Feb 10

An engagement proposal at Sweet Mandarin

Tonight a handsome young man came to Sweet Mandarin armed with a CD and an ancient scroll. He’d come to inspect the table – table in the alcove – a table he’d sat at three years ago on a first date.  Tonight, he was going to propose to his girlfriend whom he’d first met at Sweet Mandarin and he wanted it just perfect, just as it was three years ago. Its been raining in hushed whispers all night. Every now and then, a chuckle seems to escape it as the lovers walk into Sweet Mandarin.

The atmosphere was electric – at Sweet Mandarin they escaped from other spaces, which seemed cluttered with superficial concerns and hollow outrage. Here, he could ask the question. In the candle lit space, he could ask for her hand in marriage. He’d planned every course, the music and his proposal  as a creative challenge, composing lucid thoughts to record the event – giving mankind hope of an optimistic outlook on life and love.  I peered around waiting for the signal. He was waiting for that moment to come.  I think we both could sense a pin dropping it was that tense. He gave me the nod and then I delivered the plate with the scroll on it. It was time. I placed it on the table. It shimmered from the waxy paper. Almost hypnotic. It spoke about ‘In my heart is a temple. Sacred, intricate, divine. Cool floors, echoing ceilings. I want you to be part of my life. You’re the one’.

In this scroll was scribed a promise, a small-scale personal approach – outlining his world where he was inviting her to join, creating a place where love, beauty, wit, and inspiration dominated, and when his girlfriend started to read these poignant words, she cried tears of joy as she was overwhelmed with love. On bended knee, he proposed and virtually built a bridge from himself to his fiancee – because sometimes in life there are rivers to cross on the way.

“Yes. The answer is yes.” she whispered.  At that moment it goes hazy like they are stranded between nothing and everything.

I couldn’t help it. The tears welled in my eyes and I too was overcome with emotion. There’s a little bit of this couple in all of us. They laugh love sing sleep dance ignore fight insist like everyone has been through – I guess we are all filled with nostalgia.

On an innocent night, this young couple’s experience of Sweet Mandarin would change forever. The proposal was inspirational, funny, and wise. It uplifted Sweet Mandarin to a marshmallow floaty existence where dreams really do come true – and has become a precious moment that will always be recorded in their memory and mine.

I realise my raison d’etre now – to cook delicious food for people who appreciate Sweet Mandarin. Through food, interactions can be very deep and meaningful very quickly. There is nothing flippant or superficial in the cuisine I cook, so I attract likeminded people who are looking to share, inspire, validate and enjoy good food.

Tonight, it has been amazing – a vibrant world of wonder that inspires and truly adds value to the surrounding world. In one word, life is ‘Sweet’.

Feb 09

Outside Catering – Cooking for the Prime Minister for Chinese New Year!



It’s been an amazing start to the Chinese New Year – the Fire Monkey! We were asked to cook for the British Prime Minister David Cameron at No.10 Downing Street for his Chinese New Year party for him and 150 esteemed guests.  We cooked an eight course taster menu using our Sweet Mandarin Sauces and the PM personally thanked us for cooking his favourite dishes and said ‘I love your sauces’ when we gifted him our newest range of sauces as a Chinese New Year present. When he was giving his speech we saw two little kids in the room without shoes. Turns out they were his children who had heard we were cooking and had come over to enjoy a Chinese with us. We love cooking for everyone and it makes us so happy that all the plates came back empty and lots of smiley faces in the room.


 We were also fortunate to meet our hero, Ken Hom who was a VIP guest of the Prime Minister. He loved the food so much he actually came to the kitchen to say thank you and we had to get a photo with him. We still remember watching him on TV and he is a truly inspirational chef and pioneer of Chinese cooking. So that was another highlight to our Chinese New Year!

For all our clients, we wish you a very Happy Chinese New Year. Thank you so much for your custom and we very much enjoy branching out into outside catering and events. Wishing you peace, love and joy for the year ahead.  Lots of Love Lisa and Helen

Here is the speech from the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister said:

“I want to send my best wishes to everyone around the world celebrating Chinese New Year. Here in Britain, we’re not just marking the beginning of the Year of the Fire Monkey, but the growing relationship between Britain and China.

You can see the bond between our countries shining brightly: in our universities, where thousands of Chinese people are studying; in our businesses, where bilateral trade has more than doubled in 5 years; and in our cities, with more Chinese tourists choosing to visit Britain than ever before.

Last year it was an honour to welcome President Xi Jinping and Madame Peng to the UK, heralding a golden era in our countries’ relationship. During the state visit – the first in a decade – we made a huge range of agreements that would bring us even closer together, from more investment and research to better visa arrangements. And this year will be about delivering on those things.

Here in Britain, we see the impact people of Chinese origin have, day in, day out. From our high streets to our hospitals, our schools to our Parliament, the British Chinese community more than makes its mark – and never more so than at this time of year.

So as the lights go up, the parades begin, the music starts and families gather together, let’s celebrate everything we are achieving together – and let me wish you the very best health and happiness for the new year.

Xin nian kuai le.”

Feb 05

Adam and Eve Oyster Omlette

Massive Oil Slick Reaches Louisiana Gulf CoastA dear customer who asked to remain anonymous came to Sweet Mandarin one night with her husband to eat. I will call them Adam and Eve. During their meal, an argument ensued and Adam walked out to cool down. Eve was distraught and balling her eyes out on my apron. When she calmed down, she told me that her husband had said that he couldn’t get it up and their sex life was practically non-existent. She desperately wanted kids but it wasn’t happening. I told her not to worry and that I had a plan.


When he returned, I turned the lights down and lit a candle for them. Then I returned to the kitchen and created this dish for them. I knew oysters were a natural aphrodisiac. This dish is the perfect marriage of just-cooked-to-perfection oysters and eggs. Oysters have high levels of zinc, which boost the sperm count and their pearly texture contrasts perfectly with egg. This dish is really quick and easy to make and great if you want to try something different from the usual omelette fillings. I’m pleased to tell you that Adam and Eve are still married and now have two kids. Who knows whether this dish was instrumental in their happy ending but I’d like to think I did my bit as the cupid love chef!


Serves 2


Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 10 minutes


10 fresh oysters (or 100g canned oysters)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 medium eggs, beaten

pinch of salt

1 spring onion stem, diced


Wash the oysters thoroughly and drain.


In a hot wok, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and add the oysters and stir-fry for 20 seconds. Then add the beaten eggs and ensure all the oysters are covered. Season with a pinch of salt. As the sides of the omelette start firming up add a little more oil on the edge of the omelette to prevent it sticking. After 5 minutes flip the omelette over and cook the other side until the eggs are firm.


Sprinkle over the diced spring onions and serve.


To book a table at Sweet Mandarin email sweetmandarintables@gmail.com . Our opening times are Tuesday – Sunday 5-10pm.

Sweet Mandarin is a Chinese Restaurant in Manchester which serves delicious Chinese cuisine and exotic cocktails. We make our own sweet chilli sauce, bbq sauce, sweet & sour sauce which you can buy from Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Ocado, Booths, Wing Yip and Chi Yip. Sweet Mandarin Chinese Restaurant and Cookery Schoolcan cater for the gluten free, dairy free diners. We are a short 15 minute walk from the Manchester Arena. We are not based in Chinatown, but based in the trendy Northern Quarter near the Arndale Centre, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Debenhams and Primark. The nearest hotels to us are the Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn Express, Premier Apartments, Blue Rainbow Aparthotels, Light Hotel and Hatters Hostel.


Feb 03

Beijing Dumplings – For Chinese New Year and all celebrations from our brand new cookbook DIM SUM

photo 3 (14)

To celebrate and bestow prosperity for the Chinese New Year these dumplings are cooked because they symbolise golden ingots used during the Ming Dynasty. Similar to the Christmas pudding where a lucky coin is hidden inside, so too does this tradition continue with these dumplings!


It is entirely up to you what type of filling you want to use but here is our version that we cook at home and serve at Sweet Mandarin. These were also served during the cook off stages as part of the F Word Best Local Chinese restaurant competition with Gordon Ramsay in 2009. We beat 10,000 other Chinese restaurants to be crowned the winner of the Britain’s Best Local Chinese Restaurant in the UK. It was a major achievement and wonderful to be acknowledged for what we love to do.


In case you think you can’t make dough or make dumplings trust me – I’ve taught hundreds of students around the UK using this recipe and they have all passed the dumpling test – and exclaimed ‘wow I made my own dumplings!’


dim sum cookbook (2) - Copy


Serves 2/Makes approx. 10


Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes


For the pastry

200g strong dough flour, plus extra for dusting

100ml boiling water


For the filling

200g pork mince

10 stalks of chives or 1 Chinese leaf, finely shredded

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon potato starch

drop of sesame oil

2 tablespoons water

½ teaspoon Shaoxing wine


For the dip

Malt vinegar or red vinegar

1cm piece of ginger finely sliced


To make the dumpling wrapper, in a deep bowl measure out the flour. Slowly add the boiling water bit by bit and mix using a wooden spoon. As the dough becomes remove it from the bowl and lightly dust the work surface with flour. Knead the dough using the palm of your hand to push the dough forward and folding the left and the right sides of the dough to the centre. Repeat this kneading technique for about 10 minutes and then leave the dough to rest in a bowl covered with a wet cloth.


To make the pork filling, add the minced pork and chopped chive or Chinese leaf to a bowl. Use a spoon to mash the ingredients together until they are blended.


Add the salt, sugar, potato starch, sesame oil and water and continue to lightly mash the ingredients together. The mixture is ready when it is all combined and sticks to the spoon – like making hamburger patties.


To make the Beijing dumplings, tear one 10cm piece of the dough and roll into a long 20cm roll. Chop the dough into small even sized stumps approximately 5 cm. Push down the dough stump with the palm of your hand and use a floured rolling pin to roll it out into an even circle. You can use a glass cup (with a diameter of approximately 5 cm) to trim the pastry into a nice round circle.


Take one round pastry circle and scoop 1 tablespoon of filling onto the wrapper. Dab your index finger into some cold water and wet one side of the wrapper so it becomes a semicircle. Start to close the dumpling by pinching the righthand side and close into a half-moon shape. (There are more complicated ways of closing the dumpling if you are feeling adventurous including pleating (where you plait the edge of the dumpling to create a beautiful pattern.) Repeat with the remaining dough.


Place the dumplings In a wok filled with boiling hot water and cook for 10 minutes. Serve with a vinegar dip (which is simply a vinegar of your choice with the finely sliced pieces of raw ginger in it).

To book a table at Sweet Mandarin email sweetmandarintables@gmail.com . Our opening times are Tuesday – Sunday 5-10pm.

Sweet Mandarin is a Chinese Restaurant in Manchester which serves delicious Chinese cuisine and exotic cocktails. We make our own sweet chilli sauce, bbq sauce, sweet & sour sauce which you can buy from Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Ocado, Booths, Wing Yip and Chi Yip. Sweet Mandarin Chinese Restaurant and Cookery Schoolcan cater for the gluten free, dairy free diners. We are a short 15 minute walk from the Manchester Arena. We are not based in Chinatown, but based in the trendy Northern Quarter near the Arndale Centre, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Debenhams and Primark. The nearest hotels to us are the Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn Express, Premier Apartments, Blue Rainbow Aparthotels, Light Hotel and Hatters Hostel.


Feb 02

Oprah’s Ten Weight Loss Recipes – Finger Lickin Good Spare Ribs

200901_omag_cover_2208This series of blogs is addressed to Oprah and all those out there battling the bulge and excess weight. I am often asked by my clients to prepare for them a special detox meal over a period of a week to a month. The following recipes are just a sample of our offerings and are unique to Sweet Mandarin (www.sweetmandarin.com). If you would like a one-to-one consultation, contact me, Lisa Tse on lisa@sweetmandarin.com .



Serves 4 to 6.


2 pounds spareribs

3 tablespoons light soy sauce

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

3 tablespoons ketchup

2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tablespoons honey

1/4 cup boiling water


Cut the spareribs apart into 1-inch pieces. Place in a shallow glass baking dish.

Combine the light soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ketchup, rice wine or sherry, brown sugar, and the chopped garlic.

Pour over the spareribs. Cover and marinate overnight in the refrigerator, turning occasionally to make sure the ribs are thoroughly coated.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius, set oven to either 175 degrees Celsius). Dissolve the honey in the boiling water.

Fill a shallow roasting pan with 1/2-inch of water and place in the bottom of the oven. Place the pork on a rack above the water. Roast the pork for 30 minutes, or until the ribs just begin shrinking and the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius). Brush the spareribs several times with the honey and water mixture during roasting. Remove and cool.

Spareribs can be cooked ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen. (Thaw frozen pork in the refrigerator or microwave. Use refrigerated pork within 4 days. Reheat frozen or refrigerated pork before serving).

Nutritional Breakdown per serving (based on 6 servings) – 328 calories (kcal), 22 g Total Fat (10 g monounsaturated, 8 g saturated , 2 g polyunsaturated), 17 g Protein, 13 g Carbohydrate, 73 mg Cholesterol, 805 mg Sodium

Note: Using low-sodium soy sauce reduces the sodium count to 590 mg (25 percent of daily total).

Best wishes and Sweet Dishes to You and Your Family


Note to Oprah – I know you love your fried chicken – but try this as a healthy alternative – and as a treat for your diet.

Jan 28

Lisa Tse features on BBC Radio for Chinese New Year

Lisa Tse, CEO of Sweet Mandarin was invited to speak to Becky Want on her show Retail Therapy, BBC Radio Manchester. Lisa talked about Chinese New Year and brought an array of delicious dim sum and Dragon cocktails to celebrate.  They also discussed the Sweet Mandarin Cookery School and the fact that Sweet Mandarin has beaten 10,000 restaurants to win the Best Local Chinese Restaurant on Gordon Ramsay’s F Word Show.

To book a table at Sweet Mandarin email sweetmandarintables@gmail.com

Jan 26

Women in China


When I travelled to Guangzhou in 2002, I found China to be a country that was careering head first towards the 21st Century. My base was a hotel housed in a skyscraper which was circled by endless cavalcade of cars and flanked by a shopping mall packed with affluent and well dressed shoppers in the latest designer labels. When Leung and Tai Po were struggling to raise their family, life in the rural villages had remained largely unchanged for hundreds of years. The people grew their food in their own vegetable patches and paddy fields. There was neither medicine nor communication with the outside world. To be born a farmer meant being destined to die as one; trapped in a cycle of poverty. To survive famine, flooding and periodic attacks by bandits, everyone was forced to work towards a common goal, to feed their families.

As a woman, life in China in the 1900s held no prospects whatsoever for my grandmother. Their society dreaded the birth of daughters, often treating them as little more than subhuman, a burden on the family. Mao Tse Tung wrote that all Chinese people had three ropes round their necks, political authority, clan authority, religious authority. But a woman also had a fourth; the authority of the husband.

This suppression of women was engrained in the feudal Chinese social system. Before Mao, Confucius had perpetuated the domination of men over women, fathers over daughters and husbands over wives. Confucianism is characterised by conservative values, strong ethics, emphasis on the family and respect for elders and cold logic approach to man’s problems. Even at the beginning of the Twentieth century, it formed the basis of the views held by many Chinese citizens. The result was that for thousands of years, political power in China had been closely associated with the control of women.

Women did not have any rights over property, nor did they enjoy any independent decision-making power in matters affecting the family and clan. Nor was education an option for women. A shame, as my grandmother proved to be an intelligent and inquisitive child. Women, particularly rural women, were

regarded as objects, whose body and mind were under the total control of their husband. It is an attitude embodied in an old saying describing marriage:

“Having married a cock she must follow the cock; having married a dog she must follow the dog; having married a carrying pole she must carry it for life.”

So profoundly negative was society’s view of female children that every year thousands of new born baby girls were routinely murdered or abandoned by their mothers simply because of their sex.

As the third girl born to rural farming family, it would not have been uncommon for my grandmother to be abandoned on the hillside, fed poison or be buried alive. Some Chinese women even believed that sacrificing a daughter could guarantee the birth of a son in their next pregnancy. In practice, they may have believed that sentencing their daughters to death far better than condemning them to the life of a woman in China. All that lay ahead of my grandmother was a life of discrimination, poverty and drudgery.

However my great grandfather, Leung felt strongly that his daughters were valuable in their own right, that they had the ability to develop their lives into something positive in the generations beyond his lifetime. This, combined with my grandmother’s natural self belief and determination, would change her destiny. Not just for her but for all her female descendants myself included.

When I was at school, my ambition was always to become a lawyer. My parents expressed some concern that I had chosen to work in such a male dominated environment but not my grandmother.

She told me a story that Leung would tell her as a child. A favourite of his that confirmed the value of patience and commitment to one’s ambitions despite the odds. In the story an eccentric old man who decides to level two huge mountains to open a road from his village southward to the bank of the Han River. He was laughed and scoffed at by his neighbour.

‘How can you dispose of so much earth and stones,’ they asked him. His reply was simply:

‘Though I shall die, I shall leave behind my son, and my son’s a son. From generation to generation I hand this task. Since these mountains cannot grow any larger, why shouldn’t we able to level them?’ After five generations the mountains were finally levelled.

My grandmother explained to me that her father told her even though I was a girl, she could earn her place in the world. It was a valuable lesson.

This excerpt is taken from the book Sweet Mandarin by Helen Tse. Published by Random House and sold into 33 countries. Now available to download on Kindle.


Jan 22

Won Ton mean ‘swallowing a cloud’

photo 1 (1)

Literally translated, wonton means ‘swallowing a cloud’. The wonton floating in the soup is supposed to resemble the clouds. Every province in China boasts their own version of wontons with a variety of fillings from prawn to pork to cabbage to bok choy and makes their trademark by pleating the wonton into a particular shape to represent that province. However, all Chinese agree that when we feel under the weather they use food to heal the body. This soup is THE ultimate get well soon soup, especially if you have a sore throat and don’t feel 100 per cent. Why? Well the dumplings are boiled so they are easy to swallow for the throat and the clear broth is warming the organs and comforting the soul. Try it next time you don’t feel well.


Serves 2


Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes


For the Filling

100g minced pork

100g uncooked prawns peeled, de-veined and coarsely chopped into small pieces

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

25ml water

1 tablespoons potato starch mixture


For the wonton pastry

200g plain flour

5 eggs (1 whole egg, 4 yolks)

25ml water

1 teaspoon salt


20 wonton pastry skins (shop-bought are ok or make your own)


For the soup

600ml chicken stock

50g Chinese leaf, chopped in cubes

¼ teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of sugar

a drop of dark soy sauce

1 teaspoon finely chopped spring onions


To make the wonton pastry, put the flour, eggs, water and salt in a food processor and mix until it forms a dough consistency. Remove onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out as thinly as possible approximately 1mm thickness. Using a glass tumbler or cup (with approximately a 5cm diameter) cut out round skins and dust with flour to prevent sticking. Cover with a damp cloth or clingfilm until ready to use.


To make the filling, put the prawns and minced pork in a bowl and season with the salt, sugar, sesame oil and potato starch and water. Mix it together with your hands until the ingredients are combined into a sticky paste. You don’t want to use a machine to blend it as you want to retain some texture.


Place 1 teaspoon of the filling into the centre of the wonton skins. Using your index finger dampen one corner of the edge of the pastry and fold over into a triangle. You will be able to make about 14 wontons. The technique is to pleat the edges so they meet in the centre so you have a dumpling edge that is wavy.


In a saucepan of boiling water, poach the wontons for 5 minutes to cook them through. Drain the wontons and leave to rest in a soup bowl.


Bring the chicken stock to the boil. Add the chopped Chinese cabbage, salt, sugar, white pepper, soy sauce and remaining sesame oil to season. Cook for 5 minutes. Garnish with finely chopped spring onions.


Pour into the bowl with the cooked wontons. Slurp away and fill your tummy with goodness.


To book a table at Sweet Mandarin email sweetmandarintables@gmail.com . Our opening times are Tuesday – Sunday 5-10pm.

Sweet Mandarin is a Chinese Restaurant in Manchester which serves delicious Chinese cuisine and exotic cocktails. We make our own sweet chilli sauce, bbq sauce, sweet & sour sauce which you can buy from Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Ocado, Booths, Wing Yip and Chi Yip. Sweet Mandarin Chinese Restaurant and Cookery Schoolcan cater for the gluten free, dairy free diners. We are a short 15 minute walk from the Manchester Arena. We are not based in Chinatown, but based in the trendy Northern Quarter near the Arndale Centre, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Debenhams and Primark. The nearest hotels to us are the Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn Express, Premier Apartments, Blue Rainbow Aparthotels, Light Hotel and Hatters Hostel.



Jan 21

Oprah’s Ten Weight Loss Recipes – Firecracker Chicken

200901_omag_cover_2209This series of blogs is addressed to Oprah and all those out there battling the bulge and excess weight. I am often asked by my clients to prepare for them a special detox meal over a period of a week to a month. The following recipes are just a sample of our offerings and are unique to Sweet Mandarin (www.sweetmandarin.com). If you would like a one-to-one consultation, contact me, Lisa Tse on lisa@sweetmandarin.com

Best wishes and Sweet Dishes to You and Your Family


This final sample dish is to celebrate Chinese New Year….and is a great addition for your diet towards a New You


Firecracker Chicken

250g skinless Chicken breast fillet
50g peeled water chestnuts
50g peeled and chopped onions
50g peeled and cubed carrots
50g unsalted peanuts

2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoshing rice wine
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoon cornflour
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon chopped ginger
1 teaspoon chilli sauce
2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon vinegar (white)
30ml chicken stock

Method to Cook:

1.Cut the chicken into 1 inch cubes. Place the cubes in a bowl.
2. Cut the onions into dices. Place into a bowl
3. Blanch waterchesnuts in a pan of boiling water then refresh in cold water. Drain. pat dry and cut into thin slice. Alternative is to buy tin sliced waterchestnuts. Separate pan do the same for carrots.
4. Heat wok over high heat
5. Add 1 teaspoon of oil and heat until hot and smoky.
6. Stir-fry the chicken turning constantly until the meat is cooked.
7. Add in the ginger, garlic, chilli sauce, for 10 seconds
8. Add in the onions, waterchestnuts and carrots for 15 seconds
9. Combine the sugar, chicken stock, soy sauce, sesma oil and cornflour – add to thicken.
10. Add the peanuts and toss lightly to coat the sauce.
11. Transfer to a plate and serve hot

Jan 20

Oprah’s Ten Weight Loss Recipes – Beansprouts and Chinese Chives

200901_omag_cover_2205This series of blogs is addressed to Oprah and all those out there battling the bulge and excess weight. I am often asked by my clients to prepare for them a special detox meal over a period of a week to a month. The following recipes are just a sample of our offerings and are unique to Sweet Mandarin (www.sweetmandarin.com). If you would like a one-to-one consultation, contact me, Lisa Tse on lisa@sweetmandarin.com.
Best wishes and Sweet Dishes to You and Your Family



Bean sprouts and Chinese Chives

This dish calls for Chinese chives, which have a lighter, more “oniony” flavour. Beansprouts are delicious, healthy and ideal for yang (warm bodied people) as these are yin foods.

Serves 2 -3


1 sprig of flowering garlic chives or scallions.

3 cups (about 5 1/2 ounces) mung bean sprouts

3 tablespoons oil for stir-frying

1 tablespoons finely chopped ginger

2 teaspoons light soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon sugar


  1. Wash and drain the mung bean sprouts.
  2. Wash and drain the chives, and cut into strips about the same length as the bean sprouts.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon oil to a preheated wok.
  4. When the oil is hot, add the minced ginger and stir briefly until aromatic (about 15 seconds). Add the mung bean sprouts and stir-fry until they change colour (about 1 minute), then add the chives, soy sauce and sugar.
  5. Stir-fry for about another 1 – 2 minutes, until the chives have just turned limp, taking care not to overcook the bean sprouts.

Jan 19

Meeting my Idol, Sir Alex Ferguson

I’ve grown up a Manchester United fan. My mum fed the footballers as their careers rocketed and they still frequent Sweet Mandarin -and she swears it must be our curry that is their secret ingredient to success. So when I met Sir Alex Ferguson it was an amazing day. In actual fact, I was going to HK and Beijing with him and the whole Manchester United team – a Football meets Culinary extravaganza. We had an absolute blast and I realised how important my dual citizenship was to bridging the gap between the East and the West. Since then, the tours to China that I lead every year has been a huge cultural and emotional growth spurt for me and for those that join me. Although there is a sea of difference between British culture and Chinese culture (for example, the Chinese never gift clocks as that means death wishes, and the seating plan is extra important as the hierarchy of the table can dictate whether a deal will fly or fail) through these trips, we learn to appreciate each other’s culture through food. There are many tales from China that I would love to share with you, but it would be all the more sweeter if you could join me in person at Sweet Mandarin and we can reminisce till the cows come home! To book a table email sweetmandarintables@gmail.com

Jan 15

On the set of Captain America

Given that Captain America was filming around the Northern Quarter (where Sweet Mandarin is located), I enjoyed taking a stroll on the set of Captain America to deliver delicious Chinese cuisine and even found myself a walk on part (lol -as I’m walking into Meyers Bros I’m going to say ‘I wonder if they do sweet mandarins here’  lol). The whole place has been turned into New York City 1940s. I’m loving it, loving it, loving it. To book a table at Sweet Mandarin email sweetmandarintables@gmail.com

Jan 14

Eat Me Healthy: Acne

I’ve often been asked to provide a lunchbox of foods to help my clients overcome their illness. I believe in the power of food – that certain foods can make you better and certain foods can make you worse. Here is a short excerpt from my handwritten book that I look to when cooking for my clients.

Acne is caused by the over production of oil which sits in the pores of the skin, especially the face and back. The pores clog and get infected and produces unsightly clumped together spots otherwise known as acne.

Solution: I make a lunchbox rich in beta-carotene such as carrots, sweet potatoes and broccoli, with apricots for dessert. The body turns the beta-carotene into Vitamin A which maintains a healthy skin.
In addition, for evening meals, I focus on zinc-rich foods such as shellfish, lean meat and nuts as the acne suffer may have a zinc deficiency. The desserts focus on vitamin C boosters such as fresh fruits especially oranges – which help fight infection.

If the doctor has prescribed an antibiotic, taken for long times it can affect the gut – so balance this out with eating bio live yoghurt.

Sudocreme, lavender and rosemary oil applied at night could soothe itching, prevent infection and heal the skin.

Jan 13

Small acorns grow into big trees

We started Sweet Mandarin eleven years ago – wearing jeans and trainers. People looked at us, looked down on us and dismissed us.  I don’t know why people do that. Why criticise without foundation? Why bring us down when we’ve never caused you harm.  For the Chinese especially, those people that look like the door man, dressed all scruffy and rough around the edges are actually the boss. The suited and booted are the employees. Hey, we might be young but we know our food and we know how to cook it. I’ve risen to every challenge thrown my way and succeeded beyond my own expectations. I love what I do, I love Sweet Mandarin and love my clients. My take on the critics. Ignore them because what goes around comes around – gratuitous unfounded criticism is uncalled for and they should stand in my shoes for a day. Then they’d zip it pretty quickly. We are clean living, hard working folk who try our best to look after our clients. We have always been the underdogs and fight harder to over come the prejudice – of being young, of being women, of being Chinese.

I remember the first day we set up trade and found an accountant who was open on New Year’s Eve. If he was open on New Year’s Eve, he deserved my business. I asked my accountant whether we should enter into this venture. This bespectacled, greying man with a broad Rochdale accent said, “Lisa, small acorns, grown into big trees.” and beamed showing a set of shimmering pearly teeth. I felt reassured and signed the papers.

Its amazing how after the years we have gone from being dismissed to being respected, and even won a few awards along the way – even an MBE from Her Majesty the Queen!. I was the key note speaker for Growing Business Conference at the GMEX Exhibition Hall, listed as an expert on entrepreneurship in Flux Magazine and impressively was finalist in the Women of the Future Awards presented by Liz Hurley and the Precious Awards . We’ve won Gordon Ramsay’s F Word’s Best Local Chinese Restaurant which was amazing!  Oh and we still wear jeans and trainers.

We are known as The Tse Sisters and were featured in the Bold Venturers book of Entrepreneurs, as key role models for the Make Your Mark Campaign and made it into the top 100 entrepreneurs list in EN Magazine. If you want to book us to give an inspirational talk to your event or school, contact me lisa@sweetmandarin.com – it would be my honour to share our story with you.

Sweet Mandarin is also the title of our book, published by Random House worldwide, published by St Martins/Thomas Dunne in USA and we secured the audio book deal with BBC Books. This book charts our epic story beginning with our great grandfather, grandmother, mother and our generation. Four families who made a living from food, and our obstacles in our journey from East to West. You can buy the book on Amazon.co.uk and the audiobook is available from BBC Books.

Jan 12

Date Night at Sweet Mandarin

date dessert

Ok so you’re working every hour God gives you. You’re progressing professionally but don’t neglect your nearest and dearest. Take a break and enjoy date night at Sweet Mandarin.  I love my job but even I need an evening off. Date night is a chance for you both to doll up, enjoy good food and service. Savour your evening and appreciate your fine company. We look forward to cooking for you. Also we make a fine aphrodisiac cocktail called the Snake Blood Cocktail. You have been warned!  To book a table email sweetmandarintables@gmail.com

Jan 08

The Crowne Plaza


I found the location for Sweet Mandarin in October 2004 when it was a derelict car park. I’d been sweet talked by the developers that the area was being regenerated and that the Crowne Plaza would be opening literally next door to our building – at most a five second walk door to door. So I signed the deal and have hung in there waiting and waiting and waiting for 5 long years. Finally, after surviving beyond the odds, last year, a shiny new building was errected and became our latest welcome neighbour.

The Crowne Plaza crew are a very friendly bunch who have the same ethos as us; to deliver a great experience to mutual clients and make them feel at home from home. They go the extra mile, and have even done that for me. Not only do they recommend their clients dine with us (we welcome you with open arms), but Robin has been that knight in shining armour when I was stranded during the snow blizzards in Manchester (thanks to freak global warming weather).

The snow was as high as the car tyre and I could not travel left, right, front or back. I just created snow circles and screamed like a girl. So I gave up on wokmobile and decided to stay at the Crowne Plaza. What a treat. The room was modern, clean, immacuate with a touch of elegance and luxury. I loved the piles of fat fluffy pillows and the power shower in particular. The next day, I was having breakfast and Robin walked past and asked what I was doing in the Crowne Plaza given that I am a Mancunian. I explained. He smiled and nodded and went on with his duties. After a sumptuous big breakfast and a good glug of coffee, I went to pay. ‘The bill has been settled Lisa. Thank you.’ I couldn’t believe it. Robin had paid for my stay out of his allowances and wouldn’t allow me to pay. Now that’s what you call a knight in shining armour.

Here’s their website – book there, its an excellent experience – home away from home http://www.cpmanchester.com/ and whilst your staying at the Crowne Plaza, book a table at Sweet Mandarin by emailing sweetmandarintables@gmail.com, pop around the corner to visit me at Sweet Mandarin. It would be great to meet you and personally welcome to Manchester.

Jan 07

Heart to Heart


Sometimes, we all have off days, weeks, months or even years. During these low times, life feels stagnant, where we’re not quite ourselves and it feels like the world is conspiring against us. Some people internalise things and don’t express their feelings, their emotions, their thoughts – and after a while it all gets too much for them. There is a combustion of sorts and people do stupid things.

My friend is going through a tough time at the moment. I don’t know whether its depression or whether there’s some sort of eating disorder going on but I’ve noticed she’s not quite the same, and that sparkle has faded. She’s also become silent in person, on the text and even on Facebook (and she’s a prolific Facebooker).

So one day at Sweet Mandarin, we sat in the cozy alcove, brewed a big pot of Jasmine tea and we just talked. It was as if I had unplugged the plug that keeps the ocean within its surroundings. She cried and cried and cried. We went through about a box of Man sized tissues. She admitted she was a mess – she wasn’t eating properly, she wasn’t sleeping, she wasn’t taking care of herself and that she felt lonely, worthless with thoughts of suicide.

It hurt me to hear she was in such a bad way, and I cried because at that point I felt helpless and I feared she would harm herself. I sat with her until she became peaceful and we set out three small action points for her to put her life back on track. Number 1 – meet up once a week and have something to look forward to. Number 2 – talk to someone everyday for 5 minutes. Number 3 – eat properly.

I know these actions might sound small. But sometimes, we need to focus on the small things to get through day by day. Life is hard but we got to try and keep going because there are beautiful moments, sweet nothings that can brighten up our world.

I saw her the next day and some colour had re-appeared in her cheeks. I knew then that she was ready to love herself again and fight for her self esteem and happiness. There is always time for a heart to heart and that’s why sometimes its not just dinner. Every dinner is a special occasion and its an honour to cook for you and your loved ones..

Jan 06

The Family Table

For me, the family table is the heart of the house, where all the highs and lows of the day are celebrated or commiserated. It’s a sanctuary which rejuvenates me not only physically but spiritually and emotionally. In this day and age where there are more and more people living alone, the family table is replaced by a table at their favourite restaurant, Sweet Mandarin.

Dining together allows us to better understand who we are, regardless of our social status. The food does not have to be elegant, complicated or fancy. I find that busy people like simple food- the busier they are, the simpler the food. The food at Sweet Mandarin is straightforward home cooking with a few contemporary dishes.

Getting back to the table allows us to love and nurture each other and renew connections to our families however they are configured in this diverse and ever-changing society. Such connections are crucial in a fast-paced world where we feel more disconnected every day.

One of the best ways I know to restore that daily balance is to sit down at the table. As a child, growing up in Manchester, UK, I learned the importance of the family table or eating together in a restaurant. It was there that I felt love matched only by my family’s appreciation for fresh, wholesome food, a love of good cooking, and a fellowship just not possible if you are eating on the go or if you are whizzing through the drive-in window of a fast food outlet.

These early experiences started me on my life’s journey of cooking for families. It is around the family table that there are times of celebration and times of great sadness, and always we came together to embrace the food and each other. The table is a place of communion for life’s large and small events: holiday meals, weddings, birthdays, and everyday get-togethers. We welcome you to our family table at Sweet Mandarin. Don’t be a stranger, you’re home from home at Sweet Mandarin.

Try our wonderful banquets to be shared with friends and families. To download the menus go to www.sweetmandarin.com

Do you need to book out Sweet Mandarin for your special event – call Lisa 0161 832 8848 to discuss your event and how we can make it extra extra sweet.

Best wishes and sweet dishes to you and your family.



Tel: 0161 832 8848

Twitter: @sweetmandarin


Jan 03

Eat Me Healthy: Gluten Free

I’ve often been asked to provide a lunchbox of foods to help my clients overcome their illness. I believe in the power of food – that certain foods can make you better and certain foods can make you worse. Here is a short excerpt from my handwritten book that I look to when cooking for my clients.

Coeliac Disease is an inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract caused by the intolerance of the protein gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. Basically no bread allowed. It can be quite serious as the gluten damages the intestinal lining, therefore the sufferer cannot absorb nutrients.

Some clients didn’t even know they had this disease – but often felt bloated, tired, anaemic, depressed, had pain in their joints or even had diarrhorea or constipation. If in doubt, just go check it out at your GP.

What I have done at Sweet Mandarin is to thicken our sauces with potato starch so there is no gluten involved. For the aromatic peking duck, we replace the pancakes with lettuce wraps. Spring rolls which are wrapped in wheat pastries are replaced with cabbage leaves. One can no longer enjoy the good ole chow mein…but don’t worry, I’ve created the most amazing Singapore Vermicelli (made with rice noodles) that you won’t even miss the chow mein! Even the batter for the salt and pepper chilli ribs or the sweet and sour chicken uses potato starch and not corn flour, so its all good at Sweet Mandarin. If in doubt, email lisa before you visit and I’ll personally oversee your dinner is gluten free.

Jan 02

Interview with the Formidable Lion Head Meatball

Q: So Lion Head, tell me about yourself

LH: Well, I’m the best dinner companion you can get from Sweet Mandarin. I am king of all the dim sums. Some call me smooth and a real meaty treat

Q: Where does your name originate from, Lion Head?

LH: My name comes from the clan Lion Head Meatball from 900 B.C. An old Chinese spinster who became the only woman chef to the Emperor of China made delicious pork meatballs for the Emperor’s afternoon tea. To ward off evil curses, she gave my ancestors (the meatball) the courage of a lion and the Emperor, on first sight exclaimed ‘Wow this mere meatball resembles a Lions Head’. The Emperor bit into the Lion Head and jumped for joy that he had tasted Heaven. So, that’s how Lion Head the name, and reputation stuck with us.

Q: What advice would you give to other wannabes who want to join the list?

LH: Exercise, only the trimmest meats get into the gang, and you gotta be the best you can. So even the chicken wing (heheh) can get in there, just.

Q: What are your interests?

LH: I love singing karoke, but sometimes the neighbours tell me off for singing too loud. I can’t apologise for my natural talents that’s the roar of a real lion head!

Q: You’re an eligible bachelor dim sum. Tell the audience what your ideal dim summette would be like?

LH: (laughs) Someone who is carries herself well, smells gorgeous and loves to sing. Ahem, like the Beautiful Beijing Dumpling’s mighty fine.

So, now you’ve met the mighty Lion Ball. Meet him face to face at Sweet Mandarin by booking your table by email sweetmandarintables@gmail.com

Jan 01

We’re open today 1st Jan 2016 Happy New Year! A New Year – A New You – Tip Top Tips for 2016


A New Year’s Message to You All


We hope you have recovered from all the Christmas festivities and raring to go for 2016. At Sweet Mandarin there are early preparations  to make the celebration of  the year of the Monkey a magnificent one. As we await this celebration, let us see what is in store for the year of the Monkey.

To ease you into the brand new year why not start the new year with our lovely jubbly tips to get the NEW YEAR OFF TO A BANG and most importantly a NEW YOU…Every day we keep you up to date with New Recipes and Cooking tips on our blog.

We are open on 1st January 5-10pm.. If you are fed up of turkey then your table by emailing sweetmandarintables@gmail.com and we will welcome you with open arms.

Happy New Year To YOU

Best Wishes and Sweet Dishes to You and Your Family

Lisa, Helen and Janet



2016 welcomes the Year of the Monkey – the sign symbolizes prosperity, joy and comfort.  Reward yourself with a dinner at Sweet Mandarin to celebrate your year ahead.

A great Chinese proverb: ” Getting up when the sun is up and rest when the sun is down” Remember to recharge your batteries after the christmas rush. Enjoy a sumptuous meal at Sweet Mandarin and book a table.

Try something different by purchasing Sweet mandarin sauces and cook at home. Learn how to make fast, healthy super suppers and impress you, your friends and family.

Try mouthwatering dishes at Sweet Mandarin to celebrate the new year – Try the Sizzling King Prawns bursting with fresh vegetables and light soya flavour. Join Sweet Mandarin’s fortnightly detox menu and see the New You.

Take advantage of the special offers for Sweet Mandarin Newsletter subscribers. Win a bottle of champagne, a meal for 4l. Everytime you visit Sweet Mandarin enter our monthly prize draw (for free) and good luck.

Dec 30

Charity Dinner at Sweet Mandarin for the Elderly



Chefs Helen and Lisa Tse and co-owners of Sweet Mandarin have cooked for the British Prime Minister and the Chinese Premier but their latest engagement, they say, is one of their most rewarding. Sweet Mandarin Restaurant is offering to cook dinner for the elderly community on 30th December 2015 in conjunction with Wai Yin Charity and their guests will pay absolutely nothing.


As the Christmas and New Year festivities kicks in a quarter of all over-65s – nearly three million people are dreading this season as it brings too many memories of loved ones who have passed away and fears of being lonely. Although loneliness maybe a year – round problem, during this Christmas / New Year period it is exacerbated (according to a survey conducted by Age Concern). 


Helen Tse said “Wai Yin charity work tirelessly to help the elderly and vulnerable and for that we are eternally grateful. I remember Wai Yin put on community events for the elderly and my grandmother used to participate in the community choir and dinners and I’ll never forget how happy she was with her new friends.. It struck a chord with my sister and me and we wanted to help out. We decided to fully sponsor this dinner because I believe people shouldn’t be lonely during this festive period. I hope that the guests will enjoy their traditional Chinese dinner and have a chance to make new friends during this event. I also hope it will encourage others to do their bit – no matter how big or small. If you know of anyone who may be vulnerable or lonely – involve them in your festive activities or just stop and greet them – it could make all the difference.”


There are clear reasons behind the high numbers of lonely older people. Families are more geographically scattered than ever before due to factors such as increasing divorce rates and the changing job market; working families live busy, hectic lives; and as more of us use electronic communications, older people risk being isolated from conversation channels. Yet loneliness is a serious health hazard which can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and increases the risk of health conditions including dementia, high blood pressure and depression.


Sylvia Sham, CEO of Wai Yin said “The elderly especially the Chinese elderly are isolated primarily due to language barriers and loneliness can be a serious condition which can be hugely damaging, mentally, physically and emotionally. Wai Yin is committed to helping these vulnerable people and we are grateful to Lisa and Helen Tse of Sweet Mandarin for this generous gesture and sumptuous dinner. It means a lot to the elderly guests. They haven’t had a sit down celebratory dinner like this for a long time.”


Lisa Tse concluded “We love cooking and it’s our honour and privilege to cook for these elders – to whom we give thanks for their contributions to British society. We’re also committed to helping our charity of the year, Wai Yin charity in any way we can. I would urge everyone to make contact with your relatives, neighbours and look out for each other. Everyone should have someone during this festive season.”






  1. To help Wai Yin Charity – Contact Sylvia Sham or Lisa Mok www.waiyin.org.uk
  2. Wai Yin Society has been supporting, empowering and working in partnership with Chinese individuals and families for more than 25 years. Founded in 1988 by a group of community-minded Chinese women, Wai Yin has become one of the largest Chinese Community centres in the UK, sustaining its operations through commissions and contracts with mainstream organisations. As the society has grown, we have developed a range of employment, education and community services for Chinese men and women and for other ethnic minority groups, including Somali, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian and many European nationalities.
  3. About Sweet Mandarin – Sweet Mandarin is an award winning restaurant based in Manchester run by twin sisters, Lisa and Helen Tse. They won Gordon Ramsay’s Best Local Chinese Restaurant on the F Word beating 10,000 other restaurants for this accolade. Lisa and Helen Tse have each been awarded an MBE for services to food and drink.








Dec 30

Dinner for the Elderly Chinese Community

chinese elderly party

Today we are delighted to host a very special dinner for all the elderly Chinese community of Manchester. And we’re picking up the entire tab.

One of the charities we support is the Wai Yin Centre which is an outreach charity to the Chinese community who are vulnerable and with a particular emphasis on the elderly community. It struck a chord with me because my grandmother used to participate in the Wai Yin Community activities such as singing and meals and I really wanted to give back so we decided to open up Sweet Mandarin and cook up a banquet for the elderly and vulnerable – especially those who are alone during this festive season. I don’t want anyone to feel alone at Christmas or New Year and I know I can’t reach out to everyone out there who is lonely but this year the 60 or so guests who have been invited will be treated to a very good spread at Sweet Mandarin. I hope that if you have the capability that you can also extend the season of goodwill to a neighbour or someone you might know who would appreciate your kindness. We all must do our bit for mankind and look out for each other. Bless you and your family. Lisa and Helen

Dec 29

My Mum’s Chicken’s Feet Soup (For Beautiful Skin)


When my mum was pregnant with us, her knees were pained by the weight of the bump and Lily made this soup for my mum to boost her cartilage. There was a surprise in the pregnancy – only I had shown up in the last prenatal scan but in fact, my twin sister, Helen was hidden behind me and not even the doctors guessed my mum was having twins – no wonder the bump was so heavy! We were born at Royal Oldham Hospital, eight miles away from Manchester on 13th October 1977 and Helen came into the world two minutes later.


If you are feeling adventurous and want to delve into the heart of authentic China, then this recipe is for you. It’s our mum’s favourite soup because it helps her joints and eases her arthritis. The added benefits are that this soup is full of calcium and collagen – perfect for maintaining the firmness and moisture in her beautiful skin. This silky soup is not for the faint-hearted but if you can get past the toenails of the chickens, it is delicious.


Serves 2


Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 1 hour


3 tablespoons uncooked peanuts6 dried red dates5 dried shiitake mushrooms10–12 chicken’s feet (they come cleaned and pre-packed but at some places you can select how many you want)

600ml water

1 tablespoon salt

Soak the red dates, peanuts, shiitake mushrooms in room temperature water for 15 minutes before using them. Once reconstituted, drain.


Clean the chicken feet by removing the layer of outer skin and trimming the claws (if not done so by your supermarket).


Pour the water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the chicken’s feet, peanuts, dates and shiitake mushrooms. Reduce to the lowest heat and simmer for an hour. Add the salt to taste and serve.


To book a table at Sweet Mandarin email sweetmandarintables@gmail.com . Our opening times are Tuesday – Sunday 5-10pm.

Sweet Mandarin is a Chinese Restaurant in Manchester which serves delicious Chinese cuisine and exotic cocktails. We make our own sweet chilli sauce, bbq sauce, sweet & sour sauce which you can buy from Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Ocado, Booths, Wing Yip and Chi Yip. Sweet Mandarin Chinese Restaurant and Cookery Schoolcan cater for the gluten free, dairy free diners. We are a short 15 minute walk from the Manchester Arena. We are not based in Chinatown, but based in the trendy Northern Quarter near the Arndale Centre, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Debenhams and Primark. The nearest hotels to us are the Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn Express, Premier Apartments, Blue Rainbow Aparthotels, Light Hotel and Hatters Hostel.




Dec 25

Merry Christmas – We’re having Peking Duckenail for our Christmas Roast (that’s Duck Chicken Quail)

photo 1 (14)

Peking duck is Beijing’s most famous dish and was served to numerous Emperors. However, the true Peking duck recipe takes over 24 hours to make and requires a pump to blow air between the skin and the duck and a specialised upright oven so all the fat drips off the duck leaving delicious crispy skin. Whilst I love Peking duck, to be honest it is very hard to recreate in a home kitchen. However, I am inspired by this dish and have adapted the flavours to create our unique family Duckenail roast, which comprises of a quail in a chicken in a duck stuffed with a mix of Chinese mushrooms, chestnuts, Chinese sausage and sticky rice. We made it for an alternative Christmas dinner Chinese-style and it came about because Janet wanted quail, Lisa wanted duck and I wanted chicken. So we thought why not put it together? It started off as a bit of a challenge and a bit tongue in cheek, but it was such a hit we make it even when it is not Christmas! For Christmas, we used a whole duck, whole chicken and whole quail. However, that is a bit too much for two people! Therefore, I have adapted our family recipe to make the quantities suitable for two people rather than a family of six.




Makes 2




Prep time 20 minutes


Cook time 1 hour 15 minutes




2 duck breasts, deboned


2 chicken thighs, deboned and skin removed


2 quail, deboned and skin removed


2 teaspoon salt


1 teaspoon five spice powder




For the stuffing


200g cooked chestnuts, diced


200g dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted by putting in hot water for 15 minutes and cut into small pieces


200g sticky rice


1 Chinese sausage (25g), diced


1 teaspoon salt


1 teaspoon sugar


½ teaspoon five spice powder


½ teaspoon garlic powder


2 teaspoons sesame oil


1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine




For the plum sauce


3 plums, peeled, destoned and quartered


½ red chilli, sliced into small pieces


3 tablespoons caster sugar


½ teaspoon five spice powder


1 teaspoon white wine vinegar


50ml water




Add all the ingredients for the plum sauce to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the plums soften to a pulp. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.




Mix all the stuffing ingredients together in a bowl until they bind. Divide into three. You need to make two parcels so steps 3-6 sets out the directions for one duckenail which you need to repeat. Rub the duck’s skin with 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of five spice powder. On a piece of foil, turn the duck skin-side down. Spread one third of the stuffing mix over the top of the duck.




Using a rolling pin, pound the chicken until it is a thin fillet about 2.5cm thick. Lay it over the stuffing. Then cover the chicken with one third of the stuffing. Then lay the quail meat over the stuffing and cover with the remaining stuffing. Roll the foil so the duck wraps around the meats and filling and creates a roll.




Place the parcels on a baking tray and put into a hot oven at 270 degrees for 30 minutes. Then remove the foil and continue to cook in the oven for a further 30 minutes at 220 degrees celsius. To brown the skin, put under the grill for 5–10 minutes.




Serve with the plum sauce.

To book a table at Sweet Mandarin email sweetmandarintables@gmail.com .

Our opening times are Tuesday – Sunday 5-10pm.

Sweet Mandarin is a Chinese Restaurant in Manchester which serves delicious Chinese cuisine and exotic cocktails.

We make our own sweet chilli sauce, bbq sauce, sweet & sour sauce which you can buy from Sainsbury’s, Tesco,

Ocado, Booths, Wing Yip and Chi Yip.

Sweet Mandarin Chinese Restaurant and Cookery School can cater for the gluten free, dairy free diners.

We are a short 15 minute walk from the Manchester Arena.

We are not based in Chinatown, but based in the trendy Northern Quarter near the Arndale Centre,

Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Debenhams and Primark. The nearest hotels to us are the Crowne Plaza,

Holiday Inn Express, Premier Apartments, Blue Rainbow Aparthotels, Light Hotel and Hatters Hostel.

Dec 24

We remember our grandma, Lily Kwok

Every Christmas, we reflect on our lives and pay our respects to our grandma who passed away December 2007. I loved my grandma. She was my hero. More than pop stars. More than footballers. She had integrity and courage.  She was my hero, because she was kind to everyone. She didn’t bow to peer pressure and he didn’t care who you were. She just cooked for everyone and satisfied everyone’ hungry bellies. What a chef. I wanted to be just like my grandma and now I’ living my dream. I wake up every day to cook for my customers at Sweet Mandarin and this Christmas, is our 11th Christmas and we’e still standing tall, still looking after our customers, still teaching people how to cook healthy Chinese food oving everything we do.

One day, when I was a few years younger with a dodgy fringe do, I remember the Christmas banquet at Sweet Mandarin we cooked the crab claws in ginger and spring onion. They were the most massive of crab claws and it was as big as her hand! My did she enjoy that! What a memory. Unconditionally beautiful. It was an amazing night. Filled with delicious food, hearty laughter and tears of joy.

We’e not from a rich background. In actual fact, I lived in a very poor, working-class estate in an urban sprawl called Middleton, about 8 miles north west of Manchester. My father and mother ran a chip shop and after years helping out in the business, I grew out of my ashamedness of poverty. It became almost noble. Also, everyone I knew was in the same situation, and I had everything I needed. Also I was happy and learnt how to cook my way out of poverty. A huge relief for my parents. You see, growing up where I did, mums didn’ hope as high as their kids growing up to be doctors; they just hoped their kids didn’tgo to jail. So I guess I’veot done too badly seeing as I grew up above a chip shop.

There are two things my grandma was fastidious about – the first was be honest. She instilled in me to live an honest life and for that you need the truth.  however shocking or uncomfortable, in the end leads to liberation and dignity.

The second was Do unto others as you would do to yourself. So I live by that.

My offering at Sweet Mandarin is just that; honest good food which I love and hope my clients will love too. I’m not perfect but I strive to try my best and look after my clients the way my grandma looked after hers. During this Christmas season, I am grateful for my life, for Sweet Mandarin and my clients. I live to cook for you good people and hope to do so for four decades -just as my grandma did. Thank you to my grandma, Lily Kwok who passed me her curry recipe, and her love.

When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure. May you treasure the times you have at Sweet Mandarin with friends and family. I am honoured to cook for you.

Wishing you and yours the sweetest Christmas.




Dec 23

Ramsay’s Best Local Chinese Restaurant

Gordon Ramsay is a nice man and actually doesn’t swear when the TV camera is turned off. Fact.

Its an amazing opportunity to cook with Gordon Ramsay and it was a wonderful experience. The pressure tests we were put through were the hardest, toughest, back-breaking, shooting-through-the-roof blood pressure experience in my culinary career. Cooking a three course meal for the 50 diners was a live competition – there was no cut, edit, paste. It was live, it was furious, it was hard. I know I cook  for sittings of 65 guests every night but Gordon Ramsay and his guests were a different kettle of fish and with Gordon Ramsay standing there watching over my shoulder it really stretched me to the limit. I’m thankful that we achieved 82 out of 100 and I dedicate this success to my mum – whose recipe, the Mabel’s Claypot Chicken helped us to rocket to the top of the leaderboard.

I remember vividly that evening when we received the news that we had made it to the Final of the F Word’s Best Chinese Restaurant Competition and we were estatic (Watch us battle it out here). Thanks to our wonderful customers who nominated us, we were on the map a la Gordon. However, before Gordon, we were and still are are the third generation of women restaurateurs and have always had great families follow us generation after generation. Their gran knew our gran (who set up her restaurant before Chinatown was established), their mum knows our mum and now the third generation visit Sweet Mandarin.

Nothing had quite sunk in even when a black car picked us up at our home to drive us to the studios in London. Having not slept the night before didn’t help when we were faced with 50 chicken breasts and about 100 pieces of squid to cut in the F Word kitchen – and we had an hour’s prep time to get through the mountains of ingredients.

I was cutting away in my own little world when suddenly this voice said ‘Hello Lisa!’ It was Gordon Ramsay. He was so tall and I was so shocked that it was the man himself that I nearly cut my hand.  It was at that moment that it finally sunk – I was in the competition headed up by Gordon Ramsay to find the UK’s Best Local Chinese Restaurant and after three generations who have endured rollercoaster after rollercoaster it was a chance for me to restore the family name.  Then I got nervous.   I finally realised that this competition was real and was shocked that Gordon knew my name. I’ve seen him on the TV, but for him to know and praise me was a chef’s dream come true.  It was a true honour to cook with him and a huge accolade to get 82/100 mark for the Mabel’s Claypot Chicken. When we won the Best Local Chinese Restaurant Award 2009-2010 I had tears in my eyes.  To my dear customers and to all of Manchester, this trophy is for you.

If you want to pop over for my mum’s claypot chicken, please book a table by emailing sweetmandarintables@gmail.com








Read the interview with Sweet Mandarin’s head chef, Lisa Tse, and second chef, Helen Tse…

How did you feel when you found out you’d made it through the F Word?

Helen: Amazing! Speechless. Nearly wanted to faint! Jean Baptiste came to see us to try our Mabel’s Clay Pot Chicken. Just himself, very low key – and then he left. Suddenly I got this phone call at lunch time and it went, ‘Hi it’s Gordon’ and he said, I’ve got some real bad news for you; you’ve got to come down to London on Thursday’. And we found out on Tuesday! So we had to re-jig everything to get down here but it’s worth it. We haven’t quite come down yet!

Why do you think your restaurant was nominated as one of the best Chinese restaurants?

Helen: We have the best customers. It’s thanks to them.

Lisa: I guess they must really like our food, they always rave about the food and the ambiance of the restaurant. And also the location is quite special. It’s in an area called the Northern Quarter and there’s a lot of regenerated business and it’s quite cool and funky round there and we blend into that, I guess.

Helen: We do a lot of work with the community as well. We open up the restaurant for free for events. Lisa here is a manic Twitterer and we always hold ‘Tweet ups’ every month, and they really appreciate that. And we do Flickr meetings as well, so people who are crazy about photography come along. We also do events called ‘Meet My Neighbour’ where we invite blocks of residents to our restaurant and they get to meet their neighbours. Where we are there are loads of flats, these people have been living there for years and they don’t even know who their neighbour is. They don’t even know who lives in their block, that’s how dangerous it could be. So we thought we’d introduce them to each other. We feel safe in the neighbourhood because we know who’s there.

Lisa: We feel safe in the neighbourhood, and also when they walk past after work we can give them a wave now.

What about the food?

Lisa: We serve modern Chinese cuisine and exotic cocktails. When we first set up the concept it was a casual dining restaurant. So you could come in for a bite to eat up to the full blown banquet. We do traditional sweet and sour and black bean for example, but we also do recipes that have been passed down from our mother and grandmother. Like Lily Kwok’s Chicken Curry, Mabel’s Clay Pot and we also cater for vegetarians as well. Not only that but we have a Taste of China menu as well. So you can get regional dishes from China that you can taste in our restaurant, which is quite unique. I think when people go to a Chinese they’re scared to try things they not used to, so we try to introduce them slowly to spicier stuff or savoury dishes.

Helen: The dish that we’re cooking tonight for the competition is called Mabel’s Clay Pot Chicken, and lots of our dishes have a story behind it. And Mabel is our mum and she came to England when she was about 8, and she was separated from her mum for a few years because our grandmother came over first. And you know if you ever have distance from a friend or a family member there’s always an awkward time when they meet up again. And that also happened with mother and daughter. My mum hated England initially when she came here because she couldn’t speak the language, didn’t like the rain, didn’t like meat and two veg – she was used to rice every day. And this chicken was her favourite dish growing up, so my grandmother would cook it for her and it was through this dish that they bonded again as mother and daughter – and thats why we’re cooking it again today. We’ve got this very strong belief; there’s many things in the world that divide us but the one thing that unites us is food.

And what is in the Clay Pot Chicken dish?

Lisa: It’s got chicken in, it’s actually got quite a lot of ying-yang elements in. So it’s got ginger which is yang, which is warming for the body, it’s got spring onion which complements it very well. And another thing that is very seasonal, which is Chinese cabbage and some onions as well. It’s really the sauce; what makes the sauce quite special is the Chinese sausage, called lapchang, so it’s a bit like your salami, and also the Chinese mushrooms as well. It’s very rustic.

How do you feel about cooking for the F Word diners alongside Gordon?

Lisa: I think once we’ve been in the kitchen and seen it we’ll be a bit calmer.

Helen: We’re going to have to cook quite quick it looks like and also tweak a few techniques to make sure you get it out within the time frame.

What would it mean to the pair of you if you were to win the competition overall?

Lisa: To get this far is just surreal, to meet Gordon Ramsay was pretty cool as he’s just amazing.

Helen: It’s a big thanks to our customers and would show that all the hard work’s paid off – and that whatever we’re doing we’re doing it right. Because sometimes in business you don’t know what’s the right decision or the wrong decision and you just keep going and hope for the best sometimes. Especially in the restaurant business; it’s so competitive, you always have to innovate and watch your competitors and hopefully we’ll do that for the diners.

Dec 22

The Ultimate School Field Trip

I’ve been working a lot with primary, secondary and higher education since being appointed the key Food Tech specialist by Manchester City Council. One of the perks for teachers and students are our ultimate blow-your-socks-off one of a kind field trips that you will remember all your life. We take you to a Chinese Supermarket, show you all those wierd and wonderful ingredients, give you a go on the commercial woks under supervision, and the best thing is you get to eat it too. For those that want a photo with the F word trophy, click away! Well done to this group of students! Really proud of you all. Best wishes Lisa


Dec 20

Belly Laughs at Sweet Mandarin

I get asked all the time what’s it like working with your sister?

When I hang out with my sister, she cracks me up. Working together is more of the same. She sometimes just looks at me and we’re laughing our head off. You know, properly ROFLMAO (Rolling On Floor Laughing My Ass Off). These belly laughs are almost in an involuntary reaction because once you start laughing its really hard to stop. I tell you its great to laugh and just let it out – I call them belly laughs – because the laughter bubbles up from the belly and effervesces up tickling the nose. What a great way to just release any tension. It sure makes the day much sweeter. I wish you and yours many belly laughs. See you at Sweet Mandarin soon. To book a table email sweetmandarintables@gmail.com

Dec 18

The Chicken Wings

chicken wings2I gotta just blog-wax lyrical about the Chicken Wings - I just ordered a portion . Now there is a saying that “the Chinese will eat anything with its back to the Heavens except the table and chairs” – that is true, so true. Nonetheless, whilst some people are a bit snobby towards chicken wings but I gotta tell you if you fall in that camp you are missing out big time. Whether you are Chinese or not, you gotta love the chicken wings.

Growing up in a chippy family (and a Chinese one at that) we were surrounded by food – when we finished school, mum would have cooked us a ‘mini steak sandwich’ (full 9oz steak of the tenderest kind on the softest bread), a ‘lill’ pasta’ (a full bowl of pasta that most italians call a main with peaches!!!)or chicken wings (6 per portion crispy on the outside, juice and moist on the inside and my favourite).

Well have you ever taken a first bite of a dish and it takes you back to your childhood? Everytime I order a portion of Sweet Mandarin Chicken Wings I’m nine again, sitting in the back of the 505 pegeout (which we nicknamed the ‘Big Elephant’) and enjoying the scenic route home with my mum. Its priceless and I got to tell you more about these delightful Chicken Wings.

I guess I got to start way way back with this story. Let me introduce you to my gran, Lily Kwok (who by the way is the main heroine in our book Sweet Mandarin – God Bless your cotton socks gran :0). You know we purchase whole chickens in this industry, because only then do you know where the meat is coming from, if you get my drift. A chicken is a chicken. You can’t substitute quality ever, in this business. So we had all these chickens every Sunday which were lined up like an exercise class. I could imagine them all doing their press ups and stretches together. Well we serve the breasts and legs to the customers, and had all these gorgeous chicken wings (2 per chicken = yippie) to enjoy.

Often, it was a battle between me and the pet dog, as to who would get my gran’s attention first, and in return she’d toss us a hot, steaming, tender chicken wing – the meat was almost about to fall off the delicate bones and the sweetness of the chicken was moorish.  Soon, we closed the back door so our doggie had no part in the chicken wing extravaganza. By the time I was 11, my brother Jim (who was 8) and I used to have competitions, as to who could eat the most chicken wings in one sitting. So ever since I could walk, eat and shout out ‘ Chicken Wings’ – I was enjoying them, loving them and fighting for my share on a weekly basis.

A family like mine is never full, we’ve got to be stuffed. If anyone visited, you’d eat with us, whether you had already eaten or not. Eventually, we’d cry out with our arms in the air “I’m gonna pop if you keep stuffing me like this!”

My mum would sweetly respond “Well I don’t want you to go hungry. You might starve!”

So that is how my fascination with food and in particular Chicken Wings started.

Well, no wonder Chicken Wings are on the menu at Sweet Mandarin. I’m made this special crispy coating for them – oh my word – you just bite and know its going to be a winner. Its just crispy enough to go hhhmmmm delicious. Then the actual meat is just juicy and sweet – just the way my mum taught me.

So don’t forget, next time you come to Sweet Mandarin, you gotta try the Chicken Wings

Dec 17

Sweet Mandarin – Tweeting as I cook

The scene that stays with me is a bar packed with people, a swarm of twitterers in overdrive, with a mix of titilation and trepidation, after Manchester’s first Twestival. I met twitterers who have kept me company in virtual reality, made me burst into laughter and order Sweet Mandarin takeaways from me.

So what is a restauranteur and cookery school owner like me doing on Twitter. My journey into this scrappy world of 140 characters is thanks to my customers telling me about this MUST TRY social network. I responded “Look, I got Facebook, Myspace, Blog and a real life restaurant with hundreds of clients…what’s so good about Twitter?”

They responded with such passion – “its instantaneous, its addictive and it gives us a chance to figure out how you fit it all in – a restaurant, a cookery school, a book, juggling your family and Lisa – you’re everywhere – HOW?!”. Their arguments roused my curiosity and struck so deeply into the psyche of me that I put aside my common sense (and time) and signed up. 10000 followers and 3000 tweets later, I’m hooked and I wear my heart on my sleeve. I tell you that I’m firing up a wok, I try to crack a joke (try is the operative word), I’m watching tv, I’m exercising – now I’m not. Twitter lets you talk about the minutae of life and with my life, it revolves around my clients and food. What fires me up is the “Sweet Tweets” – bookings for tables, orders for takeaways, compliments (I love you too) – because I live to cook and serve…..and Twitter has helped me to run my business in the most fun way possible.

About Me

I set up Sweet Mandarin with my two sisters four years ago, achieving a long held dream. We wanted to be slightly different and offered modern Chinese cuisine and exotic cocktails. We have been blessed with a loyal following many of whom have become friends who come to Sweet Mandarin to catch up on life, hang out and eat good, fresh, healthy Chinese food – and also learn how to make it via our cookery school. Being part of the Manchester Twitterati is a natural extension of our lives – and relationships. I’ve learnt that there are many things which try to divide us, but food is that one uniting factor – and through our snippets of food – I share the highs and lows with our community in Manchester. Twitter helps us to understand each other better and just say what we have to say (in 140 characters). Follow us @sweetmandarin and if I can help, I will.

Dec 16

A wonderful Sweet Mandarin event (thanks YattyImages aka Lisa Chan Brown for the video)

There are some moments in one’s life that one will always remember. Here is one magical moment that I want to share with you. It was an event to give thanks to all our customers predominantly from the Middleton area – over the years who have kept my grandma, my mum and me in business.

As I was serving these wonderful folk, my heart twinged with sadness and longing. Unlike my grandma’s and mum’s businesses who have loyal regulars every single week – on the same day, at the same time – ordering the same dishes (‘Usual please’) for the last 50 years – being located in the Manchester city centre area – the population is far more transient.

Nonetheless, I value my regular customers and corporate clients and set myself a personal challenge to get to know my regulars with a view to build a lasting legacy for Sweet Mandarin and future generations. Helen, Janet and I want to invite you host a your event at Sweet Mandarin. Who knows, maybe after my 50 years, our grandchildren can invite you, our regular customers to a wonderful event like the above.


I want to thank Lisa Chan Brown whom I met on Flickr and Twitter (@yattyimages) who tirelessly over 2 hours took photos every ten seconds BY HAND to make the above video.

Thank you also to Alkrington Library for organising the event and encouraging all Middletonian book clubs to read Sweet Mandarin.

Best wishes and sweet dishes

Lisa, Helen and Janet 
To book a table at Sweet Mandarin email sweetmandarintables@gmail.com

Dec 15

Hot and Sour Soup



Helen, Janet and I gave up our day jobs as a lawyer, engineer and financier to open Sweet Mandarin in 2004 to the horror of our parents who protested that restaurants were hard graft and economically precarious. Nonetheless, our passion to serve Chinese food our way was too strong to resist and we bought a derelict piece of land and built Sweet Mandarin in four weeks including the kitchen, bar, the ceiling, the glass frontage, the team and the menu. The first item is Hot and Sour soup and that is what caught the attention of John who walked through the door on day one to order this dish. He is now a dear friend and we owe him a huge vote of thanks for his supporting in helping us getting our gluten-free sauces off the ground and into Sainsbury’s but recently we reminisced about that rainy day in November 2004 and he said that our friendship was cemented when I served him this hot and sour soup. ‘It’s the ultimate test of a good Chinese restaurant. Your hot and sour soup was so good that I had to get to know you, chef !’ It’s also a firm favourite with my sister Janet who loves, loves, loves my Hot and Sour soup! It certainly warms you up and the spices are wonderfully aromatic and enhance the flavour of the soup. Once you’ve perfected the perfected the balance of those spicy and sour flavours, you’ll sip to your heart’s content.


Serves 2


Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 10 minutes


600ml chicken stock

100g cooked meat, such as pork, chicken, ham or char siu

100g small prawns

50g bamboo shoots

50g carrot strips

50g tofu, cut into strips

1 teaspoon chillibean sauce

1 tablespoon white vinegar

100ml Sweet Mandarin sweet and sour sauce

½ teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon sugar

1 portion of potato starch mixture (1 tablespoon potato starch mixed with 4 tablespoons water)

1 drop of sesame oil

1 small egg, beaten


Add the stock to a wok or saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the cooked meat, prawns and vegetables and tofu and cook, stirring often, for 3–4 minutes. Drop in a generous teaspoon of chillibean paste and pour in the vinegar and sweet and sour sauce. Season with the salt and sugar, stir well and cook for about 5 minutes until boiling.


Pour in the potato starch mixture when the soup is boiling and stir immediately. Potato starch only reacts with boiling liquids. You need to stir the potato starch mix in vigorously. If you don’t stir the soup will become gloopy in the centre and watery on the edge of the wok


Remove from the heat and slowly swirl in 2 tablespoons of beaten egg so the egg drop cooks in the soup. Use a fork or the stirrer to mix the egg into strands to create the egg drop effect which is essentially thin swirls of egg. Return to the heat for 30 seconds to cook through the egg.


Add in a little drop of sesame oil and mix. Serve and enjoy!


To book a table at Sweet Mandarin email sweetmandarintables@gmail.com . Our opening times are Tuesday – Sunday 5-10pm.

Sweet Mandarin is a Chinese Restaurant in Manchester which serves delicious Chinese cuisine and exotic cocktails. We make our own sweet chilli sauce, bbq sauce, sweet & sour sauce which you can buy from Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Ocado, Booths, Wing Yip and Chi Yip. Sweet Mandarin Chinese Restaurant and Cookery Schoolcan cater for the gluten free, dairy free diners. We are a short 15 minute walk from the Manchester Arena. We are not based in Chinatown, but based in the trendy Northern Quarter near the Arndale Centre, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Debenhams and Primark. The nearest hotels to us are the Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn Express, Premier Apartments, Blue Rainbow Aparthotels, Light Hotel and Hatters Hostel.




Dec 14

Look Inside our DIM SUM Cookbook – and Buy Buy Buy! Thanks Antonio Carluccio for Your Lovely Quote

boiled won ton soup (2)


dim sum cookbook (2) - CopyThis DIM SUM Cookbook is a culmination of generations of dim sum recipes and even has a chapter on Superfood dim sum. This book is now available to purchase in Waterstones and online with Amazon. Also pick up a copy at Sweet Mandarin. We are having a book signing party at Sweet Mandarin on 22nd February 2015 5pm – 7pm to celebrate Chinese New Year. You are all welcome – to book your free tickets email lisa@sweetmandarin.com .

antonio carluccioThank you to Antonio Carluccio for giving us such a lovely quote for the book and for being an inspiration to us.

Finally, a book for my heart!

As I enjoy good Chinese food, the cuisine I like best after the Italian, I always find it frustrating not to be able to reproduce it because I think of its complexity. The Dim Sum book by Helen and Lisa Tse is written with such simple clarity, that it will encourage me, and I hope many others, to cook those morsels which I adore, including the chicken feet. It is very understandable and the introduction and tips, plus the step-by-step great pictures, will hopefully take me to produce “the real thing”.

Good luck girls and much love


Comm Antonio Carluccio OBE


Dec 13

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

team photoI never liked being under someone’s thumb. It irked me big time. So much so that when I handed in my notice, and walked out of the marbled, chrome reception of a big city establishment, I felt like I had been given a new leash of life.

I headed back to Manchester, set up Sweet Mandarin and never looked back.  Now, I’m the boss. However, my way of working is that I always jump in, I’m one of the crew. There is no hierarchy at Sweet Mandarin. That’s the way I like it and I hope it will always remain. But it hit me today, that my team look to me for their lifelines, to support their families, to pay their bills and to feel useful, to feel part of something meaningful. The words of Spiderman ring true,

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Ok, I run a restaurant, not a PLC, and no, I don’t have any superpowers except the power to cook exceptionally super duper food, but I realise that I have to be strong. Not just for my customers. But for my team. My loyal and faithful team that has helped me build Sweet Mandarin and I dedicate this blog entry to them.  I promise I will try my best to be the sweetest boss I can be and will always be grateful for your service and commitment to me and to Sweet Mandarin.

Yours, Lisa.

Dec 12

Sweet Mandarin Takeaways



I was chatting to my friends who are also my customers (its funny how customers become friends after a while) and getting their feedback on Sweet Mandarin’s takeaway offering – always listening and trying to improve our service.

My friend Julia said many nights, she had gone home hungry – craving good Sweet Mandarin food – she remembered our wholesome Chinese food with a steaming bowl of rice after a corporate night out with her firm. She said “No where else does what you do – offer simple but delicious food at reasonable prices.” That’s true. Most restaurants will charge you restaurant prices for takeaway. What we offer is takeaway at takeaway prices with restaurant quality. We’ve also chosen our containers with thought, to ensure it comes to your door piping hot. We consider takeaway to be one of our core businesses and we value customers at home, as if they were sitting at Sweet Mandarin. We’ll even accompany the dinner with our choicest wines, so you can have the Sweet Mandarin experience in the comfort of your own home.

You can’t beat a takeaway – here are Julia’s top ten reasons:

1. I am home alone

2. Its raining/cold/late/got no car/car’s broken down/don’t want to venture outside for a whole night out

3. I’m already wearing pygamas and hooked to the tv set – you can’t just leave if Pop Idol or Desperate Housewives are on can you – get the bf to collect @sweetmandarin!

4. I just want to eat some decent Chinese food – no one else does Lily’s curry or Mabel’s claypot and the more I think about their food, the more hungry I get.

5. The fridge is bare apart from some mouldy cheese and stale bread – even a mouse would decline that offer!

6. I don’t want to cook, and even if I did, I have no food. Can’t cook won’t cook.

7. Its cheaper to get Sweet Mandarin take-out, than to buy all the ingredients and try to cook it yourself.

8. When I cook it tastes funny- I’ll leave it to the experts at Sweet Mandarin.

9. Takeout is great for a romatic night in, especially accompanied by the fine selection of wine Sweet Mandarin has (hehehe, I’m not alone, so you can ignore point 1 tonight :0))

10. Sweet Mandarin takeaway is the best…because the staff are friendly, the food is superb and the price is right.

Now that you are in a state of ravenous hunger, here’s what to do – call 0161 832 8848 and see their online new menu at www.sweetmandarin.com .

where’s the phone?

who’s taken my phone?

I need takeout NOW!

spring rolls – sweet and sour chicken – peking duck – firecracker prawns – special fried rice – chicken chow mein – one hot and sour soup – no make it two – and some prawn crackers…..and hurry. i’m about to faint with hunger.

Dec 11

Please can I have a portion of Prawn Toast Twitters

I’ve received loads of emails about prawn toast. If you have tried to make prawn toast and it turns out a) burnt b) soggy c) too greasy this is my Sweet Mandarin Internet Cookery Lesson for you. Follow us on Twitter (@sweetmandarin)

At the Sweet Mandarin Cookery School, I teach you how to make the perfect prawn toast….and its as easy as ABC. They make great hor d’oeuvres and are wonderful party additions for any occasion.  If you know how to spread jam on bread, you’ll know how to make my wonderful sesame prawn toast.


Recipe for Sesame Prawn Toast

If vegetarian, one can use tofu or mushroom alternative. If you don’t like prawn – try chicken!


250g of raw de-shelled prawns blended into a paste
1 tbsp shaoshing wine
0.25 tbsp white pepper

0.25 tbsp salt
6 slices white bread (large medium thick), crusts removed and cut into quarters
5-6 tbsp sesame seeds

Prawn Paste : Place all the paste ingredients in a food processor and blend until you have a smooth paste. Place the prawn in a covered container for 15 minutes.
Toast: Spread the prawn paste on one side of the bread with a palate knife or knife, so that the bread is evenly coated. Repeat this with all the slices of bread. [Now isn't this as easy as spreading jam on bread!]. Place the sesame seeds on a plate and lay the bread (paste side) on the sesame seeds gently pressing them in. Shake off any excess and this baby is ready for a hot bath!

To Cook
Preheat oil in a deep fryer or in a wok until hot. Turn down heat to moderate. Deep fry the bread in batches prawn side down, for 2-3 minutes, until the slices are golden brown. Remove from the oil, drain them on kitchen paper and keep warm in a low oven while you prepare the remaining slices.

Hot Oil Tester

How hot is hot? The heat is radiating from the wok but is it hot enough? If you see smoke – its too hot.  If the oil is not hot enough, the prawn toast will not cook well and the bread will soak in the oil making it greasy and soggy. If the oil is too hot, it will burn the bread.

Try this simple but effective test – get a pair of unpainted bamboo chopsticks (that are dry not wet) and stick the end into the oil.  If the oil bubbles rapidly, the oil is ready for cooking. [Note to cooks - don't use painted or coloured chopsticks as the hot oil will burn off the colour.]

To Serve
Slice the toast in small squares or triangles with small bowls of sweet and sour sauce or sweet chilli sauce.

The Secrets to Perfect Prawn Toast

1) ensure that the filling (whether prawn or chicken paste) is spread to the very edges of the toast (this avoids the bread from getting burnt);

2) ensure that the layer of raw meat is evenly spread and is not too thickly applied. A thick layer of raw meat on the bread leaves the meat not being thoroughly cooked or if you leave the prawn toast in the deep fat fryer until cooked, the bread ends up being greasy and soggy; and

3) ensure you cook the prawn toast in hot oil (see hot oil tester above)

Hope that helps. Let me know how it goes. If you want the recipe or have any other questions, drop me an email at sweetmandarin@gmail.com

Best wishes and Sweet dishes to you and your family


Dec 10

Yin and Yang Foods – Can Balancing such foods improve your hair and skin?

chinese-girl-mangaBalancing Yin and Yang can improve one’s hair and skin.

“The created universe carries the yin at its back and the yang in front; Through the union of the pervading principles it reaches harmony” (Lao tzu, Tao-te ching)

The below is a snapshot and for illustrative purposes only. Should you have any medical conditions, you should consult a doctor first including discussing your diet.

Foods differ in their physical, mental, spiritual and emotional effects and can be divided into three main types -those that are ‘balanced’ and some that are ‘Yin’ and some that are ‘Yang’. Yin foods are cooling, while Yang foods are warming to the human system. Together, Yin and Yang combined in balance produce an equalization that translates into health for living creatures.

Yin Foods (Cooling)

Extreme Yin – Tomatoes, Potatoes, Capsicums, Egglpants, Shiitake Mushrooms, Fruit, Spices, Herbs, Seasoning, Sugar, Alcohol, MSG, Soy Milk, Honey, Caffeine, Drugs (e.g. aspirin)

Yin – Yeasted bread, Leafy greens (e.g. asparagus, celery), Beans, Dried Fruit, Nuts, Milk, Tofu, Vinegar

Yang Foods (Warming)

Extreme Yang – Meat, Fish, Egg, Cheese, Salt, Miso,

Yang – Any root vegetables e.g. Carrots, Daikon, Parsnip, Turnips and Buckwheat

Neutral Foods

Brown Rice, Wheat, Azuki beans, Pumpkin, Cabbage, Seaweed, Sesame seeds, Sesame oil, Apples and Pears, Other vegetables (not mentioned above).

If you have low blood pressure or are easily cold, you have a Yin constitution. Eat more Yang foods to warm up the body e.g. spicy foods like garlic, cayenne, ginger, grains, legumes, roots and tubers, which are Yang. Reduce your intake in Yin foods e.g. tropical fruits and dairy products.

If you have high blood pressure and always feverish, you have a Yang consitution. Eat more fruits, lots of green, leafy vegetables and avoid heavy meats.

To learn more about how to balance your Yin and Yang Foods, and receive recipes that focus on this aspect of balance and detox buy our Sweet Mandarin Cookbook and we’d love to welcome you to Sweet Mandarin. To book a table go to www.sweetmandarin.com

Dec 09

Six Degrees of Separation – Dim Sum, Silk Road, Guangzhou China, Britain, Cuppa Tea and me….

As a British Born Chinese, I have lived a very British way of life being educated in Manchester and Australia. However, throughout my life, I grew up with the backdrop of serving and cooking in the family restaurant and continue my involvement in the catering empire as a co-owner of Sweet Mandarin Restaurant (www.sweetmandarin.com).


(Illustration by Lisa Tse “To The Ruler, the People are Heaven, to the People Food is Heaven”)

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 and 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.

I finally arrived at Guangzhou which is famous for its “dim sum”. Literally translated, “dim sum” means “to touch your heart”. Guangzhou is north of the Pearl River Delta, adjacent to Hong Kong and holds a special place in my heart as the place where my family originates from. The nickname for this province is “Flower City” because flowers keep blossoming all year round.


(Five Ram Statute in Guangzhou)

It also holds the myth that there were five celestials riding five rams with rice in their mouth. The celestials gave the rice to the residents of Guangzhou and blessed the province with good harvests and an abundance of food. Today, the celestials have flown away but the five rams have been turned into stone sculptures in the Yuexiu Park area. The blessings have seemingly been fulfilled and the city is brimming with masses of people, bicycles and restaurants.

To date, there are over 10,000 restaurants in the city, with seats for over 500,000. The people of Guangzhou are natural born gourmets. Food in Guangzhou is famous worldwide. Indeed in 1927, Chiang Kai-Shek, the leader of the nationalist party responsible for unifying China, set up his headquarters in Guangzhou and enjoyed dining at the many restaurants serving dim sum.


(Dim Sum Mania on Sunday Mornings)

Dim sum is often referred to as “yum cha” (??) which means “drinking tea”. This interchangeable expression originated from the teahouses which set up along the Silk Road. The Silk Road linked China to Syria and was travelled by merchants and farmers trading their silk, gold, ivory, spices, exotic animals and plants. Travellers and rural farmers, exhausted after working hard, would also go to teahouses for a relaxing afternoon of tea. At first, it was considered inappropriate to combine tea with food, because people believed it would lead to excessive weight gain. However, people later discovered that tea can aid in digestion. Therefore, teahouse owners began adding more variety of snacks, so the tradition of dim sum evolved.


(Dim Sum Restaurant – Old Hong Kong)

Dim sum mania spread to Hong Kong as the Guangzhou population immigrated to Hong Kong in the 1920s. Chinese restaurants grew exponentially in Hong Kong and soon dim sum was available from 6am through to late afternoon. Restaurants in Hong Kong and Guangzhou became filled mainly with the elderly population who often gathered to eat after the morning session of tai chi exercises, often enjoying the morning newspapers.

In the west, dim sum came about as a natural result of Chinese immigrants moving to the western world. When Europe started trading with the Orient, the seaport of Guangzhou became the gateway to the West. The Chinese readily absorbed these cosmopolitan influences, and being great travellers themselves, emigrated to the United States of America and the United Kingdom. They were the first to make Chinese cooking known to the Western world and as a result dim sum has become the firm favourite of the Western world.


(A Packed Dim Sum Session)

Go to a Chinese restaurant on a Sunday afternoon and you will be greeted by a sea of Chinese families spanning three generations. Dim sum is the Chinese equivalent of French hors d’oeuvres or Spanish tapas. It’s a colourful and loud dining experience starting with the rush for vacant seats and the hustle and bustle of the gesticulating waiters selling their dim sum specials from their trolleys. Bamboo containers filled with steamed dim sum are stacked high and quickly snapped up. Waiting on staff ask what kind of tea we want to drink offering a vast array of jasmine tea, oolong tea, pu-er tea and green tea which helps to wash down the dim sum. The noise of the chatter of the diners is deafening. It’s a busy, frantic affair and there is an air of organized panic in the restaurants, which adds to the excitement and entertainment. Dim sum is an overwhelming introduction to the Chinese nation’s love of food, gregariousness and cheerful chatter.

I love dim sum. There are over 200 dishes to choose from. One Cantonese saying goes that anything that walks, swims, crawls, or flies is edible. Another says that the only four-legged things that Cantonese people won’t eat are tables and chairs.

The range of cooking skills required to make dim sum is vast. There is usually a dim sum master overseeing his section of the kitchen and there is a real art involved in making the dishes. Some dishes are steamed, others are fried. Some are baked. The variety of tastes is also mind boggling – sweet, sour, savoury and chilli.


(Left: Har Gow, Right: Siu Mi)

There are firm favourites such as “har gow” (prawn dumplings wrapped in translucent rice paper), “siu mi” (pork dumplings) and “char siu bow” (pork buns in a white fluffy dough). If you are feeling more adventurous, an eye opening experience with a stronger flavour is “fung jow” (chickens feet in yellow bean sauce and chillis). One caveat – this particular dish is not for the faint hearted. The sweet dishes for dessert range from the egg custard tarts which are extremely delicious to sago pudding or mango pudding which are refreshing and a great ending to the dim sum experience.


(Me (Left) learning how to make dim sum with my sister (centre) and mother, Mabel (Right))

A meal in a restaurant opens the taste buds, but cooking dim sum for my friends and family widens all the senses. I learnt the authentic recipes from Guangzhou and used them at Sweet Mandarin. Together with my sisters, Helen and Janet we made every dim sum from fresh. Stuffing and shaping wontons was the real family enterprise. We made the stuffing from a light prawn mince and wrapped the teaspoon of filling with a fine egg based pastry. We all left our individual stamp on the won tons in the way we crimped the edges. I added a flamboyant tail on these wontons, which can then be dipped in the sweet and sour dip. My everyday rituals of properly selecting produce, cooking and presenting a meal, which I have inherited from my family, have given me an insight to see the meaning of my own cooking as a metaphor for life.

I would love to share with you our recipe on making this exquisite dim sum.
For the Prawn Filling
250g pack shrimps
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp potato starch
1 egg white
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
Hot vegetable oil to lightly fry the wontons
Ingredients for the Wonton Wrappers
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
1 tsp potato starch
1/4 cup of water
2 cups of plain flour
Dressing for the wontons
Serve with Sweet Mandarin’s The General Tse’s Sweet and Sour Sauce
Method to make the wonton pastry
1. Kneed the ingredients together into a ball. The consistency is dough like.
2. Leave in the fridge for half an hour.
3. Roll out into a very thin sheet (as thick as a piece of paper) with a rolling pin ensuring there is plenty of flour to avoid sticking.
4. Cut into squares 3inches squared.
Method to make delicious and easy wontons
1. Put all the prawn mixture into a food processor and mix thoroughly.
2. Shape into balls the size of walnuts.
3. Place the filling balls into the centre of the wonton wrappers. To make the tail, gather the four edges and twist together.
4. Heat oil
5. Place wontons in hot oil for 5-6 minutes or until cooked through.
6. Drain from oil.
7. Serve the wontons with the Sweet Mandarin’s General Tse’s Sweet and Sour Sauce.

Sweet Mandarin offers a brunch special on Saturdays and Sundays – Eat all you can Dim Sum for 10 pounds per head. Match with Jasmine Tea and it makes for a wonderful relaxing weekend with friends and family. For more information, go to www.sweetmandarin.com To book a table email sweetmandarintables@gmail.com

Dec 08

Sweet Mandarin is featured on the BBC for the Race Relations Act 50th Anniversary


Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Race Relations Act, one of the prime pieces of legislation of the post-war period.

It was drafted in response to the open hostility and discrimination shown towards black and Asian immigrants who had come to Britain to work.

The act outlawed discrimination on the grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origin.

Half a century on, Lemn Sissay, Chancellor of The University of Manchester and renowned poet, speaks to us to measure its impact. Thank you also to Laurence and Siobhan for inviting us to speak. On reflection, we realise how far our family’s fortunes have come – and despite facing the occasional act of discrimination – we are forever indebted to the majority of the wonderful people of Manchester and Middleton who have supported our family business over the years. We’re honoured to be the third generation of women restaurateurs. Our dishes at Sweet Mandarin use the recipes from grandma and mum – made with love from our family table to yours. Bon appetite. To book a table email sweetmandarintables@gmail.com For more information go to www.sweetmandarin.com

Older posts «