Jun 28, 2022

Salted Chocolate Pretzel Bark

The easiest way to making it a "salted" recipe is by simply using already salted pretzels to begin with. But if you prefer to control the amount of salt used, go with the plain version. That way you can be the sole person in charge of the amount of salt that will be adding to the chocolate coating.

Salted chocolate pretzel bark - 

Salted chocolate pretzel bark


  • 2 cups salted pretzel
  • 170 grams semi-sweet chocolate 
  • Some salt flakes (if needed)


Line a baking dish with parchment paper, it doesn't have to be neat especially we're going to crush the pretzel in the end.

Lining baking dish with parchment paper

Set up a double boiler. Either use chocolate chips or break the whole chocolate into smaller pieces. Melt the chocolate and stir till evenly velvety in the end.

Salted pretzels

Mix in pretzels.

Mixing pretzels with melted chocolate

Pour the entire mixture to the baking dish, try to even out the surface.

Adding melted chocolate and pretzels to baking dish

Into the fridge and wait till it firms up, at least 2 hours just to be safe. Once ready, remove it from the fridge and break into smaller chunky pieces. I did it with my own hands, but of course you can use a tool like knife handle.  

Salted chocolate pretzel bark

If using plain pretzel, sprinkle just a tiny pinch of salt flakes on top prior transferring the baking dish to the fridge.

To be honest, I was too greedy on the salt for the first batch. I was already using salted pretzels but I even sprinkled a little bit more salt flakes in the end. Needless to say, my sweet and savory snack tasted like a solid sea water mess. 

So rest assured that the recipe I presented here has been tested and fool-proof. Just remember to go easy on the salt used. Worst case, you can always add more salt in the end, it's better safe than sorry. Trust me, I know.

Other chocolate related recipes:

Jun 23, 2022

Tomato and Beef Pot 番茄牛肉鍋

Back in the days, when I first moved to California, I was still getting used to the whole new place. Everything was new, such as school, friends, even smaller things like where to eat, and where can I buy groceries. As for cooking at home, in order to keep it simple while I was still adjusting to a whole new kitchen setting, sometimes I would just toss everything into a big pot and use store-bought Chinese soup base to make a hot pot-like meal.

Most of the time it'll be spicy hot pot based stock, and once a while the plainer version but I'll prep up some sacha sauce on the side. Now that I've grown up, also much more experienced in the kitchen, I still like to prepare a hot pot based meal once a long while. However, this time around, my pot of easy meal got a little upgrade.

Tomato and beef pot 番茄牛肉鍋 - 

Tomato and beef pot


  • 2 to 3 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 can/14.5 oz diced tomatoes
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 square/1 box fried bean curd
  • 1 pack white shimeji mushroom
  • 1/4 small cabbage
  • 1 small bundle cilantro
  • 12 slices beef
  • 2 tablespoons light-tasting cooking oil
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 corn on the cob
  • Some baby Chinese cabbage
  • Some baby corn
  • Few pumpkin slices
  • Few carrot slices
  • Other ingredients of your liking


Peel and slice the onion. Chop the tomatoes. Slice the fried bean curd to triangular shaped chunks. Trim-off the ends for the mushroom and separate them to individual pieces. Chop the corn on the cob to 3 to 4 shorter chunks.

Tear the cabbage to smaller pieces. Destem the cilantro. Also prep all the other optional ingredients. Use whichever ingredients you would normally enjoy in a hot pot or shabu shabu.

Bring out a pot or per my case, a clay pot. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of oil and turn to medium heat. Once warmed up, add in onion slices along with 1 teaspoon of salt. Sear till the onion turns translucent. 

Cooking onion slices till translucent

Add in chopped tomatoes and stir-fry till softened.

Cooking chopped tomatoes till softened

Pour in canned diced tomatoes along with its juice. Also pour in 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock. Season with extra 1 teaspoon of salt here too. Bring up the heat to a boil then lower to keep at a simmer.

Cooking chopped tomatoes and canned diced tomatoes

Arrange tougher ingredients to the pot, like corn on the cob, cabbage, carrot, and pumpkin. Put on the lid and cook for around 5 minutes while still keeping it at a slightly boiling stage.

Cooking tougher hot pot ingredients

Remove the lid and arrange all the remaining ingredients over. Transfer beef slices over too, I put them in the center. Put the lid back on and wait till the beef is nearly cooked through, about 2 minutes. 

Cooking softer ingredients and beef slices for hot pot

Note that I've only used 2 teaspoons of salt for the entire pot but you can always taste and adjust with more seasonings.

Tomato and beef pot

However, keeping it on a lighter side means you can prep up extra dipping sauce if preferred.

Tomato and beef pot

Some sauce suggestions, us Taiwanese especially love it with some sacha sauce, others like it spicy with freshly chopped chilies along with soy sauce. As for me, this simple and slightly sourish base is just what I needed at the moment.  

Extended reading:

Jun 16, 2022

Chicken and Gobo Takikomi Gohan (鶏ごぼうの炊き込みご飯)

The first time when I added thinly sliced gobo to rice cooker, I was surprised by the result. Basically all the gobo were gone, it's like they all melted into the rice. You can still taste it and smell it, but the actual shape no longer present. The only few remained were the ones that I didn't do a good job chopping, so these gobo were quite chunky to begin with. Even that, the gobo became soft and almost airy in a way after around one hour in the rice cooker.

I liked it. In fact, I found myself enjoying the scent of gobo with soft and delicate texture, instead of its pre-cooking woody-like appearance. However, I'll leave that option to you, either thinly sliced the gobo, or just give it a rough chop for a heartier bite.

Chicken and gobo takikomi gohan (鶏ごぼうの炊き込みご飯) - 

Chicken and gobo takikomi gohan

Ingredients (about 6 to 8 portions)?

  • 4 rice measuring cups brown rice
  • 1 gobo/burdock root (mine was about 35cm/nearly 14 inches long)
  • 370 grams/0.8 lb chicken tender
  • 1 pack/100 grams white shimeji mushroom
  • 1 small bundle baby bok choy
  • 1/2 medium carrot
  • 3/4 cup green peas
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons triple condensed Japanese tsuyu
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sake (rice cooking wine)
  • Some water


Using rice measuring cup and scoop 4 cups of rice to the inner pot of the rice cooker. Rinse the rice and drain out the liquid.

Remove the tendons from the chicken tenders and slice to bite size pieces. Marinate the chicken with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of sake. Mix and make sure all the pieces have been coated with the seasonings. Let it marinate while prepping other ingredients.

Marinating chicken tender

Bring a medium pot to a boil and quickly blanch the peas. Simply let it cook for about 1 minute, drain, and transfer to a bowl of icy cold water. Once cooled down, drain again and set aside for later use.

Blanching green peas

There is no need to peel the gobo, but make sure to rinse and wash away all the dirt if any. You can either slice it with a knife, or "shave" it instead. 

Shaving burdock root

The way I do it is by holding the gobo in one hand and shave it to slices using a knife on the other hand. You might get uneven thickness pieces but I think it's good to have different textures in the end. Plus nearly all the thinly sliced gobo will "disappear" after cooking. There is no need to soak the gobo in vinegar water, in which some will do that to prevent the gobo from turning brown.

Cut-off the end, peel, and julienne the carrot. Trim-off the ends then tear the baby bok choy to single leafy pieces. Trim-off the ends for the white shimeji mushroom and separate them to single pieces.

Transfer these prepped ingredients on top of brown rice, except the peas. It doesn't really matter which item goes first or goes to the bottom. Eventually they'll all be cooked and fluffed together with rice. What I did was adding gobo first, then carrot, bok choy, mushroom, and lastly the chicken.

Also pour in 2 1/2 tablespoons of Japanese tsuyu and 2 tablespoons of mirin. Pour in some water till almost reaching the edge where rice meets ingredients, like slightly below the added ingredients. Do not add too much water because these ingredients will also release some moisture during the cooking process.

Ready for takikomi gohan

Press down the cooking button and let the rice cooker do the work. 

Takikomi gohan almost ready

Once ready, take out the inner pot and add in cooked peas. Fluff the rice and blend together the ingredients with grains. Let it sit for couple more minutes, releasing some extra moisture or steam at the same time.

Scoop the takikomi gohan to serving bowls.

Chicken and gobo takikomi gohan

I really like the aroma from cooked gobo, it's woody and earthy at the same time, yet without any tough bite at all since the thinly sliced gobo were nearly gone by now. Only the smell and the taste remained. 

Carrot too, personally speaking I do prefer a softer bite for the carrot instead of crunchy ones. After nearly one hour in the rice cooker, all the julienned carrot turned exactly to my liking, also leaving a light brush of sweetness to the meal.


Extended reading:

Jun 10, 2022

Soybean Sprouts and Ground Pork Stir-Fry 黃豆芽炒肉末

If you can find bean sprouts, especially the ones with stems already been removed, even better. The texture is "cleaner" with a more refreshing crunch. However, soybean sprouts on the other hand, comes with more flavor per my opinion. Let it be your choice.

Soybean sprouts and ground pork stir-fry 黃豆芽炒肉末 - 

Soybean sprouts and ground pork stir-fry


  • 1 medium bundle soybean sprouts (or bean sprouts)
  • 1 small pack ground pork
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 red chili
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons light-tasting cooking oil
  • 2 tablespoons chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce paste
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon black vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Some corn starch and water mixture
  • Some chopped scallion


Rinse and pat dry the soybean sprouts. If needed, pick out the stems for the soybean sprouts first.

Soybean sprouts

Destem and chop the scallion. Destem and remove the chili seeds, chop the chili into rings. Peel and grate the garlic. Peel and grate the ginger. Mix some corn starch with drinkable water and set aside for later use.

Take a non-stick pan or a wok, drizzle in about 2 tablespoons of oil and turn to medium heat. Use high heat only if you can maneuver your way fast enough throughout the cooking process.

Once the oil warms up, add in ground pork and stir-fry till cooked through, or turned white so to speak.

Stir-frying ground pork

Add in grated garlic and grated ginger. Give it a quick mix and cook for another 30 seconds or so.

Transfer the soybean sprouts over and give it a quick stir-fry for 30 seconds. 

Stir-frying soybean sprouts

Add in 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce paste, 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce, 1 tablespoon of black vinegar, 2 tablespoons of chicken stock, and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil.

Adding seasonings to soybean sprouts stir-fry

Bring the entire mixture to a boil then switch to low heat.

Wait till the temperature drops a little bit. Stir the corn starch and water mixture again, making sure it's evenly combined. Pour into the pan while gently stirring the ingredients. 

Use smaller amount of corn starch and water mixture first in case the whole thing turned to gel-like consistency. We're aiming for just slightly gooey texture overall. Lastly, add in chili rings, plate, and garnish with chopped scallion on top.

Soybean sprouts and ground pork stir-fry

I think grated garlic and grated ginger work like magic here. These two ingredients acted as the core of all the other aromatic seasonings. 

Soybean sprouts and ground pork stir-fry

In fact, if you're making simple vegetable stir-fry in the future, you can also do the same by using some chopped garlic and chopped ginger. Some also like to add some Chinese rice cooking wine, works especially well with leafy Asian greens.

Extended reading:

Jun 4, 2022

Mafaldine Pasta Bolognese

Surprisingly, I haven't posted any bolognese recipes in this blog. I mean it's such a classic but after all these years I only wrote about similar dishes like marinara or meatball pasta. But isn't the common red sauce the same as bolognese? No no no, they might appear similar, but the main difference lies on the ingredients used. Milk that is. Milk provides that creamy and rich characters to the bolognese sauce. 

Some also argue that a true bolognese should involve white wine instead of the red. To me, it's like every Italian family has their own way of making the ideal bolognese. And for me, I'd like to go with the red for both the darker color and denser flavor it provides.

Mafaldine pasta bolognese - 

Mafaldine pasta bolognese

Ingredients (about 6 portions)?

  • 1 pack/500 grams mafaldine pasta (or other wide and long pasta)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 onion
  • 2 medium carrot
  • 2 medium celery
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 450 grams lean ground beef
  • 340 grams passata/tomato sauce
  • 160 grams thick-cut bacon
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Some salt
  • 1 teaspoon mixed Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Some grated aged Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Some pasta water (just in case)


Peel and chop the garlic cloves. Peel and dice the onion. Peel and dice the carrots. Dice the celery. Destem and chop the tomatoes. Cube the bacon.

Use a big pan or enameled cast iron Dutch oven per my case, drizzle in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and turn to medium heat. Add in cubed bacon and sear till slightly browned. Scoop out the bacon pieces first.

Bacon cubes

Add in diced onion along with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Stir and cook till the onion softens, but slightly browned on the edges is fine too. It takes about few minutes.

Searing chopped onion

Add in carrot, celery, and garlic. Stir and cook for another 10 minutes or so, but make sure not to burn the garlic.

Searing carrot, celery, onion, and garlic

Add in ground beef and cook till browned. Make sure to use lean meat here. Transfer the bacon back.

Searing ingredients for bolognese

Pour in 1 cup of red wine and bring up the heat to keep it at a slightly bubbling stage, continue to cook for about 8 minutes.

Adding wine

Pour in 1 cup of milk and still keep it at a slightly bubbling stage. This time, cook for about 6 more minutes.

Adding milk for bolognese

Add in chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon of mixed Italian seasoning, and 1 more teaspoon of salt. Bring the entire mixture to a boil then put the lid on. Perhaps lower the heat to keep it at a simmer inside. This time, it'll take about 30 minutes.

Adding tomatoes and tomato sauce for bolognese

Towards the end, prepare a big pot of water with some salt in it. Bring it to a boil and cook the pasta till almost al dente. Scoop out some pasta water first just in case we need to dilute the pasta sauce later on. Not absolutely, but it's always safer to keep some water prior.

Drain out the pasta and add to the sauce mixture. Mix and taste, see if more seasonings are needed, or need to dilute a bit with pasta water we saved earlier. I didn't use any pasta water here by the way.

Plate and grate some aged Parmigiano Reggiano right before serving.  

Mafaldine pasta bolognese

One thing I like about this pasta bolognese recipe is that it used a lot of veggies, different color vegetables too. I can simply serve this pasta without sacrificing balanced, nutritious diet. 

Mafaldine pasta bolognese

You know what? If there're any leftovers, you can transfer the pasta to a baking dish and top with mixed cheese. Bake till the cheese melts and garnish with some freshly chopped parsley. There you go, another dinner preparation easily tackled. 

Other pasta recipes: