She's a firecracker. She told us that she drove her mother nuts with cooking questions when she was a kid and that she is constantly riding her sister because she has no sense of when particular fruits and vegetables are in season. She's always giving Mrs. Chen gifts of woody breadfruits and mealy apples.
We asked Mrs Chen to show us how to make steamed buns, the ubiquitous fast snack sold from hot cabinets around the island and in China. One would be hard pressed to learn how to make them from a book. While it's hard to do them really well (with succulent fillings and uniform dough that is pleasing to the tooth and the eye), the principle is pretty basic. You make a yeasted dough with white flour, water, oil and a pinch of sugar and let it rise in a warm place. You make a filling of your choice. In our case, we used ground pork, scallion and ginger water, rice wine, salt, black pepper, sesame oil and chopped scallion. Scallion and ginger water is a simple and brilliant flavoring. You just take green onions and ginger and throw them in a blender with water to make a thin, bright green sauce. You punch down your dough and divide it into balls. Then roll each ball out so that it is thinner at the edges than in the center. Spoon on your filling and then comes the tough part: pinching, stretching and folding the dough around the filling. It should be pretty easy to tell from the photo below which of the three buns was made by Mrs. Chen.