October 31, 2009

Sweet Potato with Ginger Soup

Contrary to what the ingredients might suggest, this is served as a pudding in Vietnam, especially in the winter. The ginger supposedly helps you to sleep, and is also good for stomach aches.

Serves 4

20g ginger, chopped into long, thin strips
50g sweet potato, skinless, diced small
2 small bowls of water – I have used this image so you can see the size of the bowls for reference only. Ignore the ingredients!

3 tbspn palm sugar

To serve:

4 small bowls

Boil the ginger, sweet potato, water and 1 tablespoon of palm sugar in a frying pan, with the lid off. Once brought to the boil, leave for 10 minutes (until the potato has become soft, but not mushy).

When the mixture has started to reduce (after about 10 minutes), add the 2 remaining tablespoons of sugar and stir. Mix 2 tablespoons of cornflour in water to form a paste (quite runny). Add 1 tablespoon of this mixture to the soup.

After about 5 minutes it will begin to look slightly gelatinous (15 minutes cooking time total). At this point, remove from the heat and serve a small amount into the bowls.

Serve hot (and apologies for the clarity of this pic!):


Steamed Catfish in Lotus Leaf with Tamarind Sauce

This is a really succulent dish, and because the fish is steamed, it retains all the moisture. While we used catfish for this recipe, you can alternate it for any white fish.

If you are good with a filleting knife then you may want to start from scratch, but if (like me!) you’re more likely to end up shredding rather than filleting, then I suggest buying a large fillet that has been de-skinned and de-boned for you. Any local supermarket fish deli will provide this service for you.

As this is more of a main meal, I suggest serving it with a helping of rice for each person.

Serves 4

Large fillet of catfish (2 if smaller) or alternative white fish
1-2 large lotus leaves or banana leaves as available
2 tspn salt
2 tspn ground white pepper
4 tspn Aloma rice wine/regular white wine
Lime juice/rice vinegar for washing

To serve

Cooked rice (enough for 4 people), served hot
Tamarind and chilli sauce (see below)
Spring onion garnish (2-3 spring onions, sliced into long thin strips)

Firstly, wash the fish in either lime juice or rice vinegar. This will get rid of the fishy smell, and leave you with a really fresh smelling fish. Cut the fish into long, thick strips, around one inch wide:

Place the fish into a mixing bowl, and add the salt, Aloma or White wine and pepper to the fish. Mix well, being careful to avoid breaking up the fish. We used chopsticks for this process, but I think using your fingers to rub the ingredients over the fish would be easier.

Lay out the large banana or lotus leaves on the table and place the chunks of fish onto the leaves. Fold the leaves inwards to create a parcel with the fish inside.

Steam the fish for 15 minutes in a steamer, making sure the opening to the leaves is on the underside, helping to keep it closed.

While the fish is cooking, create the tamarind and chilli sauce using either pre-made tamarind paste (recommended) or tamarind solid. If using solid, slice off an appropriate amount and place in a bowl. Boil some water and pour it over the tamarind solid (not too much, the paste should be of a decent thickness) and leave for 20 minutes. Finally, to remove the remaining solids, sieve the tamarind mixture over a separate bowl. Add a tablespoon of mild chilli sauce and stir. The consistency should be similar to a sweet and sour or Hoisin sauce.

Serve hot with the rice and drizzle some of the tamarind and chilli sauce over the fish. Place the remaining sauce in a bowl as a condiment for the meal, and sliced spring onion garnish over the fish.

Chicken and Lemon Leaf Skewers

These chicken kebabs were unbelievably good, and the lemon leaf had the most incredible flavor. We grilled these using a standard kitchen grill, but I’m sure they would taste just as great, if not better, thrown on the old barbie.

I have given the amount as serving four people on small skewers; however it is a very light dish, so you could use more chicken to bulk it up.

Serves 4

2 large skinless chicken breasts (3 if smaller)
2 tspn palm sugar
4 Tbspn chopped lemon leaf
2 tspn 5 Spice Powder
4 tspn clear honey
2 tspn ground white pepper
2 tspn fresh chicken stock (in paste form if possible)

To serve:

Small wooden skewers (about 6 inches long), pre-soaked in water for at least 15 minutes (avoids burning).

Slice the chicken into thin, similar sized strips:
Place in a mixing bowl with all the ingredients and stir for a couple of minutes (see photo for visual reference of chopped lemon leaf):

Leave to marinade for 10 minutes. Once marinated, thread the chicken onto the skewers lengthways, stretching the chicken flat.

Grill on a medium heat for 10 minutes, turning every minute or two. Serve either as a starter by itself, or with rice or pitta bread for more of a main meal.


If this one isn't quite up your street, or you fancy a change, why not try a marinade of soy sauce, honey and fresh chopped chilli. Simply mix the ingredients and pour of the chicken, leaving to marinade in the fridge for a minimum of half an hour.

When ready, thread the chicken pieces onto some skewers and grill on a medium heat for around 10 minutes (make sure the chicken is cooked white all the way through), turning regularly.

Fresh Spring Rolls / Summer Rolls

The best thing about spring rolls is that you can pretty much add whatever you like to the roll. Fresh spring rolls are very light and healthy, and are great as an appetiser or snack. There are two differences to take into account between deep-fried spring rolls and fresh spring rolls when cooking.

Fresh spring rolls (also known as Summer Rolls): Use square rice paper

All ingredients must be cooked prior to wrapping as necessary (for example pork).

Fried spring rolls: Use round rice paper

Ingredients do not have to be cooked prior to frying.

During the class I took, we used lettuce, pork and prawns to fill our rolls. This is a great, light dish where you can utilise any leftover cooked meat you may have (for example Sunday roast pork/chicken). Just make sure that the meat is sliced small and thin prior to wrapping.

While you could use sweet chilli sauce or soy for dipping, I recommend the ‘Spring Roll Sauce’ which you can find below. It is very quick and easy to prepare, and ingredients readily available.

NB Don't be put off by the 'plasticky' texture of the rice paper, it's very edible!

Serves 4

Square rice paper (at least 12 sheets)
Prawns; tails removed, cooked, sliced in half
Pork; cooked, sliced into very thin 1 inch strips
Round lettuce; chopped fine and long

To serve:

Spring roll sauce (see below)

Spring roll sauce:

2 tbsp Rice Vinegar
tbsp Fish Sauce
tbsp chopped peanuts
tbsp mixed chopped red chilli and garlic – diced very small
2 level
tbsp palm sugar
tbsp water
tbsp lime juice

Add all ingredients except the peanuts into a small bowl and stir for around 30 seconds. Add chopped peanuts (without stirring).

Take a piece of rice paper, and at the bottom end, add a good amount of lettuce across the width of the paper. Top with a sprinkling of pork, and roll up to the halfway point.

Add two halves of prawn laying side-by-side, and continue to wrap.

Holding the paper together with your fingers, dip into the spring roll sauce to taste.

Hanoi Food Market

I have been around a couple of food markets in Hanoi, but none were as extensive as the one we were taken to during my cooking course courtesy of Old Hanoi restaurant. There was definitely an ‘eclectic’ mix of spices, meats, vegetables and a few things in between…

Chicken plucked and ready to go. Vietnamese eat all parts of the bird, including the head and feet.

Vietnamese and Western bananas – slight size difference!

Pig trotters; a staple of any Vietnamese pregnant woman – apparently they help to produce good quality breast milk.

A bit of beef filleting going on – it is very common to see meat left out in the open air throughout the markets. I asked Anh, our chef, why it wasn’t refridgerated and she told me that every morning it was brought from locals who had dissected the meat earlier that morning, and therefore it didn’t need to be put on ice or refridgerated.

Huge beef loin!

Pig intestines.

Pig hearts and a few livers in the top left corner.

Caged birds, not sure what sort, but I got the impression it wasn't for pets.

A huge selection of different types of rice, beans and lentils.

Massive bucket of snails, not something I'll be dipping into!

Close up.

Selection of fresh fish Catfish – this is the same fish we used for our Steamed Catfish in Lotus Leaf and Tamarind Sauce recipe.

Not sure of name of these fish, however I thought it was a shame they did not have room to swim about, even if they weren’t going to be around much longer!

Chickens to be sold as pets for laying eggs.

So as you can see, the food of Hanoi reaches far and wide, and these were just a few selection shots from our tour. I noticed that duck eggs were as common as chicken eggs, and also bird eggs (quite small) were available easily. If only I had a kitchen and a Vietnamese translator!

Old Hanoi Cooking Class

I was lucky enough to be able to take part in a short cooking course not too far from the Old Quarter in Hanoi, where Anh, Head Chef Old Hanoi restaurant, took three salivating tourists on a tour of the market, before teaching us a thing or two in the outdoor kitchen.

It was a great experience, and Anh was very friendly and spoke good English, and it was easy to ask her questions about the food and the process of each of the four recipes we learnt. The
class cost $30 (around £18); while I know there are classes available for a few dollars cheaper, I would definitely recommend Old Hanoi.

You can choose from a
daily cooking class, or a customised cooking class. I took part in the first one, and was able to choose from a selection of two menu options, consisting of one starter, two main courses and a dessert. For those who are already competent in working with Asian food (Chinese/Vietnamese/Thai cooks for example), Anh said they were happy to work with customers to create more complex menus.

These four recipes are all great dishes, and my favourites were the Fresh Spring Rolls and Chicken with Lemon Leaf Skewers. Find them all here:

Fresh Spring Rolls
Chicken with Lemon Leaf Skewers
Steamed Catfish in Lotus Leaf with Tamarind Sauce (other fish options available)
Sweet Potato with Ginger Soup (dessert)

Old Hanoi restaurant can be found at:

#4 Ton That Thiep, Ba Dinh, Ha Noi
T: +84 (04) 3 747 8337
info@oldhanoi.com, booking@oldhanoi.com

October 27, 2009

Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup + Veggie option

This is a recipe that I learned of a few years ago, which I have added to and adapted over the numerous times I have made it. Since observing local Vietnamese cooking their soups, I have incorporated the idea of creating the broth using only the essential ingredients and placing the remaining elements into serving bowls to avoid changing or spoiling the texture.

In terms of the ingredients, these are only my suggestions. The beauty of these soups is that you can pretty much throw anything you want into the mix – for example if you prefer cabbage, swap this for the pak choi, or perhaps throw in some prawns for diversity.

Serves 2

1 large chicken breast, skinless
Shitake mushrooms, small handful
2 spring onions, chopped small along the length
2 pak choi, chopped roughly into long strips
½ red pepper, cut into long, thin strips
Rice noodles, pre-soaked
Ginger, 1 square inch, grated
2-3 chicken Oxo cubes
2 tblsp Fish sauce
1 tblsp Chinese cooking wine

To serve:
1 spring onion, sliced lengthways into thin strips
Coriander, small handful, chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges
Nam Prik
2 large soup bowls

Begin by preparing all the vegetables.

Secondly, place the noodles in a bowl of hot water. It should take around 10-15 minutes for them to become almost cooked. Remove at this stage, and drain under cold water, then divide equally and place in each bowl.

Boil the chicken breast and Oxo cubes (or alternatively just use chicken stock) in a large saucepan using enough water to make two portions of soup. Once cooked through, turn the heat right down and remove the chicken from the pan.

Add the shitake mushrooms, pak choi and ginger to the chicken broth, keeping it on a low heat.

While the vegetables are cooking, cool the chicken by running under cold water and tear into small, thin strips (this is easy to do if you go in the direction of the grain).

Add to the soup bowls along with the pepper and chopped spring onion.

Add the fish sauce and Chinese cooking wine to the broth, stirring well. Pour the broth over the noodles, chicken and vegetables.

Add the spring onions that have been cut into long strips and the coriander on top of soup. Serve with Nam Prik, lime wedges, spoons and chopsticks.

Veggie option

Create the clear broth using vegetable bouillon (stock) and substitute the chicken for tofu.

While I am becoming a little more partial to the tofu stuff, I can’t unfortunately advise you on the best method of cooking. I will just assume as you have been adept in stumbling onto The Nibbling Toad, you will be tempted enough to Google the cooking technique. Here’s what I came across anyway...

Home cooking: Part II

Soups will definitely become a feature of this blog, mostly because there are so many varieties in SE Asia, but also because they are quick to prepare and cook, filling, tasty and healthy – what more could you want! Coming from a huge pizza lover (I’ll take the Quatro Formaggi anytime – extra Parma Ham if it’s going…), it’s always great to find things that you can’t wait to get home and cook, but also leave you feeling guilt-free and satisfied.

Clear pork noodle soup was next on the menu during our home visit – I’m calling it this because I actually have no idea what the official title is, but it pretty much encompasses everything you need to know.

One thing that is new to me is preparing and cooking all the ingredients in advance (if necessary), and simply adding the broth into the serving bowls rather than lumping everything into the saucepan as you go. As you can see in the photo below, the bowls were filled with pre-soaked noodles (al dente), long, thin strips of pork, fried egg, white beetroot and small portions of chicken. The chicken broth was then simply added into the bowls along with some chopped coriander and spring onions just before serving.

I think there pros and cons to this method; one advantage is making sure all the ingredients retain their texture, rather than being overcooked or left soggy in the saucepan. However, I don’t believe that the flavours are really drawn out of the ingredients as much as they should be. On trying the soup, my thoughts were confirmed, as I didn’t really feel that I could taste many of the flavours, which was disappointing. There weren’t any condiments such as Nam Prik available on the table, only a chilli sauce which seems to be popular with the Vietnamese. I also couldn’t taste much seasoning in the soup which was a little disappointing.

However, I was introduced to a Vietnamese chicken noodle soup by a good friend of mine (thanks Ella!), which I have added to and adapted over the last couple of years, and am now feeling confident enough to share with the rest of you. If you’d like to try an alternative to the above, I have used introduced the Vietnamese idea of only cooking the necessary ingredients as I go. Find the recipe, as well as the vegetarian alternative, here.

Home-made Spring Rolls/Nem

Teaching in Vietnam has definitely had some benefits – notably being invited to colleagues’ houses for a bit of Sunday lunch! Forget the roasties and send those tastebuds a little further east…

Nem – Spring rolls

Definitely one of my favourite Asian appetisers, spring rolls are also popular as a starter in Vietnam. However, they are made using rice paper rather than the heavier batter that you usually come across in the UK.

The great thing about spring rolls or ‘nem’ is that you can pretty much fill them with anything - whether you’re a vegan, veggie or enjoy anything and everything. It seems common to go for the vegetable option in Vietnam, and you can really take your pick with the ingredients. A suggested alternative as a dipping sauce is mayonnaise.

I thought I’d just give that a while to sink in. MAYONNAISE?! My thoughts exactly - especially as I wouldn’t necessarily place it as an ‘Eastern’ condiment. However, I gave it a go, and sure enough, while it may seem a little odd, it did taste surprisingly ok, however, I think I’d rather stick to some regular sweet chilli or soy…

Adjust to serving numbers – around 3 per person as a starter

Rice paper (sold in Asian food shops and larger supermarkets, can be frozen)
Choice of vegetables, my suggestion:
1 carrot, grated
Beansprouts, handful
Cabbage (handful), sliced thin and long
Shitake mushrooms (handful), sliced thin and long (use regular English if unavailable)
Coriander (small handful – parsley is an alternative), chopped
2-3 spring onions, sliced thinly into roughly 1 inch lengths
1 egg, beaten (if required)
Vegetable/sunflower oil

To serve:

Any of these condiments is optional, and a matter of personal taste. We were given mayonnaise and shrimp sauce as dipping sauces, but you may wish to try something different.

· Soy sauce
· Shrimp paste
· Sweet chilli sauce
· Mayonnaise

Mix all the prepared ingredients into a bowl, minus the egg and rice paper. Take one sheet of rice paper having prepared it according to the instructions (some may need to be soaked first).

Fill lengthways along the middle or one edge, leaving enough space at the edges to fold in (around 1 inch).

Now fold in the two side edges and roll the rice paper like you would a fajita, until it is rolled into an oblong shape (make sure the side edges have been folded in as you roll). Once you come to the end, use a brush to paint the beaten egg (not too much) onto the final edge. The egg acts as an adhesive which should ‘glue’ the final edge onto the roll, so that it does not come apart.

  • NB Some rice paper pancakes do not require using egg as they are sticky enough to hold without it.

Using a saucepan or wok, heat a few tablespoons of oil by first heating up the pan, and once hot, adding the oil. When the oil looks as though it is bubbling slightly, add the spring rolls using some tongs or chopsticks to the pan.

When the spring rolls turn a golden-brown colour, they are ready to serve. Remove from the pan and place on a plate covered in a piece of kitchen towel to absorb the excess oil. You may wish to leave them to cool slightly before serving.


If you wish to add some chicken, pork or prawns to the rolls, for example, simply slice into small, thin strips (throw in the prawns whole) and mix with the vegetables in the bowl. The meat will be cooked through once the rolls have turned golden-brown, but make sure that it is sliced small and thin to be sure.

October 22, 2009

Forget Sainsbury's

What I love about going to food markets is the array of fresh food on offer, as well as all the smells, variety of colours - and of course any free tasters! The other added bonus is that it's nearly always cheaper than any supermarkets.

Asia is also great for it's variety of food, and food markets here are definitely an exciting place to visit - albeit 'slightly' different from the UK. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves...

They eat all parts of the chicken here, including the head and feet. Perhaps not to everyone's tastes...

Take your pick...

This lady was particularly handy with a meat cleaver! A slightly different filleting experience.

Amazing array of vegetables - couldn't get them all in. You'll find the classic British potatoes, tomatoes, onions etc along with plenty of great produce specific to Vietnam.

Meat is certainly treated differently in Vietnam; as you can see here it's laid out in the open air along with all the fruit and veg.

So there are definitely some noticeable differences to food markets you'd find back in the UK - notably the meat being left out. We also saw this happen in the supermarkets - meat is rarely packaged and although kept in refridgeration cabinets, the doors were left open. Although to us this would seem unacceptable (I can just picture 'Kitchen Nightmare's' fallout!), it just seems to be the norm, and something you just have to accept as standard. It most definitely should not put you off trying the food, as it is an experience not to be missed.

Vietnam: First Impressions

I have to say that before setting off on our trip, Vietnam was the place that I wanted to visit most – mainly due to the fact I use to regularly head to Old Street in London to sample the good, cheap Vietnamese food on offer, and couldn’t wait to taste the real deal. Vietnam is also where we will be based the longest during our trip, as my boyfriend and I are also teaching English at the University of Vietnam, Hanoi, for the next couple of months.

Coming from Thailand, we didn’t think that the food could get much cheaper, but we are now currently dining out for around £2-2.50 a go for both of us (although if this seems cheaper than you were expecting, we are paying student prices).

Unfortunately however, we have so far found that the quality of the food in and around the university cafés and restaurants seems to be reflected by the price. Some cheap eats are by no means bad, but at the same time have nothing on the menu that particularly stands out. While the noodles vary in the soups, most stir-fry’s encompass only instant noodles (think Bachelor’s Super Noodles), and all the rice we have tried so far has probably notched a 4 out of 10, with one particularly bad incident involving parts of a burnt wok and chicken bones!

It is also slightly off-putting that the majority of café food is pre-cooked and left out in the heat throughout the day, which just means I have constant health and safety alarm bells ringing in my head! We have tried hitting this hurdle head-on on a couple of occasions, but have only been disappointed with the blandness and quality of the food; it is very noticeable that, comparatively, the seasoning in Vietnamese dishes has been nowhere near as flavoursome as in Thailand. This seems to make for a satisfying but mediocre experience for the majority of our meals.

However, if Rick Stein’s recent TV programme: ‘Asian Food Odyssey’ is anything to go by, I know we’re in store for some great eats, and can’t wait to get to the fresh seafood on our upcoming trip to Halong Bay, as well as dip into a couple of his restaurant recommendations, so watch this space….

Extra note:

I’ve come to realise that while I like to think of myself as a bit of a foodie, it’s perfectly normal to miss a few home comforts, especially when you’re away for a long period of time. If you find yourself in the same boat, I’d highly recommend a trip to KFC which can be found everywhere in Hanoi (although surprisingly there are no MacDonald’s or Burger King’s on offer!) – it hits the spot every time. Failing that, head to one of the bigger supermarkets for some raspberry jam or peanut butter J

October 17, 2009

Do’s and Don’ts….

While we’d all like to think of ourselves as culture vultures, there are definitely a few things that even the hardiest of food lovers may wish to avoid when abroad, and SE Asia isn’t exempt from this list. I’ll update this list as I move around so keep checking if you’re following the trail. Some of these are more my personal opinion, so perhaps think of them more as guidelines…

  1. Tap water [DON’T]

    I know this one generally goes without saying, but it’s still important so I’ve stuck it at the top of the list. Don’t freak out if you forget to rinse with bottled water when brushing those pearly whites, but try and avoid downing the stuff.

  2. Chien [DO]

    Don’t worry if this is screaming ‘dog’ if you parlez vous the Français; in Vietnam it’s nothing more exciting than chips.

  3. Dog [DON’T]

    Ok this one is entirely up to you, but even if you aren’t a fan of man’s best friend, I’m pretty sure your gut will instinctively tell you to avoid. Mostly favourable in Vietnam, look out for thit cay in the south and thit cho in the north.

  4. Vietnam – Eel, frog, offal, snail [DO/DON’T]

    I know some of you will probably have tried all of the above, and even went back for seconds. I, however, am not a fan of any. You may think me dull and try to convince me with the age old: ‘It tastes like chicken’ line. I’m 25 - some would say old enough to make culinary decisions; leave me alone!

    eel – luon
    frog - ech
    offal – thit long
    snail – oc

    When you see these in a menu, there may be a few accents and hats thrown around (similar to French). Unfortunately I don’t have a Vietnamese spellchecker to hand, but they’ll be easy to spot.

  5. Tofu - for the tofu skeptics [DO]

    Ok, this will come as a shock to two of my dearest friends – The Vegan and Lynelyn. I’ve refused tofu for as long as I had the pleasure of living with The Vegan and Lynny, the vegetarian. Who would want to eat something that looks a bit like the kind of soap you can pick up from the ‘Lush’ shop as a substitute for a nice bit of chicken (free-range please, I try to do my bit and so should you).

    However, tofu is hard to avoid around SE Asia; it comes as part and parcel of most stir-fry’s and rice dishes, and unless you know enough Thai/Vietnamese etc to ask them to avoid adding it to your meal, you’ll just have to go ahead and try it. It actually tastes pretty good and I promise the two aforementioned friends that I will have some of that tofu lasagna I kept avoiding on my return….

  6. Vietnam - Hoa qua [DO]

    This is one of my favourite discoveries since arriving in Vietnam and is available everywhere. Hoa qua means fruit shake in Vietnamese and they come in all kinds of fruit flavours. I haven’t quite nailed the ingredients yet, but fresh fruit is essential, none of the concentrated juice carton stuff. A bit of ice thrown in and some kind of yoghurt whizzed together (I think), et voila.

    I promise to have a post solely for this drink when I learn enough words to ask how it’s made; it tastes incredible and is amazingly refreshing, but not so cold you can’t enjoy it back in the UK winter months.

Thai Condiments

Soy sauce or Tomato Ketchup?!

While soy sauce in Asia is abundant in their cooking, it is generally not served as a condiment on the table, and I’ve even been told that it is the Thai version of our tomato ketchup – i.e. it should not be put on everything, regardless of whether you agree or disagree! However, I always believe that everyone has different tastes, and I can never get enough of the stuff, so if you’re asking my opinion, go right ahead…. Other condiments that regularly appear on the table include:
  • Salt
  • Chilli flakes
  • Mixed pickled chilli
  • Lime wedges (brought out with dish, whether soup, noodles or rice)
  • Nam Prik

Nam Prik is a great addition to all types of soups, but I have also seen locals put it over rice and noodle dishes. It has for me now become a bit of a rough estimation that I recall from memory, but I’m sure you can Google for the right amount of ingredients if so desired! Recipe's do vary but this is my favourite.

Don't be put off by the quantities of garlic and chilli – whenever I serve it to a Nam Prik virgin, they’re always a bit skeptical about adding it to their soup, but it really does make all the difference.

Nam Prik

Serves 4:

4-5 garlic cloves

1-2 small red chillies (1 tspn chilli flakes will do if you do not have fresh to hand)

4 tbspn fish sauce

3 tbspn Chinese cooking wine (available from bigger supermarkets and Asian food stores)

1 lime - juiced

Peel and chop the garlic sideways into round slices, and the same with the chilli (it is fine to leave the seeds inside). Put all the ingredients together into a small bowl. Add around a tablespoon to your soup – but start small, and add more as you go if necessary.

You can also keep Nam Prik for a week or two in the fridge.

Sukiyaki soup with chicken

This is a great soup as it is really filling but also very healthy. You may have to search a bit further than the local supermarket for a couple of the ingredients, but it will be worth the trip.

One ingredient I haven’t come across before is Cantonese Suki Sauce – I’m sure you will be able to find this at a local Asian food shop, and I have added a photo for ease of reference.

Sukiyaki Soup with Chicken

Serves 2:

1 chicken breast
Large handful pak choi
Large handful cabbage – chopped into 1 inch square (roughly)
Large bunch of glass noodles (roughly equivalent to the diameter of a 2 pound coin)
1 large egg
1 tbspn dried garlic (available to buy from supermarkets, or you can chop and fry your own and leave out to dry in bulk prior to cooking)
2 tbspn Cantonese Suki Sauce

To serve:

2 large bowls
1 tbspn chopped coriander for presentation (optional)

Boil the chicken breast in a saucepan with enough water for two bowls of soup. When cooked through (use a knife to open and check), remove the chicken from the pan, leave to cool (or drain with cold water) and tear into small, thin strips (this is easy to do if you go in the direction of the grain).

Next, chop all the vegetables and add along with the chicken to the original chicken stock (you may want to add 1-2 chicken oxo cubes for flavour as well). Crack the egg into the soup and stir continuously so that it begins to break up. Add the garlic and Cantonese Suki sauce.

Serve immediately with a small amount of coriander on top for presentation and chopsticks/spoon for ease of eating.
Nam Prik is an additional option to add after cooking onto all sorts of dishes, and I would highly recommend it (see ‘Thai Condiments’).

Stumbling through stop number two and heading for home comforts

Our first stop east of Bangkok was Pattaya, but unfortunately due to the unfavourable amount of Gary Glitter types wandering the streets, karaoke restaurants and lack of culture we stayed less than 12 hours, hit a Subway and the minibar, and headed straight to Koh Samet - a beautiful tucked away island which avoids most of the bad weather that falls during the current rainy season.

We stayed at a great backpackers called ‘Naga Bungalows’ (meaning 'snake'), which, for a fiver a night offered everything from free pool to a beautiful beach and a nice bowl of cornflakes if you were so inclined. Run by an English lady called Sue, she didn’t miss a trick with some added home comforts to the menu – if you have the pleasure don't miss out on the home-made bread and chocolate croissants either!

However, the kitchens’ two Thai chefs also produced some excellent local cuisine that I would highly recommend. Two of my favourite meals were Sukuyaki soup with chicken - a clear soup with vegetables, chicken and noodles - and all manners of fried rice (avoid 'tom yum' if you're not keen on the spice!).

I’ve always found it hard to cook restaurant style rice at home, and have tried different things on many occasions. The most important thing I’ve learnt is to pre-cook the rice at least a couple of hours before (if time, the day before), leave to dry slightly and then cool in the fridge. This way, it’s dry when it’s added to the wok, takes to the hot oil and cooks a lot better than a wet mass of just-drained rice.

However, I needed a few more tips than this, and luckily managed to gain entry into the Naga kitchen.

Fried Rice with Vegetables

Serves 2

1/2 onion chopped into lengthways slices
1 carrot chopped long and fine
Large handful of chopped cabbage
Large handful of green beans, sliced lengthways
Large handful of pak choi
1 Tomato chopped into chunks
2-3 florets of cauliflower, chopped
2 eggs
2 tblsp soy sauce
2 tblsp oyster sauce
3 tpsn palm/caster sugar
Pre-cooked rice – cooled – enough for 2 people

To serve:

Lime wedges – one for each person
Sprig of coriander

Pre-heat a wok. One hot, add roughly 6 tblsp of oil (a decent couple of glugs at least) and wait until the oil is sizzling hot. Add both eggs, and stir quickly, breaking them up as you go.

After 30 seconds add all the veg and pre-cooked rice and keep moving ingredients around the pan until coated with oil and hot. Add the soy, oyster sauce and caster sugar and keep stirring.

Serve hot with a lime wedge and a couple of sprigs of coriander on top for presentation.

NB For those who prefer to add chicken to their dish, cut 1-2 breasts into small strips and add with the vegetables and rice.

If you prefer to use prawns, only add these at the end of the dish so they are heated through rather than re-cooked (assuming you are buying pink, pre-cooked prawns) as otherwise they will end up hard and rubbery.


Welcome to my first post! I'm currently sitting in Hanoi, Vietnam writing up about food in Thailand - apologies for the delay but internet is a lot cheaper here (albeit a lot slower as well)…

Thailand, as I'm sure you're all aware, is an incredible place for food, but you have to be willing to step off the Koh San Road to find some really cheap and tasty treats. Luckily for us, our first great foodie experience was only one road away from Bangkok’s most famous strip, but unfortunately for those who hope to visit, I couldn’t even begin to tell you its name. As you can see from my first bit of food photography (I promise to only include people whose eyes are open from now on), the very modest street restaurant was simply, but aptly, named, ‘VERY NICE THAI FOOD.’

A few plastic chairs and tables are all that’s needed to enjoy some of the best seafood I’ve had the pleasure of tasting, and tasting all the greater for the price tag. Comparatively Thailand is a hell of a lot cheaper than the UK, but tourist prices are still in abundance. VERY NICE THAI FOOD, however, is not overpriced - only excellent value for money. We didn’t even have to wait particularly long for food for a table of five, even after finding out there was only one lady cooking the food for at least 20 tables.

I shared the wok-fried red snapper fried in garlic with accompanying vegetables, along with chicken fried rice and fried squid with garlic and green beans. Although presentation may not quite be to classic restaurant standards, it was the taste that really won me over. The crispy skin of the snapper (all edible) led way to incredibly tender white meat, and was no way overpowered by the visible amounts of garlic. The combination of the crunchy outer layer and moist fish was incredible, and I’m still licking my lips at the thought of round two on my return to the capital (and please just trust me when I say the photo does it no justice)! And if that isn't enough to convince you check out the King prawns that my friend ordered:

The chicken fried rice – a classic Thai dish – was a great accompaniment, and not too oily; and wherever I have visited in Thailand, the squid is always cooked well, not overcooked and rubbery (which I personally have found out does not take long if you aren’t careful!). Green beans were a great add-on to the dish, and if cooking at home I would recommend the contrast of the crunchy veg to the squid. Ideally cut the squid into rings and stir-fry with dried garlic and fresh green beans and a splash of light soy sauce for no more than 3-5 minutes.

Check out my Salt and Pepper Squid if this has got you in the mood...