Cheesy Baked Rice, The Perfect Recipe for Leftover Rice

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 0 Comments A+ a-

The Perfect Recipe for Leftover Rice
Cheesy baked rice topped with hard boiled egg chucks
What do you usually do with left-over rice? Perhaps many of us will use it for a bowl of fried rice. No doubt, as recommended by top chef from Chinese restaurants, overnight rice is best use for fried rice instead of the freshly cooked rice as they are less sticky and more chewy in terms of texture.

Instead of the common fried rice, I am making my very own version of cheesy baked rice from the overnight left-over rice. It turned out to be absolutely good with my secret ingredient, the hard boiled egg. Little did I know, cheese and hard boiled egg, especially the yolk is a perfect match. Paired together, they tasted like the creamy salted-egg yolk. For those who love salted egg yolks as I do, this is the recipe you should not miss.

Ingredients: 
  • a bowl of left-over rice
  • a hard boiled egg (cut into small chunks)
  • shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 100 grams of turkey ham
  • 3 chicken nuggets (cut into small cubes)
  • 2 tbsp of instant curry sauce 

Instructions: In a big bowl, add in the rice, curry sauce, turkey ham stripes, chicken nuggets and mix well. Transfer the rice mixture into oven-friendly baking tray. Top off with the hard boiled egg chunks, follow by a layer of generous shredded Mozzarella cheese. Pop into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes (at 180°C heat) until the cheese melted and turned golden brown and crusty.

Serve the rice with some finely sliced cucumber. Mmm ... mmm... it tastes sooooo good!

The Perfect Recipe for Leftover Rice
Cheesy baked rice served with cucumber slices
To make a perfect hard boiled egg, you may refer to my earlier post on How To Make The Perfect Hard Boiled Egg.

Dutch Street Snacks, Patatje and Croquettes @ FEBO

Sunday, February 24, 2013 0 Comments A+ a-

Japan is not the only country with vending machines selling hot snacks. In the Netherlands, you could get hot snacks from vending machines too. Just look for FEBO!

FEBO is the home grown fast food restaurant with snacks sold over the automatic vending machines. Hot snacks are displayed in individual see-through locker. What you need to do is to first choose the food in the locker. Insert the coins (exact value) into the coin slot, open the locker and redeem your food. As simple as 123.

The machine accept only coins (no paper notes) and no exchange for extra value inserted into the machine. Fear not if  you are running out of coins or do hot have the exact change. Next to the automats, there is this coin machine which you could exchange the paper notes to coins. Very thoughtful indeed!

Patatje, Croquettes at FEBO

FEBO serves mainly local snacks such as frikandellen (minced-meat hot dog) and kaassouffles (melted cheese in thin dough-wrap), croquette (mashed potato and ground meat in fried bread-crumbed roll) besides the typical hamburgers. The famous Dutch patatje (fries) is available in FEBO too. Usually serve in a cone, you can have your patatje with mayonnaise, curry sauce, ketchup, sate sauce or even a combination of mayo, raw onion and sate sauce. This is best known as Dutch patatje oorlog which means 'war chips'.
Patatje, Croquettes at FEBO
Patatje, Croquettes at FEBO

For cheap, fast and delicious Dutch's hot snack, it's gotta be none other than the famous snack bar, FEBO. 

Check out my other post on Dutch's street food, The Must Try Dutch Street Snack: Kibbeling.

Spicy Vegetarian Dumpling Soup

Saturday, February 23, 2013 0 Comments A+ a-

chimei vegetarian jiaozi


It has always been a Chinese tradition to eat dumpling or jiaozi (饺子) on the Eve of Chinese New Year, especially in the Northen region of China. 

Unlike the European dumplings, Chinese dumplings are filled with minced meat with finely chopped veggie wrapped into a thin and elastic piece of dough skin. Typically, dumpling could be eaten boiled or steamed. Filling mixtures vary depending on personal tastes and region, but the most popular mixtures are pork with Chinese cabbage for non-vegetarian jiaozi; chives for vegetarian jiaozi.

Not long ago I bought a package of frozen dumpling jiaozi from Asian supermarket. Since it is still within the 2 weeks of Chinese New Year period and has been snowing intermittently recently, I decided to pamper myself with a bowl of spicy veggie dumpling soup.

I chose the instant Kimchi soupbase paste as the broth for my dumpling soup. Bring the water to boil with 1 tbsp of Kimchi soupbase paste. Add-in some Chinese cabbage, tomato slices and the dumplings and cook for 10 minutes under medium high heat. Serve the dumplings in a bowl and garnish with some fried shallots and scallions. Simple, easy and tasty.

vegetarian jiaozi

The dumplings are surprisingly good especially the fillings. The finely chopped mushrooms, carrot and glass noodles (冬粉) filling is well seasoned; while the dough skin is thin and soft which melt instantly in my mouth.

Guys, if you would like to skip the idea of making your own dumplings at home, my recommendation to you is to go for the Taiwanese brand, ChiMei Frozen Dumplings (奇美食品). Speaking from my experience, the Qi Mei dumplings taste better than the one sold in many Chinese restaurants, where their dumpling skin is thick and coupled with strong floury taste.


chimei vegetarian jiaozi

Appeltaart, The Classic Dutch Dessert

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 0 Comments A+ a-


apple pie from Hema
Appeltaart from Hema

Appeltaart, also known as apple pie in English is the classic Dutch dessert. This popular dessert is not hard to find and is served or sold in almost every restaurant, cafe, bakery and supermarket in the Netherlands.

The homemade apple pies serve by WINKEL is undoubtedly the standard bearer for this sweet delicacy. According to the locals, tasting a slice of WINKEL's famous apple pies is considered a must if you are in city of Amsterdam. The apple pies are literally selling like hot cakes during the weekend and do expect a long wait before you could reach for a slice of heavenly tasting appeltaart.

Since I am not going to Amsterdam any time soon, my local friend suggested me to grab a slice from the famous supermarket chain, Hema instead. Although I have not tasted the best apple pie from WINKEL, the appeltaart from Hema is not a disappointment at all. The apple filling just melted in my mouth and not too sweet, plus the apple fillings are cooked to perfection. Mushy apple chunks are a big no no when it comes to apple pie.

The crust on the bottom and around the edge is really the highlight of this appeltaart. The Dutch version of pie crust is light and with cake like texture. Perhaps that is the secret of the moist bottom crust.

A whole round tart costs 4 and can comfortably serve 4 person, about a Euro per slice, affordable isn't it? Just heat it up in the oven for a couple of minutes for a sweet treat conveniently in your home.

How close does this appeltaart taste compares to the famous WINKEL's apple pie? I should be able to tell once I have a bite of the famous apple pie in Amsterdam :)

Find out more about WINKEL at http://www.winkel43.nl/

Great Thai Food at The Thai Box Restaurant in The Hague

Sunday, February 17, 2013 0 Comments A+ a-

The Thai Box Restaurant in The Hague
Tom Yum Kong with succulent fresh shrimps
I have been to Red Box, Green Box and this time round, my stop was at The Thai Box.

Just like the name suggested, The Thai Box is a Thai restaurant situated in the heart of China Town, the Hague. This little gem is one of the very few Thai restaurants which offers lunch service. Run by native Thais, the restaurant serves very authentic Thai cuisine.


Even though there isn't any English menu available in the restaurant, the waitress did try her best to go through the menu in limited English. We felt abit greedy that day due to the icy weather and let loose by ordering a Thai Box appetizer platter, a bowl of TomYum Kong (Thai spicy and sour soup with shrimps) and a bowl of red curry chicken with coconut milk to go with steam Thai fragrant rice.  


The food here was absolutely spot-on, even with its complementary snack -- the fried crackers with spicy sambal paste. An ordinary piece of fried cracker tasted wonderful once eaten with the restaurant's special shrimp paste sambal.

The Thai Box Restaurant in The Hague
Crackers with spicy sambal paste
The Thai Box Restaurant in The Hague
Puro tea

The Thai Box Platter is a combination of the best appetizers on the menu. The platter comprises of pandan chicken, satay (or sate), spring roll with minced chicken, fried shrimp in crispy batter, veggie fish cake, fried dumpling and deep fried rice vermicelli in sour sauce. Every morsel was lip-smacking good especially when eaten with the condiments and 2 types of home-made chili sauces. Indeed a great choice for starter.
The Thai Box Restaurant in The Hague
The Thai Box platter

Next on the menu was Tom Yum Kong soup. It ticked all the right boxes when comparing with authentic Thai version by having the right sourness and spiciness level amplified by the generous usage of Thai herb aromatics. Coupled with mushrooms, plump and succulent shrimps, the Tom Yum Kong was indeed a very well executed dish.
The Thai Box Restaurant in The Hague
Tom Yum Kong

The Thai red curry chicken with coconut milk was highly recommended by the waitress. It was proven right as this was another great dish from the Thai Box. The chicken slices were tender and flavorful while the spicy and tangy gravy matched perfectly with the fluffy Thai fragrant rice. Not to mention, the portion was pretty generous too.
The Thai Box Restaurant in The Hague
Red curry chicken with coconut milk

The refreshing red onion cucumber pickles that came with the Thai red curry chicken set.
The Thai Box Restaurant in The Hague
Refreshing salad in vinegar

A table full of yummy Thai food only costs less than 30. Simply value for money!
The Thai Box Restaurant in The Hague
A table full of food

With minimal fanfare, The Thai Box has just exploded to the top of my list of best Asian restaurants in the Hague. Great food, impeccable service, pleasant ambiance and reasonable price menu. Two thumbs-up to The Thai Box!


The Thai Box

Rabbijn Maarsenplein 3 
China Town The Hague
2512 HJ Den Haag

http://thethaibox.nl/

Fuss-Free Nyonya Chicken Curry with Potatoes

Friday, February 15, 2013 2 Comments A+ a-


Nyonya Curry
Nyonya Chicken Curry

Nyonya Chicken Curry has been my all-time favorite comfort food. I enjoy all the nuances of this dish, from the spiciness of the gravy to the flavorful chicken and tender pototoes. My mom used to cook the best Nyoya chicken curry with potatoes in town and I always volunteered to bring the dish to school for the Teacher's Day and Children's Day celebrations.

The dish was so popular among my primary classmates until one of my chubby little male classmate asked me to bring a larger pot of curry next time. I remembered he told me "Denise.. the chicken curry was not enough to share. Please ask your mom to cook more next time ..."

Typical Asian style of enjoying the Nyonya Chicken Curry is to drench the white rice with the thick gravy or dip the curry with some freshly toasted bread. Either ways are my favorite.

The traditional way of preparing this curry dish may proved to be too troublesome for the masses. This involves huge amount of grinding and pounding work-out with tonnes of spices. However, I have found an alternative recipe which is both fuss-free and easy to prepare while retaining the lip-smacking goodness

Nyonya Curry
Nyonya chicken curry with fluffy rice

Ingredients
  • 1 pack of instant yellow curry sauce from Asian Home Gourmet
  • 4 medium size potatoes (peeled and cut into small chunks)
  • 300g of chicken breast cutlets (You may use chicken drumsticks and thighs)
  • 500ml water
  • 100ml coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp of Madras curry powder
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1/2 tbsp of sesame oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions
Step 1: Marinate the chicken cutlets with Madras curry powder, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Set aside to rest for 2 hours
Step 2: In a pan, heat cooking oil and pan-fry the potato cubes. Dish out and set aside once the potato cubes are lightly browned
Step 3: In the same pan, add in the curry sauce and stir-fry until fragrant. Add in the seasoned chicken cutlets
Step 4: Once the chicken cutlets are browned, add in water and potatoes and simmer for 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the potatoes are tender
Step 5: Reduce the heat and add-in the coconut milk while stirring constantly. Continue to simmer the curry for another 5 minutes

The curry is now ready to be dished-out. Ladle the thick curry gravy over your white fluffy rice and enjoy.

My fuss-free Nyonya Chicken Curry with potatoes. Simple, tasty and easy to prepare!

Additional tips:
a. Do add in some Madras curry powder or salt according to your taste
b. You may also add some hot water if the curry is too thick

Great Indonesian Food @ ISTANA Indonesian Restaurant, The Hague

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 0 Comments A+ a-

Fish wrapped in banana leaf
Ikan pepesan
Indonesian cuisine is one of the perrenial favourite cuisines to many Dutch. The connection mainly stems from the Dutch colonial days since the 16th century. This is why you can easily locate Indonesian restaurants throughout the Netherlands.

My quest for good Asian food brought me to this little Indonesian restaurant, ISTANA situated in the heart of Chinatown in
the Hague. The word 'istana' actually means 'palace' in Indonesian language. Contrary to its name suggested, Istana restaurant is neither opulently decorated like a typical palace nor serves any royal Indonesian cuisine. Nevertheless, Istana is definitely a little gem that serves great Indonesian cuisine at an affordable price. 

You may either opt for the set lunch menu or order a few ala-carte dishes to go with rice. There is also the famous 'rijsttafel' set on offer which literally translated as 'rice table' in Dutch. We opt for the set lunch menu which is available from Monday to Saturday. The price ranges from 4 to 7 per set. For those who are on shoe-string budget, set lunch is the way to go as it comes with either coffee or Pickwick tea of your choice too.

If you are a beef lover, the beef rice set comes highly recommended. It consists of a portion of rice serves with mixed veggies with tofu, crackers, fried egg and two types of beef i.e. beef rendang and beef roedjak. The flavorful beef rendang is the indeed the highlight of this dish, soft and tender and almost melted in my mouth. The rendang is also not overly spicy and goes very well with rice. A big thumbs up.
Istana Indonesian Restaurant in the Hague
Beef rice set: Fried rice with beef rendang, beef roedjak, egg & veggie

Chicken satay set was pretty good too. The satay in ISTANA is by far the best satay I ever tasted so far in the Netherlands. The tender chicken cutlets were well marinated and at the same time expertly grilled until lightly charred. Topped with spicy peanut sauce, it makes you crave for more after the first bite. This is definitely a satay with Malaysian's taste which I like!!
Istana Indonesian Restaurant in the Hague
Chicken satay set

The Ikan Pepesan (fish in chili paste and spices wrapped in banana leaf) seemed interesting as it is not usually served in Indonesian or Balinese restaurants back home. Hence, we ordered a set to try. The dish was surprisingly good. The fish was fresh, flaky and without any trace of fishy smell. Loaded with generous chili paste and spices, it was another winner when paired up with rice.
Istana Indonesian Restaurant in the Hague
Ikan pepesan, spicy fish wrapped in banana leaf

Traditional Malaysian cuisine has the closest taste profile to Indonesian cuisine, where spicy, deep and complex flavour is highly emphasize. So, when a Malaysian restaurant is nowhere to be found, just opt for Indonesian restaurant like Istana instead and you will not be disappointed!
Indonesian Food in the Hague, Netherlands

ISTANA, Indonesian Restaurant
Wagenstraat 71-73 
The Hague 2512 AR 
Tel: 070-3600997

Operation hours
Mon - Sat  12:00 - 21:30
Sun            14:00 - 22:00

Chinese New Year Celebration in The Hague @ China Town

Monday, February 11, 2013 0 Comments A+ a-

Cute Replica of Lion Dance
Chinese New Year is also known as Lunar New Year and undoubtedly the most important festival celebrated by all Chinese around the world.

With a sizable Chinese community, The Hague in the Netherlands has been celebrating the Lunar New Year without exception every year. There were an array of fun-filled activities held on the 9-Feb around Chinatown to usher in the year of Snake 2013. Apart from the crowd favourite lion dance and dragon dance performance, there were also live cultural and martial arts performances, Asian food bazaar, Chinese calligraphy and open market to jazz up this special occasion.  


The Lion Dance and Dragon Dance
I have never been so excited with lion and dragon dance performances back home. Perhaps I was home sick or was simply amazed by the surprisngly great lion dance performance which really helped me to alleviate the pain of celebrating Chinese New Year alone instead of the customary family reunion.

Lion Dance & Dragon Dance Performance
Lion & Dragon Dance


Lion Dance Action Sequence
Lion Dance Sequence @ China Town in the Hague

The Hague Lion & Dragon dance troupe also featured a number of foreigners which really displayed the liberal mind of Dutch people in embracing other non-native cultures.

Lion Dance Jumping Sequence



The Hague Chinatown Chinese New Year Bazaar
The car park of Bijenkorf department store had been transformed into live performance stage and Chinse New Year Bazaar. People from all walks for lives, difference nationalities gathered here to enjoy the live cultural performances and food. Even the mayor of the Hague was present and presided over the opening of these celebration.   

Chinese New Year Bazaar in the Hague

Chinese New Year Bazaar
Chinese New Year Market @ The Hague
Live Performance in Stadhuis Atrium of The Hague
The Hague City Hall was decorated with striking red lanterns and celebration banners which elevated the Chinese New Year mood by a mile. Stage cultural performance started as early as 11.30am with great programs such as Chinese orchestra, Chinese dance, KungFu show, local live band performance, symphony orchestra and ended with a Live cross-over with CCTV Beijing for the countdown to Chinese New year.

Chinese New Year Party @ Stadhuis The Hague

Symphony Orchestra Performance @ Stadhuis

My first Chinese New Year celebration in the Netherlands was really eye-opening and fun-filled. I would like to take this opportunity to wish all my readers an awesome, awesome Chinese New Year 2013! Rock on & Gong Xi Fa Cai!!

Wish you Happy New Year
May You Have a Very Happy & Prosperous Chinese New Year

Super Tasty Dutch Winter Split Pea Soup: Erwtensoep

Thursday, February 07, 2013 0 Comments A+ a-


Erwtensoep
Dutch Winter Pea Soup, Erwtensoep
Winter will never be complete without enjoying a piping hot bowl of winter soup!

Split pea soup, also known as 'erwtensoep' is the perennial Dutch national favourite. The main star of this healthy winter warmer is actually split pea or lentils cooked with other winter vegetables. The typical Dutch version of erwtensoep is served with smoked sausage 'rookworst'. The erwtensoep has the similar texture as the Indian dhal but with a slightly thicker consistency.

Erwtensoep is hearty and rich in flavors from the combination of over 10 types of ingredients. Thanks to Albert Heijn's ready-to-cook erwtensoep ingredient pack, the painstaking process of collecting the ingredients can be skipped.

The ingredients pack comes with a stalk of leek, a carrot, an onion, 3 bay leaves, 1/4 of celeriac, a few stem of celery leave and 500g of split pea. So, I just need to top-up with some potatoes and a smoked sausage to complete the dish.

Cooking erwtensoep is a breeze and just about dropping all the ingredients in a pot of hot water with salt and pepper as seasoning. Remember to stir the soup every 15 minutes and cook in medium heat for about 1.5 hours. It is a very simple dish to prepare with majority of the time spent prepping the vegetables and dicing the potatoes and celeriac. Of course, you may even leave this step to your trusted food processor should you have one in your kitchen.

Erwtensoep is best served with rye bread and bacon. Since I have neither rye bread or bacon on hand, I had my erwtensoep with Wasa crispbread instead. It tasted equally good with the contrasting texture.

I really enjoyed the piping hot bowl of homemade erwtensoep in front of my living room window, while gazing at the dancing snow flakes on a sub-zero Saturday afternoon. This is without doubt, the perfect winter afternoon snack!

Erwtensoep
A spoonful of Erwtensoep

Erwtensoep ingredient pack from Albert Heijn
Erwtensoep ingredient pack from Albert Heijn

Enchanting Winter Wonders Festival @ Brussels, Belgium

Tuesday, February 05, 2013 0 Comments A+ a-


My last visit to Brussels was truly memorable.

This is because it coincided  with the annual Winter Wonders Festivals held from from end Nov till early January. I must admit that this is my best ever Christmas experience to date. A truly astonishing experience for me and a far cry from what I usually experienced back home in Asia.

These five weeks long of winter carnival features a gigantic Christmas market with over 250 chalets set up around the Grand-Place, the stock exchange and on the Place St Catherine. An assortment of gastronomic and regional specialties ranging from traditional crafts, Christmas trinkets to seasonal snacks, food and drinks were on offer.
The Plaisirs d’Hiver
The Plaisirs d’Hiver
The Plaisirs d’Hiver
The Plaisirs d’Hiver
The Plaisirs d’Hiver
Stall selling cured meats
Stall Selling Artisan Cheese

Apart from food and Christmas goodies, there were a number of fairground attractions including a huge outdoor ice skating ring that can accommodate couple of hundred skaters, Ferris wheel, slalom track and retro merry-go-round. I was truly immerse in the Christmas atmosphere just by watching on the stand and serenaded by the Christmas carols blasting through the air.
Ice skating ringIce Skating ring
Giant Slalom
Amusement games
Merry-go round
Merry Go Round


Feeling hungry and thirsty? Fear not as you will be spoilt for choice. From delicious Belgium fries, crepes, potato stews, churros to mouth watering desserts, the only issue you may face will surely be in deciding what to have as everything looked so yummy and tempting. Don't forget to taste the special winter drink of Gluhwein, essentially a spiced mulled wine.
Glorious food
Assorted Bread
Food Stalls
Candy Stalls
Desserts
Chutneys and Jams
Booze stall
Fancy a drink

A truly unique feature of Winter Wonders Festival is non-other than the Light and Sound Show at Grand-place. This stunning laser show combines artistic music, special sound effects and state of the art laser lights projected on the Gothic master-piece town hall building.
Amazing light and musical show at Grand Place
 Amazing light show at Grand place
There you go ... my best ever Christmas in Brussels, thanks to the enchanting Winter Wonders Festival. 

For further information and top Brussels travel tips, read my post on the top 10 things to do on a budget in Brussels.
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