White Cheddar Sriracha Mac and Cheese

White Cheddar Sriracha Mac and Cheese
White Cheddar Sriracha Mac and Cheese
White Cheddar Sriracha Mac and Cheese
White Cheddar Sriracha Mac and Cheese
White Cheddar Sriracha Mac and Cheese
White Cheddar Sriracha Mac and Cheese

How’s Fall going for you?! I’ve been consistently wearing a cozy sweater each day because it’s actually chilly, foggy, and refreshingly brisk… just like how Fall should. Way to be seasonally appropriate, San Francisco. We’ve roasted 2 squashes in the last week and I just watched Hocus Pocus for the first time in like 15 years. So, I think I’m doing Fall pretty right!

One of my favorite Fall foods to make is Mac and Cheese! Correction, I like to eat mac and cheese all year round but there is something about this time of year that inspires me to whip up a big cozy pot of cheese and carbs. I’m historically a mac and cheese purist. Please hold on all the vegetables (especially broccoli!) , pesto (isn’t that just like a pasta dish at that point?), and buffalo chicken. I might tolerate some truffle oil. At the end of the day, I just want el dente pasta, 1-2 decent cheeses, some crunchy breadcrumbs (not always necessary though), and the perfectly creamy not to goopy cheese sauce. I’m not a “load it up” type of person. But that’s just my personal preference. You may disagree and that it totally okay!

I’m just slightly breaking my keep it simple rule with this White Cheddar Sriracha Mac and Cheese because today is my favorite little brother’s birthday! Happy Birthday, Wai! His real name is Tyler, but we refer to each other in our Chinese names : ) He’s turning 24 and is probably busy studying away about the brain or some highly technical medical procedure because he’s the smarty pants in our family and is doing the whole medical school thing. I’m such a proud sister! Anyways, why am I making him a mac and cheese for his birthday? Well, last year he asked me if I had a mac and cheese recipe on my blog so that he could make it to bring to a Friendsgiving. I DIDN’T HAVE ONE AND I WAS HORRIFIED. This was the first time my brother even asked me about a recipe and up until then I wasn’t even sure if he trusted me as a food authority. Also, why the heck don’t I have a recipe for one of my favorite foods?! I was super disappointed and ended up pointing him in the direction of a pretty good standard mac and cheese recipe. So It’s taken me almost a year to finally share a mac and cheese recipe. I’ve gotten distracted with other noodles and dumplings along the way.

This mac and cheese is simple in its foundation, but the little details of it are inspired by my brother. The fact that this is a stove top macaroni makes life a whole lot easier if you’re a hard working medical student constantly on the go! You could make it all in one pot if you wanted to! My brother has always been a spicier person than me, in terms of food and also maybe personality lol. Sriracha adds a nice spicy kick and mellows out the sharpness of cheddar. This mac consists of 2 really good cheeses, both of which I think you should always have in your refrigerator. Sharp Cheddar for snacking and grilled cheeses. Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan works too!) for adding that salty cheesy bite to pastas, salads, or soups. The toppings are optional, you could literally eat this straight out of the pot. I might have done that with a few spoonfuls. To make life feel a little fancier add the bread crumbs and green onions (my brother shares my love and passion for green onions). Drop them from high up in the air and pretend like you’re making a slow-mo segment for Chef’s table. It’s your birthday. Be fancy! Oh, and if you want to really make this into a Tyler Cho Mac and Cheese, add in some cubed chicken breast or fried chicken skin! That was just venturing out a little too far from my Mac and cheese comfort zone!

Happy Birthday, Brother!


White Cheddar Sriracha Mac and Cheese

serves 4-6

materials:

16 oz pasta shells
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup AP flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cups milk
4 cups sharp white cheddar
1/3 cup pecorino romano
3 tbsp Sriracha - or more if you like it really spicy
1/4 panko bread brumbs
1 tbsp olive oil
green onions for garnish

steps:

  1. Cook your pasta according to the package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.

  2. In a large pot or saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in flour, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. Mixture will resemble a thick paste. Carefully pour in milk while continually whisking. Whisk constantly for 5-7 minutes until thick and smooth. Reduce heat to low and mix in cheese and Sriracha until melted.

  3. Add pasta into the cheese sauce and toss until evenly coated.

  4. Heat olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add in bread crumbs. Stir the panko. Toast for a few minutes until golden brown. Stir every 20 seconds so the panko doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and top the mac and cheese with bread crumbs and green onions.

  5. Enjoy!

Notes: If you prefer a baked option, instead of stovetop, cook your pasta for 2 minutes less. Combine pasta with cheese sauce and place in a baking dish. Combine bread crumbs with olive oil and top your mac and cheese. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 until bubbly and golden brown.

Spicy Fish Dumplings

Spicy Fish Dumplings
Spicy Fish Dumplings
Spicy Fish Dumplings
Spicy Fish Dumplings
Spicy Fish Dumplings
Spicy Fish Dumplings
Spicy Fish Dumplings
Spicy Fish Dumplings
Spicy Fish Dumplings
Spicy Fish Dumplings

Have you ever heard of Scott’s Pizza Tours? In a nutshell, a guy named Scott takes people on a tour of the best pizza in New York City. He’s essentially a pizza genius/lover and knows all these random tidbits about the history of pizza. We watched a documentary about him a few months ago and I thought it was the absolute coolest job! Like, isn’t it the dream to be able to educate people on something that you truly love? And that one thing is something that you can eat AND you get to eat it everyday?!!! IfSounds like the perfect job to me!

I’ve played around with the idea of “Eat Cho Dumpling Tours”, where I would take people around Clement Street tasting all the best dumplings this little neighborhood has to offer. We’ve lived in Inner Richmond for almost 3 years now and have generated some strong opinions on the dumpling offers on Clement Street. Good Luck Dim Sum is hands down the best spot on the Street. Gourmet Dim Sum is where you go on Tuesdays when Good Luck Dim Sum is closed or if the line there is insanely long. Xiao Long Bao has awesome xiao long boa, as their name would imply, but they also have the best crispy dim sum options like shen jian boa or flakey green onion pancakes. Then there is Wing Lee Bakery that is overall pretty OKAY, but has char siu bao (bbq pork buns) the size of your face. It’s hard to resist a bun the size of your face.

I talk about dumplings and the love I have for my neighborhood to literally anyone who would listen. My coworker, Emily, probably heard enough of me just yaking away about all the delicious dumplings a block from my apartment and wanted to see it for herself. So Reuben and I took her and her husband on the very first “Eat Cho Dumpling Tour” ever! It was so much fun! I was so full afterwards… oof. It’s nice to have 2 other hungry people around so that we can order more items to share and try more types of dumplings! We went to all our favorite spots and ordered all our favorite dumplings. We also got to stop at the farmers market, the asian homegoods store, our weird “aquarium” pet store place, and the trendy-nice-smelling store in the neighborhood. So all the Inner Richmond highlights. We actually ended our tour at Good Luck Dim Sum and brought it back to our apartment to eat, since it was a little crowded and we were all on the verge of turning into literal dumplings. At least I was.

I would say the first tour was a success! However, I think I need to work on my self control or figure out a one dumpling per tour stop rule before making this a thing. That or start going to the gym every single day.

Okay, lets switch gears from eating dumplings to making dumplings! Well, we’re going to eat these too… These Spicy Fish Dumplings are borderline too spicy for me, but I’m a major spice wimp. But they are just so good that I push through the burning sensation. They have a gentle heat that sort of grows as you eat more and more dumplings. The heat comes from thinly sliced thai bird chilies. Be careful with those guys and watch your eyeballs! The heat of the chilies pair super well with the light and mild white fish and fresh cabbage. The filling is wrapped with a beet dyed wheat starch dough that turns from a fun pink into a gorgeous red color after it’s steamed! Reuben was incredibly happy with these dumps and with the fact that I’ve been make more spicy food. I’ll just need to keep more milk or vanilla ice cream on hand. I support more ice cream!


Spicy Fish Dumpling

makes 32 dumplings

for the filling:

3/4 lb tilapia or sole (any light white fish)
3 minced garlic cloved
2 tbsp minced ginger
1 cup thinly chopped napa cabbage
2 thai bird chilies finely minced
1/4 cup green onions (whites + greens)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 egg

for the wrapper:

1 1/2 cup wheat starch
2 tsp beet powder (optional for color)
pinch of salt
1 cup just boiled water
4 tsp olive oil

steps:

  1. Start by preparing your dumpling filling. Cut your fish into 1/2”x1/2” pieces. Place in a medium bowl. Add in minced garlic, minced ginger, chopped napa cabbage, thai bird chilies, green onions, salt, white pepper, soy sauce, cornstarch, and egg. Give it all a good mix until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

  2. While the fish filling is marinating, making your dough. Add wheat starch, salt, and beet powder into a large bowl. Give it a quick mix. Make a well in the middle of the wheat starch. Slowly pour in the just boiled water and gently mixed in the wheat starch with a wooden spoon until the water is absorbed. It will still look dry and crumbly. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the wheat starch to steam for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes add in olive oil and start to knead the dough with your hands. Knead for a few minutes until you get a smooth dough. It will resemble playdough! If the dough feels a little dry add another teaspoon of olive oil. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

  3. Remove the fish filling from the fridge. Drain off any extra liquid produced from the cabbage. Set aside.

  4. Divide the dough in half. Roll out half the dough into a 1” coil and cut into 16 equal pieces. Do the same with the second half. Take 1 portion of dough and roll out into a 3”-4” circle. Place a heaping teaspoon of filling into the wrapper. Carefully pinch the dough round into a triangle shape or fold of your choosing. Pinch the seams tightly to seal. Repeat with the remaining dumplings and place on a baking tray. Cover dumplings with a clean kitchen towel so they don’t dry out.

  5. Bring a pot of water to boil. Line a bamboo steamer (same width as your pot) with parchment paper or cabbage leaves. Place a few dumplings in the steamer. Dumpling should not be touching. Place the steamer with lid on top of the pot and steam for 7-8 minutes. Repeat with remaining dumplings or freeze for later.

  6. Eat immediately and enjoy with soy sauce.

Sticky Rice Stuffed Eggplant

Sticky Rice Stuffed Eggplant
Sticky Rice Stuffed Eggplant
Sticky Rice Stuffed Eggplant
Sticky Rice Stuffed Eggplant
Sticky Rice Stuffed Eggplant
Sticky Rice Stuffed Eggplant
Sticky Rice Stuffed Eggplant
Sticky Rice Stuffed Eggplant

The month of October is always such a weird time. While the rest of the country is cozying up in their chunky sweaters with a big warm pot of stew on the stove, it's hot as heck in San Francisco. Is it raining and dreary where you are? I want a chilly rainy afternoon so bad! October is our one month of summer, what people call an Indian Summer. You can go out all day without a jacket! GASP. During the months of July through September it's actually really chilly and foggy. Those are the months where my pho intake spikes. I so desperately want to get into the Autumn spirit, but the fact that it's 80 degrees and incredibly sunny doesn't really make me want to turn on the oven or sweat my face off stirring a chickpea stew for hours (ooooo, that does sound good to me though). The only way I even know it's Fall is either through Instagram, PSL ads at Starbucks, and by visiting Trader Joe's. The air is heavy with the scent of cinnamon broom sticks, the squash display is literally overflowing, and every single snack item is pumpkin spice flavored. I'll try to push through the heat of the oven and repress my desires to make popsicles every day... unless you really want some popsicle recipes. You tell me!

This sticky rice stuffed eggplant situation is definitely worth turning on the oven though! One of my favorite dishes to get at dim sum (I have a lot) is sticky rice! There are typically two versions. One version is wrapped in a lotus leaf (Lo Mai Gai) and steamed as a packet, the lotus leaf imparts a really lovely herbal flavor to the rice. I want to try making that one day! The other version is sticky rice stuffed into a glass bowl (Lo Mai Fon) and inverted to make a perfect dome of rice. That one is a favorite among the cousins at the table. Both are similar, but also very different in flavor and texture.

I took inspiration from the latter version and paired it with one of my favorite autumn produce staples. The mighty eggplant! You can get regular eggplants pretty much all year round, but this season is when they really start to sing and you find the most beautiful varieties at the farmer's markets. I picked up some magical fairytale eggplants at the market this weekend to stuff with sticky rice. The eggplants are hollowed out and roasted in the oven until they get nice and tender. The eggplant innards are chopped up and cooked up with shiitake mushrooms and Chinese sausage before getting mixed in with the cooked sticky rice. Chinese sausage is a pretty key ingredient in this recipe. If you haven't had Chinese sausage or lap ceung before, it is cured pork sausage that's both salty and sweet. I grew up not really liking it because I was a somewhat picky eater, but I've since grown to love it! 

Once you've mixed together the sticky rice, you can technically stop and eat it now. BUT the magic is when you stuff the eggplant and put it back into the oven to crisp up. I highly recommend allowing some of the extra rice to fall off the eggplant and land on the baking tray because those bits are going to be the best part. Imagine insanely crispy and crunchy rice and pork bits that are reminiscence of those coveted crispy corner pieces of lasagna or baked pasta. Aaaaahhh drooling just thinking about it.


Sticky Rice Stuffed Eggplant

serves 2 - 4

Materials:

2 medium sized eggplants
1 cup glutinous sticky rice
1.5 cups water
8 shiitake mushrooms
2 Chinese sausages
1/3 cup chopped green onions (whites and greens) + more for garnish
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp + 2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
olive oil

Steps:

  1. Heat your oven to 375 degrees. Trim the stem off your eggplants. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise. With a sharp paring knife, cut on the cut face an outline about 1/2” from the edge of eggplant, be careful not to cut all the way through. Cut and score the flesh of the eggplant. Scoop out the flesh of the eggplant and set aside. This part is always a little tough, but you’ll get through it! Once the eggplants have been hollowed out, Place on a baking tray, brush with olive oil, and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt. Roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes until tender.

  2. While the eggplants are roasting, prepare your sticky rice filling. Wash rice 2-3 times until the water runs somewhat clear. Drain rinsing water. Cook rice in a rice cooker with 1 1/2 cups of water until done.

  3. Dice up remaining eggplant into bite sized pieces, set aside. Dice up shiitake mushrooms into 1/2” cubes, included stems, and set aside. Slice the Chinese sausage at an angle into 1/4” slices and set aside.

  4. Heat up 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Once hot add in mushrooms and eggplant. Season with a bit of salt and a light dash of white pepper. Sauté for 3 minutes. Add in 1/4 cup of water and cover with a lid. Allow vegetables to steam for 4 minutes covered. Remove lid and let the water evaporate. Add in a little bit more oil and add in Chinese sausage and green onions. Sauté for another 5 minutes. Add in cooked sticky rice. Season with 2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp white pepper, and 2 tbsp oyster sauce. Give it a good mix until everything is evenly incorporated. Take the sticky rice filling off the heat.

  5. Remove the eggplants from the oven. Crank up the heat to 425 degrees. Carefully stuff the eggplants with sticky rice. If you have some extra sticky rice, you can either eat it straight or place the rice directly on the tray for some extra crispy bits! Place the stuffed eggplants back in the oven and bake for 10 minutes until crisp.

  6. Allow the eggplants to cool and then serve!