Greek-Style Roast Chicken

Sometimes the best-tasting food is the simplest. My culinary forte is South-East Asian cuisine, and as a result I often get caught up with complicated recipes requiring a plethora of spices and condiments. Recently, I’ve been learning that food doesn’t always need a lot of ingredients and hours of preparation time in order to taste good. Rather, a simple recipe can be equally sublime with the right combination of fresh, tasty ingredients.

A prime example is this Greek-Style Roast Chicken, which only has five main ingredients: chicken, olive oil, lemon juice, oregano and salt.
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Tofu and Vegetable Noodles

These days I’m a big fan of quick, one-pot (or pan) meals. With a full-time corporate career, I have little time and energy to prepare the intricate meals I used to enjoy. So I often find myself making quick stir-fries that can be thrown together in about half an hour, like this vegetarian noodle dish.

This noodle dish features three main ingredients: fresh Hokkien noodles, tofu and Asian greens. It’s easy and simple enough to whip up on a weeknight, without sacrificing on taste.
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Sweet Potato and Mushroom Pilaf

I believe that food not only provides us with sustenance, but memories as well. For instance, some of us might associate barbecued ribs with a favourite grandparent, because Grandpa used to make the best ribs during your childhood.

For me, this Sweet Potato and Mushroom Pilaf kept me going during a period of unemployment a few years ago. It was a particularly tough time in my life, and I was eating canned food and other very basic foods in order to make my rent payments. During that time, I cooked this dish fairly often as the ingredients were cheap and I didn’t have to feel like I was merely surviving with baked beans on toast.

Thankfully, I’m now in a much better position financially, but I still like to cook this dish whenever I’m pressed for time. It’s quick to prepare, tastes great, and since it’s a one-pot meal, cleanup is straightforward. And whenever I make this dish, I give thanks that I’ve come a long way since the first time I made it.
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Vietnamese Ginger Chicken

It’s now early summer here in Australia and the herbs I grow in pots outside my flat are beginning to grow again. My Vietnamese coriander has been especially prolific, sending out new leaves everywhere. I felt it was time to give it a light pruning, and harvest some leaves at the same time.

I decided to try out a recipe from Mai Pham’s excellent cookbook New Flavours of the Vietnamese Table. Ginger Chicken looked straightforward enough, so I substituted the spring onions and coriander in the original recipe with my Vietnamese coriander.

The resulting dish was a sublime blend of fish sauce, sugar, chilli and a hint of pepper from the Vietnamese coriander. I think I made the gravy a bit more watery than it should be, but it didn’t matter as I was slurping it up like soup. It’s a good thing I live alone as I forgot most of my table manners while eating this dish.
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How To Turn Instant Noodles Into A Gourmet Meal

I have a confession to make. Despite my cooking-from-scratch-is-best mantra and occasional preaching about healthy eating, I’ve recently resumed a bad food addiction.

You’ve guessed it- Instant Noodles, aka instant ramen. Probably Japan’s most famous invention, along with MSG.

I had been so good. In fact, I hadn’t touched the stuff in years, until a recent holiday to China on a Silk Road tour (which I will blog about shortly). It was about five or six days into the tour, I had barely eaten the entire time thanks to a bout of diarrhoea and not liking the food served on the tour. And I was starving. A fellow tour member saw this and kindly gave me some cup noodles she had brought with her.

And in my semi-emancipated state, that steaming cup of instant noodles tasted divine. Soft, yet springy noodles in a MSG-laden broth — I got hooked, once again.

Since my return from the trip I’ve been stocking my pantry with instant noodles. I just can’t help myself. Unfortunately, while convenient and rather tasty, instant noodles are highly processed and hence not very good nutritionally. That said, there’s no reason why we can’t make a purse out of a sow’s ear. So, I’d like to show you how easy it is to take a simple bowl of instant ramen and turn it into a gourmet meal.
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Malay-style Okra in Rempah

As stated earlier, I’m a big fan of home-made rempah (spice paste) made in a mortar and pestle.

While it takes some effort to prepare, rempah is incredibly versatile, and is a staple in many Malay and Nyonya dishes found to South-East Asia. One of my favourite dishes is okra stir-fried in rempah, which is also easily found in Singapore’s many nasi padang (assorted meat & vegetable dishes) food stalls.

Also known as lady’s fingers, okra is a versatile vegetable that can either be stewed in a soup or curry, or stir-fried. When fried in rempah, the natural stickiness of the okra is absorbed by the rempah, allowing the diner to savour the texture and flavour of okra more easily.
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The Bonsai

Japanese cuisine available in Australia tends to fall into two distinct categories: the expensive fine-dining restaurants and the smaller, moderately-priced chain/franchised outlets that serve average sushi/ramen/bento/donburi.

So it was incredibly refreshing to come across The Bonsai, which deftly brings together gourmet Japanese fusion cuisine and an informal dining environment, at a reasonable price.

In fact, two words come to mind when dining at The Bonsai: Iron Chef.

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Perth Skyline

I was in Perth last week to attend Dr Wayne Dyer’s lecture at the I Can Do It! conference. I’ve been exploring his books and CDs for a while, which have been incredibly helpful in my personal self-development. So when I learnt this would be his last public appearance in Australia, I knew this opportunity to hear him live was not to be missed.

The lecture itself was an incredible learning experience and I’ll definitely be working on the principles he covered, which dealt with living your life’s purpose.

During my trip, I took the opportunity to meet up with local food and wine writer Jason Boudville and his partner Bec. We’d been corresponding for some time and it was great to finally meet in person. They’re such beautiful, fun-loving people and an absolute joy to be around.

As it was my first visit to Perth, I also did my share of touristy sightseeing. Perth is an incredibly beautiful city, with its friendly residents, wide avenues, clean streets and efficient public transport. (Did I mention the amazing trains and buses that are safe, on time and incredibly clean? Can we get this in Melbourne? Please?)

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Nasu-Miso (Fried Eggplant with Miso Sauce)

Like many people, I’m a big fan of Japanese food. I consider Japanese cuisine to be in a class of its own, with its emphasis on unique, fresh flavours and aesthetic presentation.

That said, I also find Japanese cooking to be very challenging. What looks to be a simple dish often involves plenty of preparatory work, skill and zen-like focus throughout. If you take shortcuts or cut corners, chances are you won’t get a fully authentic result.

Hence, for a long time I was too intimidated to attempt cooking Japanese food at home. Then I came across Emi Kazuko’s excellent cookbook Japanese Cooking. This book is well written, with detailed descriptions of various Japanese ingredients. The recipes vary in difficulty, but overall they’re easy enough for most cooks to follow.

This recipe for Nasu-miso or fried eggplant in miso sauce, has become one of my favourites. It’s simple and easy to prepare, and the taste is simply extraordinary. The soft, chewy texture of the eggplant is complemented with the unique taste of miso and a rich sauce made from Japanese condiments.
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