逼上梁山的料理 – desperate people’s recipes

During our life in America Sing could not complain about lack of his favorite food. With a huge Cantonese community in the San Francisco Bay Area we could have a clay pot, barbecue meat, we could even visit Hong Kong style cafes. As much as I love so called ‘Asian cuisine’ I missed my own food and don’t even make me start on the bread topic – when I went back home in September 2014 I literally ate dry loaf of bread, just because.

Now when we moved back to Europe it’s much harder to find a real Asian food (in our area). We live in an Irish city with rather small Asian image (9)community, there’s only one Japanese restaurant, very few Chinese ones and literally no Korean one. Pho? Forget that it existed. Of course if you go to Dublin you have much bigger chances to find something that suits you, but the capital is located around 2.5h away by car from our city so we only go there occasionally.

You can only imagine how Sing must feel around the potatoes and bread. Literally, some Asian places even offer you RICE WITH FRENCH FRIES WITH CURRY – that’s how westernized the food is.
On the top of that, the prices in the Chinese supermarkets are quite high – 11.50 Euro for a bag of dumplings? Sorry, I will work my butt off and make them on my own instead of paying so much, all I need is 3.50 Euro wonton skin.

With limited resources and inside cheapness (c’mon, 11.50 for half a kilogram of dumplings?!) I started to do simple dishes that are the most similar to the ones Momzilla used to make for my husband.
They are really easy to make and you don’t really need to look around the stores to find ingredients, now with oriental sections in big supermarkets like Tesco you should be able to find soy sauce and black rice vinegar.
It’s even better if you also can find sesame oil. As for soy sauce I used Amoy’s Gold Label Light soy sauce and for the vinegar – Chinkiang vinegar.

I’m not a cook, I’m not even good at cooking but Sing and his co-workers who sometimes come over compliment my recipes. That’s why I call them the recipes for the desperate people, because they have to be really desperate to like them. Hope you will like them and feel free to share your thoughts on them!

I won’t give you any specific amount of this spice or that spice because I think it’s a very individual thing, we like the taste to be a bit heavy so I think you should try to find your own ‘perfect point’.

Cucumber in vinegar
Half of a big cucumber
image (10)Few clovers of garlic
Pinch of salt
Sesame oil
Black rice vinegar

Slice cucumber horizontally and spoon the inside ‘meat’ of the cucumber so you only have a little cucumber boat left. Then slice what’s left for small pieces (shaped like a rainbow) and sprinkle them with salt. Leave it for 20 minutes, then squeeze the excessive water from the cucumber. Chop the garlic, mix it with the cucumber, add little bit of sesame oil to the taste and pour the vinegar (as seen on the picture). Voila!
I like to leave it in the fridge for 20 more minutes for heavier taste.

Fried napa cabbage
Half napa cabbage
Soy sauce
Few clovers of garlic
Eventually few slices of carrot

Chop half of the napa cabbage in 1-2cm slices. Make sure that all the water from washing the cabbage is gone. In meantime chop the garlic and slice the ginger. On a pan heat up the oil and once it’s hot add the garlic and ginger. When you can smell the garlic add the cabbage (and carrot, if you want). Keep the fire high, stir the ingredients. Now cover them for few minutes then stir again. The volume should be much smaller and the cabbage should be softer. At this point you add bit of soy sauce, depends how salty you want the food to be. Stir everything, cover it for few seconds and done!

image (11)Egg soup
1 litre of chicken broth, but Momzilla uses only water – the taste is less heavy
2 lightly beaten eggs
Salt, white pepper, sesame oil to taste
1 green onion, but I add 2 since Sing just loves it

Boil the water/chicken broth. Add the spices you want to use before you add the eggs and cook it for about a minute. After that very slowly pour the beaten eggs, stir the eggs in the clockwise direction for a minute. Don’t ask me why clockwise not the other way, only Momzilla knows the answer. Garnish with green onion.

Steamed eggplant with garlic
Few eggplants, preferable the Asian style one, much slimmer and longer than the western one
Lots of garlic
Soy sauce

Very simple, very tasty and very garlic-ish dish. Chop the eggplants in a cuboid shape (chop it into the half, then shop those halves in four). Steam the eggplant for 20 minutes or until it’s all soft. Now take the eggplant out and be sure you don’t burn your hands.
On a pan heat up the oil and add lots of your chopped garlic (my parent’s house smelled like garlic even after I left). When the garlic gets fragrant add soy sauce until the bubbles show up. Turn off the gas and pour the mixture of garlic and soy sauce on the eggplant. How simple is that?

image (8)Baked mushroom pork chop rice
Two boneless pork chops
Bisto gravy granules – I buy the orange package
White mushrooms
Bit of butter
Salt and pepper for the taste

That’s a recipe I can be proud of – I got complimented over it for few times and I’ve been told it’s the same taste like in Hong Kong. How more a Hong Kong man can be when he can get his beloved, missed food?
Cover your pork chops with salt and pepper, as you like. The heat up the pan with little bit of oil and fry it from the both sides.
In a small pot melt little bit of butter, add your sliced mushrooms and sliced onion. Let it simmer until the mushrooms are darker but still don’t look like they were about to be added to a pizza. I hope you know what I mean.
Next add water, make the whole thing boil and add the gravy. Stir it until you get a nice, mushroom sauce.
At the end add your ALREADY COOKED rice (I tried with dry and al dente rice, but the effects were awful) into a bakeware dish, put the pork chops on the top of the rice and cover it all with the amount of mushroom sauce you like, but it should at least cover everything with a small layer.
One you do all the things, let it bake for 15 minutes in 180C. De-li-cious!

Did you know any of those recipes before? Would you like to try them out? Let me know if you want more of the recipes and I would be happy to read your recipes!

57 thoughts on “逼上梁山的料理 – desperate people’s recipes

  1. What a caring wife you are! Sing must be really pleased with your efforts.

    Most Asian recipes are a bit complex for me, they usually have a lot of ingredients and stuff I don’t even know how to use. I am such a bad cook!

    At this point in our hosehold we just cook “healthy food” in simple ways, without really following any recipe. Sometimes our meals resemble more to Asian cuisine, other times to Italian food. I guess we have a really international kitchen!


    1. Maybe you can share some nice Italian recipes with me? Few years ago Sing went there but didn’t know anything about cuisine so all he ate all the time was pizza and pasta haha 🙂 I wish I could make something that will convince him to go back there 😀


  2. Living in Hong Kong left us craving an honest to goodness greasy hamburger. So I understand your cravings. As I have always baked my own bread, it wasn’t hard to keep bread in the house, but a lot of other things we just had to find a way to make ourselves or jigger a recipe to our tastes. Thanks for the recipes! Yummm.


  3. Ha ha, this is cute – and I can so relate, having lived in parts of the US where there’s practically nothing on the Asian food front! Those are great recipes! The cucumber one is a favorite of mine…I still like making that one in a pinch.

    Another “desperate recipe” I frequently make for my hubby is a Chinese version of scrambled eggs. I chop green onions/scallions and stir them into the raw egg, also add garlic and sometimes a hot pepper. I also put in salt to taste. Then I fry up the eggs. My husband always says it reminds him of what his mom used to make (though I’m sure he’s just flattering me so I won’t stop cooking!). 😉


    1. oh I make it the same way as you do! I just keep it pancake style instead 😀 it’s suuuuper delicious 🙂
      I bet you are a great cook, especially when your husband tells you that it tastes like his mom’s!


  4. I actually haven’t heard of any of these recipes! But they sound very unique and delicious and no surprise Sing’s friends like coming over 😀 I’m not much of a cook myself…all I can do is boil some plain rice and noodles and en egg. So you should be very proud! 🙂


  5. My husband is like you for bread after a childhood in Germany. He’s always grumbling about crust, and then when he finds a good loaf he hoards it to himself because he thinks I don’t appreciate it enough.


    1. I high-five with your husband, I don’t even offer Sing any of ‘my bread’ because he cannot appreciate it, crust is too hard, inside too soft, bread has different taste… I like Asian bread and buns but they will never win in my heart over hard-outside soft-inside freshly baked loaf of bread 🙂


  6. Ah, now you know how my mother felt when she first immigrated to Canada in the 1950’s. Real shock (like my father who came 7 yrs.earlier) food-wise because they lived in a Canadian town of only 2,000 people. The other Chinese people was my great uncle and his large family of 7 children, who sponsored my father to immigrate to Canada.

    So over the years, my mother had to invent /simulate Chinese food dishes. We would take 1-2 annual car trips to Toronto 100 km. away to buy Chinese groceries and veggies.

    Here are coping secrets from a Canadian-born Chinese who has never lived in Asia:

    *A variation of your chicken egg flower soup would be: add some cream of corn/corn niblets and sliced tomatoes. Adds nice depth, especially on cold/winter days or when one has a cold/is sick.

    *Stir fried butternut squash. More like my mother’s invention but it’s fast and easy. https://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/butternut-squash-chic-carrying-on-stir-fried-memories/

    *Stir fried beet greens. My invention: https://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/stir-fried-laziness-beet-greens-in-chili-garlic-soy-bean-sauce-with-tomatoes-ginger-and-noodles/

    Steamed fish fillet with ginger slices, onion with just a bit of soy sauce, oil.

    Steamed savoury egg custard with small meat slices,etc.

    I cook like this for over 60% of my meals..Chinese/Asian/fusion dishes. And I attribute my good health to this base diet. Unlike other some other commenters in this thread, I actually find Chinese cooking simple to me. I take shortcuts..I don’t do veggie blanching for some stir fries, etc.


    1. Stir fried beet greens look amazing! I can only imagine how shocking it had to be for your family, especially seeing those weird fries with sauces etc.
      We have a friend who drove for 6 hours one way to eat a bowl of congee, now that’s a dedication.
      Do you make congee? I tried making it but it’s always too much rice and too little water in the end.


      1. No, congee is not my favourite dish. I just like eating the rice crusts at the bottom of the pot. 🙂 I don’t know how to make it properly. But I recall my mother did use a chicken stock to add more flavour.

        What was weird for my parents initially was the smell of cheese, butter and yogurt. My mother said it made her want to barf because to her, it was a sour smell. Yogurt as you might know is eaten in northern China among the minority groups. My parents came from southern China in Toishan district.

        But later, they liked milder cheeses, flavoured yogurt and we used a bit of butter on toast.

        Most big (over 1 million people) to medium sized Canadian cities now sell at least bok choy, ginger root, Chinese cabbage. It’s the bigger cities that offer the full range of Chinese fresh veggies and goods for cooking.

        Do try the beet greens dish. It’s not hard to make up. 🙂 Doesn’t take long. I initially had no idea that beet greens could be cooked. And by the way, I never ate any red beets until into my mid-20’s. My mother didn’t want to deal with red beets.


  7. My mom was Irish and felt no meal was complete without potatoes. She would make pasta and potatoes. She also made rice and potatoes. She mellowed somewhat in later life.


  8. Thanks for liking my post, your blog is so intriguing. I wish I could read everything overnight and catch up! Lol.
    “That’s why I call them the recipes for the desperate people, because they have to be really desperate to like them.” I’m sure that’s not true. Your dish sounds delish!


  9. Impressive, even although you humbly consider the recipes to be desperate people’s ones.

    One thing, though. I suppose what you mean “the inside ‘meat’ of the cucumber” is actually the seeds.

    Keep enjoying making more mouth-watering and tasty Chinese dishes.


  10. Impressive, even though you consider the recipes to be desperate people’s ones.

    One thing, though. I suppose what you mean “the inside ‘meat’ of the cucumber” is actually the seeds.

    Keep enjoying making more mouth-watering and tasty Asian, Chinese in particular (hee hee), dishes.


  11. I have cook and do some of the above dishes in here, try my best to cook similar as the Chinese dishes from Hong Kong or Singapore except similar favour with different ingredients.


  12. I’m living in Boston, but was born in SoCal (HUGE Chinese population), so I empathize with both of you _. I miss Chinese food from home all the time.


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