Smashed Roasted Potatoes Recipe

Papa Hsin • Brunch • The mighty small potato

Every day is brunch day when you have smashed roasted potatoes. I had these for the first time at a friends house last month and could not forget the taste of them. Crispy, soaked in flavour, the perfect size to consume in one single bite. I don’t think I can ever go back to normal roasted potatoes. I skimmed over a recipe online and made these for a belated father’s day brunch. They were everyone’s favourites and are now requested on the menu for when my aunties visit in the fall.

Growing up, Papa Hsin worked in foreign affairs and was the person responsible for cultivating my exotic palette (I was the child that hated Chinese food). Papa loves hosting and it was not uncommon for me to come home to a house full of strangers cooking and eating. Once, I came home to an Indian chef cooking curry in the kitchen with an entire butchered lamb he had brought over in a sack. The kitchen smelled like curry for days and I remember eating curry till I was nauseous.

Some of my best childhood memories with Papa Hsin were the fruit markets we would visit on the weekend. It would be the two of us — on one scooter, trying to fit as many fruit boxes—papayas, pineapples, and mangos we could carry home before eating our weight in fruit. Now that Papa Hsin is getting old, there are times where there seems to be an ocean of cultural and generational differences between us. But there is always one thing I can count on connecting over — food.

I served these smashed potatoes with roasted vegetables, fried eggs, sausages and made them again the following week. They are really good for any meal or thrown together for a light snack. The trick is to roast them till they are crispy, on the edge of burning and eat them while they are hot.

Smashed Roasted Potatoes


Bag of small potatoes
Olive oil
Few cloves of fresh chopped garlic
Salt + pepper
Thyme, rosemary, or herbs you have on hand


1. Preheat oven to 425 Fahrenheit. Wash potatoes and put in a microwaveable bowl. Fill with water until potatoes are half submerged. Put saran wrap over the bowl and poke a few holes in it. Microwave for 5–6 minutes or until potatoes are soft and easily pierced with a fork. Some potatoes may explode. It is to be expected. Drain potatoes and let cool.

2. Spread potatoes evenly on a baking sheet. Mash potatoes flat with your hands or with a spatula. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Season with herbs. Toss or mix with your fingers to coat. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan.

3. Roast potatoes until brown and crispy. 25–30 minutes. Flip potatoes after 15 mins. Try not to eat too many of them. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve immediately.

Me + Papa Hsin with happy brunch faces.

A Vancouver Salad | with roasted chickpeas, quinoa and blood orange

When I think about food I love to eat off the top of my head, things pop up like: tofu pudding loaded with soft boiled peanuts, taro and grass jelly, grandma’s fried long green beans, freshly shelled sweet peas from markets in the summer, roasted vegetables, ice cream, and bean chips from Costco.

As of July this year, it will be my 6th year anniversary living in Canada since I was here as a child. Come to think of it, my diet in Vancouver usually consists of Japanese, Vietnamese, and middle eastern food. With the occasional burger with friends, and potlucks that feature food from, well, everywhere. I struggle to think of anything in my diet that falls under the category of Canadian food. 

Perhaps the biggest change in my eating choices has been reaching a lot more for organic, green and fresh food. I don’t think I’ve appreciated how accessible produce is in Vancouver and how fresh they are. A vivid memory I have from my first few months in Canada was emptying my uncle’s fridge of all their blueberries and greek yogurt. A habit I have kept till this day. For my dad, it was consuming almost unhealthy amounts of salmon, kale and quinoa. All of which was very rare to come by in Asia.

Where I grew up in Taipei, great salads almost nonexistent. Most salads you order at restaurants consist of sad pieces of wilted lettuce, canned corn, slivers of carrots, and tiny pieces of random vegetables. Most of the time drenched in sweetened yogurt and once to my horror — topped with fruit loops.

To celebrate being Canadian, I’ve put together a salad featuring all of my favourite things. With the addition of blood oranges because they are photogenic. If you had passed me a bowl of this salad to my 10-year-old self. I would probably have rolled my eyes at you and walked out to the street to buy noodle soup (米粉湯) and boiled tofu(油豆腐). The fact that I can love eating this now means that I am most definitely, finally, and proudly — Canadian.

A Vancouver Salad — with roasted chickpeas, quinoa, and blood orange

Salad body
1 can cooked chickpeas
1 tsp seasoning of choice ( I love chopped garlic, smoked paprika, chili and sesame seeds)
3 blood oranges
1/2 cup of quinoa
1 bag of organic greens
A handful of walnuts, toasted

1 whole lemon
Olive oil
Salt + Pepper
Few cloves of garlic


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cook Quinoa: Add 1/2 cup quinoa with 1 cup water in a medium pan. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  3. Rinse chickpeas. Dry them off with a paper towel. Toss chickpeas with 1 tsp oil and 1 tsp seasoning (I used chili, turmeric, paprika and sesame seeds for this batch). Spread on a pan and bake for 20 mins or until browned and crispy. Allow chickpeas to cool before tossing into salad.
  4. Slice blood oranges. Cut two ends of orange and lay on the cut side (refer to image above). Hold and slice the peel around the orange. Do not be afraid to cut into the flesh. Cut peeled oranges into slices. It will take a few tries.
  5. Toss greens, quinoa, roasted chickpeas, dressing into a bowl. Top with blood orange slices and roasted walnuts. If you are taking the salad to a party, reserve roasted walnuts and chickpeas in a bag until ready to be served. They are better crispy.

*Quinoa cooking tips adapted from The Kitchn

A Recipe: Roasted Korean pears with Ginger


This post has been updated on my website here.

One of my new year goals for 2019 is to write more — and what better subject to write about than food? Asian culture is a culture that revolves heavily around food. The making, the eating, the sharing. Oftentimes revolved around gossip, singing, or maybe a game of mahjong for the uncles and aunties. It is something I am really excited to share.

These pears were grown by Papa Hsin in his yard in Canada. As Asian parents go, I didn’t grow up knowing my dad as he spent a lot of time working. As a child, sometimes the only interaction we will have is when he signed my report cards every week (a moment where I will tremble slightly, even though I have always been a top student). But food — will forever be a way Asian parents show love. A catch-up session with Papa Hsin will always start with him pulling out fruit, steamed buns or something he made from his bag and handing it over with a smile. I think it is his peace offering for all the smiles he didn’t give me when he signed my report cards.

Similar to me, my dad grew up in many places. One of my favorite subjects to ask him about is the time when he lived in Saudi Arabia and worked as a martial arts trainer for the police force. The stories of endless deserts, lizard hunting with bearded men, drinking camel milk and getting lost in sandstorms. Terrorism, female rights. They were the stories that teleported me to faraway places and planted in me a seed for travel and social justice. In fact — one of my career goals as a high school student was to become a journalist and cover stories of war and in the Middle East. Of course, that didn’t end up happening and today, both of us settled in Canada where I work as a photographer and him as a retired officer. I like to think that we are both finding our peace and place here. Him in his garden, hosting dinners with Chinese neighbors and me in the kitchen, behind the camera, or off backpacking to another exciting location.

Food to me will always be magic. It is the art of creating something from simple and good ingredients. Food is a vehicle for stories, culture, and tradition. A delicious reminder that we are cared for and thought of.

So here to the new year, I hope it will be one filled with stories and meals shared over tables with conversations that are long and good.


Roasted Korean pear with ginger


• 4 Korean pears. Sliced in half with the seeds removed

• 1 tbsp fresh ground ginger*

• A dash of ground cinnamon

• A squeeze of lemon juice

• 1 tbs brown sugar (opt out if you aiming for less sugar)


1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. 

2. Place pears on a baking tray with cut sides up. Sprinkle ground ginger, cinnamon powder, lemon juice on pears. Top with brown sugar.

3. Bake for 20 minutes or until tender. 

4. Let the pears cool before serving, preferably with vanilla ice cream. Preferably with a friend. Enjoy.

*I like to use organic ginger since I find it more pungent. I’ve also found ginger jam to be a good substitute.

A photo of me and Papa in his yard. Shot on film in 2017.

Happy New Year!

A Recipe: Hedgehog Shortbread Cookies


I have found in life that art happens during unexpected moments. For example, it happens through an idea you get on your morning walk. It happens during a conversation over Chinese noodles or on a day when your shoot gets canceled on account of rain. Art happens in those times when you find yourself stuck indoors, with no photos to edit and your to-do list (almost) done aside from figuring out your taxes.

That’s when you know you need to bake cookies. Because art is like a cookie monster. When you hear the cookie monster rumbling, you gotta feed it. Preferably hedgehog cookies.

So here they are. Brown, crunchy,  irresistible little devils covered with toasted pecans and chocolate. 100% hard work and 100% worth it.

Sightless hedgehogschocolate_hedgehog_shortbread_cookies_sophia_hsin-101.jpg
Not anymore

You will need:

• 1 cup non-salted butter
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1 large egg
• 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1/4 tsp salt
• dark chocolate chips
• finely chopped toasted pecans


1. Cream butter and sugar in mixing bowl. Add egg and vanilla. Mix well. Add in dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to wet ingredients and mix well.

2. Form cookies. Use an ice cream scoop if you’d like. Roll into ball form, forming one pointed end. Space out the cookies as they expand! Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes or when they are light brown on the bottom. Cool on rack.

3. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave (use 30-second intervals). Dip or cover hedgehogs with chocolate. Use a spoon to cover with crushed nuts. Scoop remaining chocolate into bag and pipe two eyes and one nose.

4. Enjoy!


* Makes around two dozen hedgehogs
* For nut-free version substitute nuts with graham crackers


Passing these out at my Amelia Hedgehog Book Signing. If you are in Vancouver July 21st do show up for one and come say hello!

Till next time.

Pender Grocery: An Interview + Pan Con Tomate Recipe


With it’s colourful interiors and sun-lit space—it is hard to miss this charming grocery store on Pender street. The smell of fresh baked goods beckons you in to admire the shelves and tables that are wonderfully stocked with Spanish goods, everyday necessities and organic produce.

Today, I sit down with Shawn, one of the three founders of Pender Grocery. Shawn tells stories of food and travel in the Basque region, how he discovered his passion for food, and their vision to cultivate slow living in a busy city. For a moment, my mind is teleported to apple fields, farmer markets, old towns and a relaxed and pleasant ambience that the store seems to emit.

Tell me how you started from importing cider to opening a grocery store in downtown Vancouver.
A few years ago, my wife and I travelled to Spain to visit our friend Michael, who was the chef of a restaurant in San Sebastian, a city known for Michelin restaurants. Michael introduced us to Basque cuisine—we experienced the pintxo culture, and ate our way through restaurants, each more interesting than the last. The experience shook me and there I discovered that I had a deep passion for food. It was a lightbulb moment. After Michael moved back to Vancouver, the three of us started importing wine and cider from the region and it led to importing goods, and the opening of this store.

Opening a store was actually a plan for us in the next three-five years. Luckily, we came across this space at the perfect time, and the landlord, who was hugely supportive of our idea, made us an offer we couldn’t resist.


The sign on the wall and decorations in the store caught my attention the moment I walked in, how did the look and design for the store come to be?
We are actually sitting in a space that used to be parking lot 100 years ago. The sign on the wall is something really special—we uncovered it when we were tearing down the walls to reconstruct the space. It is a ghost sign from 1906 that was covered up in 1908. We decided to keep it to lead the look of the space. After that, everything seemed to fall into place. Many of the vintage pieces here are collected from friends and family as well as passed down from Kelly’s late grandmother.


This is a very interesting location to open a grocery store, what is it that you hope to bring to the community here?
Living in the city, we are disconnected from farmlands and we don’t get to see how food is grown and made. We felt that the area was lacking a grocery store, and the idea was to create a Bodega—a grocery store for the neighbourhood.

Our customers consists of working professionals, and residents form the local community. We want to cater to everyone but also want people to come in not knowing what to expect. We want to invite shoppers to take their time to browse, and to be inspired to cook.


Using ingredients from your shop, what is a simple and delicious recipe that anyone can make?
I love a good Pan Con Tomate—a humble recipe with few ingredients. Slice a fresh tomato, place on traditional crusty bread, drizzle with olive oil and add a sprinkle of salt. A simple snack can be a good can of conservas from the store—sardines, squid or mussels marinated in Galician sauce. Simply open a can, dip with bread, and eat with gusto with a glass of wine. It is a tasty high end treat.


Pan Con Tomate Directions

In a small bowl combine sliced tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper

Whisk until combined

Toast the bread slices individually until golden warm and crispy

Set on plate and sprinkle with sea salt

Top with fresh basil


A Recipe: Blueberry Arugula Salad


The wonderful thing about growing up is having a lot of your childhood wishes come true, like photographing llamas or picking fresh berries on a blueberry farm.

I took the liberty of the weekend and drove out to the unknown territory of Maple Ridge, known for it’s fruit, vegetable farms, and llamas.

I have always wanted to photograph a llama. The small black one is only two days old.


I’ve never seen a blueberry bush growing up in Asia and I’m proud to admit that I must have ingested a couple pounds of blueberries that day. It’s safe to say that you can never get enough of the good things and berries are one of them.

There is no better way to end a blueberry picking day than visiting llamas on a farm. The owners were so kind to show us around and I got to pet a few that were being trained. It was an extraordinary experience.

Llama with a very attractive backside

Llamas are like large fluffy dogs with very long necks

Mama llama with baby llama. She was so protective I couldn’t get too close but this is one of my favourites.

Without further ado, here is the salad recipe with photos. Tastier when you pick the blueberries yourself.


Blueberry Arugula Salad with Lemon Honey Dressing:

*Serves 4
5 ounces baby arugula
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup roasted almonds

1/2 cup crumbled feta


3 tablespoons lemon juice (half a lemon)
squeeze of honey
4 tablespoons olive oil
sprinkle of salt & pepper

You know you’re cool when you mix your salad in a beer bucket.


  1. Whisk together dressing ingredients.
  2. Combine the arugula, blueberries and dressing  in a large bowl.
  3. When ready to serve, sprinkle almonds and feta on top

*Serve with chilled sweet tea

I will leave you with my new favourite quote from Edward Abbey:

It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”

Till next time.

How to Make Panda Rice Cakes – A Tutorial


There are times in the life of a freelancer where you find yourself a little burnt out and needing motivation to get out of bed and kick @$$. Even when you are pursuing a career you love.

Those are good times to take time off and work on projects like panda rice cakes. Or stay in bed, eat junk food and watch Hayao Miyazaki like it’s the end of the world.

I hope you choose option one.

Without further ado, I dedicate this post to my creative friends and family of pandas in Taiwan and around the world.

You will need:


3 cups cooked sushi rice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 tsp veggie oil
1/8 cup white sugar + salt to taste
nori sheets


1. Combine rice vinegar, oil, sugar and salt. Cook over medium until sugar dissolves.
2. Cool, then stir into cooked rice.
3. Form rice into ovals cakes. Use saran wrap as the rice gets really sticky
4. Cut nori sheet into strips for arms and ovals for panda eyes and ears.
5. Create your panda (I used flower petals to make the red bow)

panda-rice-cake-tutorial-sophia-hsin-6  panda-rice-cake-tutorial-sophia-hsin-3 panda-rice-cake-tutorial-sophia-hsin-2

There you have it! An adorable panda rice cake for everyone.


ps- no pandas were hurt in the making of this post