Satisfaction is cooking for yourself,

lining a tray with old newspaper,

pampering yourself with a home cooked dinner

in your bedroom for change.


Satisfaction is pampering yourself with the simple things in life.


Most popular food in New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and Singapore

If you were to identify the most popular food, just one food in each country, what would that dish be?

The list would be endless as there are so many yummy edibles.  There is definitely more than just one single type of food for each country but this blog shows only one dish out of the many.

People eat different kind of food for breakfast, lunch or dinner so the below are more on lighter meals more for brunch, snacks or finger food (for New Zealand & Australia), not the usual formal dinner food.

New Zealand
The population in New Zealand (especially Auckland) is so diverse so we have all sorts of food from Filipino, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Japanese, Malaysian, Singapore, Vietnam, Turkish, Mediterranean, Middle East, Dutch, French, European, Kiwi cuisines and lots more.

In New Zealand, we eat anything from

  • Roast Lamb. Succulent and tender, roast lamb is a Kiwi favourite. …
  • Māori hāngī The hāngī was the most widely used method of cooking by Māori for more than 2000 years. …
  • Fish and Chips on the beach
  • New Zealand sweets, candies
  • New Zealand Desserts
  • Cheese and Wine
  • Chinese (Thai) Takeaways
  • Pizzas, Pies & Quiches

As the list goes one, I will pick what we have in abundance, our “Fush & Chups” on the beach.  They used to be wrapped in old newspaper years ago but now some restaurants printed their wrapping paper making it look like newspaper to keep the traditional look.


Our neighbour’s cuisine is so like ours.  They boast they have the best pies but we sing the same tune too.  For this post, we will give Australia the honour to share their pies as their popular food.

Australian cuisine (similar to New Zealand) is heavily influenced by British colonization, with many popular foods in the country coming directly from English or Irish cuisine traditions. Other food traditions in Australia include roast dinners, fish and chips, and blood pudding. Iconic foods unique to Australia include Vegemite, Tim Tams, fairy bread and the fried Australian hamburger.

Australia like New Zealand has abundance of sea food and I love their barramundi fish and blue mussels where the flesh is not as big or rubbery (chewy) as our local NZ mussels.


Malaysia & Singapore
Eating out is a past time for Malaysians and Singaporeans.  With numerous hawker styled food courts, it is generally cheaper and more convenient to eat out after 8 to 10 hours of work, Mondays to Fridays.  While official work hours are either from 8am to 4pm (or 9am to 5pm), often workers do not leave their office till 6pm.  When one is flat out at work, isn’t eating out the most rewarding thing to do? Enough slaving at work so time for others to ‘slave’ or cook for you.

Most Malaysian Singaporean dishes are rice or noodles based.  One unique trait Singaporeans and Malaysians share is that they insist on having chilli with anything they eat.  Any noodle dish is not complete without chilli padi (bird’s eye chili) in soya sauce and laksa (spicy noodle soup) isn’t laksa if it does not come with a side of sambal (hot sauce made from chili and spices).

It’s hard to name just one popular dish in Malaysia with its 13 states in all.  Since I was born in Kuching, Sarawak, I will pick kolo mee for Malaysia and growing up in Singapore, I would say Chicken Rice is one of their many popular dishes.

While New Zealanders and Australian greet each other with
“What’s up, mate?” or “How are you?”

Malaysians and Singaporeans often ask
“Chiak Pah Boi?” “Have you eaten?” especially the older folks though the trend now is moving towards “Lu Ho Bo?” meaning “How are you?”.

Indeed there are so many things to talk about with this simple four letter word  FOOD, so much so that we entertain clients with food and drinks to build the connection (Guangxi) and break the ice for a mutual win-win situation in businesses as well as bonding with family and friends.

From the desk of a foodie ……………………………..

Ways of cooking Chokos

I recently discovered a very weird kind of  vegetable and been savouring them in all sorts of dishes.

I used to have a choko tree in the house I rented some years back and I never knew what that ‘fruit’ was.

What are chokos?


Chokos are vegetables (some called it a fruit) native to Central America.  They were taken to Europe by Spanish explorers and from there were introduced to parts of Asia.  They are pear shaped and the smaller or young ones are green and the bigger ones are lighter green in color.  The grew to be about 10 to 15cm long and are pretty solid.

The Cantonese literally named this vegetable as Buddha’s hand melon (佛手瓜 fut sao gwa) mainly because it looks like a pair of palms clasping together in prayer.

The Jamaicans called this vegetable Chocho.

Their skin are pretty tough so before cooking, peel off the skin and cut into halves to remove the seed.  Chop the chokos in bite sizes or thinly sliced into strips.

Stir fry is the best way to cook them.  I added garlic, chicken stock, egg and a dash of soya sauce, oyster sauce (or hoisin sauce) and finished off with a dash of Chinese wine.


Chokos are delicious and has its own natural sweetness.  I also used it as a filling for spring rolls.  Sliced thinly and stir fried the same way as above, add a spoonful of cornflour (diluted with water) to thicken the dish.  Leave to cool and then fill into spring rolls sheet.  I usually make them in batches and freeze.  Handy to pan fried when ready to eat.

Choko tastes a bit like ‘Bang Kuang’ (Jicama or Mexican Turnip) which are not available in New Zealand so Chokos are great substitute for homemade Popiah (Hokkien name for Spring Rolls that are not deep fried) and Spring Rolls.


One important tip to note before you start picking any fruits (veggies) thinking they must be chokos and start cooking them.

Chokos grow on vine, similar to a weed called moth plant.

Moth plant has a sap that irritates our skin when in contact and is a deadly weed.  They are lighter (in weight) not a solid as chokos.

I am a bit weary in the beginning when I first ate chokos with the phobia that I could be poisoned by eating moth plant instead.  Anyway, there is no way that anyone could be mistaken because the skin texture is different, the weight and if you are still not sure, once you cut open the choko and moth plant, you will noticed the moth plant have a milky sap.  If not sure which is which, please use a gloves to prevent the sap from irritating your skin.

If you are still not sure, click here to check out when a Choko is not a Choko, courtesy of Just like my Nan made.

Can you identify the difference?  Which is choko and which is moth plant?


I was on Jetstar and flipped through their in flight magazine.  Looking at me was a page on all things Kiwiana.


Kiwiana are certain items and icons from New Zealand’s heritage, especially from around the middle of the 20th century that are seen as representing iconic Kiwi elements.

Amongst other Kiwiana, the silver fern flag has become an iconic, if unofficial symbol of New Zealand.

A number of products widely regarded as Kiwiana, such as Weet-Bix, Watties tomato sauceMarmite and L&P, are now made by non-New Zealand companies.  In some cases this is because the original New Zealand company has been purchased by an overseas corporation, in others the product has always been made by an international firm.

In 1994, New Zealand Post released a set of stamps depicting kiwiana items including a paua shell, pavlova, hockey pokey ice cream, fish and chips, jandals, bush shirt, buzzy bee, kiwifruit, rugby boots and ball and a black singlet and gumboots.



To sum it up, Kiwiana are all the weird and wonderful quirky things from years gone by that contribute to our sense of nationhood — our Kiwi identity.


Food wise, I love anything bitter.

Its pungent taste, not too sweet or too sour.

My favourite bitter drink is Schweppes bitter lemon.

Bitter lemon is a carbonated soft drink flavoured with quinine and lemon. The signature bitter taste is produced by a combination of the quinine and the lemon pith used in manufacturing the drink.


I love bitter gourd.  Bitter gourd (melon) is one of traditional edible pod vegetables in many Asian countries. It is grown widely as a field crop as well as backyard vegetable and, in fact, is among the most bitter tasting of all culinary vegetables.

This vegetable has numerous health benefits.

Health benefits of Bitter gourd

  • Bitter melon is very low in calories, carrying just 17 calories per 100 g. Nevertheless, its pods are rich sources of phytonutrients like dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, and anti-oxidants.
  • Bitter melon notably contains phytonutrient, polypeptide-P, a plant insulin known to lower blood sugar levels. Also, it composes hypoglycemic agent called Charantin. Charantin increases glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis inside the cells of the liver, muscle, and fatty (adipose) tissue. Together, these compounds may have been thought to be responsible for blood sugar levels reduction in the treatment of type-2 diabetes.
  • Fresh pods are an excellent source of folates, carrying about 72 µg/100g (18% of RDA). Vitamin folate when taken by mothers during their early pregnancy time, would help reduce the incidence of neural tube defects in the newborn babies.
  • Fresh bitter melon is an excellent source of vitamin-C (100 grams of fresh pod provides 84 mg or about 140% of RDI). Vitamin-C is one of the powerful natural antioxidants which helps scavenge harmful free radicals from the human body.
  • Further, it is an excellent source of health benefiting flavonoids such as β-carotene, α-carotene, lutein, and zea-xanthin. It also contains a good amount of vitamin-A. Together, these compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging, cancers and various disease processes.
  • Bitter melon stimulates smooth digestion and peristalsis of food through the bowel until it excreted from the body. Thus, it helps in relieving indigestion and constipation problems.
  • Further, it has small amounts of B-complex vitamins such as niacin (vitamin B-3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and minerals such as iron, zinc, potassium, manganese and magnesium.
  • Early laboratory tests suggest that certain phytochemical compounds in bitter melon might be effective in the treatment of HIV infection.

    – credit to Nutrition and You


While bitterness is so favourable in food, it is not so in life experience.  Many of us may encounter some bitter experiences at some stage in life.

Every uncomfortable experience in life gives you the choice of growing bitter or better.



Pies Craving

Strangely enough whenever I am early for work, my mind would be thinking about pies.  I do not call myself pie mad (or maid) but I do like pies once in a while.


In Auckland, our best priced and nicest gourmet pies are available at BP Station.  They sell nice coffee, pies and other finger food through Wild Bean Café.  Fill your car and fill your stomach too.  This is so handy to all travellers.


In Botany Shopping Centre, close to my home, there is Greenland Bakery, an award winning pie shop.  Personally, I find their pie fillings somewhat more fusion than traditional kiwi pies.  I guess from their numerous awards, people’s taste are now more diverse.


Close to my work, there is Jester Pie which I sometimes divert to before work.  Their pies seemed to be a bit smaller than a standard BP Pie.  They have pies of all sorts from our original kiwi to Italian and Indian pies.


This morning, I tried a piece of salmon quiche and a masala puff.  The baker Ed was a Malaysian living in New Zealand way longer than myself.  I’ve been living in Auckland for coming 14 years and pies and freshly brewed cappuccino became so much a part of life.


A sip of coffee
A bite of pie
Forget the calories
Totally out of control !

Nothing matters as that is a start to a wonderful day !

Image credit to the creators.


A friend who’s a Chef cooked dinner for us last night.  A nice and hearty three course meal of asparagus tart with sesame halloumi cheese, beef steak with gourmet potatoes and finished off with crème brulee.


Clearly there was no fish in the menu but for some reason amongst the table topic was ‘fish’.  An Australian guest talked about some Australian catfish eating mice.  How gross is that.

The Malaysian Chef talked about White (or Silver) Pomfret being a prized fish for all occasions in Malaysia and Singapore.

The host from Borneo proudly introduced Empurau as the most expensive edible fish in Malaysia, native only to Kapit, Sarawak in the island of Borneo.  Empurau is a kind of carp prized for their rich, delicate flesh and firm texture. Empurau get their unique taste from a diet of special fruit that falls from trees into the rivers.  They are sold from Ringgit 400 to 1000 per kilo.  The Borneo Post recently reported a giant Empurau was sold for RM7,900 (approximately USD2,000).  If you doubt it, click here and check it out.

Because the Chinese character for fish (yu 鱼) is pronounced the same as the Chinese character for surplus (yu 余), the fish symbol is frequently used to symbolize the wish for more in the sense of good luck, good fortune, long life, children and all things good.  The word for “fish” yu is a homophone for “abundance” and “affluence”. 


In Chinese cuisine, fish is served whole rather than steak or fillet form.  If you are served fish, make sure not to flip it over to get to the meat on the other side, especially in smaller villages and communities that rely on fishing.  The Chinese believe that flipping a fish on dinner table means that a boat will capsize.

This one-word prompt (Fish) is indeed a big topic.  I could go on and on writing all for the love of FISH.

“Fush and Chups” anyone? asked a local Kiwi.

Vietnamese Mint

Vietnamese Mint

Despite the common name, it is not exclusively native to Vietnam and nor is it even remotely related to the mints.  Vietnamese Mint has pointed leaves which are darker than standard mint.  They are sometimes lightly variegated with a dull dark red.  Vietnamese mint, also known as “Vietnamese coriander”, “Cambodian mint” and “laksa leaf”, has a strong flavour, and as the name suggests, is used a lot in Asian cooking.  It also boosts the taste with noodles (soup) dishes.

The Vietnamese name is rau ram, while in Malaysia and Singapore it is called daun kesom or daun laksa (laksa leaf).  In Thailand, it is called pak pai.

The leaves have a pungent lemony flavour, quite distinct from other herbs and spices. In Malaysian cuisine, the leaves are used to flavour laksa, a spicy soup noodle dish.

I was first introduced to this mint through a friend.  I treasure this mint so much that I freeze them for future use.  Besides using them for laksa and curry, I added them to tea leaves making my own brew of Vietnamese Mint tea.

For some reason, these very fragrant herb is not easily available in our local nurseries and plant barns.  I took some cuttings from my friend and managed to get some roots on a couple after putting them in water.  Fingers crossed I may be able to grow my own Vietnamese Mint soon.

Vietnamese Mint contains antioxidants and vitamins C and A.  They may be use to treat indigestion, stomach aches and swelling.

If you have never tried this herb before, I strongly encourage you to give it a try.  It has got such a distinctive taste that you will ask for more !

vietnamese mint1.jpg

via Daily Prompt – Vegetal

All about garlic

You Are Most Likely Consuming Bleached and Chemical-Loaded Garlic from China Exported Worldwide.

There are so much negative news about Chinese garlic that I have given up buying China grown garlic.

Chinese garlics are normally sold in meshed bags of $2.99 each of approximately over a dozen bulbs  as compared to USA or New Zealand grown garlic selling loose at around $26.99/kg.  A bulb of New Zealand garlic is around 40grams.


The key words for me on any food product packaging (especially garlic) is “Made in New Zealand” or “Product of New Zealand”.  “Made in New Zealand” still keeps me on high alert as this can easily mean they imported the garlic from an overseas country (China, for instance) and have simply crushed them and bottled in New Zealand. “Product of New Zealand” states it is a NZ food, grown in NZ, and this is the only label that keeps me happy.  I also happily buy USA garlic which are often a bit smaller than NZ grown garlic and selling around $24.99/kg.


Chinese garlic is very mild compared to NZ. It lacks the burn and true garlic taste. There are no roots on the Chinese garlic, they have been sliced off, whereas NZ garlic will still have roots attached. This from a garlic grower: “Chinese roots carry infected soil and quarantine regulations the world prohibit the introduction of soil organisms on produce.”

Garlic is grown globally, but China is by far the largest producer of garlic, with around 19 million tonnes (42 billion pounds) grown annually, accounting for over 79% of world output. India (5.2%) and South Korea (1.7%) follow, with Egypt (0.9%) in fourth place and the United States (where garlic is grown in every state except for Alaska) in tenth place (0.7%).  This leaves 11% of global garlic production in countries that each produce less than 2% of global output. Much of the garlic production in the United States is centered in Gilroy, California, which calls itself the “garlic capital of the world”.

In fact I have always bought Chinese garlic till the switch over this year after reading all the posts on facebook about the chemicals found in Chinese garlic that turned me off.  I use a lot of garlic in my cooking and although the cost of  USA and New Zealand grown garlic are perhaps five times more than Chinese grown garlic, it isn’t like we are cooking a whole garlic dish (if you know what I mean).  Garlic are just merely seasoning in that sense so using a dearer and more superior and healthy product does not necessarily mean you will burn a huge hole in your pocket.

For the green fingers, perhaps you may want to grown your own garlic.  I tried but failed so garlic stays in my shopping list.

Check out this link on the 13 Surprising Benefits of Garlic.

Do you buy China grown garlic?


What is “Kokoda”?

Would you have related that to food?

As per Wikipedia,

Kokoda is a station town in the Oro Province of Papua New Guinea. It is famous as the northern end of the Kokoda Track, site of the eponymous Kokoda Track campaign of World War II. In that campaign, it had strategic significance because it had the only airfield along the Track. In the decades preceding, it had been a foothills settlement near the gold fields.

The name ‘Kokoda’ was well known to many Australians after World War Two.

If you goggle “Kokoda recipe”, you will see that Kokoda is in fact a dish of raw fish, a Fijian dish made from freshly caught fish.

I have no idea how this dish got its name, perhaps from the town, Kokoda or perhaps the Pacific War soldiers were fishermen as well and invented this dish.

This fish is cooked by marinating in lime and lemon juices and often served as salad. I was introduced to this dish by someone whom I was close with.  Born in Fiji but grew up in England, he loved and learned to prepare this dish so when families get together, we would always have this much-loved Fijian specialty.

If you wish to find out more about this dish, please click here to This Island Life’s explanation of this delicious fish salad. – photo credit to This Island Life –



Here’s another simple recipe, courtesy of our celebrity chef, Nadia Lim.



Photo by Tamara West


Ratings: 5.0 / 5 FROM 2


I could eat bowls and bowls of this refreshing dish that reminds me of being at the beach and on holiday. It relies on having very fresh fish available, so ideally you are a fisher, or know one! The acid from the lime/lemon juice “cooks’’ the fish flesh without heat, firming up its texture and turning it an opaque white colour. I think trevally is the best type of fish for this dish.