Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Our Thanksgiving Ribs Feast

I've skewed from the traditional for this year's Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving day itself my family actually ate dim sum at Ocean Seafood restaurant in LA's Chinatown, which was fabulous! The next day, we had a dinner get-together with a small group of friends, something that was planned in less than a week. At first we were just going to buy food but in the end, somehow I always manage to get myself into becoming the cook.

Since the group were not so much into Turkey, I decided make baby back ribs instead. I've seen many recipes on how to cook ribs using a crock pot so this was my chance to experiment. So I got excited and bought 4 racks of baby back ribs. When I got home I just realized...I only have one crock pot!! Yikes...there was no way I can fit 4 racks of ribs into one crock pot! And, it would take hours if I have to cook the ribs in two batches. I needed to come up with a solution - FAST!!

Suddenly, I remembered an Iron Chef episode I watched just the week before where the secret ingredient was ribs and the chefs cooked the ribs in the pressure cooker first before baking/grilling to speed up the process since they only have 1 hour to complete their dishes. Dilemma solved...I love you, Food Network!

Since I was going to cook the ribs using two different methods, I decided to use two marinades. The first one, using the crock pot, was cooked using a sesame orange glaze marinade. I wanted the second marinade to be different so I used the same marinade as if I was making Indonesian pork satay. If it's good as satay...it must be finger-licking good as baby back ribs, right? :) I was very pleased with the result. Both ribs were so tasty and falling-off-the-bone tender. And I'm sure my friends were happy we didn't end up buying store-bought food. Here are the recipe links: Indonesian Style Baby Back Ribs and Sesame Orange Glazed Pork Ribs

Indonesian Style Baby Back Ribs


1 C. sweet soy sauce
2 T. ground coriander
1 T. minced garlic
4 shallots (finely sliced)
1 T. lime juice
4 lbs. baby back ribs (cut into 2 or 3-bone pieces)
1/4 C. sliced Thai chili
Fried shallots

Cooking instruction:

1. Cook ribs in a pressure cooker for about 20 minutes until slightly tender then remove from water and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 300 F. In a large bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients. Add ribs into marinade then line them up on a baking pan. Cover loosely with aluminum foil.

3. Bake for 1.5 hours. Dip each rib in the marinade again and bake for another 1.5 hours until they are tender.

4. Place ribs onto a large platter and garnish with Thai chili slices and fried shallots. Serve hot.

Sesame Orange Glazed Pork Ribs


1 C. soy sauce
1 C. packed brown sugar
1/2 C. ketchup
1/2 C. orange juice
1/4 C. honey
1/4 C. orange marmalade
3 T. vinegar
1 T. minced garlic
1 T. minced ginger
1/2 t. ground red pepper (optional)
4 lbs. country style or baby back pork ribs (cut into 2-3 bone pieces)
1 med-large onion (sliced)
1/2 can coca-cola
3 T. toasted sesame seeds

Cooking instruction:

1. In a large bowl, combine the first 9 ingredients. Set aside 1 cup of marinade, then generously coat pork ribs with remainder marinade.

2. Spread sliced onions on the bottom of a 5-quart crock pot. Arrange pork ribs on top and pour the rest of the marinade over the ribs, then the half can of coca-cola. This will help make the ribs cook extra tender.

3. Cook on high for 6 hours, turning the ribs mid-way to even out the coating.

4. Bring the 1 cup reserved marinade to a simmer in a small saucepan.

5. Take ribs out of crock pot onto a big platter, drizzle with warm glaze/sauce, then sprinkle toasted sesame seeds. Serve hot.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gobble...Gobble...Gobble (Turkey Decorated Cupcakes)

With the Holidays fast approaching, potluck season has officially begun. I love potlucks! It is a time when I get to see fellow kitchen enthusiasts whip up their best dishes/desserts and show off their skills. And if I'm lucky enough, I get to add their recipe into my collection.

I had my first Thanksgiving potluck last Sunday with a group of mothers. One mom in particular has picked up cake decorating as a hobby and she's amazing at it. In fact, whenever I go to one of the kids' birthday party, I've had the pleasure of seeing her talent and creativity at work. This time she brought cupcakes decorated with a Turkey using buttercream icing and candy corns. They're so adorable and the kids loved them. I thought these would be a fun project for kids to do at a Thanksgiving gathering so I asked if she wouldn't mind sharing the recipe and decorating instruction.

Decoration instruction courtesy of: Andora Effendi Nguyen

Makes 2 dozens

1 box cake mix (or your favorite cake recipe)

24 regular cupcake liners

Cupcake baking pans

Follow the baking instruction on the box.
*Tip: pour the cake batter into the cupcake liner using a small ladle for even proportion.

Wilton Buttercream Icing (Makes about 3 cups)
1/2 C. solid vegetable shortening
1/2 C. (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1 t. clear vanilla extract
4 C. sifted confectioners' sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
2 T. milk


(Medium Consistency)

In a large bowl, cream shortening and butter with an electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.

For best results, keep icing bowl in the refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Re-whip before using.

Turkey Decoration
Indian Candy Corns
Orange Icing (spread on each cupcake)
Brown Icing (put in piping bag with No. 12 tip)
Red Icing (Put in parchment paper bag and cut a small (about 2mm) opening. No tip needed.
Yellow Icing (Put in parchment paper bag and cut a very small (about 1mm) opening. No tip needed.

Place 5 candy corns side-by-side into a semi-circle shape. Squeeze a big brown dot in the center of the candy corn and a smaller dot above it. Add the beak and wattle (chin) with the red icing. Use the yellow icing for the eyes and feet.

Just for fun, I want to share a few pictures of Andora's amazing cakes:

She made these Disney Pixar's "Cars" themed cakes for her son's 3rd birthday.

She spent hours meticulously piping the grass for this cake. The thought she puts into capturing the scenes from the movie was just amazing. Everything except for the car toys is edible.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


From bottom left to right: beef, enoki mushrooms, spinach, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, bean sprouts. Middle: egg, sunny side up.

Lately, I've been in desperate need to eat more veggies at home but quite bored with just sauteing vegetables. A thought j
ust came over me and suddenly I was in the mood for Bibimbap, a Korean dish consisting of rice, mixed vegetables, and often served with beef and egg (raw, over easy, or sunny side up). Korean food is definitely not in my cooking comfort zone so I browsed online to find a Bibimbap recipe from an expert.

I was delighted to find a video tutorial made by a Korean girl on how to make Bibimbap. You can find the full recipe and how-to video on her blog, Maangchi, that's dedicated to cooking Korean food and learning about Korean culture. She's totally adorable and I really enjoyed watching the step-by-step instruction. And I was surprised how simple it is to make Bibimbap. It does take some time to prep and cook the different veggies and beef but really, all you need are these basic seasonings: sesame oil, garlic, soy sauce, sugar, salt. It's all a matter of using different combinations and proportions depending on which side dish you're making.

Since I decided to make Bibimbap on a whim, I didn't have all the ingredients on hand. What I love about cooking is the freedom to improvise and be creative! :) I was missing zucchini, gosari (fern bracken), and ground beef. I had some enoki mushrooms so I decided to use them to substitute for the gosari. I've never had gosari so it is definitely going on my "to-try" list next time I go to a Korean market. I also had a couple of thin slices of beef round steak so I diced them to mimic the ground beef.

Hubby and my mother-in-law were quite impressed with the colorful presentation and of course gave two thumb's up for taste. I absolutely loved how everything turned out and so happy to find another yummy way to eat veggies at home.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tarako (Salted Cod Roe) Spaghetti

I'm so excited to finally get the chance to make Tarako (salted cod roe) spaghetti. I originally stumbled upon a recipe for Mentaiko (spicy cod roe) spaghetti while browsing for a Japanese fusion dish. Tarako is the non-spicy version. Tarako/Mentaiko is commonly used as the filling for onigiri (rice ball). What I didn't know was that mixing it with pasta is a very popular Japanese-Italian fusion dish. I've been dying to try it ever since. Sadly, I don't live anywhere near a Japanese market so I had to put this thought in the back burner.

Saturday night, hubby and I had a dinner double date in Irvine and there was a Korean market on the same complex as the restaurant. Even though Tarako/Mentaiko is Japanese, I decided to go inside and search for it. I found a small container labeled "Salted Whiting Roe" that contained 4 membrane sacs. Truthfully I had no idea if Whiting fish is the same as Cod fish but it was the only thing I found that looked like Tarako/Mentaiko so I went for it and hoped for the best. Once I got home, I googled Whiting fish and found out that it's a cod-like fish. Pheww... :) So I made Tarako spaghetti for lunch yesterday and surprisingly it was so fast and easy to make. And not surprisingly...it was oh so delicious!! I'll definitely try this recipe again using Mentaiko and explore other pairings using this delicacy so stay tuned...

This recipe is adapted from: Chubby Hubby

Makes 5 servings

1 pkg. spaghetti (I used whole wheat)
4 sacs Tarako/Mentaiko
3 T. butter, salted
2 large shallots, finely diced
1 C. half and half (I used fat-free)
3 T. dry white wine
2 T. lemon juice
1 t. Japanese mayonaise
1/4 C. nori strips + extra of garnish
5 soft-boiled eggs

Cooking instruction:

1. Cook the spaghetti according to the package (minus 1 minute). Drain and reserve 1/2 C. of the pasta water.

2. Cut the sac lengthwise and scrape out the fish eggs with a spoon and set aside.

2. In a large pan, melt butter under medium heat then add shallots. Cook for about 2 minutes until opaque.

3. Add half and half, white wine, and lemon juice and simmer for a few mintues until sauce thickens. Stir in the fish eggs into the cream mixture.

5. Add spaghetti and pasta water into the pan and mix for 1-2 minutes until pasta becomes al dente.

6. To serve, place pasta on a plate. Top with a softboil egg and garnish with nori strips. If you like it spicy, sprinkle some red pepper flakes on top.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Banana Egg Rolls

I don't know about your family but in my household, once bananas get too ripe and mushy, no one wants to eat them raw anymore. And I just hate to throw away food that are completely edible. Here are my solutions.

If I'm strapped for time, the fastest way is to use them to make smoothies. But when I have a bit more time like today, I like to make banana egg rolls. I also add either jackfruit (a tropical fruit you can buy canned at most Asian supermarket) or chocolate sprinkles to the filling for variety. They're a hit and always gone in an instant!

Makes 20 egg rolls

20 spring roll wrappers
5 ripe bananas (cut into 4, lengthwise)
1 can jackfruit (drain, and cut meat into small strips)
1/2 C. chocolate sprinkles
oil for frying

Cooking instruction:

1. Place 1 piece of banana on one corner of the wrapper. Add a tablespoon of either the jackfruit or sprinkles. Tightly wrap the filling like you would an egg roll. Continue until all the wrappers and fillings are used.

2. Heat oil in a frying pan. Fry 4-5 egg rolls at a time until skin turn medium brown, turning once. Drain on paper towel. Serve warm by themselves or a la mode with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Note: Don't use these bananas to make banana fritters because the bananas will melt and you'll end up with oil splatters and a gooey mess (I know from experience :P). If you want to make banana fritters, use ripe plantains. They stay firm during the frying process.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ramen with Crab and Corn Soup

I made Crab and Corn Soup last weekend and since hubby was out of town for a few days this week, I still had some leftovers. To spare him from eating the same thing again I decided to change it up a bit. I simply boiled noodles, poured the hot soup over, and topped it with a soft boiled egg and sliced green onions and tadaaa...ramen is served! Hubby loved it so that's always a good sign! :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Anchos Southwest Grill & Bar

I can't believe I've missed out all these years by not eating at Anchos Southwest Grill & Bar until last night...especially because it's only a few miles away from my house! I first heard about Anchos 3 years ago from a co-worker who kept raving about their food and awesome margaritas. If you go to their website, they have video segments showing you how they take pride in the way they prepare their food. All the ingredients are fresh, from the vegetables to the meat. They never use anything from a can or pre-packaged. Their chips, salsa, and flour tortillas are all made fresh throughout the day.

I've been wanting to eat here but hubby's not too fond of Mexican food...but now I know Anchos is more a Southwestern/Tex-Mex style cuisine so he has no excuse next time. Knowing my hubby is out of town this week, two of my girlfriends suggested an impromptu dinner get-together. So they left their hubbies at home and we met at Anchos. We were not disappointed!

We arrived about 6:45pm and the dining room was pretty full but we got a table right away. I do hear it gets pretty packed on the weekends so expect some wait time. The restaurant is one large dining room with Spanish/Mariachi music blasting. It's a great place for families or to hang out with your buddies...I wouldn't recommend coming here for a quiet romantic dinner though.

Our server Emili was very pleasant, friendly and upbeat - you can tell she loves working there. She immediately placed homemade chips and salsa at the table. The chips were warm and crunchy. And the salsa was so fresh and flavorful -- the tomatoes, onions, and peppers are roasted on the mesquite grill before they're blended with other ingredients.

Since I've heard great reviews about their margaritas, we decided to try the strawberry and mango margaritas -- we ordered them virgin since one of my girlfriends has a bun the the oven and we don't want her to feel left out. They came in a beer mug and topped with whipped cream, almost like a milkshake. Both were good but my girlfriends liked the mango better because it's less sweet than the strawberry.

Another great thing about Anchos is that you get fresh flour tortillas for free. There's a tortilla machine in the middle of the dining room (picture above). The server would drop flour doughs into a funnel where they get pressed into flat 6" round tortillas then move through a fire oven to cook. The server then take the hot tortillas straight to the table with butter packets on the side. They're a bit thick like pita bread but soft and doughy. Rub some butter on it then take a bite - I'm not kidding...they're the best tortillas I've ever had! They're so good that we asked for seconds (even though there were still a couple left) so we can take some to-go.

For dinner we decided to share to leave room for dessert. The first entree we ordered was Steak Tacos "Al Carbon" (3 fresh flour tortillas filled with mesquite grilled steak) served with rice and beans. The steak was tender and juicy - you can ask to have the steak cooked to your liking. The portion is pretty generous so you can divide the steak and make 2-3 extra tacos.

The second entree we ordered was Camarones Alambres (Jumbo Shrimps, bacon wrapped, and mesquite grilled) served with butter dipping, guacamole, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and onions, rice and beans. I never knew shrimp and bacon make a wonderful combination. This dish was absolutely delicious!

For dessert we went with the classic Flan, one of my favorites. I prefer smooth and silky flan and the texture of this flan was a bit too firm for me...but delicious nevertheless.

The best surprise of the night was when we found out Anchos is celebrating their 20th year in business. So each day, from Nov. 2-8, there are different specials. Last night was "Celebrate 20 years with 20%"...meaning, we got 20% off from our total bill. Awesome!! :) We went home stuffed and happy. We'll be back again for sure...with hubbies in tow!

Anchos Southwest Grill & Bar
10773 Hole Ave.
Riverside, CA 92505
(951) 352-0240

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Crab and Corn Soup

It's November and I can't believe we're still having daytime highs in the 80s! But with the cooler nights, I was craving something warm and comforting. Crab and corn soup is definitely one of the comfort foods I grew up eating -- it's like the 'chicken noodle soup' in my family. The best part is that it's so fast and easy to make!

Makes 10-12 servings


1 lb. crab meat
4 C. chicken broth
4 C. water
3 cans cream of corn

3 cans whole kernel corn
1 medium brown onion (chopped)
1 bunch green onions (sliced)
3 T. sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 T. corn starch

Cooking instruction:

1. Add all ingredients, except the corn starch, into a large stock pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

2. In a small bowl, dissolve corn starch in 1/2 C. water then stir into the pot to thicken the

3. Serve hot.

If you're allergic to crab, you can substitute the crab meat with chicken. Just boil the chicken, shred, and chop into small pieces. Then lightly beat 2 eggs and add to the soup after Step #2.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Caramel Apples Dipped in Chocolate

My friend and her husband are anticipating the birth of their second baby (a boy) in less than two months. To celebrate this sweet occasion I decided to make a sweet treat for their baby shower. I thought this would be a great opportunity to experiment making something new.

My mind's totally blank on ideas until last Friday when I was drooling over pictures of caramel apples. Suddenly, the light bulb in my head flashed...that's it! So I got busy browsing for a recipe with easy instruction. I found some that tell you to buy pre-made caramel candy and melt them, some show you how to make them from scratch using a candy thermometer (I need to buy one soon) and some gave tips but refused to share their secret, passed-down from generations caramel recipe

For sure, I didn't want to buy the pre-made caramels but I also wanted something easy to follow.
Finally, a caramel apple recipe from bloom.acious intrigued me. The recipe calls for cream cheese and toffee bits, something I didn't see in any other recipes and never even thought they're ingredients in caramel apples. So I got totally excited to tackle my first attempt at making homemade caramel apples.

Since I was making these for a baby shower, I wanted to fancy them up a little by dipping the caramel apples in dark chocolate and drizzle with toppings. I chose chopped peanuts, chopped pistachios, and toffee bits as the toppings. I also got some cute striped blue ribbons at Michael's Craft store to tie on the sticks.

I'm happy to say the caramel recipe was so easy. The cream cheese definitely added some richness to the caramel. The combination of the caramel, bittersweet chocolate, salty toppings, and tartness of the apples in one bite is unbelievable - over the top delicious! And once all dressed up with the ribbons, they looked so adorable. My personal favorite is the one with pistachios topping but the toffee bits were the most popular and were gone first. Hmmm...I see many more homemade caramel apples in my future...

Source: Bloomacious

10 small Granny Smith apples
10 sticks (wooden or lollipop sticks)


1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 (8-oz.) package toffee bits (I used Heath toffee bits/chunks)
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate and Toppings
4 C. Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips
1 C. chopped pistachio nuts
1 C. chopped peanuts
1 C. Heath toffee bits

Cooking instruction:

1. Wash apples in lukewarm water to remove some of the wax then dry. Place them in the refrigerator.

2. Stir caramel ingredients together in a saucepan over medium heat until blended and allow to cool a bit.

3. Dip apples that have been fitted with a stick and set aside until the dip sets up.

4. Place each topping in a separate plate.

5. Pour chocolate chips in a glass bowl and melt in the microwave for 1 1/2 minutes. Stir and heat in 15 seconds increments, if needed, until chocolate is all melted and smooth. Dip caramel coated apples in the melted chocolate. Sprinkle with toppings.

Note: Line a jelly roll pan with wax paper and grease lightly with cooking spray. This will allow you to easily peel off the wax paper from the bottom of the caramel apples.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ahi Poke

Aloha! Ahi poke is a popular Hawaiian dish that can be found almost anywhere on the Hawaiian islands--from the home to the finest restaurants. Poke (pronounced poh-kay) means "to slice or cut" in Hawaiian. It can be served as an appetizer, salad, or main course.

I love Ahi poke but never realized they were so easy to make at home until last year, when hubby and I were invited to a friend's house for dinner. He made Ahi poke and served them with Wasabi seaweed tempura (from Trader Joe's) and they were amazing! While I was browsing for recipes online, I noticed that while most recipes contain common ingredients, there are so many variations. Then I learned that this dish dates back to fishermen bringing in their catch and seasoning it with whatever ingredients they had on hand -- that explains it! No matter what version, they're `Ono - delicious! Here is my version. Mahalo!

Makes 8 servings


1-1/4 lb. ahi tuna steaks, sashimi-grade (cubed into bite-size pieces)
1/2 C. soy sauce
2 T. sesame oil
2 kukui nuts/candlenuts (coarsely ground)
1 T. toasted sesame seeds
1 T. Furikake (original blend)
2 t. crushed red pepper
1/4 C. sliced green onions
1/4 C. minced Maui or yellow onions
1 pkg. Wasabi seaweed tempura (optional)

Cooking instruction:

1. Mix all ingredients and chill at least 1 hour. Serve with Wasabi seaweed tempura (optional).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bacon Leek Asparagus Quiche (crust-less)

For over a month now I've been having the urge to make quiche. I even went out to buy a couple of tart pans. It could've been an inspiration after watching the movie "Julie and Julia" -- which I totally loved and highly recommend it. Though you'll probably have to wait for the DVD now.

Finally last weekend I had a chance to make it. But I had a little dilemma -- hubby doesn't like crust! So, I had to divert to making a crust-less quiche which technically wouldn't make this a quiche anymore since quiche is an egg mixture baked in a pastry crust. But, I was determined to satisfy my quiche urge so I'm calling this a quiche anyways. One day I'll make the real thing with the crust...this time, hubby wins. So there, I feel much better now.

Makes (2) 9" tart pans

4 leeks
2 bunches asparagus
1 lb. bacon
10 eggs
1 C. half-and-half
8 oz. Gruyere cheese (shredded)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cooking instruction:

1. Cut the leaf branches from the leeks so you end up with the stalk. Cut the stalk in half lengthwise, then slice.

2. Cut 2" from the bottom of the asparagus and discard them. Then cut about 3 inches from the top portion and set them aside. Slice the remaining stalks about 1/4" thick.

3. Cut bacon into about 1/2" pieces. I find it easier to cut bacon when they're semi-frozen.

4. In a large skillet, cook bacon on high heat until crispy. Drain and set aside. Leave about 1 T. of the bacon fat inside the skillet.

5. Add leeks and asparagus into the skillet and cook for about 2-3 minutes until soft but not brown. Turn off heat.

6. Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease tart pans with vegetable oil spray.

7. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and half-and-half. Add salt and pepper to taste but remember, you'll have some added saltiness from the bacon and cheese.

8. Divide the leek/asparagus mixture, bacon, and Gruyere cheese between the tart pans.

9. Pour the egg mixture over the fillings until about 3/4 full. Place the asparagus tops around the top of the tarts.

10. Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes until top is slightly brown. Serve hot. Bon appetit!

Note: Since I didn't have a crust, I placed a sheet pan under the tart pans to catch any egg mixtures that may seep through the bottom (unless you're using a baking dish without the removable bottom). It'll save you from lots of mess to clean up later!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hot Sausage Couscous Croquettes

During my freezer raid, I discovered a package of Jimmy Dean Premium Hot Sausage. I went to Jimmy Dean's website to see if they have any recipes online and I was surprised to find they have tons of them! So I browsed through the sausage recipes and Jimmy Dean Sausage Couscous Croquettes caught my eye. I've made croquettes in the past and I'm familiar with making them with potatoes. This recipe gives a Mediterranean twist by using couscous instead of potatoes and cumin as the main spice. They make great appetizers and actually take less time to make since you don't have to boil and mash potatoes. If you don't feel like frying, just stop at cooking instruction #3 (minus the eggs) and you'll have yourself a delicious couscous side dish.

Makes about 20 croquettes

1 pkg. Jimmy Dean sausage (regular flavor or hot)
2 t. ground cumin
1 1/2 C. chicken broth or water
1 C. couscous (uncooked)
1/2 C. onion (finely chopped)
1/4 C. parsley (finely chopped)
2 eggs (lightly beaten) - I used 3 eggs because the mixture was too try
1/8 - 1/4 t. cayenne pepper (optional)
3/4 C. dry breadcrumbs - I used panko
Vegetable oil for frying

Cooking instruction:

1. In large saucepan, cook sausage over medium high heat, stirring frequently until thoroughly cooked and no longer pink.

2. Stir in broth, cumin, cayenne and couscous; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes on low heat. Remove from heat; cool 5 minutes.

3. Stir in parsley and onion; adjust seasonings to taste. Add beaten egg; stir well.

4. Moisten hands with water and mold cooled sausage mixture into 20 small logs. Roll in breadcrumbs.

5. To cook: in a wok, Dutch oven or fryer, add oil to a depth of 3 inches; heat to 375 F. Fry 3 or 4 at a time for about 2 minutes; drain on paper towels.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sweet and Sour EoMuk (Korean Fried Fish Cake)

The other day I was on a quest to use up things I had in the freezer before going to the market to buy more stuff. I found a package of EoMuk which is Korean fried fish cake. They're thin, flat, and square-shaped. I'm not too familiar with authentic Korean cooking and really needed to prepare something quick and easy so I decided to turn them into a sweet and sour stir fry dish. I added chili sauce to make it a little spicy.

Makes 6-8 servings

5 sheets fried fish cake (cut into triangles)
1 large carrot (peeled and cut diagonally)
1 red bell pepper (sliced)
1 shallot (finely diced)
2 T. sugar
2 T. ketchup
1 T. chili sauce
1 t. soy sauce
2 T. water
1 T. oil

Cooking instruction:

1. Heat oil in a wok or large pan. Add shallots and cook until opaque.

2. Add bell peppers and carrots and cook for a few minutes until the carrots get a bit tender, but not overcooked. Add fried fish cake.

3. In a small bowl, mix sugar, ketchup, chili sauce, soy sauce, and water. Add mixture to pan and stir fry for a few minutes.

4. Serve with steamed rice.

Palate Excursion: LA County Fair

Recently, hubby and I went to the LA County Fair with some friends. I love the fair...especially eating some classic favorites like funnel cake and kettle corn! The fair is also notorious for showcasing some interesting (though not necessarily good) food creations.

Was I glad there were 5 of us to share because by the end of the night, we gobbled down 1 funnel cake, 2 hot dogs, 2 corn on the cobs, 16 pcs. chicken wings, 1 large bowl of potato chips, 2 orders of pork ribs, 1 deep fried avocado, and 1 deep fried Twinkies.

Our first stop was the Funnel Cake stand. We got the works -- powdered sugar, raspberry sauce, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, and strawberry toppings. The funnel cake was soft and fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside. Perfect and Yummmyyyy!!

Before (above) and After (below) :D

Not even 10 minutes after we devoured the funnel cake, we came across the famous Pink's Hot Dog stand. It has been around since 1939 and is frequented by celebrities, politicians, and other prominent people. I've always wanted to try their hot dog but just never had the motivation to drive over 60 miles to their actual location in Hollywood and wait in their consistently long line. So now here's my chance.

We ordered the Spicy Polish Dog with mustard, chili, and onion (below Left) and Martha Stewart Dog - 10" Stretch Dog, relish, onions, bacon, chopped tomatoes, sauerkraut, and sour cream (below Right). The spicy polish dog was good but 'spicy!' and I'm a light-weight when it comes to spicy food. The 10" hot dog tasted ok but I think what sets them apart is the unique and often heart-clogging toppings you can add to it.

We also saw some mouth-watering grilled corn seasoned with garlic and herbs that we couldn't pass up.

As we walked around the grounds we stopped for fried chicken wings that were made to order and we can choose 2 out of the 8 flavors available. We chose lemon pepper and garlic Parmesan. Being fans of The Wing Stop, we were expecting something similar but were disappointed. The wings were huge and tasted bland. Wing Stop's chicken wings are smaller so they're crispier when fried and absorb all the wonderful flavors. While both are greasy, these were literally swimming in oil. Our fingers were too greasy to handle the camera so no picture of this one.

Continuing on, I was so excited to find the potato chips stand. My first encounter with these scrumptious potato chips was at the OC Fair. They cut the potatoes to order (with skin on) and deep fry them to the perfect crispiness and piled them onto a large oval red plastic bowl. They provide different Seasonings and spray bottles filled with vinegar that you can add to your liking. I have to say this was my favorite snack of the night! I was so excited that I realized after we almost finished the chips I had forgotten to take a picture of it yet. Bummer!

After about an hour walking around, we finally decided it was time to have a "real" dinner. So we went to one of the BBQ stands and got 2 orders of BBQ pork ribs. The marinade and BBQ sauce were delicious but the ribs were cooked inconsistently. One order was cooked perfectly, with the meat tender and falling off the bone. The other order, the ribs were tough and chewy. But overall they were decent. Ughhh...I forgot to take a picture again! :(

We thought we were done...but on the way to the exit gate, we passed by this "Totally Fried" food stand that sells deep fried White Castle (mini burgers), Smores, zucchini weeni, frog legs, avocado, and Twinkies. We were too stuffed to try every single one but still curious to taste some. Frog legs sounded the most odd but I figured nothing can beat House Special Deep Fried Frog Legs from Capital Seafood. :) So we went with the avocado and Twinkies.

Once again, we got too excited when the avocado came and forgot to take a picture of it. But it didn't live up to the hype. I think they used the same batter for all the items. The avocado was cut into wedges, dipped into the batter, then deep fried. The skin was thick and greasy and didn't have much flavor and didn't really add anything special to the avocado. We ended up peeling most of the skin off and just ate the avocado. The Twinkies tasted much better and had a better texture with the soft Twinkies on the inside and crispy skin. You can taste the richness of the combination of sweet and salty from the cream filling and batter.

Deep fried Twinkies with chocolate syrup and powdered sugar.That concluded our short LA County Fair palate excursion. Unfortunately, my heartburn began approximately 2 hours later...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Angel Hair Pasta with Gorgonzola, Tomatoes, and Cubed Ham

I have to admit that I haven't experimented with pasta dishes too often. I gotta give credit to my friend from Portland for this simple yet delicious pasta dish. Hubby and I were staying at his house for a few days. One day he made us spaghetti for lunch. It was so good I had a second serving! I was so tempted to have a third one...but hubby was giving me this "we're guests so don't eat all their food" kind-of look so I had to regretfully decline. But of course I couldn't leave without getting the recipe from him.

He cooked the spaghetti 'al dente', tossed it in olive oil, garlic, basil, and Gorgonzola cheese then topped it with chopped tomatoes and cubed ham. If you like balsamic vinegar (I love it), you can drizzle some over the dish. Although he used spaghetti, I think it can work with any pasta. I happened to have angel hair pasta so that's what I used here.

Makes 4-6 servings

1 pkg. spaghetti or any pasta
8 oz. Gorgonzola cheese (crumbled)
3 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1/2 C. fresh basil (chopped)
2 tomatoes (seeded and chopped)
2 C. cubed ham
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cooking instruction:

1. Cook pasta as directed on the box. Run the pasta under cold water to stop the cooking process and drain. Set aside.

2. In a large pan, heat olive oil. Add garlic, basil, salt, and pepper.

3. Transfer pasta into the pan and add Gorgonzola cheese. Mix well until the pasta is evenly coated with the cheese mixture.

4. Divide the pasta into 4-6 plates. Top with chopped tomatoes, cubed ham, and some cheese crumbles. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar, as desired.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Seared Jumbo Sea Scallops and Fennel Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

I finally ate fennel for the first time! Fennel is a plant that has many culinary uses in its different forms (seeds, foliage, and bulb). They're aromatic and taste mildly sweet, peppery, and has a crunchy, celery-like texture. Although I've seen this vegetable used in so many food network shows, I just never got around to trying it myself. Browsing for meal ideas, I found that fennel is often paired with citrus fruits in a salad so I thought making a fennel salad with orange vinaigrette dressing is a good place to start. And I seared some beautiful, meaty jumbo sea scallops to complete the dish. It is the perfect light meal. We actually ate this for dinner and were completely satisfied.

Makes 4 servings


12 jumbo sea scallops
salt and pepper, to taste
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. butter
2 fennel bulbs (sliced)
2 oranges (cut into segments)

Orange Vinaigrette
1 C. orange juice (about 5-6 oranges)
1/4 C. champagne vinegar
2 shallots (minced)
2 T. honey
2 T. sugar
1 T. fresh thyme leaves
salt and black pepper, to taste
1 C. extra virgin olive oil

Cooking instruction:

1. Dry scallops with paper towel then season both sides with salt and pepper.

2. Heat oil and butter in a medium skillet on medium high heat. Once hot, place 3-4 scallops and sear for about 2 minutes on each side. Don't overcook the scallops because it'll get tough and chewy. You want them to still be a little opaque in the center. Continue to sear the rest of the scallops. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, mix orange juice, vinegar, shallots, honey, sugar, salt, and pepper. Then slowly whisk in the oil.

4. Toss fennel in the vinaigrette dressing and place a mound on a salad plate. Place 3-4 orange segments around the fennel and top with 3 seared scallops. Drizzle more vinaigrette dressing over the scallops.

Chicken Satay with Homemade Peanut Sauce

I love Chicken Satay and can't see myself ever get tired of eating them. The taste and aroma bring back childhood memories of watching the "Abang Sate" (satay man) grill them next to their cart on the side of the road and me drooling, ready to devour every single piece.

Being in the US, eating satay has become somewhat of a luxury. People make them for special celebrations like birthdays or sell them at an Indonesian food bazaar -- at a pretty hefty price! If you're like me and can't wait for another party or bazaar to eat them...why not make them at home?

Makes about 20 skewers


1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts (cut into chunky strips)
1/4 C. sweet soy sauce
4 shallots (minced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
Bamboo skewers

Peanut Sauce
1 C. creamy peanut butter
1/2 C. water
5 shallots (minced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1/4 C. sugar
2 T. sweet soy sauce
Salt to taste
Fried shallots (for garnish)

Cooking instruction:

1. Mix sweet soy sauce, shallots, and garlic. Add chicken pieces and marinade for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.

2. Thread chicken pieces until they cover a little more than 1/2 of the skewer. Continue until all chicken is used.

3. Grill chicken skewers on a charcoal grill, turning them until they're completely cooked.

4. To make peanut sauce, mix all ingredients (except fried shallots) in a sauce pan on medium heat. Add a little more water if sauce seem too thick.

5. Place chicken skewers on a serving plate. Pour warm peanut sauce over and top with fried shallots. Serve hot.

Chicken Satay makes great bite-size appetizers, too.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pandan Bread Pudding Topped with Bananas and Butter-Rum Sauce

They say when life gives you lemon, make lemonade. So, when a recent BBQ left me with a couple of dozens extra hot dog buns, I made bread pudding. Ideally, bread pudding is made from day-old french bread or brioche. But there was no way I could eat 24 buns in time before they start to mold.

Instead of making the typical "American" bread pudding, I adapted an "Indonesian" version that my oldest sister learned from her mother-in-law by using Pandan essence and coconut milk. My sister usually mixed banana slices into the bread pudding but I decided to use them as toppings with a Butter-Rum sauce. The result: Heavenly!

Makes (1) 9"x13" baking dish


8 large eggs
3 C. coconut milk
1 T. pandan essence
1/2 C. sugar
1 t. salt
15 hot dog buns (1 loaf cubed french bread/brioche)

Bananas with Butter-Rum Sauce

4 medium bananas (sliced 1/2" thick)
1/2 C. (1 stick) butter
1 egg
1/2 C. sugar
1/4 C. Rum

Cooking instruction:

1. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, coconut milk, pandan essence, sugar, and salt.

2. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Add cubed bread into the mixture and let them soak through for at least 10 minutes.

3. Butter the inside of a 9"x13" baking dish. Transfer the bread pudding mixture into the dish and spread evenly. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stick a wooden skewer in the middle of the pan and if it comes out clean, it's done.

4. Whisk butter, sugar, and egg in a saucepan under medium heat until bubbly and sauce thickens. Add banana slices and Rum and cook for about 1 minute.

5. Place a slice of bread pudding on a small plate and spoon banana slices and Rum sauce on top. Serve warm.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Japanese Gyoza

Gyoza dumplings actually originated in China but became popular in Japan. The most common filling for gyoza is ground pork with cabbage and chives. You can also add ground shrimp (ebi-gyoza) or make it vegetarian. They can be boiled, steamed, deep fried, or pan-fried. My favorite is pan-fried because it gives a nice combination of the crispy and soft texture of the skin.

Makes about 50 pieces

1 lb. ground pork
1 C. shredded cabbage
2 t. minced ginger
1 t. minced garlic
2 T. sliced chives or scallions
1 t. sugar
1 T. soy sauce
1 T. sesame oil
Salt, to taste
1 pkg. gyoza wrappers

Dipping Sauce
1/2 C. low sodium soy sauce
1 T. rice vinegar
1 t. chili oil
1 T. sliced scallions

Cooking Instruction:

1. In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients except for wrappers.

2. Fill each wrapper with 1 teaspoon of the pork mixture. Dip your finger in water then dab along the edges of the wrapper. Seal by folding them in half and pressing along the edges.

3. To pan fry the gyozas, heat 2 T. oil in a large frying pan on medium high. Once oil is hot, line up approximately 12 gyozas inside the pan. Leave for about 2 minutes to brown the skin. Then turn the gyozas over (I find that using a chopstick is the easiest and fastest way to do it).

4. Pour 1/4 C. of water into the pan and quickly close with a lid (or you'll get oil splattered all over). Let they gyozas steam for a couple of minutes until most of the water evaporates. Transfer gyozas onto a paper towel to absord the excess oil.

5. Wipe pan and repeat Steps 3 and 4 to pan fry the rest of the gyozas.

6. In a small bowl, mix soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili oil, and scallions. Serve gyozas with dipping sauce.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pan Fried Sole Fish with Corn and Bell Peppers in Coconut Reduction Sauce

I wasn't quite sure how this dish was going to turn out. I've been craving fish so I bought some sole fillets and wanted to do some kind of sauce for it. Years ago, I learned how to make grilled corn by marinating it in a mixture of coconut milk, sambal oelek, salt, and sugar. It's sweet, savory, and spicy! Since I had leftover corn on a cob I figured using the same basic ingredients as the grilled corn would turn this into a delicious sauce. I added some diced red bell peppers to add a nice contrasting color to the dish. I also decided to use steamed spinach for the veggies. I'm pleased to say that it came out DELICIOUS!!

Makes 4 servings


(4) 3 or 4 oz. sole fillets
3/4 C. panko bread crumbs
1 T. corn starch
1 T. flour
2 t. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for pan frying
2 C. corn kernels
1 medium red bell pepper (diced)
3 shallots (finely chopped)
2 T. butter
(1) 12 oz. can of coconut milk
1 T. sambal oelek
1 T. sugar
Salt, to taste
1 bunch spinach (steamed)
cilantro for garnish (optional)

Cooking instruction:

1. In a flat and wide container, combine panko, flour, corn starch, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Dredge both sides of the fillets generously with the dry mixture.

2. Heat 2 T. oil in a large frying pan on medium high. Once oil is hot, pan fry each fillet for about 3 minutes on each side. Sole fish can easily break so be extra gentle when turning them over.

3. In the same pan, melt butter over medium high heat. Add shallots and cook until it turns opaque and slightly brown. Add corn and bell peppers.

4. Stir in coconut milk and sambal oelek. Add salt to taste. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens and coconut milk is reduced by half.

5. Place a fish fillet on top of a bed of steamed spinach and spoon the corn mixture and sauce on top. Garnish with cilantro and serve with steamed rice.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Perkedel Jagung Udang (Corn Fritters with Shrimp)

I've been slacking with cooking all week so I decided to stop by the market to get some inspiration. With summer coming to a close I saw some sweet white corn on the cob on sale. Then I stopped by the seafood counter and saw the raw shrimp was also on sale. I couldn't pass them up so I decided to make corn fritters with shrimp. This is one of my favorite snacks growing up and it's so easy to make. The longest part is frying the fritters.

Makes about 20-24 fritters

5 sweet white corn (cut kernels off the cob)
1 lb. 21-30 raw shrimp (cut into large chunks)
1 stalk green onion (sliced)
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
3/4-1 C. flour
1 T. corn starch
1/2 t. baking powder
1 T. sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 T. cold water
Vegetable oil for frying

Cooking instruction:

1. Place corn kernels, shrimp, green onions, and garlic in a large bowl.

2. In a small bowl, mix flour, corn starch, baking powder, sugar, salt, and pepper.

3. Stir in the dry ingredients to the corn/shrimp mixture. The moisture from the corn will create a nice thick batter. Add 1-2 tablespoon of cold water if the mixture seem too dry. But you still want to keep a nice thick consistency.

4. Heat oil in a large frying pan on medium-high. Once oil is hot, place a spoonful of the batter into the pan. This is a good time to see if your batter has the right consistency. If the corn is falling apart, then your batter is too dry so add a little water. Once you know the batter is ok, place large spoonfuls of batter around the pan. Fry for about 4 minutes on each side or until they turn golden brown and shrimp is cooked through. Continue until all batter is used up. Serve hot.
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