Category Archives: Produce

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Curry Night

It has been a long time since I last put up a post. Life in Melbourne is very different from Hobart. It is busier. There are more things to do. There are more social activities, entertainments and exhibitions to visit. There are more places to explore in the city – reasons to walk and to soak in the vibe of the city life and watching the street buskers. Gym and pool facility is readily accessible in the apartment building. There are more choices to eat out and less desire to cook at home. All these translate to one thing – where do I find time to blog. The answer is very little and very hard. It is easier to Instagram what I see – a single click of my iPhone 6 camera will instantly allow me to share what I see in front of me in my Facebook and Twitter, and also share with my Instagram’s followers.

Blogging requires time and commitment. Time that I don’t have as much as I would like since living in Melbourne. It has to be something meaningful and worthwhile if I am going to put up another post. And, this is one of them. Hopefully you will find this post worth spending your time to read as I find it worth spending my time to write and share with you.

Two weeks ago I was window shopping at Myers in Melbourne CBD. I was wondering how I should spend my shopping voucher. Should I spend it on clothing or homeware or kitchenware? Neither one of them I thought. Maybe I should browse the books section and see if I can buy a fiction novel to read. But, who would have guessed that I would end up with a new cooking book!

I am one of those that will buy a cooking book and keep in the shelf and never use it. I do not have the discipline to follow the recipe. It is never accurate. I prefer to experiment my own food and my cooking style is unconventional. It is try this and that..a bit more of this and a bit less of that.  It depends on what I can find in my fridge and my cupboards. I rarely write down on a piece of paper to do my grocery. It is always go with my instinct and what is available at the time at an affordable price. Then, I decide what to cook for the day. I will only do this if I am not cooking for a group of friends because it will either work or not work. Some time, my partner of 21 years will be so disgusted that he will refuse to eat my food and prefer to make a toast for his dinner. Like last night!

So, today I have decided I will make something different to gain his trust in my food again…that I can still cook.

Back to Myers, I seldom browse the recipe book section. There are too many recipe books out there. And, probably only a handful of them are really worth buying. An experienced cook can tell by reading the recipe if it will work or not. This particular one caught my eye. It has a beautiful cover and very catchy title “Curry” with 2 bright red chillies. I wasn’t going to fall into the trap of buying it for the sake of using up my voucher.  But, when I flipped through some of the pages and started reading the recipes, I was drawn to the recipe sensing the aromatic flavour and taste of the curry. I flipped through few more pages and I was convinced that it is worth buying. After all, it doesn’t cost me anything with the voucher.
This is an experiment..experimenting the recipes from my Curry Book. This book was originally published in 2006 in Great Britain by Dorling Kindersley Limited. This version that I have bought is a revised edition published this year in 2015.

I have chose 3 dishes for tonight’s dinner. I cannot reproduce any part of the book as it has a copyright.

  1. Mutter Pulao. Recipe on Page 63
  2. Kerala Lamb. Recipe on Page 115
  3. Rasa Kayi. Recipe on Page 124

I have to admit. All 3 dishes turned out very well and they were delicious. As a typical me, I didn’t follow the recipe to the precise measurements. I have adjusted some to my liking and to my taste. I used chicken instead of lamb for the “kerala dish”. Otherwise, all the ingredients were there in all 3 dishes.

Mutter Pulao is a delicious fragrant and spiced rice.

Kerala Chicken is a dry curry dish. It is the most complex dish among the 3 and requires the most time to prepare. It involves dry roasting the spices and blending into a spice paste. It takes time to simmer down and reduce the curry until it is almost dried before ready to eat. I have modify this dish a bit by adding more fresh ginger slices and fresh curry leaves at the end. Sprinkle a bit more sea salt and brown sugar to taste. It is a lovely dish. I will try using lamb next time as called in the recipe book.

Rasay Kayi is probably my least favourite among the three. Probably I haven’t done it correctly. I have followed the recipe but I suspected I should have gone with my own instinct to modify the recipe a bit to suit my taste. Don’t get me wrong. It is still tasty. But the recipe was a bit ambiguous to follow.

The verdict. My other half love tonight’s dinner.
He actually said,

“Thanks for a lovely dinner”
“It’s a restaurant quality food”.

I even made my own mango lassi to round up my curry night dinner. Nice, thick and creamy with frozen mangoes, yoghurt, milk and honey.

If there is one recipe book that I will recommend. This is it.

And, if you love curry like I do. Don’t hesitate. Go and buy yourself this recipe book. It is worth spending the money.

Next time, I will try the other recipes in the book and if the weather is as cold, wet and miserable as today, I will confine myself in my small kitchen, cook and give you my verdict on the recipes.

All photos were taken using my iPhone 6.

A Simple Home Cooked Dinner

I felt like a simple home cooked dinner when I got home from work this evening. So I started preparing the ingredients. One thing led to another. I was going to make a Thai style chill basil chicken, but ended with 2 other dishes – a Chinese stir fried “Kailan” (Chinese broccoli) and a Chinese chive omelette.P1160214P1160217Enjoy the recipe below. It is simple to prepare and make and takes less than an hour from preparation to plating on the table. 🙂
P1160215Thai Style Chili Basil Chicken
2 chicken thigh – slice to bite size
5 strings of snake bean – cut into 3 inches section
3 garlic cloves – finely chop
2 inch ginger – finely slice
2 bird eye chilies – finely slice
1 bunch of Thai basil – leaves only
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon palm sugar

1. Heat some vegetable oil in a hot wok
2. Toss in the chicken. Stir fry until almost cooked. Remove and set aside
3. In the same wok, add a bit more oil until warm
4. Toss in the garlic, then chilies and ginger. Stir fry until fragrant
5. Add the snake beans. Toss a few times then add the almost cooked chicken. Continue to stir fry for a few minutes before adding the sauces and sugar
6. Add the basil leaves and cashew nuts (I didn’t have any at the time)
7. Dish out and serve either in a bowl or plate
Chinese Chive OmeletteP1160221
3 chicken eggs
10 strips Chinese chives (garlic chives) – finely chop
1 bird eye chili – finely chop
4 shallots – finely slice
2 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1. Break the eggs into a bowl and mix all the ingredients together
2. Heat a frying pan with a bit of oil. When oil is nice and warm, pour in the egg mixture. Cooked one side for a few minutes, then turn over the other side and cooked for a few more minutes
3. Remove and plate on a round plateP1160219Chinese Stir Fry Kailan
1 bunch of Kailan – separate the stems from the leaves
4 cloves garlic – chop finely
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1. Heat some vegetable oil in a hot wok
2. Toss in the garlic. Fry until fragrant
3. Add the stem part of the kailan. Fry for a few minutes then add the leaves and sauces. Continue to stir fry until the vegetable are soft and tender, but not overcooked
4. Remove and garnish with dried shallots

“Makan time” 🙂

Bangkok Floating Market

There were two things that I wanted to do on my last trip to Bangkok. One is “Wat Arun” or Temple of the Dawn in English. The other is the Floating Market. Bangkok is a fascinating city with a population exceeding $10 million people. It is massive and sprawling like no other city in Southeast Asia countries, except probably Jakarta and Manila.

The last time I have been to a Bangkok floating market was in 1989. I was seconded to Bangkok to work for IBM Thailand by a Malaysian IBM Business Partner, Sunway Computer Services. That was a long time ago. But the memory is still with me because it was a good few months experience living and working in Bangkok until I had a viral infection due to food poisoning. It left me sick for several weeks unable to work and almost had to be hospitalised. That was a frightening experience. Bangkok at that time was nothing like today. The public transport system is dependent either on the bus, “tuk-tuk” or the motorcyles. The road traffic jam was like a carpark and the air pollution quality was very poor. The food hygiene was not regulated and the drinking water quality was not recommended to drink off the tap.

In today’s Bangkok, modernisation has seen Bangkok quality of life improved significantly with a better public transport network system – the “Skytrain” monorail, underground subway train, elevated pedestrian bridges connecting several mega building complexes and hotel river boats transporting the tourists from a riverside hotel to the Skytrain station at Sapak Taksin Pier. It is much easier for the tourists to move around without getting stuck on the notorious peak hour traffic jam.

In 1989, one of my Thai IBM colleagues was showing me around Thailand. Thai people are very hospitable and gentle. They spoke eloquently in a soft melodies tone of voice. Their language is as enchanting as their culture and country. They are mesmerising. This is the beautiful and true side of Thailand. Not the other side – the sex industry – that many foreign male tourists are accustomed to – like “Patpong”, the Go-Go Bars and “Lady Boy”.

My Thai colleague took me to the ancient ruined kingdom of Ayutthaya and the floating market. It was one of the best experiences I had while living in Thailand. It was a living and breathing culture on the canals with boat vendors floating gently on the water selling their fresh produces and “make to order” cooked food. That was a true Thai floating market. There was hardly any tourist around except the locals.

Tourism is a big industry in Thailand. The floating market is no exception. It is touristy – the one nearest to Bangkok. It is easy to get to from the Chao Phraya River. There are canal tour services by the hours at the Sapak Taksin Pier. Before I left Bangkok and headed back to Penang for a few more days, I thought it was a nice idea to go on the canal riverboat tour to the floating market. I hired one of the longtail boat for 1½ hours trip to the floating market for 1, 600 Thai Baht for two of us. The weather was overcast and windy. The river was choppy and rough. There were intermittent stopped when the very dark and brown Chao Phraya river got too rough. It was thrilling and nerve racking at the same. I would hate to think what would happened if the boat got overturned into the brown river! After twenty minutes from Sapak Taksin Pier, we came to an opening leading to a narrow canal snaking through several brick walled houses and stilt wooden houses.P1130823P1130808There were other longtail boats along the way. Around a narrow bend, our driver yelled out to us, “floating market!” and pointed towards a tiny boat vendor in front of us. We laughed. I was astonished thinking that, “is that it?!”. Then our boat pulled alongside the tiny boat. The boat vendor smiled, the usual Thai charm, and said, “Buy Beer nah?…” “…only 100 Baht” “…buy for your driver nah.” “…he can drink after finish work.” I said no. Then, she took out a small canned coffee. “How about Ca-Fey?..” “…only 30 Baht.” “…buy for your driver nah.” I said no again. She was very persistent. Then she said something in Thai to our driver. Probably cursing us. We moved on. Thank god! That was an ordeal, but funny.P1130834We finally arrived at the real floating market. There were so many tourists and boats pulled alongside the wooden platform to let the tourist on and off. Our boat driver said twenty minutes. We hopped off the boat. It was like a Hollywood film set except this was real as it gets in Bangkok – with tourists and the odd numbers of boat vendors parked alongside the wooden structures platforms for people to sit and eat. There were boat vendors selling grilled seafood, satay, noodle soup and “Som Tam” (green papaya salad). The place felt authentic and rustic without making the place looked new or modern. The wooden platform was an extension of a solid ground where there are more stalls selling different kinds of Thai street food and drinks, fresh fruits, plants, kitchenware and souvenirs.P1130848P1130895P1130861 P1130859P1130911 P1130905 P1130897 P1130871 P1130869 P1130847I bought a block of ‘coconut sugar’ for 45 Baht, which I initially thought it was ‘palm sugar’ until the vendor corrected me. Hopefully I can take into Australia. I have never tried a coconut sugar in my drink or cooking. This will be interesting and a new food experiment when I get home to Melbourne.P1130875This Bangkok floating market is vastly different from my experience in 1989, which was truly an authentic Thai floating market with the boat vendors floating gently on the canal river selling their fresh vegetables and fruits or serving their boat food to early morning market goers and village homes along the canal. Nevertheless, the Bangkok version of the floating market is still a good experience for many tourists.

Sweet Potatoes – a “Nyonya” Sweet Delight

Last weekend my partner suggested that we take a drive to Springvale, a southeast suburb 20 km from Melbourne CBD. It is a diverse community, a cornucopia of rich and colourful blend of cultural background – Vietnamese, Chinese, Cambodian, Thai, Indian, Sri Lankan, Greek. I have noticed some Africans as well. The main shopping district is huge in comparison to Richmond and Footscray – the other Melbourne suburbs with a large Vietnamese ethnicity background.

Walking around Springvale township is like stepping into a different world – a world of Asia. It is interesting and may look a bit daunting for those posh nosh who has never been to Asia. The streets and a couple of the new shopping centres are a bit chaotic and seem out of place. We went there with no preempt on what to expect. We stumbled into a newish Shopping Centre where there were lots of Asian people. It is a Centre with fresh produce stalls with no boundaries selling fresh meat, seafood, vegetables, fruits and other Asian produce. At the middle of the Shopping Centre is an open atrium. We took an escalator up to the first level for a single purpose. Our tummy is rumbling. We saw a familiar restaurant signage outside the building – “Gold Leaf“. It is our favourite Yum-Cha place in Melbourne, located at Harbour Town, Docklands. We were both delighted to find a Gold Leaf branch in front of us as we walked into the Centre.

There was a small queue outside the restaurant.  A spectacled maitre’d stood in front of a wooden podium. “Next! Name? How Many? Please wait there until your name is called.” One after another before we were next. The turnover was quick among the die-hard Yum Cha fan.

While waiting for our name to be called, I looked down the open atrium and saw a group of middle age Asian men playing Chinese Chess “Xiangqi“. Sitting and facing each other on a long stretch of tables joined together, each of them looking intense to make the next move, with spectators crowding around their back anxiously waiting to see who will triumph in the end. I find this interesting, not because they were playing Xiangqi, but because this is actually happening here in Australia. It is multiculturalism at its core in Springvale.

After a satisfying yum-cha at Gold Leaf, we took the escalator back to the ground floor and did some grocery shopping. I was browsing through the different type of fresh produce wondering to myself what vegetables should I get. Then, something caught my eyes. It was the purple skin sweet potatoes. This was the first time I have seen a purple skin sweet potatoes. I was tempted to buy one, but wasn’t too tempted. I walked further down. Then I saw the pale “off white” skin sweet potatoes. I could not believed my find. And, next to this variety of sweet potatoes was the more common copper orange skin sweet potatoes which we see all the time in a grocery supermarket. What came next to my mind was I have to buy each one of this sweet potato variety. Each variety is quite different in its colour (skin and flesh), texture, flavour and intensity of “sweetness”.

P1120402I have always cooked with the most common bright orange variety sweet potatoes, which was nice as a savoury vegetable dish baked in the oven or mashed.

My take on the 3 types of sweet potato is a “Nyonya” style sweet dessert served warm in a coconut soup. The last time I have tasted this coconut rich warm soup of sweet potatoes was back in Penang when I was boy. It was a long forgotten dessert rarely served in a restaurant, but popular with the Straits Chinese “Peranakan” food culture.

This recipe is simple to make and if you are a coconut and sweet potato lover, you will find this warm dessert perfect for a cold winter chill next to a fire place.


1 purple skin sweet potato

1 pale “off white” skin sweet potato

1 copper orange skin sweet potato

1 banana

2 pandan leaves (optional for added aromatic fragrance)

1 cup coconut cream

4 – 5 lumps of crystallised rock sugar

1/2 cup pearl sago


Preparation and Cooking

1. Remove the potato skins. Cut into cubes and soak in water to prevent discolouration. When ready to cook, place in a steamer and steamed for 10 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are cooked.

2. Wash sago a few times in a pot. Fill the pot with water and bring to slow boil to cook the sago. Continue to stir the sago until sago turns translucent. Rinse and soak in cold water.

3. Combine the pandan leaves and crystallised rock sugar in 4 cups of water in a medium size pot. Bring to simmer until rock sugar has completely melted. Remove and discard the pandan leaves.

4. Place the cooked sweet potatoes into the sugar water. Mixed in 1 cup coconut cream. Mix through then add the cooked sago. Slice 1 banana into 2 cm thick and add into the soup. Adjust the coconut soup to taste. Add more water, coconut cream or sugar if needed.

5. Scoop a combination of different sweet potatoes and coconut soup into a small bowl. Sit next to the TV or in front of a fire place. Enjoy the sweet warm delight of sweet potatoes in coconut soup.

It is a Sweet of a Smile – My take on Sweet Potatoes in a Warm Coconut Soup 🙂 


Space of Time

In a space of time of a few months, many things can happened. There is no stillness in a moment. There is a constant movement – why? Is it because of the gravity and the constant spinning of the Globe? There is the ousted of our first female PM of Australia – Julia Gillard, to the man that she ousted 3 years ago, Mr Kevin Rudd, who happily said he will not contest for the PM position again less than a year ago. And, now he is back in! It’s hard to keep up with the Australian labour party, which is like a revolving door.

This is no difference from the corporate world with companies slashing staffs like the ANZ and IBM, shutdown of businesses and insolvency of retailers. Staff morale is at their lowest. There is no security as it used to be when I was in my twenties and thirties two decades ago. This is the new world where management has less of a human touch and compassion for their staff. It’s looking after the shareholders and profitability of the organisation. My company is no exception. Since I have been in my company, I have seen more people leaving than I have ever worked in any company in my entire work life! The latest colleague who has left my company was my manager, who has been most supportive of my work.

There is work and there is life. In the past 4 months since I last wrote my post, I have celebrated my partner’s forty-seventh birthday and my fifty-secondth birthday. Of course, everyone still thinks I have my thirtieth youthful look.

I have less time to write a post. So, I have turn to capture My “Instagram” Moment of an everyday life in “Instagram” with my iPhone. You can see my latest six photos on Instagram on the right of my blog page. I have been busy at work, and busy keeping myself healthy and fit by going to the gym and pool four to five times a week! I have been doing more cooking in my tiny kitchen. I have found a new Asian supermarket called The Little Saigon in Footscray that I shop for my fresh produce each weekend.

Forget about work for a moment, life is good and food is a tonic to me. And, tonight I have cooked a hot and sour fish curry. This afternoon I have bought almost two kilo of King Fish Head. It was cheap at $8.90 a kilo. The good thing about shopping at Footscray or other Asian ethnic supermarkets in the suburb is that I can asked the butcher or fishmonger to cut the meat or seafood to save me from doing it when I get home.P1120389The ingredients I used for the fish curry – lemongrass, red onions, garlic, dried chillies, fresh red chillies, turmeric powder, “belachan” (Malaysian shrimp paste – toasted), tamarind pulp + water, tomatoes, okra (“lady finger”), kaffir lime leafs (optional).P1120394To make the spice paste, blend the ingredients – chopped lemongrass, chillies, garlic, onions, turmeric and belachan.

To cook – heat half a cup of vegetable oil in a hot saucepan or wok. Toss in the spice paste. Fry until fragrant.

Add the tamarind juice. Let simmer for 5 – 10 minutes. Then add the fish, tomatoes and lady fingers. Cover with a lid and simmer until fish is cooked. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar. P1120405Serve with steamed rice.P1120416

Pineapple Prawns

I was wondering what I should do with the whole fresh pineapple I bought from the market yesterday. I ate some last night after dinner. It was sweet, juicy and refreshing. I ate more this evening after I came back from work. I still had some to go and thought maybe I should try cooking with the prawns I had thawed this morning. I didn’t have much fresh produce left in my fridge – some cherry tomatoes and a packet of fresh sugar snaps.

I thought maybe I should do a quick, simple stir fry with the prawns, tomatoes, sugar snaps and pineapple in a garlicky oyster and fish sauce infused with a couple of fragrant kaffir lime leaves and bird eye chilli.



  • 3 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1/2 finely diced red onion
  • 3 finely sliced kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 chopped bird eye chilli
  • a packet of sugar snaps
  • 8 tiger prawns
  • 8 cherry tomatoes


  • l tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • a pinch of salt and sugar


  • Heat 1 tablespoon cooking oil in a hot wok
  • Toss in the prawns. Give it a quick stir fry until cooked. Remove and set aside
  • Add more oil about 1 tablespoon in the wok
  • Toss in chopped garlic and red onion. GIve it a quick stir fry until fragrant
  • Add chopped chilli and kaffir lime leaves, follow by sugar snaps. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes, then add the cooked prawns, tomatoes and pineapples. Stir fry for another 2-3 minutes
  • Add the sauces and season to taste

P1080472Serve with a bowl of steamed jasmine rice.

Visually this dish worked for me with a mixture of vibrant red, green and yellow. Flavour wise is interesting if you like pineapple in your dish. However, after I thought over, it will work better if I have make this into a curry dish in a red curry paste.

My Favourite Thai Curry Paste

20121112-192247.jpg Cooking tonight’s dinner under 1 hour. How do I do it? Simple. Use a ready made curry paste, and my favourite is the Mae Ploy Thai curry paste. Anything under 1 hour including preparation, cooking and eating is a winner to me.

I had previously bought 4 pieces of chicken thigh fillets, diced them and marinated with some salt and turmeric powder and refrigerated overnight. I had a cucumber, a handful of beans, three carrots and a cup of bamboo shoots in the fridge. These vegetables were used in my curry dish. Other ingredients to give the curry a bit more seriousness in the flavour and authenticity, I added chopped garlic, shallots, lemongrass, chilli and kaffir lime leaves.

Ingredients & Preparation

1. 4 chicken thigh fillets – diced and marinated with a pinch of salt and one teaspoon turmeric powder
2. 1 cucumber cut into chunky bite pieces
3. 3 carrots cut into chunky bite pieces
4. A handful of green beans with tips cut off
5. A cup of fresh packet bamboo shoots
6. 3 french shallots slice thinly
7. 2 garlic cloves chop finely
8. 1 fresh red chilli chop finely
9. 3 kaffir lime leaves slice finely
10. 1 lemongrass chop finely
11. A pinch of tamarind pulp soaked in water, then squash to extract the juice
12. 1 small packet coconut cream
13. A teaspoon palm sugar
14. A tablespoon fish sauce
15. 2 tablespoons Mae Ploy Green Curry Paste


1. Heat 3 tablespoons cooking oil in a hot wok
2. Toss in the chopped garlic, shallots and lemongrass. Fry until fragrant
3. Add Mae Ploy curry paste. Mix through and continue to stir fry until fragrant
4. Add chicken and mix through until chicken is well coated in the paste
5. Add the tamarind juice. Bring to boil. Then reduce the heat to medium
6. Add carrots first. Cooked for 5 minutes. Then add the green beans. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes

7. Next, add the chilli and kaffir lime leaves and cucumber, follow by a small packet of coconut cream. Reduce the heat to low simmer

8. Continue to simmer for another 10 minutes. Then, add the fish sauce and palm sugar to taste. Mix through. It’s now ready to serve with some steamed jasmine rice.


20121112-201141.jpg Yum! Enjoy your dinner with this simple and yet delicious curry meal. 🙂