I am a scientist who loves to cook because there are many similarities between working in a lab and cooking in a kitchen. I love to share my cooking experience with you and to inspire others to cook.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bacon and Egg

Bacon and Egg are quintessential breakfast food in the Western world.

Since I am the kind of person who occasionally bend the status quo, I eat this for dinner.

Quite honestly, as I was making this, I have a feeling that I was the only person within a 5 mile radius that was making bacon and egg for dinner.

Truth to be told, I did this because I ran out of food and the only food available in my refrigerator are bacon and eggs.

and in a truly Asian fashion......

Bacon, egg and white rice


You have served your last mission faithfully


But wait

I grant you a second life

You will be my new spoon rest

Welcome back


Mushroom Chicken

Today's post is on Mushroom Chicken.

I used two kinds of mushroom for this dish - shiitake mushroom and black Chinese fungus a.k.a. wood ear mushroom a.k.a. black cloud ear mushroom.

As for the meat, it is simply chicken thigh meat. Again, my preferred choice of chicken meat. You can find boneless + skinless thigh meat if you are willing pay a premium. I bought bone-in + skin-on thigh meat and did the painstaking work of getting the meat out of the bone and trimming the skin off.

The name of the game is "Think ahead before starting". I made three mistakes while preparing this dish for not preparing ahead of time.

1) Dried Shiitake mushrooms need to be soaked in water for at least 1 hour
2) Dried Chinese fungus expand after you soaked, start with a large cooking pan/pot
3) This is obvious, if the chicken is frozen, allow enough time to thaw completely.

Chicken thigh - about 4 thighs will serve 3-4 people
Dried Shiitake mushroom - one handful
Dried black Chinese fungus - one handful

Ginger - thumb size
Garlic - 2-3 cloves
Dried red chillies (optional) - 2-3 pieces
Szechuan pepper corn (optional)  - a pinchful

Dried Shiitake mushroom and dried black chinese fungus (note: I used a little more for my dish because I cooked a big pot)

See how much the black fungus expanded?

Shiitake expanded too
Ginger, Garlic, Szechuan peppercorn, dried red chillies

1. Cut the chicken into small pieces
2. Remove the stem of the shiitake mushroom and discard. Cut the mushroom into smaller pieces
3. Give the black fungus a crude chopping. It does not need to be precise.
4. Chop the garlic, ginger and dried chilles

1. Saute the aromatics until the garlic turns slightly yellow
2. Put the chicken into the pot and stir fry. I learn that there is no need to keep stirring the chicken. Let the chicken cook for a little bit before stirring.
3. Add the shiitake mushroom and black fungus
4. Keep stirring and cooking
5. Add a splash of soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and some salt to taste
6. Add a little water into the pot and turn the heat to medium. Cover the pot and simmer for 10 minutes.
7. Serve

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Nothing that taste better than a fresh piece of fish. In Malaysia, seafood is in abundance because the country is surrounded by water. Fish is commonly found on the dinner table whether at home or at a restaurant. Some of the commonly eaten fish are:

Red snapper



Of course there are many more that I cannot remember at this point.

In United States, however, the most commonly eaten fish are salmon, tuna and cod.  Take a walk around any Chinatown in any American city and you will see that there are many more varieties available.

In my experience, the best way to cook a fish is to pan-seared it. There is essentially no prepping time and the reward at the end is high, granted if you start with a piece of fresh fish.

Pan-seared Fish

In this recipe, the only thing that you need to prep in advance is to chop up some ginger, shallots (and scallion, if you like).

1) start with a piece of fish. I chose a piece of salmon fillet.
2) pat the fish dry and sprinkle both sides with generous amount of salt and black pepper.
3) Heat some oil in a non-stick pan and transfer the fish into the pan. Turn the heat to medium.
4) Depend on the thickness of the fish, it will take about 10 minutes to cook each side. I have cooked a fair share of undercooked or overcooked fish. It does takes experience to get this right.

5. If you are French, the next thing you add at this point is butter, which you can still do if you are not French. I used to do that a lot.

6. Once the fish is done cooking, take it out of the pan and let it rest on a plate.

7. Leave some oil in the pan. Fry the chopped ginger and shallots until the shallots turn brown (you can add chillies, scallion, herbs, or any aromatics that floats your "fish").

8. Add a splash of soy sauce into the pan, and transfer the content of the pan onto the fish.

9. Serve.

Easy eh?

It took me many years to discover a little kitchen "equipment" called the "oil screen". I used it all the time whenever I cook something that cause a lot of oil splash and I highly recommend using it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Three Cups Chicken

Three cups chicken is a traditional Taiwanese dish. The basic principle is 1:1:1 ratio of sesame oil, soy sauce, and cooking wine. Authentic three cups chicken should have Thai basil but my version did not include Thai basil because I am not a big fan of basil.

Just as the Fragrant Spicy Pork belly, I adopted this recipe from http://wendyinkk.blogspot.com/

Again, this recipe was designed for 3-4 standard servings.

Main ingredient: 1lb of boneless chicken thighs. 

If you haven't noticed, I am a big fan of dark meat and I will continue to champion the use of dark meat. 1lb of meat might seem like a lot but you will be surprise how little meat you get in the end. So again, adjust your portion accordingly.
2 thumb size ginger
2 shallots (original recipe ask for 1 onion)
4 cloves of garlic
1 dried red chilli

4 Tbsp sesame oil
4 Tbsp light soy sauce
4 Tbsp Shao Xing wine or rice wine
(original recipe asked for 1 handful of Thai basil, leaves only) but I used I sprig of spring onion instead.

1.    Cut the chicken into cubes.
2.    Add the soy sauce to the chicken and set aside.
3.    While marinating the chicken, cut the aromatics into pieces.

Holy Trinity!!


1.    Heat oil in pan. Add shallots and cook until slightly brown (about 1 minute). Add ginger and cook until golden brown(30 seconds). Add garlic and cook until golden brown (30 seconds). (Tips: I learned that it is essential to keep this sequence because each aromatic cooks at different rate. Shallots/Onions takes a while to breakdown. Garlic cooks the fastest)
2.    Add the dried chilies.
3.  Put in the chicken pieces and cook until meat turns white 

Chicken in the pan
4.  Put in cooking wine and light soy sauce. A small splash of dark soy sauce here will add color. 
5.   Cook in high heat until sauce thickens (about 15 minutes).
6. I slowly added incremental amount of starch water (wheat flour/corn starch + water) to speed up the thickening process.
7. Serve.
Voila. Final Product

Fragant Spicy Pork Belly

I learned this dish from  (http://wendyinkk.blogspot.com)

This recipe was designed for 4 servings, but I managed only 2 servings because I am trying to eat more. I would suggest that you adjust the portion accordingly

Main ingredient: 1.5lb pork belly

Thumb size ginger, peeled, sliced
2 shallots, peeled , roughly chopped
2 sprig green onion, white parts only (I am yet to understand why but this is what the recipe requested), chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 dried chillies, seeds removed, more if you like it extra spicy
1 star anise
small pinch of szechuan peppercorn

2 Tbsp Hot Bean Paste (豆瓣酱)
1 Tbsp cooking wine
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar


       1. I removed the skin from the pork belly. You can leave it on if you like it that way.
       2. Slice the pork belly into roughly the width of your thumb. 
       3. Chopped the aromatics - ginger, shallots, garlic, green onion, dried chilies. Set aside.
The aromatics

       3. Mix the seasoning (EXCEPT SUGAR) in a bowl and set aside.

1.  Boil a pot of water and cook the pork belly until it turns white.

2.  Pour the water away and rinse the pork a few times. Make sure you drain it properly. Set aside.

3.   Heat some oil in a pan (or wok) and return the cooked pork into the hot oil (beware of splashing oil if your pork is still wet). Spread the pork into one layer. Leave it cooking like this for 1 minute. The purpose is to brown the pork.

4.  Start tossing/stirring the pork in the pan.

5.  Put all the aromatics in the pan. Keep tossing or stirring for one minute

6.  Put in all the seasoning (without the sugar). Keep tossing and stirring for another minute.

7.  Put in just enough water to cover the pork. Bring the water to boil, cover with lid and turn the heat to medium to simmer until meat is tender
Simmering the pork belly

8.   When meat is tender (about 20 minutes, or just try a piece of meat), put in the sugar. (TIP: I suggest that you put in small quantity at a time until the sweetness is slightly bellow your normal preferred sweetness. Reason is that you will continue to cook the sauce down and it will become sweeter when more water evaporates).

9.   Turn on high heat and reduce the sauce to preferred consistency. 
10. Serve.

Image from http://wendyinkk.blogspot.com

Taste Verdict:
I was fully surprised when I tasted this dish. The meat and the fatty layer were equally tender.
This dish tasted so good that I can't wait to try it again. The only small modification I would made 
is to add 1 more dried chilli pepper. 

Holy Trinity

Every cuisine in the world has the most basic aromatic ingredients to provide the distinctive flavor. There are usually three basic ingredients and they are called the “Holy Trinity”. For example:

French – butter, butter, butter. Ok, I am just kidding. Celery, onion and carrots
Indian – garlic, ginger, onion
Italian – carrots, onion, celery (very much like the French), and sometimes tomato
Japanese – dashi, mirin amd soy sauce
Korean – garlic, ginseng, kimchi
Mexican – pepper, pepper, pepper.
Spanish – garlic, onion and tomato
Chinese – spring onion, ginger, garlic, and sometimes shallots

I have been going back to my roots of Chinese cooking and it is true, the Chinese “holy trinity” is found in almost every dish. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


What comes into your mind when you hear the word pancake? I can think of a few right off the bat

1) Brunch
3) Clinton Street Bakery (you can look it up, but i have never been there)
4) Reason for some people to eat their fruits
5) Expensive "shi-shi" NYC diners that charge $10 for two pancakes, refer to (3)
6) pancake mix from a box

If your idea of Sunday brunch is to sit in a restaurant or by the side walk, sip a cup of coffee/tea and have a pancake, be prepare to leave $20 poorer (New York City standard). But if you are in a money-saving mode, then pancake is as easy as it gets to make.

There are a million sites that tell you how to make the most basic pancake. I copied the recipe from another site too (no pancake copyrights, right?).

(recipe for 8 pancakes)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted

1. It is essential to melt the butter the right way. You can either leave it out for 20 minutes or use a water bath (you can google it). Please, DO NOT MICROWAVE BUTTER!

2. Once everything is mixed, make sure there is no lumps

3. Use a soup ladle to transfer the batter on to a hot pan (i recommend non stick pan). You don't need to oil the pan.

4. Cook each side of the pancake for 1 minute at medium heat. Yes, 2 minutes is all it takes.

There are a couple things that you will need to judge for yourself.
a) the size and thickness of the pancake. The pancake will "puff-up", "rise-in-height" very slightly when you cook it. So you want to start with a somewhat thin layer of batter. Transfer the batter to a pan and swirl the pan around to spread the batter. 

b) cooking time - when the pancake is done cooking on one side, you should be able to slide the pancake off the pan. If it sticks, leave it for a few more seconds. If you want your pancake browner, leave it for a few seconds before turning.

That's it folks. I hope you will enjoy making pancake as I did. I have provided some extra tips and instructions that regular websites do not. 

One variation which I will try next time is to add coconut milk into the batter. What do you think?

Maple syrup kissing the pancake. I sometimes prefer honey

A happy looking pancake

Pancakes and their friends - Miss Peachy

My pancake was too thick as seen in this picture. I made 5 instead of, supposedly, 8

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Strawberry Jam

When I was living with my cousin in college, my aunt visited us once and she made jam. She went around town and picked blackberries off the trees which will be used to make jam. I remember the freshness of her jam and it was very different from the ones you buy from the store.

Jam was invented as a way to preserve food since fruit is cooked to kill germs and high sugar content slows bacteria growth. 

Most people buy their jam from the store these days but do you know it is SO EASY to make your own jam? You can make jam from fruits that are harvested from different seasons. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries in the spring/summer; peach, plum, apple in the late summer/fall.

There are only two ingredients in my jam recipe:

1) fruits - strawberry in this case
2) sugar

Here are the easy steps
1) Cut the fruits into small pieces but not too small because heat will break down the fruits anyways. Fruits such as strawberries, peaches, and apples should be cut.
2) Toss the fruit with sugar. The amount of sugar that you use varies according to the amount of fruit that you use. My own rule of thumb is 1 cup of cut fruits per 1/2 cup of sugar.
3) Place the sugar coated fruit in the refrigerator for 2 hours. The fruit juice will sip out during this time. You want the juice so that you can cook the fruit in its own juice.
4) Cook the fruit in its own juice under low heat. Add sugar if you want your jam to be sweeter.
5) Done and store

How do you know if the jam is ready?

There are a few tests out there that people use such as scooping the jam with a very cold spoon. It if sticks, it is done. But for me, it is all about using your own eyes. Unless you are mass producing it for sale, the consistency of your jam is entirely up to you. My aunt's jam was very very watery. My jam was slightly less jelly-like then store-bought jam.

Some recipes suggest using pectin, which is a natural jellying agent. Then again, I think this is unnecessary.

Chopped Strawberries

After two hours of sugar "marination". See the shininess? That's what you want.

Simmer the strawberries in low heat

What can you use the jam for?
a) pancakes/waffles toppings
b) spread it on toast/bagel
c) add some into oatmeal. I haven't seen anyone nor have i done this before. But i can see it work.
d) make milkshake
e) my favorite - ice cream topping

Here are some photos