My family and I LOVE Japanese sushi. In fact, sushi is my all-time favourite food. California rolls are, by no means, our favourite roll, but they are the ones that we make at home the most often, because the ingredients are affordable and easy to prep. The first time I made California maki for my family, I couldn’t make the rolls quickly enough to keep up with the rate at which they were eating them. I finished that dinner feeling rushed, exhausted, and hungry! So I stopped making sushi for a long time after that. Luckily, one life-altering day, my then-boyfriend’s mom made us dinner by serving all of the ingredients for California rolls and allowing us to assemble our own hand rolls at the dinner table. It was genius! It had never occurred to me to make hand rolls before, because my family Never orders them from the restaurants! The best part is that the cook only has to prepare the individual components, which requires minimal cooking – perfect for weeknight and summer-time dinners. The guests have fun assembling their own hand rolls to their own taste. I’ve since done this countless times for myself, my family, and guests. It’s also makes for a great and easy food station at larger parties. If you don’t like artificial crab meat, I’ve done this using smoked salmon instead.
Archive for the ‘Seafood’ Category
Cooking with Alison’s Mom (Part 7)
Abalone is a luxury shellfish that is often served at Chinese weddings and other celebrations. Although preparation of abalone starts several days in advance, it is surprisingly easy to make, as long as you have a slow cooker. In fact, I like my mom’s abalone much much more than the ones I’ve had in high-end Chinese restaurants. I’ve shared her recipe below, just in time for Chinese New Year.
Cooking with Alison’s Mom (Part 4)
Conch is seafood, and is basically a large sea snail. Conch soup is one of my favourite Chinese soups, because boiling fresh conch until it is soft, but still chewy, is my favourite way to cook it. Conch can also be stir fried, braised, steamed, baked, or BBQ’d whole in its shell. But note that the part of the conch that is found on the inside of the shell is the most tender, so use this part for quick cooking. The ‘head’ of the conch is better used for soup, as it is quite a bit tougher. Be sure to use fresh, live conch. When you’re in the grocery store, poke the muscle (or ‘head’) of the conch (not the shell). If it retracts into its shell, then it is alive. The faster it moves, the better. Ask the staff to remove the shell for you. The type of conch that we use for this soup is shown in the photo below.
When I traveled to Malaysia in May 2013, I tried many new foods in Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, and Kuala Lumpur. One of my top three favourite things was sabah vegetable. The stems of this leafy green vegetable have, in my opinion, the perfect crispy and crunchy texture. To my knowledge, Sabah, Malaysia does not export this local vegetable, so be sure to look for it in restaurants the next time you’re in Sabah, Malaysia. I tried it stir fried with sambal belacan.
I have had the toughest time trying to figure out how to cook using a slow cooker. I’ve tried different recipes from different cookbooks and websites, and I’ve tried using different meats and/or vegetables, but 9 times out of 10, I end up with overcooked slop. I’d love to hear how you mastered the slow cooker! The only other recipe that I’ve had success with is this slow cooker pulled pork. So I tested this fish recipe a few times and even had John (a beginner in the kitchen) make it once by himself before I shared this new favourite slow cooker recipe with you. We love this dish. It is Thai inspired, mild, and light yet creamy. My family approves of this dish too, and that’s saying a lot because they strongly dislike slow cooker cooked food. But I should warn you, this recipe requires a bit more work and attention than typical slow cooker recipes. In my opinion, it’s worth the extra effort, because your meal won’t look or taste like it came out of a slow cooker.
I traveled to Malaysia for the first time in May 2013. It was an amazing food experience and I am excited to share what I learned about Malaysian cuisine with you. The best part of the trip was watching my dad enjoy nostalgic food from his childhood. While souvenir shopping in a Malaysian grocery store, my dad spotted a bottle of cincalok and told me that when he was a child, his family’s servants would toss nets into the ocean during shrimp season to catch tiny shrimp for his mom to make cincalok from scratch. After hearing that story, I had to bring some home.
I made this for my family recently and they thought that it tasted even better than the restaurant’s dish. My mom kept raving about how good it was and how even she can’t replicate that Chinese restaurant “flavour” (known as “wok hay”). My brother even suspected that I had used MSG! 🙂 Just to be clear, I never use monosodium glutamate (MSG), because it is a neurotoxin and, clearly, you don’t need it to make great tasting food.
When eating in Chinese restaurants, my family often orders deep fried squid or deep fried octopus tentacles. We love the simplicity of the salty, peppery, and spicy coating. The tentacles (squid or octopus) are my favourite part, because they tend to be the crispiest and I love the chewy, almost crunchy, texture. You can easily make this at home. In fact, you can easily make it better than the restaurants. A few days after I made this dish for my sister, she ordered it from one of our favourite restaurants and she thought that my dish was better and crispier. If you feel intimidated by the tentacles or by working with fresh squid, you could use calamari rings instead.
I love introducing people to garlic shoots (also known as garlic scapes – note, that’s scapes, not scraps 😉 ). I make this dish often and people always love it. In North America, the green shoots that grow from garlic bulbs are usually discarded. But these garlic shoots, when harvested while young and tender, are actually very tasty and have a light, garlicky flavour when cooked. You can find it in Asian grocery stores and the younger the better, so you want to avoid the really darkly green coloured shoots.
Picture above from top moving clockwise: tomato eggs, stir fried garlic shoots with shrimp, hot and sour soup, mongolian beef. See the Asian category for the rest of the recipes.
Picture below: Stir fried garlic shoots with shrimp and pacific clams.
It is not uncommon to see egg dishes served at dinner in Chinese homes. This Chinese scrambled eggs with shrimp dish is one of my favourite dishes. As simple as it is, it might take you a few tries to get it right. The only difficulty lies in not overcooking the eggs (or the shrimp). It tastes best when the eggs are in thin sheets that are still wet and slightly runny. I like to keep the seasoning very light to enjoy the taste and simplicity of the two main ingredients.
Curry fish balls are a Very popular street food in Hong Kong that are usually served on wooden skewers. This is a mild, yellow curry. At dim sum, you can get curried squid or baby octopus.
Dim sum refers to various types of small dishes that are served with tea during the meal, yum cha (“drinking tea time”), which starts early in the morning and ends between noon and 3 pm, depending on the restaurant. (Check out the other dim sum recipes that I have posted in the Asian – Dim Sum category.)
In Chinese cooking, white fish are often steamed whole (in restaurants and in peoples’ homes). Steaming fish until it’s Just cooked is incredibly easy, healthy, and gives you a Very moist fish. It’s my favourite way to eat fish. By the way, the cheeks are the best part of the fish so you should definitely try it if you haven’t already.
Note that the fish in the picture below is missing its head. Normally the fish is steamed whole, but when I caught this fish ice fishing at the Winterlude Festival in Ottawa, Ontario, the people running the event gutted the fish and removed the head.