This dish was inspired by the ink raviolis that I had at Gusto, an Italian restaurant in LA. I loved the color contrast between the black pasta, yellow corn and creamy white ricotta filling. However, I was underwhelmed on the umami front. The uni sauce was not “uni” enough. I guess nothing can be too briny or fishy for this Asian. Admittedly uni is expensive and beautiful uni should not be wasted in a sauce. But I did so here just to prove a sick uni point. Again I used dashi stock to punch up the sauce base which included sauteed shallots, scallions (white part), garlic, white wine and cream. The blue crab filling mixed with burrata and seasoned with a touch of white pepper and sea salt made the raviolis simple yet uber decadent.
- 1 cup blue crab claw meat
- 1 Burrata ball, chopped up
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
- 4 long sheets of very thinly rolled out fresh ink pasta
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 clove garlic, minced
- 1-2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 1/2 scallion (white part), thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup dashi stock
- 1/4 cup cream
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup of freshly shucked corn
- 1/2 scallion (green part), thinly sliced for garnish
- To make filling, mix blue crab, burrata and its chopped up mozzarella “skin”, salt and white pepper in a mixing bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Watch youtube video on how to make raviolis.
- Use rolled out ink pasta sheets and blue crab filling to make raviolis.
- In a sauce pan, heat up butter.
- When butter bubbles, add shallots, garlic, salt and stir-fry. Do not burn garlic.
- Deglaze pan with white wine. Scrap up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Burn off the alcohol completely.
- Add dashi stock and reduce to a simmer.
- Add cream and do not allow the mixture to boil.
- Taste and adjust seasoning.
- When sauce has cooled slightly, combine mixture with uni in a food processor. Process until uni disappears.
- Pour mixture into a foamer (I used a Nespresso milk foamer) and foam.
- In a separate pan, saute corn with a 1 tsp of olive oil until partially cooked.
- Boil raviolis in heavily salted water for 3 mins.
- Plate raviolis, layer on uni foam sauce and top with corn.
- Garnish with thinly sliced scallions.
With cuttlefish ink, once you go black you cannot go back. Today I made fried baby black balls also known as arancini di riso nero de seppia. I seasoned the ink risotto with a dashi stock base. Chef David Chang of Momofuku catapulted this basic Japanese stock into stardom. Every chef is now all sweaty for the fish cardboard sawdust known as katsubushi. It adds a deep almost smoky fish flavor to a stock. I would almost call it bacon of the sea.
Embarking on an umami binge, I folded grated pecorino romano into the dashi based risotto. Ignore folks who ban mixing cheese with seafood. I then stuffed the risotto balls with a variety of fillings; mozzarella, uni, smoked white fish. Mozzarella because it is a classic. Uni was for decadence which I later regretted because it was simply too rich. Finally I chose smoked white fish because I am a closet Jew. The panko breadcrumbs added an extra crunch, contrasting nicely with the melted gooey mozzarella cheese.
- 4 Cups Ink Risotto
- 1 cup grated pecorino romano
- 2 Eggs, beaten
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 cup Japanese panko breadcrumbs
- Mozzarella ball
- Smoked white fish
- Fold pecorino romano cheese into ink risotto. Make sure that the mixture sticks.
- Refrigerate overnight.
- Form risotto patties on palm of hand and fill center with a variety of stuffings. Chef’s choice.
- Shape into balls.
- Chill balls in freezer for ease of handling latter during the drying process.
- Season flour with 1/2 Tbsp salt.
- Place egg wash, flour and panko breadcrumbs in separate plates.
- To coat with batter, dip each risotto ball in flour, egg wash and panko breadcrumbs, following this strict sequence.
- Heat oil in fryer.
- Deep fry each ball until crust turns golden brown.
- Serve immediately while hot.
This dish is my take on a pasta item that I had at Bestia, currently my favorite restaurant in LA. The restaurant ink dyed its bottarga and used dried spaghetti. Not wasting an opportunity to flaunt my home made ink pasta recipe, I used it here. I love this dish because it is an umami powerhouse. Sauteed anchovies, garlic and toasted bottarga hits you with Thor hammer force. The dish may look a bit busy but the flavors work wonderfully together. The lemon zest and shiso threads brighten the dish while the sweet briny flavors of uni adds another layer of umami decadence.
- 1 lb fresh made ink spaghetti
- 3-4 fillets oil packed anchovies (flavor is milder)
- 1-2 gloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp chili flakes
- 1 cup of raw shelled shrimp, diced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup fried panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 4 shiso leaves, sliced into thin strips “chiffonade”
- Boil a pot of water, season with salt
- Heat a large saute pan with 2 Tbsp olive oil
- Add anchovies and chili flakes. Stir until anchovies disintegrate and fragrant
- Add shrimp and garlic and cook
- Add 1/2 cup of white wine to deglaze the pan. Scrape brown bits from bottom of pan for flavor
- Turn off heat
- Cook pasta in boiling water for 5 mins.
- In a separate pan, add olive oil and panko breadcrumbs. Fry until golden brown
- Toast bottarga and break into crumbs
- Drain pasta and toss into pan with shrimp mixture
- Add 1 Tbsp of butter to add a silky texture to pasta
- Plate in pasta bowl
- Top with fried breadcrumbs, toasted bottarga and shiso chiffonade
- Layer with pieces of uni
What we see on menus called squid ink is actually cuttlefish ink. Squid and cuttlefish are often used synonymously but are actually different. They are more like cousins with the latter tasting much crunchier. Chefs call it squid ink on menus because it sounds familiar and elegant.
Now that I got my hands on a jar of cuttlefish ink I will play out out all my black fantasies. The first scene starts with ink pasta. I tried Mario Batali’s recipe of mixing 4 cups of flour with 5 eggs but the dough turned out too dry. I needed to add 2-3 Tbps olive oil to smooth it out. The noodles cooked quickly and tasted delicious but lacked bite. Martha Stewart’s recipe calls for a 1:1 ratio of flour to semolina flour. Unfortunately, I thought I was going to develop TMJ. In order to avoid a sore jaw, I proceeded to experiment with the flour to semolina flour ratio. For every 5 large eggs, I used 2 3/4 cups of flour and 3/4 cups of semolina flour. And I added 2 Tbsp of cuttlefish ink and 2-3 Tbps of olive oil.
There is a reason why people buy fresh made pasta. ”Handcrafted” translates into a royal pain in the arm. There will be no smiley year 2050 grandma me rolling out fresh pasta for her grand kids while a wild boar ragu simmers over the stove. I Amazon-ed myself a KitchenAid extruder attachment. And my technical betrayal did not stop here. I confess that I relied on my food processor to form the dough. A much cleaner process without sacrificing texture and my nails.
- 2/ 3/4 unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3/4 semolina flour
- Pinch of salt
- 5 large organic eggs
- 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp cuttlefish ink
- Fit food processor with dough blade
- Pour eggs, cuttlefish ink and olive oil into food processor
- Pulse until combined
- Sift both salt, flour and semolina flour into a bowl
- Add flour in quarter portions into the food processor. Pulsing 2-3 times after each addition.
- Pulse until mixture comes together
- Dump onto a plastic cutting board and knead for 10 mins
- Cover with plastic wrap and rest at room temperature for 30mins to 1hour
Sardine toasts are a weekend luxury that I indulge in when I do not need to breathe on someone for the next few hours. I even eat this for breakfast when I want to start off the day with some delicious protein, omega-3 and calcium. Searing the skin with a blow torch adds a smoky flavor that is balanced by the pickled shallots, cucumbers and Italian parsley.
- Can of sardines packed in olive oil
- Few slices of toasted bread
- 2 tsp Italian parsley, minced
- 1/2 red onion, finely diced
- 1/2 hot house seedless cucumber, diced
- Japanese seasoned vinegar (used for sushi or salad)
- Place diced onions in a bowl. Fill withJapanese seasoned vinegar until onions are covered with liquid. Pickle for about 30 mins. Note that the onions will produce liquid.
- Remove sardines from can and place them on a plate. Using a blow torch, lightly sear the sardines.
- Place sardines on toast and top with picked onions, fresh cucumber and parsley.
I was at the farmers market this past weekend and came across lemon basil. I have used Italian sweet basil and Thai holy basil but never this divine smelling citrus basil. The produce vendor told me to use it quickly for the leaves wilt within a couple days. I guess for a first trial it is safer to experiment around familiar Thai/Laos recipes such as larb, “minced meat mint salad” or padkrapow, “basil minced meat stir fry”.
- 1 lb of organic minced chicken (season with 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 tsp cooking wine, 2 tsp cornstarch)
- 1 “brinjal” asian eggplant, thickly sliced and quartered
- 3-4 gloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1 lemongrass stalk, thinly sliced
- 1 chili, thinly sliced
- A handful of lemon basil leaves
- 2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- Lightly salt the eggplant and leave at room temperature for 1 hour. Eggplant will produce brownish bitter liquid. Discard the liquid.
- Season minced chicken with 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 2 tsp cornstarch, 1 tsp cooking wine
- Heat wok with 2 Tbsp of oil
- Add chicken and spread it out to form a pancake.
- When the underside of the minced chicken “pancake” caramelizes and turns brown, break into pieces and continue to stir-fry
- Remove from wok and set aside.
- Heat another 2 Tbsp of oil in wok.
- Stir fry ginger, garlic, and lemongrass until fragrant
- Add eggplant
- Add 2 Tbsp of fish sauce and 1/2 tsp sugar
- Eggplant will soften and produce liquid
- Add chicken back into wok and stir together to combine flavors
- Turn off heat and add lemon basil
- The residual heat will cook the lemon basil
- Serve immediately
To keep the minced chicken moist use a blend of chicken breast and thigh meat.
Steamed fish is as homey as one gets in Asian home cooking. Living in west LA I have no access to Ranch 99, a big Chinese supermarket chain known for its bubbling tanks of live fish. There is where I play God. I point out the fish that I want and the fishmonger swiftly scoops it out of the tank and kills it. Here I got myself civilization and Costco. Whole Foods and its f&*k you prices for its seafood is not an option. And because I am cheap, like to eat whole fish and consume it in one seating, my imaginary seafood decision tree concludes that rainbow trout is my BFF, “best fish forever”
This is a good vacuum cleaner recipe to use up leftover or wilting herbs. Throw any combination of scallion, cilantro, italian parsley, garlic, tomato in a food processor and you got yourself a sauce. For marketing purposes I am calling any finely minced vegetation combination a pesto. Add a jalapeno or two for heat. Dressing the fish with this pesto and searing it with really hot oil is essential to reducing the sharpness of the herbs and releasing their natural oils.
- 1 Rainbow Trout
- A thumb of peeled ginger, sliced
- 2 lemongrass stalk, bruised
- 2-4 kaffir lime leaves
- A handful of italian parsley or cilantro
- 1/2 thumb of ginger
- 10 cherry tomatoes or any tomato you have available
- 1-2 gloves of garlic
- 1 jalapeno
- 2 Tbsp fish sauce
- Clean fish and place on a plate.
- “Score” or make three deep cuts across the thickest part of the flesh on each side.
- Stuff the ginger, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves into the cavity of the fish.
- Steam fish for 8 minutes.
- Take fish out of steamer and discard 3/4 of liquid produced.
- While fish is steaming, combine all pesto ingredients into a food processor and pulse till finely chopped.
- Pour pesto over steamed fish.
- Heat 4 Tbsp of any unflavored oil with a high smoking point till it is smoking.
- Pour hot oil over the pesto, searing the herbs. You should hear a sizzling sound.
Do not worry if you do not have the harder to find herbs such as lemongrass or kaffir lime leaves. The key is to use ginger and scallion. The fish will taste even with just ginger and scallion. If you do not have fish sauce use soy sauce. Try the Ginger Cilantro Sauce because it is based on the same concept.
The marriage between butter and corn is universally recognized. Hokkaido, Japan is famous for its butter corn ramen. You will find a mound of corn, slices of pork belly and a knob of butter melting away in a steamy bowl of ramen. Asians love corn and we put it on pizza, in ice cream, cake, etc. Since I have leftover rice and corn is in season why not make butter corn fried rice. I am adding mentaiko, marinated pollack roe, to give the rice a kick. Mentaiko tastes a bit like salted anchovies but with more depth and has a very slight bitter aftertaste. Karasumi is dried pressed fish roe and bottarga is its Italian equivalent. Shiso compliments mentaiko with its bright citrusy notes. And who can forget the eggs!
- 3 cups day old cooked white rice
- 1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
- 1 cup peeled shrimp, chopped into big pieces
- 2 eggs
- 4 Tbsp mentaiko
- 5 shiso leaves, sliced into long thin strips, “chiffonard”
- 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 Tbsp finely diced shallots
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 black pepper
- Beat eggs in small bowl and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Heat wok over high heat and add 2 Tbsp of oil. When hot, add egg and create an omelette. When cooked, set aside and tear into pieces.
- Return wok to heat and add 2 Tbsp butter.
- When butter foams, add diced shallots, shrimp and stir-fry until shrimp is almost cooked. 1 min.
- Add garlic, corn and stir-fry. 1 min.
- Add rice, breaking up clumps with spatula.
- Season with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper and continue to stir-fry rice for 2-3 mins, thoroughly coating the rice with the ingredients/butter.
- Add shredded cooked omelette.
- Add mentaiko and mix thoroughly. Mentaiko will cook immediately and turn pale pink.
- Stir in shiso leaves.
- Transfer to a bowl and top off with a dollop of raw mentaiko.
- Serve immediately.
It is important to use day old rice because rice fresh out of the cooker is very moist and sticky. The resulting fried rice will be very wet and clumpy. If there is no day old rice, spread rice out on a sheet and place in freezer to dry.
I love the texture of minced meat. I like to buy whole organic chickens, debone them, grind up the skinless thigh and breast meat and freeze them in individual ziploc bags. Including the thigh meat keeps the blend moist and tender. Save the bones for making chicken soup. The often discarded stalks/root of the Cilantro plant are actually very flavorful and used extensively in southeast asian cooking. This recipe came about when I had no Thai holy basil but wanted to make gai pad krapow, minced chicken basil stir-fry. There is no better dish to use cilantro root as a substitute!
- 2 cups of minced chicken
- 1 tsp minced ginger
- 1 Tbsp minced garlic
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped cliantro root/stalk
- 2 Tbsp diced red onions
- 1 lemongrass stalk (white part ony), thinly sliced
- 1 chili padi, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- 1 Tbsp kecap manis (use soy sauce and sugar if unavailable)
- 1 Tbsp calamansi lime juice (use regular lime juice if unavailable)
- 1 Tbsp of butter
- Heat butter in wok until foaming.
- Stir fry garlic, ginger, cilantro root, lemongrass and chili padi until fragrant.
- Move the herbs towards the edge of the wok.
- Add minced chicken to wok, spreading it out to form a pancake. Do not touch and allow the meat to brown underneath.
- Break up meat pancake into small pieces. Add fish sauce, kecap manis, calamansi lime juice and stir-fry along with herbs until chicken is completely cooked. Toss in diced red onions at the end.
- Serve over rice and add a fried egg for extra yummy goodness.
Growing up in Singapore, hazelnuts looked like a jar of Nutella. I would plunge my biggest spoon into this chocolate pool of heaven and devour it like a monster child. Now that I am an adult, live in LA and know what real hazelnuts look and taste like it has become a favorite. This recipe is my hazelnut version of Ina Garten’s pecan sandies. Her use of turbinado sugar was genius because it gave the cookies a nice crunch. I cut out a few steps in my modification to reduce the “UR”, utensils required. Resting the dough overnight is an added step to help the flour absorb moisture, resulting in a firmer cookie.
- 1 cup of hazelnuts
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp of salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 2 sticks of butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup of turbinado sugar
- 3 tsp of pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Toast 1 cup of hazelnuts in toaster oven for around 5 – 10 mins.
- Remove skin from hazelnuts.
- Place cooled hazelnuts and 1/4 cup of flour into food processor and process until the nuts are finely ground. Do not process until oil separates from nuts.
- Add remaining 1 3/4 cups of flour, salt and baking powder. Pulse 5-8 times to combine.
- Using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on high speed until fluffy and pale yellow.
- Reduce speed to low, slowly add vanilla and flour mixture. Mix until dough combines.
- Empty dough onto a sheet of parchment paper. Roll into a log, wrap and place in fridge overnight to rest.
- Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut dough log into half inch slices and place pieces one inch apart on baking sheet.
- Bake for 20 – 25 mins until the edges turn golden brown.
- Cool for 20 mins. Do not touch until cookies have cooled completely.
The cookie is delicious as is. But if you want a more decorative look try placing a chocolate kiss or hazelnut on each cookie. Using enough salt in the dough is necessary to bring out the flavor of the hazelnuts. Another option is to sprinkle flakes of Maldon sea salt on the cookies. This enhances the flavor of the hazelnuts and creates an unexpected twist.