Sunday, March 29, 2009

Meat rolls wrapped in tofu sheets

The Impermeability of Tofu Sheets
and its Role as a Wrap for Steamed Meat Rolls

Tan Yee Wei, March 2009


Tofu sheets (fu pei) was used as a wrap for steaming minced meat, and its role as a moisture barrier is discussed.


Tofu, soy, steam, impermeability, porosity, soup, gravy, wrap, roll, moisture


Yesterday, I saw some thin, large sheets of tofu-like product at the market’s tofu and soy products seller. I bought some to experiment – the immediate idea was to use it to wrap minced meat like a spring roll, and steam. Preliminary research suggests that this tofu sheet is called fu pei in Cantonese, literally translated as tofu skin.

The filling consists of minced meat, scallops, garlic, chilli, coriander, black fungus and mushrooms.


Using a knife and chopping board, alter the ingredients’ (scallops, garlic, chilli, coriander, black fungus and mushrooms) topology such that they are no longer continuous and simply-connected. In other words, chop finely.

Mix chopped ingredients and minced meat with seasoning.

Cut tofu sheet into reasonably sized pieces, and fill with erm… filling. At this point, I realised the tofu sheet is too thick to fold in at the ends, and thus they will remain open-ended.

Arrange in a plate, drizzle with a little soy sauce and sesame oil. Ensure plate is sufficiently deep as the filling will expel some gravy as it cooks.

Steam for ~20 mintues


The tofu sheet is a non-porous material, and therefore helped retain moisture within the meat. As the ends were not sealed, the filling at the end cooked first and formed a barrier. When the filling in the middle cooked, it emits a soupy juice, part of which was retained within the roll. The result was a particularly moist filling.


The tofu sheet serves as a moisture-retaining barrier.


While the end result looks interesting, the advantages conferred by using tofu sheets is questionable. It is conceivable that an alternative method can be used to ensure minced meat does not dry out during the course of cooking, such as using a covered small deep bowl.

Therefore, the author's opinion on the practical use of the tofu sheet lies in the areas of aesthetics, flavour and texture.

Further work

An alternate application would be small squares of tofu sheets with filling in the middle and the corners brought together as to bound the filling inside the package (similar to a wonton). As the tofu sheet is not inherently sticky, a means of fastening the structure would have to be developed. Using lengths of dried preserved vegetable to tie the package together is suggested but not yet tested.

It is envisioned that the above approach will retain all of the filling's gravy within the package, resulting in a wet and nasty surprise for unsuspecting consumers who bites into the package. Further work is required in this area to verify the practicality of such an approach.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

The authoritian fist of China; a boring discussion on encryption

Of late, I have found YouTube to be unaccessible. The possible cause?
China says video footage that purportedly shows Chinese security personnel violently beating Tibetans last year is "a lie".
The video apparently shows protesters being beaten with sticks, and kicked and choked by China's security forces.
The video-sharing site YouTube has recently been blocked in China, which could be because the site had been carrying the contentious video.


After seeing my hidden message in a protected Excel sheet revealed by trivially exploiting a loophole, I resolved to construct a reasonably thorough encryption mechanism.

I say “reasonable” because while not many will be inclined to actually crack the mechanism, it is vulnerable to a careful attack by even the most slipshod of cryptanalysts.

The first step involves parsing the message characters into numbers. For this step, A is labelled 0, B is 1, C is 2 … Y is 24, Z is 25 and space is 26.

Next, the characters are grouped into blocks of six characters. Each block of six characters will be converted into a number. The most straightforward method is to adopt a base-27 numbering system to represent the number where each character is a digit in the number. Expressed in base-10 (the same base that most humans use to interface with each other and with computers), the number is of the form
X = x1 × 275 + x2 × 274 + x3 × 273 + x4 × 272 + x5 × 27 + x6
Where X is the plaintext and xi is the i-th character in the block.

This X is part of the plaintext: the number which 6 characters of the message. The entire plaintext is made up of many different X’s to encode all the characters in the message.

To encrypt the plaintext X, some operation is performed on X to hide its original value:
C = (X + k1) × k2

k1 and k2 are predetermined constants. They are the cipher keys that are used to modify the plaintext. The result of the modification is the ciphertext, C.

This ciphertext is then sent to the intended recipient. If anyone who intercepts the message attempts to convert the ciphertext into characters, they will be faced with a bunch of garbled characters.

The intended recipient will have the correct cipher keys to unlock the message. To find the plaintext, the encryption operation is performed in reverse on the ciphertext:
X = (C / k2) - k1

To recover the xi that would represent each character in the message, the recipient converts X to base 27 to recover the values xi and therefore the message contents.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fine. 25 16 things.

  1. I enjoy cooking, although my repertoire is a bit limited. I also like cooking for people now and again. 
  2. When I was young, I had many problems with my urinary tract/kidneys/bladder. My mother says there was an overnight bag always ready when we needed to go to University Hospital. And we went to the hospital a lot – sometimes a few times in a week. When it was all finally resolved some years later, the bill for the years of antibiotics and medication amounted to something like RM 100. The wonders of government healthcare. But don’t ask me, I have absolutely no recollection.
  3. In 2003 to 2005, I was mostly fascinated with writing and the art of sentence crafting. When I look back at my stuff, I’m still amazed used to be able to write such things. This, for example.
  4. In 2004 to 2007, I immersed myself in mathematics and physics. I’d go to the university’s mathematics and physics libraries to oogle at the hot geek chicks and get books that sometimes become too in-depth for me after 20 pages. The maths did me much good.
  5. From 2007 to the present, I have been fixated with finance. The first hook was financial derivatives by virtue of its non-linear valuation and tricky mathematics. The second was foreign exchange, because I was working with two currencies. My accounts are now in three currencies.
  6. I have one flat foot.
  7. I have a huge number of accounts: cash in China, cash in Malaysia, cash in Australia, savings in China, savings in Malaysia, savings in Australia, parents’ payables/receivables, Jean’s payables/receivables, May’s payables/receivables and a consolidated position. But only 3 bank accounts. 
  8. When I was setting up my recording system I had considered MYOB, but the student version I could get hold of can only handle one currency. SAP and Oracle are powerful but not (easily) available as pirated/cracked software. So I did it all on MS Excel with a huge number of worksheets, linked data, exchange rates and automatic functions. I’m sure my improvised and half-baked accounting would not meet the requirements of the IASB. But I can chart any number of variables against time, such as bank account balance, net position, exchange rates…
  9. Oh and I don’t have much money, just a bit of money scattered here and there. So many accounts and so little money bleah.
  10. I started doing taekwondo in 1998, and had to stop in 2003 because of a weak foot/ankle. I then moved to karate for about 2 years until I was no longer welcome at the university (non-students/ staff pay a premium for facilities), I went boxing at the gym. With a well developed idea of how to transfer momentum, I was able to match the impact of much larger and faster people.
  11. I was never able to execute a proper jumping reverse swing until this year.
  12. The first (and only) time I got drunk was in 2003 when my friends came over for my farewell shortly before flying to Melbourne. I got conned into drinking a small cup of wine with each of them. And I later realised they were drinking Coca Cola while I was fed all the wine. Tossers.
  13. I like taking walks. This started as a necessity to save on tram tickets, but I quickly realised my mind relaxes easily with the monotonous plodding of footsteps.
  14. I like sunsets. The kind where the sun remains visible till it disappears down the horizon, not the kind where the sun fades away before it actually sets.
  15. I rarely see sunrises. The times I do see it is usually when I have not slept the night before.
  16. I’m very fussy when it comes to lighting. Having a lone light fixture in the middle of the room does not cut it – this is usually terrible for a desk placed along the wall as my head will cast a shadow on whatever I’m  trying to read. I’ll set up a small bright light and direct it against the wall to illuminate the desk space with diffuse light.
It's decided - we are going to Hong Kong! *excited*

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Vanilla ice cream with strawberries

In a previous post, I described vanilla ice cream with “gratuitous amounts of sliced strawberries” as absolutely lovely.

Sabrina, on the other hand, was of the opinion that “it all seems a little gay.”

This is my counter argument:

Super-Takumar 135mm f/3.5 with extension tube

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Happy First Tuesday of March

In an effort to slash operating overheads1, my office has moved from the overly large 3-unit space in a commercial building to a cozy2 apartment in a mixed-occupancy development near the railway station.

Over the weekend, a burst pipe at our block managed to put 3 of 4 lifts out of service, leaving a long queue for the lone lift up the 39-storey building. This added to the already severe problems of the building being over crowded- designed as residential units, the services are probably enough for 3 to 4 occupants per unit. But with many of these units used as offices, there was a problem of overpopulation (just like the whole of China, really).

The complex consists of a retail areas on 4 podium levels, and two separate towers of about 40 floors rising up from the podium. To circumvent the horrendous crowds at the lift lobby, we took the other tower's lift up to the 5th floor and snaked through emergency exit tunnels to appear on the roof level of the podium. Here was a roof-top garden and tennis courts for people who pay more rent, which also functions as a safe area in an emergency.

Walk along the roof-top garden to the other tower's emergency exit door, and go up to the 6th floor and tadaa!, crowd avoided.

Today, i followed the same route. Up the lift to level 5, entered the emergency exit door (which required pressing a door release button to open), travelled through a winding concrete tunnel to the other door leading outside and only to find that it was securely shut. A numeric keypad provided authorised access, and a sign said "door opens automatically in a fire". Great, looks like I'll have to use the lifts at my own building anyway.

I returned to the first door, only to find the same thing: a numeric keypad and no means to unlock it from the 'safe' side. Uh-oh. I looked at other doors and found them not to contain much promise: electrical risers and HVAC equipment rooms, probably. No good getting stuck in those. I paced back and forth along the tunnel, looking alternately at both of these very secure doors (probably rated to 1.5 hours, these doors can very well resist the spread of smoke and heat from a raging fire for at least 90 minutes).

I then found a plastic box with a hinged cover embedded into the concrete. Inside was a red phone with no number pad - if this was hard-wired to the fire department, I could stir up a mess. Hoping it was merely connected to the building control room, I picked it up and heard it ring. Fortunately, it was not the fire department.

I explained my situation, and the person said he'll send someone up to look for me. To my surprise, he didn't try to give me a talking-to for using the emergency exits (some buildings managers treat these exits as additional things they have to guard - some are even locked up at night with chains and padlocks). After several minutes (the wait was made easier playing Snake II on the phone), someone opened the door leading back to the lift lobby.

Yay I can finally go to work!

1. This, in addition to giving everyone a delightful retrenchment/paycut surprise. You know hor, my salary got reduced by 20%. [ -censored- ], good thing i don't have to worry about home loan payments and the like now.
2. Smallish

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Strawberries: a design concept

Concept 3 - GA

Click here for large size image

I saw strawberries at Carrefour over the weekend. Though smallish, they were all intensely red and almost entirely blemish-free. For 3.68 RMB (1.84 MYR) a tray, they were irresistible. I got 3 trays. The following photograph shows the contents of about 2/3 of a tray. This, for a mere 3.68 RMB.

In addition, Walls ice cream was on special offer. The 500 ml tubs were promoted at buy 1 get 1 free. The obvious solution was vanilla ice cream with gratuitous amounts of sliced strawberries.

Absolutely lovely.