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Oven-Baked Tofu Recipe | Daily Cooking Quest

In many Asian dishes, you will find that we use a lot of fried tofu cubes. The most traditional way to make fried tofu cubes is of course by deep-frying. You can also pan-fry, but please make sure you have a non-stick pan or a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or it will end up a horrible mess of tofu sticking on your pan. Or, if you have an oven or even a toaster oven, then you can make oven-baked tofu, a.k.a. fried tofu cubes with baking!

Oven Baked Tofu

How to drain tofu properly before cooking/frying/baking

Regardless of your choice, please remember to drain your tofu as much as possible before cooking, especially if you opt for deep frying or pan-frying since more liquid means more splattering. You can buy some specialty designed tool to drain your tofu, but I usually do the following:

  1. Cut each tofu block into small cubes.
  2. Wrap each block (which now consists of many many small cubes) with a paper towel.
  3. Place wrapped tofu in between two plates, and place a heavy item (like a cast-iron skillet) on top of the top plate.
  4. After about 30 minutes, a pool of liquid will gather around the tofu. With the liquid drained from the tofu, I can now safely proceed to make fried tofu cubes.
How To Drain Tofu

How To Drain Tofu

How to bake crispy fried tofu in an oven

After we drained our tofu, we can now proceed with marinating and baking them. Here are what I do:

  1. Marinate drained tofu with soy sauce for 30 minutes. If you just want to salt your tofu, simply sprinkle with salt and proceed with the next step.
  2. Preheat oven to 200 Celsius (400 Fahrenheit), and line a baking tray with parchment paper to prevent tofu from sticking.
  3. Lightly dust tofu with cornstarch or arrowroot starch, then arrange on the prepared tray.
  4. Bake tofu for 30 minutes, though the exact time will depend mostly on the size of your tofu cubes. The goal is to achieve crispy golden brown skin but the inside is still soft. Please toss the tofu cubes every 10 minutes so they bake evenly.

How do you use this oven-baked tofu?

The easiest and most straightforward way to enjoy these tofu cubes is as a healthy snack, or add them to your favorite salads. If you are like me, then you will want to make a big batch of fried tofu cubes and then use them in these recipes:

As you can see, you can use them in so many different ways. So what are you waiting for? Let’s make your very own batch of oven-baked tofu cubes today. 🙂

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Chongqing (Chunking) Chicken Recipe | Daily Cooking Quest

Most Chinese food lovers are probably aware that Sichuan cuisine is well known for its spicy dishes, but Chongqing (Chunking) has many famous spicy dishes as well, such as Chongqing chicken.

Similar to Sichuan cuisine, Chongqing cuisine also uses plenty of dried red chilies and Sichuan peppercorns, so be prepared for some numbness and hotness, and be ready with a pack of tissue or even towel to wipe that sweat away.

Ingredients for Chongqing chicken: chicken breast, dark soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, cornstarch, salt, oil, Sichuan peppercorns, ginger, garlic (not shown), dried chilies, scallions, and sugar (not shown).

Use chicken breast or whole chicken

If you have tried true Chinese dishes, you will probably realize that chicken will always be served with bone-in, never boneless or skinless.

I am taking a liberal short cut here by using skinless boneless chicken breast, so if you want to make this as original as possible, get your butcher to chop up a whole chicken into small pieces with bones and skin intact. Usually you can request for one whole chicken to be chopped up into 20 pieces.

Chongqing (Chunking) Chicken

Chongqing (Chunking) Chicken

Use as many chilies as you can handle

For those who love spicy food, be sure to break your chilies since whole chilies do not make for a spicy dish. But when those chilies are broken, I can guarantee that your socks will definitely be knocked off.

I have actually frequented some authentic Sichuan/Chongqing/Hunan restaurants where the servers hand out hand towels for the patrons to wipe off their sweats, and if you break all your chilies, you will want that hand towel.

If you are unsure, or if this is the first time you try this dish, don’t go overboard and just try breaking 3-5 chilies. If that is not hot enough for you, you can always break more the second time you make this dish.

Chongqing (Chunking) Chicken

Chongqing (Chunking) Chicken

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Gochujang Meatballs Recipe | Daily Cooking Quest

Meatballs, who doesn’t love them? Especially if they are super juicy, packed with flavor, seared to get that crunchy outside but juicy inside, and then the whole thing is dunk in sweet and spicy gochujang cranberry sauce.

These meatballs are out of this world folks, the ultimate comfort food, and also the best thing to serve as a party appetizer. Be prepared to double or triple the batch and watch them disappear into thin air, or more precisely, your guests’ tummies.

Left: ingredients for the meatballs; Right: portioning meatballs with ice cream scoop.

Use leftover cranberry sauce to make the gochujang glaze

The glaze in the recipe that I based this on was made with apricot jam, but I don’t have it at home. Instead, I have a couple of jars of cranberry sauce/preserve that I made for Christmas and they are still sitting in my fridge, so I use that instead, and it turned out to be surprisingly delicious. And since I use cranberry instead of apricot, the glazing has the color of dark maroon, a rather sexy shade I think 🙂

For this lovely gochujang cranberries glaze, you will need:

  • cranberry sauce, if you have some leftover from Thanksgiving or Christmas, that will be perfect for this
  • gochujang
  • rice vinegar
  • soy sauce, preferably low sodium so it is not overly salty

This lovely glazing sauce is very easy to prepare, simply combine all the glaze ingredients in a small saucepot, and cook on a medium heat while stirring until it thickens. Set the sauce aside while we prepare the meatballs.

Gochujang Meatballs

Gochujang Meatballs

Use an ice cream scoop to portion the meatballs

I use an ice cream scoop to portion the meatballs. If you don’t have one, I would say each portion is about the size of a golf ball.

But seriously you can shape the meatballs as tiny or as huge as you like, just make sure to adjust cooking time, which for beef, this means the internal temperature should reach about 70 Celsius (160 Fahrenheit) once cooked. An instant thermometer is useful for this.

Once they are cooked, brush the meatballs with the glazing sauce, and you can further garnish them with toasted sesame seeds and thinly sliced scallions. If you are serving them for a party, it looks nice and is super convenient to stick a toothpick to each meatball.

Gochujang Meatballs

Gochujang Meatballs

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Butternut Nikuman Recipe | Daily Cooking Quest

Asian steam buns with ground pork/meat filling come with many names. It is called rou bao (肉包) in Chinese, nikuman (肉まん) in Japanese, and in Indonesia where I grow up, we call it bak pao, derived from Chinese Hokkien dialect. The most traditional meat to used in a nikuman is ground pork, but you can also make it with ground chicken, or for extra deluxe filling, a combination of ground pork/chicken and ground shrimp will make the steam bun even more delicious.

Ground pork mixture for the nikuman filling.

Since the dough will need to proof, it is best to knead the dough first. Steamed buns usually have snowy white skin, but you will need to make sure to use bleached all purpose flour and white color lard/shortening. I usually stock unbleached all purpose flour at home, so I know my skin will not be snow white, and I purposefully add butternut puree to my dough and make it bright yellow. You can also use pumpkin, kabocha, yam/orange sweet potato, purple sweet potato, or taro as puree and create colorful skin without any artificial coloring. I hand knead my dough, but you can use dough hook attachment, just make sure to knead until the dough is non-stick, soft, elastic, and smooth. With hands, this takes about 20 minutes. I am sure it will be faster with an electric mixer. Once the dough is kneaded, place it in a bowl and cover with saran/wet kitchen towel, and proof until the volume is doubled, about 1 hour.

Place a meatball at the center of a flatten circle dough and wrap into a neat ball.

Place a meatball at the center of a flatten circle dough and wrap into a neat ball.

Meanwhile, let’s make the filling. Just combine everything and let the filling chill in the fridge until the dough is ready. There shouldn’t be any standing liquid in the filling, so if you see that, add a bit of corn starch and stir again until there is no liquid.

Butternut Nikuman

Butternut Nikuman

Once the dough has finished proofing, punch to release air bubbles, knead for a couple of minutes, and divide into 12 portions. Take the filling out from the fridge, and divide it also into 12 portions and gently roll each portion into a meat ball. With a rolling pin, flatten each piece of dough into a round circle, about 4 inch diameter, and place one meat ball at the center. Gather the edges, pinch together so the dough fully enclose the filling, gently roll into a round ball, and place on a cupcake liner. If you don’t have cupcake liners, you can also use parchment papers and cut into 3 inch squares to use as liner. I know most people make pleats for nikuman, but I want to make this as beginner friendly as possible and simply make a smooth round bun with the filling enclosed. If you are highly experienced with pleating steamed buns, go ahead and make pretty pleats.

Butternut Nikuman

Butternut Nikuman

You will need a steamer to steam the buns. A multi-tiered bamboo or stainless steel steamer is best since we are going to steam 12 buns. If you have a small size steamer, please make sure to steam in batches. The buns will expand slightly after being steamed, about 50% bigger, so make sure you don’t crowd the steamer so the buns have enough room to expand. If your rice cooker comes with a steamer rack insert, you can use that as well. If your house has no steamer at all, you can still make a make-shift steamer as long as you have a wok or a large skillet with a tight fitting lid. Place a small heat proof bowl/plate upside down in the wok/skillet, pour enough water to come almost come to the top of this small bowl/plate, place your buns on another bigger heat proof plate and place this plate gently on top of the small bowl/plate. You need to make sure the lid doesn’t touch the buns. With this configuration, you can steam the buns even without a dedicated steamer.

Butternut Nikuman

Butternut Nikuman

Once the buns have been steamed for 15 minutes. Turn the heat off, but do not open the steamer lid. Let the buns sit in the steamer for another 5 minutes, then gently remove the lid, making sure no water drops on the buns since any water droplets will cause the skin to blemish. Steamed buns are best eaten straight out from the steamer. I love these for breakfast. For a bun of this size, one is enough for me, but my husband usually needs two 😉 Store any leftover in a freezer friendly zip lock bags, they should last for at least a month in the freezer. Just reheat with a steamer or microwave for next time.

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Chicken Teriyaki Recipe | Daily Cooking Quest

Chicken Teriyaki

Chicken teriyaki is probably every children’s favorite Japanese food. I know I love this so much when I was young, and every single time my family went to a Japanese restaurant, I didn’t even look at the menu and said I want a chicken teriyaki meal.

Now that I’m a full-fledged adult, I eat out less and prefer cooking at home. And with this recipe, I can cook chicken teriyaki for myself and my family. These homemade chicken teriyakis are good, just as good as the ones in any good Japanese restaurant. I swear!

Ingredients for chicken teriyaki: skin on boneless chicken thigh, soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar.

Ingredients for chicken teriyaki: skin on boneless chicken thigh, soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar.

Ingredients for chicken teriyaki

Homemade teriyaki sauce

There is no need to buy special-purpose teriyaki sauce, especially if you have the following ingredients stocked in your pantry: soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar.

When it comes to sake, it is always better if you can find some decent Japanese drinking sake. Cooking-grade sake is okay too, though I prefer using drinking-grade sake. 🙂

For this chicken teriyaki dish, we will need these for the teriyaki sauce:

  • 4 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoon sake
  • 4 tablespoon mirin
  • 2 tablespoon sugar

Chicken teriyaki

For the chicken teriyaki itself, you will need:

  • 4 chicken thighs, boneless with skin intact
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 3 tablespoon oil
Chicken Teriyaki

Chicken Teriyaki

Cooking chicken teriyaki

1. Brown chicken

Pat dry chicken thigh, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat. Sear chicken thighs until browned on both sides. About 2-3 minutes per side. Set aside.

2. Teriyaki sauce

Wipe clean the frying pan (or use a clean one), add all teriyaki sauce ingredients into the pan and bring to a boil. Cook until sauce is thicker.

3. Coat chicken with teriyaki sauce

Once the sauce is thick, return all chicken thighs into the pan. Cook until the sauce turns into a glaze that coats the chicken.

4. Rest and serve

Turn the heat off. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes, then cut into bite-size pieces. Serve with steamed white rice.

Chicken Teriyaki

Chicken Teriyaki

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Almond Tofu Recipe | Daily Cooking Quest

One of my readers ask me about how to make almond tofu that is ever present in Chinese buffet in United States. Well, the easiest way would be to buy almond tofu mix, but that feels a bit like cheating, but it works if you want to go the simplest route.

Ingredients for Almond Tofu

If this happen to be your favorite dessert and you want to have this often, it is a good idea to invest in buying a packet (it comes in box/jar/plastic bag) of Chinese almond milk powder, and either agar-agar powder or gelatin powder, this way, you can make it often and cheaply too.

Almond Tofu

Almond Tofu

For vegan/vegetarian, stick with agar-agar powder. Chinese almond powder is not made from almond nuts, but from apricot kernels, which is confusingly often translated to almond. So be extra careful when you buy your almond milk powder. If you use almond nut powder (or fresh almond milk), you will still get your dessert, but it will be the wrong one. I haven’t been able to locate an online source to get Chinese almond powder, and I always buy this from brick and mortar Asian grocery. In my experience, they are usually located in the milk/tea/coffee aisle. I have a photo of Chinese almond milk that I use for this recipe for reference.

Almond Tofu

Almond Tofu

The recipe is really straightforward, but you do need to read the instructions that come with your particular almond milk and agar-agar/gelatin powder. My agar-agar powder asks for one packet mix with 800 ml water, while the almond milk requires one packet mix with one cup of hot water. So, I go with 3 packets of Chinese almond milk powder, 1 packet of agar-agar powder, and 750 ml water. I boil the three ingredients together in a sauce pot, whisking frequently to mix everything up. I cook for another 2 minutes once it reaches a boiling point, then I simply pour into rice bowls. You can also just pour into a baking tray if you want and cut into cubes once set.

Almond Tofu

Almond Tofu

Next is simple. Let the milk and agar mixture chill in the fridge until set, about 1-2 hours. You can serve it from bowl, or you can cut it into cubes like the one in restaurant. Typically, almond tofu is served with a can of fruit cocktail. But I actually prefer to just cut up some fresh fruits, like berries or stone fruits (peaches/nectarines), and some maple syrup. Simple is best.

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Taro Swirl Bread Recipe | Daily Cooking Quest

Today, I am sharing a recipe to make taro swirl bread. I use taro paste from my previous taro paste recipe, so if you want to make this bread, please refer to my previous recipe to make taro paste before hand. Or, if you want, you can use red bean paste too to make this lovely looking swirl bread.

Step by step to make taro swirl bread.

I use killer toast bread dough from Victoria Bakes. You can use other kind of bread dough too if you have your favorite bread dough to work with, but nowadays I use killer toast bread dough for about 70% of the bread I make, so I highly recommend this if you are still looking for your go-to bread dough recipe.

Taro swirl bread; left: prior to proofing; right: after proofing.

Taro swirl bread; left: prior to proofing; right: after proofing.

Whichever bread dough recipe you follow, the most important point is to knead your bread until it is really soft, smooth, non-sticky, non-oily, and elastic. At the end of kneading, we want the bread to read a stage that bakers like to call window pane stage. This stage means that you can stretch the bread dough without the dough tearing, and it should be thin enough that light can shine through the stretched dough (a.k.a. like window letting light through). If your dough hasn’t reached this window pane stage, you know that you should keep kneading the dough.

Taro Swirl Bread

Taro Swirl Bread

In any case, once you are ready to shape the bread, divide the dough into 8 portions. I think it is much easier if you can follow my step-by-step photo above on how to make taro swirl bread. Roll each portion into an oblong shape (about 3″x5″), spread taro paste on half of the dough with about 0.5″ of the edges uncovered. Fold the dough to encase the filling, pinch the edges so the paste doesn’t leak out. Make two slits lengthwise. Pull slightly while twisting the dough a couple of times. Create a ring by connecting the two ends. Place swirled dough on to a greased and floured 9″ cake pan. Repeat for the other 7 portions.

Taro Swirl Bread

Taro Swirl Bread

Cover the cake pan with a wet kitchen towel/saran plastic wrap, and let the dough proof until the volume is doubled, about 1 hour in a warm kitchen. Once the dough has finished proofing, preheat oven to 180 Celsius (350 Fahrenheit). Make an egg wash by mixing together 1 egg + 1 teaspoon of milk/water. Brush the top of bread dough liberally with egg wash, and bake in the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Taro Swirl Bread

Taro Swirl Bread

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Fried Pork Wontons Recipe | Daily Cooking Quest

Mention wontons and people immediately conjure up the image of steaming hot soup, which is not bad, but fried wontons are actually so much better. Of course fried wontons means deep frying, there is just no avoiding it, but trust me, it is worth it. The best fried wontons is made with pork, so unless for any reason you cannot eat pork, try making this fried pork wontons before venturing into other kind of fried wontons in the future.

Fried Pork Wontons

First, make the filling by mixing together ground pork, chopped scallions, soy sauce, sesame oil, vegetable oil, Shaoxing wine, sugar, ground white pepper, then we can start making some wontons. Please follow my step-by-step guide on shaping wonton here. But in the general, you can shape the wontons however you like, so feel free to experiment.

Fried Pork Wontons

Fried Pork Wontons

Actually, you can easily turn your favorite wonton recipes to fried wontons simply by deep frying them instead of making them into soup. So, if you already have a line up of favorite wonton recipes, give them a lease of new life by making them into fried wontons.

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Mochiko Fried Chicken Recipe | Daily Cooking Quest

I think the world is divided into two camps, the ones who love are in love with fried chicken, and the ones who are absolutely crazy about fried chicken. I am definitely in the later camp, and I am loving every bit of this mochiko fried chicken. It’s summer and it’s hot, but I don’t mind frying these babies so I can have an awesome dinner. These are so flavorful on its own, but if you really must, go ahead and serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

Mochiko Fried Chicken Ingredients

The Marinade

Mochiko is definitely the key to get that crispy skin. If you absolutely cannot find mochiko, your next best bet is rice flour. You will also need corn starch, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger, and scallions. Slice chicken breasts into tiny chunks and let them soak in the marinade for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Mochiko Fried Chicken

Mochiko Fried Chicken

Frying the chicken

The way to fry the chicken is to shallow fry them, meaning you will need about an inch of oil in your frying pan. Shallow frying means the chicken pieces is only partially submerged in hot oil. If you are not averse to deep frying, you can go that route too. Serve the chicken piping hot, especially good with a tall glass of cold beer. Please don’t drive afterwards 🙂

Mochiko Fried Chicken

Mochiko Fried Chicken

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Enoki Miso Soup Recipe | Daily Cooking Quest

In my house, I prepare miso soup at least once a week. Half of the time, I prepare my super basic miso soup, and half of the time, I prepare something a bit extra, like this enoki miso soup. If you have easy access to Asian grocery stores that stock pretty complete Japanese ingredients, I highly recommend stocking your fridge at all times with some miso paste and dashi stock granules. With these two ingredients, you can quickly prepare lovely soup with just a handful of ingredients.

Enoki Miso Soup Ingredients

What goes into enoki miso soup?

For this miso soup, you will need:

  • a packet of enoki mushroom (7 oz/200 gram)
  • a packet of soft tofu (14 oz/400 gram)
  • 2 tablespoon dried wakame, and
  • 4 tablespoon miso paste
  • 1 liter (4 cup) dashi stock, preferably homemade dashi, but store-bought dashi stock granules make a decent enough miso soup
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced

There is actually quite a lot of variety of miso paste, but in the United States, the main three common types are:

If you are lucky enough to see other varieties, feel free to give them a try. For this recipe, I stick to the most common shiro miso.

Enoki Miso Soup

Enoki Miso Soup

How to preparing enoki miso soup

Miso soup is one of the simplest soup to make, which is also true for this version. Here is the step-by-step:

  1. Chop off and discard 1 inch of the enoki root. Cut the enoki bunch into two halves lengthwise. Wash and drain.
  2. Soak wakame in cold water to rehydrate.
  3. Bring dashi stock to a boil in a soup pot, then add enoki and simmer for 2 minutes.
  4. Add soaked wakame and tofu cubes into the pot. Once the soup boils again, turn off the heat.
  5. Place miso paste in a strainer, then lower the strainer to the hot soup. Use a spoon or a pair of chopsticks to stir the miso paste until all the paste haste dissolved into the soup.
    Note: Miso paste is full of health benefits, but the highly valued nutrients in miso paste will not survive high heat from cooking. So, always add miso paste to hot liquid and slowly whisk once the heat has been turned off.
  6. Serve the soup hot with thinly sliced scallions as garnish.
Enoki Miso Soup

Enoki Miso Soup

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