From Malaysia to Melbourne and now Michigan, sharing my experiences, tales and passions with anyone who will listen (or read)!

Month: September, 2014

Chinese Crisp-Roasted Pork a.k.a. Siu Yuk / Siew Yoke

It’s strange being in a new country sometimes. You assumed you would be able to buy some things, or what you get would be the same as what you’re used to, then realise you can’t buy them, or they’re not the same.

Case in point: pork belly. I have looked in many supermarkets for a cut of pork belly for roasting, and making crackling, like those that are easily found in Australian supermarkets and markets, to no avail. My husband and I found pork belly in an Asian supermarket, but it was the cut used for Chinese roast pork: a thin strip of meat under a layer of skin and fat. Ah, the infamous 3 layers.

The desire to make roast pork (or more importantly, crackling), coupled with a craving for good Chinese food, resulted in a sense of adventure never before seen in this home cook. In Melbourne, I was too spoilt by the availability of good, affordable Chinese and Malaysian food, and never had the need to learn how to make a lot of the food I ate during my childhood in Malaysia. But after 4 months in Detroit, I was getting…dare I say it???? Desperate.

So we invited a couple of friends (lonely hearts whose respective spouses were away) over for dinner on Sunday night. I took a deep breath on Sunday morning, and dived into this recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s seminal cookbook, the cook’s companion.

After posting a photo of the end result on Facebook and receiving compliments and requests for the recipe, I’ve decided to share it, so here it is, word for word. After all, great food is meant to be shared, right?! Stephanie Alexander’s advice: “Choose a piece of belly pork with a good quantity of fat for this dish.” Yum.


Chinese Crisp-Roasted Pork

1 x 1kg piece fresh belly pork, boned and not skinned

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 Tbsp light soy sauce

3 tsp salt

1/2 tsp five-spice powder

Ask your butcher to score pork skin at 1cm intervals, or do it yourself using a very sharp knife and cutting right through skin. Blanch meat in a large saucepan of boiling water for 2 minutes, then lift out, rinse under cold water and dry well with kitchen paper.

Combine garlic and soy sauce and rub all over meat side of pork.

Combine salt and five spice powder and rub all over skin.

Refrigerate uncovered, skin-side up, for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 230 degrees Celsius (approx 450 degrees Fahrenheit), and line a baking dish with foil. Position a rack in baking dish and settle pork on rack, skin-side up. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees Celsius (approx 400 degrees Fahrenheit) and bake for 40 minutes or until skin crackles and crisps*.

Cool a little before cutting into thick fingers**. Serve hot with steamed rice and Asian greens, or warm or at room temperature as an entrΓ©e*** with a dish of hoisin sauce for dipping, or use in a stir-fry.


* At the end of 40 minutes the skin was far from crackling, so one of our dinner guests and a great cook herself (whose name is also Stephanie!) provided some advice. I turned the temperature back up to 250 degrees Celsius, with a tray of water in the bottom of the oven to prevent the meat from drying out. After 10 minutes of this, we then turned on the grill (broil) function for 2 minutes to finish off the crackling.

** A quick search of the internet revealed many different recipes for this dish. But the one thing everyone seems to agree on is, do not slice the meat. Instead, use a cleaver and chop through. Like this!


(Yeah, I’d stay away from that crazy person if I were you!)

*** Otherwise known to our American friends as starters πŸ™‚

It ended up being a fairly simple dinner as I served the pork with steamed rice, buk choy with oyster sauce, and a sweet potato mash with grated ginger through it. I spiced up the dinner by serving the pork with sambal oelek on the side.


And though the recipe was meant to serve 6, we polished off the 2 lb piece of meat between the 4 of us. Hmmm… maybe we’re getting used to American portion sizes. Eeek!


It’s getting cold in here! = Vogue V8854 Tunic

Right at the end of August, I decided that I should probably start making some clothes for when the weather gets a little colder. So I chose a pattern from my collection (i.e. bought but hadn’t gotten around to making in the last couple of years) and bought the fabric. I was ready to go. That pattern was a sleeveless tunic off Vogue 8854:


Fast forward a couple of weeks, and I still hadn’t made this tunic. The weather suddenly turned. It became harder to get up in the mornings, and we even had a 10 degree Celsius (50 Fahrenheit) day. Almost Melbourne winter temps. Almost. At that point I thought that maybe I had missed the boat for wearing a sleeveless tunic/vest!

The daytime temperature rose a bit last weekend, so I approached this project with ‘fervour’ (as the hubs described it) this week to ensure that 1) I have something to wear on those colder mornings that didn’t quite require a full jacket, yet 2) I have sufficient time to wear it before it gets too cold and I have to wear a jacket.

I had originally envisaged this as a more casual top, sort of like a vest. Goodness knows what gave me that impression, considering the packaging told me it was a TUNIC. So I made it, with some modifications (of course), and tried to style it for a catch-up with some friends this morning. I ended up being far more dressy that I would normally be (give me trackies and a hoody on any cool/cold day) but I guess it encouraged me to take some photos with me in it to show you, which I wouldn’t normally do (cue awkward posing!).

Finished tunic:

Vogue8854-1 Vogue8854-2 Vogue8854-3

Made the back hem longer for added styling. Used some bias trim I made (woohoo! my love affair with bias trim continues) on the inside of the sleeves and the back hem, so I wasn’t just showing an exposed hem. I actually shortened the overall length, so I’m not sure if it qualifies as a tunic anymore. It’s too short to be worn on its own/as a dress now.

And here is how I wore it today:


Mustard is just about my favourite actual colour (others are black white and blue lol). Excuse the knee crease in my jeans and the funny turnout on the back hem. Both the result of a fun 2.5 hours this morning with Kookaburras πŸ™‚

Banana Bread for Brekkie!

Does banana bread count as breakfast? It has to. Especially when it’s homemade and tastes this good. Well, actually who cares? I say it does, and it was so good fresh out of the oven last night, I just had to have it for brekkie this morning!

IMG_20140915_113843IMG_20140915_113813 IMG_20140915_113956

I used this recipe as my base. I substituted some greek yoghurt for some of the milk (i.e. used 1/4 cup greek yoghurt + 1/4 cup milk). Omitted the chocolate because hubs didn’t want it marbled but that didn’t bother me. We had a slice each last night when it was still warm, and I sprinkled mini choc chips on my slice (it was dessert after all) and the choc chips softened and became gooey andmelty but not runny…oh my. Just yummy. So yummy that I forgot to take a photo πŸ™‚

The changes I made resulted in the loaf needing about 35-40 minutes to cook through in a loaf pan. After about 20 mins I kept checking to see if it was cooked; I’m guessing that’s part of the reason why it cracked on the top.

That didn’t affect the cake itself though! It still turned out delicious and moist, with few crumbs so it makes it an easy snack to eat without too much mess (a.k.a. without a plate) πŸ™‚

You could top this with maple syrup or honey, more yoghurt, more bananas, nutella, cream cheese, or your favourite topping. I prefer a no-nut cake but you could definitely add some in the batter, or sprinkled on top.

Peanut butter is up there among my favourite toppings, so that’s what I had on my slice this morning. Hehehe


…Is it tea time yet? πŸ˜‰

Myrtle by Colette Patterns (Versions 1 and 2 mashup)

It’s been a while since my last post – the last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind – and this will be a short post, but I needed to share.

I finally got around to purchasing a pattern from Colette Patterns – very cute blog with sewing patterns for even cuter clothes that I first heard about while living in Australia. The pattern I bought was their latest – the ‘Myrtle‘, a pattern for beginners. The website has done sewalongs for their patterns in the past, and this was no exception. I bought the pattern, fabric and notions, and eagerly anticipated the start of the sewalong…

Unfortunately, the challenges and activities that come along with moving to a different country prevented me from following the sewalong as the various instalments were released. BUT I eventually got some time to do it, and I’m so glad I did.

The finished garmet:


Baroque Myrtle 1


Baroque Myrtle 3

Ok peeps, ‘sewing talk’ from here on in πŸ™‚

In the introduction to this pattern, the creators had this to say:

A quick make with a fun twist

Like most knits, Myrtle is a quick sew (and it’s pretty fast in a woven too).

With only four main pattern pieces (plus pockets), cutting time is minimal. Just like Mabel and Moneta, you can whip this baby up in a matter of hours.

Plus, it is honestly really fun to put together. Myrtle has a clever self-lined front bodice that is cut all in one piece, folded, and sewn to help give a clean finish inside.

Now although I made this dress, I won’t call this a pattern review. I don’t kid myself that I have the expertise to critique what could have been done better or easier, etc. However, I will say that while I was making this dress I found it, for the most part, a breeze. And let’s be honest here, they had me at ‘pockets’. I LOVE pockets in a dress.

I wanted to a knee-length version, but in the model photos of Version 1, the dress looked below knee length. So I sort of cut the fabric according to the XL length for version 2 (just the length, not the width) and without the shoulder tabs. So I actually just mashed up the 2 version to make what I wanted. Call me lazy. Call it creative. Call it making life harder for myself. I just can’t follow a pattern like I’m supposed to πŸ™‚

The hardest/most time-consuming parts for me were:

1. Trying to match up my fabric pattern while cutting the fabric to ensure the fabric didn’t look TOO disjointed when I sewed the various pieces together. The more I sew, the more I notice this in garments. I know mine still looks disjointed, but I was trying to minimise how obvious it was…

2. Sewing the shoulders – I just found the instructions a little too vague/contradictory. This could be down to my inexperience…

I didn’t do the small bust adjustment even though I really need it, but I did force myself to follow the instructions for sewing the waist band. Normally I would sew the casing, leave a gap, thread elastic through, and close gap. I was very tempted, but I told myself that I should learn a different method of doing it. I think both methods work; what I use next time I need to sew a casing for an elastic band would probably just depend on how I feel πŸ™‚

I have a short torso (torso:leg ratio) so I shortened the top (at the shoulders) and this seemed to help as an alternative to the small bust adjustment. The cowl neck doesn’t flop open as much when I lean over, and the bodice fits me much better. Less slack in the fabric under the cowl. As I mentioned before, I lengthened the skirt so the finished product hit the top of my knee.

Little details make me happy, like this perfectly aligned seam. Hey, if I’m gonna make it myself, I might as well ensure details like that are right, right?! πŸ™‚ No one else will notice, but it makes me far more satisfied about what I make when I’m able to do this.

Baroque Myrtle 2

Long story short: I would definitely keep this in my arsenal of patterns to make again and again, It was quick and with different fabrics, can be dressed up or down. LOVED IT.