Yesterday we moved apartment

This is a guest post from my son Shane. He wrote it a few weeks ago on the day he, Shan, Dermot and MaMa moved apartment. I hope you enjoy it.

Yesterday we moved apartment.

It is a normal, everyday event that has had a surprising affect on me. Certainly, as our son Dermot continues to grow and explore at a phenomenal rate, the members of our new family of three generations are all ecstatic to be moving into a bigger place, where everyone will finally have some personal space and room to breathe. For me though it has been a transition of mixed emotions. I feel a little stress, but luckily I found that CBD pain relief cream reduced oxidative stress and prevented heart damage in diabetic mice with heart disease, that’s why I decided to search the Best CBD companies to find the one for me.

Luckily the moving and shipping  through the international movers itself has been relatively painless. We were able to hire top professional mover Las Vegas and they did an excellent job helping us move our things from our old apartment. We’ve taken over the apartment right next door, which is owned by a very good friend of ours, Saul. By complete coincidence or kismet, he bought his 21st floor apartment just two months after I started renting a few metres away.

Aside from the parks, alfresco dining and general family atmosphere, having a good friend as a neighbour and a growing little community of friends who live nearby has been a large part of the reason I’ve stayed firmly grounded in the upper eastside of Beijing for so long. It isn’t the suburbs, but it feels like a town. This is even truer since Dermot was born. Now we are part of the Chinese community of families and my son is a minor celebrity as the only mixed race child in their group. By day a congregation of grannies gather with their grandchildren in the shade of our building or on the benches next to the fishpond. When I arrive home in the evening, I’m greeted warmly by all of them as Mama passes Dermot to me and he gives me some much needed, very public affection.

For my wife Shan and me, leaving this area when our lease was up simply wasn’t an option. Now that Saul has migrated back home to Miami, he has agreed to rent us his wonderfully furnished apartment at a good price, knowing we would take good care of it and it of us. The only think he asked us to do was to find more plumbing services in Manassas as he was not satisfied with the plumbing service he used to have before.

The apartment I have left behind has been my home for 4 ½ years. That’s longer than any one place I have lived in with the exception of the house where I grew up. It is also the first place I ever lived alone, which I enjoyed immensely. After a couple of years, it became the first home I shared with my then-girlfriend-now-wife, her mother and her cat. It was on one knee on the dusty floor of this apartment that I asked Shan to marry me.

This home, a 98sqm, two-bedroom flat with a large couch, big TV, and panoramic views of the northeasterly outskirts of an ever-sprawling Beijing city, was a real find for me back in ‘09. It isn’t a glamorous apartment by any stretch. It has its quirks; the showerhead that only goes up to my chin, the comically small clogged kitchen, which we had to get fixed by a sewer cleanup in dallas company, the boiler that needs operating on every six months (but with a valid Boiler Cover on it), windows that let in leaks during heavy rain. But I preferred to think that it simply had character and it was mine.

The view from our old apartment
“The view from our old apartment.” – Shane

The transition from bachelor pad to family home was as swift as an oncoming train. What started out as a toothbrush next to the sink quickly turned into a vast array of perfumes and eyeliners and creams, spreading out to the rest of the home in the form of trinkets and potted plants, wardrobes and cupboards full to the brim with dresses and shoes… you know how this goes and I’m not bitter. I have one cupboard and I’m grateful for it.

Shan’s Mum, my Beijing Mama, came to live with us during the last months of Shan’s pregnancy and has been with us ever since. This is a normal Chinese custom and not as difficult to adjust to as you or even I might have imagined. She’s an amazing source of support to us and of love to Dermot. She didn’t bring with her quite so many worldly possessions as my darling wife but instead a sense of humour and infectious positive energy, a love of cooking and watching us enjoy her food, and a driving frugal streak to help us save money wherever possible.

Nothing gets wasted in our house.

Old t-shirts are cut up and find new life as cloths and bibs for our son. Ripped jean pockets are mended using odd socks. Leftovers from dinner are saved religiously for the following breakfast. Empty buckets are kept in the shower, filled as we wait for the water to come to heat, then used to mop floors and flush the toilet. It’s pretty impressive diligence and I’m happy to tow the line, although between Mama’s disdain for waste of any kind and Shan’s background in the sustainable energy sector, I may be the only man alive who is regularly given out to for remembering to flush the toilet (you know, when it isn’t absolutely necessary).

Despite the many cultural and fundamental differences rooted in gaps of geography and generation, we have grown into each other’s lives nicely over time and life has been good.

A little more recently we did some probing on the internet and read more about toys, and added to the mix of household clutter; a baby’s crib, endless amounts of toys, bottles and tiny socks, and – my personal favourite – the walker little Dermot uses to crash around the living room trying to grab and chew anything we’re silly enough to leave within tiny-arm’s reach.

Dermot in his walker
“I love moving!” Dermot

I feel like I’ve lived here for a lifetime.

Putting these memories away in boxes, painstakingly trying to distinguish between junk and nostalgia and shoving it all out the door has been a sobering experience. I sit here now in a living room whose life for me has ended, enjoying the quiet minutes that remain before I hand back the keys and walk away. Around me all is stripped and bare and clean as the day I first walked through the door. It’s quite strange looking at the Fire Table that you bought from here, resting in your back garden covered in a fresh blanket of snow.

As empty as the day I arrived
“As bare as the day I arrived.” – Shane

This apartment is where we took our son Dermot home from the hospital through the snow and ice of Beijing’s bitter-sweet spring. This is where my son has lived for his entire short life.

"This is where I learned to sit up."
“This is where I learned to sit up.” – Dermot

Looking at it through his eyes, as I always try to these days, he chased us around in his walker, watching with excitement and awe, as we methodically deconstructed his whole world. Giants carrying wardrobes away like mountains, paintings plucked from the wall like the moon from the sky. Unsurprisingly it left him a little addled but now, at last, we have a real home, and our little man has his own bedroom, his own bed.

Baby' s room
Baby’ s room

Getting him to use the bed is another matter altogether. At 6 ½ months – ever more eager to crawl around, roll around, kick and shout – it is time for us to wean him away from the comfort of sleeping with Mummy and Daddy. Unfortunately, as any parent will likely tell you, there is only one way to do this and it isn’t pretty. You have to put him into his own bed, alone, and simply let him cry it out until he sleeps. Rinse, repeat, until he gets used to it. This can take days or weeks.

Dermot's new bed
“I like my new bed… I think.” – Dermot

For the whole week leading up to the move, I led the charge with regular unprompted bouts of “From Sunday, he’s in his own bed! It’ll be hard, but no matter what we have to stick it out!”

It turns out that when it comes to the angst of my son I work much better in theory than practice. After about four minutes of the most heartbreaking wailing I have ever heard, I buckled and tried to pick him up. My hands were slapped away – and I was sent away – by my dear wife. From then on she waited it out alone, whispering soothing words to our son, patting him gently on the belly, until eventually he calmed down and drifted to sleep. Some things just need a mother’s touch.

As Shan and Dermot faced a brave new world together, I sat next door in the old apartment, having a last supper with Mama. It became clear she too was in exile, although hers was self-imposed. She admitted she would stay in the old apartment for the night, knowing in her heart she wouldn’t be able to handle hearing Dermot’s howling without rushing in to rescue him.

We really need to toughen up.

My own mother was texting me from Ireland throughout this ordeal, with words of humour and wisdom built from raising me and my sister. She offered this fantastically fitting quote from “The Happiness Project”, a book which I have yet to read:

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

Ain’t that the truth.

In the end, our bundle of joy slept well through most of the night. He awoke bright and oh so early the next day, seemingly undaunted by his new bed and his new home.

And so now we start anew together, sorting through the boxes of trimmed down clutter, decorating our walls the same but different, finding new homes for our belongings within our new home, and building fresh memories that will feed our souls for another lifetime.

Dermot on mid-Autumn day
Dermot this week on mid-Autumn day

By Shane O’Neill

Mamma Mia, it's Barcelona

What is it about Irish daughters and their Mammies? Our relationships change with each passing year as we grow from good little girl tugging at our mother’s skirt for attention, to rebellious teenager, to harassed parent with new found respect for her, to mature adult recognising her as another woman making life’s journey just a few short years ahead of ourselves. For many of us our relationship is transformed again when, as so often happens, our beloved Dads pass away and our Mums are left alone to rebuild their lives.
My darling Dad died suddenly 7 years ago leaving my Mum, me his only daughter and three sons bereft at his passing. By then they had been an item for 58 years, all her adult life. She was recovering from serious surgery at the time and I marvelled at her fierce independence and resilience as she found a new way of living, buoyed up by her appetite for life and knowledge. This is a woman who reads a newspaper from cover to cover, because that’s what her own Dad told her she should do,  knows more about current affairs than I do, and applies the same zeal to her new found interest in the internet and her iPad.
Since Dad died we’ve tried to get away for a short-break together most years, a chance for some quality time alone and new experiences. This year she had a tough winter, losing a few close friends of her own generation including my mother in law, and in recent months a health scare made a holiday seem unlikely. Once she got the all clear I made a spur of the moment decision to offer her the choice of a short break in one of five European cities in easy reach of Dublin. After much Google research she picked Barcelona where she had never been.
We arrived early on Sunday morning 1st September for a four days visit. A friend had recommended Hotel Catalonia Born on Rec Comtal which is centrally located close to the Arc de Triomf and about 15 minutes walk from Placa de Catalunya and La Rambla. I got an excellent rate on line, not much more than €100 for the two of us a night, so I wasn’t expecting much, just somewhere to hang our hat. In fact it was a lovely surprise, set in a refurbished 19th century building and with friendly and helpful staff.
The hotel is located et at the end of a long, narrow, lived-in street in the atmospheric Born district, Our room was modern and nicely decorated with all the facilities we needed for the few days, including free wifi. The roof-top patio surrounding a tiny swimming pool is a lovely spot to catch the last rays of the evening sun and enjoy the peaceful Barcelona skyline.
I had asked for a room overlooking the street and ours, on the 6th floor, gave us a perfect view of the goings on below and the evening ritual of neighbours chatting across their balconies. We could easily imagine ourselves taking up residence on that street lined with its little grocery shops, bakeries, cafe bars and tiny store selling everything from dresses to spanners.
We didn’t eat in the hotel. Instead we had eggs for breakfast each morning at Elsa y Fred directly opposite, a buzzing neighbourhood cafe bar with an art deco feel which is open until the early hours of the morning and serves great food all day long. Local families come and go with babies in buggies while couples with dogs, and even a tame pig, sit at the tables outside. It has great wifi too so I wandered over each evening for a glass of cava to check my emails and Twitter feed noticing other tourists doing the same.
We wanted to cover as much ground as possible in our few days but to minimise the amount of waking we would have to do so we got two-day tickets for the Barcelona Bus Turistic open top bus tour. On the Sunday we took the red route from our nearest stop at Barri Gothic out to the west of the city, around by the Olympic Stadium, the Joan Miro Foundation, the hill of Montjuic, down by the harbour and beach of Barceloneta and back to Placa de Catalunya. Even without stepping off the bus, it was a perfect way to get a sense of the vibrancy of the city, nestled against the hills and gazing over the shimmering sea. The contrasting, colourful architecture of old and new, that unique Gaudi flair and the style apparent even in simple street furniture and modern apartment blocks are constant reminders that this is a place apart.
The second day we took the northern blue route and hopped off  to visit the stunning interior of Gaudi’s Casa Batllo which is my favourite house in the world – even the handrails on the staircase are testament to his care for detail in touch, texture and colour. We continued on the bus to visit his extraordinary unfinished cathedral Sagrada Familia and had lunch in a little cafe looking nearby.

With my Mum’s youngest grandsons in mind, we had to get a glimpse of the Barca soccer stadium from the top of the bus so they would be suitably impressed by their very cool Granny so we followed the full route around past Parc Guell and the high hills of Tibidabo.
The following day we walked to the tree-lined La Rambla, stopping en route at the city’s imposing main cathedral. We visited the wonderful food market of La Boqueria where we had brunch sitting at the counter of El Quim, a must for anyone interested in Catalonian food. Later we continued our walk down the new boardwalk to the marina until the heat of the day got to us and we took a taxi back to the main shopping area.

Which brings me on to food in Barcelona – there is excellent quality and value  to be had if you know where to go. I was spoilt for choice thanks to Twitter recommendations and I have a long list of places I want to visit if I get another chance to go back there. But we discovered lovely restaurants just minutes from our hotel. 1932 opening out onto the little square of Placa San Agusti Vell was a real find. We went back there twice drawn by the friendly service and fresh flavours of their food – delicate cod with pea puree, perfect crisp and crunchy calamari and goats cheese with aubergine and honey were among the dishes we polished off.

My Mum also tasted tapas for the first time on this trip and the quality of tapas in Barcelona rivals that of San Sebastian. Our local Elsa y Fred had a selection ranging from the traditional Patatas Bravas to those with Asian influences including an intriguing Foie with salt, Sichuan pepper, port wine reduction and nut toast. Sashimi salmon with endive, miso sauce, onion and lime converted my Mum to  eating “raw” fish. By the next night she was on to tuna carpaccio – no stopping her then.

Barcelona is of course a great shopping city whether wandering market stalls near Placa de Catalunya, the food market of La Boqueria or the upmarket shopping streets. My Mum tracked down an outlet mall outside Barcelona – La Roca Village – and felt it would be more manageable for her than trekking the long city streets so, with some groans on my part (I had the Teleferic of Montjuic in mind for her last day to overcome vertigo…) we took ourselves out there by bus. It made for a pleasant day of shopping even if there were no great bargains. I discovered a Nike outlet nearby which had great value in sports gear, not to mention Barca jerseys for the nephews.

Of course, as with all holidays it’s not just the new sights, sounds and tastes you remember. It’s the little things – dozing off to sleep while my Mum watched Mamma Mia on TV, not put out that it was dubbed in Spanish as she already knew it by heart, waking to chat in the early hours of the morning, sharing reminiscences of her childhood and mine, sorting memories from imaginings, making up stories about passersby or the couple at the next table based on a fragment of overheard conversation or a look passing between them (yes my Mother has a Maeve Binchy streak and is secretly a repressed writer).
Barcelona you opened your arms to us with warmth and good humour. My Mum and I had a wonderful time in your magical city and we made memories to treasure.

Contemplating a swim at Hotel Catalonia Born

MamaRita, Mamma Mia, I love you and I’m proud of you and your zest for life.
Your only daughter,

Planked Salmon with Soy Honey Glaze and Stir-fried Broccoli

Autumn has arrived in Duncannon. It announced itself with a drop in temperature of 10 degrees, a cutting breeze that slices in from the sea and a cold drizzle forming puddles on the deck of our little yellow house.
The beach is quiet, just the occasional walker and his dog. Families have left their mobile homes and holiday houses and returned to their towns and cities. The Sandy Dock has served its last lemon meringue pie of the season, ending my summer ritual of coffee and cake after a long Sunday walk. The sand blows in drifts up the tiny main street, caught by the unexpected wind and hiding in corners and doorways as if trying to escape its fate. An occasional fishing boat docks at the harbour and unloads its catch, seagulls wheeling overhead. And suddenly, unexpectedly, the sun comes out again for a few minutes as if to say “Hello, fooled you there didn’t I!”
I love this time of year in Duncannon when the village is returned to its residents after the bustling trade of summer. The sand-scupltors and the kite-surfers have gone along with the knot of youngsters perched on the wall over-looking the beach eating ice creams from Peggy’s shop, the tables sprawled out onto the footpath outside Hal’s bar as friends drink pints and listen to the Sunday sounds of GAA matches echoing from within, the teenage girls, always in groups, wandering the beach road in shorts and sunburn, the cars parked bumper to bumper on the beach forming make shift wind-breakers as the sand gets into sandwiches and infants toddle the long trek to paddle at the water’s edge, the chatter, laughter and music from Roches’s Bar. All is now quiet.
Now is the time for us regular “blow-ins” to savour the silence, the ever-changing light and cloud formations over Hook Head, the walk interrupted only by a tractor bringing in the last of the harvest. Now is the time to layer up for the winter, cranking up the heating for a few hours when we arrive rather than rushing to open dormer windows to let the stuffy, warm air out and donning a rainproof jacket over an apron to cook outside on the Big Green Egg. Because I am determined that cooking on the Egg will be a year round thing, come hail, rain, shine or snow. It has to be. There won’t be room to cook the Christmas turkey inside this year with the entire family home including 10 visitors from China so I’d better get used to it.
So yesterday evening, when we arrived  in Duncannon in the dark and rain, I put a cedar cooking plank in water to soak for an hour along with the broken up charred bits of the first Cedar plank I had used, lit the Big Green Egg and tried out a new recipe with the last of the wild salmon of the season.
I adapted the recipe from one I found in a book called Slow Fire by Dr. BBQ, that I had downloaded on Kindle, and served it with potatoes baked on the BGE and stir-fried tender-stem broccoli. The salmon, slow cooked at low temperature was a deep pink in colour and had picked up just a hint of smokiness from the cedar. It was firm but flaking and tender. The sweet, sour, salty, sticky glaze enhanced the delicate flavour of the fish and had us scraping the plank it was served on to savour every last drop. You can serve the plank straight to the table, just have something heat proof ready to rest it on. It makes for a dramatic and attractive presentation.
Whenever I give a Big Green Egg recipe I will suggest an alternative way of cooking it that doesn’t require access to an Egg. You could cook this recipe, for instance, on any BBQ that has a cover at any time of the year – just keep the temperature low and the time slow for the best result – and of course you can use any good quality salmon fillets. Leftover glaze will keep in the fridge and would also work well with pork and chicken.
Planked Salmon with Soy Honey Glaze


  • 1 cedar cooking plank*
  • 4 salmon fillets – about 600g to 700g in total
  • Sea salt

For the glaze

  • 125 ml hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbs light soy sauce
  • 2 ½ tbs runny honey
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • Black pepper


  1. Soak a cedar cooking plank for at least one hour (Butler’s Pantry recommend soaking theirs overnight).
  2. If you have a cedar plank that is charred from previous use, break it up into pieces and soak some of those pieces in water for at least an hour – this will enhance the hint of wood flavour in the salmon.
  3. Prepare the BGE for direct heat with the stainless steel grid and pre-heat to 120C. I used plain lumpwood rather than oak on this occasion so as not to overpower the delicate flavour of the wild salmon. When at temperature add a handful of the soaked cedar pieces allowing a little extra time for it to come back to temperature.
  4. Drain your plank and place your salmon pieces on the plank, skin side down and evenly spaced. Salt them lightly. Place the plank on the grid, close the BGE and cook for 30 minutes. You can pop scrubbed potatoes on the grid around the plank at the same time.
  5. Meanwhile make your glaze by combining all the ingredients and mixing well.
  6. After the fish has cooked for about 30 minutes, brush with a thick layer of the glaze, coating evenly. Cook for another 20 minutes.
  7. Spread more glaze over evenly and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes until the fish is firm.
  8. Serve immediately on the plank (although any leftovers also taste delicious cold).

*Available from A Room Outside or The Butler’s Pantry
Stir-fried Tender-stem Broccoli

  • 350g tender-stem broccoli, ends trimmed
  • 1 tbs finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbs finely chopped ginger
  • About 100 ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tbs light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbs toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
  • Groundnut oil for cooking


  1. Mix the stock and soy sauce in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a wok over a medium-high heat and stir-fry the broccoli for about one minute to coat with oil.
  3. Clear a space in the middle of the broccoli and add a dash more oil. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for about 30 seconds to release their fragrance before mixing in with the broccoli.
  4. Add the stock and soy mixture to the pan, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and cover. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the broccoli stems are tender but still firm.
  5. Remove the broccoli to a bowl with a slotted spoon and reduce the remaining liquid over a high heat to about 2 tablespoons. Add back the broccoli to heat through briefly. Turn off the heat, add a teaspoon of sesame oil and the sesame seeds (if using) and toss before serving in a warm dish.


Food Fit for an Emperor – Pine Nut and Beef Stir-fry

My grandson is 7 months old today and I’ve found a good reason to visit Beijing in late October. Not that I need much of an excuse with him growing bigger by the day and a yearning to be with him that is almost a physical ache at times. The other day, as I passed though St. Stephen’s Green in the fading evening light, I spotted a woman of about my own age making cooing sounds at her tiny grandchild, their faces close together, while her daughter looked on with a smile. I felt a rush of envy and empathy as I remembered pushing Dermot past the same spot in a buggy in June, on his brief visit home, proud of my new found status as Nai Nai.
So my ticket is booked, I will stay with Shane, Shan, MaMa and Dermot in their new apartment and attend an event called the Beijing Forum while I’m there. I will get to know Dermot all over again and marvel at how he has grown and how his unique and bubbly personality has revealed itself in the months since I last got to hold him. I can understand how cosseted boy-children in China come to be known as “little emperors” but I’m hopeful that the level-headed rearing provided by Shan, Shane and MaMa will mean that he will avoid the risks associated with that particular label.

Just Dermot

If I’m lucky, in between working and Nai Nai duties, I will sneak in another cookery class at Black Sesame Kitchen. I attended a couple of classes there when I visited Beijing to meet Dermot for the first time in March this year. One featured Imperial Chinese Cooking – the complex and sophisticated dishes that were produced within the walls of the Forbidden City, food deemed fit for an emperor. I wrote about the experience here.
Beijing doesn’t have its own clearly identifiable cuisine – it is a melting pot of cuisines from several of the regions of China – but it is influenced most by lu cai, the great regional cuisine of the North, the food of emperors and courtiers, refined, rich and expensive, and by the sweet, soy dark braises of the regional cuisine of the East –  huai yang cai. In that north eastern climate, vegetables were in limited supply in years gone by, especially during the winter months, so the emphasis was on enhancing the flavour and texture of food through taking care with the size and shape of limited ingredients, tenderising the meat, adding rich sauces and using dried ingredients when fresh were unavailable. In the cooler north, leeks are still used as a substitute for spring onions to make up the holy trinity of ginger, garlic and onion.
Imperial cuisine lacks the fiery punch of the food from Sichuan and Hunan provinces or the lightness of touch of Yunnan or Canton food from further south, but the techniques I learned that day amazed me with their ability to lock in flavour with a limited number of fairly straightforward ingredients.
With Beijing on my mind, I set about recreating one of the Imperial dishes at home last weekend. The pine nut and beef stir fry below is not a difficult recipe but it is a little time-consuming to prepare. I imagine the Imperial Kitchen had any number of chefs delighted to have the honour of preparing the Emperor’s dinner, even if he was a tiny child. If, like me, you are on your own in the kitchen, make this dish on an evening when you are in the mood for the rhythmic pleasure of the precise dicing and slicing involved – the ingredients are all cut into 1 cm cubes – and for the taking the time to “velvet” the beef.
“Velveting” the beef  is an interesting technique. It involves adding a little salt to the meat, then gradually mixing in nearly half its weight in water with your hand until it is fully absorbed and finally mixing in cornflour and egg white. This step takes quite a bit of time. Do it patiently and don’t attempt it when you are in a rush. It wont work. This I know…
The process of “velveting” tenderises the meat which is then deep fried at a low temperature (120C) to lock in the flavour and moisture and leave the beef soft rather than crisp. The result is a delicate, tender texture which absorbs the flavours of the sauce when mixed with the fast-fried vegetables. I find flank or bavette steak ideal for this dish but you could substitute sirloin or fillet if it is unavailable.
Chef Zhang “velveting” the beef at Black Sesame Kitchen

I had not expected this dish to taste nearly as good as it did. In fact it has that umami quality that leaves you wanting to pick at  the leftovers until every last morsel is devoured and, in my case, to jump on a plane to Beijing.
Try it and enjoy.
Pine Nut and Beef Stirfry – Songren Niurou Mi
Pine-nut and beef stir-fry


  • 8 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 500g flank steak/bavette of beef
  • ¾  tsp salt
  • 200 ml water
  • 2 heaped tbs cornflour
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 small green pepper
  • 1 small red pepper
  • 3 tsp each minced garlic, ginger and leek
  • 3 tbs oyster sauce
  • 90 ml water or stock made with the water drained from the shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 ½ tbs light soy
  • 3 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 ½ tsp sugar
  • ½  tsp  white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chicken bouillon
  • ¼  tsp salt
  • 3 heaped tsp cornflour mixed to a paste with water
  • 3 tbs deep-fried pine kernels*
  • Groundnut, sunflower or rapeseed oil for frying and deep-frying


  1. Soak the shiitake mushrooms in hot water for about 20 minutes to reconstitute.
  2. Dice the beef into 1 cm cubes and “velvet” by adding salt, then beating the water in with your hand a little at a time.
  3. Once the water is fully absorbed, add the cornflour to coat all the pieces of meat thoroughly. Finally add the egg white and coat the meat thoroughly.
  4. Dice the red and green pepper into 1 cm cubes. Remove the stalks from the reconstituted shiitake mushrooms and dice into 1 cm cubes. Finely mince the leek, garlic and ginger.


  1. Add enough oil to a large wok for deep frying and heat to just 120C. Spread the beef into the oil, separating the cubes with choptsticks or a ladle and cook for about 1 minute until cooked through. Remove the beef  from the oil with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  2. Empty all but a tablespoon or two of oil from the wok and, over a medium high heat, add the leek, ginger, garlic and oyster sauce and stir vigorously for 10 seconds.
  3. Turn up the heat to high, add the peppers and shiitake mushrooms and  stir-fry for 20 seconds.
  4. Add the cooked beef and toss for 20 seconds.
  5. Add in the pine kernels, reserving some for garnish
  6. Add the water/stock, soy sauces, sugar, pepper and chicken bouillon and let bubble for 20 seconds.
  7. Ladle in a tablespoon at a time of the cornflour mixture, mixing after each addition until the sauce is thick and glossy.
  8. Serve immediately, garnished with the remaining pine kernels and with steamed rice.

Final stage of cooking in the wok

To deep-fry the pine kernels, put a few cups of oil in a wok, add in the pine kernels, then slowly bring the temperature up to low and then, over the next few minutes to medium low. Keep stirring for about 3 minutes until the pine kernels have turned a light golden colour, then remove with a slotted strainer and drain on kitchen paper. They will continue to cook for a few moments when you take them out of the oil so take them out when they are slightly lighter than done. Alternatively roast the pine kernels in a low oven for about 20 minutes. They will keep in an airtight container for a few days.