Tag Archives: mrjingjong

Thai Inspired Beef Salad with Rice Noodle Recipe

Southeast Asian flavour is a playful balance of sweet, sour, salty, spicy and bitter. Using ingredients like fresh lime juice, red Thai chiles and fish sauce, you can create something pretty incredible. This Thai-inspired beef salad uses some simple ingredients brought together with amazing results.

for the dressing, you will need:

  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon chile garlic paste (sambal oelek)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • salt to season

the rest:

  • 1 lb baby bok choy, trimmed and rinsed
  • 225g thick rice noodles (banh pho)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 lb flank steak
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • crushed peanuts
  • fresh lime wedges, for garnish

In a small bowl, mix all of the dressing ingredients together, salt to taste then set aside. Boil the rice noodles until tender, rinse in cold water, strain then set aside. 

Blanch the baby bok choy in the boiling water for about 1 minute. Take out and rinse in cold water then set on a baking tray lined with kitchen paper to dry. Set aside.

Drizzle the flank steak with olive oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper. Ensure your steak is room temperature before you grill. Sear the steak on an oiled cast iron skillet on high heat or on a grill on high for about 3 minutes per side. You want a nice brown crust, but don’t let it cook too long. Once the steak is seared, set aside for at least 10 minutes to let the juices re-distribute through the meat.

Flank Steak from Hoven Farms

After the 10 minutes, slice the steak into 2 inch strips along the grain then across the grain into thin slices. Now we’re ready to assemble.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the rice noodle, bok choy, the dressing and the beef and toss until combined. Add the chopped cilantro and get ready to plate.

*the cilantro bonus dressing

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 handful cilantro leaves
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt
  • wasabi to taste

In a blender start with the liquids, then add the rest of the ingredients. Pulse til well blended. This is a great dressing that you can use for a lot of different things. You can also add different ingredients depending on the dish.

Thai inspired Beef Salad

Plate the salad on a small plate or small bowl. Drizzle the cilantro dressing over the top and garnish with chopped Thai chiles. This recipe makes a great lunch for the next day since you don’t have to heat it. The beef is juicy, lean and hearty. Of course, if you want to omit the meat, you can. Make this recipe yours and have fun in the kitchen!

Next Chef Update: Full-time Aspirations & Party Food

I’ve had an interesting and hectic week. The 3rd session of YouTube Next Chef was educational as I’ve come to expect and the hour and a half seems to fly by. Our mentor was Rob Nixon from the YouTube cooking show, “Nicko’s Kitchen”. He currently has Australia’s most popular cooking channel with over 100,000 subscribers watching his videos 3 times a week. It’s also interesting to note that Nicko’s Kitchen is his full-time gig. I think this was the most curious aspect of the session, since I have the same aspirations.

It’s only until recently that I made the realization that making an online cooking show could be done full-time. What I didn’t realize was that you don’t really need a million subs to make it happen. What I am curious about though, is if an online cooking show can break and surpass all expectations? If you look at the most successful cooking shows on YouTube like Foodwishes, Cooking with Dog or Maangchi, the number of subscribers are only in the 150k mark. Rob illustrated that since cooking shows on YouTube don’t command the same dedicated viewer base as entertainment shows, he makes up for it by making lots of videos… and I mean lots. Rob currently makes 3 episodes per week and releases them on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He made the fishing analogy, that the more lines you have in the water, the more chance you’ll catch fish. Makes sense.

All in all, I think that the sessions have been extremely valuable. The education I’ve received has been like gold. If I were to suggest any piece of advice or a resource for any creator that has dreams of pursuing their online video career, the first thing I would give them would be the YouTube playbook. The best practices in this book are plain and simple…and they work. As a creator of instructional content, I think that we do have a little bit of a different situation. Aside from the dedicated views from our subscribers, I think that a lot of views we do get are the results of searches. This fact makes it clear that we should be gurus in metadata and SEO. I’ve always believed in the mantra, “Don’t work hard, work smart”. Will doing both make us even more successful? 

In other news, I did finally get my gear from YouTube after weeks of delay caused by a number of factors beyond all control. After having my packages almost make their way back to NYC, I managed to track them down, have them brought back west, withstand weather delays and be held at the depot so I could pick them up. I just want to say “Thank you!” again from the bottom if my heart to Austin Lau, Rebecca at B&H Photo and the great people at Google for all the fantastic gear. 

I got a Canon EOS 60D with 2 lenses, a pro lighting kit with soft boxes, a shotgun mic, an HD webcam and a huge seamless backdrop of which I am still trying to figure out where to store. lol! The camera is amazing and the shots I’m getting are simply astounding. You can see the prep segment from the Party Food video was shot with the new camera. I am sure that with extended use, they will get even better. 

So that’s it from me. Thanks for watching and stay tuned for the YouTube wrap up episode that I will post as soon as it’s live. Take care!

Next Chef Update: The Thanksgiving Week

So week 2 has been very busy for me. I came away from the second session feeling a little more educated in the ways of new media creation and the serious business of producing and promoting an online cooking show. The more I learn about this, the more I am wanting to go back, tweak some detail or another in my past productions or just completely redo them. I have been thinking for some time about re-shooting some old episodes, mostly because they were shot with an old handheld Webbie camera (similar to a Flip). I have a lot of old recipes that I would love to see in glorious HD with the current look and branding.

If you have been following me since the beginning, which was in October of 2009, then you know that my show wasn’t always called, “The Aimless Cook”. In fact, it wasn’t really a show at all. I just wanted to shoot vlogs and some cooking and those cooking videos were called, “A Cooking Video”. Inspired huh?

In any case, I have been tweaking metadata and thumbnails on my current videos and have been noticing some improvement in the views. The great folks at YouTube are very helpful in giving us the tips and best practices of the gurus. So you can imagine what this new knowledge will be doing for my new videos. I am very anxious to see where the show will go in the next few months. 

As part of US Thanksgiving, we were given the task of coming up with a video that utilized some of the new skills we were taught by the folks at B&H photo. With most of the chefs having received their kits from B&H, I was curious to see how everyone’s videos would look. I still haven’t gotten my kit, so I sit patiently for it to show up at my door. Oh well, I took some great diy lighting advice from my new friend, Rebecca from Working Class Foodies and it worked like a charm. I am pleased to share that video with you now if you haven’t already seen it. Also, here’s episode 2 of YouTube’s Next Chef series. Until next time!

I am a YouTube Next Chef!

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I am pleased to announce that I have been chosen as one of the 16 lucky participants in YouTube’s Next Chef program! It has been a very exciting and busy couple of days as I have been getting to know the other channels that have been chosen. I am really hoping that this is the beginning of something big and as long as I keep working hard, it will. I just want to thank everyone that has supported and watched the show over the past couple years. You mean the world to me. 

Here’s to many more adventures, new friends and great food!

Your Questions

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I love getting messages and emails from viewers of the show. Your encouragement and enthusiasm are the reason I love what I do. Thank you so much for your continued support. Today, I would like to take this opportunity to answer some of the questions you have been sending me over the past couple months. 

1. Where did you learn how to cook?

I first learned to cook by boiling hot dogs. It was 1980 and we didn’t have a microwave so my mom taught me to boil the water and cook something easy. I was specifically told not to do it when she wasn’t home, but I did it anyway.

My mom taught me a lot about appreciating  good food at a young age. She would take me to Chinatown for dim sum, grocery shopping and for fancy brunches. I was taught how to put my napkin on my lap and how to use chopsticks. I was eating escargot at 10 years old.

I didn’t get my first taste of working in a kitchen until I was 21. I worked in a neighbourhood bar and grill as a dishwasher and delivery driver. I was in art college at the time and trying to earn a living. The chef was this very large native man named Rob that owed everyone money for losing hockey bets. Rob was my first professional cooking teacher.

During my time at the restaurant, he taught me how to prep and work the line. I learned some knife skills, how to run the grill and keep from getting “in the weeds”. I was also taught how to be resourceful when things didn’t go as planned. I also learned that the congealed fat and gravy looked exactly like cheesecake when you presented it right and gave it to the waitress. 

With a few skills from the restaurant under my belt, I applied them to the food I made at home. My mom continued to be a role model for me as I continued to broaden my palate and experience new flavours and learn new techniques. She taught me that food didn’t have to be pretentious and fluffy. Cooking could be simple and extraordinary. It was just a matter of using the best ingredients, creativity and sense of adventure.

I still work in kitchens today from time to time so I can learn more from great people. Recently, I had the opportunity to work in a traditional Japanese kitchen with some very dedicated chefs that taught me a great deal about Japanese cooking. I will always and forever be grateful.

2. What is your favourite food to make?

My number one favourite food would have to be curry. I love curry because it comes in so many forms and flavours. From the subtle and comforting Japanese curry with crispy katsu to a spicy and ballsy Thai curry with coconut milk and lemongrass, I love them all. They are so much fun to experiment and tweak. I keep my own spices and continually change up the mix to keep things fresh.

3. What is your least favourite thing to make?

Baking is my weak link for sure. I would love to learn more about pastries and bread, but just never had the opportunity knock on my door. It would be great because I love baguettes, brioche and rustic country breads. I guess I would start at siopao and char siu bao.

4. What’s in store for The Aimless Cook?

More food, more cooking and more learning. You can never stop learning. It’s an adventure that I never want to end. More specifically though, look forward to seeing some great recipes with classic Asian ingredients, some fusion, guerilla cooking techniques and more special guests. I really enjoy making this show and meeting new friends. Cooking isn’t just preparing delicious food, it’s making something special for people you love. It’s creating and giving something of yourself and having the satisfaction that others will enjoy it. 

So keep on having fun in the kitchen and thank you for watching!

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!

Tips:

*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!

J

Test Kitchen: Bunny Chow

Bunny Chow

At first glance, this may look like a ghetto attempt at the familiar soup or chili in a bread bowl, but in fact, this is my first attempt at creating a popular Durban street food called Bunny Chow. There are many stories behind the origins of this interesting dish, one of them being that during apartheid, certain racial groups were prohibited from going to certain restaurants, hence a way of serving take out curry in a hollowed out loaf of bread was created. Another story suggests that Indian caddies in need of a quick bite could grab a ‘bunny’ and have something portable since there were no styrofoam containers or paper plates. In any case, Bunny Chow, more commonly referred to as “bunny” was born. 

Typically, the curry found in a bunny is usually a veggie curry of beans or a meat curry with mutton. My curry was a simple, but flavourful wild buffalo curry made with a blend of spices from the masala daba. Coriander seeds, ground cumin, garam masala, cayenne and turmeric make the base of this curry with crushed tomatoes to make a nice gravy. I cooked the buffalo in the pressure cooker until the meat was tender. Since buffalo is very lean, I mounted the gravy at the last moment with a touch of butter. Finally, some peas for colour and I had my curry. 

For the bread, I just picked up an uncut loaf of fresh bakery bread and divided it into quarters. I dug out the inside of the loaf and set it aside. This is called the ‘virgin’ and is placed on top of the curry once you fill the loaf. In South Africa, taking someone else’s virgin is a serious offense. I’m not kidding.

Lemon pickle

To accompany my bunny, I made this delicious and super fast lemon pickle. It was a recipe from Jamie Oliver that I tweaked for a little variety and colour contrast. All you do is chop up a whole lemon, peel and all and about a quarter of a lime for colour. I cooked some coriander seed in a small pan of oil then added a chopped chili pepper, some turmeric and finally the citrus. I cooked the whole thing, tossing gently for about 15 seconds, then added some chopped cilantro. Done. It was very bright and refreshing with spicy and savoury notes from the coriander and chili. The best thing is that this pickle will last for a couple months in the fridge and probably get better. I will be featuring this recipe in a future episode of The Aimless Cook, so stay tuned and have fun in the kitchen!

J

Thai Style Chicken Salad

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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! 

J