Category Archives: asian

Chinese New Year dinner

Happy Chinese New Year! For family dinner on Tuesday, we made up an (early) Taiwanese-influenced dinner. Dumplings are symbolic of family reunion and so they’re always around at this time when families are reunited. Our recipe is from a friend of friend, learned at the ‘boys’ part’ of a baby shower. Thanks, Bosco.

It was a meal made in America, not in Taiwan, that’s for sure. Although we could find wrappers at the supermarket (the Chinese grocery was a long hike), they were wonton wrappers – thinner and square. They ended up working, more or less, though I wouldn’t recommend using them. Find the round ones.

The tomato eggs are one of my favourite foods in Taiwan. Chris learned them from a Taiwanese woman whose kids she was teaching. This was the first time we tried them, and while they were good, they need work. They were a little too scrambled – though I’ve had them like this before, usually they’re a little chunkier.

The ginger beans are easy and delicious. Simple as that, though we found them online while in Argentina. No Chinese New Year connection there, just a tasty side.

Finally, as I went to post this, a post on someone else’s CNY dinner on the other side of the world popped up. It’s worth a look – they also do pot-sticker dumplings, as well as beef noodles (representative of long life) and egg custard tarts (a recipe I’ll be trying out myself). Check it out!

Ginger Green Beans

2 lbs beans
3 inches ginger, peeled and julienned
3 tbsp butter/sesame oil
1/2 tsp salt
zest of 1/2 lemon
soy sauce to taste

1. Cook beans until just tender. Drain, put in ice water, pat dry.
2. Cook ginger in butter/oil until golden, about 3 minutes.
3. Add the beans and cook for about 2 minutes.
4. Remove from heat, add zest and salt and soy sauce.

Tomato Eggs

4 small-medium tomatoes, cut into chunks (optional: blanche and skin them first)
5 eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
1/2 c green onion, chopped
2 tbsp ginger, finely chopped or minced
2 tsp potato or corn starch, mixed with 2 tbsp water
1/2 tbsp sugar

1. Heat 1-2 tbsp oil and fry the ginger.
2. Add the tomatoes and cook until soft & juicy. Add a little water if it looks dry.
3. Add sugar, another pinch of salt, and the starch/water mixture. Mix together so things thicken.
4. Add the eggs, cook like scrambled eggs, but stir as little as possible.
5. When mostly done, add green onions.

Pot-sticker Dumplings

1/2 lb ground pork (can also use ground chicken, turkey, beef, or tofu)
2-3 stalks bok choy
8-10 straw mushrooms (aka needle mushrooms – thin mushrooms that are mostly stalk)
3-4 Chinese mushrooms (dehydrated)
1/2 tsp ginger, minced OR 1/4 tsp dried ginger
1 stalk green onion, chopped
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 egg
1 package dumpling wrappers (3.5-4″ diameter), thawed (if bought frozen)

Soak Chinese mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes until soft and re-hydrated, discard stem. Chop up bok choy, mushrooms, and green onions into 1/4″ or smaller pieces.

In a large bowl, combine ground meat, chopped vegetables, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, and pepper and mix well.

Whip the egg in a small bowl. It’ll be used for holding the wrappers together.

To make the dumplings (and I apologize in advance – this is much easier shown than described), place one wrap flat on a plate or clean surface. Brush egg on the top 3/4 of the wrapping and spoon 1 to 1-1/2 tsp of mixture in the centre of the wrapping.

Rather than try and explain how to fold a dumpling, I’ll simply direct you to the Google search, full of explanations and videos that are much better than trying to follow my directions. Good luck!

The dumplings can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours or frozen for considerably longer in an airtight container. I recommend freezing them separately on a floured plate first, then putting them in a bag or container. This prevents them from sticking together.

To cook the dumplings, put 1-2 tsp of oil in a frying pan at medium heat. Arrange the dumplings in a circle or two on the pan and cook until the bottom is light brown (2-3 minutes if fresh, 4-5 if cooking from frozen). Add 3/4 to 1 cup of water (depending on size of the pan and amount of dumplings you’re cooking) to cover the bottom the pan and put the lid on immediately. The steam in the frying pan will cook the top part of the dumpling. Check the dumpling when the steam stops or in 3-4 minutes. The dumpling should be done when the water is all evaporated. Be careful not to burn the dumplings – add more water if necessary.

Dipping sauce: the recipe I got recommended 2 parts dark soy sauce with 1 part Worchestershire sauce. In Taiwan, we would have a mix of soy sauce, chili paste, garlic, and vinegar. Here, we found a chili-garlic paste at the supermarket and brought out vinegar and soy sauce and let everyone make their own sauce. It worked out great!

malaysia – banana leaf goodness

Our last meal in Malaysia was at a restaurant we had forgotten about when we first landed and nearly forgot about when we returned – the banana leaf restaurant. There are actually quite a few of this type of restaurant, but we have one that we visited a couple of times last time we went through and Christine visited on her first visit here around five years ago. As the name may imply, you are given a banana leaf as a plate and various vegetarian selections are spooned onto it. (You can also order meat dishes, but with such a good veggie selection, we went with the basic choice). There were poppadums with a dried, salty chili pepper, a couple of types of chutney, an eggplant dish, something with potatoes, something made with a kind of leaf (yeah, accurate, right?), some kind of soupy thing up in the corner that was pretty plain, and daal on the rice.

They were all pretty good, though I’m a sucker for eggplants. The best part about it, though, is eating with your hands. Only the right – I think you’ve heard what the left is traditionally used for (if not, it’s too dirty to use your left hand afterward, believe me). I quite enjoy eating with my hands, scooping up a bit of rice and taking some veggies with it for a satisfying mouthful. Christine loved it as well.

The only thing that could top this fantastic dinner was a yogurt lassi, so we ordered one. Two, actually – one during the meal, one after. They’re just so darn good. Sitting with a full belly and drinking a delicious mango lassi at the end of a hot day sits near the top of my highlight list of the trip, a trip filled with beaches and diving, so imagine how good it must be! I’d highly recommend this place to anyone visiting KL – Govinda’s Banana Leaf is the name, if I remember correctly. Go forth and eat like man was born to!

malaysia: i’m a nasi boy

Nasi means rice in Malay. Like the noodles, it can come in a variety of styles.

Nasi goreng is simple fried rice. On the island, this seemed much more puffier than fried rice back in Taiwan, with nice, crispy vegetables that weren’t overcooked. I don’t know if everyone does this, but it certainly was nice at the place we had it.

Nasi pataya was rice fried with soy sauce (and possibly other things), covered with a fried egg with the yolk broken.

Nasi kampung is different from mee kampung – the rice was not cooked in a soy-based sauce, but it was spicy and had little sardines in it, creating a salty, spicy, fishy taste. It wasn’t bad, but I don’t know if I’d order it again. I had bigger favourites on the menu. This is the one pictured to the left.

I don’t have many pictures of rice, as we didn’t order it too much. I guess that makes the title a lie. Frankly, we both preferred the way the Malaysians cooked their noodles. ‘Salright, though – fried rice is fried rice, right?

malaysia: breads

There are two main breads consumed here in Malaysia, both coming from India, I think. The first, roti, is actually the word for bread as well, but when you go into a restaurant, it usually means unleavened dough cooked on a big skillet. There are many kinds to choose from: butter, cheese, egg, sardine are just a few of the most common ones. The most basic order is roti canai (RAW-ti CHA-nai), which is basic roti accompanied by small dishes of curry and daal. This can be ordered at any time of the day at any self-respecting Malay restaurant (with a big skillet). We had it for breakfast a couple of times, it’s nice and filling. I couldn’t get enough of this either, as a matter of fact. It resembles the green onion pancakes I love so much in Taiwan – that probably doesn’t hurt my opinion of it.

The other major bread is, of course, na’an, which is also unleavened. While roti is cooked on a greased skillet, na’an is cooked inside a tandoori oven, so it’s dry, yet still pliable. I love na’an with a deep, consuming desire and I ate a lot of it here. You can get this in a variety of flavours – egg, plain, garlic, even caramel (I didn’t get to try this one, unfortunately). It always comes with daal for dipping – it seems to be impossible to consume na’an without it being coated in something. I’m not going to argue with tradition on this one.

I think chappattis can be found in Malaysia as well, but we didn’t see them.

One last sort-of bread is murtabak. One could say it’s like stuffed roti, but I’m not sure if that’s right. Supposedly, it’s a mix of egg, onions, and meat (I had chicken), covered with or stuffed in roti dough and fried up. I couldn’t find any chicken when I ordered this; it tasted like an omelet wrapped in roti. It wasn’t something I’d recommend or try again – I’d rather eat a couple of roti by themselves. Too bad murtabak!

malaysia: samosas

Remember empanadas? Mmmm, I sure do. Imagine my surprise when we stepped out of our hostel to find wee little delicious fried pastries that suspiciously resembled empanadas on a nearby cart! I immediately picked up a couple and bit into one, discovering curried potatoes and vegetables inside. It only later struck us – duh! – that these were samosas. I guess we were accustomed to the more North American-presented triagle shape. These were fantastic, though. You can find them at almost any market or bus station, and they fill the hunger gap quite easily between meals.

The things in the background are other fried things at this stand.

malaysia: mee mee mee!

Mee in Malay means ‘noodle’, and like Taiwan, there are a large number of ways of ordering your noodles here in Malaysia. We’ve been trying out different kinds, as the guide book and dictionary we borrowed don’t have a lot of food words. (This is something we’re always surprised there aren’t more of and that really should be a gold mine – food dictionaries. And who wouldn’t want to research that?) The ones we’ve tried so far are mee goreng, mee bandung, and mee ayam.

Mee goreng simply means fried noodles, though it’s always found in a soy-sauce based sauce. Usually it’s more pasty and sticks to the noodles, not leaving much after the meal is done, but sometimes it’s a more liquid sauce. It’s an old standby – I don’t think we’ve ever had a bad dish of mee goreng, though there have been some middling ones.

Mee bandung is a little bit more exotic. I’m not sure what it translates to, but when I ordered it, I got a bowl full of a spicy curry-like soup, with nice round noodles and lots of good stuff – veggies, squid, prawns, even a bit of chicken, I think. It had a lot of kick to it – I couldn’t finish the broth by itself and had to blow my nose a couple of times during the meal – but I enjoyed it.

Mee ayam is another basic dish – ayam means chicken, so this is just chicken noodles. Thinking that that’s all it is, though, doesn’t do it justice. On top of noodles in broth are some green vegetables, pieces of rather good chicken, green onions, spicy sauce, and a topping of fried garlic. A great basic meal to be found in a lot of market stalls everywhere you go.

Mee kampung is something I tried on Tioman, I’m not sure if it’s available elsewhere, but it was a spicy, soy-sauce based sauce, similar to mee goreng. I kind of wonder if it’s just spicier mee goreng.

Mee pataya is similar to mee goreng again, but with a fried egg with the yolk broken over top of the noodles.

There is another kind of noodle that you can usually find in the same places. For some reason, there doesn’t seem to be a 100% consistent spelling of it – I’ve mostly seen it written as bee hoon, but I’ve also seen it written bee horn and mee hoon. The different is the thickness of the noodle – the bee hoon noodle is like vermicelli or angel hair, while the mee noodle is thicker, like a linguine kind of noodle. I like them both. The picture here, if I remember correctly, is simply fried bee hoon.

malaysia: sate ayam

One cannot be in this area of the world and miss out on some sate. Grilled up nicely with spices and served with a small bowl of amazing peanut sauce, this is one of my favourite dishes ever – I ate some every night I was in Kuala Lumpur, even when I was stuffed from dinner. I’ve had some less-than-perfect meat before, but I don’t think I’ve ever walked away from a sate place unhappy. How could you? All the best parts of what I like are here – meat, peanuts, cooking over a fire, easy to eat, portable. I want some right now. Most places in Malaysia and Indonesia have a little coal grill that they can take already-skewered pieces of meat and cook them up nice and fast. You can get your sate served on a plate, as we had in this picture, or on a banana leaf with these little squares that I think are made of rice. Somehow. Not too sure about that, but it’s tasty, whatever it is. The best part about it is how cheap it is – here in KL we paid about 20 cents US a stick, and I think it was even cheaper when we were in Indonesia. I’m going to eat as much as I can before we leave – I always miss this when I leave the -sia countries.