Friday, May 29

Oriental Market's Friday Arrivals

Jackfruit (top left): Some say it is something of an acquired taste, but it is very popular in many parts of the world. The sweet yellow sheaths around the seeds are about 3–5 mm thick and have a taste similar to that of pineapple, but milder and less juicy.

Small Taro Root (top right): Taro root is a starchy tuber vegetable. Much like the potato, this small taro root may be prepared in a variety of ways including boiling, frying and baking. In Hawaii, it's used to make the famous Poi.

Large Taro Root (bottom left): A bigger-sized version of Taro root. Also must be eaten cooked with the skin removed.

Chinese Chives (bottom right): Also known as Yellow Garlic Chives or Yellow Chives. These are regular Chinese Chives that have been shielded from the light while growing so that they are soft, mild, and tender. They are a springtime delicacy. You can use them just like regular Chinese Chives.

Thursday, May 28

Rice Vermicelli Stir Fry: Pad Mee'

Rice vermicelli -- also known as rice noodles or rice sticks -- are thin noodles made from rice. Like other type of rice noodle, rice vermicelli are a part of many Asian cuisines, where they can be eaten as part of a soup dish, stir fry, or salad. This rice vermicelli stir fry, or Pad Mee' in Thai, is a complete meal where you can enjoy the combination of the noodles, meat, and vegetables altogether. It's healthy, and flavorful!

You will need:
  • 8 oz. rice vermicelli
  • 1 cup boneless skinless chicken thigh/breast, cut in strips
  • 1 Tbsp oyster sauce + 1 Tbsp light soy sauce + pepper (for marinade)
  • 2 cups Chinese cabbage (Napa), shredded (regular cabbage works as well)
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 4-5 medium-sized dried Shiitake mushroom
  • 1/2 cup Chinese chive cut into 1 1/2" pieces
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth or water
  • 2 Tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp dark soy sauce, or ABC sweet soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • Grounded black or white pepper to taste


  1. Prepare rice vermicelli noodle according to direction on package. If you use the really thin kind, you only need to soak them in warm water for about 10-15 minutes. But if you use Vietnamese style (Bun'), you will need to cook the noodle in boiling water for about 2 minutes and flush with cold water. Drain noodle and set aside.
  2. Marinate chicken strips with oyster sauce, light soy sauce, and pepper. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together chicken broth (or water), light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and sugar. Set aside.
  4. Cut up all vegetables. For the dried Shiitake mushroom, soak in water until soft, then drain and squeeze off the water, discard the stems, and thinly slice to make about 1/2 cup.
  5. Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute' garlic and chicken, until fragrant and chicken is partially cooked.
  6. Add onion and mushroom, cook until soft. If too dry, add a little water.
  7. Add rice vermicelli noodle, and seasoning sauce mixture. Stir and toss everything around until mixed well.
  8. Add Napa cabbage, Chinese chive, and bell pepper. Stir until the ingredients are mixed through, about 2-3 minutes. If too dry, add a bit more water (or broth). Season to taste. Serve hot.

Wednesday, May 27

Robin's Eggs Update

It has been exactly 3 weeks since my friend, Kathy, found the robin's nest with 4 eggs, at her front porch. I had a chance to be there today, so I took pictures of the baby robins that had been hatched for a while -- for an update.

The downy, underfeathers are filling in. The chicks have less pink, bald spots now. They spend most of the day sleeping. They're starting to look like birds, aren't they?
Here is the picture of the eggs I took three weeks ago.

Tuesday, May 26

Thai Ginger Chicken

Thai Ginger Chicken, or Gai Pad Khing, is a simple dish that its balanced flavor is enhanced by ginger - the key ingredient, given a delicious and healthy dish that is easy to make at home.

For the stir-fried dish to come out at its best, you need to cook over high heat with a short period of time. That's why all the ingredients need to be cut up and ready to go in once you start cooking. This Thai Ginger Chicken dish is always served with rice, .. Jasmine rice for my family.

When I cook Thai food, I usually don't have a recipe, everything is by estimation, then adding seasoning and adjust the flavor while cooking. Besides chicken, this dish can also be made with pork, beef, or even shrimp. My mom always put Cloud Ear mushroom (also known as wood ear, and black fungus). Most of the time, I also put thinly sliced Shiitake mushroom, but today I didn't have enough time to soak the dried mushroom, so went without it.

You will need:

  • 2 cups bite-sized pieces chicken, I use skinless chicken thigh
  • 1 Tbsp chopped garlic
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup finely striped ginger
  • 1/2 cup striped red bell pepper (optional, but I like the color)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 Tbsp light soy sauce, or mushroom soy sauce (either one works)
  • 2 Tbsp cooking wine
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar, or adjust to your taste
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock, or water
  • 1/2 cup 1"-pieced green onion
  • 2-3 Tbsp slurry (a mixture of corn starch and water 1:2), to thicken the sauce


  1. Mix together oyster sauce, light soy sauce, cooking wine, dark soy sauce, and sugar. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a wok or large pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, yellow onion, and chicken, stir fry until fragrant and chicken is partially cooked.
  3. Stir in seasoning sauce mixture and ginger, toss the ingredients around until chicken is cooked and everything is mixed well, about 2-3 minutes. Add stock or water if too dry.
  4. Add bell pepper and green onion. Stir for just a few moment. Season to taste.
  5. Add 2-3 Tbsp of slurry to thicken the sauce. Stir briefly.
  6. Serve hot with rice.

Thursday, May 21

BBQ Pork Fried Rice

We had such a beautiful day today! Everyone was outside enjoying the gorgeous weather. Husband was working in the yard, and the kids were running around. I didn't plan ahead for dinner menu until I got home from work. Well..., actually, I planned to pick up grocery on the way home, and decide what to cook once I was at the store. But then, I was enjoying my drive so much that I drove pass my stop. Too lazy to turn around, I decided, "I'll figure it out later!".

With the leftover rice from yesterday, pantry supplies, basic vegetables (garlic, onion, and green onion) I handily had, I also found in my freezer a good-sized piece of BBQ pork that I made a couple of weeks ago. So I chopped up the BBQ pork in cubes, and stirred up some fried rice for our dinner. Adding some soy sauce, tomato paste, and eggs, made this dish even more colorful and tasty.. I even added some Sriracha hot sauce for a little kick.

By the time dinner was ready, everyone outside was soaking wet from water fight. I couldn't help but having fun watching and capturing pictures...

Tuesday, May 19

French Apple Tart

Apple pie had always been my favorite dessert.. I was searching and testing recipes, one after another, until I finally came up with the one of my own. Then, I made them whenever I felt like having apple pie, for Holidays, and for no reason at all. One day, I got sick of it.. so I moved on. A couple of days ago, I had a thought of using apple to making dessert, but not the apple pie.. I googled, and finally found something very attractive to me. It's simple, it's elegant, and it's fabulous! French Apple Tart by Ina Garten, from Food Network's Barefoot Contessa Show.

The recipe is from her cook book, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics It was very easy to make, but looked like it came from a bakery - absolutely delicious! I decreased the amount of sugar, and used Triple Sec instead of Calvados/Rum/water, as the original recipe called for. The result was wonderful.

French Apple Tart
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

You will need:

For the pastry
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 12 Tbsp (11/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup ice water

For the apples

  • 4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4" thick crosswise
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, small diced
  • 1/2 cup apricot jelly or warm sieved apricot jam
  • 2 Tbsp Calvados, rum, or water (I had Triple Sec on hand)


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. LINE a sheet pan with PARCHMENT PAPER! Make sure to use a baking sheet WITH SIDES.
  2. For the pastry, place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter and pulse 10 to 12 times, until the butter is in small bits the size of peas. With the motor running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  3. Roll the dough to a sheet of 10 x 14-inches. Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.
  4. Place overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the first row until the pastry is covered with apple slices.
  5. Sprinkle with the 1/3 cup of sugar and dot with the butter.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the apples start to brown. Rotate the pan once during cooking. (The apple juices will burn in the pan but the tart will be fine!)
  7. When the tart is done, heat the apricot jelly together with the liquor and brush the apples and the pastry completely with the jelly mixture. Loosen the tart with a metal spatula so it doesn't stick to the paper. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

Chicken Marsala at Spagnuolo's

662 W. Grand River Ave.
Okemos, MI
(517) 349-9605

Monday, May 18

East Lansing Art Festival

This past weekend, the city of East Lansing had kicked off its festival season with the 46th Annual East Lansing Art Festival. The event is held every spring during the weekend before the Memorial Holiday weekend. The weather was nice, a bit cold on Saturday, but turned out even nicer on Sunday.

Hundreds of artist exhibitors from Michigan and across North America brought all kinds of art to East Lansing, the campus of Michigan State University, and filled long line of booths along downtown streets.

Painting, sculpture, ceramics, wood, metal, fabrics, photography, clay, blown glass, and more.

Not only Stage perfomances, but also Street perfomances!

This man sold beatiful Japanese Bonsai trees. He had plenty of starter trees and was very knowledgable of how to take care of the trees.

Food court featured vendors from all kinds of cuisine, -- BD's Mongolian BBQ, India Palace, Lou & Harry's Greek Grill, Altu's Ethiopian Cuisine, Turkey Man, Gumbo & Jazz, and Peking Express.

And did I mention it has always been a dog-friendly event? Great day to bring families, and four-legged friends out to meet everyone and enjoy the great atmosphere there. I had a really good time being around people who enjoyed and appreciated art and music, .. and knowing that Summer is just around the corner!

Sunday, May 17

Kalbi: Korean BBQ Short Ribs

Kalbi (or Galbi), one of Korea's most famous grilled dishes, is my family's all-time favorite. And the fact that I can always find Korean-style beef ribs at local supermarkets - like Sam's club, Goodrich's - or at Asian grocery stores, makes it easy for me to cook this delicious dish often.

However, if there is none of those stores nearby that you can find, you can still get the Korean-style beef ribs. You just need to ask your butcher to cut the ribs as the "flanken cut", which is 1/4 inch thick. Now that, you can have the main ingredient -- the proper cut of the ribs, there is one more important ingredient that you need, to make the perfect Kalbi, authentic way.

I've learned from my Korean friends of the secret ingredient that makes the ribs come out sweet and tender. They use Asian pears! These round, yellow-skin pears are also called Korean pears, and Apple pears. The crushed Asian pears - with the juice - in the marinade not only make the meat sweet, but also tenderize it.

You will need:
  • 3 lbs lean beef short ribs with the bones
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice cooking wine, or sake
  • 2 Tbsp honey or sugar
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp grounded black pepper
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 1 Asian pear, peeled and grated
  1. Soak the ribs in water for 2-3 hours to get rid of the blood. Change water from time to time. Then, rinse and drain.
  2. Mix all the ingredients, except the ribs, to make the marinade.
  3. Put the ribs and the marinade in a gallon-size Zip lock bag. Make sure all the ribs are covered with the marinade.
  4. Marinade in the refrigerator for at least an hour. I usually leave it overnight.
  5. To cook the ribs, grill on med-high heat for about 2-3 minutes on each side. (You can also pan-grill them, as well as broil them in the oven.)
I hope you enjoy this Kalbi as much as we do!

Saturday, May 16

Thai Feast: Community Gathering

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a Thai community event, that brought a group of Thai Buddhists in Lansing area, Michigan, together. It was a casual gathering for a 3-day Retreat. Some of the activities included food offering for the monks, meditation, learning Dhama, luncheon, group discussion, and camping.

Thai food is a big part of Thai culture. It is always the center of every event or getting-together. For those 3 days we were at the Retreat, every host of each day's event, and all the participants put their hearts and great effort into cooking all the meals. This was the kind of venue where I would find the amazing varieties of Authentic Thai Cuisine, .. living so far away from home.

There were all kind of dishes representing cuisines from different part of Thailand; Northern, Southern, North-eastern (I-sarn), and Central. The ingredients and flavors were authentic style, no substitution, and no holding up on chili peppers !!

I don't think I could even get to every single dish on the tables at each meal. There were many types of chili dips with vegetables, many different kinds of curry - including my Salmon Choo Chee Curry, 4-5 types of fired fish, variation of Thai spicy salad, .. I could still go on ..

And for desserts, beside lots of fruits, there were traditional Thai sweets, like Mango with Sweet Sticky Rice, Sweet Cassava with Coconut Cream, Thai Egg Custard, stuffed crescents with mung bean filling (Khanom Tua Pabb), and again I could still go on ..

By participating in this heart-warming event, I've refreshed my knowledge, learned something new, made new friends, re-united with long-lost friends, and enjoyed wonderful Thai food the way my mom cooks at home.. And after all, the event had brought together many aspects of Thai culture, people, and cuisine.

Thursday, May 14

Japanese Sweet Potato

Japanese sweet potato, or Satsuma-Imo, is a kind of potato that is common in Japan and is now grown in the U.S. and other countries. This dark-pink to light-red skin potato has a dense, starchy flesh and wonderful chestnut-like flavor. If you love baked potato, try this roasting whole Japanese sweet potato in its skin at 400°F for about 30-40 minutes. You would totally forget about regular potato! It’s also delicious served Tempura style. In Japan, it is used to make distilled liquor called "shochu". This potato is colorful, and make a wonderful presentation.

In Thailand, there are a couple of popular ways to make dessert out of this potato; cooking in ginger syrup, and, in this post, cooking in creamy coconut milk.

You will need:
  • 2 Japanese sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size or as you like
  • 1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk ( I used "A-roy D" brand, "For dessert" kind)
  • 2 Tbsp Palm sugar, or brown sugar for substitute
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C water


  1. Boil coconut milk and water, then add Japanese sweet potatoes.
  2. Cook 10-15 minutes until the potato fresh turns yellow, and gets soft.
  3. Add Palm sugar and salt. Adjust flavor to your preference, then serve.

Wednesday, May 13

Salmon Choo Chee Curry: Thai Fish Curry

You will need:

  • 1 can (4 oz.) Choo Chee Curry paste (or Red Curry Paste), preferably Mae Sri brand
  • 1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk (Chao Kao or Aroy-D brand)
  • about 2 lb Salmon fish fillet, cut in large pieces
  • 1 TBSP palm sugar
  • 2 TBSP Thai fish sauce (Nam Pla)
  • 2-3 Kaffir Lime leaves, finely shredded
  • 2-3 red chili pepper for garnish, shredded


  1. Fry Choo Chee curry paste in 1/2 cup coconut milk in a pot until fragrant, using medium heat and keep stirring until you see the red oil bubbling up.
  2. Add the rest of coconut milk. Stir to blend and let mixture boil up.
  3. Add palm sugar and fish sauce. Stir and let the sauce boil up. If it's too thick, add a little water to adjust consistency.
  4. Add Salmon fish pieces. DO NOT STIR, otherwise the dish will be very fishy. Cover and let the fish cooked on medium high heat until back to boiling. Then, lower heat to medium low, and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add some shredded Lime leaves, gently stir to mix and try not to break fish pieces.
  6. Transfer to serving bowl, garnish with shredded Lime leaves and red chili pepper. Serve with rice.

Monday, May 11

Grand Traverse Pie Company: My Pie

Before Grand Traverse Pie Company and I met in person, I had had my heart for only two kinds of pies; Apple and Key lime... Then, to me, blueberries were to eat fresh, not to be cooked in any way... And lastly I "disliked" Cherry pie..!! (I told my son that "hate" was a too strong word, so I shouldn't use it myself.)

Things have changed nowadays. I grew out of their Key Lime pie after having a piece every time I visited the place, and often receiving it as a gift from my dear friends. And I no longer make it at home. I now try to get different kind of their pies each time, to explore the varieties. I like their Cherry Crumb a lot recently, which is a surprise since I used to h-t- Cherry Pie!

But their Blueberry Crumb was my pie today! Actually, I had blueberry pie before but never liked it. Just like all of their other pies, the crust was flaky, tender, and buttery. They didn't skimp on the filling at all. Doesn't it look scrumptious and irresistible..??

Grand Traverse Pie Company:
1403 E. Grand River Ave.
East Lansing, MI 48823
(517) 203-3304

Sunday, May 10

Instant Stir-fry: My Quick Lunch

It's Sunday, and it's a Mother's Day. I am wishing all the moms A Happy Mother's Day! I am sure you are well pampered by your family today. I know I am.. My son said I was not supposed to clean or cook on this important day of mine. However, I ended up cooking something for lunch anyway, since we were all home. Something quick and easy, but yummy!

I had some instant noodles in my pantry, and a little bit of Chinese broccoli in my fridge that I needed to use up. So, I stir-fried partially cooked instant noodles -- which were Mama's Tom Yum Goong (Thai hot and sour shrimp soup) flavor --with bite-sized Chinese broccoli, Chinese celery, onion slices, eggs, included seasonings, and soy sauce.

I usually do add some kind of meat - chicken, pork, or shrimp - when I make this dish. But I was aiming for a "quick" lunch today, we just had it vegetarian version. The dish had all the flavors; salty, sour sweet, and spicy.. they were well in balance. Mission accomplished -- quick and tasty!

Wednesday, May 6

Robin's Egg Blue

Well, I am not planning on using Robin's egg for any kind of cooking, not to worry.. I just wanted to share this finding. I went to a friend's house today to find her so excited about something very special. She just found out that the Robins have been residing in her property, actually by the wall at the front porch of her house. Apparently, they have built 3 nests, one on each shelf of my friend's 3-tier metal shelf on the wall. The eggs were found in the most completed nest on the very bottom - 4 of them! We were still trying to find out if they didn't like the first, then trying the lower shelf, and finally deciding to settle on the very bottom one. It's just amazing that without any kind of engineering and tools, a bird can make something so symetrical and beautiful...

I had never seen Robin's eggs before. They didn't even look real for me that close! It's definitely one of nature's wonders. The unique color, namely Robin's Egg Blue, was just gorgeous - what a beautiful sight!!

Tuesday, May 5

Blue Crabs

Once a week, Oriental Mart, in East Lansing - the biggest Asian grocery store in Lansing area and Mid-Michigan - will get their shipment of live Blue crabs in. Though it's a lot of work to eat such a small amount of their meat, they are very delicious!! Only 15% of their weight is edible meat, but that meat is high in vitamin B12.

Blue crabs are always marketed live. The best way to store a hard-shell crab is in a cool, moist environment. It is important to store live crabs at a 50-degree temperature. Holding live crab in a standard refrigerator (36-degrees) will finally kill them. While it is suggested that the shelf life for hard-shell crabs is 2-3 days, that includes all of the shipping and processing time. Crabs can survive for long periods out of water, as long they can keep their gills moist. To keep a crabs gills from drying out, store them in a cool, moist environment.

The simplest way to cook the crabs is to toss them in a pot of boiling water for 6-8 minutes or so. I usually steam them, which will take 10 to 15 minutes. But first, you need to clean them by plunge them into boiling water for 30 seconds, remove them and clean them under running water, paying special attention to use a brush on the underside behind the legs. Once cooked, they turns red-orange color. Their meat is known for its delicious flavor and delicate texture.

Saturday, May 2

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