Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Dungeness Crab

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Dungeness Crab
More times than not, you’ll find me rummaging around my pantry and fridge without a plan in mind of what to cook.

Odd for a food blogger?

Well friends, if you’ve been with me for awhile—my quirkiness must have seeped through the screen by now. So there’s really no hiding my “offbeat” approach to things.

Flashback to yesterday night when I was on the verge of turning into a gremlin from hunger. A full blown GREMLIN I tell ya! And I knew I only have a few minutes to pull something together before I passed out on the kitchen floor.

I needed a quick pasta — STAT!!!

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Dungeness Crab 2
In dire moments when I’m short on time (or just lazy), pasta aglio e olio is heaven sent! It’s a staple pasta dish from Naples where you infuse good quality olive oil with tons and I mean TONS of garlic and a bit of red pepper flakes. After your pasta is cooked, you toss it in the infused oil and add some herbs and maybe some grated cheese. I do versions of pasta aglio e olio all of the time –sometimes adding a bit of anchovy paste or capers or even a bit of chorizo.

But imagine my utter glee when I remembered that I had some leftover Dungeness crab from the weekend. I seriously squealed “YAYYYYY!” when I saw it in the fridge and did a little dance…… yeah, it doesn’t take much to get a happy dance out of this gal.

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Dungeness Crab 3
I proceeded with my standard steps for pasta aglio e olio and at the end, tossed in some of the sweet crab meat and just a few pinches of grated parm. I piled a huge mound on the plate, sprinkled some more pepper flakes on top, fresh lemon zest, chives and to add that extra level of decadence for a Monday night–a drizzle of white truffle oil.

HUMINAH! HUMINAH! HUMINAH!!!!!!

It was fantastic! The wonderful sweet and sea flavor from the beautiful Dungeness crab mixed with the garlic punch and bright freshness from the lemon zest—along with the earthy oil. It was all somehow hearty and light at the same time.

Considering I was on the verge of turning into a ravenous monster before/during the cooking process, I hadn’t bothered to take step by step photos to blog about it. But once done, it looked, well–damn sexy! So I took about 37 seconds to snap a couple of pics before inhaling it.

Not only did I manage to suppress the gremlin from emerging but I rocked out a pretty awesome dish in about 15 minutes. That’s a rather successful Monday in this gal’s book.

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Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Dungeness Crab
Servings: 2

Ingredients:

kosher salt, divided
5 ounces dried spaghetti noodles, or other long strand pasta
3 tablespoons quality extra virgin olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, more to garnish
½ tablespoon grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
4-5 ounces cooked Dungeness crab meat
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh chopped chives
white truffle oil to finish*

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the spaghetti noodles and boil for 8-9 minutes or until al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve ¼ cup of the starchy water that the pasta was cooked in.

While the pasta boils, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes to infuse the oil. Swirl the skillet often to ensure that the garlic does not burn. Add the red pepper flakes and infuse for another minute. Carefully pour in the reserved starchy pasta water, turn the heat to medium-high and bring it to a boil. Whisk the items together and then toss in the pasta. Stir and toss for about a minute and sprinkle in the cheese and 2-3 generous pinches of salt.

Remove the skillet from the heat and gently fold in the crab. Plate the pasta between two dishes. Sprinkle the tops of each serving with lemon zest, chives and drizzle with white truffle oil. If you do not have truffle oil, drizzle with some additional quality extra virgin olive oil.

Enjoy!

 

Bún Tôm Nướng Sả – Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp over Vermicelli Noodles

Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp
If you follow me on Instagram then you’ve more than once (okaayyy….more like a thousand times!) heard me rant that basic, everyday Vietnamese dishes aren’t really difficult and are often times quick to cook — but it’s the “mise” that will get you.

We love our condiments and dipping sauces and every dish has its own specific ones to compliment them. Tons of different textures? A MUST! Garnishes? We’re OBSESSED! And I’m not referring to the last minute little sprig of parsley you throw on once you’re done plating. I’m talking about pickled veggies, crispy fried shallots, all kinds of fresh veggies, scallion and chili oils, roasted nuts, savory caramel sauces, and tons–and I mean TONS- of fresh herbs!

We take it to a whole new level!

Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp

Which brings me back to my initial statement that the actual “cooking” part of the dish can be about 5 minutes whereas the prep and mise en place could add an additional hour!

Mixing sauces, chopping, mincing, dicing, MORE CHOPPING, roasting–and my least favorite as a kid, washing all the herbs. I know it sounds ridiculous but I really hated being on herb washing duty.

Maybe because we had so much of them all of the time?

Maybe because Mom wanted each leaf perfectly plucked from the stems?

Or maybe because I had to meticulously blot them each dry with a paper towel because wet herbs “watered” things down?

Had I even known that a salad spinner existed, I would have gladly used whatever little money I had at age 8 to buy one. It would have saved me from all the trauma—but I digress……

Vietnamese Mise en Place

I don’t mean to frighten Vietnamese cuisine novices from giving my peeps’ food a try—more of just a heads up. And once you start cooking Vietnamese more regularly, there are a few shortcuts such as:

  • Keep a large jar of basic Nước Chấm (dipping sauce) in your fridge. Just leave out the Sambal and doctor it up to best compliment that particular dish you’re fixing up – ie. fresh chilies instead of Sambal, fresh finely minced ginger, etc.
  • Đồ Chua are the pickled carrots and daikon you’ll find in tons of noodle dishes and bánh mì. My recipe below is a quick method using just carrots as I didn’t have any daikon on hand but if you make a large batch, jarred Đồ Chua can last in the fridge for about 2-3 weeks.
  • Lots of Asian grocery stores these days carry sả bằm (finely minced lemongrass) in their freezer section–often in little plastic tubs or bags. This is perfect for those folks who don’t use lemongrass often or just don’t want to hassle with all the mincing—though a food processor can also address the latter issue.

And of course, if you’ve got some good knife skills, then you’ve just cut the challenge in half (yea, I went there). Since so much prep is about dicing, mincing and slicing—it’ll be a breeze for you.

Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp

Bún Tôm Nướng Sả is a relatively low fuss dish I make quite often when I get a hankering for a big old bowl of Vietnamese goodness. I marinate a bunch of shrimp with lots of minced lemongrass (yup, I keep a tub in my freezer!), throw them on the grill (or grill pan or in this case, my cast iron skillet) and then nestle them on top of a mound of cool vermicelli noodles along with a hefty amount of veggies/herbs, Đồ Chua, Hành Mơ (scallion oil) and crunchy peanuts.

Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp
The whole thing then gets doused with a generous amount of nước chấm and fresh chilies for an added kicked. The bowl is filled with tons of different textures and crunch, light yet savory with a tremendous amount of freshness from the veggies/herbs and acidity from the nước chấm. If I had some leftover homemade egg rolls in the freezer, I would fry them up and add them to the bowl too! NGUYEN-ing!!!!!

Seriously, my mouth is watering just thinking of it.

And you betcha’ those are my Yoda lightsabre chopsticks below. Because when it comes to mise, Master Yoda would say “Patience you must have my young padawan!”

Yup…anyway to infuse some Jedi lessons…..

Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp
This would be just as tasty if you used thinly sliced chicken instead of the shrimp–or a combo of both! It’s your world, get a little crazy!

As for the prep time these days, I kind of like doing it now. Maybe it’s nostalgic, maybe 30+ years later I’ve become a little more patient….. But oddly enough, i find it rather relaxing—especially with some good music in the background and a glass of vino within arms reach. Because yes, vino should always be involved.

Ăn Ngon!

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Bún Tôm Nướng Sả – Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass
Shrimp over Vermicelli Noodles

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pound shrimped, peeled and deveined
quality Vietnamese fish sauce, divided
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 pinches black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 heaping tablespoon finely minced lemongrass
1 cup rice wine vinegar
sugar, divided
1 cup shredded carrots
¼ cup of canola oil
½ cup chopped scallions
2 tablespoons hot water
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons Sambal chili paste, more or less to taste
cooking spray
2 cups chopped lettuce
1 package vermicelli noodles, prepared according to package directions
1 cup thinly sliced cucumbers
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
¼ roughly chopped roasted peanuts
fresh chilies

In a large bowl, mix the shrimp, 2-3 dashes fish sauce, red pepper flakes, black pepper, garlic powder and lemongrass. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

In a small bowl or shallow plate, whisk the rice wine vinegar and 2-3 pinches sugar together. Add the carrots and allow to “quick pickle” in the fridge.

Prepare the hành mơ (scallion oil). In a sauté pan, slowly heat the canola oil. Add the chopped scallions. Cook the scallions on very low heat until they are wilted but still bright green. Approximately 2-3 minutes. Pull from heat and set aside.

Prepare the nước chấm (dipping sauce). In a small bowl or jar, mix ¼ cup sugar with the hot water until the sugar starts to dissolve. Stir in ¼ cup fish sauce, lime juice and Sambal chili paste. Set aside.

Remove the shrimp from the refrigerator 5 minutes before cooling to take the chill off. Heat your grill pan/cast iron to medium-high and lightly cover with cooking spray (or prepare outdoor grill). Grill the shrimp for approximately 1-2 minutes on each side until it’s opaque and turns pink. Remove to a large plate.

Divide the lettuce and noodles between four bowls. Add the pickled carrots, cucumbers, mint leaves, and cilantro. Top the bowls with the grilled shrimp and generously brush them with the hành mơ. Sprinkle the bowls with the crushed peanuts and serve with nước chấm and fresh chilies.

Short-Cut Roast Duck Noodle Soup

Roast Duck Noodle Soup

It’s that time again….

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!!

Tết – the Lunar New Year! And this year marks the Year of the Monkey….the Fire Monkey. Which means if you were born the years of the Dragon, Snake or Ox — good things should be coming your way. As for me, I’m of the Horse and as long as nothing “ominous” is slated, I’m totally good with that.

Roast Duck Noodle Soup
In honor of Tết, I decided to share with you a “short-cut” version of Roast Duck Noodle Soup. What’s the short-cut? I run out to Sam Woo BBQ to pick up one of their roast ducks! And I’ll be honest with you, there’s not one part of me that feels bad doing it either.

Their Cantonese style ducks are stuffed with bean paste, scallions and MAGIC….before getting a shellac of a honey mixture to get the skin crispy and brown. The duck is then chopped up and served with either a plum sauce or a dark dipping sauce that at first glance looks like an oily soy sauce. But it’s more of a rich, umami filled broth. DEFINITELY ask for extra because that’s what I add to the soup to give it some extra OOMPF!

No Sam Woo BBQ in your area? BUMMER! But any local Chinese BBQ spot – or even restaurant, will do the trick. Just be sure to ask for the broth-like dipping sauce.

Roast Duck Noodle Soup

In addition to the dipping sauce, the soup consists of stock (duck -if you have it, otherwise chicken is fine), toasted spices and aromatics, as well as a few pieces of the roast duck. I usually just throw in the wings and duck head since I’m not one to gnaw on either of those parts.

Roast Duck Noodle Soup
After the soup simmers for some time, it’s ladled over some egg noodles, bok choy and served with pieces of the roast duck. Easy Peasy!

The dish is my quick nod to Mì Vịt Tiềm – which is Vietnamese Roast Duck Noodle Soup. However, since the duck isn’t marinated in Five Spice, the soup and duck itself isn’t as dark as traditional Mì Vịt Tiềm. It’s also doesn’t have the deep flavor that Five Spice imparts which is why I like to make a spice sachet of toasted anise, coriander, black pepper and cinnamon to mimic it.

Roast Duck Noodle Soup
Once again Friends, let me say Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!! 

May this Year of the Monkey bring you and your loved ones Health, Luck, Laughter and endless Adventures……

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Short-Cut Roast Duck Noodle Soup
Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 star anise
6 cloves
½ cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 dried bay leaves
1 small white onion
3 inch piece of fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, slightly smashed
4 quarts low sodium duck stock or chicken stock
1 quart water
1 store-bought chopped Peking/Cantonese style roast duck with dipping broth/sauce
kosher salt
fish sauce
Maggi seasoning (or low-sodium soy sauce)
2 cups sliced shiitake or oyster mushrooms
2 scallions, diced
12 ounces fresh Chinese egg noodles
1 small bunch bok chok, trimmed and washed
½ cup cilantro leaves
Thai chilies, minced

 

Place the star anise, cloves, cinnamon, coriander and peppercorns in a small skillet. Over low heat, toast the spices for 2-3 minutes; frequently shake the skillet to toss the spices. You’ll want to toast them until they’ve browned but not burned. Transfer the spices to a small plate to cool completely. Once they’ve cooled, place them with the bay leaves in the center of a square piece of cheesecloth. Gather up the edges of the cloth and tie it into a bundle with kitchen twine. Set aside.

 

Using tongs to hold the onion, carefully char the exterior over an open flame of your stove burner—rotating the onion to char evenly. Set aside and repeat with the ginger. This can be done under the broiler of your oven as well.

 

Pour the duck stock, water, about a cup of the duck dipping broth/sauce and sachet of spices into a large pot. Add the duck wings, duck head (if included), charred onion, charred ginger and garlic into the pot and bring the liquids to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes, periodically skim off and discard any impurities that may have formed. Stir in 1-teaspoon salt, 1-tablespoon fish sauce, 1-tablespoon Maggi and add the scallions and mushrooms. Simmer for another 15-20 minutes.

 

Bring another large pot of water to a boil. Boil the egg noodles according to the package until al dente. Remove the noodles from the pot (save the boiling water) and drain in a colander. Divide the noodles amongst six bowls. Drop the bok choy into the boiling water and stir around for 30 seconds. Remove the bok choy and divide amongst the bowls.

 

Taste the broth and add additional fish sauce or Maggi as needed. Bring to a rolling boil and then ladle the broth into each bowl. Top each bowl with mushrooms and a few pieces of roast duck. Garnish with cilantro and chilies. Serve immediately with a dish of the remaining dipping broth/sauce.

Homemade Soup Dumplings & Tonkotsu Ramen–Because We’re Insane…

Nov 2015 Fam Din

It’s been two weeks since Thanksgiving and I think I’ve finally recovered from the madness.

Just in time for 15 full days of holiday craziness with my family.

Pray for me.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

At the close of Thanksgiving and 15+ hours of shopping, we held our monthly Family Dinner. When we had chatted about potential menu options a few weeks prior, my seesters and I agreed that we wanted dishes that were low-key and stress-free since we would have been so wiped out from Thanksgiving.

So obviously, we chose a menu that took hours and hours of preparation, that needed to be started days in advance and was highly laborious.

Apparently our strategy was slightly flawed.

We never learn…..

But as always, we started with some cocktails….. Pomegranate-Raspberry Saketinis!

I muddled a bunch of fresh raspberries with pomegranates in a pitcher. Added sake, a few glugs of vodka, several splashes of Cointreau, some fresh lime juice, pomegranate juice and then topped it off with a bit of pomegranate-berry soda.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

Then came the appetizers – Xiao Long Bao or “Shanghai Soup Dumplings”. Normally I would say that dumplings aren’t typically too difficult to make. In fact, I usually love making them and find the folding process rather relaxing.

Not these buggers! We’re all still traumatized!

Nov 2015 Fam Din

Xiao Long Bao are a Shanghainese dumpling with a very thin skin/wrapper. They’re filled with a variety of ground proteins and an aspic that once steamed, becomes soupy–thus the name Soup Dumplings! Dumplings and Soup all in one? BRILLIANT!

Seester T took the lead with these and man, did they take some prep work! Using The Woks of Life recipe, she started with the aspic. Vegans beware because essentially, it’s a natural meat gelatin.

Yes…as in J-E-L-L-O.

Pork bones and other porky bits are thrown into a pot with water and several aromatics. Everything simmers for a few hours and then is strained and chilled.

Voila—Aspic!

Nov 2015 Fam DinShe then made a ground pork filling and threw in some shrimp because surf and turf is always a good idea. Once done, the aspic was cubed up and folded into the filling.

Next, we enlisted our niece Nini to help out with the assembly. Seestrah made the dough according to The Woks of Life’s recipe and used my pasta roller to make thin sheets for the dumpling wrappers.

Remember when I said laborious? It definitely was!

Hand cranking out the sheets so that they were paper thin and then cutting them into perfect circles with a biscuit cutter. Nini then meticulously filled and folded the dumplings to ensure they were all sealed up tightly so that none of the soup would run out during the steaming process. It took about 3 hours for us to make the wrappers and fill them all. Granted, it was our very first time but I will never, NEVER take it for granted next time I have Xiao Long Bao. Those folks can make them in lighting speed!

The XLB had good flavor and paired well with the black vinegar sauce–plus they were fun to eat! If we do ever make them again (and let’s be honest, it’ll be a very LONG time in the future), I’d like to play around with the dough. It was pretty good but I think it could be even thinner, especially on the top where it all purses together so that it’s less dense and chewy.

But heck–for our first time, it was awesome!

Nov 2015 Fam DinFor the main dish, we chose Tonkotsu Ramen where we made everything but the menma and kamboko from scratch.  And if you’re keeping tally, that means the Tonkotsu Broth, Chasu, Ajitsuke Tamago, Mayu and Ramen Noodles—ALL HOMEMADE!

By chance do you recall when I said we wanted a low-fuss Family Dinner?

We’re insane.

A few days prior to Fam Din, Seestrah N started on the Tonkotsu broth because it needs hours upon hours of simmering.  She went with Marc’s route from No Recipe and pretty much followed it to the T.

On the day of Fam Din, she made the Chasu –braised pork belly from Nami at Just One Cookbook. She also threw in an extra few pieces of pork shoulder for some added protein. And let me tell you….that chasu was beautiful, unctuous, pork heaven.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

The night before Fam Din, I prepped Nami’s Ajitsuke Tamago (shoyu eggs) since it’s best to allow them to marinate overnight. They were really easy to make and would be great just atop some steamed rice.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

In addition to the Chasu and Ajitsuke Tamago, we topped our ramen bowls with:

  • Toasted Nori (seaweed) Strips
  • Menma (marinated bamboo shoots)
  • Kamboko (fish cake)
  • Kikurage (fresh wood ear mushrooms)
  • Scallions

I also made Mayu which is a black garlic oil that was drizzled on top of our bowls of ramen.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

Now let’s talk a bit about my adventure with the homemade ramen noodles.

I spend a lot and I mean A LOT of time in the kitchen. As such, I’m pretty comfortable with baking breads, working with yeast dough and making pastas. I don’t have the pasta attachment for my KitchenAid but I’ve gotten by pretty well with my hand crank pasta roller over the years. So when I was nominated (was this because I’m the youngest!?) to make the noodles, I just went with it.

I did tons and tons of research and went with Marc’s ramen noodles as well. He was detailed in account and his pictures really captured the process. If you decide to give this recipe a try, note that he was not lying that this dough is extremely dry. You’ll likely want to keep adding water but just go with it and press it all together until it forms a ball. Trust me, it eventually does.

But here’s where I start to kick myself for attempting this method without an electric pasta machine/KitchenAid attachment. Before allowing the dough to rest for several hours, you have to run it through your pasta roller a few times so that it forms smooth rectangular sheets. Sounds easy right? Well I’m sure it would have been had I not used a hand crank roller with a dry dough. It was crumbling everywhere!

I was sweating bullets trying to shove the crumbling dough into the roller….Add the fact that I tripled the recipe and now you’ll have an idea why my biceps were on fire!

Nov 2015 Fam Din

When it came time to cut them into noodles, a piece of me cried inside knowing that my arms were going to get another work out since I would need to pass the dough through the roller several more times. Another wrench was thrown into the situation when the attachment blade that cuts the noodles got stuck. I ended up hand-cutting the noodles which wasn’t ideal since I couldn’t get it as thin as I had wanted to—but it got the job done.

Moral of the story? If you’re not a pro, use a KitchenAid pasta attachment or similar thing-a-ma-bob if you make fresh ramen noodles.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

But once assembled, we were all pretty darn proud of ourselves.

It tasted LEGIT! Like, TOO-LEGIT-TO-QUIT!

Every component had a role and although laborious, had a distinct purpose to the ramen.

Nov 2015 Fam DinAnd just like the Xiao Long Bao, I will never, never underestimate or take for granted the folks who make my ramen.

Heck–they’re freaking amazing in my book.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

After polishing off our noodles and a bit of kitchen clean up, we actually took off for a little more shopping. Why? Who knows….we were delirious.

But when we came home, we tucked right into dessert.

I had made a simple Matcha Mousse-Chocolate Tart. The base was made out of crushed Oreo Cookies and filled with a fluffy matcha mousse. We’re green tea monsters, so a light and matcha-filled dessert suited us just fine.

Nov 2015 Fam DinWas dinner easy and low maintenance?

HECK NO!

Did I perhaps lose a few months off my life from the stress?

WOULDN’T DOUBT IT!

Did my sis say she needed therapy because of the XLB?

YOU BET!

But were we happy with how things turned out over all?

ABSOLUTELY!

It was a true and deep Labor of Love.

And the cherry on top?

My Trojans whooped the Bruins that day and brought back home the Victory Bell!! Aren’t my kiddos adorable in their gear????❤

Total Proud Auntie.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

Oh–in case you’re wondering, we went to Target and World Market after dinner/before dessert.

What did I pick up?

A few more additions to my ever growing Nutcracker collection. Priorities people, priorities.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Pomegranate-Raspberry Sake-tinis
Appetizers: Pork & Shrimp Xiao Long Bao {Soup Dumplings}
Entrees: Tonkotsu Ramen with Chasu, Shoyu Egg, Menma, Kamaboko, Kikurage
Dessert: Matcha Mousse and Chocolate Tart

“You Know Whose” Copycat Asian Garlic Noodles

Garlic Noodles

You know who I’m talking about right?

The one who I probably shouldn’t name.

No, not Volde–DOH!  Man…that was a close one!

Oh to heck with it…… I’m talking about the An family. You know…the gatekeepers of the Thanh Long, Crustacean, ANQI (and more!) Dynasty!

Garlic Noodles

Oh how I love their butter dripping, garlic staggering roasted Dungeness crab and noodles. Many places have developed their own riff off of Mama An’s famed crab and noodles (including yours truly) but I’ll always have a soft spot for the old nostalgic and original Thanh Long in the Outer Sunset of SF. It’s where my seester first brought the family over 20+ years ago when the restaurant looked like a small mom and pop joint with mismatched plates and peeled painted walls.

Aromatic garlic perfumed the small restaurant with the constant sounds of cracking crab. But a lot has changed since then…..a boom of high-end sister restaurants and the creation of an empire.

But one thing remains the same…..those DAMN GARLIC NOODLES!!!!!!!!!!

Buttery, garlicky, decadent…..SOOO GOOD!

Garlic Noodles

So good that although I’ve posted my knock off recipe nearly 4 years ago, I believe they deserve a re-post. Especially with better pictures! Ugh…I cringe at how bad those earlier photos were.

These garlic noodles are so darn easy to make and are the PERFECT accompaniment to seafood—particularly shellfish. But like I said before, you cannot skip out on the magic ingredient – Maggi Seasoning Sauce. Don’t let anyone else lie to you…there’s really no substitute. It’s a couple of bucks and can be found in any Asian grocery store. It lasts a gazillion years so just pick up a bottle and keep it in your cupboard. Just trust me on this.

k2-_7811589a-cadb-480d-98d4-6f9d0287da02.v1

I whipped up these noodles the other week to accompany a quick Asian-style shrimp scampi. The meal was pretty much a BUTTER FEST so obviously it was a hit. But if you want to go vegetarian, sear up some tofu and throw them on a mound of these noodles. You’ll love them just the same.

Now back to trying to scheme–I mean “build” my own empire……

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“You Know Whose” Copycat Asian Garlic Noodles
Serves Approximately 4

Ingredients:

1 pound chow mein noodles (fresh if possible)
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons minced garlic
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Maggi Seasoning
¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 scallion, chopped
2-3 pinches toasted sesame seeds

Cook the chow mein noodles according to the direction on the package. Drain the noodles, reserving a few tablespoons of the starchy water.

In a wok or large sauté pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until aromatic but not browned, approximately 1-2 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes, sugar and Maggi. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Remove the wok from the heat and quickly toss the noodles into the mixture. Sprinkle in the black pepper and cheese. Toss the noodles ensuring that it is thoroughly covered. You may add a tablespoon of the pasta water as needed to loosen the pasta.

Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the scallions and sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

Vegetarian Chap Chae for Mom

DSC_0276

A short time ago, we held the 5 year anniversary of our mom’s passing. And for a long time, the siblings and our dad tossed around a lot of different ideas on how we would commemorate Mom. But at the end of the day, it all came down to focusing on what was important to her—-Family and of course, Good Food.

So, on a beautiful and sunny Southern California day, the clan gathered. Aunties, Uncles, Cousins, Children, Grandkids (including Canine Grandkids) all converged upon my sister’s home to honor Mom. We spent time with each other, retold stories of her, cooked, and ate. And boy, did we eat!

It was all quite fitting actually. Mom was the head Foodie of our family and irrefutably the best cook. If we didn’t have a delicious spread for the party held in her honor, she would not have been a happy camper!

Vegetarian Chap Chae

One of the things that made Mom such a Foodie was her wide range of taste and her fearlessness to experiment in the kitchen. In the latter years she went through a big Korean phase—and I’m not only talking about Korean cuisine. I would often come for a visit and find my parents watching Korean soap operas—without subtitles! They claimed they could still figure out the storyline despite the fact that they didn’t understand the dialogue. Go figure.

It seemed fitting that one of my contributions for Mom’s international menu would be Chap Chae–a dish she would often make for Dad and their friends.  I went the vegetarian route but it’s just as easy to add beef, pork, chicken or seafood.

All in all, I think we did Mom proud. I’m sure she would have preferred for us to bicker less during the preparation but hey—we’re her kids! We love, we laugh, we bicker, we eat.🙂

We love and miss you Mama!!

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Vegetarian Chap Chae (Jap Chae)

Ingredients:

1 Pound Sweet Potato Noodles
½ Cup Low Sodium Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Sugar
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 Medium sized Carrot, julienned
2 Small Shallots, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic
1 Small Red Bell Pepper, julienned
2 Scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 Cup Shitake Mushrooms, sliced
1 Cup Inoke Mushrooms, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 Cups Fried Tofu, cut into long strips
2 Cups Fresh Spinach Leaves, washed well and drained
¼ Cup Mirin
Black Pepper
½ Tablespoon Sesame Oil
1 Tablespoon Toasted Sesame Seeds

In a large pot, boil the noodles until firm–about 5-6 minutes. Strain the noodles and rinse with cold water. Using kitchen shears, cut the noodles about 4-6 inches in length.

In a small bowl, stir the sugar into the soy sauce until dissolved. Set aside.

Heat a large wok, with the vegetable oil. Add in shallots, carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms and stir fry until tender. Add in tofu, garlic, scallions, spinach and cook for an additional minute. Use the mirin to deglaze the pan and then season with black pepper. Quickly toss in the noodles and half of the soy sauce mixture. Stir fry for an additional 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and drizzle in the sesame oil. Taste and add in more of the soy sauce mixture as needed.  Plate the Chap Chae and sprinkle the sesame seeds over the top.

Zaru Soba and Memories of Japan

Zaru Soba

In 2006, I spent a whirlwind 5 days experiencing Japan.

Not knowing when the next opportunity would arise for me to visit the country, I was determined to see, feel, experience, and of course EAT as much as I could.

Over the course of 5 days, I visited the cities of Kobe, Osaka, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Kishigawa. That’s  over 1,200+ miles back and forth—-thanks to my Japan Rail Pass.

I attended a major league baseball game, walked around the Hiroshima Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Dome, traversed the busy subways & shops of Tokyo, prayed in shrines, sang at a karaoke bar, stayed at a hostel/ryokan, got lost—A LOT, biked around the streets of Kyoto, attended a Donjiri Festival, meandered around the different hamlets, and above all –engaged with the people of Japan. Needless to say, I barely nicked the surface.

Zaru Soba

But by far, my most precious memory of Japan was when I met Yushiko in Kyoto. That day, my friend Kate and I rented rickety old bikes to explore the old imperial city. As we were wandered around a part of the city infamous for old temples, we spotted a tiny, older woman sweeping the steps of a temple. She looked up as we went by and smiled. After exchanging a few greetings, she stopped and pointed to me and said “Japanese?” I said no, and responded “Vietnamese”. She laughed and began trying a few words in English. It turned out that the “temple” was not a temple at all but was her home. We later discovered that Yushiko was 94 years old (though she looked at least 15 years younger than that!) and that the home belonged to her late husband’s family line.

Yushiko invited us to come in and to view her garden. I was floored and so excited by her generosity. At one point, she motioned us to go through this old wooden door through a stone wall. We didn’t know what to expect but as I pushed the door which looked like it hadn’t been used in years, tears swelled up in my eyes. It was amazing– just as how I would have imagined the “Secret Garden” would look like. It was so peaceful and serene. Kate and I stayed in there for a few minutes just marveling at the beauty around us and feeling so lucky that this kind soul had invited us into her home.  We stayed and chatted with Yushiko for nearly 30 minutes and although she said she was “too old” for us to take photos with her– I just know that I will never forget her face and the precious time we spent with her.

 

 

A quick snapshot of Yushiko’s garden and home. Trust me, the photo does not do justice at all.

Of course it just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t mention any of the food we encountered during my time in Japan. And OH…THE…FOOD.

 

 

Japan 2006 Collage

Noodles, Sashimis, Bento Boxes, Donburis, Sweets, Sakes, and snacks of all kinds. Oh man….my mouth is watering just thinking about it all.

Soba Noodles

 

 

Since we’ve been having such warm weather lately and because my travel bug has been itching like crazy, I decided to make one of the dishes I ate a ton of when I was in Japan–SobaSoba are noodles made of buckwheat flour and can be served either hot or chilled–-Zora Soba is my personal preference.

 

 

Dashi

At the heart of Zaru Soba is the tsuyu–or dipping sauce. The tsuyu is a pungent mixture of dashi, shoyu, and mirin but its strong flavors matches so well with the mild soba noodles. You can definitely make your own dashi broth but I kind of “cheat” and use instant packets. Go ahead…judge me all you like🙂

Zaru Soba

Zaru Soba is typically served with tons of nori, scallions, and wasabi. I also like to have a side of tempura with it for a offset of temperature and crunch. Oishii!!!

But one thing is for certain….Whether hot or chilled, loud slurping while eating your Soba is mandatory. True Story.

<Sigh>….I miss Japan. And until I can find my way back to the beautiful country, I will have to console myself with Nihon goodies such as ramen and this soba.

And for the immense generosity and experiences I had in Japan–-Arigatou gozaimasu!

Kyoto: 2006Snapshot of me on a bridge in Kyoto after a full day of biking around the town.

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Zaru Soba
Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

1 Package Dried Soba Noodles (approximately 9 ounces)

Tsuyu (Dipping Sauce):
1 Tablespoon Dried Dashi Soup Stock (or Dashi packets)
¼ Cup Low Sodium Shoyu (Soy Sauce)
¼ Cup Mirin
2 Cups Water

Accoutrements:
½ Cup Scallions, chopped
Seasoned Nori, sliced
Wasabi
Tempura Shrimp and Vegetables (optional)

Prepare the tsuyu. In a small saucepan bring the water to a slow boil. Add dashi soup stock and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Add shoyu and mirin and simmer for an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook soba noodles for 3-4 minutes or accordingly to package instructions. Drain the soba and rinse well with cool water. Shake of the excess water and plate the noodles. Top with nori and serve with scallions, wasabi, and tsuyu.