To Asia, With Love is my homecoming, a joyous return to all the humble yet deeply nurturing avours and meals of my childhood. It is also a celebration of the exciting and delicious possibilities of modern Asian cooking. e food that we grow up eating stays with us forever.
My mother didn’t work outside the home, but she was always busy. Her kitchen was constantly in motion – on the stove there would be tong (soup) bubbling away, jook (congee) simmering for lunch, and by the sink a tangle of greens sat in colanders, ready to be trimmed. throughout the house there was always evidence of our next meal, or food for the future. In our laundry room there were huge jars of preserved eggs and pickling ginger, and salted pork and she dangled under the netting on a makeshift clothesline on the porch, alongside our washed clothes. All around the house there were crates of fruit, boxes of ma ma mian (our preferred brand of instant noodles) and no less than three freezers, brimming with pre-made dumplings, fried rice and wontons, ready to be thawed at a moment’s notice for a delicious meal.
As is often the case with immigrant cooks, my mother’s food was unfussy and frugal. She never wasted food and even though she cooked a fresh meal for the family every night, she would often keep leftovers for her own lunch or dinner. She grew her own food in our suburban backyard – shallots, gourds, chillies, mandarins, cumquats and greens – and managed to create stunning meals from these humble ingredients. It is with this ethos that I have created the recipes in this book, showcasing big flavours achieved from minimal ingredients, using everyday vegetables.
Pad thai salad with shredded cabbage and kale (serves 4)
This is a fresher, crunchier version of crowd favourite, pad thai noodles. Rather than using cooked vegetables, I’ve used raw kale and cabbage, which I’ve softened by massaging in salt and lime. This leaves the veggies citrusy, with a bit of crunch, adding an exciting brightness to this classic noodle dish. You could use other veggies too – carrots would be a nice addition – and add pan-fried tofu slices if you want to increase the protein. The signature tamarind and lime flavours of pad thai are featured in the zesty dressing, while roasted chopped peanuts make a lovely textural topping.
Leaves from 1⁄2 bunch of kale (about 120 g), finely sliced
1⁄2 small green or purple cabbage (about 250 g), finely sliced
1 lime, halved
350 g wide rice noodles
extra-virgin olive oil
3 radishes, finely sliced
2 shallots, finely sliced
20 basil leaves
handful of coriander leaves
3 tablespoons roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
sea salt and black pepper
Pad thai dressing
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons Vegan ‘Fish Sauce’ (see page 29)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar 1 tablespoon tamarind puree 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil 1⁄4 teaspoon red chilli flakes 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped extra-virgin olive oil sea salt and black pepper
Vegan ‘Fish Sauce’: regular fish sauce
kale: chard, shaved broccoli or cauliflower
cabbage: wombok cabbage or finely shaved brussels sprouts
To prepare the pad thai dressing, combine the sugar, fish sauce, rice vinegar, tamarind, sesame oil, chilli flakes and garlic in a small saucepan over low heat and cook until the sugar has dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Add 1–2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with sea salt and black pepper.
Place the kale and cabbage in a large bowl, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of sea salt and squeeze over the juice of 1⁄2 lime. Massage the salt and juice into the leaves to tenderise them, then leave to sit for 10 minutes.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, usually about 6–7 minutes. Rinse under cold running water and leave to drain.
To serve, combine the noodles, massaged leaves and dressing in a large bowl and toss to coat. Taste and season with sea salt and black pepper. Add the radish, shallot, basil and coriander and toss gently. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the peanuts, then serve with the remaining lime, cut into wedges, on the side.
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