Quinoa – an alternative to rice

Quinoa is a grain crop grown primarily for its edible seeds.  It is high in protein, lacks gluten, and is tolerant of dry soil.


Landscape with Chenopodium quinoa Cachilaya Bolivia Lake Titicaca

Quinoa (the name is derived from the Spanish spelling of the Quechua name kinwa or occasionally “Qin-wah”) originated in the Andean region of EcuadorBoliviaColombia and Peru.

Red quinoa, cooked.

In their natural state, quinoa seeds or, collectively, just “quinoa”, have a coating of bitter-tasting saponins, making them unpalatable.  Most quinoa sold commercially in North America has been processed to remove this coating. This bitterness has beneficial effects during cultivation, as the plant is unpopular with birds and therefore requires minimal protection.

Nutritional value

Quinoa was important to the diet of pre-Columbian Andean civilizations. Today, people appreciate quinoa for its nutritional value. Quinoa has been called a superfood.  Protein content is very high for a cereal/pseudo-cereal (14% by mass), yet not as high as most beans and legumes. Quinoa’s protein content per 100 calories is higher than brown rice, potatoes, barley and millet, but is less than wild rice and oats.  Nutritional evaluations of quinoa indicate that it is a source of complete protein.  Furthermore, it is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high inmagnesium and iron.  Quinoa is also a source of calcium, and thus is useful for vegans and those who are lactose intolerant.  Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest.

– Extracts from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinoa – 

How to cook Quinoa for dummies

I tried cooking Quinoa in the microwave but it failed either because the timing was not right or I had put too little water.  The second time I cooked Quinoa, I did it in the rice cooker and it turned out excellent.

Cooking quinoa (in my limited experience) is like cooking rice except in rice, we use half water, half rice but in quinoa, the portion is more like one-third quinoa to two-third water,  To make this otherwise very bland meal appetizing, I added chicken stock and nasi briyani spices to it .  You could add some ham, green peas and cheese and then once cooked, I added a small amount of butter (or olive oil), olives cashew nuts, cherry tomatoes and fried garlic.

Tastes heavenly.

These days, my dinner alternates between rice, couscous or quinoa as the staples with vegetable or meat dishes as sides.  Other days I may have pasta, noodles or pizzas if I wanted something quick and fast.  Platters, bread and dips or chili con carne with nachos are often another interesting alternative for a change.  The list goes on and on.

It’s always interesting to ask myself

What’s for dinner tonight?

Quinoa garnished with ham, peas, cherry tomato and all sorts

Quinoa garnished with ham, peas, cherry tomato and all sorts

My guest's cooking - Malaysian style hokkien noodles

My guest’s cooking – Malaysian style hokkien noodles

Homemade pizza

Homemade pizza

Platter of all sorts

Platter of all sorts

A close up of yummy platter

A close up of yummy platter

Satay - I do not often cook on the bbq unless I have guests so satay for dinner is not so much a norm.

Satay – I do not often cook on the bbq unless I have guests so satay for dinner is not so much a norm.

Foodie heaven – it seems all Malaysians are foodies

Returning to Kuching, the capital of Sarawak,  after staying at an Iban longhouse  (on the beautiful Batang Ai lake)  my driver tells me  ‘Go to stall number 25 at Topspot. That’s the one I always go to and I always have the wonderful  omelette with oysters.”A local radio station reporter introduces me to ‘the best laksa in China Street.’  We walk under  Harmony Arch on Jalan Carpenter where, directly opposite the Sang Ti Miao temple, is an unpretentious but very busy  Chinese hawker food hall. She is right! The laksa served there was wonderful and for the rest of my 8 weeks in East Malaysia it became the standard I used to compare various dishes of Sarawak Laksa.

via Foodie heaven – it seems all Malaysians are foodies.

I totally agreed with Travel Writer, Heather Hapeta that all Malaysians are foodies.  We just love food, be it cooking or eating.  Most of our eating places are opened till the wee hours of the early morning.  Most Malaysians have four meals a day, breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper.  It is amazing that we eat so much and yet obesity is not so common in Malaysia.  Nutritionist often said that eating “mini meals” every two to three hours, or four to six times per day  can lower cholesterol and promote weight loss although there isn’t much proof to back most of these claims.

Travel Writer is currently visiting my hometown and I love her stories and photographs of events and food around Kuching and Sarawak in general.  In Malaysia, we love to eat in hawker stalls that serve the most authentic local dishes that both locals and tourists enjoy.  (Kuching is the capital city of Sarawak, a state in East Malaysia.)

Here are some (only some) photos of our authentic hawker dishes.


Sarawak Laksa


Kolo Mee

kolo kueh tiaw

Mee Goreng


Sibu Heh (Prawn) Mee

Ang Ku Kuih

Cha Kuih (Fried Carrot Cake)


Kuih Salad


Bidin (Wild Ferns)

Sarawak Rojak


Homemade Toufu (this is not a hawker food), a signature dish of Sarawak Club Restaurant


Belacan Beehoon




kuih chap


Cha Taugeh Kuih Tiaw (Fried Rice Noodles with Beansprouts)


Tomato Mee


Oyster Omelette

 Photo credits from various sources, self, facebook friends or Kuching food critics page contributors.