Spicy Tofu with Vermicelli

For our Chinese New Year dinner, my friend Robert prepared this dish. It’s a very flavorful vegetarian friendly dish and something that can be made quickly.

Spicy Tofu with Vermicelli
recipe adapted from Understocked Veggie Kitchen

12 oz. firm tofu
vermicelli (more if you like your noodles in oodles, less if you like it more veggie-heavy)
4 small sized carrots
1-2 cups frozen broccoli florets
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 teaspoons chili flakes
a splash of olive or sesame oil
salt to taste

– Cut your tofu into small cubes.
– Heat a splash of your cooking oil of choice in the skillet.
– After the oil is heated enough, toss in the tofu strips. Let them brown a little. Make sure you turn them and flip them so they brown evenly.
– Use a vegetable peeler on your carrots and make ribbons.
– Chop the bok choy into edible pieces.
– Fry the vermicelli in the oil when the tofu is just about done. Leave the tofu in while you fry the vermicelli. This will take about 30 seconds. Don’t burn the noodles!
– Toss in the broccoli, with about 2 spoons of water, in with the noodles and tofu.
– Cover and let it cook for about 3-4 minutes.
– While your skillet is cooking, whisk together the peanut butter and chili flakes with a tablespoon of water.
– Add salt to taste.
– Pour your sauce into the skillet and toss until everything is coated. Let it cook for 1-2 more minutes.

Traditional Mandarin Fried Rice

For my Chinese New Year Dinner, my friend Yumi prepared this Ming Tsai dish. It’s a wonderful fried rice recipe that is as easy as it comes! The ingredients include common items with the exception of Chinese Sausage. If you don’t have Chinese sausage available, you can use bacon or even ham (which is what was used here).

Traditional Mandarin Fried Rice
recipe from Ming Tsai

4 tablespoons canola oil
3 eggs, beaten lightly
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
1 la chang (Chinese sausage), cut into 1/8 inch dice
1 bunch scallions, white & green parts chopped and separated
5 cups cold cooked rice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
salt to taste (if needed)

Heat a wok or large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil shimmers, add the eggs, which will puff up. Allow to set about 5 seconds, and using a wok spatula or similiar tool, add push the sides of the egg mass towards the tender to allow uncooked egg to reach the pan and solidify. Flip the egg, allow it to set about 5 seconds, and slide it onto a dish; do not over cook. With the edge of the spatula, break the eggs into small pieces. Set aside.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil to the wok and swirl to coat the pan. when the oil shimmers, add the garlic and ginger and stir fry until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the la chang or bacon, the white parts of the scallions, and the rice. Toss thoroughly until heated through. Add the soy sauce, pepper, and reserved eggs and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper; transfer to a platter and garnish with the scallion greens.

Steamed Lime & Cilantro Tilapia w/Dark Soy Sauce

One of my favorite fish dishes is from my Tita Cora. Tita Cora (aka ‘Auntie’ Cora, my husband’s first Aunt) usually makes a steamed fish often for the holidays or just get togethers throughout the year. She uses various kinds of fish, but the flavors of lime, cilantro and ginger are always the same. Tita Cora is an amazing cook, as she should be since she had her own Filipino restaurant for many years.

This recipe is one inspired by my Tita Cora. I had some whole tilapia that have been scaled and gutted ready to use… so preparing similarly as Tita Cora was the first thing that came to mind. I don’t know how often you cook or prepare whole fish as some folks don’t feel comfortable with dishes that stare back at you. But having grown up around dishes that stare back at me, this is pretty normal to me and takes me back to my ethnic cooking roots.

Steamed Lime & Cilantro Tilapia w/Dark Soy Sauce
original Joelen recipe, inspired by Tita Cora

1/2 cube shrimp broth cube
1 thumb fresh ginger, sliced
2-3 cups water
1-2 small whole tilapia fish, gutted & scaled
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
1 lime, sliced
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup canola oil

– In a large bottom dutch oven or wok, add water, shrimp broth cube and sliced ginger.
– Place bamboo steamer on top of wok or metal collapsable steamer in your dutch oven.
– Season tilapia with salt & pepper on both sides. Place in steamer.
– Top tilapia with fresh cilantro.
– Place lime slices over the cilantro.
– Cover and let fish steam until done; 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and place on serving platter.
– While fish is on serving platter, in a small sauce pan, heat oil and soy sauce. Let it come to a boil to thicken and set aside.
– Pour mixture over fish and serve hot with rice.

Joy Luck Club: Family Favorites Round Up!

This month for my Read, Watch & Eat event, the chosen book & movie my friends and I read/watched was The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. It’s a wonderful story that captures various dynamics of mother and daughter relationships… some of which come very close to home for me. In honor of the book and movie, friends shared Chinese-inspired dishes which we ate before watching the movie. Here are some pics of our “Joy Luck Club” lunch:

Sweet & Sour Chicken Wings shared by Joyce: Mixed “Bento” Box shared by Lennie: Chinese Baked Goods shared by Diana: Chinese Dim Sum shared by Diana: Fortune Cookies shared by Lane: Steamed Bao filled with sweet bean paste shared by Erin: Sauteed Bok Choy & Water Chestnuts shared by Emma: Chinese Rice Crackers shared by Yumi: Shrimp Stir Fry & noodles shared by Joelen Napa Cabbage Slaw shared by Joelen:

To join in the fun, my fellow bloggers have submitted family favorite recipes! Being that the book and movie story line had to do with family, this blogging adventure highlights family favorite recipes. As I do with each blogging event I host, a lucky blogger receives a giveaway related to the food theme. This event’s winner is Carly of Live. Laugh. Grow! Carly has won an Family Favorites recipe collection cookbook. Congrats Carly and hope you enjoy the cookbook, especially with the upcoming holiday entertaining season around the corner!

Stina of Eat Something
from Tennessee
Grandma’s Chili
One of my favorite fall comfort foods is chili and Stina shares with us a special chili recipe from her husband’s Grandma. To find out how Stina ate mashed potatoes as a child and for the recipe of this delicious comfort food, check out her blog!
Becke of Columbus Foodie
from Ohio
Homemade Pittsburgh Pierogies with Sour Cream
Becke shares some tasty food porn featuring pierogies. I don’t know about you, but I have a real craving for some Polish eats and pierogies! Check out Becke’s blog for pierogie making tips and recipes!
Carly of Live. Laugh. Grow.
from West Virginia
Chock Full O’Veggies Soup & Grown Up Grilled Cheese
It’s soup season now that fall is here and Carly creates one that is filling, high in fiber/protein and low in fat and sodium. To pair with the soup, she has a flavorful sandwich made with cheeses, sun dried tomatoes and basil. For the tasty recipes and pics, check out Carly’s blog!

Hot & Steamy Chinese Adventure Round Up!

Chicago has gotten quite a bit of rain the whole weekend so it definitely was a perfect day to spend in the kitchen with friends. For my culinary adventure today, friends came over to learn how to make Chinese Steamed Buns and stuffed them with an assortment of fillings.

You will need the following to make the steamed buns:
Your preferred fillings
Prepared steamed bun dough
Extra flour for dusting your hands/fingers
Several 2″ x 2″ squares of parchment or wax paper
Bamboo or metal steamer
Wok or large stock pot with boiling water

Steamed buns are traditional made with a yeast dough and filled with tasty meat and/or vegetable combinations. For my event I offered 5 different fillings I made from scratch including:

Steamed Buns Dough
Now I have a confession. I’m not too fond of working with yeast… and although the traditional recipes for Chinese Steamed Buns use yeast, you can imagine how thrilled I was to find a recipe that doesn’t call for it at all! The following is the adapted recipe I used, taken from the book, Dim Sum: Delicious Finger Food for Parties by Fiona Smith.
Steamed Buns Fluffy Dough

1.5 cups of all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1/3 cup whole milk
1/2 cup cold water

In a stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, sugar, salt & baking powder until fully combined.
Slowly add the remaining ingredients and allow the dough hook to bring the dough together.
Allow the dough hook to knead the dough for 1-3 minutes until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
In a large bowl, sprayed with cooking spray (to prevent sticking), place the dough and cover with a damp cloth.
Allow dough to sit for 1 hour before using.

Making Steamed Buns
Once you have the fillings and dough ready… and you’ve got a pot of water ready for steaming, then the fun can begin! To begin filling and making steamed buns, dust your hands with flour and stir in 1-2 tablespoons of flour to the dough before working with it.

Take a ball of dough about the size of a tennis ball in your hands. Work the dough to create a log about 1 inch thick and about 4-6 inches long.

Once you have your log, break off a piece about an inch long. Roll this in your hands to form a small ball. Flatten this ball in your palms and work to stretch it out into a disc, about 1/4 inch thick. You’ll notice the dough is very elastic and if needed, use flour to prevent the dough from sticking to your fingers/hands.

In the middle of your disc of dough, add 1 teaspoon of your preferred filling. Pull the edges up to create a pouch and pinch the dough to fully enclose the filling in dough.

Place your steamed bun on a square of parchment or wax paper. Continue repeating the steps until you’ve used up all your dough.

Steaming the Buns

I gave everyone of my friends a bamboo steamer for them to cook their steamed buns in. You can find these at your local Asian market or housewares store, such as Bed Bath & Beyond and event Walmart/Target. They are pretty affordable and are great to use for other items like vegetables, lean meats (such as fish, chicken, shrimp), fruits, dumplings… the versatility of this tool is endless! It really is a wonderful way to cook healthy too.

Once you have your buns formed and are placed on the parchment/wax paper, carefully put the buns in your steamer basket: Have your large pot or wok filled with enough water to get it boiling. You don’t want the water level to boil up into the bottom of your steamer… just below it (we want to steam the buns, not boil them in water!). Place your steamer in your prepared pot and cover. Here’s a funny picture of our Bamboo Steamer Towers both in my 21 quart stock pot and wok:Allow your buns to steam for about 15-20 minutes. Keep in mind, they may look small, but they will puff up and expand while it steams. They will be done when the dough gets a nice sheen to them and is no longer doughy.

Once they are done, enjoy these fluffy savory pillows of goodness!


To join in the fun, my fellow bloggers have submitted Chinese inspired recipes! As I do with each blogging event I host, a lucky blogger receives a giveaway related to the food theme. This event’s winner is Brooke of Victuals & Libations !

Brooke will be receiving Chinese Five Spice Powder and Crystallized Ginger, compliments of Chicago’s Spice House! Hopefully these ingredients will inspire Brooke to make more Chinese inspired recipes! Congratulations Brooke and thanks to all that participated in the blogging event! Read on to check out the recipes submitted by my fellow bloggers…

Becke of Columbus Foodie
from Ohio
Mu Shu Brat Bites
Becke joins us with a creative twist on a grilled favorite – brats! It’s a Chinese inspired take on bratwurst which makes it quite interesting. For Becke’s thoughts and ways she would adapt the recipe for next time, check out her blog!
Brooke of Victuals & Libations
from Ohio
Chicken & Cashew Stirfry
Brooke joins us for the first time with her dish, Chicken & Cashew Stirfry. It’s chock full of various veggies and its pretty versatile too. To find out what veggies Brooke made her dish with, check out her blog for the recipe!
Cassie of Cassie’s Ruminations
from Washington State
Teriyaki Chicken Bowls
Cassie joins us to share her Teriyaki Chicken Bowls. What I love about this dish is that it uses chicken thighs, probably the most flavorful cut of chicken there is! It also uses a great alcoholic drink you can sip while cooking. To find out what that drink is and for the recipe, check out Cassie’s blog!

BBQ Chicken & BBQ Pork Fillings

The following recipe was used for my Steam Buns cooking class. You can read about my class and get other links to recipes HERE.

BBQ Chicken & BBQ Pork Fillings
1.5 cups shredded chicken or diced/shredded pork
1/2 -3/4 cup bbq sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1-2 tablespoons fried minced garlic
salt & white pepper to taste

Combine all the above ingredients.

Mongolian Beef Filling

The following recipe was used for my Steam Buns cooking class. You can read about my class and get other links to recipes HERE.

Mongolian Beef Filling

2 bunches green onion, cut in 1 inch pieces
1 lb lean beef, sliced thin
salt & pepper to taste
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce

Season sliced beef with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder.
Sprinkle cornstarch over beef and toss to coat. Set aside.
In hot pan saute garlic and onion in cooking oil until softened.
Add meat and brown.
Add oyster sauce and soy sauce; stir to coat.
Add green onions and toss.
Allow to cool before using as filling.