Categories
Cooking Taiwan

Sesame and Peanut Butter Noodles and Spicy Cucumber Pickles

Last month, Tradition Kitchens invited me to do a cooking demonstration livestream. I shared my recipes for Taiwanese sesame and peanut butter noodles and spicy cucumber pickles. These are two of my most-requested recipes, and they are always a hit when I host dinner parties or bring them to potlucks.

Watch the video recording of the cooking livestream below and keep scrolling for the recipes for my Taiwanese sesame and peanut noodles and spicy cucumber pickles.

Sesame and Peanut Butter Noodles

My mom did most of the cooking growing up, but this is one of the few things that my dad would make consistently. There isn’t really an exact recipe for these noodles. They are highly versatile, and open to customization and experimentation. This dish is super quick. It only takes about the amount of time to boil water and cook noodles.  

We will start with the basic recipe, and then talk about variations. The portions below serve two people as a main dish. You could also skip the noodles altogether and use the sauce as a dressing for the vegetables or protein of your choice. 

  • 1 package (~10 ounces/~280 grams) noodles –  If you are shopping online, I like the fresh/frozen Kaedama Ramen noodles Sun Noodles or the dried organic ramen noodles from Hakubaku. If you have an Asian market near you, you can also look for  “oil noodles,” which work great for this too. And honestly, you can also just use spaghetti or any Italian-style noodle of your choice. If you go with the spaghetti, just add about a tablespoon of baking soda in the cooking water to give them a consistency that approximates ramen noodles, which contain alkali to give them a springy texture. 
  • 1 tablespoon each peanut butter and sesame paste. Look for an East Asian brand of sesame paste (suggested brand in the photo), which is made out of roasted sesame seeds, unlike Middle Eastern tahini, which uses raw sesame seeds. Tahini works in a pinch, but you might want to increase the amount of roasted sesame oil to compensate with that roasted sesame flavor. Also, feel free to play with the proportions or use all peanut butter or all sesame paste.
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Or I sometimes use a mix of soy sauce and miso paste. 
  • 1 tablespoon of vinegar. A Taiwanese or Chinese-style black vinegar is traditional, but I use apple cider vinegar at home. Rice vinegar works well too. So does balsamic vinegar.
  • Roasted sesame oil to taste. Start with 1 teaspoon and add more if you like. A little of this stuff goes a long way. 
  • Spices: You can play with the aromatics to suit your taste, but here are some ideas to start.
    • 1 clove of garlic, minced
    • 1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger
    • Chili oil and/or a Sriracha-style hot sauce (to taste)
    • Freshly ground black pepper 
  • Sugar to taste. Start with about a teaspoon and adjust accordingly. Or substitute with a sweetener of your choice: agave, maple syrup, honey, etc. The sugar helps balance the flavors, but the sauce shouldn’t taste distinctly sweet. Also adjust accordingly if you are using Sriracha sauce (which has sugar in it) or if the brand of peanut butter you are using is sweetened.  
  • Warm water or stock to thin out the sauce. Start with a couple of tablespoons and go from there.  
  • Garnishes: Here are some starter ideas below. 
    • Chopped scallion
    • Chopped cilantro
    • Chopped roasted peanuts
    • Roasted sesame seeds
    • More chili oil and/or hot sauce. I recommend the Sze Daddy chili oil from 886, a Taiwanese restaurant in New York City. 
    • Sliced cucumber or some spicy pickled cucumber pickles! (recipe below)

Or you can really make this into a full meal by topping with the vegetables and/or proteins of your choice. In the version pictured above, I mixed in some fresh arugula, which is not at all traditional, but tasted great. 

Instructions:

  • Start boiling the water to cook the noodles. Meanwhile, make the sauce and prepare the garnishes.
  • Stir together all of the sauce ingredients. The sauce should be the consistency of a creamy salad dressing. 
  • Once the noodles are cooked according to the instructions, drain and mix in with the sauce. Add more water or stock if necessary. Then add desired garnishes and enjoy! 

Variations: 

  • If you don’t like the taste of raw garlic and ginger, sauté them in a bit of oil before adding to the sauce. My partner also likes a version with caramelized onions.
  • If you don’t want to mess with fresh aromatics, I have used dried powdered garlic, ginger, and onions in a pinch and they taste good too. The dried powder is a lot less intense compared to the fresh aromatics.   
  • You can also play with some other spices. For example: add a bit of five spice powder, ground Szechuan peppercorns, or white pepper.
  • For more of a Southeast Asian flavor, leave out the sesame and increase the peanut butter amount, then add some curry powder and coconut milk to the sauce. Maybe a dash of fish sauce and a bit less soy sauce. And lime juice instead of vinegar. 
  • For more of a Japanese sesame cold noodle sauce, add more sesame and less peanut butter. You might need more water (or dashi stock) if you are serving the dish cold, so a squirt of Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise will help keep things creamy and emulsified. Leaving out the chili oil and substituting a squirt of mustard also takes this in a more Japanese direction.  

Spicy Cucumber Pickles

Variations of these spicy pickles are popular as an appetizer/side dish to help stimulate the appetite during the hot sticky weather that lasts for most of the year in Taiwan. They are also great as a side dish or topping for peanut sesame noodles. When I make these for parties, they usually don’t last very long.  

  • ~1 pound of Persian or Japanese cucumbers, cut into irregular chunks or lightly smashed/pulled apart (I demonstrate the technique in the video). This technique allows the marinade to permeate more quickly. Plus, it’s fun. 
  • ~1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ~2 teaspoons sugar
  • ¼ cup apple cider or rice vinegar
  • ~2 teaspoons soy sauce 
  • ~1 tablespoon miso paste
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper (or a mix of black pepper and Szechuan pepper)
  • A squirt of Sriracha sauce (optional)
  • A pinch of five spice powder (optional)
  • ~1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
  • Chili oil to taste – start with a teaspoon and go from there. I like to use Sze Daddy from 886 or Lao Gan Ma, a Chinese brand. 
  • Roasted sesame seeds and cilantro (optional – for garnish)

Substitution: If you don’t want to mess with fresh garlic or find raw garlic too intense, just leave it out. There is already garlic cooked into the Sriracha.   

Instructions:

  • Breakdown the cucumbers into bite size pieces. Then toss with the salt and leave to drain in a colander or strainer for 15-30 minutes. 
  • In the meantime, mix together the rest of the ingredients to make the marinade. Adjust the seasoning according to your tastes. The marinade should taste intensely salty and sour. The flavor will mellow out when water is released from the cucumber. 
  • Gently press any additional water out of the cucumber, then mix with the marinade and transfer to a non-reactive container. 
  • Cover and refrigerate. Ideally, you give these a few hours to marinate or ideally overnight. They last about a week in the fridge, but they never last that long in my house. 
  • When ready to serve, garnish with some roasted sesame seeds and cilantro if you like.

Sometimes when I have leftover marinade, I’ll add some to my peanut sesame noodle sauce (adjusting other ingredients accordingly).

The marinade also works great as a sauce for boiled shredded chicken. Shred the chicken while it’s still warm, then pour over the marinade and serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. 

Categories
Music YouTube

“Stuck in the Suez” Sea Shanty-Inspired Song

At the time of writing this post, Evergreen’s Ever Given cargo ship is still stuck in the Suez Canal. I was inspired by this incident to write a song about it.

Sail my ship on the Seven Seas
Stuck in the Suez! Stuck in the Suez!

Ship gets stuck. Trade falls to its knees.
Stuck in the Suez! Stuck in the Suez!

Help me out now, won’t you please?
Stuck in the Suez! Stuck in the Suez!

Things are always weird when you’re Taiwanese
Stuck in the Suez! Stuck in the Suez!

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven
Stuck in the Suez! Stuck in the Suez!

Nothing in Life is Ever Given
Stuck in the Suez! Stuck in the Suez!

Escape from Egypt without any Leaven
Stuck in the Suez! Stuck in the Suez!

Get me out of Hell and into Heaven
Stuck in the Suez! Stuck in the Suez!

And here is the original acapella version that started it all:

Categories
Audio Technology Video YouTube

Tula Microphone and USB Recorder

I recently made an unboxing video for my new Tula microphone and portable USB recorder. I had supported the Tula Indiegogo campaign last year, and was excited to try it out and compare it with my trusty Blue Yeti Pro microphone.

After seeing my original video, the manufacturers reached out and informed me that my lavalier mic and Tula unit might have been defective, which explains the high noise levels in the original video. I have since made a follow-up video using the replacement equipment that they sent me.

I have been really impressed by the proactiveness and responsiveness of their customer support team. The Tula itself has been a great complement to my existing gear, and has become one of my go-to mics to use for podcasting, streaming, and video production. And the built-in noise cancellation is simply amazing for my makeshift work from home studio setup.

Categories
Food Podcasting Podcasts

Easy Cook Bear Episodes 3 and 4

Easy Cook Bear is a food and culture show about how we cook, connect, and create. Host Lee-Sean Huang and guests share stories, swap recipes, and explore the creative processes of people who make art, culture, food, music, and more.

Listen and subscribe to Easy Cook Bear on Anchor.fm or on your favorite podcast platform.

Jaime Sunwoo wrote a play about SPAM. Yes, the canned meat product that brings out all kinds of conflicted, polarizing reactions in people. Specially Processed American Me, Jaime’s play, helped open up conversations about her own family’s escape from North Korea during the Korea War. Jaime also talks to Lee-Sean abut her new audio piece about Q-Anon, shares her simple family recipe for spicy soy chicken, and more.

Jaime Sunwoo is a Korean American multidisciplinary artist from Brooklyn, New York. She creates multimedia performances in galleries, theaters, and public spaces. Her works connect personal narratives to global histories through surreal storytelling. She studied art at Yale University, and is an alumni of The Laundromat Project for socially engaged art. She is currently a Ping Chong & Company Creative Fellow.

Dylan Uscher is a UX designer based in Boston, who previously ran a fashion business. He’s also a baker, stand-up comedian, and cancer survivor. Dylan opened up about how he turned his passions into a decade-long career, which he ultimately left to pursue a new career in UX design. Besides cooking, baking, and career transition stuff, Dylan also shared his trick for chocolate chip cookies and opened up about his love for Maangchi, Margaret Cho, and Helena Bonham Carter.

Categories
Cooking Japanese Recipe

Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken)

When I worked in Japan on the JET Programme, my adopted hometown of Nakatsu took pride in the local specialty of karaage (kah-rah-ah-gay), a kind of fried chicken. Locals told me that when Kentucky Fried Chicken, which is pretty popular across Japan, opened up in Nakatsu, it couldn’t stay in business because Nakatsu residents preferred karaage. Here’s my personal take on karaage:

Ingredients

This recipe serves 2 people as the main protein in a meal, or about 4 people as a shared appetizer.

  • 400 grams (14 ounces) of chicken, cut into roughly uniform chunks, about the size of a McNugget (I don’t know how else to describe it). In Nakatsu, skin-on chicken thigh is usually used, but I used boneless skinless chicken breast for the batch in the picture and they came out great.
  • King Arthur’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour, for dredging – the mix of tapioca, rice, and potato starch make for a light and crispy crust. Traditional recipes often call for katakuriko (Japanese potato starch)
  • Canola or vegetable oil for shallow-frying
  • 1 fresh lemon, lime, or kabosu

For the marinade:

  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, grated or pounded with a mortar and pestle
  • 2-3 cm (~inch) piece of peeled fresh ginger, grated or pounded
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon shichimi togarashi, Japanese mixed chili pepper powder – optional
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce, Kikkoman organic is my go-to brand; Use tamari instead soy sauce and the whole recipe is gluten-free
  • 1/2 tablespoon sake, cooking sake or the cheap stuff is fine
  • 1 teaspoon mirin, I prefer the all-natural traditional method mirin from Eden Foods. The mirin is optional, you could substitute half a teaspoon of sugar instead.
  • 1/2 tablespoon Kewpie Mayonnaise, What is this mayonnaise madness you ask? It helps the marinade adhere to the chicken, helps keep the chicken moist (important if you are using breast), and adds a bit of sweetness and umami as well.

Instructions

Finely mince or pound the solid marinade ingredients in a mortar and pestle. Combine with all of the liquid marinade ingredients in a bowl and add the chicken pieces.

Coat the chicken with the marinade and let sit for 30 minutes.

Then dredge each piece of chicken in the all-purpose gluten-free flour. There is enough seasoning in the marinade itself, so there is no need to season the flour. Each piece of chicken should be lightly coated in flour.

Heat your oil in a cast iron or other sturdy pan. You only need enough oil for each chicken piece to be halfway submerged in oil. On my electric stove, I do this on medium heat. You will know when the oil is ready when you insert a wooden chopstick or skewer and it bubbles.

Fry three or four piece of chicken at a time until golden brown. Mine took about a minute and a half on each side. Be careful not to fry too many piece at a time, or you will cool down your oil too much.

Drain the chicken on a paper towel or cooling rack. Then serve with a squeeze of the lemon, lime, or kabosu. I also like to dip mine in some more Kewpie Mayo and a sprinkle of the shichimi togarashi.


To give you an idea of how serious Nakatsu is about karaage, here is a video (in Japanese) about how Nakatsu broke the Guinness World Record in 2019 for the largest serving of fried chicken made in a single day.