My food obsession is all things Asian, and I especially love a spicy curry-based meal. Growing up Italian, my family never cooked any type of Asian food; in our home, it was Italian every day! I adore cooking traditional simple Italian food, but when I’m looking for inspiration, I am always drawn to the many Asian cookbooks that line my kitchen shelf.
Asian cooking was a cuisine that was completely foreign to me as a teenager. The closest I got to cooking anything remotely Chinese was during home economics class in high school. I had a copy of Cookery the Australian Way from which I made a classic Chicken Chow Mein; this was truly an exotic plate of food for an Italian kid growing up in the 70s. My cousin Claude and his school friends would eagerly wait at the Oakleigh bus stop every week waiting to see what we had cooked, ready to devour the meals we had made in class; the Chow Mein was eaten quicker than it took for the bus to arrive!
“…no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” Julia Child
My first taste of true Asian cuisine was when I started working at Beverley Pinder Public Relations in the 80s. Beverley was from Sri Lankan heritage and was not only my boss, but was (and still is) a mentor, friend, and a dynamic woman in business. She introduced me to the wonders of dining out, including Asian food. One of my first experiences was at her favourite Thai restaurant, the pioneering and modern Isthmus of Kra in South Melbourne. Beverley knew the chef and owner and ordered for the table. It was the first time I tried the restaurant’s famous chicken green curry accompanied by rice and roti. It was love at first taste, and the renowned restaurant opened a lifelong passion for modern Asian food. I’ve never looked back and will cook an Asian inspired dish at least a few times a week.
This recipe is so simple and super tasty, it warms the belly and soothes weeknight hunger in a flash. My version of Adam Liaw’s Chicken and Coconut Noodles is fast becoming a family favourite in our home. It’s an impressive dish when I’ve been working late and arrive home famished. This quick creamy noodle soup is a big bowl of steaming goodness that will transform your mid-week dinners. It might look like a traditional curry laksa that takes hours, but this fragrant spicy noodle soup takes no more time than a stir-fry.
Chicken and Coconut Noodles
500g Hokkien noodles
1 large red chilli, seeds removed and roughly chopped
3 coriander plants, roots and stems finely chopped, leaves reserved
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 tsp grated ginger
2 tbsp vegetable oil
250g chicken mince
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp light soy sauce
400ml coconut cream
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 bunch pak choy, quartered
Handful of snow peas
1-2 tbsp chilli oil, to serve
lime wedges, to serve
Chop the chilli, coriander roots and stems and grated garlic and together until well combined. Heat a wok or large saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. Add the chilli mixture and fry for a minute until fragrant but not browned, then add the chicken and fry for a further minute. Add the turmeric, sugar, and fish sauce, soy sauce and mix to combine.
Add the coconut cream, stock and 2 cups of water and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the pak choy and snow peas and simmer for a further minute until the leaves have softened. Taste and adjust seasoning, then stir through the chilli oil.
While the soup is simmering away, cook the Hokkien noodles according to the packet directions.
Ladle the broth over the noodles, spoon over some extra chilli oil if you like, and scatter with the reserved coriander. Serve with a lime wedge and some crispy roti.
Do you love cooking modern Asian food as much as I do? What is your favourite dish?