I had started a segment called “Food” on my blog, but never got around to it. It still needs a lot of work in terms of organization, but for now I just want to get started on making a list of things I’ve tried to make over the years. I grew up on Asian food my parents made, and that meant mostly fried eggs and stir-fried rice. Now that I’m older, I appreciate the food more, but back then I always had eating problems and wasn’t a fan of some of the food I ate. My brother, probably sometime during my freshman year of college, would occasionally make baked penne when he came home, and it was so delicious. Our whole family was impressed, wondering how the magic of non-Asian cooking came into being.
It wasn’t until one day I was craving the pasta that I casually googled it, and a million recipes came up on the internet that I realized, hey, the ingredients aren’t that difficult to get, and although 40 minutes seemed a long time to spend on making dinner, it flew by. One of my favorite websites is allrecipe.com, mostly because of its simplicity and its detail on serving size, total time, and exact ingredients laid out with precise steps and photos.
My style of penne vodka was a bit different from my brother’s, but I actually prefer my version because I think it’s less heavy and more healthy. The real difference is using fresh produce, and the recipe I started off with called for 5-6 tomatoes cut up to be left on the pan for about 10+ minutes: the point of this was for it to melt into juice, and then create part of the sauce. At college, when I didn’t have access to tomatoes, I could only rely fully on tomato sauce, and that absolutely did not taste as good.
The second secret to penne vodka’s sauce, was the heavy cream. This was a huge thing, as heavy cream is not a familiar ingredient in Asian cooking at all. But really, the gist of good penne vodka is very simple. You mostly need tomatoes, tomato sauce to compensate for extra flavor or viscosity, heavy cream, a splash of vodka (or rice wine), and some spicy sausage/chicken bits, and finally, the penne. That’s it, only 6 ingredients! Salt and pepper to taste, but not absolutely necessary since the sausage and tomato sauce often adds salt and spice.
And ever since then, looking up recipes was a fun pastime, and when I had the energy, cooking new things became a hobby. Turns out, apparently I am quite talented in spicing my food! I am super picky about overcooked foods, so when it comes to pasta or meats in particular, I stand over my cooking food like a hawk.
That said, I tried a bunch of things and tweaked or changed a lot of the recipes I made, sometimes improvising. If they tasted bad, I completely dropped the dish from my list of foods to keep (such as avocado chocolate pudding, white chocolate pudding, and a weird lemon chicken pasta).
Here are another two basic cooking tips besides fresh produce:
- On the fiscal spectrum, stock up on versatile ingredients you make often from Costco in bulk: for example, the steak at Costco is amazing, and usually can be used for 8 meals for an average of $30 total, which comes out to roughly $3-4 per piece. Just freeze them. Same thing for salmon, or chicken stock
- Foods taste best when there is a balance of flavors and textures (maybe I learned this from the multiple cooking shows I watch like Chopped): Generally, food tastes great when you have a component of
- Acidity, sourness (Lemon juice, vinegar)
- Sweetness (Honey, sugar, mango, caramelized onions)
- Saltiness (salt, soy sauce)
- Spiciness (chili flakes, sriracha, hot peppers)
- Spices (cumin, sweet or smoked paprika, chile, garlic powder, a little nutmeg, salt/pepper)
- Oils (sesame oil, coconut oil, vegetable oil)
- Textures- Creaminess/softness (avocado, mayo, mango vs. Crunchiness (alfalfa sprouts, red peppers, raw onion, cucumbers)
NEVER OVERCOOK. You can never go back and fix something overcooked. Never. The only times this is acceptable is if it was meant to become mush, like porridge or bread pudding.
- Penne vodka
- Mango Rigatoni
- Asian-inspired Stir Fried Linguine with soy sauce, sesame seeds, broccoli, peppers
- Shrimp Linguine with butter and wine
- Pad Kee Mao (Thai)
- Avocado pasta with black bean and salmon
- Oven-cooked spiced salmon with honey and lemon juice, accompanied by vegetables (kale, bok choy, peppers, broccoli)
- Tortilla Wraps with variations on steak, salmon, mango, red pepper, onions, tomato, lemon juice, cilantro, avocado
- Chicken Thigh Burgers
- Halal Guys imitation attempt with turmeric
- Popcorn Shrimp Sandwich with cucumbers, mayonnaise, avocado, honey, lemon juice, arugula, alfalfa)
- Alfalfa-Avocado and Cream Cheese Sandwich
- Grilled Cheese Sandwich (Colby Jack, cream cheese, and butter)
- Crab Creole
- Crab Cakes
- Lobster Salad (layered in a martini glass, avocado, lime mayonnaise, red peppers and mango, cilantro, lemon mayonnaise, topped with lobster pieces
- Lobster Bisque
- Pumpkin Soup
- Hummus and Guacamole
- Sweet Potato fries
- Panna cotta (vanilla with strawberries or blueberries, low-fat almond extract with red bean topping, orange, green tea, and attempting mango with fresh mango nectar and pieces soon)
- Creme Brulee
- Mango-Strawberry smoothie
- Lychee-chocolate milkshake (learned from Lindt)
My favorite foods I would say are:
- Beef noodle soup via my dad
- Ba-wan (taiwanese meatballs) when the outside is all wobbly and fresh with the sauce
- Oyster pancakes
- Coffee black tea with vanilla ice cream and bubbles
- Kong Xin vegetables
- Jia-jiang noodles via my mom.
- Penne vodka, because that’s the signature dish that I first made, and the one that inspired me to continue trying other things.
- Korean food, particularly the banchan dishes along with their BBQ.
Next, I want to attempt not just the mango panna cotta, but also buy an ice cream maker and try out some recipes I’ve come across. What are your top three favorite foods?