orzoQuick and elegant, that’s how I would describe this dish. Perfect as a pasta course, with just some grilled pork chop or lamb chop on the side, or a nice grilled fish or chicken. Or just a plain salad with goat’s cheese and bacon strips. Orzo looks like flecks of rice, but it is a shape of pasta. It has a funny texture which i like.

You will need: (serves about 3)
1 large cup of orzo
1 large zucchini, or 2 small ones
olive oil, garlic, thyme, oregano, Parmesan cheese

Use a food processor to slice the zucchini into julienne strips. Of course you can do this by hand on a grater Continue reading ‘Orzo with zuccini’

Nooooooo, you can’t be serious!!!! I thought, wachting the newest tv-ad for the well-known brand of Conimex (Unilever), a huge producer of Asian convenience foods in the Netherlands. This brand has been around locally since the 1950s, when Conimex started to cater for the growing demand in ingredients for the cuisine of the former colony of Indonesia. Conimex has been selling Indonesian ground spices in small jars, spice mixtures (bumbus) and sweet soy sauces (kecap) for decades now, but have recently strengthened their share of the Dutch market by selling convenience packets of Indian, Malay, or otherwise Asian flavorings, like sauce mixes for stir-frying Continue reading ‘Conimex Beijing ad’

These cucumber strips might look too plain and simple to blog about. But in this miniseries on Chinese starters, you really can’t miss out on this one. It is actually the starter I order immediately with no second thoughts when see it on the menu – and in China that is almost always the case.

There are of course some varieties, not only in taste but the way the cucumber is cut. You have the banquet-style strips which you can pile several stories high, woodlog cabin-shape. Then you have the home-style cucumber slices or chunks, which shape is really up to you. And you have the cucumber peels which I had last time in China, challenging your chopstick skills Continue reading ‘Pickled cucumber (黄瓜皮)’

This Chinese starter scores high on the scary-looking exotic foods list. Although your guests can tell these blackish things probably won’t be monkey brains, they will not easily pick up their chopsticks to take a bite, until you tell them these are a must-try.

These duck eggs, with their black translucent outside and gooey greenish-grey from the inside, look definitely off. They have been packed in a mixture of mud, salt and lime with special ingredients, and left to cure for about 2 months. This makes the mixture permeate the shells so the eggs are cured on the inside. In Chinese they are called 皮蛋 pidan Continue reading ‘1000-year old eggs with ginger’

With this second post, I am on my first steps in getting together a series of Chinese cold starters for hot days. Making a Chinese meal is difficult enough with all the prep work you have to do. It can be tough: cutting and shredding ingredients for hours on end, not even able to finish one dish; so making a cold starter can be very satisfying. You do the assembly work, put it on a plate, plonk it on the table, and that’s one dish less to worry about!

This starter I found at YouTube, where I found a real nice range of Chinese cooking videos by yeqiang, who is explaining enthousiastically how to make this radish salad, she sure made me want to try! She uses Continue reading ‘Smashin’ radishes’

Salad with tofu shredsOn my last trip to China I saw this salad everywhere on the menu: a cold salad with finely shredded strips of tofu, almost resembling noodles, seasoned with sesame oil, garlic and cilantro. This is the kind of thing you order first to have with cold beers on a warm summer night, and you practice your chopstick skills on it while waiting for more substantial dishes.

It is a perfect summer food: a small vegetarian starter, full of flavor. I made it the other day to have at home. Once you find your pressed tofu sheets in the Chinese supermarket, this dish is easy to prepare, it only involves cutting Continue reading ‘Salad with tofu shreds’

Return my mojo!


A couple of years back I visited the island of La Palma, of the Spanish Canary Islands. It is the place which features as an island of doom in Discovery Channel programmes, because a large chunk of this island, somewhere in the future, will supposedly break off and splash into the sea, causing a giant tsunami to flood the whole East Coast of America.

However until it does (and nobody knows when this natural disaster will strike), you can enjoy the island’s sunshine, their special potatoes, and their two kinds of mojo. Mojo is Spanish for sauce: they have a red and a green version, which can be found at every restaurant table. The combination with potatoes is great, especially if you serve a white fish or some chicken on the side Continue reading ‘Return my mojo!’

crispy chickenOf course I was nervous about interviewing Gino D’Acampo, the young and charming Italian chef of Ready Steady Cook. I had a meetup with him for his visit to the Netherlands, last Friday, when he was here to promote his new book Fantastico. He was a little late because he got stuck in a traffic jam, but all went fine and I published my interview on Zestz. Then I went to the large Italian lifestyle-fair where Gino was supposed to do some real life cooking, in a castle nearby.

Very funny to see all things Italian concentrated in one place: Tuscan holiday village people, pizza oven sellers, olive oil stands, Boretti oven guys and even some laptop sellers, although I didn’t get what they had to do with Italy. There was an impersonator of Luciano Pavarotti walking around with his white Continue reading ‘Crispy chicken with Serrano ham’

shrimp frittersThere is no way I can leave the market without trying to see if the fishmonger has unpeeled grey shrimp. These are stacked in big bags (if they have them), cooked on the fishing boat that takes them in. These grey shrimp are more tasty than the other shrimp varieties, and while I have them with mayonaise often, this is the ultimate way of enjoying them.

Buy 300 grams of grey shrimp with the skins on. Go home to peel them, this might take 20 mins. Continue reading ‘Shrimp fritters (garnalenkroketjes)’

Tomato sauce


tomato sauceOne of the joys of coming home is to have this first meal. I always crave for the simple, and usually I end up eating my first meal of pasta with a tomato sauce. I could even do without the tomatoes and then only use anchovies, pepper and some garlic. Of course there is a chunk of Parmesan in the fridge.

Marcella Hazan taught me to make the most simple of tomato sauces. You never have to buy a jar again! Take one tin of plum tomatoes (€0.20, I stock up on these), add a large lump of Continue reading ‘Tomato sauce’

Chinese cooking ingredientsToo bad I have to go home again. I just started to enjoy this life of walking around, chatting with people, and trying out food in all kinds of restaurants. I haven’t been in the kitchen for two weeks, but back home, I will have to cook again myself.

But not without new stuff! I have had lots of dishes to try, especially the quick and easy vegetable ones, which put together ingredients in a way I wouldn’t have come up with. I snapped about a picture of everything I’ve eaten here. My table mates have resented this when they, hungrily, had their chopsticks ready, but I can enjoy my pictures for new inspiration.

To the Chinese supermarket I went all by myself, to buy stuff-to-take-home. While other foreigners might hang around silk stores or calligraphy stores – not me, I am in the supermarket, eyeing the shelves with Sichuan pepper and vintage vinegars. I asked the shop girls for info, and some passers by, too. They told me their favorite brands and then I simply added another item to my shopping basket.

I will travel home with bags of huajiao, chile peppers, dried shiitake mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms, huajiao oil, fragrant vintage vinegar, new chopsticks and brand new chopping knife. I bought some strange looking packets of sauces to try. Also, I bought a new jiaozi board, for putting on home-made jiaozi so they won’t stick.

When I walked on the street with this large round board (the equivalent of a Chinese in the Netherlands walking around with a poffertjespan), an older woman stopped me to ask where I got it. When I told her she wanted to know the price as well (7.90 yuan, being €0.79), and then she went to the shop to get one, too.

Chinese marketI’ve traveled from Beijing to Shanghai and back, and eaten many Chinese meals. To eat in China is heaven (although there are food scares and everything); restaurants are plentiful and food is absolutely cheap. You eat out with 5 people, order 4 starters and 5 main dishes, drink beers and orange juice with your meal, and then the total bill comes to about 20 euros. Of course that doesn’t really matter, the food is utterly delicious, an it being cheap is even more wonderful, because then you just start ordering dishes just to try out Continue reading ‘To Shanghai and back’

self heating mealThis is one of the novelties I’ve seen in Beijing. There is great food everywhere, but once you are in the Forbidden City, the Imperial Palace in the heart of the city, there are no restaurants, but only snack corners and tea stands. They kicked out Starbucks from their small counter last year, because a high official had campaigned against this foreign invasion in their Chinese cultural heartland so to speak (it was replaced by a counter selling Chinese coffee from Yunnan province). The snack booth in the imperial garden sold quick noodles the last time I was there.

Now all the noodles had gone, perhaps because they were sold out. The only thing on the shelves were square paper boxes Continue reading ‘Self-heating meal’

Off to China


Peking duckI perhaps won’t be blogging for some weeks. I am going to China! Now, on the last day, I have to prepare and to pack, and tackle the busiest day on the national airport today. Sure it is going to be fun, and there is always lots of good food, to which I am looking forward a great deal. Of course I will have at least one dinner of Peking duck, of that I am sure. And jiaozi (dumplings) too. And perhaps a load of new dishes I don’t know about.

Hopefully I can get around the ‘Great Firewall of China’ and upload photos to Flickr, and write something on this blog. If not..you have to be patient for two weeks’ time! 再见 Zaijian!

steaming salmonYes, I’ve got my new steamer. It is huge, and on top of that, it even has two layers! Now I had to think of something to steam. You can steam anything really, but the first dish I steamed was this salmon dish in Chinese style.

Take one slab of salmon a person (here it is only the two of us) and put on a heatproof plate. Top each piece of salmon with a teaspoon black beans (Yangjiang brand is nice, look here for review), half a teaspoon of grated ginger, half a teaspoon of finely chopped garlic, a few Continue reading ‘Steaming fresh salmon’