Recipes from a Singapore kitchen

Sambal Belacan Tumis

June 22nd, 2012 | Posted by yvonne in Food - (2 Comments)

Sambal Belacan Tumis

In my last post I wrote about a terrific Malaysian cooking class (taught by Cookery Magic) that I took on the island of Pulau Ubin. Determined not to forget how to make all of the cool dishes that I learned to cook that day, I hosted a dinner party where I recreated the three recipes: Butter Prawns, Herbed Rice, and Sambal Belacan Tumis.

Sambal Belacan Tumis is a cooked, thick chili-based sauce flavored with shrimp paste (the belacan). Tumis means stir-fry. It’s super versatile, as it can be used not only as a condiment, but as a base for a stir-fry. Throw in some shrimp, chicken, squid, or a vegetable and you’ve got a great dish that’s full of flavor. Spread it over anything grilled as well (it’s commonly slathered on barbequed stingray). The flavors are intense but balanced (tamarind adds sour and shallots and palm sugar add sweet to balance the heat). That said, it’s still really, really hot, so use it sparingly unless you’re addicted to mouth stinging heat!

I think most people buy the sambal in jars these days (store shelves are flooded with a gazillion different kinds), but really nothing beats homemade. The best thing about making it yourself is that you can adjust it to suit your tastes. Want more heat? Add more chilis. Sweeter? Throw in a few more shallots or some palm sugar. I love the pungent flavor of the shrimp paste here, but feel free to leave it out if you’re squeamish.

I finely chop the ingredients first to make pounding the paste easier.

It looked like this after a minute or so of pounding. But if you want a smoother paste–go for it!

Next up–fry it up. The instructor, Ruqxana, says “you’ll know when it’s done when you start to cough and choke“. Um…that may happen almost immediately. Open the windows, throw the hood fans on high and keep cooking it until it softens and starts to caramelize. (You don’t want it too brown though). The flavor should be deep but still fresh.

My finished sambal. Yum!


Sambal Belachan Tumis

Wrapped well, this will keep in the fridge for weeks.

Makes about 1 cup

18 dried chili (soak in hot water to soften), finely chopped

5 Thai chilis, finely chopped

10 shallots (12 if they are small), finely chopped

8 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 inch piece of galangal, grated

1 tablespoon belachan, chopped

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

6 tablespoons tamarind pulp (soaked in 1/2 cup water and then strained to remove the seeds)

1 tablespoon grated palm sugar

salt to taste

1. Using a mortar and pestle, pound and mash the dried chilis, Thai chilis, shallots, garlic, galangal, and belachan to a paste.

2. In a wok or non-stick skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat until shimmering. Add the paste and cook, stirring frequently, until it’s beginning to caramelize and is very fragrant, roughly 8 minutes or so. (Lower the heat if it starts to caramelize too quickly).

3. Stir in the strained tamarind pulp and the palm sugar and cook for another 2 minutes or so. Add salt to taste.


Cooking Class on Pulau Ubin

June 3rd, 2012 | Posted by yvonne in 1000 Days - (0 Comments)

glutinous rice balls with fish, rose jellies, sponge cake

When our good friends Matt and John found out we were moving to Singapore right after our wedding, they got us a most awesome wedding present–a Cookery Magic cooking class on the tiny island just off the coast of Singapore called Pulau Ubin. Set in an old kampong house, we’d forage the jungle for herbs and learn how to cook the local Malaysian dishes nasi kerabu, sambal belachan, and butter prawns. Now finally, finally! after months of coordinating schedules and skirting around the rainy seasons out here, we set aside a Saturday and took it. It was totally worth all the months of waiting.

Landing on Pulau Ubin

That morning everyone in the class met at the Changi Village ferry terminal and after a short 10 minute ride, we landed on Pulau Ubin. Only about 60 people reside on this tiny island which is said to resemble what Singapore looked like 50 years ago. Singaporeans mostly come to the island to get out of the city and bike around the hills and wetlands. I’ve personally not really enjoyed biking in the hot and humid weather here in Singapore, so while biking around a jungle may sound fun and exotic, I’ll leave that activity to everyone else.

kampong house

After a short van ride through the jungle, we arrived at the 100 year old house. Even though it was only 9:30am, it was already pretty hot and humid and the pesky mosquitoes were even out. You just have to learn to deal with it out here.

Before we got to cooking, a huge traditional breakfast awaited inside the house. Lontong (cakes of pressed rice) served with a coconut vegetable curry, sambal sauce, glutinous rice cakes with dried fish flakes, rose water jellies, sweet sponge cakes, and a kaffir lime leaf tea (to ward off the mosquitoes). It was all delish.



back kitchen

After breakfast we took a walk through the jungle where the guide pointed out various plants and herbs used for cooking and natural health remedies. Back at the house we gathered at our wok cooking stations,  underneath an outside tent and watched the cooking instructor, Ruqxana Vasanwala, demo the dishes that we were going to make.



grinding the toasted black pepper


butter prawns


cooking the butter prawns


finished butter prawn presentation


hot chili sambal

It was cool to make the chili sambal (you have to cook it much longer than I would have thought–till it makes you “cough and choke” as Ruqxana said), but the real highlight for me was the nasi kerabu. This is a simple rice dish served room temperature, with tons of fresh chopped herbs, ginger, lemongrass, torch ginger flower, shallot, and dried fish. There were maybe about 15 herbs or so here, including Asian pennyworth, mint, kaffir lime leaf, young cashew leaves, wild pepper leaves, coriander, thai basil, tumeric leaves, ginger leaves.

herbed rice

The final rice is actually supposed to be almost twice as green as this, but our group got a little lazy when it came to chopping all the herbs.

Eating the rice with the spicy sambal…

After we cooked and ate, an ice shaver was brought out and we each shaved ice so that we could assemble a ridiculously delicious Malaysian dessert, ice kachang. Over the shaved ice you dump on condensed milk, coconut milk, creamed corn, red beans, green cendol, and grass jelly. Yumm! The perfect ending to a hot day in the jungle.

ice shaver

ice kachang table


ice kachang

Quick 30 minute stir fry of pork, shrimp, chinese chives, rice noodles

Quick 30 minute stir fry of pork, shrimp, chinese chives, rice noodles

I’ve been putting my wok and wok burner to good use lately, and every time I do I’m thankful that we found an apartment kitchen with a gas stove and oven. Many, many apartment kitchens here in Singapore promote “light cooking” as they have only an electric counter cook top. Like seriously?  Though I’m not sure if it’s true, I’ve heard that the reason for this is to curb offensive “ethnic” cooking aromas. Well I can tell you there’s plenty of “that” coming from my place, but since we’ve got a full kitchen, I guess it’s all fair game.

This dish is an incredibly fast and flavorful fry up of minced shrimp and pork, heaps of Chinese scallions, and thick, velvety rice noodles (though you could substitute any rice noodle). It’s all flavored with big splash salty fish sauce and a squeeze of fresh lime juice at the end. This dish isn’t spicy. Serve sliced fresh Thai chiles on the side if you want some added heat. I think it’s great with or without.

Have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go because wok cooking goes quickly, and if you don’t have a wok-no worries. A large non-stick saute pan can be subbed, you’ll just need to take a little more care when tossing it all together to make sure the meal doesn’t end up strewn about your stove.

This recipe is adapted from the book, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen.

You can find rice noodles in the Asian section of most supermarkets. I used the same rice stick noodles that I use with pho.

Dry rice stick noodles


15 minute softened rice stick noodles

Chinese chives, also known as garlic chives, might be a little more difficult to find. The flowering ones have a small bud on the end and they have a strong garlicky flavor rather than that of onion. If you can’t locate them in your local Asian grocery store, you can substitute regular spring onions.

Chinese garlic chives

Chinese garlic chives

After your ingredients are prepped and the noodles are softened, start up the wok and heat the oil and garlic. Then add the shrimp and pork until it just turns color:

shrimp and pork in wok

cook the shrimp and pork until they just turn color

Add the chives and cook until softened but still retain some crispness:

chives in wok

I cooked the chives just a little more...I wanted them cooked but to still retain some crunch

After the chives are cooked, add the noodles remaining oil, and sauce. Turn the heat up and cook a few more minutes to heat the noodles through and to brown them slightly.

Quick 30 minute Shrimp, Pork, Rice Noodle Stir-Fry

Serves 2-3

10 ounces flat rice noodles

1/2 cup fish sauce

3 tablespoons water

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 cup canola oil, divided

4 cloves garlic, minced or grated

10 ounces shrimp, peeled, deveined, and diced

8 ounces ground pork, coarsely chopped

1 pound Chinese chives, washed, trimmed, and cut into 3-inch lengths

To serve on the side:

quartered limes

fresh chopped Thai chiles

extra fish sauce

1. Place rice noodles in bowl and cover with hot water. Let soak about 15 minutes to soften. Drain and cut into 3 or 4-inch lengths.

2. In a small bowl, stir together the fish sauce, water, and sugar; set aside.

3. In a wok or large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic and saute just until fragrant, 10-15 seconds. Add the shrimp and pork and cook, stirring, until the shrimp begins to turn opaque and the pork begins to turn color.

4. Add the chives and continue to cook, stirring, until the chives are almost cooked, and have deflated to about 1/3 to 1/2 their volume.

5. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the noodles, and give a quick stir to heat through. Add the fish sauce mixture, increase the heat to high, and toss and continue to cook until well combined and slightly browned, about 2 more minutes. Season to taste with salt or fish sauce and serve.



Black Fungus Salad

May 19th, 2012 | Posted by yvonne in Food - (0 Comments)
Black Fungus Salad

crunchy and vinegary


Don’t let the name scare you off. This is a really, REALLY delicious dish that you’ve gotta try (if you haven’t already). I’m a huge fan of crunchy black fungus and I’ve been eating a lot of it lately at my favorite Sichuan Restaurant here in Singapore, Sichuan Village on Mosque Street in Chinatown. Served cold, in a vinegary sauce, it’s a fantastic compliment to fiery dishes. Also known as cloud ear mushroom, wood ear, or tree ear, it has a very mild earthy flavor and a slightly rubbery texture that’s similar to crunchy seaweed. Tonight I cooked up a hot and spicy mapo tofu so I made this salty, pickle-y, vinegary dish to go along with it.

Most recipes will call for black rice vinegar, but I used regular rice vinegar because it was what I had on hand. I also used a dark soy sauce here.  There’s some added salt here because the dish needed to be saltier, and I didn’t want to go overboard with the flavor of soy. You also don’t have to pick the cilantro leaves from the stalks. The stems are fresh and flavorful so leave them in.

Black fungus grows on dead wood and is dried after harvesting. It’s then often reconstituted till it’s pliable before packaging to sell in supermarkets (I haven’t worked with the dried stuff). It looks like it might be slimy, but it’s not. It stays nice and crunchy even when you cook it. It’s a great addition to a stir fry.

Black Fungus

Reconstituted black fungus


Black Fungus Salad

Note: Chill salad for an hour for the flavors to meld and soak into the black fungus a bit. The flavors are even better the next day, but the sacrifice is that the texture loses just a tad of crunchiness.


Serves 2 to 4 as a side dish

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon chili flakes

1 clove garlic, grated

a few drops sesame oil

300 g (10.5 ounces) black fungus, rinsed and then patted dry (leave whole)

1 bunch cilantro, washed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces, stems included

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, salt, chili flakes, garlic, and sesame oil.
  2. Stir in the black fungus and refrigerate for 1 hour. Stir in cilantro and serve.



May 16th, 2012 | Posted by yvonne in Food - (0 Comments)


I’ve been feeling like I’ve been eating too much meat lately, so I decided that dinner tonight would be a vegetarian curry meal. Tonight that consisted of a saag paneer (spinach with homemade fresh Indian cheese), a spicy coconut chutney, rice, and dal (a lentil stew). I promise to post the saag paneer recipe soon, it’s just that I’ve been winging it every time and always forget to write it down.

But, I did scribble down the dal. It’s an easy to make, simple and fulfilling dish, that’s also great by itself with either rice or roti. Lentils don’t have much flavor on their own, so you really have to help them out. This dal is fully seasoned with fresh curry leaves, ginger, chiles, onions, and garlic. The turmeric adds the rich golden color. Don’t be tempted to add the salt in the beginning or it will interfere with the softening of the lentils. Salt it up at the end.

The dahl will thicken slightly as it cools.



makes about 4 cups

serving suggestion: white rice or roti

1 1/4 cup red or yellow lentils

3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 large green or red chiles, finely chopped

1 1/4-inch piece ginger root, grated

4  cloves garlic, grated

2 medium tomatoes, seeds removed and diced

4 sprigs curry leaves

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

4 cups water

salt to taste

  1. Pick over lentils for any stones and rinse thoroughly. Place in medium bowl, fill with water to cover by 1 inch and let sit about 15 minutes.
  2. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, chiles, and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until onions have softened.
  3. Add garlic and cook till fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add tomatoes and curry leaves and cook, stirring, about 1 minute.
  5. Drain lentils and add to pot with turmeric and water. Bring to simmer and cook, uncovered, until lentils are tender and dahl has thickened to porridge like consistency, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Adjust heat level to keep at a simmer). Add salt to taste.



Easy Spaghetti Bolognese

May 5th, 2012 | Posted by yvonne in Food | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Easy Bolognese

It was a sad night a few days ago. Our New Zealand expat apartment neighbor, and first buddies in Singapore, decided to leave us for another apartment complex a few miles away. As they were cleaning out their fridge, I was bequeathed with packages of ground beef and pork, so I decided to cook up a quick bolognese sauce for dinner. We don’t really go out for Italian here, so we save these dinners for making at home.

I remembered there being a bolognese recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, but since I couldn’t access the site-it doesn’t stay free when you leave:), and since I’m too smart to realize that I had the entire compendium in my bookshelf, I decided to wing it from what I could remember. I leave out the traditional carrot and celery in my recipe because a certain someone who I share my meals with hates those two vegetables, but I feel the extra onions and the tomato paste keep the sauce just sweet enough. It turned out pretty good if I don’t say so myself. The combination of beef and pork work really well together, but if you use just beef, that would be fine too. The keys to keeping the meat soft, not tough, are to keep it from browning it before adding the milk. The milk also helps to tenderize the meat. My bolognese has a lot of meat in it…not a bad thing for a meat lover like me.


Easy Spaghetti Bolognese

Serves 4

4 Tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, minced

1 teaspoon salt

5 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press or minced

10 ounces ground beef (chuck)

10 ounces ground pork

1 cup whole milk

1 cup red wine

2  14-ounce cans crushed tomatoes

4 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 pound spaghetti

Parmesan cheese to serve on the side

  1. In a large heavy duty saucepan, heat oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion with salt and cook until softened and golden, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add ground beef and pork, stirring to break up into bits. Cook until just no longer pink and then stir in the milk. Cook until most of the milk is cooked off.
  3. Add the wine, crushed tomatoes and their juice, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, and black pepper and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low and continue to simmer sauce, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Cook spaghetti until al dente, drain and toss with sauce, or spoon sauce over cooked pasta. Serve grated Parmesan or shavings over the top.



Bintan Island

April 24th, 2012 | Posted by yvonne in 1000 Days | Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Shady Shack Bintan Island


We just got back from an amazing weekend in Indonesia. We’d been looking to escape the heat of Singapore for a quick trip when our apartment neighbors rang us up. “Hey we found a place called ‘Shady Shack’. You in?” Of course we were.

Getting to Indonesia is really easy from Singapore. We just hopped on a ferry and after about an hour we landed and had our passports stamped. Our driver ready to take us to Shady Shack was already waiting.

Bintan Island is known for it’s plush resorts, mostly right near the ferry terminal, but we decided to try out a secluded, more rustic island experience. We felt up for a more relaxing holiday anyway, where we didn’t have to share the water with tons of kids and families:)

Bintan Indonesia

After an hours drive through mountainous rural areas to the other side of the island, we arrived at Shady Shack and met up with our host, Lobo, who showed us our abodes for the weekend. This place is definitely high on the “roughing it” scale. Each couple had our own quaint fairly solid shack that had a room with a mosquito netted bed and a concrete bathroom with it’s own toilet (a concrete tub of water with a bucket is provided to do your own flushing). No sink or shower, but hey, who needs a shower when you’ll be in the ocean all weekend?

Bintan Indonesia

Shady Shack Bintan Island


Shady Shack Bintan Island


Just before we got there our friends had to tell me an awful story about their travels in Cambodia involving spiders in the night–not a good thing for me to hear. After seeing a spider on the outside of their shack I decided to sleep fully clothed and with the lights on the first night. No incidents, so felt a little better the second night. We fared better than our friends, who wound up with a rat rummaging around in their bags in the middle of the night!

That said, the location absolutely rocks. It’s truly an island paradise. Right out of an episode of Gilligan’s Island. The shacks are just feet from the beautiful sandy beach which is only shared by a few locals and a handful of other Shady Shackers. I noticed that all the other guests were European, not locals, or even Singaporeans. Not sure why? The water of the South China Sea is nice and warm. It’s also pretty shallow (suits me just fine) close to shore, and is perfect for snorkeling. At low tide all I had to do was walk out to the coral and rocks to get a glimpse of a few adorable clown fish guarding their reefy homes.

We tried a few dishes at the Shady Shack cafe that Lobo and his wife run (she does the cooking). We tried some simply prepared vegetable, fried fish, and rice dishes. We also took a walk to the small village down the road and stopped at a roadside stand where we sampled some fried banana and fried tofu with chili sauce. Yum.

the Shady Shack dog contemplates a swim (he winds up going for it)


local village food

Getting ready for the Saturday night bonfire on the beach right outside our shack

At a place like this you really shouldn’t do more than swim, read, play cards (maybe), drink beer, laze around, drink more beer. The group next to us tried to play some frisbie and it stressed me out just watching them. Turn it off and relax, people. Can’t wait to go back, and hoping the creepie crawlies stay away.








Pho Bo

April 18th, 2012 | Posted by yvonne in Food | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

homemade pho bo

Since my trip to Vietnam in February, I’ve been obsessed with making a big bowl of Pho Bo (beef noodle soup). This soup is made from a rich beef stock that’s flavored with with charred onion, ginger, clove, cinnamon, black pepper, and star anise. Bowls are then filled with slippery rice noodles, and finally topped with a heaping of Thai basil, sliced onion, chiles, mint, fish sauce, lime wedges, and bean sprouts. Phew! All of these ingredients work together to create the perfect balance of rich comforting soup and bright fresh herbs. My favorite part are the thin slices of raw beef that are place on top to be quickly cooked by the hot broth. Making an authentic homemade Pho Bo has always seemed like a huge undertaking, but I finally set aside some time and gave it a go. This dish is no quick Tuesday night dinner. It’s definitely a commitment (give yourself about 5 hours total).  Most of the flavor comes from simmering all the goodness out of the beef bones–and that takes patience. But the rewards of a beefy stock are well worth the time spent.  And smelling like beef bones for the whole day isn’t the worst thing in the world either.

For this recipe, I took inspiration from both Epicurious and the fabulous Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, by Andrea Nguyen.

The first step in this recipe is to get a nice char on the onions and ginger. A broiler works well to brown a large batch such as this in the shortest amount of time. While the onion skin goes into the stock, discard the really burnt bits.

charred onions and ginger

Here in Singapore, I feel very lucky to just be able to stroll into the local protein and produce market in Chinatown to pick up my beef bones and Thai basil. The stalls are super busy in the morning, and by the early afternoon it’s starting to close up. I got here just in the nick of time today. If you can’t find them in the grocery store, ask your local butcher. He probably has some in the freezer.

This stock takes a lot of bones–about 5 1/2 pounds. You didn’t want a watery broth did you? Try to buy nice shin bones that aren’t too long, with some  marrow in the center. And if they have any meat on them, the better.

beef bones

Palm sugar adds a hint of sweetness to the broth (along with the onions). It usually comes in hard blocks.

palm sugar

I don’t have a 12 quart stock pot yet, so had to make due with 2 smaller pots. Not the most ideal situation but it worked. I had to start out with less water than I was going to, but i ended up with a concentrated and flavorful broth in the end.

pho on stove

These are the rice noodles that I used. The width is fairly thin (1/8-inch), but you can use whatever rice noodle you can find. They’re soaked in water prior to cooking to speed up the cooking process.

rice noodles

The finished product! It’s important to slice the raw beef as thin as possible so the the hot broth can cook it. I used a bit of chuck along with the brisket but found the texture to be a little dry (it was a very lean cut). The piece of brisket was better, due to all of the fat which renders out during cooking but keeps the texture moist. Pile up a big plate of the garnishes for everyone to pick from. Most of the fun of this dish is dressing up your bowl before slurping it down. The rich meaty broth is perfectly balanced by the acidity from the lime juice and the fresh crunchy herbs.


Pho Bo

Serves 5

Note: The strained broth can be made a day before to save time on the serving day. Make sure to cool the broth down as quick as possible after making it to prevent spoilage.

For the soup:

1 pound onions, halved (skin left on) and root ends removed

5″ piece of ginger, halved

9 star anise

6 whole cloves

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

5 1/2 pounds beef soup bones (preferable in 2 inch lengths)

5 quarts water

1 1/2  pounds beef brisket (or chuck if you want a leaner meat), cut into 3 or 4 pieces

3 Tablespoons fish sauce

1 ounce piece palm sugar, chopped or grated

4 teaspoons salt

1 cinnamon stick


For the bowls:

12 ounces sirloin steak

1 13 ounce package rice noodles

1 large onion, sliced paper thin

5 scallions, sliced thin


For the garnish:

2 bunches Thai basil

1 bunch cilantro

1 bunch mint

2 cups bean sprouts

4 limes, cut into wedges

5-10 thai chiles

fish sauce

grated palm sugar


  1. Adjust oven rack to broiler position and preheat broiler. Line baking sheet with foil and place onions and ginger on pan cut side up. Broil until flesh starts to become charred, then carefully flip and broil until skin is charred. Discard the really burned pieces of skin. Set aside.
  2. In a small skillet, lightly toast star anise, cloves, and black peppercorns over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute; set aside.
  3. Place beef bones in large 12 quart stockpot and fill with water to cover. Bring to boil over high heat and boil for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse bones. Clean stockpot and return bones to pot with 5 1/2 quarts water, charred onions and ginger, toasted spices, brisket, fish sauce, palm sugar, salt, and cinnamon stick. Heat over high heat until boiling, then reduce heat to simmer. Continue to simmer for approximately 3 hours, skimming off any foamy residue that may collect on top.
  4. At the 1 1/2 hour mark, check to see if brisket is tender, or continue to cook until it is. When brisket is ready, remove from pot, place in bowl and cover with water for about 10 minutes. (This prevents it from drying out and turning dark). Remove from water, place on plate, cover and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble bowls.
  5. After 3 hours, remove bones from pot (reserve bones) and strain stock through cheesecloth into another large pot. You should have about 3 1/2 quarts broth. Set broth on stove and let rest about 15 to 30 minutes. Using a fat skimmer, skim as much fat as you can from surface of stock. (The stock can be made ahead and chilled. Simply remove any hardened fat from top of chilled broth). When bones are cool enough to handle, pull off any meaty bits to add to soup bowls and then discard the bones.
  6. Place sirloin in freezer for 15 to 30 minutes to partially freeze. While sirloin is freezing, Place dry noodles in bowl and fill with cool water to cover. Place onion slices in bowl and fill with cool water to cover for about 30 minutes and then drain.
  7. When sirloin is partially frozen, use a sharp knife to slice 1/16-inch slices, place on plate, cover and chill until ready to assemble bowls.
  8. Adjust beef broth to taste and bring back to a simmer. Fill large pot 3/4 full with water and bring to boil.
  9. In the meantime assemble bowls for the soup: Slice cooked brisket into 1/8-inch slices or 1-inch chunks and divide amongst bowls. Cooking noodle servings one at a time, drop a handful of noodles into pot of boiling water for about 15 seconds. Remove with strainer or tongs and place in bowl. Repeat with remaining noodles.
  10. Divide soaked and drained onions amongst bowls. Sprinkle scallions over bowls. Divide sliced raw steak between bowls. Ladle simmering soup into bowls, making sure to cover beef so that it cooks.
  11. Serve immediately with basil, mint, and cilantro leaves, bean sprouts, squeezes of fresh lime juice,  and hot chiles, fish sauce, and palm sugar to taste.







Sambal Kangkong

April 4th, 2012 | Posted by yvonne in Food - (0 Comments)

Sambal Kang Kong


Sambal Kangkong is ubiquitous in Southeast Asia, and one of the most flavorful green vegetable dishes you’ll ever make. From the moment I first tasted it at the Lau Pa Sat hawker center here in Singapore, I was hooked. Leafy water spinach (or kangkong as it’s called in Singapore), is quickly wok fried in a potent sambal of garlic, shallots, chiles, dried shrimp, and belacan (fermented shrimp paste). This dish is  juicy, shrimp-briny, and will have you sweating like mad from the chiles. Word of warning: If you’ve never cooked with awesome belacan paste before, the pungent fragrance will pummel your nose and sweep right out into your apartment hallway (don’t admit to your neighbors that it was you unless you want a cease and desist notice stapled to your door). The odor is somewhat arresting at first, but then you get used to it– and then you get addicted to it. Honest. So don’t wimp out and leave it out!

Note: Check your local Asian supermarket for hard to find items such as the belacan, dried shrimp, and kangkong.



Sambal Kang Kong

Serves: 4 as a side dish

1/4 cup dried shrimp

1/2 cup hot water

1/2-inch piece (or rounded tablespoon) belacan, chopped

2-3 red thai chiles, minced (de-seed to adjust the heat level)

5 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press

3 shallots, minced

4 Tablespoons vegetable oil

2 bunches (about 16 ounces ) kangkong, or flat leaf spinach, washed and cut into 4-inch lengths

  1. In a small bowl, soak the dried shrimp with the hot water for 10 minutes. Drain shrimp, reserving 1/4 cup of the liquid.
  2. With a mortar and pestle, briefly mash belachan, chiles, garlic, and shallots into a rough paste; set aside.
  3. Add oil to wok or 12-inch skillet and set over medium-high heat. Add sambal mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is fragrant and lightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Immediately add kangkong and the 1/4 cup reserved liquid, and cook, stirring frequently, until greens are just wilted and sambal is evenly distributed. If the greens are too dry before their cooked, add water to the pan, a tablespoon at a time. (Placing a cover over the skillet (if using), will also help to cook the greens. Adjust salt level and serve immediately.








An easy and flavorful potato side dish

I had some leftovers from a a fun curry meal that we cooked the other night (dal, prawn curry, string hoppers), and tonight I needed a side dish to bump up the rations. Thankfully there were about a pound of potatoes in the fridge and curry leaves in the freezer, so I whipped up a batch of these potatoes. It’s a cinch to make and packed with flavor. The potatoes are boiled first with turmeric to give them a nice yellow color, and then pan-fried with cumin, chilies, and curry leaves. The chilies added flavor and some heat, but weren’t too hot. If you can’t find fresh curry leaves, they can sometimes be found in the frozen section of your local Asian market. This recipe is adapted from 50 Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi.


Indian Style Potatoes with Cumin, Curry Leaves, and Chilies

Serves 2-3 as a side dish


1 pound (450g) small waxy potatoes, peeled

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

4 Tablespoons oil

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, lightly crushed with mortar and pestle

2 large green chilies (about 3-4 inches long), diced

12  curry leaves

salt to taste


  1. Place potatoes in medium pot and cover with 1 inch water. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and turmeric; stir to combine. Gently boil until potatoes are knife tender. Drain and cool potatoes until potatoes are cool enough to handle. Slice potatoes in half and set aside.
  2. In 12-inch skillet, briefly heat cumin in oil over medium heat. Add chilies and curry leaves and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add potatoes to pan, cut side down, and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are heated through and cut sides are golden brown, about 5 minutes. Season with salt to taste and serve.