Tag Archives: cook

Quickles – Quick Vinegar Pickles

Quickles

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?

 

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?

Chocolate Pecan S’mores

Chocolate Pecan S'mores

These cookies are incredibly delectable and easy to make. They’re a perfect addition to your holiday baking playlist. This chocolate cookie is topped with marshmallow, rich chocolate icing, and a roasted pecan. Make lots because they won’t last long. Enjoy this recipe and have a Happy Holiday!

You will need:

  • ½ cup room temperature butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups flour
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 18 large marshmallows

For the icing:

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 ¾ cup icing sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • roasted pecan halves

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until combined. Add the egg, milk, and vanilla and mix well. In another bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Beat into a creamy mixture.

Drop rounded teaspoons of the mixture onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350F for 6-8 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the marshmallows in half. When the cookies are done, press a marshmallow on the top of each cookie, cut side down. Return to the oven for a couple minutes. Let cool on a baking rack.

For the icing, simply combine the milk, butter, and cocoa in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, mix well, and let boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly. Add the vanilla and icing sugar and whisk until smooth.

Put a spoonful of icing on each cookie and top with a roasted pecan half. Enjoy, and have an awesome holiday!

What is your favourite holiday treat?

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 Crunchy Skin

chicharron

Have you ever watched an episode of Kitchen Nightmares or Restaurant Takeover and wonder how some of these people ever thought it would be a good idea to open a restaurant, some of them with ZERO previous experience in the industry? It boggles my mind and amazes me at the same time how someone can take a leap like that. I mean, it takes some serious cojones to take your pile of chips, push it all on the table and just take your chances. I see some of the people on these shows clearly that have no business to be in a kitchen, trying to make a go of it and wonder why their business and savings are going down the drain. As much as this kind of thing is viewed as ‘entertainment’ these days, it’s also tragic. Money is money. It’s hard to earn and it hurts like hell to lose.

Throughout my time getting into this business, I learned a lot of things – mostly about money. In this case, the art of managing it well and keeping it. You never buy your equipment straight up, some things are better used, and there are people you always have to be in bed with – your partner, your landlord, and your banker. Once you get the common sense stuff out of the way, there’s that issue of the food. Oh yeah, that part. Believe it or not, the food part as important as the you think it is, is a small cog in the machine. But like any machine, if it’s missing that all-important cog, the machine just won’t run.

I knew from the beginning that I wanted my food to do 3 things: share a culture, be approachable, and be unique. The identity for Eats of Asia was to be a new Asian Street Food Experience. I took the simplicity of a food truck concept and basically adapted it for my purpose. Simple menus of great food with a few choices that would change from week to week, a special (a chance to play), and a chance to highlight different country’s cuisine. Most of all, I wanted the food to be fun. After all, I love what I do (and, at the time, I couldn’t afford a truck).

Sharing a culture was something that was important to me because I wanted to further demystify Asian cuisine to the masses. Yes, even in this day and age, there are still folks out there completely intimidated by Asian food that think it’s all about the sweet and sour pork, chicken fried rice, and chunky egg rolls with Wing’s egg roll sauce packets. People have an idea of Asian food from the food courts and take outs, but what about the night market culture? How many people in Calgary know what coffin bread is, or gua bao, or char kway teow? Night markets are the soul of Asian casual dining and almost all of those vendors specialize in one item. That’s unheard of here. Taking a few of those night market favourites and sharing them here was a must for me, whether it was the steamy bao, fresh noodle, or coconut laced aroma of a hot bowl of curry laksa.

Approachability in this case is a simple matter of making the food straight forward, non-pretentious, and most of all easy to relate to. It’s not just an “East meets West” thing. One of the items we regularly feature is gua bao. It’s a Taiwanese-style ‘slider’ (I’ve heard the term, Taiwanese hamburger as well). Basically, a steamed bun that’s filled with the traditionally red-braised pork belly slab with cilantro, hoisin, crushed peanuts and a touch of red sugar. Take the best aspects of that formula and sell those – the steamed bun are like the ones in Chinatown that they fill with char siu, plump, steamy and soft. The pork belly, slow braised until meltingly soft. Sinfully decadent and flavourful. A little crushed peanut for texture and cilantro to cut the richness of the pork. That’s a formula for greatness and we didn’t re-invent the Taiwanese wheel. For people that don’t get the pork belly, that’s ok. We also do one with chicken kara-age (Japanese style fried chicken) and a fried tofu version as well. Calling them the Lucky Pig, The Phoenix, and The Buddha was a little fun too as an homage to the mysticism of 70′s era Chinese food that I was raised on.

Specials are where we really have fun. There are times when our specials were made the night before or during a prep day when I happen to have extra ingredients to make something new. One of those times, we were making lumpiang shanghai (Filipino pork spring rolls that we call Shanghai Rolls). We ran out of wrappers and had some pork left over. I went to the fridge, got some wonton wrappers and made a couple hundred wontons. In the deep freeze I had some leftover broth from a Thai dish called Khao Soi (a Northern Thai coconut curry noodle dish with chicken). We decided to make an Asian poutine/nacho lovechild that we called Crispy Thai Wonton Melt (Hey, it was the night before…gimme some slack). We thickened the broth to a gravy consistency, ladling it over deep-fried wontons and cheese curds, topped it with our kalua pork and garnished with cilantro and fresh lime. Some of the vendors that day were like, “Ok,  I’ll try the special…”. Soon, some of the shoppers were curious too as they saw the boats go out (Paper boats are the best for street food btw. You want others to see the food as your customers are walking around.) and wanted to try it as well. A few hours later, we were sold out. The Crispy Thai Wonton Melt was a hit.

I don’t think we’re really pushing new boundaries here. Every so often, I’ll get an idea to create something new and original, but it all boils down to making things that I like to eat and in turn, you like to eat. It is a business after all. There’s not much to breaking down cultural barriers when it comes to our food. I mean, crispy pork skin is delicious whatever language you speak, and there are so many cultures in the world that appreciate it. I think that’s why our menu is so pork-centric sometimes.

How I Got Started In The Restaurant Business – Passion Can Make You Do Some Crazy Sh*t

Eats of Asia - photo by J http://gotellyourmom.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Okara Fritters by The Aimless Cook

That’s me and Darren Maclean at his restaurant Downtownfood shooting the “Okara Fritters” show

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.

 

Ramen Burger

Ramen Burger by The Aimless Cook

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 – 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?