Homemade Chili Jam

when I first discovered thai chili jam a couple years back, my mind was blown. I had finally found an all-in-one flavour bomb that could instantly transform any stir fry into magic. the store bought version looks like this, but it contains some added flavour enhancers and colouring (if you’re not into that).

traditional homemade chili jam requires deep frying your own garlic and shallots, but this recipe uses store bought versions of those - cutting your time in half. store in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 6, and use with veg, seafood, meat, rice, noodles - the possibilities are endless!

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Thai Green Apple Salad

do you love thai mango salad but live in a place where mangos don’t grow naturally? ‘cause I do! and green apples are a great substitute. they give a similar crunch and tanginess that green mangos have, plus, they don’t need to travel 11,000 km to get to your plate. pair this with our chicken and squash penang curry and maybe even this coconut chia pudding, and you’ve got a thai feast ready in no time.

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Sundubu-jjigae (Korean Spicy Tofu Stew)

hai everybadee! today we are going to make sundubu-jjigae, a korean spicy tofu stew!

I have to give full credit to maangchi, ‘youtube’s korean julia child’, for teaching me everything I know about korean food. with the addition of just a couple ingredients to your pantry, you can enter the world of maangchi too! for this recipe, you’ll need sesame oil, korean chili powder, some sort of asian cooking wine, and kimchi. all can be found at your local korean or east asian grocery store.

similar to mapo tofu, sundubu jjigae packs a whole lot of flavour in a short amount of time. small quantities of bacon make this dish flavourful, affordable and an easy weeknight option. serve with rice of choice.

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5-Ingredient Coconut Tom Yum Soup

this soup is as easy as combining 5 ingredients in a pot and waiting for 10 minutes! I highly recommend tracking down tom yum paste as this is the base of your flavour. plus, you’d need even more ingredients to substitute it in order to find the right balance. tom yum paste should be available in the international aisle of your major supermarket or at your local east/southeast asian grocery store. if you’re looking for a quick, and I mean rrreeaallyy quick appetizer with not much effort and all the gain, you’ll win with this one. add a little rice vermicelli to make it more filling, or a lot to make it a full meal. we all deserve an easy fix sometimes!

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Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)

the next time you go to a pho restaurant, look for this hidden gem on the menu. it’s probably past #20 of all the potential meat combos you can get in your pho. compared to pho, bo kho has a deeper umami taste, due to the tomatoes and fish sauce in the broth. it’s almost like the vietnamese version of beef bourguignon, but this time served on rice noodles! you can either cook this low and slow, sans agression (thanks ludo lefebvre for the best way to describe gentle cooking), or the process can be expedited with a pressure cooker or instant pot.

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Chili (With Chocolate!)

to me, winter means chili. imagine: a warm bowl of chili after shoveling the snow in -15 degree (celsius) weather outside. a warm bowl of chili after pulling off your oh-so stiff ski boots and wiggling your toes for the first time in hours. a warm bowl of chili on a lazy couch-potato-afternoon catching up on all the whose line is it anyway? episodes (yes, they are making new ones. no, it’s no longer drew. and yes, it’s still wayne, colin, and ryan +1!!)

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Laksa

this version of laksa is one of my favourite noodle soups in the world. my day is instantly better with a bowl of this laksa in front of my face. it’s like a hug for your soul, and belly! traditionally made with fish stock, some versions can be quite fishy. I tried to find a balance of just the right amount of fishiness (from the shrimp paste) with just enough spice, tang, and richness. once you have this laksa, you won’t be able to live without it. I definitely wouldn’t want to. even if we are just 2 people, I usually make the full batch for 4 since you can freeze the leftover broth for a quick meal!

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Chicken and Squash Penang Curry

your mind will be blown the first time you make fresh curry paste. pounding each ingredient in the mortar and pestle and smelling the wafting perfumes that are released is absolutely intoxicating. even if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, the satisfaction of making fresh curry paste from your food processor, blender, whatever it may be, is well worth the effort. your curry will turn out more fragrant, flavourful, and luscious, plus, you can freeze portions of it for a quick weeknight meal! this does require some ingredient hunting, but most of it can be found at your local asian market. if you’re okay with store bought paste, skip to part 2 of the recipe for instructions. serve with steamed white rice, or try our coconut rice for some extra richness.

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Not Quite 'Pad Ka Prao' - Thai Style Minced Pork Stir Fry with Basil

When you ask a local in Thailand what they cook at home, the answer is often some version of Pad Ka Prao. This minced pork stir fry is made with 'holy basil' or ka prao, a peppery cousin of the commonly found sweet basil in North America, but since holy basil is difficult to find, feel free to substitute either Thai or Italian basil -- just don't let a Thai chef catch you calling it "Pad Ka Prao". We love this dish because it's super easy and packed full of flavour. Serve with steamed rice, a crispy fried egg with a yolk that oozes over and some steamed veg, and you've got dinner in under 30 minutes. We make our version farang spicy but if you can handle your chiles like a true Thai you can toss in a few more. 

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Massaman Curry

Massaman curry is one of my personal favourites. It's a go-to recipe when I host private dinners for larger groups, or have a free Sunday to spend cooking. It is rich, complex, and packed with SO much flavour, and I get giddy when I smell the paste frying. The aroma that fills the room is INCREDIBLE. After leaving it for a while to bathe and bubble in its own deliciousness, you're left with a magical, golden curry with beautifully tender chicken or beef. Damn, I'm mouthwatering again. This recipe definitely takes time 'sans aggression', but trust me, it is well worth it. 

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Sai Ua Falafels (Northern Thai Falafels)

We’re always looking for new ways to integrate vegetarian meals into our diets, and as much as we love tofu we’re eager to explore some more imaginative alternate proteins. Lately, that has meant pulse-patties, from black bean burgers to falafels. We love falafels for transforming relatively-boring-but-packed-with-nutrients chickpeas into crisp-on-the-outside-moist-on-the-inside flavour bombs that add substance to rice bowls and keep us full for hours after a meal. They’re traditionally spiced with cumin, coriander, mint and cilantro, but we wondered if they could be done using the same blend of aromatics as our favourite Thai sausage, Sai Ua. The answer is a resounding yes. Full of lemongrass, turmeric, chilies, kaffir lime leaves and galangal, these Thai inspired falafels have a bold flavour that keeps you going back for more. For strict vegetarians, we use powdered dry mushrooms for umami, but if you’re more lenient we recommend a healthy dose of fish sauce.

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Pho Broth

Making pho broth is not as intimidating as you think. You throw a bunch of ingredients into a pot, let it make magic for a couple of hours, and voila - you've got pho broth!  If I can't convince you of how painless it is, the latest issue of Lucky Peach might be able to. Part of the reason for starting this blog was to help make Asian food more approachable to everyone. This recipe might not be your Vietnamese grandmom's, but it does the trick. We add Japanese kombu as an umami booster rather than MSG. 

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Bun Thit Nuong

This recipe requires a shoutout to our friend Mat who introduced us to it. He made it for us one day and while it seemed like a large production the first few times we tried it, it became much easier once we got used to it and started treating the recipe more liberally. Don't have pork? Use whatever leftover meat/ tofu/ root vegetables are in the fridge. No vermicelli? Sub in some rice. Beansprouts always rot in the fridge so you don't know how anyone ever uses them in time? Skip them. There are two ingredients though that are absolutely necessary: pickled vegetables (traditionally carrots and daikons) and nuoc cham, a vietnamese "dressing" of lime, sugar, fish sauce, water and (optionally) garlic and bird's eye chilies. This dish is perfect for a warm summer day, since it's served with cold vermicelli noodles, raw vegetables and plenty of spice.

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Nuoc Cham

Ever wondered how to make that mysterious fish sauce dressing you get at Vietnamese restaurants? The one that adds a little tang and life to your vermicelli bowl or fresh spring roll?This is it! Nuoc Cham is our go-to for livening up rice bowls, cold noodles, and even salads! Of course, you can add adjust the level of sambal or chili to your liking. If you don't have Chinese soup spoons, 1 is equivalent to 15-20mL or approximately 1 tablespoon. 

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Ragu Bolognese

Whenever someone asks me what my favourite thing is to cook, this is my answer. I've cooked this countless times since a family friend in Bologna gave us his simple recipe, and I will never get tired of it. I've tried a few recipes from different sources over the years with varying degrees of complexity; some had chicken liver added, many had a mixture of pork, veal and beef, while others required you to render the fat from lardons at the start. For my money, this is the best balance of simple and delicious. For best results, dice all of the vegetables extremely finely (brunoise if you will) and try to break up the meat into the smallest possible pieces while it's browning.

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Kecap Beef

This is one of the courses that we served when we hosted a supperclub at Toronto's Depanneur recently. It's inspired by a dish we tried on an island in Malaysia a couple of years ago. This island had absolutely awful food. Every restaurant had the exact same menu and none of the options were great. But! Every day, this family of women from a neighbouring island would boat over with a few giant tupperwares of home cooked food that they'd sell on the beach. One of the recurring dishes was called kecap beef (pronounced "ketchup"), named after the kecap manis, or sweet soy, that was in the dish. This recipe is our best attempt at recreating their kecap beef. It's sweet, savoury, a bit spicy and incredibly rich. To balance the richness and to complement the soft texture, we recommend serving it with a side of either pickled vegetables or a vinegar-based slaw as well as topped with something crispy - fried shallots, fried potato, peanuts, whatever you want. 

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Sai Ua (Northern Thai Sausage)

This sausage from Northern Thailand is insane. It's spicy, rich, herbaceous and fragrant. There's a long list of ingredients that go into it, and it takes some commitment to stuff the sausages at home, but the end result is well worth it. If you don't have a sausage stuffer, not a problem. You can use a funnel and manually stuff the casings, or you can simply make patties out of the meat and fry them up in a pan. If you don't have a meat grinder (and realistically, how many people have a meat grinder at home?) simply substitute 2 lbs of ground pork for the belly and shoulder. We use long red chilies instead of bird's eyes simply because they're easier to calibrate - if you'd rather use bird's eyes, that's fine too.

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