Char Siu, Char Siew, BBQ Pork….

img_9610Spell it however you like, call it what you want, char siu is char siu.

There’s a million ways of making it and a ton of different recipes out there, and probably lots of different ingredients too.

I came up with this recipe because I live in a place where there’s only 1 chinese restaurant/takeaway in town (!!!!!!!!!!!).

It’s simple and you can cook it in a pot, you don’t even have to bake it in the oven!

So without further ado, here’s my take on it.

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Hint: Recipe video at the end of the post

Marinade:

  • 180ml Rose wine (not Rosé wine)
  • 5 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
  • 5 tablespoons of sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • half teaspoon of white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of 5 spice powder
  • I used 1.123kg of pork scotch steak cuts (easy to get from the supermarket) but you could probably use up to 1.3kg of any (boneless) pork – the fattier the better, but probably not pork belly

Makes about 6-8 portions depending on how much you might care to have 😉

Other ingredients (optional):

  • Bok choy or mustard greens (kailan)
  • Rice
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This one’s a little burnt 😦 but you can see the syrupy sauce.

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl/pot, mix up all of the Marinade ingredients except for the pork.
  2. Put pork into the mixture, mix around, and marinade for about 30 minutes. 
    • [Optional step] Meanwhile you can prep your other ingredients:
    • wash and cut the vegetables to prep for blanching.
    • maybe chop up some spring onions to serve with.
    • or you could even boil up a vegetable soup (eg my childhood “ABC soup” of tomato, carrots, onions and potatoes in a chicken or pork stock) instead of having blanched vegetables. 
    • yeah I’m just making stuff up now to fill up the marinade time lol
  3. Once marinated for at least 30 minutes, cook the pork over low to medium heat for 15-20 minutes.
    Keep checking at least every 10 minutes, and turn the pieces over to make sure all sides are covered in the sauce.

    • While cooking the pork, start cooking the rice (according to packet instructions) so that you don’t have to wait too long to put everything together at the end.
  4. Once the pork is about cooked (after step 3), turn up the heat (between medium and high) and let it boil for 10 minutes, down to a syrupy glaze.
    Keep a close eye on it though. If there isn’t much liquid left after the first 20 minutes, you’ll need less cooking time here as you don’t want to dry up the sauce and the pork. And remember the sugar in the sauce, if you overcook it, it will burn VERY quickly!

    • Blanch the vegetables now:
      To a pot of hot water, add a teaspoon of salt when it comes to boil; put in the vegetables (stems first) for 10-15 seconds, remove and rinse under cold tap water.
      Put the vegetables back into the hot water for 10 seconds to warm up just before serving.
  5. Once done with step 4, remove the pork pieces from the pot, and let them rest for a few minutes or it will be too hot and soft to touch.
    Then, slice it up to serve on a bed of rice and blanched vegetables. Drizzle some of the sauce on the char siu.
  6. Serve with spring onion, or soup, or chilli sauce, or freshly cut chilli, or all of it. Or just have it on it’s delicious lonesome.

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ENJOY this receipe guys, and show me pics!!! Tag me @thenoodl and #thenoodl on Instagram 😉

Char’s Char Siu Recipe:

Salmon Don

This is one of my favourite dishes of all time. I mean, this is a dish where you can create using less than 5 ingredients (ignoring seasonings and optional extras), you can be enjoying your dinner within half an hour, is fresh and healthy, and only as complicated as you make it to be. 

My “Must-Have” Ingredients: 

  • Rice (and water to cook of course lol)
  • Salmon (or any fish you wish to eat raw)
  • Wasabi
  • Soy sauce 

Optional ingredients:

  • Salad
  • Sushi rice seasoning – I use normal white vinegar (the cheapest I can find), salt, sugar.
  • Spring onion (also known as green onion or scallions)
  • Avocado
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Seaweed

I’m really thankful that I live in NZ where fresh salmon is produced locally (less than 200km away!). Sometimes it’s as cheap as $20/kg, and you might only want about 200g, depending on how much sashimi you’re up for.

Salad-wise, we just get whatever prewashed salad is on special. Sometimes it’s rocket, sometimes arugula or baby spinach, sometimes just a mixed bag.

Avocados were shocking a few months ago, at $6 each?! Thank God we are coming to a bumper crop this season. I’ve got a few ripe ones stashed in the fridge ready to be smashed onto some toast this week, but I digress…

Here’s what I normally do to create this dish. You don’t have to follow the steps and measurements precisely, which is the beauty of this dish too.

  1. Cook rice according to package.
    I’ve been using medium grain Brown Rice, and find that it is close enough to sushi rice in terms of stickiness.
  2. In a small (non-netallic) bowl: pour in half cup vinegar, 2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Sir till salt and sugar melts. Set aside to season Rice with when it’s cooked.
  3. Slice spring onion finely. I season this with some of the above vinegar mix. Set aside to use when assembling the dish.
  4. Slice up the avocado. Also set aside for assembling the dish.
  5. Slice the Salmon, and mind the bones. I discard the skin too.
    Keep this chilled to prevent spoilage, but I wouldn’t eat raw fish ice cold. If it’s too cold you would not be able to taste whatever gorgeous fish you have bought! Let it rest outside of the fridge for a few minutes before serving. Alternatively when you put the fish on the warm rice it should bring it to the right temperature pretty quickly  🙂
  6. When the Rice is cooked, let it cool down for a few minutes (or just let it keep warm if other steps are taking too long), then transfer it into a large non-metallic bowl so that you can season the rice safely with the vinegar mix.
    TIP – taste as you go!!! I normally start with half of the seasoning mix. The vinegar ratio is really to your own liking because everyone has different preferences as to how their sushi rice should taste, so you might find that you need more vinegar/salt.
  7. The most exciting part, assembly/make it look good!
    Spoon seasoned Rice into a donburi-type bowl.
    Top with salmon, avocado, spring onion, toasted sesame seeds, bits of seaweed (sliced/torn/scissored, whatever works for you).
    Serve with a side of sashimi, and a saucer of soy sauce and wasabi. The plain green salad just goes on the side too, or in the bowl, again whatever works for you!

And there you go…stop by the supermarket for some fish as you’re heading home, half an hour of prep/cooking later you’ll be ready for a simple and satisfying dinner. 

Go crazy, try it out, and remember to show me your creation on Instagram, @thnoodl is where it’s at 😉

Charmaine xox

LDR musings.

K and I have been in an LDR for about a year and 3 months now – he’s based in the South Island and I’m in the North Island.

While there are no oceans between us, it’s still pretty far away. For us to travel to see each other, this involves a 2.5 hour drive to Christchurch and then a 1 hour flight. The alternative is to catch two flights via Wellington but this is approximately $300 one way. At times like these, I am slightly envious of the Air NZ perks that Char and PG enjoy.

We see each other in person once in every two months on average. If we’re lucky, we get a long weekend together – Friday evening to Monday afternoon. Most times, we have Friday evening to Sunday afternoon – 2 full days.

Having been in relationships not involving LDR and now being committed to a LDR, I’ve learned a couple of things along the way.

Great expectations

Before K asked me out, we’d spent a couple of hours talking through expectations:

  • What was important to us in a relationship and in a life partner
  • How we would deal with conflict
  • How often we would expect to communicate with each other
  • How often we would see each other in person
  • How long we’d expect to date for
  • What the end game was – did we see this relationship progressing with marriage in mind?

We knew that if we were to start something it was going to be a LDR so this was very important if we wanted things to work out. Looking back, setting expectations really helped us to set the tone of our relationship from the start and has minimised conflict.

Unsaid expectations are unfair – one party will be unaware of the expectation and the other will be unhappy or disappointed if the expectation is not met. If expressed, at least both parties can work towards a compromise or an agreed starting point.

Making it work

Life apart

In normal relationships, it can be very easy to become insular. In a LDR,  it’s easier to have a good balance in who you spend time with – you are able to spend more time with your friends and loved ones. You have to be independent.

You develop better communication skills. You talk a lot more with each other – on the phone, on skype, whatsapp etc. I’m so glad that we’ve moved past the days of talking on the phone and snail mail. Seeing each other (on Skype) is so much better. You can even have Skype dates – K and I watch movies together most weekends.

You make sacrifices that make the relationship stronger. When I was in Canada, K woke up at 3am in the morning to talk to me due to the time difference which disrupted his sleep cycle. Things like this make you realise how much the other person loves you #appreciated. You also have to trust that you’re being faithful to each other.

In spite of the good, there are downsides to being in a LDR.

Things that make you wish you weren’t in an LDR:

  • When you’re having an awesome experience or seeing something amazing but they’re not there to be in the moment.
  • When you’ve made something delicious and can’t share it with them.
  • When everyone else is hanging out with their significant other and yours isn’t there.
  • When they are  sick and you can’t care for them.
  • When you’ve had a bad day and all you want is a hug.

Times like that really make me miss K, but it also helps me to appreciate the time we have with each other, which brings me to my next point.

Life together

Counting down to when you get to see each other is exciting. When the day arrives you almost can’t believe you’re actually going to see them. You feel ridiculously happy seeing them in person. Welcome hugs are the best.

K and I are planners. Given the short span of time we have with each other, we plan ahead, building in time with family, friends and with each other into 2 days. This can be quite full on and we’re learning to scale back, taking more time to relax and rest. Each moment together is special. Being able to do things that normal couples do like go on dates is awesome.

There is however, a financial cost to seeing each other – we monitor Air NZ and Jetstar deals and book in advance to minimise on flight costs. We’ve also gotten Airpoints credit cards to help with the cost of travel.

Saying goodbye is always hard even though you know you’ll see them again. Goodbye hugs are the hardest.

For the good and the bad in an LDR, being with the right person makes it all worthwhile 🙂

Elena

Itchy Feet

So recently I’ve been thinking, or more accurately starting to obsess, about the thought of long term travelling.

Being an Asian, this is quite a huge step. Whoa I just spoke for a whole community of 2+ billion people! Hear me out.

My upbringing is that you study hard, listen to you parents, get a degree, land yourself a solid career, then get married and have babies. If you’re good, you afford your parents an early retirement. Technicalities aside, I personally believe that this is the core tradition/values of most Asians.

Let’s see, I’ve ticked 3 out of these (haha) –  0.5 points each for listen to your parents and career because I’m a bit of a rebel, and because I’m in a job that pays the bills and a little bit of lifestyle, but job satisfaction is slowly being sacrificed. Can’t say that I have a clear career path to be the next best CEO out there either :p

I suppose non-Asians will also find this a huge step, but I can’t speak on their behalf. No doubt there will be other concerns such as affordability, viability, long term planning, security, etc etc which are universal to any person who is living in the current global environment.

I’m turning 27 in 2 months, and just got married recently, so the irony of the timing of these thoughts are not lost on me. On the up side, if we do decide to go travelling, there are 2 of us on the same team! 2 brains figuring out logistics, company the whole way, and long term support and commitment will enhance the journey.

On the down side though, we do need to have more money to support such a lifestyle; and there will be TWO jobs to quit, not just one. 

The biggest bomb of these concerns though is WHAT ABOUT HAVING KIDS?? I mean, we both thought that we would settle down and eventually have kids in a few year’s time, like many  other blissfully just-weddeds. Funds can perhaps be raised along the way through various means, but our bodies are basically ticking away our fertilities. 

This just made me spiral me into a whole debate about why people even have kids to begin with? I’m trying to read up on this but it just does not answer the question beyond a biological and emotional yearning. Yes there’s also the theological “go forth and multiply”, but plenty of people are already doing that. If the intended outcome is to raise good children who will influence the world in a good way, why can’t we adopt? Also, just because someone else wants to have children and physically cannot (through infertility) doesn’t mean that I should sprout children if I can. And the argument about having someone look after you when you’re old…… I don’t even want to go there, but my take on it is that I do not want to be a burden on someone else whether they love taking care of you or not.

So yeah, my brain…….it hurts. TTFN.
Charmaine

One of those days

​You know that feeling you get when you are building a house of cards, and you’re halfway there – you are hoping that no wind ever comes along to blow this whole thing down? 

Or when you are playing Jenga, every block you remove gives you a fresh wave of relief, but you realise you have only done half the job and you still need to put that block on the top?

You know that tightness in your core, nothing to do with any exercise you could be doing, but just there as a result of trying to balance lots of things (metaphorically) without dropping them?

No reason, just thought I’d try and describe it so that you would feel it there, and know how I feel today. I’m okay, just work-related stresses that’s all. 🙂

Charmaine 

Travelling

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Runway at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport - one of our layovers on this trip.

It seems like such an exciting thing to do when you’re chained to your desk, day in day out, doing the same mundane tasks. But when the rubber meets the road, you start to question your own decision – “why on earth did I want this?!”

You know what I mean. When you’re away from home, your routines are out the window. The food and weather is different. Even the water and air tastes different from home.

You move around the cities/countries you are visiting in different modes of transportation, and the people around you (as in the locals) have different vibes from what you may be used to, and maybe walk too fast/slow compared to what you are used to.

You miss your bed because you’re sleeping on dorm room floors in sleeping bags, on slim mattresses over wooden flooring at your airbnb, or just on someone’s couch.

You lose track of time and time zones because of multiple layovers in different cities. Your feet hurt because you don’t usually walk from place to place at home, but you have walked almost all day for the last few days.

You’re constantly thinking of your budget and converting prices back to your home currency as a point of reference. You know, can’t spend money you don’t have. You are always on guard to make sure your own security is not at risk, and that your belongings are safe.

I guess this is what you call a culture shock and I could really go on and on. And I have only been on this trip for less than a week! (Side note – we will be heading home in 3 days, boohoo! 😂) However I just want to make some notes for myself for next time in case I need some travel tips or reminders of what I’ve learnt.

There will be a series of posts coming up!

At the moment I’m just feeling thankful that I am able to go places, and see foreign things. I feel bad for admitting this but I guess I do enjoy being part of the 1%, specifically in the area of travel. This brings us to the first point on my list…

1. You are already privileged when you are able to travel.

It costs a lot of money (and time and effort). First you need the cash to be able to pay for the trip. You also need to take time off work – which means different things for different staff/employer relationships.

Money. ABBA calls it funny and talks about meeting a rich man, but for the most of us we just keep working away. After getting paid, we pay our bills and save for important things. Maybe for a rainy day, a house deposit, or perhaps giving it away to various causes important to you. You just gotta prioritise what’s more important, to see if travel can fit in with your other more important expenses.

Flight costs can vary significantly, depending on your proximity to a well-served international airport. By extension, this also means if you live in a different city from the international airport, it probably means extra travelling time for you too! Learned this first hand after moving to a regional city, and it does make a difference when you are about to take a 14 hour flight (and possibly other connecting flights at the other end!).

Cheesy but true, we must appreciate and be grateful for these opportunities to travel.

I’m still on the road, so more posts are to come!! I can’t wait!

Charmaine.

If you really love.

*Editor’s note: I know this sounds all emotional, but I guess I’m also angry at myself for falling into the social media trap. Read the news to be updated, not social media.*
*Editor’s second note: This is an “IMO” kind of post*

Trending topic from the past few days: #prayforparis #prayfortheworld #terrorism #prayforbeirut

Now now, those aren’t strategically placed hashtags – those are just some of the few hashtags I’ve seen plastered on my FB wall. And yo, before you get all like “what, don’t you care?” I do care! In fact, I care about it so much, all I’ve been thinking day in and out are the events that have unfolded this year. But I’m sooooooooooooooo sick of it all. I’m so sick of how us as humans are so hypocritical, it’s not even like a religion thing. It’s literally a race thing. Let’s begin with the day the whole thing happened.

  1. PARIS = Headline News
    Goes to read about it. Getting grimmer as it went.
  2. FB exploded with #prayforparis
    All everyone is talking about is how their hearts go out to them, and why this and that, analysis, posts from different religion etc etc
    *NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT BEIRUT AT THIS POINT*
    *There was also an earthquake in Japan, and flooding in Indonesia*
    *Shootings in Kenya*
  3. Profile pics are changed to the colours of France
    Suddenly, the same people who were ONLY talking about Paris the day before are talking about how everyone has forgotten about all the other horrible things happening, more hashtags start appearing
  4. Call outs to hypocrites etc
    ^ This was me at point 2
  5. Profile pics changed back to normal
    FB removed the word “temporarily” from the “Try It” option
  6. Nek Minnit, Ronda Rousey

So, why I’m only deciding to say something now is because I think I have finally figured out why I am so angry. I’m angry at you, at that person still posting stuff , at myself; I’m frustrated at us.

Firstly, to the world (including me) – this is what gets me the most.
Are we serious? Are we actually serious? Blame ISIS, blame this guy, blame the government, why are they so evil blah blah blah. Okay, scroll back down your Facebook Newsfeed. Now that most of your friends have changed to their BlueWhiteRed profile pics – it’s so so so ironic when you read posts about people asking someone else who offended them to “just die” or “eff yourself you *insert insult*. Suddenly, few days down the road, we’re talking about peace and love.

Secondly, the hype train has long departed, you’re only just making it onto the last few carriages. And once you’re on, you don’t even remember why you’re on it. Hateful things are happening all around the world – people die on a daily basis because of cyber bullying, because their families are broken, because they were raped and they can’t stand to look at themselves anymore, people are hurting themselves, we see videos of people getting into fights, we see news on suicides and killings. How long will this “condolences” last for before we go back to our daily lives, before we continue trying to promote ourselves and climbing the “like” chart. Come on everyone, get with it. We’re all hypocrites here.

The root of the problem = humans. We are so so so so so so full of hate. How many times have I said, “man I hate this”. We hate so easily, we anger so easily, we get upset so easily. Our life is a roller coaster of feeling high and feeling low. The cause? We don’t know what true unconditional love is. We feel good reading about those “feel good” stories about love and sacrifice. But then it passes after we scroll down our FB feed.

Don’t get me wrong, we all DO feel sad about the news – but just make sure it’s not driven from social media and everyone. Don’t #prayforparis when social media tells us to, pray every single day for love. Pray that our world isn’t driven by hate. Pray for genuine concern for people. Pray for those inflicting terror onto others, that they may encounter an all encompassing love that changes their ways. Pray for forgiveness even when the world doesn’t agree.

We read about a God who loves us and died for us, yet we chose to ignore it. Then we ask where the love is. Love was there and love IS still there. Stop putting it aside and bringing it up whenever you feel like it. Fortunately for us, God’s love is present even if you choose to put it aside. He loves us so much, I KNOW He feels sad looking at us. But how can He show up when if He does, we’ll just say He ain’t real. How can He show up when He knows it won’t change anything. It happened once, it will happen again. So He waits patiently, until the time comes when we’re finally able to accept and cannot deny Him. So for now, yes, pray for a world of peace – but start with yourself.

As Macklemore sings:
Don’t try to change the world
Find something that you love
And do it every day
Do that for the rest of your life
And eventually, the world will change

Don’t try to understand hate, understand love.

Erika.