September 17, 2014

Korean braised short ribs

Browsing the meat section at the grocery store one day, I found some flanken-style short ribs which instantly made me think of Korean kalbi and Korean braised short ribs. I've made kalbi once so I decided to try cooking this Korean braised specialty (shown below). Regular cut short ribs may also be used if flanken style is not available. I also mixed in a pound of boneless short ribs for extra meat. Marinating overnight works best to add more flavor before cooking.

I'm glad I used the Instant Pot (shown below) to make this dish. The meat got infused with so much flavor and fall-off- the-bone tender. I've used it many times now.

It's funny when my husband surprised me with this Instant Pot pressure/multi-cooker, I was totally speechless. I've never heard of it before so I was clueless about it. To be honest, I've never pressure-cooked anything before. I remember when I was a kid, my aunt sent my mother a pressure cooker from the US. She never used it but it remained on our kitchen shelf until now. The avocado green finish has become dull and the rubber seal got brittle and broke over the years but it still sits on its permanent spot. I was even hesitant to use a pressure cooker for fear that it may explode. This modern pressure cooker is so much easier to use and it makes the best stews and soups in minutes.

A bowl of sauteed sliced cabbage and carrot strips with sesame oil and a platter of soba noodles completed our meal. Steamed rice may also be served.

For the recipe...

September 16, 2014

summer drinks

We're supposed to feel the onset of cooler fall weather by now but it's still hot and humid where we are. We may have a few more summer days left to enjoy these cold summer drinks :-) I've just discovered bubble tea (also known as boba milk tea in Asia) and we've also been trying to make Vietnamese coffee lately. We still have to perfect it though.

I've been curious about the popularity of bubble tea. I finally got to try mango bubble tea at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant recently. I just love the chewy black tapioca in the bubble tea. They sell the quick-cooking kind at the Asian store which takes only 5 minutes to cook. Thai instant milk tea is the stuff I use for my bubble tea at home. Other flavors like taro, green tea, honeydew and mango are also available.

Vietnamese iced coffee
This Vietnamese drip-style coffee press (shown below) can be tricky to use. As of now, I'm still figuring out the proper way to regulate the flow. It has to trickle slowly for about 4 minutes to achieve the correct intensity of coffee flavor. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of condensed milk in a tall glass. Pour the coffee over it and stir, then add ice to make a refreshing iced coffee drink. Based on my husband's research, Cafe du Monde is the best brand to use for this.

September 9, 2014

chicken pastel

This Filipino version of chicken pot pie is usually served during the holiday season or other special occasions. It's traditionally oven-baked in a rectangular dish with a pie crust topping. I thought about making it simpler for weekday meals and this was the result.

Instead of making a pie crust for the topping, I made some sausage and cheese biscuits (shown below) and served them with the chicken dish. The biscuits were tasty with the browned sausage bits and cheese and were perfect with the creamy chicken.

For the Chicken Pastel recipe...

August 14, 2014

whole wheat banana pistachio bread

For most home bakers like me who bake regularly, banana bread is a top favorite. I printed this banana bread recipe from the Betty Crocker website sometime ago, filed it away and have since forgotten about it. I saw it again while scanning my old folder of recipes and finally got a chance to make it. I have to say that this was the easiest banana bread recipe I've tried so far. Just combine and mix all the ingredients together then divide evenly into two loaf pans and bake.

I replaced the walnuts with chopped pistachio nuts. A slice is shown above with the bright green specks of the pistachio nuts. Made with a combination of whole wheat and all purpose flour, it was a healthier alternative for cakes and snacks. Now that it's back to school time, this will also be perfect for daily lunch box treats. The recipe makes two loaves. I tried storing one loaf in the freezer. Thawed out at room temperature, freezing didn't alter the flavor and texture of the bread. Mini cinnamon chips and sugar crystals sprinkled on top just before baking added more flavor to the bread.

For the recipe...

August 12, 2014

beef rendang

Warning: This dish requires rice :-)

Inspired by our recent food experience that I wrote about in a previous post, I tried to cook a more well-known Indonesian dish called Beef Rendang. As listed in this recipe I found from Saveur, some of the key ingredients like kaffir lime leaves, candlenuts and galangal can be hard to find at regular grocery stores. For me, there's no substitute for fresh kaffir lime leaves, which makes me miss our kaffir lime plant even more :-( However, on a recent visit to a bigger Asian food market, I was happy to find Indofood brand rendang seasoning sauce mix. It was very convenient and turned out quite tasty. I added more coconut milk to make the sauce extra rich and creamy. It's best to use beef with more marbling such as those intended for beef roasts. Short ribs will also be perfect for this dish. Cooking beef rendang at home turned out to be a much easier process. It normally takes hours to cook but with this instant seasoning mix, it takes only an hour or less. In a skillet or a medium pot, just pour the concentrated sauce over the beef cubes, add more coconut milk then simmer until beef cubes are very tender and sauce becomes richer and thicker. Add red bell pepper strips and serve with steamed rice.

July 26, 2014

a taste of Indonesian food

A recent long weekend escape to a favorite destination led to another tasty food discovery. Another off the beaten path restaurant that we will surely be returning to. Tan's Asian Cafe serves Chinese food too but we went there particularly for their Indonesian menu. It was our first time to try Indonesian food and we loved it :-) The flavors are intense and complex, spicy hot but was made less overwhelming with a dose of sweetness and seasonings. My tolerance for spicy food is significantly lower than my husband's but I had no problem with the level of heat in these dishes.

Babi rica-rica, shown above and below, was spicy and very flavorful. In the menu, it's described as Manado pork cooked in a spicy and tangy red "rica-rica" sauce. The pork which was very tender must have been simmered for hours in a traditional blend of spices and seasonings.

Udang Bumbu Bali or Balinese Shrimp, shown above, skewered shrimp served with a rich delicious red sauce (shown below) that's spicy with a hint of sweetness.

I look forward to trying many other items in their menu when we come back. I'm intrigued with their noodles and soups particularly the Soto Ayam. The deep-fried appetizers we sampled were also very good. In the meantime, inspired by our food experience, I tried to recreate a well-loved Indonesian dish called Beef Rendang at home. It's coming up next :-)

July 20, 2014

croque madame

Salty ham, melted cheese and a runny fried egg with toast may be one of the best combinations for a comforting breakfast meal. However, the same basic combination, when elevated to another level, becomes Croque Madame. It's basically Croque Monsieur made more special with a fried egg on top. Bechamel sauce, which can be made ahead, plays an important part in this classic French sandwich.

Start off with a few slices of good quality soft bread. I used my favorite challah bread which I bake at home :-) To assemble the sandwiches, spread bechamel sauce on the bread slices then the layer ham and grated cheese. Pile a generous helping of grated Gruyere cheese on top.

Bake the sandwiches until toasted with the cheese melted and dripping along the sides, as shown above.

Top with fried egg and serve hot. Recipe for bechamel sauce can be found in The Kitchn website. As suggested, the bechamel may be adjusted to a slightly thicker consistency that's more spreadable than saucy.