Eating Tucson (condiments): Santa Cruz Chili Paste and Red chili beef


When I lived in Tucson, I used to buy Santa Cruz brand red chili paste concentrate from the 17th Street Farmers Market, which was just a short bike ride down the street from my house in the barrio.


It’s a mild and very versatile paste made from red chilies grown in Southern Arizona, just north of the (Sonoran) Mexican border. When I was last in Tucson, I made sure to swing by the market to procure a jar to smuggle back up here to Portland for later use.

Red chili beef

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2 pound beef chuck roast, but into very large chunks
  • Flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 can cheap lager
  • 1 large white onion
  • 6-7 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 red fresh jalapeno chilis, seeded
  • 5-6 dried guajillo chilies, cut lengthwise, seeded and stemmed
  • 1 tablespoon pasilla chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon chile de arbol powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 6 tablespoons Santa Cruz red chili paste concentrate*
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro for garnish

*Of course, you’re most likely not going to find Santa Cruz brand red chili concentrate in your neck of the woods (you can order it online). I suppose a decent substitute is a a small can (14 ounces or so) of a Mexican brand red chili sauce, like Las Palmas.

Soak guajillo chilies in warm water for 30 minutes or until reconstituted.


As shown above, use a knife to scrape the flesh from the chili, discarding skin. Set aside.


Chop onions and fresh red jalapenos.


Season beef with salt and pepper and dust with flour.


Heat oil in large skillet and brown beef.


Remove from heat, and add onions and jalapenos, and sweat over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.


Turn up heat to high, and deglaze pan briefly with beer and chicken stock. As you can see, I use some pretty shitty, cheap-ass lawnmower beer.


Add chili paste concentrate, guajillo chili flesh, all dried herbs and spices, and stir to mix well.


In this case I was using my trusted Cuisinart pressure cooker, which I find works excellently with slow-braised dishes, so I transferred everything (inluding the beef, of course) to the chamber and set to low pressure simmer for half an hour. If you’re doing stovetop, return beef to pan and cover and reduce to heat to low, and cook for 2 1/2 hours, stirring every half hour or so. You can alternately transfer the pot to a 250 degree oven and cook it for 2 1/2 hours, as well.


Top with cilantro.


I enjoy eating my red chili with a simple, medium-grain white rice pilaf.

Fall Harvest Edition: Roasted tomato salsas

Here in Oregon, we’ve already pulled up our summer tomato crop. If you’ve had a growing season like we’ve endured, you’ve probably pulled up plenty of green tomatoes, and threw away a bunch that were stricken with blight and tomato gout or lupus or whatever it is that tomatoes get.

Here are roasted tomato salsa recipes, both essentially quick riffs on a theme: tomato, allium, and chilies, all roasted over charcoal.


Charcoal that IS ON FIRE.


Garden Roasted Tomato Salsa “Molcajete”*

*Typically you’d use a molcajete, aka a fair-sized mexican mortar, but I use a food processor.


  • 1 and 1/2 pounds of garden tomatoes
  • 5 Hatch green chilies (or Anaheim)
  • 2 jalapenos
  • 4 whole garlic cloves in their natural papery casing
  • 3/4 small red onion
  • 1 lime
  • 3/4 Bunch cilantro, stems, removed, chopped
  • Kosher salt

Grill everything except lime, cilantro, and salt. Peel the husky layers from the onions, and finely dice, and set aside. Peel the husky layers from the garlic cloves. Or not. What out though as they tend to fall through the grill grates. (I think grills should be built with another layer of wire mesh below the grilling surface that allows grease to expunge but still catches elusively narrow grilled foodstuffs that often fall tragically through the grates. A safety net, you know, like for the trapeze artists at the circus. Grilling is food trapeze.)

The chili and tomato skins should naturally peel off after a good grilling, but don’t worry it there’s some remnant skin. That’s a part of life. I mean, speaking from experience, my own circumcision wasn’t exactly a “clean break”.


Put all the vegetables in a food processor or a large bowl that you intend to penetrate with an immersion blender. Add cilantro, lime, salt, and blend in short, firm, “medicated” bursts.

Salt additionally to taste.


Roasted Heirloom Tomato, Tomatillo and Cherry Bomb Salsa


I picked up some beautifully awesome heirloom tomatoes and “cherry bomb” chilies that were all over Beaverton Farmer’s market come mid-September. This version of the salsa eschews some of the tomato heft in favor of a tomatillos base, resulting in roughly a 60/40 mater/millo-composition.

  • 1 pound fresh tomatoes
  • 2/3 pound tomatillos
  • 5-6 decent sized cherry bomb peppers
  • 5 whole garlic cloves in their natural papery casing
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 lime
  • Bunch cilantro, stems, removed, chopped
  • Kosher salt


Grill everything except lime, cilantro, and salt. Peel, etc. (no worries about peeling tomatillo, though). Puree, etc.

My favorite salad

As a somebody who self-identifies with eating too much meat, I also eat more vegetables than nearly anybody I know. I am a complex individual, a walking dichotomy (if you looked up “unknowable” in the dictionary you would see a photo of yours truly, along with a screenshot of Windows Vista).

Most of my vegetables come in the form of salad. I mean, who amongst us does not enjoy a nicely tossed salad?

The following recipe is for My Most Favorite Salad Ever, roughly adapted from a Lebanese restaurant that existed a decade ago in Tucson, Arizona, a place where I went attended high school and college and, subsequently, spent many brain cells.

When I was just starting out in my career as a pixel pusher, often during lunch I would jump on my Schwinn cruiser and motor over to the local university row. The aforementioned Lebanese joint served—in addition to your mezze standards and shawerma—a couple rotating daily specials that usually involved stewed chicken quarters or lamb shanks in a delicious sauce, served over generous portions of rice. Back then my metabolism was a force to reckon with, and I could put away 1000 calories at lunch, so I ate at this place often, often indulging in a plate of whatever the kitchen was cooking. An added bonus was that the Lebanese gentleman who operated the establishment was a total dick and seemed to really despise me for reasons I could never discern (outside of the normal ones), so that made patronizing his establishment that much more satisfying.

Anyhow, along with the stewed meat and rice, the daily special came with a nice scoop of salad. When I first ordered my plated special, I thought the salad was an afterthought; it was sitting at room temperature, already dressed, in a large chafing dish, alongside the dolmas and kibbeh. Hey, this salad is wilted…old salad!

I reserved the salad for the last few bites, after I had consumed the meat and starch, treating it as a palate cleanser, and when I took my first few bites it was a revelation. This wilted, old, forgotten afterthought of a salad? Fucking awesome. Each subsequent visit resulted in salad joy. The asshole who owned the place thought he was dicking me when he would progressively lighten up on the meat and rice and unbalance my plate with extra salad, but I nobly took such customer abuse with silent exhilaration. Ten years may have passed, but I never forget, you generous motherfucker.


Marinated Salad “Ceviche”, AKA “The Asshole Toss”

  • an entire head of romaine lettuce, ribs removed
  • 1/2 (or more) an English, seedless cucumber (or 2-3 Persian cukes). roughly chopped, skin on.
  • 1/2 pound chopped tomato or halved grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, stems removed, coarsely town
  • large handful of fresh mint leaves (14-16 or more)
  • 1 lemon
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • fine sea salt
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • ground sumac

Assemble all the vegetables in a large salad bowl. Squeeze the juice of an entire lemon over the veggies, and douse generously with olive oil. Add a VERY healthy pinch of salt (this salad is oversalted, and that helps draw out water from the lettuce [and other veggies],—which will came into play later) plenty of pepper, and a touch of sumac. Toss that salad. Toss it. Toss it plenty.

Now leave the kitchen. Go watch the E! channel or whatever it is that grown adults watch these days. Or read a book, just nothing by Jane Austen. Goddamn that shit is unbearable. Go back into the kitchen after 10 minutes or so, and pour on some more oil and toss it. Toss that salad. Toss it lots. Then go check the mail. Check your email. Post an off-the-cuff missive rife with invective on some message board. Maybe log into Paypal and send $100 to “” as a litmus test just to see if this person is real. Look at cats on the Internet. Process their LOL messages.

Then pour the salad onto a nice platter. Finish with more salt, pepper, and a fine dusting of sumac. This makes a huge plate of salad, that serves 2 or 3. But I eat the entire thing myself.

I hope you didn’t allow the dressing and extracted liquid that pooled onto the bottom of the mixing bowl to just sit there. Hopefully you transferred all those liquid goods to the plate itself, as well. At the end of the salad, I tilt my neck back and shoot the astringent, and oily, and slightly sweet, and sour, residue. Right off the plate.


This salad travels nicely to lunch as well. Just bring all the simple components and combine them there. You do have to start the salad portion of lunch nearly 40 minutes before the meal actually occurs, though, or you’re doing it wrong.

Summer Grilling Series: Grilled spatchcocked chicken


This is the first part in a series of posts where I grill meat in my backyard.

I like grilling. Meat. In my backyard. I’ve got an old, beat up Weber kettle grill. One of the wheels is missing a cap, so whenever I roll the kettle its legs always pop out, spilling the grill proper onto the ground. One time, while grilling, I moved it slightly (to account for the smoke I was suffusing onto my tomato plants) and had to perform a bear hug save of the grill’s current contents…and proceeded to singe the living fuck out of my forearms.

Though I often entertain the idea of getting an obscene, propane monstrosity replete with dual side burners, refrigerated drawers, and scrotum massager, I quickly abandon such nonsense. Why waste the money when the Weber works just fine? I just shouldn’t be so stupid as to embrace a burning sphere of metal just to save a few medium rare strip steaks. Or maybe I can visit the hardware store and purchase a 25 cent wheel cap.

I do much of my grilling next to my garden, which in the summer features many green and tasty herbs, including chives, mint, thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley, and basil.


As such, one of my favorite all-purpose marinades simply features a smattering of these herbs (chopped or whole), oil, acid, and seasonings.

Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken

Spatchcocking is a nice option for grilling a whole chicken. Spatchcocking, for the uninitiated, is not a sadistic, fraternity hazing ritual, but rather the act of cutting out the bird’s backbone (preferably with heavy duty kitchen shears) to leave a flat carcass. Which is much more friendly for grilling evenly. And deliciously.

  • One whole chicken
  • Assorted chopped fresh herbs
  • 5-6 cloves minced garlic
  • Olive oil
  • One lemon
  • Sea salt
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Smoked paprika

First thing: spatch the living cock out of that fucking chicken. This dude can show you how1.
Sprinkle the bird with chopped herbs, garlic, and salt and pepper both sides. Pour oil to coat, and squeeze lemon. Using your hands, rub gently to mix in and settle the marinade. Sprinkle the top side of the chicken with smoked paprika, and allow to sit in the fridge for a few hours (or more).
Prepare your grill, dumping coals on one side. Grill chicken, 15-20 minutes per side, turning often, moving alternately from hot and cool side of kettle, covering and removing said cover as need be.

You know, grilling.

1 However, I advise that you don’t search for more spatchcocking videos on Youtube, as it’s (evidently) a common move for strippers and, subsequently, home workout enthusiasts. Unless, of course, you want to hazard the wife walking into your office (to change the cat litter), only to discover some guy watching grainy amateur video featuring a skinny Jersey goth spreading her legs 180 degrees while straddling a long, metallic pole. And you can live with the results. Which in my case it’s the usual askew glance of tepid disgust and then eventual disregard.

Kai yaang

Summer grilling season is upon us! Here’s to backyard grilling and bbq.

Kai Yaang (Thai grilled chicken)

  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds various chicken parts, or a whole chicken, halved
  • 8 or more minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon ground white pepper
  • As much minced lemongrass as you like. I like a lot (like a 1/2 cup or more!)*
  • 6-8 thai bird chilies, minced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
  • Half a bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar

* Fubonn (and many Vietnamese markets) sell finely minced lemongrass in plastic tubs in the freezer section. They are a time saver, and the industrial cut is finer than anything you can reproduce at home. Highly recommended

Place chicken parts in a bowl. Add all the marinade ingredients and mix well. Marinade for at least four hours or overnight.
Start a charcoal grill in your kettle grill, keeping the hot coals on one half.

Once the coals are going, grill the chicken for 10-15 minutes over hot coals, turning often, until a nice color develops.


Move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill. Turn every so often, and cook for another 20-30 minutes. This is backyard grilling—use your backyard grillSense. Move parts back to the hot side as needed.

Serve with sweet chili dipping sauce.

Chicken noodle soup


Since it’s winter and the time where many humans are afflicted with “the sickness”, I thought I’d share my favorite form of chicken noodle soup. I guess in Vietnamese it’s officially “pho ga”, but that literally just means “chicken soup”. So the American patois in this instance is far superiour as it includes the word “noodle”. But I don’t really care at all what you call it. It’s a free country—until of course everyone has access to affordable health care at which point we will all be fascists.

Start the Broth

  • 1 Chicken
  • A lot of water
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seed
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon white peppercorns
  • 6 star anise
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 10 cloves
  • 4 dried scallops
  • 15 dried shrimp
  • 4 tablespoons finely minced lemongrass
  • 7 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 large white onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 1 medium sized knob ginger, sliced

Put the chicken in a stock pot. Pour enough water in the pot to cover the chicken by a couple inches or so. Add vegetables and spices (all the rest of the broth ingredients) and bring to a low simmer. Lower heat to low and allow chicken to poach for 45 minutes or so, and then remove the chicken and stick it in the fridge. After it’s cooled sufficiently, remove the breast meat (but keep the rest of the chicken on the bone).

Bring the stock back to a low simmer and return the rest of the chicken back to the pot. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting (and if there are burners on your stove smaller than others, move the stockpot to the smaller burner). “Simmer” overnight (there really should be no bubbling at all).

Season the Broth

The next morning, strain twice (or more!) and place in the fridge. Once a layer of fat congeals at the very top, skim it. Return the pot to the stove (and heat) and add:

  • A few, small (nickle-sized) pieces of rock sugar
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon or more of Ajinomoto (aka “MSG”) – this is your call (if you hate MSG, I respect your wishes. The scallops and shrimp do add a significant amount of umami).
  • Many dashes of fish sauce

Taste and season accordingly.

Bowl It Up

Bring the broth to a roiling simmer. In the meantime, boil fresh banh pho noodles for 30 seconds and remove to a bowl. Add to that:

  • Torn chicken breast meat (see above)
  • Chiffonade of thin omelette spiked with a lot of black pepper
  • Torn Thai basil leaves
  • Sawtooth herb (if you can find it)
  • Cilantro
  • Thinly sliced onion
  • Chopped green onions
  • Chopped bird chilies
  • Bean sprouts

Pour hot broth over noodles. Finish with a couple dashes of fish sauce and grinds of fresh black and white pepper. Squeeze of 1/4 or 1/2 of a lemon over the soup. Slurp.

Grand Central’s Tomato Jam

I’m a big fan of Grand Central. I love their branding, and have been enjoying their bread and pastries since I’ve moved to Portland over 7 years ago.

During breakfast, Grand Central serves an egg sandwich with an absolutely fantastic tomato jam/relish that is at once sweet and savory. I’ve tried recreating it at home a couple times, even creating a sun dried tomato jam that was nice but turned out a bit too cloyingly sweet for a breakfast sandwich. It never occurred to me to ask someone at Grand Central for the recipe. And it probably never will.

So I considered it a moment of great serendipity when The Oregonian ran a special on breakfast sandwiches last year and printed the recipe for Grand Central’s tomato jam. I’ve prepared it at home, and consider this recipe a faithful recreation of the original.

(Above: homemade egg-and-bacon sandwich on toasted Grand Central bolo roll, topped with tomato jam. Recipe below).

Grand Central’s Tomato Jam/Relish

Reprinted from the Oregonian

  • 1/4 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes (dry-packed, not oil-packed)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 1 large leek, diced
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (Grand Central uses Muir Glen brand), drained, juices reserved
  • 2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

In a small bowl, cover the sun-dried tomatoes with boiling water. Let sit until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving the soaking liquid, and purée in a food processor. Add a little of the soaking liquid if the purée is too stiff. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until they begin to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Turn heat down and add diced leeks. Cook until the leeks are tender, 6 to 8 minutes longer.

Combine the reserved juice from the canned tomatoes with the sun-dried tomato purée. Add to the onion-leek mixture in the pan and turn up the heat, stirring until the liquid evaporates.

Add brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and salt. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Remove from heat, cool, and stir in uncooked canned diced tomatoes. Adjust seasoning to taste. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks, or freeze for up to 6 months.

Sate marinated game hens

I like game hens. They are like chickens, except in diminutively exact scale. You can eat an entire game hen at one sitting and not feel like a glutton. So I eat two.

One thing that worries: are “game hens” simply baby chickens prematurely slaughtered on a factory farm? Is this a moral quandary for which I’m ill equipped to handle due to my own shortcomings? My failure to subscribe to a moral imperative derived from a careful exploration of Kantian ethics? Or are these really indeed “game” birds that have lived a fruitful life wandering the short brush of Appalachian foothills until they met their untimely fate? I’d prefer to subscribe to the fatalism of the latter, though the former is most likely closer to the inconvenient truth.

In any regards, this is some delicious poultry.

This is a simple recipe for excellent grilled game hens. Since they are small, you can grill them on an open flame without having to spatchcock the bird (though certainly if you want to butterfly it to cut down on cooking time you could).

The marinade is simply a deep rub of the Vietnamese “sate” condiment, a wonderfully reddish and fiery paste of lemongrass, fish sauce, and chilies. My recipe is cribbed straight from Andrea Nguyen, who I considered the Julia Child of Vietnamese cuisine in these here United States.

You can also buy jarred versions of sate (not to be confused with “satay”) sauce at any Asian store that specializes in the Southeast Asian ingredients, and that should work in a pinch. It should be an oily, deep hue of red, with lots of “gritty”-ness (from the aromatic alliums and lemongrass).

Sate Grilled Game Hens

  • 2 Game Hens
  • 6 tablespoons prepared sate condiment (see Andrea’s recipe)
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass, ends and nubs removed (and set aside) and finely minced
  • 4 ounces lager beer
  • Dozen kaffir lime leaves
  • Discarded tops and nubs of various lemongrass stalks (from those used to make the sate and from the fresh lemongrass I just told you about)

In a small bowl, combine sate, minced lemongrass, and beer. Mix into a paste. Rub all over each game hen and in the inner cavities. Stuff the inner cavity with lime leaves and lemongrass discards. Allow to marinate 4-12 hours in the fridge.

Prepare a charcoal grill, piling the coals disproportionately with one hot side and one cool(er) side. Once the coals are hot, grill over hot heat, turning often to get grill-y marks on all quadrants of the bird. Move to the cool side of the grill and cover (opening up the slot vents). Roast for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. Set aside and let rest.

I could eat this forever and a day with plain, steamed jasmine rice.

Split Pea Soup with Smoked Bacon

I haven’t been eating much because there are currently like 50 sutures in my mouth, so lately I’ve had to limit myself to soft foods and lots of soups. Here’s one soup I’ve recently enjoyed.

Split Pea Soup with Smoked Bacon

  • 1 1/2 pound split peas, rinsed
  • 8-9 slices thick slab smoked bacon, the smokier the better
  • 8 cups quick vegetable stock (directions to follow)
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, lightly bruised
  • 1/4 bunch parsley, whole leaves
  • 7-8 broad green chard leaves, stem and white “backbone” removed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/4 bunch parsley, finely chopped and set aside
  • Sea salt
  • Coarse ground pepper
  • Finely ground white pepper

Generously cover peas with boiling water and soak for 4 hours. Strain.

Start the quick vegetable stock

In a small stockpot, combine:

  • 9 cups water
  • The 1 inch ends and nubs of entire celery stalk, plus 2 stalks
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 3 unpeeled carrots, halved
  • the “garbage” half end of an entire parsley bunch (stems and few leaves)
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon white peppercorns
  • 6 bay leaves

Bring to a bowl, then lower to simmer for at least 90 minutes.

Mix the chopped herbs (save the chopped parsley)

Combine onion, carrots, celery, parsley leaves, garlic, and chard into your “aromatics” bowl.

Dice the bacon into 1/2 inch squares. Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat, and add bacon and a pinch of herb mixture and sautee for 10 minutes or more. Bacon should be brown and give off a lot of fat.

Using slotted spoon, remove bacon crispies to a dish lined with a paper towel, leaving about 1 tablespoon or so of bacon meat sitting in the pan in a nice pool of shimmering bacon fat.

Add the aromatic vegetables to the pan, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt, a few fresh grinds of pepper, and the remainder of the herbs, and saute for 10 minutes, until the vegetables start to get soft. Turn up the heat to highest possible setting (stirring constantly), and when the pan starts to smoke deglaze with white wine, all the while stirring and scraping up the fond from the bottom of the pan.

Add split peas, and stir. Drain vegetable stock into the dutch oven, stir repeatedly and bring the entire pot to a boil. Season with more salt pepper (black and white), and lower to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour.

Use an immersion blender and pulse over the course of 30-40 seconds to create a semi-smooth consistency. Return to pot, add bacon, stir and cover and allow to simmer over lowest setting for another 30 minutes.

Garnish with chopped parsley, sea salt, and a drizzle of olive oil. Sure, it looks a bit like baby food, but when you can’t chew, a smoky, nutritious bowl of velvety goodness is quite welcome.

Grilled summertime halibut

I’ve had oral surgery recently and have been limited to soft foods. As a result, my normal routine has been eviscerated, as I’ve been drinking a lot of soymilk protein shakes and eating a lot of soups.

As summer plays out its final days, it’s been extremely frustrating as this is when you want to get in some quality outdoor grilling time. Normally, I would spend my weekends grilling ribs, chicken, steaks, burgers, etc. in the twilight. However, I can’t eat any of that.


I can, however, eat the delicate, sweet flesh from the sea, and have been using it as a foil to scratch my outdoor grilling itch.

Grilled Halibut (Marinated in Olive Oil, Sel Gris and Herbs)

Place a nice, thick filet of halibut (skin on the bottom) in a shallow dish and cover it generously with extra virgin olive oil, and turn a couple times to coat. Coat the skinless side with a generous layer of coarse sel gris and fresh cracked pepper, and use your hand to pat down the seasonings. Allow to marinade for at least a few hours.

Right before building your grill, top with chopped fresh thyme, whole fresh mint leaves, and a couple garlic cloves forced through a garlic press.


Build your grill. I’ve got one of these slotted grill “skillets” that is perfect for grilling fish filets. Since I’m not blackening the fish, and halibut is a delicate flesh, I prefer to build a low flame with a minimal amount of charcoal.

Place the filet, non-skin side down, making sure the herbs and garlic aren’t displaced.

Grill for 2-4 minutes (depending on the strength of your fire), and flip over.


What to eat with your grilled halibut? If you’re lucky, like me, to have a sous chef, you can skirt child labor laws and put them to work on grilling a bundle of fresh spinach leaves while you kick back and enjoy a nice glass of whatever pleases you.

Hey, you’re outside, it’s summer, the grill is your plate. Time to eat.


I recently got this Ebelskiver pan from Williams-Sonoma just to prove to myself I could be a navel-gazing self absorbed yuppie elitist if I put my mind to it. I mean, a fucking pan just to make Ebelskiver? From Williams-Sonoma? Can one be more solipsistic? Do I own some sparsely furnished, post-modern pancake house that caters to existentialist Scandinavian misanthropes?


In any regard it’s pretty neat, and my daughter loves eating this things for weekend breakfast. And it’s really easy, actually, to “stuff” your ‘skivers by dropping your filling (in this instance, a simple paste of melted butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar) on top of the dough as soon as you pour the batter into the wells.


The filling seeps into the dough, and you’re left with these cute little “popovers.”


Works with impromptu fresh fruit sauces as well.

I’m usually not one for sweet-ish things, but making your own Ebelskiver is heavy on the neat-o factor. I’m looking forward to attempting a savory ‘skiver…pulled pork?

Williams-Sonoma Ebelskiver Recipe (Copied Verbatim More or Less)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and granulated sugar. In another bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks, then whisk in the milk and the 4 Tbs. melted butter. Whisk the egg yolk mixture into the flour mixture until well combined; the batter will be lumpy. Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff but not dry peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the whites into the batter in two additions.

    Put 1/8 tsp. melted butter in each well of a filled-pancake pan (ME: or use non-stick spray, which is what I used). Set over medium heat and heat until the butter begins to bubble. Pour 1 Tbs. batter into each well. Spoon 1/2 tsp. of the cinnamon filling into the center of each pancake and top with 1 Tbs. batter. Cook until the bottoms are golden brown and crispy, about 3 minutes. Using 2 skewers (ME: or chopsticks!), flip the pancakes over and cook until golden and crispy, about 3 minutes more. Transfer the pancakes to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter and filling.


    Ahi Poke

    • 1/2 pound sashimi-grade ahi block, diced
    • 1 stalk chopped green onion
    • 1/4 chopped white onion
    • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
    • Squeeze of lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
    • Hawaiin red salt
    • Grated fresh ginger
    • Togarishi (Japanese chili pepper blend)

    Combine all ingredients except togarishi. Refridgerate for a bit. Sprinkle with togarishi before serving.

    Tri-tip Roast

    The tri-tip roast is one of my favorite cuts o’ beef. From the WIKIPEDIA- THE FREE ENCYCLOPEDIA ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB:

    The tri-tip is a cut of beef from the bottom sirloin primal cut.[1] It is a small triangular muscle, usually 1.5 to 2.5 lbs. (675 to 1,150g) per side of beef.

    In much of Europe, the tri-tip is usually sliced into steaks, known as “triangle steaks” in the United Kingdom. In France the tri-tip is called aiguillette baronne and is left whole as a roast.[2] In Northern Germany, it is called Bürgermeisterstück or Pastorenstück, in Southern Germany and Austria Hüferschwanzel, and a traditional Bavarian and Austrian dish serves it boiled with horseradish. In Spain, it is often grilled whole and called the punta de triángulo. In Central America, this cut is also usually grilled in its entirety, and is known as punta de Solomo, and in South America, it is grilled as part of the Argentine asado and is known as colita de cuadril.

    I like the tri-tip because it’s big and beefy—it’s ultimately representative what I think “beef” should taste like—and, as long as you have a steady heat source and a decent marinade, cooking tri-tip is relatively easy with predictable results. Asian-style marinades work well, as does grill/roasting. Also, the tri-tip is a lean cut of beef, so you can really pig out.

    Tri-tip Roast/Marinade

    • 1 tablespoon soy
    • 1 tablespoon maggi
    • 2 tablespoons worcestshire
    • 1 tablespoon sweetened black chinese vinegar
    • 8 cloves garlic, smashed and coarsely chopped
    • 1/2 white onion, finely diced
    • Juice of 1 lime
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
    • Plenty of coarse ground red szechuan, green and black peppercorns (if you think you’ve used too much, then use some more)

    Combine all ingredients, pour over tri-tip and turn to coat. Marinade overnight.

    Fire up you grill—I like charcoal in a conventional kettle style Weber.

    Here’s a technique I’ve come to use more and more. I use a chimney starter for my charcoal. Newspaper in the bottom ignites the bottom layer of charcoal, which builds over the course of 15 minutes to a towering inferno of blazing hot flames. Before dumping this, I like to place the grill grate of my mini Weber kettle on top of the flames and sear my meat, before dumping the coals and finishing the roast over indirect heat under a covered (and vented) dome.

    Most timing charts will tell you about a 1/2 hour per pound, I would go less than that if you like your meat more on the pink side. If you have a meat thermometer, you can test for internal doneness. Turn once during roasting, and of course, allow the meat to sit for at least 10 minutes after removing from the grill.

    Steak Salad


    This is a pretty standard Vietnamese cold noodle dish, aka “bun”. Go to any Vietnamese restaurant serving standard fare and you’ll see “bun thit nuong” (rice noodles with grilled pork), “bun thit nuong tom” (rice noodles with grilled pork AND shrimp) and “bun thit nuong cha gio” (rice noodles with grilled pork AND crisp spring rolls).

    This version is sort of a twist with rare-ish grilled steak, which you generally won’t find on a standard Viet menu, as the beef, while perfumed with lemongrass and fish sauce, is most likely thin slices of beef that has either been quickly sauteed or threaded in skewer form and grilled.

    Steak Salad

    Makes two servings. If you want to make more, just double everything, you fucking moron.

    • 1/2 pound semi-lean steak filet, like a sirloin, flatiron, or skirt
    • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
    • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
    • 3 kaffir lime leaves
    • 3 stalks of lemongrass, trimmed
    • 2 cloves of minced garlic
    • 2 thai bird chilies, minced
    • 1/2 pounds of rice stick noodles
    • 1/2 English Cucumber
    • A couple broad leaves of red or green leaf lettuce
    • Variety of fresh herbs, including spearmint, perilla (shiso), cilantro, thai basil, rau rum
    • 4 tablespoons coarsely ground toasted peanuts
    • 4 tablespoons prepared nuoc cham dressing


    Prepare the lemongrass by chopping off the thin tops, and the large 1/2 inch nub on the fat end. Halve the stalks, the quarter lengthwise, then use your fine knife skills to create an extremely fine mince.

    Similarly, mince the lime leaves and chilies into extremely fine particles.

    Coat the beef filet with lemongrass, lime leaves, garlic and chilies, and pour over fish sauce and sesame oil. Turn a couple times to coat completely, and marinate for an hour or preferably more.


    Grill the steak over very hot coals for a couple minutes per side.


    Set aside to cool for 10-15 minutes. Slice.

    Peel, halve, and slice cucumber. Chiffonade lettuce and herbs.


    Toast the peanuts in a cast iron pan.


    Give them a few pounds in a mortar or a few whirls in a coffee grinder.

    Boil rice noodles for 2-3 minutes (or according to directions). Shock in ice bath, and rinse in cold water to remove residual starch.

    Put noodles and steak into large mixing bowl and add herbs, lettuce, cucumber. Pour over nuoc cham dressing and toss to coat evenly. Dish out and top with chopped peanuts.

    Beef Daube


    As winter winds down, it’s probably a good time to share one of my favorite winter dishes.

    Beef Daube

    • 2 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2 inch-ish chunks
    • Few tablespoons of flour
    • 9-12 peeled cippolini onions – hey, Trader Joes has these, how easy!
    • 1 very large onion, coarsely chopped
    • 2 or 3 carrots, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
    • 2-3 stalks of celery, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
    • 10-12 or so garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 pound button mushrooms (if you really like mushrooms), whole or halved if really large
    • 3 thick slices of slab bacon, cut into 1/4 inch “lardons”
    • 3 tablespoons fine tomato paste
    • 2 cups broth, preferably beef
    • 1 bottle of red wine, like a Cotes de Rhone or something that sounds Frenchy
    • Few sprigs thyme and rosemary
    • One bunch of Italian parsley
    • 3 bay leaves
    • 2 tablespoons veal demi-glace reduction (or a slurry of the cooking liquid and corn starch – see note)
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • Sea salt
    • Pepper
    • Egg noodles

    Preheat an oven to 275 degrees.

    Cut the stems of the parsley and set aside. Finely chop the parsley leaves, and put that in another container.

    In a stainless steel saucepan, combine red wine, parsley stems, thyme, and rosemary. You can also augment with a pinch or two of dried herbs de provence. I do.

    Bring wine to a simmer, lower heat, and simmer until the wine is reduced by half (probably 30 minutes or so). Remove herbs.

    While that is happening, in a large dutch oven, heat olive oil to smoking. Toss beef with flour and season with salt and pepper. Brown beef in pan, and set aside, draining all liquid from the pan onto the same platter or bowl on which you are setting the beef aside.

    Bring the pan back up to heat, add butter and bacon, then add onions, carrots, and celery, and cook over high heat, stirring often, for a few minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic, and sautee for a couple more minutes.


    Return beef and all the liquids back to the pot, and stir fry for a minute before adding wine, broth, tomato paste, bay leaves, and some salt and pepper. Bring to a nice simmer…


    Then place into oven, with a very loose cover of foil on top (do not cover completely). Cook in the oven for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

    Remove and allow to cool. Set aside in the fridge overnight.


    The next day, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, add demi-glace and bring the pan back up to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes or so until it’s a nice consistency, while salting and peppering to taste.

    NOTE: I use Demi Glace Gold or, more recently, Williams Sonoma, with good results. I love this stuff — it’s pricey, but an oh so rich and delicious way to thicken and “luxuriate” this stew or most anything really. Alternately, you can extract a 1/3 cup or so of the braising liquid and mix with a tablespoon or more of cornstarch to create a slurry, and slowly drizzle this into the simmering stew to help thicken things up a bit.


    I like to serve the daube on top of cooked egg noodles (straight, curly? your call), and top with a pinch of your finest finishing salt, a quick turn or two of the pepper grinder, and a sprinkle of parsley. Instant comfort.

    Scallop Ceviche


    Here it is, in tostada form and sprinkled with Bufalo Jalapeño hot sauce.

    • One pound bay scallops, halved (or quartered if somewhat largish)
    • 2 limes
    • 1 smallish meyer lemon
    • 2 small clementine tangerines
    • 2 fresh roma tomatoes, finely diced
    • ½ small red onion, finely diced
    • 1 smashed and finely minced garlic clove
    • 2 green onion stalks, chopped
    • (½ combined bunch) of fresh chopped Italian parsley and cilantro
    • 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil
    • Sea salt, to taste
    Combine scallops, onions, herbs, tomatoes and oil in a large mixing bowl. Using a citrus press or juicer, extract juice from fruit and pour over mixture. Season with a few pinches of salt. Cover and allow to sit in fridge for three or four hours, stirring occasionally to mix things up a bit, you know?

    Wings and things

    Football season is coming up, so here’s another wing recipe I’ve recently declared as worthy of a spot on the practice squad.

    Chicken wings seasoned with spices and stuff

    • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
    • 1 tablespoon Maggi®
    • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon rice wine
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 1 teaspoon sambal/chili garlic sauce
    • Juice of half lime

    Whisk the above ingredients. Pour over:

    1 1/2 pounds chicken wings

    To that add:

    • 6 minced cloves of garlic
    • 1 small knob finely minced (or smashed) ginger
    • 2 stalks green onion, chopped
    • 1 tablespoon turmeric
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons five spice powder
    • 1 teaspoon ground dried galangal, dried ginger, dried lemongrass, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, szechuan peppercorns*

    *I just happened to have an OXO grinder that I fill with such things. Lucky me.

    Mix everything well. Marinade for at least 4 hours or overnight.

    Fire up the charcoal grill.


    Tom Yum soup

    Tom Yum

    • 5 cups water
    • 6 or 7 kaffir lime leaves
    • 2 large stalks lemongrass, halved
    • Small knob (2 inches) of galangal, sliced into sheets
    • 1/2 pound of raw white shrimp, deviened and shelled with shells reserved
    • 7-10 small dried shrimp
    • Two tablespoons tamarind soup paste (see note)
    • Juice on one lime
    • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste (see note)
    • 2 thinly sliced shallots
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • Fish sauce
    • 1/2 pound button mushrooms, sliced
    • 1 can straw mushrooms
    • 1 large tomato, coarsely chopped
    • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
    • Few dashes chili oil
    • Few stalks baby corn
    • 3 thai bird chilies, finely chopped
    • 1/2 bunch of cilantro, leaves coarsley chopped with stems reserved

    Bring water, lime leaves, lemongrass, cilantro stems, dried shrimp, galangal, and shrimp shells to boil in stock or soup pot. Add raw shrimp. Cook shrimp meat for 45 seconds or so, shock very briefly in ice bath, remove with slotted spoon or chopsticks and set aside.

    Simmer stock for at least 30 minutes. Drain, return to pot, including a stalk of lemongrass and lime leaves, add lime juice, shrimp paste, tamarind soup paste, sugar, shallots and bring back to a boil.

    Note: here are two types tamarind and shrimp pastes that I have used in the past.

    Simmer and stir for a few minutes, adding more sugar and dashes of fish sauce to suit your tastes.

    Add mushrooms, bird chilies, oil, corn, and tomato. Bring back to a boil. Lower and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, garnish with chopped cilantro and squeeze of fresh lime. Allow to rest for 10-20 minutes.

    Serve, garnishing with shrimp. I also like to add a tablespoon or more of steamed jasmine rice, and a fresh dash of fish sauce.

    Furikake ahi

    Some time ago I had an ahi appetizer at Saucebox, a local restaurant and bar in downtown Portland. The tuna was coated with furikake and seared over high heat, creating an interesting texture that I rather enjoyed. The app was accompanied with a creamy sauce that I don’t quite remember (possibly a kewpie base with chili sauce) — it was certainly fine, but I generally prefer lighter dressing for my fish.

    As it was $14 for about 2 ounces of fish (if that), I decided to replicate it at home using an ahi filet from the local sashimi-grade fishmongerer.

    Furikake Ahi

    1. Furikake. From Wikipedia:

    Furikake (振り掛け or ふりかけ) is any dry Japanese condiment meant to be sprinkled on top of rice. It typically consists of a mixture of dried and ground fish, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, sugar, salt, and monosodium glutamate. Other flavorful ingredients such as katsuobushi (sometimes indicated on the package as bonito), salmon, shiso, egg, vegetables, etc. are often added to the mix.

    Uwajimaya carries a few brands, some with more than half a dozen varietals that are all variation upon a theme.

    2. Shichimi-Togarashi

    Japanese red pepper blend. I had a friend in high school/college who worked in her Mom’s sushi restaurant (she’d open the place to us after hours), and she swore to me that marijuana seeds were an integral component to togarashi. Seeing as we were eating drunkenly-rolled maki (“Go back there,” she would say, gesturing to the sushi bar, “and help yourself”), swilling Kirins and cutting into her mom’s profit margins, I was inclined to believe her.

    3. Salt.

    Use your judgement and create a thin coating layer on a plate or cutting board.

    Coat the flesh with a nice layer of furikake and seasonings. Heat a stainless steel pan over high heat until smoking, add a bit of peanut oil (should smoke immediately). Sear ahi one minute per side.

    Remove from plate.

    Slice, and top with your favorite sauce, which for me is ponzu.


    • 1/4 cup mirin
    • 1/8 cup rice vinegar
    • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
    • Pinch of bonito flakes
    • Juice of one lemon
    • Lemon zest

    Combine everything, bring to a boil. Remove from heat and strain.

    Satay and peanut sauce


    • 1 amount of Meat (pork shoulder strips, beef strips, chicken, but in long, thin strips)
    • Many stalks of lemon grass, trimmed on both ends, out leaves peeled, and minced like a muthafuck
    • 1 knob of galangal, peeled, julienned finely and pounded in a mortar
    • 1 small knob of ginger, peeled, julienned, and pounded in a mortar
    • Many cloves of garlic, peeled, and pounded in a mortar
    • A few thai bird chilies, stems removed, and pounded in mortar

    Oh yeah, you need a mortar.

    • Stalk of green onions, coursely chopped
    • Tablespoon(s)ish of turmeric
    • Tablespoon(s)ish of sesame oil
    • Tablespoon(s)ish of fish sauce
    • Teaspoon or less ground coriander

    Mix meat and marinade ingredients together. Allow to sit for a few hours or overnight. Soak wooden bamboo skewers (if using) for an hour in water.






    Chicken. Etc.

    “Thread” the meat onto the skewer The surface area of each piece of meat should pierce the end of the skewer at least three times.



    Peanut Sauce

    • 2 thai minced bird chilies
    • 1 stalk of lemon grass (de-nubbed and green tops snipped), finely minced
    • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
    • 1 clove minced garlic
    • 4 kaffir lime leaves
    • 1 can coconut milk
    • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
    • 7 tablespoons natural creamy peanut butter (no sugar)
    • 1/2 cup pounded (from a mortar) peanuts

    Some people would say if you don’t use whole roasted peanuts and grind them yourself you’re a poser, but those people are most likely elitist egomaniacs and effete, latte-sipping Massachusetts liberals. My mom used Jiffy (or whatever corporate peanut butter that was on hand). A good choice is a natural brand that has no added sugar, and you can add sweetness yourself to taste (and the coconut milk lends sweetness as well). If you were really serious, though, you could go to New Seasons or the hippy aisle at Fred Meyer and grind fresh peanuts (which actually doesn’t sound that hard when I consider it), which would gain my admiration.

    You could also experiment with the chunkiness factor, but mixing the ratio of creamy to chunky peanut butter. I would advise going against a pure chunky peanut butter, but that’s just a personal taste. For me, the right amount texture is achieved with a smash of a small handful of peanuts in the mortar, adding to the sauce at the end.

    Heat a small amount of peanut oil in a saucepan. Add chilies, lemon grass, garlic, ginger and lime leaves, and sautee at high heat for a minute or two. Add coconut milk, fish sauce, turmeric and sugar, and bring to a boil.


    Reduce heat to lowest setting and let steep for 5-10 minutes.

    Remove lime leaves. Add peanut butter, crank up the heat, and start stirring. Stir constantly until the peanut butter is completely incorporated, and sauce starts to boil. Reduce heat to lowest possible setting and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Watch out as the sauce can erupt and will bubble and possibly shoot hot projectiles of peanut sauce in the air like molten lava.


    When the sauce is thick, it’s ready to serve. Garnish with chopped peanuts.


    Uwajimaya is a fantastic, Japanese-focused superstore located at the mouth of Beaverton, just east of the 217 on Beaverton-Hillsdale highway.


    Like many places in Beaverton, they have a parking lot.


    A bookstore features a wide selection of manga, thus ensuring that at some point you will encounter a skinny white guy with a goatee. Or a perv exploring the possibility of satisfying his J-Girl, Lolita fetish.


    Uwajimaya features a bunch of Japanese electronic cooking appliances that no doubtedy showcase advanced, fuzzy logical capabilities. Factoring in Moore’s Law, combined with Kurzweil’s prediction of Singularity, soon these rice cookers will subjugate humans to make rice for them.


    Lots of twee kitchen gadgets are here to sate your predilections for mindless consumerism.




    A wonderful, colorful selection of instant ramen beckons you. The usual Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, Taiwanese, Thai, Malaysian, Singaporan, Laotion suspects.


    And an unrivaled selection of instant bowl noodles, including a few Japanese import brands that—at as much as $4+ for a single serving—are a bit rich for my MSG-laden blood.


    This Korean permutation was created by a person who obviously has never seen Soylent Green (R.I.P Charleston Heston – “…cold dead hands”? You made good on your promise).


    Fresh (non-fried) ramen is also well represented here. I eat these often.


    Uwajimaya has your prepared Asian sauce fix. It’s a bit more pricey than other Asian markets in town, but the selection is superlative and the shelving aesthetics are worth at least 10-20 cents.


    One thing no other Asian market in Portland can touch is the selection and quality of Uwajimaya’s produce. In this photo alone you’re looking at pea shoots, Japanese eggplants, bitter melons, lemongrass, long beans, turnips, assorted exotic greens, etc. They selection of choys is only rivaled by Fubonn.


    Buddha’s hands. If you stare too long, you might have an acid flashback.


    In the fridgerated aisles, you’ll find an excellent variety pickled vegetables, including cucumbers WITH MSG, kimchis, menma, radishes, and assorted mountain roots.


    The deli features many pre-made Asian/Hawaiian specialties, available in combo and plate form.


    You’ll also find grilled and lacquered meats and seafood, ready for you to take home to construct your own donburri.


    The meat section features Carlton Farms pork, and many thin, pre-sliced cuts in case you want to bust out a shabu shabu or Korean BBQ party at your own home.


    Live seafood waiting to be mercilessly slaughtered is availble in case you wish to indulge your macabre fetish.


    The fish counter. What more can you say? Impeccably fresh, with a nice variety. That’s 3 types of pokes you’ll see there, including a spicy tako (octopus) salad, and a delicious wakame seafood salad.


    Blocks of pre-cut, sashimi-grade protein is available for carry-out.



    Including sashimi-ready portions chiseled for immediate consumption.


    Here are the pokes in case you didn’t believe me earlier, you fucking bastard.


    This is a typical take for me when I leave Uwajimaya. Notice the European beer. They feature a few key German, Belgian, and Baltic brands on top of the Asahi Extra Drys and Kirin. They even have the 375ml versions of Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde and Maudite, which I haven’t seen elsewhere, and the 750ml Don de Dieu which is a beer that makes me happy and stuff.


    Connected to Uwajimaya’s hip is the wonderful Hakatamon. This is the subject of a future post.


    Most of the time, I just grab a pair of chopsticks from the deli register and eat the tako in the parking loft.

    Back at home, I like to generously sprinkle poke with togarashi and eat it.


    Same with the chuka wakame salad (I’m still trying to figure how to make this stuff).


    Hmm, this also gives me an idea.


    I’ve got some of this…


    …and some Japanese cucumber.


    Uwajimaya Salad

    • 3.2 ounces (or $2.40 worth) Albacore tataki
    • 1/3 pound (or $2.64 worth) hiyasi wakama chuka salad
    • 1/2 japanese cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced wafer thin
    • One, singular green onion “pole”, minced
    • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
    • 2 teaspoons tamari
    • Ground white pepper



    10500 SW Beaverton Hillsdale
    Beaverton, OR 97005
    (503) 643-4512

    Holiday eatings

    This is a wonderful recipe that takes me back to my childhood. My father would make this dish for special occasions, such as Arbor Day, or, interestingly enough, on Nooruz, which is the Kyrgyzstan celebration of New Year that is actually commemorated in the spring. Despite the fact that he had never visited Kyrgyzstan, or had any ties whatsoever—ethnic or platonic—to this landlocked Central Asian country, my father fashioned himself as quite the Krygyz-ophile.

    He once even went so far as to befriend a traveling group of Uyghur circus performers, who sponsored his admittance into their homeland in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China with the intention of leading him on a cross-border incursion into greater Kyrgyzstan (this was at the height of the Cold War). Unfortunately, while navigating the highland border crossing, a mule ate some of the psychedelic peyote buttons smuggled back by one of the Uyghur guides (scored during a night of reveling in Bisbee, AZ) and ended up killing half the expedition in a mad rampage.

    My father’s life was spared when, in a fit of desperation, he frantically grasped at and accidentally—in a mad flailing—impaled the crazed beast with the dagger end of a kefta kebab skewer. The trip was cut short as the surviving members returned to base camp in order to properly lionize my father with song and fermented yak spittle. Then the Chinese Red Communists came in and imprisoned my father against his will, details of which I will not go into as they were documented in the 1997 movie Red Corner (starring Richard Gere), which is based loosely on my father’s travails.

    Nooruz Dumplings (or Arbor Day Stew, or National Heroes’ Day Fricassée, or Administrative Professional’s Day Ragoût)

    1. Construct a lanyard from girded twine reinforced with titanium filaments.
    2. To this attach a bulb of elephant garlic using ordinary helicopter cabling hooks, and loop around your neck.
    3. Extract exactly 43 seeds from a dozen (or so) preserved Moroccan lemons.
    4. Using a vernier micrometer (in a pinch, a digital caliper will suffice), extract the top .002 millimetre sheath from each seed using your best carbide-based honing stone. Bless with elephant garlic by waving the lanyard exactly 2 cm above in exactly 7 counter-clockwise concentric circles (progressively diminishing in size, you may choose to honor the Golden Ratio…your call). Set aside.
    5. Meanwhile, in a large stockpot, pour 2573 milliliters of witchhazel stock over one free-range ham hock and the hoof of a middle-aged albino alpaca, and bring to a rapid boil.
    6. Add 2 tablespoons of tincture of wort (recipe to follow), stir, and lower to a low simmer.
    7. Bless the stock with garlic lanyard, this time maintaining a 5 cm seperation cushion, doubling the number of concentric circles (again, the Golden Ratio comes highly recommended), but this time use clockwise rotations, except on the very last (14th) rotation.
    8. Light an incense.
    9. In a non-stick 12-inch sautee pan, bring 2 tablespoons non-GMO rapeseed oil to smoking point over high temperature. Sear 8 ounces of lean, cubed Virginia Oppossum tenderloin (that has been sprinkled with Tamil peppercorns and Gibraltan sea salt) for 1 minute. Then take the garlic lanyard, smash against your forehead with a force strong enough to maim a small child, and then add to pan with lemon seed shavings and one gingko nut. Stir-fry until the papery garlic skins become translucent.
    10. Hermetically seal these ingredients with your favorite brand of high barrier plastic, and place inside a thermal immersion circulator and allow to cook sous vide at exactly 185 degrees Farenheight for a fortnight.
    11. When the meat has been cooked, plate in a shallow dish, top with a ladle of stock, and garnish with a dollop of wort tincture (recipe to follow).

    Tincture of wort

    • 3 kilos assorted wort, including but not exlusive to Adderwort (aka Snakeweed), Blue Navelwort, Bullock’s or Cow’s Lungwort, Golden Ragwort, Laserwort, Mallowwort, or Sea Milkwort. However, I would advise against using Hemlock Dropwort, which imparts a slight bitterness that is not very pleasing to the palate.
    • 1123 milliliters of common bog liquid
    • 5346 milliliters desalinized North Sea water
    • One nutmeg berry
    • One tablespoon Brewer’s yeast

    Bring all the ingredients to a boil in a pressure cooker, and cook for one hour. Decant the liquid using Spanish Moss as the filtering medium, then wash the residue, puree, and set aside. Reduce the liquid by 1/2, add 1/2 teaspoon of agar agar, pureed residue, and 1/8 a thimble of sodium sulphate. Stir well and salt to taste. Mixture with thicken as it stands.

    Wonton noodle soup with soy eggs and bbq pork


    Now that I’ve made basic noodle stock and char sui pork, here’s one of my favorite soups to enjoy in the comfort of my own home. It enjoy it as a great weekend breakfast.

    Soy Sauce Eggs

    • 6 eggs
    • 3/4 cup soy sauce
    • 3/4 cup water
    • 2 tablespoons rice wine or chinese black vinegar
    • Few dashes chili oil
    • Any “tincture” you want (garlic, ginger, five spice — you’re the boss)

    Boil eggs for 5 minutes. Carefully drain and shock in cold water/ice. Carefully peel.


    Place eggs into shallow saucepan with the rest of the ingredients. Slowly bring to a steaming bath. Allow to steep over low temp for 30 minutes or more, flipping eggs often. Remove eggs from liquid and allow to cool.


    Here’s the finished product.


    These are wonton noodles. You can find them at most Asian markets for under $2/pound of fresh noodles.

    Soup vegetation suggestions

    Bok choy and other choy-type cabbages
    Mushrooms, shitake and otherwise
    Bean sprouts
    Celery greens/leaves


    Soy sauce eggs
    Char sui pork, sliced
    Onion, sliced paper thin
    Green onions
    Chili oil/paste


    Bring 1 1/2 cups of basic noodle stock up to a boil. In another pan, bring enough water to temp to boil 1/4 to 1/3 pound of fresh wonton noodles.

    Simultaneous add the vegetables to the boiling stock and noodles to the boiling water. Stir accordingly for 90 seconds. Kill heats.

    Strain noodles, and immediatly place into large soup bowl. Throw in your garnishes, and pour over broth and veggies.


    As a final touch, grind fresh black and white pepper.

    BBQ pork bánh mì


    I’ve described my process for making unnaturally red char sui bbq pork. Here’s what you can do with it. Make a sandwich.

    I’ve made bánh mì on this blog a couple times in the past. Here’s a bbq pork bánh mì, with the requisite radish and carrot garnish, that, incidentally, if you leave to marinate on the counter at room tempurature for more than a few hours it will then smell like crusty taint seeped in an ass perfume.


    Ass Salad

    • Equal parts daikon radish and carrots (julienned, roughly—I prefer flatter pieces)
    • Rice vinegar and sugar (1 tablespoon sugar for every 1/2 cup of rice vinegar)

    Combine and mix thoroughly. Allow to assify at room temp for an hour or two and then stick in the fridge.



    For me, I need cilantro, jalapenos (preferably sliced length-wise), cucumber (essential), pickles, and Maggi.

    I also usually prefer to sub in a conventional french roll from a local bakery, as opposed to a Viet/French bakery, whose crust I feel aren’t substantial enough to agnonizely pierce the top of my mouth. Label it gastronomic S&M, if you will.


    Slice up your char sui pork. Assemble the sandwich. I like to lightly toast the bread.


    A fully dressed sandwich. One of those rare moments in life where you think maybe all of it is really worth it.

    Soup broth

    This is a standard soup broth, primarily used as a base for Asian soup meals, that I like to keep on hand. It is multi-purpose.

    • A bunch of pork neck bones (i.e over a pound)
    • A whole chicken, or bunch of chicken bones (equivalent to a whole chicken)


    You can find pork bones for soup at any Vietnamese store.

    Chicken suggestion: If you’re using a whole chicken, I suggest you “poach” the bird under a low flame for 45 minutes, then remove, allow to cool. Then, strip the meat from the carcass, setting it aside, and return the bones and skin and backbone and wing tips etc. to the pot with the pork bones and bring the liquid back to a boil over high heat then lower to low simmer.

    Chicken suggestion #2: There’s a Vietnamese store on 65th/Sandy called Thanh Thao market. They come highly recommended. In the meat freezer, you’ll find small, bony birds labeled as “stewing chickens”. They will look like emaciated carcasses. I’m not sure if these unfortunate chickens were way into themselves and hard drugs and eating disorders, but they look the part. In fact, these stewing chickens do not look unlike Nicole Richie. You can use this things for stock.

    Add to the stock pot (already filled with your carcass components) the following in any combination/entirety:

    • Large knob of rinsed ginger
    • 3-4 large carrots (i’m a lazy ass who always has peeled baby carrots on hand–1/2 package)
    • 1 large onion
    • 3-4 stalks celery
    • 3-4 bay leaves
    • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
    • 1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
    • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
    • the stems of an entire bunch of cilantro

    Bring to a boil. Reduce to the lowest possible heat setting and simmer for 12 hours.


    Strain. Maybe even twice (especially if you’re OCD). Store, freeze, and use as needed.

    Char sui pork

    Here’s a secret.

    I use the packet.


    The ingredients list of a representative packet, which you can pick up at any Asian store for anywhere from $.69 to $1.19. Reputable brands include Noh and Mama Sita. What’s not to like? Anti-caking agent…yum.

    Here’s the deal. This marinade is pretty standard, and you can forego the packet, but I eat with my eyes. I need the red. I get off on the red. Eating something red really indulges a fetish I can’t fully explain.

    And if that means I eat a bit of food coloring, I’m ok with that. Isn’t this molecular gastronomy? And it is “natural”. It’s a derivation of anatto/achiote. And probably cochineal beetle.

    Char Sui Pork

    • 2 pounds pork of various sort, preferably a fatty cut like country style ribs (if I’m using something like a pork shoulder, I like to trim fat and tie it back up with butcher twine )
    • 1/2 packet commercial char sui seasoning. I prefer Noh brand, which is plenty RED
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
    • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
    • 2 tablespoons honey
    • 2 tablespoons rice wine
    • Couple squirts chili oil (more RED!) or sesame oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder

    Combine all ingredients except for the meat, and mix well to create a nice slurry, sludgey liquid. Pour over meat and use your hands to really get the marinade in there. The meat should be red. If it’s not sufficiently red enough, I would add more of the char sui seasoning or perhaps slit your jugular and allow the contents to spill all over the pork.

    Allow to marinade for at leat 4 hours, more if you are like me and like flavor.

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the pork on a sheet pan or wire rack, reserving marinade, and roast for 20-25 minutes. “Lacquer” marinade with a brush every 10 minutes, three times (an additional 30 minutes or so).

    Remove, allow to cool, and slice up.

    This marinade is equally delicious with spare ribs. The marinade is equivalent to the brining that I usually do when I cook ribs, though I would tent the ribs with foil in a 250 degree oven and steam/roast/bake for 90 minutes before finishing off/lacquering on an open flame grill.


    Often, at Asian markets you can find individually sliced ribs for the purpose of making individual, cha sui ribs. Here’s those ribs marinating with a loin or two. Acknowledge the red.


    And the pork all cooked up.

    Now that you have a lot of char sui pork on hand, you can use it in stir fries, banh mi sandwiches, salad rolls, and, my favorite…

    …as a topping for noodle soups.

    Carne Guisado


    This is essentially a red chili stew that can be made with either pork or beef. The key here is low and slow, and long, which allows the collagen of the meat to break down and become fall-apart tender. My adaptation here is fairly spicy; you might want to tone it down if you’re trying this at home.

    The can of commercially made chili sauce may sound like an unnecessary shortcut to you. That’s your right. You’re entitled to your opinion. I just like the way it sort of “rounds” things off. You could omit and increase the liquid and dried/powdered chili if you feel like riding that high horse.

    Carne Guisado

    • 3 pounds beef shank, beef chuck, or pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat (probably around 2 1/2 pounds), cut into one inch pieces
    • Flour
    • Vegetable oil
    • 1 28 oz can Mexican brand red chili sauce (such as Las Palmas)
    • 1 1/2 cups beef broth
    • 4 dried guajillo chilies, stem and seeds removed
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 7 cloves garlic, forced through garlic press
    • 1/2 teaspoon pasilla chili powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon chile de arbol powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon new mexico chili powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 3 bay leaves
    • 2 dried habanero peppers, stemmed
    • 1/4 bunch of cilantro, torn

    Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

    Put guajillo chilies in a small saucepan and cover with 1 cup of beef broth. Simmer on low for 20 minutes. Remove chilies to cool.


    Split the chilies, and using the back of your knife, scrape the flesh from the inside of chili. Discard the skin.

    Put meat pieces into a large mixing bowl and dust with flour, and mix to coat lightly. Heat vegetable oil in cast iron dutch oven, and brown beef.


    Add the the rest of the ingredients, stir to mix, and bring to a rapid simmer.

    Cover and transfer to oven. Wait 2.5 hours, remove cover, stir, and return to the oven for another hour. Make sure you don’t eat those habaneros.

    There are a couple ways I like to consume this. One way, as you can see in the first photo in this post, is with a mildly seasoned rice.


    • 1 cup long grain white rice
    • 1 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
    • 1/2 white onion
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 1 tablespoon or so vegetable oil
    • 1 teaspoon anatto seeds
    • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
    • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

    Put oil in small saucepan, add anatto seeds, and allow the seeds to perfume/color the oil over low heat for ten minutes. Drain oil into large saucepan and throw away the seeds.

    Heat oil over medium heat, add onion and sweat. Add rice, garlic, spices, and saute for a couple minutes. Pour over broth, stir, cover, and simmer over low for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to sit for half an hour. Remove cover and fluff rice.


    Another option I enjoy is shredding the meat with a fork.


    And enjoying it in taco format with your favorite table salsas and chopped onion/cilantro.


    Or the next morning fry up a couple corn tortillas and an egg. Put the egg on top of the tortilla, top with shredded stew meat, add a few spoonfuls of the sauce, top with queso fresco, and put under the broiler for 30 seconds. Top with chopped onion/cilantro and a squirt of hot salsa.

    Meatball soup

    I like the New Seasons butcher counter. It’s a shame, as my entire life in Portland, I lived biking distance to a New Seasons (Sellwood, then Concordia, then Arbor Lodge), but now that I live in Southwest there’s no longer a New Season super close-by. However, there is a Fantasy Video Adult Superstore.

    I digress. New Seasons has a variety of ground meats and sausages of various derivations, sold by the pound, ground and prepared on the premises. They have a nice selection of ground chicken, including an excellent spicy Italian sausage. After seeing Je Mange La Ville’s take on Italian Wedding Soup, I decided to give it a shot using New Seasons spicy chicken sausage, rolled into meatball form, which added a nice undulating heat to the soup. And instead of a small Italian pasta, I used orzo, which is more associated with Greek cuisine. And I didn’t add the egg, which to me would remind me too much of egg drop soup. I also added other stuff. So think of this as…

    Italian Divorce Soup (with a Pre-Nup)

    • 3 quarts homemade chicken broth
    • 1 pound ground, hot italian chicken sausage
    • One tablespoon butter
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 6 stalks of celery, leaves and ends trimmed, split lengthwise then sliced 1/4″ thick
    • 3 or 4 decent sized carrots, peeled, sliced into coins
    • 8 oz. sliced button mushroom
    • Entire bunch of green kale or chard, chopped
    • 1 garlic cloved, minced
    • 3 sprigs of thyme
    • 1/4 cup dry white wine
    • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning or marjoram
    • 3 bay leaves
    • 4 ounces dried orzo
    • Salt and pepper


    Roll those meatballs.

    Melt butter in large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery, season with dried herbs and some salt and pepper. Sweat vegetables for a couple minutes. Raise heat to high, add white wine, and stir for a minute or two.


    Add garlic, mushrooms, kale, and pour chicken broth over everything, and bring to a boil. Add meatballs, lower heat to low, and simmer for ten minutes. Add orzo, and continue to simmer for 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to your tastes. I find soups much more pleasurable allow it to sit and “steep” for a while before eating. Your results may vary.


    Enjoy it on a cold, rainy day, of which we have many in Portland. If you live in some place that’s perpetually sunny and warm, you can still enjoy a hot bowl of soup before your environment becomes inhabitable and your society eventually erodes.

    Grilled fish sauce wings

    Now that the NFL is entering crunch time, college football is about to sharpen its muddled bowl picture, and Tom Brady is busy girding his loins to inseminate another supermodel or actress, it’s definitely wing season. And it’s about time to bust out an alt-wing recipe to mix things up a bit. Think of this recipe as the Devin Hester of wings — explosive, and even though you kinda expect what’s coming, you can never really prepare for it and you’re caught flat-footed when it arrives. That is probably the lamest thing I have ever written.

    This is a simple recipe for some delicious wings. There are only five ingredients, but one of the most important ingredients isn’t even an ingredient at all—it’s actually the grilling. It’s essential to grill these wings outdoors over a charcoal flame. It really rounds out the flavor. If you decide not to grill over a charcoal flame, I will assume no liability.


    Here are the ingredients. There’s a Loation store on North Killingsworth that sells frozen lemongrass that’s finely minced. It’s a real timesaver, as lemongrass freezes real well. Also, whenever my Mom visits, she insists on buying a couple heads of lemongrass and mincing them with steady knifework, and packages it up for freezing, so it always seems I have ready-to-use lemongrass on hand. Just make sure you get as fine, fine, fine as possible. You’ll also see here that I’m using my own pickled bird chilies. Use fresh ones, or make your own pickles…or freeze them, as they also freeze well. I find it impossilbe to use an entire package of bird chilies that I buy at the store before they go bad (and they are difficult to find loose by the pound), which is why I often freeze or pickle half of them immediately.

    Grilled Fish Sauce Wings

    • 2 dozen wings
    • 4 or 5 tablespoons finely minced lemongrass
    • 9 or 10 thai bird chilies, finely minced
    • 6 cloves of garlic, forced through a garlic press
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 6 tablespoons fish sauce


    Mix everything together, and set aside to marinade at least 2-3 hours, longer if, like me, you like tasting stuff with more taste.


    Grill them up. I’m not going to tell you how to grill. If you don’t know how to grill, just give up already and get a MySpace page or something.

    Now root for Matt Shaub and the Houston Texans this Sunday because I used my two of my top 3 picks for LaDanian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates and those fuckers don’t seem to score at the same time this season. The third pick was Mark Bulger and he’s decided to be a total pussy this year.

    Ginger Chicken (Ga Kho)

    Caramel Sauce

    • 2 or 3 tablespoons palm sugar
    • 2 tablespoons or so water

    Make caramel sauce by melting palm sugar in small saucepan (preferably stainless steel). Add water and stir until consistency is reached.


    Get an entire chicken and cleaver it into logical small pieces, “breaking” the bones of the main cuts.

    Other Ingredients

    • 1 knob (3 inches) of ginger
    • 3 or 4 garlic cloves
    • 4 or 5 small bird (thai) chilies
    • Black pepper
    • 1/2 white onion, slivered
    • 2 or more tablespoons of fish sauce
    • Water
    • Salt if you want
    • Half a package of green onions, chopped

    Peel the large knob of ginger. Cut it into very thin “sheets”. Cut half of the sheets into fine julienne, and set aside. Combine the remaining ginger in mortar with garlic and chilies. Pound.

    In a dutch oven or large sautee pan, add just a touch of peanut oil, and pounded aromatics, slivered ginger, sautee for a minute or so, then follow with the chicken pieces. Stir fry for a few minutes until the chicken is lightly browned.

    Add caramel sauce, fish sauce, onions, and enough water to cover the chicken pieces. Stir and bring to a boil, then reduce to very low simmer, stir, and hit with black pepper. Partially cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally.

    Turn off heat. Garnish with chopped green onions and let sit for half an hour. You may need to salt/add more fish sauce at this point to your preference. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.

    I got nothing by which to appreciate loafed meat

    It’s National Meatloaf Appreciation Day. All the cool kids are doing cool things, conjuring up loafed meat dishes worthy of praise, like Michelle @Je Mange la Ville, who is doing things with her usual aplomb.

    Me, I got nothing. I was dreaming up a layered meatloaf with alternating layers of ground pork and veal with whole cloves of roasted garlic, wild mushroom duxelle, topped with a tomato jam, but I’m moving to a new house and have spent the last 4 weeks up to my butthole in paint and bleach and hammers and kitchen shelf liner.

    So I’m trotting out out an old post. Consider it made from “recycled post-consumer and post-industrial waste”. This is for kefta kabobs, which is a form of loafed meat, in this case around a metal skewer.

    Happy National Meatloaf Appreciation Day. Now appreciate the fuck out this tired, recycled post, bitches.


    I like kebabs. I particularly enjoy the Kefta kebab, which is ground meat formed around a skewer in kebab-like fashion. I like saying the word kefta. It’s one of those words, like película and Kofi Annan, that you never grow tired of saying. I remember when Congress a couple years ago was debating the merits of the Central America Free Trade Agreement, I secretly wished the debate would draw out into a longer, more contentious debate than it had at the time, just because I enjoyed all the talking heads uttering the acronym “CAFTA” (which was close enough for me). Each time I watched the news I’d get hungry.

    You can make this with beef or lamb (or beef and lamb) as well. New Seasons sells ground lamb, though keep in mind it is very fatty and will imbue the atmosphere with quite a gamy scent for some time (especially if your hood isn’t all that). My wife was all bothered and stuff, but the deliciousness factor made her harangues worth it.

    Kefta Kebab

    • 1 and one-half pounds ground beef or lamb (or both!)
    • 1 bunch chopped fresh Italian parsley, reserve a couple tablespoons (to cook with rice)
    • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
    • 1 egg
    • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
    • 3 or 4 garlic cloves, forced through a press
    • 1 white onion, finely chopped
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
    • Ground pepper
    • Salt to your taste


    Combine everything in a large mixing bowl and mix together with your hands. I like to use long, flat broad metal skewers — mold the meat around the length of the skewer and pat to form an elongated, rectangular patty.


    Heat a grill pan over medium-high and brown skewers on each of the 4 ends, 2 minutes or so each side. Remove and let sit for a few minutes.

    You can eat this skewers by themselves. But c’mon, man, don’t be such freak.

    Rice Pilaf

    • Olive oil or butter (2 tablespoons)
    • 2 cups basmati rice
    • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
    • 3 cups chicken broth
    • 1 onion, finely chopped
    • 2 cloves minced garlic
    • 1 chopped tomato
    • Pinch of saffron
    • Salt


    Preheat oven to 325 F. Rinse and soak rice in water for half hour. Drain. Heat oil or butter in a medium saucepan (with a tight fitting lid) over medium heat. Add onions and sweat for a couple minutes, then add garlic, rice and saffron and sautee for a couple minutes. Add tomatoes, salt, and broth. Bring to boil, cover, and place in oven for 20 minutes. Allow the rice to sit on stovetop for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

    Sumac Onions

    • 1 white onion, halved and sliced
    • Ground sumac
    • Olive oil

    Sautee onions in oil. Hit with sumac when they start to caramelize, and serve over kebabs.


    I like to squeeze lemon over the kebab, onions, and rice.

    A totally non-double entendre recipe

    Larry Craig, God bless him, is not only a wide stance restroom stall pioneer, but also an aspiring gourmand.

    Super Tuber is a great snack that uses one of my favorite vegetables: The Idaho Potato. Of course, I suppose any type of potato could be used, but I cannot guarantee that a Super Tuber made with anything but a true Idaho potato would taste as good. Sincerely, Larry E. Craig, United States Senator

    Super Tuber

    • 1 hot dog, cook’s choice
    • 1 Idaho baking potato, 7 to 10 ounces
    • Mustard for dipping, any style
    • Other condiments as desired such as cheese sauce, sour cream, chili, chives, bacon pieces or black olives.

    Wash and dry potato. Rub with shortening or butter. With an apple corer or small knife, core out the potato center (end to end). Push hot dog through the center. Bake until potato is cooked through.

    The emphasis and strongly bolded instructions above are entirely the work of this blog’s editor.

    Sometimes life really is so very awesome that it really does make you wonder if there’s an excellent plan devised by Yahweh or Jesus or Vishnu or Odin or the pagan gods or something.

    Bún Riêu

    This is a classic Vietnamese seafood soup with a flavorful stock that draws flavor from a crab (or shrimp) paste “whip”, tomatoes and — like nearly all southeast Asian soups — fresh and distinctly aromatic herb garnishes.

    The genesis for this version of Bún Riêu was the leftover carcass of a Diestel turkey. Pork pork neck bones were added as the stock starter, in addition to a combination of seafood-ish elements. Traditionally, if you are going full out, you’d get a whole crab and use that as your stock starter.

    A big flavor component in this particular Bún Riêu was imparted by a couple dried seafood ingredients. Dried shrimp and dried scallops are added when simmering and removing the stock, adding a wonderful complexity. Dried shrimp are an easy score – most Asian (and all Vietnamse/Thai) markets will have them, and on the cheap, too. The dried scallops are another issue. They can be spendy, but they’re big on flavor, so a little goes a long way.

    Here’s a commercially available crab paste which can be used for the protein “whip”. This brand is Taste Nirvana.

    A Thai brand.

    One thing I appreciate about Taste Nirvana is the seal on their label boasting of being 100% Real. When I cook, it’s important to me that the ingredients I use actually exist.

    I’ve used shrimp sauce as well. A note on shrimp sauce: Shrimp sauce can come in a variety of forms. Lee Kum Kee makes a version that looks like a sludgy concrete slurry that’s probably best used to pave parking lot structures. Stay away from it. The kind you want is pinkly hued with a fair amount of crimson oil.

    This version, in particular, had the word “Bún Riêu” right there on the label. Amazing, the serendipity. Don’t use the concentrated Thai variety (which is a very thick, dark red paste), Malaysian, or the Filipino versions.

    A note on garnishes: I’ve added freshly poached shrimp and scored filets of squid, in addition to sliced raw onion and green onions. Fresh herbs really are essential to Bún Riêu – cilantro and the mint are vital, IMO. Spearmint, saw leaf herb, thai basil, in addition to more exotic herbs like fish mint and Vietnamese coriander (rau rahm) — it’s all good. Bean sprouts are essential, as is a squeeze of citrus (I prefer lemon with my Bún Riêu). Other garnishes could be a pinch of chiffonade of lettuce and banana blossoms.

    Bún Riêu

    Preparing the Broth

    • Pre-made pork bone or chicken broth or both. Obviously a lot…a couple gallons or more.
    • 2-3 tablespoons tamarind soup paste or 1/2 Tamarind packet (such as Knorr)
    • Two dozen shrimp
    • A few cuttlefish/calamari bodies, sliced to create 1 or 2 inch “filets”, and scored horizontally
    • Dried shrimp (a little more than a dozen or so)
    • Dried scallops (four or five)
    • Small handful Whole peppercorns (white and black)

    Add all ingredients together, bring to a boil. Remove fresh shrimp and calamari once they are cooked through, and set aside as garnish. Simmer on lowest setting for an hour.

    Preparing the “Whip”

    • Crab or Shrimp paste (2/3 of small jar – see the note above)
    • Dried shrimp and scallop from broth (above)
    • 10-12 raw shrimp
    • 1 egg + 5 egg whites
    • Ground white pepper
    • 2 finely chopped green onions

    Strain the broth. Remove dried shrimp and scallops. Using a mini-prep processor, grind up the shrimp/scallops, followed by raw shrimp. Give a few pulses to get a coarse grind. Beat eggs in a large mixing bowl, and add all remaining ingredients and mix into a paste.

    Finishing the Broth

    • 1 white onion, thinly sliced
    • Vegetable oil
    • 3 large tomatoes, cut into 1/8ths
    • Fish sauce aka Nuoc Mam
    • “Whip” from above

    Fry the white onions. Add tomatoes and onions into broth, bring to boil. Stir and lower to low grade, simmering boil. Season the broth with nuoc mam as needed.

    Grab the “whip” mixture and, using a medium spoon, drop lumps of the mixture into the undulating broth. These lumps will soon cook, rise to the top, and create a networked island of protein floatillas.

    Turn off the heat and let stand for a half hour to meld flavors.

    Assemble and Serve

    Boil rice noodles and rinse with cold water. Assemble 4 ounces or so in a bowl. Garnish with shrimp and squid, paper thin sliced raw red onions, cilantro, chopped green onions, basil, mint, cilantro, culantro, Vietnamese coriander, bean sprout, etc. I like to give the bowl a quick 20 seconds in the microwave to bring things up to lukish-warm.

    Pour hot broth over the soup, making sure to get a few choice protein flotillas. Squeeze lemon and snip a bird chili. You’re there.

    Closeup shot of a protein floatilla. The texture is hard to describe, and could be somewhat offputting for the virgin, but once you get a craving you don’t lose it.

    Skate or die


    I recently had an accident while moving an in-window air conditioning unit in my house. Rather than get down on myself and lament how much of a worthless loser I am, I instead got a craving for skate wing.


    Skate is very affordable, as this package from Whole Foods attests.


    The skate from WF does include a thin, translucent sheet of bone that easily separates from the flesh once cooked.


    Speaking of cooking, I simply salted and peppered the skate, and dropped it into a broad frying pan that had been coated with a good layer of extra virgin olive oil. I snipped some Mediterranean oregano, marjoram and parsley from the garden, and piled the herbs on top of the filet with a smashed garlic clove, and flipped to sear. Just a few minutes per side.


    I removed skate, deglazed the pan with a shot of white wine and lemon juice, and poured over the seared filet (after removing that thin bone layer).


    Of all the winged fish, skate is clearly the tastiest.


    Continuing on the cold noodles post from last week, the hot months are here, and that also means gazpacho. On a hot day, I can eat a gallon of this stuff.

    I like to blend my gazpacho (and use V-8), but add reserved chopped ingredients at the end, so there are two textures.


    • 3 or 4 (depending on size) peeled, cored and chopped tomatoes NOTE: if you can’t get ripe tomatoes, use a fine brand of canned tomatoes (28oz)
    • 2 cans V-8
    • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
    • 1 red jalapeno, chopped
    • 1 red pepper, cored, seeded, depithed, and coarsely chopped
    • 1 English cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
    • 2/3 red onion, coarsely chopped
    • 1 cup (i.e. 1/2 a 16oz bag of peeled baby carrots) chopped peeled carrots
    • 3 green onions, coarsely chopped
    • 1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves only
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon or so sugar
    • Few dashes of Worchestshire


    Combine all the above in a blender. Blend to your liking. I don’t like it frothy. You can live your own life.


    • 1/3 red onion, finely diced
    • 1/2 English cucumber, peeled and finely diced
    • 3 chives, finely chopped
    • 1/4 bunch chopped cilantro
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil


    Stir the above ingredients into the blended soup. Chill in the fridge at least a day.

    At times, if I’m feeling a bit randy, I’ll top this off with chopped kalamata olives before eating.

    Squash and shrimp soup

    This is a criminally simple soup, yet it’s very satisfying. Growing up, we referred to this as “canh” (literally, “soup”), and a fresh pot often sat on the back of the stove, recently simmered, waiting to be ladled on top of hot rice from the steamer.

    This soup features a opo squash (“bau”), a large, long gourd with a pale green flesh. It is sold at all Vietnamese markets, and I’ve seen it at Fubonn and Uwajimaya. Some will describe the flavor as similar to zucchini. I suppose this is somewhat true. But I wouldn’t substitute zucchini in this soup anymore than I would substitue lime zest for lemongrass, or listen to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club instead of Jesus and Mary Chain, or masturbate to the mental image of Kirsten Dunst rather than Jessica Alba. OK, that’s a bit extreme. I actually listened to B.R.M.C. a lot, and Howl was a suprising changeup. And lime zest can add a nice flavor profile.

    Squash and Shrimp Soup

    • 1 large opo squash, or 2 smaller
    • 6 cups water
    • 1/2 pound shelled and deveined shrimp
    • 6 green onions, chopped
    • 1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves separated (discard stems), and coarsly chopped
    • Coarse cracked pepper (I like a lot — probably too much — but that’s me)
    • Salt
    • Fish sauce
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
    • 1 sliced yellow onion

    Using a small food processor, pulse the shrimp, half the green onions, and half the cilantro.


    You could also do this on a wide cutting board. Lay the shrimp out, layer on the onions and cilantro, and go to town. I don’t like to go too minced out, though, preferring bits and pieces of shrimp to come through. Though shrimp meatballs could work just fine.

    Transfer the meat to a bowl, and season with sugar, fish sauce (tablespoon or so), sesame oil, and pepper. Mix thoroughly and set aside.

    Heat water in a large dutch oven. Peel squash, trim off ends, and cut into 1/2 inch discs, and then 1/2 juliennes. You can go real skinny, too — this was how my mom commonly sliced her squash.


    Drop into pot and bring to a boil.


    Once you have a nice boil, add sliced onion and use a spoon to drop small “dumplings” of the shrimp into the boiling soup.

    Lower heat to a simmer, and salt (augmenting with a few squirts of fish sauce) to season to your taste. Once there, remove from heat, and throw in the onions and cilantro (but don’t stir). Cover partially and let sit for half hour or more.


    I almost always serve this soup on top of a couple spoonfuls of steamed jasmine rice, and give it a couple squirts of Maggi to round out the flavor.

    Pan-fried pomfret with lemongrass

    This is a good recipe for any whole fish, but these small little pomfrets are well-suited to soak up all the flavors.


    • 2 stalks lemongrass
    • 3 cloves minced garlic
    • 3 thai bird chilies
    • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • Black pepper

    Cut off the green fibrous ends of the lemongrass, and slice thin then mince as fine as possible. Combine with garlic, chilies, fish sauce, sugar, and pepper.

    Score the pomfrets on a bias (this helps the flavor to seep into the flesh). Coat with marinade, and allow to sit for half hour or more.

    Heat neutral vegetable (i.e. peanut) oil in pan, and fry the pomfrets on each side, 3-4 minutes per side.

    The skin become crisp and really holds a lot of flavor. This is great with plain, steamed jasmine rice. I’ll even scrape the pan of the leftover, browned bits of the crust (and oil) and eat that alongside the fish and rice.

    This can also be adapted for a skinless filet (like halibut, above), but really works well with a whole fish.

    Kimchi bánh mì


    As I was making kimchi, it occurred to me that the daikon and carrots I was prepping at the time could also do double duty as the garnish for some bánh mì down the road. As I considered setting aside some vegetables for some mandolin action, an idea was born…the kimchi bánh mì, using kimchi’d (that’s a transitive verb) daikon and carrots.

    First of all, the lemongrass pork that serves as the protein for this particular sandwich.

    Grilled Lemongrass Pork

    • 1 pound boneless country-style pork ribs
    • 3 stalks of lemon grass, ends trimmed, and minced like a motherfuck
    • Few cloves garlic
    • 3 bird chilis
    • 1 inch knob of ginger
    • Fish sauce
    • Tablespoon sugar

    Smash the ginger, garlic and chilis in a mortar to form a paste. Put in a bowl and combine with lemongrass and sugar. Add fish sauce and mix lightly until a thick sludge develops. Slather this all over the pork and allow to marinade for a few hours.


    Get some hot coals going on one side of a grill, and grill the pork. If you’re using the ribs, you’ll want to alternate between the hot/cool side of grills, and give them some time…I dunno, 40 minutes? Just whatever feels right, I’m not going to nanny you. If you’re using a leaner cut like a tenderloin or even shoulder steaks, you’ll want to reduce the time of course.

    While the pork cools a bit, get your sandwich house in order.


    The bread. These are from a local Vietnamese bakery (behind the Pho Oregon on East 82nd). You can pick these up at Vietnamese stores around town (5 for about $1.50).


    The garnish. I like cucumber on my bánh mì, and lots of cilantro. In this case I had some Thai basil, so I figured what the hell. And don’t forget the Maggi.

    So here’s how it went down. I sliced up that pork, stuffed everything into a toasted roll, and topped with slivers of daikon and carrots I carefully extracted from my kimchi.


    I think I ate three of them that day.

    Chicken curry


    This chicken curry is in my Vietnamese mom’s style, which is different from, say, quick cooking Thai versions, in that it’s a stew that simmers for a while.

    I eat it primarily with crusty french bread to sop up the juices, and jasmine rice when the bread runs out.

    • 1 entire chicken, cut up into pieces. Chop up each thigh and breast half into at least 2 pieces, bone intact. The bones make the gravy
    • 2 or 3 russet potatoes, chopped into 2 x 2 inch chunks
    • One yellow onion, chopped
    • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
    • Small knob of ginger, minced
    • 6 or 7 kaffir lime leaves
    • 1 stalk of lemon grass, chopped into thirds
    • 2 tablespoons turmeric
    • 2 tablespoons prepared red curry paste (I use Mae Ploy brand)
    • 1/2 teaspoon each ground cumin, coriander, and galanga powder
    • One can coconut milk
    • One container low-sodium chicken broth (i.e. Pacific brand – the larger)
    • One tablespoon fish sauce
    • Salt to taste

    Dust the chicken with turmeric, cumin, coriander, galanga powder, salt. Swirl hot vegetable oil in a dutch oven, brown the chicken parts for a few minutes. Remove.

    Add onion and ginger, sautee for a few minutes. Add garlic, lemongrass, lime leaves, and red curry paste, and sautee for a few minutes more. Pour in coconut milk, add fish sauce, bring to a simmer, return chicken to the pot and add pototoes. Pour in chicken broth, and add additional water (if needed) to fully cover.

    Bring to boil, reduce heat to lowest setting, and simmer for more than an hour or so. Salt to taste.

    Vietnamese Chicken Slaw


    With the return of warm weather, it’s quickly becoming salad season. This is a crunchy, tangy, and healthy salad. Salad.

    Vietnamese Chicken Slaw

    This will serve probably 3-4 people as a main dish, and more if serving as an appetizer or if those people are diminutive, children, or drug-addicted models.

    Salad Components

    • 1/2 a cooked chicken, shredded (I like to use more of the white meat)
    • 1 head green cabbage
    • 2 carrots, shredded
    • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped coarsely
    • dozen or so leaves spearmint
    • 6 or so purple perilla leaves
    • 6 or so thai basil leaves


    • 1 clove of garlic, forced through a garlic press
    • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
    • Juice of one nice, large juicy lime (or two smaller limes)
    • 3 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
    • 3 thai bird chilies, minced
    • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
    • 1 teaspoon garlic chili sauce or siracha


    • Handful of roasted peanuts (no skins)

    Dressing: whisk together all ingredients, and set aside to “steep”.


    Crush the peanuts in a mortar with a pestle.


    Chiffonade the cabbage. You can skip this step by buying those pre-cut coleslaw packages in the E. coli aisle of the produce section of your local mega-mart. There’s often carrots in the mix, too, so that will save you the step of shredding the carrots.


    Get your herbs in order. What is perilla? It’s essentially shiso — a broad leafed member of the mint family. The versions utilized in Vietnamese cooking have a purple face. Chiffonade the perilla and mint, and along with cilantro, combine with the cabbage, carrots, and chicken in a large mixing bowl. Whisk dressing and pour over salad, and toss.


    Garnish with peanuts.


    Kimchi is good. Although — like many things in the wide world of food that are good — it smells like shit.

    When we lived overseas, for a while we had a Korean neighbor who taught my mom how to make kimchi (I was in the third grade). My mom at that point had made pickled vegetables (the most ubiquitous being pickled mustard greens), but these were mild concoctions. My mom I imagine was intoxicated by the heat and toxicity of our neighbors kimchi, which spent a few days taking a dirt nap, buried in her backyard.

    My mom didn’t go that far, instead allowing a huge jar of kimchi to ferment on our kitchen counter. We lived at the time in a closed residential compound that had been designed by Dutch architects for (initially) expatriated Dutch workers and their families. As a result, our house was quite diminutive in an efficient, scaled down way — the Netherlands appearing to be a country that was built to 3/5th scale. It was quite possibly the smallest 5 bedroom house in the entire world – maybe 1000 square feet. Everything was scaled down to size — the bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, utility room. One load in our washer and dryer meant probably two pairs of jeans and five shirts. The icebox could barely hold a chicken. Our Atari 2600 game room was so small a third Missile Command spectator had a hard time waiting his turn without discomforting the others.

    As a result of living in such cramped quarters, my Mom’s huge jar of rotting crap smelled like fucking shit. Oh man, my dad would bellyache like a whiny ass titty baby. He had a hard time with fish sauce, but this kimchi was another smelly beast altogether. The fact that it sat out for days, stinking up the whole joint, imparted a more criminal ignominy. Like most solipsistic white honkies, he had an aversion to anything that smelled stronger than ketchup that wasn’t his own fart. I kid the white people. I love them — they are good at starting wars.

    My kimchi technique is slightly modified from a more traditional approach (as described on Zenkimchi’s excellent post), though I do use this technique as a template.

    As with most of my recipes, everything is approximate. In fact, I’m not going to give measurements for most of the ingredients here. Just figure it out yourself, you’re a big girl. Take some responsibility for your life for once.


    Vegetable components

    • Cabbage
    • Daikon radish
    • Carrots
    • Sliced red onion
    • Chopped green onion
    • Garlic
    • Italian parsley
    • Ginger

    In this case, I picked up a couple long napa cabbages from Uwajimaya (around 2 feet long, but much narrower than conventional napa). I sliced the daikon into coins, and the carrots into matchsticks, and brined all these for around 8 hours in cold, salty water (1 cup kosher salt for every quart water). I used around 25 minced garlic cloves — no kidding — and a nice, shredded knob of ginger. The parsley may sound like an odd addition, but I like the freshness it adds to the mix.

    Seasoning components

    • Fish sauce (I used Three Lions brand – my usual)
    • Gochugaru
    • Crushed red pepper
    • Paprika
    • 1 teaspoon fermented shrimp sauce (your call)
    • 1 teaspoon or so of sugar

    Start with a large mixing bowl, and add all the spices.


    Gochugaru is Korean dried red pepper. It’s intensely red. Paprika, again, may seem odd , but I like the “red” it adds. Also, the crushed pepper could probably be omitted, but I like the additional flavor layer it adds. It is important to note the gochugaru is the primary pepper component and you are using a lot. How much? That’s your call, but you’re looking to create a consistent paste when you add the fish sauce (and the shrimp sauce, if you’re using it). It should be a nice sludge that should should be ample enough to coat all your vegetables. If you’re feeling timid, you can create the sludge separately and mix it in stages with the vegetables to obtain your optimum level of intensity.

    Once everything is mixed to your liking, transfer to a large jar or container and commence with the rotting. You can leave it out at room temperature overnight or transfer immediately to your fridge – I usually let it sit out for around 12 hours and then refridgerate. The opening photo shows kimchi in its infancy. I will sample the kimchi at this point, as there’s joy to be obtained from a fresh, bright batch of kimchi.


    But as you can see, once it mucks around in its own rotting filth for a while, that’s when something special starts to occur.

    Lamb Kefta Kebabs


    I like kebabs. I particularly enjoy the Kefta kebab, which is ground meat formed around a skewer in kebab-like fashion. I like saying the word kefta. It’s one of those words, like película and Kofi Annan, that you never grow tired of saying. I remember when Congress a couple years ago was debating the merits of the Central America Free Trade Agreement, I secretly wished the debate would draw out into a longer, more contentious debate than it had at the time, just because I enjoyed all the talking heads uttering the acronym “CAFTA” (which was close enough for me). Each time I watched the news I’d get hungry.

    You can make this with beef or beef and lamb as well. New Seasons sells ground lamb, though keep in mind it is very fatty and will imbue quite a gamy scent into the atmosphere for some time. My wife was all bothered and stuff, but the deliciousness factor made her harangues worth it.

    Kefta Kebab

    • 1 and one-half pounds ground beef or lamb (or both!)
    • 1 bunch chopped fresh Italian parsley, reserve a couple tablespoons (to cook with rice)
    • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
    • 1 egg
    • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
    • 3 or 4 garlic cloves, forced through a press
    • 1 white onion, finely chopped
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
    • Ground pepper
    • Salt to your taste


    Combine everything in a large mixing bowl and mix together with your hands. I like to use long, flat broad metal skewers — mold the meat around the length of the skewer and pat to form an elongated, rectangular patty.


    Heat a grill pan over medium-high and brown skewers on each of the 4 ends, 2 minutes or so each side. Remove and let sit for a few minutes.

    You can eat this skewers by themselves. But c’mon, man, don’t be such freak.

    Rice Pilaf

    • Olive oil or butter (2 tablespoons)
    • 2 cups basmati rice
    • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
    • 3 cups chicken broth
    • 1 onion, finely chopped
    • 2 cloves minced garlic
    • 1 chopped tomato
    • Pinch of saffron
    • Salt


    Preheat oven to 325 F. Rinse and soak rice in water for half hour. Drain. Heat oil or butter in a medium saucepan (with a tight fitting lid) over medium heat. Add onions and sweat for a couple minutes, then add garlic, rice and saffron and sautee for a couple minutes. Add tomatoes, salt, and broth. Bring to boil, cover, and place in oven for 20 minutes. Allow the rice to sit on stovetop for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

    Sumac Onions

    • 1 white onion, halved and sliced
    • Ground sumac
    • Olive oil

    Sautee onions in oil. Hit with sumac when they start to caramelize, and serve over kebabs.


    I like to squeeze lemon over the kebab, onions, and rice.

    Pho Tai


    EatDrink&BeMerry asked for a Pho recipe, so here’s mine.

    The Portland Angle

    This Portland-centric info won’t help EatDrink&BeMerry, but he lives in Southern California, the land of Ranch 99 markets and over a quarter of a million Vietnamese, so I’m sure he’ll manage. (After all, he’s a resourceful guy who managed to score an entire segment in Tony Bourdain’s No Reservations LA episode!)

    There’s a short list of stores I would consider for an all-inclusive Pho run. They are in my order of preference:

    1. Thanh Thao market, 65th and Sandy.
    2. Hong Phat market on Prescott and 99th.
    3. Fubonn
    4. Uwajimaya

    Certainly, there are other stores.

    The first two market are Vietnamese, Fubonn is pan-Asian, as is Uwajimaya, though the latter obviously primarily Japanese. But Uwajimaya sells fresh rice noodles, has an incomparable selection of Asian produce, and you can find bones necessary to make a fine stock.

    But it’s at Vietnamese markets like Than Thao where you’re going to have certain details taken care for you. Like at the butcher counter you can get pre-bagged portions of beef leg soup bones, and oxtails by the pound.

    I like to buy my meat pre-sliced from Thanh Thao market on 65th and Sandy – it’s lean, consistently thin slices of the eye of round. At $3.29/lb, it’s a bargain.

    If you are slicing it from home from your own eye, you can freeze it for an hour before slicing. It’s key to get the meat as thin as possible. If for some reason round is unavailable, you could also in a pinch use london broil, but keep it cheap and lean. This is peasant food, and something like strip or ribeye would be wasteful. That’s not to say a frou-frou version of Pho Tai couldn’t be something like, say, raw buffalo carpaccio draped on fresh rice tagliatelli and poached with scalding hot, anise-and-lovage-scented brown veal stock, topped with julienne of cinnamon basil and saw leaf herb, but you wouldn’t see me making this in my humble kitchen (even if I had the ambition).

    Pho Tai

    Pho Tai basically means Pho with raw, lean beef (“Tai”). This is my favorite type of Pho, but it is also very good with braised, tender beef (commonly brisket — Chin), or with lean, cooked flank (Nam). With two types of meat? Pho Tai Chin.

    The Broth

    I like a fragrant broth. Many people would probably be bothered by the variety and proliferation of aromatics and spices in my Pho broth. I don’t care. I live life to the fullest, with wanton disregard for prudes and haters.

    • A few pounds of beef leg bones (you could use oxtails — expensive, but tasty — and strip the meat from the bones for the Pho Tai Chin)
    • 1 extremely large onion
    • A bunch of water
    • One cinnamon stick
    • 6-8 star anise
    • 10 cloves
    • 1 decent knob of ginger, washed
    • 3 allspice berries
    • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
    • 1 teaspoon white peppercorns
    • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
    • Couple carrots
    • Half bunch of celery
    • 1 nugget of rock sugar
    • Kosher Salt
    • Fish sauce
    • MSG (yes, MSG! Ajinomoto, of course)

    Put the bones in a large stockpot and cover with water…say a full 12 inches over the bones themselves, and crank up the heat.

    My mom impressed the following method upon me: peel the onion, and then stud that thing with cloves, really sticking the points deep into the onion flesh to make sure they are firmly implanted. Turn on the flame of your gas stove (or you can use a creme brulee or crackpipe torch) and, using tongs, scald that allium, turning to toast all the clove points and to get an even char all over the onion. Throw into the stockpot, and repeat with ginger.

    Put the rest of the spices into a dry cast iron pan, and toast over high heat for a minute, and dump into the pot. Add carrots (unpeeled) and celery.

    Disclaimer: for a clear broth, some people say to boil the bones, and skim off the “foam”. But I prefer just to allow everything to simmer for a buttload of time (the impurities seem to melt and evaporate away) and then strain.

    So…bring everything to a healthy boil, then add rock sugar and reduce to simmer. Personally, I would have started this around 8am or 8pm, because this is going to take a while. Simmer for 6-8 hours. Yes…even overnight on the lowest of low settings.

    Strain broth through a fine sieve (it helps to own more than one stockpot — I own three. But I am a notorious hoarder). Sometimes I’ll cool the broth in the fridge, and skim off the coagulated fat “sheet” that accumulates. Other times I’ll just eat an unctuous first bowl of Pho, and then cool and skim later.

    Bring back to a healthy simmer, and season with fish sauce (3 tablespoons?), salt, and a couple teaspoons of MSG. Do this in stages, and taste constantly. There is no magic formula — everything is approximate and requires constant salty bootstrapping to get it just right.

    The noodles


    Use fresh, thin rice noodles. Usually 99 cents for an entire pound. Blanch in boiling water for no more than 20 seconds, and then strain and bowl immediately.


    Bring the broth to a roiling boil. Drape thin slices of Tai over the noodles. Top with:

    • Paper thin slices of onion
    • Sliced green onions
    • Chopped cilantro
    • The leaves from a few sprigs of Thai basil
    • A small handful of bean sprouts
    • 2-3 torn pieces of culantro (ngo gai aka saw leaf herb)
    • Fresh chilis (I like to snip two small bird chilis with kitchen shears, but sliced jalapenos are quite common)

    Using a ladle, skim the scalding, boiling broth over the noodles, beef, and garnishes. Hit that soup with a couple dashes of nuoc mam (fish sauce) and the juice of half a lime, and give it a few grinds of white and black pepper. Enjoy.


    Egg, Pork (and Shrimp) “Pancakes”


    I ate this all the time growing up. My mom would make a dozen of these, and my brothers and I would eat them over the course of a day or two. It was an easy, go-to meal in our household.

    I suppose you can call this a version of the ubiquitous Egg Foo Young. It’s actually known as Trung Mam Hap, but this is my take on the steamed Vietnamese egg dish. That version is more like a cross between a Japanese omelette for sushi (tamago) and a soufflé. I’m not a huge fan of the texture of Trung Mam Hap — for me it’s too light and delicate. This is more substantial and savory, in my opinion. I have enough emasculation issues already.

    Egg, Pork (and Shrimp) “Pancakes”

    • 3/4 lb ground pork
    • 1/3 cup dried woodear mushroom strips, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, and drained
    • 2 or 3 minced garlic cloves
    • 2 or 3 chopped shallots
    • 3 green onion, chopped
    • Cracked black pepper
    • 1/8 pound mung bean thread noodles, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, and drained
    • 6-7 healthy dashes of nuoc mam
    • 1/4 pound raw, chopped (very fine to almost a ground consistency) shrimp
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 6 eggs

    Beat eggs in a bowl. Combine all ingredients (except eggs) in a separate, large mixing bowl. Pour eggs over meat mixture, and use your hands to really mix the shit together.

    Pour out “batter” on preheated, oiled non-stick pan. Cover and cook over medium low for 5 minutes. Flip and repeat, uncovered.


    I eat this with Maggi (the favored, potent, delivery vehicle of choice for MSG salt bombs) and steamed jasmine rice.

    Banh cuon semi-homemade/frugal gourmet (except without the disturbing cleavage or the pedophilia)


    Banh cuon is a popular Vietnamese dish. There’s a restaurant in the Fubonn plaza, called Banh Cuon Tan Dinh, which, as you can guess, specializes in Banh Cuon. You could go there. They take credit cards and everything.

    But here’s another tip for you: you can eat it at home as well, quite easily, for 1/3 the price. There’s a store on 99th and Prescott, called Hong Phat, and another on 65th and Sandy, Thanh Thao, that sell pre-made banh cuon. Don’t worry, all banh cuon is pre-made…you don’t whip up this dish on the spot. It’s a (slight) reheat and simple garnish effort, so as long as the banh cuon itself is of decent comport, you’ll be in a good spot as long as you’ve got your garnish act together. And it’s cheap…you can get nearly 3 servings out of a single to-go container.

    First of all, what are banh cuon? Imagine it as a rice flour cannoli. Sheets of rice “pasta” or “crepe” are rolled around a filling consisting (usually) of seasoned and sauteed ground pork and wood ear mushrooms. The banh cuon are plated and typically topped with fried shallots, fresh herbs, blanched bean sprouts, and thin slices of cha lua (a fish sauce scented pork loaf, aka Vietnamese bologna). The whole plate is given a generous drink of nuoc cham, a Vietnamese condiment made with fish sauce (“nuoc mam”), chilies, sugar, lime juice, and often pickled garlic, and maybe dressed with some shredded carrots or even daikon.

    The banh cuon themselves are rather labor intensive. I guess. My mom never made them much growing up, because one of her best friends was in business making Vietnamese specialties like banh cuon, bun bao, even her own cha lua, and selling them to the Vietnamese community (and a few Tucson area offices during lunch). This friend made amazing stuff, so what was the point in doing it yourself? So what I’m doing here, taking other people’s canvasses and coloring by numbers, is very much in the fine tradition of the Vietnamese-American experience. That, and marathon gambling, moth balls, yelling into phone handsets for no apparent reason, voting knee-jerkingly Republican, 2-foot spoilers on Nissan Sentras, drinking insane amounts of Hennessey, shaming your own children because their friend’s child graduated from UC Irvine with a BSEE in 2.5 years, harboring a healthy distrust of conventional FDIC-insured banking institutions, etc.

    If you do want to make it yourself, here’s a very nice step-by-step post and wonderful photo gallery.


    Hong Phat and Thanh Thao will give you the base banh cuon to work from. The sell these plastic to-go containers in their respective deli sections for only $5. One advantage of making them yourself: these are a bit on sparse end in terms of meat filling, so if you rolled your own you can be more generous. But since it’s only $5, they taste just fine, and I will be adding a generous helping of sliced meat topping, I’m not going to be a whiny ass titty baby about it.

    Here are the toppings:

    1. Bean sprouts. Blanch them in boiling water for about 10 seconds and then drain and shock them in an ice bath and then drain and set aside.
    2. Cucumber. Peel, cut off the end, then score the blunt end three times, then slice thinly.
    3. Cilantro. Chop up a bunch.
    4. Mint (if you want to add that purplish mint and shiso then you’re well on your way in becoming the coolest person ever). Chop up a bunch, yeah?
    5. Thai basil leaves (optional). I like it. Or not.
    6. Fried shallots. You can do this yourself, or buy the dried stuff the sell on the shelves.
    7. Nuoc cham sauce (recipe to follow).
    8. Cha lua . Slice as thin as possible and then halve those thin slices.

    First the cha lua. Most markets will sell this brand, sometimes in the freezer section. This will do, but Hong Phat has their own cha lua THAT IS DEEP FRIED. And this is the lean stuff, not the stuff with the strange, ringworm-type vein of organ fat running the length of the loaf. I’ll mention it once again, in case you missed it the first time. This cha lua IS DEEP FRIED.


    Apparently, once it is DEEP FRIED, it magically takes on transformative taxonomical properties and becomes “cha chien”. Simply amazing.


    For the sake of the scientific method, I present you the cross-section of THE DEEP FRIED cha chien.

    So here’s the MO: plate the banh cuon. I would only use about 1/3 (or slightly more) of the portion you’ve just bought. Top with bean sprouts and tent with plastic wrap. Nuke in the microwave for 45 seconds.


    Scatter a generous amount of cha lua on top. Top with herbs and shallots.

    Spoon as much nuoc cham as you’d like — I won’t tell you how much because I’m not normal and eat way too much of this stuff. I don’t want to drag you into my world. I didn’t choose this life, and it isn’t for everyone. Ride the snake if you must.


    Here’s an example of the work-in-progress. Notice the pool of nuoc cham at the bottom of the plate. After finishing the banh cuon, I will drink this. Don’t judge me. I’m not a role model.


    Case in point: I don’t subject my daughter to the sauce. It’s not for everyone. She has the innocence of childhood to experience before she herself foments any vices.

    Now for the nuoc cham recipe.


    Funny story. Growing up, we called this “nuoc mam”, when in fact it is properly referred to as “nuoc cham”. I guess. This point was really hammered home one occasion when I saw Emeril Lagasse in 1997 on the Food Network (before Emeril Live when he became a circus freakshow) make lemongrass beef salad and he kept saying “nuoc CHAAAAHHHHHHM” over and over with a huge emphasis on “CHAM” with a long overextension of the “AAAAHHHHMMM” like he was a drunk Red Sox fan yelling “No-MAAAHHHH Garcia-PAH-AAAHHHHHH”.

    We still called fish sauce (the uncut, bottled stuff) “nuoc mam” as well. But whether you referred to fish sauce or the prepared condiment depended on context, much like when the Republican Party says they are all about upholding the constitution. And at every Vietnamese restaurant I’ve been to, each time I ask for nuoc mam with my goi cuon, there has been no misunderstanding, so I don’t think this was peculiar to my household.

    That was not a funny story at all.

    There are two schools of thought when it comes to the “nuoc CHAAAAHHHHHHM”. One, which is my Mom’s style, is spicy, vibrant, full of sweet and sour and tangy. She’s from the south, so I think of it as “The Republic” sauce. Up in the north, as I understand it (and I admittedly lack advanced comprehension skills), they can be a bit more timid, and will maybe just cut fish sauce with a bit of water and sugar. That’s it. Commie red bastards.

    Uncle Ho’s Nightmare Sauce (aka aggressive Nuoc Cham)

    • 1 or 2 garlic cloves
    • Couple thai chilies
    • 1/2 small can pickled garlic (you can find this at Viet/asian markets)
    • 1 teaspoon ground chili paste (aka sambal olek)
    • 1/2 cup fish sauce (buy the most expensive you can find – I use Flying Lion brand)
    • 2/3 cup hot water
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
    • 2 limes
    • Shredded carrots if you want

    Combine garlics, fresh chilis and ground chili in mortar and pound with a pestle. Transfer to a jar, and pour in wet ingredients. Halve the limes, and squeeze them into the jar. IMPORTANT! Don’t throw away that lime. Take a small paring knife and cut into the sections and get as much pulp sacs from the fruit itself. THIS IS IMPORTANT! I CANNOT STRESS IT ENOUGH.

    Pour in sugar and stir until combined. Taste for sweetness, you might want to add some sugar to take the edge off.


    This recipe scales incredibly well, and will keep a long time. I’ve been known to make a huge jar of the stuff and keep it in the back of my fridge. Usually I’ll time it so my batch of nuoc cham runs out just when my mom visits, and I’ll let her make the next industrial sized batch.

    BBQ baby back ribs


    Dear god I love ribs. I am in love with the spare rib, for certain, but lately I’ve been cheating and having a torrid affair with its slim, high-rent cousin, the baby back rib. Sure, it’s less meat, but they tend to be easier to cook (and take a lot less time), but on average you’re also spending $3-5 dollars more per pound. Something to consider.

    Now, a lot of BBQ purists and snobs and know-it-alls (and everywhere you turn, there’s some guy who claims to be the authority on BBQ) will scoff at sauce. You know what? I like a saucey rib. For one, I like condiments, and a rib sauce is like the ultimate opportunity to indulge your condiment fetish (a good thing if you’re — like me — the Marquis de Sade of condiments). Almost anything can be added, in sparing amounts, to a rib sauce. Why not seize the opportunity to put your shit to good use?

    And sauce tastes good. Mind you, I dry rub my ribs too. I suspect they would taste pretty good without a saucing, if you went the extra steps and took special care in cooking and smoking your rib. But licking your fingers after every rib, wiping excess from your cheek (yes, that is uncomfortably pornographic), well, why would I deprive myself of such an experience for the sake of somebody else’s idea of authenticity?

    And screw those BBQ snobs. America has been around, what, a couple hundred years? These guys act like they invented the fucking pig. The delicious swine (and cow, and lamb, and goat, and anything with blood) has been quartered and grilled and smoked for thousands of years. The rest of the meat-eating world didn’t suddenly wake up and take notice the moment some solipsistic asshat in St. Louis or Kansas City or Austin or Memphis or Carolina proclaimed himself King Shit of Fuck Mountain.

    Rib rub

    Use any/all of these, in any amounts you’d prefer. Experiment and find your spice rub g-spot, if you will. Feel free to add to this list — it’s not exhaustive by any means. Ground coffee or espresso? Onward, brave soldier.

    • Garlic powder
    • Onion powder
    • Ground coriander
    • Ground cumin
    • Paprika
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • Celery salt
    • Mustard powder
    • Chili powder (New Mexico, pasilla, de arbol)
    • Fennel
    • Ground cloves
    • 5 spice powder
    • Extract of wort and/or wormwood
    • Macerated erosberries
    • Ground farrah root
    • Essence of taint

    Soak your ribs in a cold water brine of equal parts kosher salt and brown sugar for an hour. Some people add apple juice. Those people are my heroes. But my daughter drinks the apple juice in our house, so if I poured half her shit into a brine just to throw away it would be like her using my smoked hungarian paprika as a pigment base for her water coloring. Have some respect and empathy, people. Pat the ribs dry, and coat both sides with your most excellent rub. Prep your grill by building up your coals on one side, and proceed to BBQ on the cool side with the cover on, for about 2 hours, turning as you feel the need (usually every other beer or so – just make sure you aren’t drinking Hair of the Dog’s Fred are your ass will be kicked). For the last 15 minutes, I like to remove the ribs, remove the cover, and bring the heat/fire back up. Coat the ribs with your sauce and then return the ribs back to the grill to finish.


    Let them cool for a bit (if you can resist the urge to gnaw the entire rack down to bone nubs). Slice and enjoy.


    Der rib sauce

    Like I previously stated, anything can go in a rib sauce pretty much. This is shit I had in my fridge and pantry, and the measurements are approximate. In reality, I just dumped shit in the pan. Remember, most anything will be work if you match the sweet and savory and acidic. Though I would probably steer clear of marshmallows, cod liver oil, and crystal meth.

    • 1 tblsp maple syrup
    • 7 dashes worcestshire
    • 2 tblsp CJ brand hot and spicy Korean BBQ sauce
    • 1 tblsp apple cider vinegar
    • 4 tblsp ketchup
    • 1 teaspoon hoisin
    • 1 teaspoon korean fermented black bean paste
    • 2 tablespoons apple juice
    • 1 teaspoon Buffalo chipotle sauce
    • 1 tablespoon apricot preserves
    • 3 tblsp water
    • 1 tablespoon Hennesey VSOP cognac
    • 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
    • 1 teaspoon Lee Kum Kee Vegetarian Mushroom Stir Fry Sauce
    • 1/4 cup Stella Artois beer (I happened to be drinking this at the time. Use a lager or whatever you want. It’s your life.)

    Combine all this shit in a saucepan and simmer over low heat for an hour and a half (preferably while the ribs are cooking or you’re the worst multi-tasker in the world).

    Your own private taqueria


    This is your chance to have a taqueria experience in the comfort of your own home. After all this trouble, you might realize that perhaps it’s much easier to walk to the nearest taco truck or taqueria and throw down a five spot. That may be true. But give a man a taco, and he eats that day. Teach a man to taco, and he eats until his colon ruptures.

    First of all, we start with the duality that is red and green taqueria table sauces. These two colors help make the Mexican flag. I guess if you wanted to complete the flag you could add crema or *gasp* sour cream to your taqueria tacos, but I will personally hunt you down and torture you by slicing off your eyelids and staking you to a pole in a sandstorm.

    The first sauce I co-opted from a recipe that was shared on Chow.


    Taqueria Table Sauce

    • 5 medium roma tomatoes, cored and halved
    • 10 dried chile de arbol
    • 2 dried chile negro (dried pasilla)
    • 2 tablespoon dried pasilla powder
    • 1 3/4 cups water
    • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
    • 1 tablespoon roasted salted pepitas
    • 1 tablespoon roasted salted sunflower seeds
    • Juice of one lime or juice of two key limes
    • 1/3 bunch of cilantro

    Place the tomatoes, skin side up, under heated broiler on top rack and broil until the skins start to blacken and shrivel.

    Remove and add to saucepan. Break off stems from dried chilies, and shake out most of the seeds. If you want, get into the larger dried pasillas and remove some of the pith. No biggie. Add to saucepan, along with dried pasilla powder, salt, sugar, garlic, and water. Bring to boil and simmer over low for 20 minutes.

    Pour into blender, add seeds, lime juices, cilantro, and puree incrementally using all those unneccesary escalating power settings on your blender (“These go 11”). My blender actually has 12 settings, though the initial level, “Fast Clean” I don’t think actually qualifies, but I make sure to utilize it because I feel like I’m being wasteful if I don’t. Oh yeah, stop when you have a nice, liquid consistency. There’s often a setting on blenders called “liquefy”. I suggest you escalate to this level. Maybe not at first, though — build up to it with some blender foreplay.


    Tomatillo-Avocado Sauce

    You could use fresh hulled, roasted tomatillos for this recipe, but I find that a canned Mexican brand of pre-made salsa verde works quite excellently. But if you want to use fresh tomatillos, by all means do, but nobody is going to give you a prize or anything.

    • 2 7 oz cans Embasa Brand Salsa Verde (warning, link to THE BEST WEBSITE EVER)
    • 1 Haas Avocado (who is this guy “Haas”? Did he invent the avocado?)
    • 3 tablespoons water
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/3 bunch cilantro
    • 1 clove garlic, peeled
    • 3 dashes El Yucateco Chile Habenero XXXTRA (that’s 3 x’s for those keeping score at home) Hot Sauce

    Put everything in a blender. Pulse and tease the salsa using the aforementioned blender foreplay, until a smooth, even consistency is reached.

    Now for the carne asada.

    Seek out a carniceria in your neighborhood — you’ll be happier to have found one, if only for the fact that the most popular brand of bread in Mexico is called “Bimbo”. They usually sell flap meat/steak, often even pre-marinated/seasoned for your pleasure. You can also find this cut at Winco foods. It is usually sliced in thin, broad sheets.

    You say there’s no carcineria in your ‘hood? I find that hard to believe. Haven’t you been listening to right wing talk radio? If you had been, you’d realize the Mexicans are taking over ‘Murica and will soon reclaim the entire southwest as the Republic of Aztlan via “El Reconquista”. Tom Tancredo and Michelle Malkin said so! Beware the brown! Except for today, the day we make carne asada tacos. ¡Viva México!

    General Zapata’s Carne Asada

    • Bunch o’ slices of flap meat, like over a pound or so
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
    • 5 garlic cloves, shoved through a garlic press
    • 1 teaspoon chile de arbol powder
    • 1 teaspoon paprika
    • 1 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
    • Kosher salt

    Combine the meat and spices and salt everything to suit your tastes. Marinade for at least a couple hours. Grill over hot coals, few minutes per side, for a nice all around char. Chop up the carne into little bite size pieces, though only what you plan to eat right then and there.


    I actually prefer to keep the flap steaks intact, refrigerate, and then for subsequent taco meals chop and reheat on a hot griddle. The meat will transform into perfect little crispy carnuggets. Spoon the carne asada onto doubled, warmed corn tortillas. I guess you could use flour tortillas — I suppose — but you’ll lose all my respect and in fact earn my resentment for some time to come. Garnish with diced white onions and cilantro.


    Oh yeah, and the table salsas.


    For added effect put the salsas in plastic squeeze bottles. Squirt the sauces onto your tacos ONLY WHEN YOU’VE BROUGHT THE TACOS TO THE TABLE. I personally don’t even get that far. I eat my tacos standing up, at my kitchen counter, and pretend like I’m at a taco stand in the streets of Tijuana, drunk off tourist tequila and pissed because I’ve foolishly bet all my money on worthless football trifectas.

    Incredibly simple 5-spice grilled chicken


    I like the fowl.

    One of the all time faves, for simplicity and comfort, is the whole roasted bird. This bird I’ve done on the grill, back in the day when I used to have a dual burner gas grill. I only lit one side and would alternately move the bird back and forth between lit and unlit halves of the grill, keeping the lid down at all times. An imperfect science, and a method by which I’ve ruined a few morsels. Then I sold the damn grill (and forsaked gas altogether) just when I perfected the method.

    You can obviously use the same method with a large Weber kettle grill — which I do. Just build the fire on one half, and maybe employ the use of a drip pan so the delicious fat doesn’t spatter and cause flareups and burn the skin.

    Usually I would suggest you tie up the bird with some butcher twine, but goddamnit I was feeling lazy, and plus, I kinda like the way the legs start to kick out when the chicken becomes done. I’ve been known to pull off a leg or two and mack it right there on the spot.

    5-spice grilled whole chicken

    • A chicken
    • 4 tablespoons Chinese 5-spice powder
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/2 tablespoon of: water, fish sauce, rice wine
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

    Combine the wet ingredients with the dry.


    Mix so it becomes a paste.


    Rub all over the bird (including cavity and under the skin if you’d like) and let it stand for at least a few hours.

    Fire up your grill, and grill for an hour or so using the method described earlier. You might want to employ a meat thermometer if you like to do things right. I tend to wing it, much to the detriment of many of my results.


    But this time it turned out well! This bird pairs nicely with steamed jasmine rice.

    Mong Toi


    This is one of my favorite Asian greens. As you can tell by the label, FuBonn classifies it as “Mong Toi”, though other cultures would most likely have other names for it.


    Mong Toi has broad leaves with thin stems that feed into a thick, central stem. Steam or sauteed, the stem and greens become very tender. I would say it’s a nice cross between spinach and Chinese broccoli.

    Like spinach or Chinese brocolli, it pairs extremely well when steamed or sauteed (or both) with garlic and seasoned with a thick, dark Asian sauce. That’s exactly what I did in this instance. After cutting off the very 1/4 inch stub ends of the greens and rinsing them, heat up a large wok and briefly sautee a couple minced cloves of garlic in a tablespoon of peanut or vegetable oil.


    Add the greens, and sautee, until they start to become slightly wilted.


    Drizzle with a Lee Kum Kee sauce, such as oyster, “vegetarian stir fry”, hoisin, or a Korean fermented soybean paste (I use “Wang” brand). It just so happens that I keep a squirt bottle on handle with equal parts of ALL THE ABOVE for instances just like this. Imagine the fortuitous serendipity, if you can.

    Finally, hit with some cracked pepper and a squirt of sesame oil and enjoy.