My second non Asian recipe I am posting here.  A paella is an interesting entity because of what the purists claim the dish is limited to in terms of ingredients.  I have heard stories of arguments coming to fistcuffs and people getting offended in disputes over semantics constituting this dish.

My recipe here is more to teach the technique of the dish than focus on the ingredients.  You will find that I have added only two meats to this paella (chicken and chorizo) making it hard for even the strictest paella snobs to dismiss my use of the paella label in favor of “seafood and rice” or “arroz con mariscos” as it were.  I will talk about setup, preparing the sofrito, starting to cook, when to add certain ingredients and finally finishing.


Above I have most everything I will need to make the paella.  Up in the left hand corner is the minced parsley and thyme leaves.  Next to that I have black pepper in a grinder.  By that is my mortar and pestle which, until I bought a spice grinder, was my only means of pulverizing spices.  I still use it from time to time when working with smaller amounts of spice.  By that I have a can of tomato paste and then my extra virgin olive oil (imported from Wal Mart, hehe).  Under that I have my saffron threads (in that lovely artistic tin there) which I will treat in more detail further down.  Then my garlic, my dry spices, a sprig of fresh rosemary and then my 3 cups of Bomba spanish rice.   In addition to the above, I have one medium spanish red onion, chorizo and chicken (none of which are pictured).  With regard to the rice, this is another short grain japonica rice with a high amylose content so it is not a sticky rice.  It is a shorter grain than the Italian risotto rices and it also absorbs more liquid than they do.  Bomba rice will soak up almost 3 times its own volume and be fairly dry on the outside when it is done cooking and give you a fairly al dente grain.  So again we see large variances in the same types of base rice.


The paella pan above was a gift from my mother-in-law.  She knows how much I love paella and it was a birthday present a couple of years ago.  One of her best presents ever.  And as much as I wanted to add all kinds of yummy seafood to this one, I could not for two reasons.  One – so it can be defined as a paella above (Spaniards are very particular and if you put things like clams or mussels in it, it is technically to be called seafood and rice and not paella).  Incidentally, while we are on the subject of what goes into a real paella – the original way it was made included meat from a type of large vole that lives by the river and catches some of its food under water. That’s right – true paella does not include clams or mussels but it does contain butchered river rat.

Now you can be as creative as you like with your own paella and I don’t personally care what you call your dish but if you decide to call your squid, octopus, clam and mussel dotted rice dish paella, you may get some negative feedback from denizens of the Iberian peninsula.  Just getting you prepared.

With the mess of label semantics out of the way, before I even start my paella I have to do two things.  One, I need my stock, and two – we have to make the sofrito.  For the stock, I prefer making my own stock when I can.  You will NOT get the same results from a paper carton of chicken broth from the soup aisle at your local supermarket that you will by making your own.  To make mine, I take a whole small chicken, and a pound or more each of chicken feet and chicken necks which you can find VERY cheap at your local Asian grocer.  I love my Asian grocers.  They carry so many things you can’t get at a normal chain that so many of us are unaware of the myriad number of uses for.  Like chicken feet and necks, for instance.

I put my chicken in a large slow cooker.  I put the chicken feet in another slow cooker with the necks (I have two for this very reason).


Chop one onion, two celery stalks, and 2 carrots into pieces.  Sauté them in butter for a few minutes in a pan and then put half of the sautéed mire poix you just made into each cooker with the chicken.  Then cover each with water. I like to add about 15 peppercorns to each and a tablespoon of salt as well.  This will render about 1.5-2 gallons of stock.

I then set both cookers on low and leave them to simmer for 24 hours.  Yep – 24 hours.  That gets LOTS of flavor.  At the end of that time, I pour both cooker crock pots through a strainer into a pitcher and then put that into the refrigerator.

Look at my stock below.  Look at the color of it.  I want you to compare what I have below with a grocery store carton of chicken broth.   They are not even close.  Store bought broth is barely darker than water.  Mine is a rich amber color that you can’t even see through when it’s in the stock pot.  I use this homemade stuff for all kinds of dishes and you will see me mention it a lot.


What will happen as this cools in the fridge is the broth will literally turn to jelly over the next few hours and all the fat will congeal on top as it has here in my pitcher.  Scrape out all that fat (as much as you can).  Then save the stock for whatever you plan to use it for.  If you won’t be using it right away, put it into quart Ziploc bags and freeze it.  But as we want to use ours in the paella – pour out about 7-8 cups into a pot and start it heating.

After it liquefies again from its gelatinous state, you will want to taste it and salt as necessary.  In my paella I use both meat from the whole chicken I used for my stock, plus some sliced from a chicken breast.  And with sliced chorizo as well, the paella purists will still let you call this a paella.

After our stock is ready, we make our sofrito. I chop up the onion first.  Cook this in your paella pan on medium high heat with olive oil until the onions start to caramelize and then add half the can of the tomato paste and minced garlic.  Continue sautéing.  Turn the paste and stir as you cook, spreading it out on the pan. it is at this point that I add the land meats (no seafood) and cook until the meats are done and coated with that sofrito.

Then I add my paprika and finally the stock.  I’ll use about 7-8 cups for 3 cups of rice.  When the stock starts to simmer, lower the heat to low-medium low.  Stir to completely dissolve the sofrito.


Add your minced parsley and thyme as well as a generous pinch of saffron and stir well.  The saffron is an important ingredient but do not overdo it.  You can ruin an otherwise perfect paella just by adding too much saffron.  It will have a metallic taste that you cannot get rid of.  In spain you will often hear paella chefs speak of an ingredient called “colorando”.  This is nothing more than starch mixed with a strong food coloring that they add and stir in to color the rice.  This is because the saffron by itself will not be enough to give the rice that yellow color most want in a paella  So even the masters will add some food coloring to theirs and you can too if you wish.  I confess I did use a small bit of yellow liquid food coloring in this dish.


Stir well.


Add the rice and stir well to mix all the ingredients.  Once we get this started we will not want to disturb it until it is finished so now is the time to make sure we don’t have any lumps of sofrito in here.  At this point I am adding peas and my rosemary sprig for flavor.  You can also add a couple of bay leaves if you want (both the rosemary and bay leaves will be removed before serving).  Some people will also add broad pole beans to the paella.  This is normal and is authentic as well.


Let the paella cook on low to medium low heat until you start to see the rice grains and most of the broth disappears.  About 10 minutes into this process – if you are plan to add any bivalves – now is the time to do it.  You will arrange them on top.  The heat from the rice will slowly cook them and they should open up, releasing their liquor to further flavor your rice. But alas we will not here *sigh*

The next part takes some practice and you will get better at this every time you make a paella.

When it is almost done, it will begin to crackle and pop at the bottom after the liquids are all dry.  This is the toasting of the rice and creates what is called the soccarat layer.  Basically a crust forms consisting of rice and sofrito sediment that is highly concentrated with flavor and is the best part of the dish for most people.  Paella is a rice dish.  It is not a meat dish or a seafood dish.  The main player in paella is the rice and everything else that gets added is a condiment that improves flavor.  And the soccarat is the flower of the rice!


After it toasts for a couple of minutes, stick a fork or spoon into the rice and test for socarrat.  That is – see how much resistance you get from the bottom later before your spoon hits metal.  If there is something clearly in the way, you have soccarat.  If you are new to making paella – scrape a little of the rice up off the pan with your spoon.  If you have a brown, slightly crisp toasted layer on the bottom, your paella is done.  Take it off the heat.  I like to put a slightly damp towel over the paella while it rests for about 10 minutes.

Now if you want to get traditional, you will want to just put the whole pan as it is in the middle of your dining table and with a metal spatula – scrape under the sides to separate the paella and soccarat from the metal as far in as you can and then let your diners have at it.  Paella is meant to be shared and people just start digging in and eating from the outside in.

But alas I am not in Spain and my own eating habits won’t permit me to eat off of the same plate as the people I am elbow to elbow with.  I have seen dogs mutilate one another in this very situation.  I might try the sharing it the middle eventually.

But not today.  I like to scrape up some paella out of the pan and put it on a plate.  I let other people do the same.  I then garnish mine with some large Caputo capers and dig in.


I literally have no shame here as I eat this meal at my desk between my phone and my laptop.  The capers give this dish a nice lemony salt boost.  If I were cooking this only for me, I’d have added all kinds of shellfish.  The next time I make this it will be a seafood variety and I will write another post on it.

Paella (land) recipe (serves 6-8):


  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 lb of chicken
  • 1/2 lb sliced chorizo sausage
  • 1/3 lb of rabbit or some other meat
  • 3 cups Bomba or Calasparra rice
  • 8 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 pinch of Spanish saffron
  • 1 medium red onion chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped or minced parsley
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 2 Tbs fresh thyme leaves
  • salt (to taste)
  • 1 Tbs fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sweet or smoked paprika
  • 1 cup fresh peas
  • 1 cup large Spanish Caputo capers


  • Mix the tomato paste and the minced garlic together.
  • Heat the olive oil in a 16-18″ paella pan
  • Add the onions and cook until they are carmelized.  This should take about 8-10 minutes at medium high.
  • Add the meat and sauté until done. Push meat to one side
  • Add the garlic-tomato paste.
  • Cook the paste until it starts to caramelize and then stop to mix with the meats.
  • Add the paprika and black pepper.
  • Add the chicken stock with saffron and stir well to dissolve the sofrito and paprika
  • Add the parsley and thyme.
  • Add the rice and stir very well.
  • Place the sprig of rosemary into the stock whole.
  • Turn the heat down to low-medium low and allow to cook.
  • When the stock is mostly gone (about 20 minutes or so) stick a spoon in to test for doneness  You should hear the sound of toasting rice first.
  • If after testing, the rice still does not resist you touching the metal bottom of the pan, let it cook a little longer.  You should be able to hear a crackle and fizzle when it starts to toast.
  • When you can stick a spoon in and scrape up some brown toasted crust on the bottom of the pan, take the paella off the heat.
  • Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Garnish with capers over the top of the paella and remove the rosemary sprig.
  • Serve

Next time I do this, I will make a seafood paella.  Enjoy!!



Salt and Pepper Shrimp

The dish I am about to share with you is one of my personal favorites.  I love it cooked using squid or shrimp (I will provide a separate article with it cooked using squid with more pictures of all the steps).  Though I will say the meal looks more exotic with the rings and tentacles of small squid than the familiar grub-like form of cleaned shrimp tails.  Salt and Pepper Shrimp is a Cantonese dish (Cantonese food tries to highlight the actual flavor of the food rather than sauces).  It is often ordered in a restaurant by a group of people in addition to a few other meals and shared.  My own love for this comes from eating very savory pieces of shrimp between mouthfuls of hot, steamed, white rice.  That extra savory vs bland rice trade-off is hard to explain to most people.  To me it can be compared to eating the crust in a chicken pot pie.  You love the chicken and gravy – but that bland tasting crust with the gravy on it is irresistible.  When I pick up a shrimp with a piece of green onion and maybe a section of hot chili pepper with chopsticks, my first instinct after I start chewing it is to take a clump of steamed rice from my rice bowl and follow that shrimp with it.  This is even a tradition with Japanese cuisine.  They enjoy food that plays well with plain rice.  That means sometimes overly salty or savory food is presented that will be eaten with or alongside rice.

Salt and Pepper Shrimp needs to be cooked in a wok over extremely high heat.  This is another one of those dishes you can’t cook on Momma’s stove.  Oh you can do it I am sure, but the outside will be somewhat soggy unless you further toast it which, to my thinking, will dry it out too much. As I have said before in my Tools of an Asian Cook article, the low cost of these high heat burners (under $100) makes one worth investing in.


Above, starting from the left we have minced garlic with sliced red and green Thai chilis (fresh from my garden I might add), about 1 lb of cleaned, shelled and deveined shrimp, my dredge (whose ingredients I will share with you at the bottom of this article) and sliced green onions/scallions.  A quick word on the dredge, by the way.  My recipe uses monosodium glutamate (MSG) which is called “gourmet powder” in Chinese circles.  It markedly affects the flavor of the food, making it more pronounced.  While the authentic recipe does call for it, I do realize that some people may have a reaction or aversion to it.  If you decide to make it like I do and include the MSG, please make sure your guests know there will be MSG in the dish.  This will save some possible embarrassment later.

Now I want to cover some differences in how the shrimp get fried when making this the Chinese way as opposed to American frying.  First of all – we use no egg.  There will be no egg or buttermilk (it won’t need it).  And the shrimp has to be rinsed and then pat dry with paper towels so that it is tacky and not wet.  Note that in China this dish is often cooked with the shells left on.  The high heat of the oil breaks down the cuticle of the shell and makes it easier to chew and digest.  But in this article we will make ours sans shells. (though I encourage you to try it the other way if you get adventurous).


Once the shrimp are tacky/sticky to the fingers, it is time to dredge them.  I like to do this a few at a time so that they all get well covered.  You will notice in my picture that I have left the tail shells on.  This gives people that can’t or won’t use chopsticks the ability to eat the shrimp as a finger food.  In addition it looks nicer but you can make yours any way you want in your kitchen.


After you’ve dredged them all, gently shake off any excess dredge (you want them to just have a dusting on them and not look like those baby powdered Donettes we all ate as kids).  Now for frying we want to do them in batches.  Do not try and fry them all at once.  I will use a 14″ Mandarin wok which is smaller and will use less oil than my Cantonese wok.


This particular wok is one I no longer have.  If you look at my Tools of an Asian Cook article, you will see my new wok which is constructed entirely of metal.  But for what I am demonstrating here right now, that is irrelevant.  The first thing we want to do here is light the wok burner and turn the heat all the way up.  We will need it at full power for this.  After it sits on that heat for about 20 seconds, put about 1.5-2″ of peanut oil in it and wait about 30-40 seconds.  You want the oil very hot.  When you see it start to smoke, you can test the heat with one shrimp.  Be very careful here as with the high temperatures you will be cooking with, the oil can catch fire.  Have something nearby to cover the wok to choke off the fire if that happens.  Do NOT put ANY water into the hot wok with oil!


As you can see, mine is now hot enough.  So I add enough shrimp so that all the pieces are in the hot oil.  Do not add more than that.  If it takes 5-6 batches, the effort will be well worth it.


The oil above is VERY hot.  These shrimp will be done in under 45 seconds.  When they start to turn a golden color, it is time to take them out.  Do not let them get brown,


A nice light golden color is what we are looking for.  As you take each batch out, drain them on paper towels and put the next batch in.  Repeat until all your shrimp are cooked this way.

When the shrimp are all done, pour out most of the oil (all but about 1 tablespoon) into a container for use later (I often use a clean coffee can here) and lower the heat to about 50%.  Then dump all the aromatics in the wok and stir fry them until the garlic starts to get crispy.  Then remove all of that and drain on paper towels.  I like to then toss the aromatics in with the Shrimp as seen below.


At this point the shrimp are ready for serving.  I like to give each diner a bowl of freshly steamed white rice to accompany this meal.



This is such an inviting dish and once you know what this tastes like – your mouth will water looking at the above image just like mine does.  The smells are outrageous as well.


Now leave me to my repast, if you please…

Recipe is below:

Salt and Pepper Shrimp Recipe (serves 2-4 depending on if it is a side or a main dish).

  • Steamed Japanese or Jasmine rice – enough for everyone to have at least one bowl full.
  • 1 lb of peeled, deveined medium sized shrimp.
  • 6 cloves of garlic minced.
  • 3 scallions cut into 1/4″ slices.
  • Sliced chili peppers to taste.  Note you can use any chili peppers for this.  I prefer my Thai chilis.
  • About 2-2.5 cups peanut oil.

Ingredients for the Dredge

  • 1/2 cup corn starch
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1-1.5 Tbs finely ground sea salt
  • 2 Tbs fresh ground white Chinese peppercorns
  • 1 Tbs fresh ground black peppercorns
  • About 12 fresh ground Sichuan Peppercorns
  • 1 tsp Monosodium Glutamate (optional but needed if you want optimal flavor.  I do understand some people cannot abide it which is why it is optional).


  • Put rice on to steam in whatever you plan to cook it in.  A rice cooker is preferred.
  • Put all the peppercorns (white, black and Sichuan) into a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle.
  • Grind them all to a fine powder.
  • Mix all ingredients for the dredge completely.
  • Clean and devein shrimp (if necessary).  Note that I prefer to buy the shrimp with shells on and freeze the shells after I remove them for making shrimp stock after I get about 2 lbs worth saved up.
  • Rinse and pat all shrimp dry with paper towels.  We want the shrimp dry enough so that the surface is tacky.
  • Dredge the shrimp in the spiced flour mix.
  • Ignite your wok burner and turn up to full power.
  • Preheat a 14″ wok for 30 seconds before adding the peanut oil.
  • Heat the oil up another 30-40 seconds until it starts to smoke.
  • Fry the shrimp in batches – at this high heat it should take less than 45 seconds to fully cook each batch.  They should be golden (not brown) on the surface.
  • Remove each batch and drain on paper towels.
  • When all shrimp are done, pour out all but about 1 Tbs of oil into a container to save for later.
  • Cut the heat on the burner by 50%.
  • Fry all aromatics until the garlic is golden and crispy.  For best results I have found that cooking the garlic first works best.  Then cook the remaining ingredients for maybe 10 seconds in whatever oil is left over from cooking the garlic.
  • Drain the aromatics on paper towels.
  • Toss the shrimp with the aromatics and serve immediately.
  • To serve this as it is done traditionally, you will want to present the shrimp on a large plate with a substrate of large fresh lettuce leaves (lettuce absorbs oil) and serve with spicy-hot chili paste in oil.
  • Provide steamed white rice to all diners to accompany the shrimp.

Thank you for your patronage!


Crabmeat Risotto with Seared Sea Scallops

This is my first non-Asian recipe on this blog.  As promised, not all of my recipes will be Asian in origin though I confess most will be.  Today we’ll be talking about Risotto.  Specifically a crabmeat risotto.  Now you can make a risotto with nearly any ingredients.  Even sweet risotti are quite common and some that are even on the fence (such as butternut squash risotto).  So you can get really creative here if you like.  It is this great versatility that makes Risotto one of the most eclectic of all Italian cuisine items.

Now below is a wonderful fall dish I like to make for my family and it is as good as a standalone entree as it is a side.  But if you make this as a side, you will want to serve it as the first course.  Like any good risotto, it needs to be served as soon as it’s ready.

I may as well confess here that the crabmeat I am using below is not fresh.  Nor is it canned though.  I bought a cluster of snow crab legs from my local grocer to use in this recipe and steamed them for about 12 minutes here.  These were previously frozen however.


It takes some skill to remove the meat from snow crab legs without slicing them open.  The trick is to break each segment apart at the edges, right next to the joints carefully.  If you do this perfectly, the meat will come right out when you pull the segments apart.  But as that won’t happen every time – I will then snap a segment with meat still inside right at the center – bending back and forth so that the meat inside is not also broken.  Then pull the halves apart and there is your meat.  This gives you lumps of crabmeat and also lots of very small pieces.  And whatever you do, don’t forget the palm full of meat that all the legs are connected to.  You will want to carefully break that apart, as by itself, that section will have more meat in it than any single leg will.  Try to keep as many bigger pieces together as you can.  There will be enough muscle fibers to flavor the rice itself.


After you get all that delectable meat out, set it aside.  Notice I tried to keep whole segment pieces together.  If you want you can slice these across the grain to get some smaller lumps but I have found that they will come apart somewhat when stirred into the rice that way.  If this is your intent, then by all means, cut the segments.  There is no right or wrong way to prepare this.


Above I have 1 1/2 cups of Vialone Nano rice grown in Italy.  I like this particular rice here because it is a shorter grain than most risotto rices (cooks faster) and does not have a starchy flavor like Arborio or Carnaroli.  It does not have much of a forward presence by itself.  Most seafood risotti can use Carnaroli because fish and clams tend to be very robustly flavored ingredients.  But since this is crab that will be paired with scallops, the flavors will be delicate requiring an equally delicately flavored rice.

As I put forth in my previous article It’s all about about the rice, there are many stark differences between cultivars of Japonica rice. With some, this difference can be profound.  Nothing illustrates this more than a simple comparison between cooking a popular Japonica rice like Koshihikari and cooking a risotto rice.  Generally speaking, a Japanese short grain rice does well with a 1.5 to 1 water to rice ratio when cooked.  And this works very well making soft to al dente grains that stick together increasing the ease of manipulating clumps of grains with chop sticks.  By contrast, the 1.5 cups of Vialone Nano above will soak up 5-6+ cups of liquid compared to the 2.25 cups that Japanese short grain would finish with.  Though I will admit that some of that extra liquid will account for the creamy sauce that is part of the final product.


My first step here is to get the stock ready.  We can’t start the rice without it.  Above, I have thawed and boiled some shrimp stock I made previously with frozen shells I keep when I cook shrimp of any kind.  Never throw away those shrimp shells, lobster tail shells or even crab leg shells when you extract the meat from them.  The above stock was made and stored by cooking 2 lbs of shrimp shells with 3 bay leaves and a mire poix (onions, celery and carrots) with 2.5 quarts of water for about an hour.  I kept this stock frozen in the ice box in quart sized Ziploc bags until I was ready to use it.

After defrosting and heating the broth, I tossed in the crab leg shells and an old frozen lobster tail shell I had in my freezer.  We want to simmer that for about 20 minutes.  You will have to strain that because lots of itty bitty shell fragments are ever present from breaking up the crab legs and even from the palm pieces after the meat is extracted.   The result is a silky rich broth (see above) that you will need to salt to taste.  Add a little bit of salt at a time and taste as you can always add more but the only way to correct over-salting is to dilute the stock (something truly abhorrent!)


After the stock is ready to go, it is time to start our risotto.  Before I start, I take a half a stick of unsalted butter and quarter it lengthwise.  Then I slice those pieces widthwise so that I have about sixteen 1/2″ butter cubes.  Put those in the freezer (they will only be in there for about 20 minutes or so).  You want to keep them cold.  Ok, so above we have our tostatura phase.  That is we toast the rice grains with our aromatics.  I have added some chopped shallots.  You do not want the grains to turn brown – just toast in the olive oil on medium heat a couple minutes past the onions turning translucent.


Once toasted, add 1/2 -3/4 cup of dry white wine (to taste).  I don’t like as much of a sour taste so I use 1/2 cup.  The wine I am using here is a chardonnay that I heated to just above body temperature (about 100 degrees).  Never add cold wine to hot toasting rice kernels.  If you do, the sharp contrast in temperature will crack your rice kernels.  The hallmark of a good risotto is separate grains in a creamy sauce that are a little firm to the bite.  No one wants little itty bitty broken pieces of mushy rice.  Broken rice kernels will cook faster than whole ones, giving you oatmeal textured rice with the grains that break.  Yuk!  Notice behind the risotto pot there is a smaller pot on the back burner?  That is the stock I made on low heat.

One more word on the wine.  Unless you cook with wine every day, don’t buy a big bottle of wine to use for cooking.  Wine does not keep for long once you uncork it and wine for cooking is no different.  And I won’t use salted cooking wine – that swill is truly disgusting.  That being said – I like to buy those little 4 packs of wine.  That way you only have one little bottle of wine open at a time and you are more likely to use it up.  Otherwise you only waste 1/4 to 1/2 cup of wine (as opposed to the better part of a 750ml bottle).  Now if you’re going to drink the rest of the wine you don’t use for the recipe, by all means get the gallon and a half jug then!


Which brings me to our next step.  Once the wine has been absorbed by the rice, start ladling in hot stock from your other pan about 1/2 cup at a time.  Gently stir after each addition of stock.  I stress GENTLY.  The grains can still break at this point because they are still mostly hard and dry and we want to avoid any activity that might break them.  Don’t handle too rough!

Add more stock once the previous addition has been absorbed.  How will you know when to add more, you ask?  My method taught to me by a patient Italian cook is to drag your cooking spoon across the bottom of the pan.  If liquid fills in behind the trail you make quickly, it’s too soon.  If instead, you can make tracks that slowly fill in behind your spoon, it’s time to add more stock.

Also, and this is very important – once you’ve started your risotto in the pot, you cannot walk away.  For any reason.  You must be there by the stove to stir very frequently to avoid the grains sticking together in a sloppy mess, or worse yet, burning.


Here I have some fresh sea scallops purchased at a farmers market that I have lightly salted and peppered on both sides.  You can do this while watching your risotto.


Above I have melted some butter in a hot non stick pan.  You want it hot (I had this on high for a full minute) so you get a light crust on the outside of the scallops when you sear them.  90 seconds on a side will be enough – you do NOT want to cook the scallops all the way through or they will chew like rubber.  You may need a little less time on the second side as the scallops will be warmer.  They have to be at least a little underdone in the very center to be tender.  Remove these from the heat and set aside when done.  I like to start these about 15 minutes into the cooking of the risotto (The risotto is normally done 20-22 minutes after starting for me).


I have added some fresh peas about 10 minutes into cooking which is why you now see those above in the completed dish.  After the mantecatura phase (where you add the cold butter cubes and mix vigorously for a minute or so) I add the crab meat and gently fold that in.  At this point it is ready to plate.  I like to heat my plates or shallow bowls in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 5 minutes (you don’t want them so hot they can burn your diners’ fingers).  Start this before your risotto is finished.


And here is a pretty plated first course to a meal!  Because I have the scallops on top, I did not ladle the risotto into the bowl at the table (my normal method for serving).  You want your diners to begin eating immediately – risotto does not get any better as it sits.

Without further ado, the recipe my friends!

Crabmeat Risotto Recipe (serves 4-6)


  • 1 1/2 cups high quality risotto rice (Vialone Nano or Carnaroli
  • 6-8 cups shrimp stock used to boil crab legs, strained
  • Meat from one cluster of snow or tanner crab legs
  • 3/4 cup fresh peas
  • 1 large shallot chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (please don’t use a sweet wine!) heated to 100-110 degrees F.
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons of cold, unsalted butter cut into 1/2″ cubes plus 1 Tbs butter separated.
  • 8-12 fresh sea scallops cleaned
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp finely ground fresh black pepper


  • Cut up your butter and put into the freezer.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Heat the olive oil in a 2-4 quart saucepan.
  • Add shallots and sweat for a few seconds.
  • Add the rice.  Stir gently to coat every grain with oil.
  • When the shallot pieces start to turn translucent, add the warm wine.
  • Stir well but gently.
  • When all the wine is absorbed, ladle in 1/2 cup of stock and stir.
  • When you can trace a line across the bottom of the pan without it filling up immediately behind the spoon with liquid, add another ladle of stock.
  • Keep adding stock as it gets absorbed.  After about 10 minutes I will take out a single grain of rice and taste it.  It will probably still be crunchy in the center.  This is ok.  We aren’t done yet but you will probably end up eating 4-5 grains this way to test for doneness.
  • At about 10 minutes after you started, heat a skillet on high heat for a minute. I would taste another grain at this point.  It should be less crunchy.
  • While the pan is heating, add the peas to the risotto and stir well.
  • Gently salt and pepper your scallops on both sides.
  • Add the 1 Tbs butter you separated from the rest above to the hot pan.
  • When the butter is good and hot, add the scallops and gently press them into the hot pan. Let them sear for 90 seconds.
  • Keep stirring and checking on your risotto and add stock as necessary.
  • Turn the scallops after 90 seconds and let them sear on the other side for 70-90 more seconds.
  • Remove the scallops from the heat and set them aside.
  • When 15 minutes have elapsed since you started the risotto, put all the bowls you intend to serve risotto in, into the oven.  Let them heat for about 5 minutes.
  • When you can bite a rice grain and it is no longer crunchy – and they have stopped absorbing stock, take out the butter cubes from the freezer.
  • Take the risotto off the heat.
  • Separate the butter cubes from one another and add to the risotto.
  • Stir the butter in vigorously (no real danger here of breaking the grains – your risotto is cooked.  You are just making it creamy now).
  • When the butter has completely melted into the risotto and been stirred in, gently fold your crabmeat into the rice so that it is well distributed throughout.
  • Taste your risotto.  This is your last chance to add seasoning before you serve it so don’t let that opportunity pass you by.  If it needs a little salt, add that now.  I like to under-salt mine a little.  If your guests need more they can always add a pinch at the table.
  • Remove the bowls from the oven and begin plating.
  • Ladle risotto into each bowl and top with two sea scallops each.
  • Serve

This can be an entree or as an appetizer for a small entree (even as an appetizer, this will be quite filling).

Thank you!


Prik Nam Pla

I thought I would add this recipe here for Prik Nam Pla since I will reference it frequently when I talk about serving Thai dishes.  To a Thai person, this condiment is like salt and pepper is here in the U.S. and is found on just about every Thai table.  Prik Nam Pla literally translated means spicy-hot fish water.  And even Thai households will have this sauce readily available at every meal to be spooned over a dish to add spice and saltiness.  It’s not just something you will find in restaurants.  This is very easy to make and keeps in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.  I have been known to keep it longer but it will lose heat if kept past that.  You will need at least 3 ingredients, 4-5 with the optionals.

Nam Pla Prik (Makes about 1 cup)


  • 1 garlic clove (optional)
  • 3 garlic (chinese) chive flower stalks.
  • 1-2 lime wedges (to taste)
  • Thai Chili peppers (as many as desired – to taste)
  • 1 Red Savina Habanero pepper (optional if you want it REALLY hot).
  • 1/2 cup of a good quality Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce.


You want the ingredients to be as fresh as possible though if you look closely at the picture above, you will see frost on my Thai chilis.  Yes, they were previously frozen so I cheated here.  I grow them all summer long (I’ll discuss that in another post) and freeze them for the winter.  I have a fresh Red Savina Habanero above as well (I do not recommend that unless you have an asbestos palette like I do – a result of having spent my childhood in Thailand).


  • Mince one garlic clove well.  Add to the jar or container that can hold 1 cup in volume.
  • Slice the garlic chives into 1/8″ slices.
  • Slice the peppers into 1/8-1/4″ sections depending on personal taste.  I like 1/8″ myself.  If you decide to add a habanero as I did, mince that well too.  Add to the jar with the garlic.


  • Squeeze as many lime wedges as desired (I prefer one wedge but some may want more citrus in their sauce).


  • Fill the rest of the way with the fish sauce and gently stir well.

I like to chill mine in the fridge for an hour to give the flavors some time to meld.


And below is a batch I made that has minced garlic chive flower stalks in it.  I’ve added that to my recipe here because I always make it like this way now because it drastically improves the flavor after it sits for 3-4 days..

And there you have it.  Over time you will probably make adjustments to your own recipe until you have it the way you like it.  This will be called for to be served with almost all recipes I provide here.



Drunken Noodle

Drunken noodle is a dish popular in Thailand and there are a few stories floating around about how it got its name.  One is that a man came home knee-walking drunk every night to his wife and she would always have a meal ready for him when he arrived (she must not have had a rolling pin).  In any event, he complained to her that her dishes were boring and needed more excitement (again, where in blazes is that rolling pin??).  So the next night, she cooked him a fine meal complete with savory spices, sauces herbs and meats that made him swoon with gratitude.  He ran through the streets drunk, singing her praises after eating it.  Another story says the meal was created because it’s good for a hangover.  This one sounds more plausible for me for two reasons.  One – the dish includes a healthy portion of scrambled eggs (great for a hangover) and two – the Thai name for this dish is khee mao which translated literally means shit drunk as in the description of the diner.

For us here in the states, most of us get introduced to this dish when we see it on the menu in a local Thai restaurant and ask the wait staff to tell us more about it.  It is a dish of no small fame back in Siam and Thai waiters will not stop short of issuing their exuberant praises for it, making the average American diner jump at the chance to try some.  It is worth mentioning that celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis listed Drunken Noodles as her favorite meal on The Best Thing I Ever Ate television show in the “With Chopsticks” episode in season 4 on Food Network.

Drunken Noodle is a stir fried noodle dish influenced by Chinese people living in Thailand (as evidenced by the use of Chow Fun style noodles in the dish).  Below are the two kinds of noodles used in Drunken Noodle.  On the right are 1/2″ wide rice noodles made in Thailand and Vietnam.  On the left (and on the plate so you can see them more clearly) are the Chow Fun noodles which I mix in.


My own journey of discovery with this dish starts with my wife always asking for it when we’d go to a local Thai hangout.  It is her favorite dish and she is not unique among my friends in that regard.  My younger brother Rick also claims this dish as his favorite and started experimenting with trying to produce the sauce that makes this dish so special.  After weeks of exasperation and trial and error he came up with a recipe he said was spot-on.  And when I made the dish for the SECOND time, I had to agree.

Don’t ask about the first time.  I’d like to forget that ever happened.

Anyway, Drunken Noodle can be made indoors on a stove but you will not get that same flavor you do when eating it in a Thai restaurant.  You need extreme heat and wok hei or breath of the dragon.  That hint of flame broiled flavor you get when the food gets seared on the outer surface by temperatures in excess of 600 degrees F.  I will show you how I make it here and include the recipe at the bottom.  I never share recipes on my Facebook page but here in my blog I will share them all with my readers.

Before cooking any Asian dish in a wok at very high heat you want everything prepped and by your side.  You don’t even want to be preheating the wok at this point.  Because if you walk away from your food in the wok to get the dish of minced garlic you left by the sink you WILL burn your dish.  If you have the heat level where it should be, this is a certainty (600+ degrees F in the pan).


So here I have my ingredients laid out clockwise (spiraling in) starting with the oil:
Peanut oil, beaten eggs, Scallions, minced garlic, chinese white pepper, mixed blanched rice stick noodles (square and long), thinly sliced chicken tenderloins, Drunken Noodle sauce (recipe developed by the labor of my younger brother Rick), baby bok choi, Thai basil, and Chinese chives.


For the sauce, the ingredients are: (from left to right) mirin (rice vinegar), sweet soy sauce, black soy sauce, normal soy sauce, very high quality fish sauce (blue label bottle in back), oyster sauce, golden mountain sauce, corn starch and brown sugar down in front.  I didn’t show water as you can come by that rather easily.  I’ll have the proportions below in the recipe.  You should be able to find most of these products at any large Asian grocer.

The first thing I do is fire up the burner.  Now while you don’t have to have a strong burner to make this dish, I highly recommend it.  There are plenty of 150,000+ BTU burners available online for less than $100 – some that go up to 220,000 BTUs.  I can provide links in comments if anyone desires.


After the burner is lit and turned up all the way, I like to put the wok on and let that sit for about 15-20 seconds.  Let it get very hot.  Then I add the cold oil which heats up fast.  Wait until you start seeing a little smoke around the edges.


I start with the Chinese chives.  An aromatic vegetable that tends to stink of sulphur when you first chop it up but then mellows so a savory shallot-like garlicky spice as soon as it hits the hot oil.  At this stage it starts to smell wonderful.  But you haven’t seen anything yet!


I like to scramble the eggs next.  These will get mixed in with the other ingredients well but I actually like them with some brown around the edges.  The sauce will soften them up later so they aren’t dry and that browning improves the flavor!


After the eggs are no longer runny add the chicken (or whatever meat you intend to use).  Stir quickly because it will burn if you let it sit.  See the eggs getting a little brown there?  We want that!


My chicken is almost done.  It’s at this stage that I add my minced garlic and a minced fresh Thai chili pepper and stir those in.  Now the aromas are really getting alluring.  Your guests don’t get to have this olfactory vantage point – this is one of your rewards for being the chef.


I’ve added the Thai (or Holy) basil along with my chopped baby bok choy and scallions.  You want to stir that and sweat these leaves until they shrink up and get a coating of oil.


Our main ingredient gets added here.  Stir this around and then let it sit until the noodles start to sear on the bottom for about 30 seconds – you want it to sear.  Then pour on enough of the sauce to just coat everything.  Too much and the dish will get soupy.  Too little and the noodles will clump together.  I suggest adding a little at a time and stirring until you get all the noodles a nice cafe brown color.  Once the sauce is well stirred in, we are almost done.  This is when I like to tilt the wok into the flames of the fire with my spatula holding the food in the wok.  You don’t have to tilt the wok very far but you want the flames to lick some of the food.  Do this 3-4 times, putting the wok back on the fire level and stirring between to get that wok hei on a good amount of the noodles.


Here is the dish plated.   My wife absolutely loves this dish and I love the complements after dinner.  While not my favorite, it does rank very high among my most wished for Thai meals.  This recipe and methodology will produce Drunken noodle nearly exactly like what you would get in a Thai restaurant (they might use different veggies).   Below is the recipe I have shared for the first time with the public (with strong influence from my brother):

Drunken Noodle (Serves 4-6)


  • 1 lb of Chicken tenderloins sliced thinly
  • 1 Fourteen ounce package 1/4 to 1/2″ wide rice noodles
  • 1/3 of an 8 oz package of Chow fun noodle squares
  • 1 1/2 cup Holy or Thai basil
  • 2 cups chopped Bok Choy
  • 3 Eggs beaten
  • 1/2 cup Scallions cut diagonally into 1″ sections
  • 1/4 cup chopped Chinese chives and their flower buds (1/2″ pieces)
  • 3 Tbs minced fresh garlic
  • 1 Thai red chili pepper minced (optional)
  • 4 Tbs peanut oil
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese white pepper

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup oyster sauce
  • 4 Tbs soy sauce
  • 3 Tbs fish sauce
  • 2 Tbs brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbs sweet soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs black soy
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tbs Golden Mountain sauce
  • 3 Tbs corn starch


  • Mix all sauce ingredients in a bowl and blend well to dissolve the sugar. Set aside.
  • Bring a pot of water (about 4-6 quarts) to a boil.  Put all rice noodles in the water and cook for 90 seconds. Remove from heat and drain.  Rinse well with cold water and set aside.
  • Gather all ingredients and bring to the burner and wok.
  • Heat the oil in the wok for about 20 seconds.  Add the Chinese chives and stir for about 10 seconds.
  • Add the beaten eggs and scramble gently until eggs are no longer runny (about 10-15 seconds).
  • Add the chicken and stir fry until the meat is opaque and no pink is seen.
  • Add the garlic and hot pepper (if using). and stir in.
  • Add the remaining greens (scallions, Bok Choy and Basil) and stir until they sweat and shrink down in volume. You may need to add a little more oil depending on how quickly the vegetables are cooking down.  If so you may add another Tbs of peanut oil   If you do, move the food way from the center of the wok and drop the oil there.  You want it hot immediately.
  • Add the previously blanched noodles and stir in well.  Let the food sear for about 30 seconds.
  • Stir the sauce well and begin adding a little at a time and keep stirring.  Do this until all the noodles are light brown in color but do not add more than that.  You do not want loose sauce pooling in the wok.
  • You may need help with this next step.  Tilt the wok edge into the fire, letting the flames lick up into the food for about 10 full seconds.  You may need someone to hold the food in with one or more spatulas.  Then put the wok back on the flame and stir well.  Repeat the tilting and burning 3 more times and then take the wok off the heat.

Serve immediately with nam pla prik  or dried hot pepper powder.  Enjoy!

I hope you relish this dish as much my family and I do.






It’s All About the Rice

In my last post I talked about the tools used in creating Eastern or Asian food.  Today I am going to talk about the rice since it is in just about every Asian dish other than soups and it does not have to be a monotonous filler that some tend to relegate it to.

By definition, a rice grain is a seed of a grass of species Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima (Asian and African rices respectively) that was first grown as a crop between 8,000 and 13,000 years ago in what is now the Pearl River valley region of China.  Cross breeding by so many different cultures of two basic types has given the world so many different styles of rice to choose from that for the adventurous chef, the possibilities are nearly endless.  For most of us, rice exists in three main varieties.  Short grain, medium grain and long grain.  As a rule, a rice seed is considered long grain if its length is 4-5 times its width.  Short grains have a length and width nearly equal to one another and anything else in between that and the minimum for long grain is considered medium grain.  Most of what I will deal with in this article will be medium or long grain rices.

Below I’ve arranged some rices I have in my pantry on a plate and will talk briefly about each one of them.  Yeah, I have a LOT of rice.  Did I mention I like to cook?


Starting at the top, in that cluster of black grains that resemble rodent droppings we have Chinese Forbidden rice.  So named because this rice was cultivated for consumption solely by the Chinese emperor and his court.  Legend has it that the rice had the properties of an aphrodisiac, and while this grain does contain more iron and other nutrients than any of the other rices above, the legend is definitely exaggerated for a lore effect.  An interesting thing I discovered years ago when my children were little is if you cook 10% Forbidden rice with 90% white rice of any kind together in a rice cooker, you get a purple rice with some black forbidden grains speckled throughout.  It made eating the rice more fun for the kids when they were very young and help cut down on fussy eating and food left on the plates after dinner.  You can also serve this rice chilled after it is cooked as part of a salad.  Use a white rice setting for Forbidden rice in a rice cooker.

Next we have Basmati.  This grain is used in Indian and middle eastern cuisine and is very popular in Persian restaurants here in the United States.  Basmati is a long grain rice that has the unusual property of expanding more lengthwise than in width, making the cooked grains look like short noodles instead of rice grains.  They grow to three times in length from their precooked, dry state.  I discovered talking with Indian coworkers and friends that in India this rice is actually more often eaten with ceremonial and holiday meals because for some people with sensitive stomachs, Basmati can cause irritation.  That is why for day to day meals, Indians more often use a rice called Sona Masuri which I don’t have (or it would be on that plate too) that is another long grain rice.  For myself, I use Basmati in Biryani (my favorite Indian dish that I cook for myself) and Persian Koobideh lamb skewers.  That brings me to my next point which is that the national dish of Iran – Chelo Kebab – is made with Basmati rice.  Lastly this rice is normally cooked on a white rice setting in a rice cooker (unless it is purchased brown) and can be used to make fried rice.

Jasmine rice is a long grain variety that comes from Thailand where I grew up, is the predominant rice grown there and is used all over southern Thailand.  It has a lovely fragrance even before it is cooked which gets more pronounced when it gets boiled.  It is my favorite rice to use in making fried rice as the grains separate easily when chilled and aren’t as apt to break when being tossed around in a hot wok.  I have memories of living in Thailand where a huge 125 lb crate of the rice (that my father would buy once every other month for the 3 maids and gardener) was kept where the maids prepared their own meals and the smell of precooked, chilled Jasmine rice sizzling on a wok with cilantro, garlic and hot peppers would lure my siblings and I to the kitchen.  I personally consider Jasmine superior to the standard Chinese long grain you get served in a Chinese restaurant to accompany meals.  And lastly, this rice can be purchased white or brown and will use those settings in a rice cooker depending on which you buy.

Wehani rice is actually a very aromatic brown rice developed in California by Lundberg Family Farms and its name is trademarked.  My wife likes this variety of rice and I cook it for her now and then when she gets the craving as she wants to eat more brown than white rice.  It is a very healthy rice with a firm bran on the outside that is more than a little al dente.  I am not a huge fan of it as it is very chewy but it tastes good with fats.  I’ll eat it in a tabouleh with glee however, as I think it is better for being chilled.  It should be cooked using a brown rice setting in a rice cooker.

Koshihikari is the most popular rice in Japan and was developed in the 1950’s as part of an initiative to develop a more productive grain of rice to feed the expanding population of that country after the war.  It is a medium grain Japonica rice and as such, it is a stickier rice.  These rices are popular in Japan because the tendency of the grains to clump together makes this rice good for eating with chopsticks.  In Japan, the image of a bowl of fresh steamed medium grain rice is as seductive to the appetite as a well dressed burger might be here.  Koshihikari is used extensively for sushi all over Japan as well as for meals.  Consider that the word for rice in Japanese – Gohan is the same word for meal.  The importance of rice in the Japanese economy cannot be overstated and certainly this particular variety is my own favorite rice to serve with Asian cuisine if I am not going to fry the rice.  The stuff I buy is grown in California and not Japan, however but I still think it is as good as that grown in Japan for the most part.

My family and I consume more Koshihikari rice than any other and it is just as good alone with a raw duck egg yolk dumped on top and stirred in as it is plain with Furikake seasoning shaken on top.  I treasure it because it picks up other flavors from the foods and gravies it is served with easily and even soaks up Thai curries so richly in each grain that it infuses each with citrusy, sweet and savory notes.  Virtually every dish I cook that gets served with rice (other than Indian or Persian dishes) will get served with this rice.  To prepare with a rice cooker, Koshihikari should be cooked on a normal white rice cycle or Umami if your cooker has that setting.  It is interesting to compare the raw grains of this rice with the Nishiki grains in the plate above.  They look very different before cooking but after being cooked, it is almost impossible to tell the difference visually.  They have to be tasted and the Koshihikari has a more pronounced sweetness on the palette.  Other rices of the same quality as Koshihikari are Tamanishiki and Nozomi which can be used as suitable substitutes.  All three are premium Japanese rices.

Nishiki is a readily available medium grain rice found in most large food markets and indeed it used to be my go to rice before I tried Koshihikari.  Nishiki is often the style of rice used to make sake with in Japan after most of the grain is polished away.  It is cooked on a white rice cycle in a cooker and served in much the same way as Koshihikari and this is because both rices are bred for the same purpose.  It’s a starchy, sticky rice used by Koreans and North Vietnamese living here in the U.S. that emigrated from their countries of origin because of its similarity to short grains they used to get back home.  Medium grain rices like this are used everywhere in Japan, Korea and in Northern Thailand.

Bomba rice is a less sticky short grain rice grown in Spain and used for making paella. If you look at the picture above, it has perhaps the shortest grain of all.  Now I have been told by Spaniards that Calasparra rice is a higher quality rice for making paella but then I have not been able to find it myself.  So Bomba it is for me.  It’s strict development for paella means it absorbs a lot of liquid and is unusual for a shorter grain rice in that it is not sticky because of its high amylose content.  I have this rice exclusively for making paella so it never sees the inside of one of my rice cookers.  This is a rather expensive rice.

Arborio is a medium grain japonica cultivar grown in the Po valley region of Italy for over a century.  It is the most common rice used for making Risotto outside of Italy itself.  In fact, it is the rice most commonly used by cooks here in the United States to both make and teach others how to make risotto.  A couple years ago, I took some classes on making risotto at a Cooks Warehouse taught by 2 different experts both with slightly differing styles of preparation.  I have learned during those sessions that there are a number of other varieties of japonica cultivars also used (mainly in Italy itself) depending on the type of risotto being made.  All rices of this sort tend to be fat, short grains that absorb a lot of liquid and have a very starchy, powdery surface which helps form the creamy, sometimes thick soupy sauce when cooked with a broth or stock.  Like Bomba, this rice has a very specific purpose and does not get cooked in my rice cookers like the Asian varieties do.  If you look at the picture below, you can see three rices I ordered from Italy and Spain, all with their labels in the language of the producing country.  You gotta love Amazon!  Bringing the rest of the world to your doorstep for a nominal fee, hehe.  I like the Italian rices shown here because they are vacuum packed in a durable clear plastic shrink wrap that prevents individual grains from rubbing together and possibly breaking until you cut the package open.


Carnaroli rice is touted is being the king of risotto rices.  I can say from personal experience with it that it’s a lot more forgiving than Arborio and when I started learning to make risotto under the watchful eye of an experienced Italian mother and housewife, even she was surprised at how well I’d done on my first try.  I wasn’t going to tell her that I brought my own medium grain rice with me while the other students ladled chicken stock into cheaper Arborio provided by Cooks.  It’s hard to overcook if you use this rice and I personally like making hearty beef, shrimp or chicken based risotti with Carnaroli.  Like Arborio, this rice is grown in the Po valley region of Italy and does not belong in a rice cooker.

Vialone Nano rice is the last risotto rice grain I will treat here.  When matched up against Arborio, the grains appear tiny and it is obvious to the observant eye that it is the shortest of the three risotto kernels I have on display.  To me it is a delicate risotto rice that cooks more quickly than the other two varieties I have above which is good for gentle fish and crab stocks.  The rice is content to sit in the background and let the seasonings and broth have their way.  Now I don’t know if this next point I will bring up is true, but I have been told by more than one Italian risotto aficionado that the famous Gho risotto made in the Trattoria da Romano in Burano, Italy is made with Vialone Nano rice.  If so, it would make perfect sense to me as I have made some delicate herbed crab risotti using this rice and it makes that soupy, flowing gruel you can toss around in a pan and have it flow in waves across a plate when you serve it.  I never get tired of that visual effect and when I serve it.  I like to wait until my guests are seated at the table before plating so they can witness first hand, this hallowed communion of food and stoneware (Remember to warm the plate right beforehand as this heightens this showy effect).  I never seem to have leftovers with this stuff (which is a good thing with risotto because it does NOT reheat well.  You are better off forming the day old rice into balls and deep frying them).

Lastly, in the middle of the plate we have Minnesota wild rice which is not really a rice at all.  Harvested for centuries in Minnesota rivers by native Americans, these grains are tough and have to be cooked for a long time before enjoying.  It is grown and sold wholesale by native Americans living on reservations and as such, you can find it in most farmers markets or online.  The grains of this variety do not start to absorb liquid until the outer shell breaks open which takes almost 30 minutes in low boiling water to achieve.  I find these grains mix well with other rices for a diversionary texture, but you do not want to cook them together or your other rice will be mush.  I have added this rice to a risotto after it is cooked by itself and the risotto is nearly complete.  Typically at the end of the risotto mantecatura stage, I stir in the cooked wild rice and that gets good results.  Great flavor in the traditional risotto grains and a good bite with a moist crunch make for a more memorable meal.  After all, what good is dinner if you’re just duplicating what the corner pasta cafe can do?  If I am going to go that route (making a wild grain with risotto medley) I will use a 3 to 1 ratio of Italian to wild rice and I don’t even start the risotto cooking until the wild rice has been simmering in water for 25 minutes.  I have found that a brown rice cycle in a rice cooker is good for this wild rice when cooked by itself.


I’ll add one last word about rices and that is in storing them.  Many of the Asian rices I have depicted above come in large sacks (15-50 lbs in some cases).  I often buy 15-20 lb bags.  Once you open any rice packaging, you must store the unused product in an airtight container.  I like screw top jars best.  The reason for this is pointed.  In a word, Moths.  Little tiny waxy, dusty moths.  If there is even the tiniest pinprick of a hole in a bag or gap in a container top, moths will find it and lay eggs in it.  I can tell you from personal experience that opening a tupperware container that was not adequately sealed and finding squirming yellow-brown baby maggot moth larvae and white rice grains quivering on web strands when you’ve barely used what was in that $30 bag of Koshihikari you bought only a week before is infinitely frustrating.  Few things get my goat worse than throwing away 27 lbs of premium quality rice because I couldn’t protect my food stores.  My family won’t suffer me sifting the larvae out and keeping such rice either.  I have to discard the infected batch completely with extreme prejudice.  So with high quantity bags of rice I now use screw top jars exclusively.  Nothing gets into those.

In closing, as I mentioned before, this blog is primarily about cooking Asian dishes but is certainly not restricted to them.  I will talk about cooking paella and risotto in a some future posts as well which is why I treated those rices here in this article.  Going forward from here, I will start sharing my actual recipes.  I hope you enjoy them.


Tools of an Asian Cook

I have accumulated a few tools over the last few years with which I do my non standard cooking with (mostly outdoor and not using our kitchen oven/stove).   In order to prepare Asian food in a wok, you need very high heat.  While you CAN cook on a stove with a wok ring by leaving the wok on the fire for 4-5 solid minutes to get that intense heat – having a very high powered burner makes this much easier as the temperature won’t drop down as drastically when you add food and will even heat back up much quicker.  If you do purchase one of these or something like it (and I recommend that you do if you intend to cook Asian cuisine) you will want to keep it outside but under a shelter.  Asian restaurants have burners that will range in power from 200,000 to 300,000 BTUs but they have massive overhead vents to pump out the smoke and fumes that get produced by cooking with such extreme heat. No wonder you can smell what scrumptious things they are cooking in your corner Chinese restaurant the moment you exit your car in the parking lot.  But as we don’t have these huge range hoods in our residential kitchens, we must cook outside when using a high BTU burner.

The first item I have here is a gas burner that I bought from a distributor that used to sell them out of California.  It is made in Thailand and is used by street vendors who run roadside fast food establishments.  It is powered by a propane tank and has a nice little pilot light that has its own flow valve.  You can’t get this model anymore but there are plenty of others for sale that are even stronger than this one.   It bears mentioning that the company that sold this burner to me made me sign a waver stating I took full responsibility for anything that might happen while using this.  So if I blew my house up, I wouldn’t try and sue them.


This burner, when turned all the way up will produce 110,000 BTUs of heat making it far more powerful than even a commercial Vulcan stove found in most non Asian restaurants.  Those typically top out at 30,000 BTU.  Most home stoves will have one large high powered burner that will max out at between 16,000 to 24,000 BTUs.


Here’s my burner turned all the way up.

After my burner, my next tool for cooking Asian (and a lot of other types of foods) is a Kamado type grill.  These use natural hardwood charcoal for their fuel and because of their thick ceramic shells they hold heat well making for precise temperature control and maintaining such temperatures over an extended period of time.  The temperature doesn’t fluctuate and changes tend to occur slowly when adjustments are made.


These have become very popular over the last two decades here in the United States for barbecue cooking but make no mistake – the concept of a Kamado oven/grill is distinctly Asian in origin.  The one shown here is a Big Green Egg.  Over the last 40 years, American soldiers stationed overseas often would buy these made in the countries they were stationed in and bring them back home with them.  Today there are a number of manufacturers here in the U.S. that offer a wide selection of sizes and upgrades.  There is quite a culture following of owners devoted to using these grills and clubs and social groups are popping up everywhere.  Using a Kamado grill is quite simple in theory, but they can take some time to master.  There are vents on the top and bottom of the grill and the fuel goes into a firebox above the bottom vent chamber but below the cooking grate itself.  This makes for an even flow of air up through the unit whose temperature can be easily controlled by how wide the vents are opened.

Beyond the cooking heat sources, we have the cooking vessels themselves.  I have three pans I use more than any other with outdoor cooking.  I have a 18″ Cantonese wok, a 14″ Mandarin wok and a 16″ carbon steel Paella pan.

Tools1The 18″ wok is used when cooking for groups of 5 or more people.  Woks require seasoning before use which involves burning off a factory coating of some petroleum product before cooking some aromatics in peanut oil at high heat to complete the seasoning process.


This wok is well seasoned and I have used it to cook dozens of Chinese and Southeast Asian dishes.  The seasoning gives it a perfect non stick surface as long as the wok is always heated well before adding any food to it.

Above, my 14″ Mandarin wok still has the factory coating on it in this picture.  When put on the burner at very high heat, the coating will vaporize and the surface of the wok will show a lovely carbon steel finish.   I use this when cooking individual portions or when it’s just my wife and I that I am cooking for.

And my Paella pan is an interesting piece.  Below, it is shown on my indoor stove.  Indeed you do not want high heat when making a paella.  I show it here on my indoor stove but I now use this pan outside on my wok burner on very low heat and that seems to work well.


I won’t say much about the Paella pan until I make a post where I actually use it.  And I will use it, trust me.  Not all my posts will be strictly Asian dishes.

Perhaps this last tool is the most important.  At least it is for Asian cooking.  An argument can certainly be made for that, because rice makes up most of the diet of some 80% of the world’s population.  And rice takes center stage in any Asian dish.  Everything else is treated as a condiment by the Asians who originated traditional dishes overseas.  That is to say everything you might cook and serve with the rice serves to spruce up a dish that historically, is primarily just rice.  So you want a good rice cooker.


Now if you look at the rice cooker section in an appliance store in Japan, you will see a selection of cookers ten times the size of that found in even the largest Asian markets here in the U.S.  The features in rice cookers vary greatly but I will only treat those I use and that are available in my cookers above.  Both are made by Zojirushi, a high quality rice cooker manufacturer based in Japan.  I purchased the white one above about 10 years ago and it still works very well. But the lithium clock battery in it has died so it forgets what time it is every time I unplug it.

Both cookers above work by using induction heating.  Simply put, they have huge electromagnets around the rice pan socket that when current is run through them, puts a magnetic field around the rice pan which heats it.  No electric elements heated by making a short circuit.  There is a sensor touching the pan inside the cooker which is used by the device to determine when the rice is almost done.  These things have a processor that does a lot of calculations and this has caused some to label these cookers “Fuzzy Logic” in reference to how they determine when and how the rice is cooked.  The white one has several cook modes including for white rice, brown rice, sushi rice, sweet rice, rice porridge and quick cooking rice.  The brown cooker on the right above is far newer (I got it just under 2 years ago) and has a pressure cycle it uses for umami rice which gives the rice a sweeter flavor.  I will admit the pressure cycle does change the flavor profile of plain rice a little.

Aside from the items above, there are spatulas, ladles, tongs, steel nets and other implements used to manipulate food in pans which don’t need further treatment here.

I will reference this page a lot in my coming posts as this is the basis for almost all the cooking and recipes I will depict here.  In my next post, I am going to talk about rice.

Happy cooking!


Musings of a westerner with a wok

Welcome to my food blog.  I’ve been posting culinary pictures and processes all over social media and finally took the advice of some friends and am starting my very own food blog.  I have a few interesting cooking implements which I will feature in my posts along with a host of uncommon ingredients and techniques.  I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with you here.

Thank you!