Today let’s learn to cook youtiao! Youtiao (said yo-tee-ow) are also called Chinese doughnuts or fried breadsticks. The ingredients are fairly simple—flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, and water—but the process is quite time consuming. It can take up to 9 hours. But regardless, the results are priceless.
Mie Okuda, the executive chef of Momokawa in Kips Bay, has created a series of healthy recipes to satisfy body, soul, and palate.
“Enjoying foods is a gift to our lives,” said Okuda, the author of the healthy recipe e-book “Thinking of You.”
When it comes to dieting, Okuda doesn’t believe in restricting food intake. Instead, she replaces unhealthy ingredients with healthy ones.
She believes that when you are eating well, the brain is satisfied, the cravings subside, and the body naturally attains its right balance.
Since I’ve been craving brownies for a while hoping to eat a bit healthier, I met up with Okuda and asked her to teach me a guilt-free brownie recipe.
She offered me a low-sugar and low-fat recipe because she uses sugar-free dark chocolate and replaces butter with tofu.
When people mention tofu, I immediately associate tofu with savory dishes like Chinese mapo tofu, Korean spicy tofu soup, or Japanese miso tofu soup. But tofu and brownies? Not a combination I’d ever thought of.
What I learned from Okuda is that tofu makes a good substitute for butter. A cup of butter, which has 184 grams of fat can be substituted with a cup of tofu, which has 6 to 7 grams of fat.
To cut down on fat even more, you can use more cocoa powder and reduce the amount of dark chocolate.
This recipe for tofu brownies is adapted from the original recipe in her book. It’s perfect for anyone who is on a diet or can’t have foods high in sugar, carbohydrates, fat, or sodium.
I really enjoyed these tofu brownies. I actually couldn’t detect a tofu flavor. These brownies are light and not overly sweet. In terms of texture, they are silky, moist, and buttery. Cheers for this guilt-free recipe!
Makes 16 servings
1 cup of silken tofu
2 eggs, separated
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar-free cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 ounces of sugar free dark chocolate
A dash of pure vanilla extract
8 walnuts, chopped
Preheat the oven to 330 F.
Wrap the tofu in cheesecloth and squeeze tightly to drain. Then place tofu in a blender and mix until smooth and creamy. Transfer the tofu to a bowl and add sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Use a whisk to mix all the ingredients together.
Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder with a spatula.
Melt the dark chocolate in a microwave for 20 second and stir until smooth.
Combine the melted chocolate with the wet ingredients and mix well together. Then combine the mixture with the dry ingredients and mix everything well.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Then slowly mix the egg whites into the batter.
Pour the batter into a 8″ by 8″ by 3″cake pan. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts. Bake it in the oven at 330 F for 35 minutes. Let cool before cutting and serving.
(Recipe adapted from “Thinking of You” by Mie Okuda)
Over the last two years of filming a food show in different restaurants, there’s one question I always ask chefs: “Do you have any scallop dishes?”
I’m sure people think I’m a big fan of scallops. That much is true, but it isn’t the real reason. I’ll tell you why in a moment. But first, some nutritional information about scallops.
They’re good for dieting. Eating 3 ounces of steamed scallops give you 18 grams of protein and they’re about 100 calories. Protein makes you feel fuller and your body needs it to maintain muscle mass. It also gives you 1.8 micrograms of vitamins B12, 18.4 micrograms of selenium, and 1.3 milligrams of zinc.
In addition to lean protein, vitamins and minerals, scallops also give you small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
Since I am planning a series on healthy dieting recipes, I recently went to visit Zizhao Luo, the executive chef at Radiance, and consulted with him on his secret recipe for steamed scallops.
Luo is my cooking instructor. He’s Cantonese, in his late 40s, with an affectionate smile that always makes you feel at ease. In his 30-year career, he has won numerous awards and carries many burn marks on his arms.
We went to a local Chinese supermarket for ingredients. While he was driving, he raised his left eyebrow and asked me whether I liked to cook fresh live scallops or processed frozen scallops. He explained that fresh live scallops are the best and the frozen ones probably wouldn’t meet my taste standards.
At the supermarket, he showed me the live scallops. I thought they were rather cute, with their fan-like shells elegantly presenting themselves on ice. I really didn’t want to end their lives just yet. So I chose the frozen scallops instead.
On the bright side, the frozen scallops are easier to clean. So here I present you with a super healthy Chinese steamed scallops recipe.
It makes for succulent scallops with a delicate, mild, sweet flavor. You can also taste a burst of flavors from the ginger, scallion, and garlic. I loved it.
So you may be wondering, why for two years did I always ask for scallop dishes? It wasn’t for dieting. I actually had braces on for two years, and although it’s all worth it now, it was truly torture.
When I had braces, I couldn’t bite on anything hard or chewy. That’s why you almost never saw me eating beef or vegetables for two years on television. And I thought that was a secret that I’d never tell …
Happy cooking and eating.
Chinese Steamed Scallops
Makes 1 serving
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 tablespoon scallion, minced
1 tablespoon red bell pepper, minced
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Marinate soy sauce with half the ginger and scallion and put aside.
Place scallops on a plate, and add garlic, ginger, and scallion on top of each scallop.
Add 3 cups of water in a skillet, and put a steamer rack inside. When the water is boiling, put the plate of scallops on the rack and steam for 5 minutes until the scallops turn opaque.
Take the plate off and drop soy sauce on the side. Add additional garlic, ginger, scallion, and red bell pepper.
In a separate pan, heat up the oil, and drizzle on each scallop for additional flavor and aroma.
Spring is the season where everything awakens. For me it’s like a dream come true, because I’ve been dreaming about it all winter long. In my dream, I imagine walking out my door, and being greeted by tender blooming flowers and foliage emerging from the earth—the sweet smell of flowers and trees, the blissful sunlight, and a refreshing wind.
Since the weather is warmer, I unzip my jacket and throw it toward the back of my wardrobe. That’s the time when I realize that perhaps I’ve expanded just a size bigger. Oh no! Let’s come back to reality. It’s time to lose a couple of pounds.
So how to lose weight? I’d never make myself suffer by not eating. I’ve always believed that eating healthy balanced meals will do the magic. In order to uncover some secret healthy recipes, I met up with Chef Mie Okuda, the author of Thinking of You and owner of Momokawa in Kips Bay on the east side of Manhattan. Her book teaches people how to eat well and still be able maintain a healthy weight.
From the surface, Chef Mie is a graceful and shy Japanese woman. At her core, she’s a strong and efficient New Yorker. As I observed the way she works. She doesn’t waste any second and it almost seems like she can finish everything in just one second. She cuts her carrots with a superhero speed. “A chef’s knife is chef’s life,” Chef Mie told me. “I agree!” I said, especially since I carry mine in my purse all the time.
Chef Mie taught me a healthy sautéed Shirataki yam noodles recipe. Shirataki yam noodles are known as miracle noodles, because they have no calories and a lot of soluble fiber. They make you feel full and they cleanse out your stomach. The noodles also boost your energy level and speed up your metabolism. All you need to do is to replace one meal each day with Shirataki yam noodles.
1 package of shirataki yam cake noodles
2 mushrooms, sliced into ¼ inch pieces
1/3 of onion, sliced into ¼ inch pieces
1 ounce of carrots, sliced into ¼ inch pieces
1 leaf of cabbage, sliced into ¼ inch pieces
2 scallions, sliced
1 teaspoon of ginger, grated
½ teaspoon of sesame oil
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon of mirin rice wine
1/2 teaspoon of bonito flake powder
A pinch of sesame seeds
Blanch the shirataki yam cake noodles in hot water for 1 minutes and strain.
Preheat a pan, add sesame oil, carrots, onions, mushrooms, ginger, and sauté for 2 minutes, and then introduce the soy sauce and stir a little more. Put the noodles in the pan and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add soy sauce, bonito flake powder, mirin rice wine, cabbage, scallions and mix well. Serve on a plate and sprinkle sesame seeds on the top.
I really enjoyed the dish. As you bite into your first mouthful, you’ll feel many dimensions of textures—smooth and chewy noodles, and crunchy and juicy vegetables. It’s savory (umami). I can’t believe that the noodles contain no calories at all, and even after adding all the vegetables and sauce, it has less than 50 calories. No wonder people call it miracle noodles. And I call this, dream come true noodles! Let me know how you like this recipe. Happy eating and cooking!
When I was in elementary school in Thailand, on a typical Friday at 12am the lights were all turned off at home, and everyone had gone to bed. Everything was silent. But in the background, you also heard the singing sound of crickets, mosquitoes flying by, and the fan moving in its circular motion. I had the whole living room all to myself, and that’s when the party started.
I turned on the TV and switched it to Cartoon Network. The party wouldn’t be completed without food, so I made myself a bowl of instant ramen noodle soup. I cracked an egg on top of the noodles, put the bowl in a microwave for 2 minutes, and there was my guilty pleasure. After eating this at midnight, my face would be all swollen the next morning due to having too much salt right before going to sleep, but I thought it was all worth it.
This type of instant ramen isn’t the same as Japanese ramen. The instant ramen noodles that I was crazy about in Thailand are called Mama. It comes in many flavors, and my favorite is the tom yum one. Each package is a portion for one. You can cook it with hot boiling water, in a microwave, or boil it in a pot.
After moving to the US, I was exposed to another type of ramen, the Japanese ramen. It’s a noodle soup dish, consisting of wheat noodles served in a meat based broth, often flavored with soy sauce or miso, and has toppings like sliced roasted pork, bamboo shoots, dried seaweed, and scallions. Nearly every region in Japan has its own variation of ramen.
One of my favorite types of Japanese ramen is shoyu ramen, so I went to Rai Rai Ken in East Village to learn the secret recipe for shoyu ramen from an old friend. “To create a good balanced bowl of ramen, it needs five elements: tare sauce, broth, fat, noodles, and toppings,” said Yo Katsuse, the manager of Rai Rai Ken. He is over 6 feet tall and could easily pass as a giant in the east. While teaching me how to make the shoyu ramen, he tilted his body down, with humble body moments and a bright smile on his face.
I was surprised to learn the amount of preparation work and how long it takes to make a bowl of shoyu ramen at Rai Rai Ken. I jokingly said that, “It’s the most comprehensive ramen I’ve ever made so far.” It takes Rai Rai Ken 12 hours to make a bowl of Ramen, and it used to take me only 2 minutes to make a bowl of instant ramen.
Regardless, now I’ve come to an enlightenment: In order to make a perfect bowl of shoyu ramen, every step is important, from making the tare sauce, roast pork belly, boiling the broth, to massaging the ramen noodles and cooking the noodles. The following recipe is formatted from the original one to be more user friendly for everyone. It is a portion for four people. You can find the ingredients in any Japanese supermarket.
4 bags of ramen noodles
1 lb of pork belly for chashu roast pork
1 ounce of spinach
1 ounce of menma bamboo shoot
1 ounce of naruto fish cake, sliced
1 ounce of scallion, chopped
4 cups of soy sauce
2 tablespoons of sake
2 tablespoons of mirin rice wine
2 pieces of dried bonito
1 tablespoon of sugar
½ tablespoon garlic, grounded
½ tablespoon ginger, grounded
1 piece of dried seaweed
2 scallion stalks
1 lb of chicken bone or a whole chicken
3 chicken feet (optional)
2 ounces of ginger, sliced
5 pieces of dried seaweed
2 tablespoons of dried shrimp
2 tablespoons of dried scallops
1. For the tare sauce, in a pot, combine soy sauce, sake, mirin rice wine, dried bonito, sugar, garlic, ginger, seaweed, scallions, and boil for 10 minutes. Then cover and chill.
2. For the pork belly, cut off the skin, and roll it up lengthwise, with skin facing out. Using butchers twine to tightly secure the pork belly at 3/4-inch intervals. Then add 6 tablespoons of oil in a pan, sear pork belly over a high heat. Turn it over and sear until every side is browned, for about 8 minutes. After that, add 6 cups of water and boil it at a medium high heat for about 1 hour until the pork belly is tender and reaches 180 degrees. Remove the pork belly from the stock and let cool. Once it’s cool, slice it across the grain, about1/3 inch thick, and brush the pieces with tare sauce.
3. For the chicken broth, add chicken bones, ginger, dried seaweed, dried shrimp, dried scallops. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 3 hours.
4. To cook the eggs, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the eggs and boil for 7 minutes. Drain the eggs and flush with cold water to stop them from cooking. After they are cool, peel them and marinate in the tare sauce for 15 minutes. Then cut them into halves, and set aside.
5. To cook the other toppings, blanch the spinach, menma bamboo shoot, naruto fish cake in hot water for about 30 seconds.
6. To cook the noodles, bring a medium pot of water to a boil, massage the noodles with your hands to refresh them, then cook them for 2 to 5 minutes until al dente. Drain all the hot water.
7. Add 1 cup of chicken broth into each bowl, add 3 tablespoons of tare sauce in each bowl, and divide the noodles into 4 bowls. Place the eggs, chashu roasted pork, and other toppings and scallions.
I must say this is an unforgettable bowl of ramen noodles. It’s not just because I helped cook it, but because I’ve realized how much patience and love one needs in order to make a perfect bowl of shoyu ramen. So how was it? The ramen was springy and cooked till perfection. The broth is tangy, salty, and savory. It’s full of the taste of umani and yet still fairly light to the palate. I’m sure that even if I eat this bowl of ramen as my midnight snack, I won’t have a swollen face the next morning. Happy cooking and eating!
What comes to your mind when I say fried chicken? Fried chicken has always been one of my favorite comfort foods. I know what you are thinking, looking at my size, you probably don’t believe me. But what can I say? It’s true! Fried chicken has accompanied me through many ups and downs, especially during my college years at Santa Clara University in California.
I could be biased, but to me Santa Clara University has the most mesmerizing college campus. The Mission church is at the heart of the campus. As you walk around the grounds, the tall palm trees stand straight and green grass waves in the breeze. The pleasant sunlight that falls on your face feels like a warm kiss on the cheek. Blue sky is the vividly painted backdrop. Occasionally squirrels run around you playfully. These are some of my signature memories of Santa Clara University.
Throughout my college years we had a lot of fun times, with lots of parties and game nights. We usually dressed in very casual clothes. Pajama pants, sweatshirts, and flip-flops were popular fashion trends. We played games and chatted over drinks, snacks, pizza, and fried chicken.
I also had some stressful times, like during midterms and finals when my textbooks and notebooks were sprawled across the cafeteria table. I would also have a bottle of water and a large cup of coffee on the table, as well as snacks that helped release my stress—sour candies, chocolates, and of course, fried chicken!
I remember when my roommate had her wisdom teeth pulled. She was in so much pain that she could barely talk or even move around. And guess what was for dinner that night? Fried chicken!
Yep. These are some of my fried chicken memories. Fried chicken helped me cope with the best and worst times during my college years. After moving back to New York City, my craving for fried chicken hasn’t subdued. Instead, I have fallen in love with several Korean Fried Chicken places in New York City.
One of my favorite places for Korean Fried Chicken is called Hell’s Chicken. Their fried chicken is super crispy and crunchy on the outside, and juicy and succulent on the inside.
Korean fried chicken is typically fried twice, resulting in the skin being crunchier and less greasy. The chicken is usually seasoned with salt prior to being fried. Korean fried chicken is often served with pickled radishes, beer, and soju.
“Korean fried chicken was brought to Korea by American, and we created our own sauces to go with the fried chicken”, said Jeong S. Lee, the manager of Hell’s Chicken. It’s so popular in Korea now that you literary see fried chicken shops in every corner. An average person would eat at least one meal of fried chicken per week.
Now let’s learn how to make Soy Garlic Korean Fried Chicken!
2 lbs of chicken wings and drumsticks
4 oz of rice flour
4 cups of vegetable oil
Soy Garlic Sauce
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
2 tablespoons of water
2 tablespoons of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of syrup
1. To brine the chicken, in a big bowl add all the chicken pieces, 1 gallon of water and 1/2 cup of kosher salt, and make sure salt dissolves. Then cover the bowl and put it in the refrigerator for 6 hours.
2. To make the sauce, put soy sauce, water, minced garlic, garlic powder, sugar, and syrup in a saucepan and simmer at a low heat for about 5 minutes until everything is dissolved. Put it aside.
3. After 6 hours, drain the chicken pieces, and cover them with rice flour.
4. In your frying pan, add oil, preheat your pan to 350 degrees, then put the chicken pieces in and fry for about 9 minutes. Take the chicken pieces out and let them cool for about 40 seconds. Fry the chicken one more time for about 5 minutes. Take the chicken out and apply the sauce with a brush.
After eating Hell’s Chicken’s Soy Garlic Fried Chicken, all my college memories came flooding back to me, both the ups and the downs. Everything! It’s just so heavenly. Let me know how this recipe works for you. Happy cooking and eating!