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

Image

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.

IMG_4366

(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.

IMG_4374

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.

🙂

How to eat ‘meat’ without killing any animals / 自制面筋/ Homemade Seitan with Asian flavor

How to eat 'meat' without killing any animals / Homemade Seitan with Asian flavors

I am not a vegetarian but I cook mostly vegetarian food at home nowadays. It’s definitely a healthier option for me. Especially when there is only vegetarian dish on the table, it is so easy to get enough vegetables intake per day without any effort. Even for my husband who always seeks for his protein intake from food, I have got him a solution- my homemade seitan. I bought this vital wheat gluten flour online that contains 75% protein, which is much more than chicken that has around 30%. It is not hard to make, low cost and very versatile in cooking. With seitan, you can make every delicious dish possible meat-freely. I like the texture of seitan, firmer than a firm tofu, a little chewy and you can play around with the taste pretty much any way you like. I have made my seitan a little poultry flavor by adding five spice powder. Read that you can easily twist it by adding seaweed to make it somehow fishy and so on. A perfect option for those who want to give vegetarianism a go!

(Make 4 servings)

Ingredients:

250g Vital wheat gluten flour

250ml Vegetable broth + 1,5 litter for cooking

2 tbsp Soy sauce

1 tbsp Mushroom powder

1 tsp Five spice powder

1 tsp Sesame oil

1 tsp Garlic powder

1 tsp Minced ginger/ ginger powder

Methods:

1. Mix vital wheat gluten flour in a deep bowl with mushroom powder, five spice powder, garlic powder and ginger.

2. Add soy sauce to 250ml of vegetable broth. Slowly pour in the liquid and mix in with the flour. Knit until the dough is formed for about 5 minutes. Cover with dry cloth and let it rest for at least 15 minutes.

3. After resting, knit the dough and divide it to small portions. Cut into smaller pieces as the dough will double its size after cooking.

4. In a deep pot, bring 1,5 litter of vegetable broth to boil, add in the cut dough. Cover with lid and let it simmer for about 45 minutes. Let it cool down. Use immediately or keep it in refrigerator in container.

Note: Adding some broth together with cooked seitan in container prevent them from drying out. I have stored cooked seitan in my freezer as well, works just fine!

IMG_4334

IMG_4339

IMG_4344This is the second time I made seitan but I always surprised myself each time when I opened the lid to check the doneness of my seitan. My god, you could never expect how big they expand! They almost ‘got out’ from my deep pot! 😀 So you wanna have a deep enough pot and not so giant looking pieces when you put them in for simmering.

I really enjoy cooking seitan as I still can eat ‘meat’ dishes without killing any lives. It makes me and my husband very happy after a satisfying meal without feeling guilty and still it is a healthy dish. At least I have not found any studies saying that this thing is not good for you. Of course, nothing is good for you when you eat too much of it. However, this is not for those who suffer celiac disease. Not this time.

Will share out recipe with seitan soon! 😉

PS: I should definitely cut them into even smaller pieces! 😛

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!

IMG_3384

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.

IMG_3394

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. 😀

IMG_3451

马年行大运!

Cherry Tomato and Chili Salsa/ Those sweet moments

IMG_3372

I have been really busy. Out of myself, have not even cooked a proper meal within a month. But then I went to the store today. These beautiful, colorful fresh cherry tomatoes completely caught my attention. Wow, they looked so nice that I must buy them ASAP and make some sweet tomato salsa. Just one week ago, my husband took me out for a dinner after another long day at work. We went to this newly opened Mexican restaurant downtown Helsinki that has been always popular since it is opened. Couldn’t get a table though, but we were lucky to have the window bar seats for the two of us. To start, we had guacamole, ceviche and tomato salsa with some freshly made tortilla chips. I was sipping on my Spicy Tamarin cocktail, memorizing those times that me and my husband had during our honeymoon. It was in Mexico, Cancun. Warm sun, crystal blue Caribbean sea. We had been quite poor when we started, therefore traveling to South America was such a luxurious thing to us. The funny thing is, part of our trip was actually sponsored by our wedding guests. We put out a ‘Honeymoon Bank’ at our wedding ceremony which really helped us a lot financially. 😉 Tomato salsa is a lovely thing. In Cancun, we had it at breakfast, as snack, starter, with main and even to end a course. Coronas and Sols were cheaper than water, so we had quite a lot of it as well. 😀 Ha ha!

So every time when there is a tomato salsa, it makes me feel good. The sweetness, pungency of the onion, saltiness, spiciness with the smell of coriander are simply irresistible. Today it was outstanding, since all the ingredients were so fresh. It made my day.

Ingredients:

500g Fresh cherry tomatoes (any kind), quartered

2 Medium size Red onion, finely chopped

1 Chili, finely chopped

A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Juice of 1 lime

2 tsp Brown sugar

1 tsp of salt

Dash of black pepper

Methods:

1) Place all the ingredients in a deep bowl, mix well. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or serve right away. (Like I did)

2) Add in more chopped coriander for your own preference. Serve with tortilla chips or as a side dish.

Note: If you don’t like spicy food, remove the seeds from the chili before chopping them up. 

IMG_3373

For a healthier approach, I used rye tortilla chips instead of salted corn tortilla chips, which is available in Finnish supermarket. And it worked perfecto!IMG_3358

To be honest with you, I don’t really know what these tomatoes are called. But the darkest one was my absolute favorite! It’s like a bottle of wine that is oak and aged well. Packed with flavors, complicated and has a long lasting taste. The yellow ones are sweeter and unexpectedly, those smallest red ones were lighter in taste. Tell me if I’m wrong, but my palate won’t lie. 😛IMG_3362

IMG_3375Just in case if you are interested, my new goal is to graduate from the university by next February and I’m having more time now to concentrate on my thesis. I’m also feeling more chilled now, learning how to relax and take things easily. But I bet I will be writing my thesis during my Christmas holiday though.

On the other hand, my sister delivered to a baby boy named Enso, and I’m totally in love with him! Watching him simply makes me happy, and my stress immediately goes away whenever I see him, what a miracle!

Here is a picture from our honeymoon in Mexico:21971_251791664590_5658517_n

Cheers to all of you, and have a nice weekend!<3

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. 😉

IMG_3192

IMG_3140

IMG_3150

IMG_3161

IMG_3162

IMG_3189

IMG_3197

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.

IMG_3217

IMG_3235

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

IMG_3061

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!

IMG_2975

IMG_2991

IMG_3005

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

IMG_3030

IMG_3026

(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.

 

IMG_3071

IMG_3063

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! 😉

Self-made Marzipan Babies / Organizing a baby shower/ It’s a BOY!

1376009_10151885122127412_902447834_n

Yesterday my friend Laura and I organized a baby shower to my sister, Evon who is 9 months pregnant. It was our first time to organize an event like this.  I’m glad that the party went perfectly well without having the possible fuss of sudden baby delivery. Who knows?! I also felt touched to see Evon smiled and laughed so happily, which you could tell from her face all day long. I am glad that many of our friends showed up.  As you know foreigners like us, we don’t really have many friends nor family around, since this is not the place we grew up after all. The stereo type Finnish people are quite introvert and independent that I find it difficult to win their hearts. Therefore every effort they put and time they sacrifice to us, it means so much to us. We are very thankful and will always keep it to our hearts.

Not only that our friends came, they brought drinks, decoration, and gifts like diapers, pacifiers, baby wipes, baby clothes and etc. It was so fun to see those small little things that none of us are familiar with! We also played games like guessing the tummy width and baby names. Despite the reality, my husband and I have been calling the baby ‘Kasimir’ which is a Nordic or Russian name that sounds like Cashmere. 😀 He he he… Evon and her husband have always hated it but since they never tell the baby’s name, Kasimir sounds just fine to us. For food, Laura and I made a table full of Spanish pinchos and omelets as well as Mexican tortilla chips with guacamole.  Laura also made her signature Mango cake, which I have previously modified to a Strawberry version, click here for recipe. To fit the theme, I decided to make baby decoration for the cake. It was my first time ever to make a decor like this. Luckily I have experience playing with clay as a kid, and those baby images found from Google did make me believed that I can make it too. Why not? No tools or what so ever, it’s okay! I used my imagination. 😉

974228_10151885121752412_933696215_n

1384256_10151896736617840_1443983562_n

1377492_10151896766152840_433064661_n

1376490_10151896767662840_566246134_n

13855_10151896757702840_1185053976_n 1378585_10151896757652840_2077270338_n
Big thanks to Ksenia and Laura for sending me the pictures! 🙂

(Make 3 babies)

Ingredients:

80g White color Marzipan

1tsp Cocoa Powder

1tsp Vodka/Gin (More for diluting)

Methods:

1. Knead marzipan until it is soften and workable. Divide in 3 parts to make 3 babies.

2. To make a baby, take 1/3 of divided marzipan and roll into a ball to make a baby head. Use your thumbs to press on the ‘face’ to resemble eye sockets. (See image below)

3. Take 1/4 from the rest of the marzipan and roll into a long strip for making legs and arms. Arms should be thinner and smaller, and legs should be thicker and bigger.

4. Make the rest of the marzipan into the shape of an egg to resemble the body part. Make the lower part of the body rounder and bigger to resemble the tummy. Use fork to make chest lines.

5. Use any left-over or steal a small piece somewhere to make a tiny nose and ears. Use knife and fork to make shapes of the fingers and toes. (Repeat step 1-5 to make another 2 babies)

6. Mix cocoa powder with vodka/gin. Use a toothpick to dip the color and draw eyes and mouth carefully.  Dilute the color by adding more vodka/gin and brush it on the body to make it looks more real.

IMG_2946IMG_2948

IMG_2950IMG_2951 IMG_2960IMG_2868

IMG_2879

IMG_2883

IMG_2881

IMG_2888

Be creative of baby posing! 🙂IMG_2894

IMG_2896

My Malaysian friends said that they looked really scary and would cause them nightmares, while my Finnish friends loved them and said: ‘How cute! How cute!’ You see, cultural differences. But hey, it will work for Halloween too! Be prepared! 😉1383184_10151896756977840_2083112697_n

Szechuan Style Potato Shreds / Potato fetish & my Chinese friends 酸辣土豆丝

IMG_0723

I love potatoes. We Asians eat potatoes in all kinds of ways. I reckon the Peruvians do it the same way too, at least my Peruvian classmate told me so. Unlike most Europeans who eat potatoes as side dish or starter, at home we treat potatoes as a source of vegetables. Hence we eat it with rice. My Finnish friends were surprised and wondering, who on earth eat carbohydrates with carbohydrates? Well we and the Peruvians! If you happen to know some other interesting ways of eating potatoes, do let me know. 😉

Back home my mom used to make potatoes with fat pork belly with a lot of leek, it was one of my favorite dish. But for some reasons, I don’t quite like pork belly anymore. As some of you might have read about my ‘flexitarian’ diet, it does reduce my craving for meat. Good for me! I will try to make my mom’s recipe in vegetarian version and share it with you guys, if it turns out fine.

This dish, Szechuan style potato shreds was introduced by my friends Hong and her husband Xing, who came to study in Finland initially. Finland is a perfect place to study by the way; top quality education, high standard and most importantly free of charge for most foreign students. Despite the long cold winter, the only negative thing is that it is rather difficult for foreigners to get a job to work for a living, especially when you don’t speak Finnish language. When I first came to Finland, I didn’t know any Finnish. Therefore I had to accept a job in an Asian restaurant with extremely low pay, and that’s where I met my ex-colleague, Hong. Hong and I were very hard-working people. We were not that closed then, but I have always known that we had something in common, that we shared the same ‘helpless’ feeling. We were unhappy, to work for overtime, illegal pay and harsh employer. But we needed to work for every cent we could to afford our living in Finland besides studying full-time. None of us dare to report to the government since we were so afraid to lose the only jobs we had.

Thank god we learned Finnish eventually and found our way out from the trap. Not only that I graduated and still continue for further studies, I am now having a full-time job with decent salary and standardized treatments, even better than what the laws says. I have a great singing career with my band, have the opportunities to travel around places, things are going so well. Hong went on to open her own restaurant, this year she even managed to open another unit in downtown Helsinki. You see, things always turn out just fine; at least I’d love to think so. Don’t worry, be happy!

Hong loves Szechuan style potato shreds. I had no idea that there was another way of eating potatoes that I haven’t discovered, until I was invited to Hong and Xing’s home to eat. I have been in their home a few times; every single time we had on our dining table, potato shreds! I became loving it. It’s sour, spicy, salty and crunchy, simply irresistible! My unusual European husband loves this dish too. I’m so glad that he is never picky when it comes to food. I just love the whole out of him!

IMG_0724

Ingredients:

3 Medium size potatoes, julienned

1-2 Dried Chilies, soaked in hot water

1 Celery stalk (optional), chopped

1 tbsp Dark/ white vinegar

1 tbsp Soy sauce

1 tsp salt

Dash of white pepper

Methods:

1) Soak julienned potatoes in cold water to remove starch, wash and drain dry.

2) Heat oil in pan and fry chilies, celery with high heat until fragrance. Add potato shreds and stir- fry until the color turns transparent.

3) Add vinegar, soy sauce, salt and white pepper, stir well to allow potatoes to absorb the flavors. Add more vinegar if desired. Serve when the potatoes are still crunchy.

Note: It is important to wash away the starch to allow potatoes to cook faster in short time. It is also crucial to not over cook the potatoes. 😉

IMG_0713

IMG_0714

IMG_0717

IMG_0718

I love the scent of celery, sometimes. But feel free to omit it or replace for spring onion if you like. 🙂IMG_0719

IMG_0728

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)

IMG_2834

(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.

IMG_2675

IMG_2602

IMG_2735

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.

IMG_2626

IMG_2597

IMG_2631+ IMG_2610

IMG_2616

IMG_2625

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.

IMG_2706

IMG_2654

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.

IMG_2716

IMG_2765

IMG_2772

IMG_2813

For her.

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

Joy of the week/ Liebster Blog Award

IMG_0130

I would like to thank sweet, beautiful Anna from Fatz Food for nominating SpicyTones for a Liebster Award. Oh wow, what a sweet surprise! What I understood is that Liebster Award is given to bloggers who have less than 200 followers, and it helps to increase awareness of small blogs among blogging communities. Sounds like fun to me. Why not? Today you are also getting to know about me a little more, if you haven’t already.

Liebster-Award

So here are the rules for Liebster Award Nominations:

1. You must link back the person who nominated you.
2. You must answer the 10 questions given to you by the nominee before you.
3. You must nominate 10 of your favorite blogs with less than 200 followers and notify them of their nomination.
4. You must come up with 10 questions for your nominees to answer.

Eva FunnyMy nominees:

1. Quiche and Tell

2. MyFoodTapestry

3. Chug Your Greens

4. Kelly Siew Cooks

5. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner…and then some

6. Fried Tofu

7. Ely’s Kitchen

8. No Whey No Cow

9. Eat Healthy & Thrive

10. Perfect Circle Kitchen

Here are the questions from Anna:

1. What is your biggest fear?

The people I love will die. I cannot even think about it, I don’t think I could handle it. As mentioned previously, my grandparents raised me up when I was little. At the age of 11, when my grandfather passed away, it was the end of the world for me. I was breaking down, watching him lying dead on the car seat when he was about to be sent to hospital. I tried to wake him up by calling him, screaming at him, trying to shake him up but my uncle pushed me away. It was 16 years ago. He was the one who held my hand and took me to kinder garden on my very first day. He was the one who came to visit my school and meet my teacher every year. He was the one who bought me my first ‘piggy bank’. He was more like a dad to me.

I cannot handle anymore of losing. I don’t think anyone could afford a punishment like this.
2. Are you where you wanted to be 5 years ago?

Actually, yes! (Back to the positive!) Now that you reminded me. Living in a happy life, have a great husband, have a singing career, ‘almost’ a graduate, have a job I like, have a blog. I’m so so lucky and blessed! (Oh, I should always remember that!)
3. What is your biggest accomplishment?

Recorded our debut EP album with our band Eva on the Western Castle Island and got it released in Finland, Germany and Japan. Our songs were played all around the world in radio channels. 😉 It was unbelievable!
4. What city do you live in?

Helsinki/赫尔辛基.
5. Who inspires you the most?

My husband Riku. He is so funny and energetic! He is an angel on earth who always inspires me to be a good person and make other people happy.
6. What is your favorite food?

Hainanese Chicken Rice which I can eat for 30 days in a row without complaining even once. But I cannot do that, because I’m practicing vegetarianism.
7. Are you a dog or a cat person?

A dog person. Check out my beautiful baby doll Poppy (named after Jamie Oliver’s little daughter). 🙂 Cats are beautiful and fluffy and nice but I don’t like when they think they are gods.

IMG_5464_edit
8. Would you want to know when you will die?

It would be interesting to know. I love the quote from Steve Jobs:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
9. Are you introverted or extroverted?

Super extroverted on stage, introvert off stage. Somewhere in between in reality. 😉
10. What did you want to be when you were a kid?

A famous singer! I did become a professional singer, but famous? Not quite yet. We are working on it! 😀

EVA1 photo by Henry AhlavuoEva on the Western Castle Island our indie-pop band. Welcome to listen our EP album in here.

IMG_4344Isn’t she lovely? ❤

So here are the questions I proposed to my nominees:
1) Describe yourselves in three words.
2) What makes you blog?
3) Tell us one meaningful thing you did last week.
4) If this were your last day to live, how would you like to spend your day?
5) What are your dreams?
6) If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
7) Where are you located right now?
8) Your favorite food?
9) If I give you one million, how would you spend it?
10) Tell some facts about yourselves that we don’t know yet.
YAY! 😀