Soondubu Jjigae: Korean Silky Tofu with Beef & Seafood, A Quick WeeknightTake

Fiery foods are never far from my mind — but the summer months are when this yearning really consumes me.

Perhaps it’s because spicy food and sweltering weather are so intertwined in Singapore, where I grew up. Regardless, whenever the weather turns hot in New York, that’s when my hankering for mouth-numbing flavors truly rears its head.

This week, this led me to try my hand at a dish that I’ve adored for years in Korean restaurants but had never considered trying: Soondubu Jjigae …

Continue reading

Spicy Korean Tofu: A Nod to Asia

I haven’t had much time to cook recently, with my book deadline looming.

But one does have to eat. So recently, when I found myself having to take a quick break from writing to prep a dish for a potluck party at The Studios of Key West, I turned to an old reliable: Spicy Korean tofu.

This dish is so easy (and delicious) that I find myself making it sometimes as often as once a week. Each tofu bite is packed with the intense swirl of garlic, chili flakes, nutty sesame oil and more — it’s terrific on its own but even better over hot white rice.

Every time I’ve made it, people ask for the recipe — so when my Let’s Lunch crew decided to make a dish that honors Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month for our May virtual lunch date, I decided it was time to share it …

Continue reading

Popiah: Singaporean Summer Rolls, Just Like Grandma Made

I’ve been thinking a lot about popiah, a Singaporean-style summer roll, recently — not just because temperatures have been creeping up in New York City and the foods of my tropical native country are starting to beckon once again.

As you may know, I’ve been on a bit of a book publicity blitz with the February publication of “A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family.” And in all the interviews and signings I’ve done, popiah — a roll filled with ingredients such as julienned jicama, shrimp, shallots, tofu — has been a recipe that has come up frequently.

It’s a roll my grandmother used to make when I was growing up in Singapore — and it’s one that I crave in the U.S. as you don’t see it often on restaurant menus. Because it’s light, a little spicy and the filling has a nice crunch to it, it’s the perfect snack food or appetizer for warm weather — in Singapore, people often have popiah parties in which the filling, summer roll skins and various condiments are set out and guests mill about, casually making their own rolls whenever they feel like eating one.

During my research for the book, however, I made sure to learn how my grandmother and chef Simpson (of Cafe Asean in New York) make theirs — so when my Let’s Lunch group of virtual lunch buddies decided on small spring bites for our March date, popiah immediately sprang to mind …

Continue reading

Doenjang Jjigae: Tofu & Seafood Stew (Commoners’ Food)


IMG_5617 

You could say I haven't exactly been the kind of daughter-in-law a Korean mother would have wished for.

I can't speak Korean. (I don't think being able to say "kalbi" and "bulgogi" counts.) And while I'm awfully good at eating Korean food, well, making it is another matter entirely.

I'd never attempted many Korean dishes simply because they seem terribly complex — each stew, each grilled meat I sample is always bursting at the seams with complicated clusters of flavors. How could I ever replicate those tastes in my little Brooklyn kitchen? No, no, it was always far easier to just throw in the spatula and hop on a train to New York's Koreatown.

After spending some time in the kitchen with my mother-in-law in Honolulu for book research last year, however, I started to come around. 

Since she lives in Hawaii and I live in New York, it's been impossible to keep the lessons going. So I've been turning to a blogger whom I deeply admire — and adore — who's essentially a one-woman Korean cooking school: the irrepressible Maangchi.

Many of her recipes are incredibly simple — foolproof, almost — and watching her videos helps you figure out whether you're chopping things the right size or grilling meats to the right doneness. Recently, I had her to thank for a lovely tofu and seafood stew I'd been craving …

Continue reading

Kitchen-Sink Stir-Fry: Spring Cleaning Your Fridge


IMG_1463 

It’s hard to think about spring when there’s still snow on the ground in New York. But one must be optimistic — which we are over here in the Let’s Lunch crowd.

Fresh off our breathless postings on aphrodisiac-laced dishes in February, our thoughts immediately turned to warmer times as we debated what to make next for our monthly virtual lunch date.

How about “spring cleaning (the fridge?)” Stephanie over at The Cosmic Cowgirl suggested.

And so, kitchen-sink recipes to help you springclean your fridge it was.

Now, since I have several solid grocers (and one neat butcher) within a 2-minute walk of my Brooklyn apartment, I tend to buy as I cook. (I’ve never really been one to stock up my fridge like there’s no tomorrow, anyhow.)

Nonetheless, there are a few basics that I must always have in my fridge: Bacon, tofu and some sort of ground meat, usually pork or beef.

Bacon is a wonder that must be consumed on its own, in my book. (Or, in a bacon explosion. Or a BLT. Or … I digress.)

But what to do with tofu and ground pork? The possibilities are endless …

Continue reading

Scissor-Cut Rice: One Handsome (Tasting) Meal


FRP2 377

My New York friend Mark likes to tell the story of how, on his first visit to Singapore, he stopped a group of people near a hawker center, asking them which was the best place to eat in the area. 

“Big scissors!” was the immediate answer.

Which may seem an odd name for a food establishment to some. But in Singapore, the word “scissors” indicates that this is a stall in which you buy a plate of rice, point to a bunch of dishes (usually holding items like tofu, fried eggs or pork chops) and the hawker then piles what you’ve chosen on the plate and snips it all up into bite-size pieces with — you got it — a big pair of scissors.

While this could come across as a rather unorthodox way of serving a meal, let me tell you, places with the word “scissors” in their names often churn out pretty darn satisfying food. In Mark’s case, his meal — which he still regularly recounts with great gusto and yearning — was at Big Scissors Curry Rice at Maxwell Food Centre. 

Recently, I had the good fortune of discovering another gem in the “scissors” category: Beach Road Scissor-Cut Curry Rice. 

Continue reading

Burgers: A Marriage of Shrimp & Tofu


CIMG8235

I now appear to have a regular lunch date with a gregarious bunch of new friends.

We love to cook and we love talking about cooking — so this little thing about never having met hasn’t exactly stood in the way of our growing friendships.

It all began with a lazy Sunday morning conversation on Twitter when three women, one in Paris, one in San Diego, and one in New York, started craving BLT sandwiches. That blossomed into our first intercontinental BLT lunchdate, which nudged us to new levels of creativity.

Ellise in Paris made a beautiful BLT with chipotle mayonnaise and Poilane bread and Karen in Atlanta created a mouthwatering grilled fontina cheese BLT. Nicole in San Diego actually baked a truly unusual Basque sheepherder’s bread for her BLT. (You’ve got to check out Nicole’s sheepherder’s bread pictures — it was a yeasty architectural wonder if I ever saw one.)

Our virtual lunch left us (temporarily) sated — but hungry for more.

So, for our next lunch, we decided to tackle another standard: Burgers.

Continue reading