Aug 20, 2019

Wafu Pasta Recipe - Shio Kombu and Mizuna Spaghetti

While most tourists are getting snacks and small decorations when visiting Japan, I'm the one wandering inside a supermarket seeking dried seaweed goods. Shio kombu, strips of salted dried seaweed, my secret ingredient that help adding umami and a hint of savory note to various dishes.

Shio kombu and mizuna spaghetti - 





Ingredients (about 5 to 5 portions)?


  • 1 pack/500 grams spaghetti
  • 235 grams pork slices
  • 300 grams mizuna
  • 65 grams shio kombu
  • 2 cups tomatoes (diced)
  • 1/2 cup shallot (peeled and diced)
  • 2 tablespoons twice condensed tsuyu
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Some salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Dried seaweed threads (optional)


How?


Peel and dice the shallots. Dice the tomatoes. Cut the mizuna into shorter sections.


Marinate the pork slices with 2 tablespoons of tsuyu and 1 tablespoon of mirin. Marinate during the beginning of the cooking process. Just add the whole thing into the cooking mixture when ready.




Prepare a big pot of water and add a few pinches of salt. Bring to a boil and cook the spaghetti till nearly al dente. Save a ladle of pasta water just in case. Once ready, drain and set the spaghetti aside for later use.


Use a big pan, drizzle some olive oil and add in chopped shallots. Also add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Turn to medium high heat, and cook till the shallots turn slightly browned.


Transfer chopped tomatoes over and cook for about a minute. Mizuna comes next, give it a quick mix then add in the pork slices along with its marinade. Also add in dried shio kombu.




Mix in drained pasta. Take a bite to test the taste and texture. Cook till the pasta turns al dente. Also pour in more tsuyu if not salty enough, note that shio kombu can add some saltiness to the pasta also. Pour in previously saved pasta water if the whole mixture appears too dry.




Plate and garnish with dried seaweed threads if desired.




Without heavy sauce clinging onto the pasta, this is still a flavorful meal thanks to the shio kombu that helps boosting the umami. Light but not plain, makes a great option for weekday dinner. Talking about myself here, which I had some very oily fried chicken over the weekend. Just to balance it off, such wafu spaghetti came to a rescue for my sinful weekend diet.  



Other recipes using shio kombu:



Aug 14, 2019

Cheese and Nori Pork Rolls 起司海苔豬肉捲

This recipe was inspired by a short cooking video online. I was playing with my phone and scanning through posts after posts on Facebook and Instagram. One of the cooking channels put up a recipe for pork rolls made with pork slices, instead of the usual way by pounding pork loin into thin pieces. So I grabbed that idea and incorporated big sheet of nori (dried seaweed) and cheese squares. Not bad, I think.

Cheese and nori pork rolls 起司海苔豬肉捲 - 




Ingredients?


  • 12 to 14 slices pork (pork belly or leaner pork loin)
  • 1 big sheet dried seaweed (nori)
  • 2 cheddar cheese squares
  • 1 egg
  • Some flour
  • Some panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • Some salt
  • Some black pepper
  • Some olive oil


How?


Put a sheet of cling foil on the working surface. Lay down pork slices one by one, make sure 1/3 to 1/2 of the pork slice gets overlapped by the next slice. 

The pork slices I've got here were a little bit short, so I also lay down two slices on the bottom cross-wise.


Put nori sheet on top, then two cheese squares in the center. 




Grab the end of the cling foil then roll towards yourself, turn these ingredients into a log. Then wrap well with cling foil. Transfer to the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes. It'll help firming up the log.




Prepare a plate with beaten egg, another plate with some flour, and one more plate with panko. Once the pork roll is ready, remove the cling foil and sprinkle some salt and black pepper over. 


Dip the entire log with flour. Then dip in beaten egg, finally coat with panko.


Take a non-stick pan and drizzle some oil, about two tablespoons, just enough to evenly coat the entire surface. Turn to medium high heat. Wait till the oil warms up then sear the log till colored on all sides.




Remove from heat and wait for few minutes till cool enough to handle by hand. Cut into shorter sections.




I also used these pork rolls as one of the side dishes for bento. Not as crunchy after reheating the bento box, but the cheese inside still have that semi-melted texture. Pretty good still, said so myself. 



Other pork rolls recipe:

Aug 8, 2019

Steamed Pear with Rock Sugar 冰糖燉水梨

An Asian old recipe with the purpose of soothing coughing and dry throat. But no worries, I'm totally fine here. It's just that my dad gave me three pears and I need to figure something to finish them all. Eating the pears straight up is fine, just want to give it a twist, derailing from the usual. 

Steamed pear with rock sugar -





Ingredients?


  • 1 pear
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • Some rock sugar
  • Some chuan bei mu (optional)


How?


So eating the pear while still hot supposed to help with coughing, but pay extra attention here, dry coughing, not the wet kind based on Chinese medicine. It helps with the kind of  cough that usually caused by dryness, not the kind with phlegm.



Steam the whole pear with skin on works the best. I personally prefer the texture without the skin, so I peeled it still, but laid down the peeled skin on the bottom of the bowl. That way, at least the juice released get to steam together with the pear skin.


After peeling, slice and trim the bottom so the pear can stand upright and not rolling around or tilting. Also slice the very top section to make a lid. Use a small knife or a spoon to scoop out the center core. No need to scoop all the way down, more like making a hole in the center.




Add rock sugar to the center, fill all the way up or use less depending on personal preference. Then put the lid back on.




Peeled skin on the bottom. 




Use about 2 1/2 cups of water for the steaming pot and steam till all the rock sugar has been dissolved. Towards the end, maybe push the lid aside and continue to cook with residual heat for a little longer. The pear should be spoon tender. Eat when it's still hot.




Upgraded version, add some chuan bei mu to the bowl and steam together for extra effectiveness. This recipe has been around for a long time, if dry coughing is bothering you, perhaps give it a try? 


Aug 3, 2019

Friendly Version Braised Flower Mushroom and Bok Choy (Without Abalone)

It was supposed to have abalone slices in this dish, and braised with half of the abalone juice. But it was a last minute thing, I've decided to skip the abalone this time, too much meat consumed recently and was feeling like a veggies only detox. Abalone is not quite meat-like, but might as well save it for next time.

So here it is, a friendly version braised flower mushroom and bok choy -





Ingredients?


  • 7 to 8 dried flower mushrooms
  • 2 big or 6 small bok choy
  • 1 tablespoon peeled/chopped young ginger
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Some cornstarch/water mixture


How?

Soak the dried mushrooms in cold water for 30 minutes or more, till softened enough to cut off the tough stems. Remove the stems once hydrated. 



Some prefer to save the water used here, but I prefer using all chicken stock. If canned abalone was used, I'll also incorporate abalone juice too, but never the water for mushroom soaking.


Peel and chop the young ginger. If using bigger bok choy, trim or cut into smaller pieces.


Use a pot or pan, pour in the chicken stock. Add in ginger and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil then transfer flower mushrooms over. Bring to a boil again then lower the heat to keep it at a simmer.




Cook 10 to 15 minutes. Add in bok choy. Continue to cook till the veggies or the mushrooms reach desired texture, should be around 15 minutes.


Prepare some cornstarch and water mixture. Turn to low heat. Slowly pour in the cornstarch and water mixture while gently stirring the whole thing at the same time. 




It should be gooey but not as thick as paste, with the stock coating the mushrooms, creating a smooth and juicy bite.


Light dish is done, what to do with my extra canned abalone next time? 



Extended reading:

Jul 27, 2019

Mozuku Cucumber - a Special Treat from Okinawa

Mozuku, a special seaweed naturally found in Okinawa, Japan. The version I used here came in air-tight package, the dried version. Just soak in water for around 5 to 10 minutes, the seaweed will be hydrated again and transformed into ready to eat gooey slimy seaweed.

Mozuku cucumber -




Ingredients?


  • 3 skinny cucumber
  • 13 grams dried mozuku
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon double-concentrated tsuyu
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • Some salt


How?


Don't be scared by its slimy texture. Mozuku can be seemed as one of the superfoods. It's rich in fucoidan, more so an antimicrobial substance with health benefits such as anti-coagulant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-enhancing. It's also high in dietary fibre, which is good for digestion.




So to start with dried mozuku, soak it in water for about 5 to 10 minutes in a bowl. Once hydrated, drain out excess water and set aside for later use.




Slice the cucumbers. Massage these cucumber slices with some salt. 




A quick marinate for couple minutes. Squeeze out the liquid then further draw out remaining water using a paper towel.


Take a bowl, mix in 1 tablespoon of tsuyu, 2 teaspoons of sugar, and 1/4 cup of rice vinegar. Mix and make sure the sugar has been fully dissolved. 




Mix in the cucumber slices and mozuku. Adjust the taste with more seasonings if needed.




It tastes better after resting in the fridge till cold. Serve as a small cold side dish, perfect for this scorching weather.


Notice that only 1 tablespoon of tsuyu is needed at first for this recipe. The reason is that the cucumber slices were "massaged" with salt earlier, and there's no rinsing required afterward. So these cucumber slices were already somewhat salty. As a result, don't use too much tsuyu. Only pour more when needed after mixing all the ingredients together.



Extended reading:


Jul 21, 2019

Ham and Cheese Tamagoyaki 火腿起司玉子燒

Still not the expert of making tamagoyaki, rolling up the beaten egg and turn that into a perfectly cooked log can be challenging, and takes a lot of practice. But I do enjoy recording my attempts here, kind of like a progress log. Hopefully one day I'll have nicely cooked tamagoyaki every time. 

Ham and cheese tamagoyaki -





Ingredients?

  • 5 eggs
  • 1 to 2 slices ham squares
  • 1 to 2 slices cheese squares
  • Some olive oil
  • Some salt
  • Some black pepper
  • Some cilantro (optional, for garnish)


How?


So I use smaller single serving tamagoyaki pan here, that means I have to make the tamagoyaki in two batches for 5 eggs. If using regular size tamagoyaki pan, cook it once should be just about right.

Measure the tamagoyaki pan and trim the ham and cheese squares according, so these ingredients have the same width. Beat the eggs, also add in tiny pinch of salt and black pepper.




Drizzle some oil to the tamagoyaki pan and wipe evenly with a kitchen towel, so the whole surface is coated with oil.

Using medium heat, pour some beaten egg and let it spread out evenly. Cook till semi-set then place the ham on the top edge.




Wait till egg on the bottom of the pan turn slightly set then fold the whole thing in, like rolling towards yourself. Then push the whole thing outward again.


Wipe the surface with oil again. Pour in more egg wash. Gently lift up the very end of the earlier cooked egg. Tilt the pan a little to let the uncooked egg get to the bottom of it. That way, once cooked, the first and the second egg layer can stick together nicely.




Put the cheese slice on the bottom half. 




Again, when the bottom of the egg turns slightly set, fold the whole thing by rolling it towards yourself again. Then push outward.


Wipe the surface with oil once more. Lastly, pour in final beaten egg. Do the lift and tilt thing again. Roll up the egg and make sure the shape has set before transferring to serving plate. 




Cook longer for a firmer texture. Or lower the heat a little if the egg gets cooked-through too fast. Trust me, it takes some practice. 




Garnish with cilantro if desired.




Practice, practice, I definitely need more practice. Now, it's time to find volunteers to help finishing off not too successful results, that shouldn't be hard right?



Other tamagoyaki recipes:


Jul 15, 2019

Simple and Refreshing - Salmon Avocado Shiso Rice

About couple weeks ago, I was having issues with the photo hosting side used for this blog. Lessons learned, now I've switched from Photobucket to Imgur for most of the food images, hopefully things can go smoothly from now on. One thing I know for sure, these food pictures now get to uploaded to Blogger with three times the speed than before, thank God.

Simple and refreshing salmon avocado shiso rice -





Ingredients (about 4 portions)?

  • 4 portions steamed white rice
  • 1 small avocado
  • 2 to 3 salmon fillets
  • 8 shiso leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tsuyu (triple condensed)
  • 1/2 tablespoon sake (Japanese cooking wine)
  • Some toasted white sesame seeds
  • Some salt
  • Some dried seaweed threads


How?

Cook the rice first. 


Marinate the salmon fillets with some salt and 1/2 tablespoon of sake for about 5 minutes, just a quick and light marinate.


Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a non-stick pan and turn to medium high heat. Once the oil warms up, transfer the salmon fillets over and sear till both sides are colored. Cover with lid if needed, and continue to cook with trapped heat, until the salmon has been fully cooked through.


Once ready, wait for the salmon to cool down then tear into smaller pieces. Peel and pit the avocado, slice into smaller chunks.


Meanwhile, julienne then fine chop the shiso leaves. Mix with cooked rice along with tsuyu. Gently mix these ingredients till combined. Lastly, mix in the salmon and avocado, gently mix till incorporated. 




Scoop the rice into serving bowls and garnish with dried seaweed threads.




Blend in the salmon and avocado last, otherwise over-mixing might end up with mushy avocado. Still good, but the texture won't be as great as enjoying chunky creamy avocado.




By the way, to make it even easier, store-bought jars of salmon flakes work just as well too.



Other avocado recipes:

Jul 9, 2019

Asparagus, Bamboo Shoots, and Shrimps Sacha Stir-Fry 沙茶炒雙筍

Bamboo shoots are in season now. While some local Taiwanese love to eat it as a cold dish, like boiled bamboo shoot chunks served with Taiwanese salad mayo sauce, I prefer it stir-fried or used in soup.

While added to soup, thinly sliced bamboo shoots are preferred, giving a gentle sweet taste to the stock. As for stir-fry, this time the bamboo shoots are cut into wide strips, and seasoned with heavier tasting sacha sauce. Yes, it's going strong this time.


Asparagus, bamboo shoots, and shrimps sacha stir-fry -





Ingredients?

  • 7 to 8 thick asparagus
  • 1 medium bamboo shoots
  • 22 to 24 shrimps
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 stalk scallion
  • 1 red chili
  • 1 tablespoon sacha sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon black vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 small pinch black pepper
  • Some cilantro (for garnish)


How? 


Destem and finely chop the red chili. Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves. Destem and section the scallion.


Peel and slice the asparagus diagonally. Peel away the tough outer skin then slice the bamboo shoot diagonally too, further cut into thinner strips, similar to the width of the asparagus.




Peel and butterfly the shrimps.


Drizzle some olive oil to the wok and turn to medium high heat. Add in 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a small pinch of black pepper, also add in garlic, chilies, and scallion. Cook till slightly colored but not burnt. 


Transfer asparagus and bamboo shoots over. Give it a quick mix.


Add in the sacha sauce, and some oil if the mixture appears too dry. The sacha oil can added more punch to this dish. Also pour in black vinegar along the side of the wok. The sizzling vinegar caused by direct contact of the hot surface can further draw out the aroma.




Give the whole thing a quick mix again. Add the shrimps over and cook till about 95% doneness.


Plate and garnish with cilantro if preferred.




The shrimps should be fully cooked through when serving on the table, that's why only stir-fried till 95% doneness back there.


On top of serving bamboo shoots as a cold dish, in the soup, or as a stir-fry over here, one other way to enjoy it, the local Taiwanese' way, is by stewing the bamboo shoots. Not using much soy sauce, but mostly chicken stock and preserved mustard greens. The final result is a semi-soupy and very tender bamboo shoots, fully absorbed the essence of chicken, delicious.


Just go ahead and give bamboo shoots a try, especially it's in season now, such ingredient tastes even better during peak months.  



Other Chinese stir-fry recipes:


Jul 3, 2019

The Landis Taipei Hotel Tien Hsiang Lo - C'mon, Stop Exaggerating

Tien Hsiang Lo, a one Michelin starred restaurant specialized in Hangzhou cuisine. However, besides dining at the main restaurant inside The Landis Taipei Hotel, they also established a mini version at a department store's food court. 


I had way too many unsatisfactory experiences dining at subsidiary branches. So I'm not going to risk my special first time moment with Tien Hsiang Lo. I can wait.


And that day finally came. A group of us, four girls total, had a wonderful night at Tien Hsiang Lo, the main one at the hotel.


However, the restaurant was undergoing remodeling, perhaps all the way till end of July. I was semi-lost following the old sign inside the elevator. Luckily, I kind of remembered the lady on the phone when confirming my reservation. She mentioned something about the venue change. Followed by my vague memory, finally found a way to the restaurant.


We brought our own wine, including the local variety by Weightstone vineyard estate & winery. 


(Drink responsibly, we either took MRT or taxi home that night)


It's going to be a longer night, too many stories need to update with the crew. In order to stay alert, I ordered something friendlier, oriental beauty tea, a local tea variety.



However, there was a two-hour dining time limit that night. My friend said there wasn't such rule during her previous visits. What a shame, we couldn't get to finish our dessert by the time Tien Hsiang Lo was about closed.


Despite the time limit, there's still something nice to dine here at night. They have a Chinese calligrapher on site who writes down what have been ordered in a little scroll that customer can bring home with.


A wonderful gift especially for western visitors. Keep in mind, this service is only available during dinner hours.

Marinated duck breast with soy sauce -


Usually for this dish, the duck can be heavily seasoned with dense sweet and salty flavors. But the one presented by Tien Hsiang Lo was leaning toward the elegant side. A gentle touch of soy sauce aroma, but what prevailed was the scent from Chinese leek below.


So strong, we could smell the Chinese leek before it arrived to our table. When the chef came out towards the end of the meal, we asked about the Chinese leek. He said it was specially sourced from Yilan, a variety called "san shin leek," direct translation "three star leek." The Chinese leek had a crisp crunchy bite, like it was just picked from the farm.

The duck was supposed to be the star, but the Chinese leek underneath was too hard to ignore. A pleasant surprise, and perhaps the most "watery" leek I've ever had.

Stir-fried river shrimps with "Long Ching" tea -


I actually had the actual, if you can call it that way, Long Ching river shrimps from where it was originated. The river shrimps in Hangzhou was smaller than the ones served here. But the flavor was great, even better with Tien Hsian Lo's own vinegar.


Already sweet with a smooth coating thanks to a good number of egg whites involved while prepping the shrimps, the vinegar on the side can further brought up the aroma. First providing a dense scent similar to balsamic vinegar, then quickly evaporated, more so faded into airy aroma.


Water shield soup "west-lake" style -


A type of aquatic plant with a gooey, almost gelatinous coating. Its smooth texture echoed the soup below, which had pieces of chicken that one couldn't tell if not mentioned beforehand. 


The soup may appeared plain, but it was filled with savory Chinese ham and chicken stock aroma, and packed with umami. Both the flavors and the texture can gently warm up the body, perhaps soul that's seeking some comfort too. Highly recommended.

Stir-fried pearl pea and bamboo shoot -


Crisp kind of crunchiness from the peas, but the very outer skin still covered with a thin layer of silky coating, felt like the peas can just slip down the throat. This dish also carried an earthy sweet note, partly due to the high heat stir-fry technique and how fresh these ingredients were.

It's amazing that the chef and turn such simple ingredients to shine like stars. But what's more surprising was the fried tofu skin -


I was busy taking pictures while overhearing my friend who already took the first bite. She kept saying "oh my god, oh my god." I was like "pssss can you be even more dramatic?"


Once done with the pictures, I took a bite myself.


"OMG."

"Right!? My friend was nodding and reconfirming with me at the same time.


What sorcery is this? Right at the moment I picked up the fried tofu skin with my chopsticks, I can already tell that there's something unusual going on here. The fried tofu skin may looked crunchy and somewhat sturdy, but it was airy and fragile when I put some force through the chopsticks.


And when the fried tofu skin hit my moth, it just shattered, literally. Can you imagine something crunchy can also provide a melt in your mouth sensation? The feeling was like a piece of thin glass shattered into a thousand pieces instantly. Simply unbelievable.


Three different seasonings were also served on the side - Sichuan peppercorn with salt, white section of the scallion, and fermented sweet flour paste.


I especially enjoyed the fermented sweet flour paste. They made it in-house here, simply by boiling down some kind of Chinese alcohol and sugar, but can ended with orange peel aroma in the end. So when the fried tofu skin already melted away, some fermented sweet flour paste still lingered on my tongue, and I love that dense sweet note prolonging such enjoyment.

Slowly braised pork "Don-Po" style, served with steamed rice with pickled radish, steamed rice with ham/mushroom/bok choy, and Tien Hsiang vermicelli -


Possibly the most famous dish from Tien Hsiang Lo, but the wowing effect was much low-keyed compared to the earlier fried tofu skin.


It was good, with melt in your mouth braised fat, but came after that fried tofu skin, all the glorious moment had already been taken away.


Noodle soup with bamboo and shredded pork -


Pretty comforting, especially when slurping noodles covered in chopped leafy greens and slightly gooey stock.


Pancake with date paste -


Without that distinct strong earthy tone from date, this one was only left with gentle aroma, considered it a more acceptable date sweet treat for me. Never a big fan of date here, but for this one, I had two slices. 

Small red bean paste pancake -


After two Chinese sweet pancakes, suddenly realized that there was complimentary dessert in the end -


Remember the dining time limit mentioned earlier? We couldn't finish our sweet ending with such time frame, but the staff handled it very professionally and friendly. They called the bar, more so a brasserie on the first floor, helped us bring the sweet treats there, including our wine, so we can continue our chick chat throughout the night. That's service beyond the norms and way over our expectations. Very thoughtful and heart-warming too.

On top of such great service, considered it lucky that the restaurant was undergoing remodeling during my visit. We all got a little gift to take home with - fried lotus roots coated with sugar. The manager said it's a thank you gift showing their appreciation for our support and visit even when Tien Hsiang Lo is going through a make-over at the moment.


Either way, I did enjoy my first visit here at Tien Hsiang Lo. Future revisit is a must.


Tien Hsiang Lo currently holds one Michelin star status.


Tien Hsiang Lo - The Landis Taipei Hotel 

No. 41, Sec. 2, Min-Chuan East Road, 
Taipei, Taiwan
+886 2-2597-1234
Hotel website: Tien Hsiang Lo
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TienHsiangLo/

Opening hours: 

Lunch from 11:30 a.m. ~ 2:30 p.m. 
Dinner from 5:30 p.m. ~ 10:00 p.m.



Other Taipei Michelin restaurants visited this year: