Aug 28, 2017

Cold Noodles with Refreshing Black Sesame Sauce (黑芝麻涼麵)

Still surviving this scorching summer heat? Since we can't really make the rising temperature go away overnight, at least we can try to cool ourselves down with some appetizing cold dishes.

But don't take this cold noodles with black sesame sauce lightly. Despite its touch of coldness, the flavors are definitely up there with the help of Asian seasonings.

Cold noodles with refreshing black sesame sauce -

Ingredients (for two)?

  • 2 portals fresh noodles (thinner version or the oiled yellow noodles)
  • 1 skinny cucumber
  • 1/2 lb chicken tender or chicken breast
  • Few drops olive oil
  • Some bean sprouts or julienned carrot (optional)

Sauce - 

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons black sesame sauce
  • 2 tablespoons black vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili sauce (along with some chili oil)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves


Most of the Chinese cold noodles with sesame sauce come with brownish sesame sauce made with white sesame seeds. But the one used here is made by black sesame seeds. There are many versions of black sesame sauce sold in the market, be sure to pick up the unsweetened version. The sweetened version is mostly used as a bread spread, but with unsweetened kind, you get to decide if the sauce transforms into dessert or savory dishes just like this cold noodles recipe.

Besides different types of sesame sauce, the noodles come with many varieties too. Most of the commercial Chinese cold noodles are yellowish. You can also find it at the grocery store, usually oiled to prevent sticking. My local noodles stand asked if I am going to cook and enjoy the noodles right away. I said yes, and she recommended me to use fresh noodles instead.

It was a good choice. The flavors are lighter and fresher. 

Simply bring a pot of water to a boil then cook the noodles till some chewiness still remains. Drain the noodles and quickly transfer to a big bowl filled with icy cold water. Once the noodles turned cold, drain again and mix with few drops of olive oil. Transfer the noodles to serving dishes. 

Boil the chicken first. Once cooked, set aside and wait till cool enough to handle by hand. Tear or chop the chicken into strips or smaller pieces.

Peel and julienne the skinny cucumber. Peel and julienne the carrot if using. Blanch the bean sprouts if using too. Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves.

Mix the black sesame sauce, black vinegar, soy sauce, chili sauce along with some oil, lemon juice, sesame oil, sugar, and chopped garlic. Make sure the sugar is fully dissolved. Taste and adjust with more seasonings if needed.

Mix the noodles with some sauce first. Arrange chicken and other toppings on top. Drizzle more sauce throughout.

You can switch the ingredients used for the sauce per your liking. Some people like to use grated garlic instead of finely chopped version. However, I do like the texture and spicier kick from chopped garlic. The use the lemon juice is not a common thing too, but I love finding such a refreshing aroma from the heavier tasting sauce. 

Don't ever let recipes tie you up, be your own recipe creator and have fun with testing ingredients and combinations. Sure, sometimes you have to brave it up and finish off the scary creations. Trust me, it'll get better over time and soon enough you'll find yourself licking the plates asking for more. 

Other cold dish recipes:

Aug 22, 2017

Aromatic Meal - Curry Fried Rice

Bell pepper rarely shows up on my shopping list, and this colorful ingredient also seems absent from my family's dining table during my childhood. However, I guess taste does change over time and I start to appreciate bell pepper more throughout the years, especially when it's used for pizza topping! Who can resist pizza with sausages and bell pepper baked to perfection!?

Grilled bell peppers and pickled bell peppers are now my two favorite ways to enjoy these color veggies. 
Bell peppers can withstand stronger-tasting seasonings such as curry powder and cumin powder. So this time, I'm going to incorporate bell peppers into my curry fried rice recipe. 

Curry fried rice -

Ingredients (makes about 6 to 8 portions)?

  • 1/2 rice cup quinoa
  • 3 rice cups basmati rice
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 to 3 large king oyster mushrooms
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 to 2 eggplants (if using shorter and skinny variety then use 2 instead)
  • 1 small can green peas
  • 2 stalks scallion
  • 1 to 2 red chilies
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • Some salt
  • Some black pepper

Chicken marinade:
  • 2 tablespoons Japanese tsuyu
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder


Soak the quinoa first for about 10 to 20 minutes. Wash the basmati rice then pour the quinoa and its soaking water to the rice cooker, mix together with basmati rice. Cook the rice mixture with a little bit less water than usual in order to get the right texture for the fried rice. Fluff the grains once ready.

Ideally, drier and firmer grains are more suitable for fried rice. You can also precook the grains the day before then store in the fridge overnight. It will help drawing out some moisture in such cold and dry environment.

Cut the chicken breasts into smaller cubes and massage with the marinade ingredients. Cover and transfer to the fridge, let it marinate for at least 6 hours up to overnight.

Take the chicken out of the fridge a little earlier before cooking, about 10 minutes. That way the meat won't be too cold when adding to the pan.

Peel and cube the onion. Destem and finely chop the red chilies. Discard the seeds and cube the bell peppers. Cube the king oyster mushrooms. Destem, peel, and slice the eggplants. Drain the canned peas.

Destem and chop the scallion, separate the white and green sections.

Add the butter to a big pan and turn to medium high heat. Once the butter starts to melt, add in cubed onion along with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Give it a quick stir then add in the white sections of chopped scallion and red chilies. Mix again and cook till the edges of the onion turns slightly browned.

Transfer the chicken into the pan and cook till about half way cooked through.

Add bell pepper and king oyster mushrooms, mix and cook for about 2 minutes. Now transfer the eggplants over and cook till softened. 

Add in 1 teaspoon of cumin powder, 2 teaspoons of curry powder, and 1 more teaspoon of salt. Mix well and cook for another minute or two.

Add in drained peas in the end. However, if using fresh peas then add to the pan earlier. Taste and adjust the flavors with salt or even more cumin/curry powder. It should be on the saltier side so the flavors will balanced out when the grains are mixed in.

Mix in the quinoa and basmati rice mixture in two to three batches. Make sure every grain is coated with the seasonings but try not to over mix it, otherwise the rice might turn sticky and even paste-like.

Plate the curry fried rice and garnish with green section of the chopped scallions and perhaps some more freshly ground black pepper.  

Think about it, this might actually be my first recipe using bell pepper on Maybe it's time to explore some other ingredients that I don't get to eat as mush when I was a kid. 

Other fried rice recipes: 

Aug 16, 2017

Dark Chocolate with Candied Violets and Hazelnuts

What kind of souvenirs do you get when visiting Vienna? My answer will definitely be food related. While most tourists buy Mozartkugel, kind of like pistachio marzipan combined with nougat and chocolate, I got kandierte veilchen instead. These purple pieces of candied violets just too beautiful to let go.

Even though the candied violets can be pleasing to the eye, consuming in bulk can numb the palate and turn the elegant flowery aroma into soapy taste. In order to make these violets into something I cannot keep my hands off, chocolate bar is the answer.

Dark chocolate with candied violets and hazelnuts -

Ingredients (makes about two bars)?

  • 2 or 200 grams dark chocolate bars, 70% to 80% preferred
  • 1/4 cup candied violets, or other candied flowers
  • Small handful or about 20 to 30 grams hazelnuts


It's actually very easy to make this decorated chocolate bar. If using whole nuts, put the nuts into a Ziploc bag and smash them into smaller pieces with something hard, such as a meat tenderizer hammer or even the end of the chopstick. Line a baking dish with parchment paper.

Prepare a double boiler, break the chocolate into smaller pieces and start melting them. Stir the melted chocolate and wait till glistening and free of lumps. Pour the melted chocolate to the prepared baking dish.

Sprinkle crushed nuts and candied violets throughout. Transfer uncovered baking dish to the fridge for at least 2 hours or till fully hardened.

Once ready, remove from fridge and take out the parchment paper. Transfer the chocolate onto a wooden board. Cut or break the chocolate into large pieces.  

Let your imagination run free, use other types of nuts or even freeze-dried fruits to make the chocolate bars. My Instagram friend saw my earlier update about this chocolate and would like to try some, so I'm going to make a fancier version next time. Perhaps using both the dark and white chocolate with freeze-dried berries? I'll share the recipe if it turns out irresistible later on!

Other chocolate-related recipes:

Aug 10, 2017

Tofu Veggies with Salted Black Beans

Chicken stock was used in this recipe. However, if you want to go to the vegetarian route, swap it out with vegetable stock, the end result is just as healthy and delicious.

Tofu veggies with salted black beans -


  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 big bamboo shoot
  • 10 to 12 shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 box fried tofu (usually comes as square or triangle-shaped)
  • Big handful edamame
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 to 2 red chilies
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce paste (蔭油膏)
  • 1/2 tablespoon salted black beans (豆鼓)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Some chicken stock
  • Some corn starch/water mixture
  • Some sesame oil


If using fresh beans instead of already cooked edamame, blanch the beans first and set aside for later use. If edamame comes with pods attached, simply squeeze out the beans.

Peel and dice the garlic cloves. Trim off the chili stems and finely chop the remaining sections. Peel and slice the onion.

Peel and slice the carrot. Peel away the fibrous layer from the bamboo shoots and slice the softer section. Remove the shiitake stems and break the cap in half. 

As for the pre-fried tofu, this prep work is not necessary but recommended in order to draw out excess oil or any unwanted fried flavors. Bring a pot of water to a boil and quickly dip the tofu in boiling water. Drain and set aside

Drizzle enough olive oil to evenly coat the bottom of the pan or a pot. Turn to medium high heat and add in the onion, salt, and pepper. Give it a quick stir and cook till the onion slices turn translucent. Add in chopped garlic and cook till aromatic.

Transfer tougher veggies into the pan first, such as bamboo shoots and carrot, especially if soft carrot is preferred. Cook for about a minute.

Add in shiitake mushrooms and tofu. Mix a little then put in the soy sauce paste and salted black beans. Pour in some chicken or vegetable stock, just till it reaches about 1/3 heights of the ingredient. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to keep it at a simmer. Add in edamame or other types of green beans. Cook for another minute or two.

Have some corn starch and water mixture ready. Evenly pour into the pan while gently stirring the veggies at the same time to prevent lumps. This dish is about done when the veggies turn slightly gooey and sticking to one another. Drizzle some sesame oil for extra aroma right before serving. 

You can also add some finely chopped cilantro to brighten up the flavors. Unlike regular Asian stir-fry veggies made with flamy wok fire, the slightly gooey version always seems extra comforting. It makes a great bento side dish too.

Other recipes using salted black beans: 

Aug 4, 2017

Hearty Cavatelli Soup with Ground Chicken and Tons of Veggies

Costco is like a playground for me and once a while I find pretty good quality ingredients there. Usually I would pick up some organic pasta and chicken stock, but this time, I saw a rare find in the frozen food section - cavatelli pasta frozen and shipped from Italy. 

Of course I'm not going to let these semolina goodies go. Brought them home and figured a hearty soup should work really well for this type of small pasta shells.

Hearty cavatelli soup - 

Ingredients (about one big pot)?

  • 500 grams cavatelli pasta
  • 0.5 lb ground chicken
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed celery (including the leafy section)
  • 1 cup peeled and cubed carrot
  • 1/2 cup peas 
  • 1 big bundle spinach or 1 pack of baby spinach
  • 8 cups unsalted chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Some salt
  • Some freshly ground black pepper
  • Some lemon zest (optional)
  • Some Parmigiano Reggiano (optional)


Prepare a medium pot and pour in the chicken stock. Warm up the stock on the side. 

Prepare a big pot of water and generously add some salt in it. Once boiling, pour in the cavatelli pasta and cook till al dente but leaning towards the chewier side. We will finish cooking the pasta when adding them to the soup. Once ready, drain and set aside for later use. Try to time it well so the pasta is ready when the soup is ready too.

Peel and cube the onion, peel and cube the carrot, cube the celery. Tear the spinach into smaller sections if needed.

Take a big non-stick soup pot and drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bring to medium high heat. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.

Give it a quick stir and wait till the onion turns translucent. Add in cubed veggies. You can also add in the peas now if a softer bite is desired, otherwise, add the peas towards the end. 

Add another 1/2 teaspoon of salt and give it a stir. Cook till these veggies softened, it should take a few minutes at least.

Add in ground chicken and gently stir-frying the mixture to help breaking up the meat. Otherwise the ground chicken might stick together and turn into tiny meatball-like sizes. Once cooked through, pour in warm stock then bring to a boil. Add in spinach and cooked pasta. Bring to a boil again then lower the heat to keep it at a simmer. Cook till cavatelli reaches your desired texture.

Taste and adjust the flavor with salt and pepper. You can add some lemon zest and turn off the heat right away. It will brighten up this hearty soup. You can also grate some Parmigiano Reggiano when serving the cavatelli soup. It will add another layer of umami yumminess. 

This recipe should be enough to feed 6 hungry people when paired with some bread or sandwich. Perhaps some blueberries for a light and sweet ending? 

I also like to eat it with extra freshly ground black pepper a few dashes of Tabasco. Hearty plus spicy make a great combo in my opinion. 

Other recipes using shorter type pasta: