Sep 27, 2016

A Lighter Option - Casarecce Pasta with Bacon Chunks and Smoked Salmon

A satisfying pasta dish doesn't have to be strong tasting or soak in heavy sauce all the time. This casarecce pasta uses bacon and smoked salmon to boost up the savory components while the garden peas and lime juice add a refreshing touch. Give it a try, you might fall for the hearty bite from the chunky bacon. 

Casarecce pasta with bacon chunks and smoked bacon -

Ingredients (4 to 5 portions)?

  • 1 bag/500 grams casarecce pasta (or other similar variations)
  • 1 box button mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 lb chunky bacon
  • 0.5 lb smoked salmon
  • 0.5 lb garden peas
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 tablespoon truffle salt
  • Some kosher salt
  • Some black pepper


Peel and cube the onion. Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves. Trim off the very bottom stem of the mushrooms then slice them. Cube the bacon. Tear the smoked salmon into bite size pieces. 

Bring a big pot of water to a boil and add a good few pinches of kosher salt. Pour in the pasta and cook till al dente, drain well and set aside for later use. If you time it well, all the other ingredients should be ready when the pasta just cooked to the right texture.

Take a big pan and turn to medium high heat. Add in cubed bacon and cook till the fat has been rendered but not over-browning the bacon. Scoop out the bacon chunks and leave the delicious fat inside.

Transfer cubed onion to the same pan along with 1 tablespoon of truffle salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Cook till the onion turns translucent then add in the garlic, cook for another 30 seconds or so.

Add in the mushroom and cook for about one minute. 

Add the garden peas to the mixture. Defrost and pat dry ahead if using frozen peas. Also squeeze in 1/2 lime juice, cook for a little bit longer so all the flavors can bind well.

Transfer the cooked pasta to the pan and mix well. Scoop some pasta to the serving plate. Sprinkle some black pepper if desired. Add a few pieces of smoked salmon to complete the dish.

Wait till you bite into salty bacon chunks, the sensation is incomparable to sliced version.  

Other pasta recipes:

Sep 22, 2016

Kimchi Chicken Stir Fry - The Sour and Spicy Kick will Make You Craving for More

Pickles are one of my kitchen staples. The varieties ranging from pearl onions, relish, jalapeño, chilies, and more. Serving on its own, pickles make a great side dish, but incorporating with another dish, pickles can be a great flavor booster.

Taking Korean kimchi for instance, which is usually paired with fatty pork since the acidity and spiciness well balance off the oily content. This time I'm using skin-on chicken thigh and the result was a mouth-watering rice killing dish. 

Kimchi chicken stir fry -


  • 250 grams/about 1 cup kimchi
  • 1 lb skin-on chicken thigh
  • 12 slices young ginger
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 stalk scallion
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon white sesame oil
  • Some toasted white sesame seeds


Peel and roughly chop the garlic cloves. Trim off the scallion stem, chop about 1/3 of the green part to little pieces and the rest into sections. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces. Peel and slice the young ginger.

Marinate the chicken with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of kimchi juice for 15 minutes.

Take a pan and sear the chicken, skin side down first if possible. There is no need to drizzle oil prior searing. Cook till slightly browned then scoop out for later use. 

Drizzle one teaspoon of white sesame oil to the same pan and turn to medium high heat. Toss in chopped garlic, scallion sections, and ginger slices. Cook till the garlic is about to get burnt then add in the kimchi. Stir fry for about 30 seconds.

Transfer the chicken back to the pan and cook till all the juice has been reduced. The mixture should appear semi-dried at this moment. Transfer onto a serving plate.

Sprinkle with toasted white sesame seeds and garnish with chopped scallion right before serving.

Don't forget the steamed rice!  

Other spicy Asian stir fry recipes:

Sep 15, 2016

Surf & Turf Pasta Finished with Generous Amount of Grated Bottarga

Bottarga is Italy's version of salted cured fish roe, across the ocean, Chinese has similar thing called salted mullet roe, or karasumi in Japanese. The most common way to serve it Chinese style is by wiping the roe with alcohol then grill it. Usually serve with leek, daikon, or pear. 

I saved some leftover salted mullet roe and stored in the freezer. Salted mullet roe/bottarga comes in handy when in need of a flavor boost, and its orange hue adds a color pop on the dishes.

Surf & turf pasta finished with generous amount of grated bottarga -

Ingredients (for 4 to 5 portions)?

  • 1 pack/500 grams linguine
  • 8 to 10 whole large shrimps
  • 1 medium sized steak
  • 2 squid
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons chopped sun dried tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons peeled chopped shallot
  • 2 tablespoons peeled chopped garlic
  • 2 red chilies
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 big handful asparagus
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 lemon
  • 12 whole pitted green olives
  • Some olive oil
  • Some salt
  • Some black pepper
  • Some bottarga (optional)


Remove the steak from the fridge and let it rest under room temperature for around 10 minutes before cooking. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on both sides. Cut the squid into rings and bite size pieces. 

Peel and finely shop the shallots and garlic cloves. Slice the olives into rings. Trim off the chili stems and chop into smaller rings. Zest one lemon and juice half of the lemon. Slice the asparagus. Peel and chop the zucchini into strips. Finely chop the sun dried tomatoes. 

Bring a big pot of water to a boil then add few pinches of salt to flavor the water. Add in the pasta and cook till al dente, once ready, drain well and set aside for later use.

Take a big pan, add in two tablespoons of olive oil and wait till it warms up. Add in whole shrimps and cut squid. Sear till about 90% cooked through, scoop out and wait till cool enough to handle by hand. Remove the shrimp heads and peel away the shells, or keep it intact if preferred. 

Use the same pan, add in one more tablespoon of olive oil and wait till it gets hot. Add in the steak and sear till both sides are browned a little, try to cook till medium rare. Once ready, remove from heat and let the meat rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.

Still using the same pan, pour in just a little bit of wine to deglaze the bottom. Use a wooden spatula to scrape out the brown bits sticking onto the pan. 

Add in shallots, garlic, chilies, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Mix and cook for about one minute.

Add in zucchini and asparagus. Stir fry till softens a little. Add in sun dried tomatoes and olives, cook for another 30 seconds or so.

Pour in the lemon juice and rest of the wine, bring to a boil then lower to medium heat. Add the lemon zest. 

Mix in the pasta and cook for one minute till incorporated will the sauce.

Pour the seared seafood back into the mixture, along with its flavorful juice. Mix gently. Plate the pasta and top with steak slices. Grate generous amount of bottarga all over to boost up the umami taste. 

If no bottarga on hand, tried aged Parmigiano Reggiano.

Other pasta recipes:

Sep 9, 2016

Stir-Fry Cabbage with Chinese Fermented Dried Soybeans - 豆酥高麗菜

How to describe Chinese fermented dried soybeans? The process of making it can be quite complicating, but it involves boiling, fermenting, and drying of the soybeans. The end product is semi-hard pallets that can be stored in the freezer up to months if needed. 

Try your luck at a Chinese grocery store, otherwise fried garlic can be one flavorful alternative. 

Stir-fry cabbage with Chinese fermented dried soybeans - 


  • 1/2 small to medium cabbage
  • 6 tablespoons fermented soybeans
  • 1 stalk scallion
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 red chilies
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon homemade flaky chili sauce


Tear the cabbage into large bite size pieces. Trim off scallion stem and chop the remaining section. Trim off the chili stems and finely chop the remaining. Peel the garlic cloves, give two cloves a few chops and finely chop the remaining three cloves. 

The fermented dried soybeans I got from a local market -

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a pan and turn to medium high heat. Once the oil warms up a little, add in the fermented dried soybeans and stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Add in scallion, chilies, and finely chopped garlic. Also season with 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, and some flaky chili sauce. 

Cook till the mixture is about to dry up completely, scoop out and set aside for later use. These soybeans will expand after absorbing all the oil and moisture. 

Use the same pan and add in the larger garlic pieces, drizzle more olive oil if needed, just to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Also add in 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook till fragrant and the garlic is about to get burnt. Turn to high heat and quickly add in the cabbage. Keep stir-frying till the cabbage reaches desired texture, I prefer a crunchier bite for this recipe.  

Transfer to a plate and top with the soybean mixture generously.

This soybean mixture also works well with steamed fish fillet. You get that soft texture from the fish and paired with crunchy, aromatic soybean mixture. Fingers crossed that you could find this Asian ingredient at the grocery store.

Other Asian stir fry recipes:

Sep 4, 2016

Sweet Tooth Recipe - Nutella and Black Currant Jam Layer Cake

Can't believe I've been holding cake pan set for more than a year and finally made something out of it last week. It's a set of six individual round shaped 6 inch pans, which saves some trimming works when making layer cakes. If you don't have the cake pan set, simple use larger baking dish then trim out the cake layers with a round shaped mold after baking.

Nutella and black currant jam layer cake - 

Ingredients (8 slices/servings)?

Cake - 

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick or unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs 
  • 1 cup buttermilk or heavy whipping cream (if can't find buttermilk)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Others -

  • Some Nutella
  • Some black currant jam
  • Some whipped cream


This cake recipe was adapted from the one provided by Wilton, the brand for my cake pan set. The original recipe uses a lot more sugar, but I toned it down and swapped out the spread with Nutella and black currant jam. 

Also this cake was eaten right away after baking so I simply spread some whipped cream all over for extra flavor and moisture. However, if intended to store in the fridge, try making an actual spread or only serve with whipped cream on the side when serving. You can also use equal part of chocolate and heavy whipping cream to make a chocolate ganache spread instead of using Nutella.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and oil the cake pan set by either using cooking spray or brush with melted butter.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a big bowl. All these will be the "dry bowl" of ingredients.

Take a larger bowl for the "wet ingredients." Use a mixer and beat the room temperature butter together with sugar till smooth and slightly fluffy. Keep beating in moderate speed and add in eggs one at a time. Pour in vanilla extract and mix well.

Blend in dry ingredients into the bowl for the wet ingredients in two batches. Keep mixing till fully incorporated.

Evenly distribute the mixture into 5 individual cake pans, or pour into a large baking dish. 

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Once ready, cool down for about five minutes before removing the cake.

Cut the crowns off if desired, but not necessarily. To assemble, this is what I did starting from the bottom layer:

Black currant jam

Finished off with whipped cream and serve immediately.

Black currant jam adds a nice touch of acidity and balance off the sweetness from the Nutella. Fresh strawberries and raspberries can do the same trick. 

It's a fairly straightforward and rustic chocolate cake recipe so just use whatever spreads and toppings you'd like. As long as it's satisfying, it's a good cake.

Other chocolate dessert recipes: