Sunday, June 7, 2015

Banana Blossom and Chicken Stir-Fry

Click here to print the recipe

Banana blossom aka banana heart aka banana flower, is not an ingredient you would normally find in your local grocery store. But if you live near an Asian grocery store, you might see some fresh ones in the produce section. A widely popular ingredient in Southeast Asian and Indian cuisine, banana blossom's mild flavor works wonderfully in salad, stir-fry, or curry.

To knowledge to prepare banana blossom for the dish is somehow crucial. Make sure you follow every step, so you don't end up with discolored blossom that leaves unpleasant bitter taste in your mouth.
If you do it right, this is the delicious dish that might make more than one appearance at your dining table.


  • 1 banana blossom
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fermented shrimp paste (if not available, substitute with 1 tablespoon fish sauce)
  • 2 red Jalapeños, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, bruised
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • In a large bowl, mix cold water and white vinegar, and set aside. Peel the tough purple outer layers of banana blossom until you reach the pinkish-creamy color part of the blossom. Split the blossom in half lengthwise, then slice crosswise as thinly as possible. Transfer banana blossom slices immediately to the bowl with vinegar water. Soak the blossom for 1 hour, up to 2 hours. This process will prevent the blossom from turning brown, and also will get rid of the bitterness. Drain  and rinse with cold water before cooking.
  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, shrimp paste, Jalapeños, and lemongrass into the skillet and cook for a few minutes. Add ground chicken to the skillet, breaking up the chunks with the wooden spatula while stirring. Continue cooking until the chicken is crumbly and no longer pink.
  • Add banana blossom and chicken stock into the chicken mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking for about 5 to 10 minutes, until the blossom is tender and the stock is absorbed. 
  • Serve warm with steamed rice, if desired.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Rosemary Lime Roasted Chicken Thighs

My last blog entry was in March. How lazy am I?
But summer is almost here. My rowdy teenagers have two more weeks of school, then the school break is here. I'm telling you, I'm psyched about it.
Finally I would have time to sit down and relax a little bit, get inspired to try some new recipes I've been meaning to do in the past few months, read books, and maybe some beach time here and there. Doesn't that sound wonderful?

The first half of 2015 passed by so quickly. Everybody has been busy doing something (except Stuey the crazy Dale, he spends half of his day napping and the other half begging for food), dinnertime is the only time our family can sit down and be together, then they're off to do homework or whatever else. Most days, I have one hour to cook dinner, if I'm lucky.
So needless to say, dish like this roasted chicken thighs is a lifesaver. It's quick, it's super easy, and it's definitely tasty.


  • 8 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons stone ground mustard
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice, from about 2 limes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 green onion, sliced, for garnish (optional)
  • In a bowl whisk together olive oil, mustard, garlic, lime juice, rosemary, salt and pepper until well combined. Transfer marinade to a large sealable freezer bag. Add chicken thighs to the bag, seal and shake to coat. Place freezer bag in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  • Preheat the broiler. Take out the chicken and lay them on broiler pan, skin side up. Insert a thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken, then broil the chicken until the skin turns golden brown, about 5-10 minutes. 
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 375 F. Continue roasting until the thermometer temperature reaches 165 F. Transfer chicken to a serving platter, garnish with sliced green onion.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Buns)

This recipe should have been here a few years ago. Seriously. 

Because since we tried them the first time (at Fogo de Chao in LV) a few years back, these cheesy rolls have been our choice of bread to accompany many of our dinners at home.
They're crunchy on the outside but slightly chewy in the center, and relatively easy to make.
The only tricky part for most people is finding the right kind of flour for this. 
If you live in the area where there's a sizable Brazilian population, you should be able to find sour tapioca flour (povilho azedo) in a Brazilian/Latin America market (I got mine from Bossa Nova Brazil in El Cerrito, by the way).
If that's not an option, you should be able to purchase one online from

Regular tapioca flour can also be used for a substitute. Although in my opinion, it's not the same since it lacks that slightly sour and fermented flavor. So don't change if you don't have to.

And did I mention that in addition to being delicious, they are also gluten-free?

  • 500 grams sour tapioca flour (povilho azedo)
  • 10 grams salt
  • 125 ml vegetable oil
  • 175 grams grated firm cheese (parmesan works well for this)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 300 ml milk
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, oil and salt, mix thoroughly. Add cheese, eggs and milk into the mixture, and blend until well combined.
  • Line a cookie sheet with non-stick liner or parchment paper. Using a cookie scoop or spoon, scoop a round portion of the dough and roll into a ball (about 1.5 inches in diameter) using the palm of your hands. Place the balls on the lined cookie sheet with an inch space in between them.
  • Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until the balls turn slightly golden and crispy on the outside. Serve warm.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Dublin Coddle

Being sick stinks. 

But that's what I have been experiencing this past week, together with my oldest offspring. In fact, big C got it worse than me. His flu was so bad he had to stay at home and missed his rowing practices the entire week. 
The house was beyond messy, but I didn't care. Our meals consisted of whatever quick and easy I could manage to whip up. Mostly stir-fry stuff. 
But finally today, we said we want something different. No more stir-fry, let's have something soupy and comforting, but still easy to make.

Then Dublin coddle came to mind.
This slow-cooked Irish stew filled with bacon, sausages and potatoes is not only easy to make, but also tastes great. This is the kind of dish that makes you warm and fuzzy inside. 

Because the dish only calls for a few ingredients, make sure you only use the good quality sausages and bacon you can find. The better the ingredients, the better your stew will be. Enjoy!

  • 5 thick-cut/slab bacon (or rashers), cut into strips
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 5 links pork sausages
  • 10 unpeeled gold potatoes, washed and halved
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 small cabbage , cut into 8 sections (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Brown the sausages on both sides, transfer to a plate and set aside.
  • Add bacon and onion into the saucepan. Cook until the onion has softened, about 5-10 minutes. Return sausages into the pot, add potatoes and pour the stock into the pot. Add cabbage into the pot as well, if you're using. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to low,. Cover the saucepan and simmer for about 1 hour, until the potatoes are tender.
  • Ladle soup into individual bowl and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve hot with good crusty bread.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Mapo Tofu

Mapo tofu, to me, is comfort food.
This spicy dish with fermented bean base, combined with mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns, can be found in most Chinese restaurants across the country. But seriously, what not to like?

There are 3 important ingredients for cooking authentic Mapo tofu: doubanjiang which is chili bean paste (one of the most important ingredients in Sichuan cooking), and dou-chi, also known as fermented black beans, and lastly Sichuan peppercorns. Omit any of these ingredients, and your tofu will not be the same, I'll tell ya!

Poaching the tofu prior to cooking will help to make your tofu more tender. Simply soak tofu in hot salted water for about 3 minutes, drain and slice/cube.

  • 1 pound (1 block) soft tofu, poached and cut into 1" cubes
  • 1/2 pound ground pork or beef
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons doubanjiang
  • 1 tablespoon dou-chi
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup green peas (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorn (fry whole peppercorns in a pan, cool down and ground using food processor)
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • Salt (if needed)
  • 3 stalks green onion, chopped
  • In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon cooking oil over medium-high heat. Cook ground meat until done, transfer to a plate and set aside.
  • Add sesame oil into the skillet. Fry garlic, ginger, doubanjian, dou-chi in the skillet until fragrant. Place tofu cubes, green peas and ground meat into the skillet, mix gently so the tofu don't turn mushy. 
  • Pour chicken broth into the skillet. Add soy sauce and ground peppercorn, and let the liquid to boil. Mix water and cornstarch in a small bowl, stir into the tofu mixture. Simmer and let the liquid thickens, about 2-3 minutes. At this point, taste the dish to see if additional salt is needed.
  • Transfer dish to a serving plate. Garnish with chopped green onion and serve hot with steamed rice.