Friday, February 13, 2015

The Ultimate Home-Made Valentine's Day Dish - Mediterranean Fish Soup

Valentine's Day happens to be tomorrow 
When restaurants laugh to make our pockets hollow
So what do we do to avoid this scam?
Make something great at home? 
Of course you can!

Pardon my lameness to start yet another blogpost with some poetry. Anyway, after at least 3 separate requests for the recipe to my Mediterranean Seafood Soup last night, and considering it's a perfect dish to impress your loved one (as long as he/she is not vegetarian and likes seafood), I shall rush out the cooking instructions with some of my random pictures taken under poor lighting.

No home-made stock on hand, so used some decent store-bought ones

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

  • 8 large shrimp, around 500g
  • 200g of boneless fish fillet, skinned and cubed (picture below, I used wild sea bass)
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 1 can of chopped Italian tomato (I used chopped as they are skinless and seedless, you could use the full tomatoes as well but remember to remove the seeds if you don't want your soup to be too sour)
  • 200ml of chicken stock
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic (for shrimp stock)
  • 1 large handful of parsley (preferably flat-leaf, but curly ones will do too), finely chopped
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 bay leaves (optional)

Cubed fish fillet
Diced onion

Cooking Procedure:

  1. Shell and devein the shrimp. If you like the heads, leave the heads on, if not, remove the heads and set aside with the shell for the shrimp stock.
  2. Fry 2 cloves of garlic in a small pot till fragrant, add shrimp shells and heads, fry till the entire house smells of hae mee (prawn noodle) then pour in around 2-300ml of water to simmer into a nice shrimp stock.
  3. In a separate soup pot where the whole dish will be put together, sweat the onions in some good olive oil. This will take some time on medium heat, till the onions become sweet but do not take up too much colour.
  4. Deglaze the pot with a cup of white wine and wait for the alcohol to boil away.
  5. Pour in the can of diced tomatoes and bring the mixture to a boil, add bay leaves.
  6. At this point add in shrimp stock and chicken stock and bring the soup to a boil again.
  7. Add in fish fillet cubes.
  8. Before adding in the shrimp, make sure you are well prepared with chopsticks or tongs to remove them once cooked and prepare your serving plates/bowls.
  9. Once you are ready, add in the shrimp and remove them immediately onto your serving bowls once they cook through, we do not want overcooked rubbery jumbo shrimp on your Valentine's Day.
  10. Finally, while the soup is still bubbling hot, stir in your parsley and season the soup to your preferred taste with salt and pepper.
  11. Serve.
My Mediterranean Fish Soup

How can I sign off without leaving you with some important tips?

Number 1, this soup is exceptionally versatile. It can be cooked with any kind of seafood you prefer, so mussels, clams, squid, even crab will work beautifully. Just put in anything you can find. Just keep in mind that the most vital point is that every element needs to be extremely fresh, we don't want to take chances with anything that might spoil the whole pot of soup!

Number 2, this is a main course, not a starter. You eat this together with some nice bread or baked potato to complete a good meal. You need a lot of seafood in the soup (also to make the soup delicious). If the amount makes you feel that it might be slightly excessive, it's perfect.

Number 3, you can add some chopped fresh tomato as well, to spruce up the taste a little, but I still recommend you to use a can of tomatoes as the base, because unless we use those expensive imported tomatoes, it's unlikely the standard ones we find in our markets can provide enough flavour to the soup.

Number 4, Do not overcook the seafood!

Number 5, Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Belated Birthday Letter for Noah's 3rd Birthday

Dear Noah

We just had your birthday gathering yesterday with a small group of neighbours, and Daddy has to apologise for nearly forgetting to put the customary yummy Foochow chicken soup on the table for you. It was really comforting to see you chomping it down during dinner though, and to know that you enjoyed your little birthday 'party'.

Our very different birthday picture this year, with 4 of us instead of 3

In view of you reaching the ripe old age of 3, Daddy has 2 precious words for you, 2 words that I hope you will hold dear to your heart and execute in the very near future.

1. Unbind

Your have been bound by diapers virtually 24 hours a day for 3 full years already. So long, that you know all different models of diapers by heart and tell me which kind you want to wear during different parts of the day.

This can be partly due to Daddy and Mummy, who want to give you time and freedom to decide when you are ready to go to the toilet by yourself. We are still standing by that decision and will continue to give you the time and space your require. BUT the amount of diapers Daddy has been pulling off the shelves now with Ellie's arrival is nothing short of insane, and honestly I have more than once attempted to wrap Ellie's tiny butt up in your ginormous undies.

SO, I hope 2015 is a good time for you to finally unbind. You will not regret the decision.

I am 3 years old from now onwards!

2. Unwind Unwhine, yes seriously, unwhine

Don't be confused. Yes, the word is not even in the Urban Dictionary, but that's what you've given me since I've become your Daddy. Unlimited bouts of creativity and inspiration, so much so that I have come up with new words that are destined for parenting blog greatness.

Ok, back to the point.

Noah, please stop whining, because whining does not get you anything, well not in my house at least, or in any house with me around. I always pray for more patience, but my patience runs out whenever you start whining, mostly without reason at all!

I promise you I will tell you, in a nice manner, to stop when you whine, but please do everyone a favour and stop!

My 2 words for you seem harsh, but I love you very much Noah, I really do. So much so that I am dedicating my blog's 200th post to you.

What a birthday means to a child, and thank you everyone for the gifts!

My day starts with sending you to school, and ends with putting you to sleep in my arms, there's nothing much left in my world if you're not in it.

So happy birthday Noah, one last time, till the clock strikes 1st of February again in 2016.

Noahdaddy aka Stranger in Bangkok

Thursday, January 29, 2015

[REVIEW] Foodpanda Thailand Food Delivery Service, with a brilliant discount code for my readers!

*Please read till the end, as I have a brilliant discount code for all my readers*

As you can see from my blog's first ever linky [Putting Food on the Table], I have been in charge of my family's meals most of the time for the past 3 years. But taking charge of meals does not necessarily mean cooking, as we still have to eat regardless of whether I have time to cook.

Bangkok has a very established food delivery industry. Not only can we get food from most restaurant chains delivered right to our doorstep, the services are also reliable and punctual.

I have 2 very little kids now. It is virtually impossible to weave through the Bangkok traffic with them to simply eat something that MIGHT be nice. So food delivery services mean more to me than just convenience. For a foodie like me, they also give me an opportunity to taste food from restaurants I would otherwise not have the opportunity to taste because of the complicated logistics of getting there.

Therefore, when Foodpanda approached me to explore the possibility of writing a review for their services, it all made sense, as I would really love to share with my fellow friends (especially those with families) an avenue to help them put proper food on the table when cooking at home is just not possible.

Personally, I judge food deliveries according to a few main criteria:
  • Punctuality and accuracy of food delivered
  • Packaging of the food and whether they are warm
  • Service attitude of delivery staff
  • Response from company when unexpected situations happen
I ordered meals from Foodpanda thrice via their pretty user-friendly phone application, and I shall share my very honest views on how each experience went for you to judge for yourself whether you would like to use it in the future.

1st Experience

Something that surprised me about Foodpanda was the availability of food that are not ready meals. For example, raw Norwegian salmon, organic juice cleanse packages, fresh Italian pasta and Paleo meals etc., so I gave it a try, as I would love to have some nice hard-to-get raw materials to aid me in my cooking endeavours.

I was still pretty confused on what would happen after my order, so after I pressed submit, I waited in anticipation. It didn't take very long, less than a minute, in fact, for Foodpanda staff to call me. The shop was closed, and it will stay closed for the next 2 weeks. Didn't your app show it was open? Hmmm...... but oh well, it didn't matter as I was not depending on the delivery for my dinner that night.

So there you go, my first experience. A pleasant failure.

Second Experience

It was a Sunday morning when we decided to order food for an early lunch, so we used Foodpanda again. This time, something different happened after I made the order. Instead of a call, I received a text message telling me the restaurant had received my order and that I would receive the food in an hour. And abacadabra, the food actually arrived within 30 minutes! Excellent, I must say. Here are the pictures of the food, all received perfectly packed (this really depends on the individual eatery) and warm.

Food all packed up

Yummylicious lunch

Third experience

After the positive experience on a weekend lunch, I decided to put Foodpanda to the test on a weekday night. After the order was placed, I received a phonecall immediately, with the operator informing me that the food might take up to 2 hours as their riders were busy and also whether I wanted to go ahead with the order. I accepted as I ordered the food early. It was a nice touch from them to have kept me in the loop on this unexpected situation.

Around 20 minutes later, the sms came, informing me that the restaurant has received the order and will deliver in an hours' time. And true to their word, I got the food less than an hour and a half after placing my order, which was much shorter than 2 hours!

We really enjoyed our dinner too, including Noah.

Once again, the food came perfectly packaged and warm.

Stranger in Bangkok's verdict.

Foodpanda is a good food delivery service, as they have a good mobile app that allows you to order food without having to make any calls, sends text messages to confirm orders, calls you promptly when unexpected situations arise, and finally delivers within the promised time.

However,  how excellent this service ultimately turns out to be for you really depends on your location, as the restaurant selection very much depends on your proximity to the participating eateries. The closer you are to the city, the more choices you will enjoy, I assume. That said, I am sure Foodpanda is in the process of garnering more food options in every location.

In any case, Foodpanda's a good panda, so do consider it should you need a convenient fix to put decent food on your table.

Bonus for my readers based in Thailand

Here comes the good news.

For all my readers who have not used Foodpanda before, they have given me a discount code specially for you.

When you place your order, fill in this discount code strangerxxx to get a 10% discount off the bill! This is only for the first 50 readers who have previously not used this service before, and the deal expires at the end of February 2015, so please order soon!

Disclaimer: Foodpanda provided me with voucher codes to try the service twice, but all opinions and comments are mine.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Poems by a Hands-on Dad

Poems by a Hands-on Dad
(Who's read one too many children's books)

There was one
Now there's two
Our house has become a zoo
Full of screams and pee and poo
I love it, you should too


Did you ever think
How on earth to catch a wink
Or go out with friends for a drink
All day long you're on the brink
Like your ship's gonna sink
And your head's turning pink
If you still can't get a link
Then you should have some kids, I think


"Daddy, I can hear you snore!"
I only just slept and you want more?
Sleeping has become a chore
On the bed, sofa or the floor
On the floor?
Yes! Near the toilet door
Just have a kid or four
You don't get to sleep no more


Inspired by Dr Seuss and his classic "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish"

Sunday, January 18, 2015

[Putting Food on the Table] Like Grandpa, Like Husband

There is this theory that women tend to marry men who are like their dads. I think I married one who is like my late grandpa and I am a very lucky girl indeed. I have never mentioned this to DH even though I have had this thought since we got hitched 5 years ago.

When DH revealed that he wanted to ask me to write a post for his linky 'Putting Food on the Table', the first person I thought of was my grandma who was the masterchef of the house cooking for up to 12 people daily. Then I quickly recalled that the subject needs to be related to a male figure in my life. One person whom I hold dear to my heart is my grandpa as my grandparents were the main caregivers for me and my sister when we were kids.

Here are some of my memories of my grandpa who contributed to putting food on the table in many ways.

  • Grocery Shopping

    Grandma wouldn't have been able to dish out those wholesome meals daily without Grandpa's efforts. Almost every morning, rain or shine, he would walk to the nearby market to buy the fresh ingredients in his immaculate short-sleeve shirt and trousers. He did this even into his late eighties before he had problems with his eyesight.

    Once in a while he would take the bus by himself to markets that are slightly further away. My uncle and dad would tag along to help when he needed to make purchases in bulk. Even though it was hard work, he always appeared happy and greeted us with a smile when he saw us. He did all this out of love for the extended family with no complaint.

  • Tea and Afternoon Snacks

    I grew up drinking tea made by Grandpa. I could drink tea for breakfast, afternoon tea, supper and even in the middle of night when I wake up hungry. Grandpa always prepared the tea meticulously with heart. The cups needed to be warmed before putting in the tea bag with hot water. The balance of sugar and evaporated milk had to be just right. He even counted the number of teaspoons of evaporated milk as he added it to the tea. There were times I secretly wished Grandpa operated a coffeeshop so that I could drink all the tea and eat all the snacks I want.

    Aside of the morning trips to the market, he would also take a walk in the afternoon to buy food such cakes, buns and dim sum for our afternoon snacks and breakfast the next morning.

  • Cooking

    Grandpa didn't have to get his hands dirty in the kitchen when Grandma was wielding the wok, except once. I have forgotten the actual circumstances, but Grandma was not available to prepare our lunch. So ,Grandpa took on the reins and pan-fried some pork chops that were coated with crushed soda crackers, a dish that we often had for our meals. They turned out a tad burnt and I eyed them suspicously, skeptical that it would taste as good as Grandma's version. But I was wrong. The slight burnt gave an extra boost to the taste and fragrance of the pork chops. I enjoyed my meal very much that day and yearned for more such meals whipped up by Grandpa.

    Despite Grandpa's lack of involvement in the kitchen, I believed he was equipped with decent culinary skills. Grandma told me before that Grandpa used to cook boiled chicken and other dishes by himself for the staff at his tailor shop on Chinese New Year's Eve. Impressive.

DH is like my grandpa in the above aspects. He buys the fresh food and groceries, and sinful snacks that contribute to my growing waistline. He makes delicious and rich Thai milk tea for me. He cooks yummy food for our meals.

However, DH and Grandpa are not only alike in the above-mentioned ways. DH is also a kind and caring man, who works hard and provides the best for his family.

I don't intend to make this post one that brings tears in remembrance of my grandpa. Instead, let's celebrate his love and the love of our closed ones!

Eddie, this is my belated Father's day* present to you.

*In Thailand, Father's day is on 5 December.

This guest post is contributed by the Stranger in Bangkok's wifey dearest.

Stranger in Bangkok

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Thailand Winter Getaway Series 2014: Ancient City Ayuthaya

It's that time of the year again, when temperatures in Bangkok drop to unbelievable lows. Even though it's not as cold this year, it's still reasonably cool, so I shall continue my ever popular winter getaway series to give all of you more ideas while planning your trips in Thailand.

Our situation this year is very different from the last, because not only do we have a toddler, we also have a 3-month old baby in tow, so we had to be extra careful while choosing our destination. We finally chose to go to Ayuthaya, a former capital of Thailand littered with ancient temple ruins caused by decades of warfare, firstly, because it's a close 1.5 hours drive away, and more importantly because we have never been there before even though we've lived here for more than 4 years. It will also be nice to soak ourselves amongst a piece of famous Siamese history without being torched by the otherwise-scorching sun (during other times of the year).

By the pool

Dragging a baby along, we knew that we would be spending a good portion of our time in the resort, so it was important for me to choose a nice one, and our accomodation turned out to be a really great one right by the Chao Phraya River. In fact, Noah kept wanting to stay in the room and protested whenever we left.

Li Li: "Now where's my son?"

"I'm figuring out how this water thingie works."

However, it was our first time holiday-ing in Ayuthaya in nearly 5 years! We had to visit a temple right? After a discussion with the receptionist, we were eventually directed to Wat Maha That, which turned out to be the place to visit for tourists who only had time for 1 destination.

You go to Ayuthaya to see this 

Weather was on our side. It was the first cool day in Ayuthaya when we embarked on our temple visit, and by that, I mean really cool. The entire city felt like an air-conditioned room if you didn't stand directly under the sun. It certainly made the trip much more bearable, even with a toddler and baby with us. We were not in the condition to read much into the story behind Wat Maha That, but both Li Li and I were very satisfied to have taken the trouble to visit, as this piece of history and ambience is really not something that many other places in Thailand can offer.

You go to Wat Maha That to take this picture

Noah wasn't too cooperative during the temple visit
One of my absolute most favourite family pictures

Before you go "wow" after seeing this pictures and make up your mind to visit Ayuthaya, let me emphasize again that at any other time of the year, these ruins will either be soaking wet with rain our immensely hot. Especially if you have little kids who might get cranky, please be prepared, or wait till mid December to early January to visit, as it's likely to be the only window where the weather in Ayuthaya will be bearable. 

Don't say the Stranger in Bangkok did not warn you!

Daddy, where are we going next? 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Remembering Grandma on Christmas Day

On this slightly chilly Christmas morning in Bangkok, I can't help but think of my Grandma, who passed away somewhat suddenly more than a week ago. Christmas is a season of thanksgiving, and a day for us to remember the birth of Jesus Christ. I would like to use this opportunity to give my tribute to my Grandma, who also happens to be my kin who is the closest to her faith in the Lord, and how she has left a lasting impression not only by the way she lived, but also by the way she left.

With the blessing of my wife, I left her alone in Bangkok with the 2 kids to do my part as a grandson, to participate in my Grandma's funeral proceedings, and I am glad I did so, because through the process, looking at how much she was respected by her brothers and sisters in church, and through various speeches done in memory of her, I am now prouder than ever to say that I am her grandson.

During the weekend in Sibu, 2 things struck me the most, and these are valuable lessons that I am going to share with my readers here, in hope that it might give you a different perspective of life as well.

Firstly, it is the fact that my Grandma did not sit back in her elder years. While many might choose to take the backseat due to various reasons, she pushed on. During my Uncle's speech in memory of her, he helped my Grandma share some milestones that she herself wanted everyone to know (written in her will):

"回想上帝呼召摩西当年也是年达80 岁,赴埃及带领以色列人出埃及,经过40 年旷野生活,最后还是完成使命,让以色列人进入迦南流乳与蜜之地,完成了他名垂永世的功绩。

Just like Moses in the book of Exodus, my Grandma was called by the Lord to become the leader of her Church's senior fellowship at the ripe old age of 80. While many might see that age as the twilight of one's life, she grew stronger than ever. She drove around and led her fellowship to various activities locally and abroad, just like Moses, who successfully led his people out of Egypt. She billed this as an amazingly satisfying highlight in her life, to be able to expand the Lord's empire in her final years.

So can we also make ourselves useful and fight beautiful battles right till the day we die?

This picture taken in October is now a priceless treasure in my photo collection

Secondly, she left a lasting impact on all her descendants even if she left without a word. Throughout my 3 days there, I made it a point to ask many relatives whether she had a proper closure, or said what she said before her last breath, the answer was, yes and no, that she did not manage to speak before she left, but it's even more likely that she had nothing left to say.

She wrote her one and only wish in her will, and that is the hope that all her family from top to bottom will go to church together.

When I heard that, I was stunned, because it was so simple, yet so impactful. It told me one thing, that even when we die (if circumstances permit), we have a choice to go quietly, or go out with a bang. It's an opportunity to use this as a finale to leave a positive influence to the ones who continue to live.

Grandma certainly went with one big bang, because now, every single one of us will live everyday with her final wish engraved in our hearts.

Grandma, when I went back with Noah in October it was really to say hello. You were obviously on the up when we left, so I really did not expect it to turn out as a last goodbye.

You left in a hurry, but I hope in some way, I had made you proud to have me as a grandson, and that you were comforted when your eldest great grandson held your hand multiple times during our visit.

This Christmas, you are no longer with us.

But you are with the Lord now, the Lord for whom you fought and won various handsome battles for.

And you are with Grandpa again, after more than 40 years.

I am sure you have never had a merrier one.