Somtam Salad / Spicy Thai Salad 凉拌泰式沙拉 & Birthday

IMG_5917 It’s been a really hot summer. The weather doesn’t make me feel like eating or doing much. I’m not a big fan of salad, but lately I’ve been craving for something light, spicy, sweet and sour because of the heat. And here it is. Som Tam is a Thai salad dish that I’ve learned to love when I was working in a Thai restaurant downtown Helsinki. It was one of my favourite Thai dish to order from the kitchen especially during a long, hot working day, it always brought back my appetite. Usually serve as a starter, sometimes as a main pairing with steamed jasmine rice, hmmm… The original version is made with exotic ingredients like green papaya, Asian dried shrimp and fish sauce. For this post, I’m making it vegetarian with  ingredients that are easier to find, for example to replace green papaya with rutabaga, which tastes almost the same. The soul of this dish is the chili-lime dressing, which you can use it also as a dipping sauce, and a dressing for other dishes such as noodle salad or beef salad.

I made this dish as a side for my husband’s 26th birthday party last Saturday. Everything was gone beautifully. 😉 My vegetarian relatives loved it too! Other than Som Tam, I also made Malaysian curry chicken, pork dumplings and Thai style spicy tofu with mixed vegetables for our guests. We had a really nice brut to start, continued with a bottle of Alsatian rosé to pair with the food. It was a really nice lunch celebration. Together with our family we bought a bicycle for my husband as a gift and he was really happy about it. IMG_5910   Thai chili-lime dressing

4 Garlic, minced

1-2 Chili, minced (deseeded if you are less tolerant)

4 tbsp Soy sauce /Fish sauce

Juice of 2 lime

1 tbsp Brown sugar

Method:
1) Pound the chill and garlic with mortar and pestle if you have one.

2) Mix everything together until the sugar dissolved. And voila! You have a lovely Thai dressing.

 

Continues to the cheat version of Som Tam recipe

(Make 2 servings as main or 4 servings as side)

200g Rutabaga, peeled and thinly shredded

150g Carrot, peeled and thinly shredded

100g Green beans, cut into 1” length

100g Cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tbsp Toasted peanut

Methods:

1) Blanch green bean in boiling water for about 1 minute. Strain and rinse under cold water, drain well and set aside.

2) Mix all the ingredients together with the Thai chilli-lime dressing. Let it stands for a few minutes in room temperature to absorb the sauce.

3) Take the dish out and discard excessive liquid from the salad. Top with additional roasted peanut or coriander leaves if desired. Serve.  

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And of course, if you could get green papaya easily then you should definitely use it for this recipe. But in Finland, rutabaga is available all year around in any shops, therefore I’m using it here 🙂 If you have dried shrimps and are not a vegetarian, toast them and add them here for more authentic taste.IMG_5905

IMG_5914It would look better on a bed of salad if you could imagine. 😉

IMG_5939The cook and the brut.

IMG_5957Celebration in progress.

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This is a dish that you could adjust according to your preference. Sometimes I like to put more sugar, sometimes I’d put more chili. Taste the sauce before mixing the ingredients in and you are on good hands. I also like to mix this chill-lime dressing with glass noodle, add some mint leaves, cucumber and shallot and it becomes another delicious Thai dish that is perfect for the summer. 😉 I also found a really good post about making Som Tam, check it out here.

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.

🙂

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!

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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! 😛

Cherry Tomato and Chili Salsa/ Those sweet moments

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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. 

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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. 😉

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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! 😉

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

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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!

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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. 😉

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

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

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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.

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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!

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Oh I’m hungry again.

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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)

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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.

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(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.

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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.
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Hmmm, smells good!006

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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!