Vegetable

Sweet and sour pickled white radish 甜酸萝卜, and wish all children in the world are loved

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Sweet and sour white radish pickle

I went to an industry lunch a few weeks ago. A speech was given by a high-up official who spoke about many things, including the children out of home care. The person said, after the government outsourcing the administration services, the children return-to-home rate had increased from 27% to 60%. And they believed the best place for the children was with their parents.

On hearing that, I felt unsettled.

I do volunteer work regularly for a charity in an inner-city suburb. That’s where I met Molly (not her real name). Molly might be in her 40s or 50s. Her face was somehow deformed, and she had no teeth. When she appeared at the charity late in the morning, she talked very loudly as if she was yelling. Her speech was not recognizable. The staff at the charity made her drinks. They told me it was prescribed protein drinks. Molly sat by a table for hours on her own, taking to everyone and no one.

“She was a beautiful little girl, beautiful!” one of the local ladies told us one day. “She was beaten by her father, ended up in the hospital with brain damage.”

I, myself, was a physically abused child when I was growing up. Those days, physically abusing children was perfectly acceptable in China. When I was beaten up, no one came to my rescue, not even my grandmother.

I was lucky. I grew up to be a strong and independent individual. Molly didn’t have that chance.

So I made my favorite childhood snack – sweet and sour pickled white radish. I used to buy them from the street vendors, 10 cents for 3 pieces, a special treat when my friends visited on very rare occasions.

Sweet and sour!

And I wish all children in the world are special to someone, and loved by someone.

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Simple bean sprout salad with soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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Bean sprout salad with soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds, low FODMAP, gluten free option, vegan

I am hooked on charity shops. I love the unique pieces that I can’t buy from the department stores and homeware chain stores. There is a charity shop in the next suburb and I visit it every week, rain or shine. Last week I found this big brown urn. It was just like the one my grandmother used to grow bean sprout – layers of beans between cloth pieces; some water; and a towel covering the top of the urn; and magically we had bean sprouts for dinners.

Brown urn for growing bean sprouts
Brown urn for growing bean sprouts

Although growing bean sprouts may take a bit of time and effort. Cooking bean sprouts can be effortless. For a simple salad, I first blanch the bean sprouts lightly, add a dash of sesame oil, some sliced green shallot, then a dash of soy sauce. Garnish with a little toasted sesame seeds, it is ready to serve.

Bean sprout contains only trace amounts of FODMAPs and can be consumed freely by FODMAPers.

Recipe is as follows:

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Simple Chinese mushrooms and cloud ear fungus, memories of Chinese New Year (vegan)

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Simple Chinese mushrooms and cloud ear fungus

Nearly 30 years had passed since I left China, but I still remember vividly the wonderful days around the Chinese New Years. Extended families gathered at the large dinner tables, briefly forgot about their quarrels throughout  the year. The wok chinked with an aroma of delicacies that we couldn’t afford as daily meals. The rolling pins were out for the wickedly delicious sweet peanut pastry.

The flower festival (‘huaJie’, 花街) was held about a week before the Chinese New Year. Families went to the street market packed of flower vendors to select their festival decorations. Kumquat 金橘 was an essential – ‘kum’ means gold and  ‘quat’ has a similar pronunciation as fortune. It is a plant that will bring good prosperity in the new year. A small blossoming  peach shrub was also an essential, s symbol of strength and vitality, with beautiful flowers emerged from the harshness of the winter. Also common were the chrysanthemum 菊花 and peony 牡丹, large and colorful, symbols of riches and honor.

Chinese peony 牡丹 on a match box
Chinese peony 牡丹 – on a match box from 1980s

When I was a little girl, my father worked in another city. So my second uncle took me to the flower festival each year. Our most memorable trips were the ones on the New Years Eves. We had loads of fun browsing the market and pushed through the crowd. There were so many people at the market, my uncle had to put me on his shoulders to be safe. When it was close to the midnight, we rushed home to light our fire crackers. There was one time that we were late and ran into the fire cracker storms at mid-night. The crackers and the odd firework were loud and smoky, with laughter of the children, so much joy and happiness.

The next morning the streets were quiet with a red carpet of paper left behind by the fire crackers. Kids got up early to collect the odd fire crackers that did not go off the previous night, then ran around greeting their relatives ‘goon he fa choi’ 恭喜發財, in exchange for red envelopes with a little money, which they would use to buy lollies for months to come.

After the big feast on the New Year’s Eve, vegetarian meals were common on the first day of the new year.  My favorite dish was the stew Chinese mushrooms, a delicacy rarely consumed during the year. The mushrooms were cooked with different types of dry or fresh vegetables – lily buds, fungus, dry tofu sticks, hair vegetable 髮菜 and bamboo shoots. The aroma of the dish is still lingering in my mind.

Nowadays I cook Chinese mushrooms quite often – nearly everybody in our family and extended families love it.  In Sydney the Chinese mushrooms are inexpensive, a 250g bag of good quality mushrooms cost around $12. It makes a huge dish for 8-10 people to share. We are thankful for what we are able to enjoy today.

Here is a simple mushroom dish I’d like to share with you.

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Stir fry pickled lotus root (vegan, gluten free)

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Stir fry pickled lotus root with a dash of soy and sesame oil

To me, there is something special about lotus root – earthy skin with mud, crispy flesh, artistic structure. Looking at lotus root, I could see a beautiful pond, colorful lotus flowers, surrounded by peaceful willow trees, their green branches gently brushing in the breeze, like a dream.

And my husband described lotus root as potato with holes in them – silly!

A lotus pond
A lotus pond

It is difficult to find fresh lotus root in Sydney. This week I managed to buy some from an Asian store, and I made a stir fry dish with it.

I first sliced the lotus root, then blanched the pieces briefly. I lightly pickled the lotus root pieces and left it in fridge to infuse overnight. The next day, I pan fried the lotus root with some capsicum, green shallot, a dash of soy sauce and sesame oil.   Yummy.

Recipe is as follows:

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Simple seaweed salad with mung bean vermicelli and pickled carrot (gluten free, vegan)

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Every year I made this seaweed salad at the school fete, and every year it was a sold out.  It is a wonderful traditional ‘liang ban’ (cold mix) salad – soft, crunchy, salty, sweat and sour. It is aromatic, flavored with dark soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, white pepper, shallot (scallion) and coriander.

A wonderful traditional ‘liang ban’ (cold mix) salad.

Seaweed salad with pickled carrot and mung bean vermicelli

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

Creamy and spicy tomato and capsicum soup with and coconut milk (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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We don’t eat much tomatoes in our house, my little boy is a picky eater and my husband utterly dislikes tomatoes. From time to time, I picked up some gorgeous tomatoes and made a dish, ate it all by myself with great contentment.

Today I roasted a batch of tomatoes and red capsicums. I roasted the vegetables and separated them into two batches. With the first batch, I made a spicy soup with coconut milk; with the second batch, I made another spicy soup with ginger, chili and tea (recipe to follow).

According to Monash University, common tomatoes do not contain FODMAPs, perfect for a hearty FODMAP dish – eat freely and according to appetite.

Creamy spicy tomato soup, with roasted tomatoes, chili and coconut milk

 

Roasted tomatoes - creamy and spicy tomato soup with coconut milk (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)
Freshly roasted tomatoes

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

Hairy gourd ‘liangban’ salad with XO sauce 节瓜凉拌

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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.

Hairy gourd with XO sauce

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.