Momofuku Pork Buns (part 2)

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this post, Andrew and I hosted two dinner parties New Year’s weekend. The first dinner was with our siblings, and the second was with our good friends Katy and Josh. They shared valuable wedding tips with us when we first got engaged, and continue to be a support during our first year of marriage. It’s good to have friends who have forged ahead in the Game of Life to help guide those of us coming up the rear. This is their Christmas card. This is how stinking cute they are.


Katy is a fellow food-lover and blogger and she and I have swapped many recipes and kitchen stories over the years. She’s also very encouraging of my kitchen adventures when I make things way beyond my skill level. So when deciding what to make for her and Josh, pork buns easily made it to the top of the list. It was adventurous, something she probably wouldn’t make herself, and she would be extremely gracious even if it turned out terribly. (Which, we already know it didn’t, thank goodness!)

Since the hard part of the meal (the pork buns) was made the day before, I had time to supplement the meal with additional dishes. To keep with the Asian theme, I served spicy pan-fried noodles, Thai salad (made by Andrew), and mango pudding.

Spicy pan-fried noodles is one of my go-to weeknight recipes. It’s really easy to throw together and the leftovers reheat well. I’ve made it with all kinds of Asian noodles, whatever I had on hand or could find in the store, and it turns out well every single time. The only mishap I had with it this last time was that I forgot we ran out of soy sauce and had to run down to the corner store to get some. It was an inconvenience but nothing earth shattering. But then, right when I drained the cooked noodles, I realized that I didn’t have enough—I meant to double the recipe and realized that I only bought one package of noodles. Noodles are the main ingredient, and I forgot to double it! What is wrong with me? How could I have missed that detail? I was pissed. Making that kind of amateur mistake is just not acceptable to me, especially when I’m hosting. So I was huffing and puffing during the rest of my preparations, disappointed in myself, and rushing because I was running behind (as usual). It was an embarrassing display of childish attitude, even if Andrew was the only one to witness it (God bless his patience), because in the end it was fine. There were plenty of noodles to go around without doubling the recipe.

The Thai salad is Andrew’s take on the Thai chicken salad at Park Chow, a lovely and homey SF restaurant. The key to this salad is the dressing. It’s citrusy and spicy and has a quintessential Asian flavor, which we learned can really only be re-created using two essential ingredients: fish sauce and ground dried shrimp. You can’t taste their individual flavor in the finished dressing, but you can tell when they’re missing. Other than the dressing, the salad is comprised of basic salad ingredients: romaine, red bell pepper, carrot, cucumber, red onion, and roasted peanuts. You can find the full recipe at the end of this post.

So, in addition to the pork buns (which Katy said tasted just like Momofuku’s!), we had a well-rounded menu.


Noodles and salad


Now, for the dessert. I am not all that familiar with Asian desserts. So, as one does, I Googled Chinese desserts and mango pudding was one of the first recipes that came up. It’s pretty straight forward to make, like a slightly more involved jell-o. You just have to make it a few hours ahead of when you want to serve so the gelatin can set. I used Chowhound’s recipe and made it for both dinner parties to keep planning simple. The first night I used fresh mangos that weren’t quite ripe enough, and the second time I used frozen mangos to see if there would be a difference in taste. There wasn’t really. Andrew and I noticed a slight difference in texture, but the taste was basically the same. If you make this recipe, use whatever kind of mangoes you prefer. Fresh or frozen, it doesn’t make that much of a difference except in the mess you make cutting the fresh mangoes. Also, no matter which kind of mango you use, you will have leftover mango puree, which I froze and intend to use for mango margaritas next time I host a Latin-themed dinner.


It was a busy weekend in the kitchen for sure, but a successful one, even with all of my ups and downs. I came out of the weekend with a number of takeaways, including my 2016 New Year Cooking Resolutions:

  1. Improve my planning skills, really reading and understanding recipes before setting out to make them.
  2. Give myself grace when I make mistakes, which I inevitably will.

So cheers to 2016, when I will forgive my flaws, learn from my mistakes, and laugh when all else fails. Happy New Year!

Recipe Links

Thai Salad Dressing

Adapted from Bruce Cost’s “Thai Cucumber Salad” recipe published in The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook Volume 1.


  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 ½ tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp red chili pepper (Serrano or jalapeno works too), sliced into thin rounds
  • 2 tbsp dried baby shrimp (ground)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp peanut oil
  • 2-3 tbsp chopped red onion and/or cucumber (optional)


Mix all the ingredients together. Adjust the fish sauce and/or lime juice to taste. Then, dress your salad with however much dressing you like. For the actual salad, we typically chop romaine lettuce, add red bell pepper and carrot (preferably julienned), red onion, cucumbers, scallions, and top with roasted peanuts. If we want to make it a main meal we’ll add chicken. You can also keep it meatless by adding edamame or tofu as the protein.



Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Pomegranate Syrup

As a food blogger, I completely failed for Thanksgiving. I didn’t write about turkey or mashed potatoes or my grandmother’s stuffing recipe, which I tried to make once and failed so epically that I’m too intimidated to attempt to make it again. On the flip side, who really needs more Thanksgiving recipes anyway? I was so inundated with Thanksgiving recipes from the blogs that I subscribe to that I stopped reading them altogether. And really, how many turkey and potato recipes does a person really need?

Today, I want to share about one of my favorite desserts to make. Panna cotta. Despite what you may think, it’s super easy and quick to make, and is guaranteed to impress your guests. Also, anything served in ramekins ups the Fancy-Factor.

You can’t really small batch panna cotta, or at least I haven’t tried to scale it down, so I typically only make it for a group of people. I discovered buttermilk panna cotta when I made fried chicken one time and didn’t know what to do with the leftover buttermilk. There are many recipes for buttermilk panna cotta, but I’ve been using this recipe from Whole Foods and haven’t felt the need to experiment with any others, though at some point I should. The recipe essentially comes down to heating heavy cream with sugar, add gelatin, combine this gelatin-cream mixture with buttermilk, more heavy cream, and vanilla. Then pour into ramekins and refrigerate for a few hours.

Panna cotta is best when paired with some kind of topping: berries, compote, chocolate shavings–really whatever will taste good with cream. Andrew and I were gifted with homegrown pomegranates from friends, and while I was explicitly told to pickle them by their eight-year-old daughter, I decided instead to make a pomegranate syrup to go with the panna cotta. (Ava, I promise I will experiment with pickling them next time.) I did some Googling and came across this blog called Drizzle and Dip by Sam Linsell. She’s a popular blogger in South Africa and the food photography is absolutely gorgeous. She posted about a pomegranate and ginger spritzer which gave tips for deseeding a pomegranate as well as a simple pomegranate syrup recipe to go with her pink swirl meringues. Take a minute or 60 and get lost in her beautiful photos. I’ll wait.

To deseed a pomegranate, fill a large bowl with water, cut the pomegranates in quarters and remove the seeds from the white, pithy bits under the water. It prevents juice splatters and also helps separate the seeds from the pith, as the pith floats to the top.




Linsell recommends juicing seeds with an electrical rotary juicer. I don’t have one of those (nor do I really know what that is) so I just put the seeds in a Ziplock bag and used a rolling pin to crush the seeds, using my hands to crush any seeds that the rolling pin didn’t catch. Then I cut a tiny hole in the corner of the bag and squeezed the juice out. You can also put the seeds in a blender and pulse it a little and then strain the juice and seeds through a cheesecloth, but the Ziplock bag required less cleaning of dishes which I was all for.


The syrup recipe is a simple 2:1 ratio of juice to sugar. I combined the 2/3 cup of juice I produced with 1/3 cup of sugar in a small saucepan, brought it to a boil, turned down the heat, and simmered it for 10-15 minutes. It will thicken as it cools, so try not to overcook it or you will end up with hard candy instead of syrup. It may not sound like such a bad consequence, but when you’ve spent 30 minutes deseeding pomegranates, you want the syrup to turn out well.

For serving, spoon a thin layer of syrup in each ramekin and top with some pomegranate seeds (that you thoughtfully saved before juicing). Then watch your friends go silent as they enjoy and lick their dishes clean. After all the pumpkin pie you’ve been having the past few days, it’s a welcome dessert alternative.