Bonito fish with chili bean paste and white wine

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I picked up some fresh Australian Bonito fish today. Cooking such a firm, meaty and bland fish can be challenging, as it can be easily over-cooked.

Bonito with chili bean sauce and white wine.

So I pan fried it as cutlets with chili bean sauce. Here are the steps:

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Chili, ginger and garlic prawns (gluten free)

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Some summer Friday afternoons following the school pick ups, my school-mum friends may drop by for a few glasses of bubbles and the kids have a swim in the pool.

I always keep some easy-to-cook ingredients in my freezer for such occasions – homemade curry puffs, spring rolls, and of course, wild caught Australian prawns. The prawns are delicious, already peeled, easy to defrost, and quick to cook.

Chili, ginger and garlic prawns

Method is as follow: Read the rest of this entry »

Rice congee with pan fried fish (low FODMAP, gluten free)

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My little boy asked me last night: ” what was the kindest thing your mommy did to you?” Somehow, I have been asking myself the same question since my mother passed away a few years ago.

“One time, she let me put my cold feet between her legs to warm up.” I said.

“That wasn’t much at all,” said the little boy. He expected every mother to be kind, loving, caring and demonstrates extraordinary devotion to their children.

“One time, I fell down the stairs, and she cooked me a soup with field mice. The soup was said to have calming effect on children after experiencing trauma. There was a wandering vendor balancing a few long bamboo sticks on his shoulder. He put a cotton bag at one end of a stick, opened the lid, and shook out two field mice. He then smashed the bag on the pebbly ground. I was force fed the soup that afternoon.”

“Oh’, said the little boy. “That doesn’t count.”

“Another time, I was very sick, and I couldn’t eat any normal food. My mum cooked me fish and lettuce congee.” I said.

“What happened to you?” The little boy asked.

“I was eight, second grade in a local primary school. After a basketball game, we ran back to the classroom. A boy fell over me, and we fell on a concrete step. My lips were split, and some of my front teeth collapsed. The school principal took me to the hospital at the back of his push bike. I had an operation and could not eat solid food for days.”

I continued, “my mother tried to claim $10 for medical expenses from that boy’s family. But then she found out the boy’s parents were divorced, and the boy lived with his grandmother. They had no income and could barely come up with a few dollars. My mother told them not to worry about the money after that.”

“That was kind,” my little boy was finally satisfied. “What was the boy’s name?”

“Li Hai 李海, means ocean”. I answered. “He had very bright eyes.”

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Impression of Li Hai and other primary boys

This afternoon, I cooked coogee for lunch. Rather than breaking up the fish and cooking it in the congee like a stew, I pan fried a few small pieces of barramundi and served them on top of the congee – tasted lovely.

Rice congee with pan fried fish (low FODMAP, gluten free)

Recipe is as follows. A FODMAPs check list is also attached. Read the rest of this entry »

Tangy green mango salad with prawns (gluten free)

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Friends who live in an inner west suburb of Sydney have a few mango trees. Every year I admired their trees and promised to make them some green mango salad. But I was never there when the mangoes were green.

This year they brought over 2 green mangoes to our house. Reportedly the husband was injured trying to catch the second mango –  the mango fell off the tree, bounced off his hands and hit him in the “privates”.

I had to make a mango salad as compensation.

The dish is very simple, mango, carrot and prawns pickled in a fish sauce, apple cider vinegar and sugar, mixed with coriander, green shallot and sesame oil and sesame seeds.


Tangy green mango salad with prawns (gluten free)

Recipe is as follows:

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Prosperity toss (‘yee sang’ 捞生) for Chinese new year (low FODMAP, gluten free)

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One of my best friend’s late mother, whom I dearly called Auntie Wong, was an exceptional cook. A Chinese woman migrated from Malaysia, she could make beautiful meat-bone soups, aromatic curries and many different type of chili pastes.  During Chinese New Year, she made ‘yee sang’, an elaborate salad with sashimi salmon and a plum sauce. We made wishes as we mixed the salad with our chopsticks, shared a few giggles and enjoyed the delicious feast.

In Chinese, ‘yee’ means fish, a symbol of plenty. ‘Sang’ shares the same pronunciation of 升, means uplifting. With a name like that, no wonder ‘yee sang’ is one of the most popular dish for Chinese New Year around Singapore and Malaysia.

My father and sister were travelling in China and only arrived yesterday, which was the Chinese New Year’s Day. To welcome them home,, I made my own version of ‘yee sang’ with tuna, salmon, fennel, carrot, capsicum, cucumber and a strawberry salad dressing.

I didn’t make any wishes as I mixed the salad – I already have everything I could have wished for. Although life is busy and demanding, I have a lovely family, good friends, a home with a double garage full of cooking equipment. I am happy.

Prosperity toss ('yee sang' 捞生) for Chinese new year (low FODMAP, gluten free)
Prosperity toss (‘yee sang’ 捞生) 

Recipe is as follows:

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Pan fried fish & potato cake with Asian coleslaw (low FODMAP, gluten free)

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I have been planning for a fish cake dish for a while, however could not decide on what type of fish cakes to make  – Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Malaysian… there are so many options. Today, with some fresh rainbow trouts in the fridge, I decided to cook a tummy friendly fish cake with potato, spinach and coriander, served with a juicy Asian coleslaw.

Pan fried fish & potato cake with Asian coleslaw (low FODMAP, gluten free)


Recipe is as follow:

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Asian inspired Paella with miso & wasabi (low FODMAP, gluten free)

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One of my friends and her 2 gorgeous children came over for lunch today. She has really good taste with food and wine, previously ran an restaurant in Italy while she was married to an Italian young fellow who cooked beautifully. Now a single mum, things are not as easy, and she is also having a difficult time at work. So I decided to cook her a heart warming meal to cheer her up – a dish with chicken, salmon, prawns, mussels, baby octopus sounded just like the perfect dish. To make it a bit more special, I gave the paella an Asian twist with miso, wasabi and Korean pepper.


Asian inspired Paella with miso & wasabi (low FODMAP, gluten free)

Recipe is as follow:

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Lightly smoked rainbow trout fillets (gluten free)

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The local fish shop had some beautifully fresh rainbow trout fillets. I cooked them on the BBQ with a a-maze-n smoke tube filled with apple wood pellets.

I first lighted the a-maze-n tube of pellets and let it burn for 10 minutes before I placed it inside the BBQ.

While the pellets was burning, I rubbed the fish fillets with some sesame oil and a little sea salt. I don’t brine my fish – it is just too salty for my taste. I put the fish fillets on a rack, over a tray, on the BBQ with the lowest setting. I then closed the lid and let the smoke and the BBQ do their jobs. The fish was ready in about 25 minutes.

I served the smoked fish fillets at room temperature, with a sauce of sour cream, dill and lemon juice.

Lightly smoked rainbow trout fillets (gluten free)





Simple home smoked salmon (FODMAP friendly, gluten free)

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I can’t say I am an expert of smoking – I only learned about it a year ago from ‘A Food Blog by a Old Fat Guy’. I love this blog from the far away land – as I read, I could smell the forest from the mountains in Canada.

Dreaming of the forests, l bough the closest thing I could find – apple wood chips from Tasmania. I have only a small bag, but it lasted a while. I did 4 lots of smoking with this  – rainbow trout fillets, American ribs, salmon and pork belly.  OMG, so very delicious!

I don’t have a smoker, but I have a super heavy duty 16-quart stainless steel stock pot that can cook ‘waterless’.  It has a adjustable small hole in the lid which is perfect for checking out how much smoke has built up in the pot. I only used a small amount of wood chips which is sufficient for the size of the pot. Fish fillets can be cooked in about 20-30 minutes; meat requires further cooking after 30-40 minutes of smoking, which can be finished off on the BBQ.

I am quite time poor so I don’t use brine. For fish, I rubbed a little sea salt, a little sugar and some oil prior to cooking. For meat, I rubbed my favorite spices, salt and oil.

I like smoked salmon the best – rich, smoky and satisfying, with deliciousness lingering in your month for many hours after the meal.

I served  the smoked salmon with a fennel, carrot and rocket salad, drizzle over a dressing with lemon juice, strawberry jam and sesame oil. I will post the recipe shortly.

Simple home smoked salmon (FODMAP friendly, gluten free)

Here is a quick write up of the very simple process:

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BBQ baby octopus in Asian marinate (FODMAP friendly, gluten free)

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It was Queens birthday long weekend. I decided to cook a few dishes that would take some time to prepare.

The local seafood shop had some nice baby octopus so I picked up a few handfuls. I first dropped the octopus and some ginger in boiling water for a minute or two; then transferred them to a bowl of ice water; I marinated the octopus with fish sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, lemon juice, kumquat juice, sliced kaffir lime leafs, chili, marmalade and sesame oil; I placed the octopus in the fridge to marinate overnight, then BBQ them on a hot griddle. So juicy and tender!

BBQ baby octopus in Asian marinate (FODMAP friendly, gluten free)


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Pan fried whiting nori roll (low FODMAP, gluten free)

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I read it on Sydney Morning Herald this morning that Neil Perry was closing the original Rockpool restaurant.

In late 1990s I was working for an investment house in Sydney. The finance sector had plenty of money and big entertainment budget those days. We were taken to Rockpool for lunch where I enjoyed a wonderful dish of fried whiting fillet wrapped in nori sheet. I still remember it today.

Here is my FODMAP friendly version of whiting nori rolls. The rolls are also gluten free. If you prefer, you can serve it with an oyster sauce based dipping sauce – the sauce is FODMAP friendly but it is not gluten free.

Whiting nori rolls with cabbage and coriander


Pan fried whiting nori roll (low FODMAP, gluten free)

With any left over ‘off cuts’, we can make a yummy whiting seaweed soup.

Recipes are as follows:

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Barramundi in an Asian spiced broth (low FODMAP, Gluten Free)

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Winter is finally here with chill in the air – time for a nice bowl of hot soup. This simple & light barramundi broth is gentle and tasty, perfect for a lazy lunch.

Barramundi in an Asian spiced broth (low FODMAP, Gluten Free)

Recipe is as follow:

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Pan fried fish with chili tomato sauce (FODMAP Friendly)

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Many years ago I cooked for a elderly relative while  his family was away on holiday. I found an inexpensive fish in his freezer and made him a pan fried fish with chili tomato sauce. He loved it a great deal and gave me many praises. It was one of those moments that I suddenly discovered that I could cook !

Here is a FODMAP friendly version – I used a whole bream today but you can use any fish that is not too thick or too large. You can also use fish fillets if you are not a fan of fish bones. But the recipe tastes really nice with a whole fish.

Pan fried fish with chili and tomato sauce, FODMAP friendly


Recipe is as follows:

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Creamy seafood chowder with a hint of turmeric

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I have loved leather jacket fish since I was a little girl, such beautiful white flesh and it is not too fishy, really good for steaming. This week I walked passed a fish shop and found some really fresh leather jacket fish, but too big to fit into my steamer.  So I made a seafood chowder using leather jacket for stock. Really yummy…

Creamy seafood chowder with a hint of turmeric

Recipe is as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

Golden turmeric prawns (gluten free)

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If you have a spice collector like me, you may have turmeric & cumin in your pantry. I also keep ginger pieces and chilies in my freezer. With a onion, this prawn dish is 5 minutes away … no recipe required.

Golden turmeric prawns

Clean 12 prawns; dice the onion, slice 1 chili, mince a little ginger (optional); heat up a frying pan with some cooking oil; add the onion, ginger & chili; stir fry until onion  is coated with oil; add turmeric & cumin (I use about 1tsp each for a mild taste); stir for the spices to coat the onion; push the onion to the side; add prawns, 1-2 minutes each side until cooked through; stir through the onion; season with salt.

I serve this with an Indian inspired chickpea & bacon stew.

Clams with XO sauce, and the life story of my uncle from TaiShan 台山

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These lovely New Zealand clams reminded me my first clam experience, a dish made by my uncle’s family from the countryside of TaiShan, GuangDong province in China.

Clams with XO sauce

My mother and her brother were children of a concubine who married an elderly man returned to China after years of hard laboring in Malaysia. During the second sino-Japanese war, both parents died as the family ran out of money. For some reasons unexplained to me, the family offended some important locals with considerable power. My uncle, at the age of about 7, was sent to prison as a Japanese traitor. When he was released, he was so weak & sick that he was carried out.  He was never the same again.

During one school holiday I was sent to stay with TaiShan uncle and his family in the village. My uncle was a man with very few words, not smart, worked a lot, and always smiling.  He was very skinny and looked sickly. With money sent by another uncle from Singapore, he was able to get married. He married a kind, strong, capable and hardworking woman and they had 3 children. As rice farmers, they did not have sufficient rice for me to eat. So I brought them food stamps, some money and some old clothes which they treasured.

Taiishan village - the lane way leading to the house my uncle's family once lived
Taishan village – the lane way leading to the house my uncle’s family once lived

The eldest boy, Zhong, who was a few years younger than me, was responsible for providing ingredients for lunches and dinners. Some days we went to the rice field with some threads & small potato pieces – we fished out frogs from the water. Some days, we went to the creek, searched through mud to find tiny little clams. The frogs were small and we chewed the bones as well as whatever little meat on it. The clams, half of a bowl to share among us, was so very delicious and moreish.  I still remember the satisfied looks on the children’s faces at the end of each meal. They never complained about wanting anymore or anything else.

A run-down traditional house at the ThaiShan village
A run-down traditional house at the village

When economy improved in the 80s, the rice field was sold to make way for factories. There was no more farming to be done. My uncle figured out that if he collected soft drink tins and bottles, he could sell them for money to buy snacks. Reportedly, he was the happiest soft drink bottle collector around town.

I felt happy and sad when I cooked & enjoyed this delicious New Zealand clam dish with XO sauce.

Cooking method is as follows:

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Asian inspired seafood bisque (gluten free)

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I love bisque – I can’t think of another soup with so much flavors. My seafood bisque has added Asian flavors – lemongrass, chills, ginger, shallot & coriander. The flavor is intense & irresistible.

Asian inspired seafood bisque

Recipe is as follow: Read the rest of this entry »

Steamed blue eye cod 蒸鱼 and the market across the ‘Yayan Lane’ 雅言里 (low FODMAP, gluten free)

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How I love steamed fish!

Steamed blue eye cod with shallot & soy (low FODMAP & gluten free)

Growing up in Guangzhou in the early 1970s, we lived in a rundown 5-bedroom terrace house on a little lane way called the ‘Yayan Lane’ 雅言里  , translated as the ‘elegant words lane’. The house was bought by my grandfather in early 1950s for $1,200 yuan from a tea merchant. At the time there was a ‘movement’ to crack down tax evasion. Like some other small businesses, the tea merchant had to sell his house to pay his tax bill.  It was said that most houses on the market were going cheap over that period.

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My grandfather at the old terrace house, Yayan lane, guangzhou

There were many family members lived at the terrace house at various intervals – my great grandmother, my grandparents, my family, 3 uncles & 1 aunt and their families. My grandma cooked dinners for all the families. Food & basic essentials such as rice, oil, meat, fish, coal & fabric were on rations, and we had books of colorful coupons.

There was a state-ran market across the road from our lane way. The market sold all sort of food – meat & vegetables, seafood, Chinese sausages & BBQ meat, tofu, preserves, oil & soy sauce. When very small fish were caught from large schools, sometime coupons were not required.  The neighbors always kept a look out for such rare occasions, and we would hear a shout across the lane way.  Grandmother and I would grab a bamboo basket as fast as we could, rushed over to join the crowd.  There were no such things as lining up – layers of people cramped in front of the concrete table where the fish piled up among large blocks of ice, pushing each other, yelling to attract attention. The fish was always fresh and undeniably small,  not longer than my little hand.  My grandmother steamed the fish with soy sauce for dinner. Our skinny house cats would fight over the bones & left-over sauce mixed with some rice – a rare treat for them.

Riding a bike at Yayan Lane, GuangZhou, China in 1970s
Riding a bike at the Yayan lane in 1970s

Today, we are so very lucky in Australia with all the wonderful seafood, spices & herbs. My favorite method of cooking fish is steaming. From time to time, when I enjoy a good steamed fish, I could still smell the sea at the crowded market place across the road from the Yayan Lane.

Here is my version of steamed fish – fresh & simple.  I used Blue Eye Cod on this occasion. You can use most sort of white flesh fish. My favorite fish for steaming is perch.

 Recipe is as follows: Read the rest of this entry »