Tag Archives: asian

Vietnamese Caramelized Pork – Thit Kho

Vietnamese Caramelized Pork

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!

Serves 4

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?

Shortrib Kimchi Jjigae

Shortrib Kimchi Jjigae


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?

J’s Nasi Goreng – Indonesian Inspired Fried Rice

J's Nasi Goreng

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?

How I Got Started In The Restaurant Business – The Kitchen

Char Siu Bowl from Eats of Asia

Passion. You hear that word all the time. It’s the cornerstone of success according to almost everyone who’s ever talked about climbing their own personal mountain to the pinnacle of their professional or personal lives. Like I said in my last post, there’s nothing wrong with passion. In fact, I am fuelled by it, but the key is not to let it get you stupid. It’s like the hit of nitrous you see in the Fast and the Furious films that shoots the car into a blurred haze. It can rocket you to victory, so long as you can still steer the car and not end up as a burning heap of twisted metal and charred flesh. You can have the fastest car, but if you can’t drive it, you’re fucked.

Before the race, before strapping yourself in, before even getting in the car, you have to understand something. Passion is like love and it comes with all the things that make you feel good, but also all the things that make you mad, frustrated, sad, disgusted, sickened, discouraged, and everything negative as well. Like a relationship with a person, you have to take the bad with the good. You have to ‘like’ what you do and not just say you ‘love’ it. Does that make sense? I hope so, it’s just the rest of your life we’re talking about.

Gua bao - a new menu item for summer - photo by Terry Lo

Gua bao – a new menu item for summer
- photo by Terry Lo

You might be a good cook, hell, you may be a great cook. As you flip that chicken breast in your Jamie Oliver T-Fal to the amazed gasps of your friends, and expertly plate up the evening’s meal like something you saw on Food Network, you’re feeling pretty good. People may tell you all the time that you’d have a successful restaurant and that you should open up a place of your own. As you take a moment to bask in the compliments of your guests and consider that thought, pause.

“Wow, you are quite the chef.”

“Thanks for the delicious eggs benedict, chef!”

Chef is a ubiquitous term. In everyday life, it carries the same weight as when your barber calls you, “Boss”. If you are seriously entertaining the thought of opening a restaurant to feed your ego and expect your friends to come in and make you successful, you’re probably delusional, from the fumes from that T-Fal teflon coating.

I’ve been working in kitchens on and off for over 20 years. Though I spent a big stint of time in the corporate world, I was always brought back to the kitchen. Divorce brought me back to the kitchen. Relationship breakdown brought me back. When I was young, the kitchen was a way for me to bring food to the table, go to school, and buy diapers for my daughter. It was a necessity. More recently, it was a way to get away from the despair of feeling lonely or depressed. It was a way for me to learn a business, learn a cuisine, learn a new language, and earn money. It was my education. I owe my life to the kitchen.

Me, in the kitchen.  - photo by Terry Lo

Me, in the kitchen.
- photo by Terry Lo

The kitchen doesn’t judge you. It doesn’t care about your credit score, your grade point average, or your tattoos. You work hard and you come back tomorrow, you slug it out together as a team and you gain yourself some brothers. There is no place for political correctness or tact in the kitchen. If you are offended by f-bombs, jokes about your genitals, jokes about your sexual persuasion, or your ethnicity, perhaps you should start a nice online business selling scented candles on Etsy. This is just how it is. Anthony Bourdain already said it all in “Kitchen Confidential”. If it wasn’t true, that book wouldn’t be the classic that it is.

All I’m saying is that one of the best ways (and cheapest ways) to learn about a business is to work there. You could go to school and take some courses on small business, get the logic and theory of running a business, but spend an evening after a busy dinner service with the boss, drinking a cold beer (cold beer after a busy dinner service is the BEST tasting beer EVER) and you’ll be surprised how much wisdom you can learn.

Now let’s say you’re a dishwasher or cook at a restaurant. You work a few nights a week, get off work at 11 o’clock, have a beer and take out the garbage after mopping the floor and cleaning the prep surfaces (hopefully not in that order). You’re exhausted. Times that by 10, work 7 days a week and you might have an hint of what it’s like to be the owner of that business.

How passionate do you feel now?

There is a good reason why people with their own businesses tell you how much hard work it is when you ask them. Because it’s true. Jo had no previous kitchen experience before starting Eats of Asia with me, but what she did have was a very long retail experience with exemplary people management skills. In the middle of cowboy country, having someone like Jo with the perspective she has with Asian food was crucial in selling bibimbap and gua bao to people that have no idea what our brand of Asian food was all about. I remember the first market day we had last October. It was the first weekend after taking over the old concession and everything was suddenly changed.

Jo, converting some new fans. - photo by Terry Lo

Jo, converting some new fans.
- photo by Terry Lo

To the locals and regular shoppers, it was a burger and fries joint that changed overnight to a multicultural ethnic street food fest that I billed, The Saturday Street Feast. We were one of five independent vendors that moved in to bring some diversity to the dining choices that were previously in place. We led the charge that day with Curry Laksa, a Malaysian noodle bowl with rice noodles, fish balls, prawns, chicken, and fried tofu in a coconut curry broth. We took a huge chance, but I was confident that the food would be well received. I stuck to the idea that I wanted to make food that I loved to eat. I also wanted to take the best elements of Asian food, bring them together and brand them to be accessible and approachable. That day, we made about $500, but we felt triumphant.

The comments were good. They went from, “This is so goood.” to a local rancher that said, “Tofu!? This is ALBERTA, man!”

I still laugh when I think of that one.

Char Siu – Chinese Roast Pork

char siu by The Aimless Cook

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?

Okara Fritters – The Aimless Cook at Downtownfood

Okara Fritters by The Aimless Cook

On today’s show, I am with Chef Darren Maclean from Downtownfood as we make some delicious okara fritters on part 3 of our special on soybeans.

The first thing you’re gonna need is some okara. Okara is the leftover lees, or pulp from the soymilk making process, and if you haven’t watched our soymilk episode, you can watch it by clicking the annotation or on the link in the video description below.

We put together something simple using some minced pork and vegetables that we’ll include in today’s recipe, but you can use whatever ingredients you have on hand.

You will need:

  • 7 oz. okara
  • 3 oz. minced pork
  • 1 teaspoon chili paste
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • ½ cup oyster mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons kimchi
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup dashi

Combine the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix well to make a batter. Put in saucepan on medium high and cook slowly for about 6-8 minutes, stirring often until the mixture absorbs most of the liquid. You should have something like thick pancake batter or mashed potatoes.

Heat some oil in a pot or deep fryer to about 325F. Using 2 spoons, carefully drop the batter into the oil and cook for 4-5 minutes until golden brown.

Drain well on paper towels and serve with your favourite toppings.

We used green onions, nitsume (unagi sauce), gochujang, and kewpie mayo.

The first thing I should say about these okara fritters is that they are very light and fluffy in texture. The okara absorbs flavours very well resulting in a very tasty bite.

What is your favourite deep-fried food?

Guangzhou-style Fried Chicken

Guangzhou-style Fried Chicken

Inspired from Martin Yan’s China

This chicken recipe was inspired from a street stall in Guangzhou and is featured in Martin Yan’s book, “Martin Yan’s China”. I have never seen a marinade using fermented tofu for fried chicken. It piqued my curiosity for sure!

Marinade:

  • 2 cubes (1 oz) red fermented tofu
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon white pepper

And then:

  • 1 lb chicken thighs, boneless/skinless, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • oil, for deep frying
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 egg
  • 1 green onion, chopped

In a medium mixing bowl, mash the fermented tofu into a paste with a fork. Add the sugar, salt and white pepper and mix well. Add the chicken, cover and marinate in the fridge for 1 – 4 hours.

Heat 2 inches of oil to 350F in a wok or medium pot. Mix thecornstarch and a couple eggs in another medium bowl with a whisk. Add the chicken and stir to coat evenly. Working in batches, deep-fry the chicken, stirring gently to prevent them from sticking together until golden brown and crisp (about 5 min). Remove and drain on paper towels.

Put into paper cones, garnish with green onion and serve.

What is your favourite stinky food?

Steamed Bao – Chinese Steamed Buns

Steamed Bao by The Aimless Cook

Steamed bao are Chinese buns which are made by steaming a simple bread dough. They can be made plain or have a variety of tasty fillings like custard, meat or bean paste. In this recipe, I make the buns for my favourite Taiwanese style slider, gua bao. Enjoy!

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 5 tablespoons milk
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, melted
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar

Combine water and milk in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Slowly stir in the water mixture, and when absorbed, stir in the shortening and vinegar. Turn the dough out to a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Cover the dough and let sit under plastic for 1 hour.

Makes 16 bao.

What is your mealtime staple where you live?

Ginataang Bilo Bilo – Filipino Merienda Food

Ginataang bilo bilo by The Aimless Cook

Ginataang Bilo Bilo is a type of Filipino snack or dessert made by cooking root vegetables and fruit in sweetened coconut milk with chewy balls of mochi (bilo bilo). Taro, ube, and sweet potato make up the base of this incredibly unique tropical treat with jackfruit providing that touch of tartness. Finish that off with chewy mochi and tapioca pearls and you have something truly magical. I have enjoyed this dish since I was a child and now I want to share it with you!

 

 You will need:

  • 1 cup Mochiko
  • 2 cups taro, diced
  • 2 cups ube, diced
  • 2 cups sweet potato, diced
  • 2 cups cooked tapioca (small)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cans coconut milk + 2 cans water
  • *saba (banana) or jackfruit
  • *pandan leaves for aromatics

 

Mix the mochiko with about 11 tablespoons of water to make a dough. Once the dough is made, take a marble-sized piece and roll into a ball. Set aside.

In a large pot, add 2 cans of coconut milk and 2 cans of water. Stir in 2 cups of sugar and the pandan leaves (if you have them). Heat over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Bring to a simmer, then add 2 cups of diced taro, 2 cups of diced ube and 2 cups of sweet potato. Continue to cook, stirring frequently. Halfway through the cooking, add the bilo bilo (mochi balls), one at a time so that they don’t stick together. At this time, you can also add your saba or jackfruit.

When the bilo bilo are done, they will float to the top of the liquid. At this point, add 2 cups of cooked tapioca and continue cooking until the ube and sweet potatoes are tender.

Give a final taste and adjust the sweetness if needed. Ginataan can be served hot, or refrigerated overnight and served cold.

 

**this would be a great topping on shaved ice. Just sayin’.


Do you enjoy hot or cold desserts?

Taiwanese Bubble Tea – Jasmine Milk Tea with Boba

Taiwanese Bubble Tea by The Aimless Cook

Taiwanese Bubble Tea is a flavourful and delicious drink that’s very popular in Asia and North America. Using premium ingredients, I’m going to show you how you can make your own at home for a fraction of the price you pay at the stands. The taste difference is amazing and you’re going to slap yourself when you realize how easy this is to make. This is a great recipe from Andrew Chau and Bin Chen, aka The Boba Guys.

You will need:

• 5 cups water
• 2 tablespoons loose-leaf jasmine tea
• 1/2 cup white sugar
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 1 cup cooked boba
• 4 tablespoons honey
• 1 cup half-and-half

Boil 4 cups of the water then let it sit for 1 minute (the temperature should be 170F or about 80C). Add the tea leaves and steep for 8 minutes. Strain and set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the remaining cup of water and the white and brown sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer til the sugars are dissolved.

Steep the boba in a small bowl with ½ cup of the simple syrup and the honey. Soak at least 30 minutes. For best results, steep for at least 3 hrs.

To assemble, grab a cocktail shaker and add 4 cups of tea, 1 cup of simple syrup, the half-and-half, the honey-soaked boba, and a handful of ice cubes. Shake till mixed, and pour into a serving glass with a wide straw.

What is your favourite sweet drink?