Rosemary Garlic Tri-Tip

A scrumptious dish

I had a pretty good dinner tonight. Tri-tip roasts are on sale this week at Safeway ($3.99/lb) so I got one (~3.5lbs) to roast in the oven. Minced some garlic and fresh rosemary and rubbed it all on along with some freshly cracked salt and pepper. Every 15 minutes I basted with a red wine and beef bouillon solution. Took it out of the 350°F oven after about an hour and 10 minutes, and sliced it up after letting it rest for 10.

As I like to do after a fancy dinner, I dripped myself a cup of coffee. Recently we unpacked the last of our things from Hong Kong, a box of kitchen stuff. Inside this box was the Guinness mug that came with the 4-pack I bought after we first moved into our place in Hong Kong. I had forgotten that I used to use this mug for drip coffee in Hong Kong, using whipping cream in place of half-and-half since the latter is not sold there. There was a morning in spring of 2013 when I made coffee to go along with a sandwich made with bread from our bread maker, in preparation for watching a Warriors playoff game. That was a good morning.

Since the mug got me thinking about our time in Hong Kong, I came here to see if I could jog some more memories. I decided to read the 6-Month Update, and then I saw that it was posted on August 18, 2013. So, exactly three years ago. What a coincidence.

It’s good to look back sometimes to see where you’ve been (although admittedly, I probably look back more often than “sometimes”). Three years ago, I was becoming more comfortable with myself and my way of living, becoming happier, and enjoying life more. It would seem that three years later, this is happening once again.

Four months ago, I wrote that time is the most precious resource. In exchange for having time, I chose to forgo having an income, and in turn forgoing having our own place to live. At that point it had almost been a year of staying with our parents, and now it has been more than that. In these four months, there have been good days and bad days. There has been internal struggle, and depression. There has been talk about moving back to Hong Kong because it would be easier to find a job and a place to live there (it sounds crazy, but compared with the Bay Area it’s true).

Perhaps I fell back into that chasm where all I do is worry about the future, worrying whether what I’m doing now is conducive to that future, whether what I’m doing is what I should be doing. When I’m in that chasm, I completely lose sight of the present, no matter how good it is. No, we aren’t working, yes, we’re living with our parents, but is that really so bad? We get to do whatever we want, whenever we want, staying up as late as we want. We get to eat tri-tip (when I had thought about escaping back to Hong Kong, I didn’t even think of how less frequently we had good beef over there). Other than the occasional self-inflicted kind, our present lives are stress-free.

In recent weeks is when I’ve finally started realizing all this, again. To stay in the moment, to enjoy the present that is good, to know that there is nothing to worry about. The past has shown us that we always step up and do what’s necessary when the time comes, so why not just enjoy this time that we have now? We are happy, healthy, and probably will be in the foreseeable future. I am confident that we will be able to handle whatever that future brings.

Pork Ribs

For Sunday Dinner I decided to try my hand at some pork ribs I bought from Wellcome. I cut up some potatoes, cilantro, and onion, then mixed in a bowl with olive oil and some lemon juice.

Potatoes with Cilantro and Lemon Juice

Potato bed

Next up, I spread the mixture into a rectangular pan and put the ribs into the bowl, using them to sop up any leftover cilantro and oil. Since I’d already used lemon juice and we had some lemon pepper, I rubbed some all over the ribs before placing them on the bed of potatoes.

Ribs - Ready to be Cooked

Ready to be cooked

Of course, all this time I had the electric oven preheating at 120˚C/250˚F. I read an article online about roasting ribs on low heat, and recently my coworker did a beef roast on low heat also, so I wanted to give it a try. After cooking for about 2 hours, I raised the temp hoping to get some fat to sizzle and some meat to brown, and once that happened I took the whole thing out to rest. Here’s how it turned out:

Ribs - Ready to Eat

Ready to eat

Unfortunately the meat was a little dry and the potatoes were barely cooked. Reading the recipe in the link now, I realize that I neglected to cover the pan. Oops! That’s why both the meat and the potatoes didn’t cook right. If covered there would have been a steam effect going on to actually cook the potatoes while retaining moisture in the meat. I then could have finished it off uncovered like in the recipe.

Taste-wise, it’s hard to really mess up pork and it was fine with the lemon pepper, though I probably wouldn’t do it again. I’d probably use extra olive oil, lemon juice, and cilantro because the potatoes worked really well, the highlight of this accident. Will just need to make sure they cook right next time. My excuse is that I’m getting old and I don’t cook much anymore, so that when I finally do cook I forget little details that I used to know like the back of my hand. haha. Enjoy life and eat good food.

Roasted Pork Collar/Shoulder

Pork Collar Skin

Needs more holes

I stopped by Wellcome on the way home from work and saw a 332g (11.7 oz or nearly 3/4 lb) skin-on piece of pork collar (I think it’s also called pork shoulder in other places) for $18.70, so I thought I’d try my hand at roasting it this evening for lunch tomorrow. Smeared some Colman’s English mustard all over the meat, scored the skin, and then placed it into the electric oven on the top-and-bottom-element, rotisserie-convection setting at ~190˚C for about 50 minutes (and rested it for 5). It came out only OK, some parts were slightly pink and the skin was not that crunchy. The piece I tried tasted a little like Chinese BBQ pork.

Pork Collar Resting

Maybe next time I’ll remove the spit first before taking a photo

Since it’s my first time making it, I’ll list some notes for the future:

  1. Rest the meat before cooking and 50 minutes should be OK. Can probably also let it rest 10 minutes after cooking instead of 5.
  2. Use a fork to poke holes in the skin and/or score it a little bit more so more fat can drip out during cooking and crisp the skin.
  3. In addition to the above, maybe sear the skin in a frying pan first since it’s such a small piece of meat.
  4. Rest the piece of meat on the cutting board when trying to secure it to the spit (instead of holding it in my left hand and fumbling around with the contraption with my right).
  5. Make sure the spit goes into the socket the right way or else it will be difficult to remove later on.
Final Product

Not too bad, but could be better

I look forward to implementing the above improvements. For now, I think I’ll still enjoy my lunch tomorrow. 🙂 Good night!

Rice Cooker Roast Chicken

Rice Cooker Roast Chicken

Rice Cooker Roast Chicken – September 16, 2013

The rice cooker is a versatile appliance. We squeezed in half a small chicken, a potato, and a carrot and set the cooker to “cake” for 30 minutes, putting the skin side down for the final 10 to get a nice browning. The veggies got a nice roasting in chicken fat and juice. Health-wise it’s not something I’d eat every day, but every so often it’s a super delicious meal, unbelievable with rice.

Monday Dinner (6-16-14)

The night before starting a new job, I wanted to do my old job one last time. To close this stay-at-home-husband chapter of my life, I made three dishes:

Steamed Pork Cake With Shiitake, Chinese Preserved Vegetable, and Wood Ear
Carrot and Marrow Soup
Choy Sum with Oyster Sauce


This was my first time making the pork cake with a real wok and an actual large plate. We’ve been cleaning out our Granny’s house (you might have noticed the posts with newspaper ads from 1938) and I nabbed her big wok. It takes a lot less time to steam because you can spread the meat out more. The result is juicy, tender, and (slightly over because I used a bit too much soy sauce) flavorful meat.


We had some leftover veggies in the fridge so I made one of JC’s old standbys, carrot and marrow soup. I don’t remember if I mentioned how she made it for the first time. Growing up, I never had this combination (and actually, it’s not something you really see in restaurants), and I thought it was a bit odd when I first saw it. But then, I do enjoy both carrot soup and marrow soup by themselves, so the combo makes sense. Leave it to JC to be creative and break tradition.

Choy Sum with Oyster Sauce

Choy sum was also left over so I used the steaming water from the wok to boil it. You can’t really parboil it because it will taste raw (choy sum isn’t a vegetable I would eat without cooking). Anyhow, the oyster sauce was also JC’s creativity. For me, oyster sauce usually goes with Chinese broccoli, and unlike the soup, I’m not sure it’s such a great combo. 😉

Well, that’s it for this chapter, now on to the next. Hopefully I’ll still get chances to cook on weekends. Enjoy!

Monday Dinner (6-9-14)

Another busy week with time to cook only once. Still, it was a pretty good meal and I was happy with it:

Stir-Fried Chicken Breast with Chili Pepper and Shallots
Parboiled Lettuce with Oyster Sauce
Tomato Fishcake Soup

Stir-Fried Chicken Breast w/ Chili and Shallots

The previous week I made lemon-caper chicken again and had a small piece of chicken breast left over. I thought I’d do something simple but still slightly different, so I went with the chili and shallots. The key was marinating the chicken breast with Worcestershire sauce in addition to some soy sauce and a tiny bit of sugar. Came out really good, with a possible knock being that I could’ve cooked the chicken a little bit less.

Parboiled Lettuce with Oyster Sauce

When I was making this lettuce I was thinking about how in Western cuisines, lettuce is usually eaten raw. A quick Google search debunks that myth, but at the same time I can’t remember ever going into a restaurant and eating cooked lettuce. Anyhow, this particular dish is popular with locals. Sometimes, the lettuce is cooked with shrimp paste and/or garlic. The other night, I had one that was cooked in broth with some dried scallops, ginger, and wolfberries (杞子).

Tomato Fishcake Soup

Finally, I had a packet of fish broth left over and a couple of tomatoes, so I went and bought some cilantro and fishcake to make this tasty soup. I cooked the tomatoes in the broth until they broke up, then added the fishcake and brought back to a boil before putting in the chopped cilantro. Delish!

Menu Notes Week of 5-26-14

Another week goes by, and this past week I cooked only three nights out of the seven (been trying to get back into the job market). If I get a job soon, then that number might go down even more.

Water convolvulus continues to be readily available, and cheap. I’ve pretty much mastered this one now: slice up one chili, mince a clove or two of garlic, and ready three cubes of fermented bean curd. Heat up a pan on high, add oil, stir-fry the above until fragrant, around twenty seconds. Add the water convolvulus and stir-fry until cooked, usually until it’s wilted. Add soy sauce or salt to taste (though I personally prefer soy sauce, brings out the fermented bean curd).

Water Convolvulus with Chili and Fermented Bean Curd (椒絲腐乳通菜)

Corn is definitely in season and also readily available and sweet and tender. Instead of dumping it in with the other vegetables in a beef vegetable soup, I remembered not to salt the soup and waited until the end to add corn before removing and serving it on the side. Only then did I salt the soup, and the result was good soup and good corn.

We had some spareribs that had been in the fridge for a couple of days before I steamed them. They came out a little tough, and I attribute that to them getting dried out in the fridge. I steamed them with some shiitake, since it was a small amount of meat (they were left over from Saturday). Maybe soaking the meat in some mushroom water beforehand might re-hydrate it and cause them to steam better.

Steamed Pork Spareribs with Shiitake and Black Beans

I did make a couple of new things this week, by JC’s request. The first was broccoli beef. In the past, I would attempt to stir-fry the beef and broccoli together, but it was always hit or miss. The problem with stir-frying broccoli is that it’s difficult to cook it consistently. One side might be cooked and the other might still be raw. So, I instead parboiled them to my desired doneness (just-cooked with a nice crunch, but no rawness) and plated, then cooked the beef (marinated with soy sauce and sugar) to my liking and added a sauce (oyster sauce, a little more sugar, corn starch, and water) before pouring it all over the broccoli. Came out pretty good if I do say so myself. 🙂

Broccoli Beef

The second thing was a spicy Korean-style spinach-tofu soup. We had the leftover broccoli beef and vegetable soup so I just kind of threw it all together. First, I added some water to the veggie soup and heated it up, then added spicy Korean bean paste (comes in a red, little flat box). I tasted it but it didn’t really taste like anything so I added some packaged instant Japanese miso soup. Ah, that was the key. The miso soup has dashi, which gives the soup the savory flavor. Just before serving, I put in soft-tofu, the broccoli beef, and the spinach and brought it back to a boil before taking the whole thing to the table. Not bad!

Spinach-Tofu Korean Soup

I noticed something in making the beef and soup, the different perspective between the cook and the diner. From the cook’s perspective, it seems like boiling the broccoli and then pouring beef over it wouldn’t work, because the broccoli is boiled plainly. As the diner, when you eat the broccoli and beef together and they actually go well with each other, you might not think that the two things were cooked separately. The same thing goes for the soup. If I didn’t tell you I just threw it all together, you might think it was all by design. It’s interesting to think about food in this way, especially when eating out. I wonder how many dishes we eat are just some simple slap-togethers from the chef’s perspective.

See you next (this) week!

Menu Week of 5-19-14


Steak Plate

Sirloin Steak with Red Wine Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Simple Salad

I was at a supermarket with a more Western variety of foods (getting some Jameson Whiskey) when I ran across some Australian sirloin steaks that were on closeout. They looked pretty good so I snapped them up for Monday’s dinner. I’ve mentioned somewhere that beef is not as popular in Hong Kong, which means that deals can be had at the end of the day when supermarkets are trying to clear out inventory.

On the way home I realized that I hadn’t gotten anything to go with the steak. Luckily, I had bought some lettuce the previous week, and I still had a tomato and an onion. Instant salad. I also had a couple of potatoes left, so I opted for mashed potatoes, something we haven’t had since Thanksgiving of 2013.

Something to note for next time is that whole potatoes take a long time to soften. I was lazy and boiled them whole thinking they’d be nice and soft by the time I finished playing video games. They could definitely have been softer, especially when the only thing I have to mash them with is a fork. After applying some elbow grease, they came out okay. In tribute to my Aunt J, I left the skin on, because that’s how she used to make it.

The gravy was made with flour, butter, beef stock, and Cabernet Sauvignon.


Tuesday Night Meal

Water Convolvulus with Chili and Fermented Bean Curd
Stir-fried Lettuce with Garlic
Carrot and Lotus Root Soup
Cabbage, Corn, and Beef Sukiyaki

Variety is the spice of life, but when certain vegetables are in season it’s OK to eat a lot of it as well. Right now, it’s all about the water convolvulus (通菜).

As I said above I had some lettuce from the previous week. A popular way of cooking them here is to stir-fry them with some garlic. Cooking lettuce isn’t really something you see in Western cuisine, but it’s done in HK a lot. Doesn’t take long to cook, either.

Carrot and Lotus Root Soup

Carrot and lotus root soup came out great. I remembered to add a sweet date (蜜棗) this time, too.

Beef Sukiyaki with Corn and Cabbage

The sukiyaki was new. It’s a pain in the ass trying to think of new dishes to make on a daily basis. It seemed like we’d been having a lot of pan-fried meats (i.e. steak, pork chop, etc.) and I was browsing through the meat case trying to figure out what I could make. I saw some sliced steak and I thought of the times when we did hot pot with it, so I tried something new. I had a quarter of a cabbage left so I cooked that with some packaged instant miso soup, added corn, and plated while leaving the liquid in the pot. I then cooked the beef slice by slice, removing each slice immediately after cooking because the thin slices are super easy to overcook. I enjoyed this one.


Chinese Marrow with Dried Shrimp

Beef Stewed in Red Wine Sauce
Chinese Marrow Flavoured with Dried Shrimp
Leftover Lotus Root soup
Leftover Sukiyaki

Had some leftovers from Tuesday so made just a couple of dishes today. Used the leftover gravy from Monday to make a beef stew. Nothing complicated about that, bought some beef brisket and cooked it with the gravy and some added water. Soaked some dried shrimp beforehand, cut up some garlic, and stir-fried those until fragrant before adding the marrow and a little water. I used two kinds of dried shrimp, 暇米 and 暇乾. 暇米 as the name suggests is the smaller version. 暇乾 is dried-up regular-sized shrimp. I probably could have soaked those a little bit longer, because they came out slightly chewy. Overall I was happy with how this one came out.


Carrot and Marrow Soup with Dried Scallop
Steamed Pork Spareribs with Black Beans and Garlic

This is one of the easiest (simplest) meals ever. The soup takes 2 to 3 hours to simmer, so make it beforehand by cutting up some carrot and marrow and throwing it into some water along with a piece of lean pork. I like to parboil the pork with some ginger before adding it to the soup. Helps remove some of the nasty shit that boils up. A note about using carrot in soups: the giant ones with the dirt all over them really are sweeter and more flavourful. I only needed one for this soup.

Next, marinate some spareribs with soy sauce, minced garlic, sugar, white pepper, corn starch, sesame oil, and black beans. Place some on a small dish, stick it into the rice cooker with the steaming attachment. Rice and pork ready at the same time. Scoop out some of the carrot and marrow to eat with the rice.

It was Saturday night and I ate while watching TV without formally setting the table, so sadly no photos.

And so, another week goes by. I’m glad I took some time off this week. It can be difficult trying to think up meals, preparing them, and cleaning up afterwards.

Menu Notes 5-12-14


Dinner - May 12, 2014

Choy Sum Stir-Fried in Ginger Oil
Pan-Fried Pork Chops in Onion-Soy Sauce
Tomato-Corn-Onion Soup

Pretty successful meal today. Heated up some oil and fried some ginger slices before adding the choy sum and stir-frying until most of the water was gone, added a little salt and plated.

Pork Chops in Onion-Soy Sauce Choy Sum Stir-Fried in Ginger Oil

For the pork chops, first seasoned one side with salt and pepper, then fried that side for about 3 minutes before seasoning the other side and flipping. Plated and then stir-fried some sliced onions in the same pan before adding the sauce mix: soy sauce, sugar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, water, and alcohol (I used Chinese rice wine). It’s great when you put the sauce in and it sizzles and evaporates with much fanfare. Cooked onions until tender, scraping off the pork chop bits. Poured over chops.

I had some leftover chicken broth so I added some water and threw in a tomato, a corn on the cob, and some of the onion from the pork chop. Cooked until the tomato fell apart. Corn is in season now so it was sweet and tender. Great!


Tuesday Dinner

Chicken Breast with Lemon-Caper Sauce
Bok Choy Stir-Fried in Ginger Oil

We bought some capers a while back and thought to make lemon-caper chicken, and this week we finally had a chance to try it. This one is super easy to make. We like our breasts a little thinner (plus they’re easier to cook that way) so I first split the breasts down the middle. Season with a little salt and pepper, then pan-fry until done, about 3 minutes each side on medium heat. Plate, then make the sauce and pour over. I improvised the recipe from here. Once again, the final product went really good with rice. In Chinese cooking, it’s sort of blasphemy to put butter in rice, but from this dish I can understand why it’s normal or acceptable in Western cuisine.

Pan-Fried Chicken Breast with Lemon-Caper Sauce Bok Choy Stir-Fried in Ginger OilBok Choy Stir-Fried in Ginger Oil

The bok choy was cooked in exactly the same way as the choy sum from yesterday. In San Francisco we called this vegetable 上海白菜 (as opposed to regular bok choy, which has white stalks), and here in Hong Kong it’s called 小唐菜. Either way, it’s all the same plant, just at different stages of development. More here.


Wednesday Dinner

Beef Vegetable Soup
Bok Choy Stir-Fried in Ginger Oil
Pan-Fried Chicken Thigh with Montreal Seasoning

Wasn’t sure what to make today until I saw a cabbage at the grocery store and decided to make beef vegetable soup. We still had a corn left over from Monday, and we had tomato, onion, and potato, so I bought some barley, carrots and a piece of beef shin/shank in addition to the cabbage. Beef is less popular in Hong Kong which means prices are relatively higher, and beef shank is one of the cheaper cuts. Even so, it’s pretty good in soups and stews. For this one, I didn’t do any browning or sweating or anything else. Just cut everything up, put it in the pot, add water, salt, and pepper, and cook for 3 hours. Came out great.

Beef Vegetable Soup Chicken Thigh with Montreal Seasoning

The other two dishes were more like accompaniments to the soup, just some small plates to go with the rice (though the soup itself was pretty good with rice also). The bok choy was a reprise from last night, still had some left, and we had a piece of chicken thigh in the freezer so I used that up. Nothing fancy there, just season with McCormick Montreal seasoning and pan-fry, then cut up, and serve with some English mustard on the side.

Pretty good dinner today!


Dinner - May 16, 2014

Beef Vegetable Soup
Water Convolvulus with Chili and Fermented Bean Curd
Stewed Chicken Wings with Bittermelon and Potatoes

Finished up the rest of the vegetable soup today and added a couple of new dishes. I bought a big bag of chili peppers for $5 and used a couple to cook some 水通 also bought from the wet market. Finally bought some fermented bean curd to go with it. IMHO, a lot better than shrimp paste. There are two in the picture because I made one without chilis for JC.

The chicken wing dish was a miss. Stewing chicken wings has always been difficult for me. The end result is usually a bland dish, and this one was no different. Perhaps the secret to chicken wing stew is in the broth. Since I used plain water, it probably didn’t do anything. I used the entire bittermelon because the sparerib dish last week was so good and I found myself wanting more bittermelon, but in the case of the chicken wings, ugh, wasted a perfectly good bittermelon. Today is Monday and there’s still a bit pot of it in the fridge. I’ll have to finish what I created.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but we have only one stove. For this meal, I tried making the veggies ahead of time, then microwaving for about 30 seconds just before serving. Made for a less stressful experience trying to time everything, and the veggies didn’t seem to suffer any ill effects. I might do it more often in the future.


Corn on the Cob

Corn on the Cob

Didn’t have a full meal tonight, but I did boil up some corn to snack on. I learned from here that the water should not be salted when boiling corn. It did seem better, but I think I’ll cook the corn a little longer next time, maybe 7 minutes.

Another week goes by. Happy cooking!