Tag Archives: make

Pico de Gallo Pasta and Seared Scallops

Pico de Gallo Paste with Seared Scallops

This handmade pasta has a slightly spicy Pico de Gallo cream sauce with hints of lime and fresh cilantro. The spectacular pan seared scallops are from Digby, Nova Scotia and are diver harvested. They’re tender, sweet and so easy to prepare. So I hope you’re ready for some serious eating!

For the Pico de Gallo pasta sauce, you will need (for 2):

  • 3 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 1 red chili pepper, diced
  • the juice of 1 lime
  • a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 250 ml heavy cream
  • salt and pepper
  • your favourite pasta (fettuccini or linguini is great for this)

Start with a deep skillet with some oil on medium heat. To that, add a couple cloves of minced garlic and cook til fragrant. Next, add ¼ cup of diced shallots and continue to cook for a couple minutes. Once your shallots have had a head start, it’s time to add 2 seeded and diced vine-ripened tomatoes. Continue to cook and stir until the tomatoes start to break down.

When the tomatoes are breaking down and starting to look like sauce, add 1 diced red chili, the juice of 1 lime and a handful of chopped cilantro. Now you can season with salt and pepper and call this your sauce, or continue by adding 1 cup of heavy cream. Once the cream is in, turn up to heat to a steady simmer and reduce by 50%, stirring frequently.

When the sauce has reduced by 50%, add the remaining diced tomato for colour and texture. Now grab a large mixing bowl and put in your freshly cooked pasta. (Here’s a tip: use tongs, never strain or rinse pasta!) In this case, we’re using fettuccini noodles. You also want to save a little of the pasta water, as the starch will help the sauce adhere to the noodles.

Add the finished sauce to the noodles and lightly toss until combined. Finish by adding more fresh cilantro leaves and freshly ground black pepper.

For the scallops, it’s very easy to do, but very easy to screw up. A couple of tips here as we go, first of all, use the freshest scallops you can get your hands on that are dry packed. Sometimes, scallops are shipped in water with sodium tripolyphosphate added to make them appear whiter and plumper. When you sear them, the moisture leaches out and you get steamed, rubbery scallops. Not something you want to pay good money for. It’s important that you have one ingredient: scallops.
So with a hot skillet with a couple tablespoons of oil, add the scallops in small batches. If you add too many at once, you’ll lower the temperature of the pan and steam the scallops again. The moment you place them on the hot surface, you’ll hear the sizzle and they will stick. That’s ok. Avoid temptation to move them around and leave them be.

From here, the cooking time will be very fast. You want to look at the meat as it cooks. Just like prawns, they will begin to turn opaque and the bottom will start to form a brown crust. When that happens, the scallop will be easier to lift off the pan. Gently lift the scallop from the pan and turn over. Once on the other side, add a dollop of butter to the pan and use a spoon to baste them til they’re done. Should only take a minute or 2. When they’re done, take out of the pan and set aside.

To plate everything up, simply place the scallops on a bed of the finished pasta and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves. Enjoy this recipe, make it yours and have fun in the kitchen!

Nam Prik Ong – Spicy Thai Pork Dip

Nam Prik Ong

Nam Prik Ong is a spicy Thai ground pork dip served with pork rinds and fresh vegetables. The textures and contrasts going on here are intense for such an unassuming dish. It’s an incredibly refreshing and tasty starter or snack that you can make at home fairly easily. The flavour is complex with the classic Thai flavour combinations that I have come to love. Let’s get started!

  • 1 thumb sized piece galangal, finely julienned
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 4 or 5 red Thai chilies
  • 5 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1 dozen cherry tomatoes, halved
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1 Tbsp kapi (fermented shrimp paste)*
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, minced
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • palm sugar, or brown sugar
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 English cucumber, sliced
  • pork rinds

With a mortar and pestle, start by pounding the galangal then add the garlic, onion, chilies. You want to make yourself a nice paste. Next, put in the tomatoes (watch for flying juice!), kapi and lemongrass. That is your paste. Let’s start cooking!

Heat up a wok on high heat with a Tbsp of oil and add the paste. Stir fry until the paste is aromatic, then add the ground pork. Continue to cook until the pork is done and add lime juice and sugar to balance. You shouldn’t need salt since the kapi is salty, but give it a taste and see for yourself. Toss in the cilantro to finish and serve in a nice big bowl for dipping with sliced cucumbers and pork rinds. 

You will be amazed by the refreshing taste and contrast of the spicy dip with the cool and crisp cucumber. Nam Prik Ong is great for sharing and perfect for potlucks and parties. Have fun in the kitchen and take care!


*kapi, or belacan is very punguent. Use sparingly if you never used it before. If you don’t have it, you can also use fish sauce.

Some recipes for Nam Prik Ong have you pound the pork in the mortar with the paste. This adds even more flavour into the meat.

If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can make your paste in a food processor. If you enjoy making Southeast Asian food though, I recommend you get one. The bigger the better!

Recipe Video: Bunny Chow

Bunny Chow

Last week, I wrote a post about the famous Durban dish, Bunny Chow. Today I will share with you a recipe for the curry I prepared for the cooking video. It is similar to the ingredients that I used in the wild buffalo version of the dish I did in test kitchen, but this time around, I am using some leftover rotisserie chicken to save time. The results are a solid, hearty curry with a fragrant tomato gravy that you are going to love. Let’s see what we need!

For the curry mix:

  • 1 t coriander seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 t cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 2 t garam masala 
  • 1 t tumeric
  • *a cinnamon stick, bay leaf

*if you want to use a premade curry powder, you can. Just use a couple Tablespoons

This is a basic curry mixture. For the best results, use whole seeds and toast them to release the fragrant aroma. If you love making fresh curry, use an electric spice grinder to save time. You can pick them up cheap at any department store.

For the rest:

  • half a medium onion, pureed
  • 2 garlic cloves and a thumb of ginger, minced
  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes 398ml
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 leftover rotisserie chicken meat, shredded
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh green peas
  • fresh cilantro or green onion to garnish
  • a loaf of your favorite bread, unsliced (or a couple nice buns)

I started by gently cooking the onion puree in a skillet for a couple minutes to get rid of the raw onion taste. You want it slightly golden. Add the ginger and garlic and continue to cook for about a minute. To that, add the curry mix and make a nice, fragrant paste. This will be the flavour base.

Add the tomato, the chicken, potatoes and combine. If you need to, add a little water so you can simmer the whole mixture on medium heat with a cover for about 10 minutes. After the chicken is warmed through, take off the cover and add the peas. Continue simmering for about 2 minutes, then give it a taste. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you like a little spice, you can add some sambal oelek or some chopped fresh chilies. 

If you’re using a bread loaf, cut into quarters and scoop the bread out, making a nice hollow bowl. Keep the scooped out bread to put on top. This is called the ‘virgin’ and it is typically used to dip into the gravy. Fill your bread with the curry and top with the virgin. Garnish with green onion or cilantro and enjoy!

Buns make a great bunny. They are portable and can be eaten like a sandwich and not as messy as eating from a loaf. The challenge of eating a bunny is to eat it from a loaf using only your hands. You must tear away the bread, keeping it above the gravy line so you don’t get it all over you. Good times!


Thai Style Chicken Salad


This past weekend, I made this incredibly easy and super flavourful Thai style salad based on the taste of Laab Gai. You can also say ‘larb’ if you wanna be specific. It’s a lot like a Lao style meat salad you typically see in that region of Southeast Asia but everyone has their own take on this great dish. Let’s see what we need:

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1T ginger, chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
  • 3 Thai chilis, chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1T fish sauce
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2T Thai basil, shredded
  • fresh lettuce leaves, for wrapping

Start with a tablespoon of oil in a pan and heating it on high heat. Add the ginger, lemongrass and chili and cook for about 1 minute. Add the chicken and cook until the chicken is cooked (about 5 min). Remove from heat and put the chicken into a large mixing bowl to cool slightly. Once your chicken has rested (you want it warm) dress by adding the lime juice and fish sauce. To that, add the cilantro, basil and sliced red onion. Toss until combined and season with a little salt and sugar to balance the flavours. Serve in individual bowls with a plate of lettuce leaves for wrapping. Enjoy!

Haloumi Salad

I love goat. It’s just beyond words. There’s that subtle savoury essence that is reminiscent of a spring lamb in the meat that I have enjoyed in many curries and palutan. The milk has a distinct taste that many are not too fond of, but I have found that the fresher the milk, the less gamey it is. That same distinctness lends itself well to cheese and as I have found, there are some great cheeses that can be made with goat’s milk. In this recipe, I will use a goat milk Haloumi cheese. Haloumi is a Cypriot cheese that has a high melting point, making it the perfect cheese for frying and grilling. What you get is a crispy slice of cheese with a smooth and slightly salty center. It’s simply simple. Let’s cook.

You will need:

  • 250 g Haloumi, cut into 8 slices
  • 4 strawberries
  • 1 lemon
  • fresh basil leaves
  • mixed greens
  • 1 cup crispy bacon, chopped
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • S&P

This is a very easy salad to put together. Start by taking some nice basil leaves and pressing them into the Haloumi slices (1 per slice). You’re looking to make them pretty, like edible dominos. Heat up a skillet with a little olive oil and fry the haloumi slices, basil side down on medium high heat until golden brown. Flip and cook until both sides are done. Remove from the skillet and set on paper towels to drain.

Zest and juice the lemon and put into a large mixing bowl. We’re gonna make a simple dressing. Add extra virgin olive oil, whisk to combine and finally season with some S&P to taste. With salad dressing, you want to achieve an oil to acid ratio of about 3:1. Add your favourite mixed greens, a little of the julienned carrot for some colour and the bacon for texture. Toss together and set aside. Plate the salad with a couple slices of haloumi on a bed of greens. Accent with some sliced strawberry and serve. Of course, you can use whatever greens are in season. I have done this salad with ribbons of zucchini and prosciutto and it’s delicious. Be creative and fear nothing. Stay hungry everyone!

Special thanks to Harvey and Carolyn of Noble Meadows Farm for their incredibly fresh and delicious goat milk, cheeses and Heritage eggs. Be sure to visit them on Facebook! 



Oyakodon is a great dish that is very easy to put together when you are craving some authentic Japanese food. Oyako means “mother and child” or in this case, the chicken and egg. I have had this dish before working in the restaurant, but it was always made in a large volume for a group of people. I prefer to prepare this dish in single servings. It turns out much better as you have much more control over the timing of the eggs. Let’s get started.

For the base, you will need:

  • 300 ml dashi
  • 150 ml mirin
  • 100 ml soy sauce
  • a dash of sake (optional)

With this base, you can adjust sweetness with a little sugar. If you have leftover, you can store in the fridge for a couple days.

You will also need:

  • 2 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Start with a small skillet (about 10 inches) and heat on med high. Add the chicken and onion, then ladle some of the base into the mixture. When it starts to boil, turn the heat down to med and cover. What you want to do is poach the meat, which won’t take long since its cut so small. After a couple minutes, take the cover off and pour half the egg over the chicken. Put the cover back on and cook for another minute. Now get yourself a bowl of steamed rice ready. After the minute is up, take off the lid and pour the remaining egg on the chicken. Remove from the heat and place on the bowl of rice finishing with some finely chopped green onion. Traditionally oyakodon is served in a lidded lacquered bowl. Once you serve, the lid is put immediately on the bowl and brought to the diner. The remaining egg cooks in the bowl through the residual heat. What you get is a fluffy and custard-like finish with the poached chicken which is just awesome. Enjoy this recipe and have fun in the kitchen!

Yaka-mein (Old Sober)

Yakamein (Old Sober)

Yaka-mein, more affectionately known as “Old Sober” as it is a popular hangover remedy, is an American-Soul Food fusion dish from New Orleans. There are a couple different stories surrounding the origin of this local favorite. One story claims that the dish was the result of servicemen coming home from WWII and Korea with a craving for the tastes of Asian food. Another one tells the tale of Chinese immigrants in the 1800s that worked the plantations, and later on, the railroads who made their version of this soup using local ingredients. In any case, what we have is a simple and satisfying noodle soup that makes the perfect street food with a flavor profile that stands on it’s own.

I love dishes with interesting stories and mysterious origins and this one was definitely worth researching in more depth. On the surface, Yaka-mein looks very simple and unassuming. The soup has a beef broth base like many Asian soups but it’s uniqueness comes from the addition of local spices and condiments like Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, Old Bay and even ketchup. Reminds me of when I was a kid at a family picnic and I saw some guy putting ketchup in his pancit.

The meat is usually brisket (suggesting a Korean influence?) or pork chops, but can consist of any leftover meat or seafood that you got. My version has leftover Filipino bbq pork (the kind you see at every Filipino picnic on the skewers). Hard boiled eggs are a common inclusion as well as the green onion garnish. So as you can see, Yaka-mein is a great dish to explore your culinary creativity. I will give you a starting point and you can take it from there. Have fun!

Yaka-mein (for 2):

  • 1L good quality beef broth
  • soy sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • spaghetti noodles, boiled al dente, drained and rinsed
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • leftover steak, pork chops, chicken, shrimp, brisket (whatever you got)
  • a couple hard boiled eggs
  • hot sauce, Old Bay or ketchup for seasoning

Start by cooking your noodles. New Orleans locals use spaghetti, but you can really use whatever you want. In my video, I used some brown rice pasta I had lying around. In another pot, start heating up the beef broth to a nice simmer. Cut up the meat into manageable strips and pop it into the broth to warm through. When the pasta is done, drain and strain. Now you’re ready to assemble.

Grab yourself a bowl or a large cup. Start by putting the noodles on the bottom and then ladle the broth and meat on top. Cut your hard boiled eggs in half and put on top. Season with your soy sauce and seasonings to taste. Finish with the green onion and enjoy!

Nam Khao (Laotian Crispy Rice Salad)

Nam Khao

Nam Khao is a fragrant and flavorful pork and crispy rice salad from Laos which is gaining popularity in North America. Like many recipes, there are many ways to make it and I encourage you to explore and try different variations of this dish. This recipe takes a little bit of prep, but is so worthwhile. I hope you enjoy it.

For the crispy rice patties (kao tod), you will need:

  • 1T galangal, finely chopped
  • 1t thai chilies, seeded and chopped
  • 3T lemongrass, finely chopped
  • 2T shallots, finely chopped
  • 2T garlic, finely chopped
  • 2C cooked jasmine rice
  • 2T fish sauce
  • 1 egg

For the pork balls (nam sod):

  • 4T garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1/2 C cooked jasmine rice
  • 2t salt

To finish:

  • 10 shallots, diced
  • 3T cilantro, chopped
  • 1T green onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 C ginger, julienned
  • 6T lime juice (3 limes worth)
  • 1/2 C crushed roasted peanuts
  • 10-15 dried chilies
  • 2-3T fish sauce
  • 2  more limes, wedged for garnish

Prep the rice patties:

Pound or pulse the galangal, chilies, lemongrass, shallots and garlic in a mortar and pestle or food processor til you achieve a nice thick paste. Add a dash of oil to bring everything together. In a mixing bowl, mix together the rice, paste, egg and fish sauce until combined. Cover and set aside.

The pork party:

Pound the garlic into a fine paste. In a large bowl, use your hands to combine the pork, garlic paste and salt. Knead well until the texture of the meat is smooth. Roll into about 16 equal size meatballs. They should be roughly golf ball sized.


For the pork balls, just pop into a steamer for about 10 minutes until they are just cooked. To make sure, just cut one in half to check.

With the rice, preheat a skillet with a couple tablespoons of canola oil. Wet your hands and form the rice into nice patties. You want them to be like little sliders. Put them in the skillet and fry them until they are golden brown and crispy on the outside. In the restaurant, they make the rice into balls and pop them into the deep fryer. What you’re looking for is a nice contrast of crispy outside and fluffy insides.

Putting it all together:

In a large mixing bowl, break up the pork patties into rough chunks. Add the shallots, cilantro, green onion, ginger, lime juice and fish sauce. Break up the crispy rice into large chunks and add to the bowl. Mix everything together and serve on a large serving dish with a side of dried chilies, some green lettuce leaves and lime wedges.

You can enjoy this dish straight from a bowl, or use the lettuce leaves as wraps. This dish smells incredible and tastes even better. Enjoy!

Gai Haw Bai Toey: Chicken Fried in Pandan Leaves

Gai Haw Bai Toey

Gai Haw Bai Toey is a Thai dish that uses the aromatics of the pandan leaf to breathe life into chicken. Add the flavour of coconut milk and lemongrass and you have something very beautiful and delicious. You can find pandan leaf at the Asian grocery in the produce section. If you can find whole leaves, even better. You can make some awesome presentations by wrapping the chicken in clever little packets. Since the leaves I bought were cut into sections, I simply wrapped mine and secured with bamboo skewers.

You will need:

  • 1 lb chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
  • 1T chopped garlic
  • 2T shallots, minced
  • 1T ginger, minced
  • 1T fresh cilantro
  • 1T lemongrass, lower tender part of the stem, finely minced
  • 1T ground black pepper
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2T soy sauce
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1T brown sugar
  • fresh pandan leaves (pandanus)
  • oil for frying

Start the marinade by combining the shallot, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, cilantro, sugar, soy sauce, coconut milk and S&P in a medium mixing bowl or ziplock bag. Cut the chicken into hearty bite-sized chunks and add to the marinade. Let sit in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.

When the chicken is done, shake off the excess marinade and make a nice clean area to assemble your packets. Take a piece of chicken and place it on the end of the pandan leaf. Roll the leaf around the chicken, wrapping it like you’d wrap a scallop in bacon. Secure with a toothpick, or like in the video, a bamboo skewer, using 3 packets per skewer.

Heat a couple inches of canola oil in a cast iron skillet  on about 350F and fry the chicken for 2 or 3 minutes per side. Serve in the leaves with rice and enjoy!