Category Archives: Cooking

Kitchen conversions.

The truth is I’m not very good at math. That’s why I went into writing. And here in HK, most things are still sold in UK measurements. So a stick of butter here is about 7/8ths of a cup… I’m constantly getting out my little scale to measure things. But then there is the issue of converting grams into tablespoons and that’s where the wonderful app Kitchen Pro comes in. I highly recommend it. It’s great even if you’re Stateside and are unsure of how many pints are in a quart (2 by the way).

But if you’re looking for a more decorative solution to measurement conversions, check out these amazing kitchen conversion towels and posters from Etsy shop Sweet Fine Day. I found them by way of Lost in Cheeseland‘s by way of Lola’s Cookies post.

I am thinking of ordering the poster for the back of my kitchen door and I think the tea towels would be an awesome shower gift.
By the way, if you’re like me and are constantly looking up conversions while simultaneously Googling things like “do I really need to peel peaches for cobbler,” and are lucky enough to have an iPad, the Elago P2 Stand is terrific. It has nice, clean and simple lines and holds it at just the perfect angle for my sticky fingers to tap away on it. Mine was a sweet gift from the Mr. and it is now a very favorite kitchen gadget!

Time for Corned Beef!

St. Patrick’s Day may still be three weeks away, but if you want to have homemade corned beef… now is the time to get it going!

I wanted to do the full, traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage, but was worried about where I would be able to find corned beef here–and then if I did find it I was sure it would be a fortune. So, I decided to make my own. Which is quite easy… all you need is to make a quick brine by boiling water and adding salt, sugar, and some herbs to it. Then you add the beef brisket to a pot that contains it well (I sliced my meat in half and put it in my crock pot) and then covered it in brine. Place in the fridge and flip the meat over every day or two. The hardest part about it is sacrificing fridge space. Two weeks later you’ll have corned beef!

In theory or if you live in the States, this should be a major money saver as brisket is an inexpensive cut, but we bought this at Grate where it wasn’t cheap, but it will feed a lot of people! I will report back on how our turned out. I used a combination between this recipe and Martha’s, depending on what herbs I had on hand.

Anthroplogie kitchen accessories.

Anthropologie has the cutest kitchen accessories! And they ship to Hong Kong.

I know, I know Easter is still two months away… but why not plan ahead?
The petite grapefruit sugar bowl on the left really reminds me of the Lladro parrots I posted about awhile ago.
My measuring cup/spoon obsession continues. What lovely little shower or hostess gifts all of these items would make!

Everything but the kitchen sink, part three.

  • Cake Cutter-and-Server-in-One. I do always find it a bit clumsy when you are about to cut a beautiful cake and you have to get out a big knife and a server, which is where the Magisso Cake Serve–it’s both in one. Check out the video here. I’ve ordered one to test it for myself and will report back. I am wondering if moist cakes will want to stick to this little device–and then how do you wipe down the inside? Design Story–a new design centric–flash sale site is selling them for $15 through the 23rd.

  • Egg Waffles. Speaking of extraneous kitchen gadgetry, Hong Kong is so hot that even Williams & Sonoma is trying to ride the wave with their Egg Waffle Pan. Check out this article if your HK kitchen won’t bear another kitchen device and you’re looking for a good place to get ’em on the street.

  • Mapkins. I love maps. I love napkins. How perfect are these?! Now I wish there was one for Hong Kong! They would be awesome for a going away party. Found on the always lovely Subtle Revelry. (By the way, Victoria is started a new mag soon!)

  • Oysters away. Not sure how this is possible, but a major oysterapocalypse is under way and most of the remaining reefs are in the US. Eater has a map of the best places to get your shuck on in the States. Found on ten thousand places. I can personally vouch for all three SF locales (Swan’s Oyster Bay Depot was right next to the Mr.’s apt and their raw seafood bowl is the best way to start the day… here we are visiting with his sis Deirdre last spring. If you are ever in SF you have to go!)

  • Christian Dior for girls. Every designer is smartly going after the little-ones market and Christian Dior is no exception. You know they’ve nailed kids when you want them to make the clothes in your size. I couldn’t agree more with Full House, where I found this, that Target needs to copy this, stat! Images are from and clothes are available through Children’s Salon.

  • Google Art Project. Where won’t Google go? They’ve now gone to art museums all over the world and made them available to everyone, which is really pretty cool. You can actually walk through a museum, stand in front of a painting, and then zoom into areas of interest. I am hankering to go to Russia, so I just took a jaunt through the Hermitage… Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son is pretty awesome. And try zooming in on all of the little critters on this peacock clock. And, yes, this confirms that I do need to go to Russia… I think previewing museums through this new tool ahead of time is a great way to plan your attack.

(Image: Telegraph)

Champagne risotto for two.

What to do with that leftover champagne from your romantic dinner last night with your honey? I’ve always wondered what to use it for and of course my idol Nigella Lawson has the answer. (I love that I have the British version of her cookbook because everything here is sold in grams and milliliters, but I’ve translated amounts for you below.)

Champagne Risotto for Two

  • 1 small stick of celery
  • 2 leeks
  • 75 g unsalted butter (5 Tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 375ml champagne (half bottle)
  • 750ml chicken or veggie stock (3 cups and change)
  • 250g carnaroli or arborio rice (1 and 1/8 cup)
  • 10g Parmesan, grated (1 Tablespoon)
  • ground white pepper

Chop the celery and white parts of the leek finely. Melt 50g of butter with oil in a wide saucepan and cook until gently softened In another saucepan, pour 250ml of the champagne and all of the vegetable stock, and keep on a very low simmer net to your risotto.

When the veggies are soft, tip in the rice and turn in the oil until slicked and glossy. Turn up the heat, pour in the remaining 125ml of champagne, and stirring all the time, let it be bubblingly absorbed. Turn down the heat slightly, but not too low, and keep adding ladles of champagney stock, letting one ladlefull being absorbed before the next, stirring all the while. Once the rice is cooked — 18 to 20 minutes should do it — stop, even if you have some stock leftover. Equally, if the rice has absorbed all the stock and yet needs more further cooking — both happen — add a little more, boiling water will do. Off the heat, stir in the remaining butter and Parmesan. Season with a good grinding of white pepper if possible to keep it looking pure and unspeckled.

So amazing right?! Now you don’t have to feel bad opening a whole bottle of champagne just to have a glass or two!!

Cooking tips from the Real Housewives of HK.

Last week I shared some pictures and recipes from my day “cooking” with the real housewives of Hong Kong… I thought you might also enjoy two easy, take-away tips from our chats at break time.
(image from

1. You need to differentiate your types of oils. I suppose I have always known this just never done it, but you really need to have oil you cook with and oil you don’t. The head chef confirmed this; there is ZERO point in spending any money on olive oil, for example, that you saute with. It only makes sense to use the really special stuff in salad dressings or when you drizzle it over, say, already baked fish. The ladies said they often use less expensive oils than olive oil for cooking with, like peanut and palm oil. (But then again, they don’t actually cook… so maybe they are talking about what their helpers use.)

After taking the class I bought a big, inexpensive jug of grapeseed oil to saute with — it has a higher flash point than olive oil, a milder flavor profile, and yet still has lots of antioxidants. Up until this realization, I have to admit that I would just have one bottle of olive oil next to the stove… usually it would be an upper-middle of the road bottle and I would use it for everything, hoping that good ingredients would equal better food, but I realize now that I was just a victim of good marketing!

2. Try a diamond fry pan. I was not completely surprised when these bling-adorned ladies told me I needed to get a frying pan made out of real diamonds… but I was interested to learn after some googling that there might be something to it. You’ve probably heard about all of the health concerns related to nonstick pans… not only does the film eventually peel off, but when the Teflon nonstick covering is over-heated,  it releases a toxic gas. DuPont, the manufacturer of Teflon, says this doesn’t happen below 680 degrees… but scientists have found that a pan on high can reach 700 degrees in 3 minutes. So, word to the wise: if you do have nonstick pans keep them on medium!

Back to the bling: So it turns out that a synthetic diamond coating actually is a great alternative to non-stick coating. From the reviews I’ve read, the diamond non stick pans hold up a lot better than those by Calphalon and All Clad and they do a better job with browning, something many nonstick pans are horrible at.
The main manufacturer of these pans is called Swiss Diamond. There has been some debate about whether the diamond pans also contain Teflon or PFOA (the non-branded form of Teflon). From Swiss Diamond‘s site:

Do Swiss Diamond products contain PFOA?
NO! The inherent slippery, non-stick properties of Diamonds Crystals when amalgamated into a nano-composite (mixture of extremely thin particles), means we use a minor amount of PTFE in our products, much lesser than any other non-stick products. The reasons are that the amalgams of real Diamond Crystals require such high temperatures that any particle of PFOA which is contained in the PTFE will be totally burned out so that NO PFOA can be traced on Swiss Diamond products.”

So the debate rages on, but it does seem to me like a somewhat safer nonstick alternative. And it is much, much lighter than castiron — which I (and others, too) think is the best all around cooking pan. With a light slick of oil, Le Creuset can act nonstick all day long.  But you have to have a pan for eggs and when when my current nonstick gives out, I may give the diamonds a try for myself. In the meantime, if anyone has tried the diamond pans, what do you think??

Cooking class at the Peninsula.

The real housewives of HK attend the Peninsula Hotel‘s cooking classes every few months. The hotel is over on the Kowloon side and it’s arguably the most iconic establishment in Hong Kong… The class begins with an elaborate breakfast spread in the bowels of the industrial kitchen mega-complex that keeps this five-star hotel humming. The ladies let me know that the traditional Chinese coconut roll (below, left) is shaped that way to look like a chicken’s tail.
I heard about the class from my native Hong Konger friend Elaine (above, right) and also the Mr.’s work colleauge Shanley who flies in from Shanghai every time the four-day classes are offered. They’ve both been attending regularly for years like most of the participants.

From my random surveying of the housewives, I think Shanley is the only person who takes the classes that actually cooks! He was also quick to point out that if we were to simply steal the handbags alone in the room that we could both retire like kings. I can’t even begin to tell you how much these ladies adore Shanley… and he certainly hams up being the only male in the class!
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