rice vinegar

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 and sour tofu

by Stevie on February 17, 2012

This recipe comes from an enjoyable blog that we’ve recently begun following, almost veg. Sweet and sour sauce is a classic that’s often popular with kids, as it is so yummy and not particularly spicy. I found it especially appealing because there’s no pineapple. Almost-veg writes “I like pineapples but not in savory foods.” Well, I like them too, but they don’t care for me. I’ve a terrible allergy and get hives all over my body in a matter of hours after eating even a tiny mouth-watering morsel of this glorious tropical fruit. Not a pretty picture. Or appetizing, so to move on…

sweet and sour tofu

sweet and sour tofu

I changed around the recipe a little by adding more veggies and using hoisin sauce instead of plum. I had the first and not the second, but no time to shop. I used poblano with the sweet bell peppers since we really enjoy its smoky flavor.

One final note before I give the instructions: I was amazed by the tofu! I had always wondered how Chinese restaurants get that thin crispy coating over soft tofu. And now I know. I will definitely make that again.

sweet and sour tofu

1 package tofu (I used regular)
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
1 green bell pepper, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 poblano pepper; stem, seeds and ribs removed; cut into bite-sized chunks
1 onion, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
3 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt to taste
6 tbsp canola oil
¼ cup cashews (optional)

for the sauce:

2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1½ tsp rice vinegar
½ tbsp oyster sauce (veggie)
½ tsp sugar
4 tbsp water
½ tsp toasted sesame oil

Cut tofu into 1 inch cubes. Toss with cornstarch then mix with rice wine. Add 4 tbsp canola oil to a large non-stick skillet and fry tofu for a few minutes on each side to brown. Set aside.

Mix sweet and sour sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.

Add remaining canola oil to skillet with onion and garlic. Add a bit of salt. Sauté for a few minutes until the onions become translucent. Add remaining veggies and continue to sauté. After they’ve softened a bit, add tofu, cashews if using, and sauce. Fold together gently and allow to warm through for a few minutes. Adjust salt if needed.

Serve with rice.


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 pickled cucumber salad

by Heguiberto on December 5, 2011

This pickled cucumber salad is ultra easy to make and tastes so good! Some of its appealing qualities include the crunchy texture, the sour and tart flavors and the slight bite of heat from the gochujang chili pepper. I have reproduced it from the blog, I-eat-food (what an excellent name for a blog!) with some minor changes in ingredients and proportions.

Korean pickled cucumber salad

Korean pickled cucumber salad

Korean pickled cucumber salad

10 Kirby cucumbers
Sea salt
1 tbsp Ponzu
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp Korean chili pepper powder (Gochugaru)

Slice off the top of each Kirby and rub the slice against cut part until a gooey foam forms on top. Rinse it out. Repeat process with remaining cucumbers. Why do this? Did you ever taste bitterness in cucumbers? Doing this takes the bitterness away. Steven thinks that it is merely an old-wives-tale, or perhaps, blind superstition, but my mother did it (and his does, too, come to think of it) and they can’t both be wrong.

Set mandolin blades for thin slicing. Slice all cucumbers.

Sprinkle with sea salt and let rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Rinse completely with plenty of cold water. Thoroughly drain in colander. Finally give cucumber slices a squeeze to remove more liquid.

Meanwhile mix ponzu, vinegar, soy sauce and chili pepper together. Toss cucumber slices in and viola!


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.


Japanese natto beans and rice

by Heguiberto on September 26, 2011

I’ve had natto at sushi restaurants before, but never dared using this ingredient at home for a very simple reason: natto stinks, and not exactly in a good way, though it tastes perfectly good when served in my maki rolls. So I have to confess that I’ve been natto-curious. Last week while shopping at Nijiya in the Japan Center I overcame my hesitation and trifling anxiety, and got some to prepare at home. Like most Brazilians, I love rice and beans, which was my inspiration here: Tokyo meets São Paulo.

Japanese natto beans and rice

Japanese natto beans and rice

Natto is a healthy processed soybean product, quite unlike tofu or soy sauce. Made of steamed soybeans that get mixed with a starter, natto-kin (bacillus subtilis natto), and left to ferment at a controlled temperature for a few days, the beans evolve into a slimy, sticky consistency with a pungent and nutty flavor. You can use it in soups, toast, noodles or rice. It adds an exciting layer of complex flavors to the dish. Behold the power of fermented foods! I am going to try making natto at home from scratch sometime. Follow this link to make natto.

Store-bought is a breeze though, and undoubtedly less time-consuming. To make natto beans and rice, really all you must do is cook the rice. The rest of the ingredients merely need assemblage.

my pre-made natto

my pre-made natto

Japanese natto beans and rice

1 cup Japanese sushi rice
1¾ cups water
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tbsp rice vinegar
1 portion of natto
1 tbsp soy sauce
¼ tsp chili garlic paste
1 whole scallion, chopped fine
Strands of toasted nori (dried seaweed/sea vegetable)

Place rice, water, olive oil, salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir to prevent sticking. Reduce temperature to low, cover and cook until water is absorbed. Remove from heat, keep lid on for 5 to 10 minutes. Carefully stir vinegar in.

Meanwhile transfer natto to a bowl and stir it with a wooden spoon for 5-10 minutes. It will form a white stringy, marshmallow like thread around the beans. Worry not, that’s what it is supposed to look like. Stir in soy sauce, and scallions. Plate individual portions of rice, spoon with some natto over it and top with nori.

I served this dish with green acorn squash and sautéed shitake mushroom. It was a nice and unusual way of eating rice and beans. There will be more!

You can see other ways of eating natto in this informative video:


yummy wakame salad

by Heguiberto on December 31, 2010

yummy wakame salad

yummy wakame salad

I completely agree with the post on girlie girl army about sea veggies. She claims that sea vegetables are overlooked in terms of taste and nutritional value, at our loss. Here’s what she writes:

Sea vegetables contain high levels of calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, iodine, chlorophyll, enzymes and fiber and offer more vitamins and minerals per ounce than any other food and are one of nature’s richest sources of proteins, having up to 48% of plant-based protein! Sea vegetables are also high in vitamin b-12, which is usually only found in animal-based sources and is responsible for regulating the central nervous system and blood cell production. Ounce per ounce, they are higher in vitamins and nutritional value that almost any other food!

I didn’t need any convincing because I adore sea veggies. They just have that marvelous oceanic flavor you can’t get anywhere else. When I eat sea vegetables I literally feel I am getting a slice of the ocean. Plus they’re good for you! Eat more sea vegetables! On that note here’s a simple, delicious recipe for a salad made of reconstituted wakame and lettuce:

dried wakame

dried wakame

yummy wakame salad

40g. dried wakame (I get mine at Nijiya Market)
1 small head lettuce, cleaned and torn into bite-size pieces
1 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp light shoyu (soy sauce)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp pan roasted white sesame seeds
red pepper flakes to taste

Place wakame in a large bowl and cover with about 2 pints of water. Let it re-hydrate for about 30 minutes. Drain, rinse and squeeze as much water out as you can. Transfer to a serving bowl with lettuce.

Meanwhile to make the dressing add mirin, shoyu, rice vinegar, sugar and toasted sesame oil to a jar, cover with a lid and shake to combine. Taste. It should have a pleasant salty, briny, tart, sweet and toasty flavor. Add more of any ingredient if needed. Toss with wakame and lettuce. Sprinkle with pepper flakes and sesame seeds.

I made a similar Japanese sea vegetable inspired salad before check it out here


tofu salad with garlicy spicy mustard vinegar sauce

tofu salad with garlicy spicy mustard rice vinegar sauce

I was excited by the idea of this recipe when I saw a tofu salad at my local Whole Foods. It was in the salad bar, sold by weight. Helpfully, they listed all the ingredients that they used, though not the quantities or directions (that must be a trade secret.) In particular, their ingredient list called for rice syrup, which was something new to me.

How is it that I’d never heard of this, what with me being such a rice-lover? I brought home a jar of rice syrup immediately, to further my culinary/gustatory education. Rice syrup has a nutty taste. It’s lightly sweet, too. Both of these tastes were noticeable in this final dish.

So here’s my go at the WF tofu salad. It is very simple to make and you will not be disappointed with the end result.

tofu salad with sweet -n- spicy ginger mustard rice vinegar sauce

for the tofu:

300gr firm tofu, cut into bite-sized triangles, pat-dried
1 tbsp canola oil
salt (optional)

for the sweet -n- spicy ginger mustard rice vinegar sauce:

1 tsp stone ground mustard
3 tsp rice syrup (AKA, rice nectar)
4 tbsp rice vinegar
3 tbsp light shoyu (AKA: soy sauce)
½ tsp grated fresh ginger
Crushed red pepper to taste
1 clove garlic pressed
1½ tbsp toasted sesame oil

for garnish:

1 scallion thinly sliced
Black sesame seeds

Place canola oil on a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Lay tofu triangles gently in pan, sprinkle with a bit of salt and pan fry them for a couple of minutes on each side to slightly brown. Remove from heat and arrange them cutely on a serving dish. Be careful not to burn your fingers.

Meanwhile prepare dressing by mixing all the sauce ingredients together. Adjust flavors if necessary. It should be a bit tangy, toasty, salty, sweet, garlicky and with a little kick from the pepper flakes.

Pour sauce over warm tofu and sprinkle with scallions and black sesame seeds. Serve as a snack or a side dish. This dish is vegan, and loaded with wonderful flavors and lots of protein. Yumm!


gobo salad AKA burdock root salad

November 17, 2010

Last weekend we went shopping at the San Francisco Japanese Center for some hard to find Japanese food products. I was specifically looking for fresh ramen noodles. I wanted to try to reproduce at home the delicious ramen noodle soup I had at the Tuesdays-and-Thursdays-only food stall located in front of the Ferry Plaza. Stay […]

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Japanese inspired “sea vegetable” salad

May 21, 2010

I prepared this Japanese inspired salad with home-cured gravlax and white rice. The gravlax had dill and was Swedish inspired. The “sea vegetable” salad was Japanese inspired. Despite being from two far distant culinary traditions, they seemed to match well together. Perhaps because they’re both “ocean foods?” This salad is easy to make and would […]

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