Bringing up Faith

I’ve always been curious about how the Japanese bring up their kids, especially after an incident when I got to observe how a Japanese boy behaved during playtime with his peer of another nationality. His actions surprised me.

You can imagine my joy when I chanced upon this book during a visit to the National Library. I wasn’t looking out for parenting materials but more of cookbook (what’s new?) but this caught my eye. After flipping through a few pages, I knew I had to borrow it.

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The author, Christine Gross-Loh, is born in the United States to South Korean parents. Her own family spent several years in Japan and from then on, she started taking an interest in looking at how parenting differs in various countries and how other cultures, apart from the US, foster resilience, creativity, independence and academic excellence in children.

I am just at the beginning pages of the book and I’m already intrigued. Perhaps, I’m just uninformed but it is interesting to learn that most Japanese parents she met felt it was important to get kids accustomed to less from the start. It is better for their characters, their imagination, their resourcefulness and their future lives not to experience immediate or excessive material gratification. It isn’t tasteful to spend money to accumulate lots of possessions for the child, many parents believe and having less enables the kids to appreciate what they do have. So, the few toys that the kids have are well played and cherished.

Another point which confirms what I saw in the kid from that past incident is that the Japanese sees scarcity and sharing as one crucial key to cooperation and relationship building. The kid I met shared his toys willingly but his peer didn’t want to share! Poor him. He went to his mother but was immediately pacified when she talked to him. No tantrums whatsoever.

Another interesting information about them. At restaurants, Japanese children didn’t seen dependent on toys to distract them as they waited for their meals. They are accustomed to less being more and could occupy themselves with a mere piece of paper – folding it, drawing it, etc. A toy could be played for hours as they thought of variations on how to play with it.

In summary for that chapter on ‘Why are we drowning in stuff?’, she mentioned that every child needs things within reason, but not every want is a need. Saying no is the hardest part of being a parent but it’s our job as parents to set those boundaries so we can teach kids how to set them for themselves. If we say yes too often, we’re depriving our kids: of knowing how to be satisfied with less; of freedom from unmanageable clutter; of the satisfaction of working toward and saving up for something they really want.

So this is just the iceberg and I have gone on to the chapter on ‘How parents around the world teach their kids to eat.’ Interesting read, I must say and I cannot decide if I should just continue to borrow the book or to purchase it.

There is much to reflect on because as new parents, I felt it is important that we think of the values that we want to impart to our children and with that, teach them through our actions in our daily activities. It can be difficult, I feel, in our society where consumerism rules but as da man told me, “We just have to explain to her as she grows up, why we do things differently from others.”

While I continue reading this book, I leave you with a quick-fix healthy meal – a Japanese one.

Chicken and onion (scallion) buckwheat noodle soup (for 1 portion)

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Bring a pot of water to boil and add the buckwheat noodles. Cook according to the directions on the package. Drain very well and place it in a bowl.

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Slice chicken fillet at a steep angle to make wide slices. Sprinkle the salt on the slices and leave for 15 minutes.

Put the salted chicken and water in a medium saucepan and bring to simmer. Add 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 tsp sugar, silken tofu and scallions and simmer until the scallions are soft.

Ladle the soup mixture over the noodles and garnish with shredded seaweed and crushed chili pepper.

That’s it. No measurement. Just estimate. =)

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Stir-fry chicken noodle

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I thought of Thai cuisine when I came across this recipe in the magazine – Delicious as it uses coconut milk and fish sauce as the base. I’ve adapted quite a fair bit and added beansprouts and mushrooms to the recipe since I have these ingredients in the refrigerator. You can definitely improvise. Another quick and easy dish that can be made in about 15 minutes.

Again, I wish my photography skills can be better. Sigh!

Makes for 2 to 3 portions
200g thick rice noodles
1 tbsp canola oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 spring onions, trimmed, sliced at at angle
100g carrots, sliced at an angle
50g brown beech mushroom
70g beansprouts
150g skinless chicken breast fillets, cut into 1cm-thick slices
200ml coconut milk
1 tbsp fish sauce
Small handful of coriander leaves (for garnishing)

Place the rice noodles in a bowl of boiling water and allow to soak for 4-5 minutes, until softened. Drain.

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Place the frypan over high heat. Pour in the oil and when it is hot, add the garlic and half of the spring onion. Stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add the carrot and mushrooms and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the chicken and cook for a further 2-3 minutes or until the meat is cooked all the way through.

Stir in the coconut milk and fish sauce, bring to a simmer and allow to bubble for 2 minutes. Add the beansprouts and noodles to the frypan. Remove the frypan from the heat and stir in the remaining spring onion. Divide among bowls/ plates and serve with coriander leaves.

Chicken chow mein

I probably will be cooking more of Chinese food this month and cooking through a cookbook will definitely solve my problem of having to think of meals to prepare (and I really think hard). So it’s Ching-He’s Chinese Food Made Easy again because I love the dishes listed in the book and they are all easy to prepare and the portions are small ((2 -4). Having just come back from a baking course and hungry like a big bad wolf, I just want to make an easy meal. So it’s chicken chow mein to the rescue.

I will be attempting most of the dishes and tweaking a little to give my own twist to it.

The flavour from this dish comes mostly from the five-spice powder which is the seasoning for the chicken. In the original recipe, red pepper is called for but since the hubs and I are not fans of it, I didn’t add the slices. I know it adds colour to the dish so in future to achieve the more colourful look, I would add slices of carrots instead. Also, I found the noodle a little dry and bland and added one tablespoon of dark soy sauce to it. Perhaps, I could also add some tablespoons of chicken stock if I have it on hand.

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When I’m tired or simply lazy to try out new dishes/ recipes, all I have to do is to think of home and the many types of food I enjoyed at home and with colleagues. Today, it was cold and I suddenly thought of Mee Tai Muk (anyone knows the English name for it?) and how mom topped the dish with braised minced pork. Yummy! I kinda remember the flavour and decided to try to make the dish.

Well, I didn’t have Mee Tai Muk but I still had the Japanese Somen noodles and I thought it would blend in the taste well.

First, marinate the minced pork with ShaoXing cooking wine, soy sauce, Chinkiang vinegar, salt, pepper and dark soy sauce. Can’t give the exact measurement but it’s really purely based on tasting (many of you do that too, right?). Into the refrigerator it went, at least for 30 minutes ( to me, the longer the better – a few hours).

I also used shittake mushrooms which added more flavour to the meat. Don’t throw the water away after you have soaked the mushrooms. The liquid is useful!

So, combining garlic (lots of them) and some chopped onions, stir-fry them and add the mushrooms, followed by the marinated meat. Taste to season. I added sugar too.

Cook the somen noodles (3 – 5 minutes) and place it in a bowl.

Add a ladle-scoop of chicken stock over the noodles. It’s also a terrific idea to have stock in the refrigerator.

Top the noodles and stock with a good amount of the braised minced pork. Garnish with coriander leaves and fried shallots.
Tastes just like mom’s! Watch out, mom! I’m going to go back with a vengence!

“When I walk into a market I may see a different cut of meat or an unusual vegetable and think, ‘I wonder how it would be if I took the recipe for that sauce I had in Provence and put the two together?’ So I go home and try it out. Sometimes my idea is a success and sometimes it is a flop, but that is how recipes are born. There really are not recipes, only millions of variations sparked by someone’s imagination and desire to be a little creative and different.” ~ James Beard.

* Braising is simmering foods in a small amount of liquid. In the process, the foods not only absord flavour from the surrounding liquid but also contribute to it, creating a cycle of exchange that results in profoundly complex and satisfying tastes. What complicates braising is its many submethods, or techniques and variations. (James Paterson’s Cooking)

xxx ramen

I don’t know how to name this ramen dish. Inspired by Dan Dan noodles that I ate in China and a picture of a bowl of ramen that a friend posted on FB. I so miss those lunch outings with them!

So, I thought I should use the soup boiled yesterday as the base and then cook the minced meat as found in Dan Dan Noodles and combined them.

It’s good! Think it is healthier than Dan Dan noodles too as I didn’t use a lot of oil (chilli oil, sesame oil). The soup is definitely rich enough and with the pork bone and minced pork, the ramen is definitely a very satisfying one!

Japanese Somen Noodle Salad

After weeks of Chinese food, I think it’s time to start experimenting with other cuisine. Next up is Japanese, a cuisine that is not entirely foreign but then again, it’s not totally familiar too. I will attempt the easier ones first before moving on to more complicated stuff.

First, it’s the Somen Noodle Salad, a dish that is absolutely easy to prepare and healthy too except for the mayo. But then again, the amount of mayo that you want to put is determined by you. If you want healthier dish, use them sparingly! I have used ham instead of canned tuna since we could have ham for breakfast tomorrow and thus worth buying them. Try slicing the cucumber and onion as thinly as possible (I actually love doing that!) and this requires knife skills! And if you don’t have somen noodle, just replace by using spaghetti.

 

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