Basic Fried Noodles

I often find it amusing whenever I see ‘Singapore Fried Noodles’ on the menu in a Chinese restaurant. This is because you won’t find ‘Singapore Fried Noodles’ sold in my native hometown of Singapore. While many hawker stalls sell fried vermicelli or noodles as a simple breakfast dish, it’s not considered a signature dish like Laksa or Char Kway Teow. Instead they’re sold ready-wrapped in simple brown paper packets for the breakfast crowd to pick up quickly on the go.

So, how a simple home-style Asian noodle dish became known as ‘Singapore Fried Noodles’ overseas remains a mystery to me. That said, fried noodles are not only tasty, but easy enough to whip up quickly for a weeknight dinner.

My version of fried noodles are reminiscent of the type sold in hawker stalls over Singapore. However, I’ve substituted the traditional Hokkien noodles with wheat noodles which are easier to obtain here in Australia.

This dish is so simple to prepare at home, you’ll never order ‘Singapore Fried Noodles’ again.
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Honey Soy Roast Chicken

This Honey Soy Roast Chicken is an adaptation of my late grandmother’s recipe. Ah Mah (which means ‘grandmother’ in her native Teochew dialect) used to prepare a delicious Chinese-style roast chicken by roasting a whole chicken marinated in soy sauce. It was simple, yet delicious.

Ah Mah would sometimes roast a chicken whenever she didn’t feel like cooking a traditional three-course Chinese dinner. But the same amount of love and care would go into its preparation. She would keep a close watch over the chicken as it baked, removing it every so often from the oven to baste it with the pan juices and more soy sauce. This, she explained, would keep the chicken moist and intensify its flavour.
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Teriyaki Chicken Don

Teriyaki Chicken Don

Donburi, or Japanese rice bowl dishes are common menu items in many Japanese restaurants. These consist of a bowl of plain rice served with various toppings in a sweet or savoury sauce. Common toppings include meats such as beef, chicken, pork or fish.

One of my favourite donburi dishes is Teriyaki Chicken Don, which as the name suggests, is a serving of teriyaki chicken served on rice. Unfortunately, most restaurants don’t include vegetables with the dish, and the teriyaki sauce used tends to be MSG-laden.

My solution? Cook it at home!
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Vegetarian Claypot Noodles

Vegetarian Claypot Noodles

Claypot noodles, also known as Yee Mee (伊麵) or Poh Chai Noodles (煲仔麵) are a type of crispy noodles made from wheat flour and palm oil. While resembling spaghetti in shape and texture, they have a unique flavour and are commonly used in claypot cooking.

I love these noodles so much, I usually keep a packet on hand in my pantry. Like most noodles, they can be cooked in soup or stir-fried. Their inherent flavour also creates a fragrant broth from boiling the noodles alone. This comes in handy when I’m after a quick bowl of noodle soup, as additional stock isn’t required.

Here, I’ve cooked these noodles claypot style, sans claypot because I can’t use claypots on my electric burner. It’s a quick and easy recipe, but definitely not lacking in the flavour department, thanks to the umami properties of the shitake mushrooms.
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Pumpkin, Spinach and Feta Pie

Pumpkin, Spinach and Feta Pie

After my first attempt at making spanakópita, I packed the leftovers and brought it to my day job for lunch. I’ve got a reputation for bringing ‘nice’ lunches (even though they’re usually leftovers) so my co-workers were doubly impressed with my efforts. “Wow, there might be a Greek yiayia (grandmother) in you!” one of them exclaimed.

Hmmm. I don’t think one spinach pie makes me an expert on Greek food, but I guess people were surprised to see an Asian cooking a traditional Greek dish.

Anyway, a Greek friend told me that you can also use other vegetables in a spanakópita recipe. Since I had some butternut pumpkin on hand, I decided to use that in my next pie.
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Rempah Eggplant

Rempah Eggplant

I love eggplant, because cooked properly, it has this buttery-smooth, melt-in-your-mouth texture that lingers on the palate, a true joy to eat. Eggplant is also an incredibly versatile vegetable and can be cooked in so many ways. Stir-fried, boiled in curries, grilled, baked… the list goes on.

Here’s one of my all-time favourite eggplant recipes- Rempah Eggplant. A common home-style Southeast Asian dish, eggplant is stir-fried with a spicy rempah (spice paste). In this dish, a few simple ingredients are transformed into a tantalising treat for the taste-buds, thanks to the wonderful flavours of the rempah.
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Making Rempah (Spice Paste)

Rempah

Rempah is a Malay word used to describe the spice pastes used in many dishes throughout the Southeast Asian region. Depending on the recipe, various ingredients are pounded together in a mortar and pestle, then fried slowly in oil until intensely fragrant. The resulting paste is then used as a recipe base for various curries and stir-fries.

Aromatic and piquant, the flavour of homemade rempah is far superior to the ready-made curry pastes and stir-fry sauces found in supermarkets. The secret to a rempah’s magical flavour lies in the freshness of its ingredients, such as chillies, shallots, dried shrimp, lemongrass and various herbs and spices.
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How To Steam Vegetables In Five Minutes Or Less

Steamed Broccoli

“Don’t murder your veggies!” is a cry often sounded by many natural health experts, nutritionists and raw food advocates. Apparently, heat and the cooking process destroys many of the enzymes and vitamins in vegetables, reducing their nutritional value.

Therefore, the experts often recommend eating a diet high in raw foods. However, a raw food diet may not be for everyone, so the next best option is to lightly steam our vegetables. Steaming ensures that vegetables aren’t overcooked and allows the vegetables to retain most of their nutrients.

However, I used to find steaming a cumbersome process. For one, waiting for the pot of water to boil would take ages. I also had trouble getting vegetables to cook evenly inside a steaming insert. Often the vegetables at the base closest to the steam would turn out overcooked, while those at the top remained raw.

Then one day, Mum phoned me rather excitedly, telling me about this amazing steaming method she’d learnt from a Chinese language cooking show on TV. “It’s so efficient!” she told me. “And it takes less than five minutes!”
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The Mortar and Pestle

Mortar and Pestle

I may belong to the so-called Generation Y, but I’m actually quite old-fashioned when it comes to cooking. I prefer to cook using traditional, time-tested methods where possible, although it may be more laborious. Despite advances in modern technology, I find that certain things just can’t be replaced by a whiz-bang kitchen appliance.

The humble mortar and pestle is one of them. Used throughout Southeast Asia, the mortar and pestle is used to grind spices, blend curry pastes, tenderise meat, and pulverise various ingredients into magical spice pastes called rempah.

As a child I would often be roped into kitchen duty, and one of my usual tasks would be to help my mother make rempah. Mum would hand me a large bowl of chopped onions, chillies and dried shrimp, and it would be my job to pound the lot with the mortar and pestle. So for the next hour or so, I would sit on my little plastic stool in front of the heavy stone mortar, working away. My reward would be the heavenly dishes Mum would whip up for dinner that evening with the resulting spice paste.

Those early memories have always stayed with me, because to this day I refuse to make rempah in a food processor. To me, a food processor can never recreate the heady aroma and crushed texture of a curry or spice paste from a mortar and pestle.
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Oven Baked Fish and Chips

Oven Baked Fish and Chips

I remember the first time I had fish and chips as a new arrival in Australia, back in 2003. I had wandered inside a fish and chips shop in Circular Quay in search of some lunch, and left with a huge parcel of greaseproof paper, wondering if I’d ordered an extra-large serving by mistake. At the time, I was not yet accustomed to Western-sized servings.

So after finding a grassy spot to sit down, I began unwrapping my lunch. As soon as the package was opened, I was hit with the heady aroma of deep-fried goodness. Inside were lots of straight-cut potato chips and two fillets of battered barramundi.

It was delicious.
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