November 21, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Posted in South Asia & South-East Asia | Leave a comment

Singapore is a nation state that has one of the great inter-country feuds (with Malaysia, discussed when we went there). Its a dense state, 2nd only to Monaco in terms of people vs land. It’s exactly 1 degree North of the equator.  Its also a place with a strict sense of law and order, famously strict on chewing gum.

The Plan

While Singapore is known for both Laksa and Hainanese chicken, the chicken wins out this time.   I’ve adapted a number of recipes, mostly from SBS (again).


1 very fresh chicken (preferably free range)
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
1 tbsp light soy sauce
6 slices fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, slightly bruised
2 shallots, chopped in a few pieces
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp light soy sauce
½ tsp salt

Chicken Stock
Chicken bones, such as whole chicken carcass, or a kilo of chicken wings or legs
3 pieces of ginger
2 shallots

Chicken Rice
1 cup long grain rice
2 tbsp chicken or pork fat (this tastes great, but peanut oil can be used instead)
2-3cm ginger, grated
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped very finely or grated
2  cups chicken stock according to rice instructions (or more, reserved from boiled chicken)

Chilli sauce
2 fresh birds eye chillies
1-2 cloves garlic
5cm fresh ginger

2-3 tbsp of chopped coriander
2-3 shallots, chopped
2 -4 tbsp chicken stock (from the boiled chicken)
Juice from 1  lime to taste
Salt to taste

Coriander  Sauce for Dipping
5cm of Ginger
2 garlic cloves
2 tsp lime juice
1 cup chicken stock (from the boiled chicken)
a handful of finely chopped coriander leaves
5 tbsps oyster sauce


For chicken stock, add  chicken bonest, three slices of ginger and two shallots to just enough water to cover them. Boil for one to two hours until stock has a strong chicken flavour. Discard chicken bones/pieces and strain the stock through a muslin cloth.
Bring a pot of water to the boil, adding the chicken stock, the pot being large enough to fit the whole chicken. While the water & stock is heating, rub chicken inside with rice wine and soy sauce. Roughly chop three pieces of ginger, garlic and one shallot and then blend in a food processor. Place mixture inside chicken.

When the water boils, turn heat off and place the chicken, remaining three pieces of ginger and shallot in the water. Leave the chicken to stand in the water for one hour. After the first five minutes of standing, lift up the chicken, drain the water from the stomach cavity and put chicken back in the pot. Repeat this process two or three times during the cooking period to make sure the chicken cooks inside as well as outside.

After 30 minutes, turn on the heat to bring the water back to almost boiling point, then turn heat off. The chicken, never being allowed to boil, will be very tender and juicy. At the end of the hour, remove the stock and plunge the chicken into icy water for 5 minutes.

For chicken rice, wash the rice and drain well (the more water in the rice, the less chicken flavour! Some recommend drying the rice in a tea towel). In a wok, fry chicken fat until oil is released and then add the ginger and garlic and fry well.

Remove from heat and discard the chicken fat and skin. Add the rice and salt and stir fry briskly for about 1-2 minutes. Transfer rice into an electric rice cooker or pot. Add in chicken stock and pandan leaves. Follow normal instructions for cooking rice.
While the rice cooks, remove the chicken from the ice water and rub with remaining soy sauce combined with sesame oil and salt.

For chilli sauce, roughly chop chillies, garlic, coriander, onions and ginger and then blend in a food processor. Add chicken stock, lime juice and salt to taste. Will keep in covered container in the refrigerator for a few days, but is best served fresh.

For coriander sauce, finely chop ginger, garlic and coriander.  Add chicken stock, lime juice and oyster sauce.   Stir and warm for 1 minute in a microwave.

The Event

Best comment was “you’ve outdone yourself on the mess factor”.   With a small kitchen and the requirement to turn and drain a chicken in a pot not quite big enough, I made a hellish mess to clean up.   Overall, it should have been a little simpler – I struggled to get the timing quite right.

The Outcome

Jacq: “Good.  Yeah. I’d love to have it again”

Liam:  “7 out of 10”

Chris:  “Good!  Just could have had more vegies”

Me:  I thought this was excellent.  The rice was very good, but what topped it were the two sauces I created.    Coriander was such a strong flavour, but so perfectly offset against the salty chicken.



November 13, 2010 at 10:15 pm | Posted in Eastern & Central Asia | Leave a comment

Korea’s a country torn in two since 1950.   North Korea remains fundamentally in the dark ages under the command of a despotic family that preaches a weird mixture of Communism and Divine Right.  South Korea, however, has gone through a major transformation and is now a major economic force in the world.

Trivia point 1:  The ceasefire occured in 1953,  positioning the  borders at roughly the same point the war started.   However, the countries are technically still at war, having not yet signed an armistice.

Trivia point 2:   my favourite part of this ludicrous hostility between the two countries is the Axe Murder Incident.   In 1976, a bunch of South Koreans and a US military attachment moved into the demilitarized zone to trim a poplar tree.   These sort of incursions happened from time-to-time, but in the case the North Koreans attacked out of the blue, killing the American gardeners and a few of their South Korean mates.    The event was played up by North Koreans, who used this to again call for the removal of US forces from the South Korean penisula (er, so he could have it).

The Americans responded with truly stupifyingly overwhelming force.   Three days later they sent in 23 vehicles, two 30-man platoons, 16 engineers with chain saws, a 64-person special forces team from South Korea, 20 utility helicopters, 7 gunships, a number of B52 bombers, F4 fighters and F5 fighters.   In the event this wasn’t enough, 12,000 men were moved into bases just behind the DMZ.    They drove in….and cut down the tree.


The Plan

While  I was sorely tempted to cook Korean, there’s a new Korean restaurant locally, the Soban Korean – a bunch of friends wanted to try it out, so we all hired babysitters and parked ourselves at Soban.

The Event

Soban has the classic Korean BBQ style, gogi gui.  We supped on seafood pizza, bulgogi, kimchi, sundubu jji-gae, while grilling various meats and vegetables on an in-table bbq setting.    This was fantastic as we were outdoors, sipping lots of white wine in an open courtyard.   In fact, it was only when they turned out the lights that we realised we’d outstayed our welcome a tad.

The Outcome

Chris:   “My third time here, I love it”

Kai:  “Fantastic”

Pete:  “reallygood”

Sharon:  “Seafood pizza is excellent”

Belinda:  “Brilliant”

Stu:  “No BYO beer?”

Me:   Nice place, good food.  I was surprised just how little chilli was added to the dishes.    The BBQ food was extremely good – actually, it was a full-on meat fest.



November 7, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Posted in South Asia & South-East Asia | Leave a comment

Indonesia is one of the most changeable countries as its one of the most siesmically active.   Earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis has made this place very changeable with new parts of the country emerging and disappearing with extreme regularity.    Indonesia has over 150 volcanoes, many of them active and causing world-wide effects –  Krakatau destroyed an island and dropped world temperatures by 2 degrees in 1883, whereas the explosion of Mt Tambora caused a famine in Europe with the Year Without Summer.    These were dwarfed by the ancient explosion of Toba, which was so violent it likely extinguished 99.8% of the human race.

One interesting trivia is that when Mount Tambora caused the Year Without Summer, it forced a bunch of poncy writers on holiday in Switzerland to spend most of their time in doors.   Bored, they had a competition who could write the scariest story.    One of them wrote Frankenstein, and the other The Vampyre.

The upside to all of these volcanoes is that Indonesia is an extremely fertile land – heaps of volcanoes = lots of ash, which means lots of fresh top soil.  This, coupled with the tropical environment means these tiny islands are able to sustain such a large number of people – despite having over 17,500 islands, one of them (Java) is the most densely populated island in the world.

One great thing the soil has produced is a rich array of spices – these are, of course, the spice islands.

The Plan

Indonesia has so much good food, but given a lot has chilli, we’re going to stick to the obvious choice – Nasi Goreng.  I grabbed this one from a range of different places.


  • 3-4 cups of rice, cooked
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 (about 275g) chicken thigh fillets, excess fat trimmed, cut into 2cm pieces
  • 1 175g pkt shortcut bacon thinly sliced
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves,  sliced
  • 1 carrot,  diced
  • 60g (1  cup)  finely shredded Chinese cabbage
  • 100g bean sprouts
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp shao hsing rice wine
  • 4 eggs
  • A bunch of coriander


  1. Fry the chicken, bacon and half the onion until cooked.  Remove
  2. Fry the remaining onion, garlic and carrot for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the cabbage, stir until it starts to wilt.
  4. Add the rice, stirring rapidly to loosen it.
  5. Add back the chicken and bacon and turn down the heat.
  6. Add the bean sprouts
  7. Add soy sauce and shao hsing wine, and a handful of chopped coriander
  8. In a separate frying pan, fry each of the eggs.  Leave them runny and serve them over the top of each plateful of rice.

The Event

I prefer runny fried eggs on my rice – and, now, so to does my family.

The Outcome

Liam:  “Yum!”

Jacq: “Great!”

Chris: “not bad”

Me:  not bad.     At the end of the day, this is fried rice.   Adding shrimp paste and prawns would have been a better choice.

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