22 December 2014

The Top 10 Dishes of 2014

2014. I can say without question that it’s been a pretty awful year. Not that there haven't been several lovely highlights (among them: travel around Thailand and to Cambodia, South Korea, France, Portugal and the U.S., professional accomplishments and of course seeing our little man grow - he turned a year old in October!). But seriously, this last part of the year has been pretty horrible, with family illness and other stress. This coupled with grim news every time we scroll our Facebook and Twitter feeds or turn on the TV (police shootings, beheadings, Ebola, kidnappings, terrorist attacks in schools...I mean what is this world coming to?!?) has me feeling pretty blue all around. However, it definitely HASN’T been an awful year food-wise. Even though you might think otherwise from the lack of activity around here (I’ll blame it on a combination of the circumstances noted above, my busy life as a working mom as well as a lack of organization on my part), trust me I’ve made lots of tasty dishes this year! Here are my top 10 (things I’ve cooked as well as eaten)…in no particular order…

10. Cumin and garlic roasted carrot and chickpea salad with coriander, mint, feta & pumpkin seeds

I’d been seeing various versions of a roasted carrot salad at many restaurants recently, even here in Bangkok (places like Quince and Opposite, for example). They were all very good but somehow missing something. Then I found this recipe on a lovely blog called Perry’s Plate and made it (omitting just the walnuts) and BAM! Bliss. And so pretty too.

9. Mozambican-style curry

In August, we went to Europe…our first long-haul trip with Rohan. He did wonderfully (other than catching a respiratory infection on our way back home), but it was quite a hectic time. We did one week in Paris, which was kind of a blur running from one thing to the next and doing a whole host of errands, made that much tougher with baby in tow and awful weather. But the following week was spent in Lisbon (my favorite European city and one of my favorite cities period!), where I had organized a surprise birthday evening for Luis’s 40th birthday. As always, I fell in love with Lisboa - the sunshine, the architecture, the water, the people, the food, the feeling! I’ve already told you in the past about the glories of eating in Lisbon (yes, even for a vegetarian!). One of the highlights this time was a lovely lunch with visiting friends and family at this upscale Mozambican-Portuguese restaurant called Ibo, right on the river near the Cais do Sodre train station. They have prawn and crab curries on the menu and made me a vegetarian version. Very different from any other curry I’d had before, with lots of coconut and peanut and served with fresh piri piri chili on the side. Que bom!

8. Burrito bowl 

Nothing special here, just a burrito bowl with some homemade refried black beans, cilantro lime rice, crumbled feta, fresh coriander, lime and the real highlight – some roasted red chili salsa from local purveyor and Mexican cuisine extraordinaire La Gringa in Bangkok. You can bet this stuff didn’t last long!

7. Masoor dal, yellow pepper & coriander mash

I already did a post on this one. Technically it’s baby food! When Rohan was only eating purees and mashes, this was one of his favorites. But it was so tasty that I loved it too! I have swapped out different lentils or different colors of bell pepper, but this perfect combination is the winning one. Great as a side dish for any number of grown-up dishes…I’m thinking about serving it the next time I make paneer tikka masala or something of the sort.

6. Monsoon salad – Chamkar Restaurant, Siem Riep, Cambodia

In August, I undertook my first work trip since coming back to work post-baby…to attend a meeting in Siem Riep, Cambodia, the home of the Angkor Wat. Since Luis was quite busy at the time, I decided to take Rohan along (his first international trip!) as well as our nanny, which meant that I could go out for some nice dinners. In doing a bit of research for vegetarian-friendly restaurants before my trip, my friend Ami recommended this place called Chamkar in the heart of Siem Riep’s old market area. She raved about their “wedding day dip” served with fresh baguette (a nod to Cambodia’s French colonial past), which was indeed yummy, but I particularly loved this “Monsoon salad” which was a mix of mushrooms, cucumber, yam bean, rice noodle, crisp tofu and fresh herbs in a toasted peanut and coconut dressing. Unlike anything I’d ever had before! Another highlight of this trip was getting to see the amazing Angkor Wat, with my sweet baby boy in tow.

5. Ratatouille topped with halloumi, served over brown rice

I made this simple version of ratatouille with leftovers from the CSA box that we tried out for a couple of months this year, from Bangkok’s Raitong Organics Farm Co. Not a traditional ratatouille but certainly delish! As for halloumi, a hard, salty cheese from Cyprus, I’d never cooked it before but it’s deliciously versatile and super easy to pan fry. Its chewy texture makes it the perfect topping for any number of dishes, packing in some extra protein and taste. Since several of my Facebook followers asked for the recipe, here’s the simple explanation that I typed up:

Saute a medium onion (chopped) and 2 cloves of garlic (minced) in olive oil. Add chopped veggies of your choice (traditional in a ratatouille would be bell pepper, eggplant and zucchini...I substituted a potato (steamed a bit beforehand) for bell pepper since I didn't have any). Saute until the veggies are tender. Then add either a can of chopped tomatoes or tomato puree or as I did, fresh tomato puree from 3-4 plum tomatoes. Season to taste with salt, pepper/chili flakes (I opted for the latter since we like it spicy!) and sugar (optional). Cover and simmer for a while to cook the tomato puree (if using raw) and just to bring everything together. Finish with freshly chopped basil and anything else you like such as capers, olives, etc (though I don't think these are traditional). Serve over grain of choice e.g. rice, couscous, quinoa. If you want to top with halloumi, just chop into slices, pan-fry and that's all there is to it!

4. Nutella hot chocolate
Remember I said it was a rough year? Sometimes, nothing but something warm and chocolately will do in such circumstances. I had pinned this '22 Hot Chocolates You Must Make This Winter' (I just love Pinterest!), and decided that the recipe for Nutella hot chocolate from Gimme Some Oven seemed too simple and too good not try. Steam a cup of milk, add 2 tablespoons of Nutella and whisk until well mixed. That’s it, but it was amazing! Loved the strong hazelnut flavor and the warmth of it (yes, even here in SE Asia). Good for the soul.

3. Vegetarian sampler at Table & Main

The night before Rohan’s birthday which we celebrated at my parents’ place in the Atlanta area, Luis and I, along with my brother and visiting friend Mei-i (who had come all the way from NY for the birthday bash) went to check out this Southern restaurant/bourbon bar in historic old town Roswell that was recommended by my friend  Ami’s mother-in-law, who is a local. I mean, how can you go wrong with a bourbon bar!? We loved Table & Main's cozy atmosphere, our fabulous waitress Candice (probably among the best service I’ve ever had anywhere), all the freebies and of course the food! While Southern cuisine isn’t noted for being veggie-friendly, I loved the sampler I got with mac & cheese (of course!), field pea salad, a salad of roasted beets and goat cheese and roasted butternut squash. All simple “side dishes” but perfect for me.

2. Pumpkin, sage & blue cheese risotto

You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m a risotto lover and make various versions of the Italian rice dish often. We particularly loved this one, which I’ll have to jot down a recipe for the next time I make it. Pumpkin, sage and blue cheese is a winning combination!

1. Shakshuka

For the past couple of years, I (like many) been obsessed with all things Yotam Ottolenghi… his newspaper columns, his world travel-themed cooking show, his restaurants in London and of course his cookbooks. This classic shakshuka (eggs stewed in a spicy tomato sauce with bell peppers, a favorite for breakfast/brunch in the Middle East and North Africa) is from his trailblazing book Plenty, which was gifted to me by friends last year. Everyone loved this (I topped mine with feta and served alongside some crusty baguette), even the little man. My Ottolenghi love continues with his new cookbook Plenty More, which I just bought and started cooking from.


So there you have it, my top 10! And as a little bonus, here's a little collage from our boy's 1st birthday party, which was a jungle-themed bash at my parents' house in Atlanta. Lots of hard work and months of planning and Pinterest trolling, but the result was superb!

Hopefully 2015 will be a better year, and I promise that I will try to be more regular with my posting and sharing. You may have noticed that I've spruced things up around here with a nifty new design... so let's hope that this is just what I need to bring this space back to life! In the meanwhile, I wish you and yours a holiday season and new year filled with good health, happiness, prosperity and peace. Until next year!


  1. Happy New Year! Was I the first person to make shakshuka for you or had you had it before we cooked at your house? Anyway, I agree with your top 10 but I wonder where the Eggplant cheesecake would go? that was fantastic! xoxoxo

  2. Yours was the first classic shakshuka I'd had, I think. I'd made "Mexican shakshuka" (recipe on the blog) before. Love it either way! As for the eggplant cheesecake I agree it was awesome, but I think it needed more eggplant to make it less like a cheesy dip (I had halved the amount called for in the recipe because I thought it would be too much - that was a mistake - never doubt Ottolenghi!).