High on my list of coveted cooking equipment is a smoker, preferably a free-standing one that I can install in the back garden (when I acquire a garden) of my house (when I acquire a house). I have smoked foods in a wok, but that works only for things that can be smoked quickly, not for meats that need a long time over a very low fire. So, when I make my own "smoked" bacon, I cheat, and use liquid smoke. Wright's Hickory Liquid Smoke (HK$22 from City'super, Times Square, Causeway Bay, tel: 2506 2888) was recommended by a chef friend, who says it's the only brand he knows of that captures and condenses real smoke, so it doesn't taste artificial. A little goes a long way - use just a few drops and mix them into a salt and sugar mixture that's then rubbed over the pork belly.




For a short time after sakura (cherry blossom) season ends in Japan, the shelves of certain supermarkets are filled with products that use the blossoms and leaves, such as sakura-infused sake, sakura salt and sakura sugar. The Honda Shoten brand of sakura blossom soba noodles isn't the best sakura product: for zaru soba (chilled noodles with cold dipping sauce), it's fine, but the soba - made with buckwheat and wheat, and tinted a pale pink - doesn't have a detectable sakura taste. A packet of two servings costs HK$52 from City'super.






At the Living Plaza by Aeon shops, I often find products I didn't know existed and didn't think I needed until I tried them. That was the case with this Idea Kitchen Tool product - the package says it's for cutting green onions, but it means negi, which is a type of Japanese leek. It cuts the negi into fine julienne much better than most of us can manage with a knife. It costs HK$12 at the Causeway Bay branch (M/F, Wing Tak Mansion, 15 Canal Road West, tel: 2892 1812).