ribeye roast beef dinner Jamaican style

Everyone thinks, as soon as they see or hear something is Jamaican style, that it is spicy and hot. This is not that dish.

Once in a while, I make a dish that doesn’t have a written recipe. This is that dish.

My mother made a roast beef that is marinated in onion, scallions, and Pickapeppa Sauce. When I was growing up in Jamaica, there was only one Pickapeppa Sauce, a dark brown condiment that was salty and sour, redolent of black pepper, allspice and cinnamon. We shook it out of the bottle onto fried eggs and especially bully beef, tinned corned beef fried with tomatoes, onions, and scotch bonnet peppers.

Mom used Pickapeppa mainly to season her roast beef. Poured thickly into a Chinese soup bowl with chopped onions and scallions, this marinade was rubbed into the fat and the crevices of the beef. Tiny slits cut into the fat allowed more of the marinade to get inside the beef, and a chopstick was used to poke the onions and scallions deeper inside. Mom cooked by instinct; she knew when the beef was done and would take it out of the pot or the oven when she judged the roast had had enough. Me, I roast the “beast” in a 350˚F/175˚C oven resting on thick slabs of onion to caramelize and soak up the juices. I also use a thermometer. When it reaches 135˚F, it’s time to take it out of the oven and tent it with foil to rest for 10 minutes. A 1kg ribeye roast takes 1 1/2 hours from start to finish.

Of course, a roast needs a gravy. I used Ina Garten’s recipe for Homemade Gravy. Substitute beef broth for chicken, and do not forget to add the roast beef pan juices to the pot. Because there weren’t that much juices in the pan, I also added a little soy sauce for color and umami flavour to the gravy.

I try to make sure the colour green is included. I love greens. Baby bok choy is so tender and crisp, even when stir-fried. Trimmed of any yellowed leaves and leaves that don’t look appetizing (they have holes and tears), baby bok choy make a simple vegetable dish that can be whipped up with minced garlic and ginger and a spoonful of miso for flavour. No salt needed. It’s light and crisp-tender, a perfect complement to the Pickapeppa Sauce in the roast beef. Which, by the way, you can serve with more Pickapeppa on the side.

I insist on more greens so I put spinach in the mashed potatoes. Called colcannon these mashed potatoes are so creamy and chunky, but you can whip them for a smoother texture. I cut back 1/4 cup on the milk because it seemed to be too much liquid. I would add the milk gradually until you reach the desired consistency. If you add a bit too much liquid, as I did, it won’t matter because mashed potatoes also thicken slightly when they sit. If it isn’t creamy enough to your liking, you can also add more milk later. I substituted chives for the leeks, and I decided the butter and scallion toppings were really optional.

The really interesting things on the plate, to me, are the condiments. I was watching Somebody Feed Phil Rio de Janeiro when Phil bit into a roast beef sandwich with pineapple salsa. I thought, what a delicious idea! Now most people who are traditionalists, believe that a sweet condiment is better with pork and lamb, while beef deserves something savoury. Well, I offer both. First there is the sweet and sour (and spicy) pineapple-tomato-chili salsa, and a salty sour peppery limoon (lime chutney) that is my Chinese grandmother’s recipe.

To make the salsa, cut up 3 cups fresh sweet pineapple into tiny chunks, add 2 cups chopped fresh tomato to taste, and about 2 tablespoons minced cilantro or parsley. Pour 1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil in a small mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons vinegar (apple cider, jasmine rice vinegar, or white wine vinegar). Pour over the fruit and toss. Add salt and pepper to taste. I added a teaspoon of chopped Thai chili to make the salsa interesting. You can add more to taste or simply leave it out. Then I pulsed the whole thing in the food processor until it was a chunky paste. It had too much liquid, I decided, so I strained the salsa.

The last condiment is the lime chutney or limoon. It’s not Chinese so I think my grandmother must have learned it from her Jamaican neighbours. Quarter six limes and put them in a glass jar with a lid. Cover the limes generously with salt and close the lid. Keep in a cool place until the limes turn brown and “spring water” as we say in Jamaica. Remove the limes and wash off the excess salt. Process the limes with onions and scotch bonnet peppers to taste to make a fine paste. Serve limoon with grilled meat or fish. It goes well with curry lamb or goat too.

lychee ice cream


For this blogpost, I thought I’d revisit a childhood memory, my Dad’s ice cream. My Dad’s ice cream is creamy, sweet, and redolent of condensed milk. My Dad flavors his ice cream with tinned lychee or longan with the syrup thrown into the ice cream for good measure. Lychee and longan  both have a woody shell that is peeled open to reveal the fleshy fruit inside around a shiny black stone. When fresh they have a chewy texture; while longan is delicately sweet, the fresh lychee is tart. Both of them make wonderful additions to ice cream.

This Songkran (Thai New Year), I longed for Dad’s ice cream. I remember when Dad used to make the ice cream in Jamaica in an old fashioned bucket with a crank, then later with an electric ice cream maker. The ice cream makers of my childhood depended on lots of ice and rock salt to make a brine cold enough to freeze the ice cream. So for this project, Andy bought me the ice cream maker attachment for Gracie, my KitchenAid mixer. No ice or salt needed.

Lychee Ice Cream
Prep time: 20 minutes
Base Chilling time: 2-12 hours
Ice Cream Freezing time: 20-30 minutes (KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker)

2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar, optional
1 egg, well beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 can condensed milk (can reduce to 1/4 can)
1 can lychees, drained, and chopped. Reserve syrup

Place cream, sugar, if using, and egg in a saucepan. On low heat, heat the mixture, stirring constantly, until the liquid reaches a temperature of 160˚F on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat. Add vanilla, condensed milk, and reserved syrup. Stir to mix well. Pour ice cream base into a covered bowl and chill thoroughly 2-12 hours.

Pour chilled ice cream mixture into the ice cream canister, and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. Serve immediately or scrape into an airtight canister and put into the freezer to harden.

a chimaicanese christmas

(Thank you, Andrew Zimmern for coining that original tagline for Chinese-Jamaican.)  These are my Aunt Cela’s recipes that I grew up enjoying all these years. I brought them with me to the US and then to Thailand.

The first thing I used to do was make the dark fruitcake or black cake. I started soaking the fruits in brandy back in September and baking the cakes in early December so they could soak in rum. But fruitcakes being what they are–heavy, sticky, and sweet– I could never get the family to take to the idea of eating a slab of rum-soaked fruit baked in  a cake and topped with brandy butter sauce.

In the family, I had greater success with the roast turkey and the accompaniments: giblet gravy, bread-potato stuffing, potato salad, baked ham, and cranberry sauce. Now that my daughter is married, she is making her own Christmas traditions. Hopefully someday she will turn to her own multicultural heritage for inspiration.


Roast Turkey

1 roasting turkey, about 7kg, thawed 3 days in the refrigerator (estimate 1 pound per person)
1 teaspoon salt/pound
2 teaspoons black pepper/pound
1 teaspoon garlic powder/pound
1 stalk scallion/pound, cut into 2 inch lengths

Bread Potato Stuffing
Giblet Gravy
Potato Salad
Baked Ham
Cranberry Sauce

  1. Dry turkey inside and out. Put turkey in a large roasting pan with a folded cheesecloth underneath it to soak up the water. If this is a pre-basted turkey, skip this next step. In a small bowl, add salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. Mix well. Rub well inside and outside turkey. Crush and rub turkey with scallion. Leave inside and outside the turkey. Loosely cover the turkey with a doubled cheesecloth and place in the fridge overnight.
  2. Cook’s Note: Resting in the refrigerator helps to dry out the skin so that the turkey skin roasts golden and crisp.
  3. Next morning, while baking the ham, prepare the stuffing. Preheat the oven to the recommended temperature. Heat oven to 325˚F.
  4. Scrape out all scallion inside and outside the turkey. Stuff the bird loosely and sew up the cavity. Stuff the neck too and pin it closed.
  5. Brush the skin with oil. If it is a self-basting turkey, no need to brush the skin with oil. Cover the breast with foil until 1 1/2 hours before cooking time is up. Set bird on a rack with a pan to catch the drippings.
Approximate Roasting Times for Stuffed Turkey
Turkey Weight Before Stuffing Roasting Time
6-8 pounds 3-3 1/2 hours
8-12 pounds 3 1/2 -4 1/2 hours
12-16 pounds 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours
16-20 pounds 5 1/2 to 6 hours
20-24 pounds 6-6 1/2 hours
Approximate Roasting Times for Unstuffed Turkey
Turkey Weight Roasting Time
6-8 pounds 2 1/2 -3 hours
8-12 pounds 3-4 hours
12-16 pounds 4-5 hours
16-20 pounds 5-5 1/2 hours
20-24 pounds 5 1/2 -6 hours


Baked Ham with Five-Spice Cherry Sauce

I used to make this with pineapple slices but I found this recipe on the Better Homes and Gardens website and loved it, so I make it instead. Some traditions, unlike the fruitcake, are easy to adapt.

1 tablespoon whole cloves
3-5 pound smoked ham, preferably Virginia ham
1 cup mango preserves, or marmalade (peach preserves in original)
1/2 cup chopped tart dried cherries, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup unsweetened pineapple juice, orange or apple juice, or water will do
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons five-spice powder

Special Equipment: roasting pan with lid

  1. Put the ham in the pan, uncovered. Or use a pan lined with heavy duty aluminum foil for easier clean up. If the ham has no skin, skip to step 3.
  2. If the ham has a skin, you have to roast the ham to remove it. So heat the oven to 400˚F/200˚C. Roast the ham, uncovered, skin-side up, for about 30-45 minutes or until the skin browns and shrinks away from the ham, revealing the fat underneath. Remove the ham from the oven and carefully trim away the skin, leaving some fat behind, then discard the skin. Do not turn off the oven. Reduce heat to 325˚F/175˚C and continue with step 4.
  3. Heat the oven to 325˚F/175˚C. Score the fat diagonally with a knife to make a diamond shaped pattern. Stick cloves in the center of each diamond.
  4. In a small bowl, combine preserves, cherries, juice, mustard, ginger, and five-spice powder. Pour over the ham. Cover with lid or cover loosely with parchment, then cover with aluminum foil, if using a foil-lined pan. Tuck the ends under the edge of the pan to create a seal.
  5. Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until the ham reaches an internal temperature of 140˚F on an instant read thermometer.


Bread-Potato Stuffing for Roast Turkey

This stuffing is not heavy; it has interesting herbal flavors that have been  absorbed by the bread and the potato.

1 1/2 lb potatoes/ 5 pound turkey, boiled and mashed
3/4 lb (12 oz) bread cubes/5 pound turkey
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup onions
1/2 cup scallions
1/2 cup garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup Chinese celery stems (discard the leaves), finely chopped

  1. To boil potatoes: bring water and potatoes to a boil. Cover pan, reduce heat, and boil gently 15-20 minutes.
  2. Melt butter in a large skillet. Sauté onions, scallions, garlic. When onions are transparent, add bread cubes. Stir well. If too dry, add up to 1/4 cup water. The cubes should be softened. Add potatoes and mix well. Add cilantro and celery. Mix well.
  3. Stuff bird and prepare to roast.

Cook’s Notes:
• Instead of stuffing the bird, season the stuffing with poultry seasoning or Lawry’s seasoning salt to taste. For a moist stuffing, add a cup of chicken broth. If using chicken broth, reduce the amount of poultry seasoning. Spoon into a buttered 1 ½ -3 quart baking dish. Dot with butter. Bake 350˚F before roasting the turkey or if there is room in the oven, bake it with the turkey for about 30-40 minutes or until lightly browned.
• Make Stuffing in a Bundt Pan. Mix the bread potato stuffing recipe with 3 eggs lightly beaten with salt and pepper. Then brush the inside of the pan with 1 tablespoon melted butter mixed with 1/2 tablespoon flour, making sure to brush inside the crevices. This will help your Stuffing in a Bundt Pan come out of the pan. Pack stuffing into the pan. Then bake 25-30 minutes @350˚F and cool in the pan. Unmold in a plate and serve at once. (from Food Network and A Spicy Perspective)


Spicy Giblet Gravy (15 pound turkey)

The giblet gravy is high in iron; it has a complex flavor,  from the tang of the cilantro and kunchai (Chinese celery) to the spicy savory appeal of the Scotch Bonnet/habañero pepper.

Turkey giblet broth
Neck and giblets finely chopped
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup scallions, finely chopped
1/2 cup garlic, finely chopped
flour to thicken
Powdered Colman’s Mustard
Pickapeppa or A1 Steak Sauce
Worcestershire Sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste
6-8 Red chilies, seeded and chopped (or 1 Scotch Bonnet) or discard seeds and chop
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup Chinese celery, stems only, finely chopped

  1. In the morning, boil the neck and giblets in a saucepan with enough water to cover. Reserve broth. Chop neck and giblets fine in a food processor.
  2. Melt butter. Sauté onions, scallions, and garlic. Add flour a tablespoon at a time, stirring, until the mixture is thickened. Turn heat to low.
  3. Gradually add the giblet broth. Gravy should be thick. Add more flour and water as needed, stirring after each addition.
  4. Mix Colman’s into a thin paste with water. Add to gravy, stirring well. Add Pickapeppa or A1 and Worcestershire sauces. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Add parsley and celery. Add giblets. At this stage, if there are any children or adults that do not like pepper, divide the gravy and add the chili pepper to one but not the other. Serve hot.
  5. Cook’s Note: Because this is so popular, make extra giblet gravy out of chicken giblets.


Cranberry Sauce (Food Network)

I always used to use the tinned jellied cranberry sauce. No more! As they say, fresh is always best.  I had saved a frozen bag of cranberries from last year, and they still  taste fresh!

12 oz bag fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon zest of lemon
2 tablespoons water, plus more if needed
sugar, salt, and pepper to taste

Rinse the cranberries and set aside 1/2 cup. Put the rest in a saucepan with the sugar, lemon zest, and water. Cook for 10 minutes on low heat to soften the cranberries. You may need to add extra water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if the cranberries seem to be dry and stick to the bottom of the pot. Increase heat to medium and continue cooking 12 minutes or until cranberries burst. Reduce heat to low and stir in the reserved cranberries. Taste. Add sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Best served at room temperature.


Potato Salad

1 medium potato per person
1 hard boiled egg for every 2 people
unsalted butter, room temperature
1 small shallot, halved and thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
Green peas, corn, red and green sweet peppers

Boil eggs and potatoes as directed. Peel and place in a large bowl. Add shallots.

In another bowl, add the butter and mayonnaise at a ratio of 1:2. Whisk well to combine. Add to the bowl and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with one or more: frozen green peas, thawed; corn kernels, fresh or canned, well drained; chopped red and green peppers. Mix well to combine.

Aunt Gloria’s Shrimp Fritters


Reblogged from morethanonemoreday.blogspot.com, Sunday July 18, 2010

The nicest thing about visiting Calgary is finding out what family foodies are cooking and eating! This recipe is full of shrimp and flavor. The egg, which is optional, adds additional leavening. The tomato helps keep the fritter moist. At my dad’s request, my sister-in-law Lorraine made these fritters for a Calgary Stampede breakfast at home. Our guests requested her recipe because they loved these fritters so much. Lorraine uses very little measurements in her cooking but I like to be scientific so these amounts, except for the shrimp, are approximate.

3 lb. (6 cups) large frozen fresh shrimp, thawed, shelled, deveined, cut into 4 pieces each and sprinkled with 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour, plus more as needed (omit salt or use very little if using self-rising flour)
1 egg (optional)
1 large tomato seeded and chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons black pepper (use less if preferred)
2 cups water, plus more as needed
1 cup scallion, chopped finely  (about 1 bunch),
1  1/2 cup cilantro, chopped finely (about 1 1/2 bunches)
1-3 “country peppers” (scotch bonnet or habañero), seeded and chopped finely (discard seeds or use them if a hotter fritter is desired)
1 inch of oil in a heavy skillet for frying.

In a large bowl, mix the flour and black pepper. Add shrimp, egg (if using), tomato, water, scallion and cilantro. Mix well. The batter should be thick, not runny. There are two ways to test this. First, dip a spoon in the batter and drop it on the surface.  If the batter mounds and doesn’t spread, the batter is thick enough. The second way is the traditional method.  Lorraine dips a wooden chopstick in the batter and pulls out the stick.  If batter runs off the chopstick, it needs more flour. If it drips in clumps, it’s thick enough. Add a bit more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, if the batter is too thin. If the batter is too thick, add up to 1/2 cup more water, one tablespoon at a time. Add the chilies to the batter and stir to combine.

For the next part, put on a kitchen apron in case the oil spatters. Heat 1 inch of oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Lorraine dips a wet wooden chopstick in the oil; if it sizzles then it is hot enough. Drop batter in rounded kitchen spoonfuls in hot oil, each fritter about 3 inches in diameter. Fry until golden, about 2-3 minutes on each side. If the fritters get brown too quickly, reduce the heat to medium. Fry just 3 fritters at a time. Drain well on paper toweling. Cool slightly. Serve warm as an appetizer or as a snack.

in the borderlands, two kitchens make food fusion not food war

fried yellow chilis, photo from NPR
fried yellow chilies, photo from NPR

I love this photo of fried yellow chilies because it captures the essence of this fusion. Served with a dipping sauce, these chilies blend Chinese and Mexican food cultures. Recently, a friend in Canada sent me this article. She knows I am a foodie and she knows my family’s history. After all, her family is Chinese-Filippino and they count themselves Canadian. Fair enough.

This NPR article by Lisa Morehouse discusses the culinary hybrid cuisine that developed in the borderlands between the US and Mexico when an upstart import asserted itself: Chinese food meets Mexican food. The fusion also explains why my own family came to Jamaica. Perched on the doorstep to America but unable to enter the US because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, these immigrants, my ancestors, went to other places to live and developed a new cuisine. The common thread throughout the generations: we live to eat. And so we endure.

As a Jamaican of Chinese ancestry, hybridity is not surprising. I grew up eating food that was a hybrid of two cultures. The favorite dish of my childhood: pork and yam. It has a pungent sweet-tart sauce (Chinese) and steamed (BTW Chinese cooking method) with slices of fat pork (Chinese and Jamaicans both adore pork) alternating with slices of yam (Jamaican). Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods sampled this fusion and dubbed it “Chimaicanese.”

pork and yam, photo from Phenomenon

My cousin Peter lent me Norma Benghiat’s cookbook and I copied the recipe for pork and yam. I have yet to try it because I cannot find yam, a y-shaped tuber that is essential to this dish. I have an idea to try taro (เผือก) instead. After all, I will be following in my grandmother’s footsteps to create this three-way: Chinese, Jamaican, and Thai.

garlicky stir-fried morning glory with Chinese sausage


This dish reminds me of Michael Pollan’s dictum: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. In this next recipe adapted from Cook’s Country magazine, I decided to substitute Chinese sausage for the andouille and to use pak boong or morning glory for the greens. The Chinese sausage (fah chung in Chaimaicanese) added sweetness and texture. The vinegar added a sour note that balanced the garlic and the sweetness.

Garlicky Pak Boong with Chinese Sausage

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 3-4 minutes

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used rice bran oil)
3 ounces Chinese sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch chunks (Cook’s Country recommends andouille, kielbasa or chorizo)
1/2 yellow onion, sliced thin (Cook’s Country recommends red onion for contrast)
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 pounds pak boong or morning glory (Cook’s Country recommends beet greens, Swiss chard, or curly leaf spinach) I cut the pak boong into 3 inch lengths
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Salt and pepper


1. First brown the sausage in oil. Add the onion and cook until wilted. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
2. Add greens and vinegar to pot and cook covered, stirring occasionally, until greens are wilted
and have released their juices, about 3 minutes. Remove lid and increase heat to high. Cook until liquid evaporates,2 to 3 minutes. For the pak boong cook until the vegetable turns a dull green. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.