Month: March 2017
A few evenings ago, I watched Behind the News with my 9 year old boy on ABC iview. Behind the News is a TV news program made for the kids. That evening, the program covered the famine situation in Sudan. “Had China ever have famine?”my little boy asked. These few innocent words had brought back my memories of a peasant family begging at a cheap noodle restaurant. I could still see their shadows, even today.
In early 70’s, my grandmother cooked communal dinners for the extended families. Each family contributed to the cost of the food. Money and resources were limited at the time. We nearly never went out for dinners, as my mother didn’t want to pay for meals twice. One night, for whatever reasons we were at this cheap noodle restaurant. It was a common and shabby place. The kitchen inside was steamy with a large pot of hot water for cooking the noodles, a large pot of cold water to cool and rinse the noodles, and a large pot of soup with nothing in it and barely any color. We found a table outside with wobbly chairs and started to eat our noodle soups. For a few cents, the meal had no meat or vegetables, just plain noodles and a little green shallot floating on top. It was hot and a rare treat for a little 5-year old girl.
Suddenly, 3 children in ragged clothes surrounded our table. They looked different to our city people. They had dark and coarse skin, as they were farmers from the countryside. They were dirty and messy, as they were far away from home and living on streets. They spoke in dialect that I never heard before. They would have traveled from afar, probably from another province where their crops failed. And their eyes, they had such hungry eyes. The littlest one just devoured some leftover soup from the next table, and redirected his attention to my bowl.
I looked up to my mother. ‘Eat up all your food’, she said sternly. When I left some food in the bowl at the end of the meal, she picked up the bowl and swallowed everything in it, including last drops of the soup, the soup of nothingness. The children moved away to another table, motionless.
Many years past, my memories of that family did not fake. Most of all, I was puzzled why my mother was so indifferent to the begging children. After all, she was an orphan herself. She would have understood the pain and suffering of that family, hungry, homeless and desperate?
This weekend, I made a large batch of noodles from scratch. I served the noodles in a beautiful chicken soup, topped with mouthwatering crispy bacon bits. Life has been kind to our family and we really appreciate what we have.
Like to have a go at making your own noodles? Recipe is as follows.
I recently purchased a Tiger thermal magic cooker from Singapore. It is really a magical piece of equipment – perfect for slow cooking with limited use of the stove top. I made some pulled pork for dinner last night – it was slow cooked over 24 hour, juicy and yummy.
The thermal cooker consists of 2 layers – an inner pot and an insulated outer pot. I first placed the pork shoulder in the stainless steel inner pot; I topped it with some pineapple pieces with all the juices^, 1 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup of soy sauce*, 1/4 cup of dark soy sauce*, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1 cup of wine, 6 cardamon pods (slightly crashed), 6 star anise, 1 tsp cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks, a piece of ginger (approx 15g) and 1 tsp pepper corn (slightly crashed). I then added some water to fully cover the meat, brought it to boil. Once boiling, I placed the pot into the insulated outer pot for 8 hours.
After 8 hours, I brought the inner stainless pot to boil again on the cook top – it took about 5 minutes as the pot was still hot from being inside the thermal pot. Then I placed it inside the insulated outer pot again for another 8 hours. I repeated this one more time. And it was ready to enjoy.
To serve, I hand pulled the pork to strips. I made a sauce with some marinate, added some maple syrup and some corn flour mixture (corn flour mixed with a little water). I brought the sauce to boil and it was ready.
If you don’t have a thermal cooker, you can slow cook the pork in a heavy pot, or slow cook in an oven with an oven bag – juicy and yummy.
^use fresh pineapple for a FODMAP diet (as it is tested by Monash University) *use a gluten free soy sauce for a gluten free option.
I had been waiting for my cactus flowers ‘tanhua’ to bloom. Such beautiful dedicate living wonders, with flowers only open up for one precious night.
The unusual weeks of Sydney rain stopped briefly on Sunday afternoon. The flowers quietly bloomed during the night. I harvested 3 flowers, but hesitated on the thoughts of making a soup, Traditionally, the flowers are sun dried, then boiled with meat for hours, ending up all marshy and grey like the rainy weather. What a depressing thought.
I gently washed and sliced the flowers into quarters. I dropped the flowers into a saucepan of water with thinly julienne chicken breast; brought it to a boil, added a dash of sesame oil, a dash of dark soy sauce and a few pinches of white pepper. The soup was done in 3 minutes.
And here it was, a simple soup to show my appreciation of these natural beauties.
This week I discovered an Asian grocery store 10 minutes’ drive away. Their stock range was quite comprehensive. The man in the shop helped me with the bags to my car which was sort of services I never experienced from an Asian store. I managed to find a parking spot very close to the shop – can’t believe my luck. I was very impressed.
I picked up a beautifully fresh hairy gourd from the shop. Hairy gourd is a very popular vegetable in Southern China, easy to grow with plenty of subtropical rains. The gourd is normally cooked in a soup or a stew with a tender and soft texture.
Today I decided to do something different with a ‘liangban’ 凉拌 salad. I added XO sauce to the salad for a kick as the gourd, on its own, could be quite plain. XO sauce is a mildly spicy paste made with dried seafood, garlic and chili, packed of flavors.
I first peeled the skin of the gourd; I then julienned the flesh, disregard the seedy part of the gourd (but reversed for a soup dish). I then briefly blanched the vegetable until it was just cooked (about 1-2 minute) and ran it under cold water to cool; I mixed the drained vegetable with sesame oil, XO sauce, a generous dash of dark soy sauce, white pepper, chili, sesame seeds and sliced green shallot. I left the salad in fridge to chill for couple of hours before serving. So simple and delicious. No recipe required.
On WeChat my ex high school mates were chatting about not having time to cook dinners. Really? I thought, surely a few equipment could help.
In addition to a standard kitchen, I have a double garage filled with cooking equipment – a pressure cooker, a rice cooker, a waffle maker, a table top multi-use grill, a mixer, a blender, a Tiger magic thermal pot, a 16 liter thermal pot, a five deck steamer pot, a 3-deck electric mini steamer, 3 electric frying pans, a portable induction cook top, 2 electric bain-maries and countless pots, cake tins and serving plates. Cooking a quick dinner is a breeze.
Before I continue on, I’d like to declare that I am not a hoarder. I run the Asian food stall each year for the school fete and I always contribute a bundle towards special event bakes. Hence I have accumulated so much useful equipment over the years.
Tonight I cooked a quick dinner with my pressure cooker. In the morning, I put some rice in the rice cooker and switch on the timer. I then spent 10 minutes browning the pork spare rib pieces, added carrot, potato chili, ginger and white wine. I turned the pressure cooker on high pressure 30 minutes. When I got home, dinner was ready and warm.
Recipe is as follow:
I washed my child’s little blanket today. He has this blanket since he was a baby. There are holes in the blanket and the corners are totally worn. From time to time, I patched up the holes and sewed up the corners with bits from some old towels. I bought him a new one, exactly the same. But I was not allowed to throw the old one away. “So much remember-y”, he said. “Don’t bring it when we travel then,” I said, ‘I would be embarrassed’. We traveled with it everywhere we went – Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Fiji and Hawaii. I love watching him sleep, wrapping himself comfortably in the blanket, with his cute button nose and long black eye lashes.
Ah, simple things in life are the best. And for dinner, I shall cook one single simple dish.
And what is more simple than a ‘lao mian’ 撈麵 – noodles simply mixed with soy and sesame oil. And if you desire, you can add whatever on top. ‘Lao’means mix, ‘mian’ means noodles.
Tonight, I used soba noddles. Soba noodles with wheat has been tested by Monash University recently. The low FODMAP portion is 1/3 cup noodles, or 90g. Unfortunately Monash didn’t identify if the 90g is dry weight or cooked weight. So I assumed the 90g as cooked weight, just to be on the safe side.
Recipe is as follows: