Spicy Sticky Fried Tofu

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I found this dish through Maangchi, a Korean food YouTuber, and knew I had to try and make it. This recipe is my take on her’s, however I added a little vinegar for acidity and rice syrup for a sticky sweet finish that makes this tofu so addicting.

Perfect served on its own for a quick snack, or with steamed vegetables and rice as a light meal, this recipe is (somewhat) healthy and very satisfying. I usually make it as a meatless meal during the week.

The key is to fry the tofu until it creates a skin that is dry and crispy. Try to not flip it until it is ready – all you need to do is set it down and let it go. If you have a little time you can further dry the tofu out in advance by taking the block out of its packaging, wrapping it in a paper towel, and pressing it down with a weight (I like putting cans on top of a plate) for 20 minutes.

ingredients

Spicy Sticky Fried Tofu

Makes 2 servings

Prep time: 5 minutes | Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 block firm tofu
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 tbs gochujang, Korean red pepper paste
  • 2 tbs sake
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbs brown rice syrup, easily found at the Korean grocery store, or honey
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds for garnish, I used a mix of black and white

Step 1: Drain and pat the tofu dry with a paper towel. Cut into 1 cm thick blocks.

Step 2: Heat frying pan on medium high. Add frying oil. When oil is hot (you can test by sprinkling water on the pan – it’s ready when the water sizzles immediately upon contact) add tofu in single layer and shake pan to distribute the cooking oil under the tofu.

Step 3: Cook the tofu for about 10 minutes. Try not to flip them until they start to develop a crispy skin. Check the tofu on the sides and middle of the pan and make sure all pieces are cooking evenly. Reduce heat if needed if tofu is starting to burn.

When all pieces are evenly toasted and golden brown on one side, flip them and cook the other side.

Step 4: While the tofu is cooking, make the sauce. Start with the gochujang and gradually thin it out with the sake. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil, rice syrup, and vinegar.

Step 5: When both sides of the tofu are crispy and golden brown, add the sauce. Reduce the sauce for a couple minutes while coating it on the tofu. When the sauce is thick and syrupy, everything is ready.

Step 6: Serve warm, sprinkled with sesame seeds and chopped green onion.

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Green tea black sesame swirl bread

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When the weather gets cold, my favorite weekend activity is baking a good loaf of bread. There is something about the smell of bread baking – the air is tinged with this light, yeasty smell, and because the oven is on, the room gets toasty. Lastly, cutting into a steaming, freshly baked loaf of bread is the best reward to a day of baking.

While more time consuming compared to other baked goods like cakes or cookies, bread is not hard or intimidating to make (even though it can seem like it is). The majority of your time will be spent allowing the dough to rise, and if you are like me, you can spend that time with a good cup of coffee and an episode or two of Friends.

This specific recipe has an Asian influence, and has a slight sweetness. This is definitely not a dessert bread, as I didn’t want this to feel like cake. However when toasted, this is an awesome option for breakfast with when spread with some softened butter and honey.

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For those of you who are wary about cooking with yeast, let me give you some of my top tips before I jump into the recipe:

Yeast works best in a warm, somewhat humid environment. So this recipe is actually way easier to make in the summer for me since my kitchen will naturally be on the warm side. However, when the weather is cool, you can easily fake this environment by preheating your oven, turning it off, and allowing it to cool to a mild warmness. If you can stick your hand in it and not feel like you will be burned, the oven is ready. Simply pop the dough in, and let the yeast do it’s work.

Aside from your kitchen environment, the key to the success of this recipe is in activating the yeast before you even touch the flour. Many recipes I come across do not treat yeast properly. First of all, yeast is what causes this bread to be fluffy. Without activating it, you might as well not use it. Which is why it is so important to mix the yeast in warm liquid like I do in the first step. You know it’s good to go if there is a bit of a frothy texture on the top of the liquid after 5 minutes. That means the yeast is active and energetic. From there, you are good to go!

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 3 tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbs matcha
  • 1 envelope yeast
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 1/2 tbs softened butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar for filling
  • 1/4 cup ground black sesame
  • 1 beaten egg diluted with a splash of water

Step 1: Warm milk and water in microwave until lukewarm. It’s ready when it feels like warm bath water. Stir in yeast. Set aside 5 minutes to activate.

Step 2: Mix flour, sugar, salt and matcha in a bowl. Add yeast mixture, stir, and then the butter. Stir until combined. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and knead 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. If you poke the dough with your finger, it should slowly bounce back.

Step 3: Place dough in an oiled bowl. Cover bowl with oiled plastic wrap. Make sure the plastic leaves plenty of room for the dough to rise. Cover plastic wrap with a damp towel and raise for an hour or until doubled in size.

Step 4: Mix ground sesame with remaining sugar, set aside.  When dough is fully risen, punch gas out of dough.

Step 5: On lightly floured surface, press dough into a large rectangle. You want the dough to be about a centimeter thick. Spread sesame mix over dough, leaving an inch of space on one of the longer edges of the rectangle. Roll dough into a log, moving towards the empty inch with the dough. This clean area of the dough will help seal the edges together. When fully rolled, pinch edges of dough together to create a seam.

Step 6: With a large knife, cut into the log. Leave one end intact. This will create a large, long V-shape. Take the two ends and start twisting them together. When fully twisted, pinch the edges together to keep the log intact, and then start rolling the log into it’s self to create a rosette. When the bread is fully wrapped together, pinch all end seams together to keep the ball uniform. Transfer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Step 7: Dab the egg wash onto the clean parts of the dough’s surface, making sure to leave the sesame undisturbed. Cover with plastic wrap and towel and rise another hour.

Step 8: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In the mean time, baste bread again with egg wash. When oven is ready, place bread in oven and bake 25-30 minutes.

*If bread browns too fast while baking, cover top with foil.

*Tip for proofing bread: to help yeast work efficiently, let bread rest in a warm place. Preheat oven to 200 degrees, but then turn off heat a few minutes into pre-heating. The heat is right if it feels mildly warm, but not enough to make your hand sweat or burn you.

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Sweet Potato Mochi

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After a long hiatus, I am back!

With it officially fall, I wanted to try making something with sweet potato. However, instead of going the more traditional route with warm spices like cinnamon, I wanted to give the sweet potato a little Asian treatment.

While I am sure that there is a more traditional approach on how to make these little rice cakes, I went with what I was familiar with. I wanted something with great texture, think gooey-chewy, with a little sweetness. Lately, I have been reducing the amount of sugar in my diet, so I wanted something that didn’t need much help in that department. Because sweet potatoes are cheap and last long in my pantry, I thought this recipe would be an awesome treat that could be made quickly and easily. (It also helps that these can be made entirely in the microwave – a girl has to have a repertoire of quick midnight snacks that aren’t just minute mug cakes.)

Now on to the recipe!

Ingredients

  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1 inch sized chunks
  • 1/2 cup sugar (you can add more to taste)
  • 1 cup mochiko rice flour
  • 1 cup water, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup corn starch or potato starch

Step 1: Place the sweet potato in a microwave-safe bowl, wrap with plastic wrap, and then cook on high until soft (about 4 min). Place cooked sweet potato in food processor (or mash with a fork vigorously) with the sugar. Grind into a smooth paste.

(Optional step: for a denser filling, pour the sweet potato paste into a saucepan and heat the mixture on medium to remove excess water. Boil while stirring vigorously until you achieve your desired consistency.)

Step 2: Let the potato cool down fully and then roll into 1 inch-sized balls. Cover with plastic wrap.

Step 3: In another bowl, pour and mix the water into the rice flour in increments. This will prevent you from creating lumps. When everything is fully combined, cover the bowl in plastic wrap, and microwave for one minute.

Step 4: When the rice flour mixture is fully cooked, it will be elastic and translucent. Using a mixing spoon, stir the dough to give it more elasticity. You want to have a strong arm with this and pound it for at least a minute. Then, while the mix is still warm and pliable, scrape the bowl and transfer the dough onto a corn starch dusted cutting board.

Step 5: Cut the dough into an equal amount of pieces to the sweet potato. (You will yield around 10 pieces.) Dust each piece with corn starch and then keep any unused dough covered with plastic wrap as the it dries out easily.

Step 6: Take one of the pieces and dust off any excess corn starch. Using your fingers, pinch and pull the dough until it is just shy of the size of your palm. Place a sweet potato ball in the middle. Pull at the corners of the rice dough and start to push the dough around the ball until everything is fully covered. Pinch the dough ends together to create a seam.

Step 7: When the mochi ball is fully sealed, flip it over, and shape it nicely with your hands so it is even and round. Cover with plastic wrap and then repeat step 6 until you have completed the batch. Store in an airtight container.

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Turkey Dumplings with Scallion and Fresh Ginger

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So it has been a long while since I have posted. Life caught up with me in the form of a move, work, and a few freelance assignments. However I am back again with some cool posts that I have built up in this break!

Let me tell you why I decided to make this recipe. For me, cooking has always been a stress reliever. This is especially the case when the recipe involves repetitive motion. Focusing all my energy on only one repeating task is a great way to get out of my head and mentally decompress.  Dumplings are a great example of this.

Aside from the initial mixing of the meat filling, most of the work only involves three steps. Fill, dampen the dough, and pinch everything together. You just repeat these steps until you run out of filling.  At the end, you have this beautiful plate full of dumplings that are ready to boil. Call me Type A, but having this nicely arranged plate (usually in a spiral shape) is a very relaxing site to see at the end of a hectic day.

Also, this is such a comforting food to eat. Think about it. Warm, soothing chicken broth. A slightly chewy filling with a hint of ginger. Tender dumpling dough. All of these are quite comforting things. This is also a very light recipe, so you won’t feel weighed down after eating it.

If what I just said still hasn’t hooked you in, let me say this is a great food for office lunches as they are the best the day after making them. Much like a good marinara sauce, these dumplings get better as they sit since all the flavors have had a chance to meld together. Now let’s get started:

turkey dumpling

Ingredients

  • 1 package lean, ground turkey (you can also use ground pork or chicken)
  • 1 Tbs finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 package fresh wonton wrappers (you can find these at an Asian market or in the health/ethnic food section of your local grocery store)
  • 1 Tbs water, to glue the dumplings together
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 Tbs. sesame oil
  • Chicken broth to serve with (you can also serve dry with a soy dipping sauce)

Step 1: Let’s make the meat filling. Combine the ground turkey, ginger, green onion, egg and salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix until homogenous.

Step 2: Open dumpling wrappers. (Tip, keep a damp towel over your extra wrappers to keep them from drying out while you work. I usually isolate groups of 20 wrappers at a time.) Take one wrapper and dampen half of the edge.

Step 3: Take a teaspoon of meat filling and drop it in the middle of the wrapper. Lift the dry half of the wrapper and press it into the damp side. Before you completely seal the edges together, lightly press any excess air out of the dumpling. (This prevents them from floating to the top of the pan prematurely.

Step 4: Fill and fold all of your dumplings together until you run out of meat. As you fill plates with your raw dumplings, cover the dumplings with plastic wrap to prevent the dumpling skin from drying out.

Step 5: Boil water in a large saucepan. When it’s a rolling boil, place 10-15 dumplings into the pot. Be sure to not overcrowd the pot. Stir the water while dropping the dumplings to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Boil for 5-7 minutes. Break one dumpling in half after cooking and check to see if the meat is white. If it is still pink, continue cooking another 1-2 minutes.

Step 6: When fully cooked, drain and transfer dumplings to an oiled dish. Swirl the dumplings in the sesame oil to keep them from sticking together. Repeat step 5 as necessary. Serve warm with chicken broth.

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Crispy chive pancakes

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Here is the chive pancake recipe I hinted to last time! Like I said in my last France post, I will launch a series of French inspired recipes, so I know this Asian-inspired post may come as a surprise. However, when I got home, I was a bit tired of all the French food I had enjoyed while traveling. So, my next few posts will not touch on that French-themed series at all.

In fact, after this, I have a pumpkin pie ice cream post already shot for you, followed by a sweet potato mochi recipe.

That being said, I am currently developing recipes for the French food series, so if there is anything I should try out, tell me and leave a comment below!

As for today’s post, this is a great appetizer or snack that comes together in about 30 minutes. Subtle in flavor, this recipe takes traditional asian ingredients and creates a crispy pancake that satisfies any junk food cravings.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp roasted sesame seeds
  • 1 cup roughly chopped fresh chive
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (for cooking)

Step 1: Mix all above ingredients until you achieve a uniform ball. Separate the ball into 4 – 6 pieces. (You can make them bigger or smaller depending on your preference) Roll the individual pieces into balls.

Step 2: Take two sheets of wax paper, and put one of the dough balls in between. Using a rolling pin, or a long cup if you do not have one on hand, roll the ball into a thin disc. You want it to be about 1/3 of a centimeter thick. Repeat the process for each of the pancakes. Set the pancake aside, and use extra wax paper in between the pancakes to keep the dough from sticking as you roll the rest of the recipe.

Step 3: Heat up a tablespoon or two of cooking oil in a pan. Use a paper towel to evenly distribute the oil in a thin layer. Add a bit more oil to the pan to make up for what may have been absorbed. The key to crisping up the dough in this recipe is not holding back on the cooking oil here. When the oil is well heated, you can throw a little clump of dough in the pan to see if it sizzles to check this, place the disk in the pan. Be careful to not tear the dough when you separate it from the wax paper.

Step 4: Let the pancake cook off on one side, let the bottom crisp up and turn a spotted golden brown. The dough may puff up a little. When the bottom is done, flip over and repeat the process for the other side. Repeat for the rest of the pancakes.

Step 5: Enjoy! This dish is good with a side of soy/vinegar sauce.

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Fried rice with Chinese sausage and thin sliced egg

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This probably is one of my favorite recipes.  While a lot of fried rice is more of a mix of ingredients that are stirred together, I am going to show you guys a less traditional recipe. I’m also going to incorporate some small nuances of Vietnamese cuisine in this recipe since this is how my mother makes it.

I don’t know if you guys have ever heard of xoi, but it is a Vietnamese rice dish. Sweet sticky rice is often piled up with a variety of toppings like crumpled mung beans, coconut, sesame seeds, Chinese sausage or fried garlic. It can be made both sweet and salty (sometimes both) and it features sticky rice. Unfortunately when I had a xoi craving come up a while back, I did not have any sweet rice on hand. But I did have short grain, glutinous rice that would lend a similar texture. With that idea in my head, I decided to simplify the average xoi recipe into an easy fried rice recipe you guys could work with. Now on to the recipe!

*You can find all of these ingredients in an Asian grocery store, but if you have trouble finding Chinese sausage, bacon would work well instead.

Ingredients

  • 2 whole Chinese sausages, sliced
  • 3 eggs, scrambled with a little water
  • 2-3 cups cooked white, short grain rice (you can change this amount if you have a strong carb craving)
  • 2 whole green onions, sliced, soaking in mix of 1 tbs sesame oil and 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • sprinkling chopped cilantro for garnish
  • sprinkling fried garlic for topping

Step 1: Heat a large frying pan on high. Add a good amount of oil, brushing the pan with a napkin to ensure there is an even coat of oil. When the pan is hot enough, add the scrambled eggs, rotating the pan to create an even, thin layer of egg. Reduce the heat to medium and place a lid on the pan so that steam can cook the surface of the eggs. Cook until they are solid.

Step 2: Roll the eggs up in the pan and place on a cutting board. Cut into thin, half-centimeter thick ribbons. Use your fingers to shake the rolls so the ribbons separate and fluff up. Set aside.

Step 3: In the same frying pan (you don’t need more cooking oil for this step), cook the sliced Chinese sausage on high until they release their own oil and crisp up. Scoop the sausage out of the pan and into a plate, set aside. Keep any remaining oil in the pan, it will be used to season the rice.

Step 4: With the pan still heated, add the rice. Use chopping motions with a wooden spoon to separate the rice and cover the individual grains in a thin layer of oil. This motion will prevent you from squishing the rice, keeping the grains whole. When the rice is warmed and slightly toasted, add the oiled green onion. Stir the onion in and remove the pan from the heat.

*quick tip, the oil in the green onion helps wilt the leaves and mellow their sharp flavor.

Step 5: Now its time to assemble the plates. Put a bed of rice at the bottom of the serving dish. Top with the egg ribbons, Chinese sausage, cilantro and fried garlic.

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Sesame crusted salmon with chive wontons

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Since I’ve started interning at the American Heart Association, health has become a forefront in my cooking. I realize that this may sound a bit ironic coming from a girl whose blog revolves around her eating and cooking. However when I read on a daily basis about the things that are making us unhealthy, I just can’t ignore them.

With that being said, I looked for something that would emulate the texture of something deep fried. I wanted something with a  serious crunch to prove that something that feels unhealthy doesn’t have to be. Then I remembered a tip I learned last semester when I interned at a culinary school. I was taste testing one of the student’s meals, an exploration of how many ways someone can cook salmon. Off to the side was sesame crusted salmon. This nutty exterior lends the tender fish just the right amount of crunch. Only without using too many carbohydrates, which was exactly what I wanted. This crust also doesn’t require a lot of oil to pan fry the exterior. The seeds actually crisp up on their own, we just help them out a bit with a little oil.

I also had some wonton skins leftover from when I made basil cilantro dumplings. So this is where this recipe came from. A combination of east meets west, in a way.

*Just a note, this is not an AHA recipe. I am also not a nutritionist. However this recipe was made with the intention of being on the healthier side. I, however, did not want to sacrifice the flavors of certain ingredients. So you will see some things that may not seem healthy- like the knob of butter used to sauté the chives. Feel free to sub any of these ingredients for a version that suits your diet if need be.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup finely chopped chives
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped greens, you can go with anything save for lettuce, I recommend kale or spinach.
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • A package of wonton skins, this recipe will yield about 20 dumplings. Any leftovers should be kept in an airtight container.
  • 1 small filet of salmon, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons whole toasted sesame seeds
  • 3 tablespoons flour seasoned to taste with salt and pepper
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • Fresh vegetables to garnish, I went with cabbage and tomatoes.

 

sauté

Sauté the chives and greens in the knob of butter until soft. Season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon zest.

fill

Take a wonton wrapper and with your finger, moisten two sides of the dough with a drop or two of water. Drop a tablespoon of the chive mixture.

seal

Fold one corner over the other to create a triangle. Slowly seal the edges, all while pushing out as much air as you can. Any air left in the wonton will make it puff when cooking, making it hard to tell if it is fully cooked. You want these to be as flat as possible.

prep

Lay them in a single layer on a plate. This is a relatively large batch, and you can organize the dumplings by keeping a damp paper towel between the layers to keep them separated. When you are finished you must cover them with a damp paper towel or the wontons will dry out.

boil

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop the dumplings in groups of about 5 or 6 into the water, making sure to give a strong initial stir to keep them from sticking to the bottom. When they float up, and the wontons are translucent, scoop them into an oiled plate. Swirl the wontons in the oil to keep them from sticking together. Continue doing this until all the wontons are cooked.

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Take the cubed salmon and pat them down with a paper towel. You want them to be as dry as possible.

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Now measure out your breading ingredients. The flour will create a dry surface on the salmon, which will enable the egg wash to stick, and the sesame will form your crust.

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Take your salmon and pat two opposite sides in the flour. Then repeat the process in the egg. Finally, drop the salmon into the sesame seeds. Repeat the process for all of the salmon. Of course, I did the small pieces for the pretty visual effect. If you are in a rush, you can do the entire filet in one step. Doing this will only increase your cooking time by a couple minutes on each side.

cook

Now lightly oil your frying pan and heat it to medium. Place one side of the salmon down and cover with a lid. Let it cook slowly, allowing the fish to cook while preventing the crust from burning. After cooking about three minutes, flip the fish over and cover again, cooking for three minutes. Repeat this step for all of the fish. If your crust risks overcooking before the fish is ready, pull it from the stove and place it on a baking rack. Continue to cook it in the oven at 350 °F. The fish is done when it no longer looks translucent. No matter which way you finish cooking, let your salmon cool on the baking rack – this prevents steam from making the surface soggy.

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Finally heat your chicken broth. I added a couple leaves of fresh basil to scent my soup. Add in your wontons to reheat them. Prepare your vegetable garnishes.

To serve, scoop some dumplings with broth into a bowl. Add your veggies and top with salmon.