Aug 29, 2016

Cheesy Goodness: Chicken Pesto Lasagna

The pesto sauce used here was made with Chinese basil, since I had too much left from making stir fry dishes. However, regular basil works just as well for this lasagna recipe. Whichever way is easier for you, and the same goes with cheese blend. As long as there are some milky kind and some saltier version there, just bake away.

Chicken pesto lasagna -

Ingredients (for 3 to 4 portions)?

For the pesto sauce:

  • 2 cups of basil leaves
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  • 6 sheets lasagna pasta
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 pack shredded cheese blend
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup pesto sauce
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Some olive oil


You can always use store bought pesto sauce, but since it's so easy to make and store in the freezer for an extended period of time, why not do it yourself? Plus I've always got leftover fresh basil leaves after cooking one dish, making pesto sauce naturally becomes the best thing to do to further utilize leftover ingredients.

Use a food processor, add in all the ingredients under the "pesto sauce" section but only use half of the olive oil first. Give it a few pulses first then blend well while slowly pouring in the remaining olive oil. Once smooth, taste and see if more salt is needed. 

This pesto sauce recipe yields more than we need for the lasagna, simply store any unused sauce in the freezer for future use. It can be a great flavor booster when served with salad or as sandwich spread.

For the lasagna, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a baking dish with butter, olive oil, or cooking spray. I used a 9X6X12 baking dish for this recipe.

Bring a big pot of water to a boil, add few pinches of salt to the water. Carefully add in the lasagna pasta sheets. Once softened, gently give it a swirl to prevent these sheets from sticking together. Cook till al dente, drain well, and set aside for later use. Rinse with cold water to separate the sheets if needed during the assembling process, remember to pat dry the sheets.

You can measure the baking dish with lasagna pasta to check on the number of pasta sheets needed. Keep in mind that these sheets will enlarge after boiling. 

Add two tablespoons of olive oil to a pan along with peeled cubed onion, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Give it a quick stir and continue to cook till the edges of the onion turned slightly browned. Add in ground chicken and stir constantly to break the meat apart into little pieces. 

Once the chicken is about 80% cooked through, add in one cup of tomato sauce and dried Italian seasoning. Mix and keep cooking till reduced a little. 

To assemble the lasagna, start from the bottom to the very top layer: 
Pasta sheet
Tomato meat sauce
Shredded cheese blend
Paste sheet
Pesto sauce
Tomato meat sauce
Shredded cheese blend
Pure tomato sauce (not cooked with ground chicken)
Shredded cheese blend

Simply add more layers if there are more leftover ingredients, but always make sure to have generous amount of shredded cheese on top. Of course you can also alter the ingredients used in between layers, it's a pretty free and up-to-you recipe. 

Cover the baking dish with foil and into the oven, bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for another 25 minutes. 

Wait till the lasagna cools down a little bit before serving.

Make sure to adjust the amount of salt used based on actual sauces and cheese blend used. Served with Tabasco sauce if a more fiery taste is preferred. 

Run down the edges with a knife before pulling up the lasagna, otherwise the cheese might cling on the baking dish and ruined the perfect square-ish rectangular shape. 

I didn't have enough cheese on hand, otherwise more more cup of cheese can make this dish even more comforting. There's never such a thing as too much cheese.

Other recipes using pesto sauce:

Aug 23, 2016

Japanese Comfort Food - Gyudon (Beef and Rice Bowl) for Two

If you ever had Yoshinoya, a Japanese fast food chain that can also be spotted in some locations in the United States, especially CA and NV, then you'll know what gyudon is. Steamed white rice topped with tender beef and onion slices. While the soy sauce provides the saltiness, you can also taste a combination of sweetness from the mirin, onion, and beef fat. 

The best way to serve it, in my opinion, is to top the gyudon with a raw egg yolk. The creaminess of the yolk rounds up all the sweet and savory flavors. Besides, kind of like bacon, egg yolk also makes things better.

Gyudon with egg yolk - 

Ingredients (for two)?

  • 20 t0 24 beef slices
  • 1 onion
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 tablespoons Japanese rice cooking wine 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped scallion
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • Small pinch salt
  • Small pinch black pepper
  • Some steamed white rice
  • Some toasted white sesame seeds
  • Some mizuna as garnish (optional)


Peel and slice the onion.

Drizzle some olive oil to the pan and turn to medium high heat. Add in salt and pepper.

Stir once a while and cook till the edges of the onion slices turned slightly browned.

Pour in soy sauce, mirin, Japanese rice cooking wine, and sugar. Stir a little. Bring to a boil then lower to medium heat, keep it at a simmer for couple more minutes.

Add in the beef slices one by one, do not dump all the beef slices at once. Cook till about 90% doneness, taste and adjust the flavor with soy sauce if needed.

To serve the gyudon, scoop some steamed rice to a serving bowl then pour in the beef mixture. Create a shallow center by pushing the toppings outward. Sprinkle some toasted white sesame seeds and chopped scallions first then finish the dish with a raw egg yolk in the center.

Garnish with mizuna or other fresh leafy greens on the side if preferred. 

This might not sound as a classic combination but adding some pickled daikon on the side pairs nicely with this beef and rice bowl. 

Other donburi/rice bowl recipes:

Aug 17, 2016

Cooking Taiwanese Ingredient - Fu Cai, or Pickled Semi-Dried Mustard Greens

Mustard greens, kai choi, or jie cai, this versatile leafy green for sure comes with many names, but the variations do not stop there. Pickled mustard green is called "suan cai/酸菜." When further semi-dried it's called "fu cai/福菜," and when fully dried it's called "mei gan cai/梅干菜."

I'm just as confused as you are. 

If you ever come across this ingredient, usually in vacuum sealer bag at a Chinese grocery store, don't be afraid and give it a try. Even if you have mistaken other variations with fu cai, it won't matter much with the recipe below. Most likely you'll still end up with no fuss and flavorful food that goes well with steamed rice and dry noodles. 

We all need to venture out once a while right? Just like me with tamarind and bacalhau.

Steamed ground pork with pickled semi-dried mustard greens 福菜蒸肉 -


  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 cup rinsed, dried, and finely chopped fu cai
  • 1 stalk scallion (stemmed and chopped)
  • 1 garlic clove (peeled and finely chopped)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 teaspoon soy sauce
  • Small pinch black pepper
  • Some sesame oil


Remove the fu cai from the vacuum sealer bag. Rinse and pat dry with kitchen towel. Remove the very bottom stem if necessary since this part might be tough to chew on. Finely chop the fu cai and set aside for later use.

Use a medium sized bowl or a deep plate, add in all the ingredients except for the sesame oil. Do not add too much soy sauce, it's only for the color and extra aroma. 

Blend well and gently press down the mixture to flatten the surface. 

Steam for 25 to 30 minutes. Once ready, wait till cool enough to handle the container by hand. 

Serve the steamed fu cai pork as it is. You can also pour the juice to another bowl then cover the mixture with a big plate. Quickly and carefully invert the whole thing so the pork mixture now lies on the plate instead. Pour back the juice and drizzle some sesame oil.

You can also sprinkle some more black pepper and finely chopped scallion before serving. 

Other steamed food recipes:

Aug 11, 2016

Tamagoyaki with Oozing Cheese Filling, Not Bad for a First Timer

Finally got some time to slightly revamp this site from 3 columns setting to simpler 2 columns. It should feel wider and cleaner, but the best part is that I can now use extra large sized horizontal images. 

Put the hassles away, now it's time to drool over these oozing cheese images - extra large effect!

Tamagoyaki with oozing cheese filling - 

Ingredients (single serving, double the amount if needed)?

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1/2 tablespoon tsuyu or light soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup cheese blend 
  • Some olive oil
  • Some dried seaweed flakes or threads (options)


Been thinking about buying a tamagoyaki/Japanese omelet pan for a while, but the already fully stocked pantry halted my thought. One day I was strolling down the aisle of a fancy supermarket, found a single-serving tamagoyaki pan for around $22. Stood there for a good 30 seconds then decided to just let it go. Soon after I, wandered to a Japanese grocery store nearby, found the same pan for $12. This time, without any hesitation, this pan is destined to come home with me.

And of course I managed to squeeze out a spot for this yellow pan.

Beat together the eggs, mirin, tsuyu or light soy sauce. Strain if preferred, this will help to prevent any uneven white colored bits on the cooked tamagoyaki. However, since this recipe calls for blended cheese for the filling, which contains paler looking mozzarella, it's unnecessary to strain the egg mixture.

Oil the pan surface, you can simply wipe some olive oil over using a kitchen towel. Turn to medium heat then pour in 1/3 of the egg mixture. Do not wait till the pan turns hot, just pour in the mixture right away and keep stirring it gently.

As soon as the mixture starts to coagulate, add the cheese mix on the edge way from you, but leaving a tiny space to fold in the filling. Use chopsticks or a small spatula to fold in the mixture two to three times, it'll look like a rectangular block close to your end.

So now you're left with semi-cooked egg mixture wrapped with cheese on the edge close to you, the remaining surface of the pan remains clean. Push that egg block towards the other edge.

Pour in 1/3 more egg mixture to the empty area. Quick tip here, carefully lift up the edge of the already cooked rectangular egg block so the newly added mixture binds better with it. 

Stir the newly added mixture if needed but don't make it into scrambled eggs. Fold the egg mixture again, starting from the already cooked block towards yourself, should be two or 3 folds again. 

Repeat the steps for the last 1/3 of the egg mixture. You should be left with a fatter looking rectangular block once finished. Press gently and shape the mixture if needed, but remember, don't overdone any of the above steps since the egg mixture cooks fairly quickly. Tough and fully cooked tamagoyaki is a no-no. 

Transfer onto a serving plate. 

Cut into larger bite size pieces. Garnish with dried seaweed flakes or dried seaweed threads right before serving.

Not bad for a first-timer. Still need to work on it but guess making tamagoyaki isn't that intimidating. I've already got many possible flavor combinations in my head, it's time to stock up some more eggs!

Other Japanese savory snack/otsumami recipes:

Aug 5, 2016

My Luck, My Fortune, My fuku - Wagyu that Melts like Heaven at Imafuku (Tokyo)

Ima means now, fuku means luck and fortune, think about the famous Momofuku founded by chef David Chang. Just like the name suggests, Imafuku, that's right, whoever walks in there for sure will be embraced by melt in your mouth wagyu heaven. 

A little distance away from the busy areas in Tokyo, but the trip is totally worth it. Shabu shabu and sukiyaki using only the highest grade of Japanese beef are the two staples at Imafuku. Side dishes change once a while and mostly wagyu-related.

Don't be intimated by the cow head design outside the restaurant. As soon as the door slide to the side, what lies ahead is clean and relaxing setting with marbled wagyu chunks waiting to be devoured.

Perhaps because of the extra 20 to 30 minutes transit time, we were the only "foreigner" that night. However, Imafuku is actually pretty tourist-friendly in terms of reservation and menu preparation. 

Japanese menu (click for an enlarged view) -

English menu -

No alcohol tonight, just green tea and oolong tea -

Appetizer: summer eggplant and smoked wagyu -

Then the waiter brought over the copper pot, this alone is artwork worth admiring at -

Taking pictures at a Japanese restaurant is always intimidating, especially at a semi-fine dining place. I do ask for permission every time before taking out my Canon beast. 

There was an elegant old lady sitting by herself on the table next to us. She looked over several times with a curious expression.  It made me shy, but I smiled back, pointed at the camera and gestured that camera always eats first. She laughed, and I laughed. 

About 10 minutes after, two men walked in then greeted her, I'm guessing her son and grandson. She looked over again and smiled. I smiled too, not sure the warmth sensation was coming from the steaming hot pot or something else. 

Utensils -

Ponzu and goma sauce -

Nicely chopped scallion, spicy oil, and spicy grated daikon for the sauces -

The water is boiling, and the waiter came just in time to open up the lid -

He brought over a plate of thinly sliced beef tongue and ready to "shabu" for us. That's the only shabu meat with tableside service. Customers can stay relaxed and just cook the ingredients at their own paste afterwards. 

The wagyu tongue was what first caught my attention about Imafuku. As a beef tongue enthusiast, I've had it numerous times in many ways, but never a thinly sliced version for shabu. 

The key of shabu-ing the beef slices - make sure to loosen the grip a couple times. That way the parts where the chopsticks are holding on to can be in contact with hot water. Otherwise these area stay pink when the rest of the parts already cooked perfectly.

Tender yet tiny bit chewy at the same time. Beef tongue is served with salt, which brings out a more intense beefy aroma and a hint of sweetness from the fat, very addicting -

Veggies for the shabu shabu -

The curly white thing is snow fungus, not much taste but it has a slight crunchy texture. When cooked long enough, it turns gooey and considers a good source for collagen -

Cute cow-shaped carrot, by the way, it shrinks after boiling in the pot - 

Side order of grilled prime quality beef tongue -

Excellent choice! Look at how thick the beef tongue is, almost like a steak. Crunchy to an extent, the beef juice evenly distributed along the grains that won't burst when chewing but you can definitely feel the moisture throughout -

To make it even better, here comes the rest of the marbled goodness. From left to right: fillet, rump, ichibo, sirloin, superior cut of roast -

I can see sparkles surrounding these beef slices, must be in heaven.

At first I was amazed that the fillet just melts in my mouth, but then the rump was even more amazing, almost overwhelming. It has a buttery aroma, sweet and savory at the same time, and the flavor lingers after the wagyu fat already glided down my throat -

Look at that marble pattern, who would ever known that fatness can be so attracting -

Somehow I feel kind of guilty devouring such a big piece of wagyu in one bite, but it was so damn goooood! 

Tasting different parts of wagyu all the way till the very last superior cut of roast. I get it, I kept saying the beef just melts in my mouth earlier, but this part truly disappears instantly, so fast that I almost considering re-ordering another plate to savour it again. Ima - fuku indeed. 

Time for the veggies, we prefer a softer texture so the platter was poured in all at once -

Ate a lot of beef but maybe because it was served shabu style, my body doesn't feel as burdensome compared to grilled steak or yakiniku. Shabu shabu also serves a better channel to fully appreciate the sweetness from such high quality beef.

Choose between rice and udon. Just imagining all the grains soaking in sweet beefy broth, of course we go for the rice. The waiter came and took the pot away, about 10 minutes later he presented us with this fluffy thing -

All the grains are now topped with fluffy eggs. Somehow I smell and taste truffles. What a umami burst in my mouth -

A satisfying meal always needs something sweet for a happy ending. Choose from matcha ice cream, mango pudding, and pineapple sorbet. We picked matcha ice cream and pineapple sorbet -

Fresh fruit inside icy square box -

Both shabu shabu and sukiyaki sets come around ¥10,000 gives and takes couple thousand yens. The zeros might seemed scary at first, but the portion and parts of wagyu you get here definitely worth the price tag.

Imafuku currently holds one Michelin star status.

Imafuku 今福
1 Chome-12-19 Shirokane
〒108-0072 東京都港区白金1-12-19

Opening hours: 
5:00 p.m. ~ 12:00 midnight (closed from 12/31 to 1/2)