Recipe

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.

 Aromatic ox tail soup with Asian spices

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

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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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 »

Simple roast cattleman’s beef, blasting method (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.

Roast cattleman's beef (FODMAP friendly, gluten free)

Wonton salad with XO Sauce

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Do you know that 28% of the Australian population was born overseas?

For Harmony Day this year, a few lovely ladies at work organized a ‘bring-a-culture-dish’ morning tea event. I made a large dish of wonton ‘salad’. It was distinctively Cantonese with a HK style XO sauce, and distinctively not Cantonese as it was served lightly chilled, a style used frequently by Northern China called ‘liang ban’.

This wonton salad is also fantastic for school fetes.  A few years ago I made a massive plate of wontons for my boy’s school fete – it sold out within 20 minutes. I am planning to make it again for this year’s fete.

I used lots of ingredients for the wontons, as I had them readily available in the pantry. If you can’t find some of the ingredients, feel free to skip some of them. I have marked all the ingredients you can skip with ^ below.

A video on how to wrap wontons is also attached below.

Wonton salad with XO sauce

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Prosperity toss (‘yee sang’ 捞生) for Chinese new year (low FODMAP, gluten free)

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One of my best friend’s late mother, whom I dearly called Auntie Wong, was an exceptional cook. A Chinese woman migrated from Malaysia, she could make beautiful meat-bone soups, aromatic curries and many different type of chili pastes.  During Chinese New Year, she made ‘yee sang’, an elaborate salad with sashimi salmon and a plum sauce. We made wishes as we mixed the salad with our chopsticks, shared a few giggles and enjoyed the delicious feast.

In Chinese, ‘yee’ means fish, a symbol of plenty. ‘Sang’ shares the same pronunciation of 升, means uplifting. With a name like that, no wonder ‘yee sang’ is one of the most popular dish for Chinese New Year around Singapore and Malaysia.

My father and sister were travelling in China and only arrived yesterday, which was the Chinese New Year’s Day. To welcome them home,, I made my own version of ‘yee sang’ with tuna, salmon, fennel, carrot, capsicum, cucumber and a strawberry salad dressing.

I didn’t make any wishes as I mixed the salad – I already have everything I could have wished for. Although life is busy and demanding, I have a lovely family, good friends, a home with a double garage full of cooking equipment. I am happy.

Prosperity Toss / yu sang / yee sang /lo sang (low FODMAP, gluten free)

Recipe is as follows:

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Nutella cheese cake, layered

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Last Saturday we had a few families over for lunch. I was busy all week and didn’t have time to prepare a cake. I decided to make one of my easiest cake – layered cheese cake with Nutella hazelnut cocoa.

So simple, you don’t even need a recipe.

First, I prepared the cake mix with 2 packs of Betty Crocker vanilla cake, boosted with a cup of almond meal  and a cup of desiccated coconut to make it more dense and moist. I baked the cakes in 2 rectangle trays so the cakes were nice and flat. I then freeze the cakes overnight before I cut then into 1cm thickness slices, lengthwise.

The next day I used a mixer to combine 4 x 250g packages of Philadelphia cream cheese (at room temperature),  3-4 tablespoonful of Nutella, 4-5 tablespoonful of sugar and a dash of kumquat juice. Then I assembled the layered cake – a layer of cake, a layer of Nutella cream cheese mixture.  Then I covered the sides with more Nutella cream cheese.  I shaved some dark chocolate on top as decoration. I returned the cake to fridge for a few hours before serving.

I love this cake – easy to make, not as heavy as a cheese cake, but still moist, dense and satisfying.

Nutella cheese cake, layered

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