Gluten free

Bacon and cucumber stir fry (gluten free, FODMAP friendly)

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Crunchy cucumber and crispy bacon – an easy meal in 15 minutes.

  1. Slice the cucumber and bacon
  2. In a frying pan, drizzle a little oil and added the bacon pieces; pan fried the bacon until nearly crispy
  3. Add the cucumber, a little sugar and white pepper, toss for 30 seconds or until the cucumber is hot

And there – a big bowl of tasty veggie and yummy bacon for dinner.

Fried rice with Asian spices, and memories of Auntie Wong (gluten free option)

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Fried rice with Asian spices

I first learned how to use Asian spices from my best friend’s late mother whom I dearly called Auntie Wong.

Growing up in Malaysia, Auntie Wong was an acrobat in a circus, and later became a self-trained dentist. ‘How do you install a denture for an old lady without a single tooth,’ she laughed,’ luckily I was young and good looking then, I asked male dentists for helps and was never refused’.

Auntie Wong migrated to Australia in early 1980s with her three daughters. She ran a small take away shop in Glebe, an inner Sydney suburb, selling Malaysian fast food. To supplement the limited income from the shop, in the evenings she made spring rolls for catering companies. My friend Mei, the youngest daughter, helped with the spring rolls while she was still in primary school.

Some years later, Auntie Wong saved up enough money and bought a studio apartment. Auntie and Mei lived there for many years, sharing a bed. In their tiny but always welcoming home,  Auntie Wong cooked me many heart-warming meals. The smell of delicious food filled the small space, and what a wonderful place it was.  My favorite dishes were the Singapore meat and bone soup, noodles with salmon XO sauce, and fried rice with Indian spices.

While enjoying meals, auntie told me many of her life stories. I was always inspired by her amazing abilities to adopt to changes, and her keen spirit for new adventures.

Here is my version of a spiced fried rice  – simple, aromatic and satisfying, with fond memory of Auntie Wong’s kindness and love. 

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Beef flank stew (牛腩) with Asian spices and soy sauce, my memory of the hawker stall on the ‘Poetry Book Road’ ( FODMAP friendly)

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Beef flank stew
When I was a little girl, I walked to the primary school each day.  I ate breakfast along the way. I had a ten cents allowance for two plain steamed buns each morning.

I walked down a street commonly known as the ‘Poetry Book Road’. For many years, the street was renamed as the  ‘Red Book Road’ in honor of Chairman Mao’s red book of quotations.

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Translation of the road sign:  Poetry Book Road; to the north, ‘Paper Factory Road’; to the south, ‘Heavenly Successful Road’.  September 2017, GuangZhou, China

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A street vendor selling beef flank stew and pig intestines near Poetry Street, September 2017, GuangZhou, China

At the end of the street, there was a tiny hawker stall selling beef flank and pig intestines. In winters, the hot steam rose from her big pots. The aroma of soy, star anise and clove lingered in the air, mouth-watering and irresistible. The stall operator was a middle age woman, short, chubby and never smiled. She had a pair of gigantic scissors that made loud ‘chop chop chop’ sound. When she received an order, she cut some small pieces off a larger piece, skillfully threading them to a bamboo stick without touching them with her hands.  A stick with 3 pieces of juicy, fatty and heart-warming meat cost 10 cents. It was a difficult decision for a little girl – spending the 10 cents on a meat stick and be hungry for the rest of the morning, or two plain buns. I took some deep breaths (the aroma was so good) and nibbled on the tasteless buns.

Now I remembered, the two buns never filled me up anyway. At school I sat next to a boy whose name was ‘Bin’. We enjoyed a few laughs as our stomachs rumbled at the exact same moment.

I cooked beef flank many times over the past many years. It always brought back memories of the hawker stall on the Poetry Book Road.

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

Pan fried tofu with soy sauce (FODMAP friendly, gluten free option, vegan)

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When I was growing up in China, tofu was the cheapest protein and it was always plentiful.  At the fresh food market they sold tofu on a large timber slab, carefully cutting out the required portion for each customer – 10 cents, 20 cents…

My grandmother loved pan frying tofu with load of cooking oil. She cut the tofu into little triangles then fried them until golden brown. She then finished cooking with a splash of soy sauce. What a mouth watering aroma!

Tonight I pan fried some tofu with soy sauce for dinner – the tofu was soft and heart warming.

* Use plain tofu for a FODMAP friendly recipe; use gluten free soy sauce for a gluten free option.

Pan fried tofu with soy sauce (FODMAP friendly, gluten free option, vegan)

 

It was so easy to make:   Read the rest of this entry »

Fried duck eggs, with green shallot and dark soy sauce (FODMAP friendly, gluten free option)

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An Italian man at my husband’s work keeps a few ducks in his back yard. He gave us some fresh eggs last week. The eggs reminded me a $20 fried egg dish I had at a posh Asian restaurant, garnished with plenty of green shallot and dark soy sauce.

‘I can cook that’, I said to myself.   It was easy,  I cracked an egg, shallow fried it in hot oil with some green shallot (scallion); then transferred the egg to a plate, splashed a little dark soy sauce on top.  It looked colorful and delicious.

* Use the green part of the scallion for a FODMAP friendly version; use a gluten free soy sauce for a gluten free option.

 

Fried duck eggs, with green shallot and dark soy sauce (FODMAP friendly, gluten free option)

 

Fried duck eggs, with green shallot and dark soy sauce (FODMAP friendly, gluten free option)
Fresh duck eggs

Meals for the homeless – sweet Potato Noodles with Chinese mushroom and vegetables (gluten free option, vegan)

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I first enjoyed potato noodles in 1990s. I was puzzled by its rich flavors and unusual texture  – soft, firm and bouncy.  Not until many years later I realized these wonderful noodles were actually made of sweet potato starch, not potato.

I love these noodles – easy and cheap to make, yet so versatile you can add anything to it and the noodles will soak up all the beautiful flavors.

Last Saturday I made a huge batch of noodles.  We served it slightly chilled as part of a street banquet. 

Meals for the homeless - sweet Potato Noodles with Chinese mushroom and vegetables (gluten free option, vegan)
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Recipe is as follow:

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Fried cactus flowers, with Chinese five-spice and fried green shallot (gluten free)

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The cactus flowered again this year, yielding 2 single strikingly beautiful flowers, with pink and pearl like colors.

Fried cactus flowers, with Chinese five-spice and fried green shallot (gluten free)

Fried cactus flowers, with Chinese five-spice and fried green shallot (gluten free)

Last harvest I made a soup with the flowers. This year I fried them with some egg and corn flour, flavored with Chinese five-spice and green shallot.

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Method is as follows:

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Stir fried tofu skin 腐竹 with Chinese mushroom 香菇 and capsicum (gluten free, vegan)

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My favorite Northern Chinese restaurant makes this lovely tofu skin dish, with Sichuan pepper infused oil and loads of garlic.  I tried to replicate it a few times but without success.

So here is my own version. It is actually tastier than the one in the restaurant (grins) !

Stir fried tofu skin 腐竹 with Chinese mushroom 香菇 and capsicum (gluten free, vegan)

Recipe is as follows:

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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 »

Asian spiced ratatouille with potato, eggplant, capsicum, zucchini and coriander (low FODMAP, vegan, gluten free)

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At work, we share a floor with a team of accounting staff. Among them is Garnesh, a vegetarian with an Indian background. Every time I saw him having lunch at the kitchen, I quizzed him about his lovely meals. Today I tried out one of his recipes. To avoid the vegetables being too mushy, I baked the vegetables in the oven like a ratatouille, rather than using a cook top. It was delicious.

Asian spiced ratatouille with potato, eggplant, capsicum, zucchini and coriander (low FODMAP, vegan, gluten free)

 

Recipe is as follows. A FODMAPs check list is attached.

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Saute potato, carrot and fennel, with coriander, turmeric, sesame oil and sesame seeds (low FODMAP, vegan, gluten free)

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A few years ago, I received a free pack of gardening fennel seeds with a random purchase. This year I finally got around to spray the seeds onto the veggie patch. To my surprise, they were seeding. Inspired, I went down to the supermarket and bought a fennel bulb to cook a meal.

It was a simple meal – I diced some potato, carrot and fennel, then saute the vegetables with a little turmeric and sesame oil. I added some fresh coriander and sesame seeds at the end. Quite satisfying as a mid-winter meal.

Saute potato, carrot and fennel, with coriander, turmeric, sesame oil and sesame seeds (low FODMAP, vegan, gluten free)

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Home style pork spare ribs with soy sauce, wine and vinegar (FODMAP friendly, gluten free option)

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Pork spare ribs are inexpensive in Sydney, a fraction of the cost of pork ribs.  It is one of the most popular cuts of pork for Asian food, lovely when slow cooked in a rich salty, sweet and sour sauce.

Here is our dinner tonight – pork spare ribs braised in a soy sauce, red wine,sesame oil  and vinegar, with a hint of ginger and cumin.

Home style pork spare ribs with soy sauce, wine and vinegar (FODMAP friendly, gluten free option)

Recipe is as follows:

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Asian style ox tail Soup with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and pepper (gluten free)

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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.

Asian style ox tail Soup with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and pepper (gluten free)

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

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

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Simple bean sprout salad with soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds (low FODMAP, gluten free, 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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Steamed pork with soy sauce, memories of my aunt Yi-ma(姨妈), and how my mother met my father (low FODMAP, gluten free)

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During the week, we try to make simple meals.  A meal cooked over rice in a rice cooker is ideal for a late autumn evening – warm, comforting and super easy. We enjoy a few glasses of wine while the rice cooker is hard at work.

I cooked some steamed pork in the rice cooker tonight. The dish reminded me my aunt Yi-ma (姨妈)  who cooked an excellent steamed pork dish. My mother met my father during a match making visit between for Yi-ma and my father.   Yi-ma means an aunt from the mother side.

Steamed pork with soy sauce

My mother’s childhood

My mother was an orphan. Her mother was a maid who married her aged master.

In early 1900s, my grandfather was a laborer who went to Malaysia to work on a rubber farm. It was very common those days along the south coast of China. When he returned to China, he bought some farm land and a few houses. He then took a concubine, the maid. His first wife gave him only a daughter and no sons.

The first wife’s daughter migrated to America with her husband. Before my grandfather had his own son, he adopted a relative’s child whose name was Han.

During the Sino-Japanese war the family ran out of money. Grandfather and his wives died under some unspoken circumstance. My mother refused to talk about it. Some relatives said they suffered a great deal of financial hardship as they were not able to collect rents from the land and houses during this period.

During the 1940s, my mother grew up with his brother, living on some cash sent home by the sister in America. The two young children cooked for themselves and cared for each other.

The adopted son, Han, was 20 years older than the children. During the war he was a soldier in the National army. When he returned from the war, he took over all the cash sent from America and rents. The two young orphans was left with no food or resources.  Every day the siblings walked down to the Han’s house to collect some rice and whatever he would give them. Their regular meal was a thin rice porridge (congee). They were always hungry. As a grown up, my mother refused to talk about this man. Every time his name was mentioned, mother was anxious, sad and angry.

Moving to the city

In mid-1950, my mother was about 12 years old. My aunt Yi-ma’s family needed domestic helps and took my mother into their home. They were remote relatives from my mother’s side. Mother was grateful to them despite that she didn’t enjoy the chores, like getting up 5am in the morning to cook breakfast.

A few years later, she was accepted by a selective high school and could not come up with the few dollars for school fee each year. Mother was devastated when the family told her that they didn’t have the resources to support her education.

My mother (left) and Yi-ma (aunt) at the roof top terrace of yi-ma's apartment
My mother (left) and Yi-ma (aunt) at the roof top terrace of yi-ma’s apartment

A young and beautiful maiden full of dreams

Young and attractive looking, my mother applied for an actress position which she was rejected because she was not sufficiently tall. Utterly disappointing, she found a job as a childcare worker which she thoroughly enjoyed. Her role was shortly made redundant and the position was offered to a relative of an official.

Mother became a factory hand in a wireless factory.  She made many new friends. In later years, I observed her interaction with her friends, I could not help wondering if some of her male friends were once her admirers.

With the ambition to migrate to the U.S. to join her elder sister, my mother refused to have a relationship. When she was 28 years old, her sister passed away.  Mother’s dream was shuttered again.

How my mother met my father

In the late 1960s, a young and bright engineer and his family were living two blocks away from Yi-ma’s apartment.

My grandmother was a friend of Yi-mas mother. They organised a match making 相亲 to introduce my aunt to my father. The introduction (相亲) did not go well – the young man stepped inside the apartment, and decided he wanted the other good looking maiden instead. Mother was visiting Yi-ma that day.

That’s how my mother met my father.

Married life

The young couple dated briefly, and happily married. They had many photos of happy times, sitting in the park with sweet smiles, and holding each others’ arms.

The happy time ended when I was born. My father was sent away to the countryside to work for another factory.  He visited us for 10 days each year at Chinese new year, and occasionally dropped in for a few days while he passed through for work.  My mother’s dream of marrying an educated man and living a comfortable life was shuttered. My father was not entitled to any accommodation in the city. We all cramped into a terrace house with my grandparents, uncles and aunt and their families.

When my father returned to the city, it was 13 years later.

My mother and father
My mother and father in late 1960s

 

Aunt Yi-ma

Yi-ma married a nice man with a gentle soul. He was a senior official in the foreign trade inspection office. We called him ‘Yi-zhang’ (姨丈), meaning an uncle from the mother side.  In his official position, Yi-zhang received gifts all the time – fruits, cookies to expensive Chinese liquor in fancy bottles. Yi-zhang didn’t drink. So it didn’t bother him that some liquor turned moldy in unopened bottles – they were fake and most likely filled with tea.

Beside free gifts, they were quietly well off. Yi-ma’s brother died during the Korean War. All the family assets went to Yi-ma, including a sizable portfolio of real estate and stocks in Hong Kong.

Knowing our limited financial resources, Yi-ma was always generous to us. Every year at the Chinese New Year she always gifted me a handsome amount in a red envelope.  She gave me my first $1 note. In early 1970s, $1 was a fortune to a little girl.  Unlucky for me, my mother confiscated the money, saying that she would have to provide red envelopes to other children so she must recycle the cash.

Yi-ma and Yi-zhang were the first family we knew to own a color TV and a fridge.  They often invited us over for meals, cold jelly, special goodies or simply when they cut open a watermelon.  Their most tasty dish was the steamed pork, cooked in a little metal dish on top of the rice, juicy, sweet, salty and delicious.

My steamed pork

I cooked some steamed pork tonight, just like how Yi-ma used to cook it.

Recipe is as follows:

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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 match box I collected in 1980s with lotus flowers in a pond
A match box I collected in 1980s with lotus flowers in a 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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One pot meal – spicy lamb shank soup with vegetables and quinoa (low FODMAP, gluten free)

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Winter is (nearly) coming to Sydney and it is getting cold for some Sydneysiders. Don’t laugh – today is 12-16 degree Celsius and many of us were shivering.

So I made a tummy friendly lamb shank soup with potato, carrot and quinoa.  To spice it up a little, I added clove, bay leaves, cumin, paprika, chili flake and black pepper.  I cooked it in a pressure cooker so it was an easy one-pot meal.

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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.

Asian seaweed salad

Recipe is as follow:

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Blasting of a cattleman’s roast (FODMAP friendly, gluten free)

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On the weekend a few friends dropped by for lunch.  I cooked a simple roast cattleman’s beef using the blasting method.

I learnt the blasting method by accident. A few years ago I picked up a round beef roast from the supermarket. I then realized that the meat was so lean, it was one of the most difficult roast to cook.  Reportedly the only way to cook it was to blast it in a at 240°C/ 460°F in an oven, then turned off the heat and cooked it with the remaining heat for a few hours.  I fell in love with the blasting – the smoke, the aroma and the juicy and tender meat we enjoyed.

For lunch I bought a 2kg cattleman’s cut from our local butcher. I rubbed the meat with oil, salt, 2 tsp of cumin and 2 tsp of turmeric. I then laid the meat on a rack over a drip tray. I preheated the oven for 30 minutes at 240°C/ 460°F, then cooked the meat for 15 minutes before turning off the oven. The roast was cooked for further 2 hours with the remaining heat. The smell was unbelievable and it made me so hungry!

I served the beef with some roast vegetables which I first cooked in microwave to 90%, then finished cooking under a grill with some oil, salt and rosemary. For FODMAPers, carrots, Japanese pumpkins and potatoes are good options for roasting as it contains no FODMAP.

Simple roast cattleman's beef, blasting method (FODMAP friendly, gluten free)

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 »

Pork spare rib stew with miso, ginger and wine 味噌排骨 (low FODMAP, gluten free)

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On WeChat my ex high school mates were chatting about not having time to cook dinners. Really? I thought, surely a few equipment could help.

In addition to a standard kitchen, I have a double garage filled with cooking equipment – a pressure cooker, a rice cooker, a waffle maker, a table top multi-use grill, a mixer, a blender, a Tiger magic thermal pot, a 16 liter thermal pot, a five deck steamer pot, a 3-deck electric mini steamer, 3 electric frying pans, a portable induction cook top, 2 electric bain-maries and countless pots, cake tins and serving plates. Cooking a quick dinner is a breeze.

Before I continue on, I’d like to declare that I am not a hoarder. I run the Asian food stall each year for the school fete and I always contribute a bundle towards special event bakes. Hence I have accumulated so much useful equipment over the years.

Tonight I cooked a quick dinner with my pressure cooker. In the morning, I put some rice in the rice cooker and switch on the timer. I then spent 10 minutes browning the pork spare rib pieces, added carrot, potato chili, ginger and white wine. I turned the pressure cooker on high pressure 30 minutes. When I got home, dinner was ready and warm.

Easy peasy.

Pork spare rib stew with miso, ginger and wine 味噌排骨 (low FODMAP, gluten free)

 

Recipe is as follow:

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Spiced lamb meat balls with pumpkin, carrot and rice vermicelli (low FODMAP, gluten free)

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On the weekend we had a lovely lunch on Fort Denison, a small island in Sydney Harbor.  It was for Nadine’s 40s birthday. Nadine was originally from Melbourne. She fell in love with Bill, a Sydneysider. She moved to Sydney and settled in his small waterfront cottage by the river. There they are raising 2 gorgeous kids.

Bill has IBS – but not just the ordinary IBS. He is sensitive to most ‘common’ food including coconut milk, soy sauce and packaged meat from the supermarkets. Cooking for Bill is not just a challenge, it is a war against the modern world that many of us accustom to.

Every time I create a FODMAP dish, I think of Bill’s challenges. What are we really feeding ourselves nowadays and what consequence would follow?

Shop bought meat balls is one those food that you rarely know what you get. In this recipe, I used basic ingredients and work on blending the ingredients to achieve the flavors. Hope you will enjoy it.

Spiced lamb meat balls with pumpkin, carrot and rice vermicelli (low FODMAP, gluten free)

Recipe is as follows:

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Seaweed and egg soup 紫菜蛋湯 and the memory of GuangYa Middle School (low fodmap, gluten free)

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Seaweed and egg soup 紫菜蛋湯
Seaweed and egg soup 紫菜蛋湯

Recently, I reconnected with my high school mates on WeChat via a group chat. The high school, named the GuangDong Guangya Middle School, was one of the most prestige selective schools in the GuangZhou city. We all grew up to be proud and competitive individuals. Then we went on our separate paths to distinctively different lives. I selected a simple but busy life in Sydney – a job in the finance industry, a small family, a house with picket fences, a lovely garden, and a double garage full of beautiful crockery and cooking equipment – I love my cooking.

GuangDong GuangYa Middle School
Today’s GuangDong GuangYa Middle School

Bo, a school mate from Singapore had been posting his dinners every night in the group chat. He often has 5 dishes for his family of 4. The dishes are home style, plain and simple. A typical meal consists of a gorgeous seafood dish, an overcooked meat dish and 3 seasonal vegetable dishes bursting with freshness.  Sometimes we could tell how many were dining at home by counting the jumbo prawns. I was puzzled by Bo’s persistence and efforts posting his 6 meals a week, and occasionally meals from the restaurants when they ate out on Sundays. And a few days ago, he posted this story…

‘I live a simple and unexciting life, often with repetitive routines. There were seldom any exceptional events. However, the memory of this single incident at GuangYa Middle School I will always treasure. 

It was a very hot afternoon. We were attending a physical exercise class in front of the physic building. That day we had a basketball game. I was pushed over by a big fellow student. I fell and my left hand landed on the ground first. I could see my wrist was twisted, followed by sharp pains. I realized I had broken my wrist.

I was surrounded by teachers and students. The PE teacher asked who would accompany me to the local hospital which was within walking distance from the school.  Hong pushed through the crowd and took my arm. Hong was a quiet student, often with a few words and rarely smiled. I hardly spoke with him in the past. I was pleasantly surprised by him volunteering to help.

One thing was overlooked by the PE teacher – he didn’t ask if we had any money for the hospital. Those days most families were not well off and kids didn’t get much pocket money. I didn’t have any money on me that day. Luckily Hung had some money and he managed to pay for the treatment.  There was no x-ray machine at the local hospital. The wrist was bandaged and that was that. 

The next day after the math class, our math teacher, Feng, came over to my desk with a bowl of soup and a gentle smile . Feng was one of the strictest teachers and rarely showed her emotions. ‘This is a seaweed and egg soup’, she said, ‘you have it now while it is warm. It helps with your calcium intake and good for your bones.’  

I was speechless. Even my mum never cooked me a soup before (she didn’t really learn how to cook until she was retired).  I looked at Feng, who had returned to the teacher’s podium, I felt warmth all over. 

Despite her tough appearance, teacher Feng had a kind and caring heart. Many years later I connected with her via a video chat. She asked why I was still so skinny and said I should look after myself better.  

Next time I am in GuangZhou, I will visit Teacher Feng and cook her a big bowl of hot seaweed and egg soup.’

Ah, I can understand why Bo has been posting his dinners each night. Somehow he found deep connection with his food.

Bo's family meals
Bo’s family meals

 

The traditional egg soups are often made of ‘egg flowers’, means scrambling the eggs in hot water. I found scrambling eggs with seaweed was too messy.

So here is my version of a ‘neat’ seaweed and egg soup.

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Easy banana, lime, orange and cardamom compote (FODMAP friendly, gluten free, vegan)

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This week I gathered a few limes from the garden. I have always struggled with my lime trees – lot of flowers but rarely bear any fruit. So my three little lime fruit this year were rather precious. I made a fruit compote with banana, lime, orange and cardamom.

Delicious for breakfast, served on toast –  just not enough of it. Hope my lime trees will be kind to me next year.

Easy banana, lime, orange and cardamom compote (FODMAP friendly, gluten free, vegan)

Recipe is as follows:

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Cherry tomato ‘sandwich’ with quinoa and alfalfa (low FODMAP, vegan, gluten free)

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Today I made some rice paper rolls with quinoa, coriander, alfalfa, capsicum and sesame seeds. I had some quinoa mixture left. So I decided to make a second dish. I had some cherry tomatoes in the fridge, perfect for some ‘sandwiches’.

The quinoa mixture was made of cooked quinoa, a little chopped coriander stalk, a little sesame seeds and sesame oil,  seasoned with salt and black pepper. I have attached the original recipe here – but you only need 1 tbsp of quinoa mixture to make 1 low FODMAP serve which consists of 4 cheery tomato sandwiches.

To make the ‘sandwiches’, turn a cherry tomato upside down, cut it open in the middle, as deep as you can without cutting through; fill the gap with a small piece of lettuce (I used butter and rocket), alfalfa, red capsicum, carrot and a little quinoa mixture. Top with a little BBQ sauce and a few sesame seeds.

According to the Monash University, a low FODMAP portion is 4 cherry tomatoes – hence 1 low FODMAP serving is 4 ‘sandwiches’.  But lettuce (butter and rocket), alfalfa, red capsicum and carrot have limited FODMAPs, so you can pile up as much fillings as you wish.

Use a gluten free BBQ sauce for a gluten free option.

Cherry tomato 'sandwich' with quinoa, coriander and alfalfa (low FODMAP, vegan, gluten free)

Cherry tomato sandwich with quinoa, coriander and alfalfa

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Rice paper rolls of quinoa, coriander, alfalfa and sesame seeds (low FODMAP, vegan, gluten free)

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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.

Rice paper roll with quinoa, coriander, alfalfa, carrot, lettuce, capsicum, sesame seed and sesame oil, low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan

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

Easy hand rolls of alfalfa, carrot, capsicum, rocket and sesame seeds (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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As I mentioned, I recently connected with my high school classmates on WeChat. I pleasantly discovered how diverse my school mates had become. One of the ladies is now a devoted Buddhist. She posted many photos of pagodas, Buddha, and vegetarian food. ‘You like cooking’, she said, ‘do you cook vegan food?’. She recommended sprout alfalfa and sent me a full description of its benefits.

‘Sure, I will made a few dishes tomorrow’.

I loved alfalfa, so dedicate and beautiful to look at. While I attended university in early 90s, alfalfa was in nearly every sandwiches I bought from the canteen. The sandwiches were charged by weight. Alfalfa is so light that I could have a ham and alfalfa sandwich for about $1. Bargain.

Here is my first installment of the alfalfa menu – easy hand rolls of rice, alfalfa, carrot, capsicum, rocket leafs, BBQ sauce and sesame seeds.

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Chinese sweet dumplings ‘tang yuan'(汤圆) – raspberry pink, in a ginger, cinnamon and honey syrup (gluten free, vegan)

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‘Tang yuan’, or the glutinous rice balls in syrup, were sometimes offered as a complementary dessert at Chinese restaurants. My husband always puzzled, why people liked these dull looking, doughy, boringly sweet and tasteless stuff.

Good point. As much ‘tang yuan’ is well loved by the Chinese community for its symbolic meaning of family and its reunion, it is not an exciting dish, not until it became a fusion dish anyway.

My ‘tang yuan’ were colored by raspberry coulis; some were filled with red bean paste and some were just small and plain. The syrup was infused with a cinnamon stick, cardamom,  ginger and orange peel, with brown sugar for color and a dash of honey for extra flavor. I really hope my husband would like them; and then he said, ‘they were okkkk’. Grrrrrrr!

Chinese sweet dumplings 'tang yuan'(汤圆) - raspberry pink, in a ginger, cinnamon and honey syrup (gluten free, vegan)

Recipe is as follows:

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Chinese New Year steamed sweet cake ‘nian gao’ (年糕) with coconut milk and ginger (gluten free, vegan)

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My old aunt loved making ‘nian gao’. My cousins called them rubber cakes, with a chewy, sticky texture and a plain sugary taste. My aunt is too old to cook now. So I started to make them myself, a not-so-authentic version with coconut milk, maple syrup and cinnamon. That’s what multi-culture is about, right?

‘Gao’ has the same pronunciation as ‘high’. ‘Nian’ means ‘year’. So ‘nian gao’ is symbolic for ‘every year a greater success’.  This puts ‘nian gao’ on the must-have list for Chinese New Year.

If you like it looking fancy, dust the cake with a mixture of peanuts, sesame seeds, sugar and desiccated coconut.

Chinese New Year steamed sweet cake 'nian gao' (年糕) with coconut milk and ginger (gluten free, vegan)

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

Kale with orange and sesame (low FODMAP, vegan, gluten free)

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We had steaks for dinner tonight and made a kale dish as a side. It was very simple, blanched kale, diced orange,  orange zest, lemon juice, sesame oil and sesame seeds.

This recipe below is portion controlled to a FODMAP diet. Please feel free to use any additional ingredients you may like.

Kale with orange and sesame (low FODMAP, vegan, gluten free)

Recipe is as follows:

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Sweet and sour pork with tamarind,orange and pineapple (low FODMAP, gluten free)

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I blinked my eyes and we are already half way into summer.

The greatest things about summers are the lovely family holidays at the beaches and oversea adventures.  We love going to warm places, filled with smiles and aroma of tropical fruits.  We came back from our beach break last week and going to Malaysia next week. Oh, why do we have to wait so long?

So I picked up a beautiful pineapple from the local fruit shop. To me, pineapples are sunshine, good time and cocktails by the resort pool. I’d cook up a holiday with pork, pineapple, orange, chili, tamarind and strawberry jam.

Sweet and sour pork with tamarind,orange and pineapple (low FODMAP, gluten free)

Recipe is as follows:

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Sushi terrine with vegetables (low FODMAP, vegan, gluten free)

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A few weeks ago I set off to make a few carrot & vegetable dishes. Here is one of them…

It is made with sushi rice, saute pumpkin with cumin, saute carrot with turmeric, saute capsicum with garam masala and nori sheets.  Sesame seeds were added for extra flavor. The ingredients are layered in a terrine pan, and wrapped with 2 nori sheets.

Sushi terrine with vegetables (low FODMAP, vegan, gluten free)

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

Carrot ‘noodles’ with green bean and bean sprout (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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Last week I was cooking humble carrots and wondering how may carrot dishes I could create. Here is one of them…

There are so many wonderful things about carrot, crunchy, juicy, colorful, full of goodies. Best of all, it has no carbohydrate so the FODMAPers can have as much carrot as they wish.

Carrot 'noodles' with green bean and bean sprout (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

Recipe is as follow:

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Carrot with maple syrup and turmeric (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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I was helping out at Salvation Army’s community kitchen earlier this week. The kitchen uses OZ Harvest, a food rescue service that collects excess food products and provides the food to charities for free. The lady who runs the kitchen, Monica, a wonderful and cheerful woman, explained that she was not able to buy any other ingredients other than what was donated.

On the lunch menu it was Vietnamese San Choy Bao. I volunteered to cook the meal as I was comfortable with cooking large amount of food. After all I had ran an Asian food stall at our school fetes over the past three years.  The good news was that, we had pork mince and lots of vegetables. The bad news was that, there was no fish sauce, soy sauce, lemon or lime.  I found two small bottles of BBQ sauce. I cooked the meal with the BBQ sauce, a little sugar, salt and some turmeric. Although not really Vietnamese, the dish tasted pretty good. The meal was sold at $2 per serve. After that, there was no fresh meat left. So I prepared 2 trays of zucchini slices for next day’s free community lunch.  For the vegetarian option, I stir fried some diced potato, carrot, leek, capsicum, scallion and coriander with curry powder, turmeric and veggie spices. Thank goodness for all the other volunteers who chopped, diced, graded, washed and helped.

When I got home that day, I decided to learn a little more about cooking with simple ingredients. I started with the humble carrots and some left over pure maple syrup.

I diced 2 carrots, tossed the pieces with  some rice flour, maple syrup, a little oil and a pinch of salt. Then I pan fried the carrots with a little oil, tossed in some sesame seeds, turmeric and coriander.

It was the best carrot I have ever had.

Carrot with maple syrup, turmeric, sesame seeds and coriander, Low FODMAP, Gluten Free, Vegan

Recipe is a follow:

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Lemongrass pork scotch fillets (low FODMAP, gluten free)

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We have a bush of lemongrass in the garden. Each harvest we were reward a large bag of juicy stalks. So today I made some grilled pork with lemongrass, ginger, kaffir lime leafs, fish sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil.

There are still so much lemongrass left!

Lemongrass pork scotch fillets (low FODMAP, gluten free)

Recipe is as follow:

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Pan fried pumpkin with a miso sauce (gluten free, vegan)

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I found it difficult to create pumpkin dishes – pumpkin is so beautifully tasty already, I don’t want to ruin its natural goodness.

Because pumpkin is so sweet, a bit of saltiness will enhance its flavor. Miso and pumpkin actually work quite well. It is also a very simple dish to prepare.

Pan fried pumpkin with a miso sauce (gluten free, vegan)

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Asian inspired carrot, pumpkin and kumquat dip (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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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.

 

Asian inspired carrot, pumpkin and kumquat dip (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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Homemade ‘fun guo’ 粉果 – steamed dumplings with Chinese vegetables and peanuts

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My sister was over this afternoon with my niece who is the same age as my little boy. While the kids were playing, my sister helped me to make some ‘fun guo’, one of my favorite yum cha dish.

It is really simple to make.  I first stir fried the filling with diced chicken, leek, five spice tofu, Chinese mushroom, salted radish, wood ear fungus and bamboo shoot; then I made the wrappers with wheat starch and tapioca.  I have no talent using rolling pins, so I used  my pasta machine to roll out the dough. While I was rolling out the dough and cutting out the wrappers, my sister worked on wrapping the dumplings.

4S2B0044 #2
Homemade ‘fun guo’ 粉果 – steamed dumplings with Chinese vegetables and peanuts

Fun guo dumpling filling
Fun guo dumpling filling

Recipe is as follow:

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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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Rice pudding with banana and coconut (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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I have worked in the finance sector for a very long time. In the good old days we enjoyed many extravagant lunches and dinners, Rockpool, Tetsuya, you name it. Nowadays things are quite different, but occasionally we still attend client lunches & dinners.  Last week we visited Kitchen by Mike at Bent Street. I was impressed with the rice pudding – heavenly creamy with a subtle vanilla and cinnamon flavor.

I was determined to have a go – I used arborio rice, coconut milk and bananas. This pudding is dairy free & gentle on your tummy.

Rice pudding with banana and coconut (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

 

Recipe is as follow:

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Summer waffles with pineapple, banana and coconut (low FODMAP, vegan, gluten free)

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Winter is finally fading away in Sydney. Sun is shining and warm. The golden cane plants are back to life and the garden is looking fantastic.  This beautiful morning I made my tropicana waffles for breakfast and enjoyed them by the pool.

My tropicana waffles are some of my best waffles – super crispy on the outside, beautifully moist on the inside, and full of the goodness of banana, pineapple and coconut milk.  A little icing sugar on top makes it super handsome. Who would think vegan waffles could be so yummy..

Waffles with pineapple, banana and coconut (low FODMAP, vegan, gluten free)

Waffles with pineapple, banana and coconut (low FODMAP, vegan, gluten free)

Recipe is as follow:

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Poached salmon in a bonito and kelp broth (gluten free)

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Bonito flakes (Katsuobushi) are super tasty, dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna. A soup (dashi) with bonito and kelp, with a dash of soy sauce is simply heavenly, wonderful with a piece of salmon. Really, you would eat the salmon for the broth.

 

Poached salmon in a bonito and kelp broth (gluten free)

Recipe is as follow:

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Homemade buckwheat noodles with soy sauce and sesame oil (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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A few weeks ago I made a really nice dashi soup base with shaved katsuobushi (preserved fermented skipjack tuna) and kombu (kelp). I looked in the cupboard for some soba noodles and noticed that they all contained wheat. That weekend I did a special trip to my favorite Asian supermarket at Chinatown to search for a gluten free soba, yet none could be found.

Never mind, I will just have to make my own buckwheat noodles. To make it light and bouncy, I used a combination of buckwheat (1/2), rice flour (1/4) and tapioca starch (1/4).

Homemade buckwheat noodles with soy sauce and sesame oil (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

Recipe is as follow:

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Salt and pepper chicken (low FODMAP, gluten free)

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I work in an unremarkable looking building in the city that was built in the 70’s. When I started working there 12 years ago, the food court were ordinary but cheap. Then the landlord renovated the food court and increased the rents. Now the food is still uninspiring, but expensive.   I had a salt and pepper chicken there last week – and it ended up in the garbage bin.

With an unsatisfied craving for salt and pepper chicken, I made my own today.

Salt and pepper chicken (low FODMAP, gluten free)

Recipe is as follow:

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Ginger pork with soy sauce and sesame oil (low FODMAP, gluten free)

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Recently our family visited Tokyo to spend our school holiday there. We enjoyed shopping at countless hobby shops, toy stores and rides at Disneyland, Disney Sea and Tokyo Dome.

My husband and I love noodle soups. Nearly everyday we went to a nearby noodle shop for lunch. Our little boy is a fussy eater who has Vegemite sandwiches for school lunch since the kindergarten year – he refused to have noodle soup. So we gave him a bowl of rice and the toppings from our noodles.   Ginger pork was his favorite. Luckily, noodles with ginger pork was available in nearly every noodle shop.

Here is my version of ginger pork. I served it with some saute Chinese greens with ginger.

 

Ginger pork with soy sauce and sesame oil (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)

 

 

 

 

Chinese north-west style lamb kebabs ‘羊肉串’ (low FODMAP, gluten free)

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When I was in Beijing many years ago I visited a night market with hundreds of food stalls. About half of them sell lamb kebabs with a Xinjiang origin. Xinjiang is region located in North West China  where Chinese Muslims and Uyghur people live, bordering many countries including Mongolia, Russia, Pakstan and India. I tried the kebab and was fascinated by the spices – it was the first time I tasted cumin.  The meat, although, was dry and chewy – we have much better quality meat back in Australia.

Here is my version of lamb kebabs with cumin, Sichuan pepper, chili flake, coriander seeds, sesame seeds and  sesame oil. I first marinated the lamb in cumin, salt and sesame oil. Then I made the kebabs and cooked them on the BBQ. Finally I added additional spices and sea salt to the kebabs.  The kebabs were juicy and spicy.

Chinese north-west style lamb kebabs '羊肉串' (low FODMAP, gluten free)

Spice mix for lamb kebab - cumin, Sichuan pepper, chili flake, sesame seeds and coriander seeds
Spice mix for lamb kebab – cumin, Sichuan pepper, chili flake, sesame seeds and coriander seeds

Recipe is as follow:

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Rice paper rolls with tofu, bamboo shoot, bean sprout and sesame (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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FODMAP vegan can be delicious too – tofu recipe #5.

A couple weeks ago I set out to see how many tummy friendly tofu recipes I could made. So far I have a rice noodle soup, an entree (pan fried tofu with chili & tomato salsa), a main (tofu chop suey) and a dessert (with ginger, pumpkin & tapioca). Perhaps the next dish would be a healthy snack that can be packed into a lunch box?

Vegetables can be quite plain, so the bamboo shoot will give the dish a kick of flavor.

Rice paper rolls with tofu, bamboo shoot, bean sprout and sesame (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

The filling: tofu with bamboo shoot, bean sprout, potato, carrot, capsicum, sesame and coriander
The filling: tofu with bamboo shoot, bean sprout, potato, carrot, capsicum, sesame and coriander

Recipe is as follow:

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