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! 🙂

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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! 😉

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!

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. 😀

013Hmm…nam namm!

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