Homemade Vegan Chinese Wonton 自制素饺子/ Tofu and vegetables dumplings

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I have made many dumplings before but never a vegan one. And sometimes when the quality of meat was not good, the taste really does put off your appetite. And I wondered, why do we try so hard to cover the unpleasant ‘meaty’ taste, and not just make it vegetarian? So I did a test, and it turned out so great that even my non-vegetarian husband and sister loved it! And I see no reasons to make these dumplings with meat anymore in the future again. Win win, yeah!

It’s so easy that you wouldn’t believe, and you can make it two ways: boil or deep-fried like the normal ones. But here I’m going to show you my special trick that is healthier, still got the same crispy wonton edges. Instead of frying them in big pot of oil, I baked them, which I could control the amount of oil i brush on top, therefore a healthier option. 😉

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Ingredients:

1/2 pack wonton wrappers

1 pack tofu, crumbled

1 tbsp minced ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 spring onion, minced

1 carrot, peeled and grated

1 dl sweet peas

coriander, chopped (optional)

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp potato flour

1/2 tbsp Shao Xing wine

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp salt

Dash of white pepper

Methods:

  1. Defrost wonton wrappers completely, preferably in a fridge for a day or in room temperature for a couple hours.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together in a big bowl. Place halve a tablespoon of filling onto a wonton wrapper, close the edges completely by pressing with your fingers. Repeat until all the filling is used.

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To get boiled wonton:

Bring water to boil. Add 1 tsp of salt and oil, boil wontons for about 2 minutes or until they are floated on the water. Take them out with sieve and serve with soy sauce, dark Chinese Chinkiang vinegar and julienned ginger.

To get ‘deep fried’ / baked wonton:

Preheat oven to 200 ºC. Place wonton on an oiled baking sheet, brush each wonton lightly with oil and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Serve with Thai sweet chill sauce or mayonnaise.

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I personally like the boiled wontons better. They are more juicy and I simply love vinegar. The baked/ deep fried ones are good too. You know, crunchy texture and more fragrant. Try them yourselves. It’s great for parties. 🙂

My first dish as a 13 year old/ Simple egg fried rice

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I remember that I found a big bowl of leftover cooked rice in the rice cooker when I was home alone, hungry. Suddenly I felt so determined that I wanted to make food for myself. I was 13 and have never cooked in my life before. But during that time I have seen enough Hong Kong TV shows that teach people how to cook at home, and there was this particular dish called ‘golden fried rice/ 黄金炒饭’ which has brought many awards to the main character in the TV shows. His secret of the perfect fried rice is to make sure that every rice grains is coated with eggs, which are fried in a highly heated wok until they started to jump at the edge of the wok pan. So that every single rice grains is separated and firm that gives a nice flavour of egg and texture to the dish.

I’ve got so inspired and determined just out of a sudden. I was literally shivering while lighting up the gas stove as it was my first time. But somehow magic happened, I made the perfect fried rice! The process was smooth and trouble-free. I didn’t know that my fried rice was good until all my cousins came home and ate it and then wondered who has made it. They could not believed that it was me since I have never cooked. But one thing is for sure that I have got some talents as a 13 year old. 😉

Through years I have learned to make many types of fried rice. Basically it is like making spaghetti, you can put whatever you want with it. But I have found out that the best ones are those with the simplest ingredients. And this recipe is really easy that even a 13 year old can do. It is almost exactly the same recipe like I did back then except this time I have added broccoli and chilli to give some colours. 😀

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Ingredients:

400g overnight cooked rice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, sliced

2 Chinese sausage / Vegan sausage, sliced (optional)

2 organic eggs

4 tbsp good quality soy sauce

1/2 tsp white pepper

100gram broccoli florets (optional)

Methods:

1) Heat up 2 tbsp of peanut oil in wok pan, fry garlic until golden brown. Add in sausage, onion, broccoli and stir-fry for a couple of minutes.

2) Add in rice, break to separate it gently and mix well with all the ingredients inside the wok. Make a well in the middle and break in the eggs. ( Make sure to turn the heat to the highest) Stir very quickly to coat all the rice grains with eggs.

3) When you see that the rice has absorbed all the moisture of the eggs, gradually stir in the soy sauce and white pepper. I added 2 tbsp at a time to avoid getting the rice too moist. Taste accordingly to your preference by adding more or less soy sauce.

3) Stir fry for another 5 minutes or so until the rice grains are ‘jumping’ at the edge of the wok pan because of the high heat. Make sure that happens in order to bring a little taste of the ‘wok’ as so we say, or the taste of burn to make it a perfect fried rice. When it looks done, serve immediately. Top with chilli or spring onions if you like.

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Childhood memories of Lantern Festival / Piglet Biscuits (猪笼饼)

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Have you heard of lantern festival? A day when you might see Chinese children carry colourful lanterns, light up candles while the adults gather together and share a pot of tea with mooncakes? Well, I haven’t seen anything like that since I moved to Finland. Back then when I was little, lantern festival was one of the best days in my childhood.

I have the clearest memory when my sister and I were about 7-9 years old. Our primary school held DIY lanterns competition every year. A few days before that, we would run to a soft drinks shop next door and buy its ‘seasonal products’ like lanterns-making materials, and make our own lanterns with those shiny, colourful papers with glue and wires. We were pretty smart back then. I don’t remember much but I’ve always made a chicken lantern. I guess I only knew the shape of a chicken well since we always had chickens in our farm house. Not only lanterns, my sister and I also experienced making our own kites that flew high in the sky! It was so exciting!

About 300 meters away from my grandmother’s house (where I grew up) there is a Chinese temple called 三神庙 (Three gods temple). Each year there would be all kinds of celebration happening and so as lantern festival. Nearly all of the kids in the village, maybe even outside the village would come here together with their lanterns. If I remember right, there was like 100 kids or more. All of us held our lanterns with a bamboo stick, gathered as a giant circle along the basketball field located at the Chinese temple. Everybody waited for the classic song to play, which is 传灯, the direct translation is ‘to pass on the light’, meaning to pass down our culture to the next generation. When the song is played, we walked slowly in a clockwise circle, carefully held our bamboo stick so that the lantern wouldn’t fall, all the way until the song ended. (We supposed to sing a long too but I’ve never learned the lyrics at such age) And the most important part was when the ceremony ended, all of us would be getting a piglet biscuit as reward, and to me it was the best part of all!

Later on, the adults would be setting up the praying ceremony at home. There was a table in the front yard, where there would be mooncakes, fruits, tea and sometimes roasted chicken or pork. And the adults would light up some incense sticks, which is believed that the smoke raised up in the air carried the prayers to the gods. On the other hand, the children would be lighting up more lanterns all over the yard. We also loved to light up all the leftover candles that we had everywhere around the house. The night of lantern festival was one of those very few nights we’re allowed to stay up late.

It was so amazing. Too bad I don’t think our children would ever experience anything like that in the future, by the time when we have one.

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Golden syrup, recipe as below.

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(Make 19 piglet biscuits)

Recipe referred to Hong Kitchen

(You would need a mold for this dish)

Ingredients:

500g Flour

380g Golden syrup*

120ml Peanut oil

1 tbsp Alkaline water

1 Egg york

Methods:

1) Mix all the ingredients together (except the egg york) until it forms a smooth dough. Cover with cling wrap and let it rest in room temperature for at least 2 hours.

2) Divide the dough into 19 small parts, about 35g each.

3) Dust some flour on the mold (to prevent sticking), press the dough in and flatten the surface. Turn it around and then gently beat it out from the back side of the mold. Repeat until all the dough is used.

4) Place all the piglet biscuits on a baking sheet, bake in 160 celsius oven for 15 minutes. Take it out and brush the biscuits with beaten egg york. Bake for another 10 minutes in the oven.

5) When it is done, take it out from the oven, let it cool completely. Store them in container. Let it rest for at least 3 days before serving.

PS: I know. This is weird but it really works like this. You need to let the biscuit to ‘mature’ for at least 3 days until it is eatable, otherwise they are hard as rocks. I wanted to cheat but it was really not eatable on the first or second day, you can feel it with your fingers. But after 3 days, the biscuits have softened and developed this beautiful, syrupy aromas that make them so irresistible! It really tastes like the one I got back home.

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This is the same golden syrup to make traditional Cantonese mooncakes.

*Recipe for Golden Syrup 转化糖浆

(Make just enough for this piglet biscuits recipe)

Ingredients:

400g Sugar

200ml Water

50ml Fresh lemon juice

Methods:

1) In a saucepan, add sugar and water, stir and bring to boil. Add lemon juice and bring to boil again. Turn the heat to the lowest.

2) Let the syrup to cook at low heat for about 45 minutes to 1 hour (without stirring it). When the syrup becomes dark brown in colour and its density is similar to honey, remove from heat. Let it cool completely then store in a clean, air tight jar.

PS: It is suggested to let the golden syrup to ‘mature’ for a certain time before using it, e.g. the longer the better it brings out the aroma, like wine. This golden syrup could keep well in room temperature for up to a year. 

My beautiful, lovely Grandmother/ 外婆的咸肉粽/ Glutinous Rice Dumpling Wrapped in Bamboo Leaves

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I only started to appreciate traditions and festival foods after I came to live in Finland, a place that has winter more than 6 months, celebrates to the midnight sun during the summer that lasts no longer than 2 months. It is clearly different than where I came from, Malaysia. As Malaysian Chinese, we carried out many practices originated from China. Some food and cultures have been also created only in Malaysia partly influenced by the Malay, Indian and European cultures. To name, black pepper crabs, pork ribs in herb tea, fish head curry are becoming some of those signature dishes of Malaysia.

This dish I’m introducing today is one of those festival dishes originated from China. Making glutinous rice dumpling or ‘Zongzi’ in Chinese, during the Dragon Boat Festival remains one of those practices carried on from generation to generation. There is a nice story about the history of making glutinous rice dumpling. You may go ahead and google, all I will tell you is that this dish was supposed to be for fishes not human. 😀 Well, now it does not sound as tempting anymore, does it? No worries, this is not the same anymore compared to how it started. It is safe to be consumed by human and super delicious!

My grandmother, who I love to death used to make Zongzi every year. She would make countless bundles of these and hang them everywhere under the ceiling to cool. We always have too many Zongzi and enough to hand out some to the neighbours and relatives, it made me so proud. My grandmother used to have all the energy for it. But she stopped doing all these fun stuffs after she got that terrible stroke that made her body half paralysed. Before that she used to be out going, travelling to China, playing Ma Jong everywhere, running after me with bamboo stick real fast. I have been really sad to see that terrible change in her life. For over 20 years, she has been hiding from the society in her empty house, avoid meeting relatives and feeling ashamed of how she looks, not capable to walk properly. When me and my Finnish husband got married, I was excited to bring him back to the village I grew up in Johor Bahru and to meet my grandmother. I remembered while this white guy walked into her home, my grandmother immediately said that, ‘Oh no… there is nothing to see here, I’ve got nothing to show in my house, I’m a shamed!’

Should have correct her immediately that she is the only one and the most beautiful thing to be seen in that empty house.

I tried to call her every week and if not, I feel guilty and regret that I didn’t. Too bad there is a thing called time zone differences in the world. It makes it rather difficult to reach her before her bedtime. I’m sure my grandma would be very proud of me for making these rice dumpling all by myself. Oh well, my sister helped a little. 😉 I can’t see but next time when I tell her this, I’m sure she will be smiling like this.

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I did not realise that Popo, my grandmother looks much older than the picture in my head. 😦 Last phone call she said that she has a reason to feel happy again because she heard my voice. (Cried…)

Here is to my Popo, my beloved grandmother.

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(Make 50-60 bite sized Zongzi)

WARNING! THIS IS A VERY COMPLICATED AND TIME CONSUMING DISH!

Ingredients A:

1 kilo Glutinous rice

400g Peeled split mung bean

200g Dried chestnut

200g/ 1/2 pack Dried bamboo leaves

15-20 pieces Dried shiitake mushroom

4 Tbsp Oyster/Mushroom sauce

4 Tbsp Seseme oil

4 Tbsp Soy sauce

2 Tbsp Deep fried shallot (optional)

Several salted duck eggs (optional)

Plastic stings or hemp, cut into 50cm long and tight into bundles (I used wool thread :-P)

 

Ingredients B for Carnivores:

500g Pork belly, cut into biteable cubes

100g Dried Shrimp (optional)

2 cloves Garlic, minced

2 Tbsp Oyster sauce

1 Tbsp Soy sauce

1 Tbsp Dark soy sauce

1 Tsp 5 spice powder

 

Ingredients C for Vegetarians:

300g Seitan, cut into biteable cubes

150g Peanut, soaked in water (Can be replaced by canned peanut)

50g Chinese preserved kale/ vegetable (optional)

2 cloves Garlic, minced

2 Tbsp Mushroom sauce

1 Tbsp Soy sauce

1Tbsp Dark soy sauce

1 Tsp 5 spice powder

 

Methods:

1) (Ingredients A) Soak glutinous rice, peeled split mung bean, dried chestnut, dried bamboo leaves and dried shiitake mushroom in water separately overnight. Washed and drained. Mix glutinous rice and mung bean together with 2 tbsp oyster/mushroom sauce, 2 tbsp sesame oil and 2 tbsp soy sauce and deep-fried shallot in a bowl. Set aside.

2) Heat up oil in wok pan, stir fry mushroom and chestnut separately with the rest of the sauces, place also separately.

(The reason to place ingredients separately is to make sure that you get a piece of everything wrapped into every rice dumplings one by one.)

For Carnivores (Ingredients B):

2) Fry pork in oil with garlic, add oyster sauce, soy sauce, dark soy sauce and 5 spice powder until cooked. Meanwhile, toast dried shrimp in hot pan with a little bit of oil until fragrant. Set aside.

For Vegetarians (Ingredients C):

2) Fry seitan in oil with garlic, add in mushroom sauce, soy sauce, dark soy sauce and 5 spice powder and mix well. Meanwhile toast peanut with a little bit oil and salt. Set aside.

3) To make a rice dumpling, placed 2 bamboo leaves together horizontally and put both ends together to make a pocket. Put in 1 tbsp of rice-mung bean filling, add one piece of everything on top: mushroom, chestnut, pork/seitan, peanut, some Chinese preserved kale (optional) and salted duck egg (optional). Top up more rice-mung bean filling to cover up. Fold the leaves to closure, wrap the dumpling tightly with strings.

4) Cook rice dumplings in a deep cooking pot with enough water that covers them. Add 1 Tbsp of salt. Bring to boil, turn the heat to medium low, cook the dumplings for 4 hours. Enjoy as breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner.

I froze most of the dumplings in freezer and whenever I feel like it, I take it out and steam it for 10-15 minutes. I have let my Finnish, Chinese and Russian friends tried too, some said that one is definitely not enough! 😀

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It is important to tight the rice dumpling well and firm in order to prevent leaking during cooking process. FYI, 2 of mine leaked.

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 Here is my vegetarian version of Zongzi.

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With a pressure cooker, it only takes 40 minutes to cook the glutinous rice dumpling (Zongzi) ready.

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There are many ways to wrap a rice dumpling. Be creative and make your own style! No stress.

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If you may wonder, the main flavour of this dish comes from the fragrance of the bamboo leaves: woody, tea like aromas, hard to describe, very unique indeed!

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 Now you may understand why I think my Popo would be proud of me for making this dish. 😉

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Stir-fried Mushrooms in Ginger & Sesame Sauce 麻油姜片炒杂菇

IMG_4404 Okay, to me it is like the easiest and yet delicious Chinese dish on earth. It’s irony how I’ve turned out to be a mushroom lover. Looking back on how I used to hate them a lot. To make me eat mushrooms, my mom has played some tricks. Once she spent half a day in stuffing those shiitake mushrooms with minced meat and braised them in some fancy gravy, I was still not impressed by them. And now that I have become a grown-up, I got so easily excited of mushroom: mushroom stir-fry, mushroom in soup, stuffed mushroom with blue cheese, grilled mushroom…All the legal things about them. 🙂

This dish is inspired by my cousin Joan, who also inspired me of singing as well. Joan used to be known as the best singer in town. I used to hum along at the background while she did her practicing. Trying not to make too much sound that anyone could ever notice me, because I just wasn’t good enough. But hey, time flies. I’m happy that I’ve got to be on the stage in front of everybody and sing my lungs out every now and then. It feels good!

Anyway, Joan has made this dish to me right about 13 years ago. Yes, I remember because it was so delicious that I could not forget. But her version includes chicken and chicken powder which I skipped this time. You should definitely make this dish if you like mushroom or ginger.

(Serve 2)

Ingredients:

300g Fresh Mushroom (I used King and Oyster)1 tbsp Ginger, julienned

1 tbsp Oyster/ Mushroom sauce

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine

1tsp Sesame oil

Dash of White pepper

1tsp Potato flour

100ml Water

 

Methods:

1. Clean mushrooms with damn cloth or wash if you prefer, cut into edible size.

2. Heat up 2 tbsp oil in wok pan, add in sesame oil and ginger. Fry until the ginger turn golden brown.

3. Add in mushrooms, oyster/mushroom sauce, Shaoxing wine and white pepper. Stir-fry for a few minutes until mushrooms are soft and cooked.

4. Mix potato flour with water, slowly stir-in the wok pan. Stir fry until the gravy is boiling and formed. Serve with rice.

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I personally like this dish to be quite mild with simplicity. But I think some of you might want to add a dash of salt, as you wish.

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For all the mushroom lovers<3

The Idea of Meatless Monday for Finns / Fried Long-life Noodles with Seitan

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You may not know because I haven’t told you yet, I have turned from a waitress/host to a chef for a few weeks now for my sister’s hotel HUONE . It has been fascinating, thrilling and a little tiring. But I was surprised by just how much I love cooking, in a way that working does not feel like work anymore. Sometimes I feel like I have been cooking all the time, which is the truth anyway. But it does not feel bad at all.

I have been enjoying a lot especially from receiving compliment from my customers. Since I started cooking in HUONE, no food has been going to waste, period! 😉 I felt moved every times when I saw those empty plates coming back to the kitchen representing ‘plates licking good’! It has been a rewarding job, a place to be creative, versatile and challenging which I really enjoy. I think I am just the kind of person who simply cannot cope with repetition and homogeneous life.

‘I think’.

The only minus from my work is that I’m cutting and cooking a lot of meat. You know what, it really doesn’t make me feel good. Raw meat smells nasty to me, I feel kind of guilty of cooking them, as if were killing lives. The smell of raw beef is worse, imagine those blood on my hands and knife … But this is my job, to cook and serve to the customers. I’m glad that I’m not a butcher though. Is there a way you could think of?

I have been doing some thinking, what if I serve vegetarian food like out of request? What if I make it tastes so good that nobody would actually realize? Is it possible? Then I tested it on last Monday since they call it Meatless Monday. I was trying to make it sounded good, Pumpkin and Chickpea Curry with Minced Lime Leaves for our buffet lunch. But the thing is, my customers were not happy when they heard the word ‘vegetarian’. To be exact, they had their lips curved downwards after they heard what they have for lunch. They liked the food though, that what they said. No food was going to waste still. But it bothers me because I knew that they didn’t enjoy it, especially men, those Finnish macho men ( no offense guys!). I was told that in Finnish culture, the term ‘vegetarian’ in menus sounds cheap, because it is always the cheapest option. Moreover, for some reasons people tend to assume that they will not get full with vegetarian food, which is not true. Well I think it definitely makes people feel lighter compares to meat dishes.

Am I supposed to convince myself that the concept is not working in our hotel? Shouldn’t I apply my own values and ethics onto my customers? Should I respect the food preference of Finns and just cook what they expect from their lunch, and keep the idea of vegetarianism to myself? You know I have a dream of having a vegetarian Asian restaurant in Helsinki one day. Is it going to happen?

Well, if you have something to say, let me hear your voice. Or should you have some great recipes, share me yours. So that I could test it to my customers on Monday!

Back to the recipe. Last time I promised to share you a recipe with seitan.(Sorry it took so long I’ve been busy!) It is really easy, just add it in noodles, or anywhere to replace meat in meat dishes. Lately I have felt in love with this ‘long-life’ noodles or Yi Mein. Hmm, they are so so good! To me they are best with just fried shallots and a dash of salt. Perfect! Simply irresistible. But today I’m making one that is heavier in taste. Here you go.

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(Serve 2)

Ingredients:

100g Dried long life noodles

100g Seitan

100g Broccoli, chopped into bite size

2 Garlic cloves, minced

2-4 shallots, thinly sliced

1 Chili, sliced (optional)

2 tbsp Soy sauce

1 tbsp Dark Soy sauce

1 tbsp Oyster /Mushroom sauce

1 tbsp Sesame oil

1 tsp Sugar

Dash of white pepper

 

Methods:

1) Boil water in pot, add in some oil and salt. Cook noodles according to instruction or until soft. Drain and set aside.

2) Heat up oil in wok pan, fry shallot until golden brown and fragrant. Add in garlic and seitan. Add oyster/ mushroom sauce and mix well.

3) Throw in broccoli, stir-fry until cooked. Add in noodles and the rest of the ingredients. Stir-fry until everything is well mix. Serve with optional chopped spring onion or coriander.

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I was pretty happy because I made this dish for my brother in law and my sister, they were very surprised and impressed just how good this seitan tasted! In fact my sister asked me to make her another seitan dish the other day. They actually apprecited this type of vegetarian food. You must try and cook this sometimes if you want to get high protein source from your food. Well and again, not for gluten intolerant friends.IMG_4382I don’t really know why this noodles are called long-life or longevity noodles, but it is a dish that we eat during birthdays, Chinese New Year or weddings, since the name represents ‘long-life’,  it acts as a wish to bring the fortune and luck to live longer life to someone. And it tastes good. Win win.

🙂

Grandmother’s Prawns with Green Chili /回家过年咯/ Ready for Chinese New Year

IMG_3381It’s been awhile since I wrote last time. Guess what, I finally finished my thesis! 78 pages, I’ll be graduating and getting my Bachelor’s degree in March. 😀 FINALLY!

And right after I finished my thesis, I flew back to my home country Malaysia. It’s been 7 years since I last spent Chinese New Year with my family. Like celebrating Christmas, Chinese New Year is a big deal to the Chinese people. During these times, we eat, laugh, talk or actually scream like all the time. Chinese New Year lasts 15 days, you have to have and wear everything clean and new especially on the first few days. Therefore when we got here to Malaysia, my sister and I spent the first couple of days shopping for new clothes, and bought all kinds of food ingredients. It is because people in Malaysia have 6-7 public holidays during Chinese New Year. Shop owners particularly the Chinese people close their shops or stop working for at least a few days, some even rest for 2 weeks. It is a must to travel home and eat ‘Tuan Yuan Fan’ meaning re-union dinner with your family. I was so happy, because after 7 years, I finally made my way home for re-union dinner! My little sister said that this year the atmosphere of Chinese New Year is very strong, just because we are all here celebrating with them… I’m touched, I should make my decision that I will go home for re-union every year. I only need to apply my holiday from work a year before then.

Long story short, my mom asked me to cook since I had the guts to run a food blog publicly. Well, I have to show my skills and prove it to her in reality. So I did. This time I’m making my Grandmother’s own recipe, prawns with a lot of green chilies, my sisters’ favourite. My mom also gave praise for it. And I’m sharing this family’s recipe with you, I hope you will like it! 恭喜发财 Gong Hei Fat Choi!

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Ingredients:

500g Prawns, keep shells

15-20 Green chilli, halved and seeded

4 Medium size onion, sliced

2 tbsp Fermented bean sauce

2 tbsp Soy sauce

2 dl Water

1 tbsp Sugar

1 tbsp Shaoxing Wine

1 tsp Chicken powder

Methods:

1. Cut vertically from the back of the prawns and remove the intestinal track of the prawns, washed and set aside.

2. Heat up oil in wok, put in sliced onion and green chilli, stir-fried for 3-4 minutes until fragrance.

3. Add in prawns, and stir-fry until cooked. Add in fermented bean sauce, soy sauce, sugar, shaoxing wine and chicken powder. Mixed well. Add water, cover with lid and let it simmer for a few minutes.

4. Open the lid, stir-fry until most of the liquid drys up/absorbed by the dish. Turn of heat and serve.

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Just if you are wondering, that one sausage was not supposed to be there! 😀 My mom found some left overs… On this day we decided to eat ‘less fancy’ because the next day is the Chinese New Year Eve when we eat our lungs out!

IMG_3421On the Chinese New Year Eve, we were all too busy cooking, eating and having so much fun. I did not care much to take pictures of cooking nor paying any attention in writing down the measurements. Therefore unfortunately I am not sharing out any recipes from the actual day dishes. But we ate well, enjoyed and were really joyful. If you haven’t noticed, we were all in red. 🙂 (Except our new born baby- Enso) Red represents good luck, and number 8 that means good fortune. If you meet any Chinese people in the next 14 days, you should wish them ‘Gong Hei Fat Choy in Cantonese or ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’ in Mandarin. If you are single and not married, you can expect an Angpao or Lai si from an elder Chinese, which is a red pocket that has money inside that will bring you good fortune for the start of the year. 😀

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马年行大运!

Golden Pumpkin Rice/ 金瓜饭/ Living in a busy life

 

IMG_3209Halloween is coming, pumpkins are everywhere to be seen. Is it the same in all countries? I love seeing pumpkins, not only that I wish to know how to carve them and put candles inside them, they also remind me very much of Cinderella. You know, when the fairy flicked her magic wand and turned a pumpkin into a beautiful, glamorous carriage, and then Cinderella went to the castle with that and met her Prince Charming. And as you know eventually they live happily ever after. I know It sounds childish which I admit, but this story always make me feel like: Awww… I want that too. I know that it is never going to happen to me unless you are Kate Middleton, well literally. And in real life, it’s simply impossible to have a little tiny fairy to turn a pumpkin into a carriage. Very disappointing. I would really like to blame Disney for lying to all the innocent children out there, for letting them to believe in stories and things that do not exist. Sadly but truly this world is not as wonderful as we were told, and animals are not friends, most of us eat them. I’m thinking that it might be a bad attempt to over protectively keep children inside the ‘wonderful world’ bubble and away from the reality. They will then face too many bad surprises when they grow up.

Well, we all grew up just fine. Maybe it is just best to let them enjoy the perfect childhood when good people and heroes always win and bad people will always be punished. At least the believe itself is beautiful. 🙂

Back to the pumpkins. They are not just for decoration and their seeds. See? You can make a super delicious meal like this one, which my mom taught me. Translated directly from Chinese, it is called Golden Pumpkin Rice. My mom used to make this dish back then. I remember many times a row she did not succeed and accidentally turned the pumpkin rice into a pumpkin porridge. But, it tasted still really good. Pumpkin itself is sweet and has a unique fragrance, together with the flavor of sauté shallot and the sweetness from juicy paprika. Man! I’m in heaven! Guess what, this time I managed to make it perfect! My god, it tasted so good, the texture is there, the flavor is there and the nutrients are there. I kept telling my sister and my mom so proudly and kept explaining how great it was when the flavor lingered in my mouth. You have no idea. You simply cannot describe. It was so good that I must squeeze out time from my busy life and share this recipe with you!!

Warnings:

I’m gonna take it a bit slower now with my blog, as some of you might probably be wondering already. If you are here only for the recipe, scroll down please. 🙂

I started this blog as a thesis project for my bachelor degree, and I’m about to graduate at the end of this year. The thing is, my full-time job is getting busier now, at the same time with my band we are making new materials for our next album, my blog is also taking a bit too much energy from me… On top of that I just moved to a new home, my mom came to visit to Finland for 2 months, my sister is delivering a baby next week. I’m so out of myself. In fact, (if you are still reading) I had some sort of panic/ stress disorder last week and needed to go to the doctor. Well as expected, too much is too much. So I’m going to slow down my pace a little and try to prioritize what I do. I thank my followers and WordPress.com for bringing me such great attention every now and then. It makes me so excited and I don’t wanna stop! So I promise you, whoever are still reading this, I will write for you. 😉

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Ingredients:

400g Diced pumpkins

200g Shrimps ( omit for vegetarian& vegan)

6 Shallots, thinly sliced

6 Shiitake, diced

1 Red Paprika, diced

2 Spring Onion, diced

2 cups/ 320g Raw rice

1 tbsp Soy Sauce

1 tbsp Black soy sauce

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp White pepper

4 cups/ 640 ml Broth/ Vegetable stock

Methods:

1) Heat up 2 tbsp of oil in wok and fry shallots until brown and fragrant. Add in diced pumpkins, shrimps, shiitake and stir fry until the pumpkins are cooked/ soften.

2) Add in rice, paprika, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, salt and pepper. Mix well.

3) IF YOU HAVE A RICE COOKER: Add in 1 cup/160ml of broth or vegetable stock and stir-fry for a couple of minutes. Turn off heat and put everything into the rice cooker. Add the remaining 3 cups/ 480ml of stock and cook it through. Stir once when the rice is done and keep warm for 5 minutes.

IF YOU DON’T HAVE A RICE COOKER: Add in all the broth or vegetable stock and bring to boil. Keep stirring to prevent sticking from the bottom. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, cover with lid and let it steam for 20 minutes.

4) Serve with chopped spring onion/ fried onion.

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I will be back!

Wish me luck for my thesis.

Oh yes, Happy Halloween to you! 🙂

Penang Char Kway Teow/ 素食炒粿条/ Fried flat rice noodle

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Char Kway Teow is said to be a dish symbolizes the Chinese people who came to Malaysia in the very beginning from the South of China. It is a street dish tossed with high heat and it generates high turnovers, like the hard-working Chinese people. It is true that these Chinese people are everywhere around the world. You see, every corners I’ve been, there are always Chinese restaurants somewhere, no matter if they are selling sweet & sour , thai food or sushi. They are all very hard-working business people. They go everywhere around the globe to look for opportunities.

As I said a thousand times before, I love noodles. Char Kway Teow is rice noodles coated with soy sauce, garlic and most importantly, packed with a strong, burned ‘wok’ flavor. Just like a perfect plate of fried rice, you got to have the ‘wok’ taste in it then you can call it right. You know, those that you might have gotten from the best restaurant in town. To get the ‘wok’ taste, it’s all about the ‘woking’. You’ve got to have your wok steaming hot and stir it real fast. With my home stove, the ‘wok’ flavor I managed to get was from the slightly bit of burning, and yet it is not the same like the one from the street back home. Unless you have a really big fire and a steady wok pan, you must let it burn a little in order to get there.

Char Kway Teow is a popular dish favored by all ages, always. Back home, you can get one steaming hot portion of Char Kway Teow with 50cent, maximum 1 Euro. The street hawker always ask: ‘With or without chili?  With or without eggs? With or without clams?’ Anyway it is just as good, so easy! If you have a super good, well heated stove at home, even only the dark soy sauce will do it perfect. It is not difficult to make, and it still tasted so good on the next day from the microwave. 🙂 What an efficient dish!

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Note: For a more authentic version, add some shrimps in and if you have, try clams. In Malaysia, some even like to have the clams raw in the noodles, so they are tossed in just before serving. But I don’t recommend doing so unless you have a really good stomach and really fresh clams. If I were you, I would make more portions, because it has never been enough! 😀IMG_3008

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(Make 4 servings)

Ingredients:

250g Dried flat rice noodle, soaked until soft

4 Garlic cloves, minced

50g Bean Sprouts

50g Chinese Cabbage, sliced

1 Firm Tofu, fried and cubed

Spring Onion, chopped

3 Eggs (optional)

4 tbsp Soy sauce

2 tbsp Chili paste (optional)

2 tbsp Dark soy sauce

Pinch of Salt

Dash of white Pepper

Fried Onion

Methods:

1) Heat up wok pan until it’s steaming hot, fry garlic with oil until golden brown. Add in chili paste. (Be careful!)

2) Add in the noodles, soy sauce and dark soy sauce. Stir with high heat until the noodle is well coated and dried.

3) Toss in all the vegetables and tofu. Mix well. Make a well in the middle and break in the eggs. Wait until the eggs are half-way cooked and then stir well with the noodles.

4) Season with salt and pepper. Dish up and enjoy with fried onion.

 

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IMG_3086I have to take this picture because it was the third plates he took of that dish! My husband usually dislike carbohydrates, but this time, he couldn’t resist! 😉

Nasi Lemak with Vegetarian Acar /Memoir of the 90 years old granny

IMG_2730It was year 1993, in an old village where I used to live in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. A 90 years old Malay granny walked by my grandparents’ house.

‘Naaa…si Lemaaak…’, ‘Naaa…si Lemaaak…’ she dragged the vowels and sang so vulnerably.

Her voice was so hoarse and weak, sharp but harsh. I could hear her from far away especially in the early morning, right after our neighbor’s rooster woke everyone up. Just before I walked to my primary school at 6:45am, that was when she came to sell her Nasi Lemak.

As a kid I was already wondering why she needed to sell Nasi Lemak at her age. Instead of walking too slow, it seemed like she was basically trying to move forward like a turtle (my description as a kid), carrying a basket full of Nasi Lemaks wrapped in newspaper. Her back was bend and there was never anyone coming with her. My sister and I had always felt so pity for her. We even had a serious discussion about this. As a 7 and a 9 years old, we made up all kinds of reasons to help us understand why this thing would happen to her.

‘Her children must have had abandoned her!’

‘She must have been really poor!’

‘Maybe she is all alone in the world and she needs to take care of herself.’

How horrible. We always felt sad whenever we heard her calling for Nasi Lemak buyers on the street. My sister and I would spend our 50 cents, which was half of our daily meal allowance to buy her Nasi Lemak in order to support this poor old granny. We never understood what on earth had happened to her. Back then my grandmother was about 50 years old and she had never worked. How could anyone let this 90 years old work at this age in this condition? The little me realized that life was so unfair. Imagine that she needed to wake up around 4 or 5 am in order to prepare for Nasi Lemak, a traditional Malaysian dish that requires a lot of work. It would not do her any good. Once my uncle bought off all her Nasi Lemaks when he came visiting Johor Bahru. The granny was so happy, that she even graciously gave some discounts for my uncle. 4 Malaysian Ringgits for 10 packages, which made only 40 cents per package. I didn’t think that it was a good deal because I thought that the granny would have needed that money more than we did.

Need not to think, I’m sure that she is no longer selling Nasi Lemak anymore… But I still remember how she made her Nasi Lemak different than others.

This recipe is dedicated to her.

You can make Nasi Lemak in many ways and it usually turns out as delicious as it supposed to be. Most Nasi Lemak served with coconut rice, sambal, cucumber slices, fried anchovies and hard-boiled egg. You may easily find fancier ones that come with beef or chicken Rendang as well. I remember that the 90 years old granny used to make hers with a thin layer of omelet that was quite sweet and savory, which I have not seen anyone does it like that elsewhere. Today I’m making the egg her way just for remembering her. Her Nasi Lemak was always simple and plain, just sambal, peanut, anchovies, omelet and cucumber, and the rice was packed with flavor and fragrance from the coconut milk and banana leaf. It was always worth the 50 cents we have got on our hands, those shillings that we might have stolen from our grandfather’s pocket.

Nasi lemak has a strong flavor, especially the sambal. Sambal is something that you hate or you love, because it has a strong pungent flavor that comes from shallots and fermented shrimp paste. Surprisingly my Finnish husband loves Nasi Lemak, despite the combination of pungent taste, saltiness and sweetness of it. He loves it so much that once he ate only Nasi Lemak as breakfast, lunch and dinner in Malaysia! It is so easily found anywhere. We liked to take-away our Nasi Lemak from 7-eleven and ate it on our way in the bus from Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur and the other way around. In Malaysia, the Malays make it, the Chineses make it and so as the Indians. But I have never seen a vegetarian version so far. Therefore I thought that it would be interesting to make it vegetarian this time especially for my vegetarian followers out there (hello and waves). And it turned out just GREAT. My husband loved it, as we all can predict already. 😉

Here are the main components for Nasi Lemak:

A: Coconut Rice

B: Sambal

C: Omelet /Boiled eggs

D. Salted peanuts

E. Cucumber slices

F. Fried Anchovies (omitted for vegetarian)

G: Vegetarian Acar /Pickled mix vegetables (Eva’s Special for vegetarian :D)

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(Make 4 servings)

A: Ingredients for Coconut Rice:

320g Jasmin rice

300ml Coconut Milk

180ml Water

1 tsp Salt

3 Pandanus leaves, knotted

Method:

1) Wash rice at least twice. Add in all the ingredients into a pot and bring to boil.

2) Turn the heat to medium high, cook for 5 minutes.

3) Stir to prevent sticking from the bottom, covered with lid. Turn off the heat and let it steam for 20 minutes.

4) Break the rice with chopsticks or fork, set aside.

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B: Ingredients for the Sambal:

4-6 Shallots (depends on size), chopped

4 Dried chilies, cut and soak in hot water for 10 minutes

2 Fresh chilies, chopped

3 Garlic cloves

1 stalk Lemongrass, chopped

1 Onion, sliced

1 tsp Tamarind paste and 2 tbsp hot water, squeezed out the juice and discard the residue

1 tbsp Sugar

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Soy sauce (optional)

Methods:

1) Put shallots, dried chilies, fresh chilies, garlic, lemongrass into food possessor, blend into a paste.

2) Heat up 2 tbsp oil in a sauce pan. Fry paste and onion until fragrance. Add in tamarind juice. Stir.

3) Add in sugar, salt and soy sauce. Turn to low heat and cook for at least 40 minutes. Keep stirring to prevent burning. Set aside.

Note: Making sambal is very challenging. It is crucial to cook it with low heat for a long time in order to allow the shallots to transform its pungent taste into sweetness. Keep tasting, if it does not taste right, it is not done yet! 😉 For non-vegetarian, mix in fried anchovies at last and cook for another 5 minutes before serving for more authentic version. It is wise to make a bigger batch of sambal since it takes a lot of work. It goes extremely well with fried noodles, fried rice and even with the curry for Roti canai (Malaysian-Indian bread). It stays well in a sterilized container for up to a week in the refrigerator.

C: Ingredients for the 90 years old granny’s omelet:

4 Eggs

1 tsp Sugar

2 tsp Soy sauce

Dash of white pepper

Methods:

1) Beat up eggs, whip in sugar, soy sauce and white pepper.

2) Heat up pan and add 1 tbsp oil. Pour in half of the batch, move the pan around to make thin layer of omelet. Flip if preferred.

3) Repeat for another batch. Cut ready omelet into serving size.

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G: Ingredients for Vegetarian Acar ( Pickled mix vegetables)

100g Cabbage, sliced

100g French Beans, cut into 4 cm length sticks

100g Roasted peanuts, grounded

2 tbsp Roasted sesame seed

1 Cucumber, cut into 4cm length sticks

2 Carrots, cut into 4 cm length sticks

1 pack /250g Tofu, cubed

150g Pineapple, cubed

1 Lemongrass, chopped

2 Red chilies, seeded and cut into 4 cm length sticks

3 Shallots, sliced

3 Garlic cloves, chopped

3 Dried chilies, cut and soak in hot water for 10 minutes

1 tsp Turmeric powder

1,5dl Vinegar

3dl Water

2 tbsp sugar

Methods:

1) Mix cabbage, french beans, cucumber and carrot together and mix with 2 tbsp of salt. Let it sit for 20 minutes. Squeeze out excess water and wash the salt away. Drain dry.

2) Blend shallots, garlic, lemongrass, dried chilies and chilies in food processor into a paste.

3) Heat up oil in a sauce pan and fry paste until fragrance. Add in vinegar, turmeric powder, water and sugar. Bring to boil.

4) Pour liquid over the mix vegetables, mix in tofu and pineapples. Covered and let it sit in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

5) Mix in ground peanuts and sesame seed, stir well before serving.

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To serve an authentic Nasi Lemak , prepare a piece of banana leaf on top of a piece of newspaper. Place one portion of coconut rice in the middle, assemble all the other components around it and top up with Sambal on a small piece of banana leaf. Wrap and fold the edges to the bottom. Served. Eat with your clean right hand.

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For her.

Maybe she just loved to share her Nasi Lemak with others.