Easy Taro Dumplings (Yu Yuan)

Being taiwanese, this recipe encompasses two thing that I love.  1–taro.  2–things that are chewy.  There are lots of dessert shops that sell these over tofu pudding and shaved ice all over Taiwan, and I could hardly walk by one without buying a bowl.  🙂  Now that it’s been some time since we have had a chance to visit, had to learn how to make this myself.  It’s surprisingly easy!


1/2 of a Taro

sweet potato starch 

For accompanying ginger soup:

-ginger, about 10 slices

-brown sugar, dark brown Taiwanese style if available.  

-a tricky part of this recipe is selecting the taro itself.  The objective is to find one that is airy inside, these are more fragrant, flavorful, and have a crumbly texture.  Apparently the way to look for these is to weigh them in your hand.  Select the ones that feel light and dont buy them if there is mold on the outside.  Here in California, some Taros are imported from Hawaii and Taiwan, so look for those.

-When you get home shave off the skin of the taro with a sharp knife.  I usually put on disposable latex gloves to do this as exposure to taro causes some people’s hands to itch.

-Cut the Taro into smallish (1 in) cubes, and steam.  I use a rice cooker to do this.  let the taro cool.

-Mash taro, and then add sweet potato starch a bit at a time.  Mix and knead the dough and continue to add potato starch until the end result is around the consistency of play doh.   At this point, continue to knead the dough–the more you knead it the chewier the end result.

-roll into 3/4 diameter rolls and then cut, or shape into balls.

-you can freeze these, or cook them immediately.  Add to boiling water and cook until they are floating–then keep in a minute or two more for good measure.  (They take a bit longer to cook from frozen.) 

Separately, you can create the ginger broth.  basically boil the ginger slices, then cover and simmer for a while until the flavor of the ginger permeates the broth.  After the broth has reached your preferred level of gingery-ness, add brown sugar to taste.

Serve hot or cold, and enjoy!!

Asian/Italian Fusion: Tilapia Filets, “Chicken Marsala Style”

With the new addition to our family I don’t get a lot of time to cook the way I used to.  I keep it pretty simple on the weeknights with just one meat and just one veggie (no starch), which has also helped a little with losing those last 10 lbs I’ve been trying to get rid of after mommyhood.  That said, I recently discovered how wonderful the fish is at Crystal Springs Fish & Poultry and have been making a point to get a few fish filets on saturday to cook during the week.  While I’ve had years of experience with chicken, beef & pork, cooking fish is relatively new to me and there have been a few misses along the road.  This recipe however, which is a riff on my favorite chicken marsala dish at buca’s, is definitely a keeper.  🙂

I also included my favorite recipe for lacinato kale.  I am seriously addicted to this preparation–poor hubby gets it at least once a week!

Tilapia Filets, “Chicken Marsala Style”

2 Tilapia filets, 1.5 lbs total weight
1 shallot, minced
1 T butter
3 slices ginger
3 T flour
6 white mushrooms, washed and sliced
Salt & Pepper
3T Choya Umeshu Plum wine

Rinse the tilapia filets and season both sides with salt & pepper.  In a non-stick pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the ginger, then the shallots and let butter brown.  Dredge tilapia filets in flour and immediately place into the pan (don’t do the dredge part beforehand, everything will get soggy).  surround the filets with the sliced mushrooms.  Let cook without flipping for ~5 minutes, until a golden brown crust forms.  Flip filets to the other side and repeat.  Remove the filets to a serving plate, reserving the mushrooms in the pan (when cooked through tilapia is white with no pink in the center).  Deglaze w/plum wine, and reduce about half, then pour over fish filets.

Sweet & Spicy Lacinato Kale 

1 bunch lacinato kale
3 dried spicy red peppers, or 1 t pepper flakes
5 cloves garlic
2T grapeseed or other vegetable oil
3T mirin
2T soy paste

Wash the kale and cut crosswise (across the stem) into half inch slices.  Heat the oil in a frying pan and add spicy pepper and garlic, cook for 1 minute to let the flavors permeate through the oil.  Add the kale and toss to coat relatively evenly.   add mirin and cover for 1 minute.  add soy paste and stir to distribute. cook for another minute to caramelize a little, and you’re done!!

** As a side note, I also learned recently that not all farmed fish is bad.  At Crystal Springs Fish and Poultry they carry Loch Duart farmed salmon, which is raised in pens in the ocean.  So…no overfishing of wild salmon and you don’t have to ingest gross antibiotics.    But the best thing is this salmon is absolutely delicious…tender and marbled with all those good-for-you fish oils.  In fact, they serve this salmon at the french laundry and Prince William and Kate’s wedding!  If it’s good enough for the duke of cambridge, it’s good enough for my family. 😉

Californian Springtime Soup (for cold weather)

Here is another recipe I put together last night.  we have some fairly bitter dandelion greens from our CSA box, and I wanted a “white bean” soup to provide richness and balance the flavor.  In my mind, bacon was definitely part of the equation as well.   Here’s what I came up with, will be eating some tonight so will report back.

-3 slices bacon
-3 stalks green garlic, sliced finely
-1 medium onion, chopped fine
-8 red-skinned potatoes, cut into half inch cubes
-1 cup dried lima beans
-1 quart chicken stock, preferably home made
-a few sprigs thyme
-salt, pepper to taste

**Gruyere Cheese, for shaving

before:  Rinse lima beans and remove anything that looks like it doesn’t belong there.  put lima beans in 3 inches of water, bring to a boil.  Let simmer for a few minutes, covered, then turn off heat but keep pan on the stove with the cover on, for ~2 hours.

Chop the bacon slices into very small pieces.  In soup pot on medium heat, cook the bacon until alot of the fat has been rendered out (in other words, the fat basically melts into oil, leaving behind the meat, which will eventually turn dark brown like bacon bits). Do not allow to burn!  Add green garlic, chopped fine.  add onion and cook until the veggies are translucent.  As the veggies are “sweating” at this point, you should be able to use the liquid which comes out to scrape off any fond, or carmelized bacon juice, from the bottom of the pot.  🙂 Add potatoes & thyme, cook for 1-2 minutes.

Add chicken stock, lima beans, and some of the bean water as well.  bring to a boil, and simmer for 2 hours.  season with Salt & pepper.  finally, add the dandelion greens, and possibly some toasted bread crumbs to thicken.  (you could also dip chunks of bread if you like).  enjoy!

Update: Hubby and I had this soup last night and it is a winner.  The finishing touch is to shave some gruyere cheese on top of each soup bowl, ideally while it is piping hot so that the cheese melts on top.   It’s delicious.