40 Before 40: Five Main Courses from Five Countries

I'm not sure what I was thinking when I gave myself the challenge to learn how to cook 5 main courses from 5 different countries. I didn't know how to cook at that point and the kitchen has never been my favourite place in the house. But when I started experimenting on brunch and breakfast meals, I kind of realised that perhaps I have the kitchen potential after all. And so I took on the challenge and voila!

1. Pad Thai (Shrimp and Chicken)
- Quite tricky to begin with. I wanted to be as authentic as possible so I made my own pad thai sauce the first time (bottom photo). It was good (I think) but it looked really pale. I just used  fish sauce, a little bit of soy sauce and some garlic. I later found out that I needed to use tamarind paste and brown sugar. The second time around, I cheated. I actually used pad thai sauce from Waitrose. But still, I cooked it. :)

2. Risotto
- I was actually thinking of cooking the easy spaghetti. But I wanted to cook something that I haven't cooked before, so I opted for risotto instead. I must say, I didn't enjoy the constant stirring but it was all worth it in the end.

3.  Bun Thit Nuong (Vietnamese rice noodles with grilled pork)
-I found love for Vietnamese food way back in Bristol. My former flatmate used to cook a lot of pho. Since then,  Vietnamese food has become one of my favourite comfort foods. 

I know it's meant to be about main meals but let me talk about the Vietnamese shrimp summer roll first. Summer roll is one of my favourite starters. Not only that it's healthy,  it's also very easy to make. The first time I made summer rolls, I used vermicelli noodles, prawns, chives, coriander and mint. But I only used coriander and mint on the photo below. For the wrapper I used rice paper. 

And then there's the Bun Thit Nuong. I used to order pho all the time whenever I went to a Vietnamese restaurant. Thank God I tried this thit nuong last time. Inspired by Huy, I tried cooking it and apparently it was a success. 

4. The Greek Salad
- Light and simple. Unfortunately I can't eat salad alone. I have to have meat with it, hence the grilled paprika chicken.

5. Beef Curry
- Who would have thought that one day I will be able too cook curry? 
It was not as difficult as I thought. I basically just fried the beef in garlic and onion, added some tomato sauce and mixed the spices (curry powder, cumin, paprika and turmeric). 

Although I know that my first  attempt at cooking main meals was kind of a success (based on my standard of course), I also failed in some.

Like the paella. Trust me, it was meant to be paella but it turned out to be some kind of risotto. I didn't use any vegetables because I didn't have any at that time. Now it's obvious that I really didn't prepare for it, hence the failure to cook paella for the first time.

I don't think my Greek chicken tarhana stew was a failure as such. I may have just put too much tomatoes. Otherwise, it was yummy. Perfect food for the cold weather.

Of course, there were also some other success cooking stories in Tintin's kitchen. 

1. Grilled Seabass and Roasted Vegetables
- Perhaps the most successful roasted vegetables I have ever cooked. And when it comes to grilled seabass, I never doubted myself because I know that it's one thing that I can cook really well. Now that's confidence, darling! :)
Fish cake from Waitrose

2. Beef and broccoli (with shiitake mushrooms)
- I was never sure how to cook beef. But one time I experimented on beef and broccoli and surprisingly the beef was cooked just right. Saying this, I haven't cooked beef since.

3. Kare-kare
- My favourite Filipino dish. It took me a long time to master this recipe. When I was a child, I only got to eat kare-kare at my Auntie Eding's restaurant. How I wish I can cook this as well as she did. Maybe one day.

4. Adobo
- It's meant to be the easiest Filipino dish to cook, but believe it or not, I didn't know how to cook it. I have tried a few times before but it didn't taste quite the same. I almost gave up on it but thought I'd give it another chance. I'm glad I did because apparently it was good according to my "food tasters". 

I'm not one for recipes. I mean I don't really follow them (that's probably why my first banana cake was a disaster). I just look at the ingredients normally and then work it out myself. I am impatient when it comes to the kitchen. But I guess it's time to take cooking seriously especially because I am about to embark on another journey.

If you think you can't cook, just give it a try because if I can, anyone can.

tintin x


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