Featuring as a WordPress.com editors’ pick on Freshly Pressed / WOOHOO!!!

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Thanks WordPress.com, for giving me such a great opportunity to be featured as a WordPress.com editors’s pick on Freshly Pressed! 😀 I still could not believe it. Is it still happening???

First when I received a message from Krista, I thought it was a spam. But wait a minute, it looked like she did read my blog, and the link she wrote me was a real address as well. Is it real? Really? What…? How?? REALLY?!!!

You may not know how much it means to me. It may not be a big deal to you, but it is quite a big deal to me. 6 years ago when I moved to Finland to study from Malaysia , I did not speak much English. I almost got rejected at the European customs because of that. You know, a non English-speaking Asian, what are you doing here? As a first timer who ever visited Europe, I was asked to show my return ticket on the spot. Well okay. I had it in my bag. No, it wasn’t there! At the side pocket? Nope. My heart started to beat real fast and my face was tomato-ish red and hot like burned! Imagine after all that question-bullets she shot at me, I was basically shivering, hoping that she wouldn’t send me back to Malaysia. I squatted on the floor and took everything out of my bag to search for my return ticket. There was a long line behind me, plus most of the items that I took out from my bag was pink… At that moment, how I wished I could dig a hole from the ground and escape from the staring crowd. The customs officer seemed like she was gonna make a bad move on me. I felt like crying already.

‘ Here!!!’ I jumped up on my feet.

Finally. Thanks god for saving my life! It was hiding somewhere between the pages of my diary, a diary that supposed to record all my good memories from my Europe trip. So not for my first day! Anyway, I lived under the shelter of my sister and her husband. To help me to learn English, they forced me to read through <<The Princess Diaries>>. Yes, I realized later on that it was for children or teenagers. (They have good laughs every now and then) But even reading that book was extremely hard for me. There was one sentence like: ‘ Mia Thermopolis an average urban ninth grader’, I underlined every words and checked from my dictionary, but still could not understand what does ‘Mia Thermopolis’ mean…

Oh well.

Guess what, I actually learned English the fasted by watching ‘Friends’. Best TV series ever, high-five? Very ‘educating’ at least for me. Even though my English is still not perfect, but I’m really happy to received recognition from someone. And it’s from WordPress.com, so cool!!! And you, who are reading this. Thank you so much! ❤

PS: You can see my featured post in here.

20130830-192934.jpgI was celebrating this good news with my husband yesterday and spent the whole day today checking on my phone like all the time! Now it is up for me to share my joy with you. 🙂 I will keep going!!! YEAH!

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Check out my new badged at the top right 😉 My first one! 😀

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!

Baked Fish with Secret Sauce/ The love of my mom (Part 1)

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It is a pretty unusual situation, that my husband and I actually invited ourselves to our friends Tuomas and Eveliina’s place to make dinner for them. 😀 Very different but it was actually really nice. We always have a great time together and they have such a beautiful home and kitchen. In exchange Eveliina, who is a talented, professional photographer took pictures for my blog, what more can I ask for?! It is my first time preparing food for them, therefore I wanted to cook something I really like, something I love the most, which is my mom’s cooking, who is not here in Finland. She lives in malaysia.

I go back home to Malaysia every 12 to 18 months, and that’s when I meet my beloved mother, grandmother, daddy, sister, brother, cousins, best friends… Oh it made me sad just to name them because I haven’t seen them for over a year now. And when we do meet, we never hang around for long because of my short holiday. But every time I do go home, my mom would make me a table full of fancy dishes to show me her love. She has never said it out loud though. Asian parents are rather strict and rigid. There is even one saying that ‘To beat is to care; to scold is to love’. And I need not to say more. 😀

But my point was to tell you that my mom loves me. Yes she does. 😉 I remember she used to know only a few dishes and she cooked almost the same food every other week. For example ‘the one and only/ 独孤一味’chicken, that is also where the name came from. Later on she became more into cooking and eating, like me. She started to be really good at cooking out of a sudden. Besides ‘the one and only’, my favorite dishes from her would be ginger chicken cooked in wine, herbal chicken, oat-meal prawn, steamed fish, stir-fried bean sprout, and many more. And you know what, my mom makes the best soup on earth. She never hesitated to put in all the ingredients that would cost more than eating out, therefore most of the times salt or pepper are not needed for the soups she makes at all.

I wanted to show Tuomas and Eveliina the kind of dinner that I would eat when I go back home. It would be a classic Asian dinner of 3 dishes plus 1 soup. So I decided to make my mom’s signature dish ‘the one and only’, baked fish with secret sauce, stir-fried broccoli with shrimp and soup with tofu and preserved mustard. These dishes are those kinds that are very homey and heart-warming. Unfortunately, I cannot share ‘the one and only’ recipe to you guys because it is a dish created by my grandmother, which she taught my mom how to cook it, and then my mom passed it down to me. I have called and asked my mom about this issue, and she would very much like to keep this family recipe just within ourselves, so I respect her wish. But, to replace this dish I am going to share a secret sauce that I created myself inspired by my mom’s steamed fish. And it is a good stuff. At least Tuomas, Eveliina and their 2 years old child, Matilda who is quite picky about food ate the whole fish! It was ALL gone! In fact, I was digging from the bones to find the last small pieces of meat just to get enough for Matilda when she kept asking for more. So I think they really liked it a lot.

In Finland it is difficult to find a proper steamer anywhere, the only thing available probably would be the bamboo steamer for DimSum which definitely would not fit a fish as a whole. Therefore I tried to bake it, and it turned out perfect. But it also depends on how fresh the fish is. I would not recommend using a frozen fish because it wouldn’t turn out the same. The combination of saltiness from the sauce together with the sweetness from the fresh fish makes you wanna eat more rice. They go so well together!

Ingredients:

1 kg Trout

1 tbsp Oil

1 tbsp minced Ginger + 5 pieces of sliced Ginger

2 clove Garlic, minced

1 Chili, seeded and minced

1 Spring onion, cut into 4” length sticks

1 tbsp Plum sauce

1 tbsp Oyster sauce

1 tbsp Black bean sauce

1 tbsp Soy sauce

1 tbsp Water

Methods:

1) Preheat oven to 220 Celsius. Cut the surface of the fish vertically to help it to cook more evenly (see image below).

2) Place ginger slices and spring onion inside the cut areas of the fish (tummy and surface). Drizzle oil onto the surface of the fish.

3) Place fish in a container and cook in oven for 20-25 minutes (until cooked completely).

4) Meanwhile, heat up oil in a saucepan and put in garlic, minced ginger and chili. Fry until fragrant.

5) Add in all the remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Pour in hot over the cooked fish and served immediately. Top up with additional chili and spring onion if desired.

Note: I took the seeds out from the chili so the dish was mild even for a 2 years old. If I cook for myself, I’d like it spicier so I would keep the seeds as it is. 🙂

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007Look at granny Eva putting fish into the oven. 😀

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Take a peek of the very mysterious ‘the one and only’ 😉

Finnish Salmon Soup / Into the wild

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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.

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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.

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Here come the new potatoes and fresh dill.

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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.

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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!

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Hyvää ruokahalua!

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

Black Forest Cake/ 一直以来最想要的蛋糕

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Last Saturday was my husband’s birthday. I needed to be at work the whole day, so I wanted to make him a cake to make it up with him. He wouldn’t have mind really; it was more for me so that I wouldn’t feel so guilty of not being available. Isn’t it so that in order to show your sincerity, when giving something you must give something that is precious/meaningful to you? So I decided to give Black Forest cake. And I’m gonna tell you why.

My sister and I were raised by my grandmother in a village in our childhood and we met our mom a few times a year. She was occupied by her work, traveling around places to make money to support our living. We missed awfully much of her most of the times. I remember there were a couple of times when my mom was around to celebrate my birthday with me. And that was one of those times when I ever got out of the village. Standing in front of a selection of colourful, beautiful cakes in the bakery, how fancy! I was offered to choose what I like, and there was always this Black Forest cake that caught my eyes. It has always been there on the shelf, in any bakeries, looking elegant and expensive, very ‘grown-up’ as well if you know how I feel.

That was what i’ve always wanted, but I never dared to pick the Black Forest cake, because I thought that it would be out of my mom’s budget for my very small birthday party. Even though it looked extremely tempting as always; and as high priced as always. I ended up picking those spongy cakes with candied house on top, because I believed that those kinds are the ones for a kid like me. I was between 5-8 years old.

Life is so much easier when you are a grown up, definitely, at least now I can make my own cake! I don’t remember when was the last time I tasted Black Forest, for sure it was more than 10 years ago! But I remember when the cherry jam, chocolate and alcohol lingered in my month, wow it was so surprisingly good! My version of Black Forest is not as sweet as from the bakery, but I like it more this way.

Ingredients for the dough:

150g 70% Baking Dark Chocolate

150g Butter, keep in room temperature

150g All purpose flour

150g Sugar

2 tsp Baking powder

1/4 tsp Salt

6 Eggs, placed whites and yolks seperately

Method:

1) Preheat oven to 175 Celsius. Melt chocolate and butter in microwave for a few seconds.

2) Beat in sugar, then mix in egg yolks one by one.

3) Add in flour and baking powder.

4) Beat egg whites with salt until shifted. Fold into the mixture with spatula.

5) Grease a baking container and place in cut baking sheet. Pour in the mixture and bake for 30- 40 minutes. (Poke with a wooden stick and make sure it comes out clean, that tells when the cake is ready)

6) Keep completely cool. Then cut horizontally into 2 layers.

7) Spread one layer of the cherry filling( see below) on the first layer of cake, and spread whipped cream on top of it. Then place the second layer of cake on top. Spread cherry filling and whipped cream again( and at the side if preferred). Decorate with whole fresh cherries.

Note: This cake is originated from Germany and it’s supposed to put in Cherry liquor, which I don’t have. 😛 Some people make thicker layer of the chocolate cake and scrambled some of it for decoration. You may also decorate it with grated chocolate. 🙂

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Ingredients for the fillings:

6 dl Whipped cream

3 tbsp Sugar

1 jar (320g) Cherry Jam

1 cup Fresh Cherries, reserved more for decorating

6 dl Brandy/ cognac

Methods:

1) Remove seeds from fresh cherries and cut them into smaller pieces.

2) Mix in brandy and cherry jam, set aside.

3) Whip cream until shifted and fold in sugar, set aside.

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Voila!

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IMG_0985Happy Birthday to Riku! ❤

Riku and his cake

It’s amazing that many of my Finnish friends and relatives have never heard of Black Forest cake before. For some reasons it is extremely popular in Malaysia. It must have been the European who introduced to us during the 15th centuries, I guess? Let me know if you happen to know about it! 🙂