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Legaspy 6: Keni

Keni cooks us her self-taught sour and spicy (in this case very spicy!) Tom Yum and tells us about her wonderful childhood food influences.

*Important to note there was cultured music playing in the background of this conversation*

Why is this your Legaspy? Ke: Because I like very spicy things. I love a dish with the possibility of being spicy but also very tasty. Tom Yum is one of my favourites and the first time I had it I was just curiously browsing around and I tried it out, I didn't have it in a restaurant or Thailand... L: Oh really? Ke: ...I cooked it by myself and I find out it really good. So it was also a little egotistical that I'm proud of myself as well *laughs* Ka & L: You did do really well! Ke: My favourite combination of flavours is spicy and sour, it just ticks all the boxes!

Who taught you how to cook? Ke: I think it was mostly my mum. The first time I ever got interested in cooking, was I saw my mum taking the meat from the freezer and cutting the half-frozen meat. It looks very weird but also comforting somehow, and then I asked her if I could cut meat one day. Then she taught me that! Ka: Oh! So cute! Ke: Yeah so that got me interested. And then my mum taught me in general if you fry you put oil first, for example, garlic later, ginger first. So these kind of basics were from my mum Ka: And how old were you do you think when you had the frozen meat experience? Ke: I think in primary school, probably around 10 years old.

What is a dish you can't cook but wish you could? Ke: Oh... It has to be something French. Maybe beef bourguinon? I would love to understand how to evolve from a base like celery, carrots, onion or like a white sauce. I just don't know how to use these kind of basics, or ingredients like butter and cheese L: Yeah I suppose that's a really different style of cooking for you Ke: I love the food when I eat it, but then I struggle to find the ingredients or looking at exact amounts - I got tired already! And then, if I buy cheese for example and only need some I don't know how to use the rest of it. Also for this kind of food, one should also follow very strictly to the recipe. I find it really challenging, so yeah, I wish I could cook the basics of French cuisine.

Who is your biggest inspiration when cooking?

Ke: I think it's actually my Uncle. I used to live with him and my Auntie in high school. He was very nice to me, and very lazy but often sick. Most of the time he's lying in bed but the moment he heard that I didn't really like to eat outside he started to cook for me every night. He's a really really good cook, already at the time he was watching some cooking videos. He was very eager to learn and wasn't just cooking stuff from our region but stuff from other parts of China. For example, stewing a very good chicken with some ginger, using a very good pot, and good water. So simple and the soup was so good! Ka: So he was just trying everything out? Ke: Yeah! Also cooking in a non-traditional way, lots of different Chinese dishes and giving them to me. He still cooks nowadays but not so often, now not for me but for his grandson.

What do you like to listen to while you cook? Ke: Music. I prefer pop, jazz, R&B. L: Any particular artist? Ke: Not really, just anything. Especially because sometimes you don't hear the melody while you're cooking it needs to have a bit of pop. Probably most of all Joss Stone.

What is the best dish you've ever eaten?

Ke: I think for me it's when I was a child and we had some kind of event, either for New Years or a big festival of some sort. So we killed a pig we'd had for two years or something so it was properly fat. On the day, we had professionals kill the pig, and then we made a huge dinner from the pig, inviting the people who killed the pig and also our neighbours to eat together. We cooked it in ten or fifteen different ways, and my favourite was a normal piece we took from the shoulder and cooked it with fermented chilli and that was it! It was really good. We really eat everything - at that time eating meat was something very precious I would maybe have meat once a week, so this was a huge feast when I was seven or eight years old. Another one of the best bits, was we had someone clean the pig's bladder professionally and in the end it was made into a salad with garlic and chilli and that's the only time I've ever had bladder but it was so good. I guess if I had to describe it, it tastes a bit like stomach.

Ka: That's a full on feast, I don't think you can get better than that!

Keni's Tom Yum

Main Ingredients

Small chunk of Galangal

2 small onions

4 cloves of garlic

1 fresh chilli (or more if you like it spicy)

3 stalks of lemon grass

10 lime leaves



1tsp Sugar

1tbsp Thai chilli paste(for color and oil)

1tbsp Coconut oil

Shrimps (optional and however many you want)

Mushrooms (optional and however many you want)

Juice of four limes (or more to taste)

Fish sauce


1) Slice the galangal, onion and garlic. Chop up the lemongrass and chillies into small pieces

2)Stir fry all of these chopped ingredients along with the lime leaves, no oil needed. Just medium low for 2 min

2) Add 750ml water and heat to boil. Leave to cook on medium heat for 30min, so that all the taste from the vegetables and seasonings infuse

3) Take some not-good-looking vegetables out

4) Add the rest of the sauce/seasoning (Sugar, Thai chilli paste, Coconut oil, Pepper, Salt) Start with a tbsp of chilli paste and coconut oil and 1tsp of suggar adding more to taste. Salt and pepper, also to taste!

5) Add shrimp, boil until it's just done add the mushrooms

6) Add the lime juice and fish sauce as the last step tasting and adjusting the sugar, lime and fish sauce to taste

7) Coriander for decoration, and some more fresh chilli as you like!


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