New plants

With the hotter summer weather, a lot of my pea plants died 🙁 The two that survived aren’t doing so well and are likely to die in the next week – we’re having a bit of a heat wave here.

We ate a pea! We had an additional 20 peas, but I saved them as seed to plant next year.

I’ve been looking for veggies that like hot weather. Some old sweet potatoes sprouted a bunch, so we planted those. And my mom sent some seeds to try out! We’ve got basil, shiso, and melon (from sibling C’s garden). I’m excited to see how they do!

The sweet potatoes are growing vigorously! Dead peas against the window.

We have a teensy garden

Our front windows are quite sunny – they face southwest – so I’d hoped to be able to grow some veggies. I planted lots of things, cilantro, peas (for pea shoots), various greens. Peas are the only thing that really took off, and (amazingly, considering they’re inside) actually made peas!

Various seeds from sibling C’s collection!
Pea shoots, with some small crucifer sprouts in between.
Pea flowers!

We got a handful of pods from the peas. Maybe I’ll save them to plant next year?

I also have a houseplant (Aglaonema) that I got for free! from work. It’s doing well. I might expand the houseplant collection. Ferns sound nice 🙂 It’s also possible to grow some tropical and more unusual foods indoors (see Growing Tasty Tropical Plants). I’m considering figs.

Sichuan boiled fish (Shui Zhu Yu, 水煮鱼)

This turned out really well! Dare I say restaurant-quality?

We put inedible whole spices in a tea strainer so that we don’t have to fish the spices out later, kinda like a bouquet garni.

Fish and Marinade

  • 1 lb fish fillets, thinly sliced (white fish, such as tilapia, catfish, cod, flounder, carp, etc)
  • 0-3/4 tsp salt (less if your doubanjiang and douchi are really salty)
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper (white preferred)
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch or other refined cooking starch (potato, tapioca, arrowroot, etc)
  • 1 Tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine (substitute with sake or sherry)
  • 1 egg white (optional, not really sure what this is even supposed to do, we didn’t use it)


  • ~3 cups broth or water
  • Oil
  • 1 inch ginger, sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp doubanjiang
  • 2 tsp fermented black beans (douchi)
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 tsp cardamom seeds
  • 1 tsp Sichuan chili flakes (optional, depending on desired spiciness)
  • 2 tsp soy sauce (optional, depending on desired saltiness)

Veggies (12-16 oz total)

  • Soybean sprouts
  • Napa cabbage, cut into squares or strips
  • Mushrooms
  • Cucumber, cut into sticks
  • Celery, cut into sticks
  • Whatever else you want!


  • 2 Tbsp chili oil
  • 1 Tbsp Sichuan peppercorn powder or oil concentrate
  • Green onion
  • Cilantro
  • Sesame seeds
  1. Marinate fish for 30 min in cornstarch, cooking wine, salt, and pepper.
  2. Fry the ginger, garlic, douchi, doubanjiang, star anise, cardamom, and chili flakes in oil for a minute or so. Add broth or water. Taste for saltiness before adding soy sauce.
  3. Boil each veggie one at a time in broth. Once done, remove all of that veggie to the serving dish. Lastly, do the same with the fish, being careful to avoid breaking the slices.
  4. Move fish and broth to serving dish. Top with garnishes.

Chili oil

We use up chili oil really fast, so we thought it’d be more cost effective to make our own batch. Past chili oil attempts haven’t turned out particularly well (basically red oil that doesn’t taste like anything…), but I did more research this time 🙂

This recipe combines various online chili oil recipes plus everything on the ingredients list of the last commercial chili oil we bought (Blank Slate Kitchen has great chili oil). We get our Sichuan spices from Mala Market.

  • 1/2 cup Sichuan chili flakes (spicy Korean chili flakes is an okay substitute)
  • 1 tsp Chinese five spice powder (substitute with any or all of: whole star anise, a cinnamon stick, black peppercorns, cardamom, and cloves)
  • 1 tsp freshly toasted and ground Sichuan peppercorn powder (or 1 Tbsp toasted whole peppercorns)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 inch ginger, sliced thickly
  • 1/3 cup minced shallot (substitute with green or white onion)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cooking oil (peanut, canola, avocado, etc)
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  1. Put chili flakes, five spice, peppercorn powder, and salt in a heat-proof jar.
  2. Fry shallot, garlic, ginger, and any whole spices (cloves, etc) in cooking oil until crispy. Remove the ginger and any whole spices. Heat oil to 275°F. Pour into the jar of chili flakes – they should sizzle.
  3. Cool to room temp. Add sesame oil. Store in fridge for maximum shelf life.
  4. When the oil is gone, you can reuse the sediment (chili flakes, etc). Just pour more hot oil into the jar.

You can add other delicious things to your oil, like fermented black beans (douchi) or peanuts or sesame seeds.

A Sichuan-adjacent tofu-mushroom dish

This is our take on this recipe, which is the author’s take on a restaurant beef/tripe dish (apparently mushrooms have a similar texture). The final dish, with tofu included, is similar to mapo tofu.


  • Oil
  • Salt
  • 1 lb mixed mushrooms
  • 1 container soft tofu (optional; if using double all following amounts)
  • 1/2 cup stock
  • 1 tsp Chinese five spice powder (or 3/4 tsp fennel seeds and 1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and ground into a powder + 1/4 tsp cinnamon)
  • 1/4 cup shaoxing cooking wine (substitute with sake or sherry)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup diced celery
  • 2 Tbsp chili oil
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 handful peanuts, crushed
  • 1 handful chopped cilantro

Cook mushrooms in oil. Salt lightly and add all ingredients tofu through soy sauce. Cook until sauce is reduced and thickened somewhat. Remove from heat and add garnishes (celery through cilantro). Eat hot or cold.

Chicken adobo

This is a popular Filipino dish. I’ve never had it before, but J has fond memories of it. We actually have a Filipino cookbook, The Filipino Cookbook by Miki Garcia, so we used that recipe.


  • 2.5 lb chicken pieces (preferably skin-on)
  • Oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 cup cane, apple cider, or rice vinegar (or white vinegar diluted with water)
  • 1 cup soy sauce

Sauté chicken and garlic in oil until browned. Add everything except the onion and simmer until chicken is done (about 30 min). Add the onion and cook 5 min more.

I would describe the original dish as “aggressively tart”, to quote Cook’s Illustrated, and the chicken overcooked and chalky, so this version makes some changes. Originally, you were supposed to marinate the chicken overnight, include lime juice, and cook the chicken longer.

I might even decrease the cooking time more. You’re supposed to braise the chicken to make it tender, but we don’t have much success at that in general. Maybe this is one for a slow cooker.

Made a bunch of food!

We’re at that period of being without restaurant excursions that we’re having food cravings, so we’ve been making fancier dishes!

Rice pudding! Better if you use already-cooked rice.
Carbonara with bell peppers. Better if you undercook the pasta a bit, ours started falling apart 🙁
Our patented fried tofu! for use in…
Kimbap (kinda). We didn’t have a lot of the usual kimbap ingredients. We used fried tofu, egg omelet, avocado, bell pepper, and kale with sesame oil and garlic.
Final rolls!
Mapo tofu and mushrooms. We haven’t been able to consistently get our normal kind of rice (haiga, partially-polished medium grain), so we’ve been eating a bunch of different types: basmati, sushi, brown sushi, and arborio.
Macaroni and cheese using my mom’s recipe. This one sadly didn’t end up with enough sauce, so I guess I’ll have to make it again 🙂
Pumpkin cheesecake
Onion pizza! This was from a while ago. The dough for the crust was made at a company cooking class outing 🙂 I cooked the pizza on the stovetop to crisp the bottom and broiled it to finish the top.

Cuatro leches cake

We’ve been expanding our dessert repertoire, and I wanted to use up a box of cake mix we got from the free shelf in our apartment building. J suggested cuatro leches cake! It’s like tres leches cake (cake soaked in a mixture of condensed, evaporated, and whole milk or heavy cream, often topped with dulce de leche), but the cake batter also includes powdered milk. I’m not sure that the powdered milk actually does anything for the cake, seems like it might just be for bragging rights on getting 53 different milk ingredients into the dish.

This isn’t really going to be a recipe so much as a guide, since I wouldn’t recommend purchasing a cake mix. The cake is supposed to be a sponge cake, and there are lots of versions online. We added 1/4 cup milk powder to the boxed mix, and whipped the egg whites and folded them in.

Baked in the 13″ cast iron ’cause we don’t have a cake pan and the brownie pan was being used to make dulce de leche. We don’t have photos of that, but know that it made the microwave sticky inside and out.
Poke a bunch of holes and soak with a mixture of (approximately) 1 can of evaporated milk, 1 cup of whole milk or heavy cream, and as much condensed milk as you want, up to 1 can which will make the cake very sweet. We used barely any condensed milk here, which made it a good level of sweetness in combination with the icing.
Cut up haphazardly, move to a smaller container because you froze half the cake, and top with dulce de leche or whipped cream!

The cake turned out really well, much better than I was expecting! J had described the cake as being soooo sweet that you can only eat about a 1 square inch piece at a time. This version is more like cuatro leches cake lite.

Better bagel batch

We tried making bagels again, same recipe. They turned out a lot prettier. In the shaping step, turning the dough into nice balls is pretty important, and cornmeal is important to prevent sticking.

The texture is not that similar to commercial bagels – ours are a lot fluffier. Malt powder may be the secret to the denseness of regular bagels.

Moroccan tagine

With tempeh.
  • Oil
  • 1 pound chicken or other protein (tempeh, tofu, beef, etc), cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup quartered dried figs (about 2 oz)
  • 1/4 cup chopped green olives
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3 Tbsp Marsala or Madeira
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Brown protein in oil. Add all ingredients except for cilantro. Cook for about 10 minutes until protein is cooked through and figs are plump. Turn off pan and stir in cilantro.

The wine can be substituted with other alcohols. We’ve used shaoxing cooking wine out of convenience.