Oct 29, 2012

Something for Halloween - Domokun Bento

Even though I didn't get to dress up for this year's Halloween, but I can definitely transfer the fun to my bento box!

Domokun bento -

Ingredients (2 to 3 regular portions)?

1 pound of ground chicken
1/2 pound of ground pork
3 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of mirin
1/2 teaspoon of grated ginger
2 white squashes
1 slice of kumbo/dried seaweed
Some steamed rice
Small pinch of black pepper
Small pinch of sea salt
Some honey cured ham slices


Cook some steamed white or brown rice.

Transfer both the ground chicken and ground pork into a medium pot. Turn to medium high heat. Add in 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of mirin, 1/2 teaspoon of grated ginger, and a pinch of black pepper. Mix well and cook till all the seasonings have been absorbed by the meat. I actually cooked a little bit longer in order to get a darker color result.

Scoop some rice into rectangular or square shaped lunch boxes. Evenly spread a layer of ground meat on top.

Peel and slice the squashes, about 2 millimeters in thickness. Rinse and clean the dried kumbo/seaweed.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil then lower the heat to keep it simmering. Add in the kumbo along with a small pinch of salt. Cook for 5 minutes then add in squash slices. Cook till the squash softens. Drain well and set aside.

Make sure to cook the kumbo first especially it takes longer time to cook down the tough texture. In addition, the seaweed flavor can actually permeate the squash slices and adds more flavor.

Use a round shaped mold to cut ground shape eyes out of cooked kumbo. I actually cleaned a pen cap in order to use it to cut out small eyes. Transfer the "eyes" to each bento boxes, two for each box of course.

Take the cured ham and cut out big rectangle mouth for domokun. Put it just a little bit below the eyes.

Carefully cut some big and small triangles out of sliced squash for domokun's teeth.

The cooking part is easy. I think all the hard work goes to measuring, cutting, and assembling the pieces patiently. Make sure to refrain yourself from eating domokun's yummy honey cured mouth before the bento is completed!

Other Halloween food recipe:
Halloween fingers

Oct 25, 2012

Fried Rice with Shirasu and Tuna Floss - 雙魚炒飯

Shirasu is definitely one of my top three favorite fish in the world. Tuna might come in 2nd place or so. Both fish are very versatile and can be used in all types of cuisine in so many ways. This time, I'm going to combine the two and turn them into my Chinese comfort food - fried rice with shirasu and tuna floss.

Ingredients (4 to 5 portion)?

3 cups of white rice
3 cups of mizuna (Japanese water greens) 
1/2 cup or 120 grams of shirasu
2 eggs
5 cremini mushroom
6 fresh red chilies
1 carrot
2 medium shallots
1 stalk of scallion
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
Some olive oil
Some tuna floss
Some toasted white sesame seeds


Cook 3 cups of white rice accordingly to package instruction. Some people said using day old rice is the best way to make fried rice. Mainly because the rice will separate nicely and the grains will have a more chewy texture. That's not the case for me.

I like to use freshly steamed rice because it seems to absorb the seasonings better. In addition, if you cook it right, all the individual grains will still separate nicely instead of sticking together like chunks of rice balls. On top of that, if you do like your grains on the chewier side, just use less water while making the rice.

Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a pan and turn to medium high heat. Break two eggs into a small bowl and add a tiny pinch of sea salt. Beat the eggs and pour into the pan. Wait for a short moment, about 10 seconds then start to scramble the eggs with spatula. Cook the eggs till slightly browned color. In the mean time, try to break the eggs into smaller bits. Once done, scoop out the scrambled eggs and set aside for later use.

Peel and finely chop the shallots. Remove the stems from the chilies and scallion, finely chop them into smaller bits. Peel and chop the carrot into little cubes. Halve the cremini mushroom then thinly slice them. Lastly, chop the mizuna into smaller bits also. If you can't find mizuna, substitute it with other type of fragrant greens. I suppose mix up some spinach with flat leaf parsley would be a good alternative.

Drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a deep pan and turn to medium high heat. Add the shallots, scallion, chilies into the pan along with 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Give it a quick stir and cook till the shallots just starts to brown on the edges.

Add the carrot and mushroom, cook for about one minute then pour in the mizuna. Add the fish sauce and cook till the greens wilted down. Now add the scrambled eggs back to the mixture along with shirasu. Cook for additional minute or two. Taste the mixture and add more fish sauce if not salty enough. It should be on the salty side since we are going to add in large amount of rice, which will dilute the taste.

Mix in the rice in two batches. Make sure all the grains are coated with the sauce. You can tell by looking at the color on the rice. If you see anything white as paper, attack!

You can definitely enjoy the fried rice at it is with some toasted white sesame seeds, but why not top it with some tuna floss, double the joy!

I would suggest serving this dish with clear clams and ginger soup? Make it a Chinese comfort food feast - seafood style!

Other shirasu related recipes:

Oct 21, 2012

High Tea Experience Vegas Style - Mandarin Oriental Tea Lounge

Vegas here I come again!

Usually I would pick a restaurant or two to try out while visiting Vegas. However, this time I was there for a wedding, and most of the dinner plans have already been set by the wedding party. Knowing that I'll be stuffed with tons of food and perhaps busy socializing with friends and families most of the nights, an elegant and relaxing English afternoon tea became my top choice instantly.

Tea Lounge is only available from 2 p.m. - 5 p.m. daily. Usually it's not crowded at all but a reservation is still recommended. I requested window seat and was very pleased that they saved a big sofa section for just a party of two.

Tea Lounge is located on the 23rd floor next to the lobby, where hotel guests check in and all that miscellaneous stuff. Take a look at the first picture. There's an array of clear windows in the mid section, that's where the Tea Lounge is.

Clear view of Veer Towers from our sofa area -

Too bad it's just for "afternoon" tea because the view will be even more amazing at night -

Other seating sections -

Beautiful carpet -

Only few tables here, which is great. That means I can finally get away with all the hassles and just enjoying my cup of tea here - in peace.

Classic English afternoon tea $36/person -

You get to choose one of Tea Lounge's freshly brewed loose leaf teas for this basic set. On top of that are the classic three tier small bite items, scones, and assorted pastries. If you want to kick it up a notch, there's also Veuve Clicquot afternoon tea that comes with a glass of champagne for $56/person. Well, if one glass is not enough, Tea lounge do offer a tea set for two people, plus one whole bottle of champagne for $185.

One of the many tea selections -

Osmanthus oolong (iced) -

No extra charge for refills.

Organic lychee green -

Tea Lounge also has offer some interesting tea cocktails such as royal tea (Absolut Mandarin, chilled osmanthus oolong tea, etc) and kiwi-green tea fizz (ginger simple syrup, Veev acai liqueur, etc).

Here it comes! I was like a little girl very excited to see my desserts showed up in three tiers. That means after finishing one plate, I've got two more to go. That illusion of endless sweet treats made me very content.

Some people follow the rules while having English high tea, which is savory items - scones - sweets. Well, I was exhausted from all the driving and you know...family affairs..So just put away the rules and dig in! Hurry and grab whichever one you crave the most before it's gone!

First/very bottom layer for savory items -

"Smoked salmon and cucumber with watercress spread,
Egg salad and chives on brioche,
Curried chicken salad sandwich,
Black forest ham sandwich."

Second/middle layer for Tea Lounge signature scones. Served with imported Devonshire clotted cream and Chef Gianni's house made marmalades and jams.

The scones are amazingly good. Buttery and flaky. Add a little bit of clotted cream and some raspberry jam, it's like heaven! I can eat this super high calories thing every day without feeling a tiny bit sense of guilt. It's just too good to pass.

Third /top layer for sweet items -

Spicy cheese cake,
Purple macaron with bubble gum filling,
Pistachio cake,
Chocolate truffle.

Very cinnamony cheesecake -

Every single item was made with such great attention to details. However, after having my first bite of the scones, I can be careless for those pretty looking things. I even wished that they can fill all my tiers with scones. Oh, and that clotted cream.

If you don't hae time to breath in the amazing views nor munching on delicious treats at Tea Lounge while visiting Vegas, see if you can to go some of the scones. I'm not sure if the hotel lets you do that, otherwise people might start pouring in just for the scones.

Cindy's rating: 8
(mostly for the attentive service and ambience. However, if solely for the scones, I would definitely put up a 9 or even 10 for the score)

Mandarin Oriental Tea Lounge (City Center)
3752 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89158
(702) 590-8888
(888) 881-9367

10 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sunday extends to 11 p.m.
*However afternoon tea only available from 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Similar post:
Mandarin Oriental's Amore Patisserie

Oct 15, 2012

Simple Veggie Dish - Steamed Broccoli with Tofu and Sesame Oil

I started to make more steamed dishes last year. Partly for health reasons, but to be honest, I'm just gotten lazier over the years.

Unlike stir-fry, steamed food requires less preparation and cleaning works. I can even make two dishes at a time. Just have all the ingredients ready, toss into a steamed pot or whatever cooking tool you're using. Since both hands are free now, I can start working on other food while waiting for the steamed dish to be ready. Here's one of my steamed recipes inspired a local Korean restaurant's banchan item.

Steamed broccoli with tofu and sesame oil -


1 to 2 broccolis
1 box of firm tofu
Some sea salt
Some sesame oil
Some toasted white sesame seeds


Thoroughly clean and rinse the broccolis. I usually soak them in cold water for at least 10 minutes, hopefully it'll get rid of some nasty chemical residuals.

Peel the tough outer skin from the stems and chop the broccoli into smaller pieces. Toss the broccoli into the steaming container. Remove the tofu from the box and drain out the liquid. Break the tofu into smaller pieces with your hands and mix with broccoli.

Sprinkle some salt, toasted white sesame seeds, also add some sesame oil. Give the while mixture a quick toss. Steam for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on how you like the texture for the broccoli. You might need to reduce a couple minutes if crunchy broccoli bits are more of your liking.

Taste it and adjust the flavor with salt and sesame oil. This dish can also served cold.

Oct 9, 2012

Meatballs with Preserved Mustard Cabbage/Mui Choy 梅菜肉丸

Mui choy, the closest English translation I can find is preserved mustard cabbage. To transform a fresh mustard cabbage into fragrant preserved vegetable takes many steps including drying the leaves under the sun, marinating, draining out excessive liquid, and fermenting up to one week.

The best way to prepare mui choy is to cook it with something fatty, usually pork for Chinese dishes. I made some stewed pork with mui choy couple weeks ago and left with some extra mui choy soaking in the sauce. This time around, I'm going to give this veggie a few chops and use for meatball dishes.

Meatballs with preserved mustard cabbage/mui choy -

Ingredients (for about a dozen)?

1.3 lbs of ground pork
7 garlic cloves
2 to 3 ginger slices
2 stalks of scallion
2/3 cup of preserved mustard cabbage (already soaked and drained)
3 tablespoons of ginger oil
1 big pinch of brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups of hot water
1/4 cup of soy sauce


If you're starting out with dried mui choy, just thoroughly rinse the veggie with running water. There might be some sands or tiny dusts in between dried leaves so washing it few more times won't hurt. Soak the mui choy for about 10 minutes and drain out the liquid. To enhance the flavor and soften the texture, cook it under medium heat with some mixture of soy sauce, garlic cloves, scallion, brown sugar, and hot water for 15 minutes. Mui choy is pretty salty so the ratio for soy sauce and water should be around 1:3. Use just enough liquid so that the veggie is fully submerged under. Drain out the liquid after mui choy cools down and set aside for later use.

Remove the stems and finely chop the scallions. Roughly cut out the woody surface from the ginger root and chop into thick slices. Peel the garlic cloves. As for the preserved mustard cabbage, chop into smaller pieces so that it'll blend well for a meatball dish.

Transfer the ground pork, chopped scallions, chopped mui choy, and add about 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper into a big container. Mix well and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Form the mixture into medium sized pork balls. I actually throw the pork ball in between my palms to help driving out some air inside the mixture. That way all the ingredients can bind together nicely, at least that's what my mom told me, and that's what my grandma told my mom many years ago.

Pour in some ginger oil in a deep frying pan and turn to medium high heat. Ginger oil is very easy to make. Just heat up some oil along with some ginger slices, cook till the fragrance comes out and the edges of the ginger starts to burned a little bit. Discard the ginger and store the oil as usual.

Add the peeled garlic cloves and ginger slices into the pan and sear till all sides turn slightly browned. Add in the pork balls one at a time and sear for about one minute before turning them. Thoroughly sear the pork balls. When ready, add in the soy sauce, brown sugar, and hot water. Bring to a boil then turn down the heat to let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

Preferably to serve it over steamed rice. You can also use more stewed juice along with a splash of chili paste and sesame oil, mix it up to make a delicious dry noodle sauce.

What I will do after couple meals though, I'll break up the meatballs into ground pork and spread on top of steamed rice. Arrange some cooked spinach around the pork and top it with either raw egg yolk or sunny side up egg. To make it even fancier? Drizzle some Sichuan peppercorn oil before serving!

Oct 2, 2012

$20 for Endless Steaks, Galbi, Bulgogi, and More! - Gen Korean BBQ and Yakitori Bar

Quick local restaurant review before I'm off to Vegas.

Gen Korean BBQ and Yakitori Bar is an all you can eat Korean barbeque restaurant located in Orange County, around Tustin and Irvine. Unlike Garden Grove or further Los Angeles area, there used to be zero all you can eat Korean barbeque around this neighborhood.

Years ago, finally some Koreans heard us meat mongers' outcry and opened Shik Do Rak in Irvine. This place was packed even during lunch hours. The hype gradually died down overtime...until this other all you can eat Korean barbeque opened up just few exits away - Gen Korean BBQ and Yakitori Bar.

$20 can get you a long way. I mean lonnnngggg way. Here's Gen's food menu -

Beverage menu -

Banchan/small dishes -

Kirin draft beer $14.95 on the menu but we only got charged $13.95 -

I don't remember most of the names for the upcoming array of meat. We basically ordered 90% of the items on the menu with multiple rounds. Is that too much or not enough for 5 men plus 3 women? You figure.

Kobe Woosul/Kobe beef tongue -

More meat -

I wrapped my meat well -

Steak -

Maybe some veggies will dilute a portion of our cholesterol -

Look at that marbled fat -

Underneath is thinly sliced pickled radish called "mu ssam." -

By the way, all these pictures were taken with my iphone 4. The thought of bringing my Canon T1i to a Korean barbeque place and get the grease all over my lens is just too frightening.

Chun Churum bottled soju $10.95 -

Daechang/marinated ox large intestine (before) -

Daechang/marinated ox large intestine (after) -

Gom Bae! -

How can you resist it?

Marinated selection -

Some rice cakes to end the meal -

Our bill for 8 people -

Not bad considering the amount of food and beverages we've consumed. Gen is actually pretty good for all you can eat Korean barbeque joint, might be even better compared to some of the famous ones in K-town.

If you are a brisket and mu ssam lover, Shik Do Rak does a better job. However, for all other types of dishes, especially thick cut meat, Gen is definitely the place to go.

Gen Korean BBQ and Yakitori Bar
13741 Newport Ave
Tustin, CA 92780
(714) 505-1800

-Courtesy of Google Maps-

*Hours: 11:30 a.m. - 12 a.m.
*Gen do not take reservations, the wait is usually a minimum of one hour during dinner rush hours.

Cindy's Rating: 8 (this can be the best $20 you've ever spent!)