Updated: Jan 8
Text and Photography by George Tang @ George Kitchen
Ｒｅｃｉｐｅ ｌｉｎｋ ：Curry Chicken Baguette
Stepping into Tin Yin Coconut Company, the bustling city ambiance suddenly turned silent. I felt like I was entering a spices paradise where thousands of aromas and colours pervaded my senses. Before my eyes were one after another yellow box of spices shelved alongside on racks, with notes specifying the effects of the recipes and herb prescriptions everywhere. While I was greeted by the cordial smile of the shopkeeper’s lady, an equally hospitable cat was circling around me. I couldn’t help but exclaim, “Wasn’t this the chef’s heaven?”. The traditional grocery is cramped, but it stocks almost every kind of seasoning and Southeast Asian dried food like Chả lụa (Vietnamese sausage), lemongrass, galangal, limes, curry powder, peppercorn-and-star-anise, basil, herbal soup bases, and marinating ingredients. Despite being a one-stop solution for all your spice needs, every good is sold at a bargain price.
The Open Secret Recipes
Ever since I tasted Tin Yin Coconut Company’s signature coconut nian gao (New Year glutinous rice cake), its chewy texture and coconut aroma have been lingering on my taste buds and in my mind The shopkeeper’s lady even recommended pairing the coconut nian gao with their Pu’er tea for a more exquisite flavour! Being proficient in all the ingredients sold in the store and the person in charge of the three meals at home, Mrs Tsang, the shopkeeper’s lady, is undeniably a culinary master. Even though Mr and Mrs Tsang are snowed under with the store’s business every day, they never reserve in sharing their recipes with new or returning customers. Apart from the housewives' favourite Chinese herbal soup recipes or the secret way of preparing Chinese salt-baked chicken with a rice cooker, my best-loved recipes are those Chinese restaurant desserts like baked lotus seed and sago pudding and split pea coconut pudding. After the shopkeeper Mr Tsang learned that I am a chef, he generously shared with me his years of experience in managing the business and preparing curry paste and steamed nian gao. Mr and Mrs Tsang’s knowledge about spices is phenomenal; they can pick and tell the effects and usages of any exotic food ingredients sold in their shop. Within my hours-long interview, a steady stream of customers was visiting the shop, not to mention the tricky q