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.
You don’t have to be a vegetarian to love tofu. In fact, I think I like it more than meat … Salt & Pepper Tofu is one of my favourite dishes ever, especially when it is fresh and piping hot. At other times, you will often find me adding tofu to most Asian soups and stir-fries. Recently, I started experimenting with recipes for steamed tofu and I love how it can be such a simple, yet satisfying, dish on its own.
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.
I first discovered pickled chillies at my local Chinese restaurant here in Zurich. Yes, Zurich. Despite having grown up in Australia where south-east Asian food abounds, and despite my countless trips to Asia since I was a wee tot, I only came across this delightful condiment during what would be the first of many stir-fries that I like to indulge in frequently at my local because I’m rather terrible at making stir-fries at home.
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.