Lu Rou Fan: Taiwanese Braised Pork Rice

Hi all! I know this is a super lazy blog post being a recipe again; but I’ve been super busy lately and really feel like writing down my cooking adventures 🙂 I often modify recipes that I find on the internet or combine several different good recipes into one ‘ultimate’ best one, and I never write down what I actually did. Bad habit! I usually write recipes onto my company’s blog (as I need to post up recipes on it on a schedule), but this one is a pretty unhealthy recipe that I can’t really put up there haha.

Slightly off-topic but I was watching the premiere of Singapore’s version of Masterchef. The Top 18 contestants were quite below the standard of what I’ve come to expect from the Australian Masterchefs I’m used to. I can either be nice and say it’s because Singapore’s population is a lot smaller than the entire Australia, or a bit more harsh and that the cooking standards of Singaporeans are kind of dismal. I’m sure that many of them were good cooks, but some of the cooks who made it to Top 18.. made me think that I probably could have made it to Top 18 too haha (and no, I don’t think I’m that fantastic at cooking!). Yes, this is despite knowing that this year’s Aussie “Masterchef” is actually Singapore-born Sashi! Also, watching Singapore’s Masterchef made me realise that people here tend to be a bit more one-dimensional and not as interesting as Aussie characters. Although perhaps it’s unfair of me to judge, since Singapore is only 50km in land size from east to west, unlike Australia’s 4000km. Alrighty.. I hope the SG government doesn’t read this blog otherwise I might get deported. 😛

Anyway, back to lu rou fan! This dish is one of those quintessential Taiwanese dishes. I’m sure anybody who’s been to Sunnybank would have fond memories of eating this cheap but moreish meal. When I went to Taiwan with my boyfie last year, I discovered it was his favourite dish in Taiwan. I made it a mission to cook it for him so he could enjoy it anywhere in the world.

I ate an amazing version of it (minced pork and meatball, not chopped pork belly as most recipes or places in Taiwan serve it) at a famous Lan’s Minced Pork shop in Taichung market. My boyfriend and I just wanted to eat lu rou fan and happened to come across a shop with quite a few locals in line for it. I didn’t even know it was famous until retrospectively searching for it on Google. The amazing thing about food is that it brings back so many nostalgic memories; and eating that food again helps you re-live that memory of the food you ate.

I’ve searched high and low for the recipe (or something that seems ‘similar’!) of that specific shop, searching not just for ‘lu rou fan’ but also ‘minced pork rice’ and the Chinese characters肉燥丸子饭; of course I can’t find it as it must be a family secret! Countless food blogs and asking my Taiwanese friends, but they’re not sure what the ingredients are done differently in this stall’s. Maybe I’m also limited because I wasn’t really looking at the recipes written in Chinese. The lu rou fan in the stall was very different from the other lu rou fan I had in Taiwan: not only was it with minced pork, it was less ‘dark’ and saucy (less soy sauce), more ?oily and drier, more umami (?MSG), and a bit more sweet. It tasted almost like the delicious seasoning packet I’d find from the HK “Fuku superior soup” instant noodle.

Anyway, I settled for combining two recipes I found online. I added a fair bit more sugar to make it taste nicer (without it, I felt it was too overpowering in the soy sauce department). It would definitely taste better with a fattier mince, but I was being a bit healthier and just settled for regular minced pork. My boyfriend was really addicted to it and ate lots of it, so at least he enjoyed it, even if it wasn’t quite the same as the Taichung one! I also served it with ramen egg (because I hate plain hard-boiled egg!), and it was even yummier. It’s also my mistake for not having spring onion on top, which would make it even nicer (I thought it was in my boyfriend’s fridge but alas no. So I settled with coriander only).

As for the Taichung minced pork rice? If anybody here (hedging my bets as quite a few of you are from Taiwan!) knows a recipe that is close to the Lan’s minced pork rice, please please let me know!

lu ruo fan

Lu Rou Fan: Taiwanese Braised Pork Rice

Adapted from The Woks of Life and Viet World Kitchen

Serves: 4 people

Ingredients

  • 450g minced pork (or if you want to do as the rest of the Taiwan do: skin-on pork belly, cut into 1cm pieces)
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 5 tsp sugar
  • 5 bulbs of shallots, finely chopped or sliced thinly
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 8 shiitake mushrooms, cut into 1cm pieces (you will see here that I actually cut them into 1/2.. lol. Silly Imperial system of the recipe made me misread 1/2″!)
  • 3 baby king oysters, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 star anise (8 full points)
  • 3/4 tsp five spice powder
  • 2 slices fresh ginger
  • 2 slices dried tangerine peel
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 cups water
  • Spring onion and coriander, to garnish
  • 4 ramen eggs, halved (optional)
  • Cooked sushi rice, to serve

Method

  1. Add 3 tablespoons peanut oil into a wok over medium heat. Gently fry shallots for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently and lowering the heat to control the browning process. When the shallot becomes a golden brown and crispy, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a paper towel to cool and crisp.
  2. Return the heat to medium, add the garlic, ginger, five spice powder, bay leaves and star anise and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from wok, reserving oil inside.
  3. Add sugar to wok and heat until it melts. Add mushroom and coat with the browned sugar.
  4. Add the pork, mashing it to small pieces. When it’s browned, add the fried spices and fried shallot. Stir-fry until well blended, about 1 minute.
  5. Pour in the rice wine, soy sauces, and water. Lower the heat to medium-low or low, cover, and gently simmer for 1-1.5 hours.
  6. If you want the sauce to be thicker, turn up the heat to medium-high, stirring occasionally, for around 5 minutes. Make sure there is still plenty of sauce for your rice!
  7. One recipe says that you can let it sit in room temperature for 15 minutes to let the flavours develop. Heck, I don’t have the patience for that 😛
  8. To serve, scoop the pork mince over a bowl of sushi rice, add some sauce, and garnish with ramen eggs and spring onion and coriander.
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So…

So…what can I update you guys on? Not much has changed since I last spoke (which was a while I know, but you know how things get when life gets in the way, you gotta prioritise).

All I have to say about this ed-u-ma-cation is that I’m thankful for what I’ve learned but I’m glad its nearing the end, who knew learning would take so much out of you, no wonder kids take naps. Naps as I have found fix a lot of things these days, had a long day staring at a screen: take a nap, stuck at the same point in your project/task for the last 3 hrs: take a nap, for everything life throws at you, naps are there for you. Love of naps aside there is a downside to napping, namely that it’s easy for a nap to turn into 3 hr sleep or worse, pass out till next morning.  Back to the original point, I’m happy I’m in my final semester, being a uni student is hard, more so when you’re old.

I don’t remember much of my final semester in UQ, it was about 7 years ago. I think I had one elective and two psych subjects, a tourism elective if I remember correctly. It was a pretty interesting topic. I think the most I remember was how different the students were in that subject, most of them were tourism degree students. It’s interesting how different subjects attract different students. So laid back and personable, yet strong willed and determined. Dunno if that Disney internship had anything to do with that.

Anyway, I think I’ve waffled enough for one day. Back to the ‘mines’ as they say.

Acai Bowl

I recently discovered frozen acai paste in the supermarket and excitedly bought them. Realising the only way I could really use them is in a creamy acai bowl/ smoothie, I put myself to the test of making a creamy one! I found a good recipe online (claims to be the best!) and modified it such that it would be a blend of both banana and mango (to get the best of both worlds!) as well as berries for a delicious antioxidant boost. I also didn’t have almond butter around, so I substituted it with avocado instead.

The ultimate nemesis to making it creamy and thick is Singapore’s super hot weather (and probably in Brissie summer, the best season to enjoy this cold refreshing treat!)! To mitigate this problem, I did a few things. Firstly, I adjusted the proportion of the ingredients such that it would have less ‘liquid’ inside (only 1/4 cup milk).

Secondly was the temperature. I decided to freeze the ingredients until stone-hard cold, and put the blender and bowl into the freezer to help. I also realised that despite this, the smoothie was still not as thick as I had hoped for (unless I made and ate it in a very cold air-conditioned room!); so if you find that’s what happened, please feel free to pop the creamy acai bowl into the freezer for around half an hour to thicken it up.

The result? Ultimate yumminess that can kick any acai bowl outlet’s butt! I find commercial acai bowls, as delicious as they are, typically are overly-sweetened, slightly diluted without enough acai kick, and too strong of a banana taste overpowering it. This one didn’t have these problems, and was a fair bit cheaper too!

 

Most Creamy Acai Bowl


Serves: 1 bowl (serves 2)                Time: 15 mins

Acai Bowl Ingredients:

  • 1/2 large banana (cut in slices, frozen)
  • 3/4 whole mango (cut in cubes, frozen)
  • 3/4 cup frozen berries such as blackberries, strawberries, raspberries or blueberries (I used blueberries and strawberries)
  • 1 x 100g frozen acai packet (unsweetened is best)
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp avocado (frozen)
  • 1/4 cup fresh milk

For Decoration Toppings

  • berries: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cranberries
  • figs, longans, any fruit you like!
  • mango cubes; coconut chips (unsweetened)
  • pomegranate seeds
  • chia seeds, dried flowers
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened granola
  • pumpkin seeds

Preparation:

1. Place 2 tablespoons granola into a large, pretty bowl.

2. Place the bowl and the blender jug into a freezer to make cold (important in Singapore weather!).

3. Add all acai bowl ingredients into a blender and blend for around 1.5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Tips on how to break up the frozen acai packet easily for a smoother blend is shown in this video.

4. Pour this mixture into the bowl over the granola, and top with your favourite toppings.

5. Enjoy the luscious treat and serve immediately!

Nutritional Facts:

Per bowl (each bowl serves 2): 426 calories; 12.4g fat (3.6g saturated);

67g carbohydrates; 12.2g fibre, 10.4g protein; 58mg sodium

Journey across three countries

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us” – unknown.

I’ve always considered holidays as an opportunity for me to escape, both physically and mentally. However, with this perception, it is easier to return home and enter “post holiday blues” (which I admit, I am having some now). So perhaps I need to alter my mindset and think of holidays as not an escape of life, but rather to enjoy life. This blog has given me an opportunity to recount and appreciate some of my travel experiences (and hopefully cure my blues).

The following is a summary of my trip. I have limited it to five dot points per country so as not to bore readers.

CHINA – SHANGHAI

I was born in Shanghai, but have never felt a closeness to it or China itself. Perhaps it is because I mainly grew up in Australia. Nevertheless, I still have many relatives in China, so no family holiday is complete without a visit to there.

  1. Metro system – very efficient, easy to figure out.
  2. Old French Concession – beautiful buildings full of history
  3. Grabbing seats – too reserved/polite on subways and one’ll suffer from sore legs
  4. Visiting family
  5. Disneyland – decided to go to the Shanghai one over Japan and HK because at least I can understand the language! Fan girl moment with Captain America.

 

JAPAN – OSAKA, KYOTO, YOKOHAMA, TOKYO

  1. Rice – was SERIOUSLY GOOD. Known as koshihikari rice, it was perfectly chewy, shiny with a hint of sweetness. The Godilocks of Rice.
  2. Fruits and vegetables – expensive $$$ but fresh and tasty. Tiny punnet of white strawberries costed $5 AUD and a small rockmelon was $15 AUD.
  3. Universal studio – solo trip, nearly had a heart attack on the Harry Potter The Forbidden Journey ride (after this near death experience I splurged on an interactive wand…).
  4. Shibuya crossing – one of the world’s busiest intersections.
  5. Temples – Kyoto alone has over 2000 temples. Of course, I only visited a selected few.

HONG KONG and MACAU

Final stop before returning home. It was annoyingly hot and humid, especially on the day I visited Macau.

  1. Maids – group gatherings in public spaces (think pedestrian walkways, parks, under bridges) on weekends with BYO food.
  2. Casinos – extravagant yet artificial architecture (I’m looking at you Venetian) on land fill.
  3. Food – much better vegetarian restaurants in HK. Enjoyed a lunch and dinner banquet on Mother’s Day (albeit costly).
  4. View – HK left an impression of skyscrapers, skyscrapers and more skyscrapers admist mountains, mountains and more mountains.
  5. Shopping – watched foreigners (ie. mainland Chinese) leave department stores with suitcases full of goods. Rich Fuerdais (富二代)?

At the beginning of my holiday, I was excited. Throughout it, I had episodes of FOMO. By the end, I was tired. But overall I had a great time. And for now, I say Sayonara. JS

 

Tips: for those heading to Japan in the future, I recommend downloading the Kansai wifi app which detects and logs onto public wifis in the Kansai region. I also used a Citibank debit card for ATM withdrawals and purchases in Japan and HK – zero fees, no currency conversion fee and great rates – highly recommended! 

The Inevitable

We all die. The question isn’t if we do, the question is when we do. And that, precisely, is the problem. In the natural course of life, we all expect to die of old age or some sort of ailment that comes with old age. Some though, are less fortunate, they die at a younger age.

A few years ago, the son of one of my teammates was the driver in a fatal car accident. He was very fortunate and survived, his friend was less so. Two weeks ago, another fatal car accident, this time, it was the female passenger that I knew which was killed.

I first learnt of the news via Facebook. I had to do a double take after I saw the name. Then I closed the app, took a few breaths, and reopened it. It surely cannot be true? I was at work at the time, and for the rest of the day I was in a bit of a daze. It didn’t feel like reality.

Then my coach messaged a few of us about it. That was confirmation. But I was still in denial. How can it be? She was only 17, she was supposed to have the rest of her life to live. It was only a week before that I was watching her play? Is the universe playing a cruel joke on all of us? I was waiting to wake up from this nightmare.

In a way, it was weird that I was so deeply affected by this. I barely knew her, don’t think I’ve even had one proper conversation with her. But at the same time, it felt like I knew her for a long time because I’ve played against her for a few years and had the fortunate of playing with her in the rep team at the end of last season. She was a great footballer.

Maybe it’s because she was so young. Or maybe it was so unexpected. Or maybe it’s because I know quite a number of her close friends, including her twin sister, and I could not even fathom what they would be going through with this loss; and they’re all so young as well.

I really questioned the universe on why this happened. What was the purpose? Was there even a purpose? Was there any way to unmake this reality? I knew my anger nor my sadness would have any impact on this outcome but it was the least I could try.

Young Jade’s funeral was held on Monday. It was the first funeral I have attended since I have been old enough to remember. I wasn’t prepared for what was to come. Seeing her twin recount their times together and the funny stories they created together; seeing her break down as she said her last goodbye; seeing her best friend try to hold her twin as she herself tried to make it through her eulogy; seeing her mum jokingly say Jade was close to surpassing her brother as being the biggest pain in her arse; seeing her mum apologising with tears in her eyes for not being there to protect Jade in her moment of need; it was all too much.

It got worse though, when they wheeled the coffin outside and into the hearse, I don’t think I have words strong enough to describe the wretched sorrow. The wails that the family let out as the hearse was loaded and began to drive away. Fuck me. I still cry with them when I remember that scene. I really wish there was something I could do to make it better, but there isn’t. Then I look to my side and I see the whole 17s team linked arm in arm, absolutely inconsolable.

It’s been a few days since the funeral, life seems to have returned to normal. At least on the surface. I’ve seen her mum a few times since Monday, she seems to be in a good spirit for what has happened. G was back at training yesterday and was out on the field tonight, scoring a cracker against the boys in a friendly. Jade’s other best friend, R, was also out there killing it. But the real battle is to make sure these kids have an outlet for when emotions do fall, that they can move through this and come out the other side relatively intact.

But universe, seriously, fuck you.

This song was played in her video montage. Rest In Peace Jade ❤

 

R ⚽

Vegan Chocolate Pie: for chocoholics

Hey everyone!

As my first blog post for the year (I believe), I wanted to post up a Chocolate Pie recipe that I used just yesterday to create this:

As a couple of you guys are chocoholics, you have to try this! Here’s how you can make it:

1. Get all the below ingredients:

Written out this is:

PIE CRUST:

2 cups plain flour

2/3 cup butter

1 teaspoon salt

5-7 tablespoons water

CHOCOLATE PIE FILLING:

300g silken firm tofu

1/2 cup Almond Breeze Chocolate milk

300g chocolate chips (melted in a microwave)

1/2 cup peanut butter

2. First make the pie crust by mixing 2 cups of plain flour with 2/3 cup of butter to get the below grainy texture:

3. Add a teaspoon of salt and 5-7 tablespoons of water gradually until the flour and butter clump together.

4. Roll it into a ball!

5. Then roll it out to be around about the same size as your pie tin:

6. Put it in the oven at 190 degrees until golden brown (this may take half an hour or so; I wasn’t checking!)

7. Next, make the chocolate filling! I got this recipe from this site which has better pictures than what I took! First, cut up your 300g of silken tofu and place it into your blender or food processor. Then just add 1/2 cup of Almond Breeze Chocolate milk, 1/2 cup of peanut butter and 300g of melted chocolate chips (melt them in the microwave) and blitz to mix!

8. By now, the pie crust should be done so keep both the crust and filling separate and allow the crust time to cool. I don’t know where the air bubbles came from but the filling should cover it!

9. After the crust is cool, fill her up!

10. Chill overnight or chill for a bit, depending on how urgently you want your chocolate fix and enjoy!

Hope you guys enjoy this!

~Gelato 🍦

A Saturday Spring Onion Adventure

To be read rather quickly because that’s how I speak….

It was just going to be a simple walk to the shops, and it was. More or less. It was the walk home that was an adventure.

Today I planned to try a new recipe for dinner – Turkey Fried Rice. I had all the ingredients except spring onions. Rather than driving to the local shops, I decided a walk would be good, it was a nice afternoon and I had been sitting for most of the day. I set out on the 5.4km round trip. After 800m the tiredness made itself known and yet I refused to give up so early in the walk. Instead, I closed my eyes. It’s less tiring closing one’s eyes, there are less visual stimuli to take in. Although it is a little harder to walk, especially along an unknown street. A change of tactics was needed.

Thus began my experiment – I know what it’s like to walk with no vison at all, but what is it like to walk with partial sight? With the exception of street crossings, I walked the rest of the way to the shops with one eye closed and the other only half open – substantially limiting my view of the world around me. It was a fascinating experience. I could see enough to be confident in where I was walking, but not enough to care what others would think if they noticed what I was doing. I couldn’t see them anyway. I have always thought that those ‘legally blind’ but with some vision would rely heavily on their other senses. Now I am not so sure. With only a small sphere of sight from one eye, I spent the whole time focusing on what I could see rather than trying to use my other senses more. It was only when my eyes were fully closed that I relied on the ground surfaces and sounds.

At the shops I used my full sight again (thankfully, because there was a car that really didn’t want to stop at the zebra crossing), bought the spring onions and started the journey home again, one eye half open, one eye closed. With a little more practice under my belt, I used my other senses more, recognising when cars were in the closest lane or slowing to approach a side street, smelling cigarette smoke as I walked past a house etc. Without being able to see street signs, I remembered the turn off from the main road, taking the second street on the right where the blue fence was. Homewood bound through the back streets. And then suddenly there was a dog coming towards me. Didn’t see that coming.

“Hello medium-sized black dog with a thick collar. Where did you come from?” I had just turned off a busy road onto a side street with lots of quiet houses. “Should I be scared because I don’t know you, Dog and you came straight to me?” “Getting scared won’t stop the dog if it wants to bite me….so I guess there’s no point. Just keep walking Cherith, perhaps he will get bored and go back home.”

The dog didn’t get bored. It followed me for a bit, ran across the road in front of a car to sniff something on the other side, then ran back again. “Ahh! Please don’t get yourself hit!” (I said in my head). The local Model Craft store owners had never seen the dog before and had little advice to offer me in my current predicament. Rather than letting the dog keep following me (I was still 2km from home), I decided to turn back to where the dog had first come from, hoping it would find a house to go back into. It didn’t.

Time to move onto a new tactic – contacting someone who could hopefully help. An internet search for ‘found dogs’ stated to ring the council. Whilst the dog sprinted up and down a small empty lot and rolled in questionable weeds, I gave my details to a lovely lady at Brisbane City Council. She tracked down the dog’s owner via telephone and I discovered the dog (a female blue cattle dog) belonged on the other side of the busy road and up a few streets. The owner was unable to leave her home at the present time so I spent the next 10 minutes walking an energetic dog by the collar across the busy road, around the corner, up the hill, around another corner and down a few houses. Home sweet home, for that little dog. Now to get the spring onions home for my own dinner.

Back across the road, down the hill, around the corner, up a big hill, across another busy road, down a big hill, up a small hill, across a few streets, round a few corners, past the corner store, up a final hill, along one more street and I was home.

Thus ended the Spring Onion adventure.

Next time, I might just drive.

C.