Occasionally the urge for green vegetables hits, usually when you are tired, overworked, stressed or anxious. How wonderful a large plate of greens looks, smells and tastes at those times. Don’t worry, we have your back, try this kale dish. It combines the great Asian flavours of garlic, ginger, spring onions (scallions) and a little soy. Quick to make, it is just a few minutes from stove to table.
Green Beans – so fresh, crisp and inviting when fresh. This recipe comes from an old Chinese cooking book – it is probably 40 years old, but the recipes are incredibly good. It is an easy dish to whip up and is fragrant with the garlic and spring onions.
The green beans are first simmered in a vegetable stock, then briskly stir fried with the garlic and spring onions in some butter and oil. Then they are drizzled with Rice Vinegar and Sweet Soy. I like a bit of sesame oil at the end too.
Green Bean recipes include Freekeh with Green Beans, Walnuts and Tahini.
How inventive rice squares are. They are pretty easy to make, then their bland goodness is partnered with some flavoursome soups, broths or sauces. You have to admire cultures that waste little.
If sizzling rice squares are your thing, the rice squares are deep fried before placing in the soup or sauce – they sizzle when they are hot and really sizzle as they hit the liquid. They can also be used in any stir fried dish. We have our Asian brothers and sisters to thank for this easy and filling addition to simple meals.
We love to make these from scratch, but left over cooked rice can be used too. They make such a delicious afternoon snack.
Soy dressings are not something that I grew up with, my family being unadventurous food-wise, and county folk to boot. Integrating different ingredients into the daily routine was something that happened rarely, although I do remember my Mother being obsessed with Peppermint Essence. All our desserts tasted like toothpaste for months.
But soy dressings DO feature in our household, having inherited a foodie adventurous gene from somewhere in my line of ancestors. This salad, definitely Chinese, dresses finely chopped cucumber in soy, sesame, and rice vinegar. Use a white vinegar if you don’t have rice vinegar.
Quick pickles are very fashionable now, and why not! They are both tasty and healthy. This is a Chinese recipe that produces a lovely, sweet-sour quick pickle of cucumber. Leave it to soak and pickle in the vinegar mix while you make the rest of the meal, and it will be ready to serve when you are calling the family to the table.
The great thing about congee is that, once you have perfected the cooking method, it can be made with a wide range of lentils, beans, grains and rice. Rice congee is the most well-known, but congees can be made from rice mixed with other grains, beans and lentils, or made without rice at all.
Today we made a clean-out-the-pantry congee, and it is delicious. It was made with lentils, burghul, millet and rice. In the photo it is topped with roasted cauliflower, green herby sauce, herbs, roasted cauliflower leaves, sesame oil and pickles. But you can top your congee with whatever your heart desires. That is the beauty of congee.
Remember to cook congee on the lowest possible heat, so it is barely simmering. Use a heat diffuser, especially for the second half of cooking, otherwise it may stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. I prefer to cook it in a Chinese clay pot – I believe the flavour is superior, and I keep my pot for congee only.
I love congee made in a Chinese clay cooking pot in the middle of winter, cooked on a lazy Sunday afternoon. A large batch is sometimes cooked and stored in the fridge. In this way it is available night and day, for late night suppers or early morning breakfast. Congee was once a very popular dish but it has fallen out of fashion. We have been making it since 2003, and thankfully it has not fallen out of fashion in our household.
There are lots of congee recipes around – almost every Asian cookbook you pick up has one in it. I first cooked it at home as I loved the late night congee in Sydney’s China Town. So good. Short grain rice is best. One cup of rice made a huge amount – enough for 4 – 6 bowls of it. So be careful the first time that you make it to ensure that you are not making enough for your whole suburb!!! Congee can be eaten at any time of the day – it has become a popular breakfast food for Southern Chinese and midnight snacks for Singaporeans & Malaysians. So eat it first thing, last thing, or anywhere in between.
Congee Bowls, in our household, are bowls of congee topped with a range of delicious accompaniments – herbs, tofu, bean sprouts, peanuts, crispy onions and garlic, steamed beans, mushrooms, Asian greens – the list is endless and any combination can be used, depending on the season, the weather, your mood, the time of day and the available ingredients. Congee flavour is always up to you!
Congee is eaten throughout Asia, from Japan right down to Indonesia. Each one varies a little from the others, but all are made with boiled rice, lentils or beans. However, the name for this dish originated in India – from the Tamil kanji. Perhaps also from the Telugu and Kannada gañji, the Malayalam kanni and the Urdu ganji. All meaning, more or less, boiling. The earliest reference can be traced back to the Zhou dynasty (circa 1000BC). It is also mentioned in the Chinese Record of Rites (1st century AD) and noted in Pliny’s account of India circa AD77.
This recipe is one of the vegetarian recipes from our first blog which was in existence from 1995 – 2006. You can explore more of the Retro Recipes series, our vegetarian recipes from that first blog.
Steamed tofu is the antithesis of the punchy, in-your-face flavours of my usual Indian cuisine. Almost bland, it is gloriously so, adding creamy texture to its accompaniments. In this case we use bok choi (pak choi) and a soy sauce-seasame-mirin dressing. You do have to be willing to enjoy the subtlety of flavours to appreciate this dish. It is not something that would do well on Master Chef, for example, however we love steamed tofu.
We also have a variation to this dish where shiitake and oyster mushrooms are quickly sauteed and added to the tofu. This is inspired by an incredible dish of steamed tofu and mushrooms at the Whole Earth restaurant in Chiang Mai – Three Flavour Tofu Topped with Shiitake Mushrooms.
Who does not like Summer Rolls, the South East Asian dish of crunchy ingredients wrapped in rice wrappers and served with a peanut sauce? They are so summery, refreshing and cooling.
This recipe deconstructs the Summer Rolls and turns it into a Salad. It is from Bittman’s 100 Salads. We are working our way through these and doing so has changed the way we eat quite significantly. Salads are definitely a part of our day now.
Talk about a meal in a bowl, Laksa is the bomb. Anyone who has been to S.E. Asia will have had this dish in street stalls, fragrant, hot, and spicy. The good news is, it is not so hard to make at home. Perhaps some of the optional additions that are available in roadside stalls are not common in other countries, but you can replicate the fragrance and spiciness of the dish.
In this recipe, a spice paste is made by blending the ingredients then cooking it off slowly before adding stock and other flavour enhancing ingredients. This beautiful broth is served with noodles, sprouts, herbs and other toppings.
This recipe is an Ottolenghi dish from Plenty More – we are cooking our way through this book. We feel free to substitute ingredients that are not readily available in our local area.
It is Ottolenghi day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish all the latest posts of recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.
Similar recipes include Sweet Potato and Deep Fried Tofu in Coconut Broth with Noodles, Thai Silken Tofu with Bean Sprouts and Broth, Malay Coconut-Curry Stock (another excellent base for Laksa), and Asian Broth.
Browse all of our S.E. Asian recipes and all of our Soups. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Late Autumn recipes.
We use Australian measurements: 1 tspn = 5ml; 1 Tblspn = 20ml; 1 cup = 250ml.