There used to be a Wagamama’s restaurant in Zurich which we really enjoyed visiting, often to satisfy my cravings for ramen, but mostly because they had a great kids’ menu and a little play area for the children. It was one of the few places in Zurich where we could go and enjoy our meal without the fear of our noisy children disturbing everyone (because everyone else had also brought along their own rowdy offspring).
There comes a time during the week when I find myself with lots of bits of vegetables in the fridge, none which can be used on their own to make any meaningful meal, but it would be a shame and a waste to otherwise throw them away. Oddly enough, this fridge raid often occurs on a Monday evening, the night when I try to empty the fridge in readiness for my weekly trip to the farmers’ markets on Tuesdays.
As a Vietnamese, I could eat a bowl of pho at breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is something so nourishing about about a steaming bowl of slippery noodles, fragrant with fresh herbs and laced with spicy chillies for that much needed kick.
This year, Chinese New Year is celebrated on 8 February 2016 to mark the Year of the Monkey. The equivalent Vietnamese celebration is called Tet, one of the most important events in my family’s calendar.
As a child, my mother went to great lengths each year to prepare a feast which could feed our entire neighbourhood. The menu always featured a sticky rice cake filled with mung beans and pork, a turnip cake, endless platters of spring rolls (egg rolls), roast pork with gorgeously seasoned crackling – all served with fresh vermicelli noodles, picked carrots and daikon, and an abundance of fresh salad and herbs. There was always a soup on the menu, too; often a light chicken broth with bamboo shoots. Each dish had a significance and the ingredients were always carefully chosen to welcome luck and prosperity into the family.
I know all too well that planning meals ahead of time, doing the grocery shopping in bulk, and even cooking in advance, are the easiest paths to a stress-free suppertime, but being organised often takes time and time is a scarce commodity when there is a toddler and newborn in the equation. And so I often find myself at the supermarket without a clue as to what to cook for dinner, except that I am relieved to have arrived there with both kids still alive.
My mother used to cook a lot with chicken wings when I was younger. I’m not sure if it was just because they were cheap, or if she merely enjoyed cooking them. I certainly enjoyed eating them. She would sometimes make soups and broths using just chicken wings, but often she would marinate them in lemongrass, chilli and garlic before grilling them until they were bronzed and crispy. Just how I would like them.