Recipe: not-so-authentic bibimbap

Bibimbap is probably one of the most well-known Korean dishes globally, besides kimchi. It is a one bowl meal, with the ingredients on top of warm rice. It’s nutritious, easy to eat since it’s all in one bowl, and very versatile because you can put any ingredient you fancy. It’s not easy to make though because you have to prepare all the dishes separately, before assembling them. The tough part is the prep work since all the dishes have to be sliced and julienned thinly. My knife skills ain’t that good but I try to make a presentable meal since my husband likes bibimbap.

To make bibimbap, I prepare the following side dishes:

  • carrots, julienned and sauteed in a small amount of sesame oil
  • spinach, blanched and seasoned with mince garlic, soy sauce, sesame seeds and sesame oil
  • beansprouts, blanched and seasoned with mince garlic, soy sauce, sesame seeds and sesame oil.
  • stir fried mince pork/beef, seasoned with some sesame oil and soy sauce
  • sunny side up egg (with runny yolk)
  • toasted seaweed, crushed into small pieces

I then put a serving of warm cooked rice (short grain to be more authentic), topped with the side dishes and a dollap of gochujang.

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My comfort food: porridge

Everyone has their own comfort food, and mine happens to be porridge. Rice porridge  or congee as they call it in the western world. Some of my friends feel that porridge is something that you eat when you’re sick but I don’t think so . I’ve always eaten porridge for breakfast as a kid and I never seem to get sick of it (pun unintended. Haha).

My favorite kind of porridge is mincemeat porridge cooked by granny, and she calls it “mushy porridge” because she prepares it in the slow cooker overnight and it’s a perfect baby porridge consistency in the morning. You can hardly discern the grains anymore. No matter how sleepy I am, or if I didn’t want breakfast, I would always have second helpings when this was for breakfast. It was easy with the slow cooker – just dump all the ingredients in, season with some oyster sauce, light soya sauce, sesame oil (very important ingredient!!) and leave it to cook on low overnight, a minimum of 8 hours.

When I crave for an easy and light meal, I experiment with different ingredient combinations and flavor bases.

One of my favorite combinations was taught to me by my university housemate. She would combine chopped cabbage, fried ikan bilis, sliced carrots and a handful of dried scallops and boil them all with the raw rice. We often cook this for Sunday lunches because that’s when our groceries run out and we would only have these ingredients to cook lunch that day, so we called it “Sunday porridge”. It’s been almost 10 years since I graduated and I’m still cooking it!

When I feel like having something more substantial, I would make meatball porridge with vegetable. The purpose of me having porridge is to have a one pot meal, so having both my vegetables and protein together is essential. I often use carrots as my vegetable base because they add sweetness and they hold up well after hours of cooking (or at least they don’t disappear into the porridge). As I do not have a slow cooker here, I use my thermal pot instead. It takes maybe 20 minutes of prep work plus boiling it and stirring it, then I put it into the thermal holder and leave it to cook overnight.

With porridge, the possibilities are endless. I have even tried mixing barley grains into my porridge! I won’t leave you with recipes of my porridges since I don’t cook according to a recipe (depends on what I have available in my fridge), but I do have a pretty standard porridge base.

For 2 servings of porridge, I use the following

  • handful of dried scallops, rinsed and soaked (reserve soaking water)
  • handful of dried ikan bilis, rinsed to remove dust
  • 1 small carrot
  • about 1/3 cup of rice (I prefer to use short grain rice)

I boil the above ingredients with about 500ml of water for 20 minutes before transferring to my thermal pot to retain heat and continue cooking. I usually add my proteins just before mealtime to prevent overcooking. Top the porridge with some soy sauce, sesame oil and fried shallots, oh yummy yummy!

Recipe: cheat-meal nikujaga

Japanese nikujaga

I can’t believe I have not blogged this recipe – I tried it last year and it went onto the fast track to my favorites. Nikujaga is easily one of the quickest and simplest things to make, and it’s super yummy as well. I often add a vegetable dish on the side too because I feel that I don’t add enough vegetables in nikujaga. Now I do recognize that this recipe is not authentic Japanese nikujaga but I’m not claiming it to be either. If you’re pressed for time, or if you have a clueless husband in the kitchen, throw this recipe at them and I’m sure a delicious meal will be on the table in no time.

Serves 2

  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cubed or shredded (I like mine shredded)
  • 1/2 onion, finely sliced
  • 250g mince meat
  • 1 tbsp ginger, thinly sliced or grated
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • pepper (to taste)
  • olive oil/vegetable oil

Heat up a pan with olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and ginger until fragrant. Add in the meat and sauté until the meat is browned. Add the potatoes and sauté for a couple more minutes.

Add the seasonings, plus a cup of water to cover the potatoes. Bring up to a boil, then cover and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through. Adjust the seasoning at the end with a bit more soy sauce if needed.

Recipe: garlic chicken with honey mustard mayonnaise dip

Now that we are entering spring, I tend not to cook heavy and rich meals. You know, looking like a caterpillar isn’t what I want to do. I don’t own a grill in my workplace home (we just ordered a grill for our Bremen home so I’m really excited to try it when it arrives!), so I just go for stir fries. But this particular recipe that I saw called out to me, so I tried to make it at home, with some modifications of my own.

Garlic chicken

Serves 2

  • 250g chicken cubes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Marinate the chicken cubes with the remaining ingredients for about 2 hours. Pre-heat a skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat (no oil required since the chicken has been marinated in oil already). Pan fry the chicken until browned, about 3 minutes, then flip the chicken pieces over to cook the other side for another 3 minutes. Serve warm with a light salad and honey mustard mayonnaise dip.

For the honey mustard dip, combine 4 tbsp mayonnaise, 4 tsp mustard and 1 tsp honey. Keep chilled until ready to use.

Make ahead meals?

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Ever since I started work again, I’ve been making lots of freezer meals/make-ahead meals for my husband and myself since I’m not there during the week to cook his dinners, and I sometimes get a little lazy to do the whole she-bang all by myself every day. (Check out my new tag “freezer friendly recipes”)

Some staples that we love: veggie meatballs, pre-marinated chicken breasts, pickled cucumbers, Korean style banchan (spinach in sesame oil, beansprouts in sesame oil), Chinese dumplings, shoyu eggs, breakfast wraps. -> Recipes will be available as soon as I get some nice photos!

I know of some people who think that make-ahead meals are a big no-no because “not fresh”, but I think it really depends. If you know how to store the food properly and heat it thoroughly before consuming, they can taste just as good as freshly prepared! I don’t think the nutritional value of make-ahead meals is significantly much lower than freshly prepared meals… well, at the very least, they beat a packet of instant noodles anytime. Though I don’t mind some instant noodles from time to time… Shin ramen, Mama creamy tom yum, Tung-I chicken & onion… mmm yum.

I also know of some who say “must faster consume, if not spoil” even though the items have been in the freezer for only 1 week or so. Erm, if your frozen item is meant to be consumed quickly, then there’s no reason for a “make-ahead” meal is there? Of course, I’m not saying to store the food in the freezer for 6 months or even a year, but surely a week or 2 in the freezer is fine!

But as you can see, most of our staples are for savory dishes, and I’m sorely lacking recipes for breakfasts. It gets a little boring to eat breakfast wraps again after 7 consecutive days, and please don’t get me started on those breakfast casseroles where you prep everything the night before and put it in the oven to bake in the morning. I always wonder who has that time to wait 40 mins for a casserole to bake in the morning! And that’s not including the time to pre-heat the oven and the time to let the casserole cool before you can finally dig in! Who wakes up that early on a workday morning?

So I wanted to reach out to the handful of peeps who are reading my blog (thank you very much for taking time to read my senseless and disorganized rants, by the way), do you have any breakfast ideas that can be prepped ahead of time, and ready to go in the morning? Please let me know!

Recipe: pan fried basa with tomato sauce

Many of my dishes are “invented” by me because very often, I don’t cook according to a recipe. Sure, I would trawl the internet for recipes but I largely use those recipes as a base to get an inkling of what to add to make my dishes taste good, or what flavor combinations are possible. When it comes to the actual cooking, I just guesstimate the amount to use. Like for example, I don’t measure the amount of salt or soya sauce I use… I just eyeball the amount, taste and adjust if required. Obviously then, you need to use a smaller amount since you can always add more if needed but you can’t really take out the excess.

Anyhoo, the following recipe was just an idea I had from a popular dish we often have in Singapore – deep fried crispy fish with sweet and sour sauce. Over in Germany, it is really difficult to find a whole fish and I wouldn’t want to cook a whole fish anyway, so I used basa fish filets. I was surprised to find basa fish filets at the local supermarket for such a cheap price, so it’s quickly becoming one of my favorites.

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  • basa filets (use 1 piece per person if it’s going to be your main, or half piece per person if it is going to be a side dish)
  • flour
  • salt & pepper
  • 5-6 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • a generous squirt of tomato ketchup
  • 1 tsp of Asian black vinegar
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • chopped spring onion (for garnish)

First, you need to season your fish with some salt and pepper. Then dredge it in flour – you only need a thin coating. Heat up some oil in a fry pan and fry your fish over medium heat until fish is cooked through, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside.

In the same pan (I prefer this way so there’s less washing up), throw in your tomatoes and pan fry them for a minute. Add in 3-4 tbsp of water and squish the tomatoes lightly to release the juices. When the tomatoes are soft, add in tomato ketchup and black vinegar. The sauce should taste a little tart. Add in sugar to balance out the acidity, and to bring out the flavor of the tomatoes.

Add in the fish and stir gently to coat with sauce. Garnish with spring onion and serve hot with rice.

Penny savers recipe: pantry minestrone soup

This recipe is great for those days where I’m feeling lazy. I usually keep stock of some canned staples in my pantry: canned tomatoes and canned white beans will have a permanent spot (besides canned tuna, of course). Couple those with root vegetables that I will always have in my fridge, and I get a quick and healthy meal with minimal fuss.

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Serves 3 as main

  • one can of white beans (800g)
  • one can of crushed tomatoes (400g)
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • vegetable stock (about 400ml)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • pinch of dried basil & oregano
  • cubed chicken – optional
  • cooked pasta

Take one cup of beans and a small amount of water and puree. Combine the beans/water puree and the remaining stock and vegetables and bring to a boil. Continue to simmer until celery and carrot are cooked, about 10-15 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Stir in dried herbs before serving.

I feel that blending the beans gives the soup more body and makes you feel fuller for longer (as opposed to a watery soup). If you wish, you can also add cooked chicken for protein and cooked pasta for carbs.

I added half an avocado into my soup because I had a ripe avocado that was begging to be eaten, so why not? The green pops against the red and orange soup… gorgeous. The soup is really forgiving so you can jazz it up, or dress it down, whichever way you want.