Pork Mince with Shiitake Mushrooms, Wood-Ear Fungus and Preserved Radish

I sort of made this recipe up myself.

I thought it will be nice to have juicy pork mince with chewy shiitake mushroom, the slight crunch of wood-ear fungus and preserved radish in a mouthful. And so that’s what I did!

It turned out to be very nice.  Versatile too. It can be served with rice or as a topping on noodles. It keeps very well in the fridge because it’s basically without a sauce. I usually prepare a large portion and store it in an airtight container in the fridge to be consumed over a few days. A very handy “stand-by” dish  😉


  • 150 – 200 g lean pork mince
  • 4 – 5 shiitake mushrooms, soaked until soft and sliced
  • A handful of wood-ear fungus, soaked and sliced finely
  • 2 – 3 pieces of preserved radish, rinsed and chopped finely
  • 3 – 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 fresh red chilli, de-seeded and chopped finely (I ran out of fresh chilli so I used half teaspoon of chilli powder)


  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark sweet soy sauce
  • A pinch of salt
  • A few dashes of fish sauce
  • A few shakes of white pepper powder

Clockwise from upper left: shiitake mushrooms, wood-ear fungus, garlic and preserved radish


  1. Marinade pork mince with the seasonings for at least an hour or overnight.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a frying pan.
  3. Stir fry garlic and pork mince until cooked, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add in chilli or chilli powder then radish, stir fry a minute.
  5. Add in mushroom and fungus, stir fry for a minute.
  6. Taste and season with additional soy sauce and dark soy sauce if necessary.
  7. Stir fry for another 5 minutes, season and taste as you go.
  8. Remove and serve hot.


What’s In A Name?

My given name is Shin Tien. Back in Malaysia, everyone was accustomed to the fact that it is common for Chinese to have two given names. All my friends call me Shin Tien. Family and closer friends calls me Tien. In mandarin, Tien sounds exactly like “sweet”. Its like being called “sweetie” all the time. Bliss.

In New Zealand however, when I introduced myself, they start to call me Shin. They think that’s my first name. It’s not cool.

It’s like calling Michael, Mike. Okay bad example.

It’s like calling Jennifer, Jenn. Scrap that.

It’s like calling Michelle, Mich. (Damnit.)

It’s like calling Sharon, Sha. (Aha!) Or Carol as Ca. Or David as Da.

You get the drift.

So I decided to just introduce myself as Tien. AKA Sweetie.

Anyway, I digress.

Many weeks ago Terry and I were invited to his colleague Christopher’s Chinese wedding banquet.

Naturally, his entire guest list are of his Chinese friends and family. It was a small affair with only 40 attendees. We were seated at a round table of mostly strangers. As such, this gentleman offered to conduct a short ice breaker around the table. Each one of us was to introduce our names one by one as prompted.

And so John started with himself, his wife Tina, then Jennifer, Michael, David, Peter, Natasha, Anne, Mary then Terry and…..Tien.

With an amused look, John asked in mandarin, “You don’t have an English name?”

“Umm no”, I said with a smile.

“Really??!! No Kiwi name??”

At this point, he sounded slightly puzzled. Like it’s almost unacceptable for a Chinese to not have an English name in New Zealand.

Then there was an awkward silence as the other guests waited for me to blurt out a Kiwi-sounding name somehow.

“Yes, really. I love my name a lot, see”, I said with another smile, hoping to just dismiss the fact that really, I am just Tien.

Immediately after I said it, it dawned on me that I have just imposed that the entire table consisted of people who are so ashamed of their given Chinese names they have to choose an English name of their own!

I didn’t mean to offend, I really do love my name. And I understand the fact that having an English name just makes it so much easier to introduce yourselves to native English speakers. That’s why Terry is Terry in New Zealand.

Fortunately, the whole ordeal was quickly forgotten when the amazing 12-course meal was served. And I ate like four servings of dessert. FOUR! Consider that my punishment for not having a Kiwi name!

Bananas and Me

What comes to mind when you think of bananas?

Growing up as a Chinese who doesn’t read or write Chinese characters got me referred to as a banana myself. Simply because I have yellow skin (being a Chinese) but inside, I am practically “white” (metaphor of being a Caucasian). Yellow skin with white flesh….just like a banana!

I remember my mom telling me why she decided to send me to a national school instead of a Chinese medium school when I was a kid. You see, rasing a child in multi-racial Malaysia, parents have the choice of sending their kids to either a Chinese medium school, Tamil (Indian) medium school or a national school where the language of conduct is Malay and English.

During my mother’s schooling time in the 1960s and 1970s, Malaysia was under the British rule and going to a national school means attending all classes in English, following the British curriculum. The English-eds (English-educated), as they call it during her time were seen as the elites. The “better ones” as compared to those who attended Chinese or Tamil schools. My mother attended a Chinese school. Even so, the quality of education then was very high and my mother speaks perfect English even though she attended a Chinese school.

However, during her teens, she still used to envy the English-ed girls who ride the same school bus as hers, speaking confidently in flawless English to each other while she hung her head in silence, feeling inferior. She said she vowed to ensure her kids to be English-eds so that they could “hold their head up high”. What she didn’t realise was, during my time (1980s and 1980s), Malaysia was no longer under the British rule and national schools were conducted in the national Malay language with occasional English lessons instead. Somehow, the term “English-ed” stuck on.

And so my elder sister and I grew up as bananas. It wasn’t too bad though, I speak Cantonese as this is the language I grew up with at home. My sister is much better than I am. She taught herself how to read chinese characters by reading Chinese newspapers on her own during her free time. Amazing eh? Not me though.

My biggest regret is I can’t speak Mandarin properly and I certainly cannot read or write in Chinese characters. Although schools do offer additional and optional classes for pupils who wish to learn their mother-tongue languages, I pleaded with my mother to let me stop attending them because, “It’s too hard, ma!”

Yes, now I regret it! Fortunately, I managed to learn how to write my name in Chinese characters. To be fair, I still think Chinese characters are not easy to learn! Did you know every stroke in a character must be written in order, similar to spelling? Or else, you’ll be “drawing” characters instead of writing them.

Maybe in the near future, I should really put in some serious effort to learn up this sophisticated language that is supposed to be my mother tongue and shed off my banana image.