When I want to cook something fast and easy, noodles are always the first ingredient I think about. As a noodle addict, I have it all. Brown pho noodles? Of course I have that! Rice noodles? I probably have 3 different kinds. Soba, udon, somen, elbow macaroni, rigatoni, and penne? Check, check, and absolutely yes! Out of all the noodles I have, there is one variety that is alway in stock in my pantry – the spaghetti.
We all know it’s perfect with red sauce on top, and just as good when it’s simply tossed with garlic, olive oil and a few pinches of red pepper flakes. What’s even better is when you pair spaghetti with Asian ingredients. One of the best examples of this is mentaiko pasta. A Japanese-style pasta that combines marinated cod roe (mentaiko), olive oil, butter, seaweed and spaghetti together. Spaghetti is also great when it’s stir-fried. Growing up, one of my favorite dishes my mom would make is spaghetti stir-fried with roast pork, cabbage, onion and seasoned with a dash of soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar. It was quick, simple, and I always asked for a second helping. So with only a few ingredients in my fridge a few days ago, I wanted to cook something that was just as quick and delicious as my mom’s stir-fried spaghetti.
All you need for a simple, quick, and delicious pasta dish.
My goal for this dish was to keep it as simple and straightforward as possible. First, you start with bacon (as most delicious things often do), slice it, and cook it until it’s crispy. For this dish I’m using Chinese bacon. I know, not everyone has Chinese bacon just sitting in the fridge. Which is why this recipe also works great with regular thick cut bacon (pork or the non-pork variety). If you never had Chinese bacon before and was curious about it, this is a good dish to introduce your tastebuds to the porky deliciousness of Chinese bacon, known as lap yuk in Cantonese. Lap yuk is fatty, it’s flavorful, and adds just a hint of smokiness to any dish. It’s also a pretty versatile ingredient and deserves a post of its own (hint: future post idea).
After you cook the bacon, pat off any excess oil with a paper towel and set aside. Next, finely minced your aromatics, which will be garlic and scallion. Make sure to mince the garlic as finely as possible until it is a paste consistency. The garlic won’t be cooked in a pan, but rather from the heat of the spaghetti coming straight out of the pot. To finely mince garlic, chop it first, and then sprinkle 2 pinches of table salt on it. Continue chopping, press the back of your knife on the garlic and gently smash it. Continue finely mincing until it is a paste consistency. Place the garlic, scallion, 1 egg yolk, all the seasonings (sesame oil, Sriracha, soy sauce, sugar, black pepper), and of course the bacon into one big bowl. Set the bowl aside, and don’t you dare mix everything together – at least not now. Next, cook your spaghetti. When that is done, using a cooking tong, fork, or a pair of super long chopsticks (one of my favorite kitchen tool), transfer the pasta directly from the pot to the same large bowl the bacon, the aromatics, and the seasonings are in. Just lightly drain the pasta as you move it from the pot to the bowl. A little bit of pasta water is a good thing. The starch in the pasta water will help the pasta bind with the other ingredients. Once all the pasta is in the bowl, now you can mix!
Just like that, your lunch/ dinner/late night snacking is ready! Eat immediately, and since it’s simple and quick to make, cook again if you’re still craving more.
Quick and Easy Pasta with Lap Yuk (Chinese Bacon)
INGREDIENTS Serves 1
4 ounces dried pasta, linguine or spaghetti
2 ounces Chinese bacon
1 egg yolk
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon Sriracha
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sugar
black pepper, a pinch or two
Thinly slice the Chinese bacon. Place bacon in a pan and cook until crispy. Transfer cooked bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and pat excess grease away. Transfer bacon to a large bowl.
Finely mince the scallion, and also finely mince 1 clove of garlic with 2 pinches of table salt until it is a paste consistency. Add scallion and garlic to the same bowl as the bacon.
Bring a pot of water to boil and season it with table salt. Cook the pasta in the water until done.
While the pasta is cooking add sesame oil, Sriracha, soy sauce, sugar, black pepper, and egg yolk to the large bowl with bacon, scallion, and garlic. Do not mix the ingredients together.
When the pasta is done, use a cooking tong to transfer the pasta directly to the large bowl. Lightly drain the pasta as you move it from the pot to the bowl. You want a little bit of the pasta water in the bowl, but not too much. When all the pasta is out of the pot, use the tong or a fork to mix everything together. Serve immediately.
There has to be scientific research out there that explains why the combination of chicken with rice is so deliciously comforting. Every cuisine seems to have their own variation of this popular duo, and I’ll bet that most, if not all of the dishes, are consider comfort food. As the weather gets colder, I crave for this combo even more. One of my favorite chicken with rice dish is Chicken and Chinese Sausage Clay Pot Rice. Chopped pieces of bone-in chicken are seasoned with a little bit of wine and soy sauce, and cooked in a clay pot with Chinese sausage and rice. When it’s done, and the lid is off, the aroma of all the ingredients coming together smells addictively delicious.
For my version, I want to use my favorite part of the chicken only – the thighs. If you don’t have a clay pot, no need to worry. Clay pots are great for slow cooking, since it distributes heat slowly and retains it for a long time, but if you have a small kitchen with limited storage space, it’s not an essential kitchen equipment. A good enameled cast iron pot will do just fine.
To begin the dish, marinate the chicken thighs first. Overnight is the best, but if you’re short on time, one hour will do. Since you’ll be cooking the rice and chicken together on very low heat, the chicken needs to be about 80% done when you add it to the pot on top of the rice. I don’t think I need to tell you that eating raw chicken is not a good idea. So, pan-fry the thighs first until they are golden brown on both sides. Another ingredient that’s not so tasty when it’s raw is rice. As the chicken is cooking, clean your rice thoroughly and soak it in water. This helps it cook evenly. Once you have everything in the pot and on top of the stove, whip up a quick sauce. A little bit of sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, water, and fish sauce is all you need. When the “clay” pot is done, no need to transfer anything to a serving platter. Bring the whole pot to the table! Spoon a little bit of the sauce on top of the chicken and rice, eat and repeat.
Shaoxing Wine Chicken Thigh and Chinese Sausage Clay Pot Rice
INGREDIENTS Serves 2 to 4
4 chicken thighs, about 3/4 lb each
1 cup long grain rice, uncooked
2 Chinese sausage, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 pack enoki mushrooms, about 7oz, wash and separated
1 scallion, chopped
For the Chicken Thigh Marinade:
2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp garlic granule
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp oil
For the Sauce:
4 tsp sesame oil
4 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp water
2 tsp fish sauce
In a large bowl, combine the ingredients for the chicken thigh marinade (Shaoxing wine, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, white pepper, garlic granule, salt, and oil). Mix well and add the chicken thighs. Mix and set aside in the refrigerator. Marinate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
When ready to cook, heat a large non-stick skillet on medium-high heat for 1 minute. Place chicken thighs in the pan. Do not overcrowd the pan. Work in batches if necessary. Pan-fry the thighs 15 minutes on each side on medium heat. Thighs should be golden brown and about 80% percent done after 30 minutes. Set chicken thighs aside when they are done.
While the chicken thighs are cooking, wash and drain thoroughly 1 cup of long grain rice. Place rice in a large bowl and add 1 cup of cold water. Soak the rice in the water for 30 minutes.
When the chicken thighs are done and set aside, heat a large cast iron pot on medium heat. Add the sliced Chinese sausages. Sautéed the sausages for 1 to 2 minutes until they begin to release oil and are a little crispy. Add the soaked rice with the water into the cast iron pot. Mix. With the lid off, bring water, rice, and sausage to a simmer.
Once the pot starts to simmer, add the chicken thighs on top of the rice. Place enoki mushrooms around the thighs. Place the lid on top of the pot, turn flame down to second lowest setting, and cook for 30 minutes.
While the rice and chicken is cooking, make the sauce. Combine sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, water, and fish sauce together. Mix well. Add half of the chopped scallions. Divide sauce among 2 or 4 small bowls.
After 30 minutes, the rice and chicken should be done. To serve, bring the cast iron pot to the table. Sprinkle remaining scallions on top and lightly drizzle sesame oil on top of the enoki mushrooms. Place 1 or 2 chicken thighs and some rice on plate. Drizzle a little bit of the sauce on top of the chicken and rice. Enjoy immediately.
During the summer months there are a few things I always make sure I have around the house.
1. A bottle of rosé or a few bottles of summer beers in the fridge. You never know when you want a nice cold boozy drink. The answer is probably always, so you gotta be prepare!
2. Tomatoes on the kitchen counter. Yes, on the counter and not in the fridge. Stop refrigerating your tomatoes! Especially, tomatoes during the summer months.
3. Infused olive oil and vinegar.
Infused with citrus, tropical fruits, herbs, or with other spices, flavored olive oils and vinegars are an easy way to dress up summer vegetables and fruits. Citrus olive oils like lemon, blood orange, and grapefruit are perfect drizzled on top of grilled asparagus, zucchini, and cauliflower. They are also great on seafood and fish, especially shrimp and salmon, and on grilled fruits like peaches and pears. While ones infused with garlic, hot peppers, and rosemary are perfect on starchy vegetables like potatoes and yams, and also on proteins like steak and chicken. When combined with infused vinegar, you have the main ingredients for making the perfect quick dressing.
You don’t need to have a kitchen cabinet filled with a large variety of infused olive oil and vinegars, but do try to have at least two each. My favorites, and the ones I use constantly are Meyer lemon olive oil and pomegranate vinegar. Meyer lemon olive oil is great when you want just a hint of lemon flavor and aroma. I love mixing it with chopped herbs and drizzling it on a grilled whole fish or pork chops. Pomegranate vinegar is perfect in dressings for salads with bold and spicy flavors. When combined with two of my favorite summer produce, strawberries and tomatoes, you have a quick, light, and refreshing salad.
Strawberry and Tomato Salad
INGREDIENTS Serves 2
4 medium tomatoes
½ pint strawberries
1 teaspoon pomegranate vinegar, or other fruit infused vinegar
2 teaspoon meyer lemon olive oil, or other citrus olive oil
4 mint sprigs, chiffonade
4 basil sprigs
2 to 3 pinches salt
De-seed the tomatoes and cut into bite size wedges. Slice strawberries in halves. Place everything in a bowl.
Add the chiffonade mint and hand tear the basil leaves into pieces.
Add the vinegar, olive oil, and a few pinches of salt. Mix gently and serve.
If you follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook, you know that I’ve been contributing to Serious Eats for a few months now. Serious Eats is a website that’s all about the celebration of food. From recipes, to restaurant guides, to knowing the best method to cook the perfect boiled egg, Serious Eats is the site to turn to for all that and more. It has been a lot of fun developing recipes for them, writing guides such as Chinese Egg Noodles 101, and working on perfecting popular Chinese dishes such as Pan-Fried Noodles with Seafood and Stir-Fried Chicken with Ginger and Scallion. I look forward on contributing more, so stay tune! Make sure to check out my profile on Serious Eats for a complete up-to-date list of my recipes. So far, here is a roundup of them.
Chinese Greens 101: Chinese Broccoli With Oyster Sauce and Fried Garlic
Chinese Noodles 101: The Chinese Egg Noodle Style Guide
Chinese Noodles 101: How to Make Wonton Noodle Soup With Chicken and Shiitakes
Chinese Noodles 101: How to Make Lo Mein With Beef and Broccoli
Chinese Greens 101: Stir-Fried Choy Sum With Minced Garlic
Chinese Noodles 101: Crispy Pan-Fried Noodle Cakes With Seafood.
Easy Stir-Fried Pork With String Beans
Sautéed Root Vegetables With Soy Sauce and Honey
Chinese-American Mashup: Silken Tofu With Spicy Sausage
Chinese Cooking 101: How to Marinate Meat for Stir Fries
Easy Spicy Stir-Fried Beef With Leeks and Onions
Easy Stir-Fried Beef With Mushrooms and Butter
Bok Choy and Kale Fried Rice With Fried Garlic
Bitter Greens Salad With Sesame Dressing
Spicy Stir-Fried Fennel, Celery, and Celery Root With Chinese Sausage
Easy Stir-Fried Chicken With Ginger and Scallions
Roasted Kabocha Squash With Soy Sauce, Butter, and Shichimi Togarashi
Chinese Noodles 101: How to Make Chow Mein With Four Vegetables
How to Make Pan-Fried Vegetable Dumplings
Shredded Chicken Salad With Gochujang Dressing
Growing up and even now – although less frequently – Sunday dinners are a pretty big deal in my family. This was the only day my mom was off from her job, and the only day in the week she had the time to cook a big meal. No matter if it was just my dad and I at the table, or a table with family and friends, there was always a lot of food. Sunday lunches were no different than dinner. There would be a big pot of congee, a plate of noodles that could probably feed the entire neighborhood, and a variety of savory Chinese pastries from bakeries in Chinatown. Once in while, Sunday lunch and dumpling day – a day when my mom makes an insane amount of dumplings – would merge. I like to call these days “Christmas”. I would wake up, go downstairs, and the kitchen was now suddenly transformed into a mini dumpling factory. There would be trays of dumplings perfectly wrapped; a few trays for family and friends and one for the house – which I always complained was never enough. My mom’s steamed dumplings were perfect. They were juicy, had a great balance of both lean pork and fatty pork, and just the right amount of napa cabbage and shiitake mushrooms.
Dumplings really are a crowd pleaser. Just like wontons, you are not limited to the type of ingredients that can go into the filling. I love my mom’s steamed pork dumplings, but every now and then I want something crispy with a leaner filling. This Chicken Gyoza recipe satisfies that craving. It’s filling has lean chicken breast, and both napa cabbage and shitake mushrooms for juiciness. You could steam these, but I prefer them pan-fried with a crispy golden brown bottom. Just like wontons, dumplings are one of the most convenient foods to have around. Make a big batch, freeze them, and enjoy them throughout the month.
INGREDIENTS Makes about 36 dumplings
1 pound chicken breast, cut into large cubes
½ pound napa cabbage, shredded
5 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated
1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1 ½ teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon white pepper powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoon chopped scallions
1 pack Hong Kong style dumpling wrapper, or can also use Shanghai style or regular dumpling wrappers
1 bunch chives, chopped (optional)
For the dipping sauce:
4 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Place shredded napa cabbage in a large bowl and add 1 tablespoon of table salt. Mix the salt and the cabbage together with your hand.
Mix for about 5 minutes until the cabbage starts to shrink and releases water. Squeeze the water out of the cabbage and place in a colander. Set aside.
Dice the rehydrated shiitake mushrooms.
Dried shiitakes can be rehydrated overnight in a bowl with water. You can also rehydrate them the day you need it. Bring 2 cups of water to boil, pour over dried shiitakes, and soak for 30 minutest to 1 hour. When the mushrooms are rehydrated, rinse them, squeeze out excess water, and pat dry. They are now ready to be dice.
Add chicken breast, minced garlic, and grated ginger in a food processor. Pulse 5 times, scrape the sides, and pulse another 5 times. Add in the napa cabbage and diced shiitakes. Pulse another 3 times.
Transfer the filling to a bowl. Add soy sauce, sugar, white pepper powder, salt, cornstarch, sesame oil, and chopped scallions. Mix well and chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or overnight.
When the filling is ready, it’s time to wrap some dumplings.
Things you’ll need:
1) A small bowl of water. The water helps seals the dumplings.
2) A spoon to scoop out the filling. You can also use chopsticks or a butter knife.
3) Dumpling wrappers.
4) A plate with a sheet of wax on top to hold finished dumplings. The wax paper prevents the dumplings from sticking.
To begin wrapping, place a little less than a tablespoon of the filling in the middle of the wrapper.
Dip one finger in the water and wet half of the outer edges of the dumpling. Fold the wrapper in half and pinch the center together. Starting from the center, start pleating each side.
Make 2 to 3 pleats on each side of the dumpling, pinching tightly shut. Place finished dumplings on the plate and make sure they are not touching each other.
To freeze the dumplings:
Place the dumplings on a sheet pan or a flat surface lined with wax paper and a sprinkle of flour. Make sure dumplings are not touching each other. Freeze in the freezer until hard for about 2 to 3 hours. Once they are frozen, you can store them in ziplock bags or in a container. There is no need to defrost dumplings before cooking. Just pan-fry as instructed.
To pan-fry the dumplings, heat 1 tablespoon of oil on medium high heat in a non-stick pan with a lid. When the oil is hot, add the dumplings. Don’t overcrowd the pan and make sure the dumplings are not touching each other. Pan-fry for about 2 minutes until the bottom of the dumplings are golden. If you are pan-frying frozen dumplings, it might take an additional 1 to 2 minutes for them to get golden brown. Just check the bottom of the dumplings every 2 minutes.
Holding the lid of the pan in one hand, pour ¼ cup of water into the pan. Cover the pan with the lid, steam for about 3 minutes, and then remove the lid. The skin of the dumplings should now be slightly translucent and the filling should be firm. Most of the water should have evaporated. If a little bit still remains, it’s ok. Continue pan-frying the dumplings until the bottoms are crispy again and any remaining water is gone. When the dumplings are done, transfer onto layers of paper towel to blot off excess oil.
Combine the ingredients for the dipping sauce – soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Serve the dumplings hot, sprinkle with a little but of chop chives if desired, and accompanied by the dipping sauce.
A few days ago my mom made a soup that I was sort of skeptical to try. Mint? In soup? With eggs? I love pork and eggs, and of course I know how mint taste like. Yet, something about all three of these ingredients coming together in a soup just sounded a little strange. It didn’t take me long to realize what was really strange was me. I’ve tried turtle blood fried rice, chicken sashimi, and fresh blood pudding before; not once did I think twice before I gladly and willingly ate all of it. Sometimes it’s not one singular ingredient that makes us think twice, but a group of it coming together in an unfamiliar way.
Of course my judgement was wrong. Suspiciously simple and very satisfying, there is nothing tricky about making this quick soup. Pork with ginger is always a great combination, and the addition of mint adds a nice herbal freshness. It’s perfect when you want something that’s brothy and not too filling. Serve it along with a bowl of white rice and it’s a wonderful light lunch or dinner.
Pork with Mint, Ginger, and Egg Soup
Serves 2 to 4
1 small boneless pork chop, about 6 ounces
1 thick slice ginger, about 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long
4 slices of ginger, julienned
3 to 4 large sprigs of mint, about 1/2 ounce separated from the stem
3 cups water
For the pork marinade:
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper powder
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Slice the pork into 1/4 inch thick pieces and then into long strips. Place in a bowl and add the ingredients for the marinade (soy sauce, salt, white pepper powder, sesame oil, and cornstarch) to the pork. Mix well, place in the refrigerator and marinated for 10 minutes or overnight.
In a pot, add the thick slice of ginger plus 3 cups of water and it to a boil. When the pork is ready, add it to the pot. Cook until it comes back to a boil.
Lower the flame to a low simmer and crack two eggs one at a time into the pot. Don’t stir, let the egg set a little, and then break it apart into pieces with a spoon or knife.
Next add the mint leaves and stir. Add salt and taste. Put a lid on the pot. Turn the flame off and let the soup sit on the burner for 3 minutes. Place soup in bowls and sprinkle julienned ginger on top. Serve immediately.
The last three months have been a combination of the good, the bad, and the WTF-is-happening moments. It’s not even been half a year yet and I already have a love-hate – leaning more towards hate – relationship with 2014. January, February, March is over and April is coming to an end. The first four months were not great, but I’ve learned that that’s ok. Hindsight is important and reflection is necessary, but you can’t move forward if you keep looking back. With that said, I miss this blog. I miss sharing recipes here, writing about it, and posting about what I love. So, here I go….
This is Fast Food, a new column I’m starting that’s about cooking in the moment, trying new flavors, and sharing the results – good or bad. I’ll document the steps with my iPhone, share the recipe, and rate it. Lets start cooking…..and hope it comes out good.
With warm weather approaching a refreshing cold noodle dish is a good recipe to know. The flavors of a ripe tomato and spicy salty mentaiko (marinated cod roe) sounded like a winning combination.
1 7oz pack of fresh udon
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 ripe tomato, chop
1 large spicy mentaiko (marinated cod roe)
1 small clove garlic
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
Cook the udon, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Set aside.
In a bowl add the scallion and chop tomatoes.
Finely minced the garlic with a little bit of salt. Add to the bowl.
Cut the mentaiko sac in half and push the roe out into the bowl.
Add the sesame oil and rice vinegar. Mix and season with salt if needed.
Add the udon. Mix well and eat.
RESULTS: Refreshing and satisfying, I can see myself enjoying this during hot summer days when turning on the stove is insanity. The saltiness of the mentaiko went great with a juicy ripe tomato. Garlic and scallions also added a nice punch of flavor. Yet, something was missing. It needed a splash of citric acid. The rice vinegar was ok, but the dish lacked brightness that I think only lemon juice could of provided.
3 out of 4 kisses. Will try again but with modification.
However you call it, congee or rice porridge, don’t ever call it gruel! Just like tofu, I think there’s a bit of a misconception on what congee is here in America. A staple for breakfast and lunch in most Asian countries, congee is rice and water (or broth) cooked down into a thick porridge. This might not be the most exciting sounding dish if you never had it before, but the great thing about congee is it’s a base to add almost anything you want. You can make it vegetarian – Chopped Romain Lettuce Congee, Mix Mushroom Congee, Kale Congee. You can add meat – Chicken and Ginger Congee, Roast Turkey Congee (this is one of my favorite ways to use leftover Thanksgiving turkey), Offal Congee, Salted Pork with Salty Egg Congee. You can also add seafood – Abalone Congee, Fish Fillet Congee, Mixed Seafood Congee. There’s even congee hot pot! One of my favorite congee is Watercress Congee. It’s my go-to food when I want something light after one to many heavy overindulgent meals. This is a seafood version of it.
To cook a perfect pot of congee, it’s all about knowing the right water to rice ratio. Everyone does it slightly different. Jook, Cantonese congee, typically has a higher water to rice ratio than okayu, Japanese congee. Jook is also cooked with long grain rice while okayu consist of short grain rice. While jook is cooked mainly with water, congee in most Southeast Asian countries, like Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines, use broth or a combination of broth and water. Cooking time also varies – jook takes at least an hour while okayu takes usually half an hour.
This Salmon and Watercress Congee is sort of a hybrid version of jook and okayu combine. Unlike jook, instead of long grain rice I’m using short grain rice, which is what okayu is cooked with. Short grain rice tends to be stickier than long grain rice because of its high level of amylopectin starch. If you want to learn more about the different types of rice starches, Linda Larsen’s Rice Science article is a good read. Unlike okayu, I’m using a higher water to rice ratio and the cooking time is longer, just like jook. One thing I love about okayu is how creamy and silky it is. Because of its high level of amylopectin, short grain rice takes on a velvety texture after it’s cooked for a long period of time. So after a few trials and errors, this is my go-to congee ratio – 12:1. 12 parts water, 1 part short grain rice.
Salmon and Watercress Congee
1/2 cup short grain rice, washed
6 cups water
10 oz salmon fillet, skinless
3 oz watercress, roughly chopped
10 slices of ginger, about 1 inch by 1 inch, julienne
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp shaoxing wine
Cut skinless salmon fillets evenly into one inch cubes about half inch thick. Place in a large bowl and add the olive oil, salt, white pepper, shaoxing wine, and a third of the julienne ginger. Mix well and set aside in the fridge.
In a large pot, add the water and the washed rice. Cover the pot with a lid and bring it to a boil. This should take about 10 minutes. When it starts boiling, turn it down to a simmer and cover the pot. 15 minutes later, stir the rice making sure it’s not sticking to the bottom. Cover the pot again and stir the rice one more time 15 minutes after the first stir. Cover the pot one last time and simmer for 30 minutes. When the congee is done, it should look creamy and silky.
Take the salmon out from the fridge, turn the flame to medium high and add it to the congee. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes until the salmon is done.
Add the watercress, stir, turn off the flame, and season the congee with salt to taste.
Serve the congee in bowls with the remaining julienne ginger on top and lightly drizzled with sesame oil.
Growing up in the east coast, winter does not feel like winter until there is snow on the ground and I can see my breath in the air. After a warm first week of December, it looked like my chances of bringing out the snow boots this season were pretty low. I didn’t want to relive the blizzard of ’96 — snow days are just not the same after a certain age when thoughts of snowball fights are replaced with how are you ever going to dig your car out — all I wanted was a dust of it. Just enough snow for my dog to pounce around in, but not enough to hold my car hostage in its spot for the rest of the week.
Well, you know the old saying “be careful what you wish for”? Mother nature must of heard my rants about spring in winter and gave me what I wanted — plus more. There were a few days of snow that quickly melted and then there was rain a few days before Christmas, but right on New Year’s Eve, polar vortex arrived. It brought along fun things like single and negative degree temperatures, the power to turn everything into popsicles, pipes bursting like fireworks, and snow-snow-snow plus ice-ice-ice. Hibernating at home on days like these are perfect for two things — do absolutely nothing or non-stop cooking. Since this post exist, of course I picked the latter.
Homemade wontons are one of the most convenient foods to keep around. They freeze well, quick to cook, and for me they are the perfect winter late night snacks. 2am and don’t know what to eat? Wonton soup to my rescue. The classic Cantonese Hong Kong style wontons are usually filled with shrimp, pork, and yellow chives. As for the broth or soup that it’s served in, the ingredients varies. Restaurants who are serious about their wonton soups have their own blend of ingredients for the broth. Usually it’s a mix of both chicken and pork bones, but other ingredients such as dried shrimp, dried cuttlefish, and/or dried flounder are also added to give the broth a hint of seafood flavor. Growing up my dad frequently made the classic wontons on his days off from work, but just like spring rolls and dumplings, one of the best things about wontons are you can fill them with almost anything you want. Shrimp with bamboo shoots are one of my favorite fillings and so is pork with napa cabbage.
These Shrimp and Kale Wontons are nothing like the classic. Instead of serving it in broth, they are tossed with sautéed cremini mushrooms and a Spicy Kale Pesto Sauce. Leftover pesto can be stored in the freezer for about 2 months. If you want to store the pesto longer, omit the cheese from the recipe and add it in when you are using the pesto. I like to freeze pesto in snack size zip lock bags. They defrost fast and perfect for a quick lunch or dinner. This pesto is also great toss with spaghetti and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice right before plating.
Not in the mood for pesto and prefer a hot bowl of broth instead with your wontons? Bring a pot of water to boil, cook the wontons, and set it aside in a bowl. Next, warm up your favorite chicken broth and add in scallions, chives, and/or napa cabbage. When the broth is hot, pour it on top of the wontons, and serve with a drizzle of sesame oil on top.
Shrimp and Kale Wontons with Spicy Kale Pesto Sauce
SHRIMP AND KALE WONTONS (makes about 40 wontons)
1 lb shrimp
2 oz kale, any variety
1/2 tsp table salt
1 tsp sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp shaoxing wine
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1 pack Hong Kong style wonton wrappers
Cut kale into thin strips and place in a bowl. Add the salt and using your hands mix and massage it with the kale. Mix for 2 minutes until the kale is wilted and there is a little kale juice in the bowl. Set aside.
Deshell and devein the shrimp. Rinse under cold water and pat dry. Make sure each shrimp is very dry before using it for the filling. Place the shrimp in a food processor.
Time to add the kale. With your hands, squeeze as much of the kale juice out of the kale. Place the squeezed kale into the food processor with the shrimp.
In the food processor, add sesame oil, minced garlic, shaoxing wine, white pepper, soy sauce, sugar, and cornstarch. Pulse 4 times. Open the lid and mix the mixture with a wooden spoon or chopstick. Close the lid and pulse another 4 times. Take the mixture out and place in a bowl. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
After the mixture is chilled, it’s time to wrap the wontons.
Things you’ll need:
1) A small bowl filled with water. The water is used to seal the wontons.
2) A butter knife to scoop the filling out. If you don’t have a butter knife, you can use a chopstick or the handle on a fork or spoon. You want something that is flat.
3) Hong Kong style wonton wrappers.
4) A large plate with a sheet of wax paper sprinkled with flour on top. This prevents the wontons from sticking to the plate.
Place about 2 teaspoon of the filling in the middle of the wrapper. Dip your finger and line two sides of the wrapper with water. Seal the wontons and lay them flat on the plate with wax paper.
To cook the wontons, bring a pot of water to boil. Add the wontons. Do not overcrowd the pot with too many of them. Stir the wontons making sure they are not sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Fresh wontons – Wontons that are wrapped the same day should take about 3 to 4 minutes to cook after you place them in the pot and the water comes back to a simmer.
Frozen wontons – Should take about 5 to 6 minutes to cook after you place them in the pot and the water comes back to a simmer. Frozen wontons do not need to be defrosted before cooking.
When the wontons are done, use a straining ladle to carefully strain the wontons and place in a bowl.
If you are using the wontons for wonton soup, sprinkle with chopped scallions, a drizzle of sesame oil, and pour the broth on top of the wontons. If you are serving it with the Spicy Kale Pesto Sauce, see below.
SPICY KALE PESTO SAUCE (makes 2 cups)
For the pesto:
8 oz kale, any variety, chopped
1 cup walnut, about 3 oz, toasted
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 cloves garlic
1 tblsp plus 1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp table salt
3/4 cup olive oil
For the sauce (serves 4 as an appetizer):
20 cooked wontons
2 tblsp kale pesto
8 cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp nam prik pao, Thai chili jam
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
chives, chopped (optional)
la-yu, Japanese chili oil (optional)
In a food processor, add the kale, walnut, grated parmesan (omit the cheese if you are planning to freeze the pesto and add it in when you’re using the it), and garlic. Pulse until everything is finely chopped. Add in the lemon juice, salt, and olive oil. Pulse until everything is mixed. Taste for seasoning. If you need to add more olive oil, start with 1 tblsp.
Pesto storage tips:
Pesto will store in the fridge for 2 weeks. Make sure it is covered in olive oil and tightly sealed. To freeze pesto, divide it into individual servings. Remember to omit the grated parmesan when making the pesto and just add it in when you are defrosting it. Snack size zip lock bags and ice cube trays are good ways to store pesto in the freezer.
To make the spicy kale pesto sauce and to complete the dish, first divide 20 cooked wontons in 4 serving bowls. In a pan, sautéed sliced cremini mushrooms with a little bit of olive oil. When the mushrooms are golden brown, add add 2 tablespoons of the kale pesto, nam prik pao, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Mix until everything is combined.
Spoon the pesto sauce on to each bowl of wontons. Gently mix the wontons with the sauce. If desired, drizzle with la-yu and topped with chop chives. Served right away.
Serves 4 as an appetizer.
This is a long over due post and one I feel very bad about not being able to post earlier. Back in August, I took a day trip to Wyebrook Farm. If you frequently dine at Philadelphia restaurants that features locally source produce on their menu, the name Wyebrook Farm probably sounds familiar. Located in Chester County, about an hour drive from downtown Philadelphia, Wyebrook is a 355-acre sustainable farm. It raises heritage breed pigs, French Freedom Ranger chickens, and pastured cows that feed on a diet of grass and legumes. Since August was coming to an end soon and I was going to be away for over 3 weeks in September, I knew I needed to visit Wyebrook before summer was over.
Located in a late 18th century stone barn, Wyebrook’s Farm Market features an on-site butcher shop and locally grown produce.
One of my favorite Wyebrook purchase is their thick bone in pork chops.
Another must by are the farm fresh eggs.
The farm only opened to the public about a year and a half ago, but the land it sits on has more than two hundred years of history with farming. The farm’s market store is located inside a late 18th century stone barn and houses surrounding the property dates back to the same time period. At the lower back level of the stone barn is Wyebrook’s café. Open from April through the end of October on Fridays through Sundays, the café offers food featuring meats and vegetables from the farm and also from nearby businesses. Picnic tables are set up throughout the grassy courtyard, there is live music on Saturdays, you are welcome to bring your own beer and wine, and it is pet friendly. To sum it up, this is the perfect place to visit for a laid back weekend afternoon.
The back of the stone barn. Picnic tables are set up throughout the courtyard for the farm’s café patrons.
Food from the café. (Top left) Chester County Cheese Plate. Local artisanal cheeses with crackers, candied pecans, dried apricots and quince paste. (Top right) The Slider Basket. Beef burger topped with pickles, beef and bacon burger topped with a cherry bomb, and a pulled pork sandwich topped with pickled cabbage. All are served on mini brioche buns and with a side of fries. (Bottom right) Top Round Beef Skewers. Grilled top round beef with wild rice, mushrooms, grilled scallions, and roasted red bell pepper sauce.
Non-alcoholic beverages are sold in the café, but patrons are also free to bring their own wine and beer. Iced Cold Green Tea (left) and Lemonade (right).
Just a quick walk from the café you can see some of the farm’s heritage breed pigs. They are raised in woodlots and have access to natural spring mud holes to keep them cool during the summer months.
After lunch and a short walk around the farm, I headed back to the stone barn and made a few purchases. Their fresh farm eggs were a must, so were the thick cut beautifully marbled bone in pork chops, and I also picked up a few pounds of flat iron steak. As I headed back to my car parked out in front of the stone barn, I noticed what I was hoping to see but didn’t find when I was walking around the farm before. CHICKENS! CHICKENS WALKING AROUND BEING CHICKENS!
Protected by electric netting fencing, Wyebrook’s laying hens roam around the pastures in the daytime and retreats to their mobile hen house at night.
(Top) Two chickens gossiping about other chickens. At least that is what I thought when I spotted these two lovely birds near the wooded area of the farm.
(Bottom) Wyebrook’s mobile hen house.
It is still not too late in the year to visit Wyebrook Farm. The café just closed for the season last weekend, but Wyebrook’s popular weekly Friday Night Dinner goes on until December. Every Friday night from 4pm to 8pm, the farm host a 3 course meal for only $25 per person. Guests are welcome to bring their own wine and beer and the menu changes weekly. The farm’s market inside the stone barn is also still open every Friday through Saturday until the end of November. Check out their monthly events calendar for the hours and on it you can also see they have a few more other Sunday events. The weather might be cooler now, but that does not mean having that laid back weekend at Wyebrook Farm is over.