I first learned about Asian spices from my best friend’s late mother whom I dearly called Auntie Wong.
Auntie Wong came to Australia from Malaysia in early 80s with her 3 young daughters. She opened up a take away shop at Glebe, an inner suburb of Sydney selling Malaysian fast food. To supplement her income, she made spring rolls for catering companies in the evenings. My friend, who is the youngest of the 3 daughters, helped wrapping hundreds of spring rolls when she was still in primary school. After the 2 older daughters moved out from home, Auntie Wong and her youngest daughter bought a studio apartment in Glebe and lived there together for many years.
I often visited them when I was a student in university. In their tiny but always welcoming studio apartment, Auntie Wong cooked me many heart-warming soups and yummy dishes. The smell of delicious food always filled the apartment and what a wonderful place it was. My favorite soup was Auntie’s Singapore Meat and Bone soup. I tried to cook it myself over the years, and never tasted as good as Auntie’s. She also taught me how to use Salmon XO sauce, and how to use Indian spices in fried rice.
The recipe below is my version of a spiced fried rice – simple, aromatic and heart warming, with fond memory of Auntie Wong’s kindness and love.
- cook the basmati rice in a rice cooker with a few star anise, some cloves, a few teaspoons of turmeric and cumin.
- When the rice is cooked, fluffed the rice with a pair of chopsticks; then take out the star anise and cloves.
- In a frying pan, scramble some eggs with generous amount of cooking oil; add the rice, breaking it up with a spatula; splash a few dashes of dark soy sauce, sesame oil into the rice, along with some salt, white pepper and some frozen peas.
- stir fry the rice until the peas are cooked through, approximately 5 minutes.
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.
Recipe is as follows: Read the rest of this entry »
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.
Recipe is as follow: Read the rest of this entry »