Thai Glass Noodle Salad

This is a cold dish that is remarkably simple to prepare but very high in flavor.  When I was a child in Thailand our maids used to make this all the time but the strong flavors didn’t appeal to me in my youth and sadly, I didn’t like it.  But the flavor was hard to forget and when I was reminiscing with my younger brother about the dishes we remembered most from Thailand, I remembered this one and got a strange craving for it.  After discussing this with our friend Tu (a former Thai restaurant owner) I came up with the recipe below which might not be exactly what our maids made, but the flavor sure is the same.  This is a very authentic Thai dish that can be eaten as a main course or as an appetizer with smaller portions.

Our first (and perhaps most important) ingredient is our glass noodles.

You can get these at almost any Asian market.  The ones I have here are made in Korea but they are almost always made with sweet potato starch, no matter the country of origin.  Cooking the noodles is simple.  Boil for 5 minutes, drain and then rinse with cold water.  I prefer to then soak them in an ice water bath to get them even colder.  I will use this whole 12 oz package.

Now for the meat you can cook your own.  If you do, you have to add in the time to chill your meat after it is coooked.  Here I am taking a shortcut and using frozen precooked salad shrimp.  So named because it’s usually used in shrimp salad 😉

I will use about a half pound of these thawed.  Toss these in with your chilled, cooked noodles.

Above are Japanese black sesame seeds used in making sushi.  Again, this will be sold by your local asian grocer.  I like these because they have a pleasant texture as well as a roasted sesame taste that ads character to our salad.  But these have to be roasted in a pan for about 5-6 minutes before being used to release that flavor.

You don’t need a lot of heat.  I am using my smallest burner here.

For the rest of the ingredients you will want cilantro (extremely important), Thai chili peppers, green onions, lime juice, fish sauce and some chopped nuts for texture as well as flavor (I prefer cashews).

Not shown are the thai chilis, julienned cucumber, edamame and cashew nuts.  But above we have our garlic, lime, scallions, cilantro and fish sauce.  I will sautee 2-3 minced cloves of garlic in 4 tablespoons of oil until golden.  Then take the oil and garlic off the heat and put into a cool ceramic bowl.  Mix in the juice of one or two lime wedges (to taste), 2-4 tablespoons of fish sauce (to taste),  and 2-8 thai chili peppers sliced thin (to taste) as well as 1/4 teaspoon of sesame oil and whisk together.  That will be our dressing.

Now if you are one of those people that simply cannot abide cilantro you can substiture parsley for it but it will drastically change the flavor profile of the dish.  I will mince up 1 dry measure cup of cilantro, 1/2 cup of scallions and toss these into the noodles.  Lastly I will toss in the dressing and cashews and then top with the roasted black sesame seeds.  In my plate below I also have edamame (soybeans) and some seaweed.  I have omitted the seaweed in my recipe below but you can use that if you can get your hands on some.

Two warnings I will give here.  One is if you decide to use commercial salad seaweed, they use dyes in that which can stain your glass noodles.  Especially if you chill your salad in the fridge for a while before eating it.  The other caution is if you store any left over portion overnight, the glass noodles will cloud over.  It won’t affect the flavor but your dish won’t have as pretty of a presentation.

This is a very strongly flavored salad with shrimp, cilantro, lime and fish sauce giving forward notes and finishing with the heat from the chilis.  Once you’ve had this dish for the first time, any time you remember it your mouth will curiously water, regardless of your fondness for it.  I am at a loss to explain why.  I truly disliked this dish as a child but as an adult, I get an awful craving for it sometimes.

Here is the recipe:

Thai Glass Noodle Salad (Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as an appetizer)


  • 12 oz package glass vermicelli noodles
  • 8 oz frozen mini precooked salad shrimp
  • 1/2 cup chopped cashews
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup green onions
  • 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup shelled, cooked edamame beans (soybeans)
  • 1/2 cup julienned cucumber


  • 2-3 garlic cloves minced
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2-4 tablespoons fish sauce (to taste)
  • 2-10 Thai chili peppers thinly sliced (to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • Juice of 1-3 lime wedges (to taste)


  • Thaw the frozen shrimp for 1-2 hours before starting.
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles for 5 minutes.
  • While the noodles are cooking, sautee the minced garlic in the oil in a separate pan until golden.  Remove the oil and garlic to a bowl and whisk in the fish sauce, chili peppers, lime juice and sesame oil.  This is our dressing
  • Drain the noodles and rinse well with cold water.
  • Roast the black sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium heat for 5-6 minutes until fragrant.
  • Toss the noodles with the shrimp, cucumber, cashews, cilantro, soybeans and scallions.
  • Drizzle the dressing over the noodles and toss well.
  • Serve in salad bowls and sprinkle with sesame seeds.



Cajun Seafood Gumbo

This dish is a strong flavored American classic with roots in the swamps of Louisiana.  Cuisine like this was developed with the idea of stretching ingredients (with lots of sauce and seasonings as well as cheap rice) for the purpose of feeding larger groups of people.  When the Acadians of Canada resettled in the Southern edge of the US after 1755, life was hard.  The people there literally had to eat whatever they dragged out of the swamp.  Anyone who has watched an episode of “Swamp People” on television knows how hardy these people are.  If you go after 10-12 foot carnivorous lizards to make a living, you’ve had to make some harsh adaptations.  And some families have made their living hunting alligators in the swamps for the last 300 years.

While making this recipe I had visions of a mother cooking up a roux with papa tending the simmering stock with kids ranging from 2-12 playing around the fire with an alligator roped to a tree.  Then suddenly papa yells “Run chillun!!  Dat alligatuh is gettin’ away!  Go get him o’ we gonna have nuffin’ to eat!!!!”

Though this recipe does not include alligator meat, I suppose you could make it with some and it would still be authentic.  My recipe here uses seafood and the ubiquitous Andouille sausage found everywhere in Louisiana.  Gumbo traditionally also uses okra as both a vegetable and as a thickening agent.  I do not like okra except fried or pickled in a bloody mary so my recipe here omits it.  But feel free to add it with the aromatics during that step if you want okra in your gumbo.  What separates my method from traditional Cajun cooking is my use of a microwave to make the roux.  This saves an hour off the cooking time easily despite the groaning of traditional Cajun cooks.

Above I have peeled about 8 oz of shrimp and I am saving the shells which I will use in my stock.  Never throw away shrimp shells!!  I save them in freezer bags and freeze them.  Now what I have here is not nearly enough to make a proper stock so I had to take some from my freezer.

Above I have started a pot with 3 bay leaves, some thyme sprigs and about 6 scored and bruised sage leaves.  I’ll add a little bit of salt or a chicken bouillon cube as well (a little salt helps extract flavors from these ingredients).

In addition to my shrimp shells I had half a chicken carcass I had saved from a previous dinner.  After you carve up a roast chicken for a family meal it is my hope that you save the carcass and freeze it like I do.  Nothing is better for making homemade stocks.  You can add chicken feet and necks from an Asian market for an even richer broth.  I’ll simmer this stock covered for about an hour and 20 minutes on low heat.

Here I am setting up the fat for my roux.  Above you see a tablespoon each of ghee (clarified butter) and bacon grease.  To that I have added a tablespoon of butter flavored popcorn oil.

Then I top it off with vegetable oil so that I have one cup of fat.

To this I will add 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour.  Do not pack the flour and try to measure exactly.  It makes a difference.  If you don’t scrape the flour off the top for perfectly measured cups, you can have either lumps or oil separating from your flour after cooking which no one likes.

And here is the raw mixture of oil and flour whisked together.  It takes about 12-15 minutes (depending on the power of your microwave) to cook this so you will want to wait until your stock is ready before you start cooking the roux.

Now for our aromatics.  What you see above are what’s called the Holy Trinity “and the pope” flavor components of Cajun cuisine.  Garlic is “the pope” as it’s not always used.  For the holy trinity itself we have orange bell pepper (which I used for color as well as flavor), white onion, and celery.  The garlic I will mince up before using.

Here’s my chicken and shrimp stock drained and ready for use.  That’s REAL stock.  You can buy cartons of stock but I prefer to make my own.  The difference in flavor of the final product is very telling.  We will use about 2 quarts of stock here.

And here I have about 1 lb of crawfish tails.  I love these things passionately so it will be my most plentiful ingredient.

Sliced Andouille sausage is next.  I have about 8 oz there.

8 oz each of shrimp (cut into pieces) and bay scallops.  Also not shown here is 1/2 lb of canned crab meat which I add toward the end of cooking.

And here I have started the roux which is the base and thickener of Cajun sauces adapted from classic French cooking.  After 6 minutes you can see that the mixture is now a medium brown color.

Two words of caution here.  You MUST use pyrex glass here.  Normal glass will likely break from the extreme heat generated from our oil and a plastic measuring cup is absolutely out of the question as it will melt and burn with the hot oil.  The other point is once you start this – watch it carefully.  If there is any moisture in your flour, the mixture will bubble over the top as steam starts to expand from the flour.  And keep a paper towel under the cup in case this DOES happen and you aren’t fast enough to catch it.  It will save some time in cleanup.

Beyond the 6 minutes, you will want to go about a minute at a time between stirring and when it gets even darker, stir every 30 seconds.  The darker the roux gets, the less thickening power it has which is why I started with a whole cup of oil with 1.5 cups of flour.  Any less and at least in my humble opinion, the gumbo will be too thin.  Here we have the roux the color I like it.  A muddy chocolate brown.

I add the roux to a large pot on low heat and add my vegetables.  Stir this well.  It will immediately thicken the roux and form a hash.  This is normal.  The vegetables should hiss upon contact with the hot roux and start to cook.  This is when we start adding our stock a little at a time.

You will want to whisk the stock and the roux together well, adding a little stock at a time and mixing well with the whisk before adding more stock.  It is after this that I will cover the pot and simmer this for about 25 minutes.

Above you can see I have added all my meats and 2 tablespoons of filé powder which you can get at any grocer.  Filé powder is made from the dried and ground leaves of the North American Sassafras tree.  It is both a thickener and adds flavor.  It is at this point that I will also add 1/4 – 1/3 cup of fish sauce (instead of salt) and about 1/4 cup of Cajun seasonings.  The last meat I put in (not shown here) is 1 lb of lump crabmeat because its already cooked and doesn’t stand up well to lots of stirring (flakes apart).  I then cover and simmer this for another 5-10 minutes and then it is ready to serve.

Gumbo is traditionally served with rice.  Often as little as a tablespoon full or as much as you like.  Most people will use a long grain rice here and you will hear Uncle Ben’s mentioned a lot by Cajun cooks.  Traditionally a poor man’s food, the gumbo makes large, cheap plates of rice more palatable for filling bellies.  I like using my Japanese Koshihikari rice as it sticks together well for presentation but comes apart easily when spooned out with the hot gravy.  This dish is reminiscnent of Japanese Kare Raisu (curried rice).

Ladle your gumbo around the rice carefully.  You will note below that I preach better than I practice.

For presentation I wiped the rim of the bowl here.  A professional would plate this such that the rice looks pristine white surrounded by the gravy.  This is where my status as a hobbyist and not a professional comes through.  But I cook mainly for taste and I can tell you the flavor of this dish is absolutely fantastic despite any shortcomings in appearance.

This is traditionally a stew but bursting with flavors.  A real “stick to your ribs” kind of meal.

And here is the recipe:

Cajun Seafood Gumbo (serves 8-10 as a main course)


  • 2 dry measure cups of uncooked rice (chef’s choice)
  • 1 lb crawfish tails (precooked is fine if you can’t get fresh)
  • 1/2 lb sliced Andouille beef sausage
  • 1/2 lb peeled, cleaned and deveined shrimp
  • 1/2 lb bay scallops
  • 1/2 lb lump crabmeat
  • 1/2 bell pepper minced
  • 1/2 large (or 1 whole medium) white onion minced
  • 2 whole celery ribs minced
  • 5 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 Tbs filé powder
  • 1/4 cup Cajun seasoning
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce (to taste)
  • 2 quarts of your favorite stock or broth (or you can use my recipe)
  • 1 cup of some kind of oil (feel free to get creative here as I did in my example above)
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Stock (if using my recipe)

  • 1 lb shrimp shells
  • 1/2 or a whole previously cooked chicken carcass stripped of most meat
  • 3 bay leaves broken
  • 6 sage leaves bruised and scored
  • 3 whole sprigs thyme
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • Sufficient water to mostly fill a 4 quart stock pot.


  • Simmer the stock covered for 80 minutes (if using my stock recipe) before doing anything else
  • Mix the oil and flour (hereafter referred to as the roux) in a 1 litre or larger Pyrex glass bowl or measuring cup
  • Microwave the roux for 6 minutes and watch it carefully.  If it starts to bubble towards the top of the glass, stop the microwave and stir the mixture.  As the roux cooks and the moisture in the flour evaporates, this will be less and less likely to happen (bubbling over).  Stir well at the end of 6 minutes.
  • Continue microwaving the roux for 2 more minutes, again watching carefully.  The roux will start to darken.  Stir well.
  • Continue microwaving the roux now for 30 second intervals watching the color of it very carefully and stirring in between.  You want a brown to dark brown color depending on your tastes.  The darker the roux gets the more character the flavor has but the less thickening capability it will have.
  • When the roux reaches the desired color, pour it into a large pot and put on the stove at medium heat.
  • Add all the vegetables and stir well, cooking the veggies in the thickening roux.
  • After about 30 seconds, slowly start adding the stock, whisking it into the roux well.
  • After all the stock has been mixed in, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
  • While the stew simmers, cook whatever rice you plan to use with the meal.
  • After the simmer, add all the meats and stir well.
  • Add the fish sauce and Cajun seasonings and stir well.
  • Add the filé powder and stir well.
  • Simmer for 8-10 more minutes.  Feel free to taste and add hot pepper to the gumbo at this stage if you want it spicier.
  • Add the crab meat and gently fold in.
  • Form the rice into small mounds in the center of your serving bowls.
  • Carefully ladle the gumbo around the rice.
  • Serve.



Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice

This is just about one of my favorite fried rice dishes.  And three months ago I had never heard of it.  I went into a Malaysian/Thai restaurant I go to now and then and saw this on the menu.  They had three “salted fish” dishes and this one was recommended by our waiter so I ordered it.  And I was amazed at how delicious and simple it was.  Nothing haute cuisine-ish.  Just delicious taste without being fishy.  So I set out to duplicate this at home since I loved it so much.  I spent weeks researching ingredients and testing things.  And I will tell you I made some dreadful mistakes.  What you see here is the correct recipe with the bugs worked out.

The most important ingredient to mention here is the salted fish.  The dish gets a LOT of flavor from this one ingredient and if you don’t get the right salted fish, it will be a disaster.  Online research was very little help in this area so I had to go out and experiment.

What you see here is the correct ingredient though you might also find it in chunks without the skin.  What I have above is dried, salted Yellow Croaker.  It is the whole fish gutted and then dehydrated.  The meat has the texture of stringy beef jerky and a mellow salty fish taste.  It is not putrid smelling but it does smell like fish.  To use this, you peel the flesh off of the skin which will have (the skin) a firm leathery texture.  After peeling off about a dry measure cup of loose dried meat, you will want to mince it with a sharp knife.

What you see above is your dried, salted fish removed from the skin and minced.  If you can find it without the skin that is fine.  But I love what I have here despite it looking creepy because I know what I have here was made by the staff at this farmers market and therefore fresh and quality controlled.  And when I say it looks creepy – check the image below for what the dried fish looks like flipped over…

So with this ingredient explained and prepared, lets move onto the rest of the pieces.

Here we have day old long grain Jasmine rice cooked in a rice cooker and then refrigerated overnight.  I wet my hands and broke up the clumps into individual grains of rice to make what you see here. You want the grains as separate as possible before frying.

Above I have everything except for the fried rice sauce.  Starting with the oil and going clockwise, we have vegetable oil, thin slices of chicken tenderloins, 3 eggs beaten, minced garlic, cut snow pea pods, scallions and the flower buds from Chinese chives, green romaine lettuce minced into strips, minced salted fish, frozen vegetable mix and finally our rice in the center.

I get my wok burner very hot and preheat my oil.  But before I start cooking after the oil gets hot, I lower this heat to about 20%.

After the heat is lowered, I toss in my garlic and salted fish.  Gently fry these ingredients.  If you start smelling anything burning, drastically reduce the heat.  This dish is ruined if you burn any part of it.  In making this, my blast furnace of a wok burner is actually a handicap.  I had to be very careful here.  After you fry the fish and garlic for 20 seconds, move them aside and add the eggs and scramble them.

After the eggs are scrambled, add your chicken and start stirring well.  keep the food moving to avoid burning anything.  After this, I add my scallions and chive buds and snow pea pods.  Get the pods coated well with oil.

After the pea pods cook for about 15 seconds, add the rice.  Turn up the burner to about 30-40% and keep cooking.  Again if you even smell the hint of burning, back the heat off.  Dump in the frozen vegetables and the romaine lettuce.  You may be asking yourself what the romaine lettuce is for.  The salted fish is dry.  Mixing this food around here, the romaine will give up its moisture and help steam the fish.  It will make it a little softer so it’s not so much like beef jerky and the romaine also helps keep the moisture well balanced within the rice.  It seems strange but trust me, it works!

Carefully add the fried rice sauce, pouring in a spiral and mix well.  After another 45 seconds or so, remove the wok from the heat.

Move the rice to a large serving bowl.

Once again, without any ceremony or rituals my son does the taste test for me.  He likes this as much as I do.

And here is mine with hot peppers and fish sauce added to season.  I am so happy I was able to reverse engineer this dish to find out what was in it and make it myself.  This is not an especially sweet dish – mostly savory.  And unless you add hot peppers, it’s very mild too.  But what it lacks in peppery heat it more than makes of for in flavor!  Despite being full of salted fish, it does NOT have a fishy flavor at all.  Even people with an aversion to seafood flavors will be able to handle this dish.

Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice (serves 6-8 as a main course)


  • 4 dry measure cups of uncooked Jasmine long grain rice
  • 3/4 lb thin chicken filets cut into strips
  • 1 dry measure cup minced salted dried fish
  • 5 garlic cloves minced
  • 3 large eggs beaten
  • 1 cup snow pea pods cut in half
  • 1 cup scallions
  • 3 tablespoons chinese chive flower buds (optional)
  • 1/2 cup romain lettuce greens minced into small strips
  • 3/4 cup frozen mixed vegetables
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil


  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 3 tablespoons water


  • Cook the 4 cups of Jasmine rice the day before and refrigerate overnight
  • Wet hands and break the rice into individual grains.
  • Mix the sauce ingredients in a small bowl well
  • Heat the vegetable oil over high heat in a wok.
  • When the oil starts to smoke, lower the heat by 70% and add the garlic and dried fish.
  • Fry gently, stirring carefully as not to break up the pieces of fish.
  • Move the garlic and fish up the side of the wok some and pour in the eggs
  • Scramble the eggs
  • Add the chicken and stir well with the other ingredients until the chicken starts turning opaque.
  • Add the snow pea pods and stir, frying gently.
  • Add the chive buds and scallions.  Stir well.
  • Increase the heat to 40%
  • Add the rice and if needed, add a little more oil to the center of the wok.  Stir well.
  • Add the frozen vegetables and the lettuce strips and mix well.
  • Pour in the fried rice sauce carefully in a spiral and stir well.
  • Cook another 45 seconds and remove from heat.
  • Put into a large bowl and serve.
  • Provide chopped peppers and fish sauce as desired.




Mediterranean Grilled Octopus

This is one of those dishes whose end product is often used in ANOTHER dish. You can eat this as it is after it is grilled or chill it and use it in a salad, soup or fried rice.  It is not an overly flavorful dish which is a good thing.  Most people who have never tried octopus think it is a very fishy tasting dish.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Octopus has its own flavor which is delicate and rich.

I like to get my octopus fresh at a local farmers market.  For this recipe I bought two octopi under 2 lbs in weight each. Mine were already cleaned (beaks and guts removed) such that everything I was given was edible.  The meat is very limp and pliable raw.  But even in sushi preparations octopus is never served raw.  So before we can grill it, the octopus must be simmered for over an hour.  I have about 3 lbs of octopus here so I will simmer mine for about 3 hours covered on low heat.

You want to pour in enough water to completely cover the octopus. Then add 1 cup red wine vinegar, your herbs, salt and pepper.  It looks rather flat here because it is still raw.

Ok, so here I have added some thyme sprigs, bay leaves, a little culantro, garlic, sage and parsley.  I also added a teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper and 2 tablespoons of salt.

Here I have also added one lemon half which I squeezed into the water and will stew with the meat and herbs.  Now that the water is hot, the octopus balls up and the flesh starts to get firm.  At this point the meat is completely inedible because it’s like rubber.  It is at this point that I cover it and lower the heat and cook oil the meat is tender.  After 90 minutes I flip the octopi over so that the bottoms cook some as well.  The herbs will lend some flavor but even if you overdo it with one or more herbs it won’t overpower the flavor of the octopus.  Trust me.

Have a large bowl or bucket with ice water (mostly ice) in sufficient quantity to submerge the octopi in.  When you remove them from the simmering herb water and vinegar, plunge them into the ice bath and stir.  Move them around preiodically in the ice bath but leave them in there for 20 minutes.  The action of the vinegar in the simmer and the sudden freezing water will make the flesh so tender you can literally pinch the tentacles off with your fingers.  In the above pictire, the octopi are cooked, shocked and drained.  Discard the water and cooked herbs as there isn’t really anything you can use that for.  That broth will be too bitter to be palatable.

And here I have the cooked octopus brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt.  Very exotic looking indeed!  At this point I’ll carve the meat up into sections ending in tentacles.  You do not want pieces too thick and if they are, trim them even if you have sections without tentacles attached.  You want 1″ or less thickness for the flesh here.

I sprinkled some more coarse kosher salt on the oiled tentacles before putting them on the fire.  The charcoal sear on this gives it a delicious flavor.  I dare confess after the meat comes off the grill, it will be at it’s absolute peak flavor.  If you store it to use it in something else it will be very tasty but it will slightly less flavorful than it was when it first came off the fire. There is no way around this but it is still wonderful in a soup or salad, cut up in fried rice or even minced as a cold topping for canapé hors’deuvres.  I will grill it here for 12-15 minutes, turning every couple of minutes to get a good flame grilled flavor on all sides.

And the first batch is served.  You’ll note the paper plate in the background where I sliced off a piece to taste it first.  Wonderful mediterranean flavor! As the chef you have to do this 😉  I like this chilled in a salad as well with chopped red onions and radish slices along with a crisp romaine lettuce and a light Greek dressing (I’ll include a little fish sauce in the dressing for an umami punch).  If you do use it in a salad, cut the meat up further into small bite sized pieces.

Here is the recipe.

Mediterranean Grilled Octopus (serves 4-6)


  • 2 octopus cleaned and eviscerated (under 2 lbs each)
  • Enough water to cover the octopus in a stock pot.
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 6 garlic cloves cut in half
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 culantro leaves shredded
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley
  • 6 sage leaves scored
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon cut in half with one half cut into wedges for serving.
  • 1 scallion (save for garnish at the end – do not add to the pot).
  • 1 bowl or bucket of ice water sufficient to submerge both octopi in after cooking.


  • Place the octopus in a stock pot that has a lid.
  • Cover the octopus with water with 2-3″ water above the octopus
  • Add all herbs, garlic, salt, pepper and red wine vinegar
  • Squeeze the lemon juice into the water and drop the lemon half into the pot as well.
  • Heat to boiling.
  • Cover and lower the heat to barely a simmer.
  • Cook for 3 hours or more.
  • Test the meat with a sharp knife for doneness.  The meat should not be very rubbery.
  • Drain the octopus and plunge into the ice bath.
  • Stir the octopi occasionally in the ice bath.
  • After 20 minutes in the ice, drain and cut the octopus into slices not more than 1″ thick.  But keep tentacles intact.
  • Brush the octopus generously with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.
  • Grill over high heat for 12-15 minutes, turning frequently until well seared on all sides.
  • Serve with lemon wedges and top with chopped scallions.



Escargot with Pernod and Garlic Butter

This dish is one of my personal favorites.  It is meant to be an appetizer both because the way it is served there is not much volume to it and it really gets the appetite going with its intense flavors.  That and if you eat enough to make a meal out of it you’ll end up eating a day’s worth of calories in one sitting.  This is a dish I share with my younger son who shares my adventurous palette.  It is my hope that when he moves out on his own he will love to cook as much as I do and start his epicurean journey at a much younger age than I.

Ok so this dish requires starting two days in advance.  The first thing I do is get the snails in a bath of baking soda salt and cold water overnight.

It doesn’t matter where you get your snails but I can tell you that if you buy them alive they are a LOT more work.  I like getting mine already stripped and cleaned.  Your best source of these will be a good farmers market.

After sitting in the alkaline bath overnight, you will want to rinse the snails completely and then put them in a bath of court bullion (basically white wine and chicken broth).

Here is mine already in with some simple chicken broth and as usual, I buy my cooking wine in small bottles to avoid spoilage.  I then cover them and let then sit for another day or two.  After putting these in the fridge, I immediately start making my escargot butter.

Here I have some european style butter.  Plugra works very well for this if you can get some.  Most grocery stores will have it.  Let the butter soften for most of the day.  If it is still too firm, you can microwave it a little to get it even softer but do not melt it into a liquid.  My own mix has two blocks of French butter and one block of Plugra.  Now most of the butter I buy is unsalted for cooking use.  I do not recommend you do that here because getting the salt measured right, dissolved and thoroughly blended can be trying.  Besides, the salted butter has just the right amount of salt in it for this purpose.

For seasoning I only use whole black peppercorns that I grind at the time I plan to use them.  Don’t use pre ground pepper.

And here I have some fresh green peppercorns for the same purpose.

And here they are ready to be ground up.

Freshly ground black and green peppercorns.  The aroma is wonderful but only take in ambient scents. If you smell this directly you will be sneezing profusely about the place.

In goes the pepper!

A half cup of olive oil for more flavor.

2/3 cup of Pernod Anise liquor goes in.  Not too much but I have found anything less than 2/3 cup and you won’t even notice it which would be a shame.

The pepper, oil and Pernod are blended in.

And here I have fresh shallots and garlic chopped for blending.  Also not shown and I must apologize for that, are two dry measure cups of chopped fresh, washed parsley with stems removed.

And here is the final product.  Beautiful green specked garlic butter with delicate licorice notes.  You will want to scoop this out into containers and refrigerate it.  It will be easier to work with that way.  If you will be storing it for a while, you will want to freeze it.

On the day you plan to cook the snails, go ahead and place fresh spinach leaves into the snail divots.  Use 2-3 stemless leaves per divot depending on the size of the leaves.  Make little nests.

When you remove the snails from the court bullion, do not rinse them.  Just pour out the court bullion and place the snails into the spinach beds in your escargot dishes.

And here is our escargot butter refrigerated and ready to measure.  Note that this container was my overflow bin.  I made so much it would not all fit in a 24 oz container.  Using a table knife I slice out only as much as I need.

Snails are all snug in their spinach beds.  The spinach will not overpower the flavor and adds a bit of character to the appetizer.

I put about 1 tablespoon of my compound butter in each divot atop the snails.

The dish is then finished with a generous 5 fingertip pinch of freshly microplane grated Parmesano Reggiano cheese. You do not want to use pre grated here.  The difference in flavor is stark if you don’t.

Bake them at 450 degrees in a preheated oven for 15 minutes.  When they are ready, serve them with a couple of slices of toasted French bread to soak up the butter left in the divots.  You do NOT want to waste that!

My son gives it a taste.  He absolutely loves this dish and the smell of this dish when it cooks is unmistakable.  I don’t care where he is in the house, he drifts in like a cartoon character floating on aromas.

Bon Apetit!!

This is a great brunch food and really brings the family together on a cold day.  You can serve it with soup or a salad if you want.  I like serving it with some kind of open face sandwich.  Whatever you decide to do, I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do.

Without further ado, here is the recipe.

Pernod Butter Escargot (serves 1-2)


  • 12 large or jumbo helix snails cleaned and purged
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 24-36 medium to large spinach leaves
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Compound Butter

  • 24 oz salted european style butter or Plugra.
  • 2/3 cup Pernod anise liquer.
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin love oil.
  • 1 Tbs fresh ground black peppercorns.
  • 1 Tbs fresh ground green peppercorns (use 2 Tbs black if you do not have green.
  • 2 cups chopped, fresh parsley with stems removed.
  • 12-15 garlic cloves chopped.
  • 3 large shallots chopped.


  • Rinse snails well.
  • Mix the salt and baking soda with the water and add the snails.  Store in refrigerator overnight in a covered, air tight container.
  • Rinse snails thoroughly the morning after the baking soda soak.
  • Mix the white wine and chicken stock (court bullion).
  • Place snails in the court bullion in a covered, air tight container and refrigerate for 1-2 days.
  • Put softened butter into a food processor and blend to soften further.
  • Add ground pepper, garlic and shallots and blend well.
  • Add olive oil and Pernod and blend well.
  • Add chopper parsley and blend well.
  • Remove compound butter from the food processor and put into our tight plastic containers and refrigerate.
  • On the day you plan to eat, remove the snails and the compound butter from the refrigerator.
  • Drain the snails.
  • In two 6 divot escargot dishes, arrange stemless spinach leaves to form a nest in each divot.
  • Put one snail in each spinach nested divot.
  • Put 1 tablespoon of escargot butter atop each snail in the divots.
  • Put a generous 5 fingertip pinch of fresh ground Parmesan cheese in each divot as topping.
  • Bake both escargot crocks in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.
  • Serve with hot toasted french bread slices for soaking up the left over butter in the divots.






Kung Pao Chicken

This is a common dish in any Chinese restaurant.  It was my favorite Chinese dish as a teenager.  As a child, the only Chinese dish I ever tasted was sweet and sour chicken because my mother and father loved it.  As I got older I realized there was far better cuisine to be had.  And in addition to being my first favorite, this dish is still the favorite Chinese dish of a dear childhood friend of mine, Mark Mason.  Mark I am dedicating this post to you!  Mark found this small hole in the wall Chinese restaurant near the University of Maryland when he was a student there that had the BEST Kung Pao Chicken!  I can vouch to this having tasted it myself.  He would stop in this place several times a week to eat, so bad was his craving for Kung Pao Chicken.  Mark still makes pilgrimages to this place now and then even today.

What I am going to present here is the Kung Pao Chicken you will find in a Chinese restaurant in the United States.  The way this dish is made in China is different and that type will not be treated here.  Four ingredients are common to any Kung Pao recipe.  Peanuts, chopped celery, hot peppers (dried or fresh) and onions. The rest of the ingredients will vary.


As with almost any Asian dish – we make our rice first.  I am making 3 cups here because there will be 4 of us eating it.  Ok, so on with the ingredients. One of the most important parts to good Kung Pao dishes are the peanuts.  Because this is a central ingredient we do not want to skimp on quality.  Do NOT buy peanuts that are already salted or roasted.  Especially not salted.  If you have to settle for roasted that is fine but no salt.  But if you can find them, unsalted raw peanuts are far and away the best.


I get my peanuts from the agricultural department at Mississippi State University (I am partial to them because my oldest son is a student there). These are very high quality peanuts  that literally go from the farm to the market and are frozen on the same day they are harvested and shelled.  I have to say I am very pleased with them.  You get flavor and crunch with such a superior product.  The texture of the peanuts are paramount to good Kung Pao!  They will be cooked and pick up their flavor when roasted in the oil with the garlic.


For my example dish here, the ingredients starting from the top right and going clockwise in a circle are:  Peanut oil, chopped celery, 1 quartered medium onion, Kung Pao sauce (recipe below), raw peanuts, chili peppers, raw chicken cut to bite sized pieces, minced garlic and chopped carrots.

There are two common ingredients found in Kung Pao Chicken I did not use here.  Mushrooms and bell peppers.  Now I like mushrooms but unfortunately the other people eating this – my wife and two younger kids – don’t.  So it is omitted for this demonstration.  And while you will find bell peppers often in restaurant Kung Pao dishes too, in my humble opinion bell peppers are one of the most overused vegetables in Chinese and Thai cuisines.  It’s like a cheap filler to boost profits.  Take out expensive meats, put in cheap bell peppers.  Don’t get me wrong, I love bell peppers raw.  But cooked, you can taste them every time you burp for DAYS so I don’t like them in my stir fry.  But if you like bell peppers yourself by all means indulge yourself.

Now I have said in many other posts on Asian dishes that you must have extremely high heat.  I will say that it makes a much better tasting dish that gives that wok hei, or breath of the dragon taste.  That slight char flavor that many Chinese dishes are known for.  But I will not sit here and tell you it is a requirement.  You can make a delicious Kung Pao Chicken on your stove in a skillet.


With me, since I have the tools, I fire up my mighty wok burner and set my 18″ wok on it.


After getting the wok and oil very hot, my carrots go in.  They need a little bit longer than the other ingredients to get tender.  Because of the high heat, this whole meal will be done in under 2 minutes and 30 seconds.


I add my chicken and peanuts next.  In the time it takes the chicken to become opaque, the peanuts will more than roast enough in that hot oil.  Look at that smoke – that’s giving us some good flavor.


All the ingredients are added next except for the sauce.  I cook everything here for another 35-45 seconds.  But with the sauce. that gets stirred in quickly and gets thick within seconds because of the starch right before we finish.


And here it is in my serving bowl with sauce and still piping hot.  One secret with the sauce.  Kung Pao sauce – while spicy – is not supposed to have an overpowering flavor.  The taste comes from the peppers, celery and peanuts before the meat.  You want a milder sweet and savory flavor so you will note I dilute mine below.  Most of the flavor in the sauce comes from soy sauce and sugar.  This is a wonderful versatile meal with a very broad appeal.


Here is my own dish plated.  You’ll note I have piled on the sliced chili peppers.  That’s why I used my own dish as the example because my family’s plates are all absent of peppers which makes them technically NOT Kung Pao at all.  But all plates were empty after dinner so I did my job.  Mark, I was thinking of you while we ate this, buddy!  If you try this recipe I’d love your thoughts.


Kung Pao Chicken (serves 4-6)


  • 4 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 lb chicken breasts or tenderloins sliced into bite sized pieces.
  • 2 cups shelled raw peanuts
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced celery
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 medium onion quartered.
  • 1 cup mushrooms sliced.
  • 4-5 cloves garlic pulped and minced.
  • dried or fresh hot chili peppers to taste.
  • 1/16 tsp Chinese white pepper (optional)

Kung Pao Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons corn starch.
  • 1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar (to taste)
  • 3/4 cup cold water


  • Mix the corn starch and water very thoroughly.
  • Add the starch and water slurry to the remaining sauce ingredients and stir well.
  • Heat the peanut oil to smoking in a wok or skillet.
  • Add the carrots and cook for 20 seconds in a wok or slightly longer in  skillet.
  • Add the chicken and peanuts and stir to coat with oil.  Cook for 25-30 seconds in a wok or until chicken is opaque.
  • Add garlic and stir well for 10 seconds.
  • Add onions, celery and mushrooms and stir well.  Cook another 35-45 seconds.
  • Add the hot chilis now unless you have people that will not be eating it.
  • Mix the sauce again with a whisk while pouring into the wok or skillet.
  • Stir well and cook for another 30 seconds until sauce is bubbling.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Serve with fresh steamed white rice.

Thank you!




Squid Ink Linguine with White Clam Sauce

I recently came into possession of my latest cooking implement.  I won’t retroactively add this to my tools post but will make this both a fundamentals and recipe post.  First on the tool itself.

This is a Phillips pasta maker.  As far as I know there are two different models.  This one is the better of the two because it includes a built in scale.  The scale makes things ever so easy because all you have to do is pour in your flour and let the machine weigh it – and then ask it how much liquid to add.  It’s that simple.

For years I have seen pasta kits that include some cute crank device to cut your noodles after you mix the flour and egg, knead the dough, let it rest, flatten it with a rolling pin and then run it through the device a couple times before screwing in the cutting attachment.  I don’t know about you but by the time I got done with all that, my family is already burping and asking what’s for dessert.  I like convenience.

Ok, so first lets talk about the pasta.  One of my absolute favorite dishes is Linguine and Clam Sauce.  I first had this as a teenager and have loved it ever since, putting my own tweaks on it when I started making it myself until I developed the sauce which I have provided the recipe for at the end of this post.  Now I have had it with marinara and while good – my heart is forever embedded in the white.

Linguine Vongole Bianco.

That sprite garlicky taste of the sea with juicy clams and al dente pasta.  Give me a little bread to sop up the liquid and you might not see me for a while.  But if Linguine with Clam Sauce is the darling dish, then Squid Ink Linguine is the dark secret love affair!  It looks as decadent and exotic as it tastes.


The ingredients for the pasta itself couldn’t be simpler.  From left to right above – imported Spanish squid ink (which does impart some flavor!), semolina pasta flour, an egg and all purpose flour.  Mixing these in the right proportions is all that is required to make pasta noodles.  This machine makes this ridiculously easy.  Add the dry ingredients first to the hopper in the machine.


Here I have mixed one egg with a round tablespoon of the squid ink which has the consistency of fruit jam when you spoon the stuff out.  If you buy the squid ink online like I did – you will want to take the jar and spoon its contents into an ice tray and freeze it.  17.6 oz of squid ink will spoil once you open it unless you make this stuff every day.  I have found that one standard ice cube of this squid ink is enough to make 1 lb of pasta.

After the machine weighs the flour it tells you exactly what to add as far as wet ingredients go.  For the above I had to add a little water to reach that amount.  The maker comes with a graduated cylinder to measure the wet ingredients.

Then you start the pasta machine and it starts mixing the flour.  Pour the wet ingredients into the slot on the lid and for 3 minutes it will knead the dough.  After that, the pasta starts to extrude.


Silky noodles of ebony linguine with the smell of the salty beach start to come out.


The pasta is as beautiful as it is flavorful.  A celebration of the ocean’s treasures on the mouth and while it is extruding from the machine, a feast for the eyes and nose as well.


In just a few minutes I have just under 1 lb of artisanal pasta.  Seriously – I ask you, please tell me where you find pasta like this that isn’t dry, odorless and tasteless.  Unless you spend a lot of money or know a La Trattoria that also has a deli counter, it isn’t going to happen.  When my wife and I used to visit her parents when they lived in New Jersey, my mother in law would get the most delectable, freshly made cheese ravioli at an Italian deli and make my family a supper to die for.  My oldest son STILL raves about her gravy with that ravioli.  But even those places do not make squid ink pasta.


For the sauce, there are multiple schools of thought.  You can really impress your guests by going to a fish monger and coming out with a 10 lb bag of live clams and set to scrubbing them and shucking some and I would applaud you if you did.  Indeed the grandeur of your table would certainly benefit from it.  But for this particular dish and my recipe – I will confess I cheat.  And with amazing results.  But I will have to issue some caveats if you decide to do what I did.  Above I have frozen clams.  I also use canned clams along with these.


I also use concentrated clam broth for added flavor.  Believe it or not, it does make a difference and I would rather use that than add salt.


My recipe will make a LOT of clam sauce.  What you see above is one serving ready for dishing out on top of the pasta.  The recipe for the sauce is at the bottom of this article.


6 minutes of boiling and our fresh pasta is perfectly al dente.


As an added flavor booster I like to add salmon roe to the completed dish.  Stirred into the pasta after serving, the eggs pop when chewed and give a very pleasant seafood kick to the overall meal.


And the dish plated.  At this point I’ll toss the pasta, roe and clams and dig in.  This is truly one of my all time favorite dishes and one my kids adore as well.  Definitely one of those heirloom dishes that get passed down from generation to generation (I hope).  This one started with me 😉

Below is my recipe for the clam sauce.  I didn’t include the recipe for the pasta only because I have a pasta maker.  But using the post above you can see what I did.  I used a 70-30 mix of semolina to all purpose flour.

Don’s White Clam Sauce (serves 8-10 with pasta)


  • One 16 oz container frozen clams thawed.
  • Two 10 oz cans whole baby clams (and juice).
  • Two 6.5 oz cans chopped clams (and juice).
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped flat leaf parsley leaves.
  • 6-10 (to taste) cloves garlic minced.
  • 3 cloves garlic thin sliced with a mandolin (optional).
  • 3-4 tablespoons arrow root (recommended) or corn starch.
  • 1 tablespoon concentrated clam broth (optional but recommended).
  • 1 tsp fish sauce (optional but recommended).
  • 1 tablespoon of salmon roe per dinner guest (optional but recommended).
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine.
  • 1/2 cup olive oil.


  • Heat the olive oil in a pan.
  • Add the chopped parsley to the olive oil and heat for 10 seconds, stirring.
  • Add the mandolin sliced garlic and half the minced garlic.  Cook for about 30 seconds.
  • Pour in all the clams and juice from the cans (do NOT add the frozen clams at this stage).
  • Pour in the white wine and stir well.
  • Add the fish sauce and clam concentrate and mix well.
  • Simmer the mix for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Mix the arrow root or corn starch with a small amount of cold water very well and add it to the sauce in the pan.  Stir very well – use a whisk if you have one.  I prefer arrow root because it has no flavor and thickens the sauce without making it cloudy. You have a thicker, clear clam sauce.
  • Add the remaining garlic.
  • Stir and simmer another minute
  • Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for ten minutes. This is VERY important.
  • After 10 minutes, stir in the thawed frozen clams. Do not do this too soon – if the sauce is still boiling the frozen clams will be VERY tough.
  • Serve over fresh cooked pasta.
  • Garnish each dish with a tablespoon of salmon roe.
  • Save leftover sauce in a sealed container and refrigerate for use later.  When reheating the sauce, heat only to room temp.  Do not heat to boiling.  Let the heat from your pasta warm the leftover sauce up the rest of the way.

Thank you!


Salt and Pepper Squid

This is a truly spectacular dish and is one of my top 5 favorite Chinese dishes.  Yes its preparation shares much with that of Salt and Pepper Shrimp.  But there are a few differences and the flavor profile – at least in my humble opinion – is superior with the squid.  I made this last weekend for my family and some close friends and there were no leftovers to be had.  I will share a lot of minute details with you on making this dish to minimize errors and really get this restaurant quality.  If you ever go into any remotely ethnic Chinese restaurant you will see this dish on the menu.  And as I mentioned in the shrimp recipe, you will need very high heat (in excess of 600 degrees F) to properly cook it.  I’ll go into more detail below.

The first thing we want is to start our rice.


I am cooking for 6 people here so I am steaming 4 cups (uncooked) of Japanese Koshihikari rice.  I am using the umami setting which, with this particular model of rice cooker, will mean most of the cooking time will be under pressure.  As you can see, I have 81 minutes before the rice is ready so we have plenty of time here.


Our dredge will be the first thing I make.  Since I have two lbs of fresh squid here (you can use previously frozen squid and thaw it – it won’t affect the flavor profile) I want to be sure I make enough dredge.  Above I have white, green and schichuan peppercorns.  White are in the spice grinder I have at the top, the green in the lower right and Schichuan peppercorns in the lower left.  Not seen are black peppercorns which I also include.  The schichuan peppercorns in the lower left there are an interesting spice so I will go into some detail here.

Schichuan peppercorns or ash berries as they are sometimes called are the husk of a seed of a plant referred to as Chinese coriander.  Oddly enough the seed is normally discarded and it is the husk that is desired for Schichuan cuisine.  If you ever eat one of these husks raw (as I had my guests do) you will notice it tends to numb the taste buds and even make them tingle after a while.  But mixed with other spices, this seasoning is amazing.  I realize it can be hard to find but it is worth the effort.  While it won’t ruin your dish if you don’t have it, you will notice a difference.


So here I have mixed my spices including salt, msg, rice flour, corn starch and the peppercorns well ground.  You will want to mix these dry spices well.  I only put a little dredge in my dredge bowl at a time as unlike egg wash based frying you will not use up lots of your spice dredge as you coat your meats with it.  In fact you will have leftovers that you can save for use later if you want.  So I’ll add about 2/3 cup of powder at a time to my bowl and mix with the meat.  If you have not done so you will want to clean your squid.  With that I bought, most of that work was done and all I had to do was cut the tubes into rings.


And here I have tossed in a bunch of paper towel dried rings and will stir and shake this around some.  The rings are a little tacky and will make only as much dredge as we actually need stick to their surface.  Be sure and shake off excess or you will end up with a bunch of sediment in your oil after cooking which will need to be filtered out if you want to re-use the oil.


And here we see some rings covered with our spice mixture.  Notice that even with the peppercorns, the dredge is still mostly white.


And here we have 2 lbs coated and separated and ready to fry.  Note that I have the tentacles nicely coated in here too.  I love them not only for their texture and flavor but their appearance adds an exotic element to the presentation of the dish as well.


Before cooking we want to get the oil as hot as possible.  I have about 2-2.5 cups of peanut oil here so I will heat this for about two and a half minutes on full blast from my wok burner.  You want the oil extremely hot.  If you look at the flames above, they are going almost up to the top on all sides.  The oil will heat fast.


I will say this now – this dish is impossible to cook on an indoor stove.  You will not get the oil hot enough on a stove with a 50,000 BTU or less burner.  The coating will be soggy and the squid will be like rubber.  Because even if you do get the oil to 600 degrees, the squid will cool the oil too fast and it will take a weaker stove too long to get the oil back up to temp preventing the seasoned dredge from crisping up.

I was watching Andrew Zimmern yesterday on a rerun of Bizarre Foods and he was doing a special on cuisine in Mississippi, focusing on Delta foods.  He ate with a Chinese American family in Mississippi that were making some Chinese, Mississippi Delta fusion dishes on a burner like mine with their wok outside.  And Andrew said “If this doesn’t make you want to get an outdoor wok burner, I don’t know what will!”  I could not agree more!  One thing that was very striking to me was watching a very Chinese looking woman talk about her heritage cuisine with a very Southern Mississippi drawl.  To see it yourself, look on this Travel Channel episode recap.  This has a special place in my heart because my older son is a student at Mississippi State University.  Again, for less than $100 you can have a wok burner like this and make the same kinds of cuisine.


When you drop the squid into the oil it should bubble furiously as mine is above.  It took me about three batches fried separately to cook all the squid.


And here I let it cook for about 75 seconds.  You want the outside to be a light golden color (not brown) when you remove the squid.  Have a bowl lined with paper towels standing by for this.


You will want to have a large slitted spoon or screen scoop with which to quickly remove the squid from the hot oil.  Let the oil sit for about ten seconds each time before adding subsequent batches.  Special thanks goes to my friend Lesley Litt for taking the pictures while I fried these.  Your help was much appreciated and I am glad you enjoyed the squid with us!


What the extreme heat does is makes a slightly crispy, seasoned crust on the outside of the squid pieces that makes them absolutely delectable.


After all the squid has been cooked, I empty almost all the oil out of the wok (except for maybe 2 tablespoons) and get that oil smoking hot.  Then I put the squid back in and toss in the aromatics.


You want to mix the aromatics and squid well, tossing them around for maximum flavor.


Note how high my burner heat is.  This is essential to this dish.


And at the table it is ready for serving with rice.  I normally like to serve a soup before the squid but did not here.  Note the bowl of hot chili paste above.  Since I did not cook this with hot peppers (I had guests here that could not abide the heat) I used that paste spooned over my squid.


I love taking a piece of squid with some garlic and green onions and eat that and follow it with a clump of plain steamed white rice.  The alternating savory and bland flavors play very well together.


With the chili paste, the dish becomes very spicy-hot.  You will see people eating it this way in Chinese restaurants as well.  The hair on the back of my head will get soaked with sweat as I eat this.  But this dish is truly divine and I consider myself blessed that I can cook it at home as well as it is in a restaurant.


And the inevitable result is above.  You will not have any leftovers of the squid.  In fact, you will probably get (as I did) people asking you if there is any more in the kitchen.  I suppose you could cook a lot and have leftovers.  But if you do, do NOT reheat them in a microwave.  You will want to toast them in the oven at 375 degrees for about 10-12 minutes.  I find that reheating the squid in this way will get it pretty close to the way it was when you scooped it out of the wok.

Without any more pomp and ceremony, here is the recipe.

Salt and Pepper Squid (serves 5-6)


  • 2 lbs squid tubes (or rings) and tentacles (fresh or thawed).
  • 4 cups uncooked white rice.
  • 2-2.5 cups peanut oil.
  • 1 cup rice flour.
  • 3/4 cup corn starch.
  • 4 Tbs finely ground white peppercorns.
  • 1 Tbs finely ground black peppercorns.
  • 1 Tbs finely ground green peppercorns (optional – I added this because I happened to have them but they are not really necessary).
  • 2 tsp finely ground Schichuan peppercorns.
  • 3-4 Tbs fine grained sea salt (to taste – I like using 4 Tbs).
  • 2 tsp monosodium glutamate (gourmet powder) (optional but if you omit it, it will noticeably change the flavor of the dish).
  • 1.5 cups chopped green onions.
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh garlic.
  • 1/4 cup sliced Thai chili peppers (optional).


  • Begin to cook the rice in a rice cooker or in a pot.
  • Cut the squid tubes into rings if necessary.
  • Mix the ground peppercorns, salt and msg into the starch and rice flour mix.
  • Mix the squid pieces into the dredge and toss well to coat each piece.
  • Set dredged squid pieces aside.
  • Preheat your oil in the wok and get it extremely hot.
  • Fry the squid in batches.  I find that 2/3 lb of squid at a time works best.
  • Put each batch into a paper towel lined bowl to drain.
  • When all squid is cooked, dump out most of the oil into a container to save the oil to use again later.
  • Put the cooked squid back into the wok with about 2 Tbs oil.
  • Toss in the green onions, garlic and sliced chilis.
  • Toss the squid with the aromatics and mix well.
  • Place in a paper towel lined bowl and serve with steamed white rice.
  • Provide chili paste as desired.
  • Save leftover dredge in a sealed container and refrigerate for use later.

Thank you!


Pork Congee with Thousand Year Old Egg

This is a rather simple dish that is viewed as a comfort breakfast meal by Chinese people.  As strange as this breakfast will look to most people reading this, congee is is as familiar to even a Chinese immigrant in America as Cream of Wheat is to mainstream Americans.  The list of ingredients for this version of the dish is scant.  The difficulty of preparation is low if the rice is cooked in a pot and nil if you have a rice cooker.

As a base dish, congee is basically rice that’s cooked in a much higher volume of water than one normally would for dinner rice.  It’s basically cream of rice cereal without the cream (though you are certainly entitled to prepare congee with cream and sugar to eat it that way as well).  So if you normally use 1.5 cups of water to 1 cup of dry measure rice, you will use 8 cups of water with congee.  If you cook this in a pot, use that ratio.  If you have a smart rice cooker, it is as simple as choosing the Porridge setting.


The cooker will have measurement lines inside that tell how much water to add for however many cups of rice you have.  Set to porridge and then push the start button.  I prefer to use Japanese rice for my congee but use whatever rice suits your fancy.  There are no rules here.

Now one of the more interesting ingredients to this is the preserved duck egg.  Also known as the thousand year old egg, or century egg or even millennium egg.


You can buy them at most large Asian markets.  They come in a 6 pack and are normally individually wrapped within.  These are duck eggs.  The existence of these eggs comes from a desire to preserve the eggs before the advent of refrigeration in China.  The method of preservation is simple.  The fresh eggs are buried in ash clay and the clay is allowed to harden.  They then coat the outside with straw or grass and the eggs age for 90+ days.  During that time the whites of the eggs turn dark amber and the yolk turns anywhere from grayish yellow to blackish green.  A sort of controlled fermentation takes place.  Freshly peeled, the eggs are usually black or dark brown.


It looks like a stunning onyx jewel of the orient.  And to those that love these, it IS!


Cut in half, you can see that the whites are actually dark amber as I mentioned above.  This particular egg has a black yolk.  The flavor is a lot like a strong European cheese.  The odor is like a ripe cheese with a hint of ammonia.


I have diced up two eggs here and as you can see, one of them has yellow in the yolk while the other is black.  But the color doesn’t seem to affect the flavor much, if at all.


So the dish waits for the porridge to be done cooking before we can continue.


I like to stir fry some Chinese chives but scallions are also popular additions to this cereal.


The rice congee is spooned over the thousand year old egg slices and topped with the stir fried chives.  Then the top layer of rice is gently stirred to mix in the chives.  The next ingredient is one that really intrigued me when I first learned of it.  If you do searches on congee on the web you will see frequent references to “dried pork” but no pictures (at least none that I could ever find).  What they are referring to is below.  It is shredded pork seasoned with soy sauce and sugar that is completely desiccated.  It has the texture of cotton candy but a lot more savory.


The container this pork comes out of is there to the left in the picture above.  Again, a product of your local Asian supermarket.  They come in different darkness levels which equate to varying flavor strengths.  What you see above is about the medium.


And there it is ready to eat.  Note that Congee can be used any way you like.  You can make it cream of rice cereal with the addition of some milk and sugar if you want.  Or eat them like grits.  It is a versatile dish with as many ways to eat it as there are people who do the eating.  My daughter ate the other half of the congee that I prepared in my rice cooker.  She put honey and a tablespoon of cream in hers 😉


So I will provide the rather simple recipe below.  Note that because of the high water content, one cup of precooked rice will make a LOT of congee.

Pork Congee with Thousand Year Old Egg (serves 1-2)

  • 1 cup uncooked rice.
  • 1-2 preserved duck eggs (Century eggs) sliced into wedges.
  • 3 Tbs chopped Chinese chives or scallions.
  • 1 cup dried shredded pork.
  • Fresh ground Chinese white pepper to taste.


  • Cook rice with 8 times the same volume of water or follow directions on your rice cooker for the porridge setting.
  • Arrange century egg pieces in a bowl.
  • Add hot congee to cover the eggs.
  • Top with Chinese chives or scallions and stir a little.
  • Top with dried pork
  • Pepper as needed
  • Serve

Thank you for reading!




Thai Pork Fried Rice

Getting back to the Asian recipes, I am going to show how I make my fried rice.  There are at least a dozen times as many varieties of fried rice as there are countries that make it.  And they all taste very differently from one another and yet there some techniques to cooking that are common to all of them.  The dish I am going to share today is Pork Fried Rice cooked the way it might be in Thailand.  I say might because there are so many ways this dish can be prepared even with that title.  As Chinese Pork Fried Rice is the pork fried rice dish most people are familiar with, it is the one most people use as a reference and indeed will compare this one to.  There will be differences between Chinese pork fried rice and Thai – one big one being the pork is often dyed red and sliced differently in China.  The other being that very fragrant and flavorful Thai basil is present in the Thai version.

The preparation actually starts a day in advance.  I will cook 2 dry measure cups of Jasmine rice in my rice cooker and then allow it to cool, covered.  After that, put it in the refrigerator overnight.  The following day, I will take the rice out, wet my hands and break up the clumps into individual grains of rice.  I choose Jasmine because Japanese rice is a poor choice as it sticks together readily even the next day.  If you go to a Japanese restaurant and you sit at the Hibachi grill, next time you are there look at the rice they give people when they ask for steamed.  It’s probably Nishiki or Calrose medium grain (both low cost Japanese style rices).  But when the chef starts to fry the rice on the grill after he does his egg trick, you will note he has long grain rice he dumps out on the heated surface.  In most of these restaurant they use previously parboiled rice because it separates very easily and they don’t have to mess with the rice as much by hand.  That’s right.  Your favorite Japanese Hibachi joint makes your fried rice with Minute Rice!


Above I have my ingredients, minus the oil, Chinese white pepper and the eggs.  Starting from the rice and working clockwise in a spiral we have precooked, chilled Jasmine rice, my fried rice sauce (recipe below), shrimp powder, chopped red spanish onion, minced garlic, mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, lima beans, corn and green beans), diced pork (butterfly pork chops cut into bite sized pieces), Thai basil and snow pea pods in the center.

Like most dishes I start by firing up my burner and heating up my wok.  I put the burner at about 60% as ultra high heat is not needed here and may even burn the rice.  So for those of you that don’t have wok burners – you can make this dish taste just as good on an indoor stove.   For this recipe I use my 18″ Cantonese wok as this makes a lot of food.   When the oil starts to shimmer with heat, we put in the beaten eggs.


Scramble the eggs just until they are no longer runny and add the pork.


We want to cook the pork until it is white all over.


Add the garlic and onions and stir fry until fragrant.  Even on lower heat, the wok gets very hot as low heat on this burner is still 50,000 BTU.  Lots of steam.


After the pork is cooked, add all the vegetables except the snow pea pods and Thai basil and stir.


I add the snow peas and stir these in.  You want them coated lightly with oil.  The trick here is to flash cook everything.  That is – the outside of the vegetable pieces cook and the inside are still a little raw and full of vitamins.  You want that crispness and fresh flavor.


Now for the most savory ingredient in this dish and one that will clearly distinguish this as being Thai – the Thai basil.  You want to cook this until the basil is wilted before adding the rice.


Add the rice and mix well.  Now the rice frying begins in earnest.  You want to stir well but don’t overdo it or you will break too many of the grains.  You want the rice to mix with what little oil may be left.  At this point I add a teaspoon of dried shrimp powder and 1/2 teaspoon of ground Chinese white pepper sprinkled over the top.


After the rice has cooked maybe 5-6 minutes I like to add my fried rice sauce.  I will pour in a spiral and use maybe 3/4 cup to 1 cup.  You do not want ANY loose liquid pooling.  Everything you pour in should be absorbed by the rice with a quick stir.


Now it looks like a fried rice, doesn’t it?  The sauce gives the rice its tan color which is really a trademark of fried rice in any Asian country.  At this point it’s done and ready to be served.  I like to take it out of the wok and put in a large bowl to serve from.


For most people this meal would be ready to eat.  And for the rest of my family, it was and their the plates looked like the above.  But for me – it needs three more things to be truly Thai.


A fried egg on top is a signature Thai move.  You want to fry at high heat so the whites get a little crispy around the edges and the yolk inside still crawls over the rice when the skin is broken.


Lastly I sprinkle some cilantro over the top and then spoon some Prik Nam Pla over the meal to season it as desired.  I like a lot of hot pepper but adding the things that make me happy occur after it is done is fine and does not lessen the enjoyment of the other diners of this dish.  One thing that differs greatly between countries own fried rice dishes will be the composition of the fried rice sauce.  So you can make this, the recipe is below.

Thai Pork Fried Rice (serves 4-6 as a main dish):

  • 4-5 Tbs peanut oil
  • Day old cooked rice made from 2 cups of uncooked Jasmine rice.
  • 3/4 lb butterfly pork chops cut into bite sized chunks.
  • Two eggs beaten.
  • 1 cup Thai basil
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, beans)
  • 1 cup snow pea pods
  • One medium onion chopped (you can substitute 4 scallions chopped if desired)
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tsp dried shrimp powder (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground white Chinese pepper

Sauce ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs sweet soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs Golden Mountain sauce
  • 1 Tbs soy sauce
  • 3 Tbs Fish sauce
  • 4 Tbs oyster sauce
  • 2 Tbs white or rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbs corn starch
  • 2 Tbs water


  • Heat oil in a wok or large flat bottom pan until the oil is hot.
  • Add the beaten eggs and scramble.
  • Add the pork and stir fry until the pieces are opaque.
  • Stir in the onion and garlic.
  • Add the mixed vegetables and stir well.
  • Stir in the Thai basil and sweat the leaves until they wilt and shrink up.
  • Stir in the snow pea pods to coat with oil.
  • Add the rice and mix well.  You will want to fry this for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally.  You want the rice to cook in the oil some.
  • In a spiralling motion twirling in, pour some of the fried rice sauce over the rice and stir.  Add more if all the rice kernels don’t get that beige color.
  • Sprinkle the shrimp powder (if using) and the Chinese pepper over the rice and give one more stir.
  • Remove from heat and put into a large serving bowl.
  • Garnish plates with cilantro, sliced cucumber and tomato wedges.
  • Add an over easy-medium fried egg on top of each dish if desired.
  • Serve with Nam Pla Prik.

This is one of those dishes that got its start with people wondering what to do with leftover rice.  The cult just grew from there.  I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I.