Cheat Okonomiyaki / Japanese savoury vegetables pancake 简易大阪烧

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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)

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(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.

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Onigiri /My new favourite thing 饭团

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Last Christmas my husband and I went travelling to Japan. We were visiting Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Tokyo and Nagoya. We also soaked in the onsen of Hakone and ate the legendary black egg that cooked in the hot spring. The whole trip was spectacular. Foods were amazing, it’s killing me to even think about it. Despite ramen, I also felt in love with onigiri, this simple rice dumpling with a little stuffing inside. The Japanese have proved their love of rice. I swear I have never eaten anything better than the rice I ate in Japan. Need not to put anything, I would eat 2 bowls of Japanese cooked rice with no doubt, which I did anyway. The texture is firm and chewy, the fragrance is indescribable. You would have missed out a lot if you are on a low-carb diet, it’d had be so wasteful.

I became addicted to onigiri since there have been a lot of times when we starved while travelling from places to places, a Japanese kiosk then saved our life. Costs around 1€ (150 ¥) each, two onigiris would be a satisfying meal for me already. Always available and always so tasty. Who said that you can’t travel cheap in Japan? Well we have paid between 300¥ to 60000¥ for a meal, as you can see you really do have a choice.

Talking about rice, you must use good quality Japanese rice for making onigiri. Trust me, I have tried with Jasmine rice, bad Japanese rice and good Japanese rice, huge differences that you would not have guess. Basically you can stuff anything you like inside the rice dumpling. The most typical ones are with salted salmon, fish roe, pork chop, chicken, shrimp with mayonnaise, tuna, egg, and even sour plum which was not my favourite. It’s up to your preference. Be creative!

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(Make 6-7 onigiris)

Ingredients:

400ml High quality Japanese rice

600ml Water

140g Salmon/ Seaweed roe for vegetarian, more suggestion see below

1tsp Salt

1/2 tbsp Butter

2 tbsp Japanese rice vinegar (Optional)

Methods:

1) Wash rice until the water becomes clear and drain. Add water and washed rice to a pot and bring to boil. Stir well and turn the heat to the lowest and cover with lid. Let it cook for 15 minutes and turn the heat off. Let it steams by itself for 5-10minutes then it’s done. Add in the vinegar and mix well. Let it cool for a little bit.

2) Heat up butter in a pan and add salmon. Fry until the salmon is cooked. You can break the salmon after it is cooked and then add salt in it, or break the salmon while frying and add the salt. The first method you get a juicier fish and the latter you get a crispier texture.

To form a onigiri, you will need:

1tbsp Salt

1 bowl of water

3-4 Nori seaweed, cut in half into a rectangle shape

1) Make your hands wet with water and rub some salt on your palms, take rice and form a triangle shape.

2) Dig a hole in the middle of the triangle-shaped rice and add in the salmon flesh/seaweed roe. Cover the hole with a little rice and press firmly to shape the rice dumpling. Wrap half a nori sheet around it and voila, you are good to have a big bite.

IMG_2228 IMG_2232I have to say that my favourite stuffing is the dried fish roe and seaweed mixture powder that you can buy from a Japanese grocery store, which gives the most taste to onigiri. Nowadays creative people are making onigiri with barbecue chicken, kimchi and many more. For vegetarian, I’d suggest putting seaweed roe, tamagoyaki, smoked tofu, flavoured seitan and kimchi.

Add some black sesame seed for a more appealing look!

IMG_2235Isn’t it a good idea for picnic? ;-)

Soto Ayam / Yellow Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup

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Soto ayam, a classic Indonesian dish that is spicy, sour, flavourful and infused in aromas. I have only tasted it when our Indonesian friend Nora made it for us a few weeks ago. I have been craving for soto ayam ever since and I tried to make it a couple of times. It was so good, not as good as the one Nora made though because she uses her own chili sauce and I think it makes a clear difference, of course. But now I have a basic recipe to share with you. If you ever enjoy noodle soup as much as I do, I assure you will love this one. It is very luring. It is a bit complicated to make since it requires a lot of spices and some works to do like boiling the noodle and egg, but trust me it is so worth the effort.

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( Make 2 servings)

Ingredients:

2 Chicken thighs (about 1 kilo with bones), cleaned

200 g Rice noodles, cook according to package or until soften

2 Shallots, sliced

4 Garlic cloves, diced

2 pcs Sliced ginger

2-4 Kaffir lime leaves

1 Lemongrass stalk, halved and then cut into long sticks

1 tbsp Coriander powder

1 tbsp Cumin powder

1/2 tbsp Turmeric powder

1 l Water

2 tsp Salt

White pepper to taste

To Garnish:

50 g Bean sprouts, washed

1 Hard-boiled egg, halved

Coriander leaves

Fried shallot

Lime wedges

Chili sauce (I used Siracha)

Sweet soy sauce

Methods:

1) Put all the ingredients except the rice noodles and garnishment into a deep pot, bring to boil and covered, simmer for about 30 minutes. (I used pressure cooker so it took about 15 minutes).

2) Add salt and pepper to taste, place cooked rice noodle into bowls. Drain the soup with sieve. Pour soup over the noodle, then top up with chicken from the soup, half an egg, lime wedge, coriander leaves, fried shallot, and some bean sprouts. To serve, add in some small amount of sweet soy sauce and chili sauce according to own preference ( I put about 1 tablespoon each). It was such a satisfying dish.

IMG_2202PS: When the rice noodle is cooked, do rinse it with very cold water to prevent it from sticking together.

I will try to figure out a vegetarian version of this soon. ;-)

 

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

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

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

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

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Ingredients:

400g overnight cooked rice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, sliced

2 Chinese sausage / Vegan sausage, sliced (optional)

2 organic eggs

4 tbsp good quality soy sauce

1/2 tsp white pepper

100gram broccoli florets (optional)

Methods:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Golden syrup, recipe as below.

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(Make 19 piglet biscuits)

Recipe referred to Hong Kitchen

(You would need a mold for this dish)

Ingredients:

500g Flour

380g Golden syrup*

120ml Peanut oil

1 tbsp Alkaline water

1 Egg york

Methods:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Recipe for Golden Syrup 转化糖浆

(Make just enough for this piglet biscuits recipe)

Ingredients:

400g Sugar

200ml Water

50ml Fresh lemon juice

Methods:

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

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

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

Say HELLO to the perfect Meringue/ Mimi’s Chocolate Swirl Meringues

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Hey you, how are you? Hope you are doing alright. Me? I’m okay, just had a double jaw surgery about a couple of weeks ago to fix my biting problem. While recovering from the massive swelling, not being able to bite and chew is killing me. I’m basically eating baby food right now. As a food lover, it’s not so nice. Besides the pain and lack of energy, I do enjoy my 4 weeks sick leave. And this allows me to finally have time to take a break from my busy life, sit in front of my computer and talk to you

Before my surgery, I discovered a super good recipe that I must share with you. I have had a few meringues in my life, mostly from good cafes. You know, those that are loaded, have great atmosphere, good selection of pastries, good terrace facing a garden and etc. In another word, those places that made me feel so good that I must sit down with a cup of coffee and a pie, or a piece of cake. So I have tried their meringues. Looking huge, white, hard, very hard, oh and very sweet, what else should I say? Why on earth would anyone like this kind of a dessert? At that time I didn’t understand.

That day at work, I was out of ideas. But I must come up with a dessert for 20 people, like right now. Didn’t really have the energy to start mixing a cake dough, somehow I felt like making meringue, the first time ever! (Yeah I like taking risk) So I googled and found a recipe from my all time favourite food blogger, Mimi Thorisson, an amazing woman who has beautiful children, dogs, great photographer husband and lives in Medoc. That’d be a perfect dream to many I believe. And she writes awesome blog Manger, sharing marvellous recipes about French cuisine that always blow my mind away. When I found her recipe for meringue, I knew that it is going to turn out great. So I started to take out my eggs and sugar immediately. I had no doubt about it at all.

Not to forget to mention that my electric mixer is broken, I was literally beating a huge load of egg whites with my hands, for 20 people. The weather is cold but I was sweating, as you can imagine. It took 20 minutes more than estimation. :-)

Everything was worth it when I took my first bite of the fresh meringue. ‘Heavenly! It is heavenly good! Oh my god.’, my colleague repeated. I could not believe that meringue can be so good. (Well, it means that I have had bad ones) I finally realised what a real meringue supposed to taste like. The fragrance of egg white lingered in my mouth wonderfully. Like Mimi wrote, it should be crispy from the outside and soft from the inside. And she was so right. I thought one was too big for me, but I ate 2 in a row. And I made them again and again. No fail.

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Referred to recipe from Manger:
(Make 6 giant servings or 12 medium ones)

6 extra large egg whites (room temperature)
1,5 tsp cornflour (I used potato flour)
2 tbsp good quality cocoa powder
320g Icing sugar
A pinch of fine salt

Methods:

1) In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until frothy. Add the potato flour and sugar (1-2 tbsp at a time) gradually and continue whisking. (You should add the sugar in small quantities until the end of the process.)

2) When the egg whites form stiff peaks (Tips: turn the bowl upside down and it should stay nicely in the bowl without dropping to your head), gently fold in the cocoa powder to create nice swirls in the egg whites.

3) With the help of two spoons, spoon the egg whites onto the parchment-lined baking tray. The meringues should be about 10-12 cm large and 6 cm high (for big making ones). ‘Twirl’ your spoon around and finish off with a spiky peak.

4)Finally ‘dust’ some cocoa powder on top of each meringue and (optionally) use a small fork to gently draw a few more swirls

5) Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, switch off the oven, and leave them to cool inside the oven with the door slightly open for 15 minutes.

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For this recipe Mimi has made a chocolate sauce to serve with the meringues. I have tried it but it was a little too sweet for my own preference. I have created an easy raspberry sauce that I thought it goes really well with these meringues. You know, a little kick of sourness and berry flavour together with the sweetness from the meringues. Oh, and the colour too! ;-)

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Raspberry sauce:

200g Frozen raspberry

100ml Water

50g Sugar

1 tbsp Potato flour +2 tbsp water for mixing together

Juice of 1/2 lime

Methods:

1) In a saucepan, put in raspberry, water and sugar and bring to boil. Mix well until sugar is dissolved.

2) Squeeze in the lime juice. Slowly pour and stir in the ‘potato flour mixture’ to the saucepan. The sauce should start to thicken up already. Turn off the heat and let it cool completely before serving. Serve with meringues, or other desserts together with fresh berries on top. Voila!

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.