E-Fu Noodles/Yee Mein (Recipe)

I have mentioned before that one of my most favourite noodles in the world is e-fu noodles, which are also known as yee mein. These long, stringy noodles aren’t hard to prepare and the best part is they absorb flavours like a sponge. Today I’m sharing an easy recipe for this dish. The ingredients are very basic, but you can substitute/add other ingredients if you like (such as carrots, zucchini, crab meat, chicken, shiitake mushrooms, etc.).

*Ingredients:

  • 12 white mushrooms, cut into halves
  • 1/2 zucchini, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 package of e-fu noodles
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 4 tsp oyster sauce
  • Brown sugar
  • 5 tbsp chicken broth
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • Salt
  • Ground pepper
  • Oil

Boil the noodles until they soft, but still firm. Strain and set aside.

Add a bit of oil and cook the mushrooms first. Add sugar, 1 tsp of oyster sauce, and 2 tbsp of chicken broth. Toss the mushrooms and cook for about 2 minutes. Then, add the zucchini, 2 pinches of salt and a bit of ground pepper. Set aside.

Add 1 tbsp oil. Add the strained noodles and pan fry (it helps to use chopsticks for this part). Add 3 tbsps of chicken broth, 3 tsp of oyster sauce, two pinches of salt, and 3 tbsp of soy sauce. Add 1 tsp sesame seed oil and continue tossing the noodles.

Place into a dish and it’s ready to serve.

*If you would like more flavour in the dish, you could add some sriracha sauce to make it spicy or increase the amount of sauces and seasonings into the dish. This recipe is a bit reduced because we have a tendency to minimize the amount of sodium in our food. Enjoy! 🙂

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Winter Melon Soup (Recipe)

I was pretty disturbed when I first came to the realization that the price of buying groceries is almost equivalent to the amount of money you spend at a restaurant or on catering. The only difference between the former and the latter is convenience and healthiness. I guess I can understand why some people don’t even bother cooking since the hours in a day are limited, but I still think there is merit in cooking. This is why I’m sharing this recipe for an easy to make, healthy, winter melon soup. It just so happens that every year, I have family members that grow these huge melons in their backyard and share their harvest with us. This year we got two ginormous ones.

Winter_melon

Two winter melons fresh from the garden

All you need for this recipe is a handful of ingredients:

  • 1 winter melon
  • Variety of seafood (we used a frozen mix with baby squid, mussels, and octopus)
  • Chicken broth
  • Green onions, thinly sliced
  • Shiitaki mushrooms (optional)

First, cut the top of the melon off and scoop out the seeds. Place it on a flat dish that is big enough to hold the whole melon.

Winter_Melon

Bring a huge steamer pot to boil and gently put the melon into the pot with the dish (you may need to add a stand into the pot before you start steaming so that the melon isn’t sitting in boiling water). Steam until it is about 3/4 done (depending on the size of the melon, it can take up to an hour or so and the skin becomes lighter as it cooks).

Winter_melon

Once the melon is partially cooked, add chicken broth into the melon so that it fills the “bowl” halfway. Technically, you could also add shiitake mushrooms into the mix to make it tastier, but since the melon was so narrow we omitted it this time so that there would be more space for the other ingredients.

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Continue steaming and when the broth is heated, add the seafood. If you aren’t using baby pieces of seafood, I would recommend that you cut the seafood into smaller pieces so that there is variety in every scoop.

Continue to cook until the melon and seafood are done. Once it has cooled down a bit, remove the melon carefully by lifting the plate with a cloth or tongs or both (the last thing you want to do is burn yourself!). Scrape the sides of the melon bowl so that you can enjoy pieces of the winter melon along with the seafood and broth.

Winter_melon_soup

Winter melon soup

Sorry, it didn’t evaporate this much. It was half eaten before I remembered to take a picture!

Bowl_winter_melon_soup

A steaming bowl of winter melon soup

Serve into individual bowls and enjoy! 🙂

 

A Three Day Wedding

Have you ever been to a three day ceremony wedding before? Let alone experienced a three day Indian wedding? My friend recently got married and it was quite the experience. Each ceremony was different from the other, but being Yes! All Roads Lead to Food, it’s all about the journey of food too! First was the sanjeet which was the henna/mehndi ceremony, then came the two days of wedding ceremonies. The second day was a more intimate ceremony that took place outdoors. It was pretty cold being September, but we managed to survive to see the ceremony.

After, we went to an outdoor gazebo. I though we were going to freeze since the sun was going down, but they provided guests with some blankets and (thankfully!) there were heat lamps. I clung to those like Scrat clings to his acorns!

For food, we were offered a spread of sandwiches, wraps, a variety of cheese, fruit, chicken, pasta salad, assortment of grilled veggies, and a delicious salad filled with chunks of butternut squash and candied nuts. As you know, I’m not a huge fan of sandwiches but I loved the cheese platter and butternut squash salad. Yum!

The best part was the firepit. Not just for warmth and romantic mood lighting, but it was there so that guests could make smores! It was such a cute idea!

There was also the dessert tower with small donuts! These went fast! Of course, dancing followed for the remainder of the night.

The next ceremony was the big and formal one. We were served appetizers similar to the ones we had at the sanjeet, but this time I got pictures – fish pakora, aloo tikki (potato patties) and tandoori chicken with a side of green chutney, which tends to have mint and coriander in it.

For dinner, we were served a buffet spread of common Indian dishes like palak paneer, dal, butter chicken, naan, rice, etc. I love palak paneer and my partner loves butter chicken so we were in heaven!

Another favourite Indian food of mine is something I don’t have often, so I’m glad that they served it – burfi! It was under the cake (which was devoured within seconds) tower so that guests could just pick and choose what they wanted. For those who don’t know, burfi is an Indian confectionery treat that is made with milk. It tends to be rich and very sweet, so usually one or so suffices for most sweet addicts.

An interesting tradition I learned along the way is the stealing of the shoes. While most weddings have the garter toss and the bouquet toss, this was new to me. Basically the bridesmaids steal the groom’s shoes and the groomsmen have to pay them to get them back. It was pretty hilarious, given that the groom started with a $20 bill, then $100 bill, and then gave his car keys (though I’m sure he got them back). Also, the bride and groom tend to sit in this luxurious looking seat with a colourfully draped background while people go up to greet them.

It’s interesting because traditionally, my culture tends to go to each table to toast guests but hey! Why not have the guests come up to you as you lounge in luxury? 🙂 Anyway, it was fun but I’m glad it’s over. Three day weddings are exhausting! But before I go, I can finally say I got to wear a beautiful sari. I can now cross that off my bucket list! 🙂

A Sanjeet Celebration

I have been calling it a “san-jeet”, but it’s really called a “san-geet”. My first reaction was panic. What’s a sanjeet?!?! I was invited to one because one of my old classmates is getting married. As a first timer, here’s what I discovered. First, I walked into a room that was decorated with low lighting, cavalier chairs and cute little umbrellas. Great for photo ops and I’m sure the umbrellas had significant meaning.

We were fed appetizers to start, including fish pakoras, a cheese pastry, and a potato one. Then came some dancing entertainment and henna sessions. I haven’t done henna since the whole Madonna craze, but it’s said that the darker it comes out, the more your partner loves you.

After, we got to splurge on our buffet style meal. It was a spread of different vegetarian Indian dishes, including salad, rice, palak paneer (spinach and cheese) malai kofta (cheese and potato), raita (yogurt-cucumber dip), and chapati (bread).

There was also dal (a lentil dish), but I’m not a huge fan of that so I skipped it.

For dessert, I missed the photo opportunity since my camera battery died. However, there was my favourite – gulab jamun! There’s was also a white sweet called rasgulla (soft and spongy and super sweet!), and an interesting triangular treat wrapped in a leaf called paan that people kept telling me was a breath freshener with fennel seeds inside. Let’s just say you’re supposed to eat it with the leaf, but I just took a small piece of the filling to try. And I can attest! It was definitely a breath freshener, though definitely not a favourite of mine. It was filled with coconut, fennel seeds and more fennel seeds in a colourful candy coating.

There was a bit of dancing after dinner, but being a weekday we had to leave early. The groom’s father passed out some goody bags to us before we left and said “it’s an Indian tradition”.

When I got home, I opened it up to find a baggie of goodies containing ladoo and some deep fried snacks. Yum!

Going to a sanjeet was a fun experience. I’m glad I went. And look how the henna came out. 🙂

A Kamayan Feast – Not Your Average Dining Experience

They always say never play with your food, but I beg to differ because what they also say is food tastes better when you use your hands. In the Philippines, they have something called kamayan. “Kamay” means hands in Tagalog, so kamayan roughly translates as “eating with hands”. However, some also know this style of eating as a “boodle fight” (sometimes spelled “budol”) though this concept is a bit different. From what I gather, a boodle fight is where you literally fight to eat as much food as you can before it runs out (or perhaps a fight to stop yourself from eating so much…the struggle is real). Ironically, this term is apparently derived from the military but the feast is a form of camaraderie as opposed to just a battle.

The concept of a kamayan style meal is pretty simple. Tables are lined with sheets of banana leaves and various types of dishes are spread across on top for everyone to share. An authentic kamayan meal traditionally has lots of seafood and rice, which is no shock seeing as the Philippines is a country that loves rice and is surrounded by water (read: seafood :)). The restaurant offered the following set menu:

  • Inihaw skewer BBQ pork: Inihaw means grilled. The pork we ate had a sweet marinade that was full of smokey flavours. This was absolutely delicious and probably one of my favourites on the table.
  • Inihaw na liempo with atchara: This dish is grilled pork belly (liempo). It was accompanied with pickled papaya (atchara), which is meant to cleanse your palate and was quite refreshing to eat. It also came with cane vinegar, which is used to cut out the oiliness/greasiness.
  • Longanisa: They originally had mussels on the menu, but I asked to swap for these delicious little sausages because I love them so much. We couldn’t do a Filipino meal without longanisa!
  • Grilled shrimp: Naturally sweet and succulent crustaceans with shell and all!
  • Grilled squid: Although we are typically more familiar with larger sized calamari in the western world, Filipinos like to eat the smaller kind. It was a bit strange for us non-Filipinos because the insides weren’t cleaned out, so there was a gooey substance that popped out. However, I was told that this is the typical way of preparing squid in the Philippines.
  • Grilled tilapia: This fish was cooked in a banana leaf, so it came out very moist.
  • Grilled bangus: This is also known as milk fish and it is the national fish of the Philippines. The version we had was topped with tomatoes and onions. Just be careful because it tends to have a lot of bones.
  • Okra: Usually the sliminess of okra is a turnoff for many, but these were cooked perfectly – plain and simple.
  • Talong: This is eggplant in Tagalog. It was grilled, which made it super mushy and stringy. It was a bit strange for me to eat it plain like that and it was also slimy.
  • Lumpia: You can’t go wrong with these rolls. They are pork egg rolls that were deep fried into a crispy, golden-brown and stuffed with veggies. Yum!
  • A fruit mixture of mango and tomato cubes: Who doesn’t like something fresh to go along with their meal? The mangoes and tomatoes were a welcome addition to the meal.
  • Steamed rice: No Filipino meal is complete without some plain white rice to accompany it!
  • Bagoong: This is a shrimp paste condiment. I was blown away by the strong, salty flavours and amazed at how it made everything it touched super tasty. It definitely kicks your plain rice up several notches and it can be easily found in the Asian section of a grocery store.

I remember having a Filipino classmate back in high school that taught me a few phrases of Tagalog and the only one that stuck with me was this: “busog na ako”, which translates as “I am full”. All I can say was after this kamayan feast, busog na ako!!! I really enjoyed the experience. It was unique and different from your typical fine dining restaurant outing. Based on some of my Filipino friends, they said the table should have been overflowing with food to the point where you basically don’t see the table. However, being in a western country the restaurant owner informed me that they spaced out the meal like this for “sanitary” purposes since we use our hands to eat as opposed to the traditional Filipino way of kutsara’t tinidor (fork and spoon). I personally think it’s an economical decision as well because there would be a lot of leftovers and it would be ridiculously costly and wasteful for a restaurant to fill a table to the brim. However, preparing a feast like this at home with friends and family might be another story.

As a side note, to the shock of the restaurant staff we were a big diverse group. They cooked the meal believing that they were catering to a homogeneous group of Filipinos, so it was a more authentic experience. I’m glad because I would rather have that than some westernized version.

Although I know many cultures use banana leaves as platters for their food, I only recently found out about something called sadhya. I guess I’ll have to try and find a place that does this now. 🙂

Medovik – Honey Cake

There are only a handful of things I know about Russia – those fuzzy hats, Russian dolls, the capital is Moscow, Saint Basil’s Cathedral (I’m not going to lie, I had to Google the name of that colourful masterpiece) and the word “dah”. Suffice it to say, I was shocked when I went to a flea market and randomly stumbled upon something called Medovik in the food court, which is also known as “honey cake”. Sounds good already, right?

In addition to classifying medovik as a delicious Russian dessert, it is also a layered cake. The number of layers differ from recipe to recipe, but I’m going to assume more layers are added to make it appear more grand. It’s not your typical spongy cake, but rather layered with soft, flaky pastry/biscuit-like discs and in between those is a sweet, whipped cream filling. To give it texture, it is coated with roasted and chopped walnuts.

While the lady that made it was actually from Kazakhstan, I would like to think the one I had was pretty authentic given that the two countries are neighbours. She said that it’s a simple cake made with honey, eggs, walnuts, condensed milk, sugar, whipping cream and butter. However, given all the layers I would think she was being modest. There is also another Russian layered cake called smetannik, but it uses sour cream instead of condensed milk (also conveniently known as a sour cream cake). That might be a better option for those who want to reduce the sweetness in their desserts, not that medovic is sickningly sweet in any way! It’s just perfect.

If you have never tried medovik, I highly encourage you to look out for it. Wikipedia claims that the origins of this cake stems from a chef trying to impress an empress, so you know some thought was put into this. Whether it worked or not, I can’t confirm but I was personally seduced by the delicious, creamy layers of this cake. I think I can honestly say it’s one of the best cakes I have ever had. Have you ever tried a slice of medovik?

Dau Fu Fa Syrup (Recipe)

Fresh soybean custard, also known as dau fu fa, is always better than those prepackaged ones. It’s hot, it’s healthy and it’s light.

Although I have yet to venture into the world of tofu making myself, I am fortunate enough to know a place that sells fresh batches for cheap. When you buy it to consume as a dessert, many add a sweet syrup to it. You could buy the syrup from the vendor, but it’s so easy to make at home. Although I mentioned the ingredients in my last post about this, here is an actual recipe for those who may be interested.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 sticks of cane sugar (sometimes the package says brown sugar)
  • 1 inch ginger, cut into thin slices
  • 2 cups of water

Directions:

In a pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the sugar cane sticks and ginger. Simmer for 20 minutes until the sugar completely dissolves or until you get enough of the ginger flavour out. The longer it simmers, the more pungent the ginger.

After that, all you need to do is add it to a bowl with some dau fu fa and you’re good to go. You can also let it cool down and put it in the fridge for later use. It’s great to eat cold with dau fu fa.

Easy peasy, no? Have you ever tried eating this delicious soybean custard?

Mysore Masala Dosa

I know how it sounds, but “mysore” isn’t really “my sore” at all. It’s more like “my joy”, as a delicious chutney filling in a dosa.

A dosa is a South Indian dish that is a paper thin crepe. It is traditionally made of lentil and rice flour batter, but these days it can be made with other ingredients. Similar to a crepe, it is poured onto a hot, flat iron surface and is spread out into a round shape. It is cooked until it has a nice sandy golden colour and has a soft, yet crispy texture to it. Although many doses are frequently rolled into circular tubes, the one above was folded into a triangle like your typical French crepe.

I always choose a mysore masala dosa, which is made with spices, onions and potatoes. It’s so good that I’m convinced it’s one of the most popular types, but dosas can also be filled with paneer (cheese) or be simply spread with a little ghee (clarified butter).

As delicious as it is on its own, it is accompanied with several sauces to add a variety of flavours to your tongue. The first sauce is called sambar, which is the soupy one. You can dip the dosa into it or drink it with a spoon. My friend said some even drink sambar when they have colds or eat it with rice (It reminds me of a vegetable soup, so I can see why). The other two sauces are chutneys, where the white one is coconut and the orangey-red one has some spice to it. I actually haven’t had a dosa in so long that this little outing reminded me how good they were. I’ll have to add it back into my rotation. 🙂


In other news, remember when I went to look for cherry blossoms and it didn’t go so well? I tried again a few days later and unlike my second attempt, I found some fully bloomed trees.

I think I can finally deem this a success?!?!?!

Red Bean Tea (Adzuki Bean Tea)

These days, it seems like you can make a tea out of anything. Dandelions, fruit and now red beans. However, I guarantee it isn’t a new product. Red beans have been used for centuries in various desserts, snacks and dishes, especially in Asia.

This little red bean is also known as an adzuki bean. It’s not to be confused with kidney beans, which also goes by the same name as “red bean”. Perhaps I have been ignorant about it’s existence, but my friend introduced me to this non-caffeinated tea. It’s supposed to help make your skin beautiful and who doesn’t want that? I’m also always on the search for non-caffeinated teas and this just so happens to fit the criteria. 🙂

Taking a sip of this lightly flavoured tea, it tasted very much like drinking the liquid form of an unsweetened red bean. It had this roasted, deep aromatic red bean flavour and a golden-brown hue. It’s definitely not your typical orange pekoe or herbal tea!

It’s an interesting tea to have, though I’m sure it’s an acquired taste. I found with this particular brand, it takes a while for all the flavours to come out so I just kept refilling the cup with hot water. However, you can also steep the bag in a thermos too and drink to your heart’s content. There’s also the option of making it into a cold drink with the simple help of a few ice cubes. 

What interesting tea flavours have you had recently? 🙂

 

Tong Sum Fun – Macaroni Pasta Soup (Recipe) & Turkey Leftovers

After having turkey this past weekend for our Easter dinner, we had plenty of leftovers. And with leftovers, comes an endless list of crafty ideas on what to do with those leftovers to ensure nothing gets wasted. Thus, comes Tong Sum Fun – also known as Macaroni Pasta Soup! With a hodgepodge of ingredients, this is simple to make and a great way to clear out the fridge. It’s similar to a chicken noodle soup, only this time it has a bunch of ingredients from our dinner (and then some). Tong sum fun is also what my mom made frequently for us growing up when we were sick. You know how it is, when one kid gets sick, the other gets sick and repeat.

Although you can honestly add almost anything into this type of dish, our standard was always a good soup broth and macaroni pasta with some sort of veggies and meat. Here’s the one we made with our leftovers from Easter dinner.

Ingredients:

Directions:

In a pot, bring water to a boil and cook pasta according to the directions of the package and strain. Set aside. In a second pot, add chicken stock and bring it to a boil. Add all the remaining ingredients in and cook until they’re thoroughly heated. Add cooked and strained macaroni into a bowl and add the hot soup mix on top. Easy!

Of course, you could just make a salad with the leftovers as well. Here, I have a salad made with turkey, nuts, cucumber, tomato, peppers, egg, spinach, mixed greens, wakame salad and a few blocks of cheddar cheese for good measure. I personally hate adding salad dressing, but you could use something like Italian or a nice balsamic vinaigrette.

And then there’s an udon noodle stir fry with some onion, shrimp, cabbage, pepper and turkey.

There’s not much turkey left for this, but it’s there! Enjoy!