Backpackers’ Ultimate Recipe

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What do you eat while you are backpacking or traveling on a budget? Or to be more specific, what would you cook during a trip when you have only some basic kitchenware? With my experience of living in hostels, Airbnb, Couchsurfing and camping, after trying different kinds of backpackers’ dishes, I can say finally I have one unbeatable backpackers’ recipe: Instant noodle! You know I’m joking… I’m talking about something tastier and healthier: Pasta Arrabbiata! Arrabbiata in Italian means “angry”, because the sauce is made from onion, garlic, red chilli peppers and tomatoes, which presents a hot look and gives you a spicy taste.

Arrabbiata is one of the classic tomato sauces for pasta or spaghetti that takes you only about twenty minutes to prepare. This recipe is not only for backpackers, but it’s also great for home cooking as a proper meal. You can use fresh tomatoes (process: warm-peel-chop-cook), but canned ones are really better in this case because of the ripe flavor, acidity, richness and much more. One more healthier suggestion: buy the peeled tomatoes in glass bottles rather than in cans, if you can.
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INGREDIENTS:
(serves 2)
Pasta 200g
1 medium sized chopped onion
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
1 peeled whole/diced tomato in glass bottle/can (about 300g)
Half chopped fresh red chilli pepper or dried chilli flakes
Fresh parsley or any other green herbs and cheese for garnish
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
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COOKING IT UP:
1. Cook water in a pot until it’s boiling, put pasta into the pot, add salt and olive oil, keep cooking on high heat, stir from time to time.
2. Fry the onion, chilli and garlic with olive oil in a pan on medium heat for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes into the pan, season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep stirring for about 5 minutes until the mixture becomes less juicy. Turn to low heat.
3. The pasta should be cooked for 8-10 minutes until al dente. Drain the water and mix the pasta with sauce in the pan on low heat.
4. Serve on two plates, sprinkle some parsley and cheese for garnish. Buon appetito!

Homemade Muesli and Overnight Oats

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When I was a kid, I didn’t like to eat oatmeal. There were mostly only white dry oat flakes in the package, and I was not clever enough to find another way to eat it other than boiling it in water – quite tasteless and boring. Also in China, oatmeal was mostly designed as gifts for patients and the elderly; that made me feel it was simply not my kind of food.

Fortunately, I totally changed my mind the moment I tasted muesli. Muesli is a common breakfast dish in Switzerland and Germany based on raw rolled oats and other ingredients such as dried fruits, nuts, grains and seeds and mixed with milk or yogurt. The taste is so rich that you can feel the multi-layered crunchy, juicy and creamy satisfaction in every single spoonful. There are also many nutritional benefits of muesli: overall it has less sugar and calories than most other cereals and is high in fiber and whole grains which are filling and at the same time regulate the digestive system. There are hundreds of different varieties of packaged muesli being sold in the supermarket that you could never try all of them out. But as long as you know what you prefer, the best muesli should always be made by yourself.

To make a standard muesli you can mix rolled oats with nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios…), dried fruits (raisins, apricots, banana chips…), and seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, linseeds…), powder (cacao, coconut…). In this recipe, I add some goji berries and ground cinnamon which are common natural healthy food in China but maybe not yet having been considered to be put in muesli by others. Also try to buy some unordinary super healthy ingredients online or in special shops. For example, chia seeds were the food of choice of Aztec and Mayan warriors. They are high in protein, and one single tablespoon would keep them going for a whole day.

On cold days, you can warm the muesli in a small pot with milk or soy milk until it boils. Add one teaspoon of brown sugar to sweeten or one chopped banana will do the job too. On hot days, just pour the milk or yogurt over the muesli in a bowl and it’s ready to eat. Add one seasonal fruit or drizzle some honey if you want. One more clever way is to turn your muesli into overnight oats, which saves you time on weekday mornings before you run out the door.
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INGREDIENTS for dry Muesli:
(serves 4-5 times)
200g oats
2 tablespoons goji berries
2 tablespoons raisins
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons linseeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
one pinch of saffron strands
milk, jam and fresh fruits for serving

COOKING IT UP:
This recipe is so simple that you don’t even need instructions on how to prepare it. Just mix all the dry ingredients, store in a large glass jar and put in a cool place (room temperature). Better to finish it off in a month.

For overnight oats: Put the muesli in a bowl or a cup the night before, pour over the milk and add one teaspoon sugar or honey. Mix well (make sure the milk roughly covers the muesli) and cover it. You can put it in the fridge overnight. When the temperature is lower than 25°C, I just let it stay out. In the morning, chop a fruit into small chunks, add it to your muesli and add some more jam to give a color and flavor. Enjoy it with your regular morning drink and start your day the right way!
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Rainbow Wrap

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Fancy something that looks colorful, is packed full of flavors and is also healthy? This recipe is definitely a good choice! You may still remember the Falafel in Pita bread from an earlier issue, which could also be made as a falafel wrap by using a flatbread. Alright, if you think that it’s too complicated to prepare falafel balls, then there is no excuse to complain about this one.
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A wrap is basically made with a flatbread rolled around a filling, which could be a mixture of anything such as beans, vegetables, different kinds of meats or cheeses. In this recipe I’m gonna make a combination with colorful vegetables, beans and rice for the filling, then top it off with tomato salsa. This tomato salsa is also a great accompaniment to other main dishes or just simply as a delicious topping on toast or crackers. You can put one or two spoons of salsa into the wrap to create some freshness. But you don’t have to because we have the fantastic creamy guacamole!
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Guacamole is one of the easiest, tastiest and healthiest dishes. It’s mainly made from avocado. Avocados are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and diverse fats, which make them super nutritious. These fruits are becoming much easier to find, from your neighborhood fruit shop, supermarket or online. You should just wait until their color turns into a deep green or purple, then it’s the right time to enjoy. Guacamole is just like the tomato salsa; you can make it as a fresh topping for breads or even as sauce for pasta. This wrap is also perfect for on the go – just plop it in your lunch box or your picnic basket.
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Ingredients:
(4 medium sized wraps)
4 pieces of whole grain flat-bread
1 large ripe avocado, mashed
6 white mushrooms, sliced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 small cup of corns
1 small cup of cooked mix-beans (black, white, kidney…)
1/2 small zucchini, diced
1/2 small sweet potato, shredded
1 small green/red chili
some slices of onion
1 clove of finely chopped garlic
1/2 lemon or lime
1 small cup of cooked rice
a bunch of coriander and green salad (baby spinach or lettuce…)
spices: salt, pepper, olive oil and ground cumin

Directions:
1. Tomato salsa: Mix the diced tomatoes with salt, pepper, olive oil and some finely chopped garlic, coriander and green pepper. Squeeze 1-2 table spoons of lemon juice in and taste. You can add more herbs (fresh or dry) to create your own version. Set aside for at least 20 minutes to let all flavors develop.
2. Put a pan on medium heat, drizzle in some oil, and sauté the onions and garlic for 1-2 minutes. Put all the zucchini, mushrooms, sweet potato, corn and chili into the pan. Season with salt, pepper and ground cumin. Keep stirring for about 5-6 minutes, add the mixed beans. Use a big spoon to mash the beans partially and leave some whole. Turn off the heat, add in green salad for a quick mix and set aside.
3. Guacamole: Cut the avocado in half, scoop the flesh out with a spoon. Mix the mashed avocado with finely chopped coriander, chili, salt, pepper, 1 teaspoon olive oil and the rest of half lemon juice.
4. Warm the wrap. Put one fourth of the mixture from the pan on one side of the wrap, keep adding rice, guacamole and roughly chopped coriander. Roll it up, cut into two, garnish with tomato salsa and munch!

One Pot Pumpkin Soup

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This pumpkin soup is simple, hearty, nutritious and beautiful. Chop, all in one pot, blitz, done. I used almost every parts of the pumpkin, as I didn’t cut the peel and roasted the seeds for snacking. I also made a quick Asparagus topping while the soup was simmering in pot. The toppings are extremely versatile so you can choose how to style your bowls. For me, it always depends on what I can grab handy. In this case, because the soup is gonna be orange/yellow-ish, so a little bit green color and a bit crunchy texture on top would be a cute combination. That means, almost any kinds of cooked greens such as pak choi, kale or even broccoli would match. I also add a dollop of yogurt and some roasted pumpkin seeds on top. You can skip these, or be more creative! This would make a delicious and comforting meal when you are craving something light yet satisfying. It’s yummy on its own, or served with a slice of toasted bread, drizzled with olive.
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Ingredients
(serves 2-3)
All the vegetables are roughly chopped
500g pumpkins
1 medium sized carrot
1 medium sized onion
2 gloves of garlic
A sprig of fresh herb such as rosemary, coriander
500ml vegetable stock (skip if you don’t have)
Salt and pepper, olive oil

For toppings:
2 asparagus
handful of pumpkin seeds
A dollop of yogurt
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Methods:
1. Place the pumpkin, carrot, onion, garlic and some oil in a deep pot and saute until soft.
2. Add the stock/water until it covers the vegetables, season with salt and pepper. Put chopped herbs in, then bring to the boil and turn to low heat, simmer for 20-30 minutes.
3. In the meantime, wash and dry the pumkin seeds. Heat a pan with a splash of oil, roasted the seeds by seasoning with salt and a pinch of spices such as curry powder or pepper, until golden brown and move to a bowl. Sprinkle some oil again on the pan and saute the chopped asparagus for 2-3 minutes.
4. Pour the vegetable from the pot to a blender. Blitz and taste, serve in bowls and top with asparagus, roasted pumpkin seeds and a dollop of yogurt, along with a slice of toasted bread.

Classic Beef Stew

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Recipe for Classic Beef Stew – Here’s a good old-fashioned stew with rich beef gravy that lets all of the flavors come through. This is the perfect hearty dish for a blustery winter day.
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Ingredients:
2 lbs Stew Beef – cut into 1” cubes
2 tsp Olive Oil
2 Cups Water
1 Tbs Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp garlic powder (or one fresh clove garlic minced)
2 Bay leaves
1 medium onion – chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp raw sugar
½ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp tumeric
½ tsp onion powder
⅛ tsp ground cloves
4 large carrots – quartered and cut into small pie shaped pieces
3 celery stalks – halved and cut into small pieces
2 Tbs corn starch
¼ cup water
1 packet of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
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Instructions:
1. Brown meat in the olive oil in a skillet on the stove top over medium high heat (2-3 minutes). Place into crock pot.
2. Add the 2 cups of water water and all ingredients to the crock pot. Cook in crock pot on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.
3. 45 minutes before serving, in a small bowl mix ¼ cup of cold water and 2 tbs of corn starch together and mix until corn starch is dissolved. Once dissolved, add to the crock pot. Add the packet of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix as well.

Ratatouille

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I have been thinking about cooking Ratatouille recently. Ratatouille is is a French Provença stewed vegetable dish, simply seasoned with herbs. It’s a humble, rustic dish which requires no skills. It’s packed with flavors and nutrition. It’s also a great dish to serve for people with food allergies or dietary restrictions, because it doesn’t contain any dairy, gluten, or nuts. The dish itself is also versatile, serving as a hearty main course over rice, potatoes, couscous, or with a crunchy baguette. It can also be served as a solid side dish. If you’re not worried about dairy, feel free to grate some Parmesan cheese on top for an extra flavor. And again, you also only need one pot for this recipe! Well, another common method to cook Ratatouille is to heat the veggies separately and cook them together in a pot in the end. If you have enough time and wanna give a try, why not? About the herbs, thyme, rosemary and basil are my favorite combination. Fresh ones always taste better than dry ones in this case. But if you don’t have any, use the Italian mixed herbs, they will do the job too. Don’t be shy, add a lot please.
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Ingredients
(serves 3)
1 red onion, 1 zucchini, 1 eggplant, 1 carrot, 1 red or green pepper (medium sized and roughly chopped into chunks)
Several small button mushrooms
10 small whole tomatoes, or 3 medium sized tomatoes, chopped into chunks
2 cloves garlic, sliced
A bunch of fresh(or a pinch of dry) thyme leaves, rosemary, basil or Italian mixed herbs
Salt & pepper, extra virgin olive oil, to taste

Methods:
1. In a medium sized pot, heat the oil, onion, red pepper and garlic over medium heat for about 5 mins, stir frequently.
2. Add the carrot, zucchini, eggplant, mushroom. Season with herbs, salt and pepper. Keep stirring over medium heat for about 10 minutes until the veggies become moist and a bit brown.
3. Add the fresh tomatoes and mix them well in the pot. Cover the pot and cook for another 15-20 mins, until vegetables are tender, but still in shapes. Stir one or two times in between only in case it’s getting sticky on the bottom.
4. Serve in a bowl, with breads or anything else you want to match your Ratatouille. Bon Appetit!

Coconut Pumpkin Dal

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Dal, mostly refers to various kinds of soup, originally from South Asia, prepared with pulses(lentils, peas, beans). I’m super-fond of lentils especially; they’re high in fiber, full of good protein, low in calories, easy to cook, cheap, substantial and delicious. There are a number of different kinds of lentils: dark, green and red, which all have their own special texture when cooked. Red lentils tend to lose their shape when cooked, which is perfect for wonderfully thick and mushy dishes. I’ll use red lentils and pumpkin as the base in this recipe, which makes the Dal rich and a bit naturally sweet. I’ll mix several spices to give it an exotic fragrant flavor, also add coconut cream to balance the smoothness. This is a lovely dish that goes well with rice or flat-bread, accompanied by sides of stir-fried greens or simple fresh salad. I’ll stir-fry some yummy seasoned tofu cubes along with some kale and fresh carrot. In the end, sprinkle some roasted sesame and herbs to garnish. As I always suggested, just grab things that you have. You don’t have kale? Chinese greens will be alright too. I totally like this “made from scratch” kind of cooking style, casual, creative and fun! Well, let’s start.
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Ingredients
(serves 5)
200g red lentils, soaked overnight
2 medium sized onions, roughly chopped
200g pumpkins, in chunks
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Small chunk(about 1 clove of garlic size) of ginger, finely chopped
2 small sized tomatoes, in chunks
1 can coconut cream
2tsp curry powder
1tsp turmeric
1tsp coriander seeds
1stp cumin seeds
a small handful of curry leaves
salt and pepper, water and oil

FOR SIDE DISH:
Tofu, chopped in cubes, seasoned with curry powder, garlic, salt and sesame oil
chopped greens and grated carrot
sesame and coriander to garnish

Methods:
1. Bring the lentils in a pot with enough water to the boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cover and leave to cook gently for 15 minutes until the lentils are softened. Drain and put aside.
2. Set a frying pan on medium heat, add oil, stir-fry the prepared tofu until golden color, put the crispy tofu aside. Keep stir-frying the greens, simply season with salt, put aside also when finish.
3. Get a pot, add some oil and put on medium heat, gently sautee the onion, garlic and ginger. Once the garlic is golden, mix in the pumpkins and tomatoes. Put all the spices in, as well as salt and pepper, and stir fry for another few minutes.
4. When the pot is getting dry, pour in the coconut cream and another can of water, also the cooked lentils. Give them a good stir, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the pumpkins become completely soft. Check once or twice in between. Add more water if necessary. They should have the consistency of porridge. Season to taste, then serve on rice, with side dish along, topped with sesame and coriander.

Chickpea Shukshuka

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It’s almost a one pot dish again! All the ingredients are insanely easy to prepare, and it’s so fun to poke some holes in the sauce for the poached eggs. I add chickpeas to make it more rich and comforting, also because they are good source of protein and fiber. You can use chickpea in cans for convenience, or soak them overnight and cook for 25 minutes for more deliciousness. You can also skip the chickpeas and use other veggies such as mushrooms and celery instead. I season it with cumin, paprika and chili powder to give a smoky and spicy flavor. It would be ideal to bake the eggs in the oven for the last 10 minutes, but my 10-inched pan is too large to be put in, so I just cover it with a lid, which turns out great as well.

Shakshuka is a perfect dish for sharing with friends, a hearty yet healthy one suitable for all day meals! Serve with toasted bread, over rice, or pasta whichever you want.
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Ingredients
(serves 4)
1 can of chickpeas, or 150g dry chickpeas soaked overnight and cooked in water for 25 minutes until soft
3 medium sized tomatoes, diced, or 1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
1 medium sized green pepper, deseeded and diced
2 large garlic gloves, finely chopped
4 eggs
pinch of cumin, paprika and chili powder
olive oil, salt and pepper
green herbs for garnishing, cheese for extra taste

Methods:
1. Add olive oil on a big pan over medium heat, sauté the onion, green pepper and garlic for 5 minutes until soft and fragrant.
2. Add chopped tomatoes, cumin, paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper, taste and adjust as needed. Stir well, bring to a simmer and leave it on the medium heat for another 3 minutes.
3. Add cooked chickpeas and stir to combine well. Let it simmer for another 10 minutes to allow the flavors develop. Stir several times in between.
4. Use a spoon to poke a hole in the sauce and crack one egg in. Poke more for more eggs. Turn to low heat and simmer for about 5 minutes until the eggs are set. Reduce or increase the time if you want the eggs be less cooked or the other way.
5. Turn off the heat, add some pieces of cheese for an extra taste, sprinkle some herbs for garnishing. Share with joy when it’s warm, have fun!
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Home Made Buffalo Chicken Wings

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Later on, I started craving my new love in Boxing Cat in Shanghai, and for a few years, their buffalo chicken wings were definitely unbeatable. Served with blue cheese sauce, they were perfectly spicy and sour at the same time. I could wash them down so quickly in no time, but you know what, since big Gary passed away, their recipe must have gone with him, and now their wings are a big disappointment. The batter is now too thin and not crispy enough and the sauce is weak. Then, last winter, I was in Amsterdam, and to escape the snow and the wind, I decided to stop by this Irish bar I was just passing by, and there, I had the best buffalo chicken wings in years. Everything was so perfect, the way it should be, and with a glass of mulled wine, I was no longer cold.

Well, since it’s so hard to have some nice wings, I thought, why not make my own? This thought kept coming to me, but I was too lazy to make them. Recently, however, I was inspired by an American friend of mine, and after some consulting, here I am, enjoying my first home made buffalo chicken wings. They are actually better than I could have imagined. Now I’m sharing my secret recipe with you, and I hope you like them as much as I do.
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Ingredients
For Chicken Wings:
2 cups of flour (whole wheat or gluten – free)
¼ tsp of cumin
¼ cup of corn starch
½ tsp of salt
½ tsp of onion powder
½ tsp of pepper
2 tsps of paprika
1 tsp of chili powder
2 pound of chicken breast – diced into small pieces
1 cup of milk (almond works great)
1 egg
Canola oil for frying

For the Wing Sauce:
2 tablespoons of butter – melted
1 cup of hot sauce (franks)
For Blue Cheese Sauce:
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons milk
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
Kosher or sea salt, to taste
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Methods:
Make The Blue Cheese Dip
In a bowl, combine the sour cream, mayonnaise, garlic, and lemon juice. Add in the milk, one tablespoon at a time until reaching desired consistency. Stir in the blue cheese and season with salt and pepper. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Make The Chicken Wings
1. Heat 2 -3 inches of canola oil in a stock pot or skillet.
2. In one bowl mix – flour, cumin, corn starch, salt, pepper, paprika, chili powder together.
3.  In another bowl whisk the egg and milk together.
4.  Dip each chicken into wet mixture, dry mixture, wet mixture again, and then dry mixture again.
5.  Fry 5 – 9 bites at a time (takes a couple minutes or until golden brown) – place on paper towels so the grease is absorbed.
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Make The Wing Sauce
As chicken fries, combine the hot sauce and butter in a small bowl. Microwave sauce for 20 to 30 seconds or just until the butter is melted, then stir to combine. You can also use a small saucepan for this step. Just combine the hot sauce and butter in the saucepan over low heat and stir until butter is melted and ingredients are blended.
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Spring Pho

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Spring is on the way again. In Chinese language, there’s a special phrase called “倒春寒” (late spring coldness) which means an unexpected sudden temperature drop in the spring. This Pho is perfect for those cold days, when you need some warm savory food, meanwhile still can enjoy loads of freshness from the evergreen spring.
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Pho is a classic Vietnamese soup dish. A typical Pho includes rice noodles in broth, a combination of raw and cooked vegetables, fresh herbs, and beef strips. The broth for a traditional pho usually involves several kinds of meats and hours of simmering in order to bring out a rich meaty flavour. In this recipe, I will make a doable vegetarian version for a weekday meal by simplifying ingredients.

To make the broth, I’ll use onions, shiitaki mushrooms and coriander stem, together with ginger and star anise. Pho is highly customizable, you can assemble your own bowls with your favourite add-ins. Since it’s spring time, I’ll throw in bamboo shoots, carrot, beansprouts and tofu, then stuff the bowl with lettuce, coriander, basil leaves, and complete with a generous drizzle of lime juice. Enjoy this colourful bowl of pure goodness in the spring!
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Ingredients:
(serves 2)
For the broth:
1 large onion, peeled and halved
8 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
nub of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
2 star anise
small bunch of coriander, stem and leaves separated

For the Pho:
200g dry rice noodles (or 400g fresh rice noodles)
200g firm tofu, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and chopped in strips
several lettuce leaves
handful of Thai basil
handful of beansprouts
1 lime, quartered
red and green chili
sesame oil and salt to taste

Methods:
1. place all the ingredients for the broth in a pot with 1L water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain broth, and return to pot. Leave the mushrooms and discard the other solids.
2. add in sesame oil and salt in the broth to taste. Put in bamboo shoots and tofu, bring to a boil, set aside.
3. cook rice noodles in boiling water until soft, drain and rinse under cold water. Divide into 2 large bowls. Top with lettuce, mushrooms, tofu, fresh carrots and beansprouts, ladle broth over. Serve with chili, coriander, basil, and lime wedges on the side.