Book Bites is Cooking the Books‘ more easygoing cousin. Authors talk about their book and share a recipe, all in one tasty bite.
I met Joyce Chng at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA), and I’ve known her longer on social media… she’s witty and fun, and very kind — come meet her! Today, Book Bites travels to Singapore to visit Joyce and check out her young adult novel Xiao Xiao and the Dragon’s Pearl!
I set Xiao Xiao & The Dragon’s Pearl in Qing China, a time period and dynasty I often find fascinating and interesting. When I was in junior college (senior high for you folks in the States), I studied modern Chinese history. The Qing dynasty was fast declining. It was a pale reflection of its former glory. Yet when I researched into the Qing dynasty, it was a time period of immense wealth, conquests and intrigue. The earlier Qing emperors laid the foundation for a strong dynasty. Local television further triggered my interest in this particular time in Chinese history. We had television serials from Hong Kong and Taiwan where the setting was often gorgeous, the courtly costumes vivid and elaborate, the lives of emperors, princes and their ladies complex and romantic.
Since it is a YA novel, the main character is a teenager, a daughter of an Imperial Courtesan. She has a moderately privileged life, filled with maid-servants and delicious food from the Imperial kitchens. A lot of the recipes in the novel are based on my own childhood favorites (even now as an adult!) and food based on the Chinese lunar festivals.
My mom is a fantastic cook. So, many recipes were inspired by her simple but effective (and delicious) style. I grew up with a Cantonese palate.
This is what she would make (with minor variations – substituting daikon with cucumbers, red chilli and carrots) to stimulate our appetites before dinner.
Pickled White Radish
- Two large white radish/daikon, peeled.
- Two tablespoons of sugar (ed: or to taste).
- Two and a half cups white vinegar.
- Two cups of warm water
- Slice the white radish into thin slices. Get a large bowl to contain the radish slices, add the four teaspoons of sugar. Rub the sugar in until the slices are well-coated.
- In a separate clean bowl, mix two tablespoons of sugar, the white vinegar and the warm water, until the sugar dissolves. (You may vary the amount of sugar and white vinegar to suit your taste).
- Have an air-tight glass container ready and sterilized to maintain the cleanliness. Pack the white radish in and pour in the solution. Seal and put in the refrigerator to let the radish sit overnight.
The pickles can keep from four to six weeks in the refrigerator. For additional kick and extra color, you can add in chopped red chilli.
Joyce Chng writes mainly science fiction and YA. She likes steampunk and tales of transfiguration/transformation. Her fiction has appeared in The Apex Book of World SF II, We See A Different Frontier, Cranky Ladies of History, and Accessing The Future. Her YA includes a trilogy about a desert planet and a fantasy duology in Qing China. Joyce has also co-edited a Southeast Asian steampunk anthology titled THE SEA IS OURS: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia (http://sea-steampunk.blogspot.sg/ and on Facebook) with Jaymee Goh. Her Jan Xu Adventures series, an urban/contemporary fantasy set in Singapore, is written under the pseud. J. Damask which she will tell you is a play on her Chinese name.