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Cucumber salad and memories of ‘wine house’ restaurants (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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Compressed rectangle Cucumber salad

As a little child growing up in southern China in the early 70s, our family was considered very fortunate to have relatives and friends overseas. Every few years a small group of the oversea relatives would visit, bringing with them pre-loved clothes, food, small gifts and special foreign exchanged yuan to shout us a feast in a ‘wine house’ restaurant’ – no food coupons required! In my little eyes, the oversea visitors were beautiful people – they dressed well, smelt so nice and they were always very kind to me.

Out of the pre-loved clothes that were given to me by our visitors, the most memorable was my little red jumper with a plastic print of happy reindeers – all jolly and bright. The jumper was thin, so I wore the jumper on top of multiple layers of clothes.  I wore the jumper nearly every day during many winters as it was the only jumper I had. When it was too short for me and did not extend past my belly button, I passed it to my sister who was 4 years younger than me. My sister used it for many years after that.

With our visitors, the ‘wine house’ restaurant that we most visited was the KwangChow Restaurant (also called the GuangZhou Restaurant in mandarine), one of the most celebrated restaurants in the city. It was only 4 blocks away from our house.  Downstairs of the restaurant was the common dining room – plain and simple. The dining area upstairs was so grand that it looked like a palace!  How I enjoyed the aroma of food, tea and wine lingering through the tastefully decorated dining rooms – carved wooden partitions, classic rosewood furniture and traditional paintings on the walls. My favorite dishes were the little side dishes served at arrival – cucumber salad, roasted peanuts and salted vegetables. These little dishes made me so hungry and so looking forward to the special feast.

Our extended family being entertained by oversea relatives in a restaurant
Our extended family being entertained by oversea relatives in a restaurant in 1970s

Many years later in Australia I spoke with one of our visitors about his impression of China in the 70s – ‘awful,’ he said,’ except for that restaurant, the food was really nice.’

A match box I collected from GuangZhou Restaurant, one of the most famous restaurant in the city in 1980s
A match box I collected from the GuangZhou Restaurant, one of the most famous restaurant in the city in 1970s

I hope you enjoy my version of a cucumber salad with a little modern twist.

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

Rare beef salad with Vietnamese slaw

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A simple and delicious beef salad – juicy aged rump pan seared 2-3 minutes on each side, on a bed of tasty Asian salad with mint and coriander.

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

Chicken San Choy Bao

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When I was in university, I worked in a Chinese restaurant as a pantry girl. I cut hundreds of san choy bao leaves each evening before meal time. It was one of the most popular dishes.  I wondered if there was such a real dish in China called the San Choy Bao – I never heard of it before.

Anyway, I made some for the school fete, a big hit. And I was happy.

Chicken San Choy Bao

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

Lamb rendang (gluten free)

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I use lamb for this curry, as I love the tenderness of lamb.  I use the words ‘a few’ in this recipe, as this is a ‘modern’ rendang,  you can ‘play’ with the ingredients to suit you taste.

Lamb rendang (gluten free)

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

Soy bok choy and memories of my grandmother’s chicken coop (Low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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Vegetables & melons are popular food in China – bok choy, choy sum & cabbage are some of the most common vegetables.

While I was a little child, we lived in a terrace house with my extended family including uncles & aunties. My grandmother was responsible for cooking dinners for the whole family. To supplement the food coupons, my grandmother raised a coop of chickens on the roof top terrace. Before I was old enough to go to school, every afternoon I went to the market with my grandmother to collect left over green vegetables. We brought the vegetables home, chopped them up on a huge wooden chopping board, and fed to the chickens. While she was chopping, grandmother told me stories, so many stories. One of the stories was about me – while I was still a crawling baby, I crawled up to the roof top terrace, helped myself to the egg storage urn, cracked every single egg and smeared the eggs on the stairs.

That was not the only time that I was naughty – I remember when I was little, bored and feeling mischievous, I put some rice behind the door to the roof top terrace. I peeked through the gaps, waited till the chickens started pecking on the grains, suddenly opened the door – chickens were flying everywhere!  The naughty little girl laughed and laughed.  My grandmother was always very kind to me and never punished me.

Some days we were lucky enough to collect some good vegetables, and grandma cooked them for dinner with a little oil, a dash of soy sauce and nothing else. Soy sauce was always cheap and no coupon needed.

Here is my version of a simple soy bok choy, with fond memory of my wonderful grandmother.

Simple sauteed bok choy with ginger (FODMAP diet, gluten free)
Simple sauteed bok choy

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

Chicken lemongrass and chili (low FODMAP, gluten free)

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When I was in university, I worked on the weekends in an Asian restaurant in Surry Hills, an inner city suburb in Sydney. The wonderful Vietnamese couple that owned the restaurant, Ly and An, were kind and extremely hard working.  Ly had 3 young children,  she looked after them as well as working in the restaurant every night. An was a full time communication engineer who worked every night serving dishes and delivering food to houses near by. Ly’s eyes sparkled when they spoke about their old days in Vietnam, when Ly was known for her beauty and was lovingly famous as the ‘saigon rose’.

One of the cook was a Thai, and the other was a Vietnamese. I learned many wonderful dishes from them, including the ‘xa ot’ dishes. They often let me trying out the woks by cooking everyone dinners.

Chicken lemongrass, chili, kaffir lime (FODMAP friendly, Glutenfree option)

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