bad breath? suck it up.

Recently in my econ class my prof reminded me of the essence of each choice we make: there is always a trade-off. And each choice we make means that there’s something else we’ve given up. You’re reading this, hopefully to wring from it a few droplets of pleasure, and you’ve forgone the opportunity of finishing up the last bit of paperwork left on your desk.

That’s your choice, and you made it all by your rational self. But I’ll make an effort to convince you (that you’re using your time rather wisely) anyway.

No guarantees, but this post will probably most likely perhaps certainly change your weekday dinner cycle forever. Yes, I get it, there are lots of 5-ingredient broke-ass student dinners out there that are actually quite dexterous in composition and thought, but many of those involve processed products (i.e bottled sauces, pre-cooked produce, or compressed meats) which are at best perfunctory and exorbitant.

You don’t need five dozen different ingredients to make a 5-ingredient meal. That should make sense on more levels than one.

Oh wait, I lied, add to the 5 ingredients some 15 minutes and a good friend for decent conversation.

Blessed are you who are poor,

for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you who hunger now,

for you will be satisfied.

Blessed are you who weep now,

for you will laugh.

Luke 6: 20-21

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Ingredients for the Scallion Dry Ramen, serves 2:

1/2 cup neutral flavoured oil, such as avocado or rice bran

bunch scallions, thinly sliced

packets fresh ramen or thin udon noodles

teaspoon fine sea salt

pinch ground white pepper

To make the scallion oil, heat the oil in a saucepan until hot and shimmery. A piece of scallion dropped in should bubble vigourously. Tip in all of the scallions at once and fry, stirring occasionally, until well browned and crisp. This will take about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt and pepper.

Cook the noodles as directed on the package. Rinse under hot water and drain thoroughly. Toss the noodles with the fried scallion oil and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Mien Attitude

Noodles, beyond any other food group has the richest history and diversity. One can tell plenty of dish’s origin by simply reading its name as long as it involves a noodle of some sort.

I am, by no means, an expert on noodles – especially so when it comes to western pastas. BUT, to be honest, if your food memories have been pickled since childhood in Taiwanese gastro-culture, you probably know a thing or two about an iconic bowl of #saucyasiannoodles.

Now, as I’ve mentioned, noodles are very revealing. Just as how table manners of a kid will show you the discipline of the parent, a humble bowl of noodles will tell you the style of its cook, and maybe get even more personal.

This recipe here, please don’t smash it to bits, because it got me through freshman year. It’s unpretentious, but it insists on keeping the details. It’s cheap, but not so it should apologize. And it’s so damn delicious it will fix all of your problems.

That’s just me though, so I have no idea what this bowl of noodles will say to you.

Guess you’ll have to find out for yourself ! But in case you missed it, I’ll start you off and tell you that this is a “dan” good bowl of noodles! (No, do not excuse that pun!)

But solid food is for the mature,

for those who have their powers of discernment

trained by constant practice

to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 5:14

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Ingredients for the Szechuan dan dan soba with kale and chili oil, serves 2:

2 tbsp Chinese sesame paste (not tahini or the pastry filling)

4 tbsp natural smooth peanut butter (unsweetened)

2 tsp brown sugar

1/3 c soy sauce

1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

1 tbsp Szechuan fried chili in oil and more to taste

1 bunch kale, trimmed and torn

3 bunches buckwheat soba noodles

3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced

To make the dan dan soba, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Meanwhile, combine the sesame paste, peanut butter, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and Szechuan chili in a bowl and stir well.

Once the water is boiling, blanch the kale until wilted and lift them out to drain, then squeeze out any excess moisture. Separate the kale leaves and put them in a large bowl. Add the sauce on top.

Keep the pot boiling, and add the soba noodles to the pot to cook until tender, not al dente (this is one of the biggest differences between Asian noodles and Italian pasta.) Lift the noodles out and transfer them straight into the bowl of kale. Make sure you are combining piping hot noodles with the sauce as the heat is what makes the sauce aromatic. Mix and toss thoroughly, adding a couple ladles of hot noodle water to reach your desired consistency. (Again, don’t just add plain water, as that will break the sauce.)

Divide among two big bowls, and garnish with the scallions and more Szechuan chili oil. (I usually add an additional teaspoon to my bowl, but I’ve been told as having a pretty h-core heat tolerance. However, I strongly recommend starting with a whole tablespoon in the sauce as a starting point.)

Enjoy with a cup of hot green tea!

A Bit of Spring Cleaning

Get ready! Because you’re about to be hit by a blizzard , no it’s not winter anymore, I mean, explosion of recipes, all of which are vegan, super vibrant, fresh, and absolutely delicious! For those of you who are staying in touch via instagram (it’s on the right-hand-side, just click and follow to stay up-to-plate with everything I’m whipping up), you’ve probably been wondering why I haven’t put up the recipes to those pictures and I apologize!! Sorry, I truly am because sometimes I click on something that looks totally yum hoping to find its recipe but then it just turns out to be foodporn, and that makes me really disappointed.

I get that. So here’s a treat: a collage of recipes to kickstart spring!

Here I wanted to feature some of those under-acknowledged ingredients such as beet greens, parsley stems, green peas, and grainy mustard. Beet greens and parsley stems tend to just get trimmed off and thrown into the garbage which I find to be such a waste. Beet greens are actually loaded with all the great nutrients its roots has, but with more fibre and less sugar while parsley stems have even more flavour than the leaves, not to mention the nice texture it gives to the green falafel mash (recipe below!). Green peas and grainy mustard, on the other hand are like ugly christmas sweaters – you have them lying around not because they’re a kitchen staple, but because there was this one day when some magazine or trend convinced you to buy a bag/jar of the stuff (like how your friends convinced you of the sweater at Value Village). Then ever since that day it’s just been a shameful lump stuck in your pantry or fridge door.

It’s okay, it’s all good, literally. And I encourage you to really take this as a new starting point, see what poor miserable thing is your fridge or pantry that you’ve been wanting to get rid of, and cook dat thang!

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled,

and those who humble themselves

will be exalted.

Luke 14:11

Collage

Rice with Beet Greens (Top Left):

1 tbsp avocado oil

1 medium brown onion, finely diced

1 bunch beet greens, stem portion diced, leaf portion shredded

2 cups cold, cooked red and brown basmati or jasmine rice

sea salt

white pepper

pinch of cinnamon

To make the rice with beet greens, heat the oil on medium in a skillet or wok. Add the onions and let it sweat until translucent and fragrant. Turn up the heat to high and add the chopped beet greens, continue stirring until tender, then add the rice and season well to taste. Stir until the liquid is fully absorbed and mixture is heated through.

Serve immediately, with an earthy wild mushroom or nutty pureed squash soup.

 

Garlic Coconut Butter Grilled Naan

with Green Falafel Mash, Parsley Mango Slaw, and Sriracha Aioli (Top Right):

for the garlic coconut butter grilled naan:

2 fat cloves of garlic, minced

2 tbsp coconut oil

4 pieces whole wheat naan bread

To make the coconut butter, put combine garlic and coconut oil in a small bowl and microwave for 30-45 seconds until fragrant. Brush the mixture onto one side of the naan and put that side down on a hot grill pan (it’s still pretty cold where I am, but if it’s summer wherever you are and you have the luxury of using a grill, by all means fire it up!). Lift up a corner to see if it’s nicely charred, once it is, brush the oil on the upper side and flip it over to get it grill-marked.

for the green falafel mash:

2 cups flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped (throw the stems in there!)

1 can (540 ml) chickpeas, drained

1 generous tbsp madras curry powder

3 tbsp tahini

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

sea salt, to taste

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a coarse puree forms. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with some more EVOO and set aside.

for the parsley mango slaw:

1 large mango, ripe but firm, thinly sliced

1 cup finely shredded flat leaf parsley

Stir together the mango and parsley in a bowl and set aside.

for the sriracha aioli:

2 heaping tbsp good quality mayonnaise, feel free to use your favourite vegan mayo or cashew cream!

1 tbsp sriracha hot sauce (don’t tone it down, go beyond if it’s your thing!)

1 tbsp lime juice

In a small bowl stir together the mayo, sriracha, and lime juice, adding a bit more sriracha or lime juice to get a nice drizzling consistency. To assemble, spread the falafel mash onto the grilled naan, top with the mango slaw, and drizzle with the sriracha aioli.

Serve immediately with a minty cooler : blend together frozen yellow watermelon cubes + fresh mint + lime + coconut water!

 

Roasted Aloo Gobi (Bottom Right):

1 head cauliflower separated into bite-sized florets

1 large baking potato, diced into 1-inch pieces, boiled for 12 minutes

8 cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 cup shelled green peas, frozen is fine

3 tbsp madras curry powder

2 heaping tbsp grainy mustard

1 cup crushed tomatoes

2 tbsp melted coconut oil

sea salt, to taste

2 tbsp honey or agave

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Combine all ingredients besides the honey and place into two large baking trays. Bake for 1 hr, stirring every 10~15 minutes. Drizzle with honey and bake for another 10~15 minutes until vegetables are tender and caramelized.

Serve with coconut steamed basmati rice or garlic coconut butter grilled naan (above).

 

Lemon Butter Bean Tartines  with Spring Sugar Peas, Butter Lettuce, and Radishes (Bottom Left):

for the Lemon Butter Beans:

1 can (540 ml) white or butter beans, rinsed and drained

1 heaping tbsp grainy mustard

zest and juice of 1 small lemon

2 tsp honey or agave

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

sea salt

black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth, you might need to scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times. Set aside.

for the tartine assemby:

few slices toasted baguette or spelt or dark rye bread, really anything goes

1 head Boston or butter lettuce, leaves washed and patted dry

1 cup shelled sweet peas, frozen ones are fine, just let them sit at room temperature for 20 minutes

2 scallions, thinly sliced

4~5 radishes, thinly sliced

Spread a bit of the bean puree onto the toasted bread, then put the lettuce on (that way the lettuce will actually stay on the tartine). Fill the lettuce with more of the puree and garnish with the peas, scallions, and radish rounds.

Serve  with a strawberry almond milkshake: blend together frozen strawberries + almond milk + agave + vanilla extract

Happy spring cleaning your body, mind, and pantry!

 

#heaven

If I asked you about your day, I wonder if these words come to mind: tough, bitter, disappointing, grey, crushing and, despite the jeering irony, empty? Do the fleeting shadow of brighter days past haunt your dreams of tomorrow?

What if I told you that there is something lacking in all of us. An imperfection that we strive to smooth in each strenuous day we pass in this life? And unlike what we drunkenly believe, we were created with the purpose of living in perfect glory.

Don’t settle for anything less.

Honey, you deserve better than a blurred glimpse of a tomorrow that will slip from your fingers faster than snow melts on your palm. God has given it, so say thank you, and live!

Here’s your fix of reality, brought to you by Jesus.

I have come

to call not those who think they are righteous,

but those

who know they are sinners

and need to repent.

~Luke 5:32

“There’s no shame in admitting your wrongs.”

Now that’s one thing we got right.

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Ingredients for the 27-h pulled turkey:

125 ml apple cider

225 ml coke (do not use diet, you really want the caramel from the sugar!)

30 ml barbeque sauce

30 ml dark soy sauce or tamari

30 ml balsamic vinegar

2 free range or organic turkey legs or a turkey thigh

To make the pulled turkey, whisk together all ingredients except for the turkey. Place the turkey legs or thigh in a smaller but deep baking dish so it fits snugly (I used a glass loaf pan), and pour over the marinade to cover. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, preferably for a whole day, or up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, with the rack placed in the middle of the oven. Remove the plastic wrap from the turkey and cover tightly with foil, crimping the edges to really seal it well. This will keep the meat really tender and moist. Bake for 3 hours, until a fork pierces the center of the meat effortlessly. Remove from the oven and, using two forks, shred the meat (include the skin too, for better texture since turkey is so much leaner than pork). Let cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 days if you plan on making this ahead, but in all honesty, I think that would take an epic amount of self control. Reserve all the juices leftover in the baking dish. As for the sweet potato:

Ingredients for the perfectly creamy baked sweet potato:

4 medium-large orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, scrubbed under running water

To bake the perfect sweet potato, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, with the rack placed in the middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with foil and put the sweet potatoes on top. I don’t care what you’ve been reading, I’ve baked well over 300 sweet potatoes in the past couple of years and eaten a good portion of those myself; this is how it’s done, don’t pierce it with a for or do anything strange.

Bake for 1-1 1/3 hours until the sweet potatoes are surrounded by their own oozing caramel and the flesh is painfully tender when you insert the tip of a knife into it. (I say this in all seriousness, you’ll know what I mean once you get there.)

Ingredients for the assembly:

4 freshly baked sweet potatoes (keep them in the oven so they stay hot)

1 can of your favourite baked beans, warmed (you can do this in the microwave)

2 green onions, thinly sliced

When ready to serve, pour all the juices into a saucepan and boil until reduced to a glaze consistency (patience!). Add the shredded turkey into the saucepan, stir to coat and warm thoroughly. Make a deep cut lengthwise on each sweet potato without slicing through. Spoon a decent amount of baked beans into the cavity, then top it over-the-top with the pulled turkey. Garnish with the green onions.

I really don’t think I need to remind you, but I will anyway:

Enjoy!

Imagine in Purple

I doubt I’m getting to that age where I have the seniority to say “as you get older you find that every year passes you by so quickly that they blend into one another”. Nor am I quite so busy to say that the thin silver line between each day has disappeared. But there’s one thing I can say, because I believe that time cannot be quantified according to any device except for perhaps by one’s heart:

time took itself to sloth from one point to the next, which was back in August when lunch between mother and daughter was a three-hour affair that would take place under impromptu patches of flowery shade over crostinis and blueberry compote.

but then, like a child, it grew as an exponential function.

So here we are, in the very belly of November, and every man I see sports some sort of awkward hybrid between grubble and moustache on their face. In all honesty, the only possible thing I can connect that – whatever that is, movember? – to would be that stage when a cute fuzzy baby chicken overnight becomes this grotesque, almost reptilian creature with non-uniform spikes protruding from their pores. But for the cause behind the hairiness I think I can go another two weeks.

Afterall, two weeks feels to me like three days now.  And eggplants are running exponentially faster away from me. My mind, however, still dreams in purple – the deep, royal, amethyst sort of purple.

Best friend, math has not done so much to take away my imagination. I can still dream up a thousand and one ways to cook a deep, royal, amethyst purple giant of an egg. Here’s 1/1001 of the ways.

“How can people say

they don’t eat eggplant

when God loves the color

and the French love the name?

I don’t understand.”

– Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet

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Ingredients for the candied eggplant with akamiso glaze:

3 tbsp red miso

2 tbsp buckwheat honey, regular will do

1 tbsp mirin, or rice wine

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tsp sesame oil

1 large round eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 thinly sliced green onions, to garnish

To make the candied eggplant, preheat the oven to 415 degrees F with the rack placed in the middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with foil and brush it with some mild vegetable oil such as grape seed or avocado.

Stir together the miso, honey, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Toss the diced eggplant in the miso glaze to coat evenly and spread the eggplant onto the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 25~30 minutes, or until the eggplant becomes caramelized and very tender. Transfer to a plate and garnish with the sliced green onions, and a thin drizzle of sesame oil, if desired.

Enjoy!

Hoggin’ the Hock

My kitchen train of thought, on most days, simply choo-choos along steering clear of potholes and sharp turns. Then once in a while something fantastically frightful leaps out and becomes roadkill, pushing me into a daring job of clean-up. A few days past, my mum and I found ourselves at a lovely little farmer’s market. I fascinated myself with the Brussels sprouts and parsnips, imagining a roasted dish of some sort. My mother, in the meantime, came to a marveled halt in front of the meat stand. I then, naturally, left my vegetables and joined her.

Her eyes fell upon an awe-inspiringly clean and delicate piece of swine: the hock. All its hairs had been carefully removed, the skin was tight and of an even tone. There were no traces of pink liquid puddling beneath it. It was all so…pristine.

I was all so…ravished.

It has been nearly two months since my vacation in Taiwan, and I’m just beginning to miss the grandiose Taiwanese restaurant vibe – the touch, or should I say kick, of in-your-face-I’m-damn-proud-of-what-I-made attitude. Whole braised pork hock is actually the celebration dish of all occasions in Taiwan; be it wedding banquets, office wrap-ups, over-the-hump birthdays. Why? Because its ability to bring about wholesome joy and hearty chortling far exceeds that of ham and bacon. The meat, through extended cooking would literally fall apart if there hadn’t been the sticky, tender, and golden red rind just barely holding it together. The onions become confit’d and transparent, as deep amber, and the juices of the concoction darken through patient caramelization, transforming into the most addictive sauce that will guarantee the vanishing of all the rice – regardless of how much you cook. The plan was to make this for dinner, then have the leftovers for dinner the following day. That did not happen, since my mum and I basically pigged out on the whole thing at one sitting. Oops.

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Ingredients for the braised hock:

1 small pork hock

vegetable oil, for frying

8 slices ginger root

2 brown onions, cut into thin wedges

300 g vaccuum-packed slender bamboo shoots, rinsed, cut into 1-inch pieces

8 cloves garlic, peeled

2/3 cup yellow rock sugar

2/3 cup rice wine

1 cup soy sauce

2 cups water

2 pieces dried mandarin peel

4 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces

To make the braised pork hock, first, heat about 3/4 inch of vegetable oil in a wok until hot, but not yet smoking. Pat the hock dry with a paper towel, then gently lower into the oil; it should start to sizzle immediately. Fry the hock on all sides on medium heat until the skin is nicely golden crisp all over. Drain thoroughly on a clean paper towel.

Cover the bottom of the slow cooker with the onions, bamboo, and garlic. Put the hock right on top, then add the sugar, liquids, and mandarin peel. Scatter on the scallions.

Cook on HIGH, covered, for 5~6 hours, flip the hock over, then cook on LOW for another 8 hours, covered.

Serve the hock whole in a large deep platter, with the vegetables and its sauce. (And of course lots of rice.)

If there happens to be leftovers, then discard the sauce and cool completely before refrigerating. To reheat, steam it with a sprinkling more of rice wine so the tender meat doesn’t dry out.

Enjoy!