Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thai Sweet Basil (Horapa)

Thai Sweet Basil or 'Horapa' is one of the common cultivar group of basil. It's a common herb used widely in Southeast Asia region especially in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It's easy to grow them from the cuttings you purchased off the supermarket shelves. Just soak the cuttings in some clean water and change the water every 2 -3 days until you can see some rootings protruding from the stems. Then you plant it in quality soil in pots or garden. I planted in large pots with organic soil by itself because they root very fast and  agressively just like Lemongrass. Their roots will 'choke' other plants so, it's advisable to let them have their own territory...To have more leaves, cut the flowers off before they bloom or you can add the flowers to your Thai recipes or salad -  the colorful pinkish-white flowers add another dimension to your dishes! By the way, different species of basil has different color of flowers, smell/fragrance and leaf textures. For example, the Basilicum that is common in Europe has white flowers and broad green, soft leaves and lesser anise taste compared to Southeast Asian varieties.

Here's one my pots of Thai Basil with it's flowers and green-purple leaves...

The tiny seeds can be made into Basil Seed drinks (Nam Mangklak) like Falooda or Sherbet/Sharbat, you can mix it with honey or Bubble Tea... I also like mine added to fresh coconut juice with a little bit of rose syrup. It's also a common remedy for fever or during hot season to cool down the body heat and aids digestion. Besides it's important usage in various cuisines and in essential oils, basil plays important role in cultural aspects of ancient civilisations, even today, it's highly regard in religions and beliefs...

Another FUN part is... the basil seeds looked like frog's eggs because the seeds became gelatinous when soaked in water with its' tiny black dot in the centre, wobbly,oogly... ok, ok, ok no more details... :-D

Oh, have a read of Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron and John Keats' narrative poem Isabella or The Pot of Basil

One thing for sure, basil is always welcome in my kitchen and its within reach means I can enjoy my favourite Basil dishes anytime I want... from simple sambal or salad to fried rice! The choices are endless...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Vietnamese Dinner @ Com Viet

The whole family recently went to a local Vietnamese restaurant advertised in a tourist magazine. It's a small place with about 6 tables (that can easily converted to 8-10 people sitting when added a portable round table top on the existing one.) This is the 3rd time we'd been there and we were quite amazed that even on week days, this place is full. Reservation is recommended. I haven't been to Vietnam except tasted their cuisine each time I'm back in Brussels at this Generation Restaurant. I'm not sure if this place still operates because the last time we were there, we overheard the owner wanted to retire. I discovered that Vietnamese food is light and uses a lot of herbs unlike the Thai version which I grew up with even though both cuisines use the same herbs and spices. 

I managed to snap some pictures with a borrowed compact camera before the food disappeared totally from the table.. :-D

Clockwise from Left-Right: Sorry for the partially eaten Bahn Xeo, Mapo Tofu (Vietnamese style?), Chicken Salad with Vietnamese Mint Leaves (Polygonum), Stir-fry Choy Sum with fresh Shiitake Mushrooms and Braised Duck with House Special Sauce served in claypot.

Now, some close up of the said dishes...

Chicken Salad with Vietnamese Mint Leaves

Stir-Fry Choy Sum with Shiitake Mushrooms

Bahn Xeo-Vietnamese Crepe

Braised Duck in House's Special Sauce

Crispy Apple Tart - Thinly sliced apples arranged into a Rosette on top of cream

Vietnamese Style Hot Coffee & Milk (Ca Phe Sua Nong) using a small Percolateur

Mmmmmmm... coffee & dessert - that's the way to end a lovely dinner :-D I also love their Lemongrass tea which is boiled with fresh ginger, lemongrass and sweetened with honey which you can order hot or cold. It's good for digestion and also breathe freshener after the meal :-P

Restaurant's Address:

Com Viet
119 Lintang Burma
10250 Pulau Tikus

Tel:+604-226 7285

Monday, April 14, 2008

Eryngii Mushrooms & Lily Buds

I simply love mushrooms… anytime of the year since it’s widely mass cultivated, they are easily available all year round. The first time I saw this mushroom at supermarket, it was called ‘Drumstick Mushroom’ which was wrongly labeled even though it looked a bit like skinless chicken drumstick. Nevertheless, mushrooms are delicious! In Europe such mushrooms are considered exotic and very, very expensive compared to Chanterelle or Cepe. Well, still can’t beat the price of Black Truffles aka Black Gold though … :-D
Nowadays, Eryngii mushrooms or Pleurotus eryngii ( also known as King Trumpet or King Oyster mushroom ) are easily found in local supermarket or fresh market - mostly imported from Korea. When I was in Athens, I had a simple grilled Pleurotus which is another species of this Pleurotaceae family called Pleurotus ostreatus. I had a plate all for myself…hehehehe! If not for the price, I would order more. It's also a vegetarian dish by itself.

Close up view of the Eryngii mushrooms... they sure live up to the name!

Just look at the size of Eryngii mushrooms to my hand! That's about 250 g ±

I also realised that this unique mushroom looks a bit like scallop when you cut into 1/2 to 1 inch thick rounds! I even got my hubby fooled because he's not into bivalve mollusk and any sea creatures that look weird (like Geoduck....ewwwww) with tentacles or slugs! He should see his face when I serve the dish I cooked with the special 'scallops' :-D

Here's a simple and fast recipe for a vegetarian dish with Eryngii mushroom and edible Lily buds. Fast, because that's the only 2 things left in my fridge until my next grocery rounds :-P 

One thing to remember is to heat up your pan or wok really hot for a quick stir-fry method. Also, this dish has fragile lily buds. If you stir to hard, the buds break apart, turned soggy or brown when cooking too long. I like my vegetables crunchy and even raw if needed.

Note: Edible Lily Buds; I'm not sure of this species I used-it has yellow-orange petals. Could be Day Lilies and it's seasonal. So far, that's the only species I found locally.

Stir-Fry Eryngii Mushroom with Lily Buds


200 g Lily Buds
100 g Eryngii Mushrooms
2 cloves Garlic
Cooking oil ( I used about 2 Tbl )
Soya Sauce/Tamari to taste
Oyster Sauce to taste - you can use also Vegetarian Oyster Sauce for vegetarians


1. Wash the lily buds under running water. Toss to dry. Clean the mushrooms with kitchen paper or a soft bristle brush to remove any grits. (I know some people wash mushrooms-it's their preferences. For me, I found that after cleaning with water before cutting makes them soggy and slippery.) Cut the mushrooms into 1/2 to 1 inch rounds.Put them aside.

2. Heat the pan/wok until it's very hot. Pour in the cooking oil. Add in the garlic and fry quickly until it's fragrant but not brown.

3. Add in the cut mushrooms; give it a quick stir. At this stage, you can add extra oil if you want if you feel it's too dry. 

4. Throw in the lily buds; becareful not to stir too hard because the buds are fragile. Stir too hard you may ended with broken buds instead of whole buds intact.

5. Splash a few dashes of soya sauce and oyster sauce to your taste; give another few stir and dish out to serve. 

You may add some Sesame Oil if you like before dish it out, to give the extra ooompph. In this recipe I used Kikkoman Special Fragrant Sauce. Not sure you can find that in Europe but it's easily to find in Asian countries. Still you can use tamari, Kikkoman All Purpose Soya Sauce or any soya sauce you fancy.

You can omit the garlic or add in slices  of onion if you want to. I thought I would use some carrots or tomatoes but can't find any lurking in my fridge; if not the dish would be colorful :-(

If you can't find edible lily flowers, you can replace it with any vegetables you love. Maybe throw in some fresh prawns, Surimi crab meat (imitation filament crabmeat made from fish meat) red chillies or capsicum? Yummmyy...

Chillies! Chillies! More Chillies!

Finally! After the long waiting (almost forgotten), my Cili Padi/bird’s eye chilli tree bloomed and fruiting-still! I’d thrown some over ripe chillies into one of my pots on the balcony after making herbal rice… 2 weeks later I noticed some growth from the spot where the chillies were. Of course, I was happy because if it’s successful it would be my 1st time planting chilli! By then, I had to remove most of the tiny plants and to maintain one healthy tree. I used organic fertiliser (as with my other edible plants) every 2 weeks and watered the plant every 2-3 days.I’d given quite a lot to my Scoville-frenzy neighbours and she’s still blooms happily :-)

Ripe and Unripe Bird's eyes chillies

Fully bloomed Bird's eyes flowers

This is one of the smaller bird’s eye chilli species compared to some varieties which can grow several 4-8 cm long. My chillies averaged about 2-3 cm long… which is 2 thumbs up!!!

Bird’s eye chillies also known in Thailand as Prik Ki Nu Suan… errrrr… Mouse Droppings Chilli??? I drank before Kopi Luwak… this Mouse Droppings chilli? Give me anytime… LOL! Bird’s eye chilli is a must-have in our house menu… You can add into Asian salads, curries, steamed seafood, vegetables,etc or like my mom, she would crushed bunch of them in our family favourite sauce - Budu or simply in bowl of light soya sauce mixed into hot plate of rice. Voila! Another meal tucked into tummy… mmmmmm… :-D Would you believe that there’s even a proverb about this chilli?

• Bird’s Eye Chilli in Malay and Indonesian proverb •

This chili is commonly found in Malaysian and Indonesian markets sold alongside the larger chili. As the small chili turns out to be hotter than the larger counterpart, this often surprises people that don’t expect such a small chili would pack a very hot taste. This is the source of the Malay proverb “Kecil-kecil cili padi” and Indonesian proverb “Kecil-kecil cabe rawit”, which refers to something small in size or stature that contains something unexpected for its size.


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