Category: Asian

While Searching for Pancakes…

September 23, 2010

Randy is usually the pancake maker in our house.  Breakfast is not my thing and pancakes certainly are not the food I would choose to eat for that first meal of the day.  My husband and boys are definitely not in agreement with me on this issue.  And so, Saturday mornings, Daddy often makes pancakes.

He uses Bisquick and I stay out of the way.  Last week we were out of Bisquick (the horror!), but the boys had been promised pancakes.  If you have young children, you know you cannot promise something and not deliver.  Especially if it involves pancakes.  It does not go well.  So, out came my copy of the The Joy of Cooking, which I keep on the heavy rotation shelf for just such occasions.

While looking in the index, a totally different recipe caught my eye.  I loved moo shu pork as a child – why not moo shu tempeh?  Oh, and make my own pancakes?  Sure, why not!

When Graham came home from school the day I made these, he walked in the house, sniffed, and asked, “What is that smell?”  Thinking on my feet, I told him I was making tofu tacos.  Did he want to taste one?  He proceeded to eat three for a snack, three for dinner, and two for lunch the next day.  Randy and I each got to taste one and then had to use tortillas as a wrapper fill-in.  Those worked well and the size made this more of a main course so if you want to skip making the pancakes, you have my blessing.  (Although they are really easy and satisfying to make.)  You will most likely have some filling leftover – it tastes great over rice.

You still have a couple of days to enter to win some great swag!  Check it out here.

One Year Ago: Grits Frittata
Two Years Ago: Pissaladière (Onion Tart)

Moo Shu Tempeh
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
Serves about 6

For the pancakes
1/3 cup boiling water
1 cup flour
Sesame oil

For the filling
1½ cups boiling water
1½ ounces dried shiitake mushrooms
1 8-ounce package tempeh, cut into thin strips
4 tbsp. soy sauce, divided
Sesame oil
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 8-ounce can bamboo shoots, drained
¼ cup sliced scallions
2 tsp. minced ginger
3 tbsp. dry sherry
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. sugar
Plum sauce

For the pancakes:
Stir water and flour together until crumbly.  Shape into a ball and knead on a lightly floured surface until the dough is very smooth, about 10 minutes.  Let stand, covered, for 30 minutes.  Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball and then into a 3-inch disk.  Brush the top of 1 disk lightly with sesame oil.  Top with a second disk.  Roll out both disks together into a 6-inch pancake, being careful not to wrinkle the dough when rolling.  Cook the pancakes in a lightly greased skillet over medium to medium-high heat until the surface blisters and turns the color of parchment; turn often with tongs.  Remove from the skillet and immediately separate the pancakes.  Repeat with the remaining disks.

Keep the pancakes warm, loosely covered, in a 200ºF oven.  At this point, the pancakes can be wrapped well and stored in the refrigerator or freezer.  To reheat, arrange the pancakes slightly overlapping on a baking sheet and bake, covered, at 300ºF until warm, 10 to 15 minutes.

For the filling:
Combine the water and mushrooms and let stand for 20 minutes, or until soft.  Drain, reserving the liquid, and squeeze out the extra water from the mushrooms.  Slice the mushrooms, discarding the tough centers and stems.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of soy sauce over the tempeh strips.  Heat a wok or large skillet over medium heat.  Add about 1 teaspoon of sesame oil.  Add the eggs and cook without stirring, until they are set but still moist.  Remove the egg pancake and cut into small pieces.

Heat another teaspoon of oil in the wok or skillet and add the tempeh.  Stir-fry until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.  Add the mushrooms along with the bamboo shoots, scallions, and ginger.  Stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes.  Carefully pour in the mushroom soaking liquid into a small bowl, making sure not to allow the grit from the mushrooms go into the bowl.  Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, the sherry, cornstarch, and sugar and mix together well.  Pour into the wok and boil, stirring, until thickened, about 1 minute.  Gently stir in the egg pieces.

Spread each pancake with a bit of plum sauce and spoon on about ¼ cup of the tempeh mixture.  Don’t overfill or the pancake will be hard to roll.  Roll up and eat!

New Favorite Noodles

August 4, 2010

Several months ago, I had lunch with a friend at a relatively new local restaurant called Nettletown.  It has been getting a lot of buzz lately and I took precious babysitting time to go check it out.  I am not a restaurant reviewer but I can tell you that within a very modest space, very exciting über-local and sustainable food is happening.  If you want more information, Tea wrote a great post about Nettletown here.

From the specials list, I chose a dish that turned out to be one of the most interesting and delicious dishes I have eaten in a long time.  I don’t remember everything exactly but I know for sure that my shallow but well-filled bowl contained fresh rice noodles, very firm and perfectly flavored tofu, sea beans, mizuna, and shiitake mushrooms.  There may or may not have been other delicacies in there.  I was pretty hungry that day and I still only made it through about half of my dish.  I dislike leftovers but I loved my noodles so much that I took my unfinished portion home with me and ate them later that night.

Since then, the dish has haunted me.  I have been back to Nettletown twice and have been dismayed to find it absent from the specials menu.  So, I have attempted to re-create the dish.  Three times.  The first two times I was so hungry and distracted by the time the dish was done that I didn’t have the energy or patience to take a photo.  (Fellow food bloggers, can I get an amen?)  I just figured I would make it again.  These are flavors and ingredients I love so why not use “no photo” as an excuse to repeat?  Each time I refined the dish a little more.  Some things stayed constant, others changed.  All three times I hoped to use fresh rice noodles and was never able to make that happen in spite of looking for them at my local Asian market.

So what is going on here?  First I made a marinade/sauce.  I cut the tofu into pieces, put them in a small baking pan, and poured about half the marinade over top.  I sautéed up some shiitake mushrooms until they started to brown and added just a touch of soy sauce at the end.  I rinsed sea beans, pre-cooked and then rinsed the rice noodles, and I allowed the tofu to bake long enough to absorb the marinade and develop a bit of a crust.  I assembled the whole dish together, poured the remaining sauce over top, and quickly seared bok choy halves to put on top.

This is not exactly the dish I had at Nettletown.  I’m still going to keep tweaking it and I am going on a fresh rice noodle quest.  But I’m getting close.

One Year Ago:  Zesty Tofu Wraps

Rice Noodles with Marinated Tofu and Shiitake Mushrooms

Dana Treat Original
Serves 4

I tried both the angel hair thickness rice noodles and the more fettucine thickness and preferred the latter.

For the marinade:
2 inch pieces of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 garlic clove, minced
2 stalks lemongrass, outer leaves removed, minced
6 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. honey
3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1½ tbsp. mirin
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp. sesame oil
2 tbsp. canola oil
2 tbsp. water
½-1 tsp. red pepper flakes

12 ounces extra-firm tofu, blotted dry and cut into 1-inch cubes
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed and cut into thick slices
4 baby bok choy, sliced in half
Large handful of sea beans, rinsed and drained
Mizuna leaves (you can substitute spinach)
1 pound rice noodles

To make the marinade/sauce, mix together all the ingredients in a medium size bowl.  Taste for flavor balance and add more soy, honey, or lime juice to taste.  Put the tofu in a shallow baking dish (an 8×8-inch pan is perfect) and pour about 1/3 of the marinade over top.  Allow the tofu to sit for at least half an hour, turning the pieces periodically.  You can also refrigerate the pan, covered, for up to one day.  Reserve the rest of the marinade.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.  Place the baking pan in the oven and bake until the marinade is absorbed and the tofu is developing a bit of outer crunch, 30 to 40 minutes.  Turn the tofu once during baking.  Set aside.

Heat a medium non-stick pan over medium heat.  Add just a bit of canola oil and then the mushrooms.  Allow to cook with out turning too much so that they get a bit browned.  Once they are soft and have released all of their liquid, add about a tablespoon of soy sauce.  Stir until the soy sauce is absorbed and set the mushrooms aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add the rice noodles and cook until just tender.  Check the package for how long they need to cook and be sure to taste them to make sure they are done.  Drain and immediately rinse them with cold water until they are cool.

Heat a bit more oil in the same skillet in which you cooked the mushrooms.  Add the bok choy halves and cook just until softened a bit, about 3 minutes.

To assemble the bowls, place a small handful of mizuna at the bottom of a wide shallow bowl.  Top with ¼ of the noodles.  Pour ¼ of the marinade/sauce over the noodles.  Top with some tofu, sea  beans, mushrooms, and a couple bok choy halves.

Polishing Off a Side Dish

June 6, 2010


I’m back from an amazing week in the state of Massachusetts.  When we weren’t pahking the cah in Hahvahd Yahd, we were traipsing around the lovely crooked streets of Provincetown, and being shown incredible East coast beaches by our friend Maryann.  It was so nice to see the sun, walk out in the evening without a jacket (!) and to realize that the very difficult times of traveling with small children are almost behind us.  It wasn’t easy, but both the flights and all the transitions (cabs, ferries, cars, ferries, cabs again – it wasn’t us pahking the cah in Hahvahd Yahd) went smoothly.  I actually read almost the whole way to and from Massachusetts.  Yahoo!

Oh yes, and I got a tattoo.  I so wanted to post a photo today but it is in the process of losing the scab which looks about as attractive as it sounds.  Story coming after healing process is over.  From the precious few people who have seen it (including Erin who I got to meet over coffee), I have gotten thumbs up.

I made this wonderful side dish before we left and just didn’t have time to write about it.  Often when I am making Asian food, I will just steam some broccoli to serve on the side.  I could eat my weight in steamed broccoli but when I made these noodles, I wanted something with a little more oomph.  In case you have never had asparagus together with shiitake mushrooms in a soy sauce spiked dressing, I highly encourage that you try it.   The recipe said 8 to 10 servings but 5 of us polished it off even with a little fighting over the last few asparagus spears.  The dressing might sound a bit odd – tarragon in a Asian inspired side? – but it worked beautifully in this dish.  If you live in a climate where you can stand outside and grill without looking like the victim of a flood, then I highly recommend the grill rather than the safe-and-dry oven inside that I had to use.

One Year Ago:  Mexican Pizza with Corn and Tomatillos
Two Years Ago:  Gazpacho (still my tried and true recipe)

Asparagus and Grilled Shiitake with Soy Vinaigrette
Adapted from Food and Wine
Serves 8-10 (not in my family)

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. chopped tarragon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1½ pounds fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed
2 pounds thin asparagus

Light a grill.  In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, vinegar, and tarragon and season with salt and pepper.

Brush the shiitake with 2 tablespoons of the soy vinaigrette; season with salt and pepper.  Grill over moderate heat, turning once, until just tender, about 6 minutes.  (DT: I roasted them in a 400° oven until they had absorbed the marinade and were tender, about 10 minutes.)  Transfer the shiitakes to a bowl; cut any large mushrooms into quarters.

bring a large skillet of salted water to a boil.  Fill a large bowl with ice water.  Add the asparagus to the skillet and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to the ice water to cool.  Drain and pat dry with paper towels.

Arrange the asparagus on a platter.  Drizzle with about half the remaining dressing.  Spoon the shiitakes over the asparagus followed by the rest of the dressing.  Serve right away.

(Make ahead: The dressing, grilled shiitakes, and blanched asparagus can each be refrigerated separately overnight.  Reheat the shiitake in a 400° oven for about 4 minutes and bring the asparagus and dressing to room temperature before serving.)

Spicy Peanut Noodles

May 26, 2010

Lately, I have been doing a fair amount of catering.  Some of it has been real official catering and some of it has been making food for lots of people on behalf of friends.  Either way, I am always faced with the challenge of how much food to make.  Working as a personal chef for three years and also catering lunches, dinners, and parties – not to mention all the entertaining we do ourselves – has made me a pretty good judge of portions.  I have no formula, I just kind of guess.  (Very scientific, I know.)  If I’m not sure, I err on the side of too much food because leftovers are nice but being hungry because the hostess/chef/caterer didn’t make enough food is not.  Once in a while I am off but thankfully not very often.

My parents came over for dinner last night along with my brother Michael.  Both of my brothers have incredible appetites and if they like something, you had probably better duck for cover.  My brother Alex once went to a wedding where he ate 99 skewers of shrimp with each skewer holding three shrimp.  I do know he did not get sick.  I do not know if anyone else got any shrimp that night.

Anyway, Michael, the baby in the family, also loves food and I always like to send him home with leftovers.  Keeping that in mind, and knowing I was cooking for five last night, I decided to one and half the recipe for these Spicy Peanut Noodles.  Just a pound and a half of noodles.  That should be right for five hungry people with a few leftovers, right?  If I were making this pasta or this one, I wouldn’t hesitate to use a pound and a half of pasta.

I’m not sure what happened to my nice Barilla whole grain spaghetti, but I could have fed about ten people with this dish.  As I said, better too much food than not enough.  Especially if it is a savory dish like this one.  I love Asian noodles of all kinds and these are no exception.  Peanut-y and smooth with terrific bite from the lightly pickled vegetables.  After we all ate our portions, I sent both my brother and parents home with some, and the boys and Randy ate the rest of them tonight.  That is a lot of noodles.  (By the way, my boys – the little ones – inhaled this dish.  Both of them had two huge plates-ful and Graham even had a second helping of tofu.)

I usually scoff at using spaghetti in Asian dishes, but I had some on hand and I like that the Barilla noodles have quite a bit of protein in them.  Their nutty flavor was most welcome in this dish, I just cooked them past al dente so their texture would be right.  No tofu was in the recipe originally, but I liked it here.  I held back a bit of the peanut sauce, brushed both sides of the tofu with it, and baked it in a 375º oven for about 25 minutes.  I also added the slightly pickled carrots because I thought the dish could use an extra bite and a bit of color.

One Year Ago: Greek Pasta Casserole

Spicy Peanut Noodles
Adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 6

1 pound spaghetti
¾ cup smooth peanut butter
½ cup + 2 tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
3 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. sugar
6 tbsp. soy sauce
½ cup water
1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
2 tsp. crushed red pepper
One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 large garlic clove
12 oz. extra-firm tofu, cut into ½-inch thick wedges
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
½ cup coarsely chopped cilantro
2 carrots, peeled and grated

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

In a blender, puree the peanut butter with 6 tablespoons of the vinegar, 3 tbsp of the sugar, the soy sauce, water, sesame oil, crushed red pepper, ginger and garlic.  Remove about ½ a cup of the dressing and place in a pie dish.  Put the tofu slices in the dish and turn them to coat with the dressing.  Place dish in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove and turn the slices over.  Bake for another 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

In a pot of boiling water, cook the spaghetti until tender.  Place the remaining dressing in a large bowl.  Using tongs, scoop the spaghetti out of the water and into the bowl.  Toss to coat the noodles with dressing.  Ladle in some of the cooking water if the noodles seem too dry.

In another bowl, toss the celery with the cilantro and 2 tbsp. of vinegar and 1 teaspoon of sugar.  Do the same in another bowl with the carrots and remaining vinegar and sugar.  Drain if they seem too wet, but allow them each to sit in their liquid for at least 10 minutes.

Serve the noodles in bowls and top them with the celery and carrots.

Tempt You with Tempeh?

March 12, 2010


So, we all know about Tara of Seven Spoons, right?  If you haven’t visited her incredibly special blog, you should head over there tout de suite.  Her writing is some of the best out there, food blog or no.  Her photos are spare, simple, and beautiful.  Her food is complex, but not overly so.  She always seems to be making exactly what I am in the mood for.  And here is another thing about her.  She is nice.  And I’m not just saying that because she sent me a cookbook.

I can’t remember the exact series of events, but somehow Tara ended up with some extra copies of a new book called Clean Food.  It is a vegetarian book and she sent me a message on Twitter asking if I wanted a copy.  How thoughtful is that?  As I have said here many times before, I have a lot of cookbooks and I have to say, this one is pretty different from others in my collection.  It is extremely healthy, gluten-free, and vegan.  There are those who say, “Why eat?” but those are very narrow-minded people.


The book is arranged seasonally and while some of the recipes are overly healthy for me (I like seaweed as much as the next vegetarian, but I don’t need a whole salad of it), many of them sound like just what the title says – clean food.  I like clean food.  Not overly fussy and really tasty.  Having sampled two of the recipes the other night, I can tell you I am very excited to cook more from this book.

May will be the second anniversary of me starting this blog and I have never once mentioned tempeh (pronounced temp-ay).  If you are not familiar with it, tempeh is a soy product.  Technically, it is soybeans that have been put through a fermentation process to bind them into cake form.  Doesn’t that sound appetizing?  Although tempeh and tofu are both soy, they are very different.  Tempeh is much firmer, denser, and actually quite a bit higher in protein.  It also has a fairly distinctive taste which many people don’t like.

I do like it but don’t find it as adaptable as tofu.  It also takes a bit more work to make it taste good.  Tempeh almost always should be steamed first (this will remove the bitterness) and I have found that I like it best marinated and then roasted at a fairly high heat.  That gives the tempeh a nice crust and terrific flavor.

Now I have a new favorite way to eat it.  I was blown away by this dish.  Simple ingredients and fabulous flavor.  Tempeh braised in coconut milk is an excellent idea and I didn’t think I would like the raisins in there, but they add a terrific dimension.  The side dish (from the same book) was almost as good as the main dish.  Put the two together with some rice and you have my husband (who, remember, is not a vegetarian) saying, “This is so good.  Make it again next week.”  So glad he asked.   Thank you Tara!


One Year Ago: Butternut Squash and Apple Galette and Goat Cheese Ravioli with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Sauteed Tempeh with Coconut Milk and Snow Peas
Adapted from Clean Food
Serves 4

I really loved both of these recipes but I made several changes.  I added some things, left some things out, and used more of other things.  The recipes below reflect those changes.  I would recommend that you do all the chopping in advance and put things in bowls so that you have everything at hand when you are ready to cook.  Yes, more dishes but no frantic running around the kitchen because the cooking time is actually quite short.

2 8-ounce packages tempeh
1 cup snow peas, trimmed
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
½ cup golden raisins
¾ of a 15-ounce can “lite” coconut milk, or more to taste
2 tbsp. tamari or other soy sauce
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tbsp. mirin
5 scallions, sliced
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Cut the tempeh into chunks and steam for 8 minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Place the snow peas in a bowl.  Pour boiling hot water over them, leave them for 2 minutes, then drain.  Rinse with cold water and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the shallot for 3 minutes, or until it begins to get brown.  Add the ginger and garlic and sauté until soft, about 2 minutes.  Add the tempeh, raisins, tamari, syrup, mirin, and about 1/3 of the coconut milk.  Cook, adding more coconut milk as necessary to de-glaze the pan, until tempeh starts to brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the snow peas and cook 2 minutes longer.  Remove from the heat, top tempeh with scallions and cilantro and serve.

Bok Choy and Shiitake Mushroom Sauté
Adapted from Clean Food
Serves 4

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
½ pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and thinly sliced
2 tbsp. tamari
1 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. mirin
8 cups chopped bok choy (4 medium heads or 8 small)
1 cup chopped scallions
½ cup chopped cilantro

In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté shallot in olive oil until starting to brown.  Add ginger and garlic and cook until soft, about 2 minutes.  Add shiitake mushrooms, half the tamari, water, and mirin and sauté until the mushrooms start to caramelize.  (Add more water as needed to de-glaze the pan.)  Add remaining tamari and mirin and sauté until the mushrooms are a deep brown but not burnt.

Stir in bok choy until it wilts.  Cover and steam for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and add scallions and cilantro.

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