Jul 28, 2022

Caramel Popcorn with Pecans - 1/2 Cup of Popping Corn Goes a Long Way

Have you ever wonder how in the world that only 1/2 or even 1/3 cup of popping corn can end up a bucket-full of popcorn that can last the entire movie night? I was amazed to be honest. In fact, I was doubting if merely 1/2 cup of popping corn would be enough at all? 

It's been proven. Seeing popping corn started to expand in the pan then all the sudden popped into popcorn that was at least three times the size, the whole process was quite amusing. So rest assured that this recipe only calls for 1/2 cup of popping corn, it'll end up about one medium large bucket-full of popcorn for you to enjoy in the end.

*I followed the recipe provided by Dixie Elliott from taste.com.au. A wonderful recipe that made my movie time sweet and enjoyable. 

Caramel popcorn with pecans - 

Caramel popcorn with pecans

Ingredients (makes about one medium large bucket-full of popcorn)?

  • 1/2 cup popping corn
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 125 grams unsalted butter 
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup pecan


Use a big pot, pan, or even a wok to pop the popping corn. Make sure you have the lid that fit the chosen cookware. Drizzle in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and turn to medium heat.

Popping corn

Wait till the oil gets warm. You can test it out by tossing in one popping corn and see if the oil starts to bubble around it. In that case, the temperature is good to go.

Add in all the popping corn and cover with a lid. Gradually you'll start to hear popping noises, which might be a wee bit frightening at first, but soon you'll see the fun of it.

Swirl the cookware around once a while. This will further help in popping the corn. Keep waiting till all quite down. Remove the lid.

Making popcorn with a wok

pick out the remaining popping corn that didn't get to pop successfully. 

Plain popcorn

Transfer the popcorn to a big mixing bowl, I used the one attached to my stand mixer. 

Use a nonstick sauce pan for the caramel. Break the butter to smaller chunks and add to the pan. Also add in 3/4 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of honey. 

Ingredients for caramel

Turn to medium small heat and keep whisking throughout the process. Whisk till all the sugar has been dissolved, about 4 minutes, plus or minus 1 minute.

Making caramel

Bring the mixture to a boil and no more whisking here. Let it boil undisturbed for another 4 minutes, plus or minus 1 minute, or till it changes to brown color.

Homemade caramel

Remove the caramel away from heat and add in pecans first. 

Mixing pecans with caramel

Mix till coated then pour the whole thing to the popcorn bowl. Do not use your hands, the caramel can be very hot at this stage. It might also require some strength to mix the caramel with popcorn. In fact, I had to "break" the popcorn from a sticky ball to smaller pieces. One good tip, plastic spatula comes in handy here.

Mixing caramel with popcorn

Once ready, spread out the popcorn and pecans to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Wait till cool enough to handle by hand. 

Spreading out freshly made caramel popcorn to baking sheet

Break the popcorn to smaller pieces. 

Caramel popcorn with pecans

You can store extra popcorn under room temperature for few days, but I'm sure it won't even last that long. It's hard to stop once you take a bite.

Caramel popcorn with pecans

Keep in mind that caramel hardens pretty fast once away from the stove, so move quickly blending in the pecans and popcorn.

Jul 22, 2022

Salmon and Shiso Zosui - A Refreshing Minty and Citrusy Touch from Fresh Shiso Leaves

Zosui, some might also call it congee or porridge. The basic idea is the same, they're all sort of soupy rice dish that can either stand on its own or serve together with other side dishes. While some variations start with uncooked rice, zosui on the other hand, is made with pre-cooked rice or even leftover rice.

The liquid part is taken care of by using half chicken stock and half water. On top of that, with the help from steamed salmon juice and aromatic shiso leaves, this salmon and shiso zosui is one kick-ass recipe that my entire family adores.

Salmon and shiso zosui - 

Salmon and shiso zosui

Ingredients (about 7 to 8 portions)?

  • 2 boneless skinless salmon fillet
  • 3 rice measuring cups short grain white rice
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 6 cups water
  • 20 shiso leaf
  • 1 pack/120 grams white shimeji mushroom
  • 1 pack/120 grams brown shimeji mushroom
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper powder 


Pre-cook 3 rice measuring cups of rice. Once ready, fluff and set aside for later use. You can also use leftover rice instead. However, this recipe will give you a big pot of zosui in the end, and I would imagine it's unlikely to have that much leftover rice in any regular circumstances. In that case, use half or even 1/3 of the ingredients listed for smaller yield.

White short grain rice

Steam the salmon till fully cooked through. Set aside till cool enough to handle by hand. Break the salmon into smaller pieces and save all the juice on the bottom. I ended up having 2 full cups of prepped salmon.

Steamed salmon torn into flakes

Trim-off the stems for the mushrooms and separate them into individual pieces. Julienne shiso leaves. Beat the eggs and set aside for later use.

Use a big pot and pour in 6 cups of chicken stock and 6 cups of water. You can play with the chicken stock to water ratio, but I prefer half and half to keep it flavorful enough while not overpowering other delicate ingredients. 

Bring the liquid to a boil and add in the mushroom, cook for about 1 minute.

Chicken stock with added shimeji mushrooms

Add in pre-cooked rice and bring it up to a boil again. Once boiling, lower the heat to keep it at a light bubbling stage. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes. 

Cooking rice in chicken stock

Note that the consistency might appear too water at first, but keep in mind that it'll soon thicken up.

Mix in the salmon flakes along with all the steamed juice. Also add in 1 tablespoon of salt. Mix a little, taste and see if more salt is needed. Adjust accordingly.

Adding salmon and steamed juice for the zosui

Mix in most of the shiso leaves and 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper powder. Switch to low heat and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes.

Adding shiso leaves to zosui

Turn-off the heat and pour in beaten egg. Make sure the zosui is not too hot, but not completely cooled down either when adding the egg. We need the residual warmth to just slightly cooking the egg. Stir the zosui to evenly spread out yellow streak.

Using residual heat to cook the beaten egg

Scoop to serving bowls and garnish with the remaining shiso that we saved earlier.

Salmon and shiso zosui

If you prefer a thinner consistency, use two more cups of liquid, that means a total of 14 cups of liquid in the end.

Salmon and shiso zosui

The zosui will thicken up as time passes by but no worries. If you have any leftover zosui, simply add some more liquid before heating it up again. Hot water will do, but even better with chicken stock because it won't dilute the flavor as much. 


Extended reading:

Jul 16, 2022

Cubed Eggplant and Ground Pork Stir-Fry with Spicy Fermented Bean Paste 炒辣豆瓣醬茄子豬肉丁

Usually the way I cook eggplant is by slicing it, either for Asian or Western recipes. But let's change the scene this time around by dicing the eggplant into cubes. Because of eggplant's spongy nature, once diced up, it can absorb even more sauce and seasonings, making this stir-fry a rice-killing recipe.

Cubed eggplant and ground pork stir-fry with spicy fermented bean paste 炒辣豆瓣醬茄子豬肉丁 - 

Cubed eggplant and ground pork stir-fry with spicy fermented bean paste


  • 2 eggplant (about 4 cups cubed eggplant)
  • 680 grams ground pork
  • 4 garlic clove
  • 1 to 2 red chili
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and chopped ginger
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or other preferred cooking oil
  • Some scallion (for garnish)


  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon spicy fermented bean paste 辣豆瓣醬
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar


Peel and chop the garlic cloves. Peel and finely chop the ginger. Destem and chop the red chilies. Destem and chop the scallion, just a small amount for garnish in the end.

Remove the stems and cube the eggplants. It doesn't really matter which variety of eggplant you use, let it be the longer Chinese eggplant or the round version, also there's no need to peel the eggplants either.

Cubed eggplant

Take a non-stick pan, drizzle enough oil to coat the bottom, about 2 tablespoons for me. Add in chopped garlic, chopped ginger, and ground pork. Give it a quick mix and cook till the pork changes from red to white color.

Stir-frying ground pork

Add in cubed eggplant and stir-fry for about 1 minute.

Cooking cubed eggplant and ground pork

Mix together all the ingredients under the "sauce" section. The quality and flavor differs widely among different brands of spicy fermented bean paste. I would recommend Sichuan Pixian spicy fermented bean paste (四川郫縣豆瓣醬) if you can find any. This variety is not overly spicy and carries a dense sweet note to it.

Pour the sauce mixture to the pan and mix till evenly blended. Cook till slightly thickened.

Adding sauce to eggplant and ground pork stir-fry

Mix in red chilies and cook no more than 30 seconds. 

Plate and garnish with some chopped scallion.

Cubed eggplant and ground pork stir-fry with spicy fermented bean paste

The eggplant now acts more like a flavor holder here due to its soft spongy texture, so the main pronounce bite is actually coming from the ground pork. If you get to choose how the meat was ground, use the coarsely ground version for a fuller impact. 

By the way, don't add any more red chilies if you can't quite handle the heat. Spicy fermented bean paste alone can be deadly for some, so better taste it before pumping up the heat level. 

Extended reading:

Jul 11, 2022

Chili Garlic Sauce 蒜蓉辣椒醬 - Only the Purest Ingredients for Myself

Even though I've been cutting down the spicy level over the years, my diet is still considered on the fiery side compared to average Taiwanese. Mister at home couldn't take as much heat as I do, so I try not to use too much chilies in my cooking. 

Chili garlic sauce

However, my cravings still need to be fulfilled one way or another. If I can't cook overly spicy food, at least I can "supplement" my meal with add-on chili sauce. After a quick search on the market shelf, still unsure about how natural these chili sauce were, especially there're always one or two chemical names that simply spell puzzle to me on the list of ingredients.

Oh heck, might as well do it myself making chili garlic sauce from scratch. Especially if you have a food processor at home, making chili garlic sauce is just like a breeze, but the kind that might make you sneeze with all the freshly chopped chili scent in the kitchen.

Chili garlic sauce 蒜蓉辣椒醬 - 

Chili garlic sauce

Ingredients (for a whole jar)?

Main components - 

  • 10 long red chilies
  • 12 red chilies
  • 3 long green chilies
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 small chunk ginger
Seasonings - 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baijiu (Chinese liquor)
Flavored oil - 
  • 1/2 cup light-tasting oil (I used rice bran oil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn
  • 1 small piece dried mandarin peel
  • 1 piece bay leaf
  • 2 star anise


Try to prepare the chilies the day before by rinsing them and lay under the sun to dry overnight. The alternative, also how I did it is by laying out the chilies on a big towel and set by the window overnight. 

Drying chilies indoor

Once the chilies fully dried up, destem all of them. 

Prepping chilies

Pulse the red chilies first in the food processor then scoop to the storing jar. 

Chopping red chilies using food processor

After that, chop the green ones then scoop to the jar.


Chopped green chilies

Peel the garlic cloves. Peel and slice the ginger. All them both to the food processor and give it a few pulses too. Scoop to the jar.

Chopped garlic and ginger for the chili sauce

Measure 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of baijiu (Chinese liquor) to the jar. Give it a quick mix.

Mixing chili garlic sauce ingredients

Prepare a small pot or wok, drizzle in 1/2 cup of light-tasting oil. Also add 1/2 teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorn, 1 small piece of dried mandarin peel, 1 bay leaf, and 2 star anises.

Making flavored oil for the chili garlic sauce

Turn to medium heat and cook till these ingredients turn slightly colored. Pick them out and leaving only the now flavored oil. 

While the oil still hot, carefully pour some to the prepared jar of chopped ingredients. It'll start sizzling with bubbles on top. Continue to add more oil till it can cover all the ingredients underneath.

Homemade chili garlic sauce

Use a small spoon and mix till evenly blended. Wait till the jar cools down, cover with lid and store in the cabinet away from direct sun-light. 

I supposed you can store the chili garlic sauce in the fridge too, but the oil will start to coagulate once the temperature drops. The overall consistency will be slightly thicker and denser. I usually apply the sauce on hot food though so it doesn't really bother me at all.

Jul 4, 2022

Ham and Potato Soup 火腿馬鈴薯濃湯

What do you usually do with leftover ham? Thinly slice the ham and turn it into a sandwich or perhaps with an Asian approach by making fried rice?  

I know using ham for soup is one of the common approaches, but since I haven't written any recipes about it before, here's my take on (leftover) ham and potato soup.

Ham and potato soup - 

Ham and potato soup

Ingredients (for a big pot)?

  • 3 1/2 cups cubed ham
  • 1 medium small onion
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup peeled and diced carrot
  • 3 cups peeled and diced potato
  • 4 garlic clove
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 to 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • Some salt
  • Some black pepper


Use small or the most medium sized onion, peel and dice to small chunks. Peel and dice the carrot. Trim-off the stems and dice the celery. Peel and dice the potatoes. Peel and chop the garlic cloves. Cube the ham.

Ham cubes

Use a big pot or a Dutch oven, add in butter and turn to medium heat. Once melted, add in onion, celery, carrot along with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Give it a quick stir and cook for few minutes, or till these veggies softened.

Add in chopped garlic and continue to cook for another minute or so.

Stir-frying aromatics

Transfer cubed ham and potatoes over. Give it a quick mix and cook for couple more minutes.

Stir-frying cubed ham and potatoes

Mix in flour, stir and cook till no more raw floury smell, about 2 minutes.

Cooking flour

Pour in chicken stock, use 5 cups for a thicker texture, 6 cups the most. Give it a stir. Bring up the heat and keep it at a light bubbling stage. Continue to cook it till the potatoes reach desired texture. I like my potatoes on the softer side, meaning they can be easily smashed using the back of the spoon. To achieve that, it took me about 20 minutes.

Ham and potato soup

Now switch the heat to keep the entire pot at a simmer. Pour in milk and cook till the consistency became slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

Taste and see if the soup needs more salt, and adjust accordingly. I actually added 1 more teaspoon of salt later on. My advice is not to begin with too much salt, especially the ham can be quite salty towards the end. It's better to wait till the ham has been cooked in stock for some time, then you do the final seasoning adjustment.

Ham and potato soup

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

Ham and potato soup

If you can't finish all the soup at once and need to reheat it for future meals, note that the soup can turn thicker as time goes by. One way to do it is by adding some milk before heating up the soup. This will help to dilute the soup without sacrificing the creamy taste. 


Other western soup recipes: