Posts Tagged ‘asian



“Barkeep! There is fermented vegetables in my beer!”

This post may seem somewhat out of season. I’ve taken a drink that is popular in the summer, but there is a reason for it. I promise. First a little introduction to the drink:

A couple of weeks ago an organization that does amazing work asked me to come up with a cocktail for their annual fundraiser. The organization, Nodutdol, has been working to build a community institution that promotes the self-determination and unity of the Korean people through grassroots organizing and community development. Every year they throw a “Kimchee Bowl” to highlight the year’s work, get people together to enjoy good food, good drinks, and great kimchee and just get friends together to celebrate another year.

Usually the main part of the event is the food. Drinks are just an afterthought that is meant to just be there for convenience. For this year’s Kimchee Bowl (which is today), they asked me to create a drink to serve at the event. The only requirement was that kimchee had to be part of it. I figured this would be a fun challenge and something for me to do during the storm. So, I spent a few days trying to figure out what drink I wanted to make. I played around with syrups, gin, and tequila. Some were excellent and some tasted not so excellent. Some masked the flavor of the fermented vegetables, while others only hinted at the kimchee. And, after a few attempts, I realized that in all the complexity of trying to make an innovative drink, I was forgetting the most important thing about this challenge: Highlight the amazing things about the ingredient. So why not just make a michelada?

For folks who are unfamiliar with a michelada (and I’m about to blow your mind with something amazing if you haven’t): A michelada is a wonderful Mexican invention that is part of a category of drinks called cerveza preparada. Out of the other beers in this category, a michelada is more similar to the bloody mary, usually containing various sauces and ingredients including hot sauce, worchestershire, lime, and salt. The flavor is usually a savory, tart, and refreshing combination that is perfect for any hangover, summer day, or Asian fermented vegetable.

It makes complete sense; the light crisp lager doesn’t over power the flavor of kimchee, but allows a canvas for the subtle (and not so subtle) flavors come out. Plus, if you think about it, the ingredients in kimchee are very similar to the ingredients in worchestershire sauce. Fermented anchovies, soy sauce, salt. Perfect substitution. In addition to that, it’s in the wintertime that kimchee is usually the most ripe and ready to eat and when first brought out to the tables after months of fermentation. So, why not celebrate the end of the pickling process with some beer?

For the event we had to make a video to share for folks who attended the event. As you can tell, it’s much more professionally done compared to my other video posts. A friend of ours edited it for us. So enjoy the fancy graphics and music, which I find very similar to adult movie music from the 80’s…but I kind of like that.

For more information on Nodutdol, please check out their website here.



1 tsp gochugaru (Korean chili powder)

juice of half of a lime

1 tbs kimchee

1/4 oz soy sauce

16 oz. lager or pilsner

blend of gochugaru and salt



rim the outside of a pint glass with lime juice and the salt blend

muddle the rest of the ingredients except for the ice and beer

add ice and beer and stir

garnish with a lime wedge

-serves 1-


Creamy Ponzu Coleslaw

creamy ponzu coleslaw

Admitting the mayonnaise addiction wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Actually, it felt somewhat refreshing. Plus, it gave me an excuse to purchase some shrimp (which is clearly another addiction) and make some delicious shrimp rolls. Although, now that I think of it, I had just combined two of my food addictions in that recipe. May be counter productive huh?

So, in continuing with this trend to admit all my embarrassing childhood food habits, I’m about to tell you of an embarrassing moment in my life. I love coleslaw. I love all kinds of coleslaw. Tart, tangy, creamy, and/or sweet. It doesn’t matter to me. I just like the crunchy texture and the flavors that are involved. Vinegar, citrus, or mayonnaise based (mmm…mayonnaise) coleslaws are more than welcome in my belly any summer day. I haven’t always been so open to such diverse slaws. When I was young I would only prefer one type of coleslaw. Actually, one brand of coleslaw. It was the Kentucky Fried Chicken coleslaw. Man, that’s some delicious stuff. The small pieces of cabbage and carrots that have been minced beyond recognition by some machine and then marinated in the dressing for days while it ships to a local KFC was like God’s Nectar to me. When my mom would bring it home, I knew what I would be eating: coleslaw with a side of fried chicken and amuse bouche of mashed potatoes.

My parents, because they worked so hard to let my brother and I be where we are today, had to work late sometimes. This also meant a quick, and rare, trip to KFC for their advertised family dinners to go. When my parents did bring home a bucket, I would scream like a school kid at first smell of the chicken. The scream of delight was not for the chicken with all of its secret spices, or the brown gravy, or dehydrated and then rehydrated mashed potato. My excitement and gaze was focused on the small nubules of cabbage, carrot, and onions swimming in a broth of cold, milky, sweet puddle that was encased in styrofoam bowls. My love for coleslaw was not only limited to a squeal. That was only the beginning. I would slip and slide across the kitchen floor in my socks and devour the coleslaw with extreme passion, gusto, and fear that someone else (my brother) would get to it before me. I would enjoy every bite, texture, and flavor until all was gone. Then, and this is where I need to accept my problem, I would stare at the cup of sweet, sweet cream in front of me. Beautiful liquid would be left in the bowl and I would attempt to figure out some stealth like strategy for what was about to happen. I’d then look up to see if the rest of the family was paying attention to their youngest. And with ninja quick reflexes, or whatever reflexes a ten year old had, I would drink the dressing that had pooled in the bottom of the cup.
Yup, in addition to eating spoon fulls of mayonnaise, I would drink fast food style coleslaw dressing by the gulp full. I didn’t do it as much as the mayonnaise, mainly because there wasn’t as much access to coleslaw in my house, but you can guarantee that I was hiding somewhere in a corner drinking away every time we had some of this amazing side.

I still enjoy a KFC/KGC coleslaw now and then. I can assure you, however, that I do NOT drink the dressing anymore. I also now make my own coleslaw so I can control the amount of dressing that is used. I used ponzu in my coleslaw. It’s a blend of yuzu and soy. If you can’t find it at your local Asian grocery store, you can substitute it with lime and soy instead. I also like to buy the pre packaged broccoli slaw. The only reason is because I’m lazy. If you want to shred your own carrots, cabbage, broccoli, and stuff…go ahead, but why? Enjoy.


1/4 cup minced scallion

2 tbs mayonnaise

2 tsp ponzu

1 tsp agave syrup or honey

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp dehydrated onion flakes

1 tsp rice vinegar

salt and white pepper to taste

1 bag (12 ounces) of broccoli slaw (or shredded cabbage, or whatever you like)


whisk all ingredients except for the vegetables in a bowl

toss dressing with slaw until fully incorporated

-serves 4-


Spicy Sauteed Tendon with Garlic and Scallion

Spicy Tendon

I know Kung Fu.  Well, I know a few key basic moves.  Ok, I used to know Kung Fu.  It was part of a special extra curricular program that was part of my Chinese School when I was younger. Chinese school was a painful memory of my past.  While all my friends where enjoying two full days off from school, I had only one and a half days to play outside.  My Chinese school was from nine in the morning until noon. It was a short class, but it felt like a lifetime to a ten year old.  And, like my regular school, I wasn’t a very good student at all.  I would usually wake up early that Saturday around six or seven in the morning.  Run to the television and turn it on for Saturday morning cartoons, Saved By The Bell, and California Dreaming and attempt to finish a full week’s homework in between commercial breaks.  Once my parents woke up, I would then put the homework away and keep my textbook out to do last minute studying for a quiz (because I had finished my homework days in advanced) and then go to class.  During class I would listen real hard and answer in Mandarin, which is why I credit my ability to have basic conversations in Chinese but also why I lack reading and writing skills.   The redeeming factor on Saturdays was ending the day with my Kung Fu class.

Kung Fu class was fun.  I learned some fun sequences and felt like I could be the next Bruce Lee or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I didn’t get very far in my practice.  I had no idea as a kid that the art form required so much discipline and focus. But, you know what?  I got to yellow belt and I was satisfied. I just wanted the accessory.  It was something that I could show off to the world when my parents took me out for lunch and errands after school. I was a super hero. Well a beginner belt superhero.

One of the places I got to show off my “manly-ness” was at A&J restaurant.  Still one of my favorite restaurants of all time and I still get the same dishes every time I visit.  We went so often, to the point where the moment they saw a tiny Taiwanese boy running awkwardly in the parking lot with baggy Kung Fu clothes and a yellow sash, my order would already be in the kitchen.   A few minutes later, while my parent where still waiting for the rest of the order, I would have in front of me Zha Jiang Mian, pickled seaweed, and stir fried tendons.

It's not a sexy thing. But it tastes awesome.

I’ve been able to get both the seaweed and noodle dish in NYC to help curb my cravings. But, I have yet to find a place in the city to satisfy the tendon bug. The texture of this dish is hard to describe.  It’s a soft gelatinous chewy goodness, but has a subtle crispness fruity from the cooking processed.  Because the chili oil and scallion impart an intense citrus and floral fragrance, the flavor profile of the earthy garlic becomes a subtle nuttiness mixed with a hint of spice. Add the caramelizing of the soy sauce and you have a complex profile of flavors and textures in a dish that only has five simple ingredients.

The key thing with this dish is to use lots and lots of oil. You want the tendon to stir fry and not stick to the pan. Also, make sure your pan is screeching hot. Like, smoke alarm is going to go off hot. So make sure the house is well ventilated and you’re ready to deal with some chili oil smoke. There is a chance, if you don’t open a window, that you are creating some illegal bio-warfare.

Enjoy this dish.  It’s not exactly like the original, but maybe if I put on a Kung fu outfit and a yellow belt, it will almost be the same.


2 tbs vegetable oil

2 chili pods (or you can use 2 tsp chili oil)

1½ lb beef tendon (boiled until soft), cut in 1 inch pieces

3 cloves of garlic, smashed

2 scallion stalks, 1 inch slices

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp rice wine


heat oil on high with chili pods until almost smoking

add all ingredients and stir fry for a few minutes, until fragrant

remove from heat and add salt to taste

-serves 4-


Fool’s Noodles

Lard, chicharon, and noodles. Yum.

Lard is amazing. I had some hesitation writing this post. An almost border line abusive conversation happened between my artistic freedom self and my down to reality self about whether or not 1) lard/pork fat/bacon/pork belly is a food trend that is over, stale, or needs to die, 2) way too unhealthy to belong on a blog that talks (mostly) about healthy local foods, or 3) too similar to lard rice to post.

In the end, I realized that I made the dish, took the picture, and might as well write the post.

Are you familiar with this dish? It’s a traditional Taiwanese dish you find on the streets of Taiwan. The dish is rooted during a time when the low income and working class were conscious of their access to extravagance, like meat, and the respect towards their food by not wasting any of it. I never ordered it when I was in Taiwan, mainly because I was eating other things that I couldn’t get in the US. I finally tried this dish one lunch with my parents when I was in middle school.

Growing up, my parents made sure that we always had a stocked fridge. Every meal must always have vegetables, fish, meat, and soup. This also meant that we went grocery shopping every week, which became one of the best family memories growing up. The weekly Saturday schedule was always driving 30 minutes to Irvine or 45 minutes to Roland Heights, getting some delicious Chinese or Taiwanese food for lunch, and then grocery shopping. It’s where I learned about Chinese produce, cuts of meats, and more about the food from my community.

One of the places we frequented was a Taiwanese restaurant that had “sha gua” noodles. It’s translated to “fool’s noodles”. Mainly because a fool can make it. Lard, soy sauce, noodles, and scallions in a bowl. Easy. The flavor is something between butter and nutty soy. To be more specific, in as much vague descriptions as I can give, it’s like an earthy, briny, less gamey buttered noodles with bursts of freshness from the scallions. The scallions also add a green crunch which buries itself in the creaminess of the lard mixed with the al dente chew of the noodles. All in all, it’s a great snack or meal after a night of drinking.

Enjoy all it’s goodies.


2 servings dried Chinese Noodles

1 tbs lard

1 tsp soy sauce

1/2 cup scallion, minced

chicharon or pork rinds, crumbled (optional)


cook noodles per packaged directions until al dente and drain

mix in rest of ingredients

season with salt or soy sauce to taste and sprinkle the Chicharron if you like

-serves 2-


Pan Seared Skate

-pan roasted skate with soy glaze-

Hurricane Irene hit New York City early Sunday morning.  To prepare, my roommate and housemates cleaned out the trash outside, weighed down our broken grill, moved all electrical things from the windows, and put up towels in areas we knew would leak.  My roommate and I were put in charge of buying the necessary items in case we lost power, gas, or water.  This was the best idea ever.

My roommate and I went to the local Chinese supermarket and came back with the most important things.  We came back with:

this is what my survival kit looks like

Haw Flakes, chocolate wafer sticks, sour cream and onion Pringles, dried pork, dried fish, dried beef, chili sauce, preserved bamboo, preserved vegetables, honey mustard pretzels, shrimp chips, rice crackers, sunflower seed, pig ear, chicken feet, salted duck, beef tendon, and a six pack of beer.  Red Cross, if you are hiring, my roommate and I are available for consulting.

In addition to all of this amazing first aid food stuff, I did also get some things from work because the restaurant had to shut down for the weekend.  This meant that the wonderful people in pastry gave me some equally wonderful zucchini muffins and the chefs gave me some awesome uncooked skate that wouldn’t survive the weekend.  I downed the muffins on my way home, but I pretended that there was no electricity so it didn’t feel premature to dive into them.  The skate however, was a conundrum.  I wasn’t really sure how I would prepare it. I’m not very familiar with skate mainly because the “Seafood Watch” list tells me not to buy it.  So, it’s exciting that I got my hands on skate.  This is especially because it comes from a vendor that I can trust and know gets seafood from fisherman that are sustainable and progressive.

I ended up cooking it in a method that is very common with how my mom cooks fish fillets.  It’s simple and uses aromatics and ingredients that every Asian person should have at home.  All you need to do is pan fry the fish and then quickly create a sauce in the same pan.  Because the skate wings are so thin, you can make this dish in less than ten minutes.  If you don’t have access to sustainable skate, and if you don’t know then don’t get it, you can use some scallops.  The flavor profile is almost exactly the same.  Texture won’t be like fish, but it’s more about the flavor in this dish.

In case you where wondering, our building wasn’t damaged too much by the hurricane.  We had a little water in our basement and the second floor did not have power for the day, but we where lucky.  Now, make some scallops (or skate) and enjoy.


2 lbs of skate wing, 4 fillets

salt and black pepper

2 tbs vegetable oil

¼ cup of ginger, julienne

2 medium scallions, sliced in 1 inch pieces

3 medium cloves of garlic, smashed

¼ cup soy sauce

2 tbs Chinese rice wine

1½ tbs sugar


sprinkle salt and pepper on skate


heat oil in a non-stick skillet on high until scorching hot


panfry skate on one side for 3-4 minutes until lightly brown and flip to finish cooking, for about another 2 minutes


remove cooked skate and return the pan to the heat


add garlic, ginger, and scallion to pan and stir fry until fragrant


mix the soy sauce, wine, and sugar in another bowl and add to the hot pan


stir until sauce is slightly reduced, 1 minute


pour sauce over fillet and serve

-serves 4-


zha jiang mian- northern chinese bolognese with home made noodles

zha jiang mian

I have a noodle infatuation.  There, I admitted it- first step of recovery.  I love the doughy chewy texture that noodles give when you first bite into it.  When you fill your mouth with a really long strand or big bite of noodle with some delicately developed sauce or broth; it’s like an amusement ride for your mouth.    Home made noodles are pretty much the best, but sometimes a nice packaged or store bought brand does the job for me.  The best though, is when your brother comes into your room on a Saturday morning at 9 am, waking you after some drinking with some friends, and says, “noodles tonight?  I’m making”  [Him talking like Yoda could be associated with my drinking, not how he actually talks], you can’t help but want to throw something at him for disturbing my beauty sleep-and then say yes.

My brother is a really good cook.  He, like me, loves to watch food network and spend time in the kitchen to relax and create.  His forte is more around recreating dishes.  When he gets a hankering for something, he’ll try to recreate the dish on his own.  Most of the time it is delicious and results into a phase for him.  I think one year, I had chicken soup and variations of chicken soup for weeks.  This time, the excitement for him is noodles.  And, I’m not complaining.

I have a favorite noodle dish.  The best is from a restaurant called A & J noodles in Irvine, California.  It’s my favorite and I have no idea what is in their recipe but it’s awesome.  Growing up in California, we would go almost every other week (and some times, if I’m lucky, every week) to this noodle place.  The great thing about this noodle place is that they knew me.  I would get the same things every time.  If they saw me coming up in the parking lot, then by the time I got to my table I wouldn’t have to order.  A couple of minutes later in front of me was a Coke, seaweed salad, and the best noodle dish in the world: Zha Jiang Mian.  Oh, just thinking about it is making me excited.  It is legal crack.  The folks working at the restaurant knew me so well, it was like I had Aunties to make sure I was properly fed…and wanting to know every detail of my love life…and how they had a daughter/niece/cousin/friend…I started going to this place when I was real young, 7 or 8…and they continued to do this well into my college years at 21 or 22.  I miss them.

Now, I would describe Zha Jiang Mian as Northern Chinese style Bolognese sauce.  It’s chunky and full of meat and little liquid.  Served over fresh noodles, no broth, topped with cucumber and bean sprouts, is the way I eat it.  Zha Jiang Mian is kind of like mac and cheese, everyone makes it differently.  BUT, I like it without the fillers.  Just pork.  That’s all anyone really needs: some nice ground pork with bits of fat in it.  Yum.

And yes, this is my brother’s recipe.

Recipe Notes- Ingredient defining [I should really start a running list/glossary]:  The one hard thing that may be difficult to find, it’s difficult to find here in Queens, is Huangdou Jiang.  The literal translation is: Yellow Sauce or Yellow Bean Sauce.  It is nowhere yellow in color, but quite delicious.  You can use Brown Soy Bean Paste or Sweet Bean Paste (not really sweet).  Some people also use Hoison Sauce (easier to find).  If you use Hoison, taste before adding too much sugar.  It’s on the sweeter side.  Vegetarian option is to replace with dried tofu and/or rehydrated shitake mushrooms, diced.  Your choice.

Also, there is a Korean variation of this dish out there.  Not the same and shouldn’t be compared.  Although, I do have a favorite.




3½  cups all purpose flour

½ cup warm water

1 tsp salt



3 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup of green onions, minced

1½ lb ground pork

2 tbs vegetable oil

4 tbs huangdou jiang (or any of the other substitutes I listed)

1 tbs sugar

1 tsp cornstarch

1/8 cup water

1 medium cucumber

1 cup of bean sprouts


mix flour, water, and salt in a large bowl


remove dough from bowl and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes

rest dough covered for at least a half hour in the refrigerator

while dough rests, bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch [lightly cook and cool] bean sprouts and julienne peeled cucumber

knead dough until soft and at room temperature and separate dough into two balls, cover

roll out one ball until ¼ inch thick and with a pizza cutter, cut ½ inch wide noodles, flour noodles to separate

continue with other ball and reserve noodles until sauce is complete

stir fry garlic, green onion, pork in a hot wok or deep pan on high with the oil until fragrant, about 5 minutes

add huangdou jiang and sugar, and stir

mix cornstarch and water in a small bowl and then add to sauce mixture and stir until thick, turn down heat

cook noodles in boiling water until slightly chewy in the center, about 5 minutes

serve noodles in a bowl with sauce, cucumber, and bean sprouts on the top

-serves 4-


happy new year! taiwanese rice vermicelli

Taiwanese Rice Vermicelli

It’s Lunar New Year.  I love New Year.  There are two holidays that will always make me think of home, family, and community:  Thanksgiving and Lunar New Years.  Whereas Thanksgiving was the day that my father was the main chef for the feast, Lunar New Years was when my Mom would have control, butcher cleaver waiving and all.  When I was young, I thought the actual holiday was more about food and having friends together, but as I got older I understood more of the power and importance of it.
I think, more than anything, I look at it as a way to have new beginnings and new opportunities.  Unlike it’s American/Western counterpart that has become more of a binge drinking event, Lunar New Year for any Asian community is more about getting rid of the bad stuff from the past year and really moving forward and changing things around.  Everything, from the food you eat, actions you take part in, and people you meet have a reason to help build a great and positive year.  One of the fun things about Lunar New Year is the types of food that you should eat to bring luck and prosperity for the following year.  Everything from fish to rice cake, there is a reason to eat it.  Be it the shape, how it moves, or the similarity in sounds of its name; it is eaten on this very special day.

One thing that brings long life for the year are dishes that have noodles.  The noodles represent long and full lives.  Usually served really long and uncut, the individual strands are eaten in one bite paying close attention to not bite the noodle or possibly cutting your life short.  Some people say you just have to serve the noodles long, but its mostly family tradition and preference.

My mom made this a lot when we had a lot of people over for a party.  It’s a traditional Taiwanese dish that can be made vegetarian or with meat, (pork….always pork…).  The noodles have many names:  rice noodle, rice stick, rice vermicelli.  Try to buy the Chinese kind, which is not like the Vietnamese kind.  When the noodles are prepared for shipment they are wound up and then dried.  Because it’s so thin, the strands are really long which make it perfect for long life.  Also, food will always have its meaning and symbolism, so don’t wait till next New Years to make these dishes.  Make them any time you want.  It never hurts for extra luck, happiness, fortitude, prosperity, and life.

Happy New Year!  It’s the year of the tiger!  Rawr!


¼ cup pork belly, sliced

¼ cup shitake, re-hydrated and sliced

½ cup green onion, minced

2 tbs soy sauce

1 tbs sugar

2-3 cups chinese cabbage (looks like a giant waxy cabbage, you can substitute with napa cabbage)

1 cup carrot, julienne

32 oz. dry rice vermicelli (2 packets)

1 cup chicken broth, or vegetable broth

2 tbs black vinegar

1-2 tbs canola oil

cilantro, minced (optional for garnish)


soak rice vermicelli in a big bowl of room temperature water and put to the side

stir fry pork, mushroom green onion, soy sauce, sugar, cabbage and vegetables until fully cooked and slightly tender on high with the oil in a wok

remove vegetables from wok and reserve

mix the noodles, chicken broth, and black vinegar in the same wok on high and stir until liquid is half way gone

add vegetables to the noodle and toss until liquid is completely absorbed

season to taste and garnish with cilantro

-serves 12 –


i hunger...i cook...i eat...i come back...i reminisce...i blog...enjoy.


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