Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Curry Chicken in Kaffir Lime Leaves

Firstly, I wanted to thank Nihal, the Mediterranean Turkish Cook for passing me this wonderful Lemonade Award that really cheered me up after a long bout of wheezings, coughings, sore throats and sleepless nights for the last few weeks! Çok, çok teşekküler, Nihal for this Lemonade Award! Also, what a coincidence that I was cooking another family recipe that I love so much from my mom that shared the same Citrus family as this lemony award!

I'm referring to this frequent cooked Kaffir Lime Curry Chicken in Southeast Asian homes where there were several versions from different countries even available online. This fragrant curry actually doesn't have kaffir lime juice in it but its evergreen fragrant leaves! Kaffir lime itself has very little juice compared to other Limes. Besides as culinary use, it plays very important part in local beliefs. In this recipe, I preferred the curry thicker or 'dry' as the local called it and to maximise the fragrant leaves, I julienned the kaffir lime leaves finely with a very sharp knife more than required and mixed into the curry instead of whole leaves as the norm. Traditionally, my mom would use an Indian terracotta pot to cook this curry but you can use your normal heavy pot. It's only slight difference in taste (though the terracotta gives out better taste.) Here's my version adapted from my mom's... :-D
Curry Chicken with Kaffir Lime Leaves
Serves 4-6 persons

600 g - 800 g Whole Chicken or your favourite Chicken parts (thighs, drumsticks, etc)

To be pounded finely:
8 shallots
1 stalk Lemongrass - use only the white portion
4 pips Garlic
6 dried chillies
5 fresh red chillies
3 cm fresh Tumeric

Thumb-sized Galangal
10 pcs Kaffir Lime leaves
4 pieces Tamarind Slices
2-3 Tbl Cooking Oil
250 ml Fresh Thick Coconut Milk
Some water

1. Clean the chicken and cut into pieces. I preferred to remove the skin before cooking. If you don't bother, you can leave it on and remove skin later.
2. Smash the galangal with the back of a knife or you can use a pestle and mortar if you have it.
3. Soak dried chillies in warm water for 15 minutes or until soften.
4. Pound the shallots, garlic, fresh chillies, tumeric and dried chillies until fine. You can use a blender if it's more convenient.
5. Wash the Kaffir Lime leaves and cut off the hard middle stems. Roll the leaves up tightly and with a sharp knife, julienne the leaves finely.
6. Heat a deep pan or a wok until hot. Add the cooking oil and the pounded ingredients. Stir until fragrant.
7. Add the cut chicken pieces and stir. Make sure the chicken pieces are thoroughly coated with the spice mixture for about 5 minutes.
8. Add 1/4 cup water, tamarind pieces, galangal and the julienned kaffir lime leaves. Stir until the chicken pieces are well coated with the spices.
9. Pour in the fresh coconut milk. Stir and add salt to taste. Cover the pot or wok and turn the heat to medium, stirring occasionally. Simmer until chicken meat thoroughly cooked.
This curry is great with rice, bread, naan, chapati or even as stuffings for buns, puffs, pies...

Note: I added very little water (sometimes non at all) as the chicken meat and coconut milk already contained some liquid. If you add more water, it would take longer time for the gravy or curry to thicken. Nevertheless, if you like more gravy, you can add more water :-) This curry is best eaten the day after - if you can stand it ... :-P Don't worry about the quantity of kaffir leaves used, it's not going to make the curry bitter. If you want, you can squeeze some Key Lime juices after stop the cooking. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fish In Tamarind Soup (Hoo Khong Asam)

Towards year ends, I always feeling nostalgic about my childhood (A Mother's Heart by William Joseph playing in the background :-P.) Since the passing of my parents in 2001, the memories of mom's cooking became more evident. She cooked with no written down recipes but from her memories of what she saw on TV, magazines or someone told her how to cook certain dish by word of mouth at the local fresh market. She was able to recreate dishes she liked when I took her out to dine at local eateries whenever I'm free from work. I'm proud of her abilities to cook just from such methods (or should I said from scratch?) because she only managed to study until 11 - 12 years old. Being the only child in her family and both her parents passed away in her early adulthood must have lead her to harness such skill to survive independently. Sad to say, until today I never seen pictures of my grandparents but my priority was to make my mom happy throughout her living years... :-)

Voila! All that aside... one of the dishes I missed from my mom is fish cooked in tamarind based soup. I would attacked 2 plates of plain rice soaked up to the brim with the soup! It's like drinking Assam Laksa soup with whole fish instead of deboned fish meat. The way to cook Assam Laksa is similar too but with lots of fish instead.

Actually, I don't know the origin of this dish we called 'Hoo Khong Assam' (Hokkien dialect.) It's been in my family as far as I could remember. It's quite confused because Southeast Asia is Cauldron of Cuisine that links with each other in some ways or another. As for me, I think this dish is similar to Thai's Gaeng Som as my mom is half-Thai. There are other versions using tamarind as the main ingredient like Nyonya/Peranakan cuisine's Gerang Asam which used candlenuts and Filipino's Sinigang. Since her version was not written down, I started from scratch as much I could recalled but this time with measurement and not estimates as most traditional Asian mothers would do :-D This recipe is all about taste and love of my mother that made it so special in my heart.

Fish In Tamarind Soup (Hoo Khong Asam)
Serves 4 -6

300 g -500 g Spanish Mackerel fish - cleaned and gutted

For the Soup:
3 - 6 pcs Tamarind slices
4 cm Fresh Tumeric - washed & roughly sliced or bruised
10 g -15 g Fresh Vietnamese Mint Leaves/Laksa Leaves-washed & trim leaves.
4 - 6 pcs Fresh Red Chillies or Bird's Eye Chillies
2-3 nos Tomatoes - quartered
5 - 10 nos Shallots - cleaned and roughly crushed
1 stalk Ginger Flower - remove stem & cut the flower bud into half or quarters
4 - 8 pcs Ladies Fingers (Okra) - washed and cut into halves
2 stalks Lemongrass - use only the white parts & lightly bruised
10 g Galangal - washed, remove dirt and bruised skin, sliced thinly
10 g Shrimp Paste (Belacan)
1 liter of Water
Salt and Sugar OR Fish Sauce to taste

1. Prepare all the vegetables and set aside.
2. Trim off the fins and tails. If the fish is large, cut into halves. Set aside.
3. In a pot, heat the water until it boils. Put in all the vegetables except Ladies Fingers/Okra and tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium and let it boils until the liquid changes color.
4. Add in the Ladies Fingers/Okra and Tomatoes.
5. Let the soup boils for few seconds and add in the fish.
6. Add in salt and sugar or Thai fish sauce to taste.
7. Continue to boil the soup until fish is cooked.
8. Serve hot with rice.

Notes: If you can find Belimbing Buluh or Belimbing Masam (Averrhoa Bilimbi) is even better to add sourness into the soup as Tamarind slices or Asam Gelugor (Garcinia atroviridis) considered by locals to be too strong for the stomach. Please use sparingly, if you're prone to gastric problems. I preferred to use seafood like fish or prawns for this recipe instead of meat. If you can't find Shrimp Paste or Belacan, you can omit it and adjust the taste with more Fish Sauce. Always remember to taste your cooking several times and adjust accordingly.

Happy Cooking!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Baked Pork With 3 Mushrooms

It's been quite hectic days lately for me. I tried to cook some quick meals for the family and made sure that there's at least once a week, we eat home cooked meals. It's fun not to wash pots and plates but in the long run, I felt bored with the eateries' menus... :-P Talk about being fussy LOL! Don't you ever said to yourself that what you ate at the restaurants, you can cook it at home too? In current economy situation, it's time for us to make efforts being frugal. So, let's make use those 3 ingredients or 4 ingredients cooking books hidden away gathering dust in the cabinet :-P I had one book like that and recently I added a new one to my collection.

This recipe is one of the ideas of using what's left in your pantry and fridge. I nearly forgot that I froze a pack of pork shoulder meat (among others in the freezer) and some mushrooms left from previous cooking hence the 3 types of mushrooms I used in this recipe. At first, I thought it's weird and not sure how the dish will taste like especially the strong flavoured Shiitake mushrooms. Will it over powered the other mild mushrooms? My family liked it very much but let me know your feedback ;-)

Baked Pork With 3 Mushrooms
Serves 2-3

100 g Enoki Mushrooms (Golden Mushrooms)
2-4 White Button Mushrooms
2 Shiitake Mushrooms
½ Red Onion
2 cloves Garlic
200 g Pork Shoulder (or any tender chicken meat)

1 tbsp Rice Wine
1 tbsp Dark Soya Sauce
1 tbsp Oyster Sauce
1 tbsp Cornstarch
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Sugar
¼ tsp Black Pepper

1. Rinse or wipe fresh mushrooms from grits. Remove any discolored parts or hard stems and cut into shreds. Rinse the Enoki mushrooms and cut off tail-ends. Peel and slice garlic and red onion.
2. Preheat oven at 200 ºC. (For those who have oven with higher set of temperature than stated, preheat oven to 250ºC.)
3. Rinse meat thoroughly ad cut into bite size pieces. Marinate with seasonings for 20-30 minutes. Transfer into a ovenproof casserole and top with all the sliced ingredients.
3. Cover with aluminum foil and transfer to preheated oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until tender to your preference. (If your oven's at 250ºC, bake the dish for 20 minutes.)
4. Remove aluminum foil and serve.

Note: If you don't have an oven, this recipe can be cook in a heavy pot on stove as well. Besides pork, you can also use chicken like fillets, thighs and breast meats. Serve this recipe with rice or noodles of your choice. I tried it 'dry' and as soup on cooked yellow noodles (with extra water added to the gravy)- it turned out surprisingly tasty too. I also add extra sliced spring onions, julienned carrot and red chillies as garnishing as you can see in the picture. Actually, I separated the recipe into halves because I have a guest who's not a fan of chillies (it made him upset stomach.) With the other half I added extra chopped chillies, julienned carrot and lots of sliced spring onions. Mixed it all up nicely, just before serving. It's yummy that way for me! Tell me what you think...


~ Tagged: 7 Facts About Myself ~

I was tagged by CK Lam recently which is the 1st time for me since I started blogging. Frankly, I'm quite confused about this meme and tag thingies. It's like a kind of confession about yourself and since it's nearly end of the year, perhaps this tag may help me for my new resolutions! I also received few requests from those I tagged before though. It's no obligation and feel free to pass my tag(s) :-)

1. My 1st lesson in cookery was frying an omelette at age of 9.
2. I never owned Barbie Doll... I don't know why I don't have interest like some of my neighbourhood girls about Barbie. Maybe the price or I'm not blonde and skinny... :-D
3. I love books... My favourite... science, thriller, children's stories of magical world, Art & History, Famous Five, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Sherlock Holmes, 3 Investigators, languages ... the lots! Plus board games like Mastermind, Othello/Reversi, Congkak ( a version of Mancala) and many more...
4. I have phobias of swimming (no, no, no, not because of JAWS!) and driving. I need to troubleshoot the later though...
5. I love travelling... the most memorable event was flying in the Swiss Alps. I felt so timid, speechless and at awed the wonders of Mother Nature created. At the same time, my soul was peaceful thousands of feet above sea level looking down at the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc.
6. My best working life was seeing my design on TV worn by Silver Medalist in Men's Single Table Tennis in XXV Olympic Games in Barcelona. I followed the player and created the sportswear collection until I retired in 1998... LOL
7. I need to do 'fridge cleaning' (a term given by Food4tots) more often then I'm doing now :-P

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sweet Pumpkin And Lily Bulb Soup

What you do with left over pumpkin(s) in... let's say half an hour? I had some pumpkin chunks left over from the soup I made previous days :-) I thought of stir-fry with some shrimps or just with plain with garlic or onions but changed my mind which I don't even know why. Then as I browsed the net for ideas, I realized that it was Halloween judging from all the pumpkin posts on foodies blogs! To all my friends, I wished you 'Happy (belated) Halloween!' I don't celebrate it but it's kind of fun seeing bloggers and friends having fun around you and it also reminded me that Winter is just around the corner!

Besides the pumpkin, I also found my pack of 4 pcs Lily Bulbs which I can't recalled when I bought it. I have to make mental notes not to buy things or ingredients that I don't intend to use early. I did a post about Fresh Lily Bulbs before - you can have a look at how the bulb looks like. The thing is, if I don't buy it now, I may not seeing them anymore on the shelves. It's either off season or last of the lasts. I have to wait next year again! You faced such predicament to buy or not to buy??? Until I find a bigger home for larger refrigerator, I have to content with what I have now... :-( Now, for a quick dessert, yes, I'm using the pumpkin and Lily Bulbs as dessert, for a change.

Sweet Pumpkin And Lily Bulb Soup
Serves 2-3 portions

150 g Pumpkin
50 g Fresh Lily Bulbs
30 g Rock Sugar (or to your taste)
400 ml Water

1. Wash and cut pumpkin into small chunks. Set aside.
2. Wash and remove any yellow petals from Lily bulbs. Separate bulb into petals.
3. In a pot, heat the water until it boils.
4. Add in the pumpkin chunks and let it cook for about ½ hour or until soft. Add in the rock sugar and Lily petals. When the rock sugar dissolves, remove the pot from heat to avoid over cooking the Lily petals. Serve hot or cold (you can add some ice cubes if you like.)

Note: If you can't find rock sugar, you can use your daily sugar or raw cane sugar. I'm not sure if you can find Fresh Lily bulbs in your regions (please check with your local delis, florists or Asian supermarkets) but you can use the dried lily petals. Soak the dried petals, preferably overnight and boil it until soften. Then add it into the pumpkin and syrup mixture.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Magadip - Madurese Aromatic Chicken Stew

Have you tasted before a recipe that has no chillies, garlic or coconut milk in its ingredients yet it's just as potent ? The recipe I'm referring to originates from Madura, an Indonesian island located East of Java in the Greater Sunda Islands Archipelago. The dish was a surprise for me, as we knew that most Indonesian dishes are hot and spicy and every dishes cooked or Sayur Lalap must have some chillies of some sort like Sambal Oelek, Sambal Terasi, Sambal Badjak pastes added as condiments with their meals. My favourite is Rijsttafel that ends with Spekkoek and coffee... it's a wonderful ending!

This Madurese speciality dish I'm sharing is called Magadip or better known as Madura Aromatic Chicken which is easy to prepare and you can actually used the ingredients for lamb as well. You can prepare it 1 to 2 days ahead which will make the dish tastes even more delicious after you let the flavours permeate the meat or freeze it until it's needed. The ingredients I'm using are for 2-4 persons as part of a meal but you can easily double the portions to suit your needs.

Serves 2-4

500 g - 600 g Chicken or any part of chicken you like
1 Tbl Coriander seeds
1 tsp Cumin seeds
4 pcs Cloves
1 bulb Onion - small size, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Palm Sugar/ White Sugar
1 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Tumeric powder
1/4 tsp Nutmeg powder (freshly grounded)
1 tsp Black Peppercorns (freshly grounded)
125 ml Chicken Stock/Water
1.50 cm Fresh Ginger - peeled and sliced
2.50 cm Cinnamon stick
Extra Salt and Pepper to taste

Garnish: Onion Crisps, Spring onions or Coriander leaves.

1. In a large pan, dry fry the coriander, black peppercorns, cinnamon, cumin and cloves over medium heat until fragrant (it's very important not to burn your spices or you'll end up with bitter and burnt gravy.) Add in the tumeric powder and nutmeg powder. Give a quick stir to mix the spices thoroughly. Remove from heat. Grind in a food processor until fine. Set aside.
2. Blend the onion and ginger until smooth paste. Set aside.
3. Wash the chicken and cut into frying pieces. Put the chicken pieces in a deep pan or casserole. Sprinkle with salt and sugar. Toss the chicken pieces thoroughly (supposed to help release the juices in the chicken.)
4. Add in the grounded spices, onion and ginger paste and chicken stock/water. Mix well into the chicken pieces. Cook over medium heat for 40-50 minutes or until the chicken meat is tender and half the gravy evaporates.
5. Adjust the taste with salt and black pepper as needed.
6. Serve portions of chicken meat with gravy, on rice or as side dish.

Magadip - Madurese Aromatic Chicken Stew

Have you tasted before a recipe that has no chillies ...

See Magadip - Madurese Aromatic Chicken Stew on Key Ingredient.

Note: This recipe can be substitute with lamb and ostrich meat. Cooking time should be adjusted accordingly to the type of meat cuts or until the meat is tender. If the gravy evaporates too quickly, you can add extra 125 ml/ ½ cup of water. In this recipe I added some potatoes wedges which also thickened the gravy.

You can make the dry spices few weeks ahead. Make certain portions for each kilogramme or ½ kg. of meat. Let the toasted spices cool down. Grind into fine powder and keep it air-tight container or vacuum pack. Don't forget to label how many grammes that quantity of spice will give you and how many spoons you need for the amount of meat you use.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Stir-fried Chayote Greens With Brown Mushrooms In Miso

I was asked by my neighbour, if I seen or heard this 'Loong Sou Choy' aka 'Dragon Beard' . Ok, I know my Chinese dialects are rusty (I mean since Cantonese it's not my mother tongue) here but I knew what she's referring too. I told her that I bought some ( 2 bundles of 250 g each for less than 0.50 € !) because the price was very, very cheap at the local Tesco supermarket here and my family loves this vegetable. She's not sure of this plant that's why she didn't buy any when she saw at the fresh market. As I explained more to her about this 'Loong Sou Choy', she exclaimed that she bought 2 large 'Buddha's Palms' for soup (Chayote or as I called it 'Boxing Glove') and didn't know that these 2 vegetables are the same! Now, why farmers have to create confusion to end users like us? Buddha's Palm and Dragon's Beard??? Buddha's Palm hold by Dragon's Beard? Hmmm... I'm getting confused here as well :-D

Oh well... I have a 2/3 box of miso left and a box of nice Swiss Brown Mushrooms. I need to clear some space for tomorrow's grocery shopping and with heavy rain and storms predicted for next few days, I better stock up my fridge and pantry as well. Now, about this Miso paste, first time I tasted this product, it reminded me of Tau Cheo or Salted/Fermented/Preserved Soyabeans. This Salted Soyabean product is available in 3 versions - whole beans, coarsely chopped beans and finely chopped beans. I love the addition of Salted Soyabean paste in Ayam Pongteh - without it you will face the wrath of a Peranakan (Baba & Nyonya)!!! Without this magic paste, it's not Ayam Pongteh! :-D

With what I have, this is what came out from the pan... It sounded weird but it turned out very delicious though. There's no addition of salt or stock in this dish... :-) The Miso provides all that!

Stir-fried Chayote Greens With Brown Mushrooms in Miso
Serves 2-3

2oo g Chayote Greens/Shoots - wash & use only tender parts
1 small box Swiss Brown Mushrooms (or any mushrooms about 150 g)
2-3 cloves Garlic - minced
1 medium Carrot
1 Tbl Miso paste
Cooking oil
1/2 cup sake
1 cup water

1. Wash and trim off any hard stems and spoilt leaves. Trim short the tendrils if it's too long :-D Separate the leaves and tender stems and tendrils.Drain and set aside.
2. Clean the mushrooms and remove any grits. Slice into thin pieces or you can quartered them.
3. Wash and julienne the carrot into thin strips. Set aside.
4. Mix the miso with sake until smooth paste (Miso comes in thick paste so, you need to dilute it before usage.)
5. In a deep pan/ wok, add some cooking oil. When the pan is very hot, add in the minced garlic and stir until fragrant (but not burnt!). Add in the julienned carrot. Give a quick mix.
6. Add in the mushrooms; Mix well until slightly wilted.
7. Add in the stems and tendrils; stir quickly as we want the stems to cook evenly first. Then add in the tender leaves and young shoots. Mix throughly.
8. Pour in the water; This will reduce a bit the heat. Now, add in the miso and sake mixture. Give a quick stir because we don't want to destroy the goodness of miso. Stir the vegetables throughly. You can add extra water if you want extra gravy/sauce.
9. Dish out and serve as side dish or steamed hot rice.

Note: You can adjust the quantity of miso by add in half of the mixture first because miso is salty. Then you add in more if you like. For me, the amount I added into the sake mixture was enough for that quantity of vegetable and 1 cup of water used.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Yakigyoza - Japanese Pan Fried Dumplings

If you like Dim Sums, definitely you like gyoza dumplings. Regardless how you called it and from which country, there bound to be similarity! As for me, I don't bother which country created this delicious morsels first. It existed and I'm going to learn how to make it and eat all I could ☺. Seems that any Oriental household, the females in the family had been taught somehow at least one type of such dumplings be it Xiao Long Bao, Sui Gow, Siu Mai or Har Gow. Most of these dumplings are meat based like pork or beef but also seafood based like fish, prawns and vegetables.

I normally stashed some wrappers like Spring Rolls wrappers, Wonton or Gyoza wrappers in several shapes and sizes. It's a saviour for quick meal because you can make in advance dozens or hundreds of this dumplings with these wrappers and freeze them in portions for later use. One of my mom's friends taught us to dry left over Wonton wrappers and use it as broad, flat, squarish noodles in soups or stir-fries, like pasta. She always gave us bunches of it because she's a Wonton Noodle Seller ☺.
Yakigyoza - Pan Fried Dumplings

1 Packet Gyoza/ Sui Gow/ Pot Stickers Wrappers
(White opaque round pastries made from eggs and wheat)

2 tsp Sesame Oil
Some vegetable oil for cooking

For Fillings (Mix all into smooth paste):
100 g Chinese Cabbage - hard stems removed & finely chopped
150 g Minced Pork
100 g Chinese Flower Chives - hard stems remove and cut about 3" in length OR 2 stalks Spring Onions - finely chopped
1 tsp Finely Grated young/fresh Ginger
2 cloves Garlic - grated
1 tbl Thin Soya Sauce - Japanese brand like Kikkoman
3 tsp Sake
2 tsp Mirin
Generous Pinch White Pepper

Dipping Sauce:
80 ml Japanese Rice Vinegar (you can use Chinese Rice/Glutinous Rice vinegar)
8o ml Thin Soya Sauce
2 tsp Sesame Oil or Chilli Oil (S&B Chilli Oil/La Yu Oil)
Young Ginger - julienne thinly (optional-I like to add it into the soy sauce mix)

1. To make Dipping Sauce; put all ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine. Divide among smaller sauce dishes.
2. Wrapping - Lay a wrapper in your palm and put about 2 - 3 tsps of filling in the middle. Lightly dampen the edge of wrapper with water, then fold the edges together to form semicirlcle. Press firmly to enclose the fillings. Lightly dampen the curved edge of wrappers again, then overlap the edge to form pleats (you can watch a video here.) Put dumplings on a lined tray with Cling Wrap. Repeat the whole procedures again until finished. Refrigerator dumplings until ready to cook.

Note: For this recipe I skipped the pleating method for this time :-D I folded the wrapper into halves with the fillings in the middle as you can see in the picts. I learnt it from Harumi Kurihara's book - Harumi's Japanese Cooking. You can also add chopped fresh prawns into the filling which would made it tastes sweet and succulent. Sometimes I added in finely chopped Jicama or water chestnuts for extra crunch!

3. In a large non-stick frying pan over medium-heat. Put the dumplings in the pan in the pot, flat-side down, in single layer.
Cooked for 2 minutes or until bottom is crisp and golden. Combine 1/2 cup of boiling water (125 ml) with 2 teaspoon of vegetable oil and the sesame oil) then add to the pan. Cover, reduced heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes. Remove lid/pan cover, increased the heat to high and cook for about 10 minutes until the liquid has evaporated. Remove fried dumplings from the pan and drain on paper towel. Serve with the dipping sauce.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Okinawa Spinach (Handama) With Scrambled Eggs and White Sesame

I saw this 2-sided vegetable in the local supermarket and I had to buy it! The label/price label indicated it as 'Purple Spinach'. Hmmm... which I doubt so judging from the smell and the texture of the plant. Perhaps, a distant cousin of Popeye's favourite source of iron??? What attracted me to it was the iridescent purple color below the leaves and dark green on top of the leaves. The tangy taste of the thick leaves with a hint of bitterness, reminded me of Shungiku, Tang O/Tong Hao in Mandarin or Chrysanthemum Leaves. This edible Chrysanthemum Leaves frequently used in stir-fry, soup and omelette (my preferred choice as the eggs brings out the flavour.)

In Japan, this bicolour colored vegetable (pictures below) is called Handama, Suizenjigusa or Okinawa Spinach ( Gyunura Crepidioides) where you can find Okinawans in Japan (hence the name) planted this vegetable which acts as ornamental ground cover and edible plant! C'est une géniale idée! There are 2 varieties (a) Dark green on top and purple on the bottom (b) Brighter Green on both sides but has milder taste. For this gorgeous vegetable I cooked like Chan Coi with eggs but I added toasted sesame for extra texture. This vegetable is also delicious when eat raw in salad or with sambals to maximise the intake of its medicinal properties.

Bunch of Okinawan Red Spinach.

Closer look of the Handama or Okinawan Spinach. I love the colour purple on this plant.

Another similarity with this plant is the Chan Cai, Shan Tsoi, Slippery Vegetable, Poi or Malabar Spinach (It's not spinach but of Basellaceae family.) I had grown this Malabar Spinach (Red Stem) aka Tsuru Murasaki before from seeds in large rectangular boxes; there are 2 species - Malabar Green Stem and Malabar Red Stem. Keep the seeds when they are dried so that you can replant fresh batch. It's a fast thriving vegetable in warm/hot climates :-) You need to fix trellis around this plant to give support to the stalks... pity I don't see any Giant's castle above the clouds with golden goose because they were trimmed ✄ down to feed my stomach first! ☺

There's a warning though when you cook such vegetable, the beautiful purple/red color 'leaks' out into the juice or gravy and you won't see the color purple/red at all after cooking (pictured above ☹.)

Handama (Okinawan Spinach) With Scrambled Eggs and White Sesame
Serve 2-3

250 g Handama/Okinawan Spinach
2 nos Eggs
2 cloves Garlic - minced (optional)
1/2 pc Carrot - julienned
1 tbl Sesame Oil
2 tbl White Sesame Seeds - toasted until golden brown
1 cup Chicken Stock
Cooking Oil


1. Wash the vegetables; Discard any spoilt or wilted leaves - we use only the leaves, tender shoots and stems. Set aside.
2. In a wok/deep pan, heat some cooking oil until it's really hot; Add in the minced garlic, stir a bit to avoid burning. Add in the carrot and Okinawan spinach. Give a quick stir.

Note: Wok needs to be hot to achieve quick stir-fry process because we don't want to destroy the vitamins and if you cook too long, it will become mushy.

3. Make a hole in the centre of the wok, crack the eggs into the centre. When the eggs start to turn opaque, stir the mixture with spatula to break apart the cooked egg mixture (remember the wok is very hot, so you have to work fast.)
4. Pour in the chicken stock and stir to mx all the egg mixture with the vegetable.
5. Dish out on a serving plate. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top.
6. Spoon the sesame oil around the vegetable and serve hot.

Hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did... Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Stir-fry Gai Choi With Shiitake Mushroom and Salted Fish

There are several bitter and pungent vegetables that I love to eat like bitter gourd, chicon (Belgian Endive), and Gai Choi/Kua Chai is one of them. I can assure you, is like eating mustard instead of seeds, you're eating the fleshy and thick stems and pungent leaves. I also like wasabi... ☺ According to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), bitterness is good for cleansing gallbladder, liver, kidneys, etc.

This Chinese Mustard Cabbage appeared mostly in soups, stir-fries and pickled as salted mustard leaves. The size is very large... sometimes you can find as big as human head! One thing weird about this Mustard Cabbage was it has lots of holes which means ... worms, well, most of the time. I remembered my mom used to remind me to look for wriggles even after the vegetable washed. I don't know why but that's how most Asian people recognised this vegetable. Yep, no joke about it! I'm lucky the piece I bought as pictured here is clear of worms but still with holes here and there on the leaves! That's why is best to soak the leaves longer in water to get rid of this pest and also dirt. Usually, I will soak the leaves in warm water with vinegar for few minutes, rinsed and drained in a colander.

To cook this vegetable is quite easy... For soup, I used a whole head. I easily could finished that amount in one sitting but I tried to constraint myself from doing so ☺. For stir-fries, I usually use about 4 large outter leaves for 2 persons because the leaves emerged smaller as you peel towards the heart of the cabbage. So, you need to adjust the quantity accordingly.

Stir-Fry Gai Choi With Shiitake Mushrooms and Salted Fish
Serves 2-3

2-4 leaves Gai Choi (Chinese Mustard Greens)
4 pcs Dried Shiitake Mushrooms, soaked until soften & drained
10 g - 20 g Salted Fish (any type will do) (optional)
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 pc Carrot-julienned
Some Water or Chicken stock, about 1/2 - 1 cup (optional)
Oil for cooking
Salt to taste (optional)

1. Wash the Gai Choi leaves (Chinese Mustard Greens) thoroughly from grits and drained. Cut or tear into bite size pieces. Set aside.
2. Cut the softened Dried Shiitake Mushrooms into strips.
3. Rinse the Salted Fish from excess saltiness. Pat dry with kitchen papers. Sliced into small pieces of 5 cm,
4. Heat a wok/pan with some cooking oil. When pan is really hot, add in the minced garlic. Stir until fragrant.
5. Add in the Salted Fish and fry until it's golden brown and crispy.
6. Then the sliced mushrooms strips and julienned carrot. Stir for a moment.
7. Add in the Gai Choi, stir quickly and add in the Chicken Stock or Water. Let it simmer until the vegetable soften to your liking. * When I'm using salted fish or Chicken stock, I don't add any more salt. Adjust the taste accordingly.
8. Dish out and serve with rice.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Easy Crispy Garlic Coriander Rice

I missed eating Garlic Rice for unknown reason but with sore throat, my family advised me not to take too much fried food. I'm getting better now... thank you for all your get well wishes! I hope I won't get this problem for awhile since more festive seasons coming soon. I don't want to be left out... ;-) So, I thought why not using my pre-fried garlic crisps and add into boiled rice instead of frying the rice. I always fried some extra garlic or onion crisps and keep that for later use. The addition of coriander gives extra fragrant to this rice dish. Since, it's just add-on dish, I even mixed 2 extra types of herbs - Basil and Tumeric leaves :-) For the Tumeric version, I julienned fresh tumeric root and chiffonade the leaves. Just before serving, I add in the herbs and stir the rice well. Then I served the rice with Stir-fry Gai Choi with Shiitake Mushrooms and Salted Fish (as in the pic).

Easy Crispy Garlic Coriander Rice
Serves 2

1 cup Rice, washed & drained
2 tbl Olive Oil
1-2 tbl Minced Garlic
2-3 tbl chopped fresh Coriander Leaves


1. Cook the rice according to manufacturer's instructions. Keep warm.
2. Heat olive oil in another pan in medium heat. When hot, add garlic and stir fry until fragrant and golden brown - about 1 minute.
3. Remove pan from heat and stir in chopped coriander leaves.
4. Pour the garlic -coriander mixture into the freshly cooked white rice. Stir to mix well.
5. Serve garlic-coriander rice on it's own or as accompaniment to meat and other fish dishes.

If you want even faster, you can pre-fry the certain amount garlic crips in advance and bottled with the oil as well. When you need it, just add into rice or any dishes that you want. Besides Coriander, you can also use other herbs like Basil or Italian Parsley.

In this recipe, I used Basmathi rice. You can use Jasmine rice.


Tomato Chicken Stew

After a week of bad coughing, sneezes and lack of sleep, I really need something to perk me up. Something spicy and sourish yet doesn't hurt my sore throat (big grin), to get back to my usual self... I had to cook the deboned chicken breasts & drumsticks I bought before expired. My brain still shrouded with sleepy lambs as I typed this entry and I still need to finish the antibiotics... urghhh! Please excuse me if there's typo error... :-D Outside, it's raining heavily and windy since yesterday morning. I don't mind though... it helps to cool down the hot weather several days ago. After this, I'm going to make a cup of hot cocoa... hmmm... maybe a jug?

Tomato Chicken Stew
Serves 2-3

500 g Chicken, chopped into 5 cm pieces (or drumsticks/breast meats)
Pinch of Salt & Tumeric powder

1/2 cup Oil (for shallow frying)
2 nos Onions, sliced
1 small can Tomato Purée
2 nos Tomatoes, quartered
1 tbl Sugar or to taste
1 tbl Salt or to taste
Some Water

Spices (ground/blend finely):
6 nos Shallots
3 cloves Garlic
6-10 Red Chillies, seeded
1 pc Lemongrass (use the plump white portion only)
2 cm knob of Ginger, skinned

1. Rub chicken with a pinch salt & tumeric powder. Set aside.
2. Heat oil in a deep pan/wok over medium fire/heat. When hot, fry the chicken in batches for 5 minutes. Remove chicken, drain on kitchen papers and set aside.
3. In the remaining oil, stir-fry the ground spices until fragrant and oil separates - about 3 mins.
4. Add sliced onions and stir-fry until they start to soften - about 1 minute. Stir in tomato purée and bring to a boil.
5. Add chicken and mix well. Pour some water to cover the chicken by 3/4 (about 2 cups). Bring to a boil.
6. Reduce fire/heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add quartered tomatoes and continue to cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is tender and gravy is thick. Season to taste with salt and sugar. Garnish with chopped spring onions or coriander.

Notes: This is a Malay style stew. As with stews, it tastes better the day after. Prepare it a day ahead and warm up to serve. You can serve with rice, fried rice or even on pastas.
If you like really hot, you can replace the chillies with Dried Red Chillies but soak it first, remove the seeds and then ground/blend together with other spices.

Hope you like it... :-)

Tomato Chicken Stew

This is a mildly spiced Malay style stew. As with ...

See Tomato Chicken Stew on Key Ingredient.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

My First Award!!!

Oh my goshhh! I felt like an Academy winner or something :-D I couldn't believe it, really! Thank you so much to Ivy of Kopiaste To Greek Hospitality, a brilliant lady with scrumptious recipes and adventures, all the way from the country of my favourite composer Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, Mario Frangoulis, delicious food, frappé, kafe Elliniko and who will feed you until have to crawl home :-D Your award really made my day after almost 1 week my family were sick with sore throat, sneezes, aches, you name it. I even lost my taste in food after all the antibiotics, pills...argghhh. When I'm finally back in front of my laptop, I had to pinch myself when I read the message from Ivy. Your award made my blurgh ... arghhh ... medicine no longer tasted that bad now :-D I'm going to complete the antibiotic course too (big innocent grin). Now, about this award...

This Brilliant Weblog Award is given to sites and blogs that are smart and brilliant both in their content and their designs. The purpose of this award is to promote as many blogs as possible in the blogosphere.

The rules of this award are:

1. When you receive the award, post about it on your blog.
2. Name the blogger who gave you the award.
3. award the diamonds to seven (7) other bloggers.
4. Link to them in your post and ...
5. Let them know that you are passing this fabulous award onto them.

To spread this brilliant honor, I am awarding the Brilliant Weblog Award to the following bloggers in random order for their contributions and knowledge, not only for their love of food, cooking, creating/styling but also their quests to share the best places to enjoy the cuisines they loved. In addition to that, their links with the food also promotes the culture and heritage of their countries which is brilliant as well:

Tamami of Coco and Me
Nilmandra of Soy and Pepper

Such power of Internet that brought all of foodies around the world to unite as one for the love of food? :-D Until today, I'm still amazed each time I sit in front of my computer as if our world is inside my 2.75 cm x 32.5 cm x 22.7 cm ... c'est incroyable!

Thank you again to Ivy for the award. You really made my day!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Stir-fried Chayote Leaves With Prawns in Prawn Stock

First time I saw this plant years ago, I don't even know what's the name. There's no indication on the price label either. I only knew it's definitely edible and it's organic because it came from a reputable organic food supplier! Price? Real cheap... a bunch serves 2-4 persons. One day, I saw a staff of the organic farm arranging the shelves. I 'pounced' on her... well, not really but I did interrupted her work and asked her what's the name of the vegetable I'm holding in my hand. She asked me to wait so she could check with the staff of the supermarket. Huh? Gasped! "Excuse me??? Aren't you supposed to be a staff of the organic farm?" I asked. " Yes... but my job is only to arrange the produce on the shelves when the items reached the supermarkets. I don't know what's the name of this vegetable but the supermarket staff said it's from a pumpkin of some sort..." she replied.

Blunder!!! Sometimes, I don't know why there's no proper labeling of produce at supermarkets. Instead of printing the labels as 'Japanese Vegetables' or 'Vegetables 007', why not their correct name? I'm sure there are item descriptions in the invoices... Anyway, with a hunch I asked again, "Is this vegetable called Dragon's Beard ?" With her confused look, " I think so." Alright, to avoid more confusions, I thanked her and grabbed 2 packs of my 'vegetable 007'. I pitied her, really. How could a company being so ignorant of informing their staff their products? Furthermore, this vegetable is not 'Japanese Vegetables' but originates from South America! At least get the name right.

Close up of Chayote Leaves: Tight tendrils and spear-like leaves.

All that aside... this vegetable I'm so obsessed about is none other than edible leaves of Chayote (Cha-yo-tay). Chayote is known as Buddha's Hand Gourd' and the leaves are called 'Dragon's Beard or Whiskers' by Mandarin speakers. It sounds so fancy, exotic but with all the tendrils and spear-like leaves (after comparing pictures of Dragons of all sorts) it doesn't look any resemblance to any parts of dragon whewww!!! I like the look of the Chayote fruit though. Sometimes, it looks like boxing glove, a punched mouth of a puppet or a mouth without a denture...LOL! There are many ways of cooking the Chayote and its leaves.

Normally, I would stir-fry the fruit/gourd with dried shrimps, eggs and transparent noodles (cellophane noodles/ glass noodles/ mung bean threads)... just like hairy gourd (Fuzzy gourd/Mo Kwa). It's delicious in soups and desserts as well. As for the leaves, I preferred to stir-fry it with pounded chilli paste or sambal belacan with dried shrimps or fresh prawns. Sometimes, I would add fresh coconut milk to the chilli mix like Masak Lemak... :-D But today, I have to skip that idea because my guest is enemy to chillies! So, I just stir-fry the leaves with garlic, fresh prawns and some prawn stock which I made from prawn heads and shells I reserved from previous recipe.

Stir-fry Chayote Leaves with Prawns in Prawn Stock

2 packs of Chayote Leaves (about 300 g)
3 cloves garlic - minced
1/2 pc Carrot- slice thinly
100 g Fresh Prawns - peeled and deveined
300 ml Prawn Stock (you can substitute with chicken stock)
Shaoxing Cooking Wine
Some Kuzu starch/ Cornstarch mixed with a some water
Cooking oil


1. Wash and trim Chayote Leaves an discard hard stems. Trim the tendrils shorter if it's too long. We don't want to get choke here...:-D.
2. In a hot wok/pan, heat some oil and fry the garlic until fragrant.
3. Add in the prawns. Stir a bit until they turn slightly pink and cook evenly.
4. Add in the Chayote leaves.
5. Pour in the stock and stir evenly.
6. Cook until the vegetables are tender to your liking.
7. Add few dash of Shaoxing Wine.
8. Just before serving, pour in the starch mixture. Give a good stir until the gravy/sauce thickens to your preferred consistency.
9. Dish out and serve hot with rice. You may sprinkle some shallot crisps if you like.

Note: You can omit the starch mixture if you don't like thick gravy. It tastes just as great in plain. I preferred to use kuzu as thickener than cornstarch because when the dish is cold, the gravy doesn't turned watery. Also, it has no perceptible taste compared to Cornstarch.



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