Category Archives: Asian

Speaking of different…

This was supposed to be a post about the empanadas my best friend Kelly and I made when she visited a few weekends ago, but it’s not. It also could have been a post about Pati’s Mexican Table and all the yummy food she made and how beautifully charming the Mexican Cultural Institute in DC is, but…it’s not. (Those posts will come, though, don’t you worry.)

Instead, I bring you something different. Something completely different.

You know what I’ve discovered the past three-odd weeks that I’ve been a full-time working woman?  It’s not always fun to cook when you come home at 6:30 or 7. Sometimes you just want a glass of wine and dinner to appear magically, you know? And sometimes on the weekends, you’re tired and feeling lazy and don’t really feel like cooking. Luckily, quick meals that still taste good actually do exist, and sometimes their inspiration comes from a cafeteria in one of the House of Representatives office buildings. Like I said, completely different.

Everyone say a big thank you to B. for this one – he’s had it at the cafeteria in his building, and I most definitely would never have tried it if not for his high praise. Its main ingredient is something I’ve never, ever cooked and something I’ve only eaten once and absolutely hated: tofu. And guess what else? This whole meal took 30ish minutes from start to finish. Boom.

It’s spicy, it’s Chinese-y, it’s healthy, and it’s quick-y. What’s not to love?


Sweet and Spicy Chili-Glazed Tofu
adapted from here

  • 1 lb or 1 block extra firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or, if you discover you only have about 1/4 cup sugar left, you could also use agave nectar)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce (we used Sriracha!)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons neutral tasting oil
  • 1 1/2-inch to 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced
  • Salt to taste

Rinse and drain tofu. Slice into 1-inch cubes. Pat with cloth or paper towels to remove excess water. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together sugar, water, chili garlic sauce, and vinegar.

In small pot or pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the sugar-chili-garlic mixture. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer until glaze thickens to syrup-like consistency, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat up a large skillet (or a wok if you happen to have one). Coat the bottom with enough oil to cover evenly. Add tofu and stir-fry until the outsides start to turn golden brown, about 15 minutes. Don’t worry too much about getting each and every side of tofu golden, but try to ensure at least 2 of the sides are golden. Remove from heat and toss with sweet chili glaze. Serve with rice, and garnish with chopped peanuts, scallions, or cilantro, if you like. I would also recommend you serve it with a quick sauté of fresh ginger, a few tears of kale, and a touch of rice wine vinegar.

Don’t worry, the next post from us will almost definitely be Mexican.
Until then,


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Janessa and Kara’s Semi-Annual Asian(ish) Feast

No one really knows how it started, but when Janessa and I are in the same place for at least a day at a time and have a kitchen available, there will be a feast, and that feast will almost always be Asian inspired. It probably began back in the day, when the family would make “Chinese” food for Christmas Eve dinner. (“Chinese” because it was probably only slightly authentic. Oh well.) Eventually, the two sisters parted ways as Janessa moved to Colorado and I moved to Germany with Mom and Dad. But, like all good stories, we got together at least once a year and then, suddenly, began planning Asian(ish) feasts of epic proportions.

There was always Chow Mein, and some sort of vegetable stir fry. Sometimes there was Chinese BBQ Pork. Then, we started making egg rolls. I even found a recipe for Egg Drop Soup. As the sisters grew up, so did the meals. They might not have become more authentic, but they definitely became more delicious – which is where we are today!

I recently visited Janessa and company for a bit, and she and I made a hugegigantic Asian(ish) feast.

This time there happened to be a lot of meat: scallion turkey meatballs, Chinese barbecue pork, and beef and broccoli. (We can’t help it, we grew up on a farm.)

Everyone agreed: this was the best feast yet.

We made Smitten Kitchen’s scallion meatballs, egg rolls with a mango-y dipping sauce, Chinese barbecue pork, a variation of this ginger fried rice (we kinda love Smitten Kitchen), and beef and broccoli with oyster sauce.

The kids even liked the food! There was a little dancing, and a lot of Britney Spears.


Here is our recipe for the Chinese barbecue pork. The pork is really, really good dipped in hot Chinese mustard and toasted sesame seeds.

Chinese Barbecue Pork
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated 

Note: the pork will be nicely moist and very delicious if you marinate it overnight plus throughout the day you plan on cooking it (about 20 hours), so plan accordingly.

  •  2 pork tenderloins, about 1 to 1 1/4 pounds each
  • 1/4 cup sugar (or you could use honey or agave syrup)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup Sake or sherry (we used Fu-ki Sake)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger (or if you’re feeling lazy, you could use about 1 or 2 teaspoons of ground ginger. We did!)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (or if you’re still feeling lazy, you could use a teaspoonish of garlic powder. We, well, did.)
  • red food coloring, if you want it to look more pretty (we didn’t, but we should have, maybe)

Combine marinade ingredients in a 9×13 baking dish (or a plastic bag placed in a baking dish in case of spills). Place tenderloins in marinade and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight. Turn pork over the next morning, and continue marinating until ready to cook.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 325 Fahrenheit. Cook to an internal temperature of 155 degrees, which will probably be about 30 minutes. (It’s very easy if you have one of those thermometers that lets you put the probe in and then has a reader that’s outside of the oven.)

Let sit at least 10 minutes, and then slice into 1/4 inch or so slices. This would also be good chopped up and mixed into fried rice, or even just piled in thin slices on top of fried rice or a noodle dish.


Janessa and Kara

p.s. Chinese New Year is January 23. Wouldn’t you like some nice scallion meatballs or Chinese barbecue pork to celebrate? We thought so.

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