Growing up in a family of foodies and being the youngest member of the family, I was totally spoilt and a hopeless cook, lots of inspiration but no practical skills. My culinary journey started with a bang, quite literally! I was newly married and I decided to boil eggs… who would have thought a humble egg could become a weapon of mass kitchen destruction? Boiling them dry caused an explosion, leaving six eggs splattered across the ceiling. Thankfully, my husband was a good cook and taught me to love cooking and ever since then the passion has consumed my life.
The fondest and the most inspiring memory I have till date was the opening of a restaurant in our local area, by an amazing and inventive Chinese chef. A chosen few were invited to special banquet nights, and I consider myself very lucky to have been included. The dishes he created were excitingly different and taught me to see cooking, as an adventure into the unknown.
I will always love the flavours of my “Chinese” era, but there are so many new Asian ingredients and styles of cooking, that it’s impossible to have a favourite destination, when the journey is never ending!
There’s more to my cooking than just a memory. Five years ago my husband underwent Cancer Treatment during which we were not able to go out for meals. I decided to make Saturday “Restaurant Night”, picking a different cuisine each week to surprise him with. For about a month we had Asian food, believe it or not, after those meals my husband declared that Asian Dishes were now our Saturday Night tradition not to be broken! I’m sure all that healthy food did the trick as much as the doctors medicine in making him well, it’s nice having my “Sous Chef” back in the kitchen again.
I always abide by this rule when I’m cooking: Skip the recipe! Although I find them inspiring, I rarely follow one “word for word”, I start with good intentions to honour the expertise that has gone into creating each dish, but my imagination usually takes flight and the end product, rarely resembles the dish that I started out to make.
Chinese and Vietnamese dishes are my favourite cuisines, but I’m experimenting with Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian flavours, so my Asian adventure still has a long way to go.
Of all my favourite Asian dishes the top favourites include dumplings, curry puffs, spring rolls, the whole “Yum Cha” experience is my favourite way of entertaining and a great way to try out new flavours and styles of cooking.
My winning entry was a version of this style in a bowl, I love a dish, that has a variety of elements, so that each bite is a different flavour experience.
My only tip would be to believe that recipes are not written in indelible ink, trust your own instincts and step outside the square, If it doesn’t work, tomorrow’s another day and there are always take away!
My secret ingredient has to be the Lee Kum Kee Oyster Sauce. It seems to find its way into so many of my dishes. It adds the perfect background flavour, without over powering the other ingredients.
When I was declared as the Grand Prize winner I was in a state of utter Disbelief! I was proud of the dish I entered the contest with. But winning against so many other amazing creative entries, seeing my name and photo on the Asian Inspirations page was one of those “life changing” moments, when a dream turns into a reality. The prize will be an unforgettable experience, but there’s so much more than that, knowing my dish, was considered worthy, is the “real winning feeling”.
Mixed feelings of excitement and anticipation was all over me at that moment. I have a whole lot of emotions adding spice to how I’m feeling about my prize. I think the word “thank you” will be added in large spoonful at the end of this adventure.
The best feeling will be sharing the experience with three people who are as passionate about food as I am, my husband, daughter and son-in-law. I’m sure they deserve the reward after being willing victims of all my cooking trial and errors over the years.
The depth of flavour in the Mushroom broth makes or breaks the dish. Slow cooking and the choice of mushroom variety makes all the difference, but I feel the bamboo shoots and chilli add the balancing touch. My other little trick, is adding panko crumbs to the dumpling mix to give a lighter texture to the filling.
My personal favourites include Jo’s Pork Dumplings with Pickled Ginger and Joanna’s Vietnamese Clear Dumplings, ticked all the boxes, followed closely by the Melinda’s Malay Butter Prawns and Kate’s Thai Beef Salad,they are all on my “to cook” list for the future.
Asian Inspirations has given me the confidence to take a step outside my culinary comfort zone and experiment with Asian cuisines, that have been on my “to cook one day” list. I’ve decided to choose a country each month and experiment with different recipes, flavours and techniques and hopefully create, some new favourite dishes, to add to those we already love.
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