Tag Archives: sauce

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?

Jjajangmyeon – Korean Noodles with Black Bean Sauce

Jjajangmyeon by The Aimless Cook

Today we’re making my version of Jjajangmyeon. It’s a Korean wheat noodle bowl with a pork and black bean sauce that’s derived from a Chinese dish called zhajiangmian. There’s an instant version of this dish called “Chapaghetti” that’s quite popular in the grocery store, but to me it tastes awful. The real thing is very tasty and relatively inexpensive to prepare and perfect for weekday cooking. Let’s cook Jjajangmyeon!

You will need:

  • 8 oz pork shoulder, diced (or ground)
  • 1 cup carrot, diced
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 swizzle shaoxing cooking wine
  • 1 ½ tablespoons black bean sauce
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch (with a little water)
  • ½ English cucumber, julienned
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Heat up a couple tablespoons of oil in a wok on high heat then add the onion and garlic. Cook for a couple minutes before adding the diced carrot. Since the carrot is small, it shouldn’t need a long time to cook. Just stir-fry for a minute or so to give it a head start then let’s move on.

Next, open up a space in the bottom of the wok by pushing the veg aside and add the pork. I used diced pork shoulder because I like the texture, but if you’re in a hurry, you can use ground pork instead. Add a swizzle of shaoxing cooking wine. What a swizzle? Pour a little of the wine once ‘around the block’, or in this case, around the wok. This will add a little fragrance and aroma to the dish. When you’re done, cook the mixture until the pork is no longer pink.

Now that the pork is just cooked, add the black bean sauce. It’s available in a lot of grocery stores these days in the Asian section. It’s quite salty, so be sure not to add too much. Mix it all together thoroughly before adding the chicken stock. Mix again to combine and let simmer for another 2 or 3 minutes til the pork is done. Finally, the corn starch mixed with a little warm water to the wok and let thicken.

Give the sauce a final taste. Counter with a little brown sugar to balance out the saltiness of the black bean. When it tastes just right, you’re done!

Fresh noodles are best, and a lot of grocery stores carry chow mein noodles these days. Simply boil them in salted water for about 2 – 3 minutes then strain. If you have instant ramen, those work as well.

To assemble, start by putting the noodles in a large bowl (you need room to mix them when you serve). Top with a generous amount of the pork and black bean sauce on one side. Finish the other side with some fresh julienned cucumber then serve.

To enjoy, simply mix the whole thing together and that’s all there is to it!

What’s your favourite brand of instant noodles?

Buffalo Style Roasted Cauliflower

Buffalo Style Roasted Cauliflower

Cauliflower is beautiful when roasted. It takes on a golden colour and the taste is transformed! I found this recipe on the internet and thought I’d share it with you.

You will need (for 4):

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1 cup your favourite hot sauce (Frank’s works well with this recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

your favourite dressing (Bleu cheese, dill, etc)
In a large bowl, combine the dry mustard, garlic salt, flour and buttermilk. Whisk together until smooth, then set aside.

Gently add the cauliflower in the bowl and lightly toss to completely coat with the buttermilk mixture.

Place the cauliflower in a shallow baking dish (with non-stick spray) and bake in a 450F oven for about 15-18 minutes and you start to see a little colour. Meanwhile, combine the hot sauce and butter in a small bowl.

Carefully remove the cauliflower from the oven and pour the sauce mixture over it, stirring gently to coat evenly. Put the cauliflower back in the oven and cook for another 5-8 minutes until the sauce is baked in. When it’s done, simply plate up with your favourite dressing and enjoy!

Take this recipe with you, make it yours and have fun in the kitchen, which brings me to my question of the day:

Do you have a recipe to transform an otherwise boring vegetable?


source: The Curvy Carrot

Zaru Soba Recipe – Easy Japanese Cooking

Zaru Soba Recipe






Zaru Soba is a cold noodle dish featuring fresh buckwheat noodles and a delicious dipping sauce with additions like finely chopped green onion, grated daikon, wasabi and raw quail egg. This refreshing and healthy dish is perfect for a hot summer day and it’s really easy to prepare.

You will need:

  • soba noodles (dried in bundles or preferably fresh)

For the dipping sauce:

  • 1 cup dashi
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup mirin

The rest:

  • 4 quail eggs
  • 1 bunch of green onion (finely chopped)
  • ½ cup shredded daikon
  • fresh wasabi
  • 2 sheets of roasted nori, finely shredded
  • some roasted sesame seeds

Start with a small saucepan of the dashi on medium heat and add the soy sauce and mirin. Heat til the sauce comes to a simmer then let cook for about 5 minutes. Take off the heat and set aside to cool.

Cut a 2-3 inch section from a fresh daikon and peel. Using a Japanese grater or box grater, grate the daikon into a small bowl. Taking the daikon pulp in your hand, gently squeeze the juice and save the pulp. Set aside.

Add the soba noodles to a large pot of unsalted boiling water then turn down to a simmer (don’t cook soba at a rolling boil like Italian pasta). Cook the soba noodles until they are just done. You want them tender, but not al dente and not mushy. As soon as they’re done, strain into a colander in a large bowl and run cold water til the soba is rinsed of all the starch and the water runs clear. When that’s done, drain well and set aside.

Put the sauce into individual dipping bowls and each of the add-on ingredients into small dishes. Start with the grated daikon, then a small serving of wasabi. Carefully take the top off a quail egg and pour off the egg white, keeping the yolk in the bottom half of the shell. Put the quail egg on top of the pile of daikon. Finally, add some finely chopped green onion and you’re ready.

Using chopsticks, take some of the noodles and wrap them around til you have a nice mouthful portion. Gently place on a plate and repeat til you have 3 nice bundles. Finish with some shredded roasted nori and roasted sesame seeds.

To eat, simply add the daikon and green onion to the sauce and mix. If you like, add the quail egg and as much wasabi as you prefer. From there, simply take some noodles, dip them in the sauce and enjoy!

What is your favourite cold dish in the summer?

Eggplant Parm Recipe

J's Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant is a wonderfully creamy, silky and delicious vegetable, but it requires a little care to make it that way. It is literally a sponge and, if you don’t salt it to draw out the excess moisture and collapse the air pockets in the flesh, you’ll get something very greasy and not too nice. Today, I’m gonna show you how to prep the eggplant in this Italian classic, Eggplant Parmigiana. Stay tuned because it’s all about to happen right now on The Aimless Cook.

Serves 4:

a basic red sauce

  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, finely shredded
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 x 28 oz cans of tomatoes
  • salt to season

Start with a 6 quart saucepan on medium heat with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook for about 8 minutes til the onions are soft. Once the onions are done, add the thyme and carrot and continue to cook for another 5 minutes til the carrots are soft.

Finally add the tomatoes, bring to a boil and let simmer for about 30 minutes until the mixture reduces and becomes sauce. At this point, you can hit it with an immersion blender to make it smooth, or leave it rustic and chunky. Season with salt and it’s ready to use. You can keep it in the fridge for a week or freeze for up to 3 months.

the rest:

  • 2 large eggplants (aubergines), sliced into ½ inch rounds
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • parmigiana reggiano, finely grated
  • panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • parsley and garlic powder

On a large flat surface or rack, lay out 2 large eggplants sliced into ½ inch rounds in a single layer and generously salt them with kosher salt on both sides. Let them sit for at least 30 minutes to draw out the excess moisture. During this time, they will start to become wet as the moisture is drawn out. Also, the cellular structure of the flesh is collapsing. This is important because now, it won’t suck in all the oil from the grilling.

When the eggplants have sat for 30 minutes, dry off the excess moisture with a towel and brush with olive oil. Grill on medium heat until they have some nice colour and set aside.

In a small skillet, add 2 tablespoons of butter and about ½ cup of panko. Add a pinch each of garlic powder and dried parsley and toss until lightly toasted. Set aside.


Here’s the fun part. Starting with a casserole dish or individual oven-proof serving crocks, assemble the dish by starting with a layer of sauce, followed by a slice of eggplant, more sauce, then mozza. Repeat til you get to the top, then finish the last layer of mozza with some parmigiana reggiano, panko and more parm. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until golden brown and bubbly good. When it’s done, let stand for about 10 minutes to cool slightly then serve.

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!

Filipino Style Spaghetti Recipe – Pinoy Spaghetti

Filipino spaghetti is a little different than the spaghetti that you’re probably used to. The sauce is a little sweeter and to make things interesting, someone went and added sliced hot dogs. Whatever the case may be, this style of spaghetti is a favorite among a lot of Filipinos everywhere. I hope you enjoy it!

Start by roughly chopping 2 carrots, 2 stalks of celery and half a medium onion. Pop them into a food processor and give them a good buzz til they’re finely chopped. This key step will cut down a lot of cooking time when making the sauce. Heat up some oil in a large pot on medium heat and add the veg. Start to cook until they begin to get tender, then add the ground beef. Continue to cook until the beef is browned. 

 When the meat is browned, deglaze with a quarter cup of red wine. After that, add 720ml of strained tomatoes, 1.5t basil, 1.5t oregano and 1 bay leaf. Cover and simmer on med low for about 10 minutes.

 After the 10 minutes, add a 1/4 C of ketchup and mix well, but for an authentic flavour, use banana ketchup. Throw in 2 or 3 sliced hot dogs, cover again and continue cooking for another couple minutes until they are cooked. Finally give it a quick stir and a taste. Season with salt and pepper and you’re done! Serve on top of spaghetti and set the kids loose. Enjoy!

Korean Style Chicken Strips – Test Kitchen Vlog

The spicy and sweet of this chicken strip recipe is a signature element to Korean cooking. I have tried Korean style fried chicken before and love the flavors of chili, honey and sesame. They play so well together and the consistency of the sauce is perfect for strips or wings. In my early cooking days in the sports pub kitchens, hot wings were an everyday thing. I should also add that sports pub kitchens are a good place to learn a lot of bad cooking habits. I’ve seen a lot of things working in those kitchens that would horrify you. 

Anyway, back to the Aimless cooking! In this vlog, I made these stickylicious strips one night while reminiscing about the Korean styled chicken I tried at a street fair last summer. They were breaded chicken tenders with a gochujang and honey sauce with sesame oil. Very similar taste to the gochujang dressing I made for my bibim naeng myun video from a while back. 

  • 1/4 C gochujang
  • 1T sesame oil
  • 1T soy sauce
  • 1T honey
  • a pinch of salt
  • a little hot water
  • roasted sesame seeds

That’s my base. You don’t need a lot. This is enough sauce to coat 6 large strips. You can make more sauce and keep it in the fridge for larger batches. You should also taste as you go, adding more elements of spicy or sweet, depending on your taste preference. 

To make the chicken, all you need to do is cut 2 chicken breasts into strips. You should get about 3 from each breast. 


Set up a dredging station with a plate of flour, beaten egg and panko. Coat the chicken in the 3, in that order til they are all evenly coated.


All you need to do from there is preheat a skillet of canola oil to about 350F. Turn on the stove to medium high heat. Dip a chopstick in the skillet. If you see little bubbles coming up from the tip, you’re hot  enough to cook. 

Carefully place the chicken strips in the hot oil (don’t splash and burn yourself) and don’t overcrowd the skillet. If you do, the temperature of the oil will drop too much and your chicken will become sponges for the oil. Deep frying is essentially making a protective shell, then poaching the interior til it’s done. The easiest and most certain way to tell if your chicken is done is by getting yourself a thermometer. Poke it into the meat at the thickest part. When it reads 180F, you’re good to go. You can also cut it and check to see that the meat is opaque with no pink. 


The rest is simple. Just grab yourself a large mixing bowl with the sauce you just made and toss the hot chicken strips until they are evenly coated with the awesome sauce. Plate up and sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds and that’s all she wrote. Enjoy!

Andong Jjimdak (Simmered Chicken in Soy Sauce)

Andong Jjimdak

All I can say is that I am glad to be back in Calgary after a 2 week trip to Winnipeg. I had the opportunity to try some great eats and get some fresh inspiration for recipes, but it’s a wonderful feeling to be home and not living out of a hotel room. I miss my kitchen. Yesterday, I watched a great vlog from my Korean friend, Kenneth. He went to a restaurant for some Andong Jjimdak, or chicken simmered in a sweet and spicy soy mixture. His video looked so good that I had to make some for myself, and man, was it ever good. Lucky for you, I made my own video and here is the recipe!

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 pounds of chicken thighs, boneless skinless and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups carrots, sliced
  • 2 cups potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup onions, diced
  • 3 cups Napa cabbage, chopped
  • 4 green onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 150 grams Korean sweet potato noodles (dang myun)

Soy sauce mixture, mix together:

  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 dried chilies or 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons garlic
  • 2 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoons grated ginger or ginger powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


  • green onions
  • sesame seeds

Heat up a couple Tablespoons of oil in a large pot and brown the chicken. Add 2 1/2 cups of water, the soy sauce mixture and boil. When it begins to boil, add onions, carrots, potatoes and green onion. Turn down the heat to medium and simmer until the chicken is tender and the veg is almost done.

While cooking the main dish, boil the noodles until tender, strain, rinse in cold water and set aside.

When the chicken and vegetables are fully cooked, add the cabbage and cover and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Once the cabbage is done, add the noodles, mix well and you’re done!

Garnish with green onion and sesame seeds and serve with steamed rice.

Hamburg Steak

Every once in a while, I have the pleasure of enjoying someone else’s cooking. In this post, I will share with you a simple recipe from my good friend, Kaori, who happens to be a killer cook. Whenever I get the chance to cook in her kitchen, I am in heaven. There is always so much great stuff in there and I am inspired. Anyways, one night she invited me over to have dinner with her. She had some ground beef and pork defrosting in her fridge and a craving for Hamburg steak. Are you ready to make Hamburg Steak? Let’s cook!

You will need:

  • 1 lb, ground beef
  • 1 lb, ground pork
  • 1/2 a white onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • salt and pepper
  • 2-3 Tbsp, panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1 egg

This dish is gonna get your hands wet, so wash them well. Start by finely dicing the onions. Then saute the onions and the crushed garlic in a pan with a little oil until they are transluscent. Once they are done, pick out the garlic and toss it away. Set the onions aside to cool for a bit before you start mixing the meat.

Once the onions are cool enough, you can add it to a large mixing bowl. Add the beef and pork, the egg, panko and some salt and pepper to season. Now roll up your sleeves because it’s time to get intimate with your food. Get your hands in that mixture and really blend it together well, I mean really well. Make sure the 2 meats are mixed until the whole thing is one uniform color. Also, working that meat ensures the tenderness of the finished steak. When that’s done, you’re ready to form the patties.

Before you start forming the patties, you have to toss the meat from hand to hand, back and forth. The reason for this is because you need to get rid of any air pockets in the meat from when you were mixing. Now start to shape you patties to a nice uniform size. Look at the meaty part of your palm (the heel). That’s about how thick you want to go. When you form, make the center of the patty a little thinner than the edges (like a big dimple). This will make the center cook at the same rate as the edges.

Once the patties are formed, heat a couple Tbsp of oil in a pan and cook those patties. Brown the one side, then flip after about 2 or 3 minutes. Give the other side a minute then add a couple Tbsp of water to the pan and throw a cover on it. The steam will finish the cooking. When the water has evaporated, take off the lid. Pierce the patties with a toothpick (or whatever you got). If the juices are clear, you’re done!

That’s it! For a sauce, Kaori mixed a little ketchup and tonkatsu sauce. She then put that mixture into the pan with the juices left over in the pan and warmed the whole thing through. If you don’t have tonkatsu sauce, you can craft your own with ketchup, worchestershire and a little soy. Put the sauce over the Hamburg steak and serve with steamed rice and some fresh tomato slices. It’s amazing what a little love can do to some simple ingredients. Watch the video, enjoy and most importantly, have fun in the kitchen!