Jul 17, 2017

Ugly Delicious? Lightly Braised Tomato Beef

A mixed up between squashed tomatoes, nearly melted onion slices, and beef chunks, the end result might look messy, but definitely delicious.

One of the bento side dish favorites too.

Lightly braised tomato beef - 


  • 1 lb thick cut beef slices
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 to 2 red chilies
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bundle Chinese basil


Peel and slice the onion, peel and slice the garlic cloves. Destem the chili and finely chop the remaining section. Cut the beef into large size thick cut pieces. Roughly chop the basil leaves. Drain the canned tomato juice and set aside for later use.

Drizzle enough olive to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Turn to medium high heat and add in sliced onion. Sprinkle some salt and pepper. Give it a quick stir and cook till edges of the onion slices turn slightly browned. Transfer the garlic and chilies over. Keep cooking till the edges of the onion slices are nearly burnt. It'll take few minutes at least.

Transfer the beef to the pan and sear both sides. 

Add in the oyster sauce along with drained tomatoes. Turn to high heat and cook till the juice reduced by half, this will take a short moment too. 

Mix in chopped Chinese basil and give it a quick stir. Turn off the heat immediately. You can also save some fresh basil leaves as garnish in the end.

Plate and garnish if desired. 

This dish seems gooey with ingredients sticking to one another. But that's the point, with such a lightly braised recipe, its gooey appearance means all the flavors are now intertwined and ready to be devoured.  

Other beefy recipes:

Jul 11, 2017

Bento Side Dish Recipe - Kimchi Tamagoyaki

I've made cheese tamagoyaki and mentaiko tamagoyaki before, now it's time for kimchi to shine!

Kimchi tamagoyaki - 

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

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped kimchi
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • Some olive oil


The steps of making tamagoyaki are about the same even though different fillings are used. Refer to my previous post for a more detailed description with step-by-step pictures on how to roll up tamagoyaki.

Instead of the cheese I used before, just swap it out with chopped kimchi. Also there is no need to add more tsuyu or light soy sauce to the egg mixture since kimchi can be quite salty on its own. 

Kimchi flavored tamagoyaki makes a great addition for bento. Kimchi provides a spicy kick, and the eggs are always comforting, so putting these two together can hardly go wrong. 

So what should I test out with tamagoyaki next?

Other tamagoyaki recipes:

Jul 7, 2017

Lightly Braised Silken Tofu and Ground Pork (豆腐羮)

This is a simple yet comforting dish that my mom used to make when I was a kid. She likes to add some shirasu but I have omitted that due to environmental reasons. However, without shirasu, the flavors are still good and satisfying, especially with additional help from one other ingredient, keep reading and you'll find out the answer in the end. 

Lightly braised silken tofu and ground pork -


  • 1 box silken tofu
  • 0.5 lb ground pork
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock (preferably infused with ginger)
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 stalk scallion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Some corn starch/water mixture
  • Some chopped cilantro
  • Some white pepper powder


Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves. Trim off the scallion stem and chop the remaining stalk. Drain the tofu and roughly cut into big cubes. Finely chop some cilantro leaves and set aside for later use. 

Use Chinese style chicken stock if possible. Otherwise you can warm up the stock and add a couple slices of ginger. Bring to a boil and keep it as a simmer for about 10 minutes to draw out some of that gently spiciness from the ginger. Turn off the heat and keep the stock on the side for later use.

Use a pan or a pot with some depth since we are going to pour some stock over. Drizzle enough olive oil to evenly coat the bottom of the pan.

Turn to medium high heat. Add in ground pork, salt, and pepper. Give it a quick stir till some fat starts to render. Transfer chopped garlic and scallion over. Sear till the meat has been fully cooked through. 

Pour over the stock and bring to a boil. Carefully add the tofu to the mixture and bring to a boil again. Lower the heat a little if needed, this mixture needs to be reduced to concentrate the flavor, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle some white pepper powder. Taste and adjust with salt.

There is no need to nicely cube the silken tofu in the beginning. The tofu will break into smaller pieces during the cooking process from stirring and mixing. Don't worry about getting the perfect shape, cubed or mixed shapes, they all taste just as good.

Prepare some corn starch and water mixture on the side. While the tofu mixture is hot but not boiling, pour in the corn starch water and keep stirring at the same time to prevent lumps. 

Plate the food and garnish with some chopped cilantro leaves.  

I also like to add some cubed shiitake for extra spongy bite. On top of that, shiitake can further bump up the umami level. If using shiitake, remove the stems and cube the caps, stir-fry it after the ground pork is about 50% cooked through. Try it yourself, won't you?

Other tofu recipes: 

Jun 29, 2017

Black Food Rocks! Black Yakiudon (焼きうどん)

Something garlicky and spicy, something bouncy and slurpy, something irresistible and perhaps evil. This is a plate full of dark matters - this is a plate of black yakiudon. 

Ready to darken yourself?

Black yakiudon (焼きうどん) -

Ingredients (for 6 portions)?

  • 900 grams udon
  • 0.7 lb matsuzaka pork slices or any thick-cut shabu pork slices
  • 6 to 8 shiitake mushrooms
  • 6 to 8 bok choy
  • 1 carrot
  • 1/4 cabbage
  • 1 onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 red chilies
  • 1 stalk scallion
  • 2 teaspoons grated or finely chopped ginger
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce paste
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Japanese tsuyu (double concentrated)
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 tablespoons squid ink
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Some kimchi or pickled red ginger (beni shoga)
  • Some bonito flakes (katsuobushi)


Peel and roughly chop the garlic cloves. Trim off the scallion stem and cut the remaining in about 2-inch long sections. Destem and chop the chilies. Peel and slice the onion. 

Destem and slice shiitake mushrooms. Peel and julienne the carrot. Tear the cabbage into large bite size pieces. Tear the bok choy into strips and cut to shorter or thinner strips if needed.

Cook the udon till about 70% cooked-through. Drain and set aside for later use. You can even rinse or soak the udon with cold water to stop the cooking process.

Use a big pot or a wok, drizzle some olive oil and turn to medium high heat. Add in the onion along with salt and pepper. Give it a quick stir and cook till translucent.

Add in garlic, scallion, chilies, and ginger. Cook till aromatic but not burning the garlic.

Transfer the pork to the pot and sear till some fat renders. Add the carrot and shiitake to the mixture. The shiitake will absorb all the extra fat from the pork and become tender and juicy.

Transfer the cabbage over, it might appear almost overflowing the pot but do not worry. The cabbage will start to wilt after a while. Once that happens, transfer the bok choy over.

Add the soy sauce paste, oyster sauce, tsuyu, mirin and mix well. Cook for couple more minutes to fully incorporate all the flavors. 

Add in the squid ink and mix gently to avoid lumps. Transfer the udon over and cook till it reaches desired texture.

Plate the udon and serve some kimchi or pickled red ginger on the side. Only add some katsuobushi right before serving so it can start "dancing" with the help from the heat below.

May the force be with you. 

Other udon recipes:

Jun 23, 2017

Chicken Stir-Fry with a Secret Aromatic Weapon - Cilantro

Cilantro is truly a love and hate ingredient. To some people, cilantro is an irreplaceable aromatic that make a dish shine, especially in Asian countries. But to some, cilantro is nothing more than a soapy, scary tasting thing. Well, believe it or not, it has to do with genes. Some people's olfactory-receptor genes, OR6A2 specifically speaking, can pick up certain aldehyde chemicals. Aldehyde chemicals can be found in cilantro and some soap. And I guess soapy is not a welcomed aroma when presents in food.

Luckily I don't have such concerns and would love to just dive in cilantro paradise. However, if you just can't accept cilantro whatsoever, simply swap out cilantro with flat leaf parsley. The result will just be as aromatic, without the soapy taste. 

Chicken stir-fry with lots of cilantro -


  • 1 large chicken breast
  • 1 small bundle cilantro
  • 3 medium king oyster mushroom
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 small can of kernel corn
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Some white pepper powder
  • Few dashes fish sauce


Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves. Peel and cube the carrot. Cube the king oyster mushrooms. Cube the chicken. There is no need to marinate the chicken first, the cilantro will do most of the flavoring work. 

Finely chop the cilantro, it should loosely packed a small bowl. Drain the juice from canned kernel corn.

Drizzle enough oil to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Turn to medium high heat and add in chopped garlic along with salt and pepper. Mix a little and cook till aromatic but not burnt.

Add the chicken and cook till the meat is about half way cooked through.

Add in the carrot and mushroom, cook for a short moment then add in few dashes of fish sauce.

Add in drained kernel corn and cook till the corn warms up. Lastly, mix in chopped cilantro and some white pepper powder. Taste and see if need to pump up the saltiness by using extra fish sauce.

Plate and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Do not discard the cilantro steams. Use both the leaves and stems for maximum flavor boost. In fact, the texture of the stems actually works better in stir-fry dishes.

Other recipes where the aroma of cilantro shines:

Jun 17, 2017

Fancy Dinner in No Time - Iberico Steak with Salad Greens

Fancy for a steak dinner? Since this recipe uses high quality Iberico loin end, just a touch of salt and pepper and let the pork speaks for itself. Some quick fix salad greens serve as a healthy side dish, but of course the greens are mainly there to justify my meaty guilty pleasure.

Iberico steak with salad greens -

Ingredients (for 2 to 3 portions)?

  • 2 Iberico loin end steaks
  • Some mixed salad greens
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Some fleur de sel or kosher salt
  • Some freshly ground black pepper

Simple salad dressing -

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • Some fleur de sel or kosher salt
  • Some freshly ground black pepper


Rest the Iberico steaks in room temperature and season both sides with some salt and pepper. 

Drizzle just enough olive oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan. Turn to medium high heat. Once the oil turns hot, transfer the Iberico pork over and sear till slightly crusty and browned on both sides. The actual cooking time differs depending on the thickness of the meat, but just treat it like regular steak, you can even transfer the whole thing to the oven to finish cooking. A little pink in the center is fine too for Iberico pork.

Once the steaks are ready, remove from heat and let them rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Prepare the salad while resting the meat. Mix all the dressing ingredients and adjust the flavor with salt and pepper. Toss with salad greens, it's that simple. 

Plate the Iberico pork and top with salad greens. Sprinkle some more black pepper and serve immediately before the salad starts to wilt. 

No kidding, this part of Iberico pork really tastes like a beefy steak. 

Use something slightly sourish as a side dish to balance off the flavors. I didn't have time to make red onion pickles, otherwise it can be a wonderful addition. However, quick fix salad with balsamic dressing can always be a good alternative, just like this meat-loaded meal I just had.

Other steak recipes:

Jun 12, 2017

Beef Stroganoff - I Shall See You Again Very Soon

A pack of leftover sour cream, thank you. Without you being sitting in the fridge for days, I couldn't have thought about making beef stroganoff. 

The regular pasta dishes in my household are either tomato or olive oil based. So that extra pack of sour cream changed the usual scene, and my tummy was very happy with the result.

Beef stroganoff -

Ingredients (for 4 to 6 portions)?

  • 1 pack/400 grams egg pasta (can be substitute with tagliatelle)
  • 380 grams steak quality beef (cut into thicker slices)
  • 12 medium to large button mushrooms
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 onion
  • 1 pack/200 grams sour cream
  • 1 can beef broth or onion soup
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Some salt
  • Some freshly ground black pepper
  • Some chopped scallion (optional)


Cut the beef into thick slices and season with salt and pepper. Peel and slice the onion. Peel and roughly chop the garlic cloves. Halve or quarter the button mushrooms. Chop the scallion.

Bring a big pot of water to a boil and add some salt. Cook the pasta till almost reaches desired texture. Once ready, drain and set the pasta aside for later use. However, if you time it well, the pasta should be ready when the sauce is ready.

Take another big pot or cookware, add in butter and olive oil. Turn to medium high heat and wait till the oil gets hot. Add in the beef slices and sear till semi-cooked through. Remove from the pot.

Continue to use the same pot, drizzle some more olive oil if needed. Transfer the onion slices over. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Give it a quick stir and cook till the onion turns translucent. Add in garlic and sear for about one more minute. 

Sprinkle in the flour and kind of "stir-frying" it along with the onion and garlic in the pot. Pour in one can of beef broth or onion soup and Worcestershire sauce. Whisk the mixture to prevent lumps. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook till the meat turns tender or just wait till all the flavors combined, this can take up to 20 to 30 minutes depending on the cut of beef used.

Add in button mushrooms and cook for about one minute or less. Do not overcook the button mushrooms otherwise they can start to shrink even by 2/3 of the original size. 

Mix in the sour cream then lastly mix in cooked pasta. Continue to cook till the pasta reaches desired texture.

Plate and garnish with chopped scallion. 

It's not as thick and creamy as Alfredo pasta, but rather like a denser sauce with a hint of milkiness. The Worcestershire sauce does most of the job, providing sweet and savory notes for this beef stroganoff.

What else can you do with sour cream? The most obvious answers popped up right away - cheesecake, baked potatoes, and dips. However, after tasting this beef stroganoff, I think all the leftover sour cream will turn into pasta sauce in my kitchen from now on.

Other pasta recipes:

Jun 5, 2017

Asparagus Stir-Fry with Button Mushrooms and Bacon

Asparagus is in season now, so why not get the most out of it?

Asparagus stir-fry with button mushrooms and bacon -


  • 0.3 lb or 150 grams bacon
  • 1 bundle of skinny asparagus 
  • 8 to 10 button mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Some salt
  • Some freshly ground black pepper


Peel and slice the garlic cloves. Use thick-cut bacon if possible and cut into smaller pieces. Trim the asparagus first if needed. The skinny type I used here is pretty tender throughout and no need for extra prep work. Cut the asparagus into about 2-inch long sections. Halve or quarter the button mushrooms.

No need to use extra oil. Just transfer the bacon to a pan then turn to medium high heat. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Give it a quick stir. Take it easy on the salt here especially some bacon can be quite salty. You can always adjust the flavor in the end. 

Sear till the bacon fat starts to render. Add in garlic slices and keep cooking till that wonderful garlicky aroma starts to fill the kitchen. 

There should be enough bacon fat in the pan now. Transfer the button mushrooms over and make sure they are coated with bacon fat. Cook till the mushrooms just about to shrink then toss in the asparagus. Mix a little and cook till the asparagus reaches desired texture. Taste and add more salt if needed. 

Plate the food and sprinkle some more black pepper.

A little cooking tips, always try to use ingredients that are in season. These are the best produce you can find and usually taste better than off-peak months. You're already half way there by starting out with the tastiest ingredients. On top of that, in season produce is usually cheaper too, talking about saving a few bucks on groceries. 

Want more bacon goodness? Here are some recipes using bacon:

May 30, 2017

Quick-Fix Tuna and Mizuna Salad Using Japanese Sesame Dressing

Getting back on track after the long weekend can be draining, not just physically, it also took a toll mentally. Since we can't really avoid dragging ourselves back to work, at least we can take a break from serious cooking in the household. 

Salad sounds like a good idea, and don't be ashamed asking for help from store-bought salad dressing. There is no better time to use the already-made dressing after the holidays. 

Tuna and mizuna salad using Japanese sesame dressing -


  • 1 bundle/pack mizuna
  • 12 slices sashimi grade tuna
  • 1 wax apple (can be substitute with sweeter tasting apple)
  • 1 small can kernel corn
  • 1/2 kumquat (can be substitute with citrus)
  • Some Japanese goma/sesame dressing
  • Some toasted white sesame seeds
  • Some extra virgin olive oil (if needed)
  • Some tsuyu (if needed)


Chop the mizuna into shorter strips, about 2 inches in length. Drain the canned kernels. Chop the wax apple into bite size pieces. Wax apple can be hard to find even at a Chinese grocery store. In that case, use sweeter tasting apple instead.

Taste the Japanese goma dressing first and see if need to adjust the flavor with additional extra virgin olive oil and tsuyu. Toss with mizuna, kernels, and wax apple together with small amount of dressing. 

Kumquat usually comes with sashimi grade tuna, so how not make a good use of it? Kumquat can also be substitute with citrus. 

Drizzle some kumquat juice over tuna first. 

Arrange tuna slices on top of the salad. Drizzle some more goma dressing. Sprinkle some toasted white sesame seeds and squeeze the remaining kumquat juice all over for a refreshing touch. 

Play around the ingredients per your preference, perhaps use more seafood such as scallops, abalone, and shrimps. 

No splashing oil and easy cleaning afterward, just what we need after the long weekend right?

Other salad recipes:

May 24, 2017

Shrimp Risotto Part II, This Time with Amaebi (Sweet Shrimp)

After taking a series of food pictures, I just realized that I've made similar risotto before, and even wrote about it. The ingredients used are about the same, especially the umami-packed homemade shrimp stock. However, instead of adding seared shrimps, the key ingredient under the spotlight has swapped out with sushi grade raw shrimps. 

Amaebi, or sweet shrimp, just by changing the cooked ingredient to raw ingredient, the flavors of the risotto did change slightly. Less savory note but bumped up the sweetness level. Compare the two recipes and see which one fits your palate, or perhaps just make two versions at once?

Shrimp risotto with raw sweet shrimp - 

Ingredients (for 2 to 3 portions)?

  • 1 cup Acquerello or Arborio rice
  • 3 cups shrimp stock
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped shallots
  • 6 sweet shrimp
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • Some flat leaf parsley


Warm up the stock on the side. You can use store-bought shrimp or lobster stock, but why not make it yourself?

Drizzle some olive oil to a big pan or enameled cast iron pot. Turn to medium high heat and add in peeled, chopped shallots and salt. Cook till the shallots start to turn translucent.

Pour in the rice, give it a quick stir and make sure each single grain is coated with olive oil. 

Sear for about a minute or less then start to pour in warm stock one or two ladles at a time. Make sure to stir the mixture once a while. About half way through, pour in dry white wine and continue to cook the risotto. Keep adding small amount of stock till the grains reach desired texture. The amount of liquid used in this recipe yields al dente rice, but on a slightly chewier side.

Taste the risotto and see if more salt is needed. Turn off the heat and add the butter and lemon zest to the risotto, give it a few stir and the grains will start to shine.

Halve the raw shrimp and remove the veins if any. Plate the risotto. Garnish with halved shrimp and some flat-leaf parsley. One delicious suggestion, take the parsley and turn it into a simple herb oil or pesto. Drizzle the parsley infused oil over risotto for a level up flavor boost.

My other version of shrimp risotto was finished off with grated Parmigiano Reggiano, but not here. The highly savory cheese will hinder the crisp taste from the sweet shrimp. However, you can always devour the sweet shrimp with some risotto first then generously grate a ton of cheese over the grains if you'd like. Whatever you like as long as this food makes you happy.

Other risotto recipes: