Wontons, shui gao and ramen


Every time I tell my friends I eat ramen a lot, they seemed shocked because I’m the active chef amongst us. However, my ramen is often a feast!

The most important part of a delicious ramen meal is to start out with a good brand of ramen. Choosing ramen can get to be a lengthy process as there are different types of noodles, flavors and even the difference between the “instant” cup/bowl varities and bags is great. Here are my favorite kinds:

  • Korean Nong Shim shin ramyum – a thicker noodle with a spicy soup. I usually only use half the soup packet otherwise my mouth is on fire and I can’t taste anything.
  • The classic Chinese CQYD by Nissin – a delicious, more typical ramen style noodle that doesn’t get soggy if it sits in the soup for a while. There are at least a dozen flavors and XO Sauce is by far my favorite.
  • Sau Tao ho fun – a thin, flat rice noodle with a great soup base. Mushroom or chicken abalone are delish!
  • Matsuda rice vermicelli noodles also hold up well and have a good soup base, but I buy them in the bag and not instant bowl.

A good bowl of ramen wouldn’t be filling without wontons or dumplings of some sort, so I make my own wontons and shui gao (water dumplings). I usually go nuts and make them in bulk, then freeze them for future consumption. Quick recipes as follows:


My family made wontons on occasion when I was a child, so I’ve followed what I remember of my parents recipe with some of my own modifications. This will make roughly 2/3-¾ of a package of wonton skins.

  • ½ lb. lean ground pork
  • ½ lb. shrimp, shelled and deveined (I buy the frozen shelled and deveined shrimp at Costco)
  • 3 baby bok choy (a.k.a. Shanghai bok choy)
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • ½ tbsp. sesame oil
  • ½ tbsp. dark soy sauce
  • ½ tbsp. sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • dash of white pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten into mixture

Chop up the bok choy so it fits into a food processor. Turn it on “chop” until you get small pieces, but not too fine. Do the same with the shrimp, being sure you have peanut sized pieces and not shrimp paste. Stir together in a large bowl with the ground pork; add seasonings, mix well. Beat in egg until well incorporated. Then follow this awesome tutorial by Rasa Malaysia on how to wrap a wonton. Voila, you’re done!

Shui gao recipe is pretty much the same, except I add more shrimp than pork. Maybe 2/3 lb. shrimp, 1/3 lb. pork. I also add in about half a finely shredded carrot and 3 finely chopped shitake mushrooms. Don’t add beaten egg, though. Wrap with shui gao wrappers, which are round instead of square like wonton wrappers, and finish with a shui gao press (you can buy this at an Asian discount store for $1).


Adding the chopped up bok choy to your wontons or shui gao adds a fluffy, lightly crunchy flavor to the dumpling. Recipes usually call for 1 tbsp. of cornstarch to achieve this, but I like the taste of the bok choy. Freezing the dumplings are easy – just freeze them on a plate in a single layer for an hour to two, then throw them all in a ziploc freezer bag. To cook, just add to boiling water until they float, which indicates their doneness.

So back to the ramen. I add a bunch of extras to my ramen to make a whole meal out of it – some fish cake, wontons and/or shui gao, enoki mushrooms, seaweed and poached egg. This makes a hearty meal that’s also quick and easy!

My friend Joe asked me about the cost per serving of my ramen.. I calculated it out to be roughly $1.25 for each meal. A bowl of ramen at my favorite ramen shop is ~$9 with tax and tip.

Char siu fried rice & garlic honey eggplant


I haven’t made fried rice in a while and was inspired this past Sunday afternoon as I was strolling through Chinatown. I went into my favorite to-go shop and got 1 lb. of char siu, chopped up. The fried rice was made loosely following Rasa Malaysia’s Chinese fried rice recipe with the following changes:

  • Substituted overnight fried rice with fresh cooked rice that was cooled down on a cookie sheet
  • Instead of all the crazy sauces, I just put 2 tbsp soy sauce and ½ tspn sugar
  • For veggies, I chopped up ½ lb of baby bok choy I had leftover from making wontons and ½ cup frozen vegetables blanched in boiling water
  • 1 lb of bite size char siu, fat removed

My favorite part of the Rasa Malaysia recipe is the “egg well” that produces the perfect, fluffy, bite sized pieces of egg in the fried rice. With all my ingredients, my fried rice was pretty delicious and I made enough for leftovers and lunches this week.

The stuff surrounding the fried rice is garlic and honey glazed egg plant. I salted the eggplant slices and let them dehydrate on a paper towel for 15 minutes – this is important because it reduces the water content of the egg plant and also removes some of the bitter flavor. Next, I brushed the eggplant lightly with honey and sauteed them in olive oil that had slices of garlic. This imparted a nice sweet and garlicky flavor to the eggplant and was healthy!

Vegetable soup for the sick

  • 1 quart fat free, low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 2lb Napa cabbage, cut into 1″ strips
  • 3 carrots, cut
  • 1 large zucchini, cut
  • about 6 oz. pasta, cooked according to instructions and then left to soak in the hot pasta water [note: I added pasta because I need carbs in my diet]
  • 1 chicken breast, cubed and poached [note: added for protein]

I didn’t sautee the vegetables or add any seasonings at all – just threw in the veggies with the simmering liquids for 30 minutes. It’s important to leave the cooked pasta in the cooking water so it will soak up as much water as it needs and not soak up the soup liquids when you add it.

Miso eggplant


Inspired by the cheapness of eggplants at the market, I decided to try my hand at miso eggplant from this recipe. Everything was fine, except the following changes:

  • 2 cups of miso mix for 4 eggplants? No way. I didn’t know what to do with 2 whole cups of the miso mix and decided to distribute it evenly over the eggplants. WAY TOO SALTY. Ended up scraping off the excess miso and eating the eggplant with a touch of the miso. I would suggest half the miso mix or double the eggplants next time.
  • Pan seared the eggplants in a sautee pan first, instead of broiling them pre-miso basting.

I’d make this again, maybe even with different vegetables like zucchini.

A Christmas lamb & mushroom orzo


My family has a traditional “special” meal during holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, which usually consists of seafood. This year, we decided to have a go at boneless leg of lamb since the demo station at Costco had excellent samples. They had a very simple recipe – sauteed cubes of lamb with Montreal steak seasoning. We bought the smallest leg we could find – 3.5 lbs for $15.

Montreal steak seasoning was one of those items we didn’t want to buy because we’d never use it again, so I decided to make my own since we had all the spices in the house. Some seasoning, olive oil and soy sauce made a delicious marinade. Most of the effort was in cutting up the leg of lamb and removing all the fat.

The marinaded cubes of lamb were sauteed in a wok over medium heat for ~10 mins until they were medium. Delicious, especially paired with my favorite mushroom orzo! I was pretty proud of my holiday meal, especially since this was the first complete meal I had made for my family.

Buttermilk waffles & variations


The most used kitchen appliance in my house, next to the stove, is the waffle iron. My roommate loves to mass make waffle batter, store it in a container in the fridge and have fresh waffles every morning. Over Christmas, I made buttermilk waffles twice from Cook’s Illustrated “The Best Buttermilk Waffles” recipe. I prefer to make waffles ahead of time and then pop them in the toaster for an extra crispy exterior the morning I eat them.

Waffle variations are pretty easy to make. To finish off the carton of buttermilk, I made a second batch of waffles with blueberries. Delicious, but hellish to clean off

Chicken tikka masala with potatoes


My favorite Indian dish is tikka masala because I love rich, creamy foods that have a hint of spice. When I moved to San Francisco, the Costco’s in the area started carrying Maya Kaimal Indian sauces, which included a quart of tikka masala. Most recently, they renamed it to butter masala. Still the same sauce though.

The tikka masala is very easy to prepare – start some rice in the rice cooker, boil some potatoes until they are soft, lightly sautee some chicken until it is half cooked, pour in the tikka masala sauce and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thicker.

I used baby russet potatoes which have a soft, creamy texture that mixes well with the chicken and rice. A quick meal after work!

Frosted Dark Chocolate Cupcakes


Dark chocolate cupcakes from recipe, with no changes. I follow Cooks Illustrated almost religiously; they have never done me wrong with a recipe. It’s worth the $35/year subscription.

The batter came out with the consistency of chocolate mousse and I wanted to eat it right then!

Frosted using Wilton Star Tip #1M. I’ve never used the star tip before, but I was inspired by the cupcakes I see at cupcakeries with the huge mound of frosting swirled in the middle. I’m not a fan of too much frosting to cover up the taste of a cupcake, especially considering the quality ingredients that went into this cupcake. The frosting is a faint pale pink because I accidentally dropped a drop magenta food coloring into the frosting.

Leek Potato Soup & Shitake Mushroom Pizza


The leek potato soup was surprisingly flavorful despite having only 3 base ingredients: leeks, potatoes and vegetable broth.

Changes I made:

  • Used a can of broth in addition to 1 qt
  • Used only ½ c. of buttermilk
  • Generously salt and peppered the soup when in bowl

Shitake mushroom pizza used fresh shitake mushrooms from the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market ($4 for a box), Trader Joe’s pizza dough that I bought a few months ago and had in the freezer, generous amounts of mozzarella because my friend loves cheese, the perfect amount of tomato sauce.