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.
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!
So, I am Chinese born, live in the US, but would you believe it, my first language was Thai? I am sure you are asking the question, “Well how did that happen?”
The story goes, that after being born in China, I moved to Thailand—at the age of two—and lived there for eight years. Thus, my nostalgic memories of my childhood are infused with all things Thai/Thailand.
Yet my memory does seem to be selective, in its own right. Some of the Thai language has escaped me, and some of those childhood memories seem to have odd gaps.
What I do remember is Thailand as it was then, and for the most part still is today; an endless sea of cars and motorcycles, honking of car horns, and barking of dogs. In Bangkok, where I lived, there were the silhouettes of Pagodas set against the background of a cityscape horizon.
The Thai people were always so kind, and always greeted me with a smile. It was four seasons of sun, and most all had a dark-tan complexions, and dressed in light colored flower patterned clothing.
They walked with an even pace with many colorful billboards and signs one visual rung up from the pedestrial view. The weather was sunny, but unbearably hot, like a sauna room round the year.
And there were also food carts selling a variety of Thai food on most every block and most every street corner. One could find tropical fresh fruit, skewered meat and fish balls, papaya salad, noodle soup, grilled chicken with sticky rice.
Oddly enough, what I don’t remember is seeing or eating any Pad Thai.
At the age of eight, I would eventually move here to New York City—who could live anywhere else? And amidst the massive scope of a multitude of cultural cuisines, Thai cuisine was a New York City staple, and with it one of the favorites of Thai cuisine, Pad Thai.
This would be my first remembrance of the dish. Most all of us order or have ordered it and since I don’t recall seeing Pad Thai in Thailand when I was a child, it made me wonder, is it really authentic Thai food, or is it American Thai food—an Americanization of Thai cuisine. Or is it that I was just forgetful in my mind on this specific memory?
So, what is Pad Thai? Well, Pad Thai generally consists of rice noodles, eggs, brown tofu, leeks, peanuts, and bean sprouts. It is flavored with tamarind, plum sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, and red chili pepper, and served with shrimp, chicken, or beef. The ideal Pad Thai has a balance of sweet, sour, and salt in its composition.
Continuing on my quest for clarity on Pad Thai and its origins, I went to see my friend Jack Wachara Nittayarot.
Jack is the owner of two Thai restaurants in New York City: Thai Soup on the Upper East Side and Tom & Yum on the Upper West Side.
According to many Thai mothers, Jack has a very typical Thai celebrity look, and is well liked and recognized in the community here. To me, Jack is a great friend, and a true gentleman who loves food and wants to promote Thai food and culture to the locals.
I asked Jack, “Is Pad Thai really an authentic Thai food or is it an American Thai dish?” Jack confirmed, “Pad Thai is an authentic Thai dish.” Not only is it an authentic Thai dish, but it is also recognized as one of Thailand’s national dishes. It has been one of the most popular street foods since World War II and is sold it in every night market.
So it is true Thai cusine. Maybe I had it many, many times during my childhood years and/or I was too young to remember. Maybe it’s like my Thai language skills… forgotten because of a lack of use. Or much like a forgotten language which begins to be used and remembered again, maybe my Thai Pad memories will all come back if we prepare and cook the entree.
Let’s give it a try, and learn to make Pad Thai with Jack Wachara Nittayarot from Thai Soup!
1 tablespoon of tamarind sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons of plum sugar
1/2 tablespoon of vinegar
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of sugar
A pinch of salt
Pad Thai Noodles and Other Ingrediencts:
4 oz of dry rice noodles
1/3 cup of bean sprouts
1 tablespoon of brown tofu, diced
2 whole eggs
1 oz of leek
2 tablespoons of ground peanuts
1/2 teaspoon of chili powder or red paprika
1 tablespoon of preserved radish
1 lemon wedge
Soak the rice noodles in water for about 30 minutes at room temperature to make the noodles soft.
Make the sauce: In a medium sized mixing bowl add tamarind sauce, plum sugar, vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, and salt and mix with a whisk until everything is well blended together. Put aside.
Season a wok with oil, preserved radish, brown tofu, and then stir fry until the aroma begins to permeate the air. Crack your eggs into the wok, add shrimps, and stir until the shrimps turn a pinkish color. Add the noodles and a 1/5 of a cup of water, and sauté the noodles till soft. Add the sauce and sauté everything until the noodles have fully absorbed the sauce. Then add the ground peanuts, leak, bean sprouts and chili powder, and mix. Transfer the noodles onto a plate and garnish with a lemon wedge, and hopefully it will bring back your memories and mine.