Category Archives: Asian Recipes

Chocolate miso cake

Chocolate miso cake

In the Mediterranean and throughout Asia, meals are traditionally finished off with fresh fruit. That’s not to say that sweet, rich desserts don’t exist in these regions. On the contrary, these cuisines offer a scrumptious array of desserts, cakes and pastries that would satisfy anyone with a sweet tooth. However, rather than making these a regular part of their everyday meals, they’re regarded as occasional treats and reserved for special occasions and feasts. It’s a healthy food culture that our Western-style diets would do well to embrace.

This chocolate cake is an indulgent treat, but it also contains a number of healthy Asian and Mediterranean foods that you wouldn’t normally think of as cake ingredients.

Probably the most unlikely candidate is miso, fermented bean paste, a staple in Japanese cuisine that’s used in savory dishes like soups, braises and marinades. But miso in desserts? Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! Sweet dishes are often balanced by a touch of salt, and miso adds a unique depth of flavor and subtle saltiness to this recipe.

Cake ingredients

This chocolate cake also has an amazingly soft, moist crumb thanks to the addition of two traditional Mediterranean ingredients, Greek yogurt and olive oil. It’s lovely with a dusting of confectioners’ (icing) sugar on top and a dollop of lightly-sweetened yogurt or crème fraîche on the side. Or for something a bit more decadent, we sometimes lightly ice the cake with nutella. The hazelnut flavor has a natural affinity with the slightly nutty flavor of miso.

This cake keeps well in an airtight container for a few days, and can be wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for a few months, so you can enjoy a small piece occasionally as a treat rather than eating the whole cake in one sitting.

Here’s the recipe.

Soba noodle stir-fry with edamame, mushrooms and bok choy

Soba noodle stir-fry

Stir-fried noodle dishes are very popular throughout Asia, including classics like pad Thai and chow mein. Stir-fried noodles are also popular in Japan, especially Yakisoba which literally means “fried noodles.” It’s traditionally made with stir-fried noodles, vegetables and a little pork or chicken.

You would think that with the word “soba” in the title that yakisoba would use soba (buckwheat) noodles. But the term soba is historically used in Japan to describe any long, thin noodles. And yakisoba typically uses thin wheat noodles.

But we’ve found that soba noodles work really well in stir-fries, so in this version of yakisoba we’ve used actual soba noodles. And instead of pork or chicken, our meat-free version uses edamame beans as the main source of protein. This dish is so tasty and comforting as well as easy and inexpensive.

Here’s the recipe. And if you’re keen to sample more stir-fried noodle dishes from around Asia, here are some of our other delicious recipes you might like to try:

Singapore noodles
Thai lime pepper chicken stir-fry
Heavenly hoisin noodles with baby shrimp
Chicken noodle stir-fry with spicy peanut sauce
Tofu and cashew chow mein
Pad Thai
Spicy Korean squid stir-fry with noodles

Thai fish cakes with sweet chili-lime dipping sauce

Thai fish cakes

Fish cakes are a popular appetizer and snack in Thailand — and they’re really easy to make at home. We not only love eating them as an appetizer, we also slice them and add them to stir-fries. The fish cake mixture can also be used in other ways. You can roll it into balls and add them to Southeast Asian soups and curries — they poach beautifully in hot broths and curry sauces.

You can also shape the mixture into larger patties for Thai-style fish burgers with lettuce, cucumber, grated carrot, and sweet chili sauce mixed with mayo for the dressing.

Thai fish cakes

Another great thing about these Thai fish cakes is that you can make them ahead and keep them covered in the fridge until you’re ready to cook them. So they’re perfect for entertaining, and ideal for mid-week meals.

Here’s the recipe.

Indian fried rice with shrimp and cashews

Indian fried rice

Although a lot of people think of fried rice as a classic Chinese dish, there are countless versions throughout Asia including Nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice), Khao phat (Thai fried rice), and Com chien (Vietnamese fried rice). India also has their own version of fried rice called Vagharela bhaat, from the Gujarat region of Western India. It cleverly combines leftover rice with a few simple ingredients and some flavorful herbs and spices to make a delicious and nutritious meal.

Like a lot of traditional dishes it was born out of necessity and scarcity. It resulted, in part, from a need to use up day-old rice in the days before refrigeration, so as not to let any food go to waste. And stir-frying the ingredients quickly over a high heat – a healthy and energy-efficient cooking method used for thousands of years throughout Asia – came about as a way to retain nutrients and conserve fuel.

We make our version of Indian fried rice with baby shrimp, which are already peeled and cooked so they’re really convenient, as well as being a good source of protein. We like to add a handful of cashews and peas for extra taste, texture, and protein. The basmati rice also offers a bit of protein, and brings a unique flavor, aroma and fluffy texture to the dish. You can replace the shrimp with shredded precooked chicken breast, canned salmon, cooked egg, or any other protein you like.

This Indian fried rice always goes down a treat at our place. So much so that we specially cook exra rice so that we can make this for dinner the next night. You can eat this as is, or serve with plain yogurt, chutney or pickles on the side.

Here’s the recipe.

Gingered salmon stir-fry

Salmon stir-fry

We live not far from the Marlborough Sounds, at the top of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s a majestic marine environment that offers an abundance of outdoor activities as well as a bounty of locally-produced foods. When we visit, we enjoy mountain-biking along the Queen Charlotte Track and kayaking in the pristine waters of the Sounds. We also enjoy eating the amazing Green-lipped mussels and arguably the world’s best salmon which are farmed in the deep, crystal clear waters.

The Sounds

We’ve been hankering to head to Marlborough this summer but haven’t had a chance, so when we spotted some gorgeous salmon fillets at our supermarket seafood counter that had been delivered fresh from the Sounds that morning, we figured that we could at least treat ourselves to a taste of the region in the meantime. As well as give ourselves a tasty way to get a hit of healthy omega-3s.

In terms of flavor and texture, this salmon is so good that when we do cook it at home we like to keep things simple and add just a handful of other ingredients to complement the salmon. For this dish we marinate it briefly in soy sauce and ginger before stir-frying in a dry wok (the salmon releases its natural oil during cooking so you don’t need to add oil first). We like to pair the mouth-wateringly moist and tender salmon with sweet, tender-crisp stir-fried green beans and yellow pepper, but you can also use snow peas and red peppers if you prefer.

Here’s the recipe.

Chicken, broccoli and mushroom stir-fry

Chicken, broccoli and mushroom stir-fry

We were planning on sharing this stir-fry recipe with you earlier, but three days ago our region in New Zealand was hit by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake. Just after midnight we leapt out of bed when we felt our house shaking from side to side. We ran out on the lawn and the ground was swaying so violently that it felt like being on the deck of a ship in a storm. It was over in less than a minute, but that had to be the longest minute of our lives. Luckily we were far enough from the center of the quake that the damage around here has only been minimal, and at the moment we don’t have any running water. Here’s a photo of the wine section of our local supermarket after the quake:

NZ Quake

Unfortunately there has been much more extensive damage to those areas that were closer to the center of the quake. And tragically two people lost their lives in an area not far from us. So we count ourselves very lucky.

NZ quake

Anyway, better late than never, here’s our latest recipe, Chicken, Broccoli and Mushroom Stir-Fry.

Roasted butternut squash soup with miso and ginger

Butternut squash soup with miso and ginger

In Japan, miso has been respected as both food and medicine for centuries. High in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals, miso is a culinary staple in the Japanese diet and is used in soups, hot pots, noodle dishes, sauces, spreads and dressings.

Miso is made by mixing soybeans and a grain such as barley or rice with a culture starter (called Koji) and leaving it to ferment and develop beneficial bacteria and enzymes. Studies have shown that regularly eating miso improves the balance of gut bacteria, helps digestion, and boosts immunity.


If you haven’t tried miso, or have a tub of miso in the back of the fridge that you’ve been meaning to use, this soup is a great way to nourish yourself with this delicious fermented superfood.

For this recipe we use white miso which has a mellow flavor profile that’s savory, salty and slightly sweet — so it really enhances the flavor of the butternut squash, which takes on a caramelized sweetness when it’s roasted.

Here’s the recipe.

Thai shrimp noodle salad

Thai shrimp noodle salad

I eat a lot of whole grains. For breakfast, I regularly have whole grain cereal such as oatmeal or muesli; or toasted whole grain bread with toppings (such as natural peanut butter, avocado, or sliced cheese and tomato). A typical weekday lunch is a sandwich, stuffed pita or a wrap made with whole grain breads. When we make pizza at home, we’ll often use a large whole wheat pita as the crust. I also love bulgur (which is made from whole wheat) topped with stew, or in tabbouleh salad. And if I feel like a snack, I’ll often have some air-popped popcorn (popcorn is a whole grain) or a whole grain cracker.

But I’m not a fan of all whole grain foods. I’ve tried brown rice several times, in several different ways, and each time I was disappointed — not only with the flavor, but also the texture. In comparison, white rice is light in texture and subtle in flavor. It embraces the flavor of the food it’s paired with, whereas I find that brown rice does just the opposite and tends to overpower the taste of other food.

So I basically gave up on brown rice a long time ago. And I’m not the only one. White rice has been far more popular than brown rice throughout Asia and the Mediterranean for many generations. And no wonder — I couldn’t imagine sitting down to plateful of brown rice sushi, or eating brown rice paella or risotto either.

But what about those naysayers who preach that white rice is highly fattening and unhealthy? What nonsense! The leanest, healthiest and longest-living peoples in the world eat white rice regularly. This makes it obvious that white rice is far from a dietary villain.

Indeed, research has found that over the last 35 years rice consumption in Japan has dropped by more than 50 percent. This is because many Japanese, particularly the younger generation, are embracing a Western-style diet rich in meat, sugar and junk food. And guess what’s happened over the same time period? Obesity rates, as well as rates of heart disease and type 2 diabetes have climbed steadily. And Alzheimer’s disease rates rose from 1 percent in 1985 to 7 percent in 2008.


Now I’m not saying that the answer to a leaner healthier body is to rush out and grab a sackful of white rice. But what I’m saying is that white rice, in all it’s wonderful varieties (including Italian arborio, Indian basmati, Thai jasmine, Spanish calasparra, and Japanese koshihikari), can fit perfectly into a varied and balanced diet.

The key is to eat white rice like people from Mediterranean and Asian cultures do: in sensible portions (yes, calories still count), and mixed with slowly-digesting foods like fish, beans, nuts, plant oils, and vegetables. This not only makes the rice taste better, it also means that it’s digested at a slow and steady rate — so you won’t get blood sugar swings and rebound hunger.

This tasty Thai salad — which contains a mix of rice noodles, shrimp, vegetables, cashew nuts and sesame oil — is a great example of what I mean.

Here’s the recipe.