On the shelf
To satisfy our craving for Mexican tamales (which don't seem to be obtainable in Hong Kong) and corn tortillas (the ones sold here are hard and dry), we have got into the habit of buying masa harina (flour made of slaked lime-treated dried corn) in the United States and bringing it back. Experience has taught us to wrap the bag securely, having once had a bag burst in our suitcase. We were therefore happy to see that Bob's Red Mill golden masa harina is sold at City'super (HK$26.50 for 680 grams; IFC Mall, Central, tel: 2234 7128). The package gives recipes for corn tortillas and gorditas (stuffed corn patties).We had long thought that the popular Korean dish of jap chae (noodles with vegetables and beef) was made with rice vermicelli but found out recently that sweet potato vermicelli, which is more resilient and has a chewier bite, should be used. Kumo sweet potato vermicelli sells for HK$14.50 for a 500 gram pack at ParknShop stores. Our Korean friends tell us that after the noodles are boiled, they should be rinsed until they no longer feel slippery. Water-chestnut starch makes a wonderfully crunchy coating for Chinese-style fried chicken and spare ribs - marinate the meat in mashed fermented bean curd with soy sauce, rice wine, garlic and chillies. The starch is not finely milled, like wheat flour or corn starch, so has hard little clumps that add texture to the coating. Hung Cheong water-chestnut starch sells for HK$15 for 250 grams from baking supplies shop Twins (395 Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei, tel: 8111 3080).