Archive for April, 2008

What do I do in my spare time?

April 11, 2008

lisa-tse.jpgThis is Lisa Tse here, CEO of Sweet Mandarin. People often wonder what makes me tick. How do I juggle everything and how come you are everywhere? The question I often get asked is “What do you do in your spare time?” I look at them and smile. Do you really want to know what I do in my spare time? hehehe What spare time?

I’ve just been appointed on the board of the UK Government body EMBF which helps start ups and new businesses grow – how to be more entrepreneurial I guess.

Another exciting ‘spare time’ activity is representing TIE as the Manchester Regional Head. I love what I do. Therefore it never feels like ‘work’. I’m not tied to the rat race. I’m not tied to the monthly pay cheque. I meet the most fascinating of people from Liz Hurley to politicians to local businesses. I learn every day and I love my life.

 So, what do I do in my spare time – I would say that I ‘go out with friends’ – and we talk business, build business and have a whale of a time. If you want to learn more, come and join me at TIE.

What is TIE ?

TiE-The Indus Entrepreneurs – founded in Silicon Valley in 1992 by successful entrepreneurs and professionals with roots in the Indus region.
TiE is also known as Talent Ideas and Enterprise and is today spread over 48 chapters in 11 countries.
Over 12,000 Members and 1,600 plus Charter Members – includes top Entrepreneurs, VCs, Private Equity, Angels, Law Firms, Tech & Management professionals.

TiE Members are entrepreneurs and professionals with an interest in entrepreneurship, either in a start-up context or within a larger company. They represent a diverse set of industries, including academia, software and information technologies, biotech, legal, financial, and other services.       Membership is open to individuals of all backgrounds and experiences with the payment of annual dues. 

If you fancy joining, drop me an email at

All the best,



Shanghai Dumplings Anyone?

April 8, 2008

Shanghai DumplingIn this series, I will explore with you a few dishes that we serve at Sweet Mandarin, an award winning restaurant in Manchester ( run by three twentysomething sisters (including me).

(c) Food of the Orient – Shanghai by Helen Tse, published by Chinatown Magazine

As a British Born Chinese, I have lived a very British way of life being educated in Manchester and Cambridge University. However, throughout my life, I grew up with the backdrop of serving and cooking in the family food business and continue my involvement in the catering empire as a co-owner of Sweet Mandarin. Chinese food has had an overwhelming presence in my life and been the catalyst for my hunger for understanding China and the significance of food in its culture. This series explores the cities where I stayed, the lives that crossed my path and the amazing food with a story to tell. China is a captivating and vivacious collection of diverse cities, provinces and regions. In the south, Guangdong, the Cantonese speaking region is renowned for its steaming, boiling and stir frying and dim sum feasts which we have become accustomed to love in the western world. Beijing in the coldest area of China boasts the Emperor’s banquet, the world famous Peking Duck and hot pot. In the east, Shanghai offers its famous Shanghai Dumplings, whilst the Sichuan provinces easily provide the hottest and spiciest cuisine.

This week, I stayed in Shanghai and fell in love with the city. In the 1920s and 1930s, Shanghai was home to gangsters, warlords, 24-7 nightclubs and hotels that supplied heroin on room service. Its people were a mix of British, Chinese, Americans, French, Gernans, Japanese and White Russians and life was an extreme pole of poverty and wealth.
Today, Shanghai appeared as alien to my idea of China as it did to its residents in the 1920s. However, a century later, Shanghai remains a foreign influenced metropolis on Chinese soil. From the dazzling new skyscrapers to the imperial British architecture on the Bund, Shanghai is a grand, eclectic mix of East and West. No wonder it is the haven of the new generation of Chinese from Hong Kong and the expatriates.
The beauty that lies before me in Shanghai is breathtaking and silences the noise and confusion on the busy roads. There is grandeur in the heart of the bustling city of Shanghai juxtaposed with absolute poverty and a return to the last century only a few miles out of the city in Zhujiajiao.

It was in these little villages lost to the 21st century, that my first dish of Shanghai dumplings was savoured and enjoyed. The residents continued their daily chores in traditional Chinese cotton jackets with simple butterfly buttons. Babies were strapped to their grandmother’s back with a piece of red cotton and the fat baby’s rosy cheek hung out over the tightly bound material, as his ink black eyes stared in awe at me, a stranger in this untouched and abandoned village, that fell through the net of modernization. Houses were primitive and doors opened, a sign that trust still existing amongst its residents and the bare home life with nothing worth stealing. There were no cars and only the odd bicycle rode by a young boy with wild hair. A blind woman no taller than four feet weaved beautiful straw ornaments. Husband and wife teams huddled around open stoves which cooked dozens of Shanghai dumplings and the aroma of hot, savoury dumplings permeated throughout the street. The glossy pastry bronzed as it slightly stuck to the pot (hence the nickname “pot stickers”). I became hungry just smelling the dumplings. I bought a portion (four beautifully pinched dumplings) to eat and after devouring them, bagged a portion for the road. The dumpling pastry was delicate and broke easily. The juices from the filling were clear and sweet, and the filling was a wholesome meat mince and vegetables. They were just what I needed for the cold winter’s day.
The legend about these Shanghai dumplings was that in the Eastern Han Period (Dong Han) an official called Zhang Zhongjing invented a kind of food to help poor people keep warm in the bitterly cold winter. The original recipe created the dumpling with ears and the filling consisted of mutton, hot pepper and medicinal roots (which helped to circulate the blood). The people loved the taste of the dumplings and started to make them themselves with whatever filling they had available. The dumplings are semi circles shaped like a gold ingots and are a regular dish at dim sum and Spring Festivals. They are eaten to bring good luck and fortune for the new year and probably also because they are delicious. From such a simple dumpling held a piece of political history! I cavorted with the residents until they showed me how to cook the dumplings in the authentic style. The sacred ingredients are detailed below.

Shanghai Dumplings (“Pot Stickers”)

• 4 1/2 cups (500 g) flour
• 9 oz (250 g) lean boneless pork, minced
• 1 tbsp soy sauce
• 5 tsp rice wine
• 1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
• 1 tsp salt to taste
• 3 1/2 oz (100 g) leeks
• 3 1/2 oz (100 g) sesame oil
• 1 tsp flour mixed with 2 tbsp water

Mix the pork with the soy sauce, rice wine, ginger, MSG and salt. Stir in one direction, adding 5 oz (150 ml) of water, a little at a time until the pork becomes sticky. Add the leeks and sesame oil and blend well, and divide into 60 portions. Set aside.

Stir 7 oz (200 ml) of water into the flour. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Let rest for 30 minutes. Roll into a long cylinder and cut into 60 portions. Flatten each piece and roll into a circle about 3 inches (8 cm) in diameter. Place 1 portion of the filling on each circle and fold over in half. Pinch tightly to seal the edges and form a semi circle. Repeat until all the dough and filling are used.
Arrange the pouches in a large pan. Heat to moderately hot, then add water to cover the pouches one-third of the way up. Cover the pan and cook over high heat until the water is almost absorbed. Trickle the flour-water mixture around the pouches. Cover the pan and saute over low heat until the flour forms a crisp film that link the dumplings together. Sprinkle the dumplings with a little sesame oil, cover again, and saute until the pouches are browned on the bottom. Remove with a spatula and serve. Saute and serve the dumplings in batches.

Juicy Steamed Dumplings
The dumplings can also be steamed rather than fried. Place the dumpling in a steamer and steam for 5 minutes over high heat.
Note: These dumplings are delicate in appearance and taste. the wrappers are thin and the filling deliciously juicy

Come and visit us to try these delicacies – or we can outdoor cater for your events in Manchester.

Schools Tour with China Now

April 7, 2008

lisa-tse-masterchef.JPGSWEET MANDARIN has been invited by CHINA NOW the largest festival of Chinese culture ever in the UK to be a partner to showcase the very best of modern China to the schools in the UK. 

CHINA NOW’s education programme aims to encourage awareness and understanding of China’s fascinating heritage and contemporary culture. The programme is designed to provide opportunities for schools and universities to develop new or existing relationships with China.

For primary and secondary schools CHINA NOW and Sweet Mandarin aim to offer a range of programmes and competitions on Chinese cooking, arts and cultural events in schools, workshops (in everything from calligraphy to cooking), and field trips to Sweet Mandarin restaurant and Chinese Arts Centre for activities outside the classroom.

The Sweet Mandarin cultural programme will provide students with the opportunity to celebrate the aspects of Chinese culture that they are most passionate about whilst simultaneously demystifying them for their fellow students and the local community. The university festivals will also feature lectures and business seminars about working in and conducting business with China.

“It is important to build links and forge strong relationships with China as we move into the 21st Century. The China Now education programme offers a great opportunity for students to gain an understanding of different aspects of China and raise awareness of Chinese culture in classrooms across the country”.
Ed Balls, Secretary of State for the Department for Children Schools and Families.

“We are honoured to be selected by China Now to be a partner in their education programme. We have always been dedicated to working with education teaching students about Chinese culture, food, music and literature. With China Now, we have similar synergies and together forge the bridge between East and West”.  Lisa Tse, CEO of Sweet Mandarin