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.

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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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! 😀

ABC Soup / A popular Eurasian dish in every Malaysian home

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Want to try some Malaysian home cooking that is super easy? Here is one for you, and it happens to be very nutritious and always goes right! ABC soup is by far one of the most commonly known soups in Malaysian home kitchen, I would say that Tom Yam soup ( which influenced by Thailand) and Soup Tulang (Beef bones soup) come next, we shall talk more about them some other time.

And here comes the interesting part, why is it called ABC soup? I have always understood that the soup is packed with Vitamin A, B and C from the the main ingredients. It’s true, you get Vitamin A from carrot, Vitamin B  from potato, and Vitamin C from tomato and potato again. Some people argued in the Internet that it’s ABC because it is so easy to make like ABC. Well, anyway. The good thing about this soup is that it can be cooked with meat or just vegetables itself and it will taste as good. People sometimes add ingredients such as celery, soybean, pickled mustard (榨菜) or mushroom to give extra flavours. Help yourselves. 🙂

My mom always uses pork ribs or whole chicken to make this soup, and it gives such intense, natural sweet flavour that no salt is needed for the soup at all. It always tastes heavenly good. In here I am using soybeans to replace the meat to get my protein and flavours.

My new philosophy:

Okay, you may wonder why I have been posting vegetarian recipes. Yes I am eating more plants now. As mentioned before, I am a bit concerned with the meat industry, moral, ethic, environment, eco and health issues. You know what, it is actually a really big problem in this world! And no, I am not (yet) a vegetarian, more like a ‘flexitarian’ instead. Interesting huh? I read about this new term, if I understood right, it means someone who is becoming a vegetarian but not yet giving up on eating meat. In wikipedia, it says flexitarian is a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat.  Well I wouldn’t call myself a vegetarian really if I still eat meat, sometimes. So flexitarian it is! And why am I still ‘sometimes’ eating meat is that, it just tastes so good…..( SORRY! My mind is not strong enough yet) Well it is also a social issue. It just makes my life and everyone else’s life easier if I am not too strict about my diet. I am trying my best to find meat replacement and substitutes for great recipes. So watch me!

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(Make 4 servings)

Ingredients:

1-2 Carrots, cut into 3” sizes

2 Medium size onions, quartered

2 Potatoes, quartered

2 Corns, halved

4 Tomatoes, halved

100g Pickled mustard (optional)

1/2 cup Soybean (soaked overnight) / 1/2 kg Pork ribs, blanched with boiling water

3 l Water

1 tsp Black pepper, crushed

Salt to taste

Methods:

1. Bring water to boiled in a deep pot, add in all the vegetables and crushed black pepper(and pork ribs). Bring to boiled again and turn heat to medium. Cook for 3 hours.

2. Season with salt and ready to serve. Enjoy!

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This soup can be served already after 1 hour or 2; some people argued that it loses the nutrients if it cooks too long. I personally like a stronger taste, so to me at least 3 hours cooking is needed for that powerful, natural sweet taste to happen in the liquid.

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Those of you may also wonder why is this dish Eurasian (European and Asian mix). It is believed that potatoes, carrots and black pepper have been some of those items that were brought in to Malaysia by the Europeans during 15th century. The mixture of cultures directly reflects on the local way of cooking in every homes.  And here it is, steaming hot in my bowl. A perfect example of fusion cooking. 😉  Must try!
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Oh in addition, I always make this soup for my husband whenever he feels sick. Because liquid does him good and it is packed with nutrients. Plus it has such ‘luring’ taste, if you get what I mean. He loves it!