Nov 21, 2017

Black and White Chocolate Bar with Almonds and Freeze-Dried Strawberries

This is a similar recipe post from the earlier version of dark chocolate with candied violets and hazelnuts. Since all the candied violets brought from Vienna were gone (oh no), freeze-dried strawberries came into play

Black and white chocolate bar with almonds and freeze-dried strawberries - 


  • 167.5 grams or 6 oz dark chocolate bar (I used 82% dark chocolate)
  • 25 grams white chocolate
  • 30 grams freeze-dried strawberries
  • 20 grams crushed roasted almonds (salted version even better)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk or heavy whipping cream (optional)


Transfer the freeze-dried strawberries to a Ziploc and gently smash them till breaking into smaller pieces.

Do the same with almonds, smash till whole nuts breaking into smaller pieces.

Line a baking dish with parchment paper. Use double boiler and melt the dark chocolate and the white chocolate separately. As for the white chocolate, if it can't melt nicely, try to add a tap of warm milk or heavy whipping cream then stir till incorporated. I used some skimmed milk for mine, not the best option but that was all I got in the fridge. As a result, my melted white chocolate looks a bit more diluted than usual.

Pour the dark chocolate into the baking dish first then drizzle the melted white chocolate over to form an irregular pattern. A medium baking dish should do the trick. Just make sure once pouring in melted chocolate, the thickness resembles chocolate bar instead of spreading to a thin layer. 

Garnish with crushed almonds and freeze-dried strawberries before the chocolate sets.

Transfer the baking dish to the fridge for at least 2 hours. Once ready, take out the chocolate bar and break or cut into smaller pieces.

Be creative with the toppings, it doesn't have to be freeze-dried berries. A more accessible fruity ingredient such as raisins and even figs can add a nice touch to the chocolate bar. Keep in mind that we are using bitter-ish dark chocolate and sweeter white chocolate, so which ingredient works better with these two?

Other dark chocolate bar recipe:

Nov 14, 2017

Maple Glazed Duck Breast (with Duck Fat Potatoes Side Dish)

One duck breast should be enough for two people, but if you would like to indulge a little, go for two duck breasts. Don't worry about the glaze, the portion for the glaze listed below should be just enough for two duck breasts. 

Maple glazed duck breast with some duck fat potatoes -

Ingredients (for two)?

  • 1 to 2 duck breast
  • 1 potato
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/2 lemon or other type of yellow citrus
  • 1/3 cup peas
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • Some salt 
  • Some freshly ground black pepper
  • Some freshly ground rainbow peppercorns (optional)
  • Some extra lemon zest (garnish)


  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Tiny pinch cayenne pepper powder (optional)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit/190 degrees Celsius. Line a baking dish or baking sheet with foil. 

Peel and dice the potato into tiny cubes. Peel and chop the onion into tiny squares too.

Mix all the ingredients under the "glaze" section and set aside for later use. 

Rest the duck breast in room temperature for about 10 minutes before cooking. Trim off any excess skin if desired. Score the skin crosswise but be careful not to cut through the meaty part. 

Season both sides with some salt and black pepper.

No need to drizzle any oil to the pan. Transfer the duck breast to the pan skin side down. Turn to medium high heat and slowly searing the skin till the fat starts to render. It'll take a few minutes. Sear till the skin turns brown and crispy, you can check the texture by poking with spatula and get a feel of it. 

Scoop out excess fat if needed, save that for other dishes or the potato side dish we're going to prepare later. 

Transfer the duck breast to the prepared baking dish, skin side up. Brush the skin with maple glaze then into the oven for about 5 minutes. Take out the baking dish and reapply the glaze again. Back to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes. Plus and minus few minutes depending on the thickness of the duck breast.

Once ready, remove the breast from heat and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.

While the duck breast is baking in the oven, use the residual duck fat to quickly put together a potato side dish.

Leave about 2 tablespoons amount of duck fat in the same pan and turn to medium heat. Add in onion along with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper. Sear till the onion turns translucent.

Add in tiny potato cubes and sear till nearly reaches desired texture. Add some wine when the mixture appears too dry. Towards the end, add in the peas and cook for another minute or two. Taste and see if more salt is needed.

Plate the potato side dish first then transfer the duck breast slices over. Garnish with some freshly ground rainbow peppercorns and some lemon zest right before serving. 

Ideally, the center of the duck breast should be slightly pinkish for a softer bite. It might take a few practices till mastering that perfect timing. I kind of overcooked the one shown in the pictures but the glaze still made the duck tastes pretty good, like a maple syrup infused barbecue sauce slathered all over. 

Until the next perfectly cooked pinkish slices of meat, I am more than happy to devour trial and error duck breasts.

Other duck breast recipes:

Nov 8, 2017

Not Baking but Stir-Frying This Time - Mentaiko Mushrooms 2017 Version

Only until I finished editing all the pictures and started searching other mentaiko recipes on my blog, surprisingly there was already one old post back in 2012 for mentaiko mushrooms. So I carefully compared the 2012 post with the most up-to-date version here. Well, they're almost the same with just a slight variance on the ingredients used.

This 2017 version did not include Japanese mayonnaise, but with the addition of garlic slices. In a way the older version tastes more like an otsumami/beer food, and this updated version serves better as a side dish, especially if you are looking for something that works well for bento box.

So here it is, the mushrooms made with lunchbox side dish in mind.

Mentaiko mushrooms 2017 -


  • 1 bundle enoki mushroom
  • 1 bundle bunapi mushrooms
  • 1 bundle shimeji mushrooms
  • 3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons mentaiko (about 2 sacs)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Small pinch salt
  • Some dried seaweed threads or flakes


Peel and slice the garlic cloves. Trim off any tougher ends then rinse and pat dry all three kinds of mushrooms.

Remove fish roe from the sac/membrane -

Add the butter and garlic slices to the pan and turn to medium high heat. Add a small pinch of salt. Wait till the butter starts to melt and gently cooking the garlic slices. 

Just a little bit of salt at first to help drawing out some excess moisture from the mushrooms. The mentaiko can be quite salty, so try to avoid over-salting the dish, you can always add more salt in the end.

Transfer all the mushrooms to the pan and stir-fry till softened and shrink by about half of their original size.

Mix in mentaiko and cook for another minute. Taste and adjust the flavor with more salt if needed.

Plate the mushrooms and garnish with dried seaweed threads or dried seaweed flakes.

Some people like to add salt last minute when cooking mushrooms, that way the mushrooms won't shrivel too much. It's completely up to you. The amount of salt used here were so little, looking at these images you'll see that the mushrooms are still "plump" in some way. Moreover, by drawing out some moisture early on and just let these mushrooms cook in their own juice create another kind of deliciousness. Give it a try and you'll see.

Other recipe using mentaiko -

Nov 2, 2017

Shio Koji Marinated Chicken Seared to Perfection (香煎鹽麴雞)

It's interesting that shio koji, such pale colored ingredients can transform into something brownish and delicious looking coating with just a simple sear. To enhance the flavor, I also added soy sauce to the marinade, turning the chicken into a rice-killing bento/lunchbox dish. 

Shio koji marinated chicken with simply cabbage stir-fry -


  • 75 grams deboned, skin-attached chicken thigh
  • 1/2 small cabbage
  • 1/3 cup green peas
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 red chili
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Some salt


  • 2 tablespoons shio koji
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger


Mix all the ingredients under the "marinade" section. Cut the chicken into large bite size pieces and massage the meat with the marinade. Cover with lid or cling foil and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.

Peel and slice the garlic cloves. Destem and slice the chili diagonally. Tear the cabbage into large bite size pieces. 

Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan and turn to medium heat. Add in garlic slices, chili slices, and small pinch of salt. Sear till aromatic but not burning the garlic. Turn to high heat and transfer the cabbage over. Give it a quick stir and cook till the cabbage reaches desired texture. 
Once ready, plate the cabbage.

Meanwhile, blanch the peas and drain out the liquid.

Use the same pan to cook the chicken. Remember to remove the rice grains before searing, otherwise they can get burnt easily under high heat. Use the remaining oil in the pan and turn to medium heat. Sear the chicken with skin side down first till browned and slightly brunt on the edges. Flip the meat and sear the other side till fully cooked through. 

Move around the chicken pieces from time to time to prevent over-burning spots. Cover the pan with a lid if needed, it will lock in the heat while speed up the cooking process.

Transfer seared chicken onto the cabbage, then garnish with blanched peas.

During the searing process, you might find that the chicken still looks pretty pale in the beginning, but once it gets hot enough, the chicken turns brown fairly quickly. 

Look at that dark coating on the chicken, doesn't that make you drool a little?

Other recipe using shio koji:

Oct 27, 2017

Let's Finish that Bottle of Red Wine Vinegar by Making Pickled Red Onions

It should be safe to say that we all bought something before just to complete a recipe but never get to use that seasoning or ingredient again. It can be a rare herb or something common like red wine vinegar. 

Don't get me wrong, I do use red wine vinegar quite often, but not as frequent as I would like especially there are so many types of vinegar in my cabinet. Chinese black vinegar, rice vinegar, western red and white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and of course my favorite touch of acidity - fresh lemons.

So as one way to clean up space to store even more rarely use seasonings (!?), here's what I did for leftover red wine vinegar. 

Pickled red onions -

  • 1 small red onion
  • 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 small pinch/about 8 to 10 Sichuan peppercorn
  • 2 dried red chilies
  • Small amount of cold water (optional)


Peel and slice the red onion into rings and transfer to a colander. Put a big bowl below or set above the kitchen sink. 

Bring a small pot of water to a boil then pour onto the onion rings. Just a quick rinse will do the job. Drain out any excess water.

Use a glass container to store the pickles, avoid plastic or other type of materials that might interact with acid. Add the sugar, salt, and red wine vinegar to the container and stir till the sugar fully dissolves. Add in Sichuan peppercorn and dried chilies.

Transfer the onion rings over. Gently stir the mixture to make sure all the onion are coated with vinegar, or cover with lid and gently shake the mixture. Pour just a little cold but pre-boiled water to cover all the onion rings if needed. 

The pickles can last for few weeks in the fridge, but the flavor will get stronger and less crisp as time goes by. It's better to just finish the pickles in one week. Personally speaking, I enjoy these pickles the most after 2 to 3 days. 

Do not waste the vinegar, you can mix that with a beef or chicken stew, or used in a pasta dish. 

The use of Sichuan peppercorn and dried red chilies give this pickle recipe a gentle touch of Asian aroma. Omit these two ingredients if a simpler taste is preferred. Maybe swap out the Sichuan peppercorn with regular black peppercorn to keep that gentle kick of spiciness. 

Other Asian no fuss cooking recipes:

Other western no fuss cooking recipes:

Oct 21, 2017

Cabbage Stir-Fry with Sweet Flour Paste/Tien Mien Jiang (甜麵醬高麗菜)

Sweet flour paste, or sweet flour sauce, sweet bean sauce, tien mien jiang, is kind of like an Asian version of black roux. It is basically made with fermented soybeans, so why the flour paste name? I guess judging by its appearance and texture, this blackened seasoning does somewhat look like something mixed with flour, thick and paste-like. 

You can often find sweet flour paste served alongside Peking duck, it's one of the common sauces used when wrapping up that crispy duck skin. Another popular way to use this sauce is by adding it to stir-fry cabbage. You'll be amazed how can a simple veggies stir-fry turn into a rice-killing dish.

Cabbage stir-fry with sweet flour paste (甜麵醬高麗菜) - 


  • 0.5 lb shabu pork slices
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1/2 small or medium cabbage
  • 1 onion
  • 1 to 2 red chilies
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons sweet flour paste
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese rice cooking wine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper 


Peel and slice the onion, garlic cloves, and carrot. Tear the cabbage into large bite size pieces. Destem the chilies and slice diagonally. 

The seasonings are quite heavy for a veggies stir-fry dish, so there is no need to pre-marinate the pork slices.

Drizzle some oil to a big pan or pot, turn to medium high heat and add in the onion slices. Also add in some salt and black pepper. Give it a quick stir and cook till the onion turns translucent. 

Add in garlic and chili slices. 

Cook till the garlic turns slightly browned then add in the pork slices one by one. Continue to sear the pork till about 70% cooked through.

Time to transfer the cabbage and carrot to the pan. I prefer a softer bite for my cabbage so the cabbage was added to the mixture early on and cooked longer. If a crunchier texture is preferred, use very high heat and quickly stir-fry the cabbage. I mean "very high" heat, like fire surrounds the wok kind of flaming power. It should only take about 30 seconds to one minute and you'll end up with that wonderful wok hei aroma.

So for my gentle version, cook till the cabbage softened a little then add in the sweet flour paste, oyster sauce, and some Chinese rice cooking wine. Mix and cook till the veggies reach desired texture, also make sure the sauce has been reduced, almost all dried up so to speak.

Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Otherwise, make sure the rice is ready to be devoured!

Other cabbage recipes:

Oct 15, 2017

Not the Prettiest but Still Hit the Spot - Vietnamese Spring Roll

Made a few mistakes for this recipe. First of all, I over-estimated my wrapping skills, so there it went a few destroyed hand rolls. Then I used smaller rice paper, which made it even harder to maneuver. There's a saying right? Practice makes perfect. Well, these spring rolls are still far from perfect, but at least they can finally hold up the shape and ready to be munched by hand.

Vietnamese spring roll -

Ingredients (makes about 8 to 12 smaller ones)?

  • 8 to 12 Vietnamese spring roll rice paper (16cm or about 6.5 inch in diameter)
  • 10 or about 100 grams medium shrimps
  • 1 small bundle or about 30 grams glass noodles
  • 1/2 small cucumber
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint (can be substitute with cilantro)
  • Small bundle Chinese or Thai basil leaves
  • Some lettuce leaves


  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 lime (for the juice)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped 
  • 1 red chili, destemed, finely chopped (can be substitute with Sriracha sauce)


Mint is preferred, but if you can't get a hold of it, cilantro works as well. Finely chop the mint leaves or cilantro. Julienne half of the cucumber. Rinse and pat dry the lettuce.

Peel and devein the shrimps. Bring a pot of water to a boil then quickly cook the shrimps. Drain and wait till the shrimps cool down. Slice the shrimps in half and set aside for later use.

Cook the glass noodles first till desired texture, drain and set aside to cool down. Pour a little oil and mix with the noodles if the noodles tend to stick together. Mix in chopped mint or cilantro leaves along with some julienned cucumber.

If you never work with Vietnamese rice paper for spring roll before, it's kind of fun! 

The rice paper might feel like a piece with thin plastic at first, but once soaked in warm water, it'll turn into almost translucent soft wrapper in seconds.

Oil the surface where you're going to make the spring rolls. Lay down soft rice paper then transfer halved shrimps and basil leaves on top. Remember the bottom part is going to be the one showing when rolled up, so the prettier sides of these ingredients need to face down.

Add one layer of lettuce then transfer some glass noodles mixture over. Start with just a small amount at first in case the filling overflows when rolling up the rice paper.

Cover the glass noodles with another layer of lettuce.

Roll up the rice paper, also fold in both the right and left edges, then continue to roll up the rice paper till it shapes like a small tube. It's nearly impossible to get it perfect on the first try so don't get discouraged when fillings start to fall out or ended up with misshaped spring rolls. Just quickly stuff these not so perfect creations into your mouth to destroy the evidence. 

After a few tries, you should be able to get some better looking spring rolls and time to take some pictures!

As for the dipping sauce, simply mix all the ingredients under the sauce section. Make sure the sugar is full dissolved, you can also substitute fresh chilies with Sriracha. The one showing in these pictures are the mixture of some hoisin sauce, Sriracha, etc. Frankly speaking, I was frustrated from rolling up these finger food and got a little lazy on the sauce. 

On top of the actual dipping sauce and my lazy dipping sauce, some like their spring rolls with creamy peanut sauce, but let's keep it simple first, till we master the art of Vietnamese spring roll making. 

Other Asian appetizer/side dish recipes:

Oct 10, 2017

Buttery with a Kick - Softly Scrambled Eggs with Caramelized Balsamic Onions

Getting back to work after the break can be tedious, especially when teammates are not cooperating well, guess they are tired as well. To be honest, that's the best excuse I can come up with for my working partners.

Well, what can I do to make myself feel a little bit better after a stressful morning? Food can never disappoint, especially something velvety and buttery. Bring it on softly scrambled eggs, I seek comfort in you.

Buttery scrambled eggs with caramelized balsamic onions - 


  • 6 eggs
  • 1 small/medium onion
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon water or heavy whipping cream
  • Some mixed baby salad greens
  • Some salt
  • Some freshly ground black pepper


Peel and slice the onion.

Prepare a pan, drizzle some olive oil along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper. Bring to medium heat then add in the onion slices. Give it a quick stir and cook till the onion turns from translucent till slightly burnt on the edges. It can take a while, mine took about 15 minutes. Cook longer for "softer" texture onions.

When the onion is about ready, pour in balsamic vinegar. Mix and continue to cook the onion. Wait till the balsamic vinegar has been reduced or evaporated a bit. Scoop out the onion and set aside for later use.

Beat the eggs together with some drinkable water or heavy whipping cream and a small pinch of salt.

Use another pan, add in unsalted butter and turn to medium/medium low heat. Once the butter melts, pour in the egg mixture and keep gently stirring it so the eggs can cook evenly. Keep moving the egg mixture by "softly scrambling" it also prevents brown spots from forming.

Unlike the onions, the eggs cooked fairly quickly. Also keep in mind that the eggs continue to cook even after being removed from heat. So it's better to transfer the eggs to a serving plate while it still looks slightly undercooked. The texture will be perfect when ready to serve. 

Transfer caramelized balsamic onions over the eggs right before serving. Garnish with some baby salad greens.

The buttery egg pairs well with slightly bitter note salad greens. Not mentioning that sourish kick from the onions which completely opened up my appetite, and it definitely helped releasing some that stress from the morning. 

Other egg recipes:

Oct 3, 2017

Cold Mung Bean Noodles with Sour and Spicy Sauce (Can be Substituted with Cellophane Noodles)

Just trying to catch the last heat of summer and an excuse to enjoy more cold noodle dishes before the leaves start to turn red.

Cold mung bean noodles with sour and spicy sauce 酸辣綠豆寬粉 -

Ingredients (for 2 to 3 portions, or as a starter dish for more people)?


  • 4 tablespoons black vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorn oil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 stalk scallion
  • 1 red chili (optional)


  • 90 grams/about 3.1 ounces dried mung bean noodles
  • 1 tablespoon chopped scallion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • Some roasted peanuts (optional)


If you cannot find mung bean noodles, cellophane noodles work just as well.

Cook the mung bean noodles first till desired texture, preferably still bouncy to the teeth. Soak the noodles in icy cold water to quickly lower the temperature. Once ready, drain and set aside for later use.

Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves. Destem and finely chop the scallion. Finely chop the cilantro.

Mix all the ingredients under the "sauce" section. You can even add some finely chopped red chilies, just beware of that spicy kick comes soon after. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.

Mix the noodles with most of the sauce mixture. Transfer the noodles to serving bowls then drizzle the remaining sauce over. Garnish with more chopped scallion and cilantro right before serving. You can also add some crushed roasted peanuts for a crunchy bite.

Chopped garlic can be "spicy" in some way too. That pungent kick when biting into garlic pieces is very satisfying, but to some, it can be deadly. Take that into consideration when weighing how much chili/chili sauce are adding to the noodles.

Other cold noodles recipe: