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I have been looking for fresh passion fruits all over the grocery stores I usually go to.  However they are very rare to find.  Finally I found some in a corner from Wholefoods market. 

Passion fruit is an amazing fruit not just because it is low in calories and high in nutrients, but also because it has the aroma which smells like a mix of many kinds of tropical fruits all put together. Lemon, mango, lychee, pineapple, strawberry… you name it.  You can find some traces of many tropical fruits in one single passion fruit.  Isn’t that amazing?  

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Fire grilled is food is one of my biggest additions O(∩_∩)O~   It is also my guilty pleasure as well as comfort food.

On the top of my grilling list are beef short ribs, steaks and pork belly.  They all have something in common.  They are high in fat and loaded with rich meaty flavors.  When grilled with as simple seasonings as sea salt and black pepper, you still get that amazing meaty and a bit of smoky flavors.

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Pork shank is a tasty part that has been overlooked by most people.  Just like lamb shank, pork shank is consisted of tough tissues and muscles.  It takes a long braising & simmering time to finally break them down.

There is not much meat on pork shank and hock compared to other parts from pigs.  But once cooked properly, pork shank become soft and tender with a slight gelatinous texture.  I take it further by roasting pork hock after it is done braising in soy sauce for a couple hours. 

Roasting under high temperature tightens the pork skin and meat under.  Pork shank and hock get more gelatinous and a bit chewy, in a good way of course.  That great meaty flavor is intensified.  Wow, I just like it so much!

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Wonton soup is a very popular breakfast choice in our house.  It is fast to maker, and it is also nutritious and satisfying.  We have the tradition to eat something hot like wonton soup, noodle soup or porridge for the first and the most important meal of the day. 

The great thing about having hot wonton soup in the morning is that the soup is appetizing and also warms you up both inside and out. 

You are always rushing in the morning? No problem.  The trick is to prepare ahead wontons ahead of time.  Make a large batch when possible, freeze them and store in an air-tight Ziploc bag for up to a month.  All is left to do in the morning is boiling water and gathering seasonings. 

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Flaky buns are very popular in Asian countries.  Literally every bakery sells them.  The recipes and fillings vary from bakery to bakery.  Some popular choices are sweet red bean paste, lotus seed paste, mung bean paste, and even savory ground pork filling.

I like to bake my own instead buying them from store.  They are best when they are freshly out the oven, piping hot.  But it is very hard to get such perfect timing when buying from store.

The recipe was posted a long time ago here: Flower Shape Pastry Cookies with Red Bean Filling.  I use it every time I make flaky buns at home. Therefore I think I can proudly announce this is a time-tested solid recipe O(∩_)O~

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Beef tendon is a rare ingredient in American grocery market.  But it is quite popular in Asian market for its unique texture.  Beef tendon has very tough tissue.  Maybe that is why it is underappreciated in American market.  After a long simmering/ cooking time, it becomes tender, gelatinous, still a bit chewy, with a mild beefy flavor.  We put it in broths, noodle soups, porridges, stir-fries, even meatballs. 

It is only until very recently that I discovered it tastes excellent even grilled! Wow! I am telling everyone I know that how good it is.  And I am going to show you a great way to grill beef tendon.

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Summer is the perfect season for backyard grilling and BBQ.  Grilling can be addictive. Once you try a perfectly grilled steak right off the grill, you can never go back to and be happy with the stove top version.  O(∩_∩)O~ 

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Yes, we Asian people are totally obsessed with tea, milk tea and boba milk tea. Don’t get me start by counting the milk tea café on the streets in any big cities in China.  Chances are they might outnumber coffee shops and bars combined.

Tea choices in these cafes don’t always stay the same.  There are some hot trends once in a while.  For example, currently milk tea with black sugar syrup is more popular than other ones.

When I am too lazy to drive to China town, I DIY my own milk tea at home.  Trust me; it is so simple that even my husband can manage it! O(∩_∩)O~

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Last time I posted sweet rice dumplings with pork and mung beans wrapped in bamboo leaves  They are savory and tasty.  And I make another batch of sweet ones this time with red beans.

Red bean is one of the most popular dessert ingredients in Asia.  After long simmering time, red beans become soft and smooth.  By adding oil and sugar, we can get creamy and silky red bean paste which is good for all kinds of pastry goods. 

Besides red beans, I also add jujubes and lotus seeds.  These two may sound rare and exotic to American people, but they are widely used and have been very popular in Asian countries too.  The combination of them together with red beans paste is pretty tasty and awesome.

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Dragon Festival 2018 comes on June 18.  It is not only celebrated by Chinese people, but also some other Asian countries too.  The traditions on this day is to take a bath/ shower with herbal medicine; eat some  sweet rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves; and watch boating completion. 

Among these celebrating events, the dumpling part is most attractive to me.  I used to make dumplings together with my mom when I was really young.  I carry on the tradition to make sweet rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves.  And I am hoping someday I can pass it onto my child in the future as a family tradition.  Although we have been living in America for a long time, we still hold on to our cultures and traditions, which I guess is why American cultures are so amazingly diverse and always evolving.  People from all over the world hold on to their origins but also embrace other cultures.

In a way bamboo wrapped sweet rice dumplings are like pasta from Italian families.  Each family has its own family recipes or secret ingredients.

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Hot, hot and very hot!  That is how I feel these days when summer is here in Texas.  I literally crave for frozen treats every single day.  So I am happy to make different kinds of popsicles every day.

This batch is coffee flavor, which is made with freshly ground and pumped espresso shots.  There is a strong, intense but smooth coffee flavor because of that.  Dripped or pot brewed coffee can be used here too, but the flavor and taste would not be as good though.

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Houston has been known for its long and hot and sticky summer.  How do I prepare myself for it?  The answer is popsicles and ice cream! O(∩_∩)O~

Mango is a stable fruit down here in the south.  It is very juicy, creamy and sweet when ripe.  I love putting mango into drinks and desserts.  Not only the bright yellow color looks great and cheerful, more importantly it tastes fruity and awesome! 

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Summer in Texas comes a lot earlier and faster than I thought.  The temperature bumps up from seventies to eighties, and then to nineties in merely a couple weeks.  It looks like we are going to enjoy all kinds of icy drinks for a really long time.

Mango and orange go really great together.  The combination is refreshing and very tropical-like.  

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I was inspired by an episode of Unique Sweets on Cooking Channel to make these chocolate covered figs.  I had never thought about pairing figs and chocolate together before until I saw that episode about chocolate.  Figs and chocolate make such a great couple in flavors and texture!

Figs are very sweet and a tiny bit chewy and gooey while dark chocolate is fruity, earthy, bitter and nutty.  They complete each other in such a perfect way that makes each bit like an explosion of flavors in your mouth. 

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The NBA games between Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors are going on!  We instantly transform into coach potatoes when the game starts.  Plus cold beers and good snacks make the game night more fun!  O(∩_∩)O~

Our favorite snacks for game night are chicken wings, popcorns, roasted peanuts, roasted sun flower seeds, hot and spicy duck necks, and pickled chicken feet.  Some of them sound exotic and bizarre?  Not at all!  They are all widely popular in Asian countries for a really long time.  You have to try them yourselves to see how tasty they can be.

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If you love to shop at local farmers’ markets like I do, you would agree with me that asparagus is a messenger for spring.  It is earliest vegetable coming out of the ground.

 When I was living back in Michigan, winter was really cold and long.  We had to wait until May when it finally warmed up.  And asparagus is always the first seasonal vegetable appearing at farmers’ markets, followed by strawberries in June. 

Asparagus can be cooked in so many ways that I can never get tired of it.  One of my favorite ways is to grill with bacon.  Oh, yes, bacon makes everything so much better! O(∩_∩)O~

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If you have been to an Asian bakery, you might have come across with some pork song buns.  Pork song is dry shredded pork which is made from pork that has been stewed, shredded, seasoned, slowly sautéed, and dried.   It is a long and slow process to make pork song.  That is also why it has such a nutty, delicate and rich flavor. 

Asian bakeries use pork song a lot.  If you have a chance to try it, just go ahead and have one.  You might instantly be hooked O(∩_∩)O~

Sometimes I love to bake pork song buns at home too. 

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Pickled peanut is a dish, well, an appetizer to be exact, very popular during hot summer time across mainland China.  It is extremely simple and easy to make.  Just toss roasted peanuts and chopped onion, along with vinegar and some other seasonings.  And then wah-lah… you have a refreshing and crunchy peanut appetizer!

It sounds easy.  But it will take a few tries to achieve great flavors.  And the variations are limitless.  You can add celery, cilantro, chili peppers…  And every family has its own seasoning recipe too. All they have in common are peanuts, good vinegar and chopped onion. 

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Dry aged steak is one of our favorite.  But they are hard to find on the market.

When beef has been aged in a carefully temperature and humidity controlled room for a certain amount of time ranging from weeks even to months, beef will be broken down by enzymes to produce amino acids, fatty acids and sugar.  That is to say, the beef will transform into good eats with better taste, tendered texture and intensified flavors.

It is a very expensive and time consuming process.  Besides, the beef needs to be trimmed before selling or cooking.  All costs add up quickly.  No wonder dry aged steaks on steakhouse menu are always so pricey.

Imagine how exciting I was when I found out Central Market in Houston sells dry age beef! O(∩_∩)O~

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Summer is in the air.  Let’s start grilling! O(∩_∩)O~

When we were living back in Michigan, we did a lot of camping.  And one of our favorite camping foods is grilled scallops wrapped in bacon.  Oh, trust me when I tell you that nothing tastes better than grilled scallops by the camping fire you built yourself.  (I posted it here before: Interlochen camping 5: )

After we moved to Texas, we haven’t a chance to go camping here yet.  But I still grill a lot of scallops and bacon in the backyard.

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Summer is coming.  It is gradually getting hot outside these days, which means grill season already starts!

Our favorite grills are shrimps, scallops, skewed lamb/ beef and steak. 

Texas is famous for its seafood, thanks to its long coast line and location right next to Mexican gulf.  The shrimps and scallops here are one of the best I have ever had so far.  I used to live in Virginia and Michigan.  I thought I had some good seafood there before.  After I moved to Texas, my eyes are open to more and better quality seafood here.

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Shaved ice has been popular among Asian people for many years.  In early time, ice was just simply finely crushed by machine.  Nowadays, if you stop by China town, you will be amazed by how thin and creamy the shaved ice is.  And as for the toppings, wow, they are almost endless! O(∩_∩)O~   The most popular ones are but not limited to taro tapioca balls, sweet potato tapioca balls, red beans, lotus seeds, pearl barleys, strawberry, blueberry, mango, and mochi.  

I do my own shaved ice when I don’t want to drive all the way to China town but still crave for it.  It is easy.  And I always make a large batch and freeze the extra taro and sweet potato tapioca balls for later use. 

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Last weekend, there was a Taiwan festival held in Taiwanese Community Center in Houston.  We are not from Taiwan, but we love Taiwan style food. 

It was cloudy, not too hot nor coo, perfect day for hanging out with friends. 

We purchased the tickets first which were sold in group of ten, and then bought food, drinks and entertainment with tickets.

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I think this coffee cream filling for macarons is one of best fillings I have ever made so far O(∩_∩)O~

I replace 10g almond flour with super fine freshly ground coffee.  Instant French roast coffee and coffee rum are added to the filling for an enhanced coffee flavor.  Turns out to be so amazing!  The real trick here is to use real good dark chocolate.  It makes huge difference!

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I have been baking a lot of macarons lately.  What a sweet obsession! O(∩_∩)O~ 

Different fillings bring different textures and flavors to macarons.  And I have been experimenting all sorts of different fillings.  Because macaron cookies are very sweet, I like macaron fillings to be moist, not too dry nor wet; mild, not too sweet nor greasy.   After lemon custard, I make apricot filling which is also very tasty and refreshing.

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I haven’t baked macarons for a long time, mostly because they are just too sweet for my personal taste.  I bought some fresh cute yellow lemons on my last trip to grocery store.  They are perfect for making lemon custard. 

Normally lemon custard requires a large amount of butter, which intimidates me a bit.  So I experiment in my kitchen several times until I create this wonderful lemon custard recipe.  It is sour and sweet, more sourness than sweetness of course, which neutralizes the overwhelming sweetness from macaron shells.  The balance between lemon acidity and sugar is very fascinating.  I think I going to stick to lemon filling macarons for a while.  O(∩_∩)O~

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Garlic chive is a vegetable that is popular across Asia.  We use it in stir fries, soups, dumplings and various dim sums.  Surprisingly it never became popular in United States and never made their way to American grocery stores.  For those who are interested, there are two ways to get garlic chives.  You can either grow them yourself, or just drive to the nearest Asian grocery store.   Sometimes garlic chive is sold at local farmer market too.

Garlic chive tastes a lot like leek, but with a milder, more delicate grassy and earthy flavor.  The best season for garlic chive is spring.  After a long cold winter, garlic chive sprouts earlier than most vegetables.  Chinese people consider garlic chive to be a messenger of spring.  When summer comes, its flavor gets stronger and become less popular.

My favorite way to enjoy garlic chives is dumplings.

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Between late March and early April, there is a traditional Qingming Festival in China.  Family members get together on this day and visit their ancestors’ and passed love ones’ graves.  They are there to tidy up graves and show their respect and love.  It is a day of remembering and sharing. 

Usually food is also an essential part of this ritual.  What food items to bring really depend on local traditions and family preferences.  Besides chicken, duck, and pork, there is one item most people bring and love: green sweet rice cakes.  The green color is from fresh young mugwort plants.  It is popular because of good herbal grassy flavors as well as medical purpose to refresh up both body and mind. 

As time goes by, people like these green sweet rice cakes more and more that they are no longer just a food item used in Qingming Festival ritual.  They become a daily snack / dim sum.

And the sweet rice cake fillings are evolving too.  The traditional ones include red bean paste, black sesame, peanut and brown sugar.  A couple years ago, some restaurant in Shanghai invented a filling with salted duck egg yolks and shredded pork and it instantly became a huge hit.  People stand in a line for hours and hours just to purchase several sweet rice cakes.  Wow, foodies!  O(∩_∩)O~

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Finally, it is crawfish season! 

More and more restaurant s and stores are selling crawfishes.  Every seafood market stores in Seabrook have huge signs “live crawfish” on the outside. 

And more excitingly, there are all kinds of festivals on weekends to celebrate these delicious “mud bugs” across town too.

I love dining out to enjoy Cajun flavor crawfish boil.  I also love make very hot and spicy Asian style crawfish boil at home.

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The most exciting events in spring for us are wildflower touring and crawfish festivals.  We make plans to going to Brenham and Austin to see wildflowers every year.  The plans don’t always get carried out because the wildflowers’ peak time is very short.  Besides, wildflowers are affected by many other factors like temperature and rainfall. 

This year, we finally have a perfect wildflower tour to Brenham during bluebonnets peak time.  Hooray!

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It is a dish I cook over and over again in my kitchen.  It is very simple, quick to make but loaded with tons of great flavors.  Whenever I don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking, I stir fry some pork belly with slightly dried daikon.

Pork belly is perfect for stir fry.  The daikon has been slightly dehydrated before cooking, which produces an extra crunchy texture. 

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