortunate for us there was not much sun as the rainy season started (and most of the photos feature grey skies), but that just gave us more time to eat, and we were more than happy to comply. Next post: we drove around Koh Samui in search of food beyond our resort.

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Hong Kong has always been a prominent food destination, not only in Asia, but by world standard. However, some may contest just how great is the culinary offering of our humble city. Earlier this week, I attended the panel discussion organised by WOM Guide on whether Hong Kong is the world’s GREATEST food destination.

WOM Guide Panel Series #2: Hong Kong – The World’s Greatest Food Destination?

On the panel were 2 star chefs Gregoire Michaud and Jeremy Biasiol, who are familiar to those who pay attention to the food scene here. They were joined by restaurateur Paolo Pong, and mediamen Andrew Sun and Nick Walton.

As the guest panelists all chipped in on various reasons why Hong Kong is certainly known for good food in every corner of the city, yet not quite the GREATEST, one thing they kept bringing up was authencity. The fact that this city imports not only ingredients from around the world, but also the chefs who would turn them into dishes on dining tables, means the food scene is not authentically ‘Hong Kong’. Even the dim sum that we are so proud of is not uniquely a Hong Kong cuisine, but rather small snacks served with tea all around Southern China, with its origin from the far far west aka Silk Road.

The Panelists. From left: Paolo Pong, Nick Walton, Andrew Sun, Moderator Fergus Fung, Jeremy Biasiol, Gregoire Michaud

A lack of parental and government’s support to encourage young people develop their passion for food is supposed to be blamed for the few homegrown talents that Hong Kong has today. I can totally imagine Asian parents frowning upon their kids’ dream of pursuing a career in the kitchen as it is not a ‘professional job’ involving punching numbers at a desk under fluorescent lights.

On the talent side, I am glad that someone is stepping in to promote careers in the culinary world to our next generation. To commemorate the gas company’s 150th year in Hong Kong, Towngas Cooking Centre is hosting the Young Master Chef competition for students between the age of 15 to 20 years old to showcase their cooking talents and create their signature dishes. They will be evaluated based on creativity and appearance of the dishes. 24 individuals/teams of two will be selected to go through weekly training by star chefs in Hong Kong this summer.

Towngas Young Master Chef Competition

The winner will be sent to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris to receive Western culinary training, while 1st and 2nd runners-up will go to Beijing and stay in Hong Kong respectively to hone their skills in Chinese cooking. This is definitely good news, as mentorship and relationship-building in this industry is just as important as formal training, and this competition can help students get a head start.

On the ingredients side, agriculture in Hong Kong is sadly shrinking. Farmland and villages are being acquired by real estate developers under the blessing of ‘urban planning’ by the government. The controversy sparked by the decision to bulldoze Tsoi Yuen (vegetable garden) Village to make way for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong express railway is still a reminder to all Hong Kongers how vulnerable these communities are.

Luckily some villages are standing up to it to protect their heritage and also community farming.

Ma Shi Po Village

Located in Fanling in Northeastern New Territories, Ma Shi Po is one of the few surviving farming villages in Hong Kong. As it falls within the Northeast New Territories New Development Areas (an infrastructure project for private housing development), Ma Shi Po is also facing an imminent end. Developers have been abusing loopholes in the law to acquire land from indigenous owners and evict tenant farmers, displacing many families and destroying many farms in the process.

To promote awareness of farming lifestyle and to protect the village from its tragic fate, Mapopo (meaning baby horse, but also a play on the original name of the village) Community Farm was born in Summer 2010. By growing organic seasonal produce and composting kitchen waste, MCF is attempting to promote respect for the land, develop sustainable farming and rebuild the food supply chain in Hong Kong.

Growing beans and melons @ Mapopo Community Farm

Villages are no longer just the forgotten backyard of the city, but its own vegetable garden supplying food to its own people. The farming process is completely transparent, and with integrity. And it is also a way to support the livelihood of farmers, whose families have spent generations building the community here.

Mrs Tse who enjoys growing root vegetables and herbs. Also loves making her own wine

Mr Au, born and bred in Ma Shi Po Village

Hongkongers living in the city learning how to plough and grow crops at Mapopo

To show your love and care, and to support this community, you can visit Mapopo’s farmers’ market every Wednesday and Sunday (2:00-6:00pm). Also feel free to contact me for a list of stockist that carries fresh produce from Mapopo.

Organic Winter Melon

A lot of people may question how ‘clean’/organic the local produce can be, especially in Hong Kong where blue sky is a rare occasion worth celebrating, and half the time you cannot see across the harbour from Central because Tsim Sha Tsui would be clouded in smog.

The boys behind IHM believe in ‘from-farm-to-table’ and the benefits of eating premium, sustainable clean food, and therefore started the quest to bring the best organic fruits and vegetables from farms in New Territories and China to Posto Pubblico, its first restaurant. It has now opened this up to all Hong Kong foodies who care about what they eat, and Homegrown Foods was born.

What’s more, your veggie box is delivered straight to your doorstep. Now you really have no excuse to say no. Pick only what’s in season, fresh and local, instead of flying something ‘organic’ from 1,000 miles away. The ingredients you can work with may be more limited than you are used to, but that is just how our ancestors have been cooking and eating for centuries before the advent of commercial farming post Industrial Revolution.

Sauteed asparague & soft-boiled egg on homemade mushroom pate

‘Agriculture’ is not only the cultivation of crops, but also the preservation of humanity, ethics and traditional wisdom. May Mapopo and Ma Shi Po, and other farming villages under threat be preserved, and our children will not lose the opportunity to connect with the land that feeds us.

Buy local, eat organic.

Mapopo Community Farm
Add: Ma Shi Po Village, Fanling, New Territories, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 9761 6123 / +852 6121 8961 

Homegrown Foods
Farm Add: 54B Tai Lung Tsuen, Sheung Shui, New Territories, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2671 2771

Some photos coutesy of Mapopo Community Farm

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In Transit – Before the Thailand Trip Began…

For those of you following me on Twitter, you would know my temporary absence on the blogsphere was for a very good reason. I have spent almost 2 weeks in the Amazing Thailand hopping from the South to the North in search of the best food we could find. And, as promise, I will share the highlights from this trip with you.

Ba Mee Pad Yang

The eating started well before we even step foot on Thai soil. As we were hanging out in the Bangkok Airways lounge for our domestic transfer in the Bangkok Airport (yes in an airline lounge), I stumbled upon this little dish which is widely available on the streets in Bangkok.

Ba Mee (บะหมี่ ) is long, chewy egg noodle, fried (pad ผัด) to al dente, and Thai people feed on this as a standalone meal for lunch. This version was served with duck not dissimilar to Chinese barbeque pork. The tender duck was perfectly complemented by the texture of the eggy noodles (thought to be of Chinese origin). Even though this was ‘airline food’, it was still seasoned with sugar, ground chili pepper, pickled peppers and fish sauce. Certainly a fast and easy dish for the travellers on^the-go, but what I did not expect was the sophisticated and complex taste.

If this was the quality of food I can find in the airport, I knew I have come to the right country for culinary travel. And my journey hasn’t even officially begun yet.

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