Tag Archives: aimless
These quick pickles are incredibly versatile and take only minutes to make. I love them with rice or sweet shiitake and they go well with just about anything. Best thing is that they last for weeks in the fridge. Let’s make some pickles!
You will need:
- 1 cup hot water
- ½ cup rice vinegar
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 2 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 English cucumbers, carrots, daikon, or whatever you like
Slice your veg into ⅛ – ¼ inch slices and add to a large mixing bowl. Add the salt, mix well, and set aside for about 10 minutes.
In a plastic container or jar (750ml), combine the water, rice vinegar, and sugar. Mix well until the sugar is dissolved.
Take the veg out of the bowl, shake off the excess moisture, and add to the liquid. Cover with the lid and refrigerate overnight.
Pickles will keep in the fridge for about 3-4 weeks, if they last that long!
What is your favourite pickled vegetable?
Fish sauce is one of my favourite weapons to have in the pantry. It packs a powerful umami punch and can be used from simple dressings or to bring dimension to soups and braises. Today, I’m gonna show you a simple Vietnamese pork recipe that combines fish sauce and caramelized sugar to achieve an incredible flavour in a short amount of time. Get ready because it’s gonna happen right now on The Aimless Cook!
You will need:
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 pound pork belly or boneless pork shoulder (skinless or skin-on), cut-into 1-inch cubes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large shallots, chopped
- 1 scallion, green part only, thinly sliced
- rice for serving
Line the bottom of a medium sauce pot with the sugar. Place the pot over medium low heat. When the sugar melts and becomes amber-colored, add the water and fish sauce. The darker the sugar turns, the more bitter the caramel will taste so be watchful. Add the cubed pork belly or shoulder and stir until coated.
Add a pinch of salt. Simmer on medium-low heat for at least 25 minutes or until the pork is fork tender.
Stir in a couple chopped shallots and and cook until translucent, another 5 to 7 minutes. The sauce should now be thickened. If that’s not the case, turn the heat up a little and simmer for another few minutes.
Serve on steamed rice and top with chopped green onion and fresh cilantro. This dish goes well with rice vinegar pickles to cut the richness of the pork.
What’s your favourite dish with fish sauce?
There’s nothing better on a snow day than staying indoors and digging into a hot and hearty comfort meal. This Shortrib Kimchi Jjigae is just that. Meaty, mouthwatering, fork-tender beef shortribs braised in a kimchi broth with caramelized onions and chewy tteok. Add some fresh steamy rice and prepare for a meal that will make you wish every day could be a snow day.
You will need:
- 2 lbs yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 – 3 lbs beef short ribs (4 ribs)
- 2 cups kimchi
- 700 ml anchovy stock (or Japanese dashi)
- 2 cups tteok (Korean ricecakes)
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- salt and pepper, to season
- ¼ cup mirin
- fresh bean sprouts
- julienned carrot
- green onion
- white and black sesame seeds
In a large pan on high, heat the canola oil and butter. Add the onions, turn the heat down to medium, and slowly cook until the onion get caramelized and brown. When the onions are done, put them in the bottom of a pressure cooker or dutch oven and set aside.
Season the shortribs with salt and sear in the pan on high heat with more oil til they are browned. When they’re brown, place them on the onions.
Deglaze the pan you just seared the ribs in with the 2 cups of kimchi. Stir the kimchi around until all the fond comes free from the bottom of the pan. Place the kimchi over the ribs.
Finally, add the anchovy stock to the pot with the other ingredients. Cover and pressure cook for one hour, or bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 2 – 2.5 hrs or until the shortribs are tender.
Near the end of the cooking time, heat a pan with the sesame oil and saute the minced garlic for about 30 seconds. Add the tteok and continue cooking until they are lightly browned. Add the tteok to the pot of jjigae and let simmer for about 5 minutes until the tteok is done.
Taste the jjigae and season with salt if you need it. Add the mirin, give a final stir and get ready to serve.
Ladle the jjigae into individual serving vessels with one rib per serving. Place under a broiler for 5 minutes to give the meat a little colour. Garnish the servings with fresh bean sprouts, carrot, green onion, and sesame seeds. Serve with steamed rice and enjoy!
What is your favourite winter meal?
Red curry paste is a great ingredient to have handy. It lasts practically forever in the fridge and is extremely versatile. I use it in many different recipes, including this one for my version of the famous Indonesian fried rice, Nasi Goreng. There are so many varieties of Nasi Goreng depending where you go and who’s making it.
I love this dish because it’s flavourful, aromatic, spicy, and it’s the perfect way to use up leftover vegetables. Throw in some bacon lardons or sausage, top with a fried egg, and you have yourself a delicious breakfast. So what are we waiting for? Let’s cook Nasi Goreng!
For the sauce, you will need:
- 1 tablespoon of red curry paste
- 1 tablespoon kecap manis (sweet soy sauce, ABC brand is the best)
- 1 teaspoon (or more to taste) sambal oelek (garlic chili paste)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
For the rest:
- 2 – 3 cups of cold leftover rice
- 2 tablespoons fresh minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons chopped shallots or red onion
- some vegetables (julienned carrots, mushrooms, etc)
- some leftover meat (bacon lardons, sausage, bbq pork, prawns)
- fresh cilantro or chopped green onion
- lime wedges
- a touch of salt
In a bowl, combine the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
In a hot wok, add a couple tablespoons of oil. When it starts to smoke, add the garlic and shallot and fry for about 30 seconds. Add the rice and continue to cook, breaking up the clumps with your spatula. Cook for a minute or 2, before adding the sauce.
Once you add the sauce, continue to mix everything until the sauce is well distributed. At this point you can add your vegetables and meat (totally optional) and cook until they’re done.
Top with fresh chopped green onion or cilantro and squeeze some fresh lime juice over top just before serving.
Also, dont forget to top your nasi goreng with a sunny side up fried egg. There’s nothing like digging into that first bite with that lovely runny yolk. Enjoy!
What is your favourite rice dish?
If you’re still gung-ho about getting into the restaurant business after that taste of everyday kitchen life in the last post then congratulations – You are one sick fuck with a special fetish for punishment. Still reading? Good. It takes a special ilk to be able to weather the storms, see through the stupid, and forge on. The good news is that when you come from a background of less-than-ideal conditions, you learn to be resourceful, you realize you can re-invent your destiny, and most of all, you can be unorthodox about it all.
Don’t get confused here. This is not one of those stories where the main character threw all caution to the wind to do it his way. If anything, I’m one cautious person. I have a lot on the line here. I have children, a stable corporate job, benefits, a yearly bonus, and most of all, the piece of mind to know that no matter what, we’ll be ok. Being 41 has a lot of perks (extra long nose hair NOT being one of them). For an individual wanting to get into a business, you are still in a good position to get into doing something you love. You have experience, you have perspective, and you also have the sensibility of a rationally functioning human being (or at least you’d hope so).
In my case, I also had a little money set aside. Not anything to write home about, but enough to make me re-think my position in life with a new and determined sense of enthusiasm.
So there I was, standing there on the crossroads scared as hell, but hungry for much much more. The success of The Aimless Cook gave me a newfound sense of confidence in knowing that I could achieve whatever I put my mind to. It was also proof that my passion for food could make some remarkable things happen. Could I take my love of food deeper down the rabbit hole and actually open up my own restaurant?
Jo is a very important player in this game. Having a partner that believes in you is the most important part of your foundation. She’s there for moral support, she helps prep in the kitchen, she sells our food fervently, and when the smoke clears, she’s the first one I crack open a beer with to celebrate. A long time ago, she was convinced that I could do whatever I wanted to. At the time, I didn’t think much of it, but now I realize how much a belief like that means to a businessperson.
Think about it this way – a business is conceived like a *baby. It is carefully fed, cuddled and treated with such care and love to bring it to the point where it’s starting to stand on its own. That baby needs nourishment, care, support, knowledge, and the resources in place where it can learn and develop as it grows into a strong adult. Where do you think that comes from? That’s right – that baby needs a family. A business owner needs to be like a proud father, always praising that baby, reinforcing the good, being careful to see the bad things and make sure that baby doesn’t pick up any bad habits. But as a father (or mother), you can’t do it all on your own. Often as parents, we have to look to others to deal with the day to day issues that may come up. That’s where our partners come in. Other times, we pick up the phone and call our parents to get some sage advice. In business – same thing. If you can’t get all the answers to the problems from your partner, you ask your mentor.
During the development of The Aimless Cook, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of people in the food industry. My vision was to make more than just a cooking show. I wanted to support small local business, highlight and focus on the incredible people behind them, and in turn have some fun and learn even more about food. It was around this time where I met my mentor. I had former partner at the time that was doing a lot of cold calling. We would drop in on businesses, restaurants, networking events, wherever food was to meet people. It was at one of the city farmers market where our fateful meeting began.
We had just gotten a deal to produce an online series for the market. It was a brand new market in the city that was looking for a new and refreshing way (aka cheap) to promote itself via social media and online video. We were stoked to be on board as it was a new frontier for us. As we were introducing ourselves to the vendors, we met this crazy, incredibly warm, and friendly woman that ran a small stall that sold frozen and and ready-to-eat food with some sandwiches and coffee. We ended up talking to her for most of the afternoon. She was so enthusiastic about the market, developing the business community and just being part of something special. Today, we are still good friends and I bug her everyday for business advice.
My mentor has a quality that I think is very necessary when it comes to getting good business advice. She’s honest, blunt, and doesn’t hold back to make things sound more pleasing to your ears. If you have an idea that sucks and will probably drive your business into the ground, forcing you to live in a tent and eat cat food because you’re an idiot, she’ll tell you precisely that. She’s a mother figure through and through. She’ll be there to support you, love you, but be just as quick to slap you in the head if you’re doing something stupid or half-assed.
It was about 2 years I’ve known her, after I met Jo when she asked me one day in her kitchen about a very unique opportunity. She had recently taken over food services for another farmers market out in Millarville. I’d heard of Millarville before, and even attended their famous Christmas Market that they have every November long weekend. Basically, after seeing the show, watching all my Asian recipes before her eyes on the small screen, and being intrigued by it all, she was convinced that I could bring that food to a new audience. So she asked me.
“It’s the Millarville Farmers Market. A 30 year old market that brings in hundreds of people every Saturday from 9 to 2. I’m gonna be selling the burgers, fries and Western food. I need someone that can make really cool Asian food. It’s on the weekend, so you’ll have to find a sitter for the kids.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s the only thing.” It was at this point that I almost said no. “I can talk it over with Jo and see what she thinks. It’s a great chance to get into something of our own.”
The minute I told Jo that same evening, she said, “uh, yes!”
“What about the kids?”
“We’ll make it work.”
That was the gist of the conversation. A couple weeks later, we went to the market to spy on the current operation and get an idea of we were getting into.
I’ll continue this story in the next post. The whole idea behind this post up to this point is that you need to surround yourself with the right people. People that believe in your passion as much as you do. People that are willing to follow you on your journey, and help you along the way should any challenges or obstacles present themselves. Get out there and meet people that think like you, share your interests, work in the same industry, and most importantly meet people from all levels of the struggle.
It’s important to be part of a network of like-minded, driven individuals that support each other. Someone that has already had the experience of going through a hardship that you’re about to go through will have some great advice for you, and someone just starting out may be facing a dragon that you’ve just slain. Pay it forward. Be there for your new family and they’ll be there for you.
If you have been following along for some time now, you’ll know that I, or Jo and I in this case, started our first foray into the restaurant business last October. Our place, Eats of Asia, is located in the famous Millarville Farmers Market, about 20 minutes or so southwest of Calgary. The Market itself has been around for over 30 years nestled in the heart of the Millarville racetrack which has been around for over 100 years. When the opportunity to get into this hallowed location came up, I almost said no. It was actually Jo that slapped the reality of this unique gift into my head. When I look back now, I wonder if I was high that I considered turning down what eventually became the start of the most important crossroad of my, or our lives.
For as long as I’ve been doing The Aimless Cook, people always told me in the video comments that I should open a restaurant. I’ve always dismissed the notion, knowing not only that it’s one of the most riskiest business ventures out there, but also that people who start to invest their money and quit their comfy salary jobs to pursue that dream of owning a place of their own often end up crashing and burning into oblivion. So what the hell am I thinking?
Well, I’ll be honest with you. Passion can make you do some crazy shit. The key is that you keep it real, make good decisions, and not be stupid. If I were to put it into terms that most people would understand, “Don’t be like a young lovestruck teen, letting your dick make your decisions for you.” How’s that? One of the first rules I learned about the restaurant business from my mentor, “Never buy anything you don’t need. Cash flow is everything.” This opportunity didn’t come sooner because I wouldn’t have been ready. I’m 41 years old, I’ve been divorced, I’ve gone through the worst that relationships can give you, and in addition I have the best that relationships can give you. I have 4 wonderful children that mean the world to me, and looking back I wouldn’t change a thing. You could say that the experiences that I’ve had made me super skeptical and yet always hungry for more. I would say that I’m ready. I can also safely say at this point in life that I know what I don’t need.
So what pushed me over the edge of being nestled comfortably in the safety of corporate life into navigating the often treacherous waters of entrepreneurship? Well, in my case, take a few of the well-known elements of success and throw in some key players who walked into my life, a unique opportunity, and my current mental state and I think you have it.
Everyone knows that passion is key to pursuing your dreams, and I’ve had a lot of dreams. I think during the course of my life I’ve wanted to be a comic book artist, a rock star, a writer, a financial planner (don’t ask how that one got in there). The difference now is that something always brings me back to food. Like an old friend, you never appreciate what you have, but they’re always there for you no matter what and no matter how many years go by. I love to cook good food, share Asian culture, and making a career out of it made perfect sense. A noble pursuit indeed.
In the next few posts, I will be writing more on the subject of my adventure in the industry. If you have your own dreams of opening a restaurant, I hope that this memoir will serve as a guide, or at least give you an idea of the realities of pursuing your own passions.
The ramen burger is gaining popularity in North America. Touted as the newest food craze, it’s a clever sandwich using ramen noodles as the bun. Today, I’m going to show you how to make your own. Enjoy!
You will need:
- fresh ramen noodles (one package per person)
- 1 egg, beaten
For the beef teriyaki filling:
- 10 oz. thinly sliced beef (per person)
- 1 yellow onion, sliced
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- a splash of sake (optional)
- ¼ cup dashi
Cook the ramen like you normally would until cooked. Strain and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the beaten egg and combine until the noodles are evenly coated. Take the noodles, divide them into 2 equal portions, and put them into ring moulds, ramekins, or burger patty moulds. Pack them and weigh them down so that they can set in the shape of your ‘buns’. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
For the Beef Teriyaki, start by sauteing the onion in a small pot on medium heat with a bit of oil. Cook until the onions are lightly caramelized, then add the beef. Cook until the beef starts to change colour. Next, add the rest of the ingredients and continue cooking until the beef is done and the sauce is thickened to your liking.
When the noodles are set, they should pop out of the moulds easily. Fry them on a lightly oiled skillet on medium high heat until they are slightly browned and warmed through.
Assemble your burger and enjoy!
*The ramen bun holds up well to sauce. You can of course enjoy them with hamburger patties, katsu, fried oysters, etc. It up to your imagination.
What are you going to put in your ramen buns?
Char siu is that famous Chinese red roast pork that you see hanging in the windows of your favourite meat shops in Chinatown. So delicious and savoury with that hint of sweetness from that incredible caramelized marinade. It’s easier than you think to make so let’s get cooking!
You will need:
- ⅓ cup Hoisin sauce
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing cooking wine
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- ½ teaspoon 5-spice powder
- 1 ½ tablespoons maltose (or honey)
- 3 lb pork shoulder*
*For a great balance of fat and lean, go for shoulder. If you want extra lean, get yourself pork tenderloin. If you want to go for broke, get pork belly.
The first thing we’re gonna do is make our marinade. You want to do this the day before so that your pork will have maximum flavour.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine ⅓ cup of sugar with 2 tablespoons of shaoxing cooking wine, 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce, a ½ teaspoon of 5-spice powder, and ⅓ cup hoisin sauce. For nostalgia, I’m also adding about 6 drops of red food colouring. Finally, add 1 ½ tablespoons of maltose, which is the secret to that wonderful caramelization that this dish is famous for. You can find maltose in most Asian grocery stores. If not, you can substitute honey.
Maltose is a very thick and very sticky ingredient, so be patient. It will slowly dissolve as you mix it with the other ingredients.
When the marinade is ready, put it into a large ziplock bag and then add about 3 lbs of pork shoulder. These steaks are about 2 inches thick, so for our home recipe, they should cook up fast. Coat the pork evenly and pop into the fridge to marinate overnight. Be sure to turn the bag over every few hours or so.
When the meat is ready, take it out of the bag and keep the marinade in a small bowl. Place the pork in a roasting pan on a rack and put in into a preheated 375F oven until done. You want to baste it with that marinade every 10-15 minutes. Also be sure to flip the pork over halfway through cooking. It will be done when the edges start to caramelize and the surface is glistening red. If you have a meat thermometer, the inside should read about 160F.
Once you know the meat is about done, turn the oven up to broil and briefly hit it with that high heat to caramelize the rest of the surface. Take out of the oven and set aside to rest for a few minutes before slicing.
Char siu is crazy versatile so make lots and keep it handy for whatever you want to use it for. It also freezes well, so you can store it whole or sliced, thaw it and use it whenever you get a craving. Enjoy!
What is your favourite dish with char siu?