We’re moving out in a month and yet I can not help myself from buying (newly found) garlic salt. If most ladies collect bags, I collect cooking ingredients, spices and herbs (and coffee, and coffee dripper, and baking tins, but not bags). I brought a jar of preserved lemon from Morocco, spices from middle east and kaffir lime leaves from Asia.

Only 4 years ago, I could not even tell the difference between coriander and pepper, galangal and ginger, parsley and coriander leaves. Yet now, I think I’ll score at least 75% accuracy test in food ingredient taste. That’s what I call a steep learning curve.

I was forced to cook not only because of our specific diet but also because my only daughter can not stand Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). It’s amazing how our diet is filled with this chemical. It’s in stock cubes, instant food mix, chips, frying batter, it’s everywhere. MSG will not add flavor to your food but it enhances your sense that to you the food tastes better. And the only way to have a close result to a MSG-added food is to be brave with your spices.

One of my daughter’s favorite food is Gulai Ayam (Indonesian Chicken Curry), and it’s truly a rich and full of spice dish.


  • 1 chicken cut into 10-12 pieces
  • 2 tbs lime juice
  • cooking oil
  • 500 mL coconut cream
  • 500 mL water
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 turmeric leave (optional)
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 lemon-grass root (mashed)
  • 1 thumb of galangal (mashed)
  • 5 cloves
  • 5 cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3 chili (de-seeded) coarsely sliced

Blend together (in food processor)

  • 6 shallots
  • 3 garlics
  • 8 chili
  • one thumb of ginger
  • 2 cm of turmeric
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp anise seed
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • salt


  • Mix chicken with lime juice, leave for 15 minutes
  • Saute blended ingredients with cooking oil, add in lime leaves, turmeric leave (optional), tamarind paste, cinnamon, lemon-grass root, galangal, cloves, cardamom, ground nutmeg
  • Add in chicken until covered with spices
  • Add in coconut oil and water, let cook until gravy reduced, oily and thick (make sure heat is low and stir every 5 mins to avoid coconut from breaking)
  • Add in sliced chili
  • Serve with warm plain rice

Pasta Nera with Shrimps and Herbs

“Just stick to the list”, said my husband as I was walking through all the isles in the supermarket.
“What list?”, I replied.

Here in good old Luanda, you don’t have shopping lists, you buy what you can get. When eggs are extinct, you don’t bake, you make fruit dessert. When eggs are around, you buy gazillions of them so next time they’re gone, you can still bake. We already live “frugal” even before the whole world can spell the word. That’s why most companies equip us with freezers the size of two coffins.

Yesterday, I found packed Pasta Nera (simply put, black spaghetti) and I bought five packets. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know by now that we’re not Italians and we’re moving (for good) in a month, but I just can’t get rid of this frugality within me.  So we had Pasta Nera with Shrimps and Herbs.

How To:

  • Boil pasta till al dente
  • Prepare sauce by sautéing (in olive oil) garlic, chopped onion, and peeled-deveined shrimps. Add anise seed, basil, chopped parsley, salt and chili (if liked).
  • Mix the pasta with the sauce
  • Enjoy

Picture was processed with lomo-ish look.

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“What’s that?” I asked my driver, pointing to lines of apartments I saw from the express way.

“It’s China Town.”

“What is it called?”


I was really surprised to see the blocks of apartments. I was even more amazed when I saw a big announcement saying that KERO (a brand of hypermart) just opened in Kilamba. There must be lots going on there, I thought to myself.

Few days later, I decided to pay this new city a visit. Though I did not know what to expect, I couldn’t help wishing that somehow I would find myself surrounded by small red shops, filled with smell of incense, selling some cheap things. Well at least, I could visit the new KERO (who knows, they might sell Dorado less than USD 36/kg there).

Following the sign of the new KERO, turning right from the express way, I passed the new KERO, passed the guard and entered (right again) to a long tarred road and found myself in….. NOT Angola. My speech was overwhelmed by my sight that for a while my jaw just hang open with no sounds produced (which was a really rare occasion).

My driver finally broke the silence, “Muito bonito Madame…, muito grande. Todos pode viver aqui”.

There were no red small shops, there were no incense. There were buildings, big buildings and more buildings. I saw (what I thought) tens  (if not hundreds) of apartment buildings. Each block had different color. Each block had its own primary school and middle school (with 2 basketball courts each). Every building had wheelchair access. Plenty of parking spots in between building. Green parks for kids to play in. There were even (what looked like) bus stops for the shuttle bus.

It was a sunny day that day, the sky was blue and with the contrast of the green (well kept) grass, I really felt like I was transported to another world.

The only thing missing was…. the people.

It was empty. Except for the workers watering the grass, cleaning the pavements.

After almost an hour roaming the “city”,  we headed for the new KERO. As expected there were less than 20 customers inside the hypermart. The branch that was only opened 10 December 2011 was really nice, except that it’s lacking people. Still, if they’re confident enough to build a hypermart in the middle of nowhere, it meant that this place might be “jammed packed” one day. Though the fact that the cashier lady told me that a 3 bedroom apartment would cost more than USD 250,000  sort of telling me that it might not be anytime soon.

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