Korean Tourism classes

Korean Tourism classes

Oh my, time really flys… It’s been too long since my last post.  Here are some class photos from Korean Tourism Singapore. I promise to be back sooner next time!

  • Japche (잡채) class in February

 

Our creation in the class
Our creation in the class

 

Great to see a male student in the class for a change
Great to see a male student in the class for a change

 

Very happy students

 

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  • Last year’s Pollak soup class
I think they are twins! 🙂

 

pollak soup2

 

Besides Korean cooking, I love baking…. My mother in law and I took a 3 day basic French Pastry course a few months ago. Oh my goodness…. I was in heaven!

Pastry class
I am in heaven!

 

Bangkok Balcony update July

Bangkok Balcony update July

It has been very very hot here in Bangkok. However occasional rain is cooling the city down. A nice cool breeze in the evenings makes it pleasant to have dinner on our balcony once in a while. Meanwhile, my veggies are having heat strokes.

My tomato plants were more than 2 meters tall with not many tomatoes and my eggplants refuse to produce any fruit so I finally decide to let go of them today. No matter how much I read about growing eggplants and try different experiments, the eggplants were just getting taller and bushier but there were no eggplants in sight. It’s just too hot and humid. My tomatoes produced only a handful of cherry tomatoes, again it was just too hot. However, the thai basil, Italian basil, rosemary, cucumbers, melons and beans all seem to be doing well.

I’ve had a quite few cucumbers. Enough to add to my salads and despite the heat, they seem to be resistant to any pests or diseases so far.

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My favorite fruit to grow is melon. They are just so sweet. The best thing about is you can keep all the seeds and grow them again straight away! The fruit itself is very small (about the size of my little hand) but when you bite into the flesh, it’s just heavenly.

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I have scooped out the seeds from the melon and washed the pulp and dried the seeds to sow for more Melon plants. I now have 3 more plants growing.

One of my readers  sent me some Perilla seeds from Japan. They are growing really well!!!! I didn’t have much luck in Singapore but it seems to be doing okay so far here. These are not as flavorsome as the ones you find in Korea but certainly good enough to wrap around BBQ meat for dinner.

 

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I just asked a friend visiting Bangkok for some Kale seeds from Sydney. If I can grow that, I will be over the moon. Happy gardening!

 

 

 

 

 

Bangkok Balcony update

Bangkok Balcony update

Okay, I admit it, I am greedy. Especially when it comes to my veggie garden. I am running out of space on my balcony and might take up my girlfriend’s offer to move some of my veggies over to her balcony.

For now, it’s bye bye to nice, cool, breezy Bangkok and hello to…it’s freaking hot hot hot!!  Since we returned from Sydney on 29 December, we had  only had one day of rain. How is this possible???

This season, I am a little adventurous with my veggies. Beside my usual herbs and tomatoes, I now have zucchinis, cucumbers, rockmelons, eggplants, capsicums and my most favourite of all, lettuce!! Normally they melt away in Singapore but since it was unusually cool in January (It was almost cold one stage – 16’c!!),  I decided to give it ago.

The highlight though of this post is my cucumber harvest. One of my readers sent me some Japanese cucumber seeds and they are growing wild. So far I have picked two cucumbers to add to my salad. Do you know what it is like to pick a cucumber off the vine and put it straight to your mouth? It’s heavenly and just what cucumber should taste like…

 

Before I show off my veggie garden, here are some of the photos from one of my readers who also had a great success in growing cucumbers. Apparently the secret for this amazing cucumbers was chicken manure. I need to get some of that!!

cucumber for harvest-HC

cucumber climbing1HC

Another photo from the reader, I have never had a great success with eggplants in Singapore, so well done!

Eggplant-HC

So back to my garden – it all started on 3 January this year. I used toilet rolls with soil in them to plant my seeds. The paper will disintegrate when you transfer it to a bigger pot.

seeds raising bed

rockmelons

The seedlings above have now taken over my balcony as seen below! The cucumber pots are on the left hand corner and the Melon plants are on the right hand side with nice little flowers.

 

cucumber on the vine

Finally, I had my first cucumber !! Look at how big this is? It took me about two months from seeds to this. I am never been so patient in my life.

cucumber and hand

 

 

My beautiful zucchinis… I picked some of these flowers and added them into my stir fries. There was no signs of any female flowers for at least for a month. I was starting to worry and then the other day, I  spotted a baby female flower. You know what that means?? Zucchini!!! I am sure these plants know that I am waiting by the pots so I can eat their precious vegetables… Muahahah!! (evil laugh)

 

zuchini flower

 

Female zucchini flowers have a little bulge at the back of the flower and a male flower has just a stem. Since I am up on the 29th floor, there is no way there will be any bees so I will have to pollinate them when they open up. You do this by taking a small soft paint brush and brush first over the male flower in the stem in the centre and then use the same brush over the female flower. Alternatively,  pick the male flower and remove the flower petals and gently dab the stamens to the stigma inside the female flowers to transfer the pollen. Now you wait and hope this flower will grow to be a delicious vegetable in a week or so.

 

zucchini with female flower-close up

 

Well, my hope for the zucchini didn’t last too long. All the female zucchini flowers have just turned yellow. I have been doing some research and I think it’s too humid here, but I refuse to give up!!

 

 

My Eggplant is looking really luscious. I have just transferred this to  a big pot so hoping for huge eggplants soon.

 

eggplant

 

 

Lettuce!  My seed packet instructions says it needs be in the full sun but I think Bangkok sun was just melting them so they have been in the shade for the last few weeks.

 

lettuce

 

My mini garden salad with the lettuce and the cucumber that I harvested last week.

salad

 

They are looking great but slowly getting attacked by little insects.

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Unfortunately, I had to harvest majority of them before it got eaten by insects. It all went to my big salad.

lettuce harvest

 

 

The last time I grew a melon plant, I had a honeydew melon the size of my palm. Before I even had a chance to take photos, we swallowed it up in seconds. It was the sweetest thing I have ever tasted. Having had this experience, I am now so excited to try organic Rockmelon.

Initially there was no sign of female flowers, only male flowers. The more I researched online, the more it said to just wait…. Well, waiting has finally paid off. There have been female flowers every corner of the vines  and I made sure every female flower was pollinated. Like cucumbers and zucchini, melon flowers should be also pollinated.

 

melon female flower

melon vine

Within a month, the flowers have transformed into palm size melons. Not one, but three of them!

Melon-palmsize

 

I’m counting downs the days for when we can pick and eat these melons. Happy gardening!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone!

It’s already half way through January and I guess everyone has either kick started strong with the new year resolutions or is still struggling with hangover from NYE. My husband and I had a great Christmas in Sydney with the family and then zipped back to spend New Year in Bangkok.

xmas in Sydney

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xmas feast-Salmon

After gaining a few kilos over the festive season, we have decided to do a complete detox following Martha Steward’s website. We went through this relatively easy last year so we thought why not!  Well, this time was I wrong… Just cooking and eating vegetable for someone who loves preparing different dishes is painful!! I kicked and moaned and threatened my husband that I was going to quit but here I am in week three of the detox and now starting to enjoy it a lot more as we can eat  fish, grains and beans now.  Hallelujah!

detox

Anyway, enough of my detox. After spending 4 weeks in Sydney, most of my babies in the balcony, especially tomatoes, have dried up but I was happy to see the parsley, basil and mint are still going strong.

The weather is very cool(almost cold!) 23°C in the Bangkok mornings at the moment so it’s an ideal temperature to plant seeds. So here we go…. I have planted Italian zucchini, cucumbers, rockmelon, a few variety of tomatoes, eggplants and lettuce.

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  • Heirloom Rockmelons

rockmelon

  • Japanese cucumbers sent by my reader from Singapore (Thank you!)

Japanese cucumber seedling

  • Italian zucchinis seed that I bought from my last trip to Italy

Italian zuchinni

The second project is to start growing micro plants. I hope to harvest these within 7 days and add them to my salads. After day 6 though, there’s not much happening. Perhaps the seeds are too old or kitchen paper towel as a base was not a good idea.

seeds

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As far as cooking classes are concerned, I am back teaching at Korean Tourism in Singapore from February. Classes will be on 14th and 17th February and I will be teaching Jjapjang bap and pollack soup. If you would like to register for the class, please contact Korean Tourism direct (+65 65330441).

I hope everyone has a very exciting 2014 and Happy New Year once again!

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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!

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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!!

 

 

 

 

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! 

 

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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!!

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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.

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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

Bangkok Balcony garden

Bangkok Balcony garden

I have been hesitating to start my balcony garden for a while. I am not sure if it’s the height(we are on 29th floor) or the smog that I see every morning thats been putting me off. Also, all the vegetables for sale here are grown locally  and you can even find an abundant supply of   organic vegetables and herbs. And they are all so cheap.  Still, I  haven’t seen Thyme or any Korean vegetables, such as sesame seeds leaves(깻잎).

Cutting fresh herbs or picking my own vegetables from my garden has always been one of my joys (next to cooking). After going on a wild goose chase around Bangkok  for some Thyme, I decided it was finally time to start my little balcony garden. Luckily, the Australian and New Zealand Womens group (of which I am a member) organised a day trip to Chatuchak plant market and helped me to find all the necessary equipment to start.

Here are my little Corianders that I grew from seed. They are from the Chatuchak plant market and  I was a little skeptical on planting them as I had only limited success in Singapore. Even though it’s only a 2.5 hour flight away, it’s not as humid as in Singapore. So, I am hoping I might have better luck here. I am still not sure what Bangkok has to offer as far as the weather goes. Friends living here are warning me about the upcoming April heat waves… 🙁

 

Coriander

 

The first two boxes below are Sweet basils and Thai basils. They tend to grow really well in tropical weather so I am not so worried. The third box on the bottom of the picture  has two little chilli seedlings and rosemary cuttings. So far the rosemary isn’t looking so good :-(.

 

basil and rosemary

 

 

I also have thyme and two little flat parsley seedlings but they are still too tiny to show you. Here are the rest of the herbs that I bought from Chatuchak market. I have had them for a week now and so far, they don’t seemed to mind the full afternoon sun. Until the thyme seedlings grow big enough, this little plant will keep me happy.

Thyme

 

 

Mint is hard to grow  from seeds in the tropical weather but I am trying. Not a single beep from the mint seeds but I am going to be patient……..

 

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The rosemary is looking really healthy. This is my second one so far. Silly me though – I left the plant next to the air-con unit over the weekend and it dried out completely. I have never killed rosemary before and it was so sad…. 🙁

 

rosemary

 

 

My latest project is growing celery inspired by this website. I knew I could regrow spring onions if I cut the root and left in a jar with some water but not celery.  Apparently, its the same method. It has been a week since I started this little project and already I can see few roots sprouting out and few new green stems slowly growing as well.

 

celery

 

 

Looking through my little herb babies every morning(and afternoons) gives me sense of balance again and finally feels like I am home. Believe it or not, I also have some non-food plants. I have always said that I would never have ornamental plants but these are strictly to provide some shade for my little babies.  I actually don’t know what I am supposed to with these plants besides watering them. I hope they don’t die on me… 🙂  Happy Gardening!

 

 

 

Balcony gardening update

Balcony gardening update

It’s been a while since I updated everyone on my gardening. We have recently moved to Bangkok, hence the silence.  Don’t worry, I am still traveling to Singapore frequently for my regular Korean classes and events.

I haven’t quiet figured out what will grow well here as the weather in Bangkok is hot! hot! hot! but certainly not as humid as Singapore. My balcony  is about 3 times bigger than what I used to have and I even have a tap which will come handy for watering all my babies… 

 

My first project for the new balcony garden is to find good soil and compost. If anyone can recommend a good nursery in Bangkok, please drop me a line!!!

 

Actually, the best part of the balcony is the view. One side has the concrete jungle of central Bangkok and the other side is a beautiful park with a lake!

 

 

Meanwhile, I have received lots of emails from my readers with questions on gardening and some great photos of their own gardens. Thanks to everyone who has contributed and congratulations on your successes.

Here are some photos from a balcony garden enthusiast who mastered growing kai lan – Chinese brocoli.  It looks big enough to stir fry for the whole family! Well done!

 

 

Here is some Choy Sum – did you know this vegetable is a member of the Mustard family??

 

 

These tomato seedlings need a new home! Too crowded…I hope they were  re-potted shortly afterwards.

 

 

 

Finally, these are photos from my mother-in-laws farm in Australia. They have variety of vegetables and fruit growing and  13 cows and a few calves running around along with chickens and chicks. Their farm has been designed for self-sustainability, so they only grow what they need. If there is a surplus at harvest time, they will barter their crops with other local farmers. What a great life!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomato harvest

Tomato harvest

For those of you who followed my gardening journal will know that I have been trying to grow tomatoes for a long time. I had some success in growing cherry tomatoes but nothing to brag about. It’s impossible to grow tomatoes in Singapore but I have finally had some success. I harvest three tomatoes which are are as big as my palm.

I planted a few seeds in May and it was as tall as me by September. It survied a few storms along the way and after four and half months later, I get to finally taste the tomatoes. Not just any tomatoes, Florentine tomatoes from Italy. Talk about being patient!!

 

 

I have already harvested the first one and two waiting to be picked.

 

 

 

Doesn’t it look luscious?

 

I was waiting for one more day for them to ripe but I was a few seconds too late. Dam birds got to one of the tomatoes first and chewed up half of my tomato. 🙁

 

 

 

In September, I wrote a blog about some pumpkins growing among my compost. It’s now taken over the entire plot!! Lots of male flowers but no female flowers. You need female flowers in order to have pumpkins, just like cucumbers and zucchinis.

 

 

 

 

 

The leaves are so huge and I feel like using them for an umbrella. Hopely lots of yummy pumpkins to harvest soon!

 

I have just planted some basil and various types of tomato seeds. I would like to share these with balcony garden enthusiasts. I will let you know when they are ready for adoption. Happy gardening!! 🙂