Jan 27, 2014

Stir Fry Chinese Chives with Bean Curd and Pork - 韮菜豆干炒豬肉

Early Happy Chinese New Year! 

The Chinese New Year's Eve lands on Thursday, January 30th this time. However, even though it lands on a weekday, I believe that every Chinese people will not bypass even one single excuse chance of feasting with families and friends. 

I'll be off celebrating the upcoming "horse" year with tons of yummy goodies, but before diving into binge eating mode, here's a quick recipe post using Chinese chives, bean curd, and pork. See how responsible I am?!


  • 1 big bundle of Chinese chives
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 4 squares of savory bean curd
  • 0.5 lb/about 2 big handful of pork strips (fattier part better)
  • 1 tablespoon of mini red chilies
  • 1 tablespoon of salted black beans 豆豉 (can be substitute with oyster sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil

Simple marinade -
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of Chinese rice wine 米酒


Marinate the pork strips with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of Chinese rice wine for at least 15 minutes. Give the pork a nice massage with the marinade to help the flavors soak into the meat. 

Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add in the bean curd squares. This step is like "washing" the bean curd and helps in removing any excess oil and flavorings. Just emerge in hot water for about a minute and there is no need to bring the water back to boil again. Remove the squares from water and pat dry. 

Chop the bean curd into strips.

Discard the chives stems and chop the remaining, about 2 inches in length. Peel and slice the garlic cloves. Discard the chili stems and finely chop the chilies. 

If you can't find these fiery hot mini chilies, just use 3 to 4 regular sized chilies as substitute. 

Drizzle enough olive oil to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Add in garlic slices and chilies. Sear with medium heat till the garlic turns slightly browned but not burnt. 

Turn to medium high heat. Add in the pork strips along with the remaining marinade. Cook till about 80% doneness. 

Add in the bean curd strips and cook for another minute or two. Add in the chives and give it a quick stir. Lastly, add the salted black beans to round-up the flavors. Cook for 2 more minutes and dish is ready to serve. 

Salted black beans can be a rare find items in the United States, especially a all natural, good quality one. In that case, you can omit the salted black beans and use 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce instead.

Jan 22, 2014

Chocolate and Banana Bundt Cakes (Recipe Using Two 3 Cups Bundt Cake Molds)

Not sure if it's due to the cold weather or not, I've been craving for sweet treats almost on a daily basis (or is that normal?). In order to maintain a healthier eating style and my unwillingness to settle for artificial sugar or margarine, I had to fight with my desires. 

This tug of war lasted for about 4 days, 4 straight days without eating any cookies, cakes, ice cream, and even my beloved boba milk tea. Unfortunately this battle was lost on day 5 to the evil created by my own hands - chocolate and banana bundt cakes. Cakes..

Ingredients (for two 3 cups bundt cakes)?


  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1 cup of cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup of sour cream
  • 1/2 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) of unsalted butter

Chocolate ganache:

  • 1/2 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tiny pinch of salt


Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the microwave in low power till almost turn liquid form. Brush the inside of the bundt molds with melted butter, don't forget to brush the center surface.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Peel two ripe bananas and mash them in a bowl. Make sure the bananas are at least as ripe as the ones shown in the picture below. Black dots actually mean sweeter bananas, more fragrant, and even more nutritious.

Whisk in the flour, baking soda, and salt in a big bowl. Take another bowl and add in the remaining butter in room temperature. Beat the butter till creamy with few small lumps, add in the sugar and beat until fluffy, takes at least 2 minutes.

Add the vanilla extract, blend a little then add in one egg, room temperature also. Beat for another minute then add in mashed bananas.

Carefully pour in the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in two batches. Blender or mixer off before adding the powdery ingredients otherwise you'll get flour all over your face. Pour in the first half and blend a little. Mix in cubed sour cream along with the other half of dry ingredients. Mix till incorporated, about 1 to 2 minutes. Fold in 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.

Pour the mixture to the mold about half way through. Lay a towel on the table and whack the mod in order to release the air bubbles in the mixture. I also push the mixture up a little bit along the inner and outer edges. This should help the cakes form and bake into the correct shape. 

Transfer the molds to the oven and bake for 65 to 70 minutes. There is no need to use a baking sheet beneath the bundt molds. Once ready, you can run a toothpick test by sticking it into the center of the cakes and see if the toothpick comes out clean or just with a few cooked crumbs, instead of sticky mixture. 

Remove the molds from heat and let them cool down first, about 10 minutes. Invert the cakes out onto a flat plate, the cakes should come out fairly easy.

As for the chocolate ganache, add 1/2 cup of chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl. Take a medium pot and heat up the heavy whipping cream together with just a tiny pinch of salt. Bring almost to a boil but make sure not to let the cream start bubbling. Pour the heated cream to the chocolate chips bowl and start stirring till fully blended. 

Wait a few minutes till the ganache cools down and thickens before drizzling over the cakes.

Wait till the ganache has been settled and harden on the cake before serving. This semi-sweet cake is ideal to serve with a cup of hot tea or coffee. For wine lovers, a small glass of port could do the trick. Ladies and lighter wine drinkers, Prosecco can be an easy drink and good alternative.

Jan 17, 2014

A Different Kind of Mexican Food - Antojitos Don Juan in Santa Ana

The 4.5 stars raving reviews on Yelp got my attention on Antojitos Don Juan initially. Eagerly to try some authentic Mexican food, I went there few days after for dinner during the week. 

It was not quite as I had imagined when first stepping into the restaurant. There were only a couple tables of customers and perhaps five total throughout our meal, definitely not as busy as expected. 

Antojitos Don Juan is a father and son restaurant. As soon as we arrived, both of them greeted us and started chatting for a while. From the conversation, it seems like the restaurant also offers a selection of "fusion" dishes on top of typical Mexican dishes such as burritos, enchiladas, and tacos. My friend and I felt adventurous and decided to give those creations a try.

But before that, chips and salsa to start off the meal -

Unfortunately a few of the chips were slightly chewy or so stale.

Menu - 

Many dishes are only listed in Spanish so it might be hard to comprehend, even though the owners are always more than happy to chat with customers about their menu items. They are both very friendly and would love to share their stories and food ideas as long as you're willing to listen.

Kids menu -

Main dishes average around $12 to $14 -

Hibiscus flavored tea -

Escargot -

I had no idea we were getting escargot that night at a supposedly Mexican restaurant. It's one of Mr. Don Juan's creations with a little Italian flare.

The escargot was cooked in olive oil and lots of chopped garlic. It seems like the escargot was cooked in the sauce for some time so the texture is on the soft side with just a little bit of chewiness. The garlicky sauce goes really well with toasted bread -

Chorizo stew in the front, even more chorizo with prawns in the back -

Both dishes were cooked with a little Spanish flare this time. Tomato and garlic based sauce with just a tiny bit of spiciness. 

It reminds me of the mouth-splitting monster from Resident Evil -

The dishes were decent but we both felt like something was missing, perhaps some more distinct seasonings. The tomato based stew pretty mild and slightly sweet. 

To fill in our cravings, we asked the restaurant for some suggestions and went for one more dish, bacon wrapped shrimps -

Quite tasty but the flavors were still similar to the earlier dishes we had. The restaurant only had this type of base stew that night.

Overall the meal was just above average and I do applause for owner's willingness to try new things. Service was superb, making customers feel warmed and welcomed. I'll still come back again in the future, but this time I'm going to order the real Mexican dishes instead of their fusion creations.

Cindy's Rating: 6 (keep in mind that I didn't try any of the common Mexican dishes)

Antojitos Don Juan
1130 West Warner Avenue
Santa Ana, CA 92707
(714) 662-2035

Operating Hours:
Monday - Friday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday - Sunday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

*Accepts credit cards
*Several outdoor tables. Restroom is also located outside at the end of the patio

Jan 12, 2014

Light Meal Recipe - Japanese Style Corn and Ham Sandwich

Here's another quick and easy meal that can be done in as fast as 10 minutes. Despite the short preparation time, the taste is still up to par and this sandwich can also be stored in lunch box for the next meal.

Japanese style corn and ham sandwich -

Ingredients (for two people)?
  • 6 slices of milk toast or plain white bread
  • 1 cup of sweet corn
  • 1 cup of cubed ham
  • 1/2 cup of Japanese mayonnaise
  • Some mixed salad greens and cherry tomatoes (optional)


Toast the bread till lightly browned with or without the crust depending on your preference. The crust can always be transformed as bread crumbs or bread sticks dipped in chocolate sauce later.

Mix together the corn, cubed ham, and Japanese mayonnaise. Use more mayonnaise if desired. You can also add a small pinch of freshly ground black pepper for an extra kick.

Take one toast slice and spread the corn and ham mixture, top with another slice of toast and spread even more mixture over. Lastly, add one more toast slice and cup the whole sandwich in half to get two smaller, rectangular shaped sandwiches. 

Serve with some salad greens and halved cherry tomatoes for a more balanced diet!

Other quick and easy recipes:

Jan 5, 2014

No Fuss Cooking - Steamed Beef Balls with Chives and Napa Cabbage

Happy New Year!

I hope you had a great new year's eve celebration either with families, friends, pets, or even just by yourself. Either way, staying wide awake all night and perhaps all the way till sunrise can be somewhat exhausting. It can take days to recuperate for old bones like me. Catching up some resting hours is important, but how do we manage to eat well while there's not much energy left to do all the cooking and cleaning? Steamed food is the way to go.

All you need to do is to mix up the ingredients and steam till fully cooked through for this Chinese beef balls recipe. There won't be grease left in the kitchen - like a battle after stir-frying or searing food. The beef mixture can also be transformed into other dishes which help in savving even more time to do other things, such as catching up some sleep. I'll elaborate on the creative use of beef mixture in the end of this recipe.

Steamed beef balls with chives and napa cabbage - 


  • A little bit over 1 lb of ground beef
  • 1/2 box of firm tofu
  • 1 bundle of chives (about 5 tablespoons of chopped chives)
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon of black bean soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of chili sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup of chicken stock
  • Some napa cabbage
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Some sesame oil or Sichuan peppercorn oil
  • Some Sriracha sauce


Let's first get the preparation work done. Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves. Zest the lemon and grate the ginger. Break the firm tofu into small pieces. Lastly, chop the chives.

Take a big bowl and mix in the following ingredients: ground beef, tofu, chopped chives, chopped garlic, lemon zest, black bean soy sauce, soy sauce, chili sauce, grated ginger, and a tiny dash of sesame oil. Mix well then pour in small amount of chicken stock at a time then mix again. The meat will gradually suck in the liquid and this step will help the meat balls stay moist after steaming. Use about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of chicken stock for the mixture. Wait till the liquid has been absorbed before forming the meat into balls. 

Take a big plate with some depth and lay the napa cabbage on top. Overlapping is fine, just make sure the plate is fully covered by the cabbage.

Carefully put the beef balls on top of the napa cabbage.

Make sure the water is boiling before putting the plate into a steamer. I simply take a deep pan/pot and put a wire rack in the center to create some height. Pour in some water till about 0.3 inch below the tip of the rack. Cover with a lid and bring the water to a boil first. Transfer the beef balls to the pan once the temperature rises. Cover with lid then steam for 20 to 25 minutes.

I personally prefer to use a deeper container instead of the plate shown in the picture. Usually another shallow plate is used as a lid for this container to cover the ingredients during the steaming process. Some use a cling foil instead but I never feel safe enough using it in high heat environment. The lid will keep the meatballs moist and lock in the flavors. However, there weren't enough plates to choose from so I had to reluctantly omit this step.

Once ready, drizzle some Sichuan peppercorn oil over the beef balls and garnish with some Sriracha sauce.

The meat mixture can also be "modified" into other dishes, below are some suggestions but don't limit yourself with these ideas:

1. Form the beef mixture into patties and transfer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Top each patty with cheddar cheese or other cheese mixture. Finish cooking in the oven till the center of the meat has been fully cooked through and the cheese starts oozing.

2. Stir fry the mixture with some chopped garlic and chilies. Perhaps season with some soy sauce, black vinegar, Sriracha, and sesame oil. Beef mixture turns into stir fry ground meat, which matches well with rice, noodles, pasta, and even tortilla or lettuce wraps.