Category Archives: Asian Recipes

The Allure of Shiso

Fresh tomatoes, soy sauce, olive oil and shiso flavor this wonderful cold noodle dish.

Fresh tomatoes, soy sauce, olive oil and shiso flavor this wonderful cold noodle dish.

 

Long ago, my husband jokingly gave me the rather apt but embarrassing nickname of “Black Thumb Jung.”

I admit I’m no Martha Stewart when it comes to nurturing my backyard. In fact, I’m sure Martha would give me one of her telling looks if she only knew that I’ve actually killed ivy and cactus. Things that people say are impossible to kill. I’ve done it, though, with my lethal gardening skills.

But there is an exception to that predictable massacre. I can grow shiso like nobody’s business.

OK, I admit it doesn’t take much for that to happen. Years ago, I planted one seedling in a pot and ever since then, I watch it die over the winter, only to regenerate on its own in summer, when it grows with abandon.

Every summer, I get big green leaves with saw-toothed edges that have the unmistakable and unusual taste of basil crossed with citrus crossed with mint. An Asian herb in the mint family, it’s most commonly found as a garnish on sashimi plates in Japanese restaurants. When I am dining out, I always save it for last. Its bright, refreshing jolt is like a natural after-dinner mint candy.

Yup, I grew that shiso.

Yup, I grew that shiso.

Though I most often add it to summer salads, I’m always on the lookout for new ways to use my home-grown shiso. That’s why this recipe for “Cold Udon with Fresh Tomatoes” caught my eye. It’s in the newest cookbook by New York City Chef Tadashi Ono, of which I received a review copy. “Japanese Soul Cooking” (Ten Speed Press) is full of recipes for ramen, gyoza, donburi, curry and other comfort dishes typically found in mom-and-pop restaurants or made by home-cooks.

This cold noodle dish could not be more effortless. Seriously, it would take you longer to take a shower than to make this.

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A Taste of Thailand with Chiang Mai Pork Patties

Lemongrass, garlic, shallots and so much more flavor these pork patties.

Lemongrass, garlic, shallots and so much more flavor these pork patties.

 

In summer, we can’t get enough of backyard-grilled burgers.

But for a real treat, think patties of a different sort.

Pork ones, fragrant with a profusion of fresh herbs, and enveloped not in a big bun, but swaddled in a crisp lettuce leaf.

“Chiang Mai Pork Patties” brings a taste of Thailand to you.

The recipe is by cookbook author Naomi Duguid, a Southeast Asian food expert who has traversed Asia to find authentic, traditional dishes. It’s a featured in the new cookbook, “Cooking Light Global Kitchen” (Oxmoor), of which I received a review copy. The cookbook was written by veteran cookbook author David Joachim, whom I’ve had the distinct pleasure of judging the Pillsbury Bake-Off with on a couple of occasions.

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Green Beans with Japanese Flair

Green beans you won't be able to stop eating.

Green beans you won’t be able to stop eating.

 

Planning a picnic this Memorial Day? Or a backyard barbecue this long weekend?

Then, you’ve got to make these green beans.

I guarantee they will be the talk of the table.

I first made “Green Beans with Miso and Almonds” last Thanksgiving as a novel alternative to the usual green bean casserole. My in-laws couldn’t stop eating it. Each of them kept reaching for seconds, even thirds. Now, whenever my husband sees me trimming fresh green beans from the farmers markets, he secretly hopes they’re destined for this dish.

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A Glutton for Butter Mochi

Butter mochi -- my downfall.

Butter mochi — my downfall.

 

Last week, I gorged myself.

And I blame Chef Jeffrey Stout for it.

You see, after a recent trip to Hawaii, I happened to post a photo on Facebook of a unique sweet treat that I enjoyed there that was quite new to me: butter mochi.

Stout, former chef of Alexander’s Steakhouse in Cupertino who’s now building his own restaurant, Orchard City Kitchen in Campbell, did what any self-respecting chef would do when he spied the photo and sensed my longing — he emailed me a recipe for it.

Curses!

It was far easier to make than I thought it would be. When I tried a piece, I immediately ate a second, then had to restrain myself from reaching for a third.

Chef, what have you done!

The recipe comes from Stout’s neighbor, Taryn Esperas, who has been known to make this for neighborhood block parties, where it’s always one of the first things to be gobbled up.

It’s cake. But not. It’s custard. But not really. It’s sort of its own delightful hybrid.

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Steaming on Mother’s Day

A favorite chicken and Chinese sausage dish that's steamed.

A favorite chicken and Chinese sausage dish that’s steamed.

 

My Mom was never one to really curse or yell.

Even if the occasion might justifiably call for it.

The closest I ever came to hearing her do that was long ago when I was just starting college. My oldest brother had gone out wind-surfing in the Bay as he was wont to do on breezy Sunday afternoons. Only this time, hours after night fell, he still hadn’t returned home. This was long before cell phones, so we could only wait nervously to see if he would show up. My parents grew more anxious as the hours passed. So much so, that I finally felt compelled to summon my nascent journalism skills at that time to call the Coast Guard to inquire if any accidents had happened on the Bay that day.

Of course, right after I hung up the phone, my brother arrived home — safe and sound. Turns out he had decided to go out to dinner afterward with some friends, but neglected to let his family know.

My Mom was relieved, of course. But she let my brother have it in her own way. Never raising her voice, but rather in her usual calm, soft cadence, she called my brother the b-word. You know, the word for a child born out of wedlock, the term so easily thrown around in today’s vernacular that nobody even bats an eye now.

But I never forgot my Mom uttering it. I’m pretty sure my brother never did, either. Because it was so uncharacteristic. And because she never said it again to anyone else, so you know just how upset she must have been to have used it that once.

That was my Mom, though. Always graceful, dignified and composed. Sure, she’d scold us at times for messy rooms or chores undone. But always in that quiet, measured way. Her way.

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