May 26, 2021

Garlic Butter Abalone 大蒜奶油鮑魚片

Even as canned food, canned abalone still come in wide price variations. It's better serve the expensive ones as simple as possible to truly showcase the quality and original flavor. As for the ones with much more affordable price tags, want to try butter it up a notch?

Garlic butter abalone -


  • 1 can abalone (215 grams solids)
  • 10 baby bok choy (or use the smaller center part)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 to 2 red chilies
  • Some chopped scallion
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon black vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons abalone juice
  • Some corn starch and water mixture


Remove the abalone from the can and slice them. Save some juice aside.

Use baby bok choy, or simply peel away the bigger outer layers and use the tender center only. Slightly trim off the bottom but still able to keep all the leaves intact.  

Bring a small pot of water to a boil then quickly dip these bok choy in boiling water for about 30 seconds. Drain and set aside for later use.

Peel and chop the garlic cloves. Destem and chop the red chilies. Destem and chop the scallion.

Use a non-stick pan, add the butter and turn to medium high heat. Wait till butter melts, add in garlic and red chilies, cook for about 30 seconds. You'll know when that garlicky buttery aroma starts to fill the kitchen, just make sure not to burn the garlic bits.

Add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of black vinegar, and 4 tablespoons of saved abalone juice. Let it cook for a short moment and be careful not to dry out the sauce.

Transfer sliced abalone over and cook for 30 seconds to one minute. Not too long since the abalone was already cooked through. Just enough time to let the sauce cling on every slice.

Mix in some corn starch and water on the side. Just a little bit will do. Turn to low heat then pour over the corn starch water mixture while gently move around these ingredients to prevent lumping. Cook till the whole thing starts to thicken a little, but not too lumpy.

Arrange bok choy around the serving plate. Transfer the gooey sauce along with abalone slices to the center of the plate. Sprinkle some chopped scallion on top.

Really, who wouldn't love it when butter meets garlic? 

Stronger seasonings are extra helpful especially there's this distinct flavor from canned abalone, somewhat like a compact umami scent, more so metallic as some would describe. A slight touch from the black vinegar also does the trick to further brighten up only the good side of canned abalone. 

I don't usually buy canned abalone myself, but it's one of the common fancy gifts to give to someone among Asians. It's kind of like receiving a nice bottle of wine or sorts. If you happen to have canned abalone on hand and not quite sure what to do with it, perhaps giving this recipe a try? Butter and garlic, this route can't be bad at all right?

Extended reading:

May 20, 2021

Sweet Potato Congee 地瓜粥

After making Taiwanese sweet potato and taro balls for dessert, I've got some sweet potato left. Instead of prepping another sweet dessert or make sweet potato fries, let's go simple this time.

Sweet potato congee 地瓜粥 -

Ingredients (about 5 to 6 servings)?

  • 2 measuring cups white short grain rice
  • 20 measuring cups water
  • 2~2 1/2 cups loosely packed peeled sweet potato chunks


Pay attention here, I've used regular "measuring" cups for this recipe instead of the smaller Chinese rice measuring cups. However, no matter what type of measuring cup you use, just remember that the rice to water ratio is about 1:10.

Rinse the rice using a fine mesh strainer to wash away some extra starch on the grains. Transfer the rice to a big pot and pour in proportioned water accordingly. Per my case, 2 measuring cups of rice with 20 measuring cups of water.

Turn to medium heat and cook till it starts to boil, should take around 20 minutes. Lower the heat to keep it at a simmer. Continue to cook with lower heat for another 20 minutes or till the grains reach preferred congee consistency. Remember to stir the mixture from time to time, especially scrap the bottom to prevent sticking or burning.

Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into smaller chunks. Add to the congee and cook for about 5 minutes. 

Turn off the heat then cover with a lid. Let the residual heat to continue cooking the sweet potatoes, about 20 to 30 minutes. 

The sweet potatoes will be like chopstick-tender in the end. If not soft enough, keep the lid on for a little bit longer.

It's so easy to make, and works great with salty side dishes or pickles. If you never had sweet potato congee before, it's not as sweet as one would have imagined. The flavor has been diluted, so it's not strange at all serving with savory dishes.

Also don't underestimate what two cups of rice can do. Only two measuring cups, it turned out a big pot of congee in the end, enough to feed a family of six for one meal. However, if you happened to have leftover sweet potato congee, simply heat it up using a steamer, or use low heat on the stove. Add a little bit of drinkable water once at a time if the congee appears too dry for your liking.


Extended reading:

May 14, 2021

Dairy Free Chicken and Black Rice Soup

Taiwan was once the safest place when talking about the COVID-19 outbreak. It still is one of the well-shielded countries against the virus, but perhaps that's the reason delaying citizens to get their vaccines. 

To be honest, I'm a little worried. It's like dealing with an invisible enemy not knowing where it'll strike or when it'll pop out. Seriously considering getting vaccinated myself, but AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine is the only available option now (for me) in Taiwan. It's rather risky per my opinion getting AZ vaccine at the moment. Still debating what's the best thing to do. Meanwhile, eat healthy, sleep well, and exercise in order to build up a good immune system, that I can keep up for sure.

Dairy free chicken and black rice soup -

Ingredients (about 5 to 6 full servings)?

  • 1 1/2 cups black rice or wild rice (regular measuring cup)
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 4 cups peeled and cubed celery
  • 2 cups peeled and cubed carrot
  • 20 button mushrooms
  • 1 big bundle spinach
  • 1 onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Some salt
  • Some black pepper


Peel and dice the onion. Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves. Peel and cube the carrot. Peel and cut the celery into smaller chunks. Clean and trim off the very bottom of the button mushrooms. Section the spinach.

Cut the chicken breasts into smaller chunks. If there's any leftover rotisserie chicken or turkey, even better.

Use a big pot, drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and turn to medium high heat. Add in onion, garlic, celery, and carrot. Also add in 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Give it a quick mix and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir these ingredients once a while.

Transfer the chicken over and cook for couple more minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of herbes de Provence. Give it a quick mix.

Pour in about 8 cups of chicken stock along with 1 cup of dry white wine and 1 1/2 cups of black rice. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Add in two thyme sprigs on top. Put the lid on and let it simmer for about 40 minutes, or till the rice reaches desired texture.

Pick out the thyme sprigs. Transfer spinach and button mushrooms over. Keep simmering till these two ingredients cooked through. Squeeze in some lemon juice to add a brighter note.

Scoop the soup to serving bowls and add some freshly ground black pepper on top.

It's a very versatile recipe. Take the protein for instance, you don't have to use plain chicken. In fact, if you have rotisserie chicken or turkey leftover, use it. It'll actually add more flavor to the final product.

I would love to use wild rice too instead of black rice, but I have been searching for it for weeks, nowhere to be found, not even online. That's why my soup got this dark purple hue from the black rice. However, I have no problem with dark food at all, they only speak "even more tasty" to me.

While this virus thing is still going on around the world, stay safe there.

Other hearty soup recipe:

May 8, 2021

King Oyster Mushroom and Chinese Basil Stir-Fry 九層塔杏鮑菇

If you prefer a hearty bite of mushrooms, perhaps slightly chewy and bouncy instead of soft texture, king oyster mushroom can be one of your best bets. Unlike other shiitake or button mushroom, king oyster mushroom doesn't shrink as much under extended cooking time. Also thanks to its sturdy nature, king oyster mushroom can withstand heavier seasonings or stronger cooking methods such as deep-fried or stir-fried. Take this following recipe as one stance.

King oyster mushroom and Chinese basil stir-fry 九層塔杏鮑菇 -


  • 8 medium king oyster mushroom
  • 320 grams ground pork
  • 1 handful Chinese basil 
  • 4 garlic cloves 
  • 2 red chilies
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce paste
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon aged Chinese Shaoxing wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or other preferred cooking oil


Use the leaves only, roughly chop the Chinese basil. Destem then roll out the seeds from the red chilies. Cut the chilies into tiny rings. Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves. Cut the king oyster mushroom into bite size chunks.

Take a pan, drizzle about 2 tablespoons of cooking oil or enough to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Turn to medium high heat. Add in garlic and let it cook for about 30 seconds. Check and make sure not to burn the garlic.

Add in ground pork and give it a quick stir-fry to separate the pork bits, about 30 seconds. Pour in 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce paste, 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce, 1 teaspoon of aged Chinese Shaoxing wine, and 1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar. Mix and cook for another minute or two.

Transfer king oyster mushroom over and stir-fry till all the mushroom chunks have absorbed the seasonings. You'll know when the mushroom starts to darken a little bit, and the sauce begins to dry. Lower the heat a little if needed. This should take about 3 minutes.

Mix in chopped Chinese basil and give it a quick stir. Plate and garnish with chili rings.

For a spicier taste, add 1 or 2 more chopped red chilies together with chopped garlic in the beginning.

If you're cooking for kids, don't worry about the chili rings on top. They're more for the presentation and not really that spicy at all, since we already removed the seeds early on.

Other recipes using Chinese basil:

May 2, 2021

Tofu Skin and Cordia Dichotoma Stir-Fry 破布子豆包

Check out my earlier post for more details on cordia dichotoma, also known as "pua po ji" in Taiwan. As for this post, I won't go into much information here again. Instead, let's figure out which type of "tofu skin" I'm referring to. 

You can find a wide variety of tofu products nowadays, and sometimes they all go by the simple name "tofu skin." The one I'm using for this recipe was fried but still got a soft texture, not the hardened crunchy kind. Try to find rectangular-shaped version with pale yellow, brownish skin. If you can't find fresh tofu skin, you can seek for frozen substitute at Chinese or Japanese grocery stores. As for canned cordia dichotoma, definitely easier to spot one at a Chinese location.

Tofu skin and cordia dichotoma stir-fry 破布子豆包 -


  • 2 large sheets tofu skin
  • 5 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons cordia dichotoma (seeded)
  • 1 handful Chinese basil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 to 2 red chilies
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or preferred cooking oil
  • 2 tablespoons drinking water
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar


Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms with room temperature water till softens, about 20 minutes. Drain out the water then pat dry the mushrooms. Remove the stems and slice the caps into strips.

Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves. Destem and finely chop the red chilies. Roughly chop the Chinese basil leaves only, not using the stems here. Squeeze out the seeds from the cordia dichotoma.

Drizzle enough cooking oil to evenly coat the bottom of the pan, about 2 tablespoons. Turn to medium high heat. Once warmed up, sear the tofu skin sheets about 1 to 2 minutes per side, or till slightly browned. Remove from heat and cut into bite size rectangular pieces.

Still using the same pan, wipe out excess oil with a kitchen towel first. Under medium high heat, sear the shiitake mushrooms till aromatic, then add in seeded cordia dichotoma, garlic, and chilies. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds, before the garlic starts to burn.

Transfer tofu skin back to the pan. Add in 1 teaspoon of soy sauce just for the color, I think darker brownish color makes this dish more appetizing. Also add in about 2 tablespoons of drinkable water and 1/4 teaspoon of sugar. Give it a quick mix then continue to cook for about one more minute. 

Lastly, mix in Chinese basil, a quick stir-fry would do. Plate and serve.

Usually cordia dichotoma are not seeded prior in most dishes. People tend to carefully bite into them and remove the seeds on the spot, some don't even bother to eat it since the flavors have already been released to the seasonings. However, I want to fully utilize cordia dichotoma, so the best way is to remove the seeds first, so I can enjoy the dish without worrying about breaking my teeth.

A little troublesome in the beginning, but it'll worth the effort, trust me.

Other recipes using cordia dichotoma: