Jun 26, 2013

Beef Brisket Curry (Final Japanese Curry Recipe of 2013)

There are quite a few curry-related posts since 2007, when I first started blogging. While the basic ways of making Japanese curry remains the same, some preparations and ingredients have evolved over the years; hopefully towards a much yummier direction. This recipe was created tailored to my dad's preferences, who loves beef brisket (牛腩) and demands for soft potatoes in his curry.

Beef brisket curry 牛腩咖哩 -

Ingredients (for a big pot of curry)?
  • 1.5 lbs beef brisket
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 potatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 1 big shallot
  • 1 box of S&B Golden Curry (spicy level 5)
  • 7 to 8 cups of hot water
  • Some olive oil
  • Some sea salt


Prepare a pot of water and add in the beef brisket. Bring the water to a boil and keep it simmer about 5 more minutes, this will help drawing out the dirty brownish bits from the meat.

Once done, discard the water and wait till the brisket is cool enough to handle by hands. Chop into large bite size pieces and set aside for later use.

Peel and finely chop the shallot -

Also peel and thinly sliced the onions. Peel and chop the carrots and potatoes into cubes.

Drizzle just enough oil to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Turn to medium high heat and toss in chopped shallots. Cook till the shallots turned translucent, about 20 seconds then add in sliced onions along with some sea salt.

Cook till the onions start to turn golden browned on the edges -  

Add in the carrot cubes and give it a quick stir. Cook for about 2 minutes.

Add in the beef chunks and sear the sides till slightly browned. Pour in about 7 to 8 cups of hot water along with 2 Japanese curry cubes. Make sure to gently stir the mixture till the cubes have been fully dissolved. Remember to scoop out any brownish floating bits during the process. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to keep it simmer. Cook for about 2 hours, make sure to check on the pot and scoop out the dirty bits during the first hour.

We are trying to cook the brisket till fork tender during these two hours. Instead of just cooking the meat with plain liquid, I added 2 curry cubes during this step to flavor the water, making sure some of that spices can "permeate" the meat first. Don't overdo it and use all the curry cubes too early, otherwise you might find yourself with a pot of gooey, possibly burned bits on the bottom after couple hours.

Add in the potato cubes after 2 hours and cook for another 30 minutes. You can add in the potato cubes later if tougher texture is desired. Remember, my dad loves soft and fluffy potatoes in his curry.

Lastly, add the remaining curry cubes to the pot, two at a time. Making sure the cubes have fully dissolved before adding another batch. Stir gently during the process.

It's not hard to make Japanese curry at all with the help of pre-made curry cubes. After trying out so many brands with different types of flavors, S&B Golden Curry with spicy level 5 remains my top choice after all these years -

Trust me, level 5 is not that spicy at all especially the cubes will be diluted in a big pot full of ingredients and liquid. You'll know what a really spicy curry is when trying out pre-made Thai curry packs.

You won't find any onion slices left after nearly 3 hours of simmering. Instead, the sweetness of the onions have already melted and flavored the whole mixture, creating an almost butter-like aroma to the curry. You can add even more onion slices during half of the simmering process if some real onion bites are preferred in the end.

Next time I'll try to make Indian curry from scratch! Wish me luck!

Jun 19, 2013

Grilled Shrimps with Mango Salsa (and a Kick of Deadly Chilies)

Taiwan has a nickname - the kingdom of fruits, this can be proven easily especially during summer time. The mangoes from Taiwan have a much denser fragrance and the sweetness level can sometimes top watermelons!

Nearly 90% of the tourists visiting Taiwan during summer months have mango on their to-eat-list. One of the famous items made with summer time mango is mango shaved ice. Locals and visitors are all willing to stand in a line waiting for a big plate full of fresh and meaty mangoes under the scorching sun, sometimes up to one hour, it's THAT GOOD!

However, our mango is not only good for sweet treats, it can also turn into fancy appetizer or party food, let me show you how!

Grilled shrimps with mango salsa -


12 medium sized shrimps (peeled and deveined)
1 ripe mango (I used Aiwen mango, it's like the king of all mangoes)
1 skinny cucumber  
1 medium shallot
1 lime
1 red chili
1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro (plus a few whole leaves for garnishing)
1 teaspoon of dried Italian seasoning
Some olive oil
Some sea salt
Some freshly ground black pepper


Peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimps. Remove and discard the dark colored sand vein in the back. I kept the head for miso soup later.

Mix one teaspoon of dried Italian seasoning with a little bit of olive oil. Add in the shrimps and gently rub the them with the marinade.

Cover with foil and let it sit in the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes, or just wait till the salsa is ready.

As for the salsa, chop off the stem from the red chili, remove the seeds, and finely chop the remaining. Chop and discard the very top and very bottom of the cucumber. Chop the remaining of the cucumber into small cubes. Finely chop the cilantro, we need about 1 tablespoon for this recipe. Peel and finely chop of the shallot.

Cut the mango cheeks and peel off the skin. Chop the orange meat into small cubes. The mango I got here is fairly big so just the meat from the cheeks is more than enough for about one dozen shrimps. I ate the remaining right on the spot, too good to pass.

Put all the salsa ingredients in a large bowl. Squeeze about 1/2 to 1 lime juice depending on your taste. Sprinkle some sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Give the mixture a stir and see if more seasonings are needed.

Take the shrimps out from the fridge. Turn the stove to medium high heat and preheat a grill pan till very hot. Once ready, sear the shrimps about one minute or less on each side. If uncertain about when the shrimps will be ready, it'll be safer to sear one side fairly quickly then flip to the other side first. Then just pay attention to the mid section where we butterflied earlier. If the section looks about 95% cooked then turn off the heat and transfer the shrimps onto a plate. The heat remained will finish cooking the shrimps.

Just serve the grilled shrimps with freshly made mango salsa. You can serve a few shrimps together on a plate, like an appetizer -

Or make it fancier, adding salsa into individual cups, put the shrimps on the edge, and garnish with some cilantro leaves -

The chili I used was very spicy, my fingers were still burning even after cleaning up the kitchen. That's why I picked the Aiwen mango, which has even more flavor and extremely sweet to balance off the heat.

You can substitute the red chili to other milder types of chilies of your liking, otherwise bell pepper works too!

If you ever visit Taiwan during summer time, don't forget to try out mangoes!

Jun 12, 2013

Egg Rolls with Bean Sprouts and Your Favorite Type of Ground Pork Stir Fry

Ground pork is probably one of the mostly used ingredients for my cooking. It's so easy to incorporate into various dishes ranging from Asian to western, appetizers to entrées. This time, I'm going to take my old ground pork stir fry recipe and create a new dish that can serve as a side dish or even party appetizers!

Egg rolls with bean sprouts and your favorite type of ground pork stir fry -

Ingredients (for each roll)?
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped scallion
  • 2 teaspoons of water
  • 1 sheet of dry rice paper
  • Some sea salt
  • Some white pepper powder
  • Some olive oil
  • Your choice of Asian style ground pork stir fry
Some ground pork stir fry suggestions:
Ground pork stir fry with Chinese pickled mustard greens 酸菜肉末
Ground pork stir fry with spicy garlic chives 辣炒韮菜豬絞肉
Ground pork stir fry with dried radish 蘿蔔干炒肉末
Thai style ground pork stir fry 打拋豬肉


I've listed some ground pork stir fry recipes from the past where you can utilize in this egg rolls recipe. Meat choice can be substituted with round chicken or ground beef, but the higher fat content from the pork works better here, offering tenderer and juicier bites for the egg rolls.

Rice paper can be found in Asian grocery stores. Don't be fooled by its dry and fragile appearance, this rice paper can transform into soft and sticky wrappings when in contact with moisture.

Just prepare a large bowl of water, hold the rice paper on the side and quickly dip into the water. The rice paper will soon starts to soften and look almost like the non-fried spring roll wrapper served at a Vietnamese restaurant. You can also cover the dry rice paper with a damped towel and let it softens slowly while preparing other ingredients in the meantime.

Discard the bottom stems from the scallion and chop the remaining. Pick out and discard the thinner, drier parts of the bean sprouts -

Bring a pot of water to a boil and sprinkle some salt into the water. Add the previously prepared bean sprouts and cook for about 2 minutes. Make sure to bring the water to a boil during the process. Once done, drain well and shock the sprouts with ice cold water. Drain again when the temperature drops completely (when the bean sprouts feel cold) and set aside for later use.

Break two eggs into a bowl, add in one to two tablespoons of chopped scallion, two teaspoons of water, small pinch of salt, and just a tiny bit of white pepper powder. Beat well till slightly fluffy.

Drizzle about one tablespoon of olive oil into a medium flat and non-stick surfaced pan. Turn to medium high heat and pour in the egg mixture. Swirl the pan so the mixture can evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Don't stir fry the egg, just let it sear peacefully in the pan. Gently separate the eggs from the bottom of the pan by sticking a spatula under and around the edges.

Try to cook the eggs till the very bottom has been cooked while the top still runny. Top the eggs with moist rice paper and press it down, helping the rice paper to bind with semi-runny egg mixture. Carefully flip the egg to the other side and cook the rice paper. Remember to press it down with a spatula to make sure the mixture sticks well with the rice paper.

Transfer the egg wrap to a big plate or onto a chopping board, let it cool down for few minutes.

Add a thin layer of bean sprouts onto the egg wrap -

Then add a thin layer of ground pork stir fry on top of the bean sprouts - 

Roll up the egg wrap tightly. I was too greedy the first round as you can see some spilled meat here and there..ok I meant everywhere.

Give the egg roll a few chops, about 1 to 1.5 inches in width.

The key here is making sure to roll up the ingredients tightly. However, you can always use a decorated toothpicks or skinny forks to keep the rolls together, which actually looks great when served as party appetizers!

Jun 4, 2013

Quality High Tea Time - Boxwood Café at The London by Gordon Ramsay (West Hollywood, CA)

Afternoon tea, or high tea in a fancier way is very popular in Taiwan. In fact, that's where I got the habit of pampering myself with tiers of sweet and savory treats during afternoon hours. Every little item on the plate is carefully created to please not only your palate, but also your eyes. Unfortunately, there aren't that many high tea selections in Southern California so I was thrilled when finding out about this place in West Hollywood.

Boxwood Café is located inside a boutique hotel called The London West Hollywood, crafted by a renowned British chef Gordon Ramsay. You might heard of him on the TV shows Hell's Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares.

Afternoon tea is only available daily from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. There are mixed reviews about this café on the Internet, but I just have to give it a try myself.

Maybe partly affected by the online reviews and partly due to the lack of "high tea" frenzy crowds like me, there weren't that many people on a weekend afternoon. However, I do enjoy a quiet and peaceful time with my friend at the Boxwood Café. The decor and furniture selection made me felt cozy and comforting. However, it also carries a certain degree of luxury and modern touch in a subtle way instead of shouting out "Look, we come with hefty price tags!"

Our seat was next to the windows where we can overlook the quiet WeHo neighborhood hidden behind fancy shops and restaurants on the street.

Service here was wonderful, our waiter stopped by several times during the short 2-hour time frame checking on our needs.

Afternoon tea menu was $28 per person and $40 with one glass of champagne (Schramsberg, blanc de blancs brut, North Coast). We skipped the sparkling wine and picked our tea instead - Rose with French vanilla, natural rosehip with hibiscus.

Ah I missed you so -

Top tier comes with freshly baked scones with plain and black currant flavors. Served with Devonshire cream and lemon curd. Second tier comes with tea sandwiches with curry chicken and golden raisins flavor, egg and watercress. There are also some canapés including smoked salmon and cucumber, hummus spread toasts. The bottom tier comes with honey madeleines, l'opera cakes, apple crumble, fresh fruit tarts, and lemon meringue bars.

Supposedly there's a certain sequence to enjoy different tiers of food. I personally don't really care about that, just go ahead and grab whichever one you want to enjoy the most at the moment!

You can tell that Boxwood Café really put in some effort in all these miniature items instead of just assemble all the components like a factory line. The flavors were all there despite their petite sizes and every individual dish can stand on its own. Even now I still remember the tastes from my curry chicken sandwich. The curry wasn't too over-powering and matches well with hearty bread. It'll be nice if they offer that quadrupled the size during regular lunch hours.

And the meringue was just too cute to be eaten. They look like clouds floating in the sky!

Online reviews might not be too welcoming for Boxwood Cafe's regular dining selections. However, compared to most of the high tea places in SoCal, I think Boxwood did a pretty good job on their afternoon tea offerings. I would definitely come back every time when the café changes their high tea menu!

Cindy's rating: 7

Boxwood Café at The London
1020 North San Vicente Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Phone: (310) 358-7788
Website: http://www.thelondonwesthollywood.com/gordonRamsay/boxwoodCafe-en.html

Opening hours:

Breakfast -
Monday to Friday 6:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
Saturday to Sunday 7 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.

Weekend brunch -
Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Lunch -
Daily from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.

*Afternoon tea -
Daily from 2:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Note: Valet costs differ depending on if you're here for dinner, afternoon, etc. Don't ask me, I have no idea why they do that.

The London - West Hollywood
Website: http://www.thelondonwesthollywood.com/gordonRamsay/