lime juice

Our friend John prepared this dish for us long ago. Completely delighted, I meant to ask for the recipe but kept forgetting. The southeast Asian mix of fresh garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chili pepper is divine.

southeast Asian-style shrimp and Persian cucumber with rice

southeast Asian-style shrimp and Persian cucumber with rice

Recently I was craving it so I decided to take the risk of making/mixing my own sauce. I may have made it a bit Japanese with the addition of mirin and rice vinegar for an extra bit of sweetness and tartness. You know rice just goes so well with these two flavors, right?

Another thing I find makes me eat with gusto is atypical use of cucumber, here served in a warm dish. I grew up eating cucumbers only in salads so enjoying them any other way is incredible. The cukes were warm but still crunchy. I think Persian or Japanese cucumbers work best for this dish.

southeast Asian-style shrimp and Persian cucumber with rice

1½ cups rice (Thai Jasmine, Basmati or Spanish)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 lb wild caught shelled and deveined medium sized shrimp
6 Persian cucumbers
sea salt
1 clove of garlic
Chili pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper


juice of 5 large limes
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic
1 green or red chili pepper seeds partially removed
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp mirin
2 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves

Heat olive oil in a large pan, add rice and a sprinkle of salt. Toss to coat rice with oil. Add 2 and ½ cups of hot water. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce temperature to low, cover pan and cook for about 15-20 minutes until soft and water absorbed. Removed from heat and keep it covered for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut a ¼ inch top of the cucumber and rub cut sides together for good luck and good flavor. This will create a bit of a gooey slime that you should rinse away in cold water. Cut cucumber into ½ inch disks and soak in cold water. Repeat process for remainder.

Turn oven on to broil. Rinse and pat dry shrimp. Toss with juice of ½ lime, salt, chili flakes and one garlic clove that has been crushed. Spread shrimp loosely on a large baking sheet then broil for about 5 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and let rest. For a delicious charred flavor and lovely grill marks use your outdoor grill.

To make the sauce, put garlic, sugar and pepper in a mortar and grind ingredients to a paste. Transfer to a bowl. Add lemon juice, mirin, fish sauce, soy sauce and cilantro. Toss to combine. This sauce should be salty, sweet, sour, and pungent with a spicy kick. Taste and adjust flavor with more of any of the ingredients. If you find my mix to strong you can dilute it with a bit of cold water. You should have around ¾ to 1 cup of sauce.

Drain cucumber slices and pat dry on a dish towel.

Mix rice, cucumber, shrimp and shrimp juices carefully not to break the rice too much. Drizzle most of the sauce over and carefully give it another toss. Taste and add more sauce if needed.

This is a delightful, simple, and chock full of flavor meal.


Sweet or savory, most countries have their own style of making pancakes. I really like the Vietnamese version, bánh xèo. This recipe is especially interesting because it utilizes two ingredients very common on our table in a totally different way: rice and beans, a favorite combination on this blog. See what I mean here.

Bánh Xèo AKA Vietnamese mung bean pancakes with leaft lettuces, mint etc. in the afternoon sunlight

Bánh Xèo AKA Vietnamese mung bean pancakes with leafy lettuces, mint etc. in the afternoon sunlight

I’ve often seen this with shrimp or pork. (I used fish sauce in the spicy dipping sauce, otherwise this would be vegan.) Omitting these two still delivers a pancake packed with delicious flavor. I’ve adapted this bánh xèo from two sources: flavor explosions and Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty cookbook. It didn’t come out as crisply as I expected, probably due to me limited experience in this art. Nevertheless these were divine.

Bánh Xèo AKA Vietnamese mung bean pancakes

For the batter:

½ cup hulled mung beans, soaked for 2h, drained and then steamed till soft and cooled down
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups rice flour
½ cup corn starch
2 cups water
1 tsp kosher salt
¾ tsp turmeric powder
4 whole scallions, chopped

For the stuffing:

I lb mung bean sprouts
1 shallot, chopped
Canola oil
1 pack enoki mushrooms, stems discarded

For the salad condiments:

Any sweet lettuce, mint leaves, cilantro, chives, mung bean sprouts all undressed

For the spicy dipping sauce:

1 serrano pepper, seeds and ribs partially removed, chopped and slightly crushed
1 tsp chili garlic sauce (Túong Ót Tói Viet-Nam)
2 tbsp fish sauce
6 tbsp water
5 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 limes
1 large fresh clove garlic peeled and smashed

Place sugar, water, vinegar, fish sauce, Serrano pepper, chili sauce and juice of one lime in a small pot. Warm on stovetop until sugar just melts. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Add juice of second lime, and garlic.

Next prepare the filling. Sauté shallot in one table spoon of canola oil until translucent, add mung bean sprout and cook briefly just to wilt them a bit. Sprinkle with salt. Set aside.

To make the batter, place cooked and cooled mung beans, salt, turmeric powder, and coconut milk in food processor and whiz until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl. Add water, rice flour, corn starch and whisk to combine. Mix in scallions. Adjust consistency if too thick with a bit more water.

Add one tablespoon canola oil to a non-stick skillet on high heat. Let it warm up. Depending on the diameter of the pan, ladle in one or two scoops of batter. Spread batter evenly on surface of pan, add some mushrooms so tips are showing on the edge of one side of the pancake. Cook for a couple of minutes, until border is crispy. Flip with a spatula and cook for another minute, flip back again, add a bit of sautéed mung bean sprouts and fold it to shape into half moon. Repeat process with rest of the batter.

Serve the pancakes and salad with spicy dipping sauce.


I simply love the site sardine society. It is fully dedicated to the noble, cheap and widely available canned sardine, and all-things canned-sardine related. What a great way to honor these humble, delicious and prolific fish.

patê de sardinha AKA sardine paté

patê de sardinha AKA sardine paté

Sardines have a wonderful flavor, are inexpensive and are a rich source of protein. Yet they always seem to struggle under the “canned fish” stigma: too smelly, too fishy, too unrefined, etc. Well, that’s too bad. And rather silly, too. I eat them straight from the can with pleasure all the time. Cooking with them is also marvelous. And don’t even get me started about fresh sardines! Out of this world!

Marcia, a friend of mine back when I lived in Brazil, used to make this patê de sardinha often. She and her husband bought a house and chunk of land in a remote, scenic area nearby a recently constructed damn in the State of São Paulo. They invited friends over to spend weekends and help with the up-keep of the place. In return we had a nice place to stay and a chance to escape from the city during the summer. Since we always got there late and hungry, Marcia always made her sardine paté to tide us over until dinner. We would enjoy it with French bread and lots of cold Brazilian beer. Delish.

patê de sardinha AKA sardine paté

1 can oil packed sardines, drained
4 tbsp finely chopped white onion
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp black pepper
Few drops of hot sauce (sriracha)
3 tbsp vegenaise
½ tsp French mustard
2 tbsp ketchup
Juice of ½ lime
Bread slices

Put all ingredients (except bread) in a bowl and mash with a fork until relatively smooth, cover and refrigerate for about half an hour. Transfer paté to a serving bowl. Eat with any bread of your preference.


sesame and onion seed crusted sword fish with buckwheat soba and chard sauté

sesame and onion seed crusted sword fish with buckwheat soba and chard sauté

I know eating swordfish is supposed to be naughty. But per our fish monger, this one was line caught off the coast of California. So that’s good. It looked super fresh with that beautiful seafood aroma and so after listening to his explanation he convinced me. I lost my guilt and purchased 3 steaks for our dinner party. The whole dinner had a Japanese, South East Asian flair to it. It is pretty easy to make and delicious.

sesame and onion seed crusted sword fish with buckwheat soba and chard sauté

for the fish:

3 swordfish steaks or other similar fish steaks of your preference
1 tbsp sesame seeds (or more)
¾ tbsp black onion seeds (or more)
Lime juice
Nori strips (edible seaweed strips)
Olive oil

the noodles:

buckwheat soba noodles for 4 people cooked per package instructions, rinsed and kept warm

for the veggies:

1 bunch Swiss chard, leaves roughly torn
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil

for the sauce:

1 clove garlic grated into paste
1 tsp fresh ginger grated into paste
1 tsp chile garlic paste
3 tbsp soy sauce (or more)
¾ tbsp rice vinegar
¼ tsp sugar
¾ tbsp toasted sesame oil
3 whole scallions, sliced

Prepare the sauce mixing all the ingredients together, except for the scallions. Taste it and adjust flavors. It should be bold a bit salty, tangy, smoky, sweet and spicy. Drop in scallions then set aside.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Put chard in and cook for about three minutes. Drain and squeeze as much water as possible from it. Add olive oil to a skillet, then garlic and cook until garlic is aromatic. Add chard and cook for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle with some salt and black pepper. Transfer to a bowl, keeping it warm.

Rinse and pat dry fish steaks with a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides. Mix seeds together and sprinkle on both sides of steaks. Using the same skillet, add a tad of olive oil, bring temperature to medium high, add sword fish steaks and cook for 3 minutes on each side (if your pan is too small do it in batches). Remove from pan and let rest for a couple of minutes, keeping it warm. Cut into bit size strips. Squeeze a few drops of lime juice over the fish.

Place soba noodles on a serving platter. Toss with sauce. Top with sautéed chard, then the fish, nori and serve.


Korean ‘slaw

by Heguiberto on October 28, 2011

This is another delicious recipe I’ve adapted from Marja Vongerichten’s The Kimchi Chronicles. I never learned to appreciate coleslaw American-style. I think it tends to be too sweet, creamy bordering on slimy. And then, on top of that, sometimes it comes with another surprise flavor: pineapple. Ugh! More sweetness. I like the ingredients individually, but when mixed this way I just can’t take it.

Korean ‘slaw

Korean ‘slaw

So here is an alternative to the traditional kind: Korean style. Try this recipe. You won’t go back to the sweet type. Plus this one’s healthier.

Instead of dressing it with buttermilk, mayo or another store bought cream sauce, the bright flavors here get enlightened by the sourness of rice vinegar as well as lime and lemon juices. Okay, I’ll admit that there is a touch of sweetness, too, but only a touch. This sort of reminded me of fattoush or Thai som tam salad.

Note: Because this salad does not use any oil, it needs to sit room temperature for about 15 minutes for flavors to meld: a must.

Korean ‘slaw

6 cups Napa cabbage, julienned
1 cup white daikon, julienned
1 carrot, julienned
½ medium red onion cut into thin half-moon slices
2 scallions, green and white parts, cut into thin rounds
½ cup chopped cilantro
1 small Asian pear, julienned
½ tsp sugar
1 tsp coarse salt
2 tbsp rice vinegar
Juice of a juicy lime
Juice of a juicy lemon

Place cut vegetables in a non reactive bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients. Toss to coat. Let it rest for 15 minutes. Toss occasionally. Serve as a side dish.


My cauliflower didn’t get to sear as much as I wanted for this dish because I was pressured for time. So you can’t see much of the blistering I was aiming for in the florets compared to this other delicious cauliflower recipe. Regardless the flavor was excellent: sweet, smoky with a slight crunch to it.

pan roasted cauliflower with pea shoots

pan roasted cauliflower with pea shoots

Roasting cauliflower either in the oven or on the stovetop brings out a whole new dimension of flavors to this humble cruciferous vegetable. I urge you to give it a try sometime. I complemented the natural flavors with lemon, lime, cayenne pepper and the pea shoots. Serve it a side dish.

pan roasted cauliflower with pea shoots

1 head of cauliflower, cut into bite size pieces
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp smoked paprika
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper
2 cups pea shoots
4 cloves garlic cut into slivers

Toss cauliflower with salt, black pepper and 2 tbsp. olive oil. Place in on a non-stick pan and pan roast it for about 15-20 minutes or until soft but with a crunch. Towards the last five minutes, add garlic, remaining olive oil, then cook for a minute or so until raw garlic smell is gone. Add pea shots, cover pan and let them wilt. Remove from heat, squeeze in lemon and lime juices. Toss in cayenne. Taste, adjust flavors. Sprinkle with paprika and serve warm or at room temperature.


som tam AKA spicy green papaya salad

som tam AKA spicy green papaya salad

We had a Thai inspired dinner the other evening. This som tam was served with a spicy potek soup and Jasmine rice. In Brazil we frequently ate green papaya at home but the way my mother made it was completely different. She cooked it with garlic, oil, salt and pepper and sometimes stewed with tomatoes. That was good, but not as incredible as this Thai dish that is just packed with amazing flavors: spicy, sour, umami, salty, sweet and crunchy. I love it!

green papaya

green papaya warming in the afternoon sunshine

som tam

1 lb shredded green (unripe) papaya (I used a mandolin to shred it)
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 Thai bird’s eye chili pepper
8 fresh green beans, cut into 2 inch lengths
1 large clove fresh garlic
Juice of 4 limes or more
½ tsp sugar
4 heirloom tomatoes cut into wedges
Japanese cucumber slices

In Thailand, it is fun to watch green papaya salad being prepared by street vendors. They pound garlic, sugar, tomato and green beans in a large mortar and pestle right in front of you. Then they add the papaya, lime juice and pound it again to bruise everything to release flavors. It is like a cooking demonstration on the side of the road. I don’t have a mortar so I improvised a bit. I placed the green beans between 2 layers of saran wrap and flattened them with the rolling pin. I squeezed the tomatoes a bit with my hands. I grated the garlic and chili pepper with a micro-plane grater. Then everything was mixed together and let macerate for about 20 minutes before going to the table. The delicious Japanese cucumber slices helped cool down the heat of the salad. Serve on a few leaves of lettuce with some cucumbers on the side.


Thai tomato, coconut and Dungeness crab soup

Thai tomato, coconut and Dungeness crab soup

I had this tomato soup at a dinner party recently. My boss, Elliot, hosted at his place. It was a fun evening filled with good chat, many delectable savory dishes and lovely wine! Thank you Elliot for being such a good cook and host! I wanted to ask for the recipe but didn’t get the chance as I had to leave a bit early to take care of our bully Clarence.

A few days later while browsing one of the latest issues of Bon Appétit magazine I found the recipe. Yoo-hoo! But then I misplaced it. Turns out they posted it online.

This past weekend we had our friends Jasmine and Prof. T over for dinner. I wanted to awe not only them but Steven too with this flavorful Thai inspired soup. Jasmine said “this is gourmet eating,” which is exactly what I said when I dined at Elliot’s, and it is. This soup really entices your palate with fragrant sweet and sour flavors and silky, creamy textures without being heavy or dense. This is definitely something that I will make again. And since tomatoes are in season now, I am already thinking of experimenting with different heirlooms to change the color: yellow, chocolate, green zebra varieties? If you can’t find crab, I am sure shrimp, or even lobster would do.

Thai tomato, coconut and Dungeness crab soup

3 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch scallions–approx 6– chopped fine, white and dark green parts included
2 stalks of fresh lemon grass, tough outer layer removed, sliced thinly
1 Serrano pepper, seeds partially removed, minced
2½ lb ripe tomatoes
½ cup light unsweetened coconut milk
1½ tbsp fish sauce
Juice of one lime or more, depending on how sour you like it, plus some lime wedges for garnish
Juice of one orange
½ lb fresh Dungeness crab meat
Kosher salt
½ cup pea shoots
1 clove garlic smashed

Bring a saucepan full of water to a boil. Meanwhile using a paring knife make a cross incision at bottom of each tomato, and cut the woody top off. Place them in boiling water until skin begins to curl. Drain, let cool a bit, remove skins and cube them. Set aside.

Place 2tbsp olive oil, scallions and lemon grass in a sauce pan. Sauté until scallions wilt. Add tomatoes and cook for about 8 minutes, long enough to bring it to a boil. Add coconut, orange juice, fish sauce and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool down for few minutes.

Add remaining olive oil to a skillet, followed by garlic. Sauté until aromatic. Add fresh crab. Turn heat off and cook for a minute. Sprinkle with salt, discard garlic clove. Set aside

Using a stick blender, wiz soup until puréed and smooth. Stir in lime juice. Add salt and more lime juice, if needed. Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with Dungeness crab meat and pea shots. Have lime wedges on the side for the table.

Michele from the blog That’s so Michelle made the same recipe. Check it out here.


eggplant kuku

January 27, 2011

My parents were in town over the weekend. They live way across the Country in Virginia, so a visit is a welcome treat. This was a working trip as they’re paying for us to have our kitchen remodeled. That is incredibly generous! We didn’t have time for sightseeing as we spent most of it planning […]

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deconstructing a pepper mobile: Indian style chili pickle and sundried hot peppers with a warning for good health

July 23, 2010

Steven’s parents have just returned from an Alaskan cruise. They didn’t see Sarah Palin or the Cullen vampire clan, but loved it nonetheless. Their pictures made it look really exciting though quite cold, even in summer. I want to visit Alaska sometime in the future, but I don’t think I can do it by sea. […]

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