May 31, 2014

Baked Salmon Fillets with Easy Dill Yogurt Dressing 烤鮭魚佐蒔蘿優格醬

Salmon is very high in omega-3 fatty acid, which associates with decreasing the risk of various cardiovascular problems. However, the biggest benefit to me is the ease of eating and preparing salmon.

It's easier to buy a big chunk of salmon fillet, with or without skin, but mostly without the bones. That's probably why I rarely cook smaller fish since picking out the bones is like rocket science to me. On top of that, salmon is so flavorful and can be prepared without much effort, but still yielding delicious result. 

I've cooked salmon in so many ways such as colorful chirashi, seared salmon fillet with mustard mayo sauce, smoked salmon sandwich, and baked salmon fillet with ponzu and dana leaves. Let's try using store bought yogurt and kick it up a notch with fresh dill this time!  

Baked salmon fillets with easy dill yogurt dressing - 

Ingredients (for 2 portions)?

  • 6 oz/2 medium salmon fillets
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 small plain yogurt
  • 1/4 lime juice
  • 4 tablespoons of salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped baby dill (plus extra for garnish)
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro (plus extra for garnish)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper



Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the baking sheet with foil so it'll be easier to clean up afterwards. 

Peel and discard the tough ends of the garlic cloves and finely chop the remaining. Use room temperature salted butter, or quickly microwave cold butter for about 10 seconds till semi-melted. Mix the butter with 2 minced garlic cloves.

I used about 85 grams/3 oz of yogurt, key lime flavored yogurt to be exact. However, it can be hard to find unsweetened key lime flavored yogurt, so I modified this recipe using plain yogurt with extra seasonings instead.

Mix plain yogurt with chopped dill, chopped cilantro, and 1 minced garlic.

Season both sides of the fish fillets with just a little salt and regular amount of black pepper. Spread the butter mixture all over -

Into the oven for 10 minutes, or till just cooked through. The fillets will be soaked in yummy and flavorful butter once ready -

Transfer the fillets to a serving plate and top with one big spoonful of the yogurt dressing. Garnish with cilantro and dill. It can also be served with Sriracha and/or chili sauce, or simply mix the spicy ingredients with yogurt dressing.

Don't discard the melted garlicky butter (is it consider a sin wasting butter?). 

You can steam some root vegetables or broccoli and drizzle the butter all over as a side dish. Some veggies and baked fish, how much healthier can this meal be? Fine, except the butter part.

Some other no fuss cooking recipes:

Japanese cold noodles with cherry tomatoes plus a touch of lemon
Breakfast mantou burgers
Plum tomatoes plus two cheeses blend tarts using puff pastry sheet
Japanese style corn and ham sandwich
Steamed beef balls with chives and Napa cabbage 

May 25, 2014

Honey Pig BBQ (Irvine, CA) - Can't Seem to Find a Reason to Revisit Especially with Other Wonderful All You Can Eat Options in OC

Honey Pig BBQ in my memory was one of the decent Korean barbecue restaurants in Los Angeles. That's why when it opened in Orange County, Irvine to be exact, this place has always been on my pocket list ever since. Unfortunately, the food in Irvine location didn't quite live up to its fame and my expectations.

The Honey Pig BBQ in Orange County is located on Jeffrey, between the 5 freeway and Trabuco road. 

Orange County, especially Irvine = great outdoor space. It does come with a hefty price.

No reservation needed for Honey Pig BBQ. However, if you're familiar with this area, you'll noticed that at the same time, there are already people waiting in line for all you can eat Korean barbecue, especially the All That Barbecue about five minutes drive away.

Store design -

Piggy menu -

Click on the image for an enlarged view -

Meat selection -

Lunch menu at a bargained price -

Waitress started the fire for our grill -

She also put a bowl below the hole on the grill, so all the fatty oil will be collected without accumulating inside the grill -

Dipping sauce, sesame oil with salt on the left, chili paste on the right -

I used a lot of chili for Korean barbecue. As of Irvine and Tustin area, I think Shik Do Rak still has the best chili paste compared to Honey Pig BBQ, Gen, and All That Barbecue. It's has more kick and actually spicier with a little bit of tang. 

Miso paste in the front, garlic slices and jalapeños in the back -

Dduk bo ssam, rice paper used in wrapping grilled meat and other side dishes -

Pickled radish wrap, slightly sweet and sourish. It pairs well with oily grilled meat, in which the refreshing flavor balances off the heavy tasting protein -

Lightly seasoned salad in the back and leafy greens in the front, which can be used as other type of wrap for the pork belly -

Before we started grilling any meat, our waitress laid the banchan around the rim of the grill -

Lots of kimchi and lots of bean sprouts, but that's almost about it as for our banchan -

Then it goes the chadol/beef brisket $17.99 -

Brisket is always one of my must have items at a Korean barbecue joint. It's not necessarily my favorite cut of meat, but it tastes very delicious when wrapped in either the rice paper or pickled radish, along with a little bit of kimchi and salad greens. 

Pay closer attention, the fat is dripping away to the hole on the right side. Such a clever design -

You can wrap the beef slices in either rice paper or pickled radish. Some people like the brisket to be just about cooked through. However, try grilling it a little bit longer, the crunchier edge works very well with thinly sliced and slightly cold radish -

Picking up the whole thing requires some practices. The key is don't get too greedy before mastering the skill -

Bean paste soup -

Non-marinated beef tongue with butter $19.99 -

The beef tongue is on the lean side, so spreading the butter all over the grill prevents the meat from sticking.

There are also a few pieces of tofu as one of the few banchan selections -

Beef tongue, always a delicious item to order at a Korean barbecue place -

However, around this neighborhood, I think Gen Korean BBQ has a better version with more tender texture and beefier flavor.

Signature pork belly $19.99 -

The black peppercorn on top is more for garnishing purpose, you won't really taste the spiciness from the fatty pork -

It actually take quite a while to cook through such thickly cut meat. However, the fat gets rendered down during the process so there's no extensive greasy feeling when biting into the pork -

Look at all the oil flowing towards the hole on the grill -

When the pork is about ready, the waitress will help cutting the meat into bite size pieces. You can eat it right away or let the pork belly cook a little bit longer for extra crunchiness -

Grilled pork pairs well with salad greens. Top the pork with additional pickled banchan, perhaps with a little miso paste and chili sauce to spice up the flavor -

I would say along all three items ordered, the pork belly is the only one that got my thumbs up and worth the a la carte price tag. All other things you can simply get at an all you can eat Korean barbecue joint for much less money.

Overall Honey Pig BBQ ain't bad at all, especially for the decent pork belly. It just that the price paid for a la carte items here well surpassed the regular price as to all you can eat Korean barbecue, which is around $20 per person. At an all you can eat joint, you also get to try at least 6 different types of meat for the same price. In addition, there are not too many banchan/little dishes varieties at Honey Pig BBQ. As a result, it might not seem as much worth the money when comparing to other options around the area. 

Friends who tried Honey Pig BBQ actually recommend ordering kimchi fried rice in the end, saying it might be the best dish at the Irvine branch. Unfortunately, the three dishes ordered were already a pretty long stretch for two people. Perhaps next time?

Cindy's Rating: 6 

Honey Pig BBQ 
14171 Jeffrey Road
Irvine, CA 92620
(949) 651-9005

Some of the all you can eat Korean barbecue restaurants around Irvine:
$20 for endless steaks, galbi, bulgogi, and more! - Gen Korean BBQ and Yakitori Bar
All that Barbecue (delicious been tongue)
Shik Do Rak (delicious brisket)

May 18, 2014

American Kobe Steak with Simple Japanese Sauce, Extra Sunny Side Up to Make this Single Meal Even More Comforting

There are always some kinds of meat products stock up in my freezer section in case of emergencies. Emergencies here usually mean two things - poor weather condition preventing me from grocery shopping or stomach growling. Usually the stomach growling part tends to be far more serious then rainy days..if you have ever encountered hungry and grumpy people, you'll know how big the issue is here.

As I was digging through the freezer the other day searching for some munchies, a few pieces of frozen steaks were hiding in between the sausages and flash frozen fish that my mom got from a local market. Took a closer look, man, those were actually high quality American Kobe steaks from Snake River Farms! Treasure hunt! 

As I removed and cooked some of the sausages to shut the noise making monster in my tummy, I've also transferred one steak to the fridge and let it slowly defrost overnight. The very next day, I shall have comforting steak lunch all for myself.

American Kobe steak with simple Japanese sauce, plus a sunny side up egg -

Ingredients (for one, double the amount if cooking for two)?

  • 1 large piece of steak
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of twice concentrated Japanese tsuyu
  • Some olive oil
  • Some fresh ground medium grains black pepper
  • A little sea salt


  • Dried seaweed flakes and toasted white sesame seeds
  • Substitute the egg with oroshi/grated daikon


Remove the steak from the fridge and let it rest till reach room temperature, about 10 minutes before cooking.

Season both sides of the steak with just a little bit of sea salt and regular amount of freshly ground black pepper.

Try to use medium to coarsely grind black pepper if possible. It'll give the meat, especially the fatty part an extra flavor kick during the searing process, when the fat and spice melt and infuse together.

Oil the bottom of the grill pan and turn to medium high heat. Wait till the grill gets pretty hot then add in the steak. Don't move it around too soon because the beef might still be clinging onto the pan. Wait till the surface is about cooked through before changing the steak direction in order to get beautiful crosswise searing marks. It takes about 2 minutes on the first side for my steak.

Flip the steak and wait till the surface is cooked through before changing the direction again. Two to three minutes should be enough for a medium rare steak. However, cook time varies depending on your personal preference.

Transfer the steak onto the plate and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Do not cut the steak right away otherwise all the beefy juice will flow out, leaving dry meat behind.

Mix 1/2 lemon juice together with Japanese tsuyu. Pour the sauce to the grill pan while the pan is still hot. The two different temperatures collide and helps picking up the yummy brown bits sticking on the bottom. The mixture will sizzle a little, wait for about 30 seconds then pour the sauce to a bowl for later use.

Drizzle some olive oil to a pan and wait till the oil turns hot. Cook one sunny side up egg and transfer on top of the steak. Sprinkle some black pepper over the egg.

Drizzle some sauce over. Garnish the steak with dried seaweed flakes and toasted sesame seeds if desired.

If using oroshi instead, try to use the middle section of the daikon, which the flavor is milder and not as spicy compared to the ends.

Besides serving the steak as it is, you can also steam some rice or vegetables as the sides. Steam rice would be a great option because the soy sauce-like Japanese tsuyu works wonderful on it, creating flavorful and juicy bites every time. 

May 12, 2014

Cooking for One - Japanese Cold Noodles with the Best In Season Cherry Tomatoes Plus a Touch of Lemon

This recipe calls for the best in season tomatoes with little seasonings to brighten up the flavors. The ingredients used makes one big portion. However, you can simply double or even quadruple the amount if cooking for multiple people.

Japanese cold noodles with cherry tomatoes plus a touch of lemon -

Ingredients (for one, double the amount if cooking for two)?

  • Some plain thin while noodles or soba
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • 10 to 12 cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 yellow lemon
  • 1/4 cup of tsuyu/soup base (I used two times concentrated version)
  • 1/4 cup of boiled water
  • Some white toasted sesame seeds (optional)
  • Some small orchid for garnish (optional)


Halve the tomatoes. Pick out only the cilantro leaves since stems are not needed for this recipe. Zest half of the lemon first then squeeze 1/2 lemon juice into a container.

Pour in the tsuyu and water into the lemon juice container. Stir a little and give it a quick taste, see if more seasoning is needed based on personal preference. This simple base should cover the saltiness and sourish tastes for the cold noodles. The sweetness part comes from the ripe cherry tomatoes.

Cook the noodles according to the packaging instruction. Once done, drain well and soak in ice cold water to quickly stop the cooking process. Drain again when the noodles are completely cool down.

Transfer the seasoning base to the serving bowl and carefully add in the noodles. Mix well, arrange halved tomatoes and cilantro leaves throughout. Sprinkle with lemon zest and optional white sesame seeds. Lastly, beautify the noodles with some small pretty flowers. 

I know the flowers might not be edible in most cases and there's no point putting something unrelated as a garnish. Buy hey, the flowers not only brightens up the visual but also the gloomy mood, might work even better than the food itself!