Tag Archives: asian food

Lumpiang Gulay (Vegetable Spring Roll)

It sure has been a while. Since I’ve last posted, a lot has been going on in my family (more information on my personal blog), and it’s been an important reminder of the importance of family.

Family is an interesting concept. I could say my family is my mom, my dad, and my little brother Jude, but there’s so much more to the word “family” that transcends just a list of the people in my household. To me, family is just as much about heritage, traditions, collective experiences, and shared meals as it is about the people I live with. And one meal we’ve shared a lot is lumpia, a type of fried spring roll originally of Chinese origin but is now very common in the Philippines and Indonesia. (The word “gulay” just refers to the fact it’s made of vegetables, which is perfect for your Meatless Mondays!)

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Partially because I’m only half Filipino and partially because I live in the United States, I’ve always felt disconnected from my Filipino heritage even though it shapes a large part of who I am. That’s why I find it so important for me to continue trying new Filipino food, learning how to make certain recipes, and keeping these recipes documented somewhere. At the end of the day, even small recipes like these are a part of what makes up my family—a part of the heritage and traditions passed down through my mother’s side.

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My mom first introduced lumpiang gulay to me while I was in middle school, and when we decided to not eat meat for a period of time, it made for a great meal that fit our dietary preferences at the time. Even though I still do eat meat (although I may go vegetarian again once I leave for college next year), lumpiang gulay is still something we continue to eat in my home.

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Now that my grandma from the Philippines has been in town, I’ve also realized that she and my mom have very different ways of eating lumpiang gulay, a huge shock to me since I always assumed the way my mom ate it was the normal way. My mom likes to cut into the lumpia lengthwise and pour in the garlic sauce that way, whereas my grandma eats it the “normal” way—dipping it into the sauce and eating it like any other spring roll. I personally think the way my grandma eats it makes way more sense, but for some reason my mom continues to eat it the way she does.

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Continue reading

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Mom’s Spaghetti

Ever since I was young, I’ve always thought that my mom makes the best spaghetti ever. And I do mean that very seriously—nothing compares to the orange heaven that is my mom’s spaghetti. A few years ago, a family friend from Italy invited us over for dinner. While she made some of the most delicious pastas I’ve ever had, my mom’s spaghetti still reigns supreme.

In the Philippines, spaghetti is seen more as a snack than a full-fledged meal, and it’s usually very sweet when compared to the spaghetti we eat here in the United States. That’s why if you go to Jollibee or a McDonald’s in the Philippines, you’ll notice the spaghetti will taste totally different! (And, yes! They have spaghetti!) My mom says that every Filipino person has a different way of making their spaghetti. Hers has more garlic, is less sweet, and uses bacon instead of hot dogs. But for what it lacks in sugar, it makes up for in flavor.

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In the summer before ninth grade, I took a cooking class as part of Senior DECATS, a selective summer program only available to academically talented students who attended a Catholic middle school. It was my first real exposure to cooking—and also where I learned I enjoy tasting food more than making it! For our biggest group cooking challenge, we had to prepare the best spaghetti we could.

Well, actually, we were told we needed to find one of the teaching assistants who had been hidden in the park across the street, with the first group getting to pick their ingredients first—much like a MasterChef competition. But that’s a story my thirteen-, almost fourteen-year-old self told on my personal blog, Kuya’s Notebook, after it happened, complete with blurry iPhone pictures and full recollections of middle school students trying to get out of cleaning for the day. Continue reading

Lemongrass Tofu Banh Mi

At Me So Hungry in Austin, I tried the lemongrass tofu banh mi—my personal favorite from the truck. With the help of my mom, I have a new recipe today… our take on the banh mi we tried! You can read the full review here.

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I first tried banh mi last summer in San Francisco, where the Asian American Donor Program introduced it to me as a Vietnamese sandwich. Excited to be surrounded by all the delicious Asian food of the Bay Area, I was incredibly depressed to hear I was being fed a sandwich. I mean, I was only gonna be there for a little less than two days!

Turns out, those “Vietnamese sandwiches” were some of the best banh mi I’ve ever had. And so began my love affair with banh mi, one of the few Vietnamese dishes I can point out and say, “I know that! And I like to eat it!” (Disclaimer: As much as I’d like to consider myself a “food connoisseur” of some sort and try to pretend I’m one, especially on here, I can’t honestly say I am.)

After some trouble with jalapeños at Me So Hungry—and in San Francisco, for that matter!—we decided NOT to include any of that vile, hell-bringing pepper. Instead, we have lemongrass. Beautiful, beautiful lemongrass.

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Lemongrass is an incredibly amazing, fragrant grass used in Asian cuisine. Its fresh, clean, lemony aroma smells heavenly. Personally, I’d love to have some lemongrass in the kitchen just to smell. All the time.

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The best part of this banh mi is that it’s pretty much all vegetables. By choosing to eat vegetarian—whether every day, on weekdays, on Mondays, or just a meal here or there—you’d think eating mostly vegetables would be a requirement. Well… not really. You can still fill yourself with processed, fake “meat” that makes you feel much, much worse than having wild-caught salmon or organic chicken. Trust me, I know. I went the super-processed route a little after I started eating mostly vegetarian, and it wasn’t pleasant.

If you really want to feel good while eating vegetarian, you need to be eating a meal where you can see the veggies. Thankfully, this banh mi is nearly all vegetables.

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This is also probably a good time to mention that this recipe calls for mayonnaise, the only vegan offender. But don’t worry, you can fix that by swapping out low-fat mayo for a good vegan alternative. Personally, I refuse to eat non-vegan mayonnaise… mostly because I hate the taste and the thought of what it’s made of. Definitely use vegan mayo. It’s better that way. (You can thank me later.)

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It’s also important to buy ORGANIC tofu, since soy is nearly always GMO (genetically modified organism)! Geez, I feel like this post unloaded all the stops, from organic food to processed food to even vegan mayo. In order to not bog down this recipe with all sorts of preachy stuff, I’ll move on.DSC_0207

This banh mi is great for all meals, but lunch would probably be best… just like any submarine sandwich, except this one is Vietnamese! Actually, banh mi is an infusion of both local Vietnamese and the colonizing French cultures, making it a nice East Meets West meal. Naturally I feel personally connected to the banh mi.

I know you probably only came here for the pictures and the recipe so I’ll let you go. If you decide to give it a try, be sure to comment below and tell me how it went! I’d love to know!

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Lemongrass Tofu Banh Mi

For the pickled daikon and carrots

Note: Needs to be made 3 to 7 days ahead of time.

  • 2 cups daikon, sliced in thin strips
  • 2 cups matchstick carrots
  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container. May be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month.

For the tofu marinade

Note: Be sure to marinate the tofu overnight.

  • 1 package extra-firm organic tofu, sliced in rectangular sizes
  • 4 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 bulb lemongrass (use top third), finely minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Drain the tofu from its package, and wrap it in dry towels to rid of excess water. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, then slice in rectangular sizes. Marinate the tofu overnight (or up to two days) with the soy sauce, lemongrass, garlic, and sugar in a ziplock bag.

Ingredients

For the cilantro mayonnaise

  • ¼ cup vegan mayonnaise (or low fat mayo)
  • ½ juice of a half lemon (small)
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced cilantro
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon sriracha (optional)

Other ingredients

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons oil
  • 4 loaves Mexican bolillos bread or French baguettes
  • slices of cucumber (preferably hothouse), sliced diagonally
  • sprigs of cilantro

Directions

  1. Make the pickled daikon and carrots 3 to 7 days ahead of time. (Directions above.)
  2. Marinate the tofu overnight. (Directions above.)
  3. Combine the cilantro mayonnaise ingredients in a bowl. Keep refrigerated until needed.
  4. Heat a griddle (preferably one with ridges) with 1 to 2 tablespoons oil. When hot, fry the tofu slices on both sides until brown.
  5. Remove the tofu from the pan and place on a plate. Lightly dab the tofu with a paper towel if oily.
  6. Toast the bread, then cut in half.
  7. Generously spread both sides of the bread with cilantro mayonnaise.
  8. Layer the bread in the following order: a few slices of cucumber, 1 to 2 tofu slices, a handful of pickled daikon and carrots, and a few sprigs of cilantro.

Vegetarian Pajeon (Korean Pancakes)

I think Korean food is just naturally yummy. From all-you-can-eat samgyeopsal—which is pretty much the only meat I’ll really and truly miss!—to freshly-cooked bibimbap. Korea seems to produce a lot of good stuff: K-Pop idols, pajeon, samgyeopsal, K-dramas, pajeon… Whoops. I guess it shows you what I’ve been thinking about lately: pajeon, or Korean pancakes. Not like I’m ever not thinking of food. (Wait, what?)

My mom makes a really good vegetarian pajeon. She came up with the recipe herself, so it’s pretty unique.

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I love these Korean pancakes so much because you can actually see and taste the vegetables inside. Taste them. I think a lot of vegetarian dishes forget about the fact that “vegetarianism” and “vegetables” should go hand-in-hand. Instead, veggie burgers and fake meats get pushed on me, and I always have to push back with a big “Yuck! Those are disgusting!”

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Two of the key ingredients for both the sauce and the pancake batter are gochujang (hot pepper paste) and the vegetable pancake mix. You should be able to find them at any Korean market or general Asian market. Please please please don’t forget these—your Korean pancakes just won’t be the same without them! I’m trying to save you from impending culinary doom!

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Watching Mom make it, I realized that it’s not actually that difficult. Also, it tastes good. Very good.

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We experimented a little on the sauce, adding gochujang to it for some more flavor. Luckily, nothing exploded… except the flavor. At least you’ll have a unique sauce to go with your Korean pancakes!

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Vegetarian Pajeon (Korean Pancakes)

Ingredients

For the sesame soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ½ tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • ½ tablespoon sugar
  • ½ tablespoon gochujang (hot pepper paste) ~ this is optional, but it makes it unique! It tastes great, too!

For the pancakes

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups vegetable pancake mix
  • 2 cups water ~ you may need more or less depending on the package directions for the vegetable pancake mix
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang (hot pepper paste)
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly julienned
  • 2 small-sized zucchini squash, thinly julienned OR 1 large zucchini, thinly julienned
  • 3 cups matchstick carrots
  • 3 stalks green onions, chopped

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine ingredients for sesame soy sauce and mix. Add in half of the chopped green onions as well as sesame seeds, then set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a skillet.
  3. Place 2 cups vegetable pancake mix with 2 cups of water in a bowl. If your package of vegetable pancake mix wants you to use a different amount of water, follow their instructions instead. Mix well until there are no lumps. Then mix in the gochujang.
  4. Add vegetables into the batter. Mix well.
  5. Scoop out ½ cup of batter mixture and pour into the skillet.
  6. Fry the batter mixture on both sides until browned and crispy.
  7. Serve with the sesame soy sauce and enjoy!

Broccoli Fried Rice

If there’s one thing I absolutely love, it’s fried rice! Whenever my mom makes it, the aroma brings me straight to the kitchen. After a party we had, our fridge had a giant tub of fried rice left over. Guess what I ate for the next two days? The egg rolls that we also had left. My mom thinks it’s weird that I like fried rice so much. And to that I say, Mom. How could you not love fried rice?

Okay, so actually my mom does like fried rice. I mean, she’s the one who made this! My mom has been such an important figure in this blog it’s not even funny. She’s the one who can cook, so she’s a pretty important piece to the puzzle! She’s just not a very good teacher, since I still can’t cook well. But if it means anything, I can crack an egg!

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The great thing about fried rice is how versatile it is! It’s usually made from leftover rice, it’s easy to bring for baon (Tagalog for “packed lunch”), and it’s great to snack on! Especially snack on… Isn’t that its whole purpose?

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When my mom and I made this fried rice, I thought it was fun making a hole in the center to crack the egg. Maybe it’s just me, but those little things are kind of exciting. (It shows how much I do in my life.)

Okay, I’ll stop talking now. I know all you care about are the pictures… and maybe the recipe.

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Broccoli Fried Rice

  • Servings: up to 5 people… or one <em>very</em> hungry person
  • Print

Ingredients

For the fried rice sauce

  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetarian stir fry sauce (or vegetarian oyster sauce)
  • ½ tablespoon sesame oil
  • ½ tablespoon sugar

For the fried rice dish

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli
  • ½ cup peas and diced carrots
  • 1 handful chopped green onions
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups cooked jasmine brown rice
  • pinch of black pepper

Directions

  1. Mix the fried rice sauce ingredients in a bowl completely and set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a wok.
  3. Add broccoli, peas, carrots, and green onions—but be sure to leave some for garnish. Stir fry.
  4. Make space in the middle of the wok and crack 1 egg. Stir the egg, then mix the egg with the vegetables.
  5. Add 3 cups of cooked jasmine rice. Stir fry with the egg and vegetables.
  6. Make space in the middle of the wok and crack the remaining egg. Stir the egg, then mix the egg with the rice and vegetables.
  7. Add fried rice sauce gradually. Continue to stir fry.
  8. Add a dash of black pepper. Stir fry.
  9. When everything is mixed and cooked, serve in small bowls and garnish with the rest of the chopped green onion.

Udon Stir Fry with Bok Choy and Vegetables

I’ve always loved udon noodles, whether it was in a stir fry or in a soup. Maybe that was a product of living in Tokyo as a baby, but I’m not sure. Maybe a love for udon noodles—or noodles of any kind—is just ingrained into anyone with the slightest bit of Asian blood? It’s completely possible, and I don’t see any scientific evidence disproving my theory!

Stir fried noodles are pretty common in my household. I mean, how can you go wrong with the delicious taste of udon noodles with vegetables? There’s something simply enticing about getting a steamy, mouth-watering bowl of noodles. Each time you go in with your fork (or chopsticks), you get a different flavor from all the vegetables. Sometimes you get a crunchy vegetable. Other times you get a soft vegetable. You can even get a vegetable that’s soft on top and crunchy on the bottom, like bok choy!

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The great thing about bok choy is everything is that, like udon noodles, it soaks up the flavors around it, from the sweet stir fry sauce, to the taste of the freshly cut carrots, and to even the savory mushrooms.

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The best part about this udon stir fry is that it’s super easy to make and doesn’t even take very long. You’re still eating a kind, vegetarian diet, as well as being quite healthy. It’s pretty much a win, win, win, win.

If you really wanted to, you could probably throw in some tofu! Mmm, now I’m hungry again…

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Udon Stir Fry with Bok Choy and Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ cups matchstick carrots
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 package buna-shimeji mushrooms (can be substituted with shiitake/baby portobello mushrooms)
  • 4 baby bok choy
  • 1 package udon noodles
  • 2 tablespoons vegetarian stir fry sauce (or use vegetarian oyster sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

Directions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a wok, then add the minced garlic.
  2. When the garlic is a little brown, add the carrots, bell pepper, mushrooms, and bok choy.
  3. Stir fry until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Add the udon noodles and pour on the stir fry sauce and soy sauce.
  5. Stir fry until you are happy with the texture of the udon noodles. Adjust the amount of sauces you use according to taste.