Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sesame-Ginger Chicken Soup with Somen Noodles (Ma You Ji / Mwa Yiu Ge)

This traditional Taiwanese dish is da bomb, especially on a cold winter day, which have been few and far between this year in SoCal. But I had a craving, so I made it anyway - a pox on our ridiculously warm February weather! The ingredients are few - just black sesame oil (darker than regular toasted sesame oil and with a stronger flavor), Chinese rice wine (Michiu), ginger root, scallions, and water - but the results will warm the cockles of your heart. Sesame chicken soup is also traditionally part of the postpartum diet for Asian (especially Taiwanese) moms after giving birth, providing them with warmth and nutrition. Over the years, my mom has drilled into my head to nevah evah use salt in this recipe, and she's totally right about that - if you do, you'll regret it, because it'll just take away from the pure flavors of the sesame oil and rice wine. Somen noodles are optional, but I strongly recommend adding them for that "chicken noodle soup" vibe. Goji berries are also optional, but they add a nice touch of sweetness to this dish.

1 whole chicken, cut up into pieces (or 4-5 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs)
10 slices ginger
2 scallions, cut into 1" sections
4-6 tbsp. black sesame oil
4 cups rice wine (Michiu)
2 cups water (or enough to cover)

2 tbsp. dried Goji berries (optional)
Somen noodles (optional)

Sliced scallions for garnish

1. Heat sesame oil in a hot pan; add the ginger and scallions sections and saute for 10-15 seconds. Add chicken and saute until lightly browned.

2. Add rice wine and water (enough to cover the chicken), goji berries (if using) and bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook 30 minutes.


4. Bring a medium pot of water with a pinch of salt to a boil. Add the somen noodles and cook for 2 minutes. 

5. Drain the noodles and portion out into individual serving bowls. Ladle the soup over the noodles, top with some of the chicken, and garnish with sliced scallions

Jidori chicken from 99 Ranch Market. 

 Jidori chicken cut up into pieces. 
You can also substitute with bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or drumsticks for all dark meat.

Black sesame oil, rice wine (Michiu), sliced scallions and ginger root. 

Heat the sesame oil in a heavy pan (I'm using an enameled cast iron pot here). 

Saute the sliced ginger and scallions until fragrant. 

Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned; add the rice wine and enough water to cover the chicken, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender.

Somen is really super thin wheat noodles, available in the Asian section of  
most supermarkets.

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the somen noodles and cook for 2 minutes.  

Drain the noodles and portion out into individual serving bowls.  

Ladle the soup over the noodles in each bowl, top with some of the chicken, and garnish 
with sliced scallions. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Savory Taiwanese Congee/Rice Porridge (Giam Mue)

Taiwanese congee or rice porridge is usually cooked plain (just rice and water) or with some diced sweet potato, but another traditional version called "Giam Mue" (translated as "salty" rice porridge) includes savory ingredients like shiitake mushrooms, tiny dried shrimp, celery, fried shallots, and ginger. My mom makes a delicious version, but since I don't have her exact recipe, this is my take on it. I've gone off the reservation a bit by adding ground pork but, hey, everything's better with pork, right?

Congee served with a side of Taiwanese dried radish and scallion omelette (Tsai-bo Nung) 

2 cups rice (Calrose is best)
16 cups of water
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. hondashi (optional)

1 tbsp. extra small dried shrimp (He Bi)

5 dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2 lb. ground pork
1 cup fried shallots
2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
2 ribs celery, cut into small dice
3 scallions, diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (including some of the stems)
2 tsp. white pepper
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. rice wine
1 tbsp. sesame oil

Yiu Tiao (Chinese donuts), optional for garnish

Chopped cilantro and scallions for garnish

1. Combine the rice, water, 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. of hondashi in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for about 1 hour until the porridge is very thick, but not pasty (add additional water if needed).

2. In the meantime, place the dried shiitakes and shrimp into a medium bowl and cover with hot water. Let sit for about 20-30 minutes until softened. Once softened, dice the mushroom caps (discard the stems) and finely chop the shrimp; set aside.

3. Heat a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the ground pork (no need to add oil to the pan first) and break up with a potato masher. Once the pork is about halfway cooked through, add the chopped dried shrimp, diced shiitakes, fried shallots, ginger, celery, scallions, cilantro, white pepper, soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil. Stir-fry for 30 seconds or until the pork is cooked through.

3. Add the pork mixture to the rice porridge and stir well to combine. Add an additional 2 tsp. of kosher salt to the porridge, or according to your taste. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes, covered.

4. Ladle the hot congee into individual serving bowls and garnish with sliced yiu tiao pieces, scallions and/or cilantro.

Chopped cilantro, scallion, celery, ginger, small rehydrated dried shrimp and shiitake mushrooms. 

Cook the rice in 16 cups of water seasoned with 2 tsp. kosher salt and 1 tsp. hondashi (optional) until it reaches a porridge-like consistency (about 1 hour).

Rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, fried shallots/red onion (available in most Asian markets), 
and white pepper.

Add the ground pork to a hot saute pan (no oil needed) and break up the pieces 
(a potato masher is the best tool for this job).

Add the diced celery, scallions, cilantro, shiitakes, dried shrimp, ginger, fried shallots, soy sauce, 
rice wine, white pepper, and sesame oil. 

Stir-fry all the ingredients for about 30 seconds or until the pork is cooked through. 

Add the pork mixture to the rice porridge. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 
for about 10minutes.

 Ladle into individual serving bowls and garnish with cilantro, scallions and/or sliced 
yiu tiao (Chinese donuts) as desired.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Celeriac (Celery Root) and Potato Mash with Roasted Garlic

Celeriac is basically a variety of celery that is cultivated for its root - and if you've never tried this knobby, humbly unprepossessing, yet wildly delectable root veggie, then you're totally missing out! When boiled and mashed, it has a creamy smooth consistency with a mildly sweet, celery-like flavor and is the perfect addition to traditional mashed potatoes. In this recipe, I've combined and mashed it together with russet potatoes, roasted garlic, butter and cream. Soooooo good!!!! You'll never want to eat just plain ol' mashed potatoes again!

2-3 celeriac/celery roots, peeled and cut into large dice (best to peel with a paring knife)
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice
Generous pinch of salt

2 whole bulbs of garlic, sliced through the center in halves
Olive oil, salt & pepper

3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
4 tbsp. unsalted butter

1-2 tbsp. chopped scallion or chives for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Place the sliced garlic bulbs onto a sheet of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Wrap the bulbs tightly with the foil and place into the oven. Roast for 30-45 minutes until the garlic is nice and tender. Remove from the oven and place the foil-wrapped garlic onto a rack or chopping board to cool to room temperature.  

2. In the meantime, place the diced celeriac and potatoes into a large pot of water seasoned with a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook about 20 minutes or until just tender. Drain the water from the pan.

3. Place the cooked celeriac and potatoes into a ricer in batches and press them through into a large bowl. 

4. Add the heavy cream, salt, pepper, and unsalted butter and stir to combine. Taste and reseason as needed. 

5. Using your hands, squeeze the garlic cloves out of the cooled garlic bulbs onto a chopping board and roughly chop the garlic. Add to the mash and stir well to combine. 

6. Place the mash into a serving bowl and garnish with chopped scallion or chives.

Boil the celeriac and potatoes in salted water for about 20 minutes or until just tender.

Press the cooked celeriac and potatoes through a ricer into a large bowl.

Add unsalted butter and heavy cream to the mixture.

Season with salt and pepper.

2 roasted garlic bulbs, cooled to room temperature.

Squeeze the garlic cloves out of the bulbs and chop roughly.

Add the chopped garlic to the mash.

Plate and garnish with chopped scallions or chives. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar and Honey Glaze

If you're generally not a carrot lover, this recipe just might change your mind. A couple years ago my sis, Elaine, bought some roasted glazed rainbow carrots as a side dish for an Easter meal from Pavilions, and I was hooked ever since. I came up with this recipe, which I think closely simulates the original, adding some balsamic vinegar for its rich color and deeply sweet flavor. 

2 lbs. thin/baby Rainbow carrots or regular orange carrots with tops on
3 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves or a couple sprigs

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. 

2. Wash the carrots and trim off the tops, leaving about 1" of the stem on.

3. Place the carrots in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Toss with all the remaining ingredients until thoroughly coated.

4. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes or until lightly browned and just tender, turning the carrots over once with a spatula or tongs halfway through the cooking period. 

5. Serve immediately or at room temperature. 


Roasted Green Beans

2 lbs. green beans, washed & trimmed
1-2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. granulated garlic

Spread beans out on a foil-lined baking sheet and toss with remaining ingredients. Roast at 450F for 10-15 minutes. Remove, cover and set aside until ready to serve (ok to serve at room temperature).

Stir-Fried Chicken with Green Bell Peppers

My maternal Grandpa (Ah-kung) used to make this dish to perfection. I can't quite replicate it, but here's my best rendition. Ah-kung was originally from Fujian province in China, and tended to use a liberal amount of vinegar, soy and sugar in his cuisine (spice was not part of the regimen). I have such fond memories of his perpetually happy countenance and super cool laid back personality. I miss him dearly.

24 oz. (2 pkgs) boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1" dice

1 egg white
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. cornstarch

2 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into large dice
1 serrano or red jalapeno chile, seeded & thinly sliced
3 scallions, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced

5 1/2 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. black pepper
8 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. cornstarch

1/4 cup oil

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

1. Marinate chicken in egg white, 2 tbsp. soy sauce, and 1 tbsp. cornstarch. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. 

2. Dice the peppers, scallions, ginger & garlic; set aside.

3. Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

4. Heat 1/4 cup of vegetable oil in a wok over high heat. Add marinated chicken & saute until just cooked through. Remove to a bowl & set aside.

5. In the same pan, saute bell peppers, chiles, garlic, ginger and scallions for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Add chicken back to the pan, toss to combine, then stir in sauce. Bring to a boil until sauce is thickened. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

6. Serve with steamed white rice.

Marinate chicken, cover & refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Dice the green bell peppers (I used Italian Marconi peppers here harvested from my garden. They're thinner skinned and more flavorful than regular bell peppers), serrano/jalapeno chiles, garlic, ginger, and scallions. 

Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

Soy sauce, rice vinegar, black pepper & sesame oil.

Saute marinated chicken over high heat in 1/4 cup of oil. Remove & set aside.

In same pan, saute bell peppers, chiles, garlic, scallions and ginger for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant.

Add chicken back to the pan; stir to combine.

Add the sauce; bring to a boil & stir until sauce is thickened.

Hubert Keller's Black Forest Cake (Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte)

Here's my second attempt at Black Forest cake and this one's a keeper. I used to dislike Black Forest cake because most versions I'd tried before were either on the dry side, too sweet (I'm not a fan of maraschinos), and/or not boozey enough. After researching the origins of this German dessert, I learned that the traditional cherries used are not the cloyingly sweet maraschinos but rather sour cherries. Also, the frosting/filling is all whipped cream, and the chocolate cake layers are judiciously sprinkled with a deliciously boozey cherry juice spiked with kirschwasser (a clear spirit made from sour cherries). Then all is topped with chocolate shavings. The first time I made Black Forest cake I used cake flour, buttermilk, eggs, vegetable oil and dark cocoa powder to make the cake batter, then parboiled some fresh bing cherries in sugar and water and placed them in mason jars with some kirsch. I brushed the cake layers with a good amount of the cherry juice-kirsch liquid, scattered the kirsch-soaked cherries between each cake layer, and frosted the whole thing with sweetened whipped cream. Second time around, I used Hubert Keller's recipes for the cake and a jar of French Morello (Griottine) cherries in liqueur, available through Amazon The cherries are small, not too sweet, pitted, and infused with just the right amount of alcohol. Sure, they're not exactly cheap (about $18.00 for 11 oz.) but there's no need to mess around with making your own kirsch-soaked cherries and you can use the liqueur straight from the jar to brush the cake layers.


Hubert Keller's Black Forest Cake:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (Dutch-process, if you can find it)
Pinch of salt
6 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup ultra fine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped Cream:

4 cups heavy cream
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup or a 12-ounce jar sour cherries such as morello or amarena in liqueur (my fav is Griottines)

For the Cake:
  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 350° with the rack in the center of the oven. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan. The original recipe called for a 10" pan, but it's hard to slice the cake into 3 layers after after it's baked - a 9" pan produces a higher cake. 
  2. 2. Sift the flour, cocoa, and salt together onto a sheet of parchment paper and set aside. 
  3. 3. Using a whisk attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla at high speed in a stand mixer until the mixture has tripled in volume and is very thick, about 8 minutes. When the whisk is lifted, the batter will form a thick ribbon as it falls back into the bowl.
  4. 4. Lower the speed to stir and carefully add the dry ingredients on the parchment into the egg mixture. As soon as all the flour has been added to the eggs, stop the machine. 
  5. 5. Pour in the melted butter, leaving out as much of the white, milky solids as possible (aka clarified butter). With a large rubber spatula, finish folding the flour mixture and butter into the batter using as few strokes as possible until evenly mixed.
  6. 6. Immediately scrape the batter into the prepared pan, place the pan on a baking sheet, and bake until the cake feels just firm to the touch, about 35-40 minutes. 
  7. 7. Transfer the cake to a rack and let it cool for about 5 minutes. Then turn the cake upside down onto a rack to cool. This will flatten the slightly domed top.
For the Whipped Cream:
1. Add all the whipped cream ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, beat the cream on medium high until firm peaks form (may take 5-6 minutes). Do not over beat or the  cream will become like butter. Using a rubber spatula, mark the whipped cream into four sections; set aside.

2. In the meantime, place a colander over a bowl and pour in the jarred cherries. Let sit 10 minutes or until all of the liquid has drained into the bowl. Reserve both and set aside



1. Place the cooled cake onto a work surface, like a kitchen countertop or large chopping block. 

2. Using a long serrated knife, trim off any hard crusts and then slice the cake horizontally into 3 even layers. 

3. Place the top layer of the cake, top side down, onto a serving plate or cake turntable (I prefer to use use a cake turntable with a cardboard cake round on top for easier handling and decorating). Brush liberally with the drained syrup from the cherries. 

4. Place 1/4 of the whipped cream over the cake layer spreading evenly, preferably with an offset spatula. Scatter about 30 of the drained cherries over the whipped cream. Repeat with the second layer.

5. For the top (3rd) layer, brush with the liqueur and spread 1/4 of the whipped cream over evenly. Place the remaining 1/4 of the whipped cream into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe large rosettes of whipped cream around the outer edge of the cake, then pipe the rest onto the sides of the cake to cover.

6. Top each whipped cream rosette with a cherry, then sprinkle shaved chocolate over the center. Refrigerate at least 3-4 hours (preferably overnight) to allow the flavors to meld before serving.

Eggs, unsweetened cocoa powder, Griottine cherries in liqueur, ultra fine sugar, 
vanilla extract, unsalted butter.

Place the eggs, sugar and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for about 8 minutes or until the mixture has tripled in volume and forms thick ribbons when the whisk is lifted.

Sift the cocoa powder, flour and pinch of salt onto a sheet of parchment paper.

After the egg mixture has tripled in volume, reduce speed to stir and carefully add the cocoa-flour mixture on the parchment (fold the parchment in half and tap the mixture in). As soon as all the dry ingredients have been added, turn off the mixer and remove the bowl. Add the melted butter, leaving out as much of the milk solids as possible.

Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the flour-cocoa-butter mixture into batter, using as few strokes as possible, until just combined.

Pour the batter into a buttered and flour 9" springform pan and bake for about 35-40 minutes at 350F or until the cake is just firm when touched in the center (or a toothpick comes out clean).

After the cake has cooled to room temperature, slice into 3 layers using a long serrated knife (I use my bread knife).

These are jarred Griottine cherries in liqueur from France, available through Amazon. They are about half the size of Maraschino cherries, and not cloyingly sweet.

Drain the cherries in a colander, reserving the liqueur.

An easy way to assemble and decorate the cake is to use a turn style. I place a 10" cardboard round on top to make removal of the final assembled cake, well, a piece of cake!

Brush each cake layer generously with the reserved cherry liqueur.

After spreading the whipped cream on top of the cake layer, top evenly with about 30 cherries.

Repeat with the second layer.

Pipe large rosettes of whipped cream around the outer edge of the top cake layer and top each with a cherry. Sprinkle some grated chocolate in the center. 


Best to refrigerate the cake 3-4 hours, preferably overnight, before serving.