Category Archives: Uncategorized

Almond Easter Egg Cookies

For this Easter, instead of making traditional vanilla iced sugar cookies, I created a cookie recipe based on one of my favorite flavors: almond. These cute iced almond cookies are moist, not too sweet and have a lovely almond flavor. In addition to almond extract, I added almond flour for more texture, and I also added natrural-dye sprinkles so the cookies will appeal to kids. Finally, this recipe only uses egg whites, which lightens the cookie dough. The recipe is very easy to follow and doesn’t even require a cookie-cutter!

If you love almond flavor, you’ll love these cookies. Enjoy and Happy Easter!

Almond Easter Egg Cookies

Yield: 1 dozen

3/4 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup of almond flour

1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup of granulated sugar

1 egg white

1 teaspoon of almond extract

3/4 cup of organic confectioners sugar

1 tablespoon of whole milk

1 teaspoon of almond extract

India Tree natural dye sprinkles

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Place a parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, almond flour and salt. Set aside.

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3. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, add the butter and sugar. Beat on medium until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

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4. Meanwhile, whisk the egg white until frothy.

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5. Add the beaten egg white and the almond extract to the butter and sugar. Beat until just combined.

6. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture until just combined.

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7. Using a 1 1/2 tablespoons scoop, portion out 12 balls on the cookie sheet.

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8. Roll each ball and shape to resemble a small egg.

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9. Using the palm of your hand, press down to flatten. Bake for 10-11 minutes.

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10. Remove from the oven. Cool for about 10 minutes.

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11. Meanwhile, whisk the confectioners sugar, milk, and almond extract to make the icing. Have your sprinkles ready.

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12. Spoon some icing on each cookie and top with some sprinkles (You will want to add the sprinkles before the icing sets.)

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13. Let the icing harden. Serve the cookies with cold milk, coffee, or tea.

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Crab and Scallion Noodles

One of my favorite restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley is Newport Seafood, which specializes in Chinese-Vietnamese cuisine. They are famous for their house special lobster, but I prefer their house special crab. The crab is sautéed with scallions, ginger, and fresh peppers and is so delicious, I crave it all the time, but I reserve Newport for birthdays and special gatherings. To satisfy my craving, I took the same flavor profile and created this noodle dish. This recipe is easy to prepare, but it is important to have all the ingredients prepped in advance, because the recipe moves quickly. You want to time the noodles so that they finish cooking right as the crab is being added to the scallion mixture. For this recipe, I use one whole Dungeness crab. I steam the crab for 20 minutes and then pick out the meat. Adding fresh crab really makes a difference, but if you can’t find live crabs, you can buy the lump crab meat from your local supermarket. I hope you’ll love this noodle dish as much as I do. Enjoy!

 

Crab and Scallion Noodles

Serving Size: 4

 

1 lb of fresh chow mein noodles or Chinese wheat noodles

1/4 cup of unsalted butter (1/2 stick)

1 cup of 1/4″ sliced scallions (about 3-4)

2-3 mild red peppers, thinly sliced (extra for garnish)

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon of ginger juice*

2 tablespoons of oyster sauce

1 tablespoon of Maggi Seasoning**

1 1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar, preferably organic

1/2 teaspoon of salt

3/4 teaspoon of freshly grated black pepper

1/2 lb of steamed Dungeness crabmeat or store-bought lump crab meat

Cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)

 

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Take the chow mein noodles, separate them in a colander and set near the boiling pot.

2. Meanwhile, melt the butter on medium-low heat in a wok or a large sauté pan.

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3. Once the butter is melted, add the scallions, sliced red peppers, garlic and ginger juice. Increase the heat to medium high. Stir with a wooden spoon for about one minute.

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4. Add the oyster sauce, Maggi, sugar, salt, and black pepper. Stir for another minute.

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5. The water should be boiling at this point. Follow the instructions on the noodle package and cook the noodles. (Fresh noodles typically take anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes to cook).

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6. Meanwhile, add the crab to the scallion mixture and toss gently, so as not to break up the meat.

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7. Drain the noodles (but don’t rinse) and add to the crab and scallion mixture. Using tongs, toss gently. Taste for seasoning. Remove from the heat.

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8. Divide the noodles among 4 bowls. Add a few cilantro leaves and sliced red peppers. Give each bowl one turn of the pepper mill. Serve immediately.

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* To make ginger juice,  using a microplane grate about a tablespoon of ginger.  Push it through a sieve to collect the juices. You should have about a teaspoon.

**Maggi Seasoning  can be found in most Asian markets.  It contains MSG, so if you are allergic, you can substitute it with soy sauce.

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Kimchi-Jeon (Kimchi Pancakes)

Korean restaurants serve complimentary side dishes called banchan whenever you order a main dish. Occasionally, you will get a savory pancake served along side the assorted banchan. The most common style of pancake is pa-jeon (scallion pancake) but sometimes, if you get lucky, they will serve complimentary kimchi-jeon (kimchi pancake) instead. Kimchi-jeon is my favorite Korean pancake because of the heat level and intense flavor. I have fond memories of my mom making a huge tower of kimchi-jeon for lunch. My brothers and I would eat them until we were completely stuffed.

Here is an updated version of mom’s recipe. In my recipe, I sauté the onions prior to adding them to the batter to mellow out their sharp bite and to add natural sweetness to the kimchi-jeon. If you don’t like your kimchi-jeon too spicy, you can replace some of the kimchi juice with an equal amount of water. In that case, you should also add a pinch more salt. This recipe only makes two pancakes, unlike my mom’s recipe which can feed an army. I like to serve it as part of a larger Korean meal with other banchan. Enjoy!

Kimchi-Jeon (Kimchi Pancakes)

Yield: 2 large pancakes (4 servings as an appetizer)

 

Sunflower seed oil or organic canola oil

1/4 cup of chopped onions

1/2 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup of kimchi juice

2 tablespoons of water

1 large egg

3/4 cup of chopped kimchi

2 scallions, sliced crosswise

1/2 teaspoon of salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon of sesame oil

Black sesame for garnish, optional

Organic soy sauce for serving

 

1. Heat a medium sauté pan to medium-low heat. Add 1 teaspoon of oil. Add the the chopped onions. Sauté for 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

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2. In a large bowl, add the flour, water, kimchi juice, and egg. Whisk well.

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3. Add the chopped kimchi, cooked onions, scallions, salt, black pepper, and sesame.

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4. Heat a cast iron or heavy bottom frying pan to medium heat. Add a couple tablespoons of oil.

5. Add a ladle full of batter and spread to flatten and evenly distribute the kimchi.
Fry for 2 minutes or until golden brown.

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6. Flip over and fry the other side for 2 more minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Repeat to with the 2nd pancake.

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7. Using kitchen scissors, cut each pancake into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle black sesame seeds on top. Serve with soy sauce. They are best eaten when warm.

Cranberry-Almond Oat Bars

 

I enjoy a good granola bar from time to time, especially when I am in a hurry and don’t have time for breakfast. It’s also great for an afternoon snack when you’re on the run. Store-bought granola bars tend to have too much sugar and unnecessary preservatives, though, so I prefer to I bake my own, which lets me control the sugar and also use the best ingredients. This oat bar recipe has dried cranberries, sliced almonds, coconut, coconut oil and other healthy ingredients. The egg white helps bind all the dry ingredients. This recipe is relatively easy as long as you have everything in front of you, as you should be able to assemble these granola bars in less than 30 minutes. They are perfect to pack in your kid’s lunchbox or to wrap up and keep one in your bag. Enjoy!

 

Cranberry-Almond Oat Bars

Yield: 2 dozen

 

2 3/4 cups of quick cooking rolled oats, like McCann’s

1/2 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons of flax seeds

3/4 teaspoon of baking soda

3/4 teaspoon of flaky sea salt

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

3/4 cup of dried cranberries

1/2 cup of sliced almonds, toasted*

1/2 cup of sweetened shredded coconut

1/3 cup of honey

1/4 cup of packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup of coconut oil, melted

1 egg white, beaten until foamy

 

1. Heat the oven to 325°. Spray 13 x 9 aluminum baking pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.

2. Add the oats, flour, flax seeds, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir well with a fork.

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3. Stir in the dry cranberries and almonds.

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4. Whisk the honey, light brown sugar and coconut oil in a small bowl, until well blended.

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5. Pour the honey mixture over the dry mixture and mix well with a rubber spatula. Then fold in the beaten egg whites.

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6. Pour into the greased baking pan and press down evenly until nice and firm.
Place pan in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until nice golden brown.

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7. Remove from oven and let it cool on a wire rack until cool.

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8. With a serrated knife, cut into 24 squares.

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9. Store in an air tight container for up to 1 week.

 

*To toast sliced almonds, place them in a 350° oven for 5 minutes. Let the almonds cool completely before using.

Gumbo Ya-Ya

One of my favorite culinary destinations is New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans is a melting pot of many immigrant cultures, but the French influence is quite apparent all around the city, but especially in the French Quarter. From the beignets at Cafe du Monde to escargot at Galatoire’s, the French culture is a major influence on their cuisine. And of course Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”, the last day to eat rich and party before fasting for lent. Today, we celebrate Mardi Gras and it’s the perfect reason to share my gumbo recipe.

Gumbo is one of my favorite New Orleans dishes because it is delicious, spicy, hearty and full of great flavors. The key to a good gumbo is slow-cooked dark roux (a thickener made with butter and flour). In this recipe, the roux takes about an hour to cook. The original recipe for Gumbo Ya-Ya was created by the late Paul Prudhomme, who was an amazing New Orleans chef. This gumbo has chicken and andouille sausage (a firm Cajun sausage full of great spices), but if you can’t find andouille sausage, you can alway substitute Louisiana hot or mild links. This is not a quick recipe, but completely worth it in the end. I aways reserve making gumbo for special occasions and there’s no better time than Mardi Gras. Enjoy!

Gumbo Ya-Ya

Serving Size 4-6

2 lbs of organic chicken thighs

Kosher salt

1 tablespoon of sunflower oil or other neutral oil

10 cups of water

1 carrot, cut into 3 pieces

1 stalk of celery, cut in 3 pieces

1 onion, quartered

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter

3/4 cup of Sonora wheat or unbleached all-purpose flour

1 bell pepper, small dice

1 sweet onion, small dice

1 celery stalk, small dice

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon of Creole Seasoning  (can be store bought)

1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon of chili powder

1/4 teaspoon of dried hot red pepper flakes

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons of Kosher salt, more to taste

2 andouille sausages or Louisiana smoked hot links (about 10 ounces), cut into 1/4 inch-thick slices

1/2 teaspoon of file powder

3 cups of steamed long-grain rice, converted

Chopped parsley

Louisiana hot sauce for serving (optional)

 

1. Sprinkle the chicken thighs with a generous amount of Kosher salt on the skin side. Heat a large pot, preferably enamel coated cast-iron, to medium-high heat. Add the oil. Place chicken thighs in the pot, skin-side down. Sprinkle the other side of the chicken with more Kosher salt. Sear the chicken skin until it gets golden and crispy (about 5-7 minutes). Turn the chicken thighs over and cook for another 5 minutes.

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2. Remove the chicken thighs and place on a plate. Pour the chicken grease into a small Pyrex bowl or a heat-proof bowl and reserve for later. You should have about a 1/4 cup.

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3. Add the chicken thighs back to the pot, along with 10 cups of water, the carrots, celery, onion and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Then reduce to a low simmer and place the lid on top. You will braise the chicken for about an hour.

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4. Meanwhile, heat another large pot to low heat. Add the butter and the reserved chicken grease into the pot. Once the butter is completely melted, gradually add in the flour while stirring with a wooden spoon. You will continue to stir and cook the roux for about 1 hour until you get a dark chocolate color. Don’t get tempted to leave the roux unattended. It is important to constantly stir throughout the whole process.

5. Check on the chicken. It should be tender, almost falling off the bone. Remove the chicken thighs using tongs, place on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Quickly strain broth through a chinois (or a fine mesh sieve) into a large bowl and reserve the broth for the gumbo.

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6. Once the roux is nice and dark, add all the diced bell peppers. Stir for 30 seconds. Add the diced onions and stir for another 30 seconds. Add the garlic and chopped thyme and stir for 15 more seconds.

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7. Slowly add the broth to the roux mixture while stirring, two cups at a time, for a total of eight cups. (Save any remaining broth to thin out the gumbo later.) Add all the dry seasoning, bay leaf and the andouille sausage. Give it a good stir and bring to a boil.

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8. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure you skim the fat on the surface.

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9. While the gumbo is simmering, take the braised chicken and remove the meat off the bone, pulling it into to bite-sized shreds. Discard the bones.

10. After the gumbo has simmered for 30 minutes, add the file powder and the shredded chicken pieces. Add more broth or water if the broth is too thick. Give it gentle stir. Simmer for another 20 minutes.

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11. Taste for seasoning and adjust as need.

12. To serve, ladle the gumbo into shallow bowls. Add some steamed rice into the gumbo and sprinkle some chopped parsley on top. Serve with your favorite Louisiana hot sauce.

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Toffee with Dark Chocolate and Mixed Nuts

Last year, my husband brought home some delicious toffee. I’m not a huge fan of toffee or candy in general, but this was quite amazing. What I loved about the toffee was the texture – each piece was crunchy but not jaw-breaking, light and not too dense. The toffee also had a nice layer of dark chocolate and some chopped mixed nuts on the top. Overall it was delicious and it inspired me to work on a recipe for it.

Making toffee isn’t difficult, but it does require some attention and timing, as sugar can be a little tricky to work with during the candying process. I find that adding some corn syrup helps prevent crystallization in the sugar. Also, make sure you turn off the heat once you hit soft crack phase, which is at 285°. 300° is hard crack, and some people would argue that it needs to hit this temperature in order to be proper toffee. I my opinion, 300° makes of the toffee a little too hard. Finally, another trick I use is adding a little baking soda to the recipe, which helps lighten up the toffee. With some extra dark chocolate and mixed roasted nuts on top, you won’t be able to have just one piece. Enjoy!

Toffee with Dark Chocolate and Mixed Nuts

Yield: About 1 1/2 lbs.

Non-stick baking spray

1 cup of unsalted organic butter (2 sticks), at room temperature

1 cup of granulated sugar

1 tablespoon of organic corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon of baking soda

6 1/2 ounces of finely chopped dark chocolate, preferably 65% cacao

1/2 cup of salted and roasted mixed nuts (peanuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, and cashews), finely chopped

Fleur de sel or flaky sea salt

 

Special Equipment:

1/4 sheet pan (8 1/2″ x 11″ at the base)

Parchment paper

Candy thermometer

Wooden spoon

Pastry brush

Water

Off-set spatula

1. Cut a sheet of parchment paper to 8 1/2″ x 11″ to fit the bottom of the baking sheet. Line the baking sheet and spray lightly with non-stick baking spray. Set aside.

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2. Have the vanilla extract and baking soda ready in small mise en place bowls.

3. Add the butter,  sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a medium heavy-bottom copper or an enamel coated cast iron pot. Heat on medium.

4. Gently stir with a wooden spoon until it comes to a boil. Stop stirring. Then attach the candy thermometer.

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5. Get a small bowl of water and a pastry brush ready. Set aside.

6. Stir the toffee mixture occasionally as the temperature reaches 285° on the candy thermometer. You will stir about five different occasions. Do not overstir or the toffee will separate. Also, during this process, you will use the wet brush to mix in any sugar mixture that comes up along the sides of the pan. This helps prevents crystallization.

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7. Once the temperature reaches 285°, immediately remove the pot from the stove and stir in the baking soda and vanilla extract. The baking soda will help lighten the toffee.

8. Pour the toffee mixture on the prepared parchment-covered baking sheet. Tap the baking sheet a couple of times. Let the toffee cool for 2 minutes.

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9.Sprinkle the chopped dark chocolate evenly over the toffee. Let it sit for 1 minute.

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10. Using an off-set spatula, gently spread the melted chocolate.

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11. Sprinkle the chopped nuts evenly over the melted chocolate. Sprinkle a few flakes of sea salt. Using another piece of parchment paper to gently press the nuts into the chocolate.

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12. Place the toffee in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes.

13. When is the chocolate has hardened, remove the toffee from the refrigerator. Peel off the parchment paper.

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14. Break it up into bite-size pieces.

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15. Store in an airtight container. You can also place them in small cellophane bags for gifts.

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Jajangmyeon

Growing up, we’d often order jajangmyeon at our local Korean-style Chinese restaurant. Jajangmyeon is a traditional Korean noodle dish that is a combination of pork and wheat noodles in a black bean sauce. It originated in China but made its way to South Korea with Mandarin Chinese immigrants, who adapted the dish for the Korean palette. The Korean version has more sauce and a richer flavor, and usually has less fat on the pork and in the sauce.

One of my fondest food memories was watching the chef hand-pull the noodles, transforming the dough into even strands of beautiful noodles by pulling, stretching and twisting it in the air. I was in awe whenever I watched the chef perform his magic, as the noodles danced and floated in front of him until they were the perfect thickness. He did this all for a single bowl of jajangmyeon. Today, most Korean-style Chinese restaurants serve jajangmyeon with factory-made noodles, so finding hand-pulled noodles is a real treat.

My version of jajangmyeon is a healthier version of the dish, as I use less oil and and leaner pork to try and cut down on the fat. I also pre-marinate the pork, which ensures tender pieces of meat. This sauce is rich and full of great flavor, and I love to eat a big bowl of these noodles with a side of cabbage kimchee or takuan. Enjoy!

Jajangmyeon

Serving Size: 4

Sunflower oil or organic canola oil

1 large sweet onion, chopped into 1/2″ in pieces

1/2 large zucchini, cut into 1/2″ pieces (3/4 cup)*

1 small Yukon gold potato, 1/2 ” dice (3/4 cup) – parboiled for 5 minutes

8 ounces of par-cooked, marinated pork (recipe below)

2/3 cup of fermented black bean paste**

2 teaspoons of organic sugar

1 tablespoon of organic soy sauce

1 1/2 cups of water

2 tablespoons of organic cornstarch

22 ounces of fresh jajangmyeon noodles or Chinese wheat noodles (medium thickness)**

1/2 cup of julienned cucumbers (seeds omitted)

 

1. Heat a wok to medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Once the oil starts to smoke, add all the chopped onion. Sauté for about 3 minutes until the onion becomes translucent.

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2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil.
3. Add the cut zucchini pieces to the wok with the onions. Sauté for 2 more minutes.

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4. Add the par-cooked pork and potatoes to the wok.

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5. Add the black bean paste. Stir to incorporate.

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6. Add the soy sauce, sugar and water and bring it to a boil.

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7. Meanwhile, add the noodles into the boiling water. Follow the instructions on the package. Rinse and set aside. (You want to time the noodles so they will be ready when the sauce is done)

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8. Mix the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water to create a slurry. Stir into the sauce.

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9. Cook and stir until thickened.

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10. Divide the noodles evenly into four bowls. Ladle a generous amount of sauce into each of the bowls. Top with some julienned cucumbers and serve with cabbage kimchi.

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* When cutting the zucchini, remove the center seedy potion.  The section with the seeds becomes mushy when cooked. Then dice the  zucchini to 1/2″ pieces as shown.

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**  Fermented black bean paste and jajangmyeon noodles can be found at your local Korean supermarket.

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Marinated pork recipe 

8 ounces of lean pork chuck or tenderloin

1/4 teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of organic cornstarch

1 teaspoon of organic soy sauce

1 teaspoon of Shoxing wine or Sake

 

1. Dice the pork into small pieces just shy of 1/2″

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2. Place the cut pork in a small bowl and sprinkle with baking soda. Mix well and let it sit for 10 minutes (I would suggest using a timer for this step because you do not want exceeded the time allotted or the pork will be too tender.)

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3. After the 10 minutes, add the cornstarch, soy sauce and the wine. Stir and let sit for 2 minutes.

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4.Meanwhile heat a wok to high. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Once oil gets hot, add the marinated pork. Leave undisturbed for 30 seconds.

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5. Using a wooden spoon stir and sauté for about one minute.
Place in a bowl and set aside until ready to use.

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