Category Archives: Cook

Kabocha nimono (simmered Japanese pumpkin)

We love root vegetables, so easy to handle and always delicious. Usually we roast a variety of them with minimum effort – some olive oil, salt and pepper and they result in a tray of shimmering rainbow. That’s a typical western version of handling root vegetables. The Chinese homes usually serve it as an accompaniment to a main ingredient in soups or stir fried. The Japanese however, take much effort in making sure the full flavours are represented.  This pumpkin is a good example,  although the dish was meant to be eaten as a side ( pardon the quantity we made it looks like we made a lot,hmmm actually we did, one large plate 😬😬😬. Like I’ve said, we do love our root vegetables) yet the dish receives as much attention to detail as a main dish. Not that it require that much effort, just sufficient for the flavours to burst through those golden bars.


1/2 a kabocha or japanese pumpkin
1 piece of kombu, about a postcard size
1 tablespoon mirin
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce

In a small saucepan add kombu to 4 cups of water. Slowly bring to boil. This will make a simple dashi stock.

Meanwhile, wash the kabocha thoroughly, scoop away the seeds but leave the skin on. The skin serves to hold the flesh and adds texture to this dish. Cut the kabocha into chunks. Arrange them skin-side down in a medium pot, preferably in 1 layer.

Combine the mirin, sugar and soy sauce in a bowl. Add one cup of the freshly made dashi stock and stir to dissolve the sugar. Pour the mixture over the kabocha chunks in the medium pot. Add another cup of dashi, or two cups, just to cover the kabocha.

Bring to boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until a fork can pierce into it, tender but not mushy. Adjust the taste of the simmering broth if necessary. Turn off the heat and let it stand lid closed for 30 minutes. The kabocha will continue to cook and absorb flavours while it cools in the pot (so do not overcook it before turning off the heat).

Serve the dish either slightly warm or at room temperature. Garnish with spring onions if you wish.

Note:Buy a nice and ripe kabocha (get those that are already cut into half, it’s easier to see if they are nice!). Because of the simplicity of the ingredients, careful execution is required and achieving the correct texture is of utmost importance.
Save the left over dashi for another use, such as making tamagoyaki (see the sushi post)



The girl and her Udon

So ever since we went to Japan (Osaka & Kyoto) earlier in May ( I know it’s been reaaaaaallly long since we posted something🐢🐢🐢),there’s been a new favourite choice of food in this house. Well by default, favourite is really just one girl’s erm demand. And actually we are not even sure we got to eat that much udon back there. Really, with so many choices- Ramen (ippudo! Ichiran! How can we miss these establishments,okonomiyaki,takoyaki, abdundance of sushi and sashimi…just to name a few…

But today’s post is about udon. Yup? thick strings of slight chewy noodles which has become a favourite with our 4yo and she has been, still is asking for udon if she’s asked what she prefers for lunch/dinner. I think she can even have udon for breakfast if she could. Unfortunately most of the udon we can find here are really mediocre, not to mention not worth the average $12-$15 per bowl (or the calories for us adults). Quite terribly made stock too. Lucky for us, doting daddy is always ready to take in the challenge, and it’s not that hard ( I think) to make than to find a decent bowl of udon.


1 postcard size kombu

A small handful of bonito flakes

2 packets of udon

1 carrot, thinly sliced into rounds or flower-shape

2 tomatoes

A big handful of mushrooms

Japanese fish cake, sliced

Spring onions, chopped

Make a dashi stock: add kombu into a pot with 1 L of water. Slowly bring to boil. Remove the kombu and add the bonito flakes. Let simmer for 1 min. Turn off the heat. Sieve away the bonito flakes. Add a tablespoon of good quality soy sauce. Cover the lid.

Preheat oven, turning on top heating element only, at high heat, abt 220degC. Tear up the mushrooms if necessary, toss in oil and salt. Grill in oven until caramelised at the edges.

Boil a fresh pot of water. Add carrot and simmer. Cut a cross at the base of the tomatoes and blanch in the boiling water for 10s. Remove the tomatoes. Add udon and loosen with chopsticks. Cook for about 2 mins or till the udon is al dente. Pour over a colander and wash the udon with cool running water to stop the cooking and remove excess starch.

Peel the tomatoes, Drop them into the pot of stock. Bring the stock to boil, add sliced fishcake, and then half the spring onions. Taste and adjust if necessary

Portion udon into serving bowls (2 big or 3 small potions). Pour hot stock over and arrange ingredients decoratively on top. Remember the mushrooms! Serve remaining spring onions on the side.

Spaghetti with tomato, basil and white cheese

It seems like summer recipes are all over the Internet now. And the highlight ingredient of all those colourful sun soaked vegetables has to be the bright as sunshine tomatoes. I even saw an article on the Hwacheon tomato festival in South Korea, where everyone celebrates the harvest of this rotund fruit. Imagine kids jumping into pools of tomato juice, for fun, yup. Exactly.

While we enjoy summer all year round, we don’t get the fun or abundance of picking fruits and vegetables in the backyard, throwing the excess for a tomato spa party. We do get a better selection of fruits and vegetables in the market (my mum’s explanation that the warmer the weather, the better the harvest). So we have been getting pretty sweet (imported) watermelons, cherries and better looking vegetables. Yes, there are good looking vegetables that I can’t help but admire and end up buying.

I so love the simplicity of this dish. Brings food back to the basic taste. Ok, canned tomatoes were used but that’s hardly the point. These tomatoes worked really well. Right. I can’t imagine if we had ready access to farmers market. 


Recipe (serves 3)

240g spaghetti

90g white cheese (I used a Danish one. Feta, mozzarella or even Brie will be great as well.)

1 can chopped tomatoes (use a good Italian brand such as Cirio, just 20% more exp, but 200% better than Hunt’s)

12 fresh cherry tomatoes

30g basil

5 cloves garlic

Mince garlic, add to a pot with some oil and fry over low heat. 

Pluck the basil leaves and throw the (large) stalks into the pot. 

Pick about 12 nice basil leaves and set aside. 

Shred or chop the remaining basil leaves and add to the pot. Give the basil and garlic a quick stir. Keep a keen eye on them. At the faintest hint that the garlic is beginning to brown, add the canned tomatoes. Stir. Half fill the can with tap water and add to the pot. Bring the sauce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Salt and pepper to taste. 

Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add pasta and cook for 3 mins less than the stated time on the packet. 

Meanwhile, slice the fresh cherry tomatoes into halves and add to the simmering tomato sauce. Control the fire such that the sauce will reduce and thicken slightly at the time the spaghetti is ready. 

Use a pair of tongs to transfer the spaghetti to the pot of sauce. Add a ladle of spaghetti cooking water to the sauce (important!). Toss the spaghetti in the sauce. Bite into one spaghetti to make sure it’s cooked. If not, let it simmer in the sauce for one more minute or so, adding pasta cooking water if necessary.

Plate the spaghetti, slot in small chunks of cheese and basil. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil, good sea salt and freshly grounded pepper. 

Homemade sio bak 


I’m sorry to have made you hungry.

But how to not get hungry over this?

Slabs of moist pork with perfect crackling skin. I can almost forget about overindulgence in these fats, some say it’s collagen anyway so it’s ok right?

No it isn’t?


Pork belly
Coarse sea salt 
Fennel seeds
Five spice powder
Onions, thinly sliced
Mirin or rice wine
White or apple vinegar

Use about 1 tbs of coarse sea salt, a tsp of fennel seeds, and a pinch of five spice powder per kg of meat.

The onions are for making a bed for the pork belly to sit on.

Ground the fennel seeds with half of the coarse sea salt in a pestle and mortar. Combine with the five spice powder.

Poke the skin of the pork belly all over with the tip of a sharp knife. Rub the spice mix all over the meat. Lay skin side up and rub the remaining salt over the skin. Let it stand in air for 3 hours, or in the fridge for 12 hours. If time is an issue, get a clean fan to blow the meat for an hour. 

Preheat oven to 240 degC. Don’t worry, we will turn it down later. 

Lay a bed of sliced onions, the length and width of the bed being that of the pork belly. Pour some mirin or rice wine over the onions. Place the pork belly on the bed of onions and bring then into the oven. 

Turn the heat down to 170degC. 

Let the pork belly roast for an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the size of the meat. 

If you had found it difficult to poke the skin before roasting, you can poke it with a pin or toothpick 10mins after u started roasting. The skin is much more giving now. 

After an hour or so, the meat is cooked. Now it’s time to crisp the skin! Turn the oven setting to top grill and increase the temperature to 220degC.

Take the meat out of the oven and sprinkle vinegar in the skin. Return to the hot oven and broil until ALL the skin is charred (yes, black!). Keep a watchful eye as this will not take long!

Carefully remove the meat from the oven. Let it stand for 15 mins. 

Now use a serrated knife the scrape the skin to remove the black top, revealing the beautiful golden brown crackling skin below. Carefully bring the meat onto a chopping board and let it stand for another 15 mins.

Slice a serve.

Xiaoliang’s (daddy’s) MEE HAR

‘Mee ha’ actually refers to mee sua (chinese vermicelli made from wheat flour). To Xiaoliang, it refers to any noodles. The term kind of stuck since she could not mouth ‘s’ when she was younger.

Mee Sua is super easy to cook and pack especially when travelling. It’s also super easy to swallow and thus a good baby food. Even better if the noodles break into smaller pieces. 

 Our options of noodles have now extended to various forms including spaghetti, which she slurps up every time. With her preference of noodles over rice, we think she’s an ang mo kia (literally westernised kiddo).

It’s encouraging to see that Xiaoliang takes to a range of eating habits and choices. Daddy and ah ma just have to work harder to figure out the variations.

Spinach crepe with chicken, and other dinners from Emiko Davies’ blog


This doesn’t look like a pretty crepe. At all.
This however, sure is one of the yummiest and most comforting food.
Warm oozy eggs. Spinach. Cheese. wrapping a generous spread of creamy chicken just melting into the thin crepe. It’s a yummy mess.

We need to make this again.

So we just discovered this blog and it’s amazing recipes. Zzz tried quite some of her recipes to success. I can never grasp how food bloggers still look so good while cooking. Everything looks so pretty, makes cooking such a visual joy.

Really, even the vegetable seller looks like she’s prepped for a photo shoot.

Now, If only we really live in Italy.

Recipe adapted from

Spinach crepe batter
50g baby spinach
75g flour
150 ml milk
A pinch of salt
A knob of butter

Bring a pot of water to boil. Put a medium mixing bowl over the pot to melt the butter. Set aside melted butter. Add spinach into boiling water and blanch for 1 min. Remove with tongs and chop finely.

Add egg into cooled melted butter, whisk. Add milk, flour and salt. Whisk to combine. Add chopped spinach. Whisk and let it stand while we prepare the filling and sauce.

Creamy chicken filling and sauce
Here i adapted Emiko’s recipe, changing fish to chicken, and combine the bechamel sauce and ragu into one to save time (and washing!).

A knob of butter and some olive oil
2 tablespoons of flour
200 ml milk
A clove of garlic
4 cherry tomatoes
Half a small onion
150g chicken breast
One glass of white wine

Finely chop tomatoes, garlic and onion. Cut chicken breast into 1cm cubes. Sauté tomatoes, onion and garlic in butter and olive oil. Add flour and stir well. Before the flour turns brown, add chicken. Add milk and stir well. Add wine and bring to simmer. Add water to loosen up the sauce if its too thick.

Crepe and assembly
There is a bit of multi-tasking involved here.
Preheat oven at 180 deg celcius.
Spread some sauce (without the chicken) on a large baking dish. Have a large board ready beside.
Melt some butter on a non stick skillet. Pour in 1/3 cup of crepe batter. Flip (when it’s possible to do so). When both sides are done, turn the crepe out onto the large board.
#Pour in 1/3 cup of batter into the pan.
Scoop some chicken and sauce into crepe on the board. Roll the crepe on the board.
Flip the crepe in the pan.
Transfer crepe on board to baking dish.
Turn out crepe in pan onto the board. Go back to # and repeat till batter is used up.
Pour the remaining sauce over the crepes in the baking dish. If desired add some grated cheese on top. Bake for 15 mins or till the top is slightly brown (may need to turn on the top grill for the last 2mins).

When done, let it cool for 5 mins. Transfer onto plate and serve with a salad of your choice.

Below are some other dinners we derived from Emiko’s blog. Besides the recipes, each blog entry (url below) contains a story, usually as beautiful as the food.

Chicken liver pate

Farro salad

Broccoli pasta

Lemon pasta

Pasta and breadcrumbs with tomato sauce

Spaghetti al Limone


Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE this pasta? Never mind the exorbitantly priced organic lemon. The pasta is heavenly. The right tinge of sourness mixed with the savoury parmesan cheese and the sturdy texture of pasta. Hmmmm. I can eat this on its own, everyday.

I think I will fit perfectly in Italy. Yes?

Recipe (Serves 2)
160 g spaghetti
1 nice lemon, preferably organic
50g butter
1 tbs olive oil
1 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 chili padi, without seeds, finely chopped OR 1 teaspoon chili flakes
Freshly grated pecorino cheese, abt 25g
2 tbs of cream or milk
A small handful of fresh herbs such as parsley.

Boil a pot of salted water. Meanwhile prep the ingredients. When water boils, throw in spaghetti.
Immediately start on the sauce by heating up the oil and butter with garlic and chili in a skillet. After a minute, zest the lemon directly into the skillet. Cut lemon into half and juice it into the skillet, filtering the seeds with your hands. Add cream/milk and a quarter cup of pasta cooking liquid. Mix well.
Stir the pasta, taste one to decide how long it should stay in the boiling water. Lower the heat under the sauce. Throw in the cheese (leaving a little for garnish). Add some more pasta water (a little more than u think u need). Add herbs, salt and pepper, mix.
With tongs, directly transfer spaghetti from pot into skillet. Toss to coat. Plate, garnish with pecorino cheese and pepper. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and extra virgin olive oil. Serve.

Note: While this is a pretty flexible and generic recipe, do not add to many ingredients as the purpose is to let the lemon shine. Buy good lemons, preferably organic since you’ll eating the zest.
The original recipe calls for fresh pasta, of course…

Pig trotters: cheap ingredients make atas foods

Pig trotter, butter beans and chorizo stew on a bed of lentils and a rocket top

So while we were at Paris, we returned to this small rustic cafe where the only way of ordering food for non French speaking folks like us is to point, draw or guess. Well I guess we guessed right when served steaming hot bowls of lentils with a chunk of ham. Yes, chunk. It’s as though the chef didn’t bother to cut/weigh the ham before cooking. Just as well. We (or mostly me) was famished from all the walking and carrying xiaoliang around.

The lunch was as extraordinarily filling and good. So who says French food 吃不饱 (not filling)??

Pig trotter
2 pig trotters, with meaty portions of the (front) legs attached. Cut lengthwise by butcher.
2 celery stalks
1 carrot
1 onion
1 corn
1 bulb garlic, cut into half
Some coriander stalks

Bring two pots of water to a boil. Put all the veggies in one and the pig trotters in another.
Let as much gunk to be released from the trotters as possible. This will take about 10-15 minutes. Remove trotters onto a tray. Discard the dirty water. Rinse trotters if necessary and transfer into the pot with veggies.
Bring to boil and allow to simmer slowly for about 3 hours.
Remove trotters into a large tray.
Strain the trotter stock into a large container, leave uncovered for an hour, cover, refrigerate and reserve for making ramen soup base (to be described at the end of the post).
Meanwhile remove all the bones from the trotters. Reserve the bones for the ramen soup base. Separate some large pieces of skin to make pork crackling. Tear the rest of the meat and skin into small chunks. We may use them immediately or keep in fridge to use for another day.

Oven baked pork crackling
Preheat oven 240degC. Place the big pieces of skin in a single layer on an oiled baking tray. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt. Bake in hot oven for 10 mins, turn down the temperature to 200degC and bake for another 30 minutes or till nicely blistered and crispy

Pig trotters with butter beans and chorizo
Trotter meat and skin (sans the large pieces) of the above preparation
1 can of butter beans
Half a chorizo, diced finely
A pinch of fennel or cumin seeds.
Parsley or coriander leaves
Combine everything except the leaves in a pot. Add salt and pepper. Add some water to loosen up. Bring to a boil. Simmer (covered) for 20 minutes for the flavours to marry. Add leaves and simmer for 2 more minutes. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper if necessary.

Lentils (for2)
In a small saucepan, put half a cup of puy lentils, a small chunk of carrot, celery and onion and enough water to cover an inch over the lentils.
Bring to boil and simmer for 20 mins. Remove veggies. Add salt and pepper. Taste and adjust.

Wash 2 handful of rocket leaves, spin dry and dress with olive oil and salt

In a dish with a little depth, spread a layer of lentils. Add a generous portion on top of the lentils. Top with a handful of rocket leaves and a few pieces of pork crackling.

Eat immediately as you must be hungry by then..

Ramen soup base
Pig trotter stock
Trotter bones
Chicken bones
To continue to make the ramen soup base, bring the pig trotter stock and trotter bones from the above preparation to a boil. Add chicken bones. Simmer for 3 hours.

Bento or home-cooked gai-gai food


Zzz’s attempt at bento making.

A convenient way to bring home cooked lunch out.

And a useful distraction when you have a curious, short attention span toddler trying her every way to sneak away from boring meal times.

Steamed brown rice as canvas, asparagus stalk as tree trunk, broccoli florets as canopy, broccoli stalk as grass, carrot as house frame, roasted tomatoes as roof tiles, mashed potatoes as house facade, hard boiled egg as Sun, cod fish as cloud. Completed with a bowl of hot soup (not shown in pic)

Pan-grilled pork chop with apple and fennel


When we were little, pork chops were considered a special treat dish. Or was considered as a non economical meal compared to our usual meals of more vegtables than meat.

So whenever the occasion (or her greedy children asks persistently) calls for it, mum would take special care to make sure that the pan grilled porkchops are made to perfection. She would first prep the pork loin by hammering it with a heavy meat tenderizer while we gleefully arranged the table with forks and knives instead of the usual chinese style chopsticks/fork & spoons.

And the pork chops were always accompanied by warmed (canned) beans and fries. Actually, it’s quite typical of what we get from the ‘western food’ hawker stalls in Singapore. Western food, be it pork chops, fish & chips or grilled chicken are almost always accompanied by fries/coleslaw salad (very KFC-ish) and canned beans. Ahh childhood food!

Anyway, I’ll always devour the mains and end up mixing the tomato sauced beans with the pork chop brown sauce, something like mashed beans. Yumms.

2 thin cut (0.5 inch) pork chops seasoned with salt and pepper, and lightly dusted with corn flour
[Can also use a tender part of pork shoulder, (look out for even marbling!), sliced to 0.5 inch thick]
1 apple, cored and thinly sliced
1 fennel. Quarter the bulb, thinly slice the harder stalks.
Sage/basil (I used basil)
Apple vinegar, 1 tablespoon
Apple cider/white wine/vermouth, half a glass
Butter 1 tablespoon

Heat a large skillet. When hot, add a generous amount of olive oil. Add the quartered bulb of fennel to one side of the pan, the thinly sliced stalks to a corner at the other side and basil/sage to the remaining corner. Add more oil if necessary. We are doing 3 things in the pan: pan-grilling the quartered bulbs till slightly caramelized (turn when necessary), sautéing the sliced fennel stalks till it’s soft and frying the herbs till it’s crispy.
Add a touch of salt and pepper to each. Remove each item when it’s done.
Transfer the fennel bulbs and stalks to a low oven to keep warm.
Add a little olive oil to the hot pan. Add pork chops and pan-grill for 2 mins a side or till it caramelized slightly and can be easily released from the pan. Remove pork and transfer to the low oven to keep warm.
Add alcohol of choice and vinegar to the hot pan and scrape with a wooden spatula to deglaze. Add apple slices. Cook for about about 3 minutes over medium heat. Remove the apples and set aside.
Turn off the heat and whisk in butter to complete the pan sauce.
Plate. (I need to work on this..what I did was: lay a bed of sautéed fennel stalk slices and a few slices of apples, sit the pork chop on the bed, arrange 2 fennel quarters on the chop, scatter remaining apple slices and crispy herb. Finally drizzle the pan sauce over).
Eat immediately!