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

IMG_9542

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. 😉

IMG_9556(Make about 27 Wontons)

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.

IMG_3692

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.

IMG_3693

IMG_9563

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. 🙂

Cheat Okonomiyaki / Japanese savoury vegetables pancake 简易大阪烧

IMG_9394IMG_9383

Just that I haven’t emphasised enough, this is a cheating version of an okonomiyaki. Some Japanese people probably hate me right now for spoiling their recipe with one of the most popular foods in Osaka. It is embarrassing that I don’t have the key ingredient ‘Nagaimo’, a species of yam that I just cannot get in Finland, like many other things. So bear with me, this is my cheat and easy version of okonomiyaki. And seriously I think it is as good as those I ate in Osaka. (with a beer or sake in my hand of course)

IMG_9387

(Make 2 servings)

Ingredients:

130g Flour

110ml Water

2 Eggs

130g Cabbage, shredded

1 Small carrot, peeled and shredded

1 Chili, minced

1 Spring onion, minced

80g Mushroom of your choice, diced ( or pork, chicken, salmon, etc.)

1/4 tsp Salt

1/4 tsp Garlic powder

Dash of white pepper

1/4 tsp Soy sauce (optional)

Topping:

Homemade barbecue sauce:

  • 2 tbsp Ketchup
  • 1,5 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1,5 tbsp Oyster sauce/ Vegetarian stir fry sauce

Mayonnaise

Shicimi (Japanese spice mixture) / chili powder (optional)

Aonori (Japanese seaweed powder) / seaweed, ripped

Katsuobushi (Japanese bonito flakes)

Methods:

1) In a big bowl, slightly beat in  eggs, mix in water and flour and let it rest for 15 minutes.

2) Add the rest of the ingredients, stir lightly to mix well.

3) Heat up 2 tbsp oil in a frying pan. Pour out half the mixture into the pan and form a round shape. Turn heat to medium low. Let it fry until golden brown from the bottom, flip and continue to fry the other side. (Each side about 3-4 minutes)

4) To serve, spread 2 tbsp of homemade barbecue sauce on top of the pancake, follow by drizzling some mayonnaise, shicimi powder, ripped seaweed and bonito flakes. Serve immediately.

IMG_9392

IMG_9376

IMG_9390

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.

Image

Image

Image

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.

IMG_4407

Image

For all the mushroom lovers<3

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.

🙂

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

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

Mushroom Congee with Angelica Acutiloba & Goji Berries/ The mystery of mushroom makes you grow taller

IMG_2331

I hope I didn’t freak you out with the title of this post. What the heck is angelica acutiloba??? Well, we Chinese don’t call it like that obviously.  We call it ‘当归/Dang Gui’ or ‘Dong Quai’; and it is commonly known as one of those super Chinese herbs that cures almost everything particularly for women. 😉 A must have Chinese medicine for people who are physically weak like women who just gave birth or people who had a surgery. I already knew about Dang Gui since I was a kid because it was often added in our soup and chicken dishes. It has a distinct herbal aroma and bitter in taste. I’m sure you already know about goji berry. I didn’t know that it was a super food, but my grandmother used to tell me that goji berry is good for your eyes. She also used to tell me that mushroom is good for you as it makes you grow taller.

Well, I didn’t quite believe in that theory, as you know mushrooms are contrarily short.

When I was a kid, I hated mushroom so much! It’s like whiskey and coffee, they belong to the ‘adult category’. Whenever my grandmother fed me mushrooms, she would say repeatedly that: ‘It makes you grow taller! It makes you grow taller!’ and immediately insert the spoon into my mouth. I would chew hesitatingly and swallow it with a little cold shiver, half believing and half doubting that it would ever help. Because being short had been a huge problem to me since primary school. In Malaysia we had a system that before entering the class every morning, all the pupils and students has to queue outside the classroom according to your height, which I still don’t understand why! Of course, we queued from the shortest to the tallest! For 6 years in my primary school, I had always been placed the second shortest in our class. I did not ‘achieve’ any further still during my high school era, which was really embarrassing to me to be so obviously shown as one of the shortest in class, especially when the boy I liked next door was watching. You see, not eating mushroom was not an option anymore. I needed to grow taller. But even when my mom made variation with mushrooms like stuffed mushroom with oyster sauce, I still hated it. But I would force myself to chew and swallow it without thinking how horrible it tasted.

The funny and irony thing is, now that I have entered the ‘adult category’, I really do love coffee and mushrooms! Not so much of whiskey though, because it tastes like my grandmother’s hair! The fact is, my grandmother always put whiskey on her hair every evening because there is a belief that it makes your hair grow. Some boys that I knew used to put whiskey on their legs as well, wishing that they would grow some hair in order to look more masculine. Well anyway imagine me growing up with the smell of whiskey coming from my grandmother’s hair, and asking me to drink that? Hell no! (sorry) For your information, as a 27 years old already, I have not grown any taller than 153cm… So tell me where did the ‘mushroom makes you grow taller’ theory come from?

Back to the recipe, as a mushrooms-loving adult, I’m using dried shiitake, dried enoki mushroom and dried black Chinese fungus together with the magical Chinese herbs angelica acutiloba and goji berries. Hmm, sounds nutritious and yummy! And it was really delicious that I needed to share this recipe with you. I hope you would try and tell me how it goes!

(Make 4 servings)

Ingredients:

500g cooked rice

2 Dried shiitake

2 pieces Angelica acutiloba (Dang Gui)

2 slices Ginger, julienned

1 bunch Dried enoki mushrooms

1 dl/ handful of Dried black Chinese fungus

1 tbsp Goji berries

1 l Water

2 tbsp Soy sauce

2 tbsp Vegetarian Mushroom/ Oyster sauce

2 tbsp Shaoxing wine/ dried sherry wine

1 tsp Sea salt

1 tsp Sesame oil (Optional)

Dash of white pepper

Methods:

1. Soak all mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes until soft. Chopped into edible size.

2. Put mushrooms, Dang Gui, goji berry, ginger, rice and water into a deep pot, bring to boil. Let it cook for 10 minutes and keep stirring to prevent sticking from the bottom of the pot.

3. Add in soy sauce, vegetarian mushroom / oyster sauce, Shaoxing wine and sea salt. Cook until the congee is thicken according to your liking.

4. Season with sesame oil and white pepper. Served warm.

IMG_2371

On a white plate clockwise from the top: Dried enoki mushroom, dried shiitake, angelica acutiloba (Dang Gui), goji berry. In a green bowl: Dried black Chinese fungus.IMG_2308Note: You can also used raw rice with this recipe (200g) but it takes more time to cook, as you need to stir constantly to prevent sticking from the bottom of the pot. My version of congee is rather quick, and I like it more watery than thick. Most people prefer their congee with rice completely broken down, but I like to keep the shape of the rice. It’s up to you!

IMG_2321

Oh I’m hungry again.

IMG_2325

After the dinner I still had enough to pack for tomorrow breakfast, so Asian! My Finnish husband also enjoyed this dish as much as I did, even as a breakfast!   🙂IMG_2336Feel free to serve with addition fried onion or garlic. Delicious!

Soup with Preserved Green Mustard and Tofu 咸菜豆腐汤 / The love from my mom (Part 2)

033

There is no complete Chinese dinner without a soup, says me. 😀 As mentioned before, a classic Chinese home dinner is a combination of 3 dishes plus 1 soup. No matter if it is for two, three or four people. This combination is a hidden sign of welcoming the guests, a proper polite gesture from the host. In Malaysia, sometimes it can be more expensive to cook at home than to eat out, especially when a soup is prepared. My mom, the soup master usually puts a whole chicken, a few of dried scallops, dried oysters, dried jujubes, dried goji berries together with some Chinese herbs or root vegetables in a medium size pot and cook for hours. As you can probably imagine how intense the flavor would turn out, no MSG nor salt are needed for her soups. I simply love her chicken soup, a healing effect for my palate, body, mind and soul, hmmm. When I used to worked as a full-time singer in Malaysia, my work normally ended around midnight. And when I came home hungry, my mom would warm up her soup and bring it to me, she knew that I love soups. She would save me a big plate of my favorite dish, stir-fried bean sprouts from the dinner I usually missed, and something like ginger and wine chicken, the one and only, etc. The moment was so sweet. I miss the times when you can go home to mommy. She would cook for me, wash my clothes, take me shopping and stuffs. You see, growing up is not so fun after all. Too bad life is not perfect. Maybe that’s the way it supposed to be, so that you would appreciate things more when you can’t have them around much.

Have you realized that chicken seems to be important to us? You see, my grandmother suffered from World War II when the Japanese attacked in Malaysia. She told me that she used to hide in the forest with her parents to avoid the dropping bombs. There was no food in the forest, they were constantly starving. My grandmother and her parents were eating the skins of the tree, leaves, grass and roots from the ground in order to survive. Luckily they did, but they never had a good life even until my mom was born. They were so poor that all the children dropped out from school and had to work. My mom told me that one of their fanciest dinner was the left-over soup from the restaurant in the village, where beef noodle soup was sold as its expertise. My mom and her sisters helped cleaning dirty plates in the restaurant. After work, they would carry home the left-over soup that was supposed to be thrown away. It would be the happiest day in their life! They would eat the soup with some rice in it and it would be a very fulfilling and satisfying meal. This story always makes me feel ashamed to throw away food. But I can imagine the soup that have been cooked all day long must had tasted really good at that moment.

Life became easier when everyone has grown up and are able to work for supporting the family. I was raised by my grandparents in their home, since my mom was out working. I remember that in our backyard we used to have our own chicken farm, where my grandfather taught me how to feed Chinese herbs to the chickens to keep them healthy. 🙂 We didn’t eat chicken that often though. It was only for special days like Chinese New Year, festivals, family reunions, etc. Therefore when we had chicken on our dining table, it symbolized happiness. It was when most of the relatives would be around the house talking, laughing, giggling, screaming, and yelling at each others over that loud TV noise. It made me assume that chicken is a sign of celebration, and it was. Growing up with my family, I have learned that chicken is a very valuable source of food. But then during my teenage years when life was better, chicken was easily affordable and it was often served on our table. It is not such a precious dish anymore as it used to be. That was when soup became a delightful extra dish when we didn’t have it so often. It takes hours to cook, you’ve got to be patience. Therefore it is very much appreciated.

Since I have already made one fish dish (with secret sauce, check here) and one chicken dish for Tuomas and Eveliina, I thought that it would be nice to make the soup ‘almost’ vegetarian to deduct my sin a little, if it ever helps. Long time ago, fresh vegetables and meat were expensive and hard to keep. Therefore in China, poor people could only afford preserved vegetable and tofu for their daily meal, like this dish revealing the childhood story of my grandmother. It is actually a dish originated from Teochew region in China, using key ingredients like slices of ginger, tomatoes, preserved mustard and salted plum. The salty and sour taste makes it a very appetizing dish to serve all year around.

029

028

(Make 3 – 4 servings)

Ingredients:

150 g Preserved green mustard, sliced

5 slices Ginger

1,5 l Vegetable stock

1,5 dl Soy protein strips (replacing pork)

1 pack Silken tofu, cubed

2 tomatoes, quartered

1 Spring onion stalk, cut into 3” length

1,5 dl Prawns ( Optional), washed & cleaned

3 Salted plums

1 tbsp Soy sauce

1 tsp Sugar

1 tsp Chicken powder (Optional)

Dash of white pepper

Methods:

1) In a deep pot, fry ginger slices with oil until fragrant. Add vegetable stock and bring to boil.

2) Add in the preserved green mustard, soy meat, tomatoes, prawns, and salted plum, and cook for 10 minutes with medium heat.

3) Add in tofu and spring onion. Season to taste and served.

032

This soup is a clear soup that has a rather mild taste, slightly sour and salty but very appetitive. I have omitted the salted plums this time because it ran out in my fridge. I think one can replace it with tamarind (Assam) to get the sour taste.
031

030

Hmmm, smells good!006

002

This is actually a quick and easy soup to make once you have all the ingredients ready, unlike the one my mom would make. But this is a soup you would get from most Chinese restaurants 大炒 in Malaysia to go with your dinner. 😉039

唔。。。好味道!

Finnish Salmon Soup / Into the wild

IMG_1233

I am so blessed. This summer has been really warm and I finally have my summer break ‘almost’ free after 3 years of intensive studies pursuing my bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management. My husband and I already went to Barcelona in July and last week we even drove all the way from Helsinki up north to Norway and back, 3029 km in total. 😀 Imagine I have already had 2 holidays! Yes, I know, I’m so lucky. Barcelona was great, full of delicacies, cultures, architectures and energy! But I’ve got so tired. Don’t get me wrong, it was the excitement of the city; I was overjoyed. 🙂 But what I want to emphasise is that Finland is one of the most beautiful places in the world where you can really let go and loosen up completely, particularly during the summer time. When the sun is up, the water is cool, the sauna steaming hot, fishes jumping out from the lake, sausages grilling on the coal, and cold beers. Birds fly, wind blows. The sound of leaves, the smell of birch, period. And my phone battery ended, how perfect. That was when I finally disconnected from everybody, everything else that does not really matter. The moment of stillness, emptiness and silence is so calming that it made me feel like it was worth dying for. It was real that felt so unreal. If you can only imagine.

IMG_1335

Kaamanen, a village where we camped in Inari, Lapland of Finland.

My husband and I were camping along our way, mostly next to the rivers. During our road trip, we met countless reindeers and sheep on the road as expected. We also saw them crossing the river and running under the mountains, amazingly beautiful. I can tell you that we were truly back into the wild. How? We drank straight from the clear rivers, we cooked and ate organic foods (we picked wild berries and mushrooms), we washed ourselves in the rivers and we also tried to fish our dinner. 😉 On our way we visited my husband’s uncle Kari in Tervola, where his partner Sinikka has her own garden, how cool! Before we headed on to Norway, Kari gave us some fresh dill, onions, new potatoes and salmon that he caught from the Kemi river next to their home.

IMG_1077

Here come the new potatoes and fresh dill.

IMG_1081

Kari is kind, truthful and super humorous. He loves to watch Bold and Beautiful. 😀 😀 Kari and Sinikka are one of the most caring people we know. It is completely stress-free to hang out with them. ❤

Alright back to the business. What do you eat when you go into the wild? You can make sushi straight from the fresh salmon, if you happen to have sushi rice with you. 😀 Or sashimi. I happened to have fresh dill, onions, new potatoes and salmon, so it called for a Finnish classic cuisine ‘Lohikeitto’,  salmon soup. It’s like sweet and sour from China, fish and chips from UK and mac and cheese from US for examples. You can’t miss a salmon soup when you visit Finland, at least it is one of the most common Nordic dishes among the locals. It is great all year around, during winter -30 celsius or summer +30 celsius, it tastes always as good! And it’s super easy. Learn it and you won’t regret it.

(Make 2 servings)

Ingredients:

500g Salmon, skinned and cubed
6 Medium size potatoes, cubed
1 Onion, sliced
1 l High fat milk (3%)
1 bunch dill, chopped
1 tbsp Butter
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper

Methods: (When you are inside a tent)

1) Melt butter in pan/pot. Add sliced onion and fry until fragrant. Add potatoes and sauté until soften (I think it is faster to cook by sauteing than boiling with a portable stove).

2) Add in salmon and sauté until it turns pink (cooked). Add in milk, salt and pepper. Cook with high heat but do not let the milk to boil.

3) Cook the soup until the potatoes are soft and good to eat. Mix in the chopped dill and served warm with rye bread.

IMG_1144

IMG_1169

IMG_1187

IMG_1192

Note: In a proper kitchen, people cook the onion and potatoes with water, and add in salmon and dill just before serving, cream is rather optional.  By accident I found it better in taste by just adding milk instead of water. Thanks for my mother-in-law who taught me to use high fat milk for this recipe. It tasted so ‘complete’! Pure satisfaction!

IMG_1215

IMG_1234

Hyvää ruokahalua!

IMG_1119Here is a picture of me preparing to cook inside of our tent. WILD! 😀

Clear Noodle Soup / 清汤面

Warm noodle soup1

In case you wonder, I am a huge fan of noodles! 😀 I eat noodles every other day in my daily life. I guess it is a typical Asian/Chinese habit. Once I was into a low carb diet, you can imagine how hard it was for me. I felt shaky for not eating carbs, my body simply did not like it at all. Anyway, noodle is being a big part of Asian’s life. We never get bored of it, because you can make so many version of noodle: stir-fry, cold & warm salad, soup, wrapped in spring roll, deep-fried, ‘dry-mixed/干捞’, and even as a sweet dessert. I simply love it!

Chinese people eat noodles any time of the day, at least I supposed. For me it has mostly been my breakfast, even in Finland. When I was little, I lived in a village where there is a local noodle hawker stall by the street run by my grandma’s friend. And that was mostly what I ate during my childhood, just before my kindergarden bus came to pick me up. 😀 However, that egg noodle is different than this recipe. It is actually called dumpling noodle soup (云吞面), which I believe is cooked with pork bones broth and usually served with Char Siew and dumplings with minced-pork and prawn filling. But guess what, this vegetable broth that I made is so tasty and sweet that it goes so well with egg noodle! And it’s healthier and lighter too, without the unnecessary animal fat. Once you get the broth done, it takes minutes to get your noodle soup ready. Excellent!

Dried Chinese Shiitake

Raw materials

Vegetable broth ingredients:

I Celery stalk

2 Carrots

1 Onion

1 Spring Onion

3-5 Dried Chinese shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water

3-5 Champignon mushrooms (optional)

3 l water

Dash of salt and pepper

Methods:

1. Cut vegetables in chunks. Bring water to boil in a broth pot and add in all the vegetables.

2. When it comes to boil again, turn to medium heat and cook for 2 hours. Season with salt and pepper.

Note 1: You can play around with the ingredients, for example by adding ginger, pickled mustard, garlic, dried chill, cabbage, tomato, spring onion, leek, lemongrass, soybean, etc. These all bring extra flavour and fragrance to broth/ soup in general. But not too much of each, and please don’t put everything I just said! Otherwise the taste will be overpowering, or completely mess-up.

Note 2: You wanna add enough water when making a broth, and not to add water anymore once you get the cooking started. It will ruin it. 😉 Taste bland. 

V4

(Make 2 servings)

Warm noodle soup ingredients:

100 ml Vegetable broth

150g/ 2 portions Dried egg noodles

4 tbsp Soy sauce

Dash of white pepper

4 Champignon/ Shiitake mushrooms

6-8 Broccoli florets

1 cup Dried soy meat

Methods:

1. Pour broth in a sauce pan, add in noodles, dried soy meat and vegetables and bring to boil. Cook for another 3 minutes (or depends on how long your noodle needs to be cooked). Season with soy sauce and white pepper. Served with additional fried onions or chopped spring onion. Enjoy!

Note 1: Any meat or ingredient could go well with this broth, like pork, tofu, chicken, fish balls, anchovies or dumplings, as well as the vegetables. I like to add in ingredients that help me to balance my carbohydrates, protein and veggies intake. And you should too! 

Note 2: Cook the noodle separately if you know your noodle will release too much starch, which can change the flavour of the  soup.

Clear noodle soup

You wanna get a good broth for noodle soup because that seems to be the most essential thing in the final outcome, and it is worth to invest in a bottle of good quality soy sauce as well ( I recommend buying from ethnic stores). And I’m not saying that my broth recipe is perfect, but it is good enough for home cooking at least. And it is also money wise. 😉

In Finland, whenever you get sick, the doctor often asks you to drink tea and honey for healing. But in Malaysia, the doctor will ask you to eat porridge and this kind of clear noodle soup. And I think I might have converted my husband to a Chinese too, since what he asked for was noodle soup whenever he got sick. Ha ha ha! (evil face)