Sep 27, 2012

Black Sesame Oil Chicken Soup with Rice - 黑麻油雞飯

We Chinese people like to "nurture" our body with food. Parents always make chicken soup or honey ginger drinks when kids are having flu. Doctors sometimes recommend teenage boys to eat more melons when suffering from acne issues.

As for us females, we'd like to treat ourselves something "nurturing" monthly. I don't have to explain the "monthly" part in detail right? You should be bright enough to get the idea.

The ingredients for my monthly treatments usually involved with ginger, black sesame oil, pork liver, red bean, and brown sugar. I've got to have something made with some of these ingredients after the periodical thing. Believe it or not, treating myself with these type of food regularly actually relieves the pain and soreness that I used to get on the first couple days.

Black sesame oil chicken soup with rice -

Ingredients (for a medium sized pot)?

6 to 8 chicken drumsticks
4 to 6 Thai chilies
1 medium sized ginger root
1 small pack of dashi powder (I used natural katsuo/skipjack tuna dashi) 
Some 100% black sesame oil
Some Chinese rice cooking wine (if preferred)
Some sea salt
Some hot water
Some steamed white rice or brown rice


Roughly peel the ginger and slice it lengthwise, about 4 to 5 slices per ginger root. Remove the stems from the chilies.

Drizzle a good amount of black sesame oil into a deep pot, about double the amount compared to regular stir-fry usage. Turn to medium high heat, add in ginger slices, chilies, and a pinch of sea salt. Cook till the aroma comes out and the oil starts to bubble around the ginger slices. Turn down the heat just a little bit, continue to sear these ingredients for couple more minutes.

Add in the chicken drumsticks and sear till the skin turns slightly browned. Pour in hot water till all the drumsticks are submerged under the liquid. Turn to high heat and add in selected dashi powder. You can pour in some Chinese rice cooking wine, about 1 cup if preferred. Switch to medium heat once the mixture turns to a boil. Cover with lid and simmer till the liquid has been absorbed by 1/3 to 1/2.

Pour all over steamed rice. I used brown rice because it holds up the texture better while serving with soup. Brown rice's tougher texture won't get soggy easily compared to white rice.

Well, Chinese's saying again, if you're having pimple issues, maybe try to stay away from this recipe for now. This black sesame oil chicken soup is actually a very "heaty" dish and might cause more breakouts if your body can't handle the heat.

Sep 24, 2012

Turkey Burger with Two Cheeses, Sunny Side Up Egg, Baby Greens, and Broiled Tomatoes

Five burgers a year. That's the annual average number of burgers consumed by me since the past few years.

Things changed when I met Umami Burger. In the past, I'll never crave for burgers, the most panini, but that's like a seasonal thing. Something clicked on my taste buds after trying out Umami's burger. On top of craving burgers, now I even MAKE my own patties with meat!

Turkey burger with two cheeses, sunny side up egg, baby greens, broiled tomatoes -

Ingredients (yield 4 burgers)?

For the burgers -
4 sets of burger buns with sesame seeds
4 eggs
2 tomatoes on the vine
1 lb of ground turkey
1/2 large onion
2 tablespoons of sun dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon of paprika
Some ricotta cheese
Some baby spring mix salad
Some olive oil
Some sea salt
Some freshly ground black pepper

For the salad -
Some arugula
Some toasted walnuts
Some Parmesan cheese
2 medium navel oranges
1 lemon
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper


Place one layer of foil on the baking sheet. Slice the tomatoes, about half inch thickness, so two tomatoes yield about 8 to 10 slices. Even lay the tomato slices on the sheet and sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Turn the oven to broil and let the tomato slices bake in there till the edges turn slightly burned, or the tomato appears to be slightly dehydrated. Remove from heat and cover with foil to keep warm, set aside for later use.

Peel and chop 1/2 to 1 whole onion into tiny squares. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a pan and turn to medium high heat. Toss in chopped onions, add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Sear till the onion turns translucent then add in 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Turn to medium heat and keep cooking the onion till almost burned, about 5 minutes.

Prepare a big bowl for the turkey patties. Add the ground turkey into the bowl along with 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of paprika, 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons of finely chopped sun dried tomatoes, and caramelized balsamic onions. Mix well and let it sit for couple minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Add 2 tablespoons of butter to a pan and turn to medium high heat. Wait till the butter starts to bubble, form the turkey mixture into 4 thick patties and carefully add into the pan. Sear about 3 minutes on both sides. Be patience and do not peek or flip the patties too early. The turkey mixture cannot hold up its shape as well as other ingredients such as pork or beef. If you start poking around the patties too early, most likely you'll end up with a blob deformed meat.

Once done searing both sides, transfer the patties onto the baking sheet and into the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the center part has been fully cooked. Let the patties sit for 5 minutes after removing from heat.

Use the same pan and add in a little bit more olive oil. Turn to medium high heat, once the temperature has be raised, sear 4 eggs and sprinkle some salt and pepper evenly. Sunny side up eggs with semi-runny yolks are preferred for this burger recipe.

Toast the sesame buns right before serving. Here's how I assemble my turkey burger:
Sesame bun (bottom),
Turkey patty,
1 sunny side up egg,
2 to 3 tomato slices,
1 handful of baby greens,
3 spoonful of ricotta cheese,
Sesame bun (top).

Simple arugula salad on the side. Mix together juice of 2 oranges, juice of 1 lemon, zest of 1 orange, zest of 1 lemon, 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 tea spoon of sea salt, and 1/4 tea spoon of freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle the dressing over arugula, top the greens with some toasted walnuts and Parmesan shavings.

Runny egg yolk is the key here to the success of this turkey burger. Turkey is pretty lean compared to other meat options. As a result, having luscious egg yolk while biting into the burger actually adds more moisture to the patties. The sweetness and acidity from both the balsamic onions and sun dried tomatoes also match well with ground turkey.

Depending on your selected Parmesan cheese, you might want to reduce the amount of salt used in the salad dressing. I'd say it's always safer to start out less since you can always add more after tasting the final product.

Surprisingly, homemade burger actually takes more time to prepare compared to simple Chinese stir fry. Will I do it again? With my growing burger appetite, for sure you'll see more burger recipes coming!

Sep 15, 2012

Herb Butter Series - Tarragon Butter

My uncle harvested some tarragon from his friend's garden. Since there's no use for this herb within a week or so, I've decided to turn the tarragon into herb butter in order to store the fresh aroma as long as possible.

Tarragon butter -


1 stick/8 tablespoons of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of fresh tarragon (minced)
2 teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
Some sea salts


Let the butter sit in room temperature till softens, but not completely liquefied.

Rinse the fresh tarragon sprigs and pat dry. To remove the tarragon leaves from the hard stems, simply hold on to the tip of the tarragon and run your fingers from top to bottom.  The stems are more fragile at the tip so try to start about 1 inch apart, otherwise you might end up breaking the stems right on the spot.

Finely chopped the tarragon leaves and transfer to a bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients to the bowl, included the butter. Take a handheld mixer or a fork, mix all the ingredients till fully incorporated. Taste the butter and see if more salts are needed.

Depending on how you're going to use the tarragon butter, some prefer it saltier and some don't. If you're using it as a spread, a little bit more salts won't hurt. However, if you're going to use it as a sauce or seasoning, less salts is the way to go since you can always add more during the cooking process.

Roll out the cling wrap and fold half way through in order to get a big double layered rectangle surface to work with. Scoop out the herb butter to the center and gently roll up the foil into a log. Twist the ends and seal with rubber bands or wires. This tarragon butter can store in the fridge for couple weeks.

Here's how I'm going to use the tarragon butter:
- Melt the butter first then use it for searing white meat fish or scallops
- Turkey sandwich spread or just a simple dinner roll spread

Sep 11, 2012

Homemade Chinese Chili Sauce and Sichuan Peppercorn Oil

Ever wonder how that little bottle of chili sauce was made in a Chinese restaurant? How did fresh chilies turn into such pungent and spicy sauce? Let me show you.

Homemade Chinese chili sauce and Sichuan peppercorn oil -


1/2 pack of Sichuan chili powder
1/2 pack of Sichuan peppercorn
1 bottle of vegetable oil
1 big ginger root
Some sea salts


I actually got this big pack of Sichuan chili powder from my dad. Supposedly you can find similar items from a Chinese grocery store. However, if nothing can be found then you might have to make the sauce from scratch.

Sun dried fresh chilies, try to select those smaller Asian chilies with vibrant red color. Once fully dehydrated, remove the stems and shake off most the seeds inside. Grind the chilies into powder.

Transfer the chili power into a heat resistant container, I use thick glass jars here. Add about 1 to 2 teaspoons of sea salts into the container and mix well.

Pour in about one medium sized bottle of vegetable oil into a deep pot. Other types of oil are ok, but try to use the ones with less distinct aroma. For example, choose regular olive oil instead of fruity extra virgin olive oil.

Slice the ginger and toss into the pot. Turn to medium heat and cook till the ginger slices appear slightly brown on the edges. Turn off the heat and wait till the temperature drops.

I waited till no more bubbles are presenting in the pot. Slowly pour the oil into the jar till all the chili powder is submerged under the oil. Take a chopstick or fork to stir the mixture. The oil should be absorbed by the powder, make sure there's enough oil above the chilies. About 1:3, oil: chilies portion.

As for the Sichuan peppercorn, pour them onto a pan. Turn to medium heat to roast them gently. This will help in bringing out the aroma.

The remaining oil in the pot should cool down completely by now. Remove the ginger slices and pour into the pan. Use medium low heat to fry the peppercorns. It should take about 5 to 10 minutes. Don't overdo it, otherwise the oil will turn bitter and carry an unpleasant sticky taste.

Drain out the peppercorn and pour into another container. If you're looking for a more numbing sensation from the peppercorn oil, some people actually grind the peppercorn and let it soak in low temperature oil instead.

How I use my chili sauce?
- Use in stir fry dishes
- Noodle sauce (my favorite*)
- Fried rice seasonings
- Be creative!

How I use my Sichuan peppercorn oil?
- Drizzle on top of Asian omelette (my favorite*)
- Drizzle on top of mapo tofu
- Noodle sauce
- Be creative!

Sep 6, 2012

Masa Sushi Restaurant - What You See is Not Always What You Get (in a good way)

Masa is a sushi joint recommended by many of my friends. Let me tell you, with its average $80 dinner price, I did not expect to run into this somehow hole in the wall restaurant located away from all the busy plazas in Costa Mesa.

Looking very suspicious from the outside, I couldn't even peeked into these tinted windows to see what's going on.. And what's up with that "sake bomb" signage? Call me stereotypical, but that sign immediately spells out Americanized sushi in my mind.

Masa is for reservation only. It might not be packed at all, in fact, it seems empty most of the time. Either way, reservation only, no exceptions and no walk-ins allowed. I was even told to be there right on time because the chef and waitress will not seat us till appointed hours.

We did arrive at the restaurant approximately 30 minutes earlier. Chef and the waitress seemed surprised at first but they did seat us politely instead of having us to wait outside. We ordered one of their imported namazake to help in passing that 30 minutes time frame. Chef will not serve any food till our appointment hour, which is fine, sake sounds good for now.

By the way, while a small bottle or glass of Hakkaisan sells for $16.5, our namazake comes with a hefty price of $90.

The waitress will check if you prefer sushi only or with hot dishes when making reservation. This was my first visit to Masa, so a more traditional route of sushi only was the way to go.

Zensai (appetizer plate) -

Starting from top right in clockwise fashion:
Crab tsukemono (pickled)
Dried persimmon with cream cheese
Seared scallop

Uni/sea urchin chawamushi -

After zensai and chawamushi, our sushi courses started to come. The first two were blue fin tuna and one other kind of fish from Japan. I got too busy devouring my food so missed some pictures there.

Sushi #3 - Tuna from Japan, toro/neck section -

Tender and fatty, it kind of just melts in your mouth, definitely a must try item.

Sushi #4 - Botan Ebi -

Similar to ama ebi but botan ebi is generally bigger and a little bit more expensive.

Sushi #5 - Salmon duo, Scottish versus Alaska -

I believe chef got the farmed Scottish salmon and wild Alaska salmon. Flavor-wise, all votes went to the Alaska salmon for its fuller taste impact and fat content.

Sushi #6 - Kuruma ebi (Japanese tiger shrimp) -

This one has a more chewy texture compared to ama ebi and botan ebi. It is also a common high-end ingredient for Chinese food. Kuruma ebi's size and chewy texture not only can withstand searing and frying, it can  also take on Chinese's heavy seasonings well.

Sushi #7 - Big clam with caviar -

Sushi #8 - Inada with yuzu kosho -

Inada is basically a smaller yellowtail. Sometimes you see sushi names such as buri, inada, warasa, they all refer to yellowtail. Japanese gave this fish various names based on different sizes.

Sushi #9 - Kampachi -

Sushi #10 - Sayori with shiso -

Pretty chewy fish, but matched well with the strong fragrance from shiso leaves.

Sushi #11 - Awabi (abalone) -

Not a big fan of this course. The edges are way too chewy for me, almost crunchy to an extent.

Sushi #12 - Amadai (Japanese snapper) -

Sushi #13 - Uni Kani (sea urchin and crab) -

Each of these two ingredients on their own is good enough already, but pairing the two together? Even better.

Sushi #14 - Santa Barbara uni -

Miso soup with the head from kuruma ebi -

Dessert duo -

Top: sorbet made with Muscat wine and fresh grapes.
Bottom: Pear jelly, yogurt, fresh pear, and chocolate shavings.

Masa's dessert surprised me the most. I did not expect anything more than ordinary to come out from this sushi restaurant. Both desserts carried just the right amount of acidity and sweetness. It's more of an adult indulgence. Very refreshing and certainly drew a perfect ending for the entire meal.

The overall experience was better than expected despite the initial shock of Masa's store front. Chef actually took time explaining some of the courses, especially for the "comparison dishes" such as the salmon duo or all the ebi nigiri. If you're looking for a more traditional sushi experience, this is the place to go. However, if you like your sushi to dress up a bit in regards to preparations and seasonings, maybe try some other places first before visiting Masa.

Cindy's rating: 7

Masa Sushi Restaurant
*Reservation only

1907 Harbor Boulevard
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
(949) 515 - 1990