Ikan Pepes (Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves)

Ikan Pepes (Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves)

Hello Everyone! Tonight’s recipe is actually also a national fish dish in East Timor. As we’ve covered back in March when we travelled through East Timor on our Flavours of Southeast Asia journey, the country was invaded and colonised by Indonesia after they gained their independence from Portugal. Therefore a lot of their cuisine is also inspired by Indonesian culture.

I’ve actually never had Ikan Pepes before; I guess the closest I’ve had that’s similar to this dish is Ikan Bakar, which in English literally means ‘burn fish’. The main difference between the two is how the banana leaves are used.

Pepes is an Indonesian cooking method using banana leaves as a food wrapping and secured with a fastener made from the central ribs of a coconut leaf (known as lidi seumat). The banana leaf package containing the food is then steamed or grilled over charcoal. Bakar on the other hand is a charcoal-grilling method where sometimes a sheet of banana leaf placed between the food and grill to prevent it from sticking to the grill and breaking into pieces.

Ikan Pepes (Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves)

Ikan Pepes is made by generously smothering the fish in a spice mixture. The mixture may vary among regions and places, but usually consists of a combination of shallots, garlic, chillies, coriander, tamarind paste, candlenuts, turmeric, galangal, and salt; all pounded together using a mortar and pestle, or blitzed in a food processor to create a paste. The fish is then wrapped in banana leaves to not only protect the fish from excessive charring, but also to add a subtle touch of fragrance to the dish as a whole. The fish is then typically eaten with rice for a complete meal.

You can use any type of fish for this dish as you prefer, such as snapper, perch, bream, or tilapia, and you may also opt to use fish fillets rather than cooking with a whole fish especially for those who don’t like struggling with fish bones. Likewise, while the method of pepes is commonly used to prepare fish, other ingredients such as shrimp, squid, chicken, beef, tofu, tempeh, mushrooms, or other vegetables are also available to be prepared using this method.

Ikan Pepes (Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves) Ingredients



  • 2 red snappers (about 500g each in weight), descaled, gutted, and cleaned
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to season

For the spice mixture

  • 3 red chillies, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 small red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass (white part only), finely chopped
  • 1 thumb-sized turmeric, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp raw peanuts
  • 7 cherry tomatoes*, halved
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Fresh banana leaves

To garnish

  • Lemon wedges
  • Red chillies, chopped
  • Spring onion (green parts), chopped

*Or use one small tomato and roughly chop. I used cherry tomatoes because I had some lying around that were getting soft.


  1. Spice Mixture: Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic, onion, lemongrass, turmeric, and peanuts together until it forms into a rough paste. Add the tomatoes and continue to pound until they start to break down.
  2. Add in the shrimp paste, coconut sugar, tamarind paste, and season with salt. Use a spoon to mix them all together until well combined.

If using a food processor, add all the ingredients together and blend into a rough paste.

  1. Ikan Pepes: Place the prepared fish, that has been seasoned with a touch of salt and freshly ground black pepper, on top of a piece of banana leaf, on top of a piece of aluminium foil.
  2. Stuff the cavity of the snapper fish with the green parts of the lemongrass and white part of the spring onion. This is optional as I didn’t want to put these parts to waste so I decided to use them in the dish as well.
  3. Generously cover both sides of the fish with the spice mixture and enclose it in the banana leaf, and aluminium foil.
  4. Place the fish over a grill and cook on medium-high heat for 15 minutes on one side, and 10 minutes on the other; a total of 25 minutes, or until cooked through depending on the size of your fish or method of cooking.
  5. Once done, remove from the grill and transfer to a serving plate. Garnish with some spring onions, extra chillies, and lemon wedges on the side. Serve immediately while hot with rice. Enjoy!


Ikan Pepes (Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves)


– Ally xx


Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice)

Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice)

Hello everyone! Oh where did the days go; how is it that we’re already into the fifth month of 2021? Well, as you all know, a new month means we’re packing up and saying goodbye (for now) to the Philippines to venture on to our next country on our Flavours of Southeast Asia journey.

Last year, I was looking forward to travelling to Indonesia, Bali to be exact, for the very first time. I had my itinerary all planned out, jam-packed with activities down to the last minute. I signed up for an authentic cooking class that included a market and Balinese rice terrace tour. All of that was unfortunately cancelled due to the global pandemic. Our family trip was supposed to be in early April of 2020, and by mid-March our country had already gone into a national enhanced community quarantine that is still being implemented to this present day. Yes, since the later part of 2020 did quarantine restrictions ease, but we’re nevertheless, still in quarantine.

Even if I haven’t had the chance to travel to Indonesia just yet, I’ve experienced authentic Indonesian cuisine almost on a weekly basis when I was living in Brunei. Every Saturday evening after attending anticipated mass, we (my Mom, my sister, and myself) would go to our favourite Indonesian restaurant and order our favourite dishes such as nasi goreng, ayam penyet, satay, and tahu telur to name a few. I even had Indonesian food regularly when I was living in Australia; one place in particular on Kensington street, near UNSW’s main campus, that I would line up for their delicious ayam or ikan bakar (grilled chicken/fish).

Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice)

Tonight, I will be sharing a classic favourite, nasi goreng. Nasi Goreng is considered the national dish of Indonesia, and literally translates to fried rice . It is a rice dish cooked with meat or seafood, and vegetables, however, there is no single defined recipe for it. Its composition and preparation varies greatly from household to household in all regions where the dish is native to. The key distinction though to nasi goreng is its smoky aroma, from the wok hay* as it’s fried, and the caramelised yet savoury undertones of flavour from the kecap manis**.

The version of nasi goreng that I will be sharing tonight is actually called Nasi Goreng Santri, which is vegetarian fried rice. While there are no specific vegetables that you can use to make up an authentic Indonesian vegetarian fried rice, I decided to make mine with tofu and bean sprouts. Feel free to bulk it up with your choice of vegetables to your liking. You can’t skip the fried sunny side up egg as nasi goreng is traditionally served with it to make it a complete meal.

You also cannot serve nasi goreng without a sambal of some sort on the side. I decided to make a simple sambal oelek which is a raw Indonesian chilli paste made of red chillies, vinegar, and salt. The word sambal is an Indonesian word referring to a sauce made primarily with chili peppers, while oelek refers to a mortar and pestle. Therefore, sambal oelek is Indonesian for a chilli sauce ground with a mortar and pestle.

Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice) Ingredients



For the nasi goreng

  • 1 & 1/2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 red bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely minced
  • 1 stalk scallion (white part only), chopped
  • 3 pcs firm tofu, fried and cut into cubes
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • Salt & freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups cooked white rice, day old and cold
  • 2 tbsp kecap manis

If you can’t find kecap manis at your local grocers, or don’t have any readily available in your pantry, you can simply make your own! Just combine 1/4 cup ordinary soy sauce and 1/4 cup brown sugar over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce until it becomes maple syrup-like in consistency. As it cools, the mixture will thicken more.

For the sambal oelek

  • 10 pcs red bird’s eye chillies, stems removed
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp salt

To serve with

  • Bok choy, blanched
  • Crispy fried shallots/onions
  • Sambal oelek
  • Scallion (green parts), chopped
  • Sunny side up egg


  1. Sambal Oelek: Using a mortar and pestle, pound the red chillies they start to break down. Make sure not to pound too much; leave the chillies a bit coarse, not a fine paste.
  2. Add the vinegar and salt, and using a spoon, mix together until the salt has dissolved. Transfer to a small serving bowl and set aside until ready to serve.
  3. Nasi Goreng: Add oil to a large pan over high heat. Once hot, add the minced garlic and red chillies to the pan and sauté until the garlic is lightly golden and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Follow with the onions and scallions, continuing to sauté for a further 30 seconds.
  4. Add the fried tofu and sauté for about a minute or two before adding the bean sprouts. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste. Cook for a further minute or two.
  5. Add the cooked rice and mix well, breaking up any remaining clumps of rice. Add the kecap manis and cook, stirring constantly to ensure that every single grain of rice is coated with the sweet soy sauce and start to caramelise. Cook for 10 minutes.
  6. Once the rice is done, plate up and top with garnishes of choice, I went with crispy fried shallots/onions, and green scallions. Serve with the sambal oelek, blanched bok choy, and sunny side up egg***. Enjoy!

Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice)


  • *‘Wok hay’ is Cantonese phrase used to describe a particular essence and aroma that is created in a dish when authentic stir-frying is performed. ‘Hay’ means energy or breath; therefore, ‘wok hay’ means “the energy or breath of a wok”.
  • **Kecap manis is an Indonesian sweet soy sauce. Compared to mildly salty regular soy sauce, the sweet soy sauce has a slightly thicker consistency, and tastes much sweeter.
  • ***Omit the egg if you want to make this dish vegan-friendly.

Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice)


– Ally xx


Atchara (Pickled Green Papaya)

Atchara (Pickled Green Papaya)

Hello Everyone! One more day until the end of April, which means that this will be my last recipe from the Philippines on our journey through the Flavours of Southeast Asia. I most definitely had fun tackling healthier alternatives of classic and much loved Pinoy dishes, as well as celebrating Amcarmen’s Kitchen turning seven years old!

Tonight, I’ll be sharing a recipe in response to a challenge that my friend brought up in our exclusive interview. It started off with her asking me if there are any ingredients that I would never cook with on my blog, to which I responded with: raisins, cucumber, and cilantro. She then hit me with a surprise challenge which is to make a dish with at least two of the three ingredients that I listed – something that I would have to like and eat!

To quote her:

“…something that you had previously found to be a negative experience, is going to be turned into a positive experience, so I’m changing your life!”

And here’s my response; no twists or a fancy remake of this side dish, just straight up, humble atchara. Atchara (also spelled achara or atsara) is a pickle made typically out of grated unripe papaya. Other vegetables such as carrots, capsicum (bell pepper), onion, garlic, and ginger are also added to make up this pickle. Raisins may also be added, but are optional.

Atchara (Pickled Green Papaya)

All of these are then mixed together in a solution of vinegar, sugar, and salt. The key is finding the right balance of sourness and sweetness in the pickling solution. It is then placed in airtight jars where it will keep without refrigeration, however once opened it is preferably kept chilled to maintain its flavour. Ideally, you’ll want the atchara to mature for about a week before consuming it, for it to fully develop its flavour. The longer you keep it, the better it tastes. Once opened, you can keep it in the fridge for up to two months.

Atchara is usually served with grilled or fried dishes; I like to have atchara as an accompaniment to fried fish to give it a little more life. Technically it goes well with any meal that is fatty and salty, as the sharpness of the atchara helps cut through that greasy aftertaste in your mouth.

Since the challenge is to make a dish that includes two of the three ingredients that I dislike the most, the atchara that I will be sharing with everyone tonight includes cucumbers and raisins. The Southeast Asian variations of atchara, or as they collectively call it in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei, acar, is mainly made of pickling cucumbers together with carrots and shallot, sometimes even daikon. I’ve had this version of acar when I was living in Brunei, and it was actually delicious as an accompaniment to various fried dishes!

Atchara (Pickled Green Papaya) Ingredients


*I had jars of varying sizes, but if I were to estimate, I think they’d fit into about 3 medium-sized jars.


For the pickle

  • 1 medium unripe papaya, shredded
  • 1 small carrot, sliced
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced
  • 1 small red capsicum, sliced thinly
  • 1 packet (50g) raisins
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • Spring onion stalks

For the pickling solution

  • 1 & 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
  • 1 small-sized brown onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 thumb-sized ginger, julienned
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp salt


  1. Combine the shredded papaya together with the salt in a medium-sized mixing bowl, setting it aside to sit for about an hour or until the papaya starts to release its liquid. Then place the shredded papaya in a cheesecloth and firmly squeeze to get rid of any excess juices.
  2. Pickling Solution: Meanwhile, in a small-sized saucepan over medium heat, combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until the sugar has completely dissolved. Stir occasionally.
  3. Add the whole black peppercorns ginger, garlic, and onions. Continue to cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes. Once done, set aside to cool down slightly.
  4. Atchara: Combine the shredded papaya together with all the prepared vegetables into a large mixing bowl. Add the warm pickling solution and gently toss to combine. Cover and set aside to completely cool down.
  5. Once cool, transfer the atchara into sterilised jars with tight-fitting lids. You may keep them on the countertop or immediately place them in the fridge for about a week to let the flavours develop before serving.
  6. Serve, cold or at room temperature, with your choice of fried and/or grilled meat/seafood. Enjoy!


The verdict? I definitely loved the pickled cucumbers, in fact I always scoop out for them for every serving. The raisins? I don’t know; there’s just something about them that I don’t like and I can’t explain it. I tried one and after that, I still picked them out.

Atchara (Pickled Green Papaya)


– Ally xx


Prawn Sinigang Orzo

Hello Everyone! Last week was a busy week for Amcarmen’s Kitchen; I uploaded three posts, two of which were recipes and the other was an exclusive interview to celebrate my blog turning seven years old last April 16! If you want to have a read of that interview, I’ve linked it above. Just a fair warning, it’s quite a long article and also contains a 6-minute video where I talked about one of the recent dishes I’ve shared on my blog.

Anyway, tonight I will be sharing a classic Filipino dish that is close to every Filipino’s heart. It’s a dish I grew up with and is always a regular on my meal plans. Even when I was living in Australia for my university studies, this was my go-to winter warmer dinner after a long day on campus and braving the cold, crisp winds on my walk back home.

That dish is none other than Sinigang. It is a Filipino soup or stew that is characterised by its sour and savoury taste. It is most commonly associated with sampalok (tamarind) as its souring agent, but other fruits such as bayabas (guava), kamias (bilimbi), calamansi (Philippine lime), and unripe mango to name a few can also be used to make the broth sour and acidic; similar to but differentiated from paksiw (which uses vinegar).

Prawn Sinigang Orzo

Other than the souring agent, the soup base is also made by stewing onions, tomatoes, ginger (if using seafood), and long green chillies to enhance the taste and add a little spicy kick to the soup base. Pork, beef, fish, and prawns are the main proteins used in the making of sinigang, accompanied by various vegetables such as, but not limited to, okra, taro, white radish, water spinach, yardlong beans, and eggplant.

Of course, I’m not just going to share another sinigang recipe as I already have two posts on my blog for it: Pork Spare Ribs Sinigang and Sinigang na Bangús. I’m putting a little twist to this sinigang dish by turning it into a risotto! Though this isn’t something particularly new, inventive, nor innovative on my side since the two words Sinigang and Risotto together already coexist – I just can’t remember where I had seen or heard the term before – I knew that this was a recipe that I wanted to try out for myself. I’m one to always drown my rice with the sinigang soup, and I’m sure most do the same too! So why not, instead of cooking the rice separately, cook it in the broth?

Just to make things a little different, I used risoni/orzo pasta instead of arborio rice. I tossed it in a pan with unsalted butter to toast before cooking it in the sinigang soup base to give it a nutty taste and a golden colour.

Prawn Sinigang Orzo Ingredients



For the prawn sinigang broth

  • 500g medium to large-sized prawns
  • 100g prawn heads* (optional)
  • 8 cups (approx. 2L) water
  • 2 packets (2 x 11g) sinigang sa sampalok original mix
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 long green chillies, halved
  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 medium-sized red onion, quartered
  • 1 thumb-sized ginger, peeled and sliced

For the orzo

  • 300g risoni or orzo pasta
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • Sinigang broth
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the toppings

  • 1 bunch water spinach, leaves separated from the stems, and stems cut into short lengths
  • 1 medium-sized daikon (white radish), peeled and sliced
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes, pan-fried
  • Long green chilli, sliced and pan-fried

*I always have prawn heads and peels lying around in my freezer from a previous batch of prawns that I bought. The reason is so that I can make soup bases like this or use them for flavouring other dishes. If you don’t have any prawn heads readily available, you may substitute with a prawn (or seafood) bouillon cube.


  1. Prawn Sinigang Broth: Fill a large stockpot with the water along with the red onion, tomatoes, chillies, ginger, and prawn heads. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and leave to simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. After 10-15 minutes, turn the heat down to medium-low and remove the prawn heads with about half a cup of the broth. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the prawn heads together with the broth to extract the flavours from them. Strain and then return the extraction to the stockpot.
  3. Turn the heat back up to medium-high and add the sinigang sa sampalok mix. Give it a good stir and then season the broth with fish sauce. Add according to your taste buds; I added about 3 tablespoons in total.
  4. Next, add the sliced daikon and cook for about 5 to 8 minutes. Then add in the prawns and cook for a further 5 to 8 minutes. Once done, remove the prawns and daikon from the stockpot and set them aside.
  5. Add the water spinach stalks to the broth and cook until slightly tender, about a minute. Then add in the leaves and blanch for about 30 seconds. Remove from the broth and then set aside.
  6. Strain the sinigang broth and set aside as well.
  7. Prawn Sinigang Orzo: Melt butter in a large pan over medium-high heat. Once melted, add in the uncooked orzo pasta and toast until slightly golden brown in colour, about 5 to 7 minutes in total.
  8. Once toasted, lower the heat down to medium and then add about 4 cups of the broth to the pan. Season with freshly ground pepper, to taste.

I didn’t add any more salt since I already seasoned the broth with fish sauce, but feel free to do so according to your taste.

  1. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, constantly checking and stirring to ensure that the liquid doesn’t evaporate too quickly and to prevent the orzo sticking to the bottom of the pan. Make sure to reserve at least a cup of the sinigang broth for later.
  2. Add more liquid if needed until the pasta is thoroughly al dente and the liquid is absorbed, about 10 to 15 minutes in total. Once done, remove from the heat.
  3. Reheat the prawns and vegetables in the reserved broth before plating up.
  4. Plate up accordingly and serve immediately while hot! Enjoy!

Prawn Sinigang Orzo

Prawn Sinigang Orzo


– Ally xx


Anniversary Special: Exclusive Interview with Amcarmen’s Kitchen by Jialing Mew

Anniversary Special: Exclusive Interview with Amcarmen’s Kitchen by Jialing Mew

Jialing and I have been friends ever since our first year of University back in February of 2011. In fact, our Facebook Friendversary was just a couple of days ago on April 11 and we celebrated a decade of friendship – four years together in Australia, and 6 years of LDF (long distance friendship). Besides us having the same passion for design, we both love everything about food! We even started Muffin Making Monday’s where Jialing would come over to my place every Monday to bake muffins together for breakfast for the upcoming week ahead. We also started something called Fatness Friday’s, but it really only lasted for two weeks I think, where we’d explore new cafés every Friday for lunch after our morning lecture.

A couple of months ago, I think somewhere in February, Jialing ran this brilliant idea with me about doing an interview for my blog anniversary this year! So we scheduled a date in March last month and would you believe, six years of long distance friendship and this was the first time EVER that we did a video and voice call? We would usually just randomly drop WhatsApp messages to each other throughout the day/weeks! After an hour – almost – of banter and a quick catch up, we proceeded with our more than an hour-long interview.

Allison & JialingLeft: Jialing ; Right: Allison

“What is your most memorable achievement/biggest success?”

I think my most memorable achievement since starting Amcarmen’s Kitchen 7 years ago would have to be my Auguest series. In a nutshell, it’s where I invite other foodie friends, both those I know in person or online through Instagram, to take over my blog for the whole month of August. If you want to know more on the series, I’ll drop a link in this interview: Amcarmen’s Kitchen: Auguest Rundown.

When I first started my series, I began with four people, one of them was even my mom, because I couldn’t find anyone else besides her and you of course! Though this year will be my 6th year in running my Auguest series, I think it really only kicked off just last year, since that’s where I made more foodie friends online. That was during the time where I had just moved back to the Philippines and reached out to a whole different audience and community of local Filipino foodies.

Another memorable achievement, or more like just memorable, that I must mention was last year I started joining more Instagram food challenges and collaborations run by other foodies. Some of the challenges that I joined had prizes, and I’m proud to mention that I won one of them! I’ll also share the link to my entry in this interview: #LODINGNocheBuena Challenge

Christmas 'Spaghetti' with Meat-free BaublesAmcarmen’s Kitchen: Christmas ‘Spaghetti’ with Meat-free Baubles (Vegan-friendly)

It was a great way for me to showcase my creativity, skills, and techniques to a wider audience range. Other than that, I also get to meet the people who organise these challenges, as well as the people who participate in them. We get to know, connect, and support each other in the long run. From there, I also took the initiative to run my own food challenges and start my own food community on Instagram known as Foodies United PH together with another foodie friend that I met on the social media platform.

I think so far those are my most memorable achievements ever since starting my blog, other than of course the obvious achievement of running Amcarmen’s Kitchen for seven years now!

Jialing: Obviously you know that I am very supportive of your successes, but you also know that I really enjoy your failures.

So my next question is, “what was your biggest blog fail so far?” And make it a good one, and I want photos!

Oh gosh, to be honest, I don’t even document my failures in the kitchen and I don’t ever post a failed recipe on my blog. One of the main reasons why I don’t do that is because people do follow, or are inspired by my recipes, and if I share a failed recipe, then chances are they’re going to fail too because it wasn’t even a successful recipe to begin with.

I remember one of my colleagues asked me a question, “has there been any recipes that [I’ve] cooked that [I] actually don’t like” and I told her that when a recipe doesn’t work or it fails, it doesn’t go on my blog. If I really want it to work though, like if it’s a good recipe and I just somehow mucked it up, then I’ll either try to salvage it – if possible – or try again until I get it right.

This is also one of the reasons why I like to plan and cook my recipes ahead of time so that in case something happens, I have time to think of a new recipe if I really don’t like it at all, or try again and again until I’m happy with it and so that I still have something to share on my blog.

But, if you really want to know some of my kitchen fails – well it’s not so much of a fail, it’s more like what you would call ‘hazardous cooking’ – I remember making a dessert pizza of Mixed Berries and Chocolate. I used chocolate as the ‘sauce’ base to the pizza and I had it baking away in the oven. I briefly took it out to check if the chocolate had melted, and if so, I’d top it off with the berries and place it back into the oven to bake further. I ‘checked’ by sticking my finger into the chocolate sauce that, you know, just came out of a piping hot oven, and to no surprise, burnt my finger. My first instinct was to lick the chocolate off from my finger and in return ended up burning my tongue as well. I usually write about these mishaps in my blog posts towards the end of the recipe so look out for them! They’re usually pretty hilarious and some can be a way to learn how you can salvage certain food if you ever come across the same mishap.

Nutella & Mixed Berries PizzaAmcarmen’s Kitchen: Nutella & Mixed Berries Pizza

But wait, do you actually want the recipe fails?

Jialing: No I think that was good, I mean you already kind of mentioned what happens with your recipe process. Unless you have certain failed recipes?

Allison: No I don’t think so, or not that I can remember or name any from the top of my head right now, also because, when I look for recipes or inspiration, I actually look for something that I like, so if it’s something that I don’t like, like you’re not going to catch me making a cucumber recipe, because I don’t like cucumber for example. Unless it’s something like a Greek salad that has cucumbers in it, then I probably would have to because it’s part of the salad, but other than that, it’s not like I’m going to use that as a main ingredient if I can substitute it out.

Jialing: Interesting, so that actually brings me to one of my other questions, but we’ll be skipping a couple, but I think that’s fine, let’s go with the flow of the interview.

One of my questions is actually, “is there anything ingredient that we won’t ever expect to see you doing on your blog? What is your least favourite thing to cook with or something that you would never want to cook with?”

Okay, so I guess it comes down to food preferences as well, like I don’t like cucumbers. I don’t know why, but I just don’t like them. Raisins and cilantro are on my list of foods I don’t like too.

Jialing: Okay so this brings me to the surprise portion of the interview. I’ll come back to the other questions afterwards.

For the past 6 years you’ve been giving me all these super fantastic Auguest challenges, so now for your anniversary, “I’m challenging you to make a dish using the ingredients you hate the most!”

Nooooo! Oh noooooo! Wait so do I have to use all three of them?

Jialing: You can pick two. The dish has to have two of the three ingredients that you mentioned.

Allison: Do I have to eat it?

Jialing: Yeah of course! It has to be good, you even said so yourself “it’s not going on your blog unless you like it.” It’s your anniversary challenge so you have to do it! I mean, you don’t have to do it for your anniversary, but at some point during 2021 you’re going to have to do it.

Allison: Well, I think it would be fun to do it though for my blog’s anniversary. I normally post a recipe for an anniversary cake every year, so I can have another post featuring this ‘dish’ that you’re challenging me to do.

Jialing: Cilantro, cucumber, raisin cake?

Allison: Nooooooo!

Jialing: Anyway, it’s my anniversary present to you because something that you had previously found to be a negative experience, is going to be turned into a positive experience, so I’m changing your life!

Allison: Now that I think of it, I think there’s a recipe that I know of that has both cucumbers and raisins in it, and it’s actually something that I do like, but remove it so that I actually like it. So yeah, I’m going to try that recipe but have it included in it so that I will actually eat it. So yeah, okay I do have a recipe in mind and it actually fits with my theme for this month so that’s good. Challenge accepted! I’m going to accept your challenge and actually do it. Well technically speaking it is actually something that I do like to eat, it’s just that I put the raisins aside.

Jialing: That was my surprise; it came out early so now I can go back to the questions that got skipped.

Now that we’ve talked about what you would never cook, “what recipes on your blog do you actually cook a lot? Which dish – or dishes – is one of your staple things that you have on regular rotation?”

Okay before I answer this question, I have a little disclaimer for everyone. Since the later part of 2019, I’ve unofficially labelled my Instagram page as “Pescatarian, Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian, and Vegan.” Despite that, I still eat chicken regularly, but I don’t share any more chicken recipes on my blog to keep in line with that. So, one of the dishes that I repetitively cook regularly, that you can also find on my blog is Hainanese Chicken Rice.

Jialing: Another dish that is also eaten with cucumber!

Allison: Yes, I don’t put cucumber on mine because the cucumber is more like a decoration on the side rather than it being a main part of the dish. So why waste money for ‘decoration’ if I’m not going to eat it anyway? And then another dish that actually also has cucumber – for decoration – as well and that I regularly cook at home is Nasi Lemak with fried chicken and sautéed water spinach with sambal on the side. Other dishes would have to be the very classic Filipino staples such as adobo and sinigang, choice of protein would range from chicken, to fish, and shrimps.

Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice)Amcarmen’s Kitchen: Nasi Lemak

Okay so my next question is, “how has being a food blogger changed the way you view or interact with food?”

I think this would be a good time for a little back story. When I was younger – or when I say I was younger I mean from up until before I left for university – I never actually set foot in the kitchen, or well I have but it wasn’t so that I could help my mom out with either the preparing or cooking of our daily meals. It wasn’t until ten years ago, back in 2011, where I headed off for my first year of university in Sydney, Australia; I was living alone and I had no close relatives or friends.

I didn’t know how to cook at all, or well, I did know a few dishes up my sleeve, but still, I didn’t even know how to make sunny side up eggs or how long to boil an egg for if I wanted soft or hard boiled eggs. I even boiled potatoes whole, not knowing that if I had cut them up into smaller chunks, they’d cook faster and I wouldn’t have to wait an hour to make myself some mashed potatoes! In addition, I had no rice cooker, and I didn’t know how to make rice on the stove so instead, I bought pre-cooked rice that you can just pop in the microwave and it’d be ready in 90 seconds – Uncle Roger, please don’t kill me! Just going by that, I had no idea how I survived my first year living all by myself!

So moving forward, after my first year of university, I spent my summer holidays in the kitchen back home with my Mom. I had asked her to teach me how to cook the basic dishes that she would always cook for us growing up because to be honest, I didn’t want to go through another year living in Australia not knowing how to cook a decent meal for myself.

I don’t know why but I had this fear of recipes. Just reading it and looking at how many ingredients you have to use and the step-by-step method – like it actually really scared me. I eventually overcame that fear and learnt how to make other dishes besides the ones that my mom taught me. Sydney is rich in multiculturalism, both in the diverse race of people living in the city and in the food you can explore. That’s how it triggered my interest to want to cook and experience other cuisines – cuisines you would otherwise never get back home anyway.

After my second year, I returned home once again for the summer holidays and this time I found myself teaching my mom how to cook the recipes that I learnt – I learnt from my mom, and my mom learnt from me. So I guess now, from there, at least we had something in common that we could both do. I remember asking my mom, “what if I wasn’t into cooking, like what would you think of me as a person?” to which she replied, “oh you’d be such a boring person then” with no hint of remorse in her tone for saying that!

After that, I continued cooking and learning throughout my third and fourth year of university, and of course sharing my knowledge with my mom in between, during my summer breaks. I not only shared my knowledge, but I also shared my food through hosting dinners for my friends and housemates when living in Australia. It wasn’t until my fourth year that I started Amcarmen’s Kitchen – formerly known back then as Kitchen Headquarters), on 16th April 2014. My first post was actually a very spontaneous one – I started a blog but I had nothing to post that day! So I made an omelette with anything and everything that I had leftover in my fridge, just because I didn’t want to do my assignments. I’ll add the link to my very first post in this interview: Cheesy Mushroom Omelette with Avocado Mint Greek Yoghurt & Wilted Spinach. Yes, my ‘anything and everything’ leftover was quite the fancy one *cheeky grin*

Cheesy Mushroom Omelette with Avocado Mint Greek Yoghurt & Wilted SpinachAmcarmen’s Kitchen: Cheesy Mushroom Omelette with Avocado Mint Greek Yoghurt & Wilted Spinach

From there, I posted a recipe three times a week, and even had themed days such as our Muffin Making Mondays! Now that I think about it, were you there for the most part of my first year of blogging?

Jialing: Yeah mate, I saw so many of your first couple of years’ recipes! I even remember the board that you used to take all your photos!

Allison: Yeah you were physically there for a majority of them. And yes, for everyone’s information, I used a board from my shelf to use as a white background for my food photos because the table we had at the student housing I was living in had a very dirty plastic table cover. The board that I used though wasn’t particularly big and was square in size; I had to fit everything into a little square, which technically was perfect anyway for Instagram but proved to be difficult when I had so many ingredients to feature and had to squish them all into a square! I think I actually have a picture of the board that you can see in-shot in one of my pictures. I’ll share it in this interview for everyone to see!

Hainanese Chicken RiceAmcarmen’s Kitchen: Hainanese Chicken Rice

So I guess that massive back story explains how I changed the way I view food.

Jialing: Yeah that was a very long term change!

Allison: Indeed! From me not knowing how to cook, to developing a more artistic eye and being very aware of how I want my food to look, or how I want it to be presented, down to what plate I should use. I do have a post on my blog where I talked about My Kitchen Journey – so if you guys actually want to see more of how I took photos of my food back then, it’s all there from my 1st to 4th year of university before I started Amcarmen’s Kitchen. You can actually see how it changed drastically over the years.

And I’ve also started exploring/experimenting with classic dishes and putting a vegan twist to it by using mushrooms or tofu as a meat alternative. I do have some surprises for my blog’s anniversary month based on the current theme that I have going on right now – Flavours of Southeast Asia. You’ll see familiar recipes but with a vegan and/or pescatarian twist to them.

*I decided to add this portion of our interview as a video recording since we went a little off-topic from the original question, but also still somewhat relevant to where my style of cooking has moved towards to ever since I started Amcarmen’s Kitchen, as I talked about my recipe for Crispy Tofu Kare-Kare with Mushroom Bagoong:

Alright, so now that we’ve learnt about your very long seven years of your food journey – from someone who didn’t know how to make rice to someone who has standards on what plate to use when presenting a dish – “what is your biggest piece of wisdom/advice that you want to impart on all your friends and followers?”

Are these tips for people who want to blog or cooking tips in general?

Jialing: I guess it can be either, or even both.

Allison: For cooking tips, there’s not much I can say other than don’t be scared to try new recipes and experiment with different flavours. If you’re scared that you’re not going to like it, my advice would be to go out and try it first – like that’s how I go into cooking different cuisines. For example, if I have no experience in cooking Mediterranean food, I’d go to a Mediterranean restaurant and try their food first to see if I like it or not, and of course to gather inspiration on dishes I would like to recreate at home.

Like speaking in general, you wouldn’t have all the spices and ingredients for Mediterranean cuisines readily available in your home, and if you don’t like it then it’s such a waste of money and of products. So definitely go try it out first – that’s how it started out with my Mom and I – we go to a restaurant, try out a dish and if we like it, we try to recreate it at home with our own twist. Because of that, whenever we go to a restaurant, we never order something that we can actually cook at home because for my Mom, “I can cook it so why should I order it?” and that’s kind of my mentality now as well!

In terms of blogging, all I can say is that if you really like to write or if it’s something that you like to do, I would recommend that you try it out. However, it’s not necessarily for everyone because it can be time consuming. I used to post three times a week, and that was when I was still studying in Australia. I had more free time then because there were days that I didn’t have classes or work, whereas now I work an 8-5 schedule, 5 day a week – 6 days when I was working in Brunei. Weekends are the only time I get to rest but it’s also the only time that I actually get to cook for my blog. If you’re going to start a blog, I guess don’t be too ambitious like me with three posts a week, unless you have the time. It takes me the whole morning to cook a dish for my blog; I’d start at 9 in the morning and go up until noon just to make one dish while documenting the whole process too, and that’s not even including the writing part and editing of photos and videos yet!

It is tough, but if I can do it while having a full time job, I’m sure you can too. If it’s your passion and if it’s what you want to do, you’ll never get tired of it.

Jialing: Nice one! So don’t be afraid to try new things with food, and blogging is not for everyone, but you never know! So I guess we’ll wrap things up here, thank you so much for allowing me to interview you, and happy anniversary Amcarmen’s Kitchen!

Allison: Thank you so much as well for this fun interview!

Halo-Halo Cheesecake

Halo-Halo Cheesecake

Hello Everyone! Yes, I am aware that it has only been two days since my last post (I post a new recipe every Wednesday night), but today, the 16th of April 2021 is a very special day because:


I know I’ve told this story countless times, every year I think if I’m not mistaken, but this is really more for my new followers and new friends I’ve made in the past year, or even just those who happen to stumble upon this post while searching for recipes or inspiration.

Long before I started Amcarmen’s Kitchen, I was already posting my kitchen adventures on my personal Facebook page when I left for university back in 2011. I started it as a way to document the food that I was eating, you know, being a 19 year old girl who left home with zero experience in cooking. Honestly, the food I was making, super cringe-worthy, but nevertheless, I’m glad I did that because it’s always great to look back and compare yourself to where you are now, especially during times like this. If you want to read more about my journey leading up to when I first started this blog, you can read all about it here: My Kitchen Journey.

Fast forward from 2011 to 2014, I started Amcarmen’s Kitchen exactly seven years ago today, on April 16 of 2014; it was a fine Wednesday afternoon during my fourth year of university. It was the Easter holidays and I had zero willpower to tackle the mountain of assignments I had to complete before the holidays were over. Instead, I decided to explore the world of wordpress, and before I knew it, Amcarmen’s Kitchen (formerly known then as Kitchen Headquarters) was born.

Halo-Halo Cheesecake

To celebrate today’s occasion, as per tradition on my blog every year, I’ve baked a cheesecake inspired by a very popular dessert here in the Philippines known as Halo-Halo. The word, directly translated actually means ‘mix-mix’ in English, and is essentially a mixture of, but not limited to, crushed ice, evaporated milk or condensed milk, and various ingredients including, ube, sweetened beans, coconut strips, sago, gulaman (agar), pinipig rice, boiled taro or soft yams in cubes, fruit slices, flan, and topped with a scoop of ube ice cream. Though popular all year round, it’s most especially enjoyed during the hot summer days.

I came across the idea of translating this dessert into a cheesecake about a year and a half ago during a work event. A few colleagues of mine and myself took a short break from event rehearsals and stumbled upon a coffee and cakes corner in the lobby of the hotel we were at. While they were ordering coffee, I spotted a Halo-Halo Cheesecake on their cake shelf and was immediately wowed by such an ingenious idea! I unfortunately did not order a slice at that time, only because I was contemplating on whether I should, or shouldn’t (it was a bit pricey think), but when I finally made the decision to order a slice, on a different day, the day of the actual event, they didn’t have any left, or didn’t make a batch that day. So as Amcarmen’s Kitchen’s anniversary drew near, I knew that that was the cake that I was going to make for this special occasion!

Halo-Halo Cheesecake Ingredients



For the cheesecake mixture

  • 675g (3 packs) cream cheese, softened
  • 250ml all purpose cream, at room temperature
  • 3 large free-range eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp ube jam
  • 1 tsp ube extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the crumb base

  • 200g Lotus Biscoff biscuits, crushed
  • 75g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the toppings

  • Fresh coconut meat strips
  • Leche flan
  • Nata de coco, red and green
  • Pinipig, lightly toasted
  • Sweetened red beans
  • Sweetened saba bananas
  • Sweetened white beans


  1. Preheat oven to 130C (250F or gas mark 1).
  2. Prepare your spring-form pan (about 8” in diameter) and line the bottom and inside with parchment paper, and the outer with aluminium foil. Lightly grease the bottom and sides with a touch of unsalted butter.
  3. Crumb Base: Add the crushed Lotus Biscoff biscuits, salt, and melted butter together in a small mixing bowl. Mix together until well combined.
  4. Press the crumb into the base of your prepared spring-form pan. Set aside in the fridge for about 15 minutes to set while you prepare your cheesecake mixture.
  5. Cheesecake Mixture: Using an electric mixer fitted with a beater attachment, beat, on medium speed, the cream cheese and sugar together in a large bowl until smooth.
  6. With the mixer running, add in the eggs, all purpose cream, and vanilla extract. Mix for a further 2 minutes.
  7. Separate one third of the mixture into another mixing bowl. Add the ube jam and ube extract to the cheesecake mixture and slowly beat until combined.
  8. Pour the ube cheesecake mixture into the prepared spring-form pan, evenly covering the biscuit base. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until just set.
  9. Once set, remove from the oven and then pour the remaining cheesecake mixture into the spring-form pan. Continue to bake in the oven for another 45 – 50 minutes, or until set.
  10. Remove from the oven and let it cool down completely in its pan before placing it into the refrigerator overnight.
  11. Assemble: Decorate as you wish and serve chilled. Enjoy!

Halo-Halo Cheesecake

As always, before I end tonight’s post, I just want to say a special thank you to my Mom. She was the one who patiently taught me how to cook my favourite dishes when I was growing up. She was my #1 supporter. I lost her in September 2019 due to a fatal stroke which was caused by a sudden rupture of a vein in her brain, but before all that she had underlying illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and chronic kidney disease. One of the main reasons why I drastically cut out meat such as beef and pork from my diet and started eating healthier (as reflected in my blog for the past 2 years). Thank you Mama for passing down your knowledge and love for food on to me. I know you’re proudly watching from above. I love you.

Lastly, next to my Mom is of course, my very supportive boyfriend. Ever since the day we met, you’ve been proudly sharing my recipes for your family and friends to see. And for that, thank you for your continuous encouragement and for motivating me to continue doing what I love to do! I love you.

Stay tuned tomorrow as I have another special post to share with you all!

Halo-Halo Cheesecake


– Ally xx


Spicy Mushroom Adobo

Hello Everyone! The month is going by swiftly and we’re almost halfway through the fourth month of 2021! Before we dive right into the recipe, I just want to say that I have a special announcement which I have saved for the end of this post. Feel free to skip ahead if you want to know more about what’s happening on Amcarmen’s Kitchen this week!

Adobo is a very popular dish in the Philippines which involves marinating meat, seafood, or vegetables in a mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, and black peppercorns, and then cooked in its own marinade. The most common choice of protein is chicken or pork, squid for seafood, and kang kong (water spinach) or yardlong beans for vegetables. I’m sure there are other choices of seafood and vegetables, but these are the ones that I am most familiar with.

Spicy Mushroom Adobo

To be very honest, before I even found out about the ‘marinating’ process involved in making adobo, I used to always just throw everything into a pot and let it simmer away for 20 minutes – well at least that’s how my Mom taught me how to make adobo; no marinating and no sautéing needed. Even without the marinating process, the way my Mom taught me how to cook adobo tastes just as good! I’ve tried a recipe where I marinated the protein before, and to be honest, I can’t spot the difference.

This is one of the main reasons why, when I used to live alone while I was studying for my degree in Australia, this would be my go-to weeknight dinner meal – quick and hassle free. The other best part of it is that the longer you keep it in the fridge, the more the flavours start to develop, and it doesn’t go off that easily! In fact, cooking with vinegar and salt helps keep food fresh for longer especially in the tropical climates of the Philippines.

Spicy Mushroom Adobo Ingredients

Since water spinach and yardlong beans are very common vegetables used when making a vegetarian/vegan adobo dish, I chose to work with my favourite ‘vegetable’ – mushrooms! I used vegetables in quotation marks because, although mushrooms are classified as vegetables, they are technically not plants, but are part of the kingdom called fungi. Stick around because I’m not just going to show you how to make Spicy Mushroom Adobo, I’m going to make it into a full meal for you guys!

If you want to check out my other adobo recipes on my blog, feel free to check them out! Disclaimer: these are all meat dishes from when I used to eat meat.

Spicy Mushroom Adobo Ingredients



  • 500g assorted mushrooms*
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2-3 pcs dried bay leaves
  • 2 red bird’s eye chillies, sliced
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • Crispy garlic, to garnish
  • Fresh red chillies, to garnish

*I used an array of swiss brown, shimeji, enoki, and oyster mushrooms. Feel free to use whatever is readily available and most importantly, fresh.


  1. Add oil to a large pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the minced garlic and red chillies to the pan and sauté until the garlic is lightly golden and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Follow with the whole black peppercorns and dried bay leaves and continue to sauté to release their flavours.
  2. Turn the heat down to medium and add the mushrooms to the pan. Mix well and cook until the mushrooms have started to wilt and brown.
  3. Add the light and dark soy sauce, together with the white vinegar to the mushrooms. Do not mix. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cover. Allow the mushrooms to simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Give the mushrooms a good mix and adjust the taste to your liking, i.e. add more soy sauce if you want it a little saltier or more chillies for heat. Continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  5. Once done, remove from the pan and transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with crispy garlic and extra red chillies. Serve and enjoy with freshly steamed rice!

Spicy Mushroom Adobo

Now you can stop here, or you can take this dish further by making Mushroom Adobo Fried Rice and serve it with a simple mango salsa and top it off with a sunny side up egg, which is definitely what I did! To make the mushroom fried rice, make sure you have cold, day old rice on hand.

  1. In the same pot that you used to cook your mushroom adobo, add about another 2 tbsp of oil over medium high heat. Sauté about 3 cloves of finely minced garlic until golden brown and fragrant. Add your cold, day old rice to the pan, mix, and cook.
  2. Once the rice is heated through, season with a touch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the mushroom adobo sauce to the rice and mix well.
  3. Transfer the rice to individual serving plates and top with a sunny side up egg, and to freshen the dish up a bit, with some fresh mango salsa (or salsa of choice). Serve and enjoy!

Spicy Mushroom Adobo

Before I end tonight’s post, I just want to say that I will be posting another recipe this week on Friday evening and on Saturday morning or evening (depending when I can get the post done). Stay tuned for a very special occasion for Amcarmen’s Kitchen!


– Ally xx


Crispy Tofu Kare-Kare

Hello Everyone! Yes, I am here again with another recipe for you guys this week! The dish that I will be sharing tonight is a build up on the Mushroom ‘Bagoong’ recipe that I shared yesterday, which I will further explain in tonight’s post.

The word kare actually means curry, so therefore kare-kare is a thick and creamy curry, or stew that is rich in peanut flavour, cooked with your protein of choice and various vegetables. The stew gets its rich flavour from my homemade vegetable broth, ground roasted peanuts and peanut butter, together with sautéed onions, and garlic. It is coloured with annatto and can be thickened with toasted or plain ground rice. It is said that kare-kare has a similar flavour to satay because of the peanuts in the sauce.

The main protein used in a traditional kare-kare is beef, oxtail being the preferred choice of cut and often paired with either beef tripe, beef hock, or beef meat. Various cuts of pork can also be used such as, but not limited to, pork belly, hocks, and/or trotters.

Crispy Tofu Kare-Kare

Kare-kare can also be made exclusively from vegetables, known as Kare-kareng Gulay, that may include, but not limited to, eggplant, Chinese chard (pechay/bok choy), yardlong beans, banana heart/blossoms, okra, daikon, other other various greens. Now while this already is a vegetarian/vegan version of the traditional kare-kare, the condiment on the side, usually shrimp bagoong, strips it of its vegetarian or vegan title. While you can leave the bagoong to the side, kare-kare is just not the same without it. Hence, in yesterday’s post, I made a vegan alternative to bagoong to complete this dish.

I think the last meat-based kare-kare that I had before I stopped eating meat was crispy pork belly kare-kare, and to mimic that, I added crispy fried tofu to my kare-kareng gulay of fried eggplant, blanched yardlong beans and Chinese chard, and boiled banana heart. I first came across Crispy Tofu Kare-kare from various posts I had seen on Instagram last year. Since then I’ve been looking for a reason to make the dish for a blog post and finally I can do so as it fits with the theme for the month!

Crispy Tofu Kare-Kare Ingredients



For the kare-kare

  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 cup vegetable broth (plus additional, if needed)
  • 1/2 cup + 1/2 tbsp creamy smooth peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup white rice flour
  • 1/4 cup roasted peanuts, crushed
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • Salt, to taste

For the annatto mixture

  • 1 & 1/2 tsp annatto seeds
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • Banana heart, boiled
  • Chinese chard (pechay), blanched
  • Eggplant, fried
  • Firm tofu, fried
  • Yardlong beans, blanched
  • Mushroom ‘bagoong’
  • Roasted peanuts, crushed


  1. Annatto Mixture: Combine the annatto seeds and hot water in a cup. Leave to soak for the seeds to release their colour.
  2. Kare-Kare: Add oil in a medium-sized stockpot over medium-high heat. Once hot, sauté the garlic until golden brown and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Follow with the onions and cook for a further 30 seconds before adding the crushed peanuts. Continue to cook for a further minute.
  3. Add the peanut butter and mix well until melted before adding 1 cup on the vegetable broth. Mix and season with a pinch of salt, then turn the heat down to medium-low. Leave to simmer for about 10 minutes for the flavours to infuse.
  4. Take about a third cup of extra vegetable broth and add the white rice flour to it. Mix until the flour is incorporated into the broth.
  5. Stir the rice flour mixture into the peanut butter stew. Leave to cook until the sauce thickens, a further 10 minutes and mix every 2 to 3 minutes to make sure the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
  6. Strain the annatto seeds from the water and add the annatto liquid into the stew. Mix well to incorporate its colour, and if needed, add more vegetable broth to thin out the stew. You may also need to adjust the seasoning to your liking.

At this point, you may choose to add your prepared tofu and vegetables to the stew or separate them for plating up.

  1. Serve and enjoy with steamed rice and mushroom ‘bagoong’ to complete this vegan dish!

Crispy Tofu Kare-Kare

Crispy Tofu Kare-Kare


– Ally xx


Mushroom ‘Bagoong’

Mushroom ‘Bagoong’

Hello Everyone! We’re taking a little detour on our Flavours of Southeast Asia. My initial plan for the year is to go down the list of Southeast Asian countries alphabetically, but since April is a special month for Amcarmen’s Kitchen, I thought it would be fitting to travel through my home country, the Philippines.

Yes I am aware that it’s only Tuesday, those who have been following me for a long time now know that my regular posting schedule is every Wednesday night (GMT+8), but I decided that I would make a separate post for this recipe, leading up the the main recipe I have originally planned for tomorrow. The reason is because the recipe that I will be sharing tonight can be used as a base for many other Filipino dishes, or as a condiment to other savoury dishes.

Mushroom ‘Bagoong’

I don’t think the word ‘bagoong’ even has a direct English translation to it. Rather, the term refers to a condiment local to the Philippines that is partially or completely made of either fermented fish (bagoong isda), krill, or shrimp paste (bagoong alamang) with salt.

The recipe that I will be sharing tonight uses neither fish nor shrimp, instead mushrooms for a vegan-friendly alternative. I first came across mushroom ‘bagoong’ when I was browsing around in an artisanal market about a year ago. I didn’t buy a jar of it though at that time only because I had no idea what I would make/do with it, but I did think that it was an interesting alternative to the bagoong we’re used to here in the Philippines. It wasn’t until I decided to make the dish that I will be sharing tomorrow night, that I also decided to attempt making mushroom ‘bagoong’ as an accompaniment to that dish.

Mushroom ‘Bagoong’ Ingredients



  • 100g fresh oyster mushrooms, minced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 red bird’s eye chillies, finely minced (optional)
  • 1 small red onion, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup white miso paste
  • 2 & 1/2 tbsp white granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger


  1. Add cooking oil in a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, sauté the garlic until golden brown and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Follow with the onions and cook for a further 30 seconds before adding the grated ginger and chillies, total 1 and a half to 2 minutes.
  2. Add the minced mushrooms and continue to cook for about 3 to 4 minutes before adding the sugar and then miso paste into the mushroom mixture. Mix until well combined and continue to cook for another 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Taste and adjust according to your liking.

Add more sugar if you want it a little sweeter, or more chillies if you want a spicier kick. At this point, I added both dark and light soy sauce a tablespoon at a time for added umami flavours and for colour as well.

  1. Cook further, a total of 15 to 20 minutes, until the mushrooms are completely cooked through. Turn the heat off and set aside to cool down before storing in a jar and keeping it tightly sealed.
  2. Refrigerate until ready to use, and can be stored for up to 3 months!

Mushroom ‘Bagoong’

Use for dishes such as pinakbet for a completely vegan alternative to using shrimp bagoong, or as a condiment for other dishes. Enjoy!


– Ally xx


Ikan Sabuko (Grilled Tamarind Fish)

Ikan Sabuko (Grilled Tamarind Fish)

Hello Everyone! It’s the last day of the month and also my last East Timorese recipe! I’m not going to lie, I did have a difficult time researching the country’s most popular dishes, but despite that, I enjoyed the dishes that I came across – easy, humble, yet delicious meals that you can add to your weekly meal plan!

As we all know, East Timor’s cuisine is heavily influenced by the countries that they were once colonized by. The dish that I will be sharing tonight, known as Ikan Sabuko, or in English, Grilled Tamarind Fish, draws on the flavours of Portugal. Along with other fish species, mackerel is a very common fish to eat in Portugal, sometimes on toast, for special occasions, or even a staple weeknight meal.

Ikan Sabuko (Grilled Tamarind Fish)

Ikan Sabuko is a specialty dish made of Spanish mackerel that is marinated in tamarind paste, grilled with basil and chillies for a kick of heat, and then optionally served with a budu sauce to tie all the flavours together. Budu is essentially a fermented anchovy sauce mixed with a squeeze of calamansi juice, red and green chillies, and some sliced red onions. You can add other ingredients as well such as mint leaves and cherry tomatoes for extra flavour.

This dish really only needs a few ingredients, but it’s packed with lots of strong and bold flavours. You don’t have to use mackerel fish in particular, use whatever fish is readily available at your local fish market. Add this to your list of dishes to try and I promise you, it won’t disappoint!

Ikan Sabuko (Grilled Tamarind Fish) Ingredie



  • 6 mackerel fish filets
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • Juice of 3 small-sized calamansi
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Turmeric leaves
  • Basil leaves
  • Red & green Thai chillies


  1. In a medium-sized bowl, add the fish filets together with the salt, pepper, calamansi juice, and tamarind paste. Give it a good mix and set it aside to marinate for about 45 minutes.
  2. Line a grill pan with aluminium foil (about twice the length of your grill pan) and the turmeric leaves. Place the fish filets on top of the leaves, skin side up, and fold the aluminium foil over the top of the fish to enclose it.
  3. Cook over medium-high heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until done to your liking.
  4. Once done, plate up and garnish with some freshly chopped basil leaves and some red and green chillies too (optional).
  5. Serve with freshly cooked rice and a simple budu sauce on the side. Enjoy!

Ikan Sabuko (Grilled Tamarind Fish)

Ikan Sabuko (Grilled Tamarind Fish)


– Ally xx