4 Easy Appetizer/ Starter Recipes that are Beyond Delicious

Appetizers/ starters are the soul of any gathering or party. Be it a Friday night shenanigan with friends or a Sunday housewarming lunch at home, starters are not only crowd pleasers, but are also easy to put together.

Today I will be sharing 4 delicious appetizer recipes that are also quick and inexpensive! Master these simple recipes and munch and mingle your way through any party next time 🙂 What more do we want?

1. Dahi ke Kebab/ Hung Yogurt Kebab⭐️

Soft, melt in the mouth hung yogurt kebabs spiced with nutmeg and with a filling of roasted cashew, fried onions, fresh coriander and fennel🤍

I really love it when you bite into a dahi kebab and can taste the cream cheesy texture of just the hung yogurt, which is not mixed with paneer or grated cheese as some recipes call for.

I followed my favourite Indian chef Ranveer Brar’s YouTube recipe to the T, the only difference being I shallow fried my kebabs on a tawa (flat skillet) instead of deep frying. Dahi kebab is the perfect appetizer when paired with some mint chutney or a spicy tomato relish.

Here’s how you can make yours following the chef’s fantastic recipe:

For the filling:

Roast 1/2 cup cashews in a pan with a tbsp of ghee (clarified butter) until golden. Remove and keep aside. Once it has cooled down, chop them into pieces.

In a bowl, throw in the chopped cashews, 1/2 cup fried onion, 1 tsp fennel seeds, chopped green chili (according to taste), 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves, 1/2 tsp red chili powder, 1/2 tsp roasted cumin powder, some hung yogurt and salt to taste. Mix it well and keep aside.


For the kebab:

In another bowl, add 2 cups of hung yogurt, 4 tbsp fresh bread crumb, 1/4 cup roasted gram flour, salt to taste, 1/2 tsp crushed black pepper and 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg. Again mix well until everything is well combined. Now take a small portion of the yogurt mix and make a round ball.

Add the stuffing in the center as a filling and seal it properly to again make a round-ish patty. Coat all the kebabs with some bread crumbs and keep refrigerated for at least 5-10 minutes so that they become slightly firm. Shallow fry them in a tava/ skillet until nice and golden from all sides.


2. Sumac Prawns with Lemon, Coriander & Garlic 


When I first read Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour, I was blown away by how basic ingredients could transform a simple recipe into a winning dish🤍

Persian food really highlights the use of fresh herbs/ aromatic spices and it’s not hot or too spicy but the flavours do pack a mean punch. So for the next starter, I made this stunning prawn recipe from her book. Juicy, succulent prawns flavoured with citrusy sumac, lemon, black pepper, coriander and lots of garlic.

I can’t even begin to tell you how insanely delicious this dish is! Definitely a must try 🙂

Here’s the recipe (with 12 medium sized prawns, quantity of ingredients slightly adjusted):

In a bowl mix together 3 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, grated rind of 1 lemon, 3 fat garlic cloves crushed, sea salt, 1 tbsp sumac, 2 tbsp of finely chopped coriander with stalks and freshly cracked black pepper.

Marinate the prawns for about 30 minutes. Now heat a frying pan with oil and shallow fry the prawns on both sides until you get the right texture- juicy and tender, not chewy. I used bamboo skewers but you could skip it.

Serve immediately and enjoy. I served these prawns with a homemade yogurt-parsley dip.


3. Pan-grilled drumsticks 


Just 4 ingredients and some patience and you have got yourself a juicy tender chargrilled chicken kebab, perfect for your weekend Netflix marathon 😉

I do fancy elaborate recipes but there are days when I just can’t be bothered. This starter is perfect for those days!
It was on my lunch menu today along with dal, some rice and lots of fresh salad🤍

Here’s the easiest recipe:

Take a bowl and add 3 heaped tbsps of greek yogurt, 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste, 1 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder and some salt. Mix well and throw in 5 chicken drumsticks and coat them well with the marinade. Make sure to make some deep gashes on the drumsticks for better absorption of the spices.

Keep aside for an hour. Now heat 1-2 tbsp of oil in a wok and add in the chicken pieces. Toss them on high heat for a minute or two, then lower the flame to medium, cover and cook.

After every 10 minutes, keep checking and turning the sides. Cook it covered on med-low heat, until the chicken is nicely charred and all the gravy dries up.

Squeeze some lemon and serve with your favourite dip.

4. Easy Paneer Skewers⭐️

I looove paneer! You give it to me in salads, curries, as grilled, parathas or even raw, I’ll be a happy kid. But it has to be really fresh and soft. I’m not fond of most store bought paneers, but Nanak’s paneer is an exception. Their malai paneer is so creamy and soft, I’m sure a lot of you would agree!

For the last one in this series, I have got a really easy paneer hariyali tikka recipe for you. You could serve these in a tortilla wrap with a mint-yogurt sauce and some salad and turn them into paneer tikka wraps. Enjoy🤍

Here’s the recipe:

In a blender, add 1.5 cups of coriander leaves, 1 cup fresh parsley, 3 tbsp hung yogurt, salt to taste, 1-2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 green chili, 2 fat garlic cloves, 1 inch ginger and blend into a smooth paste.

Now transfer the paste into a bowl and add 1/2 tsp powders of each of the following- coriander, turmeric, cumin, kashmiri red chilli, garam masala and chat masala. Throw in 1 tbsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) and 2 tbsp roasted besan (gram flour). Mix well and adjust the salt.

Add 250g paneer (cottage cheese) cut into 12 cubes and 12 pieces of diced red bell pepper. You could add diced onions as well. Coat the paneer and the veggie well with the masala (spice mix) and keep it refrigerated for 1 hour.

Now heat a skillet with 1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter), place the paneer skewers on it. Cook until the edges of the paneer get crisp and brown. You could brush them with ghee once in a while if needed.

Squeeze some lemon juice and serve with any chilled yogurt dip.

Shrimp Bee Hoon/ Vermicelli Noodles (Chinese New Year Recipe)

Gong Xi Fa Cai 🙂

Rice vermicelli (known as bihun or bee hoon in Malaysia) stir-fried with veggies, shrimps and a generous glug of oyster sauce, fish sauce and white pepper- in one word, yumm!

Each year during the Chinese New Year, Kuala Lumpur comes alive with every nook and corner of the city lit up, insane discounts at stores, yummy hotpots, gorgeous décor, potluck with friends, the lion dances, fireworks! I could go on and on…

I’m really missing all the buzz thinking of the past many years, so tossed up some mean stir-fried prawn bihun/ bee hoon to remember the good old days🌼

Happy Chinese New Year to all those celebrating! May this year bring peace, good health and happiness for everyone🤍

Ingredients (2 servings):

10-12 medium sized shrimps, cleaned and de-veined

8 oz/ 225 g bihun or rice vermicelli

2 cups veggies of your choice (I used celery, broccoli, long beans, sugar snap peas, carrots)

2 eggs

4 fat garlic cloves chopped

2 fresh red chilies chopped

2 medium shallot chopped

5-6 spring onion greens chopped in 2 inch pieces

Salt to taste

For marination:

1 tsp ground white pepper

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine (Chinese cooking wine)

1/2 tsp sesame oil

For the sauce:

1/2 cup chicken broth/ stock

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce

11/2 tbsp oyster sauce

1/2 tsp white pepper powder

1/2 tsp brown sugar

Method:

Marinate shrimps with the ground white pepper, Shaoxing wine and sesame oil for 10 minutes. If you don’t have Chinese cooking wine, you could also use mirin or rice wine vinegar.

Soak your vermicelli in hot water (not boiling) for exactly 2-3 minutes, not more. This makes sure that the vermicelli doesn’t get clumpy. Drain and drizzle some oil. Keep aside.

Prepare a sauce by mixing the ingredients listed under sauce- chicken stock, light soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, white pepper and a hint of brown sugar.

Heat a wok till smoking hot, add oil and fry the marinated prawns. Take them out and keep aside. Now throw in chopped garlic, fresh red chilies and the shallots and fry again over high heat.

Add the veggies of your choice and continue to stir fry over high heat. When they are almost done, push them slightly in the corner of the wok and add 2 eggs. Fry them and then mix everything back together.

Now throw in the vermicelli, spring onion greens and the sauce. Toss well with tongs to ensure each noodle is coated well with the sauce.

Add the prawns and mix again. Adjust the salt. Serve hot immediately 😋

Asian Style Stir-Fried Chicken with Leeks

I didn’t feel like cooking today but I also didn’t want to order in as we strictly limit it to once or twice on weekends.

So I tossed up some quick Asian style stir-fried chicken with leeks and carrots. For vegetarians, you can simply switch the chicken with firm tofu or soybean.

Easy & delicious! Just like we need on weekends 🤍

Ingredients:

350 g bone-in chicken

3-4 large leeks, chopped into 1-inch slices

1 medium carrot, chopped into thin long slices

1/2 cup chicken stock

1 tsp dark soy sauce (low sodium)

1/2 tsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)

1/2 tsp all purpose flour

1 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp crushed black pepper

1 tsp each of grated ginger & garlic

1 medium shallot, finely sliced

1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Salt to taste

Method:

Marinate the chicken with some salt and freshly crushed black pepper. Now clean the leeks thoroughly & chop them into 1” slices. Chop the carrots into thin long slices.

Prepare a sauce by mixing 1/2 cup chicken stock with 1 tsp dark soy sauce (low sodium), 1/2 tsp palm sugar (or brown sugar), 1/2 tsp APF, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1/2 tsp crushed black pepper, 1 tsp each of grated ginger and garlic.

Heat a wok and fry one sliced shallot. Throw in the chicken pieces and sear both sides on high heat. Once they are nicely browned, reduce the heat to medium and add the leeks and the carrot. Cover for 4-5 minutes on low-med heat.

Remove the lid and add the sauce and stir fry on high heat again for 5-6 minutes.

Reduce the heat and let it cook for some more time. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve hot with rice😋

Easy Instant Pot Paneer (Cottage Cheese) Pilaf

On weekdays when you are pressed for time, the Instant Pot is always a saviour. Just a bit of stirring and then let the @instantpotofficial do it’s magic.

For lunch today, I made a quick and easy paneer pilaf/ pulao which took less than 30 minutes to come together but was delicious nonetheless🤍

Ingredients (for 2 full servings):

200 g paneer (cottage cheese), cut in cubes

1 cup of basmati (or any long grained) rice, washed and drained

2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

2 bay leaves

1 black cardamom

4 green cardamoms

4 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste

2-3 slit green chilies (or according to your heat tolerance)

1 cup chopped veggies of your choice ( I used carrots, green peas and long beans)

1/2 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder

1/2 tsp garam masala powder

2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves

1 tbsp chopped mint leaves (optional)

Salt to taste

Method:

(You could do this in a pressure cooker as well, only the timing & settings may vary)

Before you start cooking, wash and drain 1 cup of basmati rice. Keep aside in a colander.

Put the instant pot on sauté mode and heat some ghee (clarified butter). Throw in whole spices like cumin seeds, bay leaves, black and green cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and a few peppercorns.

Once fragrant, add thinly sliced onions, ginger-garlic paste, the slit green chilies and stir fry until the onions are golden and the raw smell of ginger-garlic goes away. Now add the chopped veggies of your choice and continue to fry.

For seasoning, add some salt, red chilli powder, garam masala powder and chopped coriander leaves. You could also add mint leaves if you have. Mix everything well.

Throw in the paneer and the washed rice and mix all until well combined. Add 11/2 cup of water and adjust the salt.

Press the keep warm/ cancel function and close the lid of the instant pot (make sure that the steam release handle is in the sealing position). Now press the manual button and let the pulao cook for 8-9 minutes. Let the pressure release on its own if you have time.

Serve hot with some chilled raita 🙂

The Ultimate Chicken Phở (Phở Gà) ~ Lost in the lanes of Vietnam

Xin chào các bạn 🙂

Juicy succulent chicken pieces simmered in an aromatic broth served over rice noodles with an assortment of fresh herbs and condiments- the mighty phở (pronounced Fuh) is probably the most famous food export of Vietnam.

I don’t think there’s anybody who wouldn’t enjoy a fragrant bowl of warm phở on a cold winter night like today in Toronto. Although beef phở is more widely known, the chicken version is equally delicious and packed with complex yet delicate flavours.

I have always been fascinated by Vietnam and its culture, history, people and food. Ever since I read about the Vietnam War in my younger days, visiting the country was on my bucket list. This desire got stoked further on hearing stories from my dear Vietnamese friend Minh (my classmate from university days in Kuala Lumpur).

While visiting Hanoi, one of my favourite activities was to explore the local eateries and enjoy a bowl of phở. Other delicacies like bánh mì (savoury sandwich) or bún chả  (meatballs) were also sumptuous, but it was the humble phở which resonated with me the most.

Vietnamese food is all about simplicity and minimal use of spices. The fresh herbs really stand out in making each dish flavourful- whether it’s bún thịt nướng (cold rice-vermicelli noodles with grilled meat) , fresh spring rolls or bún bò xào (noodle salad).

The street-side stalls are often packed in the mornings with people sitting on plastic stools enjoying a comforting bowl of phở before work.

Although phở might look really simple, it’s a work of art in a bowl. Phở teaches you balance. The zing from lime, the piquant fish sauce, freshness of herbs, spicy kick from the red chilies and sriracha, everything is adjusted in the right proportion to create the perfectly balanced umami rich dish 🙂

Before I share the ultimate recipe of mouthwatering chicken phở, here are some precious snippets from my Hanoi and Halong Bay trip two years ago.

Dreamy lanes
Ho Van Văn Miếu ~ Confucian history and culture intrigues me, so I had to visit this ancient university built in 1070 which is dedicated to Confucius. So serene and picturesque!
Local artisanal craftwork
The stunning Hoàn Kiếm lake at night
It’s a busy day at work!
The famous book street
Sunset at the majestic Halong Bay
The gorgeous sunset view
Ethereal beauty
Maison Centrale ~ the prison for the Vietnamese revolutionaries and American POW during the Vietnam War
The sacrifices will never be forgotten
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre ~ an evening to remember!
Sung Sot Cave ~ the biggest and most beautiful cave in Halong Bay
Such an enormous limestone structure!
Random roadside cafes ~ so Insta-worthy
Towering limestone pillars and gorgeous emerald waters- Halong Bay is breathtaking!
Room with a view at Alisa Premier Cruise
Fairy lights on winter nights at Ho Van-Văn Miếu
Vietnamese Women’s Museum ~ dedicated to heroic women for their contribution to Vietnamese history, politics and culture. The stories about women who made a mark in Vietnam War were particularly impressive.

Time for some food 😀

Fresh oysters and shrimp with onion sauce
Bánh Mì and phở
Fresh Grilled Fish
A local café
Spring Rolls and Fresh Salad
Best breakfast in Hanoi Meracus Hotel 2. Hundreds of great reviews made us choose this little gem 🙂
Traditional coffee
Some more phở

We all need a holiday after this Covid nightmare is over and hopefully we will all travel again soon. Till then keep planning and keep dreaming 🙂

Chicken Phở (Phở Gà) Recipe:

Ingredients (for 2 people):

Boiled rice noodles (for 2)

For the broth:

1 large onion, halved (unpeeled)

1 two-inch piece ginger (unpeeled)

1 large cinnamon stick

2 star anise

1/2 tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp coriander seeds

6 cloves

Few fresh coriander/ cilantro sprigs

3 tbsp fish sauce (you can add more if you like)

350-400g bone-in chicken

Salt to taste

Sugar to taste

For the topping/ garnish (the quantities are according to my preference, you can adjust as per your taste):

3 tbsp crispy fried shallots (or onions)

1 sliced Thai red chilli

Few sprigs of fresh coriander/ cilantro

8-10 fresh Thai basil leaves (or normal basil leaves if you don’t have Thai basil)

2 tbsp lime juice (or lemon like I used)

2-3 tbsp chopped spring onions

2 tbsp bean sprouts

Sriracha sauce according to taste

Few important tips:

Always use bone-in chicken for maximum flavour.

Char the veggies welly well.

Remove scum from time to time gently.

Adjust the quantities of herbs and condiments according to your taste. There is no fixed rule.

Let the broth simmer for at least 1.5 hours or more. Don’t cover the lid completely. Initially partially covered, later on simmer uncovered.

Method:

Heat a deep bottomed pot and roast the onion and ginger face down on medium heat. Make sure you don’t peel them. Continue to turn them with a tong for even charring.

When they get slightly charred, add the cinnamon, star anise, fennel and coriander seeds. Dry roast them for some more time until the spices become fragrant and the onion and ginger pieces are nicely charred.

Take out the ginger and onion. Peel the outer skin of the onion and roughly chop in 3-4 pieces to release more flavour into the broth. Also chop the ginger into smaller size as shown below. Add them back in the pot.

Throw in the chicken pieces and add enough water in the pot to make a good broth for two. Add salt, sugar, fish sauce and coriander sprigs and let the broth simmer on low heat (partially covered) for at least 1.5 hours. The longer the better!

Scoop out the scum that rises to the surface with a ladle gently without disturbing the simmering broth, from time to time.

Make sure that every time you scoop out some scum, you dip the ladle into a bowl of clear water before scooping out again. This will ensure your broth doesn’t become cloudy.

Meanwhile prepare your rice noodles according to package instructions, but don’t cook it too far ahead in time as they tend to get sticky if left out for a long time.

Also prepare the crispy shallots by frying 3 finely chopped shallots on low-medium heat in a wok. Drain and keep aside on a paper towel.

After 1.5 hours, you will notice that the broth is mostly clear.

Now remove the chicken and let the broth continue to simmer. Once slightly cool, tear the chicken pieces with your hand roughly instead of chopping, for that rustic street-side feel.

Strain the broth and adjust the seasoning. Remember to keep the broth slightly on the saltier side because it will eventually get diluted when noodles are added.

Time to assemble the phở !

In a bowl, take some of the boiled rice noodles, top it up with chicken and some chopped spring onions. Add enough broth so that it covers almost the entire bowl.

Throw in basil leaves, coriander leaves, chopped Thai red chilies, fried shallots, bean sprouts, a generous squeeze of lime and a squirt of sriracha*.

*Adding sriracha in the phở is often debated because it was never really used traditionally. But eateries now serve dollops of sriracha and hoisin sauce on a small flat dish to be used to flavour the meat and herbs for the phở. I personally don’t mind a small squirt of the hot sauce in my pho as it brings out all the flavours beautifully and elevates the taste but you may skip using it. Just keep some with you on a small plate and use as you please.

Serve hot and enjoy!

Nasi Goreng ~ From the streets of Indonesia

Nasi = Rice, Goreng = Fried, the dish literally translates to fried rice. Let’s explore the streets of South East Asia and its glorious cuisine this week 🙂

Day old rice tossed with kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), belacan (shrimp paste) and leftover veggies/ meat creates this beautiful umami rich fried rice topped with a fried egg.

One of the most talked about dishes of south east Asia (with several dubious recipes floating online!), the authentic nasi goreng is rather simple- with only stir-fried left over rice and a fried egg, as served in most local eateries across the length & breadth of Indonesia and Malaysia.

But if you want to make it into a complete wholesome meal like I did, just throw in any left over veggie, some protein and you are sorted! But what’s not optional is the kecap manis and fried egg on top😋

Don’t fret if you don’t have kecap manis. Simply reduce dark soy sauce (preferably low sodium) and brown sugar in a pan on low heat until it becomes darker & sticky. Ta-da!
You can add this sweet soy sauce to a host of Asian stir fries😉 Meanwhile you could also check out the Asian aisles of your supermarket or any Asian grocer and get a bottle of this dark and luscious velvety goodness.

Shrimp paste (belacan) gives the dish its umami flavour and elevates its taste to the next level! You can skip it if you don’t have, but do give it a try once. It does smell funky but believe me it really makes a difference in the taste and is actually much subtler in flavour once cooked.

Ingredients (for 2 servings):

200 g boneless chicken cubes

2 portions of cooked rice, a day old (if you don’t have overnight leftover rice, simply cook fresh rice and allow it to cool in refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours, don’t skip this!)

2-3 tbsp kecap manis

2 tsp chopped Thai red chilies

2 tbsp chopped garlic

1 finely chopped medium sized onion or 2-3 shallots

1 large cup veggies of your choice (I used chopped red bell pepper, beans and carrots)

1/2 tsp belacan/ shrimp paste (you can add slightly more or reduce based on your preference)

2 eggs

Salt to taste

White oil for frying

Method:

Marinate the boneless chicken cubes with 1/2 tbsp kecap manis. Keep aside.

Heat a wok; once smoking hot, add oil and throw in the chopped shallots (or onion), garlic and Thai red chilies. Sauté for a while.

Now add the chicken and spread it in the wok to ensure that it sears nicely. Stir fry for a while until the chicken is nicely browned. Next add your veggies and continue to stir fry on high heat. Adjust the salt according to your taste (remember soy sauce has salt, so go easy).

Add a bit of shrimp paste if you have and mix everything together so that the paste is evenly combined with the chicken and veggies.

Now add leftover rice (preferably short-grained) and the remaining kecap manis and stir fry for some more time. the rice and veggies should look glazed and nicely coated with the sauce.

Meanwhile prepare two fried eggs in a wok (no salt needed).

Serve hot with fried egg, cucumber slices and prawn crackers🤍 Makan time now!

Ayam Goreng Sambal (Malaysian style Spicy Sambal Chicken)

Crispy and tender boneless chicken thighs smothered in Malaysian style spicy sambal. So sedap (tasty) 🤍

Local Malay and Indonesian fares are so deliciously appetising and dangerously addictive that there’s no going back ever once you taste them at the countless mamak shops (street side restaurants)😋

I was craving sambal ayam goreng today, so quickly tossed up some fried chicken pieces in homemade sambal. Hello weekend bingeing !

Try this recipe and get transported to the enigmatic winding streets of Kuala Lumpur.

Ingredients:

For the fried chicken

300 g boneless chicken thigh

1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste

1 tbsp kecap manis (dark sweet soy sauce)

1 tsp vinegar

1 egg beaten

2 tbsp cornflour

White oil for deep frying

For the spicy sambal

5-6 fat cloves of garlic crushed

5-6 shallots

1 lemongrass stalk finely sliced

1 inch piece of fresh turmeric (or 1 tsp turmeric powder)

2 inch piece of galangal (or fresh ginger)

2-3 dried red chilies soaked in hot water (you can add more or reduce depending on your heat tolerance)

1-2 fresh chilies (again add or reduce to your liking)

1 tsp fish sauce

2 tsp tamarind paste (without seeds)

2 tbsp brown sugar (or palm sugar)

Any white (neutral) oil

Method

Marinate the chicken thigh pieces with some salt, ginger-garlic paste, kecap manis, vinegar, 1 beaten egg and cornflour. Keep refrigerated for 30 mins.

Heat some oil in a wok for deep frying. Fry the chicken until nice and crunchy golden brown. Drain and keep aside on a plate.

Meanwhile prepare the sambal by grinding the garlic cloves, fresh turmeric, ginger (or galangal), soaked dried red chilies, fresh chilies, shallots and lemongrass stalk into a paste in a blender or a mortar-pestle if you have patience.

Now heat a wok with oil. Sauté the paste on low heat until the aromatics turn fragrant which may take 12-15 minutes. Now add little fish sauce, palm sugar (or brown sugar) and the tamarind paste (you can make it to your liking by adjusting the sugar and tamarind).


Once the oil releases from the spices, it’s time to add the fried chicken and toss them for a while. Serve hot with your favourite drinks or simple nasi putih (white rice) 🙂