Category Archives: Asian

Thai Style Soup with Rice Noodles and Tofu

Thai Soup with Rice Noodles and Tofu

Alyssa and I visited the Saigon Market at Findlay Market this past weekend.

At a traditional grocery store, you might be able to find a few stalks of lemongrass. Or maybe not.

But at this market, there's a whole cardboard box of lemongrass stalks.  And crazy fresh ginger.

Lemongrass Lime Chili

This soup was amazing. Lots of flavor.  But if someone in the family doesn't like some of those exotic flavors, cut them back a bit. Use 1/2 the amount of lemongrass and lime. 


Thai Soup with Rice Noodles and Tofu
Compliments of JennaDish

adapted from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman


6-7 cups vegetable stock, water, or combination of the two
3 stalks lemongrass
2 Tablespoons soy sauce, or more to taste
grated zest of 1 lime
1 small hot fresh Thai chile, seeded, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup button or oyster mushrooms, chopped fine or sliced
1/2 cup snow peas, trimmed, or shelled peas (frozen ok)
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
Juice of 1 lime
chopped fresh cilantro leave for garnish
12 oz box extra firm tofu, cut into small cubes (we used Mori Nu)
8 oz rice noodles (we used Erawan Brand medium size oriental style noodles) 

Heat a pan of water on medium-high heat for the rice noodles. Meanwhile, put the stock in a separate large saucepan over medium-high heat. Mince the core of one of the lemongrass stalks and add it; trim and bruise the other 2 lemongrass stalks, cut them into 2- or 3-inch lengths, and add them to the pot along with the soy sauce, lime zest, chile, black pepper, and sugar. Stir, then add the vegetables and tofu.

When the water for the noodles is boiling, add the rice noodles and cook to just a minute or two short of being cooked, according to package directions.  

Simmer the soup for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender but not mushy. Add the lime juice, then taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more soy, lime, chile or pepper as you like.

Add the noodles to the soup, simmer another minute.  Garnish with cilantro, if desired, and serve.

Quinoa with Hot Curry Veggie Saute

Quinoa with Sauteed Zucchini, Red Pepper, Tomatoes

I only learned of quinoa in the last 10 years or so.  As more people are becoming vegetarian or at least eating less meat, they are looking to plant-based foods high in protein.  

Speaking of plant-based protein, I recently read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell PhD, and Thomas M. Campbell II, MD.  It's about a 20-year study of the effects of certain foods on the body, especially the relationship between certain foods and chronic disease.  Bottom line, a plant-based diet is best for our bodies – eat no animal products (meat, dairy) or as little as possible, and as little refined carbohydrates as possible.  

I also just watched (for the second time) a 60 Minutes episode on the effects of sugar on our bodies.  Has a direct relation to chronic illnesses like diabetes, cancer, hypertension, kidney problems, etc.

Quinoa Cooked in White Wine and Vegetable Broth
Meanwhile, back at the quinoa … like any other grain, in can be very plain if you just boil it in water. So it helps build in flavor if you use broth for the cooking liquid.  In this recipe, I also added a little white wine.

Quinoa with Hot Curry Veggie Saute
Compliments of JennaDish


3/4 cup vegetable broth 
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup quinoa 

1 shallot, chopped
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds (optional)
1 yellow squash, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
Pinch or two hot curry powder to taste (I used Penzy's)

Rinse the quinoa well.  Put the broth and wine in a saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Put quinoa in and stir, turn the heat to low, put the lid on and cook for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, saute the shallot in a little oil over medium heat.  Add in mustard seed, if using, and stir around a minute.  Add squash and pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, add the tomatoes and curry powder and stir until heated and tomatoes are softened.  Taste for seasoning, adding a little more curry powder if desired.

Serve the vegetable over the quinoa.  Enjoy while hot.


Vegan: Quick, Spicy, and Peanutty Sesame Noodles for One

Our 6-Week Vegan Challenge

Quick and Spicy Peanut Noodles

No one in my family likes peanut sauce on anything.  

But I LOOOVE it!!

So when I heard that I'd only be fixing dinner for moi, I grabbed some frozen (formerly fresh) pasta and a jar of natural peanut butter.  Yay.  Another vegan friendly dinner.


Quick, Spicy, and Peanutty Sesame Noodles for One
Compliments of JennaDish


4 oz fresh pasta or 1 serving dry noodles (linguine or spaghetti are good choices, use eggless for vegan)
1-2 tsp toasted sesame oil (or use olive or canola as an alternative)
1 Tablespoon natural peanut butter, smooth or better yet, crunchy
1 Tablespoon Low Sodium Soy Sauce
2 teaspoons Chili paste, such as sriracha
juice of a lime
sesame seeds
scallions (chopped green onion) 

Cooking the pasta, drain, and put in a small to medium bowl for tossing.  Toss with the toasted sesame oil. 

Mix the next three ingredients, through the chili with 1 Tablespoon water in a small microwave safe bowl.  Microwave for 30 seconds or so, do not let it boil or burn.  Just get it very warm so it will stir completely.

After stirring, squeeze some lime juice in the mix, stir and plop onto noodles.  Toss well to coat all noodles.  Top with sesame seeds and scallions.

Chili-Mango Chicken

Chili-Mango Chicken

Finally, another meal that everyone in the family likes.  This is a stir-fry, so don't forget the rice – it's not mentioned in the ingredients list.  I used Jasmine Rice.

Note to self:  Alyssa doesn't care for the mango.  Replace with pineapple.  Everyone loved the snap peas. Allen added extra chili garlic sauce to his, of course.  Rice recipe claiming it feeds 6 is barely enough. Do 8 servings next time, for 4 people.  

I forgot to add the sesame oil, just too big of a hurry and didn't notice it.  It's also very hard to read in the small cookbook.  Hopefully, the way I rephrased the recipe and divided the steps, will help next time.

According to the authors:
Per serving: $2.06, 240 calories, 8 g fat, 410 mg sodium


Chili-Mango Chicken Stir-Fry
Compliments of JennaDish

Adapted slightly from Cook This Not That! 350-Calorie Meals by Zinczenko and Goulding

Have all ingredients ready, measured and chopped as this recipe moves quickly.  Serve over rice.


1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into 1/2" pieces (I used boneless breasts)
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 to 1 Tbsp peanut oil or canola oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 Tbsp grated ginger
2 cups sugar snap peas
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and chopped (can substitute pineapple)
1 Tbsp chili garlic sauce (preferably samal oleek)
black pepper to taste

Combine the chicken and the next 3 ingredients – cornstarch, soy sauce and sesame oil – in a mixing bowl and let sit 10 minutes.

Heat the peanut or canola oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. (I think level 8 of 10 is fine – at 10 things will be popping like crazy). Add the onion and cook about 1 minutes, add ginger and cook another minute or until the onion is translucent.  

Add the sugar snap peas and stir-fry 1 minute, keeping them in constant motion.

Add the chicken, including marinade, and stir-fry about 2 minutes, until meat browns on the outside.

Add the mango, chili sauce, and black pepper and stir-fry for 1 minute longer, until the chicken is cooked through and the mango has softened into a near sauce-like consistency. 

Serve over rice.



Baked Fish in Foil: Sea Bass, Mushrooms and Asparagus

Chilean Sea Bass in Foil Packet

This dish is amazingly simple and memorably tasty.  It's from one of my favorite little cookbooks, Cook This, Not That: Easy and Awesome 350-calorie Meals by David Zinczenko & Matt Goulding.

It's not one of the cheapest meals in the book.  I paid $20 for about 10oz. of Chilean Sea Bass, which gave me 4 oz. and Allen 6 oz.  Plenty for both of us, since we had a salad with it.  You can save money by using halibut or any white fish, even tilapia or catfish, the authors suggest.

TIPS:  use skinny asparagus – it's more tender; to peel ginger root before grating, use the back of a spoon and scrape it off rather than use a sharp knife; after grating the ginger, it tends to stick to the grater – to release, hold the grater over the fish and bang the grater against something solid like the side of a pan or dull side of a large chef's knife, and it will spatter haphazardly over the fish, which is what you want.  

Sea Bass Fish in Foil Packet

Rather than give the recipe for 4 people, and then having to halve it or or even quarter it for one person, I'll present the recipe per packet.

250 calories, 4.5 g fat, 540 mg sodium

$5.85 per serving for sea bass (Chilean is more expensive than this), or less for other white fish 

Somewhat Interesting Family Factoid: 

Every time someone mentions Chilean Sea Bass, my better half, Allen, blurts out PATAGONIAN TOOTHFISH!

That's because he read Four Fishes: The Future of the Last Wild Food, by Paul Greenberg.  It explains that for marketing purposes, someone decided to rename the Patagonian Toothfish to Chilean Seabass. 

Sea Bass Packet
Compliments of JennaDish 


6 oz. Sea Bass fillet (or halibut or other white fish)
2-8 spears of asparagus, preferably skinny spears, ends removed and chopped in half (I used about 6)
1 oz. shitake mushrooms, stems removed (equal to about 2-3 mushrooms, sliced)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger 
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons mirin (sweetened sake) or sweet white wine
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven the 400o F.

Lay 4 large (18" x 12") piece aluminum foil for each fish packet.  Fold into thirds and open back up.  Lay fish fillet in the middle third of each piece, then scatter the asparagus, mushrooms, and ginger over each.  Drizzle with the soy sauce and mirin and season with a small pinch of salt (actually I forgot this part and didn't miss it), and black pepper.  Fold the sides over the fish, then roll up the ends to secure into a fully sealed packet.

Arrange the packets on a large baking sheet and bake 15-20 minutes (if 1/2" thick or less, bake for 15 min; if closer to a full 1", bake for 20 min).  When baked, place each packet directly on a plate and serve.  Be careful of the hot steam when opening the foil packet.


Japanese Pork and Shrimp Pot Stickers

Japanese Pork and Shrimp Potstickers
Pork and Shrimp Pot Stickers

I wanted to take on the project of learning how to make Pot Stickers the old fashioned way.  No store-bought wrappers.  Went to the library and borrowed Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen.  Since I'm a total newbie at this, it took a total of about 2 1/2 hours with constantly reading the cookbook and checking myself, so in the future the time should be cut way down.  Overall, I didn't mind spending the time on this project – it was actually fun.  

I made the filling first, then made the dough.  In the future, I will do the opposite.  If you make the dough first, it can sit in a bag softening while you make the filling.  The recipe says to let the filling sit out for 30 minutes at room temperature to allow the flavors to meld, but believe me, it will sit out and meld as you make the wrappers. 

The following photo captions won't make much sense until you read through the recipe.  But if you try the recipe, looking back at these photos may help to make sense of the instructions.  


After water was drawn out of this Napa cabbage, squeezed by hand and then with a clean cotton cloth.


If you are thinking of leaving out the shrimp, that's fine, but don't even think about leaving out the pork. It's fat is necessary for the method of cooking it requires.

My dough is probably a little on the dry side, probably because I used King Arthur's flour which oftentimes requires a bit more liquid than other flours would need.  But it still worked out fine…


Although I was concerned about my dough being dry, the recipe author explains that the dough should bounce back slowly when you press it with your finger, which it did.  


And what I didn't realize was that because the dough is made with hot water, when you leave it in the bag with the air expelled, it softens from the moisture and becomes easy to work with.


I cut the top off a zip-top bag and put a little flour in it or otherwise the dough sticks.  Then I put the little dough ball in the bag and used a saucepan to flatten the disk as flat as I could, about 1/8".  


Then you take each wrapper and, leaving a thicker "belly" in the center, roll the edges toward you while rotating the circle around 1/4 turn.  


Mine turned out to be somewhat irregular circles but it worked out just fine, especially for a beginner.  Pot stickers don't have to be pretty, nor perfect, to taste good.  The smaller disk in the back of this photo is one that hasn't been rolled out yet.  This shows the size difference you can expect.

The flavors of this filling were awesome.  Bought many of my Asian ingredients at Jungle Jim's over the weekend.

Pot Stickers

Not as beautiful as some, but certainly tasty.

Japanese Pork and Shrimp Pot Stickers
Compliments of JennaDish

from Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen

MAKES 32 DUMPLINGS (4 as main course, 6-8 as appetizer)

2 cups lightly packed, finely chopped napa cabbage, cut from whole leaves (about 7 ounces or 3 leaves)
1/2 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced and crushed into a paste (I minced only)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 Tablespoons chopped Chinese chives or scallions (white and green parts)
6 ounces ground pork, fattier kind preferred, coarsely chopped to loosen
1/3 pound medium shrimp, shelled, deveined, and chopped (4 1/2 ounces net weight)
 Scant 1/4 teaspoon sugar
Generous 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 Tablespoons Japanese soy sauce or light (regular) soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sake (I used Sherry)
1 teaspoon sesame oil

10 ounces (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
About 3/4 cup boiling water 

Canola oil or sesame oil or a combination of both, for pan frying

5 Tablespoons Japanese soy sauce or light (regular) soy sauce
2 1/2 Tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon chile oil (optional)

Japanese hot mustard, Chinese hot mustard, or Colman's English mustard for dipping (optional)

In a large bowl, toss the cabbage with the 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Set aside for about 15 minutes to draw excess moisture from the cabbage.  Drain n a fine-mesh strainer, rinse with water, and drain again.  To remove more moisture, squeeze the cabbage in your hands over the sink, or put into a cotton (not terry cloth) kitchen towel and wring out the moisture over the sink.  You should have about 1/2 cup firmly packed cabbage.

TRANSFER THE CABBAGE to a bowl and add the garlic, ginger, Chinese chives, pork, and shrimp.  Stir and lightly mash the ingredients so that they start coming together.

IN A SMALL BOWL, stir together the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, the sugar, pepper, soy sauce, sake, and sesame oil.  Pour these seasonings over the meat and cabbage mixture, and then stir and fold the ingredients together.  Once you have broken up the large chunks of pork so none are visible, briskly stir to blend the ingredients into a cohesive, thick mixture.  To develop the flavors, cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.  You should have about 2 cups of filling.  (Can prepare filling 1 day ahead – bring to room temperature before assembling the dumplings.)

MEANWHILE, form 16 wrappers from 1/2 the dough.  Aim for wrappers that are about 3 1/4 inches in diameter.  (This is where I found a glitch in this recipe.  It never mentions again to make another 16 wrappers with the remaining dough – but you WILL need to do this to use up all dough and filling.  When using only half the dough in the beginning, place the other half back in the plastic bag and remove all air, letting sit until needed.)

BEFORE ASSEMBLING the dumplings, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  (If you plan to refrigerate the dumplings for several hours, or freeze them, lightly dust the paper with flour to avoid sticking.)  For each dumpling, hold a wrapper in a slightly cupped hand. My simplified instructions: Scoop up about 1 tablespoon of filling and place in the center leaving just enough edge to pinch together – no fancy pattern.  I chose to make 24 fat dumplings so I put at least 1 tablespoon in each 3 1/4" diameter wrapper, and even when the filling oozed to the edge, the dough still pinched together just fine.

When finished with the first half, cover with a dry kitchen towel while making the other 16 (or 8) wrappers and filling.

ONCE ALL The dumplings are assembled, they can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for several hours; they can be cooked straight from the refrigerator.  For longer storage, freeze them on their tray until hard (about 1 hour), transfer them to a zip-top freezer bag, seal well, and keep them frozen for up to 1 month; partially thaw, using your finger to smooth over any cracks that may have formed during freezing, before cooking.

TO PANFRY the dumplings, use a medium or large nonstick skillet (using skillets or pan with fitted lids work best), if both sizes are handy, cook two batches at the same time.  Heat the skillet over medium-high heat and put 1 1/2 – 2 Tablespoons oil (canola or 2 parts canola to 1 part sesame oil) in each pan.  Add the dumplings one at a time, placing them sealed edges up in a winding circle pattern or straight rows.  The dumplings may touch.  Fry 1-2 minutes until they're golden brown on the bottom.

HOLDING THE LID over the skillet (ready to protect yourself from the steam that is to come) add about 1/3 hot water to each skillet.  It will boil and sputter dramatically.  Put the lid on each skillet and lower the heat to medium and let the water bubble away until it si mostly gone, 8 to 10 minutes.  After 6-8 minutes, move the lid or foil so that is is slightly ajar to allow the steam to shoot out from underneath. This lessens the drama of condensation dripping down onto the hot oil when you remove the lid.

WHILE THE DUMPLINGS cook, combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and chile oil in a small bowl to create a dipping sauce.  Taste and make any flavor adjustments.

WHEN THE BUBBLING noise in the skillet turns into a gently frying sound (a sign that most of the water is gone), remove the lid.  Allow the dumplings to fry for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until the bottoms are brwon and crisp.  Turn off the heat and wait until the sizzling stops before transferring the dumplings to a serving plate, using a spatula to lift up a few of them at a time.  Display them with the bottoms up so that they remain crisp.

SERVE IMMEDIATELY with dipping sauce in a communal bowl or divided up among individual rice bowls or dipping bowls.  If serving hot mustard, use a separate bowl for this.


TO MAKE THE DOUGH (with food processor)

Put the 10 ounces (or 2 cups) flour in the work bowl of the food processor.  With the machine running, add 3/4 cup of water just-boiled water in a steady stream through the feed tube.  As soon as all the water has been added, stop the machine and check the dough.  It should look rough and feel soft but firm enough to hold its shape when pinched.  If necessary, add water by the teaspoon or flour by the tablespoon.  When satisfied, run the machine for another 5 to 10 seconds to further knead and form a ball around the blade.  Avoid overworking the dough.

Transfer the dough and any bits to a work surface; flour your work surface only if necessary, and then sparingly.  Knead the dough with the heel of your hand for about 30 seconds.  The result should be nearly smooth and somewhat elastic; press on the dough; it should slowly bounce back, with a light impression of your finger remaining. Place the dough in a zip-top bag and seal tightly closed, expelling excess air.  Set aside to rest at room temperture for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours.  The dough will steam up the plastic bag and become earlobe soft, making wrappers easy to work with.

After resting, the dough can be used right away to form the wrappers.  Or, refrigerate it overnight and return to room temperature before using.

When the dough is ready, take out, cut in half and work with the first half while the 2nd half goes back in the bag to keep soft.  Roll the dough you are starting to work with into a 1" log as even as possible.  Cut into 16 even pieces, shaping the dough into somewhat of a ball.  One by one, put the ball of dough between two pieces of wax paper or in a freezer bag dusted with a little flour, place on table and find a flat item such as a saucepan to flatten into a circle 1/8" thick.  Lay aside each round on non-stick paper until all are finished. 

Going back to each round, take a small rolling pin or dowel and, keeping away from the very center (leaving a nickel or quarter size area of thickness in the center), roll the wrapper from near center toward you, spin 1/4 turn, do the same all the way around until it's about 3 1/4" in diameter with a slightly thicker "belly" than the rest of the circle.