Thai Fish With Mango Salad

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So, I’ve been greedily feeding myself with Hoa Loc mangoes, grown only along Mekong Delta here in Vietnam. This particular kind of mango is badass. So fragrant, sweet, fleshy and damnfinitely tasty. Just couldn’t get enough of it! I’ve also learned from the locals that Hoa Loc is pronounced as Hoa Lap. Ohhhhh kayyyy. However, as of last week instead of Hoa Loc, I was frantically looking for green sour mangoes all over Ho Chi Minh City. I was getting a lil sour, couldn’t find even one green sour mango. The lady working in the organic shop I always go to shyly asked me why was I looking for firm sour mangoes when I can enjoy soft, delicious and ripe mangoes? To make Thai mango salad of course!

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I was craving for a good Thai mango salad with fried fish. My friends, green sour mango is the key ingredient to the recipe, we want the crunch and sourness only a green mango can do. In the end after a couple of more attempts, I bought a Keow mango instead as green mangoes were not in sight. So if you can get your hands on green sour mango, that would be ideal. In my case, I gotta make do with what I can find right? As Keow mango is sweet, I used 1 teaspoon instead of 2 tablespoons of palm sugar. Thais will normally toss some roasted cashew nuts to this dish. Not only I do not have green mango it seems I also do not have cashew nuts nor peanuts at that time so if you do, toss it in!

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Level: Easy

Mango Salad

1 green sour mango, julienned

5 – 10 Red bird’s eye chillies, cut (adjust to your liking)

2 tablespoons of fish sauce

2 tablespoons of palm sugar/brown sugar/sugar

2 tablespoons of lime juice

2  – 3 small shallots, sliced

Cilantro leaves to garnish

1 carrot, julienned

Roasted cashew nuts/peanuts

Fish

Seabass/Barramundi/Snapper

A bit of flour

Oil

Salt

First, to make the mango salad, in a mortar, pound the bird’s eye chillies to a rough paste, add palm sugar and gently mash them. Then add fish sauce and lime juice. Transfer to a bowl. Add shallots and julienned mango. You should adjust the taste according to your liking – it should be spicy, sour, salty and slightly sweet. Set aside.

Dust the fish with some flour and salt, fry fish over a medium heat, skin down. Fry until golden brown. Remove fish from wok on a paper towel to drain the excess oil. Then, place the fish to your serving plate. Now, put the mango salad on top of the fish or on side it is entirely up to you. Sprinkle some cashew nuts and coriander on top of the fish. Now, enjoy your on its own or with rice!

 

Gaeng Jeud Khai Nam (Omelette Soup)

Thai omelette soup aka gaeng jeud khai nam is basically ‘chicken soup’ for Thai people. You can whip up this dish in less than 30 minutes and only need one Thai bit to make it – fish sauce. That’s right! Easy and effortlessly. I love it with rice aanndd bird’s eye chilies with soy sauce on the side!

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Level: Easy

Ingredients as shown on the right side column of the picture.

Method: In a boiling stock/water, put in the carrots and pork balls and boil over lower heat. Season soup with either fish sauce or salt. After 2 minutes, by this time the pork balls will float to surface, add egg tofu/Japanese tofu. After 1 minute, remove from heat and stir in spring onion and cut omelette. Garnish with cilantro leaves and fried garlic just before serving.

Thai Fried Fish with Tamarind Sauce

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I’ve been back to Penang for only a couple of days but last night over a couple of drinks, mum had hinted perhaps it’s time for me to make my fried fish with tamarind sauce Thai-style. Before I could say yes, mum then went on gushing excitedly about the fish market in Negombo, a city in Sri Lanka that we were at 2 weeks ago. I have to admit; Sri Lanka was absolutely stunning and amazing – there will be a write up about Sri Lanka after this recipe post!

Back to this recipe, tamarind pulp is used here to give the fish a refreshing tangy flavour and of course, lots of (you can adjust the spiciness) bird’s eye chilies to round the recipe with a Thai kick. Just like most Thai dishes, this recipe is usually served with rice accompanied with vegetables. But if you would like to enjoy this dish without rice? Get yourself a glass of Mojito. I bet that was what triggered my mum to request for this recipe because I rejected her coffee offer last night for my very own Mojito. With lemongrass and ginger. Delish.

Level: Easy

1 whole seabass (or any white fish), cleaned & gutted

Peanut/palm oil

2 tablespoons of flour

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

6 small shallots, peeled

A handful of bird’s eye chilies

1 ½ of palm sugar or brown sugar

Fish sauce

½ cup of tamarind paste/tamarind pulp with hot water

To garnish:

A few sprigs or coriander

1 red chili, sliced

 Optional:

Cabbage, shredded

Lime wedges

Using pestle and mortar, pound the garlic and shallots. Then add the bird eye’s chilies and continue to pound. Be careful not to pound it into a paste. Set aside. If using tamarind pulp and hot water, strain and set aside.

Make 3 to 4 deep slices on both sides of the fish. Rub with salt and sprinkle with flour all over. On a wok/pan over a medium heat, deep fry the fish until golden brown. To deep fry, make sure that the oil is enough to submerge at least two thirds of the length of the fish. Also, oil should be heated very hot before putting in the fish to the wok. Cook until it is golden brown. Remove the fish and set aside on a rack or a plate.

Using the same wok/pan, remove the oil leaving only about 2 tablespoons of oil and fry the garlic, shallots and chilies until fragrant on a medium heat. Keep stirring to prevent from burning. When it is fragrant, add the tamarind paste, palm sugar and fish sauce. Cook for 1 t0 2 minutes. Season to taste. The sauce should be thick (not too saucy), tangy and slightly sweet. Now, pour the sauce over the fish and garnish with coriander and chili. Limes are not necessary in this recipe but my mum loves to give the dish a fresh punch. Feel free to use it if you like.

Pineapple Pork Chops

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Chinese New Year is just around the corner and most of my friends are showing off or documenting the festival classic – how to make pineapple tarts on social media. With a bit of pressure, I can only participate in this joyful season by errm making pineapple pork chops? Don’t get me wrong, I love eating this diabetic buttery mini pastry but at the same time I also possess no baking skills and minimal patience, soooo making pineapple pork chops is definitely easier and anxiety-free. And as for this porky recipe, just round out the dish with any fresh salad.

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Level: Easy

(A)

4 pork chops

1/2 pineapple, cut into chunks (fresh or canned)

1 clove of garlic, peeled & chopped finely

2 tablespoons of soy sauce

1 tablespoon of fish sauce

Black pepper

1 teaspoon of brown sugar

(B) The other 1/2 pineapple, peeled, cored & cut into rings

Marinade everything together in (A). Squeeze the pineapple chunks to get the juice when marinade. You can marinade a day before or up to 6 hours. When ready to cook, remove the pork chops from the marinade. Grill the pork chops and pineapple rings (B) or cook in a non-stick skillet. Once chops are cooked through, transfer to a plate together with the pineapple rings. Serve with salad on side.

Muffin Tin Omelettes

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This time last year my husband and I were discovering the wonders of Ho Chi Minh City; we were very lucky to settle in a modern nice pad in a local neighbourhood very close to the city centre. In this unknown exotica city, I was hoping to feel the instant ‘spark’ with this bustling city everyone seems to adore, but the lack of warmth and vitality of this place had given me the feeling as if something uncomfortable shifted within my bones. The expectation of a walk in the park has turned out to be an invigorating walk you know, metaphorically. As such, the year 2016 has kept me grounded more than ever. I am thankful for that.

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Truth to be told, I do not know what to do next. I don’t know what will happen next, but as for now, allow me to share this recipe I made for brunch. Prepare this in advance if you’d like and refrigerate them until ready to eat. Oh, did I mention no flour is needed with this muffin?

Level: Super Easy

1 big onion, peeled & diced

2 carrots peeled & diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

A big handful of spinach

A handful of shredded Parmesan cheese

Olive oil

Salt

Black pepper

12 eggs

1 tomato & fresh scallion for garnishing

Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onion, carrots and bell pepper. When the vegetables are slightly cooked, stir in the spinach and remove from heat. Season to taste. In a bowl, whisk the eggs and pour evenly into each muffin tin. Spoon in the veggie mixture into each muffin tin. Then sprinkle in with some parmesan cheese. Bake at about 350f/180c for 30 to 35 minutes or until eggs are firm.

Khua Kling (Southern Thai Dry Curry)

There’s nothing subtle about khua kling, and the fact that it’s unsuspecting from the outside but a culinary killer inside puts a smile to my face each time just by looking at it. One reason. I spiced up my dad’s life at the age of 7, he was so sure I couldn’t take the excessive heat (I remember he was quite furious that mum was nonchalant about it) but I enjoyed every bit of it and moreover, mum was highly entertained by my culinary behaviour.

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Khua kling represents true Southern Thai style dish, fierce and tongue-numbing spicy. I’d describe it as a bit of a show off as in comparison to other Southern Thai dishes because of the significant amount of spice being used in this recipe. As such, it is usually accompanied with cool, fresh vegetables. My god mum from Bangkok will dine with us every now and then and knows she ain’t getting any preferential treatment from my family when khua kling is served. Not an insult, but Southern Thais in my opinion tolerate intense spice better than Bangkokians. This one here, trust me, you gotta need lots and lots of rice and a good temper to enjoy it. I dare you because khua kling has a class of its own.

Level: Easy

(A) 500 grams of ground pork (substitute with other meats if you’d like)

10 kaffir lime leaves (7 for cooking, 3 for garnishing on top)

1 red chilli, sliced for garnishing

2 stalks of bottom half lemongrass removing outermost layers, sliced thinly

Fish sauce

Salt

1 teaspoon of ground turmeric

1 teaspoon of palm sugar or ½ teaspoon of brown sugar

(B) Southern Thai Curry Paste (Gaeng Ped):

18 dried red bird’s eye chilies (soaked in warm water until soft)

Small handful of bird’s eye chilies

2 tablespoons of shrimp paste

2 heads of garlic, peeled

3 inches of fresh turmeric, peeled

3 inches of galangal, peeled

8 small shallots, peeled

2 tablespoons of black peppercorns or coarsely ground

2 tablespoons of coriander roots or stems

6 stalks of lemongrass bottom half removing outermost layers, sliced

½ kaffir lime rind

Blend all the curry paste (B) ingredients. On a pan/wok over a medium heat fry 3 tablespoons of the spice paste and 1 tablespoon of ground meat for 3 minutes or until fragrant. Then add the rest of the meat. As this is a dry curry, no oil is needed but you need to keep stirring until there’s no moisture and also to avoid burning. Stir fry the pork until fine pieces then add the lemongrass. Stir in palm sugar, ground turmeric and fish sauce. Season to taste. Add in the kaffir lime leaves and cook for another 2 minutes. Take off from heat, sprinkle with more kaffir lime leaves and red chili. Serve with fresh vegetables (cucumber, cabbage, long beans, basil leaves etc).

*Note: The Southern Thai curry paste otherwise known as gaeng ped is also used in other dishes like southern Thai chicken/pork curry (gaeng ped gai/moo) and stinky beans with prawns.

Yum Woon Sen (Glass Noodle Salad)

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When I was younger, I’ve never had the pleasure of enjoying yum woon sen because it has never made an appearance at home. I guess every family has their classics and in my home, yum woon sen wasn’t the most wanted as we favoured notorious dish like nam phrik kapi (shrimp paste chili dip) and raw vegetables as our salad.

Now as an adult, I’ve started to appreciate yum woon sen better maybe because familiarity with this Thai salad is on the rise, so when dining out friends are quick to order without any introduction. Yum refers to salad in Thai and woon sen means glass noodle.

Soooo, here’s there yummy recipe. The glossy slippery glass noodles with a voluptuous mix of aromatic Thai herbs infusing in the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar is easily likable and addictive! You will like it!

Level: Super Easy

Glass noodles, cooked according to package instructions

Shrimp, boiled

Squid, boiled & cut into rings

5 shallots, sliced thinly

2 tablespoons of bird’s eye chilies

1 small garlic, chopped finely

1 cup of Chinese celery leaves

1 handful of crushed roasted peanuts

½ cup of cherry tomatoes, halved

Yum dressing:

1 ½ tablespoons of sugar

2 tablespoons of fish sauce

2 ½ tablespoons of lime juice

Combine the yum dressing and stir. Season to taste, the dressing should be sour, spicy and slightly salty. Sugar here is to balance out the flavours. The sweetness is mainly from the cherry tomatoes.

In a salad bowl, combine the cooked glass noodles, shallots, garlic, cherry tomatoes, Chinese celery, shrimp and squid. Pour the dressing to the salad bowl and toss everything together. You can let it sit for a few minutes before serving. Sprinkle with peanuts before serving.

*Note: You can cut the glass noodles for easy serving. Yum woon sen can be served in room temperature or cold.

Spaghetti with sardines, chilies & olives

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It is not yet weekend, but mum’s friends are here lounging and being very much themselves unreservedly rowdy, creating a boisterous atmosphere after overdosing on caffeine, oh well we can still  live a little! There was a sudden eruption of laughter after witnessing a cute little squirrel taking an incredible acrobatic leap from my neighbour’s rooftop and landing gracefully on a tree branch. Guess the guests are here to stay…….

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To liven up our guests or to be a good host, I cooked spaghetti with sardines for lunch. Spaghetti with sardines is quintessentially a speedy meal as it is made up of canned sardines, bird’s eye chilies and jarred olives. I first made this dish when I came home tipsy and in a desperate need of carbs from a night out in St Kilda during my student days in Melbourne. Simple ingredients, mostly the bird’s eye chilies from my low budget kitchen, cured me that night. This recipe makes one of a hell snack on top of a toast too!

Level: Easy

Spaghetti (3 – 4 servings)

Olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 medium size shallot, minced

Black Kalamata olives, chopped

½ a cup of cherry tomatoes, halved

Basil leaves, chopped

2 tablespoons of bird eye’s chilies, chopped (1 tablespoon if you want it mild)

Salt

Black pepper

1 can of sardines in tomato sauce

Cook the spaghetti following pack instructions. Heat the oil in a pan and cook the onion for 1 minute. Add in sardines, chilies and garlic, cook for another 3 minutes. Add olives. Add the pasta and basil leaves to the pan, mix well. If the sauce seems too thick, add a bit of reserved pasta water. Season to taste. Sprinkle with fresh chopped basil leaves before serving if desired.

Tortilla Pizza

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The base is a store – bought tortilla wrap, how easy can it be? Healthy and simple pizza fix in less than 30 minutes

Level: Super Easy

Tortilla wrap

Olive oil

Tomato puree, homemade/store-bought

Black olives, sliced

Parmesan cheese, shaved

Fresh arugula

Black pepper

Chili flakes

Place baking tray in the oven and preheat to 200c. Use store-bought sauce or homemade sauce and spread it all over the base. Scatter over the Parmesan shavings. Arrange olives on the base. Season with black pepper and place on the hot baking tray. Cook for 10 minutes or until the base is crispy and cheese has melted. Once done, top with fresh arugula and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with black pepper and chili flakes.

Lemongrass & Pineapple Fish Noodle Soup

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It is the time of pre-festive season and my body is telling me that I need to recuperate. Knowing I have no tolerance for subtlety when it comes to food, enriching mum’s mildly-flavoured fish noodle soup with lemongrass, pineapples along with other aromatics is certainly the way to restore my strength. This is my kinda zen food. What’s yours?

Mum’s classic fish noodle soup is undeniably a killer, but why not pimpin’ it up if I can, a lil’ variation doesn’t hurt. Her version makes your life easier though, strictly using fresh ginger, crushed black peppercorns, carrots, fish and chicken bones to make the broth.

One useful tip to share with you, fish noodle soup or any soupy dishes should be enjoyed when it is hot. Firstly, most Asians are accustomed to consume their food hot/heated or even piping hot. Secondly, any soupy noodles are not to be left unattended to prevent sogginess. After all, who doesn’t like freshly cooked steaming dishes?

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Level: Easy

The soup:

1 litre water

2 – 3 fish bones

Chicken bones

4 stalks of lemongrass bottom half, bruised

½ medium size fresh pineapple, cut into wedges

1 big tomato

2 cm of ginger knob, peeled

2 cm of galangal, peeled

2 kaffir lime leaves, bruised

Black peppercorns, crushed

1 tablespoon of fish sauce

Salt

The Noodle & Garnish:

Vermicelli or any rice noodles

Fish fillet, sliced

Sesame oil

Vegetable oil

White pepper

Cornflour

3 – 4 cloves of garlic, minced & fried (to garnish)

Fresh herbs (basil leaves, coriander & mint)

Lime wedges

Bird eye’s chilies and soy sauce to dip

Put fish bones, chicken bones, galangal, ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and pineapples in a pot. Pour in water over a medium heat with lid for 20 minutes. Add black peppercorns. Continue to boil for 45 minutes on a low heat. Add water if you must. Skim off impurities every now and then.

While the soup is simmering away, lightly coat the fish with 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, salt, white pepper and cornflour. In a frying pan add vegetable oil and garlic. Stir fry until garlic turns translucent. Then, set aside. Next, fry the fish fillets until golden brown. Set aside.

Once soup is ready, discard the aromatics and strain in a sieve. Pour the strained broth into the stock. Stir in tomatoes and fish sauce. Season to taste.

When ready for serving, make sure it is on high heat and the soup must be boiling hot before pouring the soup into your bowl of cooked noodles. Top with garlic oil. Serve with lime wedges and herbs on the side.