Apr 30, 2015

Quick Fix Meal - Instant Udon with Mentaiko, Panko, and Grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Friday is finally coming up, but for this week, it means work instead of having fun. I can foresee myself staring at the computer the moment I rolled down my bed all the way till my brain cannot function anymore this Saturday. 

Despite the extra workload, tummy still needs to be fed with yummy food. After all, that might be my only comfort this weekend. Under such time constraint, a quick instant Japanese udon comes in handy.

Instant udon with mentaiko, panko, and grated Parmigiano Reggiano -

Ingredients (for 1)?

  • 2 packs of instead udon
  • 1 teaspoon of mentaiko
  • 2 tablespoons of grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon of panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 1 tablespoon of tsuyu (Japanese soup base)
  • Some dried seaweed flakes
  • Few drops of homemade chili oil
  • 1 poached egg (optional)


The ingredients combination was inspired by a local Japanese restaurant. The udon mixed with mentaiko, grated cheese, and topped with crunchy bread crumbs is one of their popular dishes. 

Grate the cheese and set aside for later use -

Boil some water and cook the instant udon according to the packaging instruction. Once ready, saves one scoop of water on the side first. Drain well and transfer the udon to a serving bowl -

Mix the udon with 1 tablespoon of tsuyu and some chili oil. If the udon dries up or sticking together, add some cooking water that was saved earlier.

While the udon is still hot, quickly transfer the grated cheese over. Also top the udon with mentaiko, panko, and some dried seaweed flakes -

Mix well before serving. You can also fancy it up with additional poached egg - if not in a time crunch like me.

You can find precooked udon at your local Asian groceries. In fact, Costco also sells organic version and it's quite tasty. Mentaiko can be stored in the freezer, and Parmigiano Reggiano has been one of the stable ingredients in my fridge. As a result, putting together this meal using all the readily available items definitely saves a lot of time without sacrificing the taste.

Here's one other simple noodles recipe:
Cooking for one - Japanese cold noodles with the best in season cherry tomatoes plus a touch of lemon

Apr 24, 2015

Give It An Asian Flair - Creamy Coconut Chicken and Veggie Stew

The Indonesian lady taught my mom a simple coconut stew recipe. Basically you sear the shallots with some salt, add in the protein along with other veggies, and then finish the dish with some coconut milk. The seasonings used were pretty simple, mainly salt and perhaps a few dashes of fish sauce for extra flavor.

I adapted the concept and added a few more spices to give this creamy stew an aromatic kick. 

Creamy coconut chicken and veggie stew -


  • 1 big can/2 cups coconut milk (thicker kind)
  • 1 chicken thigh steak (skin on, deboned)
  • 1 Asian eggplant (the long and thin kind)
  • 1 small broccoli
  • 1/2 small cabbage
  • 1 big shallot
  • 2 red chilies
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground fennel seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Tiny pinch white pepper powder
  • Some homemade chili sauce (optional)


Cut the chicken into large bite size pieces. Discard the eggplant stem and slice the remaining diagonally, about 2 mm thickness. Break the broccoli into smaller pieces, remove the tough fibrous layer if any. Chop the cabbage into large pieces. Discard the chili stems and finely chop the remaining. Peel and slice the shallot. 

Drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil to a big pot and turn to medium high heat. Once it heats up, add in the chicken pieces, skin side down. Sear till the skin turns slightly browned, flip to the other side and sear for 1 minute. Scoop out the chicken and set aside for later use.

No need to add more oil to the pot since the skin fat has been rendered. Add in chopped shallot and 1 teaspoon of salt. 

Cook till the shallot turns translucent then add in the chilies. Add 1 teaspoon of fish sauce first if the pot needs to be deglazed to help in scraping out the browned bits on the bottom.

Add in the broccoli and give it a quick stir, about 2 minutes. Transfer the cabbage over and cook till the leaves have been wilted down by half.

It actually works well that the tougher broccoli is lying on the bottom while waiting for the above cabbage to be cooked through. The broccoli gets more heat and better help in softened the texture. 

Add in 1/2 freshly squeezed lemon juice and mix a little. Add in the eggplant slices. 

Season with ground fennel seeds, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and white pepper. Mix well.

Add the chicken back to the pot then pour in the coconut milk. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to keep the stew at a slight bubble. Cover with lid and let it simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or till the veggies reach preferred texture.

Drizzle some homemade chili sauce if desired. Serve with steamed white rice or French bread. 

Other Asian stew recipes:

Apr 16, 2015

Ikko Japanese Restaurant - Opens for Lunch Too!

Ikko is one of the well-known sushi joints in Orange County. However, this place seems to get more positive feedback for their hot dishes compared to sashimi and sushi.

Dinner service can be packed and reservation is highly recommended. Good news is that Ikko also opens for lunch from Tuesday to Friday offering sushi, a la carte, and even lunch set at a bargained price. 

Small restaurant with counter seating and a few table settings -

Asahi -

Take a look at the menu (click on the image for an enlarged view) -

Sushi menu and lunch special -

Rolls and nigiri are also available -

Noodles and sashimi bowls -

So many options to choose from -

Chirashi sets -

Even miso soup comes in five different varieties - 

Sake -

Salad that comes with the lunch set -

Bamboo shoot and fennel salad with herb flower and kimone dressing $10 -

Bamboo shoot provides a clean crunchy bite to the salad. Unlike western croutons or crisp bacon that carry a little grease, the non-oily and juicy bamboo shoot gives this salad a refreshing texture.

Uni chawamushi -

Sakura salmon cheek with spicy relish on top -

Kobe beef hambagu with miso demi-glace sauce lunch set $9.75 -

The set also comes with salad, miso soup, and pickled vegetables.

It's actually smaller than I expected but the sauce was seasoned well with a hint of peppery spice, goes really well with white rice -

I think ikko used leaner part of the Kobe beef -

Assorted sashimi lunch with pork and mixed vegetable miso soup, small appetizer, and rice $13.75 - 

Veggie lovers, this is one healthy and satisfying combo. 

Here is comes the nigiri -

Flying squid from Kyushu, Amberjack from Kyushu, yellowtail -

Not complaining at all, I was already happy enough to have Japan imported seafood for my weekday lunch.

Special chirashi set, comes with salad, miso soup, and pickles $25 -

Decent lunch place if you want to indulge a little during weekdays or weighing your options for a company meal. In addition, most of the better sushi restaurants only open for dinner, so ikko might be one of the very few non-Americanized Japanese eateries available around the area. Lucky OC dwellers.

Cindy's rating: 7 (higher score for ikko's non-sushi dishes)

Ikko Japanese Restaurant
735 Baker Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 556-7822

*Saturday and Sunday dinner only
*Closed on Monday

Apr 8, 2015

Pickled Small Gai Choy and Ground Pork Stir Fry - 雪裡紅炒豬肉

Pickled small gai choy or pickled cabbage is a simple preserved food using salt. The process of making it is fairly easy with little time involved. Basically clean the leafy greens and dry well. Rub with salt and squeeze out the liquid, let the veggie sits overnight and there you have it.

Gently rinse the pickled veggie, soak for few minutes, pat dry, and give it a fine chop before cooking. I also added some tofu skin for extra nutrients in this stir fry recipe.

Pickled small gai choy and ground pork stir fry -


  • 1 lb of ground pork
  • 1 cup/250 grams of pickled small gai choy
  • 1 big piece of fried tofu skin (the thick kind)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 red chilies
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of oyster sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon of chili sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt


Use just a tiny bit of olive oil to "massage" the ground pork if using lean meat, this will help the pork stays tender during the cooking process.

Remove the pickled small gai choy from the packet -

Rinse gently, soak for few minutes to remove excess salt, pat dry, and chop into smaller pieces.

Peel and finely chop the garlic. Discard the chili stems and finely chop the remaining. Chop the tofu skin into tiny pieces -

Drizzle some olive oil to evenly coat the bottom of the pan and turn to medium heat. Add in the garlic, chilies, and some salt. Cook till the garlicky aroma comes out but not burning them.

Switch to medium high heat and add in the ground pork, give it a quick stir. Pour in some oyster sauce for a touch of sweetness flavor, this can also be substitute with small amount of brown sugar. Add in some chili sauce if desired. 

Wait till the pork is about 80% cooked through then add in chopped pickled small gai choy and tofu skin. Mix well and cook till all the liquid has been reduced, about 2 more minutes.

Some people use sugar to balance off pickled veggies' acidity. However, I think the extra flavors from the semi-sweet oyster sauce can give more depth to this recipe. You be the judge.

Other Asian stir fry recipes:

Apr 4, 2015

Weekend Brunch? Try Rotisserie Chicken with Kiwi Salsa Ciabatta Sandwich

Making sandwich is always a good way to "revitalize" the leftover rotisserie chicken in the fridge. However, instead of pair the meat with lettuce and tomato slices, how about giving this simple kiwi salsa a try?

Rotisserie chicken with kiwi salsa ciabatta sandwich?

Ingredients (for two)?

  • 2 plain ciabatta 
  • 1 chicken thigh steak
  • 4 cheese squares 
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • Some olive oil
  • Some salt
  • Some freshly ground black pepper


  • 1 big ripe tomato
  • 2 half ripe kiwi 
  • 1/3 onion
  • 3 tablespoons of finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking dish with foil for easy cleaning purpose. Keep the butter in room temperature or warm it up slightly in the oven, till the butter softens and easy to brush on ciabatta.

Use bone-in chicken skin-on thigh steak, that way the chicken gets more flavor and juicier after baking in the oven. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Drizzle just a little bit of olive oil on top.

Transfer the chicken steak onto prepared baking dish and into the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes. Once cooked through, remove from heat and let it rest till cool enough to handle by hand. Remove skin and bone, break the meat into larger bite size pieces and set aside for later use. Leftover rotisserie turkey also works well for this recipe, just heat it up in the oven using lower heat or steam for 5 minutes before use.

Remove the stem and seeds from the tomato and chop into tiny cubes. Scoop out the kiwi and chop into tiny cubes. Do not use fully ripe kiwi, otherwise it'll be too soft to handle. Peel and cube the onion. Finely chop the cilantro. 

Put the cubed kiwi on the side first and mix all the remaining salsa ingredients in a bowl, including salt, pepper, and juice of half lemon. Kiwi gets mushy easily so add to the salsa mixture in the end and blend gently.

Slice the ciabatta in half, lengthwise. Brush one side of the ciabatta with melted butter. Lay two cheese squares on the other half of the bread. I used Emmental since it was left in the fridge. However, saltier Cheddar should work really well with this recipe.

Transfer the ciabatta onto a baking dish and into a medium/high heat oven. Toast the ciabatta till it turns slightly crunchy on the edges.

To assemble, use the ciabatta with cheese as bottom layer. Put some rotisserie chicken, scoop kiwi salsa over, and top with the other half of the ciabatta.

Leftover kiwi salsa can be stored in the fridge up to few days. Try grill some pork chops and serve with kiwi salsa. Make sure to bring out a bottle of spicy sauce to add more kick to the grilled meat!   

Other sandwich recipe: