MY CULINARY ADVENTURES

tastes are made, not born

READ KITCHEN TALKS

Smoked Basmati

Smoked Basmati with Eggplants

Smoking grains with Camerons stovetop smoker is a no-brainer. Cook them to 80-90% of doneness, season, add some fat, and finish by smoking with wood chips of your choice. But if the introduction to smoked grains made you curious, you might want to try this recipe with Middle Eastern flavors. You can start without the Mandi spice mix or replace it with another Arabian mix you like and have handy.

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My Hawaii: Smoked Potatoes

Smoked Potatoes

The Canoe House’s smoked potatoes were so good that we nearly leaked the serving bowl. I asked our waiter about the cooking method. He said they are cooked and mashed first and then placed into a continuously running smoker at the back of the restaurant. The level of smokiness was as delicate as a reminder of a campfire and charcoal roasted potatoes from my childhood. There was just enough butter and seasoning to emphasize natural flavors of potato. The texture was a combination of creamy fluffiness and chewable morsels. No wonder I wanted to recreate these smoked potatoes at home!

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My Hawaii: Huli-Huli Chicken Inspired

Huli Style Cornish hen

During my visits, I prefer eating food that is unique to the islands. Typically, I concentrate on seafood and tropical fruit. Four years ago, I saw Huli-Huli chicken on Maku’u Farmers Market and decided I have to try it next time. Since it is a signature dish for Hawaii, I assumed it should be served on every corner on the Big Island. I was wrong. During my recent hunt for Huli-Huli chicken, I found only two highly recommended businesses and both of them were open for a few hours one or two days a week. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance being at the right place at the right time to taste their food. Oh well, I had to make my Huli-style chicken at home in Texas then!

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My Hawaii: Grilled Abalone

Grilled Abalone

When on the island, at least one of my dinners is a grilled abalone. It’s a Big Island treat I must to have! I visit the farm with a cooler and ice to buy them. Once abalones get cold, they fell asleep and travel well for a few hours on ice. They are easy to cook if you have a grill or an oven where you stay. Just follow my instructions!

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My Hawaii: Ricotta Curdled with Ocean Water

Hawaiian Breakfast: Ricotta and Tropical Fruit

The texture of cheese curdled with ocean water is fantastic. It is creamy-soft and, for the lack of a better word, juicy, even after straining most of the whey. I could never get the same results when making ricotta with mozzarella whey or acidic water. The ratio of salty ocean water to milk may seem scary, but this ricotta tastes surprisingly sweet with only an intriguing trace of saltiness and minerality.

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Pecan and Peach Texas Blondie

Pecan Peach Blondie

This Blondie recipe features fresh Texas peaches and pecans. Having a generous amount of chocolate and butter, it and retains a lot of moisture when baked. I use French caramelized chocolate by Valrhona for my Blondie to make it fancy and luxurious. Its texture is delightfully soft and flavorful, and the color is golden caramel — it’s like our Texas early summer, you’ll!

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Lviv Syrnyk | Ukrainian Souflee Cheesecake

Lviv Syrnyk

Lviv syrnyk is the most popular dessert in Western Ukraine. It is a Ukrainian cuisine treasure and existed way before its worldwide popular counterpart Japanese souffle cheesecake. Both of them belong to the same category of desserts — light, fluffy, dreamy, and amazing with hot bitter drinks like black coffee and tea. Unlike Japanese cheesecake, Lviv Syrnyk is made with real homemade cheese with high-fat content. It is flavored with fresh lemon zest and juice and glazed with chocolate.

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Beggar’s Chicken

Beggar's Chicken

In Hangzhou, I visited Qinghefang Ancient Street food market a few times. I saw Beggar’s chicken during the first visit and decided it’s a must to try! The next day, four of us brave enough to eat street food came there for lunch. We enjoyed every bite! The funniest part of that experience was that the same day, after a few hours of walking around the West Lake when it was time to join the rest of the group for dinner, all four of us unanimously decided to come back and eat Beggar’s chicken instead!

I suppose only people who tasted Beggar’s chicken at least once and crave for it since then, would cook it at home. This recipe is for those who would like to recreate their experience without traveling to China.

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TASTES ARE MADE, NOT BORN

Culinary coach and personal chef with extensive knowledge of various ethnic cuisines,
I bring my best discoveries to you!