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Vegetarian Surprise

>> Friday, March 30, 2007

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Today is Friday, and I am so glad the weekend is coming up. For the whole week, I have been trying to resolve some nonsense problems caused by the lengthy administration procedure. I am totally fed up with the whole thing, but it has finally been resolved. Now it is the time for me to relax and enjoy some good food! Like usual, whenever feeling uneasy or exhausted, I opt for vegetarian dishes as food remedy. Everyone knows vegetables are good and healthy, and I have had real craving for them lately.

And last night I got what I wanted – a delicious vegetarian pasta dish. Pairing the earthy flavor of mushrooms with the sweetness of tomatoes, the pasta is surprisingly beautiful. I also love the crunchy bite of pine nuts and the lovely aroma of thyme. This recipe is a keeper, and I will definitely make it again.

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Pasta with mushrooms, pine nuts, tomato and thyme

Adapted from Jason Viola’s recipe, appeared in Australian Gourmet Traveller April 2007.

Ingredients (serve 4)

400g fresh or dried fettuccine or tagliatelle

2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

25g dried porcini mushrooms

40g fresh mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

125ml white wine

1 tsp finely chopped long red chili

1 tsp of dried thyme

A handful of grape or cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped

20g – 30g pine nuts, roasted

Parmesan, to serve

Basil or fresh thyme to garnish


Olive oil

½ onion, chopped

400gm canned cherry tomatoes, puréed

Salt, sugar and pepper to taste


  1. Make the sauce first. Fry onion with olive oil over medium heat until soft. Add tomatoes and cook for 10 mins or until sauce is thickened. Season to taste with salt, sugar and pepper.
  2. Soak the porcini mushrooms with 1 cup of hot water for 15 mins. Squeeze out the excess water from the mushrooms, coarsely chopped. Reserve the soaking liquid.
  3. Heat oil, add garlic & thyme and cook until soft. Add chilli, mushrooms and cook for 3 mins. Add wine, reserved mushroom liquid and the tomato sauce. Simmer until the sauce thickens.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta as per package direction. I used fresh pasta, which took 3-4 mins to cook.
  5. Add the chopped grape tomatoes to the sauce and heat through. Toss the pasta with the sauce. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and shaved parmesan. Serve immediately.


This dish is my entry to Presto Pasta Night, hosted by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast. Please hop over to her blog for the round up.


Green Tea Cupcakes

>> Sunday, March 25, 2007

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I always love the flavour of green tea (matcha), especially in dessert. One of my favorites is the Green Tea Gateaux from Crown Bakery in Swanston Street, Melbourne. This bakery is very popular among the Asian students probably because their products suit our tastes more. Recently I have seen similar cakes in other bakeries and the ones I have tried so far have been very good.

Matcha is a green tea powder used in Japanese tea ceremony. However, nowadays it is also widely used to flavour other things like noodles, desserts, drinks and ice creams. Matcha matches really well with rich and creamy desserts. It helps to cut back the richness and bring out a beautiful balance of flavours. The principle is very similar to matching coffee with frosted milk in a latte and cappuccino or with cream in Vienna coffee. Matcha also has a lot of health benefits with its antioxidant properties.

Having craved for some nice green tea cakes for some time, I finally had a chance to make them for a gathering. The cake batter was the result of a little modification from Magnolia Bakery’s vanilla cupcake recipe. It was light, fluffy and flavorsome. I will probably keep this as my basic cake recipe. For the frosting, I used Chockylit’s Green Tea Cream Cheese Frosting, which was very creamy, rich and satisfying. I did increase the quantity of matcha because my matcha powder was not that strong. The frosting was really a nice bonus to the airy cupcakes, but even without it, they would still be perfect.

If you are looking for the recipe, please visit Chockylit’s post. Her cake batter is very similar to Magnolia’s recipe that I modified. The frosting is a keeper but next time I may use only half of the indicated amount since I prefer thin frosting on my cake.

I am submitting this post to Weekend Herb Blogging. This event was created by Kalyn, and the current edition is hosted by Kate from Thyme for Cooking. The featured “herb” (in broad sense) is of course matcha.



>> Friday, March 23, 2007

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Although the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival is on, I chose not to attend it but spent money & time on my other obsession – music. Last Tuesday I attended an awesome live performance by Augie March, who in my opinion is the best Australian band at the moment. I love everything about Augie March’s music, the diversity in their style and very beautiful lyrics. Listen to this awesome song, and you will understand why I love them. My next “concert” will be in August, not another rock concert but something I have long to see for all of my life. I will disclose the secret later when the time comes. :P

Back to the foodie business, this entry is about an irresistible noodle dish originated from Sichuan, China. According to Ken Home’s The Taste of China, this dish is now popular across China and there are a lot of versions available. It is typically sold in street “restaurants” and food stall. I don’t know if you agree but street food is not only cheap but exceptionally delicious! I have a particular liking for street food. Like most of school kids, I used to know all good street food stalls around Hanoi. When traveling to other Asian countries, the food I remembered the most was from the small street shops not big restaurants. Who can resist street food? Not me anyway.

The noodle dish featured is very easy to make, as long as you have the right ingredients. You may need to find Chinese sesame paste (from Sichuan if possible), but this can be substituted easily with tahini paste. The essential ingredient, which gives the noodle the pungent flavour is Sichuan Peppercorns. My friend once told me that these peppercorns are banned in the US. I am not sure if it is still the case? If not, smuggling some may be the option if you are really obsessed (*). And if you are lucky to find some, please take the effort to roast and pound them yourself. Don’t buy the powder form, which does not have the real lasting spicy taste.

(*): After this entry was posted, Lydia has kindly advised me that Sichuan Peppercorns are now available in the US, subjecting for some strict rules. For more information on how to buy them in the US, please visir her post here.

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Adapted from recipe by Ken Hom

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

225g chicken/pork mince

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tsp salt

Oil, about 4 tbsp

3 tbsp finely chopped garlic

2 tbsp finely chopped ginger

5 tbsp finely chopped spring onions (scallions)

2 tbsp sesame paste, or tahini paste or at the last resort, peanut butter

2 tbsp datk soy sauce

2 tbsp chili oil

2 tsp salt

225 ml chicken stock (more if needed)

350g Chinese thin fresh egg noodles or dried egg noodles, prepared as per package directions. Keep warm.

1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns, roasted and ground


Combine mince, soy sauce, salt in a small bowl. Mix well. Heat the wok until hot. Pour in the oil, wait until it is hot then fry the mea, stir using a spatula to break down into pieces. When the meat is crispy (about 4 mins), remove from the pan with a slotted spoons and drain on kitchen paper.

Pour of the oil, leaving about 1-2 tbsp. Reheat then add garlic, ginger and onions. Stir-fry for 30 sec. Then add sesame paste (or tahini/peanut butter), soy sauce, chili oil, salt and chicken stock. Simmer for 4 mins.

Divide the warm noodles among heated plates. Laddle on the sauce, garnish with the fried meat and roasted peppercorns.

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This is my entry for Presto Pasta Night hosted by Ruth of Once upon a Feast. Please check her blog for the round up.



The Heart of the Matter #1

>> Thursday, March 22, 2007

The gorgeous Ilva of Lucullian Delights is hosting a wonderful new event – The Heart of the Matter, Eating Healthy for Life. The aim is to share favourite healthy & tasty recipes. The event will also help us to eat better and healthier. Please check out Ilva’s blog for more information.

When it comes to healthy food, I take great comfort in Japanese Cuisine. Sushi is always my first choice for a quick lunch. Or if I have more time, udon, ramen or some soba salad will be perfect. Japanese food is one of my weaknesses, but a healthy one I suppose. One of my favourite Japanese ingredients is miso. Made primarily from fermented soy bean, miso can vary in taste depending on other added ingredients like barley or rice. Generally, the paler colour indicates milder flavour. This soybean paste is most famous for miso soup, but it is also used for sauces, marinade, spread etc.

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Today I decided to use miso in one of my favourite grilled tofu dish. As the theme of the current “The Heart of Matter” is Finger Food, I twisted the recipe a little, grilling tofu on skewers. Eggplant is also used to offer another variety. The result is Miso Tofu & Eggplant Skewers, something definitely suitable to serve as finger food. The dish is also healthy yet delicious with the use of miso, tahini, sesame, tofu and eggplant. It is also suitable for vegetarians. If you want meat, simply substitute tofu with sime skinless chicken breast. I think it should work perfectly.


Ingredients (for 15-20 skewers)

1 large eggplant

600g firm tofu

Roasted Sesame Oil

Skewers, soaked in water for at least 30’

Sesame seeds, to sprinkle

Miso Sauce (*)

½ cup (150g) shiro miso (white miso)

2 tsp sugar

2 tablespoons mirin

80ml dashi (Japanese fish broth – I used the instant one. Can substitute with veggie stock for a complete vegetarian option)

2 tablespoons tahini

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Cut eggplant to slices of 1.5 cm thickness. Soak in salt water for 30’ then pat dry with paper towel.

Press tofu with a weight on top – Make sure all the water is drained out. Pat dry and cut into 2cm cubes.

Combine the miso sauce ingredients in a sauce pan, bring to the boil and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Thread eggplant and tofu onto skewers. To support the tofu, you may want to use two skewers for each tofu piece.

Place eggplant skewers on a baking tray. Brush with sesame oil. Grill (Broil) for 10-15 mins or until cooked.

On a separate tray, prepare tofu skewers in the same manner. However, only grill for 3-5 mins or until slightly golden.

Spread the miso mixture onto the eggplant & tofu skewers. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Cook under hot grill for another 3-4 mins or until brown slightly.

Let the tofu skewer rest for 3-4 mins before serving.


# Miso can vary in taste so adjust your sugar accordingly.

# Tahini is the sesame paste, which can be found in the health food section of supermarket

# I actually doubled the amount of miso topping indicated and had a lot of leftover. Thus, the amount here should be appropriate for 1 eggplant and 1 box of firm tofu.

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The Humble Ingredient

>> Saturday, March 17, 2007

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It is time for Weekend Herb Blogging again and our current host is Becky of Key Lime and Coconut. Today, the main theme of my entry is onion, the humble universal ingredient.

There is no doubt that onion is a universal ingredient, something that we almost cannot cook without. In Vietnamese cuisine, we tend to use a lot of fresh spring onions (scallion) and shallots. But even so, the normal onion is still essential in some dishes especially with beef. Lydia of The Perfect Pantry has an excellent post about onion on her blog, do check it out for some interesting information. And here is some of the advice on how to slice/chop onion without crying. Talking about that, can anyone tell me a method that really works? I am still struggling with chopping onions without the tears (Note: I am wearing glasses, but it doesn’t seem to help a lot!).

I actually do not like the taste of raw onion and often avoid it in salad. However, when onion is cooked (fried, roasted or sauté), I can’t resist. The cooked onion has such a sweet and delicate flavour that is so different from the raw one. Having that in mind, I spent my limited free time to bake the Yoghurt Bread with Caramelised Onion from Bread the Universal Loaf by Tamara Milstein. I once nearly threw out that book thinking that I would never bake bread. Lucky I didn’t since Milstein has some nice bread ideas that are worth trying.

I really love this onion bread. It has a very nice sweetness from the onions. The light sourness from the yoghurt reminds me of sourdough bread. The bread was heavenly straight from the oven. My flatmate and I just dig in and nearly finished the two loaves for dinner. With a little self-control, the leftover lasted until the next morning and we still wanted some more. I will make this again, and perhaps try to apply the same principle in other bread dough for a bit of experiment.

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Yoghurt Bread with Caramelised Onion

Adapted from recipe by Tamara Milstein


1 cup wholemeal flour

1 cup plain yoghurt

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp yeast

¼ cup warm water


50g butter

4 large onion, sliced


1 tablespoon dried yeast

¼ cup warm water

1 tsp sugar

11/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

2-3 cup wholemeal flour

Olive oil, to drizzle


One day before:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the starter ingredients. Mix well and set aside to ferment for 24 hours.

The next day:

Melt butter in a saucepan, add sliced onion. Cook over medium heat until onions are translucent. Cover and continue to cook over low heat until the onions are golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Mix yeast, water & sugar together and sit for 10 mins. Mix this mixture to the prepared bread dough with the salt, half of the caramelized onions and baking soda. Slowly add more flour until the dough forms a shaggy mass.

Knead the dough, adding as much flour as needed. When the dough is smooth and manageable, let it rise until doubled (40-60 mins, depending on temperature).

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide in half. Shape each piece of dough into a flat oval loaf, about 1½ cm (2/3 inch) thick. Use your fingertip to add texture to the dough. Scatter the remaining onions over the top, drizzle with olive oil. Allow to rest for 30-40 mins.

Spray the dough with water and bake in a preheated oven at 200C for 25- 30 mins or until golden and crusty.



What a week!

>> Friday, March 16, 2007

This week has been hectic for me. A lot of things happened unexpectedly and at times I felt like everything was out of hand. But after taking a deep breath & relaxing by watching a nice movie (The Illusionist), I feel somewhat better! I will officially start my PHD next Monday, and my full teaching schedule has already been on. Hopefully I will be still able to spend some time in the kitchen, at least to cook something healthy. Living on takeaway food is not a long-term viable option.

My pantry is quite poorly stocked at the moment and I have been cooking with the minimum amount of ingredients. And as expected I mostly cooked noodles & pasta since they are quick and easy to whip up. I have made Sher’s Linguine with Arugula, Tuna & Hot Pepper, which was very yummy. Some other bloggers’ recipes from Ruth’s Presto Pasta Night have also been saved into my PC, and I will try them soon.

My entry for Presto Pasta Night this week is something I cooked out of the limited resources. At the time, I only had capsicums (bell peppers), tomatoes, some garlic, onion, basil and fresh fettuccine on hand. Then I also found some zucchini sitting in the fridge, which was a bonus. Thus, a dish so-called Fettuccine with Roasted Capsicum (Bell Pepper) Sauce was whipped up! It was nice, meatless and healthy – exactly something that I need after two or three days surviving on takeaway food.

I didn’t measure out a recipe for this pasta dish, but the procedure is pretty much similar to the sauce in this recipe. I simply pureed roasted capsicum, tomatoes, garlic, onions and some balsamic vinegar together, heat it up then toss through the fettuccine & barely roasted zucchini. Simple yet satisfying!



'O sole mio (*)

>> Tuesday, March 13, 2007

(*) My sun. This is the title of an Italian song sung by various artists.

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Tomatoes, for me, are like little suns. I simple adore them. That’s why when I saw the recipe for the Up-side-down Tomato and Basil Pie in the recent issue of Delicious Magazine (Australian edition); I could not resist but go to the kitchen and make it straight away.

The end result was a very pretty pie. It looked like the vibrant sun with all those lovely tomatoes on top. When placing the basil leaves as garnish, it became a garden of red and green. Colourful! Somewhat too beautiful to eat! :D Taste wise, the pie was nice when hot (You couldn’t go wrong with a cheesy base, tomatoes and basil). However, it did lose all its charm when cold and could taste somewhere near a soggy tart (remember we have tomatoes on top, and tomatoes are juicy). So if you do try it sometimes, serve it straight from the oven, or at least get your microwave ready.

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Up-side-down Tomato and Basil Pie

Recipe by Belinda Jeffery


800g can diced tomatoes

225g self-rising flour

1 tsp dry mustard powder

100g parmesan, freshly grated

50g cheddar, freshly grated

125g cold unsalted butter, chopped

2 eggs

80ml milk

Tabasco Sauce, to taste

4 ripe tomatoes (I used roma tomatoes)

1/3 cup thinly shredded basil leaves

Basil Leaves, to serve

Almond meal, to sprinkle


Pour canned tomatoes into a sieve over a bowl. Let it sit for 10-15 mins. Stir occasionally to make sure as much liquid seeps away as possible.

Combine flour, mustard and 1 tsp salt together. Add cheeses. Scatter butter over the top and rub it in, until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

In a separate bowl, whisk egg, milk and Tabasco (a few drops). Make a well in the centre of the cheese flour mixture. Stir to make a fairly stiff batter.

Line baking paper at the bottom of a 22cm cake pan. Spray well. Lay sliced tomatoes in overlapping circles in the base so the bottom is completely covered. Spread drained tomatoes evenly over the top and sprinkle with chopped basil.

Sprinkle almond meal over the tomatoes & basil (this helps to absorb the moisture of the tomatoes. I may sprinkle more almond meal next time to see if the tomatoes can be drier).

Dollop spoonfuls of batter over the tomatoes, then, pat it out with your hands to spread evenly.

Bake for 30-35 mins at preheated 180C oven, or until the pie is risen and golden. (Time varies depending on the pie thickness).

Remove from the oven when done (test with a skewer). Stand in a pan for 5 mins, invert to a large platter. Mop up any juices that seep out onto the platter.

Scatter basil leaves over & serve hot.

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Meeta of What’s for lunch, honey is having a Monthly Mingle with the theme of Savoury Cake. Although my entry is a pie, the preparation is very much like when you bake a cake. Furthermore, the look is pretty enough to qualify it as a savoury cake, don’t you think?



I wish my pomelo tasted better….

>> Saturday, March 10, 2007

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Growing up in a tropical country, I was surrounded with a lot of lovely fruits from my grandfather’s garden. My grandfather, back to the time when his health was better, used to do a lot of gardening. His old house, about 25km north of Hanoi, had front and back gardens. The front garden was full of lovely flowers and bonsai trees. And the back garden was a heaven of tropical fruits – banana, guava, longan, oranges, pomelo, star fruits, custard apples and a lot more. Every summer during my schooldays, I used to stay with my grandparents and stuffed myself with fruits, fruits and more fruits. We used to have so much that my grandmother had to sell some in the local market…

I remember my grandparents had two or three big pomelo trees. Two trees gave the normal white flesh. The other one gave fruits with pink flesh which had incredible taste, juicy and lightly tart. It was so good, I couldn’t forget the taste! Some of you might not have pomelo before. Here is some information. Pomelo belongs to the citrus family, and it is very similar to grapefruit. It is, however, sweeter and normally less juicy. Native to Southeast Asia, pomelo is also the largest citrus fruit. The normal fruit easily weigh 1-2 kilos, and sometimes can be bigger.

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Pomelo is loved throughout Asia. It can be eaten fresh, put in salad or dessert. The skin contains aromatic citrus oil and is often extracted to produce mali (or pomelo) essence. This essence is used widely in my home country to flavour sweet pudding. On top of that, the oil is used in the production of soap & shampoo since pomelo extract is well known for cleansing effects.

At this time of the year, some Asian groceries in Melbourne carry pomelo. I bought some, but was not very impressed with the taste. The ones here are not as juicy and sweet as those in Asia. In fact, they have a rather bland taste. To finish it up, I made a very simple pomelo and prawn salad. Flavoured with sweet and sour dressing, the pomelo salad tasted quite nice. But if the actual fruit was of better quality, it would be splendid. Note that a more glorious version of pomelo salad is very popular in Southeast Asia.

Sorry I don’t have an extract recipe for this Pomelo & Prawn Salad. But it was very simple. The dressing was made of lime juice, sugar and a bit of fish sauce. The herbs used were coriander, Vietnamese mint (laksa leaves). I garnished the salad with fried shallot flakes and toasted pine nuts (peanuts are more traditional).

This post is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging. Founded by Kalyn, WHB is going strong every week with lots of herbs and delicious food. This week, it is hosted by Anna of Morsels & Musings. Head to her blog for a fantastic round up later!

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Comfort Zone

>> Thursday, March 08, 2007

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Finally I have 30’ or so to update my blog. This week has been extremely busy for me and it seems I will be at this high speed for a while. I am still in the process of adapting for a tighter schedule and trying to be “stress-free” as much as possible. Being a busy bee, I did not have much time to spend in the kitchen. Thus, something familiar and simple is good at the moment.

For this week Presto Pasta Night over at Ruth’s Once upon a Feast, I go back to rice noodles, my ultimate comfort food. There are varieties of rice noodles available, and each one is suitable for a particular type of preparation. The differences are in the thickness, wideness and also the texture of the noodles. Hopefully I will be able to show these differences in my future posts.

As for today, let us stick to the stir-fry variety. These noodles (photo) are thicker and wider than the one for soup. Being a bit firmer, they can hold the texture during the stir-fry process. I buy the 1kg fresh package from Asian stores almost every time I visit one, and it disappears pretty quickly from the fridge. If you are in Melbourne, click here to see the package that I used.

With these noodles and the fresh Chinese broccoli (photo) on hand, my first choice is the yummy Fried Rice Noodles with Ginger Beef and Chinese Broccoli. I first tasted it in southern Vietnam where the Chinese population is high. Later on, I discovered that a very similar dish called Beef Hor-fun is very popular in Singapore and Malaysia. And it is always nice, no matter where you try it!

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Fried Rice Noodles with Ginger Beef and Chinese Broccoli

Adapted from Amy Beh’s recipe. Please use your judgement since my recipe is estimation only.

Ingredients (for 4 serves)

400g fresh flat rice noodle (photo)

200g beef filet, thinly sliced across the grain

1 bunch of Chinese broccoli (photo), washed and cut into pieces.

A – Marinade for the beef

3 -4 slices ginger, minced

A dash of roasted sesame oil

1 tbsp Chinese Rice Wine

1 tbsp or to taste Dark Soy Sauce

B- Marinade for the noodles

1 tbsp dark soy sauce mixed with 1 tbsp of water

Corn flour, to coat the noodles, about 2 tbsp

C – Gravy – mix together

1/2 tsp light soy sauce

1/2 tsp oyster sauce

1 tsp dark soy sauce

1/4 tsp sugar

½ cup water

2-3 tsp corn flour

Oil to pan-fry

Other seasoning if needed

Chili oil, to serve (if desired)


  1. Marinade the beef with A for at least 30’.
  2. Add the soy sauce then the corn flour to the mixture. Toss to coat.
  3. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a small frying pan (*), get some noodles and fry both sides until crisp. Work as you do for frying pancake. Repeat until you finish with the noodles. Set aside and keep warm (I put mine in a low oven)
  4. Heat very little oil in a wok. Briefly stir-fry the Chinese broccoli. Set aside and keep warm.
  5. Heat some oil in the wok, briefly stir-fry the beef. Do not stir-fry the beef for too long, otherwise it will be tough. Set aside & keep warm.
  6. In the same pan, pour in C. Boil gently until the mixture thickens slightly. Taste for seasoning. Turn off the heat.
  7. To serve, place the noodles in a heated plate. Arrange the vegetable and the beef on top. Pour over the gravy and serve immediately.


  1. You can fry the noodle in one small frying-pan, and stir-fry the vegetable & beef in another big wok. This way, the dish is quicker to cook and remains hot.
  2. The amount presented in the photo is enough for two girls to share. You can shape them smaller for individual serve.
  3. Substitute Chinese Broccoli with other Asian Greens if you like.
Tag: asian food


Coriander Magic

>> Saturday, March 03, 2007

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This week WHB returns home to Kalyn’s Kitchen. Kalyn is passionate about coriander (cilantro) so today I am going to seduce her with coriander, from the roots to the leaves. ;) Coriander is such a popular herb that you can find its presence in various cuisines from Southeast Asia, Central Asia to South America etc. It can be used fresh to garnish, adding flavours to stock, curry paste etc. Furthermore, coriander fruits, known as coriander seeds, are also used extensively. With their versatile usage, last year, bloggers have chosen coriander as their most favourite herb. However, recently I have discovered a funny movement calling coriander to be banned. That is a real puzzle for me since coriander is not at all a hard-to-eat herb. Well, I guess people do have different taste in food!

For this week WHB, I will use coriander as the main theme. The dish I cooked up presents very well the use of coriander in Southeast Asia. Here fresh coriander, including the root, is used to make spice paste. A lot of Asian dishes also require coriander roots to flavour stock/broth. That’s why coriander is normally sold without the root. In the Asian fresh market that I visit frequently, you have to pay extra to buy a bundle with the long root intact (pic). Now, who can say the root is worthless?

The paste presented, Pepper, Garlic & Coriander Paste, is simple yet very aromatic. The recipe is from Charmaine Solomon, a food writer who is well-known for her knowledge about Asian cuisine. The quantity given here yields about 1 cup, which can be kept in the fridge for about 3 months. I normally have one jar ready which I can use to marinade meat, toss through salad or steamed vegetable. One point though, you do need to roast and pound your own black pepper. Do not use the ground product, which has lost most of the strong fiery taste. I have used this paste to marinade and grill some chicken, which is very aromatic and flavoursome. Highly recommended if you love the herby and refreshing flavour of Thai food.

For those who may wonder about the plant I used to present the chicken in the photo. It is a lovely Vietnamese herb used commonly in southern cooking. I will feature this herb soon when I can get some other ingredients. But for this week WHB, the glory belongs to coriander!

Pepper, Garlic & Coriander Paste

Ingredients (for 1 cup)

200g fresh coriander with leaves, stems and roots (about two bunches)

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

2 tsp sea salt

1-2 tbsp whole black peppercorns

2 tbsp lime/lemon juice


Wash the coriander carefully, especially the root. Chop coarsely

Crush garlic with salt to a smooth paste.

Roast the peppercorns in a frying pan until fragrant. Crush coarsely. Add coriander and pound or process in a food processor until become a paste. Mix in garlic & lemon/lime juice.

Store in clean jar in the fridge for three months.


Grilled Chicken with Pepper, Garlic & Coriander

Marinade the chicken pieces with the paste above. For 6 thigh or breast fillets or 1.5 kg whole chicken, use about 3 tablespoons of paste and some oil (I also added a little bit of fish sauce to enhance the flavour). If using whole chicken, make swallow slits in breast and thigh. Marinade for 1 hour or overnight.

You can barbeque or grill the chicken. Serve with salad, rice, noodle or even slices of bread.



Hello... Autumn!

>> Friday, March 02, 2007

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Today (March 1) is the first day of autumn in Melbourne. Finally my beloved autumn has arrived with all its lovely characteristics – blue sky, cool breeze, yellow leaves and light sunshine. The weather will be milder, too. All those hot summer days when I feel like being roasted will gradually disappear… Can’t help smiling happily!

What a better way to celebrate autumn than with pumpkins? I opted for the small varieties called golden nugget squash. Seeing them at the market last week reminded me that autumn was near. And here it comes at last!

Initially I was not sure what to do with these squashes – making soup, stuffed with meat/rice etc.??? In the end, I decided to use them as shells to bake some creamy spaghetti. No particular reason, just that I felt a real craving for pasta. It turned out to be a good decision. Firstly, my craving was satisfied. Furthermore, I could use this post to participate in a new event – Presto Pasta Nights created by Ruth of Once upon a Feast. This event will be weekly, and Ruth will post the round-up full of yummy pasta dishes every Friday. Of course a noodle/pasta lunatic like me can’t afford to miss it. So Ruth, please count me in.

My first entry is not a very quick to make, but it is an easy one. After practically 30 mins in the kitchen, you just have to pop the stuffed pumpkins in the oven for 30-40 mins. Then, with a fork & knife (and perhaps a spoon) you have everything readily to serve. And the result does worth the wait. The creamy smoked salmon spaghetti is really delicious when eaten with the sweet yellow flesh of pumpkin. Not to mention the crunchy topping… I would love to have it again for dinner tonight. Only if I could buy these small squashes more easily!

Creamy Smoked Salmon Spaghetti Baked in Golden Squash

Inspired by Jody Vassallo

Ingredients (for 2 as main course)

2 golden nugget squash (small pumpkins)

100g spaghetti, cooked and drained per package direction

Olive oil

1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, crushed

100 (1/2 c) white wine

200ml sour cream

½ cup freshly grated parmesan

120g smoked salmon, cut into small pieces

Dill, chopped – to taste. I love it so I put quite a bit.


  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Cut spaghetti into shorter pieces.
  2. Heat oil and cook shallot & garlic until soften. Stir in wine, simmer until almost evaporated. Add cream and cheese, cook slightly thickened. Toss through smoked salmon, pasta and dill. Seasoning to taste.
  3. Cut the top of squashes, scoop out the seed. Fill the squashes with pasta mixture. With the cap on, bake them in oven for 40 minutes or until the pumpkin flesh softens. Remove the top at the last 10 mins of baking to achieve the golden crust.
  4. Serve hot.



Jihva for Potato

>> Thursday, March 01, 2007

The theme for this month Jihva for Ingredient, hosted by is potatoes. I love potatoes in everything, except for potato chips. Wait a minute, no potato chips? That's right. The only chip I eat occasionally Doritos Mexican Corn Chips served with their spicy salsa. Other than that, I do not eat chips. Not that I am a health freak but the potato chips here are too salty for my liking so I just drop them altogether.

While I hardly have craving for potato chips/fries, all of my friends love them. But they are also real health freaks, i.e. after eating they would go on complaining and feeling unhealthy for a long time. To prevent this from happening, whenever my friends drop by, I will make these very easy baked herby potato wedges. Right, they are not as crunchy as chips, but these wedges are good nibbles in their own rights. They are particularly good with my homemade spiced tomato chili pickle. Give them a try; perhaps you will like it, too?

Baked Herby Potato Wedges

Based on Delia Smith’s recipe


1 kg of desiree potatoes

Extra virgin olive oil, as needed

1-2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 red or green chilli, chopped

Salt, to taste

Spiced Chili Tomato Pickle or Sour Cream & Sweet Chili Sauce, to serve


  1. Preheat oven to 220C.
  2. Wash and dry the potatoes. Leave the skin on. Cut potatoes into wedges, about 1 cm thickness.
  3. Toss the wedges with olive oil, garlic, rosemary and chili. Sprinkle with salt. Bake in the oven for 20-25 mins or until golden brown. Serve hot.

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