Bangkok Balcony gardening update – harvest time!

Bangkok Balcony gardening update – harvest time!

It has been the nicest weather in Bangkok for last few months but looks like someone switched off the cool weather last week.  As of last week, it’s hot and humid. Before I complain about the crappy weather and my wilted garden, here are the results of my hard work and vegetables that were harvested.

All the radishes were harvested and we just ate them raw. They were so fresh and tangy. I was hoping to cook the leaves but there were too bitter. Some were a little soft which meant I left them in the soil too long.

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radishes

 

I had about 11 long beans harvested and lightly cooked them with garlic, oyster sauce and fish sauce. It was so different to the beans bought from the store. I remember reading somewhere that fruit and vegetables have it’s best nutrients if they are eaten within 4 hours of harvesting. My balcony to the kitchen and to our dinner table took less than 2 hours and I am so looking forward to more of these beans.

long beans

 

 

long beans cooked

 

 

My latest creation  – There is  a man selling coconut juice in front of our condo every morning. My husband and I asked if we could have some of the empty coconut shells. He told us to take as many as we could because he doesn’t need them after the juice. I decided to use them to grow seedlings for sweet basil. Unfortunately, the shell is not too deep so I need to transfer them when they are big but for now it’s fantastic for my little seedlings. Best of all, it’s free and biodegradable!

 

basil

 

 

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My updates on my babies…. Well, they have grown so tall it was starting to worry me. They were supposed to be only 50 cm tall but now 1.8m!. I googled to see what I was doing wrong and  found out that it was a combination of the  hot weather and too much water. I stopped watering them every day and now only water them every 2nd or 3rd day. Also I have pinched all the side shoots to stop any more branches growing so  all the energy can go to flowers which then turn into tomatoes.

 

tomato bushes

 

As of today, there are 19 little cherry tomatoes growing and slowly ripening… It’s like watching wet paint dry, soooo slow! So far, we picked two little ones and had a taste test. They are sweet but the skin was too thick.

 

tomato harvest

 

tomato2

 

 

Here are some photos sent by one my readers. I can’t believe how heathy the plants are.  The seeds were grown from store bought Jalapeno peppers.

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Thank you all for sharing your Balcony gardening problems with me. It inspires me more to grow varieties of things and it really makes me happy seeing your photos. Happy Gardening everyone and next post will be on my visit to Korea. Yes, I am about to visit friends families and pig out and get cultured!

 

 

 

 

 

Korean Restaurant Review: Ja Gum Sung Bangkok

Korean Restaurant Review: Ja Gum Sung Bangkok

I am slowly making my way through all the Korean restaurants here in Bangkok. There are lots of Korean restaurants gathered around Korea Plaza (between Sukumvit Soi 10 & 12). It’s not the most authentic “little Korea” I have found, but it will have to do for now.

We went to a Korean Chinese restaurant called Ja Gum Sung (자금성). Korean Chinese restaurants are famous for two dishes – Black bean noodles(jja jang myun-짜장면) and Spicy seafood noodle soup (jjambong-짬뽕). I knew it would be hard to beat my favourite Korean restaurant in Singapore(Dong Bang Hong), but worth a try.

 We ordered seafood Jja jang myun . The sauce mainly consists of pork, seafood, and onions( and of course the black bean sauce).

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The second dish  was the Seafood Jjambong. This was super spicy! Apparently, I found out later you can ask for less  spice (phet nit noi – my broken Thai).

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The side dishes were pretty good. My husband commented how sweet the kimchi is. Personally, I prefer it to be a bit more spicy and salty 🙂

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My husband I are usually order the above two dishes and share but here you can order half and half. It’s called Jjam Jja myun! I might have to try this one next time. (circled in the menu)

jjam jja myun

 

For those of you that want to try, here is the business card.

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The entrance looks like this. It can be a bit hard to find.

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I visited Sunday around 6pm and it was full  of Koreans which is a good sign, but we were lucky to get the last table. I recommend booking  a table in advance. They do deliveries as well.

Korean food at Bangkok Farmers Market

Korean food at Bangkok Farmers Market

We finally did it. Two days of pure excitement, fun and most of all, hearing all the great comments from the customers who came to visit my stall. It made me forget how tired I was. Without my friends, this wouldn’t have happened(you know who you are – thanks you!!) and also to my husband for his encouragement.  Thank you all lovely people!

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If you were wondering what I was cooking and selling, here is our menu.

menu

 

 

First, Hot Cinnamon Pancake (aka. Hodduk). I must have tested this recipe 10 times until I was finally satisfied. My aunt in Los Angeles has a shop selling hodduk and she shared her secret recipe. I thought mine was actually better though. We also played around with fillings including jam and nutella  to see if we could sell other flavours. In the end we stayed with the traditional sugar and cinnamon filling. It was a great success!

photo 2

 

Next, Organic Kimchi – this was my best seller. I have never had  much success with Kimchi in Singapore but I found using fresh organic cabbage  in Bangkok made so much difference. Check out the labels that my creative friend designed!!  I sold out the whole batch I made on the first day of the market and stayed up all night making more for the next day.

photo 2

 

 

Seafood pancake and bibimbap.

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My dear friends who helped out both on Saturday and Sunday. Once again, thank you!!!

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sandra and Nicky

 

Enough about my stall, let me share some photos of the rest of the market. There were interesting and fun activities throughout the two days and even a live band to keep us bouncing.

 

My favourite bread stall – Urban Pantry, fantastic sourdough breads.

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Organic veggies!! I love these baby carrots. Check out the colours of the lettuce…

veggies

 

lettuce

 

 

I finally feel like I am being part of the community in Bangkok. I met some really interesting people who are working towards building a great community  here and I am proud to say that I am a part of it. Until next time….

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Bangkok Farmers Market food tasting

Bangkok Farmers Market food tasting

Six years ago I tagged along to see a fortune teller with my brother in Seoul. It was just for fun but it was quite amazing how the fortune teller told me so much about myself just by my name, date of birth and my face. One of the distinct points she mentioned was not to go into the food business. But my passion for food and sharing my skills with other people won over and I ignored her advice and started Nicky’s Kitchen cooking school.

My next mile stone is about to occur this weekend at the Bangkok Farmers market at K-Village. I will be cooking a variety of Korean dishes to sell. Before the real deal though, I decided to do a test run and invited a few friends for a tasting session.

We set up a pretend stall to see what it would be like. Below are my two lovely assistants who will be helping this weekend! 

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Seafood pancake and home made kimchi for tasting!

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Cooking two Seafood pancakes at once!

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Korean sweet pancake – aka hodduk was very popular!

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Tasting time… these are delicious!!

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If you are in Bangkok, we hope to see you this weekend!

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In Korean….

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Hodduck class at Korean Tourism Singapore

Hodduck class at Korean Tourism Singapore

I was back in Singapore last week teaching at Korean tourism. It was really good to be back there meeting enthusiastic Korean food lovers.  This class was  all bout teaching Hodduk (호떡)! Check out my  previous blog on how to cook this.

 

about to start the class

 

KakaoTalk_Erica Pak_2 August, 2013

 

KakaoTalk_Erica Pak_2 August, 2013

 

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Next class back in Singapore is on 11 September  and I will teaching chilli rice cake (aka dduk bok yi -떡뽁이).   Contact Korean tourism to register!

Bangkok Balcony gardening update 2

Bangkok Balcony gardening update 2

Finally it’s the rainy season here in Bangkok and so far it’s the best part of the year. It hasn’t rained too much and mostly we are experiencing very pleasant weather. That means it’s time for me to plant and grow more veggies on my balcony!

It took me a while to figure out how hot and windy my main balcony was  during the hot season. My test basil and mint from my previous blog all dried up like twigs and the only thing that seemed to be doing okay is the lemongrass.

So, it was time to say good bye to this basil. Once the basil’s stems turn brown as seen in the picture below, it’s no longer any good to use  for cooking. To prevent this, you need to keep picking the top of the stem to stop from flowering! Once they are hard and woody, they are only good for harvesting the seeds from the dried flowers!

 

old basil-small

 

This lemongrass was grown from what I bought in the supermarket for cooking. I leave a whole lemongrass clump in a cup with some water covering 1/3 of the stem. When the roots start to grow from the bottom it’s time to plant them in a pot as shown below.  I am about to move this lemongrass into a rectangular pot to use as a sun block and protect some of my more sensitive plants. I also bought some organic lemongrass from the Bangkok Farmers market and I’m looking forward to plant those in a week or so once the roots start to come out.

 

lemongrass

 

Here is a snap shot of my hard work for the last few months. I have moved all my veggies and herbs from the main balcony to my master bedroom balcony. It’s much more protected from the wind but still provides enough sun for these fragile little ones to grow.

balcony

 

So here are some updates on my garden. First of all, my mint which originally shrivelled up, revived beautifully after I trimmed them down completely. Mint is hard to kill so I was very surprised that  mine was all dried up. But now I know, all you need is a bit of patience and loving care. Aren’t they beautiful? I have been adding a sprig or two to my home made juice every morning. They tingle tip of my tongue.

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Sadly, my rosemary plant dried up completely and I had to get new rosemary plants. I think either it was too hot on my main balcony or not enough water or perhaps even too much water or the pot was too small. To find out what went wrong, I have divided three plants into different pots and have located them into various spots around my balcony. Wish me luck!

rosemary

 

My favourite… Yes, I am trying tomatoes again! I have grown them from seeds that hopefully will do better in Bangkok. This particular one is supposed to only grow up to 30cm high and is ready for harvest in 6-8 weeks. Tomatoes love sun and dry weather. I cross my fingers that it will be perfect for these little ones.

tomato

 

One of them has already flowers growing on top. You know what that means…. TOMATOES!!!

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There is a plant market every wednesdays at Chatuchuk in Bangkok and I was hoping to find lots of local herbs but like Singapore, not many people in Bangkok seem to be growing their own in their home. So I had to grow these thai sacred basils from seedlings. You can never have enough of basil…

thai basil

 

 

I planted some French radish seeds in May and they have grown so much. They seemed to be big enough to harvest but I can never tell…

radish french

 

So, I plucked two of them out and did a little taste test. The slightly longer radish was like wasabi, full of zing in the mouth. My husband much preferred the smaller one which had a traditional radish taste. I can’t wait to harvest all of them and add them to a salad.

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A new project.  I found these micro herb growing kits  and within 5 days, these little seeds have turn into beautiful kale sprouts for my salad.

Kale

 

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Finally, I was in Singapore for some cooking classes last week and had a chance to convert my girlfriend’s balcony into a fully fledged herbs garden. We headed down to the gardening shops on Upper Thomson road and picked up rosemary, basil, mint and thyme. I guess my years of previous failures and successes taught me how to look for the best herbs and veggies.

Some tips when you buy herbs and looking after them when you bring them home.

  • Always check the bottom of the pots to see if there are too many roots hanging out of the pots. If roots are hanging out, it means the plant has outgrown the pot and it’s been sitting around the shop too long. Not good!
  • Always buy herbs that are not too big. It’s better to grow from little ones. If it’s grown too big, it’s harder to move to a bigger pot. Too much shock to the plants and won’t survive.
  • If there are more than one plant in a pot, always split them into few pots so they have lots of room to grow. We bought a pot of sweet basil and there must have been at least 8 little seedlings so we have divided them into two big pots so they have more room to grow.

 

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After 5 days…. The basil has grown so much!

Basil

 

It’s not always happy house in Nicky’s garden. I have already spotted tiny little bugs munching away my basil and bean leaves. Every morning and evening, I am looking at the back of the leaves making sure my babies are protected.  Happy gardening everyone!!

 

 

 

 

Recipe: Korean banchan

Recipe: Korean banchan

I have been on medical leave for the past few months, nothing serious but I haven’t been motivated to write. Still, I have been cooking and gardening a lot to keep myself busy. My parents finally came to visit me in Bangkok and brought lots of goodies from Korea. This is the best time of year for fruit so they brought grapes, plums, peaches, and Korean yellow melons. (sorry, I ate them all so quickly there was no time for photos!!)  On top of that, they also brought freshly made kimchi!!!!

I  invited some friends over for a Korean meal. Some of them have never ever tried Korean food so I was very excited to prepare some banchan (side dishes).

Koreans usually make a big container full of various banchans and eat them at every meal. Here are the two most popular ones for children.

 

 

 

anchovies_dried squid in packs

 

 

Stir fried dry anchovies (멸치 볶음)

  • 300g  dry anchovies
  • some vegetable oil
  • a pinch of brown sugar
  • sesame seeds
  • pine nuts and Almond (you can also add walnuts or any other nuts you like)

** I prefer tiny small anchovies for this dish. There are many different sizes available in Korean supermarket.

 멸치 볶음

 

  • Add a teaspoon of vegetable oil in the frypan on medium heat 
  • Once the oil is heated, add the dry anchovies and cook for approximately 5 minutes or until it’s nice and crunchy. (Generally the anchovies are quite salty so I don’t add any salt or soy sauce)

 

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  • Keep the cooked anchovies in a bowl and now add the pine nuts and almond to the fry pan and toss them until slightly brown. You can chop the almond into smaller pieces.

 

nuts

 

  • Pour the anchovies back to the fry pan and sprinkle a little bit of brown sugar and sesame seeds. Ready to be served!

 

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Stir fried dry squid strips – 오징어 볶음

  • 300g Dry squid strips
  • 1 tsp of soy sauce
  • 1 garlic crushed and finely chopped
  • 1/2 chopped spring onion
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • some vegetable oil

 

오징어채

 

  • Add 1 tsp of vegetable oil in the fry pan in low heat and pour the dried squid strips
  • Mix soy sauce, garlic, spring onion and sesame oil
  • Cook lightly until the squid strips are soft. (3-4 minutes)
  • Add the soy sauce mix to the fry pan and quickly marinate

 

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  • Sprinkle sesame seeds and ready to serve!

 

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Here are some other side dishes I have served at the dinner party.

 

반찬

 

Easy to make and convenient if you don’t have much time to cook.

 

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Bibimbap hunting in Bangkok

Bibimbap hunting in Bangkok

It’s been 7 months since I moved from Singapore to Bangkok and I had kind of given up on eating out in Korean restaurants. Looking at the Korean grocery shops here, I didn’t think a lot of people did much cooking or enjoyed eating good Korean food.

I passed by what it looked a like restaurant chain bibimbap place near Emporium shopping centre in Bangkok 5 months ago, but I never gave it a chance. A restaurant chain bibimbap place in Bangkok? I probably can make a better one at home myself. After that, I never gave it another thought until last week. I was heading over to a Korean grocery shop do prepare for a big Korean feast at home with some friends visiting from Singapore. It was almost 2 o’clock and I haven’t eaten and I noticed the bibimbap place.  Out of desperation, I thought I will give it a go. What a surprise….. I actually went back again with my husband last week to get him to try and also try a few other dishes.

  • Octopus bibimbap (Nak ji bibimbap – 낙지 비빔밥)

bibimbap-close up

  • Fish row bibimbap (Al bibimbap – 알비빔밥)

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  • Chilli beef soup (Yuk ge Jang – 육계장)

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Despite being a chain restaurant, bibimbap had all the right ingredients and the hot stone was hot enough to sizzle the rice on the bottom. The side dishes were delicious. The kimchi was just ripe and crunchy, the dry fish had enough seasoning, the fish cake was good enough but  brocoli with chilli sauce was a bit too spicey. The bibimbap came with a radish soup which had a deep stock and radish flavour.

banchan

radish soup

For the Thais’ who have not tried bibimbap, it even has an instruction on how to eat bibimbap in a hot stone. This way you get to enjoy the crusty rice on the bottom of the bowl.

how to eat

Inside the restaurant was clean and staff were friendly.

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I will be back for their dessert, red bean with shaved ice.

inside

They offer not just bibimbap but different types of stews and meat dishes.

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menu

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The entrance to the restaurant which has display of different dishes.

entrance

 

If you are in Bangkok and interested in some Korean food, this one gets my 3 out of 5 stars!

 

The Bibimbap (two other stores in Bangkok)

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I just found a black bean noodle restaurant today so my review will be coming soon!

 

Recipe: Pollock Soup

Recipe: Pollock Soup

I promised to post dried pollock soup (북어국 – book e guk ) in this blog recently and one of my readers reminded me a few days ago…. Thanks for the reminder!!! I am still in Sydney and winter is approaching… I think it’s a perfect weather for soup!!  Let’s begin….

 

Dried Pollock soup

(serves 4 people)

  • 40g Dried Pollock pieces
  • ½ packet of tofu, sliced in 1cm thickness
  • 1 spring onion, sliced diagonally
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 5 cups of  Water
  • 1/2 tbsp chopped garlic
  • ¼ Korean radish, slice thinly
  • 2 tbsp of sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • salt and white pepper to season

Before we begin, just a little note about the pollock. I never thought twice about this fish until I moved to Singapore and discovered just how difficult it is to source this type of fish. When my family first moved to Sydney we often had pollock dishes as there were many good quality Korean groceries. It was easy to get hold of various types of pollock either fresh or frozen. Koreans use fresh, frozen and dried pollock in various dishes. Fresh and frozen ones are usually used for stews (동태찌개) and dried ones are for soup or fried. For those who have never seen this fish, check this link.

 

황태채

자른 황태

 

  • Soak the dried pollock in water for 30minutes and then drain.
 I found another type of pollock  in my pantry and decide to use a few pieces of it in the soup (refer to the picture below). Extra pollock like these chunks really enhance the stock flavour. Soak these chunky ones in a bowl as well.     

    

ingredients

 

무

  •  On a medium heat, pour the sesame oil in a pot and fry the pollock and chopped garlic. Season them with soy sauce and fish sauce.
  • Add the radish and continue to fry all ingredients together.
  • Pour 5 cups of water and boil on medium to high heat for 10-15 minutes. You can also add Korean soy bean sprouts at this point.

  • Add the beaten egg and sliced tofu to the soup and cook for another 2 minutes. I am not a big fan of tofu so I skipped it this time.


 

북어국 in a pot

 

  •  As a final touch, season the soup with salt and pepper and add sliced spring onion
.
  • Serve the soup either in individual bowls with hot cooked rice or simply place the whole pot on the table for everyone to share.
 


 

북어국

 

Doesn’t the soup look flavoursome and homely? I am heading out to a Korean grocery to grab ingredients for tonight’s dinner! Enjoy….

 

Balcony garden update-outback Sydney

Balcony garden update-outback Sydney

I have been out of action for a bit. I  have been visiting families and friends in Sydney and have had little chance to write. We visited my mother-in-law’s farm this week and this blog will be all about how beautiful this place is. Some of you would have read about her farm from my previous blog.

We spotted a few kangaroos here and there on the way to the farm as well as plenty of cattle. Out here there is no mobile phone coverage but there is internet (via satellite), thank god!

I wondered around her farm and realised as it is going into winter, most of her veggie patches were slowing down. I  spent the afternoon helping planting leeks, celeriac, spring onions and cabbage seeds. As these are winter crops, I was delighted to help out. I would never even dream of trying to grow these vegetables in Bangkok.

veggie patch

 

One amazing treasure I found and was extremely pleased to see was a big bush of raspberries. Can you imagine picking your own raspberries and having them for tonight’s dinner? Well, that’s exactly what we did! 

 

freshly picked

 

 

a bowl of raspberries

The farm also has chickens and guinea fowls in an orchard full of oranges, grapefruit, lemon and fig trees. They are still very young but in 2-3 years time, I can see these trees becoming full with fruit. I even have an orange tree dedicated just to me!!

figs

 

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The second most exciting thing after the rasberries, was collecting fresh eggs from the farm. These were truly free range eggs.

chickens

 

eggs

 

Even though the farm wasn’t full of fresh vegetables to harvest, we enjoyed the fresh air, great company and great food. Check out the pavlova that my mother-in-law made with the raspberries that I picked.

 

homemade pavlova

 

I have to leave you with this magnificent view for you to enjoy. This is the view from the library of the homestead.

the view