Category: China

Snuff Bottle – Qing Dynasty

Snuff Bottle, V&A Museum, photo by JMorton

Snuff Bottle – Qing Dynasty

The above object caught my attention immediately, not only because it was exquisitely beautiful but I remember I have a similar one at home, which Peter got me as a gift a couple of years ago.

I thought it was a perfume bottle.  It was only during a visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum two days ago that I learnt it was a snuff bottle, which was used during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912).

Smoking a tobacco was prohibited during the Qing Dynasty, therefore nicotine loving Chinese and Mongolian people had resorted to sniffing powdered tobacco contained in snuff bottles.  Inhaling finely ground tobacco was allowed as consumption was deemed medicinal at that time.

The snuff bottles were constructed as tactile as possible as they are carried by hand replacing the snuff boxes favoured by Europeans.  There were really beautiful, work of art, snuff bottles as they were a symbol of your position, how high up you were in society.  Sharing a snuff during the 16th century China was a form of greetings.

Wonderful to learn new things.  I now know that my ‘perfume bottle’ is actually a snuff bottle.  Where is the tobacco?!!! 🙂

Salt & Pepper Squid Recipe

Salt & Pepper Squid by Rosie Reyes- Barrera

Salt & Pepper Squid Recipe

The texture of cooked squid can sometimes be rubbery but when it is battered and deep-fried they are crunchy and delicious.


  • 350g squid
  • 1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  •  vegetable oil for deep frying
  • 1 cup potato flour
  • 1 heaped teaspoon rock salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper, powdered
  • 1 long hot green peppers (chilli),cut diagonally
  • 1 long hot red chilli cut diagonally
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, minced
  • 1 stalk spring onion, chopped


  1. Prepare your squid by rinsing them thoroughly in cold water.
  2. Separate the bodies from the tentacles and cut into bite size pieces.  Score the bodies with a sharp knife but don’t go all the way through that you cut them separately.  Scoring can make them fry crisply.  Leave them in a colander or over kitchen towels to drain off.
  3. In a frying pan, toss in the black and Sichuan peppercorns and dry-fry until just heated.  Tip them in a mortar and pestle  with the rock salt and pound until they are coarsely powdered.
  4. Mix the powdered salty peppercorn with the potato flour.  Incorporate them thoroughly.
  5. In a large deep pot or a deep-fat fryer, add enough oil so that the level of oil reaches 4 inches up the side of the pot. Heat the oil until the temperature reaches 180ºC.
  6. Dip the squid into the beaten egg and then cover them with the seasoned flour.
  7. Drop the squid carefully into the hot oil and cook until golden and crispy.  You have to cook them in batches for safety reasons and to achieve that amazing crunch 🙂
  8. When every piece of the squid had been fried, set them aside.
  9. Meanwhile, heat up a wok over medium heat.  Add the sesame oil.  To it, fry the ginger, garlic and chilli.
  10. Add the squid to the wok and stir fry quickly in the aromatic mixture for about a minute or so.
  11. Finally transfer into a serving dish and garnish with the chopped spring onions and sprinkle with the white peppercorn.

Serve immediately with your favourite sauces and dips.


Pansit Chami Recipe

Pancit Chami, Photo by Carol Elep

Pansit Chami Recipe

Pansit Chami is a specialty of Lucena, the capital city of the Quezon province in the Philippines.  This recipe is much beloved that a festival had been created.  Each month of May, a pansit Chami  competition is held to look for anyone who can cook up the best tasting Chami.  This followed by eating contest. 🙂  Audience participation is also included as they get to sample the cooked pansit Chami from the competition, thus a fun festival enjoyed by all.

Chami is derived from two Chinese words, Chaocai (stir-fry) and mi (noodles).  Chami is made from flat noodles, Miki, which is a Shanghai-style noodles.

Below is the basic recipe provided by the Lucena Community Website.  You can make the recipe truly your own by improvising; adding more toppings of your own preference.

Pansit Chami Basic Recipe


2 cups cooked chicken meat, diced or flaked
1 – 2 cups shrimp, cooked and shelled
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced to strips
½ head roughly chopped cabbage
1 kg miki noodles or fresh-egg noodles
½ cup soy sauce
4 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 gloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground pepper
1 – 2 pcs of siling labuyo
2 cups chicken broth

1. In a large pan or wok, heat vegetable oil and sauté garlic and onion.

2. Put in the chicken meat, and cook until browned.

3. Add carrot strips.

4. Add in the noodles and continue cooking on high heat until the noodles are slightly cooked.

5. Add soy sauce and chicken broth.

6. Add brown sugar then season with ground pepper. Continue cooking with regular stirring.

7. Adjust seasonings to your taste, you can put in the siling labuyo.

8. When the noodles are almost done, add in cabbage and continue cooking for several minutes more, until the broth is reduced into a slightly thick sauce.

9. Garnish with cooked shrimps or quail eggs. Best served with calamansi.


Destined to Love You – Chinese Drama

Destined to Love You

Destined to Love You – Chinese Drama

This drama is very underrated.   Destined to Love You has the potential to be popular internationally, if not globally, if only all the episodes are given an English subtitles, allowing wider audience to enjoy it fully.

It has the charm comparable to those massively loved British Carry On films, sophisticated intelligence of the Monty Python and satirical comedy of Mel Brooks, The Producers.

The drama is a corroboration of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

I fell in love with Destined to Love You the moment I saw the first episode.  It was so engaging. I wanted to see more.

There were great chemistry between the love triangle played beautifully by Chen Qiao En (aka Joe chen), Jia Nia Liang and Bosco Wong.   The chemistry was such that you would be happy that anyone of the two leading men will get the girl (Joe Chen).

Apparently Jia Nia Liang really wanted to make the drama that he willingly had his pay cut.  He was so good on the drama.  You just fall in love with his antics which are sometimes excruciatingly funny. I have never laughed so much watching a tv program.

Below is a synopsis I cut and pasted.  I just could not put into words what the story is all about from my own point of me; there just too many ‘choice’ scenes that I would like to include and therefore would probably curtail your enjoyment if I give too much away.

Qian Bao Bao is on the run from creditors with her sick mother. She meets Xiao Han on the train, who offers her hope for curing her mother. But when an assassination attempt results in Xiao Han falling off the train, Bao Bao feels she has no choice but to take her place. Thus she assumes the role of a psychology instructor at a prestigious military school, and becomes entangled in a in a love triangle and some dangerous politics while trying to hide her true identity.

Please Chinese translator, kindly complete the rest of the subtitles for the dramas, please, please, please!

Dramacool needs translation from episode 22 – 41.  Please



Happy Chinese New Year 2017 – Fire Rooster Year

Fire Rooster, Photo by PH Morton

Happy Chinese New Year 2017 – Fire Rooster Year

Rooster, photo by PH Morton

Rooster, photo by PH Morton

To everyone, let us wish you a Happy Chinese New Year.

Kung Hei Fat Choi

2017 is the year of the Fire Rooster.

The fire rooster symbolises fidelity and punctuality.  I can understand the latter one as rooster will cock-o-doodle-do at the crack of dawn serving as an alarm clock to early risers especially farmers and field workers.

We used to keep roosters and chicken in our farm in Marag.  As peacocks, they are really stunning lookers compared to the hens.

Who are the roosters?

They are those born in 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2015, 2029 (Year of the Rooster comes every 12 years)

Have a piri-piri chicken. We hope this New Year is full of trips to KFC, Jollibee and McDo and have a lovely chickenjoy! 🙂 🙂 😉

Happy New Year!

She Was Pretty Vs Pretty Li Hui Zhen

Kim Hye Jin

She Was Pretty Vs Pretty Li Hui Zhen

Li Hui Zhen

It is quite usual to see dramas, especially the popular ones, totally remade and adapted as their own by other countries in Asia.  A good example is a Japanese manga called Itazura na Kiss, which got a Japanese live drama called Mischievous Kiss,  remade by Korean as Playful Kiss, the Thai version is called Kiss Me.  The best version, in my opinion is the Taiwanese version starring Joe Cheng and Ariel Lin called It Started with a Kiss.  The story is the same with just a few twist here and there.

Anyway, last year I watched a Korean drama called She was Pretty starring Hwang Jung Eum and Park Seo-joon.  I enjoyed the drama very much.  It was hilarious in parts and full of pathos the next.

The story is about childhood friendship, (who were each other’s first love).  The girl used to be very pretty with long hair and fair face while the boy was chubby who got bullied a lot in school.  The girl used to protect him.  They got separated when the boy immigrated to the US.

15 years later he came back to Korea/China and hopeful to meet up with his childhood friend.

The boy grew up into a handsome slim guy, while the girl grew up with bad hair and skin problem in a pretty face.

On the day of their meeting the guy failed to recognise the girl.  She was so ashamed that she sent her very pretty best friend to pretend as her.  And that would be it, tieing off loose end of old friendship with the boy!

As luck would have it, the heroine started a job as an intern in a fashion magazine.  The boss happened to be the guy she once knew.

To add more confusion and drama to the story, her best friend really fell for the guy and secretly continued to meet up with him instead of the one off thing the heroine asked her to do.

There was a second lead male that brought so much of the hilarity in the drama.  He was so lovely and actually fell for the heroine even before she had her makeover.

When I heard that it was being remade by China, I was excited and looked forward to seeing it.

I started to watch it at  I have to say that it is watchable but not as good as the KDrama version.  Li Hui Zhen was still pretty compared to Kim Hye Jin.  But for some reason, Li Hui Zhen comes out rather as someone with mental problem, low in IQ and with the most annoying and unnatural laugh!!! Ugh!

The Chinese version is longer, almost double the Korean, which comprised of 16 episodes.  For some reason I have finished watching 19 episodes of the Chinese one in 3 hours (so much fast-forwarding).  It also made me pine for the Korean version which I rewatched and throughly enjoyed again.

Chinese Crab Claw Recipe

Chinese Crab Claw Recipe

Chinese Crab Claw Recipe, iphone photo by JMorton

Chinese Crab Claw Recipe



  • 6-12 tail crab claw
  • 420g cod or haddock
  • 1 can water chestnuts (can be bought at any Oriental foodshop)
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp plain flour (all purpose flour)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • dill, chopped (optional)
  • oil for deep frying


Method of preparation


  • Drain the water chestnuts, washed and crushed
  • Clean and Rinse claw crab,
  • Chopped the cod or haddock and place in a bowl.  Add the cornstarch, salt and pepper (also add the finely chopped dill if using any).
  • Add the pulped water chestnuts, mix well.
  • Coat each of the crab claws with the fish mix, forming a ball around the claw.
  • Dip the claw balls on the flour and then into the beaten egg.
  • Heat enough oil in a frying pan, put crab claw and deep fry till golden brown, all over.
  • Drain using kitchen paper.
  • Serve with a sweet chilli sauce.


Ramon Ongpin

Ramon Ongpin, Photo by JMorton

Ramon Ongpin, Photo by JMorton

Ramon Ongpin

Ramon Ongpin, Photo by JMorton

Ramon Ongpin, Photo by JMorton

A street named Ongpin in Manila has always fascinated me. The area is where there is a concentration of Chinese immigrants in the Philippines.

With them they brought their culture and traditions as well as their food and superstitions.

Ongpin Street is where to buy real high carat gold jewelries. It is the Hatton Garden of the Philippines.

Many Chinese have immigrated to the Philippines long before the Spaniards had colonised the Philippines for 333 years.

The Spanish rule ceased when pockets of uprising by the Filipinos from all over the country finally took place.  One of the biggest and most famous militant organisation was the KKK (Kagalanggalan Kataastasan Katipunan ng mga anak ng Bayan, in English, Supreme and Venerable Society of the Children of the Nation), in short, Katipunan.

Apparently Ramon Ongpin, a prosperous Filipino Chinese businessman, bankrolled the Katipunan, making him a Filipino hero himself.

The plaque on the right side confirms this.  He loved his country, the Philippines, that he was such as philanthropist; very altruistic.  He was born in Binondo, Manila on 28 February 1847.

In 1883, he established a business which he called El ’82. It was the first shop to use fixed price in Colon Street way back in 1883. El ’82 (the ’82) shop was named after the year when cholera wiped out a great number of the Philippine population. As Feng Shui would have it, it was not about death but more of a rebirth of the country from the pernicious epidemic.

He was elected as the Lieutenant in charge of the white half-cast (mestizo/white children born of Spanish parents and Filipinos and Filipinos and Chinese).

When the Spaniards found out that he was helping the katipuneros (revolutionaries) by allowing the group to post their propaganda materials as well us funding their ammunitions, he was jailed in 1896.

He was truly a revolutionary at heart because he was jailed again by the Americans (the new colonisers who bought the Philippines from the Spanish overloads), when Ramon Ongpin continued helping the revolutionary groups.

Sacrista Street was renamed Ongpin Street as a way of honouring Ramon Ongpin for his patriotism and benevolence.

Another interesting fact about Ramon Ongpin is that he was the first one to wear the Barong Tagalog, national dress shirt of Filipino men (see above statue).  I have to admire his taste.  Barong Tagalog, the traditional creamy coloured ones, can make any man look presentable and yet I find that most Filipinos would rather wear a 2-piece suit with the ubiquitous ties, to social gatherings even during the hottest of weathers! Strange!

The Filipino Chinese Ongpin was more patriotic than the rest as far as wearing the ‘sariling atin’ constume. 🙁

Wonton Soup – Family Favourite

Won ton Soup Photo by Jean Morton

Won ton Soup
Photo by Jean Morton

Wonton Soup is a family favourite.  Our youngest member of the family can’t get enough of it.  He loves it. He wantonly craves wonton soup.  We always order it when we go out to Chinese restaurant whatever the weather.

Oh yes, Peter actually orders a soup of his own called Hot and Sour soup  which is like a combination of seafood, bamboo shoots, mushrooms vinegar, sugar syrup and chili, so strong it will clear your sinuses after having a good cough due to the spiciness of the soup. 😉

Anyway as I was saying Wonton soup is something that most people would want to eat.  Apparently wonton means literally as “swallowing a cloud”.  Self-explanatory really if you have seen and eaten a wonton soup.

And the recipe is as follows:


  • 18 – 24 won ton wrappers


  • 1/2 pound boneless lean pork, minced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • a few drops sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sherry
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 green onion, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 grinds of white pepper (a pinch)

For boiling:

  • Water for boiling won tons
  •  5 cups chicken stock (OXO chicken cubes or knorr cubes are ok if you do not have the chicken bones to boil)
  • green onion or spring onion, thinly sliced, as desired
  • a few drops sesame oil (optional)


Combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl, mixing well.
Lay one won ton skin in front of you.
Cover the remaining won ton skins with a damp towel to keep them from drying out.
Filling the won tons:
Moisten all the edges of the won ton wrapper with water.
Place a heaping teaspoon of won ton filling in the center.
Fold the won ton wrapper in half lengthwise, making sure the ends meet.
Press down firmly on the ends to seal.
Use thumbs to push down on the edges of the filling to centre it.
Keeping thumbs in place, fold over the won ton wrapper one more time.
Push the corners up and hold in place between your thumb and index finger.
Wet the corners with your fingers.
Bring the two ends together so that they overlap.
Press to seal.
The finished product should resemble a nurse’s cap.
Repeat with remaining won tons.Alternate method: Place the teaspoon of filling in the middle of the wrapper and twist to seal. The final result should resemble a money bag or drawstring purse.Boiling the won tons:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Add the won tons, making sure there is enough room for them to move about freely.
Let the won tons boil for 5 – 8 minutes, until they rise to the top and the filling is cooked through.
Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon.To make the soup: bring the chicken stock to a boil.
Add the won tons and bring the soup back to a boil.
Add the green onion, remove the pot from the heat and add the sesame oil, stirring. Ladle into soup bowls, allowing 6 won tons per person.
The origin of the recipe is Rhonda Parkinson from

Sweet & Sour Prawns Recipe

Peter & I went for a meal at the Local Friends, Chinese restaurant, located in front of the Golders Green tube station.

One of the dishes we had with sweet and sour prawns, which were deliciously plumped and meaty. The prawns tasted so good in the pineapple sweetness of the sauce.

Sweet & Sour Prawns, iphoto by JMorton

Sweet & Sour Prawns, iphoto by JMorton

Sweet & Sour Prawns Recipe


425g can pineapple chunks, drained, juice reserved
1 red pepper, cut into chunks
1 yellow pepper, cut into chunks
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1-2 fresh red chillies, sliced into thin rings
sea salt
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped finely
24 peeled and deveined raw king prawns
1½ – 2 tablespoons groundnut oil , or vegetable oil
150 ml pineapple juice (top up the juice from the pineapple chunks)
3 tablespoons rice or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
½ tablespoon cornflour


  1. Mix the vinegar with the soy sauce, sugar, cornflour mix and pineapple juice and 100ml water into a paste.
  2. Heat a wok or a large frying pan over a high heat, then add the oil, garlic, ginger and diced chilli. Stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add the peppers, pineapple and onion.
  3. Stir fry for 2 minutes and then add the sauce and cook for another couple of minutes more.
  4. Add the prawns, stirring for 2-3 minutes or until cooked.
  5. Serve immediately while it is hot with freshly boiled rice or fried noodles.