Mar 30, 2016

Japanese Fried Chicken (Karaage/唐揚げ), Served with Japanese Mayo and Cayenne Pepper

Never a big fan of air fryer. 

When talking about "frying" food, I believe only the oily method can really showcase the deliciousness and characteristics of a nicely fried dish. However, the tremendous amount of oil involved has always shunned me away from digging into this cooking method at home. 

Looking at my sad deep fryer that's been sitting in the cabinet for nearly a year, guess it's about time to embrace the grease, roll up the sleeves, and start the deep frying magic in the kitchen.

Japanese fried chicken (Karaage/唐揚げ) -



  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 clove grated garlic


  • 1 lb deboned skin-on chicken thigh 
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Some black pepper
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • Some Japanese mayonnaise
  • Some cayenne pepper
  • Vegetable oil (for frying, I used two medium size bottles)


Cut the chicken thigh into large bite size pieces. Prepare a container and add in all the marinade ingredients. Massage the chicken making sure all pieces are well coated by the marinade -

Cover and transfer to the fridge for 2 hours. Remove from the fridge and let the chicken rest in room temperate for 5 to 10 minutes before frying.

Pour the oil to the deep fryer or a big pot, wait till the temperature reaches 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Meanwhile, mix the flour, cornstarch, salt, and black pepper in a dish. Equal amount of flour and cornstarch. 

Use one hand to grab one piece of chicken to the flour mixture; use the other hand to grab some flour mixture to coat the chicken. One hand handles the wet chicken meat and the other hand handles the dry ingredients. This helps in avoiding sticky paste forming on the fingers and getting in the way of coating the chicken pieces.

After coating the chicken, gently shake away excess flour mixture then set aside, or straight into the fryer if you're quick enough coating all the chicken pieces. 

Fry the chicken in one or two batches for 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the size of the meat. My version took about 5 minutes.

Line a plate with kitchen towel and transfer the chicken over. Once the excess oil has been absorbed by the kitchen towel, transfer the karaage to a serving dish and squeeze some Japanese mayo on the side. 

Dust with cayenne pepper and serve with lemon wedge. 

Worth the effort, worth the oil - two bottles of vegetable oil. 

Other Japanese food recipes:

Mar 24, 2016

Utilizing Flavorful Broth - Spicy Asian Sausage Risotto with Grated Parmigiano Reggiano

My mom was boiling some spicy Asian sausages the other day. Instead of dumping the broth down to the drain, I asked her to turn up the heat and reduce the broth for a little bit. This flavorful liquid can further be utilized as stock base for soup noodles or in this case, risotto.

The broth left after making crab boil also works well for this recipe.

Spicy Asian sausage risotto with grated Parmigiano Reggiano -

Ingredients (3 to 4 portions)?

  • 3 to 4 spicy Asian sausages or any type of spicy sausages
  • 2 cups Acquerello or Arborio rice
  • 3 1/2 cups broth
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons chopped shallots
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Some salt
  • Some grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Some chopped cilantro or flat leaf parsley


The main idea for this recipe is to utilize any flavored leftover broth from other dishes such as boiled sausages and crab boil. Any leftover Chinese style chicken soup works just as well even though with certain degrees of spiciness is preferred.

Cook the sausages, steam, boil, or pan-sear, either way works fine. Once cool down, slice the sausages diagonally then set aside for later use. Save any drippings (if any) and add to the broth also. Extra flavor is always welcomed. 

Peel and finely chop the shallots, need about 3 tablespoons - 

Use a non-stick pot, add in one tablespoon of oil and one tablespoon of unsalted butter. Turn to medium heat and wait till the butter starts to melt. Add in chopped shallots and one teaspoon of salt. Give it a quick stir and cook till the shallots turn translucent. 

Add in the rice and mix well, make sure all the grains are coated with that buttery oil, about 30 seconds. Pour in the broth just enough to cover all the grains each time and make sure to stir once a while to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot -

Pour in dry white wine towards the end and keep cooking. Adjust the texture with more broth if needed. 

When the rice is about ready, mix in sausage slices. Taste and see if more salt is needed. Remember that grated cheese is fairly salty so don't go overboard with the amount of salt here.

Transfer the risotto onto a serving plate. Grate generous amount of Parmigiano Reggiano all over and garnish with chopped cilantro or flat leaf parsley.

Try to use quality aged Parmigiano Reggiano if you can get a hold of it. It definitely got more depth in turns of flavor and saltiness. A high quality ingredient can totally make a big difference, especially for such a simple risotto recipe.

Other risotto recipes:

Mar 18, 2016

Tofu with a Kick - Seared and Seasoned with Aged Shaoxing Wine

This is not the usual light tofu dishes. Healthy still, but this recipe is packed with garlics, chilies, scallions, and most importantly, aged Shaoxing wine. It has to be good.

Seared tofu with aged Shaoxing wine -


  • 1 box/about 300 grams semi-firm tofu
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 to 4 red chilies
  • 1 stalk scallion
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon aged Shaoxing wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • Some olive oil
  • Some black pepper


Peel and roughly chop the garlic cloves. Discard the chili stems and chop into smaller pieces. Use less or more chilies depending on tolerance, I mean preference. Discard the scallion stem and chop into shorter sections.

Remove the tofu from the box and drain well. Cut in half lengthwise then cut into squares. One tofu usually yields about 12 smaller square pieces. Use a kitchen towel to absorb the moisture on the surface.

Mix the soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and sugar in a little container. Stir and make sure the sugar dissolves - 

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a non-stick pan and turn to medium high heat. Carefully transfer the tofu into the pan and sear till both sides turn slightly browned. Transfer the tofu to a plate, leaving any excess oil in the pan. 

You can also coat each tofu squares with flour before searing. If doing so, add in the tofu after the oil gets hot. The coating helps in holding up the sauce, making the tofu even more flavorful but more oily on the other hand. Either way tastes good.

In the same pan, drizzle more oil if needed, just enough to evenly coat the surface. Still using medium high heat, add in the garlic, chilies, and scallion. Cook till the garlic is about to get burnt, pour in the premixed sauce right away.

Give it a quick stir and wait till the sauce starts to bubble. Transfer the seared tofu back to the pan. Flip half way through making sure both sides are coated with the sauce. Keep searing till all the sauce is gone. You might want to lower the heat a bit if the sauce dries up too fast and need more time flipping the tofu squares.

Transfer onto a serving plate and sprinkle some black pepper.

Other recipes using tofu:

Mar 12, 2016

Grilled Rye Bread Sandwich with Peanut Butter, Fig Preserves, and Gouda

Rice and noodles are the two main sources of my carb intake, but once a while I do feel like having bread for breakfast or light lunch. Just thinking about a warm sandwich with cheese oozing from the center always unleash my cravings. The best ways to end a food craving - find it, make it, and eat it.

Grilled rye bread sandwich with peanut butter, fig preserves, and Gouda - 

Ingredients (1 to 2 portions)?

  • 2 rye bread slices 
  • 2 squares Gouda cheese
  • Some creamy peanut butter 
  • Some fig preserves
  • Some olive oil


Slice the rye bread, double the ingredients for two full servings -

Brush one side of the bread slices with olive oil. On the other side, take one slice of bread and spread some creamy peanut butter, the other one with fig preserves. Lay the Gouda cheese on one of the slices -

Combine the prepared bread slices to form a sandwich. Heat up a grill pan and transfer the sandwich over. Panini machine works even better. If using a grill pan, take a spatula and press down the sandwich. Flip when the bread has been heated up and the surface left with beautiful grill marks.

Cut in half -

Serve immediately so the cheese just oozes right in your mouth -

The sweet and savory combo definitely hits the spot. Maybe it's time to pick up more bread and cheese, just in case. 

Just in case. 

Other sandwich recipes:

Mar 7, 2016

Frozen Puff Pastry Recipe: Onion Tart with Bacon Cubes and Creamy Blue Cheese

It's kind of a clean-out-the-fridge savory tart recipe. There were some leftover creamy blue cheese and a small piece of chunky bacon. Instead of finishing the cheese with some bread and simply store the bacon in the freezer like I normally do, let's make something nicer and turn these leftover ingredients into a savory afternoon snack.

Onion tart with bacon cubes and creamy blue cheese -

Ingredients (4 to 6 portions)?

  • 1 sheet or 4 squares frozen puff pastry
  • Small chunk or 0.2 lb bacon
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • Some olive oil
  • Some creamy blue cheese (or other types of creamy cheese)
  • Some thyme


Defrost the puff pastry sheets according to the packaging instruction. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll out the defrosted puff pastry sheets cut into 4 to 6 smaller rectangles. Cut and reshape the sheets if needed. Transfer the squares onto the backing sheet. Cut a small slit on all four corners. Use the back of the knife to create a border line about 1/3 inch away from the outer edge then fold in the sides. Prick the center with a fork -

Peel and slice the onion. Cube the bacon. Use a pot or small pan, if using leaner part of bacon then drizzle in 1 tablespoon of olive. If using fatty bacon then there's no need for extra oil. 

Add in the bacon cubes and turn to medium heat. Stir once a while and sear till the fat has rendered and the edges turned slightly browned. Scoop out the bacon but leaving the dripping inside the pot -

Still using the same pot, add in sliced onion sprinkle some salt. Drizzle a little bit more olive oil if needed, just to evenly coat the bottom of the pot. Turn to medium low heat and sear the onion slices for about 10 minutes till the edges turned browned -

Pour in balsamic vinegar and keep cooking for another 15 to 18 minutes. Add the bacon back into the pot and mix well -

Spread the onion and bacon mixture to the center of the pastry sheets. Crumble some creamy blue cheese on top of the mixture. There's no need to brush egg wash on the sides. Into the oven for 15 to 18 minutes -

Once ready, remove from heat and let the tarts cool down a few minutes. Sprinkle some fresh thyme or lesser amount of dry thyme before serving -

Do not use too much salt when prepping the caramelized onion since the bacon and cheese already got some flavors. Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit for a more browned and nearly burnt aroma.  

Other recipe using frozen puff pastry:

Mar 1, 2016

祇園にしかわ (Gion Nishikawa) - Kaiseki Experience in Higashiyama, Kyoto

Located in Higashiyama Ward within walking distance of the famous Kiyomizu-dera, Gion Nishikawa, quietly situated in an alley not far away from the tourists crowded area -

My last two Michelin stars during this trip, a good choice indeed - 

As soon as I walked into the restaurant, all my senses received the same feedback - elegance and grace. Gion Nishikawa kept a minimal design and was decorated with fall-related art works during the month visited. The service was gentle and polite, and every dish was light yet filled with seasonal aromatic ingredients. Even the dining ware was carefully selected to reflect current scenes in the natural world. 

After numerous courses, my body was full but not overwhelmed. All the food I've eaten sits gently in my body and gradually transformed into energies. Maybe that's what a kaiseki meal will do to you, and maybe I've came a little closer to grasp the sense of a true kaiseki cuisine.

Spotted a calabash-shaped bottle in the center but didn't think too much. Instead, I was checking out the details of their semi-opened kitchen in the back -

Counter seat setting -

The chopsticks were covered by a shallow plate-shaped container. The material felt like wood, but it was as light as few pieces of paper.

The waitress in kimono brought over a hand towel, and the young chef was preparing the ingredients -

A small working section next to the young chef - 

That big pot in the back contains hot water.

Drink menu -

Ordered a glass of plum wine. The young chef might be asking me if I want it with water and ice cubes. Glad I nodded. It was almost sparkling wine-like texture, very refreshing yet a well-rounded sourish taste to start the meal -

And I finally figured out what that calabash bottle was. The head chef came out and greeted every customer before the service starts. Then the chef poured out some yuzu wine from that bottle. 

I requested for a more full-on course when making the reservation. Not sure if it was the reason, my sake container, the light wooden plate, was different and appeared more refined than others -

And the thin chopsticks revealed, hopefully I won't break it with my clumsy fingers -

First course: crab meat, daikon oroshi, citrus -

What a beautiful ginkgo leaf-shaped plate.

Slightly sweet hint from the crab meat but the daikon oroshi on top was also seasoned with sweet citrus juice. The leafy greens on the bottom seemed went through the pickling process, providing a gentle sourness to balance off the flavors. A lovely opening. 

Shirako and seafood ball -

The brain looking things are called shirako, or milt, or sperm sac. Shirako is considering a delicacy in Japanese cuisine, quite precious, also expensive.

Soft and paste-like texture paired with clean-cut stock. The katsuo based aroma from the stock permeated through my whole sinus system but not a single sticky sensation cling on my tongue -

The seafood ball was puffy, fluffy, yet slightly bouncy at the same time. 

Autumn fruit, persimmon-shaped container -

The chef was trying to explain the ingredients used in English but didn't go well. So I tried my best to figure out the details in Japanese. However, he did have a laminated cheat sheet under the counter showing some common ingredients in both Japanese and English. 

Persimmon, snapper, daikon oroshi - 

The fish skin was quickly torched before serving, its gentle burnt aroma matches perfectly with the juicy and sweet persimmon -

Young chef at work -

Sawara sashimi -

The skin was lightly grilled this time instead of torching, further concentrated the umami flavor. The sashimi itself stood well even without dipping in the soy sauce -

Grilled/baked dish -

At fist I wasn't sure if the darkened skin from the chestnut was edible or not. Took a bite and fell in love with it. The texture was harder then the actual chestnut, but as I kept chewing into it, the savory salty flavor kept coming through. 

Puffed rice seasoned with red miso underneath, added a lightly crunchy bite to the dish -

Hamo soup -

Found a translation for hamo - pike conger. Not sure if it's correct but hamo do look like an eel, long body and carries many thin bones. The restaurant did a good job picking out all the tiny bones, all I've left with was chunky and soft fish meat -

The stock was just one level heavier than the shirako version but still clean and crisp -

Hassun, seasonal side dishes -

Hassun here was way better than Toriyasa, even though I absolutely adore Toriyasa's comforting service. The sabazushi (mackerel sushi) in the back was fatty and satisfying -

And this hassun came with a mini chicken bowl -

Ikura (salmon roe) and grated Chinese yam inside. 

Underneath the maple leaf was perhaps by far my favorite bite of the ginkgo nut in my life -

Tempura ginkgo nut. 

The grainy coating was aromatic, I'm guessing they fried it with sesame oil but not quite sure. The large ginkgo nut inside had a surprisingly soft texture. The two completely different textures intertwined so well, who would ever know that such small ingredient can became my favorite among all other major components here.

The kitchen staff was preparing the clay pot rice -

The chef let me took some pictures first. Such a beautiful cookware brightened by brushes of green -

Chestnut rice for me, some other customers got mushroom rice instead -

And it came with miso soup, tsukemono, and hot tea -

Japanese really knows their rice. Every grain was bouncy and moist, of course not overly sticking to each other. As you chewed into the rice, a delicate sweetness came through, kind of like the aroma from the mochi. The chestnut scent also permeated into the grains -

The texture for the chestnut was unexpectedly tender. It's almost like steamed garlic slices, soft and moist, also delicate like lily bulbs, a fancy ingredient occasionally used in Asian cuisine. 

The server handed me a hot towel, signaling the end of savory courses. It's time for dessert.

Pear and pear sorbet -

The pear is very sweet but not the sticky kind. The sugary flavor transformed into aromatic scent, felt like I can "smell" the sweetness -

Matcha in the making - 

Matcha -

Gion Nishikawa walked me through the fall season by enriching all my senses. The dishes made, the ambiance created, and the arrangements selected, leaving a memorable trace of autumn in Kyoto. 

祇園にしかわ/Gion Nishikawa currently holds two Michelin star status.

祇園にしかわ (Gion Nishikawa)
京都市東山区下河原通八坂鳥居前下る下河原町 473
473 Shimokawaracho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto
Kyoto Prefecture 605-0825, Japan
Official website:

Extended reading: