My Food Diary: Fun Fusion Cooking
In This Issue...
From Greek stew to Swedish bread to Chinese veggie stir fry, this post features a lot of fusion cooking and unlikely dish pairings. Such a fun week of cooking!
★ My weekly Food Diaries are a way of tracking what I cook, buy, and eat every day. They provide insight into my eating preferences, allow me to analyze patterns in my spending, and help improve my cooking. And I always share my recipes! ★
Mushroom Noodle Broth
This noodle soup features enoki and king oyster mushrooms. I was originally planning to cook a stir-fried noodle dish and pair it with a separate mushroom dish, but my dad came home early and insisted on a soup.
So, threw together some noodles, a package of enoki mushrooms, the caps from a few king oyster mushrooms (I used the stems for a vegan “scallops” recipe, below), and chopped scallions. Add some soy sauce, and BOOM you got cuisine!
Vegan Scallops (made from King Oyster Mushrooms)
I used the caps of these king oyster mushrooms in the noodle soup (above), and the stems I soaked in hot water to prepare them for this recipe for vegan “scallops.” I followed the recipe vaguely, since I didn’t have white wine, and substituted some chopped scallions for the shallot.
I quite enjoyed these. They don’t exactly taste scallop-y, but the texture was on point. (Hmm… maybe I should add some nori or kombu to the soaking water for a simulated seafood taste.) My dad liked them as well!
Green Bean and Konjac Stir Fry
Konjac (better known as shirataki) is becoming better known in the West now due to its main draw as a 0-calorie food. But we Asians have been consuming it for a loooong time, in all shapes and forms, from noodle knots used in hot pot to whole chunks of it (“yam cakes”) for adding to soups and stews.
This week, my grandma brought over a new konjac-based food I haven’t seen before. It looked and felt like a cross between seitan and tofu, but had a slippery, rubbery texture that was more characteristic of konjac. The flavour was weird, too, with hints of black pepper and mushroom. Really, it was like I had entered the Uncanny Valley of vegetarian food items.
I used it in a stir fry with some green beans, cutting it up into cubes. I was wondering if the konjac would get a nice seared crust, like tofu does when fried in oil, but it didn’t. However, it did absorb the cooking sauce really nicely, and had a good flavour. It was initially really tasty but got harder to eat after many bites.
Eggs Florentine on Haddock
Yay for runny egg yolks!
For lunch today I made my dad and I a simple dish of runny eggs over spinach and poached haddock. A super simple recipe that tastes damn good, with basically no prep work. As a kid I was grossed out by any egg softer than hard-boiled, because I thought at the time that meant they were undercooked. Now, though, I love runny, gooey yolks with a passion.
Here is the recipe for the eggs, spinach, and haddock. I served it with enoki mushrooms, below.
Soy Sauce Enoki Mushrooms with Garlic and Scallions
It’s amazing the things soy sauce can do for a dish. These enoki mushrooms have a super simple sauce (recipe from Woks of Life) made of soy sauce, garlic, and scallions, tossed together with a spoonful of oil. I only used one pack of enoki mushrooms (200 g), which was perfect as a side for me and my dad.
It not only looks, but tastes, delicious! And soooo simple too. Will definitely be making this one again.
Fasolakia (green bean stew)
Fasolakia is a Greek vegetable stew usually served with feta cheese and bread. In a case of real East-West fusion cooking, I instead served this recipe with my mom’s pork and pidan congee for dinner tonight.
Instead of pureed tomatoes, I used four small fresh tomatoes, chopped into quarters. (Didn’t bother with peeling them.)
I was surprised by how sweet this stew turned out. I didn’t add any sugar even though the recipe called for it, so the sweetness must have come from the potatoes and green beans. Both of my parents asked me if there was sugar in the stew, and if I hadn’t been the one making the recipe, I would’ve suspected too.
Anyway, this is probably my favourite way to cook green beans now! They become very tender, bordering on mushy, after being cooked for so long. I much prefer this texture over crisp green beans.
Taro Swirl Bread
I used King Arthur Flour’s potato bread recipe for the dough, substituting mashed taro in place of the mashed potato. Since my taro had sat overnight in the fridge, it was dryer than the mashed potato consistency so I had to add some more water. For the taro filling, I simply mixed the remaining taro with coconut milk. It smelled (and tasted) sooo good! I’m not ashamed to say I ate some of the filling right out of the saucepan.
I rolled out the bread dough very thin, and spread a thick layer of this filling across it. Rolled it up and let it rise for a couple of hours. I was super excited to see how the swirl pattern would turn out. Since I had already tasted the filling and knew it was delicious, I expected the bread to taste amazing too.
I let it cool on the counter overnight. The next morning, HEARTBREAK! I didn’t account for the fact that the dense taro filling would increase the baking time required for the loaf. So when we cut into the bread, we found the inside was gooey and uncooked. Gross! What a waste of yummy ingredients.
Pumpkin Squash Swirl Bread
Unfazed from the failed taro bread, I made another swirl loaf this afternoon, using roasted kabocha squash both for the bread itself as well as for the swirl filling. This time I made sure to bake it for a good long time, and the loaf was fully cooked (although the crumb was slightly dried out). The one aesthetic nitpick is that once again an air pocket formed where the swirl met the dough, leaving a gap in the middle of the bread.
Overall, not my favourite bread: the flavour of the pumpkin was nearly undetectable, and it tasted pretty much like a plain sandwich loaf. Although it was certainly firm enough for some good breakfast toast, the gap caused by the air pocket made it difficult to apply any jams or spreads to each slice.
Yu Choy, Tofu, and Sesame Stir-Fry
The original plan for tonight’s dinner was a spinach, tofu, and sesame stir-fry courtesy of NYT Cooking. However, my parents said that eating spinach and tofu together in a meal is unhealthy?! Apparently the mixture of those two ingredients leads to a reaction that causes kidney stones. I’m skeptical of this since there are tons of reputable websites (NYT Cooking, for instance) posting recipes that mix the two. I’ve never thought twice about it until now, but to appease the parents, I ditched the spinach in favour of yu-choy for this meal.
I still think spinach would’ve been the tastier choice, but my parents really enjoyed it anyway. So success!
Pandan Buns with Red Bean Filling
I juiced a whole bunch of pandan leaves yesterday, ended up with over 1 L of pandan juice. I left it to settle in the fridge overnight. This morning I poured off the top layer and was left with only about 150 mL of the concentrated pandan extract. Talk about low-yield processes.
Anyway, I used it all up in a bread recipe today. This recipe calls for pandan powder, but pandan juice works too. Just replace the plant-based milk with homemade pandan juice, and supplement with additional water or milk if you need. This dough is the most gorgeous pastel green omggg it’s so adorable. It is sticky, but just rub some oil on your fingers when handling it and you’ll have no issues with sticking.
I made the red bean filling by pressure cooking adzuki beans in the Instant Pot, then mashing them with a fork together with a few tbsp of powdered sugar. Just a few spoonfuls will add enough sweetness to satisfy you imo! Also, it’s definitely important to weigh down the buns in the oven with a baking sheet. They prevent unsightly air pockets from forming between the dough and the filling.
I am hoping to try this recipe again but with matcha powder next time!
Knockoff St. Lucia Buns
St. Lucia buns are a traditional Swedish bread eaten around the holidays. (St. Lucia’s Day is on December 13.) They’re typically made with saffron which give them their gorgeous yellow colour as well as their distinctive taste. I call these buns I made today “knockoffs” because not only were they not baked with St. Lucia’s spirit in mind, but also because their colour comes from the much cheaper turmeric. Basically, I just wanted to make cute swirly S-shaped buns. A different type of “swirl bread” from the taro and pumpkin breads earlier.
I followed the basic dough recipe as for the pandan buns, but skipped out on the pandan extract in favour of ground turmeric. I had a bit of a headache trying to get the buns to stay in their swirl shape (they kept coming apart as they rose), but they still turned out alright! I also tried out two other shapes for a couple of the buns.
Turns out, shaping bread is really really fun. And you can turn them into whatever shapes you want!
This morning I said goodbye to my parents as I flew back to Ontario. Very bittersweet, as I’m excited to start working again, but I’m going to miss my parents.
I was busy moving in yesterday and didn’t bother eating, but today, Kevin and I went out for lunch at an AYCE sushi restaurant just a few blocks from our door, Spring Sushi, across from Eaton Centre.
This restaurant has a few dishes that I normally don’t see at AYCE sushi places, so I will be posting an in-depth review of it in a few weeks.
Queen Mother Cafe
Another weekend in Toronto, another Thai place… you guys know our MO by now. 🙂
Queen Mother Cafe serves Thai and Laotian cuisine, and we were both super excited to try it. Of course, Kevin ordered the khao soi, while I tried their pad thai. Neither of us were blown away by our meal.
The distinguishing feature of the khao soi here is the lack of crispy noodles on top, and the use of very thin egg noodles. Kevin didn’t like the flavour of the khao soi curry at all, and while I enjoyed the taste, I think I would’ve preferred thicker noodles. Maybe this variety of khao soi is a result of the fusion cooking between Thai and Laotian cultures? My pad thai was good, but not exciting. No depth of flavour, and a little too sweet for my taste. Basically, I think the pad thai could’ve been less sweet, and the khao soi on the other hand wasn’t quite sweet enough. Anyway, more on this in my restaurant review coming soon!
Before I sign off, I would also like to thank Wendie and Todd for featuring me on their blog, Unexplained Underfoot Objects. As a city girl who enjoys the idea of self-sufficiency, even if it’s not something I can realistically achieve at the moment, it’s been fun reading about their lives in each blog update. Check them out if you’re at all interested in homesteading!