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

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

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

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Big thanks to Ksenia and Laura for sending me the pictures! 🙂

(Make 3 babies)

Ingredients:

80g White color Marzipan

1tsp Cocoa Powder

1tsp Vodka/Gin (More for diluting)

Methods:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Be creative of baby posing! 🙂IMG_2894

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

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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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Nasi Lemak with Vegetarian Acar /Memoir of the 90 years old granny

IMG_2730It was year 1993, in an old village where I used to live in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. A 90 years old Malay granny walked by my grandparents’ house.

‘Naaa…si Lemaaak…’, ‘Naaa…si Lemaaak…’ she dragged the vowels and sang so vulnerably.

Her voice was so hoarse and weak, sharp but harsh. I could hear her from far away especially in the early morning, right after our neighbor’s rooster woke everyone up. Just before I walked to my primary school at 6:45am, that was when she came to sell her Nasi Lemak.

As a kid I was already wondering why she needed to sell Nasi Lemak at her age. Instead of walking too slow, it seemed like she was basically trying to move forward like a turtle (my description as a kid), carrying a basket full of Nasi Lemaks wrapped in newspaper. Her back was bend and there was never anyone coming with her. My sister and I had always felt so pity for her. We even had a serious discussion about this. As a 7 and a 9 years old, we made up all kinds of reasons to help us understand why this thing would happen to her.

‘Her children must have had abandoned her!’

‘She must have been really poor!’

‘Maybe she is all alone in the world and she needs to take care of herself.’

How horrible. We always felt sad whenever we heard her calling for Nasi Lemak buyers on the street. My sister and I would spend our 50 cents, which was half of our daily meal allowance to buy her Nasi Lemak in order to support this poor old granny. We never understood what on earth had happened to her. Back then my grandmother was about 50 years old and she had never worked. How could anyone let this 90 years old work at this age in this condition? The little me realized that life was so unfair. Imagine that she needed to wake up around 4 or 5 am in order to prepare for Nasi Lemak, a traditional Malaysian dish that requires a lot of work. It would not do her any good. Once my uncle bought off all her Nasi Lemaks when he came visiting Johor Bahru. The granny was so happy, that she even graciously gave some discounts for my uncle. 4 Malaysian Ringgits for 10 packages, which made only 40 cents per package. I didn’t think that it was a good deal because I thought that the granny would have needed that money more than we did.

Need not to think, I’m sure that she is no longer selling Nasi Lemak anymore… But I still remember how she made her Nasi Lemak different than others.

This recipe is dedicated to her.

You can make Nasi Lemak in many ways and it usually turns out as delicious as it supposed to be. Most Nasi Lemak served with coconut rice, sambal, cucumber slices, fried anchovies and hard-boiled egg. You may easily find fancier ones that come with beef or chicken Rendang as well. I remember that the 90 years old granny used to make hers with a thin layer of omelet that was quite sweet and savory, which I have not seen anyone does it like that elsewhere. Today I’m making the egg her way just for remembering her. Her Nasi Lemak was always simple and plain, just sambal, peanut, anchovies, omelet and cucumber, and the rice was packed with flavor and fragrance from the coconut milk and banana leaf. It was always worth the 50 cents we have got on our hands, those shillings that we might have stolen from our grandfather’s pocket.

Nasi lemak has a strong flavor, especially the sambal. Sambal is something that you hate or you love, because it has a strong pungent flavor that comes from shallots and fermented shrimp paste. Surprisingly my Finnish husband loves Nasi Lemak, despite the combination of pungent taste, saltiness and sweetness of it. He loves it so much that once he ate only Nasi Lemak as breakfast, lunch and dinner in Malaysia! It is so easily found anywhere. We liked to take-away our Nasi Lemak from 7-eleven and ate it on our way in the bus from Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur and the other way around. In Malaysia, the Malays make it, the Chineses make it and so as the Indians. But I have never seen a vegetarian version so far. Therefore I thought that it would be interesting to make it vegetarian this time especially for my vegetarian followers out there (hello and waves). And it turned out just GREAT. My husband loved it, as we all can predict already. 😉

Here are the main components for Nasi Lemak:

A: Coconut Rice

B: Sambal

C: Omelet /Boiled eggs

D. Salted peanuts

E. Cucumber slices

F. Fried Anchovies (omitted for vegetarian)

G: Vegetarian Acar /Pickled mix vegetables (Eva’s Special for vegetarian :D)

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(Make 4 servings)

A: Ingredients for Coconut Rice:

320g Jasmin rice

300ml Coconut Milk

180ml Water

1 tsp Salt

3 Pandanus leaves, knotted

Method:

1) Wash rice at least twice. Add in all the ingredients into a pot and bring to boil.

2) Turn the heat to medium high, cook for 5 minutes.

3) Stir to prevent sticking from the bottom, covered with lid. Turn off the heat and let it steam for 20 minutes.

4) Break the rice with chopsticks or fork, set aside.

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B: Ingredients for the Sambal:

4-6 Shallots (depends on size), chopped

4 Dried chilies, cut and soak in hot water for 10 minutes

2 Fresh chilies, chopped

3 Garlic cloves

1 stalk Lemongrass, chopped

1 Onion, sliced

1 tsp Tamarind paste and 2 tbsp hot water, squeezed out the juice and discard the residue

1 tbsp Sugar

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Soy sauce (optional)

Methods:

1) Put shallots, dried chilies, fresh chilies, garlic, lemongrass into food possessor, blend into a paste.

2) Heat up 2 tbsp oil in a sauce pan. Fry paste and onion until fragrance. Add in tamarind juice. Stir.

3) Add in sugar, salt and soy sauce. Turn to low heat and cook for at least 40 minutes. Keep stirring to prevent burning. Set aside.

Note: Making sambal is very challenging. It is crucial to cook it with low heat for a long time in order to allow the shallots to transform its pungent taste into sweetness. Keep tasting, if it does not taste right, it is not done yet! 😉 For non-vegetarian, mix in fried anchovies at last and cook for another 5 minutes before serving for more authentic version. It is wise to make a bigger batch of sambal since it takes a lot of work. It goes extremely well with fried noodles, fried rice and even with the curry for Roti canai (Malaysian-Indian bread). It stays well in a sterilized container for up to a week in the refrigerator.

C: Ingredients for the 90 years old granny’s omelet:

4 Eggs

1 tsp Sugar

2 tsp Soy sauce

Dash of white pepper

Methods:

1) Beat up eggs, whip in sugar, soy sauce and white pepper.

2) Heat up pan and add 1 tbsp oil. Pour in half of the batch, move the pan around to make thin layer of omelet. Flip if preferred.

3) Repeat for another batch. Cut ready omelet into serving size.

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G: Ingredients for Vegetarian Acar ( Pickled mix vegetables)

100g Cabbage, sliced

100g French Beans, cut into 4 cm length sticks

100g Roasted peanuts, grounded

2 tbsp Roasted sesame seed

1 Cucumber, cut into 4cm length sticks

2 Carrots, cut into 4 cm length sticks

1 pack /250g Tofu, cubed

150g Pineapple, cubed

1 Lemongrass, chopped

2 Red chilies, seeded and cut into 4 cm length sticks

3 Shallots, sliced

3 Garlic cloves, chopped

3 Dried chilies, cut and soak in hot water for 10 minutes

1 tsp Turmeric powder

1,5dl Vinegar

3dl Water

2 tbsp sugar

Methods:

1) Mix cabbage, french beans, cucumber and carrot together and mix with 2 tbsp of salt. Let it sit for 20 minutes. Squeeze out excess water and wash the salt away. Drain dry.

2) Blend shallots, garlic, lemongrass, dried chilies and chilies in food processor into a paste.

3) Heat up oil in a sauce pan and fry paste until fragrance. Add in vinegar, turmeric powder, water and sugar. Bring to boil.

4) Pour liquid over the mix vegetables, mix in tofu and pineapples. Covered and let it sit in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

5) Mix in ground peanuts and sesame seed, stir well before serving.

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To serve an authentic Nasi Lemak , prepare a piece of banana leaf on top of a piece of newspaper. Place one portion of coconut rice in the middle, assemble all the other components around it and top up with Sambal on a small piece of banana leaf. Wrap and fold the edges to the bottom. Served. Eat with your clean right hand.

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For her.

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

Joy of the week/ Liebster Blog Award

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

Liebster-Award

So here are the rules for Liebster Award Nominations:

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

Eva FunnyMy nominees:

1. Quiche and Tell

2. MyFoodTapestry

3. Chug Your Greens

4. Kelly Siew Cooks

5. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner…and then some

6. Fried Tofu

7. Ely’s Kitchen

8. No Whey No Cow

9. Eat Healthy & Thrive

10. Perfect Circle Kitchen

Here are the questions from Anna:

1. What is your biggest fear?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!