When I attended university in the late 80s, I had the good fortune of studying alongside with a diverse group of Asian kids, many became my friends for life. They exposed me to a large range of comfort food from all over Asian, such as Malaysian hawker dishes and Indonesian desserts.
One of my favorite dishes I learned from my friends was the aromatic Indonesian ox tail soup – a scrumptious bone broth with vegetables, spiced with cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. Its flavors were enhanced by fried shallots and fresh herbs. I often crave for it on rainy days. Unfortunately, we don’t have an Indonesian restaurant nearby. So I have to cook my own.
We can use a pressure cooker for this soup (40 minutes) or a stock pot (slow cook for 5 hours). I like using the stock pot as I can make a huge pot to enjoy over a few days.
I love having this hot soup with some warm rice – really satisfying.
Recipe is as follow: Read the rest of this entry »
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.
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.
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.
For the past few years I coordinated the Asian food stall for our school fetes. Last year we sold over 1,000 pan fried dumplings which was one of the most popular food on the day. To make these dumplings, I held a dumpling party at our house. Many Chinese families from the school came to help out. I was rewarded handsomely – I learnt many family dumpling tricks from all over China.
Now I am preparing for this year’s fete again. I am keen to experiment a few more varieties of dumplings.
One of the mums from school told me about a thick bush of fennel by the railway. She gathered some of the herbs and made pork and fennel dumplings, a popular dish from Northern China.
I didn’t gather the herbs from the side of the railway, but I did make the pork and fennel dumplings. I used a thicker shop bought wrappers and steamed the dumplings. I am a Cantonese after all and I love my steamed dumplings. They were really yummy.
Recipe is as follows:
A few days ago I set off to create a few vegan FODMAP dishes with alfalfa. The schedule was ‘interrupted’ by Chinese New Year with wrapping dumplings with extended family, chatting with friends on how to make ‘yee sang’, handing out red envelopes and, work. We don’t get any national holidays for Chinese New Year in Australia.
Here is my alfalfa recipes installment #2 – rice paper rolls of quinoa flavored with sesame oil and coriander, lettuce, carrot, capsicum, alfalfa, sesame seeds, and a small squeeze of BBQ sauce.
Can’t find any rice paper? Don’t worry, the recipe also works as a salad.
Recipe is as follow: Read the rest of this entry »
I had been really busy at work over the last two weeks. Last night when I got home, my little boy was in bed and my husband was playing on the computer… grrrrr, where was my dinner!
I had a few cucumbers in the fridge and some bacon in the freezer. I sliced the cucumbers, defrosted the bacon and sliced them up. In a frying pan I drizzled a little oil and added the bacon pieces. I pan fried the bacon until nearly crispy, then added the cucumbers. A few stirs, added some dark soy sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil, and dinner was served. Sesame seeds and a few sliced green shallot (scallion) are optional.
A big bowl of tasty veggie!
(Use gluten free soy sauce for a gluten free option).
A good friend is on a self diagnosed gluten free diet. She is addicted to vegetables and all things fashionably healthy. You will laugh if you see her feeding her kids with healthy food the good old Chinese way – with great persistence.
We were over at their house for lunch last weekend. I made some tasty vegetable dips which was very appreciated. I served the dips with some plain rice crackers.