Vegan Ma Po Tofu with Rice Noodle

Waking up to such horrific and grieving news today about the Paris attack got me utterly speechless.  Words could not portray this perplexed feeling inside me.  And I’m sure I’m not the only one.  A lot of thoughts and questions surged through my mind; leaving me in a deep sense of anxiety.  I could only use silence as my condolence.  

One thing I learned these years is to restore my well-being through food and photography.  Knowing for the fact that I’m just a minuscule fragment of today’s entire humanity, the only constructive manner I could offer is not by saying but cooking. 

Vegan Ma Po Tofu with Rice Noodle 

Servings: 1-2 persons

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes


1 small carrot, cut into small cubes

1 bunch long green beans, cut into small bits (can substitute with frozen green peas)

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped 

1 tsp fresh minced ginger

1 package 350g soft tofu 

2 tbsp Chili Bean Sauce aka Toban Djan

2 tsp corn starch

1 cup vegetable stock

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1-2 tbsp rice wine or white wine

1-2 tbsp fresh chopped spring onion

1 small bunch chopped coriander

3-4 tsp sesame oil

100g rice noodle aka mei fun, cooked


  1. Preheat a saucepan on medium heat with a drizzle of sesame oil, cook garlic, ginger, spring onion, and shallot until oil is fragrant.  
  2. Add carrots and beans with a splash of rice wine.  After the alcohol evaporates, place a lid on and cook the vegetables on low heat 2-3 minutes.  
  3. Now add chili bean sauce, soy sauce, and vinegar with the soft tofu and put back on to medium heat.  Mix well.  
  4. Pour in vegetable stock and corn starch.  Mix well.  
  5. Reduce to low heat, put a lid on and cook 3-4 minutes.  Heat off.  Transfer to a plate with the cooked rice noodle.  
  6. Drizzle a little sesame oil and garnish with chopped spring onion and coriander before serving.  

Vegan Ma Po Tofu with Rice Noodle

Vegan Ma Po Tofu with Rice Noodle

Vegan Ma Po Tofu with Rice Noodle

Terra Madre's Orecchiette with Pistachio

I don’t travel much.  When I do, I try to get the most out of it.  A full blown food-escapade is a must.  This month is big for the Italians because it is the month of Ferragosto, the summer vacation in Mid-August.  Almost the entire Italy is off work and most people gather with their loved ones for a getaway.  Some prefer the mountains and some go to the beaches.  Marco and I headed down south to explore the great region of Puglia.  

Because it was a last-minute sorta thing, most trullo houses were already booked.  Luckily, we found a real cute B&B called Kama in Cisternino.  We met a lot of kind and genuine people during our stay.  Our host, Brigida, was super sweet.  We got along with her daughter, Alessia, and Alessia’s boyfriend, Giuseppe very well.  We had such awesome time hanging out together.  They showed us so many great places and restaurants to visit.  What a beautiful bunch.  Our stay at Kama was calm and peaceful, exactly what we needed.  We slept like babies every night.  It is definitely a place where we would want to return to.  

To me, traveling is not just about mere sightseeing.  It is the culmination of all the littlest things and interactions with the locals there.  These special encounters not only touched my heart but got me teary sometime.  Only because I wanted to hold onto those special moments so badly and knowing that I could just store them in that special place of my heart.  That is what my kind of traveling is like.   

My recipe here was inspired by this cute little restaurant called Terra Madre Antipasteria in Cisternino.  Terre Madre serves only a set menu of Puglia’s traditional antipasti so you don’t even need to think what to eat.  Just sit and enjoy the wonderful surprises that come to you.  

Puglia, good-bye until then. 

Orecchiette is a popular home-made pasta in Puglia.  The name itself means little ears in Italian and you could see why the pasta is shaped like ears.  

Terra Madre's Orecchiette with Pistachio

Servings: 1 person

Preparation Time: less than 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes


1 handful pistachio, finely chopped or blended with a blender

1/2 cup grated parmesan

100g buckwheat orecchiette

1 small cup green olives, deseeded and finely chopped 

1 small garlic clove, finely chopped

1-2 sun-dried tomato, finely chopped

1/4 cup breadcrumbs

1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs (optional)

extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil.  Cook the pasta according its packaging label.  It usually takes around 12-15 minutes.  Drain pasta a minute before its cooking time.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
  2. Preheat a saucepan with olive oil on medium-low heat, cook garlic 1-2 minutes.  Add sun-dried tomato, green olives, and a little sprinkle of the dried mixed herbs.  Stir and cook for about 3-5 minutes until they turn golden.  Heat off.  
  3. Add cooked pasta and pasta water to the saucepan on medium heat.  Mix well.  
  4. Add breadcrumbs, pistachio, and parmesan.  Season.  Mix well.  Heat off.  Transfer the pasta to a plate and eat it right away (garnish with more chopped pistachio and dried herbs if desire)!

Terra Madre's Orecchiette with Pistachio

Nonne making children-sized orecchiette for their grandchildren.

Alberobello - not a bad place to grow old with friends

Ostuni - man pondering

Angels everywhere

Our usual route through Torre Canne to our favorite beach

L'oasi Del Riccio - the perfect paradise for sea urchin lovers.  Don't let the settings fool you.  Seafood here is Aaaaaa-mazing!  There must be a reason why all the locals go there. :) 

Matera - a city that is hard to forget.  

Kama - I loved everything that's there.  

Outside of our room

Not just an ordinary B&B, Kama also offers Ayurvedic massages for the tired souls.  

These are the little gems I got from my beautiful friend, Alessia.   PHYSIS - made from all natural ingredients.  No funky additives that I don't know or can't pronounce.  I especially loved the after-sun lotion; could really feel the difference in the next morning.  

Terra Madre Antipasteria's contact fyi.  Highly recommend.  Please say hi to Daniel the great singer if you are there.  Promise you would melt to his singing.  ;)

15 minutes healthy noodle recipe - Spicy Asparagus Soba Stir Fry

I am a noodle person.  Maybe this is why it doesn’t bother me for living in Italy.  I also live real close to this organic supermarket called NaturaSí.  The shop sells practically everything you could possibly think of and most products are Fairtrade certified.  This is Italy’s largest supermarket chain specializing in the sales of organic food items while fully respecting the sustainability parameters.  The pricing is indeed slightly higher but I think it is justified by the high quality and authenticity of the products.  For those who practice a sustainable living in Italy, NaturaSí is certainly the ideal choice. 

What came to surprise me is that NaturaSí actually carries a lot of Japanese food produce.  So whenever I get a little homesick and long for fusion meals,  I can just pop by there to get some soba or rice noodles. 

Here are my extremely easy noodle recipe ideas for the busy bees! 

Spicy Asparagus Soba Stir Fry

Servings: 2 persons

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Cooking Time: less than 10 minutes


1/2 lb fresh asparagus, cut in 1-inch pieces, julienned the stalk parts and leave the heads

1 garlic, finely chopped

1 stalk spring onion, finely chopped

1 tsp minced fresh ginger

1/2 chili, finely chopped

1 radish, slivered *optional

1 tbsp mirin

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup water

1 tbsp sesame seeds

200g soba or mei fun (rice noodle)

sesame oil or extra-virgin olive oil


1) Cook soba according to its packaging label.  After soba is cooked, rinse with cold water and drain well.  Set aside.

2) Preheat a saucepan with 2-3 tbsp oil on medium-low heat, cook chopped garlic, spring onion, chilli, and ginger 1-2 minutes.  

3) Stir in asparagus and mirin.  Cook 1-2 minutes.  

4) Add water and soy sauce, put a lid on and let the vegetables cook 3-5 minutes.  

5) Add soba and mix well.  Season if necessary.  Heat off. 

6) Garnish with some sesame seeds, radish, chopped spring onion, and a drizzle of sesame oil before serving.  

Spicy Asparagus Soba Stir Fry

Stir Fry Veggies & Rice Noodle -- Here is the mei fun (rice noodle) version stir fry.  The steps are pretty much the same as the one before except I used zucchini instead of asparagus.   

Cold Veggies Soba - another extremely easy soba salad I like to make for cooling the steamy hot summer.  

Ingredients for dressing:

1/4 soy sauce

1/3 water

1 tsp minced garlic 

1 tsp chopped spring onion

1 tsp minced ginger

1 tbsp mirin

1/2 chili, seeded, finely chopped

1/4 lemon or 1/2 lime juice and zest

2-3 tbsp sesame oil 

extra-virgin olive oil