Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Simple, Healthy & Delicious Meal With Oolong/ Green Tea

In my family, one of the most traditional ways of eating is sharing with anyone in the house. There is always fish, a vegetable soup and steamed rice as a minimum. As a busy mum, my mother got this together in no time for me and my little brother when we were young growing up in London. We wanted fish fingers and baked beans like the kids you 'd see on telly. We'd rant a bit about how we wanted to eat "English" food like everyone else but were soon quieten down by the taste of "our" food. Nowadays, whenever my mum comes by, I still ask her to make it for me even though I am perfectly capable of doing it myself. Its my kind of comfort food.

One thing I can be most proud of is that despite being very poor when growing up, my mother kept us to the traditions of where we come from, she spoke to us in Vietnamese and kept us on a strict Vietnamese diet. It was and is actually cheaper to eat well. She didn't ever resort to fast food or things that come in a packet. These things only ever came as a treat every now and again (and even then, she'd try to add soy or fish sauce to it).

Whenever I am in Vietnam, my family eat meals like this for lunch. We gather on the floor and share chunks of fillets around. The way is to take what you would eat for a mouthful or two and never to take the whole fillet for yourself! Its all about sharing what you have, what you can afford - I think that is why the Vietnamese have such great sauces because you can make the rice go a long way and only eat a little protein.

The women/ mothers/ aunts/ sisters have a lovely habit of taking the best bits and placing it on your bowl - a great sign of love and affection.

Two pieces can usually serve a family of 4.

Mackeral (fresh or frozen - these are from frozen)
Steamed Rice
Spinach - Could be any other leafy green like watercress, pak choi, choi sum etc
Fresh Tofu - cut them into cubes
Chicken, Pork Or Vegetable Stock
Fish Sauce

-Put on the rice to steam
-Pan fry some mackeral fillets in some ground nut oil or olive oil on a low heat for about 20 minutes (10 on each side) or until it goes golden brown.
-Add a few slices of ginger to chicken, pork or vegetable stock, once it is on a gentle boil, add the spinach and tofu.
-Season with salt, pepper or fish sauce. (fish sauce gives more substance to the soup)
-Crush some chillis on a bowl/ plate of fish sauce and serve. Enjoy!

There is no order to what comes first, all is served and you can enjoy each dish together, soup first, soup last and so forth. The soup is usually the refreshing touch to the fried fish - clears the palette as well as your bowl as you ask the nearest person to the rice pot for a refill.

This is a nourishing, low fat meal and tastes much more delicious than it sounds. It is important to buy a good quality fish sauce - this makes all the difference and compliments the fish which is already full of flavour itself. You should have one medium grade for cooking and you should have a premium one for sauces. There are some rotten fish sauces out there! The one I use is called, "Viet Huong- Hieu Ba Con Cua" (Label With 3 Crabs On) - so like it says on the label - 3 crabs - watch out for that one - its a good one.

You can use all sorts of fish for this, such as tuna (cook 30 sec on each side from very hot pan), swordfish etc. If you are a busy working person, you can buy a packet of frozen fillets - thats what I do. (Vietnamese supermarkets have a great range of fish you can use). Sometimes, the last thing you want to do is cook when you get home but you can easily let these cook and its all good for you- it all only takes about 20 mins and if you are anything like me - you can multitask and even do other stuff in between so that you can just put your feet up!

TEA: For the afternoon, have some cold or hot Oolong Tea such as our Yellow Gold or Oriental Beauty. Oolong Tea is great for digestion. It is known to dissolve fatty substances in food and is usually drank in the Far East for these reasons.

Oolong teas have a higher level of caffeine than Green Teas so it is not advisable to drink after 6pm if you want to get some sleep. Therefore, you should drink Greens or White Teas such as Dragonwell which is a beautiful soft and grassy Green tea - each leaf is thumb pressed onto a large wok and fired. Any of these are perfect for your simple and healthy meal. Click on the links to buy Fernandez & Leluu Tea online.


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