Food: it’s that universal medium that transcends culture and language, and a creative art form that absolutely anyone can appreciate.
Living in a multicultural city like Hong Kong, we have the opportunity to meet and get to know people from all over the world. While our kids may have friends and teachers from different parts of the globe, they (and us!) often have little understanding of Hong Kong’s diverse refugee community.
Table of Two Cities (a community project focused on telling the stories of Hong Kong’s refugees through the medium of food) helps bridge that gap with the idea that a shared meal can bring both sides of Hong Kong to one shared table.
From Congolese doughnuts to Egyptian moussaka, keep your eye out for more delicious dishes! They’ll all be featured in a book of recipes slated to be published in 2021. This month, Sabah* from Egypt shares some of her favourite recipes from home. We can’t wait to try out her Egyptian-style moussaka, crispy fried chicken or Mashi (a stuffed cabbage dish). Cook them up with the kids and be sure to share her story as you enjoy this delicious meal.
*Editor’s note: Names have been changed to protect identities.
A wonderful crisp starter to kick off your Egyptian meal, the uniqueness about this recipe lies in its marinade made of fresh ground black pepper and onion. Serves four to six people.
1 kg chicken tenderloins, scored down the middle
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
Salt 1 tsp (or to taste)
1 tbsp ground black pepper (ideally, lightly roast peppercorn seeds and grind prior to use)
1 tbsp paprika
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup of corn starch
1 egg, beaten
1 cup oil
A few sprigs of parsley or coriander
- Defrost chicken if frozen, wash well (and clean any pieces of blood).
- Add finely chopped onion, paprika, black pepper and salt together on to the chicken and, using your hands, massage everything in making sure all the chicken pieces are coated well. Leave to marinate minimum for one hour in the fridge.
- Beat the egg well and keep it aside.
- In a separate bowl, mix all-purpose flour, corn starch, salt and ground black pepper to taste. Mix everything well.
- Once the chicken has finished marinating, wipe off all the onion bits from each chicken piece. This is an important step as the onions might burn in the oil if deep-fried along with the chicken. We won’t need the onions now and these can be discarded (if you don’t wish to discard them you might fry these separately and serve as a garnish over the chicken).
- Now coat the chicken in the flour mix, lightly dip in the egg batter followed by a light dusting of the flour mix and deep fry in an about an inch of oil.
- When golden brown, remove from heat and add to a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
- Garnish with parsley, a sprinkle of paprika and serve immediately.
This is a tangy, spicy and slightly sweet eggplant dish cooked with tomato that gives eggplant it’s ultimate glory, while singing an ode to cumin whose flavours echo in gentle waves through the entire experience. This moussaka recipe serves six.
2 eggplants, peeled and chopped lengthwise
1 ½ tsp raw cumin powder (or you can grind fresh cumin seeds)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 green chilli peppers, chopped lengthwise
2 medium to large-sized tomatoes
1 can tomato paste (we use Del Monte)
1 whole garlic bulb, peeled and finely grated
1 cup vegetable oil (for frying eggplant – you might choose alternative frying methods if you would like to avoid deep frying)
Pita bread to eat with the meal
- Wash the eggplants and peel them. Then chop in half and then again lengthwise. Put in a large bowl.
- Add 1 tsp each of cumin powder and salt to the bowl and toss the eggplant pieces in it until they are evenly coated. Leave aside at an angle for half an hour while you work on the sauce. This helps drain off excess water.
- After half an hour, fry the eggplant pieces in hot vegetable oil for about 5 minutes or until it becomes a deep brown colour. Flip the eggplant from time to time to make sure both sides are cooked evenly. Once a batch of eggplants is done, transfer onto a plate with paper towels to absorb excess oil.
- Keep the oil in the pan hot as you will keep adding different ingredients to cook but make sure to keep an eye on the flame so the oil doesn’t start smoking.
- When the last batch of eggplant pieces are frying, add in 2 green chilli peppers and fry until browned and soft. Keep aside while you work on the sauce.
- Chop 2 tomatoes and put them in a blender. Add 1 can of tomato paste and blend until smooth.
- Now add 1 tbsp of grated garlic to the same pan in which you fried the eggplant. Cook on medium-low heat until it is brown (note: garlic cooks very quickly and can easily burn thereby spoiling the taste of your entire meal).
- In a separate pan add 1 tbsp of this oil. Make sure the stove is on low heat and stir in the rest of the grated garlic (again being careful not to burn it).
- Standing slightly away from the pan, gently add 1 tbsp of vinegar to the garlic and stir. Then add the blended tomato puree and salt to taste. Stir well and let it simmer on medium-low heat for 15 minutes.
- Add the remaining (½ tsp) cumin powder to the sauce, stir well and let it simmer for 5 more minutes.
- Add the fried eggplant pieces and green chilli pepper to the sauce, along with 1 more tbsp of vinegar. This last step is optional depending on how tangy you want it. You may add more or less depending on your taste.
- Simmer for 5 more minutes and the moussaka is ready!
- Garnish with freshly chopped parsley or coriander.
- Serve hot with pita bread.
As Egyptian recipes go, this one is a local gem. These steamed cabbage rolls stuffed with a tomato-based, fragrant cumin and coriander seed sauce and rice make a delicious accompaniment to your meal. Serves eight.
2 medium-sized cabbages, core and tops cut off
3 litres of water
2 cups of short-grain white rice (we use Thai Jasmine rice)
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup chopped parsley (or coriander for an easier substitute)
4 tomatoes, chopped into big chunks
2 onions, finely diced
2 tbsp canned tomato paste
1 chilli, sliced fine
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 ½ tbsp cumin powder
Ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp salt (or as per your salt taste)
Note: Most spices are at their peak flavour if lightly roasted, ground and used immediately in the meal you’re preparing. Coriander and cumin in particular, so if possible always prep your spices fresh instead of buying pre-ground powders.
This recipe requires four main steps, preparing the sauce, rice, making the stuffing and getting the cabbage ready to stuff.
- Bring 3 litres of water to boil in a heavy saucepan. Wash the cabbage, scoop tops off, add into boiling water and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat. Once done, wait till the water cools a little leaving the cabbage in the water and begin to carefully pry apart the cabbage leaves with a pair of tongs. Put the leaves into a separate bowl after shaking off the excess water and keep aside to cool. Save the leaves that might be extra or those that might have ripped, in a separate bowl – we will use these later.
- To prepare the cabbage leaves cut each leaf lengthwise, this way the central stalk of the leaf can be cut off, leaving you with 2 pieces per leaf. Each bit should be roughly a width of 1.5 inches.
- Heat 3 tbsp of vegetable oil in a pan and add in the diced onions. Cook for 15 minutes on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until they turn a light caramel brown.
- Add chopped tomatoes and simmer on medium heat until everything has cooked and become mushy – roughly 15 minutes. Add some more ground pepper. Add in the sliced chilli and 2 tablespoons of tomato paste to the sauce. This will help thicken the sauce. Let it all simmer for another 10 minutes on medium heat.
- Add in the chopped parsley, coriander and cumin powder, stir well and simmer on low heat for 10 more minutes and then switch off the heat as the sauce should now be ready.
- Transfer 2 ladlefuls of the sauce to another bowl and leave it aside for later.
- Wash and drain 2 cups of rice.
- Stir the rinsed rice into the tomato sauce in the pan. This will soak and soften the rice as the sauce and pan are still hot but not cook it. The rice will cook when we stuff this mix in cabbage in the next step.
Stuffing the cabbage
- In a rice cooker or pot, lay the saved cabbage leaves you have kept aside at the bottom to form a base for the Mashi.
- Begin to stuff the cut cabbage leaves now. Take one piece at a time and put 1 tsp of sauce mixture containing the raw rice and tomato onto the middle. Fold it such that it becomes a roll. Place the finished roll on top of the cabbage bed in the rice cooker pot. Repeat this step until all the cabbage leaf pieces are stuffed and lay on top of each other.
- Now, add 1 ½ cups of water, 1 tbsp of salt and ½ tsp of cumin powder to the sauce you left aside in the bowl, stir well.
- Pour this mixture into the rice cooker pot with the stuffed cabbage rolls and cook for 45 mins to 1 hour.
The Mashi is now done!
Read more: Indian Curry Recipes From One Wholesome Meal