Sichuan Beef Noodle Soup

Here is one of the most popular street dishes in China, the Sichuan Beef Noodle Soup, or 川味红烧牛肉面. A bowl of chewy pulled noodle, covered in a warm, savory, spicy, and mouth-numbing beef soup, with tender braised beef that melts in your mouth. You can find them in a noodle shop on the street, or on the table of fancy restaurant; your mom or grandma would let it simmer all night so you can have a hot bowl of noodle and broth on a cold winter morning, or you can enjoying it with a cold bottle of Snow beer (a very cheap Chinese beer) on a hot summer night after watching a football match.

Though beef is not commonly eaten in China, however, braised beef is a classic dish in Sichuanese cuisine. The water buffalo indigenous to this mouthiness region has tough muscles that not suitable for stir fry, thus the only way to cook it is to either thinly slice the meat, or braise it slowly in flavorful stew.  This dish usually uses the shank of beef for it’s lean muscle and tendon, but we will use chuck roast instead.

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You’ll Need:

  • 500 g or 1.1 lb beef chuck (choose fattier cuts)
  • 100 ml or 1/2 cup cooking rice wine
  • 10 g or 1/3 oz tomato paste
  • 10 g or 1/3 oz dark soy sauce
  • 15 g or 1/2 oz doubanjiang/chinese chili bean sauce
  • 15 g or 1/2 oz hoisin sauce
  • 5 g or 1/6 oz sichuan peppercorn
  • 5 g or 1/6 oz coriander seed
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 dried chili

How to make this:

  1. Cut the beef chuck into 2 cm (1 inch) cubes, then, place the meat in 0.7 liter (3 cups) of cold water with cooking wine over medium heat, bring it to a boil, skim off the surface foam, and rinse the meat clean. Save the hot water for later use.
  2. In a stew pot, add some oil over medium-high heat, when the oil start smoking, add in the Sicilian peppercorn, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, bay leave, coriander seed and dried chili, stir the spices until the oil become aromatic. Spoon out the spices and tie them into a muslin cloth, then add the garlic and spring onion into the same pot, lightly fry them in the oil.
  3. Add the sugar into the oil, let it brown lightly, then add the blanched beef into the pot/pan. Searing all sides of the beef, then add the dark soy sauce, Doubanjiang, Hoisin Sauce and tomato paste, stir until the beef is covered by the sauce and turn dark brown,
  4. Add the still warm beef broth into the pot with the lightly fried spice bag, bring it to a boil, cover with lid, then lower the heat to low, and let it simmer for 90 min (at least).
  5. Pick out the spice bag, raise the heat to high and condense to stew (for about 3 min) slightly for a thicker stew. Sever the stew over some lamian/pulled noodle, and sprinkle on some chopped green onion and coriander, with a splash of hot chili oil,

*The reason this recipe does’t have any salt is because all the Doubanjiang and Hoisin sauce are very salty, so don’t add any salt.

*If you can’t find the ingredients,  sichuan peppercorn, dark soy sauce, doubanjiang and oisin Sauce  can be find in most Chinese/Asian market, coriander seed, cinnamon stick, star anise, bay leaf, cloves is basically five spice.

*My grandma like to replace the tomato paste with ketchup for a sweeter/more acidic taste.

Osso Buco alla Milanese

img_3824.jpgOne of my favorite cut of meat is Osso Buco, which literally means “bone with a hole” (Osso “bone”, Buco “hole”). It is the cross-cut of a veal shank with a marrow hole in the center. The veal shank is usually relatively cheap and flavorful, although tough, low and slow braising makes it tender & juicy. The marrow in the bone is silky and smooth, and perfectly caramelized to bring out the amazing flavors hidden in the bone!

This traditional dish from Milan is very easy to make and requires very few ingredients. Also, I understand that veal can be quite hard to find, and some people view it as inhumane to consume it, but both beef and pork work perfectly with this dish. The flavorful braised meat and its semi-sweet sauce are perfect to serve with risotto, polenta or mashed potato

You’ll Need:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cross-cut shanks (about 1 lb each)
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    A Cross-cut of A Veal Shank

    • Veal: the best and the most traditional choice, very tender with a slight sweetness, but very hard to find
    • Beef: easy to find, very flavorful and juicy, can be a bit tough if not cooked right
    • Pork: easy to find, a bit sweet, can be a bit dry are long cooking, lower the temperature a bit
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped pancetta
  • 2 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 stem of thyme
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 cups veal, beef or chicken stock
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

How to make this:

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You want to brown it well so that the flavors of the meat can be brought out

 

  1. Dry both sides of the shanks, and generously season each side of the shank with salt and pepper, then cover with flour to get better browning on the shanks. Heat up a pan over medium-high heat, pour in the olive oil, and right before the oil starts smoking, place the shank in the pan. Sear each side for about 5 min or until they look like this. (It’s very important to brown both sides of the shank, the caramelization brings out a lot of amazing flavors, and help the meat stay on the bone)
  2. Take the browned shanks out of the pan, and in the same pan, add the chopped pancetta, onion, celery and carrot, turn the heat down to medium and cook them for about 10 min or until the onion has turned translucent. Add the minced garlic half way through since garlic burns very easily.

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    Let is slowly braise in the stock & wine mix

  3. Add the tomato paste to the pan, stir and let the tomato paste to cook and bring out some sweetness, then pour in the white wine, stir until the sauce becomes even. (It’s very important to pour in the wine when the pan is hot since the alcohol will be cooked out while the wine’s aroma and flavors can be saved.)
  4. Place the shanks in the pan, and add the broth until they almost submerge the shanks. Cover it and let it slowly braise in a 175C or 350F oven for about an hour, then remove the lid and cook for another 30 min to thicken the sauce. You can add 10 min at the end if you want a thicker sauce.
  5. Serve it with some polenta, risotto or mashed potato. I made Risotto alla Milanese or the Saffron Risotto which is a traditional side for this dish, you can find how to make Risotto here, and Enjoy!

 

 

Tiramisu

It’s almost Valentine’s Day again, and for those who prefer having a cozy dinner with their loved one at home than experiencing the nightmare of dining out on Valentine’s Day, there’s nothing better to finish a lovely home cooked meal than a serving of the Italian classic, Tiramisu. It’s rich and creamy, but light and refreshing, the liquor might get you a little tipsy, but the espresso will pick you right up, that’s why tiramisù means  “cheer me up” or “lift me up”.

For a dessert this delicious, most are afraid the recipe would be too hard, and if you look around on the internet or a lot of the cookbooks, many recipes want you to make a double boiler to cook egg yolks or make the filling using the same technic as a mouse. Yes, using these technics does make the texture a little bit better, but it just seems too unnecessarily complicated. So, here is an easier and more traditional way to make this beloved desert! It takes about 15 min and makes about 2 servings, you can use a stemless wine glass or a rock glass which fits about 1 serving.

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(*Most recipe uses Marsala wine, which is kinda hard to find and makes the dish a little too sweet. This recipe uses limoncello, which is a southern Italian lemon liqueur, but you can use any liqueur you like, dark rum, Madeira, port, brandy, or Irish cream.)

You’ll Need:

  • 2 shots espresso
  • 30 ml or 2 tbsp limoncello
  • 10-15 dried ladyfinger cookies (cut in half if making cups)
  • 2 large fresh eggs
  • 3 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean
  • 170 g or 6 oz mascarpone cheese
  • cocoa powder and shaved chocolate for garnish

How to make this:

  1. Take all the ingredients out of the fridge and place them on your kitchen counter so that they reach room temperature, this will make the whipping much easier.
  2. Once everything reaches room temperature, separate the egg white and yolk, then mix the yolk with the mascarpone cheese, limoncello, and half of the sugar in a large bowl until they turn into a smooth cream, you can also zest half of a lemon to add some extra lemon flavors (a citrus flavor breaks the fat and makes the cream much lighter)

    Whip until it forms a smooth peak

  3. In another large bowl, whip the egg white & the rest of the sugar until they form a stiff peak, if the egg white is at room temperature, this will only take about 3 min of whipping.
  4. Gently fold the half of the whipped meringue into the cheese mixture with a silicone spatula, after they are incorporated, fold in the other half. (DO NOT whisk because that will destroy all the lovely little air bubbles, thus making the Tiramisu too dense & heavy)
  5. Quickly soak the ladyfingers in the coffee, then place a layer on the bottom of the glass, then a layer of cream and another layer of soaked coffee ladyfingers. Repeat until the glass is filled, then let it sit in a fridge for at least 30 min
  6. Dust the top with cocoa powder, then sprinkle with some shaved chocolate and enjoy!

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Mushroom Risotto

Growing up in China, we eat rice for almost every meal, a warm bowl of congee for breakfast, a plate of savory & oily fried rice for lunch, and some light & fully steamed rice for dinner. Since rice was brought to Italy in the 1400s by spice merchants through the silk road, and most rice dishes around the world have a Chinese root, that’s why when I started cooking in an Italian restaurant, risotto was the first thing that I mastered, a creamy, tender rice dish that is perfect for almost any occasion. It’s perfect as the primo, a dish before the main course; however, it is also perfect with osso buco alla milanese, which is one of my favorite Italian dishes.

Since risotto is a dish that the city Milan is famous for, it requires some butter (most Italian dish uses only olive oil, but not this one), and the lovely mushrooms that can only be find in the northern Italian forests. Some of these mushroom might be hard to find, but I will provide a more common substitute in the recipe.

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You’ll Need:

  • 400 mL or 1 3/4 cup stock (chicken stock image3normally, you can use vegetable stock for vegetarian/vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 tbsp or 75 g unsalted butter (replace wit margarine for vegan)
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 thumb length celery
  • 30 g or 1 oz  dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water
    • dried porcini mushroom, bold nutty flavor (common)
    • dried shiitake mushroom, earthy & smokey flavors (common)
    • dried chanterelle mushroom, subtle peppery & apricot flavors with firm texture (common)
    • dried morels, strong beefy flavors (rare & expensive)
  • 200 g or 7 oz mushrooms
    • crimini mushroom, mild flavor (common)
    • shiitake mushroom, rich, buttery, and meaty flavors (common)
    • trumpet mushroom, similar to the texture & flavor of abalone when cooked (optional)
    • maitake mushroom, intense fruity, earthy and spicy flavors and absorb companion flavors when cooked (optional)
    • pioppini mushroom, peppery flavors with a firm texture (optional)
    • shimeji/clamshell mushroom, delicate shellfish-like flavor with firm texture (optional)
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 200 g or 7 oz rice
    • arborio rice , short grain, starchy and firm (common)
    • carnaroli, maratelli and Vialone Nano, traditional but hard to find (rare & expensive)
  • 125 mL or 1 cup dry white wine
  • sea salt  & freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp freshly Parmesan cheese

How to make this:

  1. Place the dried mushrooms into a bowl and cover with boiling water, this will re-hydrate the mushroom.
  2. Heat up a deep pan over medium-low heat, add half of the butter with the olive oil. Peel and finely chop the celery, garlic and onion, add them into the pan with some salt & black pepper and cook them for about 10 min or until they turn soft.
  3. Add the rice into the pan, lightly fry while stirring it until it turns slightly translucent.
  4. Strain the dried mushrooms, save the liquid. Clean and roughly chop the mushrooms, add them into the pan with thyme springs, turn up the heat to medium then cook until most of the liquid are evaporated.
  5. Pour in the wine and cook until the liquid turns viscous, then add 1/2 cup of the mushroom liquid and the stock. Bring everything to a boil and reduce the heat back to medium-low, stir constantly, and cook for about 20 min, add more liquid if need.
  6. Once the rice hits al dente, pick out the thyme and add the rest of the butter with the Parmesan cheese, stir until it becomes amazingly creamy and oozy. Sever it with some extra Parmesan and herbs, and enjoy!

Wonton Noodle Soup/雲吞麵

One of my must-haves every time I visit Hong Kong is the wonton noodle soup or 港式雲吞麵, you can find wonton stands everywhere and a bowl can be as cheap as 30 HKD (about 3 USD) with 7 juicy & tender shrimp wonton, chewy egg noodles and flavorful, warm seafood broth. A dish like this is perfect for dinner on a cold winter night, or if you prefer, a hearty breakfast in the morning.

For this recipe, you can “mass produce” the wontons and keep them in your freezer, they’ll last about 3 months. Although this recipe doesn’t include the recipes for the noodle and soup, you can basically use any noodle-soup combination you want.

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For 50 Wontons, You’ll Need:

  • 225g or 1/2 lb 80% lean ground pork
  • 550g or 1 lb peeled & deveined shrimp
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp bonito flakes (the original recipe calls for Chinese dried fish powder, which is 50% MSG)
  • 1 tsp cooking rice wine/Japanese mirin
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp starch
  • 1 tsp chopped chives
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 50 square wonton wrappers

How to make this:

  1. Purée half (225g) of the shrimp using a food processor, you can mince the shrimp with a knife too, but it’s just too much work. Cut the rest of the shrimp into 3 equal pieces.
  2. Thoroughly the puréed shrimp, cut shrimp chunks and minced pork together, add the egg, bonito flakes, cooking rice wine/Japanese mirin, soy sauce, starch, chopped chives, salt, and ground pepper. Stop stirring when the mixture turns into a pink, consistent, smooth paste.
  3. Place about a teaspoon of the paste in the center of the wrapper, wet the edge and fold it diagonally. Then wet the 2 tips and press them together, repeat until you used up all the wrappers or fillings.6262A7B9-6EFC-41B6-8011-CF9C7AE0FC91
  4. Bring a pot of water to a boil, then carefully drop the wontons in the boiling water. The uncooked wonton would sink to the bottom of the pot, and a good indication of the wontons are cooked is when they flow to the top of the water (the same rule apply for both fresh & frozen wonton).
  5. Serve the wontons with some blanched greens, noodle, and soup. Enjoy!

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Pork Vindaloo

One of my favorite Indian dishes is the Vindaloo, a slightly acidic and spicy meat stew from the Goa region in India. Even though in the western world, vindaloo is just another “hot & spicy curry from India”, the dish is actually inspired by a very popular Portuguese dish, carne de vinha d’alhos, which roughly translate to “marinated meat in vinegar and garlic”. It was brought to the Goa region by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century and after 200 years of improvements made by both Goanese and Portuguese cooks, when the British discovered this dish in the mid-1700s, it has transformed completely. However, when the dish was introduced back to the west, the tang from the vinegar was replaced by tomato sauce to reduce cost, meat is no longer marinated to save time, and the amazing balance of the different spices are lost under a blistering excess of chiles.

This Vindaloo recipe is very similar to that used by cooks from Goa, based on an early British India cookbook. The spices provide an earthy flavor that balances perfectly with the tangy-ness from the vinegar, and the heat is detectable, but not overwhelming.

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For the marinade, you need (*I use dried whole spices, if you use the powdered version, just use half the volume):

  • 8-10 Kashmiri chilies, dried
  • 1 tsp black mustard seed
  • 1 tsp whole cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 piece garlic
  • 1 piece ginger (about the 1/2 of a thumb size)
  • 2 tbsp apple cider or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil (something neutral)
  • 2 tbsp water

For the Vindaloo, you need:

  • 1 lb pork shoulder (beef chuck or lamb leg)
  • 1 whole sweet onion
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 cup water

How to make this:

  1. Slightly toast the Kashmiri chilies, 72C87CDF-3BBF-43AC-8668-1BDFFD6E4BF2black mustard seed, cumin, and cloves in a pan, then place it inside of a food processor with the turmeric, garlic, ginger, vinegar, cooking oil and water. Blend the mixture until it turns into a thick paste.
  2. Cut the meat into 2inch/5cm cubes, them mix them with the vindaloo paste we just made, cover the marinated meat and place them in the fridge for at least 4 hours, but 24 hours is ideal.
  3. Chop the sweet onion, then place a deep pan over medium heat, add the oil and cook the onion with some salt and the cinnamon stick for 10 min. (I like to add 2 cloves of garlic to add some more garlic-ness)
  4. Add the marinated meat with all the paste into the same pan, cook for about 10 to 15 min or until the surface of the meat is browned. Then add the tomato paste, brown sugar and water into the pan. Bring it to a simmer, cover the pan and cook for about 1 hour or until the meat is tender.
  5. Serve the vindaloo with some warm fluffy rice. And Enjoy!IMG_1713

Tonkotsu Ramen

IMG_3714On a warm winter evening, nothing can beat a warm bowl of noodle and soup, and one of my favorite noodle dishes is Japanese Ramen! The flavorful broth matched with the chewy but tender noodle with toppings like Tempura or Char Shu is just the perfect combination. Even though the wildly popular soy & miso broth are amazing with the curly, thick ramen noodle, my favorite on a cold winter night is a very special ramen, known is the west as Tonkotsu Ramen.

Tonkotsu ramen is a ramen dish that’s from Fukuoka, on the Kyushu island (southern end) of Japan, and it is a specialty in the region. Like many amazing dishes, like Pot-au-feu, Barbacoa, Mujaddara or Gumbo, it has a humble origin, and it is famous for the long preparation time. Invented as an affordable fast food for workers on the harbor and fish market, the soup broth is used cheap pork bones and affordable other ingredients, which is typically boiled for several hours. The dish is traditionally served with thin ramen noodles so they can be served quickly during the short breaks, and topped with sliced Char Shu, braised pork belly. In Japan, Tonkotsu ramen is also known as Hakata ramen, so when you are they, give it a try!

Today, we will make a version where most ingredients can be easily gathered in the western world, since a lot of ingredients are hard to find outside certain countries, so if you are a ramen snob or purist, please understand that even though this is not exactly the same as how they make it in Fukuoka, the flavor is similar, the ingredients are affordable and easy to find, and the most important thing of all is that it is DELICIOUS. Let’s make it! (Also, this takes about 24 hours to make, so be prepared.)

Here’s how to make one of the most iconic toppings for ramen: Cha Shu

You’ll Need:

  • 1.5 kg or 3.3 lb pig trotters (if you can’t find it, don’t worry, just use the same weight of pork soup bone (*ask your butcher), plus about 0.45 kg or 1 lb of chicken wings)
  • 1 kg or 2.2 lb chicken backs and carcasses
  • 1 large onion
  • 12 garlic cloves
  • 1 knob ginger
  • 2 dozen scallions, white parts only (save the greens for garnishing)
  • Optional: 1 pound slab pork fat back

How to make this:

  1. Cut the pig trotter crosswise into 1-inch disks (or ask your butcher to do it for you), bring a large pot of water to a boil, then place pork and chicken bones (and wings) in the boiling water to blanch them for about 2 min. Strain and wash all bones under cold water, removing as much as the dark marrow (actually coagulated blood).
  2. You now need to char the aromatics, if you have a blow torch, you can just char the surface of the onion, garlic, and ginger. If a blow torch is not available, heat the vegetable oil in a medium cast iron or non-stick skillet over high heat until lightly smoking, then add onions, garlic, and ginger, tossing occasionally until deeply charred on most sides, which takes about 10 minutes total.
  3. Place the bones in the pot with charred vegetables, scallion whites. Add water and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, skimming off any scum that appears, then reduce heat to a bare simmer and place a heavy lid on top.
  4. Cooking until broth is opaque with the texture of cream, which takes about 14 to 16 hours, add a little bit of water to keep the bones submerged at all times, which is about once an hour after hour 4. (If you must leave the pot unattended for long period of time, top up the pot and reduce the heat to the lowest setting while you are gone. Return to a boil when you come back and continue cooking) 

  5. Once broth is pretty much done, cook over high heat until reduced to around 3 quarts. Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer, then strain again through cheesecloth. Skim liquid fat from the top.

All you need to do after the broth is completed is to cook some thin straight noodles, which is traditionally used at ramen shops in Fukuoka, add a couple slices of Cha Shu, Ajitsuke Tamago (Japanese pickled eggs), and enjoy!

Ps. These are the Ajitsuke Tamago (Japanese pickled eggs), I soft boiled the egg and pickled it in a soy-mirin-sake marinade for about 24 to 72 hours in the fridge.

 

 

Katsu Curry

Japanese food is not only famous for its traditional dishes like sushi, ramen or the different “don”s, but also for perfectly incorporating western ingredients & flavors into traditional Japanese cooking, these dishes are called Yoshoku or western food. So, today, we are making an easy and fast dish that you can find almost everywhere in Japan.

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You’ll need these for the Japanese curry:

  • 3 cubes Japanese curry roux
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 lb mushroom
  • 1 large potato
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion
  • 1 tbsp oil

You’ll need these for the katsu (fried pork chop):

  • 2 slices pork loin chops
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumb
  • oil for frying

How to make this:

  1. Slice the onion and mushroom, then sweat them in an oiled deep pan or pot over medium heat. Peel the carrot and potato, cut them into 1/2-inch or 1 cm thick cubes, add them to the pan/pot and sautée for about 1 min, then add the chicken broth, bring it to a simmer, cover and cook for about 15 min
  2. Pre-heat the oil to 170C or 340F. Lightly pound the pork chop, cover it with flour, drench it in the beaten egg, then cover it with panko bread crumb. Fry them for about 7 to 8 min
  3. Add the curry roux cubes into the stock with the cooked vegetable, stir gently while the stock is simmering for about 2 min or until it thickens
  4. Cut the pork chop, serve it over some rice and cover it with the curry sauce

Carbonara

If you ask me what the easiest pasta to make is, my answer would probably be Carbonara. It only needs 5 ingredients, takes about 15 min to make, and it’s absolutely delicious with a creamy sauce made egg, parmesan & pecorino romano. This pasta is so good that I use it as a standardized test for every Italian restaurant I visit, and it is the only pasta that I would make on a daily basis for a quick and delicious meal or snack. Since this dish is originated in Rome, but with some of the ingredients that are very hard to find outside Italy, so I make some recontamination on what to use in the ingredients list.

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You’ll Need:

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 oz freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1 oz freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 tsp Coarsely ground black pepper
  • 4 oz cured pork (options):
    •  guanciale (It’s very hard to find & expensive, but the Romans love it, it’s cured pork jowl)
    • pancetta (Also very hard to find & expensive, but very popular in Italy, it’s cured pork belly)
    • bacon (Very easy to find & cheap, thick cut, smoked and cured pork belly)
  • 3/4 lb dried pasta (options):
    • bucatini (a hollow, thick spaghetti-like pasta, very light, not easy to find)
    • spaghetti (very easy to find and cheap)

How to make this:

  1. Heat up a large pot of water with salt over high heat, and bring to a boil, cook the pasta until it’s just a bit over al dente
  2. While the pasta is cooking, sliced the cured pork of your choice into pieces about 1/4 inch thick by 1/3 inch square, then sauté the cured pork in a large skillet over medium heat until the fat just renders, just so that the edge are crispy but not hard, then remove from heat and set aside
  3. Whisk together the egg yolks, Pecorino and Parmesan in another bowl, season with black pepper
  4. Save a ladle of pasta water, add the drained pasta to the pan, stir it for about 20 seconds, then add in the egg yolk cheese mix, stir constantly, then add a little bit if the pasta water at a time, mix until the yolk thickens
  5. Server with some extra Pecorino or Parmesan

The “Casanova” Burger

A while back, The Cheese & Burger Society published a list of delicious burgers, and on top of that list, is the “Casanova” burger, made with Swiss cheese over a 10 oz patty with ham and sauteed mushrooms over some potato rolls. However, to me personally, after making this burger, I realized that this recipe has several issues, first of all, the hams are a bit hard to chew, so you can’t get a clean bite; second, the potato rolls are a little too soft, and make the burger feels super light; and third, the sauteed mushroom just fell off when you eat it. So to fix it, I changed the recipe up a little, first, we are going to use some seared prosciutto instead of ham, then instead of the sauteed mushroom, we will cook them with a béchamel sauce, and switch the potato buns to kaiser roll. So here is a better, beefier and easier to eat this version of the “Casanova” Burger. This recipe makes one burger

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You’ll need:

  • 3/4 lb 80% fat ground beef
  • 1/2 small shallot (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic (optional)
  • 1 strip thick cut bacon
  • 3 thin slices prosciutto
  • 5 medium size Crimini mushroom
  • 2 slices swiss cheese
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 kaiser roll

Hoe to make this:

  1. Cut the bacon into small pieces, finely mince the shallot and garlic, then in a pan over medium heat, sear the bacon bits for about 2 min, then add the shallot & garlic and cook for another 3 min or until the bacon bits are mostly crispy. Place them in large bowl and let them cool down, then mix it with the ground beef
  2. Slice the mushrooms, then cook them in the same pan over medium heat with the butter for about 1 min, then mix in the flour, lightly toast the flour to get rid of the raw taste, then add the milk and stir constantly or until it turns smooth, add ground nutmeg if you want to take this to another level, turn the heat down to medium-low and stir until the sauce turns thick
  3. Form the beef mixture into two 6 oz patties, make it a little wide than the bun so when they are cooked, they shrink a bit and fits the bun perfectly. Heat up the pan over medium-high and cook each side for about 3 min per sides for rare, 4 min for medium or 5 min for well done. Place the cheese on top, cover the pan, then turn off the heat and let it sit for about 2 min or until the cheese melts, let the patties rest for another 5 min after cooking
  4. Sear the prosciutto over medium heat until it turns semi-crispy (about 2 min), the prosciutto is usually very salty thus we don’t need any salt in this dish. Toast the buns and brush the buns with some butter for better texture and flavor
  5. Spread the Dijon mustard on the bottom bun, the mayonnaise on the top, then on the bottom, place 2 slices of cooked prosciutto, then the 2 patties, then another slice of the prosciutto, with the béchamel mushrooms on top

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Beef Barbacoa

The traditional Mexican or Caribbean barbacoa is a method which a whole sheep are slow-cooked in pits covered with maguey leaves. But since it’s hard to get or cook a whole lamb, we are doing a more modern version which is made with the head of a cow (I know, WTF?) or chunks of cow or lamb.

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You’ll Need:

  • 2 lb beef chuck
  • 1 onion
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 chipotles(smoke-dried jalapeño)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup chili powder

How to make this:

  1. Place the chuck in a dutch oven or a heavy-duty pot, add the chopped onion & bay leaves, then cover half of the meat with smoke-dried jalapeño, black pepper, salt, garlic powder, apple cider vinegar, and water,
  2. Cover and braise the chuck at 120C or 250F for at least 6 hours, add 1/2 cup of water for every hour you add, flip the chuck halfway to ensure even cooking
  3. Once the meat is braised, drain & save the liquid (perfect broth for any soup), discard the bay leaves, then blend the tomato sauce & chili powder until smooth, shred the meat with forks, mix in the salsa
  4. Place the meat back in the dutch oven and roast it in the oven at 120C or 250F for another 2 hours
  5. Server it over some tortillas with cilantro and chopped onion

Pain Perdu (French Toast) + Brioche Bread

This is going to be one of the heaviest recipes featured here, there’s going to be lots of sugar, butter & cream, and that usually results in a very, very high-calorie count. But don’t be afraid, we are going to do this properly, from scratch.

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First, the bread. Yes, you can just use normal sandwich bread, but those bread are bland & textureless, so, instead of that, we are going to use Brioche. It’s light and slightly puffy with a dark, golden, and flaky crust, which makes it perfect for this recipe, a bread that’s not too chewy, but can still hold its shape. I know that Brioche is often made with fruit or chocolate chip and served on its own, or served as a base for canapés, or soak it in syrup, and bake into a Bostock (which some claims to be better than French toast and they have a point), but trust me on this one, the result is worth the effort.

You’ll need these for the Brioche bread:

  • 500g flour
  • 3 eggs (2 eggs for bread & 1 egg for the egg wash)
  • 50g sugar
  • 5g salt
  • 10g dry active yeast
  • 100g butter
  • 200mL milk

How to make this:

  1. Sift the flour into a large bowl, stir in the sugar & salt, then cut the butter into small cubes & rub them into the flour, this will create the flaky crust on the outside
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the 2 eggs, room temp milk, and yeast, then gradually add the liquid into the dry mixture, about 1/4 at a time. Then place the dough on a well-floured surface and knead the dough until it’s smooth, which takes about 5 to 7 min
  3. Place the dough in a sealed container and let it proof for about 2 hours or until it doubles in size, then punch it down, cut it into 3 equal portions, stretch them out and braid, and place it into a loaf tray. Cover it and let it proof again for another 45 min, or until the dough reaches the surface of the tray
  4. Brush on a layer of egg wash, then place it in a pre-heated 200C/390F degree oven for 20ish min, then let it cool for at least 20 min

 

So, 4 hours later, you have a loaf of the most beautiful bread among the 100+ types of bread out there, and your kitchen smells like what I imagine “happiness” is like, what are you going to do next? Well, the unfortunate truth is that you have to wait, about 6 hours to be exact. The reason why the French calls it “pain perdu” or “lost bread”, it’s because they used it as a way to reclaim stale or “lost” bread, let it absorb the egg and cream, pan-fried it in butter until it turns golden. So, just be patient, and wait until the loaf to slowly dry. And after 10 hours, let’s make some French toasts!

You’ll need these for the French Toasts:

  • about 10 slices 1-inch thick brioche bread
  • 2 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cream
  • pinch of cinnamon & a tiny pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp butter

How to make this:

  1. Whisk together the eggs & egg yolk with the sugar, vanilla extract, cream, cinnamon, and a tiny pinch of salt
  2. Place a butter in a pan over medium-low heat, soak the bread for about 2 sec then flip it and soak for another 2 sec
  3. Place the soaked bread on the pan, cook for about 2 min, flip and cook for another 2 min, sprinkle with some sugar, then repeat and cook each side for another 2 min, the total cook time should be around 8 to 10 min over medium-low heat
  4.  Serve it with powdered sugar, syrup or some fresh fruits

 

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(Brioche Bread)

Guinness Beef Stew

Beer, potato, and meat, this is what this dish is. It’s Irish? I am not sure, but is it delicious? Yes! It’s super simple, and will definitely warm you up on a cold winter night.

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You need:

  • 2 lb beef chuck
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 onions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 bottle Guinness
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 1/2 lb potatoes

How to make this:

  1. Cut the beef into 2-inch cubes, roughly chop the onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes
  2. Toss the beef in the salt, black pepper, and flour, heat up a dutch oven or a deep pot on medium high, and brown the meat
  3. Take the meat out, and in the same pot, cook the onions, carrots, and celery on medium for about 4 min, then pour half of the Guinness in, deglaze the pan
  4. Pour in the rest of Guinness, add the potatoes, sugar and beef stock, bring them to a simmer, then turn the heat down to low and let it cook for about 2 hours
  5. Serve it by itself or with some bread

Memphis Style Ribs

Like many meat eaters (if you are vegetarian, that’s cool, smoked mushrooms are great), the most comforting way to enjoy a piece of meat is to smoke it; nothing like waiting for a piece of brisket to slowly cook in the smoker while sitting in the shade and having a glass of sweet ice tea. However, if you live in an apartment or in the city, chances are, you don’t have a smoker or the city code forbids you from building/having one. So, how to achieve the smoky flavor, the tenderness and juiciness of a piece of smoked meat without a smoker? Here’s a way to do it.

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You need:

  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ground white pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup of molasses
  • 1/4 cup liquid smoke (optional)
  • 4 lb of ribs

How to make this:

  1. Mix the molasses and liquid smoke into a semi-paste sauce (you can sub liquid smoke with the same volume of water), brush each side of the ribs evenly
  2. Heat up the oven to 93C or 200F degrees, if your oven’s lowest setting is above that, subtract 5 min from the cooking time for every degree in celsius
  3. Place the ribs on a baking tray, seal it with aluminum foil, try to minimize the water loss during the long cooking process
  4. Bake it in the oven for 4 hours, don’t open them, no matter how good they smell
  5. Once the meat is cooked at low temperature for 4 hours, take them out, brush another layer of the molasses mix
  6. Mix brown sugar, black pepper, paprika, chili powder, ground white pepper, crushed red pepper, salt, and garlic powder. Sprinkle them evenly on the ribs, let the ribs sit for 10 min
  7. Bake the meat in a 205C or 400F degree oven for 8-10 min
  8. Serve it with some roasted corn and some extra hickory BBQ sauce

This recipe is really great for 2 reasons, first, the rub, more commonly known as the “Tennessee Rubdown”, is great for almost any beef or pork dishes, it is very versatile. Second, the indoor “smoker” method, since smoking is basically a long time, low temp cooking process, this is great for almost any meat, as long as the meat is well sealed within the oven so the juice within the meat doesn’t escape.

Shio Ramen

Happy National Ramen Day! And as the dish became more popular in recent years, more efforts have been put into the studying and perfection of ramen. Similar to the 5 “mother sauces” in French cuisine, there are 4 “mother broths” in Japanese ramen. I have recently written a recipe for one of them, the Tonkostu ramen, a style with a rich, thick, creamy pork bone broth. However, it is a very new style of broth, at least compared to the one we are making today, the Shio ramen.IMG_6452

The Shio ramen is probably the oldest style if ramen, the word “shio”, which literally means 塩/salt perfectly describes the main flavors of this broth. However, don’t be afraid of the sodium, the base of the broth is usually made with clear chicken or seafood broth, with a “salty tare” + dashi, which contains a lot of natural salty ingredients, and chicken fat.

This recipe only takes 5 hours, which is a lot less than the “24 hours Tonkotsu Broth”, and like the Tonkotsu recipe, you can make a big batch of this and save them for later.

For the Chicken Broth, You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 of a whole chicken
  • 3 liters or 12.5 cups of water
  • 2 springs of green onions
  • 1 thumb size piece of ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 5 grams or 1/5 oz of sea salt

For the Salty Tare + Dashi, You’ll Need:

  • 1/4 liter or 1 cup of water
  • 1 palm size piece of kombu
  • 5 grams or 1/5 oz of katsuobushi
  • 5 grams or 1/5 oz of sugar
  • 10 grams or 1/3 oz of sea salt
  • 3 piece of dried shitake mushroom
  • 30 ml or 2 tbsp sake
  • 30 ml or 2 tbsp mirin
  • 30 ml or 2 tbsp soy sauce

You’ll also need:

  • 4 servings of ramen noodle (dried or fresh)
  • 2 springs of green onion
  • Cha Shu (Japanese braised pork belly)
  • Ajitsuke Tamago (Japanese pickled eggs)

How to make this:

  1. Trim as much skin and fat as possible off the chicken, then blanch it in boiling water, rinse and clean the partially cooked chicken, then place it in a pot of 3 liters, clean water with the ginger, garlic, and green onion. Bring the broth to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn the heat down to low and let the broth simmer for about 5 hours.
  2. Heat a pan over medium heat, and fry the trimmed chicken skin and fat until most of the fat is rendered out, which should take about 10 min, strain & save the fat in a container.
  3. About 30 min before the chicken broth is complete, place the kombu, katsuobushi and shitake mushroom in 1/4 liters of water. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat, then add the sugar, salt, mirin, sake, and soy sauce, lower the heat and let the mixture slowly simmer for about 15 min or until it turns slightly thick.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to boil, then place the ramen noodle in the water, stir a couple times, wait till the noodle is cooked, then strain it.
  5. Place the noodle in a large bowl, then add 2 spoons full of the salty tare + dashi, with about 1 cup of the chicken broth, and a couple drops of the chicken fat. Serve with some thinly sliced green onion root, some Chashu, and an Ajitsuke Tamago, then Enjoy!

 

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Tortilla Española

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There’s rarely anything as simple and as satisfying as Tortilla Española or Tortilla de Patatas, the Spanish Omelette. This tapas classic has existed in Spain and parts of the Latin Americans since the 1600s, and it is still as popular today as the day it is invented. With only 4 ingredients, it’s savory and sweet, with a touch of smokiness, with an almost crispy crust on the surface, and a creamy, soft interior, like an aged cheese. Even though the traditional recipe doesn’t contain any onion, it was added to the recipe in the 1900s to provide some extra sweetness to the omelette. This recipe takes about 30 mins and serves about 4 people.

You’ll Need:

  • 3 medium-sized potatoes (about 1/2 kg or 1 lb, starchy potatoes)
  • 1 sweet onion (or any other type of white onion)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 cups olive oil

How To Make This:

  1. Peel and thinly slice both the potatoes and onion, you can slice them with a knife, or save a lot of time and effort by using a mandoline.
  2. img_4316.jpgHeat up a deep pan over medium heat, pour in the oil and wait until the temperature rises to about 150C or 300F degrees.
  3. Add the onion first, fry for about 3 min, then add the sliced potatoes. Continue frying for about 12 min or until the potatoes are cooked through.
  4. Strain the fried potatoes and onion, gently mix them with the 6 eggs. Cover it with some aluminum foil and let it sit for about 5 min.
  5. Heat a well-oiled non-stick pan (with a 10-inch diameter) over high heat, add in the thickened egg mixture and cook for about 1 min, this will create the crust for the omelette. Then turn the heat down to medium and let the omelette cook for another 3 min. While the top of the omelette is still a bit runny, cover the top of the pan with a large plate, then flip the pan over, with the cooked part of the omelette facing up, and slide the omelette back into the pan. Cook for another 2 min over medium heat.
  6. Cut the omelette into wedges, you can serve them both hot and cold, enjoy!

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Thai Green Curry

I was having curry at a local Thai restaurant last weekend and it wasn’t so great, the so-called “Royal Curry” is similar to a peanut coconut curry, but it was way too sweet, and the consistency is too thick (they most likely used starch to thicken it). And I realized that overly-sweetness is actually a common theme in Thai food in Western countries, and after doing some research, the reason behind it is that for a dish like Thai Green Curry or Kaeng Khiao Wan (“Kaeng” meaning curry, “Khiao” meaning green, “Wan” meaning sweet), the sweet is usually understood too literally, when it actually meant to describe the particular color green of this curry, which is more like a cream green.

So, to make your Thai curry experience more authentic at home, we are going to make a pretty traditional Thai curry from Central Thailand, Kaeng Khiao Wan or Green Curry.

This recipe serves 4.

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For The Paste, You’ll Need:

  • IMG_3082140 g or 5 oz Green Thai (or Birdeye) Chilies
  • 4 cloves Garlic
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 Shallots
  • 2 stalks Lemongrass (just the root)
  • 1 thumb-sized chunk of Galangal (or ginger, they are very similar in flavor)
  • 1 piece of Lime Peel
  • 1 tbsp Mix Peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp Shrimp Paste (or anchovy paste)
  • 1/2 tbsp Rock Sugar
  • 1 tsp Coriander Seed
  • 1 tsp Cumin Seed
  • 1 tsp Salt

For the Curry, You’ll Need:

  • 1.5 kg or 3 lb of river fish (like bass, pike or carb) or fish balls
  • 0.7 kg or 1.5 lb of mushroom
  • 500 ml or 2 cups of seafood stock (water)
  • 500 ml or 2 cups of coconut cream
  • 5 – 10 stems of Thai sweet basil
  • 2 red chilies

How to make this:

  1.  IMG_3110.jpgFirst, we make the paste, roughly chop the green Thai chilies, garlic, lime leaves, shallots, lemongrass, galangal and lime peel, lightly toast the peppercorns, coriander and cumin seeds, then blend everything together with a food processor or a pestle & mortar, then add the shrimp paste, salt and sugar. Blend or smash it to an almost paste-like consistency. (At this point, you can either make the curry or freeze the paste and use it in the future)
  2. Bring the seafood stock to a boil, then add all paste to the stock, cook for about 8 min or until it turns to a cream like color. At this step, you can either strain the stock and make a smooth curry, or keep the small bits in there and make a more rustic version of the dish.
  3. Add the mushroom and fish(or fishball) to the soup, pouch both until they are cooked, then add the coconut cream, mix gently so you don’t break apart the fish. Bring the curry to a boil and remove the mixture from the heat. Add the chopped red chilies and basil leaves, sever it with some rice, and enjoy!

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This is one of the easier Thai dishes, and take almost no time to cook, but it’s packed with amazing flavors and the freshness of the dish is unbelievable! The paste can be frozen into cubes and use in the future, and you can use almost any meat or mushroom or tofu you want, actually, Korean style fish cake is perfect for this dish. Give it a try, it’s really easy!