everyday food made simple

Food. It’s what brings people together in this world. It’s part of each country’s culture, and it also has a tendency to define and shape one’s eating habits and preferences later in life. And often times, it is attached to some sort of a memory.

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The smell of certain foods as you’re walking down the street, the sight of certain foods you see on TV, magazines, or billboards, can all elicit some sort of a response deep down from the limbic system in your brain. When you eat certain foods, it may remind you of a special occasion or bring back certain memories.

Maybe it was the first time you tried something and liked it. Maybe it brought you back to your childhood. Maybe it reminded you of mom’s home cooking. Maybe you got really sick after eating it and never wanted to eat it again. Maybe you ate that same thing for three weeks in a row and would be totally fine if you’d never see that food for the rest of your life.

…you get the idea. What I’m basically saying is that food has the power to transport us back to a place and time, which is exactly what happened when I took the first bite of today’s recipe.

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The Taiwanese beef noodle soup is something the Taiwanese is proud of. Along with bubble tea, it was originally created in Taiwan, and is often named in the top 5 things people need to try when visiting the country. It’s so popular that it has its own festival! Other famous items from the island include stinky tofu, oyster omelet, braised pork rice, shaved ice, pineapple cake…… I can go on and on, but I know that’s not why you’re here (but if you’re interested, you can get a list of must-eats here, here, and here).

Many older generations of Taiwanese people do not eat beef. The reason behind it is because Taiwan used to be a big farming country, and oxen and water buffalo were the main farm animals that helped the farmers with their crops every year. Naturally, many farming families found it wrong to eat the meat from those who had a hand in helping them grow crops, subsequently helping them put food on their tables.

Growing up, all my grandparents didn’t eat beef. My mom (until this day), also strongly insists that we don’t eat beef at all. My sister, my dad, and I have never been able to eat beef whenever we are out with my mom. It’s just how it is – no ifs, ands, or buts.

Even though my dad grew up with parents who didn’t eat beef, as he grew older, he would occasionally eat beef every once in a blue moon when the craving came. My dad, who knows me best in our family, always knew that I would also have cravings for beef that were often left unfulfilled because of our “house rules”.

I remember back in middle school, I would always stop by his work to head home together for the day. We would walk down the bustling busy city streets in the hot humid summer evenings together, his briefcase strap over his shoulder, and he would put his arm around my shoulder and say, “why don’t we go get some beef noodle soup for dinner?”

It was like a secret between the two of us – we would secretly go out for beef noodle soup, and we would never tell mom. This usually happened when my mom wasn’t able to make it home in time for dinner – whenever she asked what we had for dinner, we would always tell her, “oh, we just had some noodles, that’s all.” We were sneaky like that, and he was my partner in crime… we were little rebels who broke mom’s rules together.

I’m pretty sure my mom never found out about our rule-breaking behaviors… I guess she does now – sorry mom!

Anyway, the whole point of walking dragging you down memory lane is to tell you that this noodle soup is divine. The moment I took that first sip of the broth, I was transported back to 10 years ago, secretly eating beef noodle soup at some mom-and-pop shop with my dad. This recipe is spot-on on flavor… I was in heaven.

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The broth is nice and salty, the beef is tender with just the right amount of fat on it, and the noodles are nice and chewy. It really is the perfect combination! The ginger, garlic, peppercorns, star anise, soy sauce and the doubanjiang are the base for the broth that you slowly cook your beef in for the next 2.5 hours – the smell will make your mouth water, but it’s 110% worth the wait!

I chose to cook the noodle in a separate pot. I also cooked some baby bok choy to go with it as well. If you can’t get your hands on baby bok choy, some spinach or napa cabbage would work too. Once everything is ready to be served, then place the noodles in a large bowl, and ladle the beef and broth into the bowl. Top with your veggies, and you’ve got yourself a bowl of authentic Taiwanese beef noodle soup!

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Next time my parents come visit, I’m going to make this to share with my dad… behind my mom’s back, of course :)

taiwanese beef noodle soup
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Ingredients
  1. 3 tablespoons EVOO, divided
  2. 2-2.5 lbs boneless beef chuck, cut into 1" cubes
  3. 6 large slices of ginger
  4. 6 cloves of garlic, smashed
  5. 2 medium plum tomatoes, finely diced
  6. 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  7. 1 tablespoon Sichuan chili bean paste (doubanjiang - I found mine at the local Asian grocery store)
  8. 1 cup Chinese rice wine
  9. 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  10. 2 whole star anise cloves
  11. 3/4 cup soy sauce
  12. 2 and 1/2 quarts water
  13. 2 lbs Asian wheat noodles, cooked
  14. A handful of baby bok choy, spinach, or napa cabbage, if desired
Instructions
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of EVOO in a large, heavy-bottomed pot (I used a Dutch oven) over medium-high heat. Add the beef to the pot in a single layer and cook undisturbed for 3-4 minutes until browned. Then stir and cook until all the sides are nicely browned. Transfer to a plate and repeat the process again with 1 tablespoon of EVOO and the remaining beef. Transfer beef to the plate and set aside.
  2. Add the remaining tablespoon of EVOO to the same pot and heat over medium-high heat. Add in the sliced ginger and garlic cloves, stirring frequently until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add in the diced tomatoes and stir for another minute. Then add in the sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Finally, add in the chili bean paste (doubanjiang) and stir until the mixture starts to bubble.
  3. Add the beef back to the pot, then add the rice wine and cook for 1 minute. This would be a good time to scrape up all the yummy brown bits crusted on the bottom of the pot. Add in the star anise, peppercorns, soy sauce, and water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 2.5 hours, or until the beef is tender.
  4. Using tongs, remove the all the beef cubes from the broth and set aside. Carefully strain the soup over a mesh strainer into another similarly sized pot to catch the ginger, garlic, star anise, etc. Pick up any small beef cubes from the strained mixture, then return the beef cubes back into the broth.
  5. If desired, heat the soup back up over medium heat and wilt some greens with the soup.
  6. When ready to serve, place noodles on the bottom of individual serving bowls. Ladle the soup and beef chunks into bowls. Serve immediately.
  7. Serves 4-6 people
Adapted from Serious Eats
Adapted from Serious Eats
Simple Everyday Food http://www.simpleeverydayfood.com/
Recipe adapted from Serious Eats

© Simple Everyday Food. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use any of my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or kindly link back to this post for the recipe.

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This is perhaps the best thing I have ever made in the Crockpot. Ever. Now granted I haven’t made a whole lot of different things in the Crockpot, but this one is amazing (if I may say so myself) and it will definitely be a repeat for my next busy homework-filled day.

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I’ve been finding the perfect recipe for a traditional Chinese/Taiwanese noodle soup broth, and I think this might be it. It literally brought me back home and I think I almost shed a tear when I tasted it for the first time today. I almost felt like I was transported back in time: finding some tiny little hole-in-the-wall noodle shop on the streets of Taiwan, sitting with my family at a small table on metal stools, waiting for our food to be cooked. Most of these restaurants only have big industrial fans during the hot summer months, so we usually sit somewhere near a fan. As if we weren’t hot enough, we usually all order noodle soup (I think I order noodle soup half the time not because of the noodles, but simply because I love the “soup” part of it).

Noodle soup has a special place in my heart. It’s usually something that can made within 15, 20 minutes with a variety of ingredients, so we ate a lot of it growing up, especially when my parents didn’t have much time to cook after coming home from work. Now when I say “noodle soup”, I don’t mean the American “chicken noodle soup”. The Asian version is very different and in my (biased) opinion, tastes way better :)

Anyway, back to soup… I used a pork butt roast for this rather than a pork shoulder – you can definitely use a pork shoulder if you’d like. The pork butt is slightly fattier, but it also gives the broth an amazing flavor as well.

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The combination of soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and star anise play an important part in making this a true authentic Taiwanese/Chinese dish. I added about 1.5 cups of water after taking the roast out to dilute the broth a little bit more; however, if you prefer your broth on the more concentrated and salty side, feel free to omit the additional water. I used Napa cabbage as my vegetable simply because that was all my grocery store had at the time, but if you prefer bok choy, that’ll work as well.

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slow cooker asian pork and noodle soup
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  2. 1/4 cup soy sauce
  3. 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  4. 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  5. 1-2" piece ginger, peeled and sliced
  6. 2 pieces star anise
  7. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  8. 3 pounds pork butt roast
  9. 1.5 cups water
  10. 2 cups Napa cabbage, chopped
  11. 3-4 oz dried Mai-Fun noodles
Instructions
  1. In a 5-6 quart slow cooker, combine the chicken broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, star anise and salt. Add the pork, then cover and cook on low 8 hours, or until pork is fork tender.
  2. Remove pork and place on a large plate. Shred with a fork and set aside.
  3. Add the water, Napa cabbage, and noodles to the slow cooker, making sure they are submerged. Cover and cook for 30 more minutes, or until noodles are done.
  4. Divide the noodles, Napa cabbage, and pork among bowls, then ladle in the broth.
  5. Serves 3
Adapted from Food Network
Adapted from Food Network
Simple Everyday Food http://www.simpleeverydayfood.com/
Not only is the flavor of this soup very nostalgic to me, it also makes the house smell like a little hole-in-the-wall Taiwanese noodle place. I placed the roast in the slow cooker this morning before leaving for class, and when I came back 8 hours later, I could smell the deliciousness before I even opened the front door. Not to mention finding a recipe this delicious that only requires a Crockpot is always a win in my book!

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Enjoy!

Recipe slightly adapted from Food Network

© Simple Everyday Food. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use any of my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or kindly link back to this post for the recipe.

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Being Asian and growing up eating authentic Asian food, I’m always searching for good restaurants and recipes that bring back childhood memories.

Just a little background info: about 99% of Asian moms like my mother cook without using a recipe book. They don’t use measuring cups, they don’t use measuring spoons, and they don’t have recipe books. The next generation learns to cook from watching their mothers in the kitchen. Everything is cooked using the “guess-timate” technique. If something didn’t have enough salt, just add a little bit more in there and taste it again. Still not enough? Add some more until it tastes good.

How much salt total did that dish just take?

Yep, since everything is based on the “taste test”, I’ve never gotten any written recipes from my mom. Everything that I try to recreate is based on memories.

That being said, I love fried rice. And me being a fan of seafood, I’m a really big fan of shrimp fried rice. The flavors of fried rice in Taiwan is something that the Chinese-American restaurants just couldn’t recreate (at least I haven’t found a place here in the Twin Cities that can). I’m not saying this recipe is 100% authentic, but it’s pretty tasty, and I guess that’s all it matters.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • A bunch of scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveind
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 3 cups cooked rice – I used brown rice to make it a little healthier
  • 1.5 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions:

  • In a large skillet, scramble the eggs with the scallion whites with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  • In the same skillet over medium heat, cook the shrimp with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then transfer to the plate with the eggs and set aside.IMG_0625
  • In the same skillet (again), slightly cook the carrots with the scallion greens until it’s no longer crunchy – I like my carrots cooked well, not raw and crunchy.

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  • In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, and water.
  • In the skillet (if you have a wok, a wok would be better), heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the rice and soy sauce mixture and stir until warmed through. Then add the eggs, shrimp, and carrots. Toss until everything is evenly mixed.

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Enjoy!

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I’ve always had an obsession with Pad Thai. Noodles packed with Asian flavors with a splash of lime juice and crunchy chopped peanuts on top – what’s not to like about it?

I’ve tried many different versions of Pad Thai from different restaurants, but so far the only place in the Twin Cities metro area I regularly get shrimp Pad Thai from is Sawatdee. Yes, it’s just that good (I also recommend their roast duck curry and their sweet green curry as well).

I’ve always wanted a good Pad Thai recipe, but many of the ones I’ve came across often involved about 20 ingredients, half of which I’m sure I’m never going to use again. Needless to say, I was elated when I recently stumbled upon an easy Pad Thai recipe, and I’m glad to say I’ll be making my own Pad Thai from now on!

It’s healthier (and super easy), it’s not going to cost me $20 per plate, the most of the ingredients are things I already have in the pantry, AND who doesn’t love leftovers?!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 box (16 oz) of dried, wide, flat rice noodles
  • For the sauce:
    • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 4 tablespoons lime juice
    • 5 tablespoons soy sauce (I used reduced sodium soy sauce to be healthier)
    • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
    • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
    • A couple squirts of Sriracha hot sauce (optional)
  • 4 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 5 scallions, green and white parts, separated and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ pound of large, tail-off shrimp
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup chopped peanuts

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Note: 16 oz of noodles yields A LOT of noodles in the end. It’s probably enough to feed a family of 4, so if you’re cooking for yourself, feel free to halve the ingredients. Or just make the whole thing and save some for next day’s lunch.

Now, here’s what you’re going to do:

  • Soak and drain the noodles according to package directions. Use the hottest tap water you can get your hands on. I used a casserole dish and placed the cover over it to trap in all the steam.
  • While noodles are soaking, I placed my shrimp on some paper towels to soak up all the moisture, and seasoned them with some salt and pepper.
  • In a bowl, whisk together ingredients for the sauce.

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  • In a large nonstick skillet (I used a wok), heat 2 teaspoons of oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the shrimp until it turns pink, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer shrimp onto a plate.
  • Using the same skillet, add the remaining oil and sauté the scallion whites and garlic until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add the eggs and cook, constantly scraping the skillet with a spatula until eggs are almost done. Transfer to the plate with the shrimp.

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  • Turning the heat down to medium, add the noodles, scallion greens, and the sauce to skillet. Cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are soft (about 3 minutes). This is also a good time to break up noodles that have stuck together while they were bathing in the hot water.
  • Once the noodles are thoroughly cooked, add the eggs and shrimp. Toss to evenly distribute the ingredients.
  • Serve with the chopped peanuts.

I personally am not a fan of cilantro, but you can chop about ½ cup of fresh cilantro to top the dish off if desired.

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Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from: Patricia Lawless

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