Tag Archive for Asian

Salad of juliened vegetables with Asian dressing

A delicious fresh salad with a spicy, tangy Asian dressing. I served it with fried duck breast drizzled with honey, which worked perfectly; the spice complements the sweetness from the meat and the honey, while the tanginess cuts through the richness and fat of the duck. You could add some fish sauce to the dressing to make it really Asian, but I find the flavour a bit too pungent for my taste. Another great addition to the salad would be some herbs, like coriander, thai basil or mint. Because the vegetables are already crunchy, I didn’t add peanuts, cashews or roasted rice for extra crunch.

I use sambal in the dressing because it is always the same and I know how spicy it is. I can’t handle heat from chillies very well, so most of them are just way too spicy, and also quite unpredictable. It happened lots of times that a chilli was spicier than expected, ruining a dish for my taste. The sambal that I use is quite mild, so it will give lots of chilli flavour, but only a mellow heat. If you do like it spicy, go ahead and use (lots of) chilli!

Salad of juliened vegetables with Asian dressing

vegetables cut into julienne (for example carrot, cucumber, beet, kohlrabi)
1 tsp honey or palm sugar
1 tsp grated garlic
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp sambal (or some chopped chilli)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp neutral oil
salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients for the dressing together and toss it with the vegetables. Serve immediately.

Carrot-lentil soup

Lentil soup is a favourite in our house, but as it goes with all favourite recipes, it has changed a bit since I started making it. Nowadays, I serve the soup as it is, I don’t add stuff like quinoa or chicken, and I don’t serve naan with it, because it really doesn’t need it. I also don’t roast the spices in a separate pan any more, I just add them to the vegetables. I don’t soak my lentils, because they cook in 30 minutes even without soaking. I use a teaspoon of sambal badjak instead of the chili powder and I also add 1/2 tsp garam masala. And I use a drop of oil, instead of the butter, because you don’t need a lot of fat to bake everything in (the golden bits that get stuck in the pan will give extra flavour) and you will not taste the difference anyway.
But sometimes it is not possible to use all the different veggies, basically because you cannot buy them in small amounts and will not finish them before they spoil. Or you have something left over that is on the brink of spoiling. Or both, as in my case. I had a large carrot that desperately needed to be used up, so I made the lentil soup into a very delicious carrot-lentil soup, with slightly different spices than the standard lentil soup.

Carrot-lentil soup

Lentil soup (2 big bowls)

1 tsp oil
1 onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped (about 500 gram)
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 cm fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 tsp sambal badjak
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp nigella seeds
1 tsp curry powder
3 cardamom pods
2 stock cubes (I usually use vegetable)
1 cup yellow or orange lentils
juice of half a lemon
salt, pepper, chili powder

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion, cook until soft and translucent. Then add the carrot, cook until slightly caramelized. Add the ginger and garlic, sambal and all the spices, cook until fragrant. Add the stock cubes, lentils and enough water to cover. Cook the soup for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are very soft. Blend, pour through a sieve and press all the liquid from the solids in the sieve. Add the lemon juice and extra water if the soup is too thick. Taste and add extra seasoning (salt, pepper, chili powder) if necessary. Serve hot.

Three fresh summer salads

Spring over here wasn’t much. It was cold, very cold. Luckily, the weather has changed, so it is all summery now. And what is tastier in summer than a nice side salad? Here are three new ideas to give a try!

Carrot salad (2 servings)
150 gram carrot julienne
3 spring onions, sliced finely
1 1/2 tbsp chopped chives
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk lemon juice, oil, garlic, salt and pepper together in a medium bowl. Add carrots, chives and spring onion; mix well. Serve immediately or store up to two days (covered and refrigerated)

Note: also very tasty with radishes; if you like French carotte râpe you can add a little dijon mustard to approximate that more.

Cucumber Salad 2 servings
1 cucumber, sliced
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar vinegar
1 tsp honey
Salt, to taste
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill

Whisk together vinegar, sugar, dill, salt and pepper. Add cucumbers and toss to coat. Chill until ready to serve. It is best to make this salad about 15 minutes in advance, so that the cucumber has time to get soft and slightly pickely.

Mixed salad (4 servings)
From Eating Well

4 cups torn green leaf lettuce
1 cup sprouts (for example alfafa)
1 cup tomato wedges
1 cup sliced cucumber
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup chopped radishes
1/2 cup Sesame Tamari Vinaigrette

Sesame Tamari Vinaigrette (3/4 cup)
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce (reduced-sodium, if you prefer)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated

Whisk orange juice, vinegar, tamari, oil, honey and ginger in a small bowl until the honey is incorporated.
Toss lettuce, sprouts, tomato, cucumber, carrots and radishes in a large bowl with the dressing until the vegetables are coated

Note: I haven’t used the sesame dressing myself, because I did not have any orange juice on hand. Instead, I made a punchy garlic-mustard dressing. For a lightly coated side salad for two persons you need 1 finely crushed clove of garlic, mix it with 1/4 tsp dijon mustard, then add 1 tbsp white wine vinegar and mix well. Then add 2 tbsp olive oil in a slow stream while whisking. Add a tbsp chopped chives or parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Some people prefer a higher oil to acid ratio, for example 5:1 instead of 2:1, so try the dressing and add more oil if you think it is necessary.

Spinach three ways

I always find spinach a difficult vegetable. It has an overpowering taste, but is quite bland on its own. It seems like the only thing that stands up to the spinach are rich sauces heavy in cream and cheese. But sometimes that is just not what you want, so I came up with three (slightly unexpecting) lighter ways of flavouring spinach.

Another thing that is very important with spinach is the preparation. Use fresh spinach, not frozen. Frozen spinach is not a vegetable, it is icky green goo. There are lots of vegetables that freeze well, but spinach is not one of them. For me the best way to cook spinach is in portions in a very hot, dry pan. Using oil isn’t going to do anything for the spinach at this point. I don’t saute it until it has completely wilted, because it will continue to cook when you take it out of the pan and set it aside to cook the next portion. This ensures a nice bite, and prevents the spinach from getting slimy and soggy. After cooking the complete batch of spinach, I prepare the flavouring, then I add the spinach again.

The first variant is Asian. To prepare the flavouring, add a very finely chopped clove of garlic to a tablespoon of oil. Heat very gently to get rid of the sharp flavour of raw garlic, but take care not to overheat it, as it will burn the garlic (which is very bitter). Add a sprinkling of mustard seeds, nigella seeds, cumin seeds and salt. Add a few drops of sesame oil and add the spinach back in.

The second version is Arabic. Start again with heating garlic in oil. Add salt, a squeeze of lemon juice and a few tablespoons of tahin (sesame paste; I like the roasted variant).  Add the spinach back in. Optional: garnish with sesame seeds.

The third version is Mediterranean. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil, add very finely chopped garlic and a finely chopped small onion (or a few shallots), add some salt. Saute until translucent. Meanwhile soak some (golden) raisins and roast some pine nuts. Mix everything together.

And as a bonus, a fourth recipe (but this one does have a creamy sauce), perfect as pasta sauce. Start again with heating garlic in oil. Add some mascarpone and grated parmesan. Add the spinach back in. Optional: add mushrooms and/or pine nuts.

Nb: all recipes are for about 300 g spinach.

Jam and chutney

What are better presents than homemade ones? People are certainly happy when they get a nicely packed set of cute small jars of homemade jam and chutney. Making all the 6 recipes on one day is quite a marathon, you can also make a selection or only one recipe (then use big jars instead).
I give a small introduction describing the taste and some serving suggestions at each recipe.

From left to right; upper row: coconut confiture, courgette chutney, pear-vanilla jam; lower row: tropical marmelade, mandarin jelly, chili jam

From left to right; upper row: coconut confiture, courgette chutney, pear-vanilla jam; lower row: tropical marmelade, mandarin jelly, chili jam

Tropical marmelade (2 jars of 500 g)
Adapted from “2000 recettes de la cuisine Française”

A tropical version of the traditional orange marmelade, delicious on bread, with pate, duck or other game.

1/2 pineapple
1 grapefruit
1 mango
2 kiwi
1 lime
1 kg sugar
250 ml water

Cut the grapefruit in thin slices and then in small cubes. Reserve the juice that came out. Add 250 ml water to the grapefruit cubes and cook for 20 minutes.
Clean the pineapple, mango, kiwi and cube. Reserve the juice that came out.
Melt the sugar in the reserved fruit juice and the juice of the lime. Cook until bubbles for at the surface of the syrup. Add the grapefruit cubes and cook for 20 minutes. Add the pineapple, mango and kiwi and cook for another 20 minutes. Stir regularly.
The marmelade is ready when the pieces of fruit are translucent and when a drop of the syrup becomes jelly on a cold plate.
Pour in sterilized jars.

Chilli Jam (2 cups)
From Annabel Langbein – The Free Range Cook

Delicious sharp, spicy and fragrant. Perfect for dipping vegetables or spring rolls, or as a sauce in stir fries.

1 head garlic, cloves peeled
8 long red chilies, roughly chopped
200 g fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 double kaffir lime leaves
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
grated zest of 4 limes
1/3 cup rice vinegar
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce

Purée the garlic, chillies, ginger and kaffir lime leaves, to a coarse paste (easiest with a blender or in a kitchen machine). Place in a saucepan with the sugar, water, lime zest, rice vinegar, fish sauce and soy sauce.
Stir over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then boil for about 10 minutes until reduced by a third. It will bubble up like jam.
Spoon the hot chilli jam into a sterilised jar. Once opened, store it in the fridge.

Coconut marmalade (1 jar)
Adapted from “2000 recettes de la cuisine Française”

Sweet and coconutty, delicious on toasted white bread, with pineapple in a dessert or with chocolate.

1 fresh coconut
250 g sugar
50 g butter
Zest van 1/2 lemon
65 ml coconut milk
vanilla (1 pod or a teaspoon of extract)
10 ml rum

Open the coconut, discard the water (or use it for another purpose), remove the bark from the coconut flesh, then use a peeler to remove any brown bits remaining on the coconut flesh. Grate the coconut flesh finely.
Heat the grated coconut flesh, sugar, coconut milk, lemon zest and vanilla on low heat while stirring regularly. Add the butter when the mixture thickens and mix well. Take off the heat and add the rum, mix well. Pour into sterilized jars.

Courgette chutney (900g)
From “James Martin – The collection”

To give a kick to any kind of meal, for example with cheese, (cold) meats or pate, or with Indonesian/Indian curries.

2 small lemons
3 courgettes
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
100 ml dry white wine
3 tsp brown sugar
24 black pepper corns, bruised
2.5 cm ginger, peeled and minced finely
Generous pinch of salt

Peel the lemons, slice thinly and remove the pips. Cut the courgettes lengthwise in halve, then in pieces of 2,5 cm. Mix all the ingredients in a pan, place the lid on top and cook for and hour, stirring occasionally. When it is hot, it still is quite liquid. Pour in sterilized jars.

Pear-vanilla jam (2 jars of 500g)
Adapted from “2000 recettes de la cuisine Française”

Both the pear and the vanilla flavour stand out. Delicious on a slice of bread, but also perfect as a filling for cakes.

500 g pears
375 g sugar
100 ml water
1/2 lemon
Vanilla (2 pods or 2 teaspoons of extract)

Peel, quarter, core and cube the pears.
Dissolve the sugar in the water. Add the pears, lemon juice and lemon rind. Cook on high heat 40 minutes. Then add the vanilla. The jam is ready when the fruit is translucent and a drop of jam will become jammy instantly on a cold plate. Pour in sterilized jars.

Mandarin jelly (2 jars)

Has a delicate, sweet mandarin flavour. Delicious as a filling for cakes and tarts, but it also works great to add a spoon to some sautéed carrots.

600 ml mandarin juice (from +- 1.5 kg (juice)mandarins)
250 g jam sugar (I used “van gilse gelei suiker speciaal”, check the package of your sugar for the right ratio of sugar and juice, and how to prepare the jelly)

Juice the mandarins, sieve the juice and measure how much it is. Mix the sugar with the juice, bring to the boil and cook 4 minutes. Pour in sterilized jars.

Soy sauce

Soy sauce is traditionally used a lot in Asian cuisine, both in cooking and as a condiment. It is produced by fermenting soy beans, often combined with a grain, with Aspergillus molds, water and salt. The fermentation yields a paste that is pressed to separate the liquid, which is the soy sauce, and solid residues that are used as animal feed. Today, soy sauce can also be produced chemically instead of by fermentation, which is much faster (3 days instead of 3 months), but has a different taste than the original soy sauce. There are many different varieties with their own flavour, texture and cooking properties, but all are salty, brownish liquids with umami taste, and work as a flavour enhancer. Originally making soy sauce was probably a way to stretch costly salt.

The three most commonly used soy sauces in the Western world are Chinese, Indonesian and Japanese, but almost all Asian countries have their own variety.
All Chinese soy sauces are made primarily with soy beans, with low amounts of other grains, and can roughly be divided in two categories, brewed and blended. Brewed soy sauce has no additives, it is only fermented, while blended is aged more and has additives to enhance the sweet and umami flavours. Light soy sauce (which can be seen on the photo below) is the most common example of the first category. It is quite thin, salty, has a light colouring and is used for seasoning and dipping. This is also the soy sauce I most use in cooking, for example for egg fried rice. Dark soy sauce is the most common example of the second category, which contains caramel and molasses to give it its dark, rich flavour and texture together with the prolonged ageing. It is less salty than light soy sauce and it is mainly used during cooking, because the flavour develops during heating. For me, this soy sauce is too distinct in flavour, it is difficult to not let it overpower the dish.
Because of the colonial history of the Netherlands in Indonesia (back then Dutch West Indies), ketjap (also kecap) is most often used as soy sauce in the Netherlands, but in the rest of the world it is less well known. There are two main varieties, ketjap manis and ketjap asin. Ketjap manis (which can be seen on the photo below) is very thick, sweet and not so salty, because of the addition of palm sugar. I usually add it last-minute to a dish, because the flavour changes unpleasantly after too much heating, and it is also prone to burning. This is my preferred soy sauce for making nasi goreng. Ketjap asin is a salty soy sauce similar to Chinese light soy sauce, but slightly thicker and has a stronger flavour.
Japanese soy sauces are generally made with quite high amounts of grains and are very salty. As you can see on the photo below, I have a bottle of reduced salt Japanese soy, because the regular I think is much too salty. There are five very different variants, of which koikuchi is the most common.

So, next time when a recipe asks for soy sauce, think about which kind it should be. Generally you are safest by using Chinese light soy, because of its quite neutral flavours. But when cooking Indonesian or Japanese dishes, your dishes will greatly improve by using the appropriate soy sauce.

In the Netherlands ordinary Japanese and ketjap can be bought at the supermarket. Although I think that some supermarkets have reduced salt Japanese and Chinese soy sauce in their assortment, not all have it. In that case, check your local toko or Asian supermarket.

Soy Sauce

Soto Ayam

Soto ayam is a simple Indonesian chicken soup. There are much more elaborate recipes for this dish, but I always make this soup as simple as possible to make a fast, healthy, and simple meal. I love making my own stock, but in this case I use a stock cube (or other bouillon base) for speed and convenience.
I love the salty and slightly spicy broth filled with lots of tauge (bean sprouts), spring onions, chicken, cooked egg and the contrasting crispy onions. It is a filling dish, but also very light, and perfect for hot days. But also when the weather is cold it is nice to eat a steaming hot bowl of soup.

Soto ayam (1 big serving)
500 ml water
1 chicken stock cube
1 chicken breast, cubed

100 gram tauge
2 spring onions, sliced
chilli powder
1 egg, boiled and quartered
fried onions (store bought)

Bring the water to the boil with the stock cube. Add the chicken cubes, cook until almost done. Then add the tauge and spring onion. Cook until the chicken is done and the vegetables still crispy. Season with salt and chilli powder to taste, the soup should be quite salty and not too spicy.
Put the quartered egg on the bottom of a serving bowl. Spoon over the soup. Top with fried onions and serve very hot.

Variation: use ham and omelet instead of chicken and cooked egg.

Kung pao chicken and egg fried rice

Kung pao chicken is one of my childhood food memories. When we ordered Chinese food, kung pao chicken was always one of them. Even though it is a very spicy dish, I loved it as a child. Unfortunately only a small fraction of the Dutch Chinese restaurants serve kung pao chicken, so when I moved, I could not order it any more. But one day I found a recipe online for kung pao chicken and figured out that that would be my childhood favourite (in Dutch it has a different name), so I searched around a little more, combined several recipes and decided to give it a try. It worked! It almost tasted like the dish from the restaurant, probably the only reason for the difference was not adding Ve-tsin.

Egg Fried Rice

Kung Pao Chicken (2 servings)

1 chicken breast, cubed
2 dried red peppers
1 tsp black pepper corns
1/2 tbsp corn starch
1/2 egg white (use yolk and remaining egg white for egg fried rice)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
vegetable oil

1 tbsp rice wine
1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp corn starch
1/2 cup water
a hand full of cashews (or peanuts)
salt to taste
Optional: ve-tsin (MSG)

Mix for the marinade the corn starch with the egg white. Then add in the other ingredients and leave to marinate for a while (30 min).
Heat a nice layer of vegetable oil in a wok, heat until very hot. Add the chicken with the marinade, stir well. You will get some bits and pieces, that’s ok. Bake until the chicken is cooked (3-5 min), it will still be white, and put it aside in a bowl.
Heat in the same wok (don’t clean it) the rice wine, soy sauce and sesame oil. Mix well until all the bits and pieces stuck to the bottom are dissolved. Make a paste with the corn starch and some of the water, at this to the wok with the rest of the water and the cashews. Heat well, add the chicken back in and season with salt to taste.

Egg fried rice (2 servings)
2 servings of cooked, cooled rice (preferably from the day before)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp sambal
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1-2 eggs (use the remaining egg from the kung pao chicken)
Optional: spring onion

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok. Fry the sambal in the oil. Add the rice, flatten it to get the lumps out, bake for a while, scoop, bake again, scoop again. But don’t stir too much, or the rice will not have enough time to get the crispy bits you want! Add the soy sauce before stirring.
Make a well in the rice, add the egg, cook slightly, scoop, and bake until dry/crisp. Optional: garnish with spring onion.


Meatballs are one of my favourite dishes. Unfortunately we don’t eat them that often, because they take quite some time to prepare and usually we get home quite late and hungry. But the time is definitely worth it! These meatballs go well with almost anything because they are quite neutrally, savoury spiced, but we usually serve them with spaghetti and a simple tomato-vegetable sauce. Another good option is to serve them with peanut sauce and rice.

300 g half and half mince (half beef, half pork)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt, pepper
1/4 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/4 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp dry bread crumbs

Mix all the ingredients for the meatballs. Roll small balls from the mixture.
Slide the balls carefully in a hot pan. Bake them on high heat, brown them per side and then shake them (don’t stir!!!) to brown the next side (about 3-4 sides). Don’t disturb them too much! Take them out of the pan.
Add the meatballs with all the juices into their sauce to cook further/to warm through. The first time you make this it is nice to slice one of the balls in two after the browning stage to see how far cooked they are, this will depend on the size of the balls, how hot the pan was, etc. Then you will know how much time they will need in the sauce to completely cook through.

Green coconut fish curry

I had some fish and some coconut milk leftover in the fridge, and I am going through a curry phase, so the obvious thing to make was a fish curry. For inspiration I looked on the BBC food website and chose this recipe from the many recipes that were available. The spice combination seemed nice to me and I had the ingredients already on hand or could buy them at the supermarket.
The trick of leaving the chillies whole is a very nice one. I am not very heat proof, so adding chilli in a dish is easily too much. When I add chopped chilli it is either too hot, or don’t have the nice taste of chilli in the dish. By leaving the chillies whole, you do get the taste but much less heat (although the dish is still quite spicy).
We added snap peas, because they work very well in curries like these, and we could get hold of them cheap. But you can use other vegetables as well, like courgette and paprika, or serve a side salad, or a nice fruity dessert.
The dish was quite mediocre. It was tasty, I enjoyed eating it, but I probably will not make it again. So the hunt for a good green curry recipe goes on…

Green coconut fish curry (serves 4)
From BBC Food (Anjum Anand-Indian Food Made Easy)

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
4 cloves
6 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 large piece cinnamon stick
1 small onion, finely chopped
5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and quartered
2 large garlic cloves
1 tsp ground coriander
300 ml coconut milk
2-4 green chillies, left whole
salt, to taste
100 ml water
10 curry leaves
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp garam masala
500g salmon or firm white fish fillets, cut into large pieces (I used panga)
2-3 tsp lemon juice
50g fresh coriander leaves and stalks, chopped
Optional: 200 gram snow or snap peas

Heat the oil in a non-stick pan, add the mustard  seeds, cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon stick and stir fry for 20  seconds (be careful, the seeds might pop). Add half of the chopped onion  and fry for 4-5 minutes until soft.
Meanwhile, place the remaining onion, the ginger,  garlic, ground coriander and 100ml of the coconut milk into a  blender or food processor and blend to a smooth purée (I used a pestal and mortar, great way to relieve stress).
Add this mixture to pan along with the whole green chillies and salt, to taste. Cover with a lid and cook over a low heat  for 12-15 minutes, giving the pot an occasional stir.
Add the remaining coconut milk, the water, the currry leaves, black pepper and garam masala and the fish and leave to  cook undisturbed for about 3-5 minutes, until the fish is opaque and  cooked through. At the last minute add in the peas, to cook slightly/warm them up. They only need very short cooking!
To serve, stir in the lemon juice and coriander. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, then pour into bowls and  serve with rice.