anya’s mango with sticky rice, dessert fusion style

DSC04530 DSC04529

This is a fusion version of that Thai favorite in mango season: sticky rice with mango. Going clockwise around the plate:  mango sorbet, mango, coconut-jasmine jelly, mango maccaron with pineapple jam. And that’s a cube of sticky rice with coconut sauce in that syringe-like tube sticking out of it like a junkie’s stolen fix. The tube was the only inedible thing besides that plate. And that purplish blob in the center is taro sorbet. The whole thing was lined up on a bed of crushed cookies and nuts.

As a fusion dessert it was whimsical if a bit puzzling. We had to ask what was in the tube. So we pulled it out of the rice (For some reason The Sword in the Stone flashed in my mind) and squirted the coconut sauce  all over the rice, as that is customary. The dessert tasted a lot better than it looked.  It was sweet, salty, crunchy, cold, gelatinous–though I would have preferred the taro ice cream with corn for texture. We split the maccaron and I was disappointed that the pineapple jam was from a jar. Now I’m curious to know if they outsourced the maccaron, the jelly, the cookies, and the sorbet. We were so completely distracted by the novelty of the presentation that we forgot to notice we only got four pieces of mango, all for the price of Baht 250. I could just spit. At the market you get an entire half of a mango, without the fussy fusion.

chocolate red wine cake with red wine glaze


This is a cake that’s  dark, fudgy, and moist throughout. The red wine was most pronounced in the raw batter–I scooped the leftovers out of the bowl with my finger. Yum. Because of baking, the red wine taste disappeared. Spooned on a slice of the cake, the red wine glaze, a tart garnet-colored sauce, played against the sweetness of the chocolate cake in a very satisfying way.

Chocolate Red Wine Cake (adapted from Food and Wine Magazine and Martha Stewart)

1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder to grease and flour 1 small bundt pan and 1 7-inch springform pan
260g (2 cups) cake flour
66 g (3/4 cup) unsweetened natural cocoa powder (no substitution; see Cake Baker’s Note)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
227g (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
394g (1 3/4 cups) superfine sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups dry red wine
Red Wine glaze
28g (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup red wine
125g (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar, plus more for serving
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Crème fraîche or whipped cream, optional

Preheat oven to 350˚F or 180˚C. Butter the inside of the pans, making sure to get into the crevices. Add 1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder to each pan and swirl it about inside the pan.  Tap out the excess flour.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

In another large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat for 2 minutes longer. Working in two batches, to the butter mixture add half the flour mixture, all the wine, and then the rest of the flour mixture. Beat between additions until just incorporated.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top so that the batter gets into all the crevices. Then tap the pan on the counter-top to dislodge air bubbles. Then bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack; let cool completely.

To prepare the glaze, combine the butter, wine, and confectioners’ sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, over medium-high heat. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Set aside until ready to serve.

Dust thoroughly cooled cake lightly with confectioners’ sugar. Slice cake and drizzle each slice with glaze. Serve with crème fraîche or whipped cream, if desired.

Cake Baker’s Note: Now that I live in Thailand, both American and European cocoa powders are available, with Hershey’s being more expensive than Van Houten’s. I decided to research the difference between the two cocoas. Food and Wine recommend using an American brand cocoa powder such as Hershey’s, Ghirardelli, or Scharffen Berger in this recipe. Unprocessed or natural cocoa powder is lighter in color than the darker Dutch processed cocoa (Joy the Baker). Because processed cocoa powder’s acidity has been neutralized, it needs baking powder.  So if a recipe doesn’t specify what kind of cocoa to use, look for the baking powder and baking soda in the list of ingredients. However, this isn’t always a hard and fast rule, I have discovered. The recipe called One Bowl Chocolate Cake from Craig Claiborne’s New York Times Cookbook uses both baking powder and baking soda, with baking powder being the larger amount. Since this is an American recipe I have always used Hershey’s without thinking twice. I did notice though, that Claiborne’s chocolate cake is lighter in color than the chocolate red wine cake. Perhaps it has something to do with the baking powder? I need to do more research!


linguine in katsuo nori furikake carbonara sauce


Since making the breakfast baozi the other day I have discovered the wonderful umami flavor of katsuo nori furikake. The sauce is hardly complicated. First I made a roux then whisked in a cup and a half of warm milk. I added about two tablespoons furikake and two teaspoons of soy sauce, a bit of salt and several twists of cracked pepper. To the sauce I added the cooked linguine with blanched sugar snap peas, stir-fried carrots and sweet pepper, and some shredded cooked chicken. That’s it. My take on carbonara sauce!

ham and potato corn chowder


Andy found this recipe on Closet Cooking called ham and potato corn chowder. Of course I had to make it. I took out the last of the Easter ham from the freezer and made this in the afternoon and we  ate it for supper with garlic wheat bread. I put a bit of scallion, Chinese celery, and cilantro on top as garnish. So pretty and colorful! Creamy and light, deliciously salty with the smoky taste of ham, and the crunch of fresh carrots, potatoes, sweet pepper  and corn in every spoonful.

in the borderlands, two kitchens make food fusion not food war

fried yellow chilis, photo from NPR
fried yellow chilies, photo from NPR

I love this photo of fried yellow chilies because it captures the essence of this fusion. Served with a dipping sauce, these chilies blend Chinese and Mexican food cultures. Recently, a friend in Canada sent me this article. She knows I am a foodie and she knows my family’s history. After all, her family is Chinese-Filippino and they count themselves Canadian. Fair enough.

This NPR article by Lisa Morehouse discusses the culinary hybrid cuisine that developed in the borderlands between the US and Mexico when an upstart import asserted itself: Chinese food meets Mexican food. The fusion also explains why my own family came to Jamaica. Perched on the doorstep to America but unable to enter the US because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, these immigrants, my ancestors, went to other places to live and developed a new cuisine. The common thread throughout the generations: we live to eat. And so we endure.

As a Jamaican of Chinese ancestry, hybridity is not surprising. I grew up eating food that was a hybrid of two cultures. The favorite dish of my childhood: pork and yam. It has a pungent sweet-tart sauce (Chinese) and steamed (BTW Chinese cooking method) with slices of fat pork (Chinese and Jamaicans both adore pork) alternating with slices of yam (Jamaican). Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods sampled this fusion and dubbed it “Chimaicanese.”

pork and yam, photo from Phenomenon

My cousin Peter lent me Norma Benghiat’s cookbook and I copied the recipe for pork and yam. I have yet to try it because I cannot find yam, a y-shaped tuber that is essential to this dish. I have an idea to try taro (เผือก) instead. After all, I will be following in my grandmother’s footsteps to create this three-way: Chinese, Jamaican, and Thai.

chocolate-banana bundt cake with caramel glaze

Chocolate-Banana Bundt Close Up

DSC04486I made this cake for the friend who has been sharing his mangoes with us. The mangoes that went into the mango surprise came from his trees. We have been enjoying them–Andy eats one for breakfast everyday. They make a marvelous accompaniment for sticky rice (ข้าวเหนียว) with coconut sauce. I admit I’ve been slowing down, and there is so much mango in the freezer for smoothies. That’s the trouble with mangoes: feast or famine. I know that I will miss mangoes when the season ends next month. I digress. Now back to this cake: it’s a banana cake with a chocolate center. The sweetness of the banana complements the bittersweet chocolate. So delicious.

Chocolate-Banana Bundt Cake with Caramel Glaze

Prep time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 40 minutes

1/2 cup (113g) plus 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups (338g) superfine sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 ripe, medium bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
2 cups (250g) plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream (or low fat Greek style yogurt)
1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Generously grease and flour the inside a 12-cup bundt pan (10-inch diameter) with 1 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon flour. Tap out excess.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in the eggs one by one, waiting until each has been incorporated to add the next. Beat in vanilla extract and mashed bananas.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir to combine. Add the sour cream or yogurt, followed by the remaining flour mixture, stirring after each addition.

Remove 1 1/2 cups of batter into a small bowl and stir in cocoa powder. Pour 2/3 of the plain batter into the prepared bundt pan, top with cocoa batter and spoon the rest of the plain batter on top. Smooth the top to cover the chocolate layer beneath.

Cake Baker’s Note: Run a skewer through the batter gently to swirl, using a figure eight motion to create a marbling effect. Or leave it as it is to create a chocolate “tunnel.”

If the pan has a dark non-stick finish, reduce heat at once to 325˚F after putting the pan in the oven. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the top springs back when lightly pressed.

Let cake cool in the pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Gently loosen the sides with a skewer. Turn cake out onto rack to cool completely before slicing. Wrap thoroughly cooled cake airtight in plastic if not going to be eaten right away. Serve plain or dusted with powdered sugar. Or serve it with a caramel glaze like I did!

johanna ware’s breakfast bao


DSC04503This is Chef Ware’s take on that quintessential southern breakfast, biscuits and gravy. Instead of biscuits, she uses baozi or filled buns, a Chinese dimsum staple. The complex flavor of the baozi filling is due to the combination of fennel, black vinegar, garlic, and honey. Baozi is usually eaten out of hand as a snack or as a meal on the go, but Chef Ware ladles gravy on these buns and tops them with fried egg, southern style. The gravy is full of flavor, tangy and interesting with a hint of the sea, thanks to the nori or seaweed, an ingredient in the katsuo nori furikake. Furikake adds just the right kind of savory or umami taste that is as hard to describe as it is unmistakable.

DSC04506I made my bao both small and large. Andy prefers the 4-inch bao to the 3 inch so this recipe reflects that. I also doubled the bao dough. The first batch I made I forgot the oil. But it made very little difference to the taste or texture. The buns are done when they look cream colored. They may feel solid and heavy but do not be alarmed. They are soft inside and when you bite into one, yielding to the teeth, chewy like fresh bread and delicious.

Johanna Ware’s Breakfast Bao

Bao Dough
12 to 14 buns

Prep Time:
20 minutes, plus proofing time
Cook Time:
8 minutes
Total Time:
28 minutes, plus proofing time

2/3 cup warm water
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/4 cups bread flour, plus more for if needed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the water, yeast and sugar until the yeast dissolves. Let the mixture sit until the yeast starts to get foamy and bloom, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in the oil and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, sift the bread flour, salt and baking soda together. Add the yeast mixture to the dry ingredients and stir using a rubber spatula. If the dough feels sticky, add 1 additional tablespoon of flour at a time until it is less sticky.
3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth. Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel and let the dough rest until it has doubled in size, 1. to 2 hours. Fold the dough over on itself to flatten it.
4. Portion the dough into balls that are 3 inches in diameter and let rest for 5 minutes. Flatten each ball into a disk 4 inches in diameter.
5. Fill the buns with the filling (see recipe below) and wrap by gathering the edge and twisting slightly. Put each bao on a parchment lined baking tray. Cover with a damp kitchen towel to keep the bao from drying out.
6. Fill a wok or skillet with 1 to 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Line a steam basket with a circle of parchment paper. Place the buns 1 to 2 inches away from one another, as they will expand as they cook.
7. Working in 2 batches, steam the buns. Place 5-6 buns in the prepared steam basket and steam until the buns have expanded, 7 to 9 minutes. Serve warm.

Breakfast Bao
12 to 14 buns

Prep Time:
30 minutes, plus cooling time
Cook Time:
20 minutes
Total Time:
50 minutes, plus cooling time

For the Bao:
Bao dough (recipe above)
1 pound ground pork
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
2/3 cup honey (or 3/4 cup maple syrup)
2 tablespoons black vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon water

For the gravy:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon shaoxing wine or sherry
1 1/4 cups milk, warmed
1/3 cup chicken stock, preferably home made
2 tablespoons Katsuo Nori Furikake (or 1 1/2 teaspoons togarishi)
2 teaspoons soy sauce (reduce if using canned chicken stock)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For Serving:
Fried eggs
2 medium scallions, leaves of Chinese celery, and cilantro, chopped

1. Make the bao dough as directed in the recipe above.
2. Make the filling. In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the pork while using a wooden spoon to break it into small clumps, 7 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low, then add the garlic, fennel seeds, honey or maple syrup, black vinegar, soy sauce and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and pepper and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and water together to make a slurry. Bring the pork to a simmer and pour in the slurry. Once the sauce has thickened, after about 2 to 3 minutes, remove from the heat and set aside to cool completely, or chill and skim off the congealed fat.
4. Make the bao as directed in the recipe above.
5. Meanwhile, make the gravy: In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. When the butter begin to foam, whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the shaoxing wine or sherry then whisk in the warm milk slowly until the gravy has thickened slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, furikake (togarashi) and soy sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and keep warm.
8. To serve, place the steamed bao on a plate and ladle the gravy over the bao. Top with the fried eggs and scallion mix.

banana bundt cake

DSC04485I’ve had this recipe for a coffee cake-style bundt for years. Like a coffee cake, it has a topping of nuts and sugar, and another layer of nuts and sugar in-between. I had cut the recipe out of a magazine (which tells you this was sometime before Flipboard!), yet this is the first time I got around to trying it. When I unmolded the cake, half of the sugar in the topping had caramelized and welded itself to the bottom of the pan. Ever tried to get caramelized sugar out of a pan that isn’t non-stick?! Major bother!  So this is how I discovered the recipe was untested, for what was missing from the topping was the butter. I also removed the cinnamon from the topping because I ended up with a two-tone cake; due to gravity all the cinnamon in the middle migrated to the bottom. Here it is corrected for the butter and cinnamon, and weights have been added to the measurement of ingredients where it matters most. Despite the mishaps, this is a cake with a tender crumb, lightly sweet, and nutty-crunchy with a smooth banana flavor.

Banana Bundt Cake (from a magazine which shall be nameless)

1/2 cup (118g) almonds, chopped
1/4 cup (56g) sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup (113g) all vegetable shortening, room temperature
1 cup (225g)superfine sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup (227g) bananas; mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (123g) sour cream or plain yogurt
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven 350˚F/180˚C

Make the topping. Combine almonds, sugar, and butter; stir well, and set aside. Grease (1 tablespoon unsalted butter) and flour (1/2 tablespoon flour) 10 inch bundt pan. Use all to generously grease and flour the crevices. Tap out the excess flour.

Make the cake. Combine shortening and 1 cup sugar; cream until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time; add bananas and vanilla; fold in sour cream or yogurt.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; add all at once to creamed mixture, and fold until just combined.

Sprinkle half of reserved almond mixture into bottom of prepared bundt cake pan; spoon half of batter into pan. Gently smooth the top. Sprinkle remaining cinnamon mixture over batter; spoon remaining batter into pan. Gently smooth the top. Rap pan on counter to eliminate air bubbles.

Cake Baker’s Note: Drop dollops of topping in the pan and spread it out. Also, drop dollops of batter in the pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool cake 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Loosen edges of cake, if necessary. Invert cake on serving plate; serve warm or cold. Dust completely cooled cake with with powdered sugar if desired.

April 15, 2015: Here’s a picture of the cake after I adjusted for the butter in the topping and the cinnamon in the cake batter! I felt like it needed something decadent, so I poured some home made caramel sauce on the cake.


easy baked risotto with shrimp and sugar snap peas


Ina Garten’s risotto recipe gave me the idea to bake this risotto instead of standing at the stove and slowly stirring the rice after each addition of stock. It cooked up so quickly in the oven, in 30 minutes, so I quickly took it out and added the shrimp and other ingredients, including a handful of minced Chinese celery (คุณไชย). I forgot the wine but this risotto really didn’t miss it. It turned out buttery, with the crunch of the peas, the mild zing of the celery, and the fresh taste of just cooked shrimp. It’s Italian with a Chinese accent!

Easy Baked Risotto with Shrimp, Ham, and Sugar Snap Peas
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 37 minutes

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
5 cups chicken stock, preferably home made (I used 2 1/2 chicken bouillon cubes to 5 cups water)
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed, blanched 30 seconds and dunked in cold water to set the color
1 cup cooked ham, chopped into strips (optional)
1 sweet bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons Chinese celery, stems only, minced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the rice and 4 cups of the chicken stock in a Dutch oven that is heat-proof. Cover and bake for 30-45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente.

Remove pot from the oven, and put on stove top on medium high heat. Then add the remaining cup of chicken stock, shrimp, bell pepper, wine (if using), butter, and stir vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes, until the rice is thick and creamy and the shrimp just turns pink. Don’t overcook the shrimp!

Add the ham (if using), Chinese celery, and sugar snap peas, then stir until heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot.