Feb 28, 2017

Healthier Version of String Beans with Fermented Dried Soybeans

Usually string beans are fried for this classic Asian dish, but to keep it on the healthier side, I boiled the string beans instead. To be honest, the flavor is not as satisfying as the oily version, but you still get all the essence from the fermented dried soybeans topping. Give and take, healthy vs. delicious, this dish provides something in between.

Healthier version of string beans with fermented dried soybeans -


  • 0.5 lb string beans
  • 4 tablespoons fermented dried soybeans
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 to 2 red chilies
  • 1 stalk scallion
  • 1/2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese rice cooking wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon granulated sugar


Trim off the scallion stem and finely chop the remaining section. Trim off the chili stems and finely chop the remaining section too. Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves. Peel and grate or finely chop the ginger.

Pinch the top and bottom tips of the string bean and pull downwards to remove the tough-to-chew strings.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the string beans. Cook till the texture reaches your preference. If prefer a fresher, crunchier string beans, cook for about one minute then blanch them. Transfer the string beans onto a serving plate.

Use a pan and drizzle some oil. Turn to medium high heat. Once the oil gets warm, add in scallion, garlic, chilies, ginger, and fermented dried soybeans. Cook till aromatic but not burning the garlic, should take less than a minute.

Add some salt along with a splash of Chinese rice cooking wine. Taste and adjust the flavor with salt. Give it a quick stir and cook till the mixture nearly dried up. 
Transfer the soybeans mixture on top of the string beans.

The fermented dried soybeans will expand during the cooking process, sometimes even double the size. You'll actually end up with much more toppings then it looks initially. 

The fried version tastes better, but definitely not as healthy as this one. With such strong and aromatic toppings, I can live with water boiled string beans for now. 

Other recipe using fermented dried soybeans:

Feb 22, 2017

Pickled Cabbage and Pork Stir-Fry (酸白菜炒豬肉)

I love adding sourish taste to my savory dishes, so there are a quite a lot of recipes involved some type of vinegar or citrus. Sometimes I don't even have to use these seasonings, instead, naturally fermented ingredients will do the job for me, like the pickled cabbage used here.

Pickled cabbage and pork stir-fry -


Marinade -

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine
1/2 tablespoon corn starch

Others -

0.7 lb to 1 lb thick cut pork slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb pickled cabbage
2 to 3 garlic cloves 
2 big red chilies 
1 stalk scallion (optional)


Cut the pork into bite size pieces. Mix together all the marinade ingredients and massage the pork with it. Marinate for at least 10 minutes before cooking.

Peel and roughly chop the garlic cloves. Trim off scallion stem and cut into about 2-inch long sections. Trim off chili stems and remove the seeds, cut diagonally. These larger sized chilies are not as spicy as smaller ones such as Thai chili, just choose whichever one per your preference.

Store-bought pickled cabbage can be very sourish, so it is recommended to rinse the cabbage under water then squeeze dry before cooking. Chop into shorter sections once dried.

Drizzle some oil to the pan and turn to medium high heat. Once hot, add in the pork along with any remaining marinade. Stir-fry till nearly cooked through, scoop out the pork and set aside for later use.

Use the same pan and remaining oil, add the garlic and chilies, cook till aromatic and the garlic turns slightly golden browned, but not burnt.

Bump up the heat a little bit. Transfer the cabbage to the pan and give it a quick stir, mainly just to heat it up in order to release the flavors.

Transfer the pork back to the pan, cook for another 30 seconds. If using scallion, add the scallion sections now and give it a quick stir before moving to a serving plate.

Try to use belly or other fatter section of the pork. The pork fat pairs very well with pickled cabbage since the sourness helps cutting through the oily taste but in a way the pork fat softens the sharp texture from the pickled cabbage.

See if you can find some pickled cabbage at your local Asian groceries, they should be found somewhere around the fridge aisle. 

Other meaty Asian stir-fry recipes:

Feb 18, 2017

Rice Cooker Recipe - Steamed Rice with Chicken and Veggies

Not everyone has the time to cook especially after long hours of work. I totally understand that. But I also know that dining out every night can get tiring. This rice cooker recipe might come to a rescue. The prep work is easy with little cleaning involved. Take a look and see if it can help with your busy life schedule.

Steamed rice with chicken and veggies -

Ingredients (for 5 to 6 portions)?

  • 1 deboned chicken thigh/leg
  • 3 cups brown rice (but I also mixed in some leftover white grains)
  • 2 cups diced king oyster mushroom
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups diced bamboo shoots
  • 1 1/2 cups julienned carrot
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 3/4 cup peas
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • Some salt
  • Some white pepper powder
  • Some dried seaweed (threads or flakes)


Cut the deboned skin-on chicken thigh/leg into big size pieces. You can also sprinkle some salt and pepper on both sides then sear the chicken for extra aroma. If doing so, simply sear the chicken skin side down first and wait till it turns slightly browned then flip to the other side. Sear for another minute then remove the meat from heat. Wait till it cools down then cut into bite size pieces.

Prepare the veggies and dice them into smaller cubes. You can use any veggies of your liking, but avoid leafy greens for this particular recipe. 

Add the brown rice to the rice cooker and add water, just a little bit above the grains especially the veggies will release some moisture during the cooking process too. However, if unsure, it's better to have slightly soft grains compared to tough and chewy kind. Just think of it as a not so watery porridge.

Add in the light soy sauce and mirin. Top the rice with all the diced ingredients, manage the heartier veggies on the bottom first. Per my case, bamboo shoots goes on the very bottom and corn kernels on top. Transfer the chicken to the rice cooker too.

Close the lid and simply press the cook button, let the rice cooker do the remaining work for you. Once ready, gently mix all the ingredients and transfer the rice to a serving dish. Top with dried seaweed flakes right before serving.

Use some white pepper powder for a flavor boost!

Other rice cooker recipe:

Feb 12, 2017

Something Fancy Yet Comforting - Braised Beef in Red Wine

This dish was served on New Year's Eve, something fancy yet comforting at the same time. The best part is that braised beef can be made one day ahead, which means one less thing to worry about when having guest/s over. One more bonus, the beef tastes even better after resting in the fridge overnight!

Braised beef in red wine -


  • 1.5 pounds prime rib or other cuts of beef
  • 0.2 pound/about one handful chorizo
  • 2 onions
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 10 to 12 button mushrooms
  • 1 3/4 cups chopped celery
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped carrot
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock or beef stock
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 can French onion soup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon sage powder
  • Some flat leaf parsley


My local butcher was having a great discount for prime ribs. I know it might be a waste using quality cut in braised dish, but hey, I got a good deal. On top of that, using such marbled part of the beef can significantly reduce cooking time. Usually it takes up to 4 to 6 hours to break down tougher part of the beef, but for prime rib, two hours does the trick.

Peel and dice the onions. Peel and dice the carrot. Dice the celery. Peel and chop the garlic cloves. Trim off the stems and dice the tomatoes. Clean and halve the button mushrooms. Cut the chorizo into smaller pieces. Cut the beef into large bite size pieces.

Drizzle some oil to a big pot, just enough to evenly coat the bottom. Turn to medium high heat then add in the onion, carrot, celery, along with salt and pepper. Give it a quick mix and cook till the onion starts to brown on the edges, takes about 5 minutes.

Add in garlic and chorizo, cook for another minute or two.

Transfer the beef into the pot and give it a light sear. 

Pour in the stock, onion soup, tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, fennel seeds, sage powder, and top with one bay leaf.

Bring to a full boil then lower the heat to keep it as a light boil. Cover with lid and cook for 1.5 hours. Stir once a while, also make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. The juice will reduce by at least 1/3, signaling the dish is almost ready to serve. 

Add the button mushrooms when the braised beef is about ready, otherwise the mushrooms will shrink when cooked too long. Cook for 10 minutes or less under low heat.

Remove bay leaf before serving. Transfer the stew to a serving dish and sprinkle some chopped parsley.

The day after, I cooked some fettuccine and mixed with leftover beef stew. The main protein dish turned into a hearty pasta meal. Tabasco also helped in changing the flavors with a fiery kick. Frankly speaking, I can eat this for one whole week.

It was a great way to start the new year.

Feb 6, 2017

Black Sesame Panna Cotta (Makes Two Medium Servings or 4 Small Servings)

The two often used spread for toasts in my household are peanut better and some sort of berry jelly. To switch up the taste for once, I bought a jar of black sesame paste to takeover the job of peanut butter. What else can I do with this black jar besides putting it on bread? I started digging on the possibilities and this is one of the ideas.

Black sesame panna cotta -

Ingredients (2 medium servings or 4 small servings)?

  • 1 packet/envelope gelatin powder
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened black sesame paste
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar (depend on taste)


Bloom the gelatin powder with 1/4 cup of milk, it should take about 5 to 10 minutes.

Take a saucepan and add in the remaining milk, sugar, and black sesame paste. While slowing bringing the mixture to a boil, whisk constantly till the paste turns smooth and sugar has been dissolved. 

Remove from heat once it starts to boil. Stir in the gelatin powder mixture and keep stirring.

Pour in ice-cold heavy whipping cream and continue to whisk. You'll feel the resistance after a minute or two because the mixture is slowly turning into a soft custard consistency. This step is very important, all that whisking work keeps the black sesame from sinking to the bottom. In the end, you'll have panna cotta with evenly distributed sesame bits. 

Pour the mixture into the ramekins, cover with cling foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

If choose to remove the panna cotta from the ramekin, make sure to run the knife along the rim and dip the ramekin in warm water for a moment. Pat dry the ramekin then invert the panna cotta to a serving plate.

Usually I would garnish panna cotta with mint leaves or fresh berries, but I don't think mint pairs that well with stronger tasting black sesame. Just by itself does the trick.

Feb 1, 2017

Simplified Version of Steamed Salmon with Salted Black Beans (豆鼓蒸魚)

This is basically a fuss-free cooking recipe since no heavy-duty preparation and aftermath required. All you need to do is fix up a few ingredients and marinate the salmon fillet. Pop the fish into a steamer, about 20 minutes later, you'll have a healthy side dish ready on the dinner table.

Simplified version of steamed salmon with salted black beans 豆鼓蒸魚 -


  • 0.5 lb salmon fillet
  • 2 tablespoons salted black beans (the wet, soaked in oil version)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice cooking wine
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 red chili
  • 1 small stalk scallion (only need the bottom white section)


Peel and slice the garlic cloves. Trim off the chili stem and finely chop the remaining part. Trim off the scallion stem and slice the white section into thin strips. Soak in ice-cold water to make the scallion curls up.

Add about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of water to the steamer, or prepare the steamer depending on its instruction.

Mix garlic slices, chopped chilies, salted black beans, soy sauce, and rice cooking wine in a container. Marinate the salmon with this mixture for about 10 minutes.

Transfer the fish along with its marinade to a steamable cookware. Into the steamer and steam for around 20 minutes. Wrap the container with cling foil first if needed, this helps preventing water droplets from falling into the container. 

Once ready, serve the fish as a whole or separate into single serving pieces. Take some white section of the scallion curls pat dry. Garnish on top of the fish right before serving.

There are many more elaborate versions of steamed salmon with salted black beans, but this one is easy and still hits most of the flavor profile. The key is to buy the best salted black beans possible. You can really taste the difference especially when only a handful of seasonings were used.

Other salmon recipes: