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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Finals Week

Hi everyone!

I just wanted to pop in to let you know that I am not leaving.  I am just taking a hiatus for a bit to finish up final papers, defend my thesis, and GRADUATE!   After that, I've got a big move back to VA coming up, so things will be a bit crazy between now and mid to late May.

I have some exciting recipes that I will post once things calm down.  Among them are spicy Jamaican oxtails with coconut rice and peas, deliciously crunchy oatmeal waffles, and a delightfully tangy Nicaraguan pork fricassee.  I hope you're all looking forward to some yumminess coming your way!

Thanks for reading :),

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Southeast Asian Caramelized Sweet and Spicy Braised Pork Kaw Saik Jrouk

Mmmmm, kaw (kaw saik jrouk) is one of my favorite Cambodian dishes.  I absolutely love it's delicious caramelized yumminess!  It is a pork stew like nothing else you've ever had before, but I promise that if you give it a chance, you'll love it.  The dominant flavors are a dark sweetness and a delicious spiciness that balances it.  Kaw is a braised pork dish in a caramelized broth with crunchy bamboo shoots and yummy hard-boiled eggs.  I know, I know, why on earth would there be hard-boiled eggs in broth?  Well, once you try this, you'll never ask that again because the eggs are, without a doubt, the absolute best part.  They soak up all of the yummy sweet and spicy caramelized goodness, yummmm!

The broth is made with a base of caramelized palm sugar and garlic with lots of magical, tasty Asian sauces, lol.  Don't worry, the sauces are fairly inexpensive at about 3 bucks or less per bottle in your local SE Asian market.  If you are either diabetic or have high blood pressure, this dish is NOT for you.  There is a high sugar content and a high sodium content, but it neither tastes overly sweet nor overly sugary once it's done.

I found out on another blog, WhiteOnRiceCouple, that this dish is also made in Vietnamese cuisine.  Interestingly enough, I was explaining the dish to my Guatemalan friend who is of Cantonese descent and she says, "hmmm, we make the same dish."  So apparently, they make the same thing, but with more of a Chinese 5-spice kind of twist because they put lots of star anise in it, too.  I will have to invite her to try my version and see what she thinks.  

So, in short, this dish has been around the world for a reason--it's absolutely deelish!

**This recipe was adapted from Forg3tM3Not770 on YouTube.

2 lbs of pork loin (my boyfriend's dad uses pork belly but his mom and many other people use pork loin), in bite-sized pieces
2 short cans (8 0z) of sliced bamboo shoots, rinsed
6 or 7 hard-boiled eggs, peeled (be careful not to break the flesh)
1-1/3 cup palm sugar (the jarred type is much more convenient, but you can use the block and grate it)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 scant basting spoon of dark sweet soy (this is NOT regular soy sauce)* use maybe 1 TB or so less than my video ( I made it a bit sweet that time)
1-1/2 basting spoons of fish sauce
one basting spoon of soy sauce
1/2 cup + 2 cups of water, separated
2 TB cracked black pepper
salt to taste

Saute the garlic in vegetable oil for about 30 seconds over low to medium low heat.

Stir in the palm sugar and turn the heat up to medium to med-high heat.  

Brown the sugar mixture, stirring constantly until darker brown, about 10 minutes.

Add in 1/2 cup of water and blend.  

Once the water and palm sugar have blended and the water reaches a boil, add in the pork.

After a minute or so, add in the fish sauce, soy sauce, and dark sweet soy sauce and stir until blended.

Allow to cook until the meat is nearly done.

Add in black pepper, bamboo, and 2 cups of water and stir until blended.

Once it reaches a boil, gently stir in eggs, cover and simmer for 20 minutes on low heat.

Enjoy with jasmine rice!

Just as a note, once I finish with my thesis, I will edit this and other videos into one per recipe; however, I just do not have the time now.

*On video V, I got a bit out of control on the descriptions, so if you want to get straight to the recipe, you can even skip this vid and go on to VI.  I was just explaining ingredients.

Creamy, Rich, and Comforting Cuban Tamal Soup/Tamal en Cazuela

Tamal en Cazuela, which literally translates to tamal in a in a pot, is a wonderfully rich, hearty soup made with a base of fresh ground corn and cornmeal.  Many Cuban soups (such as crema de malanga (cream of malanga/yautia/coco yam) and sopa de ajo (garlic soup--see previous post) are very thick and hearty.  They are more commonly a creamy, even paste-like consistency as opposed to a thinner, runny texture.  It's amazing that these dishes were created on an island where there's no real winter because, for most of us, these dishes would seem like winter meals.  Oddly enough, I found the same to be the case in the Dominican Republic, where they regularly drink thick maizena (a thick, creamy, cornstarch-based hot drink) and eat hearty sancocho.  I assume that these very hearty dishes are primarily a product of the African influence in both countries.  Ahh, what a marvelously delicious influence it is.

For those of you who have never had or even seen tamal in cazuela, much like me for before I moved to Miami, it is very similar to a polenta or even grits in thickness, but is much creamier and smoother.  For those of you who just can't get into grits because, well, they're gritty...or because they just never seem to have enough flavor, tamal en cazuela is the answer to all of your problems--it's immensely flavorful, smooth and creamy, warm, rich, and comforting.  The flavor is intensely garlicky, like most Cuban food, and it also has the slightest touch of tanginess and sweetness from white wine added into the sofrito, or vegetable seasoning sauce.

Even though it's hot here, mid 80s or so, I still love this dish.  It's great for me because it lasts throughout my hot, busy days and because I can heat it up to lukewarm at home and it holds up until I eat at lunch time.  For those of you still enduring the bitter cold, you've got even more reason to make this dish.  Though it may be intimidating on the sole basis of being unfamiliar, don't be scared, you can definitely finish this dish in 40 minutes easily.  It doesn't need babying either.  Once you've got the soup together, just stir about every 7-10 minutes while it simmers.  Otherwise, leave it covered and let it do its thing.

Just as a note, to get an idea of the actual color, which is a beautiful, rich golden yellow, see the final video at 3:09.  The color on the soup in the rest of the video is way off and doesn't look appetizing, I know.

Tamal en Cazuela

Tools: blender or food processor

1 lb of boneless pork, marinated 10 minutes in the mojo or cooked with lots of garlic and lime
**I cut them bite-sized in the vid, but I prefer the traditional small bits
**I used rib meat, which I would likely pre-simmer for 20 minutes to get it tender next time.  Use pork of your

1 lime
3-4 cloves of garlic
mojo (in lieu of the lime and garlic - the traditional recipe simply seasons the meat with salt and lime)
2TB  olive oil

1 small white onion, diced finely
1 green pepper, diced finely
3 cloves of garlic, smashed with salt or minced
1/2 cup tomato sauce (unflavored)
2 TB of dry white wine*
1.5 cups of yellow corn meal* (I did 3/4 cup but I'll do 1 cup the next go 'round)
salt to taste (about 1-1/2 tsp should do for the assembled soup)
1 TB olive oil

2 cups frozen sweet kernel corn, thawed
3 cups of water

* these are amounts that I have changed since making the video

In a large pot over medium heat with 2TB of olive oil, cook the marinated meat (or the meat with garlic and lime), stirring frequently, until it is about 85% cooked. 

Meanwhile, make the sofrito by sauteeing the green pepper and onion over medium low heat in a pan with 1 TB olive oil.  Once softened, add in the garlic, tomato sauce, and oil, and bring the pan up to medium heat.  Sautee for a few minutes to cook off the wine, stirring occasionally.

Once the sofrito is ready, add it to the meat and continue the cooking process, stirring the seasoning into the meat and its juices.

Meanwhile, grind the corn in a blender or food processor.  It will get stuck, so just use your spoon to move the mixture around and process the mixture again until homogeneous.  Once you have a homogeneous mixture, add in 3 cups of water and process the mixture again until homogeneous.

Once the meat has cooked for a few minutes, strain the corn mixture into the soup and blend.
Once blended, add in the corn meal and blend.  Cover and simmer over low heat for an hour, stirring every 7-10 minutes to avoid sticking.  Thirty minutes is sufficient, but one hour will simply intensify the flavors.

Makes 4 sizable servings.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Southeast Asian Marinated Fried Tofu with Pickled Daikon Radish and Carrot Slaw

The next recipe in the vegetarian meal series is a delicious, incredibly flavorful fried tofu.  It is marinated in delicious spicy, almost curry-like marinade commonly used in Cambodian cooking called kreungKreung, representative of Indian influence in Cambodian cuisine, is a seasoning paste that can vary in its ingredients but is generally made up of lemongrass, Thai birdseye chilies, garlic, galangal, shallots, and kaffir lime (leaf or juice), but may sometimes also include ingredients such as turmeric, cilantro and prahok (fermented fish paste).  It is used to flavor many meats and soups in the Cambodian kitchen.

This dish is very easy and delicious, especially with the pickled daikon and carrot slaw, which I absolutely love.  The slaw is slightly sweet, slightly tangy, and is bursting with a delicious garlicky flavor.  It's a refreshing addition to the spicy, intense flavor of the marinated tofu.  The pickled daikon and carrot slaw is the same pickle used on banh mi, or Vietnamese sandwiches, and is generally served with fried foods in Cambodian cuisine.

For those who are looking to experiment with vegetarian meals, this is a wonderful introduction since it is far from lacking in flavor and texture.  For vegetarians looking to spice up their diet, this recipe is great for you, too.  Lastly, for those looking to gradually introduce new flavors into their kitchen, this recipe requires very inexpensive and easy to find ingredients (at least in Richmond).  All of the ingredients (literally, everything in the list, even the mortar and pestle and a cheap hand tool to julienne veggies) can be easily found at your local Southeast Asian market.  The peppers are only about $2 a bag, by the way, and the turmeric is sold on the dry spice aisle.  I have a list of some of my favorites in Richmond on the right side of my blog.

Enjoy this tasty recipe that comes courtesy of My Linh from  You can find the original recipe "To hu chien kreung" or "Fried Tofu with Lemongrass" recipe on her website in the "fried foods" section


pickled daikon and carrot slaw
Thai hand julienne tool
(optional, but will speed up the process significantly and only costs 2 or 3 bucks) (

1 tsp salt
2 cups shredded or julienned daikon radish, approx 1/2 lb daikon (found in SE Asian or Korean markets) (
2 cups shredded or julienned carrot

1/2 cup white vinegar (yes, it does matter, WHITE vinegar)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 TB salt
 1 clove garlic, finely minced or pressed (do not use pre-packaged, pre-chopped garlic here) (optional)

Mix the shredded veggies with 1 tsp of salt and toss them gently to distribute the salt evenly.  This will serve to soften the veggies and they will begin releasing their juices.  Let them sit for a minute or two then rinse and squeeze out the excess liquid.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, sugar, water, and the 1 TB of salt together, and the minced or pressed garlic (if you plan on using it).  Mix well until the sugar and salt dissolve.  Pour the vinegar sauce over the carrot and daikon and mix well before serving.

This pickled slaw is best when allowed to sit ideally overnight, but at least for 30 minutes to an hour.

tofu marinade:
*1 mortar and pestle--must be *stone*, NOT wood or clay or it will not work

2 cloves of garlic
2 TB minced lemongrass (you can buy pre-minced in the frozen section or mince the fresh stuff yourself)
2 Thai birdseye chilies (optional, but yummmy!)
1 tsp soy sauce (be sure that soy is actually on the list of ingredients...not all brands are real soy sauce)
1 tsp oyster sauce (or mushroom sauce if you're a strict vegetarian)
1 tsp turmeric powder (or 3 or 4 minced turmeric roots)

1 package *firm* tofu, sliced horizontally in half, with a about 5-7 slits vertically across the top only of the tofu
3 TB vegetable oil
Pound all of the first section of ingredients together into a uniform paste in a stone mortar and pestle.  Gently rub the marinade on each piece of tofu that has been rinsed and patted dry.

I would allow it to marinade 15-20 minutes, but this is optional.

Preheat oil in a skillet or wok over medium heat.  Fry the tofu until brown and crispy. Serve with white rice and pickled daikon carrot slaw.  I have also done this recipe on my foreman grill and in my toaster oven at a high temperature (400 or so) and it turned out very yummy.  Just be sure to grease the surface of  whatever alternative cooking device you choose.

*Mortar and pestle photo courtesy of on
*Birdseye chili photo courtesy of

Don't forget to let me know what you guys think about this and other posts by hitting the "useful," "interesting," or "cool" buttons below or by leaving a comment.  I love to see what types of recipes you prefer and how things turn out when you try these recipes at home.

Happy cooking :)!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mofongo!!! Fried Green Plantain with Crispy Pork Bits

Hi guys!

For those of you who read the title of this post and said to yourselves "mofo what?!" hopefully you have had tostones, or fried green plantains.  If you love tostones, I promise you, there is no way that you will not absolutely love mofongo.  If you have not had tostones by now, try them for goodness sake!

Mofongo is a  yummy dish popular in both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic that is traditionally made with crispy bits of fried pork skin (chicharron), garlic, sometimes a little oil, and, of course, fried green plantains.  Mofongo has many, many variations these days, such as mofongo with shrimp, with longaniza (a flavorful sausage used in Spain and in different parts of Latin America), with any meat known to man pretty much.  Then there are other variations, such topped with white cheese, half boiled plantain/half fried, covered in a red tomato-based creole sauce.  In short, you can do tons of things with mofongo, but the traditional is with 100% fried plantain, garlic, and chicharron (can refer to either pork skin or the pork belly with the meat, fat and skin, depending on the context) served with mojo criollo (bitter orange-based sauce that is very heavily flavored with garlic and oregano as well as onion) on the side.

By the way, if you don't have a pilon, you can just use the Thai clay or wooden mortar and pestles found at any SE Asian market (see my list, plus I believe there is one on Midlothian) and maybe in some Latin markets (this is less likely in Richmond).

Well, I'll stop blabbing.  Here's the actual recipe.  Enjoy!  And by the way, there are vids of how I did the whole process, but for some reason, my formatting got screwy when I put them earlier on in the post, so I gave in and put them at the end.  Let me know what you think.


* this dish is pretty dry and crumbly as leftovers, so *only make as much as you will eat right away.*

Be sure to hit the useful, interesting, or cool buttons below, comment, or share on Facebook if you're enjoying these posts.  I love to interact with you guys and know how you're liking things.



  1. 3 green plantains (they should not be turning yellow or they will be sweet) (in 1/2" slices, soaked 10-15 in generously salted water to remove excess starch/stickiness) 
  2. chicharron (you can use the unflavored bag one or you can fry pork belly yourself and cut it into tiny bits) 
  3. 3 cloves of garlic
If you decide to do the chicharron homemade, I marinated mine in mojo and then rubbed it in 1tsp of baking soda for extra crispiness (a tip I got from a Colombian blog (
Cuban Mojo Marinade Ingredients:
  1.  1 heaping tsp of oregano 
  2. 1 cup (or so) of bitter orange (sold in a bottle in Latin section at any supermarket and at any Latin market--I recommend Goya or Badia brand) 
  3. 1 tsp of salt 6 cloves of garlic (mine were pretty large) (mashed into a paste or passed through a garlic press) 
  4. pepper to taste 
  5. 1/4 cup olive oil 
  6. This is my own thing, but I also added the juice of half a lime since the bitter orange is bottled.  It just gives it that fresh zip.  Two tsp is likely enough because I added more bitter orange afterward since it was strong) 
* Reserve about 1/3 cup of this marinade and store separately in the fridge to add in to moisten the mofongo as you prepare it **I beg of you, if you add the lime PLEASE don't use bottled.  Please don't do it.       
  • Chicharron     
  1. desired amount of chicharron, marinated overnight in mojo recipe above     You only need maybe 1/3 lb of chicharron for the actual mofongo, but I got 1.5 lbs and enjoyed the rest on its own.  It's super cheap.  Just ask the butcher to cut you some pork belly with the skin, meat, and fat all in tact.  Cut the chicharron into 1-1/2" - 2" pieces to fry. 3/4 cups water 1 tsp baking soda    
  • Procedure:
  1. Pre-soak your plantains in generously-salted water for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, paper towel dry the plantain well then rub the marinated chicharron in the baking soda.  Cook the chicharron  over medium low heat (Skin side UP--you don't wan't to cook it in water or it'll get chewy, not crispy) in 3/4 cup water while you soak the plantains. The reason for drying it is because the marinade adds a lot of liquid and excess liquid will make your chicharron chewy.  It isn't supposed to cover the meat. 
  2. After about ten minutes of cooking on medium low (it should look very close to cooked, if not cooked), transfer the meat into a separate, ungreased, pre-heated pan to let it fry in its own grease over medium high.  Be sure to turn the meat two or three times to allow it to become crispy and brown on all sides.  
  3. Alternatively, you can also just fry it the chicharron the whole way it its own fat, rather than doing water, if you don't want to risk messing it up and getting chewy chicharron. Traditionally, the process is to cook the chicharron in 1 cup of water over medium low until the water evaporates, then it fries in its own grease.  This doesn't work for this recipe since we used a liquid marinade, not a a basic salt or salt and oregano dry seasoning.  Besides, many people end up with chewy chicharron with the water process anyway, and some opt to just fry the meat in its own grease the whole way, skipping the water altogether. 
  4. Fry the pre-soaked and very thoroughly paper towel dried (this is to avoid grease popping everywhere) plantain slices in oil that has been heated over medium high heat.  Fry until light golden brown.  You just want them cooked, not too dark--when you start seeing those dark brown, almost blackish lines in the plantain, you've cooked it a bit more than necessary.  *In the video I said to cook them a little past doneness, but I later found that to be unnecessary, and it may result in drier plantains.
  5. Next, in a pilon (mortar and pestle), mash your garlic (yes, it is left raw) with salt (1 tsp should be good) until it becomes a paste.  Mashing with salt is key because it gets rid of the bitterness of raw garlic. Add in the plantain little by little.  
  6. Add in your small bits of chicharron that you've chopped after frying. Mash them in as you add the plantain and mash.   This takes some force behind it, so don't be scared.  You want to mash just until it begins taking the shape of your pilon--not too hard or too soft and you should still see some texture.  It should NOT be 100% uniform.  If it looks dry, just add in a little oil and add in some of the leftover mojo, if it needs further moistening.  If the ball doesn't stay in the pilon, form it by hand.
  7. If you have a larger pilon, no worries, just form the mixture in your palms.  It should be a semi ball, one side round, one side flat.  Once you get the shape, stud it with a few more pieces of chicharron for looks.  
  8. Serve the mofongo round side up.  If you like, serve it with strained mojo, but I didn't need to.  Mine was really flavorful.  I just served mine topped with a slice of smoked provolone, which I melted on the top in the oven.  I got this idea from the amazingly tasty mofongo a la doña with longaniza from El Carrito de Marchena in Santiago about a mile or less away from PUCMM.  Yum, yum, yum!

  1. Below, you will find the four videos I did for the process so that you guys could have a visual.  I will try to edit them maybe this weekend and add in the final part where I showed the finished product.

Friday, April 1, 2011

You Won't Believe the Magic That Will Soon Ensue! Fun with Waffle Makers

Hi everyone!

I finally got a belgian waffle iron!  I've been thinking about getting one for a while, and I found one on sale for a great price at Target ($17), so I said, hey, why not?  You guys don't even have a clue what you're in for with this one.  I'm going to have SO much fun with this thing, and I can't wait to share some yummy, inventive recipes with you.  I'm so excited that I just had to make a quick post just to let you know that great things are in store in the near future,  my dears.

Give me about a month or so to finish up with school, and I'll be sure to make the wait well worth it.  I just got the thing home, and I've written down at least ten amazing recipes already.  It's just a matter of finding the time to put them into action so that I can share some deliciousness with you guys.  Keep an eye out for it.