Category Archives: Cooking & Baking

Friday Night In With a Big Salad

Here is one of my many yummy recipes for Asian Chicken Salad. What makes this salad shine is the delicious dressing. It’s so easy to make because you just dump all the ingredients in a tupperware or jar and shake it until it emulsifies.

After you make the dressing, mix it with shredded or chopped chicken that you baked, poached, pan fried or peeled off a store bought rotisserie. Stir in celery, green onions and cilantro (I would have added cucumber too if I had one). Don’t worry if you make too much because it will taste great the next day. Especially if you put it in a tortilla wrap with baby romaine lettuce. In fact, I intentionally made enough so I could do exactly that. The only reason I didn’t make a wrap tonight is because I had one piece of homemade parmesan focaccia bread left that was begging to be toasted and eaten. Would you say no to homemade focaccia if it so kindly asked you to eat it?

Hoisin Dressing
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (I peel mine and grate it–watch your fingers!)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

For Salad
2 medium ribs celery , cut into small dice
2 medium scallions , white and green parts, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves or parsley leaves

You can also use this recipe to make a cold noodle salad. Equally delicious.

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Not Your Average Buttermilk Biscuit

Before living in Singapore, biscuits were of the buttermilk  or drop biscuit variety.  Flakey or crumbly, baked and delicious they were either savory with pulled pork and baked beans or chicken.  Or sweet with cinnamon and sugar, or honey and butter.

The pre-Singapore Debbie *thought* she knew all about biscuits.  I even had a collection of biscuit recipes including a delicious cheddar herb biscuit.

Now I know world-wide biscuits mean so much more.  And pre-Singapore Debbie was seriously limited and missing out!

Two of my favorite biscuits found in Singapore are from the same Aussie brand, Arnott’s.

This biscuit is savory…oh so savory, cheesy and delicious…

This would be considered a cracker to Americans, and those crumbs on the top are cheese. It’s way better than the powder from cheesy Doritos so don’t even try to compare…

This biscuit is sweet.  Like a girl scout thin mint cookie with an oreo filling dipped in chocolate.  If you buy these biscuits beware.  It is possible to eat the whole container.  And if you put them in the refrigerator or freezer to try to forget about them…it doesn’t work because they taste great cold.

If you want to you can call this a cookie 😉

Someday when I live in the US again, I hope I can find a store that imports Arnott’s.  Or else I will be like my former ex-pat friends who ask anyone flying to Singapore to bring some home for them.  Do you think I jest?  I do not.  They are that good.

That’s Not REAL Thai Food…

Thai food has been our favorite type of food for at least 10 years. We absolutely love it! (Yes, Portland actually has fantastic Thai restaurants!)

I took my first Thai cooking class a few years ago (SO FUN with my friends Ashley and Mara) in Portland!

Since then Greg and I have taken two other classes in Thailand (one with our friends Mona & Derek).

And we’ve been to Thailand on vacation 4 times in the last 1 ½ years.

We are pretty confident that we know Thai food.

Except when we talk to Thai people…

They constantly remind us, we don’t eat REAL Thai food, and indeed we have never had REAL Thai food, even when we’re in Thailand!

At first we were just puzzled and didn’t let all the comments bother us. We would discuss, “We’re in Thailand and Thai people are cooking our food. How could we NOT be eating Thai food?”

Later, we started asking questions, “What do you mean we’re not eating Thai food.” The answer was always the same… They aren’t serving us Thai food like the locals eat because; we couldn’t HANDLE real Thai food!

If we were smart, we would just believe the local people. Especially since we heard the same comments from them over and over. Up north, “this isn’t REAL Thai food”. On the far eastern islands, “you don’t want REAL Thai food.” On the far western islands, “REAL Thai food Not for YOU.”

They all had a similar theme and guarantee. You won’t like real Thai food, not food prepared the way the Thai’s like it.

I’m not sure why, but the more people told us we wouldn’t like “real” Thai food. The more we wanted to try it!

So, at the end of my second dive day, Greg asked his snorkel guide who has lived in Ao Nang for years where to get a great local dinner.

She answered, Luck Yim, just down the street from the dive shop.We had many fabulous meals during our 9 days in the Krabi province. Many were fancy. But this was our clear favorite and the most memorable. Luck Yim was right next to the limestone cliffs in Ao Nang.  It had a dirt floor, makeshift roof, grass woven walls, 8 wobbly bamboo tables with benches, light bulbs hanging from electrical cords and if the wind blew the wrong way there was a distinctly unpleasant odor. But, it didn’t matter, we loved it! After finding a table furthest from the outdoor toilets…we settled in and our waitress/cook/fish arranger brought us a menu in English/Thai.

First, I ordered my fish. My fish was straight from the sea, caught that day. The fish I ate was the same fish I saw arrive in a large bucket moments before we sat down. I watched her arrange them with care and dump ice over them. She told me to follow her to the display, and pick which one I wanted. When they were that fresh, I didn’t think it mattered so I told her, “cooks choice”.  (Side note, it’s always a little weird for me to swim with the fish during the day then eat them that night.  Is it possible that I was swimming with the fish I’m eating? I have stopped asking Greg this question, because his reply is always the same. You are probably not eating THE fish you swam with, you are probably just eating his cousin.)Then we flipped thru the menu and selected a few other dishes. I asked her about a certain curry on one page compared to a different curry on a different page. Her answer was, “Oh, you don’t want THAT curry (referring to the one on the second page) that one is for THAI people. In fact, that whole page is just for Thai people. You don’t want to order anything on it. This area (she flipped thru several pages) is the part of the menu you want to order from. It has food YOU’LL like.”

After 14 years with Greg, we can occasionally, if needed, have entire conversations with one look. We exchanged one of those looks. It said…

We are sick and tired of people telling us that we can’t handle real Thai food! We LOVE Thai food. Bring it on! It’s our FAVORITE! How does SHE know we can’t handle real Thai food! She just met us. She doesn’t know us. We can deal with it! We are READY!

I proceeded to order the “Thai” curry.

She clearly thought I had misunderstood her fantastic English. (It really was good.) She told me that one was WAY too spicy for us. And WAY too sour! We will not like it. It will taste BAD! That curry is just for Thais.

I replied, “We like spicy, especially Greg. We like sour too. We would like to try it the way the Thai’s like it.”

She told me that when they cook food for Thai’s they add 10 times the spice and fish sauce that they add for people like us.

Of course we’re not idiots, we were both starting to question our decision. But we exchanged another look, and although we are not stupid, we sure are stubborn! So, I nonchalantly replied, “We’ve heard that before. We’d like to try it.”

She assured me we wouldn’t like it.

I agreed with her that we might not like it, but we’d still like her to make it for us.

She walked away shaking her head.

My fish came first, it was AMAZING! Steamed snapper with limes, Thai chilies and ginger, it melted in my mouth! If you notice the sign, it was 200 Baht for the entire fish. That’s less than 6 USD.Then Greg got his curry.It wasn’t just spicy. It was fire in the hole…DUCK…take cover and run to the market to buy ALL their antacid. It was, watch out, don’t spill that on the table because it might burn thru it hot. It was crazy. Do people really eat this? Surely she’s playing a trick on us because we were being so ornery. Despite Greg’s conservative ratio of one part curry, 4 parts rice he was instantly crying and his nose was runny.

I managed one small bite and then happily went back to my spicy fish to cool down my mouth! Greg REALLY tried to eat as much as he could. But he barely made a dent in the bowl.

After a few minutes our waitress came to check on us. She noted the mostly full bowl of curry with a twinkle in her eye. She folded her arms, and even though she was shorter standing than Greg was sitting, she managed to look down on him in the smuggest of fashion and ask him how he liked the curry.

Of course she couldn’t feel the fire on Greg’s lips, tongue and throat. But she certainly could hear the sniffles and it was hard to blame his bright red face on the evening’s heat. He managed to mumble that it tasted great but it was pretty spicy…

She seemed…happy!

Later when we were finished, after an obvious second and third round of drinks, she smiled and nearly chuckled when she saw the almost full “Thai” curry. I knew something else was going on. She had her own private joke.

So I asked her if she indeed made it “Thai” spicy like we had asked…

Her look of surprise that I had guessed her secret totally gave her away. And she just started to laugh. She confessed that my suspicions were correct; she didn’t even make it half as hot as the Thai’s like it! WHAT????

We all had a good laugh! I asked her if they even feed their spicy food to babies. She answered that they don’t feed them as hot of food as adults, but definitely hotter than what she gave us! It was really funny to think of kids eating up our crazy spicy curry and considering it mild and boring!

So, were we ready to try REAL Thai food? Absolutely! Will we ever order “Thai” spicy food again? Highly unlikely! Lastly, in case you’re inexperienced in the spicy food department, there’s one more thing you need to know. Spicy food comes out the other end hotter, even more concentrated and uncomfortable than it goes in, Poor Greg! (She warned us of that too. She said his rear end would be on fire later. She wasn’t wrong.)Thanks for the laughs Luck Yim! We’ll be back!

SITCA

Today, after Greg and I got an hour massage we decided to take another cooking class. Then Mona and Derek decided to join us after their massages.  So we met at SITCA (Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts) in Koh Samui.  We LOVED our cooking class in Phuket and we weren’t expecting this class to even come close.  However, it ended up being another great experience.  first impressionsEven though there are 8 places setup, two people didn’t show so there were six in our class.  Everything was clean, organized and the ingredients were fresh!  In fact, at one point we were a little short on something, so she had one of her employees run out to get more ingredients from the local fresh market.

Here are the ingredients for: Yum Pla Tod (Spicy Fried Fish Salad).spicy fish saladAnd the finished dish…spicy seafood saladPhad Thai Koong Sod (Fried Noodles with Prawns)phad thai startedand the finished dish…pad thaiGaeng Kaiw Wann Puk Rum (Green Curry with Mixed Vegetables)green currya finished photo of the curry…it was delicious!green curry finishedTom Kha Gai and Tom Yum Gai (Coconut Milk Soup with Chicken and Chicken Stock Soup with Chicken)soupHere are the finished soups!(the only difference between the two is coconut milk)soup 3soup 2Here is our teacher!  She started the class by having us guess how old she was.  When we all guessed much younger than her age…she said it was because of eating Thai food (with fresh ingredients) every day!  She said it’s like medicine to keep you young because it’s so healthy!sitca teacherHere are some of the sauces and condiments we used!saucesHere is Greg, Derek and Mona working out a dish in the woks!Greg, Derek and MonaWe had SO MUCH FOOD and it was all DELICIOUS!  This ended up being my favorite meal during our whole stay!  I am going to try the phad thai recipe soon at home, and if it turns out as great as it did that day, I’ll post it!

Malls and Food Stalls

There are at least 72 major malls in Singapore.  Amazingly, most of these malls have displays in their open or common areas that change weekly or biweekly.  Most of these displays involve, in my opinion, a lot of construction of shelves, bins and displays and sometimes even a set and stage.  It seems like so much work for just a week or two of sales!  Over the 8 months we’ve lived here we’ve seen break dancing teams, ice skating (yes, they built an ice rink), packaged food sales, clothes sales, jewelry, dried food, pharmaceuticals, electronics, Ben 10 skit and set, vitamins, toys, a fairy play, and many ethnic festivals (the most recent was the Japanese fair).  However, I am now able to pick my favorite display of the year–food stalls! It’s like state fair food only better!  Yesterday I had a cheesecake filled crepe.  And today, much to my delight, there were more food stalls at the mall by my house!  So, I had a $4 chicken kebab and a $4 green mango salad!  Green mango salad is one of my favorite new foods since moving to Singapore!  Sweet, salty and spicy!  I love it, and $4 is a really great price for it!  chicken

green mango saladTomorrow I might try these dumplings made in pans that have holes (parts of the pans in the photo are empty so you can see the shape if you’re curious), they had prawn, chicken and squid flavors.  They cook them halfway and then rotate them with a wooden skewer to cook the other side.  I think I’ll try the chicken.  dumplingsI also had my eye on some pot stickers…I will not be trying the durian pancakes. Just like yesterday when I did not try the durian ice cream!

Crepes

I’ve always loved Crepe’s. I like them savory and sweet. I’ve had them filled with salad, cheese, meat, pudding, custard, nutella, fruit, pie filling, melted chocolate bar, sugar, lemon, jam and peanut butter. However, today I had something new…there was a Japanese fair at one of my favorite malls, Plaza Singapura. They had a crepe maker that looked similar to the one I loved in France so I couldn’t pass by. crepeThey had several filling options, including cheesecake and caramel. My first thought was that someone had a good idea, and then I tasted it and decided someone had a GREAT idea! YUM!yum It’s probably a good thing that the fair only lasts thru the 19th…ready to eat

AWWWW NUTS!

When I posted my recent Cashew Nut recipe, click here if you’d like to see it, I made a bit of a mistake.  Usually when I make this recipe, the first thing I do is put my skillet on low and add the cashews while I chop the green beans, chicken, onion and gather the rest of the ingredients.  Then I just have to shake the pan or stir the nuts occasionally and by the time the rest of my ingredients have been prepped, the nuts are perfectly toasted.  However, since I wanted to take a photo of everything from the beginning I changed my pattern and toasted my nuts after everything else had been prepped.  Of course, by then Greg and I were starving and feeling impatient (cooking takes a lot longer when you’re doing a photo shoot).  So instead of toasting the nuts on low, I toasted them on medium high.  Did I think anyone would notice?  Maybe, but probably not…Did I think my fabulous patient and chef, Steve, from Portland who used to teach Asian cuisine at a Cordon Blue school would check my blog?  Not a chance!!!

 

BUSTED!  I’m not sure if anyone else noticed, but Steve did check my blog and I’m totally and completely busted!  I do love how polite he was about it!  It shows you all what I already know; he is a great guy and a great teacher!  So, sorry Steve, I do know how to correctly toast nuts.  I’m sorry if that photo drove you nuts, and here is a photo to show the rest of you how properly toasted nuts should look!  Alternatively, you can roast them on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes, giving the pan a shake or a stir occasionally!  I usually only do the oven roasting if I have larger quantities of nuts…or candied nuts but that’s a whole different subject…

dry toasted

Why do people like Steve and I care if nuts are scorched?  If you toast (in a skillet) or roast (in the oven) nuts too long they taste bitter.  Did my somewhat scorched nuts still taste great?  Although not as good as golden brown, they still tasted good!  Phew! 

 

Those of you, who know me at all, know I LOVE America’s Test Kitchen and Cooks Illustrated.  Not only do I own many of their cookbooks, I pay yearly for their online website subscription and I even met Christopher Kimball and got his autograph, complete with his bowtie stamp in many of those cookbooks. 

cooks illustratedI know it may be nerdy, especially if you know I sat in the front row at the book signing and was excited to ask a question, but I don’t care!!!  He has made thousands of recipes hundreds of ways so I only have to make them once.  I rarely make one of his recipes I don’t like and I tweak his recipes much less than others to make it perfect for my tastes.  So tonight, I decided to have my own Test Kitchen and try Steve’s recommendation to coat the nuts first with a little oil.  Here is my result.  What do you think?  I’m not sure Steve’s going to be that impressed; I think they’re still a little scorched, I probably toasted them a bit too long but they cooked a lot faster than I was expecting with the extra fat!  Next time Steve’s in Singapore he’s going to have to show me how he does it!  J

oiled nuts

I also googled “how to toast nuts” and found out people toast them in the microwave!  I am anxious to try this out but, awwww nuts, I’m out of nuts!!!