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Green fresh almonds

>> Sunday, January 23, 2011

{Weekend Herb Blogging #267 }


It looks like 2011 will be a great year for me, food wise. A few weeks back, I jumped with joy to discover fresh chickpeas for the first time.

And now, I am snacking on fresh green almonds.

Yes!! I could not even believe my eyes seeing them at the corner grocery store that I would never stepped in before. What a find!

Fresh green almonds are incredible. Inside the thick shell and bitter skin is the small white nut, which tastes nothing like its dried version. Fresh almond is sweet, nutty and ‘milky’ – all of these flavours, but in the most subtle sense. If picked much younger, the outer skin could be eaten as well. My almonds are quite old, so you gotta shell and skin them to enjoy the flavours.

I was thinking of Poh’s fresh almond milk recipe as I drove home with a bag of green almonds. However, after tasting it, I think even the small amount of milk in the recipe would be too strong. So what is the best way to eat fresh almonds? Just as they are, I say.

I’m sending this entry to Weekend Herb Blogging, an event is under the care of Haalo at Cook almost anything at least once. Our host of this week is in from Honest Vanilla.

Snacking on fresh green almonds



>> Friday, January 21, 2011

Thanks Indonesian Eats for a lovely recap of Delicious Vietnam #9!

Now onto Delicious Vietnam #10! Please welcome Flavour Boulevard as our host.

If you are new to Delicious Vietnam, here’s a summary of the event along side with some rules and recaps of past editions.

You have until the second Sunday of  February (US time) to post about anything related to Vietnamese cuisine – recipes, food writing, review or reflection.

In your post, please include the phrase “Delicious Vietnam #10” with the link to your host.

Please submit to your post by the deadline Feb 13th 2011, which is:

+) 12 noon, Monday, 14 Feb 2011 – Melbourne (Australia) time
+) 7 pm, Sunday, 13 Feb 2011 – Los Angeles (US) time
+) 9am, Monday, 14 Feb 2011 – Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city time

Send your entries to

with Delicious Vietnam #10 in the subject with the following details:

• Your Name
• Your Blog Name/URL
• Your Post URL
• Your Location
• A photo (optional): 300px wide

Looking forward to next month round up!


{Good NEWS} My work in print!

>> Sunday, January 16, 2011

Edamame with sichuan salt mix

Edamame with sichuan salt mix - my contribution to Bep Gia Dinh 

Some good news ;), both came from Vietnam! First off, I am featured in Bếp Gia Đình (Family Kitchen) magazine, Chinese New Year edition, in their featured bloggers’ section. I was a bit scared to show my face in a national magazine, but everything went well and I am happy.

The second news is even more thrilling for me personally. I have started up a monthly food column with Tạp chí Đẹp (a top fashion/women magazine) in Vietnam. The editor (a very cool personality I must add), sent me the soft copy of their New Year edition just a few days back and I was speechless. The design was so pretty, and I could not believe my Vietnamese writing skills were still good enough. *happy* I guess this is my welcome to the world of constant deadline chasing!

Left: the 1st page of my 4 pages article for Đẹp. Right: My edame photo is on the top right corner of Bếp Gia Đình cover! 

Apparently my mom spent the weekend hunting down these two mags (she cannot wait for the complimentary issues to be sent over, ha!). I hope to see the hard copies soon enough when I visit Hanoi in two weeks time.

While this is not the first time I do some freelancing work, these oppurtunities are amazing. I’m thankful for the opportunities… And a big thank to YOU, my fellow food bloggers and readers, who have continued to inspire and encourage me!


BAKED's Peanut butter and chocolate cookies

>> Friday, January 14, 2011

{Finally, a recipe that I like!}

[Best ever!] Peanut butter and chocolate cookies

Peanut butter – yum! Chocolate – yum! But peanut butter chocolate cookies are a combination that has intrigued me for years. I just don’t get it – why my Americans friends would go crazy with weird chocolate combination as such. They even put salty pretzels with chocolate! (I kid. That’s actually an okay combo for me).

My first ever encounter with chocolate peanut butter combination wasn’t memorable. REESE'S Peanut Butter Cup, I tried but could never be a big fan. Certain food grew on me (like Brussels sprouts), just not REESE.

Heidi from 101 cookbooks was the first person who convinced me about the addictive power of peanut butter cookies. Her vegan recipe is awesome, and I have used it so many times. If you are looking for a good cookies recipe with minimal ingredients, use hers!

[Best ever!] Peanut butter and chocolate cookies

I guess I wouldn’t have been convinced about the addictive nature of peanut butter & chocolate cookies if I didn’t try BAKED’s recipes. I got the two BAKED cookbooks during my trip to NYC last October, but didn’t really read through them until recently while researching for my article on chocolate. Now I’m hooked! These cookies are buttery, crumbly with that right balance of sweet, salty, nutty and chocolaty flavours. One of the best cookies recipes I have tried yet.

While it’s raining outside, I’m glad to have those cookies around to enjoy with my cuppa.

Have a great weekend, everyone! It's been raining a lot here in Melbourne, but I cannot complain. Our people in Queenland are suffering. My heart goes out to them.

[Best ever!] Peanut butter and chocolate cookies

“BAKED” Peanut butter cookies with chocolate chunks

It’s recommended to use milk chocolate in this recipe, since the flavours match better that way. I’ve used Callebaut milk chocolate chips. Also, the recipes made about 40 cookies (small-med size), while the book states it would produce 24 cookies. I guess American cookies are giant in nature ;)

{Printable recipes}

1 ¾ cup (220g) plain flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
220g unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes
1 cup (220g) castor sugar
1 cup (220g) firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup (205g) peanut butter, smooth style
170g milk chocolate, cut into chunks
1 – Sift flour, baking soda and salt together. Set aside.
2 – In another bowl, beat butter and sugar until light. Add egg in two additions, mix well after each time. After that, mix in peanut butter and vanilla.
3 – Divide the flour mixture into two portions and thoroughly mix into the butter mixture, one portion at a time. Next, add in the chocolate and mix until combined. Cover the mixture, and rest in the fridge for at least 3 hours (preferably overnight).
4 – Preheat oven to 190C. Prepare baking tray(s) and line them with baking paper.
5 – Take the cookies mixture out of the fridge. Scoop tablespoons of batter and place onto the prepared tray. The cookies will spread, so allow plenty of room for them. Using the palm of your hand, press down the cookies gently.
6 – Bake in the preheated oven to 10-13 minutes. When the cookies are golden to your preference (mine baked in 10 mins and it’s perfect), take the tray out. Leave the cookies on the tray for 5 minutes, and then gently move them to cool on a rack.
Enjoy with a hot cup of tea. The cookies will keep 3-4 days.


Vietnamese mochi balls with dark palm sugar filling (bánh trôi)

>> Tuesday, January 04, 2011

{Delicious Vietnam #9}

Vietnamese mochi balls (bánh trôi)

My grandmother must have been secretly worried about my marriage prospect when I was younger. I climbed trees, fought with the boys and refused to learn knitting or sewing. Oh well, at least I did learn how to cook. But even that led to a lot of disagreement!

The thing was, my grandmom lived in a village north of Hanoi. Her style of cooking was truly (Vietnamese) peasant style. Living through the two big wars, she also got into the habit of cooking simply, economically and never wasting anything. Ever! I once tried to cook Chinese tea eggs using gas cook top and she was astonished! What, hours of simmering, wasting so much gas (which was insanely expensive at the time) just to get some marbled effects on boiled eggs? Thankfully my wonderful father always stepped in at the right time to prevent any ill feelings or unnecessary arguments. And you know, family, we do argue over silly things, even boiled eggs.

Of course after all, I do love my grandmother’s cooking. Her food, simple as it may seem, is wonderful with all the flavours I am familiar with. But, a big but, I am sure I can make better bánh trôi (Vietnamese mochi dumplings) than her.

Vietnamese mochi balls (bánh trôi)

Bánh trôi is pretty popular in northern Vietnam. It’s our version of mochi dumplings, filled with dark palm sugar, and sprinkled with a mixture of freshly grated coconut and sesame seeds. Usually, it is paired with bánh chay, which is another kind of mochi dumplings, but with mung-bean filling and served in thick syrup.  In my home, bánh trôi is known as Vietnamese ondeh-ondeh. heh.

The trick to make good bánh trôi is really in the ratio of glutinous rice flour and normal rice flour to make the skin. My grandmom used 100% glutinous rice flour, but it yields heavier mochi. The ones sold at the shop are chewy, but with a bite to them. I learned from a friend a long time back that the ratio of 9:1 is just perfect. Tried and tested by me!

I wonder what my grandmother would day if she saw my pink bánh trôi. Actually, I can predict. She would go on for hours on how food coloring was bad for you. True, I didn’t disagree. But I bet she could never go crazy over cute and colorful macaroons like us? :D

This is my entry to Delicious Vietnam #9. This edition is hosted by Indonesian Eats. More details can be found here.

Vietnamese mochi balls (bánh trôi)

Vietnamese mochi balls with dark palm sugar filling (bánh trôi)

Pay attention to the kind of sugar here. I used dark plam sugar, which is rather soft and intense in flavours. The normal palm sugar from Thailand, which is pale in color, is not suitable. 

{Printable recipe}

Ingredients - [corrected!]
180g glutinous rice flour
20g rice flour
Around 200ml warm water
Filling: 100-150g dark plam sugar, chopped into ½ inch squares
Pan roasted sesame seeds, to sprinkle
Prepare the dough first: mix the two types of flours together. Slowly add in the water, mixing until the dough comes together and is smooth and elastic. Cover and rest.
Pinch a little dough, put 1 piece of sugar in the middle, and then roll into a small ball (size of a marble). Repeat with the rest.
Boil some water in a big pot. Fill another bowl with cold water.
When the water is boiled, add the mochi balls in batches. Bring the water to the boil. The mochi balls are cooked when they are floated to the surface of the pot. Using a slotted spoon, take them out and put them into the bowl of cold water immediately. Repeat with the rest.
Arrange the balls onto small plates. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. These mochi balls are best eaten on the same day they are made.

Note: if you are after the marbled pink mochi balls, color ½ of the dough with food coloring, then pair two colors when rolling the balls.


Fresh chickpeas with Sichuan spiced salt

>> Saturday, January 01, 2011

{Weekend Herb Blogging}

Fresh chickpeas

My MIL must have thought I was mad. We were passing this grocery store and I screamed so happily seeing a few branches of fresh chickpeas for sale. “How can you be excited about vegetables?”, she asked. “Ah. You!”.

Yes, me! Over the years, I’ve grown to love the more common dried (and canned) varieties and used them in soup, salad, dips… But holding fresh chickpeas in my hands was something different. In the pods, they looked nothing alike the chickpeas I had always known. Actually, the shape was quite cute, resembling the shape of chicken (hence the name chickpeas? Just my guess). Anyway, as soon as I removed the pods, a familiar shape appeared. Chickpeas!

fresh chickpeas with spicy Sichuan salt mixture

Fresh chickpeas can be enjoyed raw. I, however, found that the taste is a bit too raw and ‘grassy’ for my palate. If you like eating raw bean sprouts or the likes, that won’t be a problem. Not for me though.
So, I steamed the pods minimally then sprinkle them with a mixture of spiced Sichuan salt. I normally did this with frozen whole edamame, but with chickpeas, it was just as brilliant.

This is my first 2011 post! HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

I’m sending this post to Weekend herb blogging, hosted by Haalo of Cook (almost) anything at least once.

fresh chickpeas with spicy Sichuan salt mixture

Fresh chickpeas: just wash and steam them briefly. Then, sprinkle with Sichuan spiced salt.

Sichuan spiced salt: in a skillet, roast 1 tablespoon of Sichuan pepper until fragrant. Mix in with three tablespoons of rock sea salt, and pound with a mortal and pestle until you get a fine texture. This will keep well in an air tight container.

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