Around the Bowl

Soups of the world – Recipes from around the globe & some creations of my own


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Nyonya Kari Ayam (Chicken Curry) and some good reading

A new curry recipe! Today I’m sharing a Chinese/Malaysian fusion chicken curry from Nyonya cuisine. Doing my research for the recipe; I became really intrigued by Nyonya cultural background and found some wonderful reading about it that I would like to briefly share with you in order to fully understand and appreciate this curry we are making today (*).

I’ve always thought that a country’s cuisine is a very holistic approach to discover its history, culture and idiosyncrasies; cooking something exotic (to us) is such a wonderful way of travelling without leaving your home, analogous to reading one of those great books that transport you to a different place. I can get so inspired by world’s cuisines that I get to experience a little obsession with the subject, searching, reading and going into expeditions to find ingredients and cook!

(*)The Peranakan or the Baba Nyonya community (also known as the Straits Chinese), evolved in the fifteenth century when the Chinese arrived in Malacca and intermarriage with local women took place. The Peranakan culture is a unique blend of two cultures – Malay and Chinese – intermixed into a fascinating synthesis with elements of Javanese, Batak, Thai and British cultures. Today, they are found throughout Malaysia and Singapore with strongholds in Malacca, Singapore and Penang.

The word Peranakan is derived from the Malay word ‘anak’ which means ‘child’. The term refers to the local-born as well as the offspring of foreigner-native union. Baba is the term for the male and Nyonya for the female.

Peranakan food is a wonderful combination of Malay and Chinese cuisine with influences from Indonesia, Thailand, India, Holland, Portugal and England. Nyonya food is clearly unique and Malaysian/Singaporean in identity. Using ingredients such as galangal, serai, chillies, tumeric, ginger, tau cheow, tamarind, lime juice, belachan, buah keras, gula Melaka; spices such as star anise, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and leaves such as daun kesum, daun kaduk, daun cekok, daun limau perut and pandan.

(*)Extracted from: Lee, Su Kim, 2008. The Peranakan Culture: Resurgence or Dissapearance? SARI, Vol. 26, 161-170

I hope that after knowing a little more about this wonderful culture you feel like tasting it with the following unique curry recipe. Trust me, the flavour will surprise you, is neither Indian nor Thai, is just Nyonya, and it’s delicious!

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Curry Vegetable Soup with Tofu. Mediterranean-Chinese fusion

The other day I was in the mood for a very light meal and in much need of a little detox and I thought: why not a simple a vegetable soup?  just some in-season veggies and some stock, period. And I realised I have not posted a basic vegetable soup yet and it would be a good recipe to share. So I went to a little grocery store around the corner and came back home with what I found there; a mix of winter and spring vegetables plus something I already had at home.

However… I couldn’t help myself and I end up turning my Mediterranean vegetable soup into a Chinese-inspired dish by adding some curry powder, ginger and tofu, among other Chinese flavours, to the mix and the result was wonderful! Shall we take a look at it?

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Super Quick Wonton Soup

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A quick Sunday post: The Chinese Year of the Horse has just began, and what a better way to celebrate the Lunar New Year than a Chinese dish? By the way,  I am a horse (1978) on the Chinese Zodiac, so this should be my year!

Besides, I was just thinking, what to do on a lazy winter Sunday evening when you have already had a great roast for lunch and then some delicious tea & cake in the afternoon? Some take away? no need: I came up with a delicious wonton soup extra easy to prepare! This morning I’ve been to my local Asian grocery store and bought some frozen dumplings that I used in order to make this version so quick and easy, let’s go with it!

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Chinese-style Shrimp and Tofu Soup

I love Chinese food, I simply do. I never been to China (yet, hopefully one day I will) but the best Chinese food I have tried was indeed while travelling. I experienced great Chinese food in Australia, they have amazing restaurants there covering quite a range of different regional gastronomy. I particularly and fondly remember this charming Chinese restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: the Old China Cafe http://www.oldchina.com.my/, where I tasted some excellent spicy soups in a very nice environment.

Old China Cafe-KL

Old China Cafe-Kuala Lumpur

I also have a very good memory of some Chinese restaurants in New York, specially a great dim sum buffet in Queens. Unfortunately there are not really good Chinese restaurants where I live but this fact encouraged me to do some research and start cooking my own Chinese food. I began many years ago and nowadays we usually have home-made Chinese at least once a week. There are a few Asian food stores in the area where I stock my pantry with the basics. Today I am sharing with you a Chinese-inspired soup that I have prepared for a light tasty supper, it is very easy to prepare and quick, here we go!

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