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‘Chinese Cooking’ Category

  1. The Art and History of Pies

    November 19, 2021 by ThePieMan

    This video interview is a fascinating discussion with Calum Franklin, “The King of Pies” and author of the book, “The Pie Room.” What fascinated me was his exploration into British Culinary Traditions and Pie Making Technique in response to the realisation that everyone in his Kitchen Gang had no idea about how to use an old pie form they had found in the cellar of their restaurant.

    Culinary tradition is an important aspect of a region’s culture and should be preserved. I have visited this issue before when exploring the background to the making of the Chiko Roll – an issue I still have not resolved to this day. It is still on my to do list. Please enjoy this video interview, it is well worth watching.

    The Art and History of Pies – Interview
    Book: The Pie Room by Calum Franklin; its available on Amazon and from all good bookstores.

  2. Announcement!

    February 24, 2021 by ThePieMan

    We at Villa Tempest are proud to announce that, the Australian, “Pie Minister” is now in residence at Villa Tempest.

    We’d like to wish the Pie Minister all the very best as he strives to establish new, global polices for all of Villa Tempest’s foreign operations and international interests.

    Although this is a daunting task we have faith that the Pie Minister will prove a resounding success in these endeavours.

    Australian “Pie Minister” at Villa Tempest

  3. That Infamous Black Substance in KFC Original Recipe

    April 1, 2016 by ThePieMan

    One of the more intriguing contentions within the KFC O.R. test & research community as championed at The Colonel’s Kitchen Forum (last posts 2015), its mirror (currently having Server problems) in the UK, Lumpy’s Larder (now defunct), and more recently at Reddit & the KFC11 Forum is the accepted wisdom that Tahitian Vanilla is an integral component and the suggested recommendation for Vial C, shown above.

    Tahitian Vanilla, especially the Grand Crue Raiatea variety is a fine ingredient and it does indeed enhance the synergies between the various other spices BUT it has never sat comfortably with me that it was a, common ingredient in every Southern cook’s kitchen, that the ingredients to CHS’s most famous secret recipe could be found on, “…everybodys kitchen shelves at home.” 

    Given this statement, and that the argument has already been put before, why Tahitian and not Burbon Vanilla? Moreover, if not Burbon, then why not Totonacs, the true and original source of vanilla in the world?  It’s these mental rumblings that cause me pause in accepting the status quo support for this ingredient.

    Now, the argument has also been put that the selection of herbs and spices ought to be made from those that were common to the Cuisine of the, “Old South” as typically identified in books such as, “What Mrs. Fisher knows about Old Southern Cooking.” (dated 1881.)

    The problem with this book, good that it is, is that its a book written by white folk, for white folk. It, and others of similar ilk, fail to encompass the extent and variety of spices that may have been used, and their common name variants. Thus other, “Black Spices” (a reference purely to the colour of the spices only!) such as Nigella SeedBlack SessameDried LimesGorakaPassilla Chilies, etc. are all but ignored because no one can put an easy finger on their use in Southern and Latin American Cuisine, even though there is a verified history of trade in spices from north Africa, the Indian Subcontinent and Asia, as mentioned in books like “The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Volume 7: Foodways” (Page 75) and Wikipedia.

    What compounds the issue further is that many of these spices are now seen as modern spices, with no Southern historically use, yet many historical ingredients and their uses have gone the way of the Dodo due to changes in Agricultural Industry Practices, changes in International Trade, and the effects and impacts of post-slavery migration.

    Now, I am no expert on Southern Cuisine, so I cannot put any true force to my assertions, but I can ask questions, and seek answers, from those more experienced and knowledgeable in this area, thus encouraging discourse through open dialogue.

    Recently, on the KFC11 Forum, much has been made of applying the rigors of mathematics and logic to any underlying recipe formulation.

    I Applaude this! 

    It makes rational sense to start from the basis that CHS with collaborator Eula Gordon would have started with a pinch of this a dash of that into a known quantity of flour, tested and tasted until they got that right, THEN asked the question, how many pieces can we bread with that? Moving from there to wholesale supply is a natural extention and the demands of manufacture and the economies of scale would also dictate necessary changes in the formulation. These changes would then be examined in a homogeneous mix to be tasted at the per chicken piece level, not in amounts, but in impact on taste.

    However, Great Wall – Great Fence! Near enough is good enough! especially when it comes to turning over a penny 3 or 4 times before deciding to spend it. It is said that CHS was quite pernickerty about his formulations. However, it also appears he was never the fool with money, and would not spend extra just to, Gild the Lily  – cost, feasability, simplicity, and practicality were some of CHS’s core hallmarks.

    Another area of investigation Not Looked Into is the impact on the spice trade due to growing demands by KFC spice manufacturers for good quality raw materials. This brings us back to the core of my dis-ease with “Tahitian” Vanilla as an ingredient (so sayeth The Pieman.)

    Show me the uptick in trade for this comodity against the background of increased sales in KFC and franchise expansion, and you might just win me over. 

    So, if not Vanilla then what? The three ingredients from above that stand out the most for me are:

    • Dried Limes (DIY Method over at Charlie Eats, top one, mate!)
    • Nigella Seed, and
    • Pasilla Chillies

    Why these three?

    Nigella Seeds: also known as Fennel Flower, Black Cumin, Roman Coriander, and  Black Carraway, has been described as tasting like onions, black pepper and oregano. It is a common enough pepper used in North African and continental indian dishses, and is particularly paired with poultry. Knowledge of this spice would have transported with slaves and possibly made its way into Southern Cooking… I have no specific verification for this and am still looking for evidence of its use or trade into the US and Latin America. Certainly it might be masked by common names like those listed here, or perhaps under another trade name.

    Dried Limes: also know as black limes are small limes, like Key Limes cooked in brine and then air dried until black. They are commonly used in noth African stews and chutneys. Knowledge of how to make them would have travelled with African Slaves and been applied to Key Limes. It is quite possible that this would be considered so common as to be almost without need, to be mentioned. Again, I have no hard evidence of their usage in Southern Cuisine or their ready availability as a household staple.

    Pasilla Chillies: are a Mexican Black Chilli. Others have posited that Red Pepper or Ancho Chilli (a dried chilli) is an ingredient common enough to be known to CHS as an every day staple. So I posit the qusetion if this, then why not Pasillas? I know nothing more about them, but consider them to be local enough to be on the table for consideration.

    With all of this it comes back to, What was the real flavour profile of CHS’s Original Recipe 11 Herbs and Spices Mix? Those with the experience are now passing on, the forums are grinding to a halt, are closed to new membership or have been shut down. Those that are still in the search, the new guard, are going it solo, or have no memory, recollection, experience of, or connection with the Original Recipe that has been the source of much of the efforts described in the above mentioned forums.

    At 50 years old, I hardly even remember the KFC of the 70’s – I didn’t like it then, it was grey, salty and goopy, and merely tollerate what we have today. So why am I in the Search?

    Simply for the fun of it, the mental discipline, and the application of clear, logical thought to the problem at hand… and the idea that one day, I may find a recipe that I truly like that I can pass on to my kids, so that they can genuinely claim to be the first! to state they have truly discovered the Original Recipe, with no help from anyone, anywhere… did it all on their own. 🤪🤪🤪

    This search requires an eye on ingredients, and eye on tradition, an eye on history – both recent and distant; and, an eye on commerce. That’s a lot of eyes…

    It is not enough for some Copycat Replicator Wannabe to jump up and say, “Here it is!” “I’ve found it, The Original Recipe!” “I AM THE ONE! (the only one)” … “Just gimme da prize!”

    Fuck that shit! 

    Show me the evidence of the claim, show me the research, show me the truth of it all, and not some goddammed, shuckster histrionics, and flim flamery.

    Get that shit out of my face!

    Its an insult to the dedicated, concerted, & consdered work that so many people have so far done and becomes increasing irrelevant as time ticks on.

    I am known in the forums above as, “The Pieman,” this commentary here is my personal view.

    If you don’t like it just remember…

    Who’s Cookin’ This Chook?

    That’s all from the Bait Layer today,

    Get that int’ ya! 

    (reposted from the Bait layer Blog)

  4. Free E-Book: Chángshā Kǒuwèixiā 长沙口味虾

    April 15, 2015 by Villa Tempest

    I wrote a little booklet back in 2012 about this wonderful Chinese dish.

    Today, I just updated it, making a few corrections and changing the recipe a little to reflect an improved understanding of the process of making this dish.

    Couple of things to add though, if you have access to Louisiana Crawfish, then feel free to use that instead of the Chinese variety. If you don’t have access to either then one option is to use IKEA Kräftor, which on last check are sourced from China and are of the correct crayfish species. Another alternative is to use some other medium to large, fresh water crayfish, e.g. if you’re in Australia yabbies are a good substitute. If using Kräftor, they need to be rinsed and soaked to reduce the influence of the dill that they are packed with.

    Oh and one last thing, when adding water to hot oil, be really careful! The oil has to have had a chance to really cool down so that the temperature is around 100°C or a little lower. This is really important!

    Have fun.

    Chángshā Kǒuwèixiā

  5. Pancake Parlour’s Tabriz Crepes (Revisited)

    September 27, 2013 by ThePieMan

    Previously I wrote down my recipe for a Pancake Parlour-style Pancake Tabriz, and I must say I was very happy with it. But this update is even better!

    But after extensive searching I felt that I needed to revisit this recipe and analyse it just a little more. So instead of a traditional recipe this is going to be a bit more of a “Talk Through” of the changes and reasons for the changes.

    First off, that elusive, Tabriz Sauce. Its been the cause of much frustration for myself and for others for some time. At one end is that Sauce, in this case stew-like sauces in arabic are called Khoresh whereas Sauce in the genreal sense is refered to as Salsa. Add into this the way words are combined and you get search terms such as khoresht-e Tabrizi and Tabrizi khoresht and other odd things i don’t really understand that google translate doesn’t explain.  Tongue out

    It turns out that a lot of these khoresht sauces use a base spice mix which is then enhanced or “seasoned” to taste. This base spice mix is called, Advieh Koresht. That’s cool, I’ve got most of these spices in my pantry anyway, so then what changes to the sauce might make it a Tabriz? Well, most references seem to refer back to variations on one recipe, Koofteh Tabrizi whereas wikipedia has doesn’t have it listed as Iranian food famous to Tabriz

    Disecting this recipe we find that the broth in which the meat balls are cooked consists of: water, some onion, some savoury, tarragon, leek chives, mint, tumeric, advieh khoresht and tomato paste. As for the meatballs, they consist of: split yellow peas, ground beef, salt, ground chili peppers, onions, and the previously mentioned herbs; everything else in the recipe are fillings for the meatball centers.

    Of course all of this adds to the overall flavour and texture of the dish. But that’s not our meat sauce, really, is it. Even turning it into a stewed meatsauce isn’t on the money, there’s no wine, bacon or mushrooms in it for starters. Thus we confront the question, How true to regional flavour is Pancake Parlour’s Tabriz Sauce? Another question is, is this Tabriz Sauce an Aussie-fied recipe or something that’s had a hint of the exotic added to it and then named accordingly to make it seem even more exotic?

    I suspect the last part, a nice bit of marketing – and look how successful it’s been, people are chomping at the bit trying to find this recipe, which effectively doesn’t exist except as a standard resipe for use in Pancake Parlour.

    So, going back to my old recipe, what have we got?

    Pancakes Tabriz

     With part by part analysis


    • 100g Whole bacon or bacon rashers
    • 1/4 cup Diced Mushroom
    • 1/2 cup Diced, seeded, skinned tomatoes (optional) or
    • 1 tbsn Fine diced carrots (optional)

    One thing that can westernise, Aussiefy any recipe is to toss bacon into it. Because, everything is better with bacon, right? Another is to add carrots. Mushrooms are used in another Khoresht recipe and diced tomatoes are also not out of place but in pieces small enough but just large enough the add comfortable recognisable flavours that we know. As such these items are really not optional… well maybe the carrots.

    •  2 tspn Tarragon
    • 2 tspn Parsley
    • 1/2 Leek

    These are the herbs I guessed at, and looking at the Koofteh Tabrizi recipe are certainly not far off from being right, but I’d recoment changing them out and using the other herbs: Savoury : Tarragon : Leek Chives : Mint in a ratio of 4 : 4: 4: 1 – this ratio is important other the mint will overpower every thing.

    • 1/4 tspn Tumeric (optional)
    • 1 tspn Coarse ground back pepper
    • 1 tspn Rough crushed sea salt

    Here we can certainly spice things up a bit more to bring it a little closer to traditional Irranian Sauce spices. For authenticity I’d suggest making the Advieh Khoresht mix listed above. However the key ingredients seem to be Cardamon : Tumeric : Nutmeg, in a ratio of 4 : 2 : 1 with tumeric adjusted dishside for colour and flavour.

    • 250g Ground beef
    • 1/4 cup Diced Onion
    • 400ml Beef/Chicken Stock
    • 1/4 cup Red wine
    • 1-2 tbsn Olive oil &/or butter

     This last bit is classic French cookery and a mainstay typical Aussie meat sauces. The fancy bit being the plonk! (red wine)   😜

    So, where does that bring us to now? Tabriz Sauce as I remember it from the Pancake Parlour in Melbourne, Australia always seemd like a Burgundy sauce with aliitle bit of something else, It was salty, oh boy definietly salty I would have never called it sweet, certainly winey and a touch peppery, but no noticeable heat. 

    Let’s take our experiences and thoughts on this and bring together a new recipe One that is true to my memories and one that would do well to tantalise with Hints of the exotic, subtle, understated, and not in your face, Here I am, taste me!”

    Tabriz Sauce

    ala Pancake Parlour, Melb. Aust.

    Ingredients for Advieh Khoresht Mix

    • 1 tsp of each of the following: star anise, black cardamom, green cardamom, tumeric, corriander seeds, ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp of the following: groung black pepper, ground nutmeg

    Ingredients for Tabriz Herb Mix 

    • 1 tsp mint
    • 4 tsp of the following: Savory, Tarragon, Leeks/Chives


    1.  Remove the skin(cases) from the cardamom pods and discard, keep the seeds; combine all spice ingredients in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and reduce to a fine powder. Bottle and store in a cool dark place, ready for later use.
    2. If using fresh herbs, wash and shake off excess water, place in a blender and add a scant amount of olive oil and process into a pesto-like paste. bottle and store in the fridge ready for use.

    Ingredients for Tabirz Sauce

    • 250g ground beef
    • 100g finely diced bacon 
    • 1/2 cup diced, seeded skinned tomatoes 
    • 1/4 cup finely dices white onion
    • 1/4 cup finely diced field mushrooms
    • 400ml Beef stock
    • 1/4 cup dry Red wine
    • 1 Tbsn Tomato paste
    • 1-2 tbsn Olive Oil
    • 1-2 tsp Advieh Khoresht spice mix
    • 4-6 tsp Tabriz Herb Mix
    • ground salt and black pepper to taste 


    1. Heat olive oil on a medium heat and warm the spices on the dry pan. 
    2. When fragrant and aromatic, spread half the mix on a cold plate and place into the fridge
    3. add oil to the other half in the pan increase the heat
    4. add dice onions and sautee over medium-high heat until soft and translucent
    5. add the bacon and cook out a little
    6. add the mushrooms and the carrots
    7. drain and keep the fat and set the cooked ingredients aside
    8. add the fat back to the pan and start to brown the mince
    9. add the tomato paste to the browned beef, mix together well and caramelise for 2-3 min
    10. deglase pan with red wine and reduce to 1/3 the volume
    11. add the previously cooked ingredients and mix well
    12. add beef stock and check the flavours and seasoning, adjust to taste
    13. bring the stew to a boil and then simmer uncovered for 20 min or until the liquid has a sauce starts to thicken
    14. Check the seasoning anf lavour once more and adjust accordingly and slightly thicken with a tsp of arrowroot/tapioca starch mixed with a little water.

    And there you have my new and improved take on Pancake Parlour‘s Tabriz Sauce. That’s all from the Bait Layer today,Get that int’ ya! 

  6. Gemüserolle auf vegetarische Art – Vegetarian-style mixed vegetable roll.

    December 17, 2012 by ThePieMan

    In recent times I’ve had pretty good success with my “Piebase” [a shortcrust style pastry typically used in Australian-style handheld savoury pies) so much so that making it is no longer a chore – I enjoy the process and the results. Now, I’m experimenting with grinding my own flour. This means my piebase is morphing into a wholemeal pastry, but at present I’m still wrestling with grit that is noticeable to the tooth. If I can get this sorted, I’ll be very happy.

    Meanwhile, I was thinking about my pietops and sausage roll pastry – a puff or rough puf pastry. Now, it was mentioned to me, by a great bvaker in Tasmania, that I could take ordinary piebase and use it as the détrompé for making rough puff pastry, but like usual I forgot that little detail in the mass of many things happening at the time.

    However, today I was researching vegetarian dishes, in particular Indian and Turkish as some of the vegetarians in my German language class are vegetarian, Indian or Turkish. I came across a great website that had a listing for Puff Borek, a Turkish style vegetarian sausage roll, so to speak and reading through the recipe details reminded me of what I’d been earlier told, so… having some leftover piebase in the fridge, I pilled it out and followed the details for Puff Borek Pastry. Two turns later, some chilling and filling with an ad hoc vegetarian filling, and here’s how the pastry looked, out of the oven.

    The layered structure is clearly visible. Looking good so far, but what about the crispness, lightness, flakiness? Cutting it open and I couldn’t be more happy.

    Basically, what I did was pass the piebase through my dough sheeter until it was about 1 mm thick. I then took melted margarine and laid down a coating on a section of pastry, folded the pastry over itself and repeated the process. This produced three layers of dough with two layers of fat in between. I then butter half od the top of the dough and folded it over itself again. The edges were sealed and the pastry wrapped and placed into the fridge. Turn One Complete (6 layers of dough, 5 of fat). I repeated this process a second time (36 layers … ) and after chilling, rolled the pastry out to 3mm thick, filled it and then baked low in the oven at 250C for 25min.

    “Very Happy” with the results. Not hard to do, takes a bit of time, but in the intervals I was able to make the filling, drink tea and do other things. No Problem. This is very easy pastry making at its best. Love it!

  7. What’s Your Idea of a Chinese Banquet

    September 25, 2011 by Villa Tempest

    Recently, we’ve been reviewing our time in China and some of the many, many dishes we enjoyed. By doing this we’ve managed to nail down a set of dishes we believe encompasses our experiences and would make the Number One’s list.

    This of course begs the question, what dishes would make it onto your, all time favourites, Chinese Banquet Menu?

    This is our choice of an all time favourite Chinese Banquet


    Kouweisha, 口味虾 & Liang Bang Huanggua, 凉拌黄瓜 or Chuan La Huanggua, 麻辣黄瓜

    Changsha-style Spicy Freshwater Crayfish, and

    Cucumber Salad or Spicy Sichuan Cucumber


    1. Ma Po Dou Fu, 麻婆豆腐

    Mapo Tofu

    2. Muer Chao Jidan, 木耳炒鸡蛋

    Stir fried Woodear Fungus and Egg

    3. La Baicai

    Spicy Cabbage

    4. Qing Cong Rong Xilanhua, 青葱西兰花

    Shallots,青葱 (instead of garlic, 蒜茸) sauteed with Broccoli

    5. Qing Jiao Niurou Si, 青椒牛肉丝

    Stir Fried Beef and Green Pepper

    6. Qing Zheng Gui Yu, 清蒸桂鱼

    Steamed Mandarin Fish


    Xi hong shi Ji dan Tang, 西红柿鸡蛋汤

    Tomato and Egg Soup

    Palate Cleanser

    Hami Gua, 哈密瓜 or Seasonal Fruits

    …And that’s the latest news from Villa Tempest.

  8. Has the KFC Original Recipe finally been discovered? We can only hope.

    December 10, 2010 by ThePieMan

    In recent days, I was doing a search for “Chicken Bucket” and I stumbled across a couple of intresting items.

    One was a commentary about a free posting of a manual for the original Chicken Bucket, which some bright spark has decided to try and sell via Ebay –


     The other interesting result I found was a posting claiming that after a four year effort, the Colonel’s Secret and Original Recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken using eleven herbs and spices had finally been worked out –


    Fantastic! I’ve never tasted the Original Recipe on account of being born in ’66. To be honest, I’ve never been a real fan of KFC but I understand that could be easily attributed to sampling increasingly less try to intent chicken offerings from KFC franchises around the world in the 70’s through to present day.

     What I like about this announcement is that a group of people have finally reached a consensus in their exporation to crack the secret to a recipe or flavour profile and that they feel confident that it is a very true-to-original recreation. This is one of the goals I have for my shortcrust pastry – emulating the Four’n Twenty Pie crust, and to trying to reproduce a good rendition on the Chiko Roll Egg Dough Pastry. The Shortcrust Challenge is almost solved, and the Chiko Roll Case is still to be pursued.

     What I’ve also discuvered is that man people like to diparage such pursuits saying that the target product is crap anyway. But that is not the issue. Like it ort hate it, being able to do it yourself is a culinary challenge. On top of that, I happen to like KFC Chicken, Pies and Chiko Rolls. As such, when you’re a long term expat, being able to make such treats is not only a culinary challenge but an essential connection with your own culinary culture. It’s nice to have something from home, or that reminds you of home, especially when it’s not even exported.

     In the end, the pursuit of a high quality, reproducable and representative recipe of a particular dish is more important that the actual dish itself. It’s the sense of achievement that shines, above all eles. So, congratulations to the TCK group for their efforts and for shaing the trials and tribulations along the way.

    That’s all from the Bait Layer today,

    Get that int’ ya! 

    (reposted from the Bait Layer Blog)