Smell My Olive Pits

A blog dedicated to my love affair with all things food

Cantonese wontons May 24, 2009

Filed under: Chinese — smop @ 2:20 pm

Mum is the wonton / dumpling lover in the family.  She loves making them just as much as she loves eating them.  Often, she’ll make a large batch that goes in the freezer and will be eaten gradually over the next week or two. When I used to live at home, and whenever I go back home, Mum recruits me into helping her wrap them, and between the two of us, we’d end up with a hundred or so wontons made in less than half an hour.  She went through a phase of testing out using varying ratios of pork and prawn, using chives, adding shitake mushrooms, using wombok or diced bokchoy, adding ginger ‘juice’, using minced ginger, and adding other Chinese things that I have no proper English translation for.  The final verdict is that she believes that the ginger juice is the crucial thing in making dumplings taste good, and I don’t disagree — Mum’s wontons are delicious.  Mum tends to buy pork meat and mince it up in her 24 year old food processor.  I don’t have that luxury, nor the elbow grease to mince up pork with one knife.



Cantonese wontons

As I am guided by instinct than measurements with cooking this, the following amounts are rough (but close) estimates.  The best thing to do is that once everything has been mixed, to wrap one and cook it to check that the seasonings is to your taste.

  • 300g pork mince
  • 200g prawns (after shelling)
  • 2cm knob of ginger, minced (or squeeze the juice out of the minced ginger and use that instead)
  • 1.5 tsp of chicken stock powder
  • 2 tsp of soy sauce
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp of sesame oil
  • 1 egg white
  • 50-60 wonton wrappers


Prepping the mixture

  1. Place pork in a large bowl (preferably not metal).
  2. Wash prawns, devein prawns, and cut into small (~0.5cm) pieces.  Allow to drain, and pat dry.  Add to pork mince.
  3. Add minced ginger or ‘ginger juice’ to the pork and prawn mixture.
  4. Add chicken stock powder, soy sauce, sesame oil and egg white.  Mix everything well.  I find that chopsticks are the best tool for this, but anything would do.  As you keep mixing, you’ll find that the mixture starts to come together and becomes a bit more sticky, and that’s when I judge it as being ‘well-combined’.
  5. Gladwrap mixture and let the flavours develop for at least 30 minutes (if more, I would pop the mixture in the fridge).

Wrapping the wontons

  1. Flour a large plate that will be big enough to fit into a freezer (just in case you’re not cooking them immediately).
  2. Take 1 wonton wrapper and place a heaped 1/2 teaspoon in the middle.  (Make sure there isn’t too much filling otherwise it’ll burst or spill out when you bring the corners together.)  With one hand, bring all the corners together.  To ‘close’ the wonton, use your other hand and give the wonton a good squeeze just where the ball of filling ends – trying to get as close to the filling as possible but not squeezing any filling out.  If you give it a good enough pinch, the wonton will stick together because (as my mum tells me) of the egg white and the moisture in the mix.  However, if you do find that the wontons are coming apart, dab the wonton skin just outside of where you place the filling with some water before squeezing it shut.
  3. Repeat until all the filling or wrappers are used up, and place on the floured plate making sure that they’re not touching each other.  (I usually wrap one and cook it so I can taste it and adjust the seasonings before I wrap another 5o of them.)

With practice, you will be able to get it so that there is just the right amount for the number of wrappers.  (I prefer to err on the side of having too much filling as unused filling can be made into meatballs or stir-fried with veggies).

Cooking the wontons

If you are not cooking them immediately, place them in the freezer and let them to harden up (30-45 minutes) before putting storing them properly in the freezer.

My favourite broth to cook this to add some chicken powder, a knob of ginger, a good dash of mirin and a smidget of chilli oil to boiling water.

When the water returns to the boil, add the dumplings.  Stir them around occasionally to make sure they don’t stick to the sides and bottom of the pot.  Regardless of whether they are used fresh or frozen, they dumplings are cooked when the dumplings are floating on top, though I usually give them an extra minute or two after they have floated to the top.

They can be eaten by themselves or served with noodles, and garnished with some spring onions.



Yellow split pea ‘pudding’ (馬豆糕) April 19, 2009

Filed under: Chinese,Dessert — smop @ 8:47 am

Something inspired me while I was in HK to venture into making Chinese desserts.  Perhaps it was knowing that I wouldn’t have an oven for a good chunk of the year in the new place, or that it was simply because the recipes seemed simple, homely and tasty.  One of the things that used to make me less inclined to make tasty Asian things was partly because of the effort needed to actually get the things that were specified in the recipe as it would take a couple of visits to different Asian grocers to find the thing I want, and even if they did, the quality would be questionnable (I once saw packets of red beans with mould on them and they were still on the shelves!).

Anyway, with this new found inspiration, and a trusty Asian grocer, I gave another hand at making a popular Hong Kong dessert.  I came across this wandering the streets in HK and in their display cabinet, there were a variety of ‘slices’ for what equated to A$0.60 for 1.   They looked too good not to try, and afterwards, I was hooked on all things with that agar-agar / firm gelatinous texture.  This was the easiest to make, out of of all the ones I want to try, and I love it — it isn’t too sweet, I get a lot from not very much, and it lasts quite well in the fridge for over a week.


Yellow split pea ‘pudding’ (馬豆糕)


  • 1/2 cup yellow split peas
  • 1 cup cornflour
  • 3/4-1 cup caster sugar (personal preference)
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 4 cups water


  1. Rinse the yellow split peas until the water runs clear.  Place them in a pot of cold water and bring to the boil.  Make sure you watch it at this stage as it can boil over really quickly!  Lower the heat so that its inbetween simmering and boiling and wont’ boil over.  Cook for 15-20 minutes.  Pop on the lid, remove from heat and let it stand for 10 minutes.   Drain and set aside.
  2. Mix the cornstarch with 1 cup of water — it feels like it’ll never dissolve at the start, but keep going and it’ll dissolve.  Set aside.
  3. Put the remaining 3 cups of the water into a saucepan and add the sugar.  Bring to the boil.   Add the coconut milk and evaporated milk.  Bring to the boil again.  Add the cornflour mixture and stir vigourously.  The mixture will thicken up considerably at this stage, so it’s important to keep stirring.  Do so for about 2 minutes.
  4. Remove pot from heat and add the drained yellow split peas.  Stir for another minute.
  5. Pour the mixture into a dish or moulds, and place into the fridge for 4-5 hours until set.

Makes a 9 inch quiche dish but fit it into whatever mould you have.


Sago sweet soup April 12, 2009

Filed under: Chinese,Dessert — smop @ 1:58 pm

Dear Smop,

It’s been a long time.  I’m sorry that we haven’t had a chance to see each other lately.  I’ve been away, I’ve been busy, I haven’t cooked properly for quite some time. I know that’s not a very good excuse.  I admit that I was trying to avoid you because you are sometimes a bit high maintenance – you know how to get my attention, and when you have it, you seize it, hold on to it, and don’t let go of it until you feel completed.  But nonetheless, I like you a lot.  And I’ve missed you.  I miss greeting you every morning, checking on you, seeing whether anyone else has showered some love onto you, and making sure that you haven’t been disturbed by unwanted visitors.

I hope you understand.

So my peace offering to you is something sweet.

This is one of the first desserts I learnt.  Its simple, quick and delicious hot or cold.  You can add sweet potato, mango, mung beans, taro or anything you want really

Please accept, and please forgive me.  I promise that I will try to visit you more often now, and load you with more goodies.

Yours always,



Sago tong shui


  • 100g sago
  • 150-175g rock sugar (personal preference)
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk


  1. Soak sago in boiling water for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally
  2. Drain the sago, then boil until it’s almost cooked, stirring occasionally.  While cooking, the sago will go from white to clear.  Take it off the heat when there’s only a small white dot in the sago, and drain while rinsing it under tap water – this will complete the cooking process and make the sago completely clear.   Set sago aside.
  3. Dissolve rock sugar in water, add the sago and stir until it boils.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in evaporated milk and coconut milk.  Serve hot or cold.

I sometimes add mung beans or yellow split peas to give it a bit more of a bite.  To do this, cook the beans or peas for about 15-20 minutes while the sago is soaking and then add it in Step (3).


Spring onion pancake February 4, 2009

Filed under: Chinese,Savoury — smop @ 4:04 pm

I must’ve mentioned before how one of my ‘things to do in life’ is to learn how to make dimsims.  Of all the things that I would really love to learn how to make are har-gau, char siu bau, chiu-chow fun gwo (as my Mum loves them), ma lai go and those sesame balls filled with red bean past.  I’ve yet to attempt them, partly because they’re all labour intensive or require equipment that I don’t have.  The things that I have tried are egg tarts, the various types of pastries, other types of buns and now, the spring onion (or scallion) pancake.  I came across a recipe for the spring onion pancake a while ago, bookmarked it and forgot about it.  It only came back to me when I was clearing out my fridge and saw half a bunch of spring onions looking like it needed to be used.  It’s a simple recipe — the only downside is that it isn’t fast food.


Spring onion pancake
The recipe can be increased, decreased.  I halved the original recipe and ended up with one pansized pancake, and I ate it all, and enjoyed it.


  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1/4 cup of warm water + more (if necessary)
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • Salt
  • Sesame oil


Make your dough by adding the warm water to the flour and incorporating well.  You want the dough to be come off the sides easily but be barely sticky but not rock hard, so add more water as you see need be.  Cover with a damp tea towel and let sit for 30 minutes so the dough can relax.

After resting, roll your dough out to about 5mm thin. If you’re doubling the recipe, divide the dough into two pieces first before rolling out.

Brush with sesame oil and sprinkle lots of salt over it.  Add the spring onions (up to you!).  Pick up one end of the round and begin rolling it into a tight little cigar.

to be rolled

Pinch the ends, then twist the dough into a snail.  Let it rest for about 10 minutes.  Then roll it out to the thickness you want (I’d say 5-10 mm thin).

rolled again

Heat a non-stick pan and add oil — enough to just slightly coat the entire pan.  Enough oil makes it crispy, and really, if you don’t make it crispy, what’s the point of this then?


Slice and eat while warm.


And just a photo to show the layers.


It’s a wonderful snacking food.  I ate it all while watching the Saturday Night Live vids of Tina Fey as Sarah Palin.  Hee-larious!  And it was an afternoon well spent.