Friday, November 04, 2011

Anyone Have This Recipe?

I got an email from Leslie this week who wrote:

Hi! I wrote you a message last week about a Chinese Women's health soup with adzuki beans, black sugar, red wild rice, dates, peanuts and goji berries. Do you know this recipe and the amounts and when is the best time to eat it?

Personally I have not come across this recipe before. Anyone here has heard about this soup or even eaten or cooked this before?

Although I have not cooked it before, the rule about eating or drinking Chinese soups is that you MUST drink them warm and on the day you cook/brew it.

Freshness is paramount in Chinese cooking (hence, fish must still be alive and jumping in aquariums before it is cooked etc. though I feel that is a terrible fate for the poor fish!).

That idiosyncrasy of the Chinese aside, soups can be drunk any time of the day though if it is a nourishing soup, it may be drunk an hour or two before you go to bed (such as Dang Gui soup).

If you have encountered this soup before, I would appreciate if you could let Leslie know what the true recipe calls for and its ingredient amounts.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Book on Herbs From The Herb Shop!

Introduction to Chinese Herbs published by herbal company, Eu Yan Sang

While shopping for herbs for my Mom-in-Law a few weeks ago at the Eu Yan Sang outlet near my home, I saw this book on Chinese herbs. Priced at RM38, the book is published by Eu Yan Sang and contains an introduction to Chinese herbs and their origins, pinpointing their location in China.

I told myself that I was there to buy herbs for my Mom-in-Law so I thought I'd buy this book the next time.

I have quite a few books on Chinese TCM herbs but I still love collecting these books. Even in today's Internet age where I can easily google and find out about a specific herb, nothing beats browsing a real book.

I also realized why I need to quickly learn how to read in Chinese - many books on TCM herbs are still largely in Chinese (as I found out when I was at Popular Bookstore). I found myself annoyed that I could not understand 80% of what was written in these Taiwanese and Chinese books.

(In case you are keen to learn Chinese, let me point you to Skritter which I am using. It helps me a lot and at US$9.95 per month, quite an affordable deal for self-motivated Mandarin learners like me. I like to be able to login any time to learn.)

In the end, I did buy the book above, no thanks to the fact that the sales promoter told me I would qualify for their lucky draw if I spent another couple more ringgit to make it a total of RM160. (Packets of herbs in Eu Yan Sang are not cheap - a packet of herbs for soup costs about RM16 to RM18. Compare this to my market herbalist who sells similar packet herbs for RM5 to RM8. So Eu Yan Sang is a little more expensive than your no-brand herbalist.)

However, I do believe the herb selection and processing should be much better at Eu Yan Sang. After all they have their brand to protect.

The book caters to both English and Chinese readers. It's not a recipe book but a book which informs how you should select herbs, what to look for, what region or province in China it comes from and what are the distinguishing features. It does have recipes but without the photo of the dish. The pages are in full colour.

The best part is they do inform you how many grammes of the herb to be used, which makes it a lot easier than going by guesswork.

Many of the featured herbs are familiar but they get the in-depth treatment for each page. It's always interesting to know the regions they come from and how the herb is processed. Things like these fascinate me to no end.

Over the next few weeks, I shall share more from this book. Anyway I am pleased I bought this book. Another herbal book to add to my TCM book collection!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Red Bean Dessert

I tend to poke about the kitchen a lot more on weekends.

Sweet red bean dessert with dried longan and rock sugar

Cooking is my therapy. It gets me away from computers and the Internet for two days.

Today, I made some red bean dessert for tea. Yes, for tea.

We Chinese like our desserts for those in-between meal times.

Actually you could drink/slurp this dessert any time of the day. For me, it just so happened that the dessert was ready around 4pm and tea it was.

Red beans or adzuki beans are commonly used in Asian food. In Chinese cuisine, red beans are normally eaten in sweet form, but I have eaten it as a soup, a savoury version when my Mom-in-law boiled it as a soup with pork bones. Nic was aghast at the taste but like a dutiful son, he drank up the soup though he did tell me privately that it was rather weird to have a savoury red bean soup. I thought so too. All my life, I've grown up drinking a sweet red bean dessert so savoury red beans do taste odd!

Red bean dessert is simple to make. You do need, however, to soak the beans in water for a few hours before you cook them. I heard this soaking reduces flatulence (they are beans anyway) but mostly it helps 'soften' the red beans.

I used my claypot for this recipe because I was only cooking a small cup of red beans, enough for two people. But then again, I will caution you - it depends on how watery or how thick you want your red bean dessert to be. Some people like a thick, gooey porridge-like red bean dessert. I like a more watered down version. It's more of a drink than a porridge.

Put your soaked red beans (100 gm), rock sugar (50gm or adjust to your taste) and a handful of dried longan into a pot of water (1 liter). Bring the pot to a boil and then cover and simmer for an hour. After an hour, you need to test if the red beans are soft. If they are not soft yet, let it simmer for another hour. Once ready, serve warm.

The good thing about using a claypot is its heat retention. It softens the beans in an hour. If you do not have a claypot, you can use a slow cooker or crockpot too.

I found this recipe for adzuki bean tea where one drinks it like a tea! You can try this version of red bean soup by author Letha Hadady (whose book - Asian Health Secrets - was one of the earliest books I had on Chinese herbs).

Why Eat Red Beans?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, aduki or adzuki or red beans are known for their “strengthening” qualities and yang energy. Red beans are good for blood-building as they're full of iron. Its high iron content also makes them a good choice for women’s health. In Japan, adzuki bean soups are often consumed after menstruation to replenish red blood cells. 

Red beans are also used to support kidney and bladder function.

Besides, red beans are a good source of magnesium, potassium, zinc copper, manganese and B vitamins. They are a high-potassium, low-sodium food which means they can help reduce blood pressure and act as a natural diuretic. 

Like all beans, they are a good protein substitute and contain lots of soluble fibre, which binds to toxins and cholesterol, eliminating these from your body. 

Adzuki beans are also used in some TCM fertility treatments. 

However, I have also read that you cannot overconsume red beans as they will make you emaciated and dry (as it promotes urination). 

In my recipe above, I added dried longan because it adds a different texture to the dessert plus it contributes a delicate sweetness. Dried longans are also useful in preventing hair loss and hair greying so all the better!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Basic Won Ton Soup

I got this question today in my email. A reader emailed me to ask for the "wan tan" or "won ton" soup.

Please help me with the recipe for the broth (only) for won ton soup. Every Chinese reataurant makes it and has the same taste which I am addicted to. Tried with plain chicken broth and added garlic powder, celery, some soy sauce and green onion, perhaps some white wine and sesame oil but not the same. Can you help?

Here's my answer:

I've tasted the Malaysian versions of wan tan soup, not the American Chinese restaurant version. So my answer and reply to this reader is based on what I have tasted.

I recently watched a TV programme where I learnt how wan tan soup is made.

They used "ikan bilis" or dried anchovies as well as dried red dates. I am not sure if they added chicken bones or meat bones but it is OK to do so as this adds to the 'sweetness' of the soup. Please do not be mistaken about 'sweetness'. Sweetness usually means a clear tastiness to the soup and has nothing to do with it being sugary sweet.

We don't add garlic powder to soups. Neither do we add white wine.

If you're good with making won ton soups, please share your version of this soup. I would really appreciate it! 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dang Gui for Replenishing Blood

I've been schooled to replenish my blood each month after my menses. This is something drilled into me since I was young, about 12 or 13. It also helped that my sisters and I were often fed with soups and tonics since young so making blood tonics isn't something new at all.

Wonderful and nourishing Dang Gui tonic for women.
Recommended to be taken  often.

When I went away to study in university, I rarely had chance to make these nourishing soups for myself. We couldn't cook in our dorm rooms - the hazard of fire was very real.

When I moved out of the dorm and into a student house (located out of campus), my dad bought me a Pensonic slow cooker so I could make soups on my own. That was about 15 years ago. That Pensonic slow cooker is still with me and yes, it still works!

The slow cooker is rather small and only makes up to 2 bowls of soup. But back then it was sufficient. After all I was only making soups for myself.

The best thing about using a slow cooker is that you pop in all the herbs, add boiling water, close the lid, switch it on to Auto and let it simmer till done (about 3-4 hours). I usually put on the slow cooker in the evening and by 10pm or so, my tonic is ready to drink. If you are in a hurry, you can use the fast setting that allows your tonic to be ready in 2 hours or less.

I don't know if I told you this but sometimes I get rather lazy and go to Eu Yan Sang for blood tonic in the form of tiny black pills. You can read all about this in this previous post. I won't repeat myself.

This time around, I found some Dang Gui in my fridge. Decided to make some Dang Gui herbal tonic. It was just the day my menses finished.

Dang Gui slices (top) and dried red dates

How To Make Dang Gui Tonic

Here's what you need for a Dang Gui tonic for one person. This tonic is highly recommended for women. Many men shy away from drinking Dang Gui so don't attempt to feed your husband or spouse this tonic. ;-)

3-5 pieces of Dang Gui root, sliced
1 chicken thigh, remove all visible fat and skin (wash, pat dry and chop into 2 pieces)
2 large pieces dried red dates, stones removed
1 bowl of boiling water (250 ml)

Ensure the water covers the chicken sufficiently

1. Place Dang Gui slices and red dates in the inner ceramic pot.
2. Place chicken pieces on top of the herbs.
3. Pour over hot boiling water.
4. Put on the glass lid of the slow cooker.
5. Turn the setting to AUTO. Let this simmer for 4 hours at least.
6. Before dishing up, add half a teaspoon of salt to taste.

The tonic must be drunk warm.

Even if you remove the chicken skin, you will see a layer of oil floating atop your tonic. You may skim this off before you serve the tonic.

After drinking this tonic, you must not drink Chinese tea or any sort of tea for the next 12 hours. You should avoid taking cold drinks too.

You can eat the chicken too as it is very tender and infused with the flavour of Dang Gui. Add a little soya sauce if the chicken meat is too bland.

All About Dang Gui 

Dang Gui or angelica polymorpha var. sinensis is one of the most popular Chinese herbs for women. It is often prescribed for gynaelogical problems - menstrual irregularities and fertility issues - as well as poor blood circulation resulting in dizziness, paleness, fatigue and dry skin.

As a root, Dang Gui's efficacy depends on which part of the root you use. The bottom part is said to move blood most strongly while the head of the root is a stronger tonic. You must ask your herbalist whether what you're getting is the head or bottom!

As a Warm herb, Dang Gui affects the liver, heart and spleen meridians. It is also rich in Vitamin B12 and folic acid besides being a liver tonic.

In Chinese TCM, deficient blood is normally associated with the liver which is believed to store blood and the heart which helps it circulate.

As blood in a Yin substance, a blood deficiency is a Yin deficiency.

It's not only Dang Gui which helps with blood deficiency. Other herbs such as Dang Shen (Salvia miltiorrhiza), Shu Di Huang (Rehmania glutinosa), Bai Shao Yao (Paeonia lactiflora), Chuan Xiong (Ligusticum wallichii) and Gan Cao (Glycyrrhiza uralensis) are also used.

Note that Dang Gui is NOT recommended if you are pregnant, have diarrhea or have abdominal fullness.

Finally.....When To Take This? 

Apparently, regular consumption of Dang Gui will prevent menstrual cramps and PMS.(I can vouch for this. If I take Dang Gui regularly each month, my PMS - bloating, tender breasts, headaches - are considerably lessened. Also when my period comes, I do not suffer interminable cramps.)

What is regular? Once a month is good enough (in my opinion). It should be taken one or two days after your period is finished. I have read that drinking Dang Gui tonic is ONLY recommended for the few days after your period. Dang Gui is contraindicated for women who are pregnant.

However, if you take the Bak Foong pills, it is recommended that you take 1 bottle per week. I have never done that so I cannot say if that's good or not. Please ask your herbalist or TCM practitioner if you are in doubt.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Self Heal Tea

This is an updated post where I've added more information and photos.

Sometimes it's a revelation to know that certain herbs I thought to be Chinese actually has been in use in the Western world for a long time too.

Self Heal or Prunella Vulgaris - a great liver tonic!

One particular herb called Self Heal or Prunella Vulgaris is just that.

I grew up with this herb. Mom used to make Xia Ku Chao tea (a dark tea which looks just like Lo Han Guo tea) for us when we were little. It helped to cool down the body.

And Xia Ku Chao or Self Heal (flower spikes) is cheap and plentiful. With RM1, you could buy a fairly large packet. Just put this dried herb into a pot of water and boil away. Add rock sugar and you can drink it the whole day.

For a robust taste, substitute with brown cane sugar. For a pot of 1.5 liter water, I add about 1 to 2 pieces of the brown candy sugar.

Brown candy sugar is made from sugar cane juice.
Available at all Chinese shops and herbalists.

But Xia Ku Chao or "Har Ku Chou" (in Cantonese) is more than just a cooling tea.

It has a host of benefits too and can be made well ahead and refrigerated for those hot, balmy days. Much better than drinking canned soda!

Self Heal is a common European wild flower and like its name, it is about healing. It is used in folk medicine to heal wounds.

In Chinese medicine, it is a herb to remedy heat where it cools the liver and calming hyperactive children! If you have swelling of lymph nodes, it is also helpful to take some Self Heal tea.

All About Self Heal 

The flower spikes are used for the lung and gall bladder meridians. It is anti-bacterial, lowers blood pressure, stimulates urine flow. It is also astringent and helps with wound healing. It helps clear heat from the liver.

It can be combined with Chrysanthemum for headaches and dizziness linked to liver fire. Avoid this herb if you have a weak spleen or stomach.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why Does Watercress Soup Become Bitter?

My friend, Jo, asked me this question about making watercress soup.

She says that her watercress soup turned out bitter. When it comes out bitter, it is really a waste of time and money (and appetite too) as no one will touch the soup.

Naturally I have come across this "bitter watercress soup" puzzle once. Yes, even I - I who profess to know my soups. Actually I am still learning. I am curious about soups and so this question by Jo niggled me to no end.

Many years ago, I made a pot of watercress soup and strangely, it didn't taste good at all. It had hints of bitterness. I never really got around to investigating why until Jo asked me this question again.

Now that I am a lot better at making Chinese soups, I started to think of whom I could ask.

Two people come to mind.

The woman who sells vegetables at the market. She's a friendly matronly type, a grandmotherly soul. She would know.

And then there was my balding and ever cheerful Chinese uncle herbalist at the very same market. (Gosh I love this market. I was just remarking to Nic how lucky we are to live in this area where the market people are truly helpful and lovely.)

Anyway - I asked the daughter-in-law of my favourite vegetable seller (the woman wasn't around today, unfortunately). Now she tells me that the cardinal rule of making 'sai yeong choi' or watercress soup is this - your pot of water MUST BE BOILING before you add watercress.

If you add watercress into water which is warming up or even cold water, your soup will turn out bitter.

That's it.

That's the thing you have to remember.

In all my soup-making days, I always bring water to boil first. I never add ingredients to cold water in a pot.

I will verify this again with her mom-in-law when I do see her in the market but this daughter-in-law of hers is also an experienced cook and she has been helping her mother-in-law sell vegetables for a long time.

Now you know why your pot of water must be boiling before you add your soup ingredients.

Note: She also mentioned that if you are making soup with matrimony vine leaves, you cannot overboil the leaves. If you do overboil them at high heat, the soup will also end up bitter and nasty.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Black Soya Bean & Pinto Bean Soup

I made this soup a few times already and I really like the combination of two types of beans in the soup. Their textures are completely different and that is what makes this soup a true winner.

I usually get fresh pinto beans in pods when I go to the market. Peeling them is Nic's job although it isn't really that hard to peel them. They're beige beans speckled with red dots.

My vegetable seller tells me these beans are great for soups as they're nourishing. Pinto in Spanish means "painted".

A quick search on pinto beans turns up wonderful information. You can find out more about the nutritional profile of these beans here and here.

As for black soya beans, I use the dried variety which I get from my sundry goods store in the market. Before you use them, you have to dry fry them in a pan until their black skins crack open to reveal their green insides.

Black soya beans contain antioxidants and are deemed high in Vitamin E content. They are also anti-aging and the colour of their skins are beneficial to the kidneys too. Having a healthy kidney means you get healthy skin, healthy glossy hair and reduce hair loss. (You can also make black soya bean milk which is supposedly better-tasting than regular soya bean milk.)

What's interesting is that black soya beans possess higher Vitamin E levels when they're cooked. So if you add these beans to your soup, you actually get more Vitamin E!

A high level of Vitamin E helps you improve your skin health. It also improves the collagen and elastin which helps your skin retain its suppleness.

Besides the two types of beans (about 1 cup of each), I just add pork bones (or chicken bones), chicken feet and a few dried red dates (pitted). Bring some water to boil and blanch the meat/pork/chicken feet. This gets rid of the scumminess from your soup.
In a regular stock pot, bring to boil 1 liter of room temperature water.

Once it is boiling, add your ingredients. Bring them to a rolling boil uncovered for about 10 minutes. Then cover with a tight lid, lower fire to a mere simmer and let the soup simmer for 1.5 hours. Season with salt at the end. Serve hot. (Don't over-simmer as the pinto beans will get very mushy.)

You can freeze leftover soup which I usually do. They keep well frozen. When you need to consume the soup, warm it up again on the stove. The longer you keep some soups, the better they taste. Of course, that said, don't freeze them forever. Consuming the soup within a week is probably best. For Nic and me, we usually can have this soup about 3 times.

Since we're talking about freezing soups, a little warning here - do not freeze lotus root soups as something about freezing changes the texture and crunchiness of the lotus root. You will end up with some soggy and pathetic bits of lotus root which really isn't that palatable!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

24 Herb Tea - Bitter, Foul-Tasting But Oh So Good For You!

Was out running a couple of errands this entire afternoon and ended up buying groceries at the nearby supermarket. If I had a choice I wouldn't go into this decade-old supermarket because it's small, cramped and you tend to knock into other shoppers with your trolley (yes, the aisles are that narrow). Nic and I figured that we might as well buy our groceries since we were in this vicinity and he did need some coffee. Finally we ended up with a trolley full of cheese, butter, coffee and noodles.

Anyway, I was getting thirsty after all the errands and shopping.

We decided to stop and have a drink at this stall which sells Chinese herbal tea. This uncle who mans it is actually a Hong Kong native who has been living in Malaysia for a long time. He drives a little white van which he parks at the corner of a junction and opens up for business. You see, he sells hot and cold Chinese herbal teas of all types - the kind that is slowly boiled and brewed.

It's common to see Malaysians of all walks of life - businessmen types, sales executives, men, women - who stop by his van to get herbal tea served either in a Chinese soup bowl or plastic cup to quench their thirst and give their bodies a good replenishing of vital nutrients.

He has Five Flower Tea as well as the bitter and foul-tasting 24 Herb Tea.

If you've slept late, worked too hard, been under stress, ate out a lot and exercised too little, the friendly uncle will recommend that you drink 24 Herb Tea, served in a Chinese bowl (RM2.50 per bowl). If you are seriously under the weather (flu or feeling down in the dumps), he would ask if you want some bitter powder added to the tea.

The bitter powder is something that is powerful because if you have the flu, one sip of this tea with bitter powder will probably kill all your germs! It's that foul-tasting!

24 Herb Tea is an all-round tea for cold and cough, fever, headache, tiredness, pathogenic dryness and heat in combination, constipation, halitosis, anorexia, abdominal dissension, weakness, dizziness, pimples and acne. Regularly imbibing this tea will make you hale and hearty.

I was interested to know what is in 24 Herb Tea. We Chinese are damn literal folks. If there are 24 ingredients in the tea, we say it is 24 Herb Tea.

I read that Hor Yan Hor brand also sells this 24 Herb tea in convenient tea bags. I wonder if they consist of the same 24 herbs. Apparently, the tea is touted as the magic cure-all tea for all aches, pains, fevers and such. Their ingredient list contains Camellia sinensis, Glycyrrhiza uralensis, Prunella vulgaris, Gardenia jasminoides, Perilla futescens, Atractylodes lancea, Forsythia suspensa, Scrophularia ningpoensis, Mentha arvensis, Agastache rugosa, Schizonepeta tenuifolia, Cincifuga heracleifolia, Ledeboriella divaricata, Rheum oficinale, Ligusticum wallichii, Buplearum chinense, Angelica anomata, Platycondon gradiflorum, Notopterygium incisum, Elsholtzia splendens, Poncirus trifoliata.

In HK, I've bought Chinese herbal teas in 500 ml plastic bottles (HK$18 each), just like the soda you can buy in 7-11 stores. Whenever I land in HK, I'd be amazed at the wonderful varieties of hot and cold Chinese herbal teas for all types of ailments which you can buy easily from any MRT station where these herbal tea shops are mostly found.

Of course in HK, Chinese tea shops are just about everywhere. Tired and thirsty after a day's walking? Stop by a traditional Chinese tea shop and get your fill of herbal goodness.

Replica of a traditional Chinese herbal tea shop inside the HK Art Museum. It's so 1960s!

As for me, I love anything that's bitter because I know it does my body a lot of good. What about you? Are you up to drinking stuff which tastes horrid but is beneficial to your health?

Here's how the exhibition looks like. 

And here's the real HK Chinese tea shop. This was taken in Central on one of our jaunts last year. That's Nic (bottom right corner of the pic).

The Ancient Art of Tea: Wisdom From the Ancient Chinese Tea Masters
Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch
Chinese Art of Tea

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Alvin Quah's Masterchef Favourite - Drunken Chicken & Cucumber Salad

Remember how I made my version of Drunken Chicken (and which I was terribly pleased with as it was so easy and so yummy!) two weeks ago?

I was inspired to make the dish based on Alvin Quah's recipe which Gary, one of the Masterchef judges, gave the thumbs-up for.

Today I am going to share with you Alvin's recipe which he re-created in one episode of Masterchef 2 (Australia). He also shared a cucumber salad which I have made and yes, it is delicious too!

And yes, I am going to share both recipes here with you because I realized that the Masterchef Australia website does not (I repeat) does not feature these recipes! Why not? Maybe it is to do with copyright. Maybe the Masterchef brand would be publishing their own recipe book based on the creative recipes of their participants. Oh well.

Drunken Chicken by Alvin Quah of Masterchef Australia Season 2

1 liter Shaoxing wine
2 small bottles mirin
some palm sugar
500 ml water

Put all of the above into a pot. Bring to a boil.
Add whole chicken into the pot.
Cover and let it simmer gently for 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
Drain and chop into bite-size pieces. Reserve broth to ladle over the chicken before serving.

Alvin's Cucumber Salad

a handful of peanuts
a handful of dried shrimp
3 pips garlic

In a mortar and pestle, pound the above 3 ingredients.
Add 2 bird's eyes chili and a slice of lime (with skin on). Bruise these gently in the mortar.

In a bowl, combine palm sugar, lime juice and fish sauce well. Taste and adjust. (This is the dresssing.)

In another bowl, combine sliced cherry tomatoes, snake bean (or what we call long beans), and cucumber chunks. Mix the pounded ingredients with the vegetables. Drizzle over with the dressing. Before serving, drizzle some sesame oil.

Serve with drunken chicken.

Two Asian Kitchens: Recipes from Australia's Master Chef
Vatchs Southeast Asian Salads
Classic Asian Salads
MasterChef Australia : The Cookbook - Volume 2

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Best Goji Berries Soups From My Recipe Collection

"Kei Chi" or goji berries or medlar seeds or wolfberry seeds - they refer to the little dried red berries which we Chinese love to use in our soups and dishes because they are packed with nutrition.

These berries are given to kids especially by Chinese parents so that their kids will grow up with good vision. In my case,  either I didn't eat enough as a kid or my genes are predisposed to short-sightedness. (Anyway, I had my eyes lasik-ed last year so technology can take care of things for you.)

Goji berries help with the Liver and Kidney meridians. That's why they're beneficial for remedying Kidney Qi deficiency which brings about problems like lower back pain, impotence, dizziness and tinnitus. It helps lowers blood pressure, lowers blood sugar levels and lowers blood cholesterol levels besides acting as a liver tonic and nourishing blood.

Though they're full of goodness, don't overdo it. All herbs in moderation please. If you are prone to excess heat or dampness, don't make it worse. Just a handful in your soup will do. 

If you aren't bothered to boil goji berries in soups, you can add a teaspoon of these berries into a glass, pour over hot water and steep for 5 minutes. Drink it up and chew on the re-hydrated berries too. Or you can also chew on them like you'd eat raisins. The good quality ones are naturally sweet. I once tried Young Living's Ningxia Red drink which is made with goji berries. They tasted great but I'd rather have the real thing. 

I thought I'd round up some of my past recipes on goji berries since they're so easy to eat and so good for your health. 

Matrimony Vine Leaf Soup with Wolfberry Fruits

This is a simple and quick soup and can be ready in 30 minutes. Yes, it is that easy. This soup does not qualify as a slow simmered soup as it needs a fast boil. Very suitable for moms who are home late and need to whip up nutritious yet fast soups. 

Chicken Garlic Kei Chi Soup

 This is a quick soup which can be ready in 30 minutes.

Red Dates, Longan and Medlar Seeds Tea
This is a nourishing tea/sweet dessert soup recipe because the three main ingredients (see title above) are good for building blood, regenerating Qi and beneficial to the eyes. This can be served on its own, as an afternoon drink (please serve it warm) or after a lovely dinner to clear the palate.

Porridge with Kei Chi, Wai San & Pork
Wai san porridge is a great recipe when you are strapped for time. Second of course is that wai san (I'm talking about fresh wai san in this case) is soothing for the stomach. 

Papaya Soup with Medlar Seeds and Ciku Fruit
This soup helps clear the lungs. 

The Book of Jook: Chinese Medicinal Porridges--A Healthy Alternative to the Typical Western Breakfast
Asian Soups (The Essential Kitchen)
The Sweet Spot: Asian-Inspired Desserts

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Drunken Chicken, Inspired By Masterchef 2 Participant, Alvin Quah

Drunken Chicken, Soup Queen's Quick & Easy Version and Absolutely Yummy

It's an understatement to say I love the TV series, Masterchef. I'm talking about the Aussie version which I started to get hooked on beginning with the adorable junior chefs in Junior Masterchef. I was bowled over by the kids' passion and knowledge of food. It puts some of us to shame really when you look at the breadth and depth of these kids' wisdom about cooking good food.

After that I started watching the Masterchef but I think our Astro here started showing only Masterchef 2. I think I missed a few episodes because I wasn't sure what time the show aired. Astro's programming can get a little weird.

But the Australian version of Masterchef, be it the junior or senior/adult versions, are very interesting to watch. Of course, nothing beats the precociousness of the Aussie kids.

Anyway, in one of the last few episodes, Alvin Quah (a Malaysian!) despite not being in the top 3 was picked to recreate his chicken dish - a dish he called Drunken Chicken.

I excitedly jotted down the recipe because Gary, one of the judges, loved it to bits. Especially when you pair it with the cucumber salad.

I have not had time to try Alvin's recipe but I have made something akin to that just this week.

Nic loves Taiwanese food and one of his favourite dishes is - you guessed it - Drunken Chicken or Chicken in Wine. It goes incredibly well with rice. We used to visit this lovely little Taiwanese cafe located on the first floor of Midlands One-Stop Mall for their superb dishes and that is how he got hooked.

(Speaking of which, I managed to get the recipe for the Taiwanese Three-Cup Chicken dish - my fave - and have made it a few times and gotten the thumbs-up from the husband. That is why he likes it when I start experimenting in the kitchen. He knows he's privy to some goodies soon.... goodies for his tummy and good for his health too!)

Technically, Drunken Chicken is more soup than dish because it's the rich broth infused with chicken and wine that makes it such a comfort to eat/slurp up on a cold day. In Penang, we really don't have freezingly cold days (unlike HK in early spring but that's cause I really cannot stand cold) but we do have thunderstorms and rain. I figured this dish would go down well with Kuching people as it rains constantly over there.

In the spirit of Soup Queen, I think this dish is worthy of being featured as it contains herbs (goji berries or 'kei chi' to you and me) and it's really a soup more than a dish. Sometimes I even chew on dried goji berries because they really resemble raisins and taste sweet too. I learn this from my friend who said she chewed on goji berries all the time when growing up and I see it has done her a world of good as she isn't short-sighted at all.

Surprisingly, it was my first attempt at this dish so I am quite pleased that it turned out rather well. *pats myself on the back*

OK, enough chatter.

Here's how the dish looks like once it's done.

A closer peek at the Drunken Chicken 

I made this in my glazed claypot because claypots retain heat well, cooks food to just the right amount of done-ness and keeps food warm (great for keeping fried vermicelli or fried rice before you serve them).

Here are the ingredients.

Half a chicken, chopped into bite-size pieces (rub and marinate with 1 teaspoon salt for 20 minutes)
1/2 cup (125 ml) Shaoxing Hua Diao wine
3 tablespoons dried kei chi or goji berries, soaked in water for a while and drained
1 teaspoon salt
2 small pieces rock sugar
1 teaspoon fish sauce
5 slices young ginger
2 stalks spring onion
500 ml water

1. Put water, young ginger and spring onion into a pot. Cover and bring to a boil.

2. When water comes to a boil, put in chicken pieces, goji berries, salt, rock sugar, fish sauce and Shaoxing wine. (Actually you can add more wine if you like. As this was my first time, I decided 1/2 cup was just good enough. When I make it again, I would add a little more.)

3. Cover the pot. Reduce fire to the lowest so that the chicken simmers in its own broth. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Taste the broth after 30 minutes and see if you need more salt or more wine.

4. Dish up and serve hot.

Nic told me that for more robustness of flavour, I could add a dash of wine once I dish up the chicken and its broth. Hmm, good idea.

This dish tastes even better if you keep it overnight in the fridge and re-heat the next day. The flavours would have been better combined.

But if you smell the loveliness of the dish when you're simmering it on the stove, you probably cannot wait till tomorrow to taste it. It's that good.

In my next post, I will share Alvin Quah's recipe for Drunken Chicken.

A Tradition of Soup: Flavors from China's Pearl River Delta
Soup! Soup! Soup!: Chinese Style

Sunday, April 24, 2011

MotherWort Herb With Chicken, Sarawak-Style Confinement Food

I've written about kachama or kachangma before. Even included a recipe with photos back in 2008.

Kachama chicken is best eaten with dark soya sauce

However, back then, I never knew what kachama was called in English. I tried looking high and low and could never find the name. If only I knew, I could google for it. Heck, I only know how it looks like dried and chopped up!

Finally one day I chanced upon a herb called Motherwort which was listed as an ingredient in one of my client's products. She confirmed that yes, this herb is quite popular in Sarawak. I don't remember how I counter-checked but in the end, I realized kachama is Motherwort. In Mandarin, it is called Yi Mu Cao.

Now this herb is, like its name suggests, benefits the mother!

Well, in Sarawak, kachama cooked with chicken is traditionally served as a confinement food to help moms get rid of 'wind' or "angin". This is evident from the plethora of "angin"-busting ingredients in the dish - ginger, sesame oil, rice wine and of course, motherwort herb. It also helps with milk flow so perhaps that is another reason why it's recommended as confinement food.

For Chinese moms, getting rid of wind after giving birth is a MUST. I don't have kids yet so I cannot vouch about the effects of wind. Apparently if you don't get rid of angin after giving birth, you will get all sorts of ailments when you get older such as rheumatism, achy joints and stuff like that.

Accordingly, "Motherwort has a long history of use as an herb in traditional medicine in Central Europe, Asia and North America. Like many other plants, it has been used for a variety of ills, and consumed. Midwives use it for a variety of purposes, including uterine tonic and prevention of uterine infection in women, hence the name Motherwort."(from this page in Wikipedia) 

Motherwort resembles a "lion's tail" - it is a mint with dull green, hairy leaves and an intensely bitter taste. The botanical name Leonurus refers to a fanciful resemblance of the leaves to a lion's tail. It is also a mood elevator and helps women with their womenly problems. So really, the name Motherwort is an apt name! 

Kachama with chicken is an acquired taste. Sarawakians or at least my husband and his family eat it dipped with some dark soya sauce. Kachama has a slightly herbally and bitter taste, somewhat like 'sawi' or mustard green.

In Kuching, you can find this dish easily in food courts and hawker centres.

Men don't have to worry about eating this dish - motherwort herb helps calms nerves, improves blood flow and prevents blood clots. So it isn't just women who benefit, men will be able to prevent heart attacks and strokes too if they eat this herb.

Besides, it is also good for headache, insomnia, and vertigo. It is sometimes used to relieve asthma, bronchitis, and other lung problems.

What is there not to like about Motherwort? If you can get Motherwort, do try out the recipe.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pomelo Rind Braised With Prawns

While in HK, my friend took us to a local food joint which was located on the first floor of a building near the wet market of Causeway Bay. I can't recall the name of the place and anyway, I read very little Chinese (though I am learning, thanks to Skritter) so even if I did see the name of the place, I'd have forgotten by now.

We had had enough of wan ton noodles and char siew rice and roast goose rice. The rice you get in HK is one mountain! Sometimes we had to share our rice. In Malaysia we don't gobble that much of rice! 

We had met SP at Times Square at Causeway Bay (in Cantonese, "thung lor wan") and we walked towards the wet market, which at 6.30pm was in full swing. Vendors were selling fruits, fish (live ones too), chicken, pork and fresh vegetables. The sky was dark but the bright yellow lights made the market come alive with festivity. The chill was still getting to me though. At 14 C, it was cold for me. Too cold. And the skies were mostly grey when we were there in end March. How I missed my Malaysian sunsets!

Anyway, our dinner place proved to be a locals' joint where lots of Hong Kongers converged for their piping hot dinners. Peeking at the tables filling up fast around us, we saw steamboat, rice with dishes, seafood and more. It was everything under one roof.

Eat where locals eat and you can't go wrong! 

The lady who served us knew we weren't locals. The moment we opened our mouths, she knew. Yet she was also kind enough not to scream at us, as impatient HK people usually do - they're notorious for talking down to tourists who can't keep up with them. Fortunately we have been lucky. No one's ever grumbled at us. 

SP told us of a queer dish made from pomelo rind. She's been working in HK and Greater China for 5 years now and she had come to this joint for the pomelo rind dish but never got to taste it.

Braised savoury pomelo rind 

The cheery lady immediately knew what dish we were talking about. She said it was a pomelo rind dish braised with prawns. At HK$18 for a plate, we felt we had to try it out. She helpfully ordered it for us from another stall. 

The dish came to our table in a jiffy. The pomelo rind was braised till soft, almost mushy and had lots of tasty gravy. Grated nutmeg was sprinkled on top. I didn't know if it was an appetizer or a main dish but it sure tasted delicious! 

When I came home, I told my aunt about this. She laughed and said that she used to despise this dish as a child. My great-grandfather's cook would prepare this dish from leftover pomelo rind (after you've eaten the pomelo fruit) and she'd hated the idea of eating fruit peel! To her, it was a poor man's food. 

It was the first time I'd eaten such an interesting dish though. 

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Back From Hong Kong

Was in Hong Kong for 10 days last month for a few reasons. Business, leisure, etc. The usual. We try to pack a few things into our travel whenever we go abroad. This time was no different.

But the best part is always the food. This is my 3rd time to HK - strangely the country grows on you. Nic and I like the weather though at times it gets to me. Like this time around, we were there late March and while it seemed like spring, to me a tropical girl, it was mighty chilly at 14 C. Yes, I know. To most of you, 14 C is not a problem. For me it was way too chilly. All my limbs were cold. I only took one shower a day (in Penang, I take showers at least 2 times a day and more if the weather's overly warm!).

Anyway, I did a great many things while in HK.

Will write more! 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Here's A Peek At My Cookie Treats

Here are some photos of Chinese New Year cookies which I didn't make. All of these were either bought from friends who made them or given to me. Yes, I am fortunate that I am surrounded by capable bakers. I had 3 different types of butter cookies, 2 different types of seaweed crackers, and a host of delicious munchies. Here are some pineapple rolls, courtesy of my youngest sister. 

Here is the view from the top. Pineapple rolls are a firm favourite each Chinese New Year. 

Below are some seaweed or nori crackers made by my aunts. Apparently it's very easy to make. You just need sheets of nori sandwiched between popiah skin wrappers. Cut them up into bite-size pieces and deep-fry till crispy. Warning - these are completely addictive! I can munch through half a canister of this while watching Glee. Then I get all guilty! 
These are called Almond London cookies. Also quite a sweet treat and available to me because my sister makes them for me. Inside each chocolate covered biscuit is a whole almond. Almonds are expensive so it's like a luxury or so my sis says. Great with a cup of hot tea! 

These mini spring rolls with homemade pork floss were ordered from a friend. Absolutely crunchy and tasty. Also very heaty if eaten too much, just like the above chocolate treats. Ensure you drink a lot of chrysanthemum tea or buddha fruit tea

What is Chinese New Year with some buttery goodness in the form of butter cookies? 

Here are some cranberry oat cookies which I ordered from my neighbour. I think she added some Baileys to these chewy cookies. By the way, I love chewy cookies. 

Again, Chinese New Year isn't CNY until we have our basket of mandarin oranges! Don't consume too many or else you will suffer damp-heat. You can save its peel, dry it under the sun and use the peel when you boil red bean dessert.

It gives a nice orangey tang to the dessert. "Chen pi" or dried tangerine peel cures coughs! Fancy that. If you eat too many oranges, you get coughs but if you want a remedy, go look for orange peel. Everything has its own cure and remedy. That's the fascinating part about Nature!

Arrowhead chips have become quite a fave too the last few Chinese New Years. Made from the arrowhead bulbs which are apparently only available during January and February (as they come from China), these chips are again a good accompaniment to TV watching. As they are deep-fried, they are heaty so again, all Chinese mothers will caution: eat this and drink lots of water. 

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

My Favourite Chinese New Year Snacks

Chinese New Year is always about feasting and snacking.

It's that one time of the year when you can really tell yourself, "I'll exercise more when CNY is over!" It's hard to resist traditional snacks and biscuits especially when you only get to eat them once a year.

I wrote a post about my favourite snacks for Chinese New Year once but I think the list needs updating.

Biscuits are in big demand in Penang during this time of the year because many women do not have time to make their own cookies or biscuits (how Americanized we've become - we used to call them biscuits but now they're cookies!).

Chinese New Year cookie business is a lucrative business for many homemakers who are good at baking. I am not big on making cookies so I usually order from my aunt (who makes such scrumptious pineapple tarts) and my neighbour. I get cookies from my sister too - she makes good stuff!

The most sought after cookies and traditional-style biscuits are the ones we associate with Chinese New Year.


It's unthinkable to not have kuih kapit (love letters) in your home during this time of the year. They're paper-thin, crispy and melt in the mouth. The right kuih kapit is flavoursome - made with eggs, flour, sugar and coconut cream.

When I was a child, we used to have kuih kapit making sessions in my Grandma's home. It would be a whole day affair - we'd start early in the morning and work till evening. It was hot work. We'd sit in a row with specific duties.

The main cook's job was to pour the batter into kuih kapit moulds and quickly put them on the charcoal-lined pits (like BBQ pits). The main person doing this has to be quick and nimble; the batter cooked fast. When the batter was almost done, the expert would peel it off the mould. The person sitting next to her would fold the circle into half, and fold the half into a quarter. As the batter would be hot, it takes a pair of seasoned fingers to do this work without the batter hardening first! Cooled kuih kapit would be stored in airtight Milo tins.

The Thai people have put an innovative twist into the ordinary kuih kapit (which is really a Nyonya biscuit). In Hadyai, you can buy kuih kapit with pork floss. The pork floss makes for chewy and savoury accompaniment to the crunchy and mildly sweet kuih kapit. The combination of flavours is excellent and this makes it an unstoppable snack!


Pineapple jam tarts are another favourite. A jam tart is usually a rich, buttery pastry with a dollop of homemade pineapple jam on top. The cookie pastry must be of a melt-in-the-mouth texture and the jam mustn't be too sweet or it gets too cloying after one too many jam tarts.

Again, I've made these tarts before when I was young. I used to help my mom grate fresh pineapple for the jam-making. That's the most tedious and time-consuming task. Mom would remove all the juice from the grated pineapple before she cooked the pineapple mush in a pot. The upside is, I got to drink lots of fresh pineapple juice!The downside is, I had to stand at the stove, stirring the jam so that it wouldn't stick to the bottom of the pot. Now that was backbreaking work indeed.

In the 1980s, a pineapple tart was one which looked like a flower with the jam as its centre. Nowadays, a pineapple tart was a roll of pastry with the jam inserted inside this roll. The secret to the pastry is using the best butter you can find. My aunt makes the yummiest and largest-looking jam tarts ever. She makes each tart by hand so you can imagine how much time she takes to make these Chinese New Year must-have.

Besides their tastiness factor, Chinese folks love pineapple tarts for their symbolism. The pineapple is called "wong lai" (Cantonese) or "ong lai" (Hokkien) depending on what dialect you speak. No matter what dialect you use, it sounds like "luck is arriving". So it is imperative to have jam tarts during Chinese New  Year because we Chinese are big on abundance, luck, prosperity and wealth.

To be continued in the next post......

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Peonies, Pussywillows and Limes

Hello everyone!

It's the 4th day of the Chinese Lunar Year and the festivities haven't really ended yet - after all we have 15 days for the Chinese New Year. Of course, festivities do taper off after the 9th day especially in Penang.

Penang Hokkiens celebrate with a thanksgiving prayer session on the eve of the 8th day of Chinese New Year - it is what we Cantonese call the Hokkien Chinese New Year. It is a big deal in Penang as the Chinese majority here are Hokkiens so the markets get busy again when the 8th day rolls around. Shops run by Hokkiens will again close on this special day as the families gather to offer food and prayers.

I've been taking it easy this Chinese New Year - this year, Nic and I celebrated Chinese New Year here in Penang. It's been fun decorating our apartment with red - not that we don't have enough red in the house (our feature wall is unmistakably red).

We bought a bunch of pussy willow stalks from a wholesale florist supplier on Anson Road just last week. I've always been intrigued by these little 'furry' flowers. They are a symbol of spring arriving. Of course Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival but that only seems to be true if you live in China where snow melts and spring arrives with flowers budding and flowering.

In smouldering warm Malaysia, spring is in the mind. So one of those ways to remind ourselves about spring is to ensure we have fresh pussy willow blossoms in the home. We chose the original pussy willow stalks - which will open into white catkins. Catkins are really soft and furry to the touch. The guy who sold us the pussy willows said that we could hasten the opening of the catkins by pinching the covering of the catkins.

Our 6 foot long pussy willow stalks are immersed in water to encourage more catkins to open up. They don't have any distinct fragrance though.

The next flower which is very closely tied to the Chinese New Year is the peony flower. However we didn't and probably couldn't get fresh ones even if we tried. The next best thing was to get fake ones from a home decor shop. I found magenta peonies to match our magenta throw pillows.

Lime trees with lime fruits are also much in demand during Chinese New Year. I chuckled to myself when I saw a Caucasian couple buying two potted lime trees from Jusco just last month. The limes were ripe and golden. The Chinese love these lime trees for their abundance and prosperous connotations. But the other problem is, with lime trees, they only look good for a brief time before the fruits fall. Apparently the nurseries pump a lot of fertilizers into these plants prior to selling them. This ensures a hearty flowering and fruiting session just before Chinese New Year.

The idea of growth and prosperity and flowers means that you will see Chinese homes bedecked in all types of plants and flowers, especially any shrub or plant with happy symbolism. And if we cannot get the real thing (as in peonies and such), we have no qualms using fakes either.

As Valentine's Day also falls inside the 15 days of Chinese New Year, it also brings more good business for flower shops, flower suppliers and florists. The price of roses become astronomical too. I've personally never quite fancied the commercialisation of the day of love (and since I've been married for 9 years already so I think  I am so beyond that). It's not that I don't like romance - I do but romance without the tackiness of corny-looking cotton pink bears with hearts!

Lotus root soup! Yummy!

Anyway, I took a break from the kitchen this Chinese New Year and did not make any soups whatsoever. I do have some lotus root in my fridge though. This is again a symbolism for us Cantonese. Lotus root sounds like "abundance" in Chinese so it is a MUST to have it somewhere in the house during Chinese New Year. I plan on making some lotus root soup really soon. (Here's a vegetarian version of the lotus root soup too.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Is It Really Turtle Carapace In Gwai Ling Kou?

The weather in Penang is becoming unbearably warm, particularly in the afternoons when the heat really sears.

I decided to take a break from boiling Buddha Fruit and make something different. I was rummaging in my fridge and found a packet of Eu Yan Sang's Gui Ling Gao powder - it didn't have an expiry date so I thought, what the heck, I'd just use it.

The thing is, and this is what I haven't figured out, does it really contain the shell of the turtle? Or is it just a name for a cooling dessert thanks to the ingenuity of the Chinese in naming their desserts?

Anyway, I think there aren' that many turtles around these days so I hope the modern "gwai ling kou" is made from herbs.

You can see this post I wrote previously on how I made this gui ling gao dessert.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Rosemary Story

In tropical Malaysia, I usually steer clear of temperate plants and herbs. Planting them is an exercise in patience as it can be quite trying to get some plants to grow properly.

One of those herbs I love a lot is rosemary. I first bought a potted rosemary plant, about half a foot tall, for a princely sum of RM20 a pot some years ago. At that time, I was still at my old apartment where my balcony did not get direct sunlight. It worried me that my precious rosemary would not survive.

It survived all of 2 years before it started to wilt and die. I blamed it on the lack of sunlight.

Fast forward to 2010. I bought another rosemary plant, this time for RM16 at my local nursery. This time, I had a small plot of garden in the back of our ground floor apartment. It gets direct sun every day and I read that rosemary likes the sun (it is after all from the Mediterranean region).

I piled on the compost (made by yours truly) and it grew happily. However, the rainy season came and with it, came some black bugs which landed on the rosemary too. In the end, I had to trim off the leaves.

It's still growing (thank god) but slowly as the rainy season keeps the soil overly moist. I love running my hands over the spiny leaves and inhaling its fragrance. It refreshes me each time!

But here's something interesting - rosemary is good for strengthening Yang, thanks to Neil's blog. It is also a Qi tonic. No wonder I love inhaling the fragrance of rosemary. (I am tempted to buy the rosemary essential oil the next time I put in my order for essential oils.) At least I can still get my favourite scent should my little plant die on me.

What is your favourite herb? Do you plant it? Or do you get it as an essential oil? I'd love to know!

Friday, January 07, 2011

What Grass Jelly Really Is...

If you have always wondered what makes "cincau" or "leong fan" (Cantonese) or grass jelly, this post will definitely enlighten you. It's from a plant called the Mesona with shiny leaves.

Unlike "gwai ling kou" which I have associated with tortoises and their carapaces, grass jelly is less scary.
The grass jelly drink is very common in Malaysia. It consists of black chewy jelly-like bits in syrupy sweet water which also gets its dark tinge from the grass jelly. Usually served cold with ice, this drink is a thirst quencher on hot days. It also helps 'cool' the body especially if one gets too heaty.

Although it is a typically Chinese drink, many other races in Malaysia drink this too. For instance, Malays mix cincau with soya bean milk to make a sweet thirst quencher when they break fast during the fasting month. In fact, Yeo's usually sell their soya bean drink (1 liter tetrapack) with a can of cincau drink so you can mix them up at home!

Of course, over-indulging in cool drinks like cincau is not good. Moderation is the key. But at least,
now I know where my cincau comes from!

Monday, January 03, 2011

What 2011 Holds For The Soup Queen

Happy New Year to you!

Can you believe it? It's a new decade.

I woke up this morning feeling like I've been transported to a new era. Of course it rained very heavily this morning and what struck me was this thought: I am very glad I am not in school anymore.

I met a friend who had gone to his daughter's school during her recess to see if she's OK. I remembered how my nephew had the first day of school jitters last year this time. He's all right now but in the early days, he used to search for my mom (his Por-Por/ Grandma) to help him make sense of the Mandarin the teacher was using!

This year I hope to blog more at SoupQueen.

Last year took me away from my soup-making activities. Business has been good and I've been travelling too. And what with staffing and marketing and client servicing, it really left me very little time for experimenting in the kitchen.

SoupQueen will have a little diversion once in a while - for instance, dishes and such because I realized how important it is for me to remember my heritage. A lot features food (not just soups though they are still my favourites) and one way to preserve culture is through food.

So expect a few more recipes which I culled from my mom and my grandma. My grandma is too old to cook now (she's in her mid-80s) but when she cooked in her younger days, her dishes were typically Xining - which I characterise as salty but thoroughly flavourful! A lot of Xining dishes I had as a child involved a lot of salted fish, salted eggs, fermented black beans and pork!

My mom, who is not Xining, but typically Cantonese, still cooks but she cannot replicate my paternal grandma's Xining dishes. Dishes like salted chicken, braised terubuk fish with black beans, stuffed flower crabs with pork and more are very much my grandma's signature. I'm not the only one who misses these dishes - my uncles and aunts too.

So this year, I aim to diversify into these dishes once in a while. I also intend to feature some Malaysian herbs and plants which I am growing in my little garden. I've become quite the herb gardener because there isn't anything that compares to using fresh herbs plucked from one's garden. That's as organic as it can get.

As I'm doing composting daily now, I have rich, fertile soil for plants. This helps plants and herbs bloom well. The leaves are gigantic, growing up to 5 times their regular size. The plants are taller and stronger too. Just goes to show why we should really look deeper into organic compost and its uses for the home garden. I don't want to rename my blog - I thought about it though.

The SoupQueen will still feature Chinese soups and desserts, but it will also feature Malaysian herbs and some of my Xining food fetish. Sometimes I will also feature interesting blogs which I read. Or books which I stumble upon.

Thank you for your support of this little blog over the years. It awes me to think that people actually like the recipes I feature.

Thank you for honouring this little blog of mine.