A Date With Bok Choy


White Bok Choy, 白菜


I am home alone and a simple meal with bok choy is what is in store for me.  Apparently, it's a top nutrient-dense food full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that are associated to promoting strong bones and good eye health.   That means a good amount of vitamin K, vitamin C, and vitamin A.

Studies have shown that this Chinese cabbage is part of the cruciferous family of vegetables that contains glucosinolates (more than most other cruciferous vegetables) which is associated to a reduced cancer risk.

No drooling please but I'm dining with a cancer-fighting warrior tonight. 

Stir Fried Bok Choy


• 1 bunch bok choy
• 2 tablespoons oil
• 3 cloves garlic, crushed
• salt, adjust accordingly


Cut off the ends of the bok choy and then cut the vegetable lengthwise.   Wash all the soil off and then let it dry.



Add the oil in your wok and turn the heat up high. 

Add the garlic and swirl it around the wok, then quickly add the halved bok choy. 

Stir quickly so that the garlic doesn't sit at the bottom and burn.  Keep stirring for about a minute or until the green part of the vegetable starts to wilt. 

Add some salt, stir, and cover with a lid.  Turn down the heat and continue to let it cook for another 30 seconds.

The leaves should be soft and the stems should have a slight crunch to it.



Bok choy can be steamed and boiled as well.  You can easily find this on a menu in a Chinese restaurant served with oyster sauce.

Teff Pancakes

Snowflakes have fallen in Paris and my head is in the tropics.

Snowflakes have fallen in Paris and my head is in the tropics.

Out of hibernation and into the new year, I am back—Happy New Year everyone!  Wow, I certainly feasted through the winter holidays.  I wish I could say I snored through the last few weeks mais au contraire.   When the equation is me with no days off from work and kids with two weeks off from school during this very social and festive winter holiday, along with Mamie Jacotte in town, this equals one busy gal. 

I recently received some teff grains and I just started experimenting with it.  Teff has its roots stemming from Ethiopia.  If you have ever tried the Ethiopian fermented flatbread, injera, teff is the main ingredient.  It's one of the tiniest grains out there but packed full of protein with eight different amino acids (think cells!—growth and development), high in calcium, and iron absorption. 

Here's the first of my experiments...teff pancakes, gluten-free too!  


Teff Pancakes

INGREDIENTS//Yields 4 medium pancakes

• 150 grams (1/2 cup) teff flour
• 60 grams (1/2 cup) oatmeal flour (buy the gluten-free oats for those with allergies)
• 1 egg
• 1 cup almond milk
• 1 tablespoon maple syrup
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder (for gluten-free option, use a gluten-free baking powder)
• 1/2 teaspoon salt


Combine your first 4 ingredients in a blender and whiz it up until you get a smooth consistency.

Add in the last three ingredients and give it a last whiz.

Heat a lightly oiled medium size pan over the stove over medium heat.

Ladle a scoop of your batter and pour it onto the pan.

Cook until bubbles start forming and take a peek underneath to see if the side has browned, then flip the pancake to brown the other side.

Serve warm.



I used teff grains that I grinded into flour.  It is probably coarser than store purchased teff flour.


Vegetable Filled Tofu Pockets- Inari Sushi

When I was a kid, this was one of my favorite things to eat.  Although I must admit my choice in toppings back then were not quite the same as today.  Abura age is a slightly sweetened, fried tofu pocket that is usually found vacuum packed or in tins and is used for inari sushi.  You can find this easily in any Japanese or other Asian food market.

I enjoy inari sushi without rice and just fill my tofu pockets up with veggies nowadays.  If you are using rice, fill the tofu pocket a little less than half way maximizing most of the pocket with fresh vegetables so that you can optimize on all its nutritional value.

There are plenty of toppings for you to choose from.  You can add shrimp, smoked salmon, fish roe, crab, ground meat, etc. to your list of toppings.  Just balance it out with some colorful veggie so that it pops out and is inviting to eat!

Vegetable Filled Tofu Pockets—Inari Sushi


• 1 pack of abura age (slightly sweetened tofu pouches)
• 1 1/2 cup rice, Japanese sushi rice, uncooked (optional)
• 1 egg, yolk only
• 1 small cucumber, diced
• 1 zucchini, julienned or spiraled (think zoodle!)
• 1 carrot, julienned or spiraled
• 1 red pepper, diced
• 1 tin corn, small
• 150 grams edamame beans
• 1/2 avocado smash with yuzu and poppy seeds


To prepare the egg omelette, we use only the yolk.   Seperate the egg white from the yolk in a small bowl.
Give the yolk a quick stir (optional- you can add a smidgeon of sugar to this mix).  Heat up your skillet, add a little bit of butter to the surface and pour your yolk in the skillet.  Cook for about a minute on each side and slide it off onto a flat cutting board.  Slice across your flat yolk omelette horizontally and vertically a few times to cut them into strips.  Kitchen shears come in handy for this too. 


If you are using rice, cook it first and then let it cool down.  You can add a little bit of sushi vinegar to it if you like but I find that the abura age is sweet enough.

Prepare all your vegetables and egg and line them up in a bowl.

Open a tofu pocket up, and using wet hands ball up a small portion of rice and place it into the base of the pocket.

Complete the top up with your choice of vegetable fillings.



For any leftover veggies, I just simply cut them up and prepare a small salad on the side.





Avocado Smash with Yuzu and Poppy Seeds

Yuzu is a citrus fruit that is the size of a mandarin.  It resembles a small grapefruit with uneven skin and is usually yellowish to greenish in color.  It's tart in taste with a delicate accent of grapefruit and lime-like flavors.

Yuzu originates from East Asia and is most commonly cultivated and used in Japan.  It is not eaten like a whole fruit but the juice and the zest are widely used in Japanese and Korean cuisine.  Similar in use as that of the lemon it can be found in pastries, teas, jams, dressings, sauces, beers, etc. 

Try replacing lemon with a dash of yuzu for something different.  It's subtle on the palate and less citrusy.


This is a great simple twist to plain avocado using yuzu juice in place of lemon juice.  Don't forget to sprinkle some poppy seeds for some added texture and decoration.

Avocado Smash with Yuzu and Poppy Seeds


• 1 ripe avocado
• 1/2 teaspoon of yuzu juice, concentrated
• 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
• 1/2 clove garlic (small clove)
• a pinch of coarse sea salt (adjust according to taste)



Halve your avocado and scoop out the flesh with a spoon and place it in a small bowl.

Add your yuzu juice and garlic.

Start to mash the avocado with the back of a fork.  Make sure not to mash it up too much.  It's nice to have bits and chunks in it.

Add your salt and your poppy seeds. Give it a final whirl in the bowl.

I used an ice cream scooper to give this avocado some shape. 

Plop it on a plate and it's ready to be served.



Cucumber Wakame Sunomono


Wakame is a delicious seaweed often found in soups, salads, and side dishes in Japanese cuisine.  It is rich in vitamins and minerals, notably: calcium, magnesium, iodine, riboflavin, folate, vitamins A,C,E,K—all the stuff that's good for the bones, energy production, muscle contraction, iron metabloism, and for pregnant ladies (folate!)  

In Korea, Miyeokguk, a seaweed soup, is often served to women as postpartum care.  It is strongly believed that it cleanses the blood, contracts the womb, and increases milk production though one should watch out for the high sodium content.  Also, wakame has some beneficial components like lignans and fucoxanthins which are linked to lower levels of breast cancer,  prevents fat accumulation, and aids in burning fatty tissue.

You can find this cucumber wakame sunomono served as a starter or side dish in many Japanese restaurants.  Su is vinegar in Japanese and sunonmono is usually referenced to vinegared dishes.  Now you can enjoy this simple recipe at home.

Cucumber Wakame Sunomono


• 1/2 English cucumber or Kyuri (Japanese cucumber)
•  10 grams wakame, dehydrated
• 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
• 1/2 teaspoon sugar
• ginger, grated or finely sliced matchsticks (garnish, optional)


To rehydrate your wakame, soak your wakame in a cup of room temperature water for about 10 minutes.  Drain and squeeze out any excess water.

Cut your cucumber in half lengthwise.  Deseed it.  Use your mandoline to thinly slice the cucumbers.  Add salt and let sit for 15-30 minutes.  Drain the water, rinse, and then give the cucumbers a squeeze to get rid of any excess water.


In a small bowl, combine cucumbers and the rehydrated wakame. 

Combine your rice vinegar and sugar in a small separate bowl.  Stir until the sugar dissolves.

Pour the vinegar mix in with the cucumber and wakame, add salt accordingly.   Toss and let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.  Garnish with sesame seeds or ginger.




Matcha Cookies with White Chocolate Chunks

I participated in a Japanese tea ceremony in Kyoto once.  I fell in love with the ritual, the serenity, the aesthetics, and all the equipment involved but I never mastered the way of tea.  I do enjoy my green teas (teabags please) at home and I sometimes whisk up some matcha (special treat to myself) when I have a moment to just sit and do nothing but sip my matcha. 

I sit and reflect as the weight of the matcha (I prepare it thick) sits on my tongue and glides down my throat.  I savor the bitterness that coats my palate and then fades away as I continue to take another sip.  This is my way of tea.

Matcha can easily be incorporated in smoothies, baked goods, ice cream, and lattes.   If you find yourself with some at home,  here's a recipe for you to try.


Matcha Cookies with White Chocolate Chunks

INGREDIENTS//Yields 35 cookies

• 300 grams (2 cups) flour
• 125 grams butter (room temperature)
• 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
• 1/4 cup granulated sugar
•  2 eggs
• 1 tablespoon matcha powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 100 grams white chocolate chips


In a medium size mixing bowl, add your butter and sugars.  Mix together until it starts to get creamy.

Add your eggs and continue to mix.

In a separate medium size mixing bowl, sift your dry ingredients together: flour, matcha powder, baking soda, and salt.  Combine well.

Then add this dry mixture in with the wet ingredients and mix together.

After everything is well combined, add your white chocolate chunks.  Use a spatula to fold them in.

Chill this cookie dough in the fridge for an hour or more.

Prepare your baking sheet. 

Scoop out a tablespoon full of dough and roll it into a ball and place it on a baking sheet two inches apart from one another.

Once your oven is pre-heated to 175°C or 350°F, place your baking tray in the oven for 8-12 minutes.

Every oven varies, I put mine in for 10 minutes. 

Take out your cookies and let it cool.

These cookies come out soft and moist.


Kefir and Berries

Kefir with Chia Seeds, Oats, and Raspberries

Kefir with Chia Seeds, Oats, and Raspberries

Last week I posted about making milk kefir at home.  I make about a cup a day to keep my kefir grains active, healthy and multiplying.  It usually rotates among the four of us in our family.   Some days it will be someone's breakfast, on other days it will be someone else's afternoon snack or dessert. 

Milk Kefir is consumed as a drink but I usually let it fement until I get a thicker consistency, that's the way I like it.  It works well as a smoothie base or with a muesli base.   Add any fruit, nuts, and seeds and have yourself a healthy treat to start your day or for any time of the day.

Kefir with Chia Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Goji Berries, and Blueberries

Kefir with Chia Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Goji Berries, and Blueberries

How to Make Milk Kefir

I recently adopted some kefir grains about two months ago.  It traveled all the way from Bangkok to meet me in Paris.   My friend Silvia lives in Bangkok and comes to Paris for her annual holidays.  She has a generous heart, is waste conscious, and she's the one who bestowed me these clumpy, glutinous kefir grain jewels.  If you are lucky, you'll find someone to share some grains with you too. 

Being a newbie to any cultural or fermentation process, I admit I was a bit dubious in the beginning about caring for these grains.  I grew up with the notion that milk should be refigerated at all times otherwise one would get deathly ill from drinking spoiled milk.   Calling out for my stomach of steel and rolling up my sleeves, I embraced this thoughtful gift that traveled distances just to be with me knowing its full health benefits but wary of the road never taken.

Kefir grains contain a yeast and bacteria starter that ferments the milk.  Having several different strains of yeast and bacteria in it makes it a powerful probiotic source, as well as being high in calcium, protein, vitamins and other minerals. 

The simplest way I care for my kefir grains is to use them everyday to produce kefir milk.  I produce a cup of kefir milk per day with my grains.  As long as they stay healthy, they are re-usable.  You should achieve a consistency of a drinking yogurt.  Milk kefir may taste more sour than yogurt which is normal.  You can alter the consistency and the taste of the milk kefir by playing with the fermentation time.


INGREDIENTS//Yields 1 cup

• 1 cup whole organic milk (cow, goat, or sheep's milk—just stick to the same one)
• 1 tablespoon active kefir grain


In a clean glass jar place your active kefir grains and pour in a cup of milk (straight from the fridge.

Cover the jar with a tea towel, cheesecloth, or paper towel.

Place the jar in an area avoiding direct sunlightwith room temperature around 21°C-30°C (70-85°F).

Let it sit for 24 hours.  Check after 12 hours to see if the consistency of the milk has thickened or clumped.  If so, give it a taste to see if it has a tartness to it.  Then, it's ready for use. 

Milk ferments faster in warmer temperatures and slower in cooler temperatures.  Usually it takes 24 hours for it to be ready in an ideal room temperature environment. 

Once it's fermented according to your taste buds,  pass the milk kefir and its grains through a plastic strainer into the container for the milk kefir.

Scoop out the grains and begin the process again by adding fresh milk into another clean glass jar.


When Silvia arrived in Paris at the end of June, it was still 18°C while Bangkok was near 40°C.  It took us days for our first batch of milk kefir to form.  Once it started warming up in Paris, I was able to get a batch of kefir milk in 24 hours.  Remember that these are active grains, you want to keep them nourished so constantly feeding them with fresh milk (not ultra-pasteurized milk) will keep them healthy and growing.  You want to keep the clumps small so that they have more surface area to be exposed to the milk which in turn feeds them and nourishes them so that they can mulitply.

Also, best to use a plastic strainer as metal can damage the grain.

You can also make non-dairy kefir.


Popped and Unpopped Amaranth Seeds

Popped and Unpopped Amaranth Seeds

Did you know that amaranth is actually a seed of a plant and that you can eat the leaves too?  I went to pick up a basket of organic veggies the other day and there was an unrecognizeable stalk with some leaves dangling off of it.  The lady told me it was amaranth.

I'm familiar with the seeds but I never saw an unrooted amaranth stalk.  After some research,  it turns out that I grew up eating amaranth leaves without ever realizing it.  It is a staple food to the Aztecs and it's used in Asian cuisine too.  In Chinese it is called xiàncài,莧菜.   Apparently there are many species and it comes in a large range in colors from light to dark green shades, and violet to red leaf hues.

My mother would sauté the amaranth (xiàncài,莧菜) and include that in the many dishes served in front of us.    Similar to spinach, it offers the same nutritional qualities full of antioxidants, protein, vitamins, calcium, iron and minerals.  FYI, I used those few dangling leaves in my japchae dish.


Categorized as a whole-grain food, it is actually a seed.  Just like quinoa, it has a higher plant protein and calcium content compared to its other grain competitors.  It's gluten-free too.

You can cook this as the grain portion of your meal, have it for breakfast as porridge, pop it and use it as toppings for yogurt, salad, dessert, and other dishes.

Popped Amaranth

INGREDIENTS// Yields 1/2 cup

• 3 tablespoons amaranth seed, uncooked


Heat a pan over medium to high heat.

Add a drop of water to it.  If it sizzles and evaporates immediately, your pan is good to go.

Add one tablespoon of amaranth at a time.  It should begin to pop immediately.  If not, then your pan is not hot enough.  Then entire popping process should take less than 10 seconds.  Not all of it will pop so remove it from the heat before it burns and transfer it to a bowl.

Let it cool completely before you store it in a sealed jar or container.


It took me a couple of tries until I got this right.  You will know when you get it right.  It will take a matter of seconds before the amaranth begins to pop so if it is taking longer it means your pan is not hot enough.  Also, I don't use a cover for the pan so it gets slightly messy, but a hoover will take care of that quickly.


Blueberry Pocky

What a find!  Pocky is a childhood treat from Japan.  The original flavor came in milk chocolate and that's what I grew up with.  Ezaki Glico produced the first Pocky sticks in Japan back in 1966 and they are popular in other Asian countires.

In the U.S., they are easily found throughout the Asian grocery stores.  I just found out that Pocky is sold under the name of Mikado in France since 1982.  I had no idea, and here I am in Paris running to the Asian grocery store on rue St. Anne paying twice as much for it when I could have just picked up a box from the local supermarket around the corner.  The only thing is that they are limited in flavors.  I have only seen Mikado in milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and chocolate with almond coating.

Pocky has since evolved from just offering milk chocolate, milk chocolate with almond coating, strawberry, and dark chocolate as flavors.  Now it offers chocolate banana, cookies and cream, matcha, sweet milk, melon (cantoloupe), mango, etc...just to name a few.  Blueberry is my most recent find.  What a great treat and fun snack!


Pandan Extract

Growing up, we used to take road trips with my family over the weekend.  We always drove through the city early Saturday mornings making a pit stop in Chinatown before heading onto one of the bridges or through the tunnels out of the city.  Our breakfast ritual was congee at a hole in the wall joint on Madison Street, then we would load up at the Chinese bakery on freshly made cha siu bao (BBQ pork buns) and swiss rolls for the rideboy, I loved those spongy cakes rolled up with the light, whipped cream filling.


Those swiss rolls usually came in a yellow sponge cake or a green sponge cake option.  The pandan extract is what makes it green and what gives it its peculiar earthy and nutty taste.  It's often said that it's the " vanilla bean' of South East Asia, commonly used in pastries for not only coloring but for its aroma as well.  Pandan leaves are used in cooking too so that one can grill, fry, and steam their pandan wrapped fish and meats. 

You can buy pandan extract at the Asian stores but they usually contain some artificial coloring.  I like to go the natural route as much as possible...

...and after having one too many boxes of industrial packaged swiss rolls from our local Asian markets (thankful at least that there is the pandan option) over the past year, I decided to see if I could conjure up a piece of my childhood memory by squeezing out some fresh, green pandan extract to experiment in my next homemade adventure.


Pandan Extract

INGREDIENTS//Yields 1/3 cup extract (approx. 7 tablespoons)

• 9 Pandan leaves
• 1/2 cup water


Rinse your pandan leaves in a big bowl.  Be sure to get out all the dirt and sand.

Using your kitchen shears, cut up your pandan leaves into 1/2 inch pieces.

Put it all in the blender, add some water.  Pulse,  stopping occasionally to swipe down the sides.  Repeat this process until you get a dark green, saturated liquid,  making sure all the leaves are finely pulverized.

Pour the pulverized pandan and its liquid into a strainer, and with the backside of a spoon press down on the leaves to extract the liquid.

Pour the liquid into a small glass jar and seal tightly.  This can be stored in the fridge up to a week.