Category Archives: Cooking

Rutabaga Soup (Azuki’s Cooking Series #6)

Last week I bought some beet at the supermarket. However, when my husband went about preparing a smoothie, he said, hey this is not beet! I was like, what do you mean? Sure enough, this little thing is most certainly not a beet. I had no idea what it is, but tasted it and decided that it’s not something you eat raw or put into smoothie.

Finally I got around to doing some sleuth work, and determined that my little infiltrator is a rutabaga. Then I googled around for a recipe.

I cut the rutabaga in chunks, along with potatoes, carrots and onion. I added in some spices, bay leaves and pepper.

After they are cooked I pureed them in my blender. I prefer my soup a little chunky.

I like my soup a bit chunky, so I went easy on the blending. Then I heated it again in a pan, adding a bit of cooking wine and salt, to final adjust the taste.

I topped it with some scallion and shredded asiago. It was very delicious!

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Posted by on January 3, 2013 in Cooking, Food, Vegetarianism


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Turnip Cake (Azuki Cooking Series #5)

Turnip cake, 蘿蔔糕 lo pak go, is one of my favorite dishes for Chinese New Year. True, you can eat it year round, and many restaurants offer them as dim sum, but for me it’s the childhood memories of new year. Of my mom making them a few days before the new year, of eating the steamy cake straight off the stove, of visiting relatives and being served it, of adults comparing notes of who makes it best (so-and-so’s is too hard, so-and-so’s falls apart…)

I enjoy making turnip cake. I got this recipe from my mom, and is probably the closest thing to a heirloom recipe I own. My husband loves it so much, he doesn’t even order turnip cake at restaurants anymore (my recipe uses a lot more turnip, while the restaurant version is usually mostly flour.) This year I gave some to my boss, whose parents are from Taiwan, and he reported that they said it was the best ever turnip cake they ever had.

So, I decide I should post my recipe here, for posterity.

Like most of my recipes, I do not use exact measurement.

First, the ingredients. Traditionally, dried mushrooms, dried shrimps, dried scallops and dried sausages are used. Some also used dried pork belly. Vegetarian version calls for veg ham, mushrooms and carrot, but it’s not common. Here’s a recipe. As my hubby refuses to eat the veg version I make mine with the traditional ingredients.

You can easily get these at most Chinese grocery stores. If you can’t get the real thing use ham. For the more health conscious there are sausages with chicken meat or less fatty cuts. Soak dried shiitake mushrooms, scallops and shrimps. The mushrooms and shrimps usually require just an hour to a few hours of soaking, depending on size, but the scallops need overnight. When soft, chop them up into small cubes. Shred the dried scallops.





Stir fry the ingredients in a wok. Season with soy sauce, cooking wine, salt and sugar.


Next, the daikon turnips. I use about 5 lbs for a 2.5 quart Corning casserole dish. Wash, chop off ends, peel, and cut into big chunks.



While my grandma used to shred her turnips by hand, my mom and I benefit from modern technology. A food processor helps make this a breeze…


Gently squeeze the juice out of the turnip, set aside a bowl-ful of juice. Add the turnip shreds to a wok and stir fry. Add a little white pepper. I also add two chicken or vegetable bullions for flavor.


When turnip is cooked and turns a yellowish shade, add in the mushrooms, suasages, etc. Mix in well.


Now the flour. I use half cornstarch, half rice flour, with liquid from the turnip or the water soaking the mushroom. Please note that the rice flour I use is 粘米粉, milled from long grain rice. It’s different from 糯米粉, made from the short grain sweet/sticky/glutinous rice. 糯米粉, or mochiko in Japanese, is used to make the chewy, sticky, stretchy stuff in mochi, dango, niango, rice dumplings, and all that delicious stuff. Anyway, for the flour, more rice flour will make the cake firmer and more cornstarch will make a softer cake that falls apart easier. Half and half is about right. I usually use one cup of each, mixed into a thick yet pour-able paste.

I put the stir fried mix of turnip shreds and mixings into a corning ware, or any deep baking pan you may use. I pour the flour paste in and stir. Depending on how moist your stir fried mix is, you may end up needing more or less flour paste. Generally, I will stir in enough so that the turnip shreds are like orange peels in a marmalade. If you prefer a cake with less turnip and more flour, you can make more paste and stir it in. But don’t just add water as the cake will become too soft.

lo pak go

Now your cake is ready to be steamed. You will need a big wok, or a very deep pot (like a dutch oven or a soup pot) with a steamer rack like this:

Fill the pot with water just below the rack, and when water boils, put your baking pan in, cover the pot with lid, and steam on high heat for 45 min to an hour.

To test, insert a chopstick into the cake.  If it comes out clean the cake is cooked.

Sprinkle sesame seeds and cilantro on top.  Put the lid back on for 10 sec so the cilantro “cooks” into the cake.


I love eating fresh lo pak go. It will be on the soft side, very delicious with a little sirracha and oyster sauce.

The popular way to serve turnip cake is to pan fry it.  Just cut into half inch slices and pan fry, then add hot sauce, soy sauce or oyster sauce to taste.  I’ve known people who dip them in sugar too… If the cake turns out softer than you’d like, a trick is to let the cake sit slightly uncovered in the refrigerator, so it dries out somewhat. For my Corning pan, I just use two chopsticks to lift the lid a bit higher.


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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in Asia, Cooking


Tomato Asian Rice Noodles (Azuki’s Cooking Series #4)

When I showed this picture on the camera to my husband, he thought it was tuna. So maybe I can name this vegetarian tuna noodle?

Anyway, it was just something I cooked up one afternoon with what I can rummage in my fridge. I have a bit of Thai basil left so I made a Vietnamese-inspired pho-style noodle dish. You can use the rice vermicelli instead and make it a “bun” style dish instead, which is great for summer. Slices of tofu can be added too. Whatever you have in the fridge!!

1. Cook and drain Vietnamese flat rice noodle (I am still trying to find a good brand, so let me know if you have recommendation).
2. While noodle is cooking, cut tomato into chunks, slice onion, wash spinach.
3. Heat oil in a pan. I found some lemongrass and Thai basil in my fridge so I add them to the pan and stir fry a bit for the fragrance to come out.
4. Next saute onion. Then add tomato and spinach.
5. Use a saucepan to prepare broth. I use vegetable soup base. A mushroom based boullion works great. Another one I found recently and really like is Edward & Sons. ( The vegetable stock I find in the U.S. are often flavored with celery, parsley and the like, and often doesn’t work well with Asian dishes. The ones in oriental grocery stores are usually made with mushroom and kombu, but while the flavor works, they often have MSG and other additives.
6. Put noodles in a bowl, arrange vegetables on top.
7. Slice some garlic and fried till crispy. Put on top.
8. Crush some peanuts with mortar and pestle, sprinkle on top.
9. Add hot broth to the noodle. Ready to serve.
(10. You can add a little fish sauce for seasoning if you’re not vegetarian.)

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Posted by on July 7, 2010 in Asia, Cooking, Food


Korean Lettuce Salad (Azuki’s Cooking Series #3)

I got a nice pack of lettuce from Costco, and after a few days of salads, and then wraps, I crave for something different.   Something a little oriental.  I suddently remember the lettuce salad that I eat at Korean restaurants.  It comes with the grilled beef bulgogi, and it’s so delicious that I am quite contend to eat it wih my rice and leave the meat to the guys. 

A search on google yields mostly recipes for Korean lettuce wrap with beef, but I manage to find what I want.

For the dressing, mince some garlic and green onion.  Remember that you are using the garlic raw, which is a lot more pungent and spicy, so go easy on it.  A clove or two should be plenty.  Add to it a tablespoon each of soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, and sesame oil to taste.  Add red pepper powder as well, if preferred.  I modified the recipe by adding some minced ginger and miso. 

Then chop up some lettuce, toss with dressing and sprinkle with sesame.  It’s simple but addictively delicious.  The flavor is on the strong side as the salad is not to be eaten on its own as an appertizer, but served along with other dishes to go with rice.

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Posted by on April 21, 2010 in Asia, Cooking, Food, Vegetarianism


Taiwanese Oyster Noodle – Vegan Style (Azuki’s Cooking Series #2)

I would have titled the post Vegetarian Oyster, except that, following my previous post on vegetarian spider, I won’t want any confusion that scientists have discovered a new breed of oyster.

A few years back when I attended a Tzu Chi study group, the host sister often makes a vegetarian noodle dish.  The Taiwanese noodle is dark brown in color and very thin, like vermicilli.  The study group ended,  and recently I started having cravings for that noodle.  When I spotted the noodle at the supermarket I brought a pack.  The first time around wasn’t quite successful, so I went online in search of a proper recipe, and came across one for making vegan oyster.

I know Chinese eats most anything and has a vegan mock version of most anything, but it was the first time I heard of vegan oyster.   Naturally I couldn’t resist making it.

The recipe is actually very simple.  You soak the shiitake mushrooms, chop them up, tear a nori seaweed sheet into tiny pieces, and mix the two together with some flour, then fry it.

vegan oyster

vegan oyster

I used shiitake, though white button or baby bella should work too. Shiitake has a firmer texture and more umami.  I was amazed at the result.  It tastes good, and it tastes quite like the real thing: the seaweed giving it the brine-like flavor reminiscent of sea, and the mushroom a meaty, juicy texture. 

As for the noodle, my mistake first time was cooking it like most noodles: it’s done when it’s soft.  Not for this noodle.  I let it stew for a few more minutes, together with shredded mushroom, wood ear and carrot.  Feel free to add bamboo shoots and bean sprouts if you have them.  

dried wood ear
(dried wood ear)

rehydrated wood ear
(after soaking in water)

When ready, add soy sauce and sugar to the broth, generous amount of rice vinegar (black preferred).  Thicken broth with corn starch (add corn starch to a small bowl, add a little cold water, stir till dissolved, then add to the hot broth. Do not add corn starch powder directly to broth.) 


(I didn’t take picture the first time I made this, so in the picture, I use plain white noodle instead of the dark Taiwanese vermicelli)


Sprinkle on cilantro and white pepper.   Enjoy!!

veg oyster soup

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Posted by on October 13, 2009 in Asia, Cooking, Vegetarianism


Okonomiyaki (Azuki’s Cooking Series #1)

Today I made some Japanese pancake, Okonomiyaki お好み焼き. It’s one of my favorite Japanese dishes but unfortunately hard to find in Japanese restaurants over here.  In Japan, they have places with a hotplate for you to grill your own. Kind of similar to a make-your-own-pancake place I went to once. Over here in the U.S., I have asked around but have yet found such an establishment. Anyway, I do what I usually do under such circumstances: I tried making my own.

First I make the batter by adding eggs to the Okonomiyaki flour.  I got the flour mix at an oriental grocery store, but if you can’t get it, an (untested) recipe I have calls for 2 cups flour + 1 tsp baking powder + 1 egg + a pinch of salt.  The flour mix I bought has additives such as yam powder, seasoning, fish powder and MSG (so you haven’t heard of the Japanese paradox?  They down more MSG than anybody else and live a good long life.)  (And oh in case you bought the flour mix and can’t read Japanese: it’s a pack of flour + 2 eggs + slightly less than a cup of water.)

Okonomiyaki flour

Okonomiyaki flour

Next I chop up some cabbage and carrot. Traditionally pork, shrimp and squid are used too, but I prefer to skip the meat. Other optional ingredients include cheese, scallion and kimchi. As the name implied, okonomi means “whatever you like” and yaki means grill. So, be adventurous! I also add some corn and julienned ginger.  If you get the pickled one use that if not just plain fresh ginger – do try to use some as it does add to the taste.

Okonomiyaki Veggies

Okonomiyaki veggies

Mix everything into the batter.

Okonomiyaki Batter

Okonomiyaki Batter

Heat up the pan with oil, then scope in the batter for a pancake.

Okonomiyaki in Pan

Okonomiyaki in Pan

For the okonomiyaki sauce, the easiest way is to use eel sauce instead. You can also make a complicated from-scratch version using Worchestershire sauce, ketchup, sake, mirin, honey, ketchup and more. Here I didn’t use ketchup. I tried using honey instead of sugar but the taste is weird… different than what I am used to, so I stay with sugar.

Okonomiyaki Sauce

Okonomiyaki Sauce

Next I prepare the seaweed by cutting up the nori sheet. They do sell it in shreds already but I don’t use the shreds often enough, and they get stale faster. I also have katsuobushi, dried shaved bonito fish. That’s the one that looks like live wood shavings on your age tofu, and a major ingredient in Japanese soup stock.

Bonito and Nori

Bonito and Nori

When the pancake is cooked on both sides, I squirt on some mayonnaise (I use the Japanese Kewpie brand in th squirt bottle though of course you can just use a regular mayo), add the sauce glaze, then sprinkle on the seaweed and bonito shavings. It’s ready and looks very nice too!

Okonomiyaki Done

Okonomiyaki Done

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Posted by on June 5, 2009 in Asia, Cooking, Food