Tag Archives: Sesame

Szechuan Mapo Tofu (Bean Curd)

(serves 4)
Mapo Tofu is one of the easiest Chinese dishes to make and one of the first dishes I learnt to cook when I was a teen. It doesn’t require the finesse that comes with experience in cooking Chinese food, and it doesn’t require any Chinese cooking equipment. As long as you use the specified ingredients, the recipe is basically fool-proof and it also comes like it was made in a professional restaurant every single time.   


  1. Minced Pork (250g)
  2. Hard Tofu (500g)
  3. Spring Onion (5 stalks)
  4. Garlic (3t, minced)
  5. Toban Sauce
  6. Chili Sauce
  7. Tahini
  8. Peanut Butter
  9. Sesame Oil
  10. Corn Starch
  11. Soya Sauce
  12. Chinese Wine


  1. In a bowl stir 3T cold water with 1T soya sauce and1T Chinese wine. Add 1t corn starch and mix until the corn starch dissolves. Pour the mixture into the minced pork and mix well, followed by 1T sesame oil and a second round of mixing.
  2. Allow the meat to marinate for about fifteen minutes while you dice the spring onions into 1/8th inch pieces.
  3. Prepare a mixture of 3/4 cup cold water, 1T corn starch and 1t sugar. Set this aside for later use.
  4. Heat up 2T of Sesame Oil  in a large pan and stir fry the pork. Don’t put the meat in until the pan is really hot. Press down on the meat to make sure there are no large clumps. When the pork is cooked push the meat to the sides of the pan.
  5. In the hole at the centre of the pan add 1T of Sesame Oil, and 3t of minced garlic. When the garlic splutters, add 4t Toban Sauce and 2t Chili Sauce and mix in a circular motion.
  6. Next incorporate 4t of tahini and 2t of peanut butter into the Chili-bean-garlic mixture.
  7. Pour in the corn starch water you prepared earlier and stir everything together, including the pork. When the contents of the pan begin to boil, turn the heat down to low and allow the mixture to simmer.
  8. Cut the tofu into 1/4 inch cubes. Add this to the pan. Add the spring onion at this stage and continue to simmer, stirring lightly once in a while. When everything has boiled down to a rich sauce turn off the heat.  Taste to check if you need to add soya sauce or sugar, then leave the pan covered for a while while the dish matures.
  9. Reheat and serve with steamed white rice.


  • On the top left is the Toban Sauce, or Doubanjiang in anglicised Chinese. Its a paste of fermented beans and chillies that you must use to get the Mapo flavour right. You can find it at any Chinese grocer.
  • On the top right is the Chili Sauce I used, but you can use other types. Just make sure that its not the type that comes in a bottle and looks like ketchup. What you want is a pure sauce made from chilies with no starch or tomatoes added.
  • Tofu will come in blocks and it is best to just flip the tofu from the container onto your palm over the sink, discarding all the water that comes with the Tofu. Then cut the Tofu on your hand, with a butter knife. If you use a cutting board, some of the tofu is bound to disintegrate.
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Posted by on May 18, 2018 in Main Courses, Oriental, Recipe


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Goma Style Cold Ramen (Hiyashi Chuka)

(serves 2-3)
Cold Ramen or Hiyashi Chuka was traditionally served in summer as a refreshing chilled alternative to hot Ramen in the days before air-conditioning became commonplace and is still served seasonally in some places. Thus all the ingredients of Hiyashi Chuka, cucumber, ham, omelette and imitation crab sticks and even the Ramen itself are served cold. This Goma variety is served in a creamy sesame sauce and is great for lunch on a hot day. If you love the taste of peanut butter, you are definitely a fan of Goma Hiyashi Chuka, even if you don’t know it yet.    


  1. Ramen (2 servings)
  2. Tahini
  3. Ham (100g)
  4. Imitation Crab Sticks (100g)
  5. Cucumber (1/2)
  6. Eggs (2)
  7. Sesame Oil
  8. Sesame Seeds (black or white)
  9. Soya Sauce
  10. Rice Vinegar
  11. Mirin
  12. Hon Dashi Granules

Early Preparation 

  1. If you keep your Tahini in the fridge, take it out ahead of time so it has a chance to warm up.
  2. Dissolve 1t of Hon Dashi granules in 1/3 cup of warm water to make some stock.
  3. Beat 2 eggs with 1/3 of the stock, 1T of Mirin and 1 heaped t of sugar. Cook an omelette with the egg mixture, using low heat to make sure it doesn’t get burnt. Cut the omelette into strips that are about 1/8 of an inch wide and place the egg strips in the fridge, covered in cling film.
  4. Cut the ham into long strips matching the egg. Do the same with the crab sticks. Also put them in the fridge in cling film.
  5. Julienne half a cucumber into long thin pieces. They must be as thin as the noodles so they don’t remain rigid. Ideally you’d use a mandolin slicer for the cucumber as it is difficult to cut the cucumber sufficiently thin by hand. Keep the julienned cucumber in the fridge as well.
  6. If you intend to make your Hiyashi Chuka presentable keep all the toppings separate in the fridge. They should also all be of the same length.
  7. Now for the sauce.  Mix 3 heaped t of Tahini with 2T sesame oil, 1T rice vinegar, 1T Mirin, 1t soya sauce in a bowl. Use the back of a tea spoon in a circular motion to integrate the tahini into an emulsion.
  8. Dissolve 1t sugar in the remaining stock. Stir the stock slowly into the emulsion to thin it down into a sauce and then place the sauce in the fridge. It should thicken again once it becomes cold.

When You Are Ready To Serve

  1. Boil the ramen. When the noodles are done (it’s best to judge by tasting) rinse them immediately with running cold tap water in a colander. You’ll need to move the ramen around with your hands as the bottom portion will tend to stay warm. Use iced water if it is a warm day and your tap water is not cold.
  2. Leave the colander to drain for a short while and then divide the ramen onto plates. Pour the sauce evenly into the noodles and then arrange the toppings over the noodles.
  3. Finally sprinkle each plate with some sesame seeds and serve.


  • Gomadare means Sesame Paste Sauce, which is where the ‘Goma’ in Goma Hiyashi Chuka comes from. Plain Hiyashi Chuka refers to original cold ramen that is served in a vinegary soya sauce.
  • Hiyashi means chilled, which makes sense but Chuka means Chinese Style, which is strange since this dish was invented in Japan. My guess is that the closest thing Cold Ramen resembled when it first came out was Chinese tossed noodles (i.e. Lo Mein) and that’s how Chuka came into the picture.   
  • The egg and cucumber are standard ingredients for Hiyashi Chuka, but the strips of meat are allowed to vary. You can also have more than 4 toppings. Some common alternatives/additions are roast chicken, Chashu pork, fish cake, corn and tomato.
  • The sweet omelette is essentially made according my Tamagoyaki Recipe. You can check it out if your are interested in the finer details.
  • The Ramen that you use should be of the yellow wavy type. If you can’t find ramen pasta is a viable alternative. In Japanese-western buffets you sometimes see a cold pasta version of Goma Hiyashi Chuka in the appetizer section. And of course you could try making ramen from spaghetti. Whatever noodle you end up using, make sure its a type of noodle that doesn’t get mushy easily – i.e. no instant noodles.
  • If you have no Hon Dashi, you can substitute in 1/3 cup of any kind of stock you fancy, but it should be salted.
  • If you have no Mirin you can boil 4T Sake with a dab of maple syrup down to 2T to make your own substitute.
  • If you have no rice vinegar, any kind of white vinegar should do.
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Posted by on November 3, 2017 in Japanese, Pasta, Recipe, Red Meat, Seafood


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Japanese Dried Mixed Noodle Toppings

(serves multiple portions)
Dried Noodle Toppings are something you keep in the fridge and sprinkle over freshly cooked soup noodles to instantly transform a mundane bowl of noodles into a symphony of tastes and textures. The toppings are created from a mix of small dehydrated vegetable and seafood items which come back to life after a few seconds in hot soup. While great with instant noodles, they also go very well with oatmeal, congee or any kind of gruel. With Dried Toppings, you needn’t worry about cooking meat to go with your noodles ever again.   

Ingredients Mixed Noodle Toppings

  1. Wakame (a.k.a. dried sea mustard)
    a delightful bouncy seaweed which is commonly found in miso soup. It has a mild taste and mainly serves to add the texture of seaweed to your noodles.
  2. Nori (a.k.a. laver)
    a type of crispy seaweed which is processed into paper like sheets. You have probably come across them in sushi rolls. Nori practically falls apart when it gets wet but it does provide gives the flavour of seaweed that Wakame provides the texture of seaweed lacks.
  3. Sakura (a.k.a. cherry shrimp)
    These give your noodles that occasional something crispy and tasty to munch into. They also give your broth an undertone of seafood flavour. You can find out more about sakura on this page.
  4. Dried Shrimp Roe 
    These deepen the hint of seafood from the sakura. You can find out more about this item on this page.
  5. Wheat Spirals
    This is a mainstay of Japanese noodles in clear soup. When hydrated, these spirals feel and taste a bit like a mini rolled up omelette. They also absorb the taste of the broth very well. These are made of gluten, so gluten-phobics be aware.
  6. Dried Bean Curd
    These are small bits of bean curd which have been toasted till they are completely dry. They impart the balancing taste of bean curd to your soup.
  7. Sesame Seeds
    These are a dry substitute for sesame oil. According to convention you should use white sesame if you are using whole seeds (nice crunch) and black sesame (flavours the soup) if you intend to mill them into powder.
  8. Dried Scallion
    You can dry these out in an oven wrapped in foil or just buy them in a bottle. They add a hint of cooked onion to the soup.

Toppings Ingredients


  1. Rather than give you the exact amounts of ingredients, I’ll refer you to the picture above with all the ingredients in the right proportions.
  2. The two types of dried seaweed are required in larger amounts than the rest of the ingredients as you can see and they are essential for noodle toppings. All other ingredients are optional or substitutable with other dried items.
  3. You basically just mix all the ingredients in a bowl and them store them in a zip-loc bag or air tight box in the fridge. All the ingredients are fully dehydrated so they will keep for a long time in the fridge. If any of your ingredients come with a pouch containing drying agents when you purchased them, you should throw these into the zip-loc/box to keep all the ingredients bone dry.
  4. The amount suitable for a big bowl of noodles is whatever you can grab with three fingers. Do not use too much of the toppings or your noodles will get over powered. I usually put the toppings in the bowl before pouring in the noodles and soup (which would make them bottomings) so there is sufficient hot soup to hydrate them properly.

NotesBefore and After

  • Try not to substitute in too many items which have been preserved using salt. Otherwise, your noodles may become too salty.
  • Use only small bits. Don’t substitute in dried items which are too large to rehydrate in a few seconds of boiling water. So things like whole dried mushrooms are out. 
  • You can buy ready mixed noodle toppings as well, at any place which sells dried Japanese goods.
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Posted by on May 12, 2015 in Japanese, Recipe, Seafood, Soups


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Miso Glazed Chicken Breast

(serves 2)
This is a great recipe that turns something healthy but boring like chicken breasts into something exciting and exotic. Miso with honey is great as a glaze and it also lets you stick on a layer of sesame seeds to provide that crispy crunch. Together they compensate for chicken breasts’ lack of skin. The recipe also comes with its own side dish which provides something wet to go with each mouthful of chicken.     

Ingredients Miso Glazed Chicken

  1. Chicken Breast (2 large halves)
  2. Potato (1 large)
  3. Onion (1)
  4. Garlic (2 cloves)
  5. Miso
  6. White Sesame Seeds
  7. Sesame Oil
  8. Mustard
  9. Brandy
  10. Chicken Stock Cube


  1. Brine 2 large chicken breast halves for. For information on brining chicken, refer to this page.
  2. Make a marinade out of 1T sesame oil, 2t miso, 1t honey and 1t brandy.
  3. Flush the brined breasts with water and marinate them in the marinade.
  4. Dissolve a chicken stock cube into 1 cup of hot water.
  5. Cut an onion into half rings and a large potato into 1/3 inch cubes. Pan fry the onion and potatoes in a few T of vegetable oil on low heat until the onion begins to get translucent.
  6. Add the chicken stock to the pan together with 2t of crushed garlic,1t mustard and 0.5t of sugar. Continue to simmer on low until the pan is almost but not quite dry and drizzle on 1T of sesame oil, then turn off the fire.
  7. The simmering will take some time so in the meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180oC (350oF)
  8. Grease a baking tray and position the chicken breasts in the centre of the tray. Spoon some left over marinade onto the chicken, carefully making sure none drips onto the tray. Sprinkle on 4T of white sesame seeds. Spoon a second round of marinade onto the chicken. Add any left over marinade into the simmering pan.
  9. Place the chicken in the oven for 13 minutes. If your chicken breasts are big, increase the cooking time by a further 2 minutes. In any case, when you notice that the chicken is beginning to shrink, remove it from the oven immediately.
  10. Serve the chicken breast using the onion and potatoes as a bed. Pour any drippings onto the plate as well, but not over the chicken.


  • The beauty here is that the miso marinade allows the sesame seeds to stick to the chicken while the sesame seeds allow a second round of marinade to go onto the chicken.
  • You can also cook this in a toaster oven. Its less powerful so you should cook the chicken breasts for 10 minutes at 150oC followed by another 10 min at 200oC. 
  • For information on Miso, refer to this page.
  • I cooked the carrots in the picture separately, so that’s why there is no mention of carrots in the recipe.

Posted by on December 14, 2014 in A Kobi Original, Japanese, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipe


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Tiramisu II, 4 New Flavours

So you already make a killer tiramisu, but as wonderful as it is, its getting a bit monotonous eating the same tiramisu time and again. What can you do? Give your tiramisu new life by making new variations. And so thanks to popular demand from my friends, I give you four new exotic tiramisu flavours: green tea, red bean, sesame and chestnut.

Normally one would consider tiramisu a coffee flavoured dessert. So how can you modify the taste of coffee? Well leave the coffee as a given and think of tiramisu as chocolate flavoured. Once you leave out the chocolate powder, you get room to try something else. What I did is mentally go through the flavours from Japanese ice cream, which tend to be milder, to discover what doesn’t clash with the primary taste of tiramisu. That’s how I ended up with these 4 new  tiramisu dimensions.

Before you move on to the variations, you first need to know how to make the standard tiramisu. Please refer to my Tiramisu Recipe if you haven’t already. Also keep in mind that all quantities stated below assume a 8 serving size, consistant with my ‘base’ recipe. In general, the extra ingredients are added to the mascarpone cream mixture, while various amounts of sugar, honey and cocao powder and left out from the original recipe.

Sesame Flavour
Sesame imparts a nice nutty flavour. As it is a tinge bitter, it goes hand in hand with the taste of coffee. To make a sesame tiramisu, you need about 250g of sesame paste (i.e. sandwhich spread).  You should be able to find this in the peanut butter and jam section of a good supermarket. Its black. Don’t confuse this with the brownish chinese sesame paste, which is used for savoury dishes. Sesame paste is somewhat dry and what you need to do to make it more malleable is mix a quarter cup of expresso into the paste before folding it into your mascarpone cream mixture. The paste is also a bit sweet, so skip the honey, and also skip the two layers of cocao powder. As a final touch, sprinkle the top of your tiramisu with 2 healped T of black sesame seeds (for a bit of finese, grind the seeds using a motar and pestle first). Sesame paste is also used in my Sesame Swirl Puffs recipe.

Red Bean Flavour 
Red Bean paste, also known as Azuki bean paste, is the archetypal Japanese dessert ingredient. It is made by stewing red beans in a sugar syrup. Don’t confuse these with other beans which just happen to be red in colour. Azuki usually comes in small flat cans like the one pictured here. There are two types, the mashed version, which is what you want, and the smooth version that has been sieved to remove the husks. You can tell which type it is by looking at the picture on the can. To flavour your tiramisu, you add about 300g of the paste to your mascarpone cream mixture. The paste is quite sweet, so reduce the sugar by 1T and also skip the honey completely. You should retain the top layer of cocao powder to keep you tiramisu moist, but leave out the inside layer of cocao powder.

Green Tea Flavour
Green tea is a type of tea where the leaves are steamed so that chlorophyl is not oxidized away. Consequently, green tea is less bitter than ‘normal’ tea and gives a light milky minty flavour when used in desserts. For this recipe, you need to use green tea powder, which comes in metallic pouches as shown in the photo. Green tea bags or leaves are not suitable. This flavour is probably the simplest version of the 4 given here, as you need simply add 2T of tea powder to your mascarpone cream mixture to impart the green tea flavour. Also, wherever you are supposed to sprinkle cocao powder, spinkle green tea powder instead.

Chestnut Flavour
Chestnut is another nice ingredient which goes well with tiramisu. The most convenient form of chestnut to use is processed (butter, sugar and sometimes kirsch added) chestnut puree, which is known in culinary circles as Vermicelles after the Swiss/Austrian dessert. It often comes in a toothpaste like tube as pictured here. For a serving size of 8, you’ll need about 200g of chestnut puree, which is the whole tube shown here. Like sesame paste, the chestnut puree is somewhat dry and you need mix some expresso into your puree to make it more liquid before folding it into your mascarpone cream mixture. You may want to skip the honey to reduce sweetness, but otherwise the rest of the standard tiramisu recipe applies.

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Posted by on March 21, 2010 in Desserts, Italian, Japanese, Recipe


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Sesame Swirl Puffs

(serves 8, or 4 in double helpings)
A delightful combination of sesame seeds and puff pastry in yet another east-meets-west combo. These puffs go well as a stand-alone dessert or can be served with ice cream or whipped cream. They have been described as being both crispy and crunchy at the same time, and if you taste some you will understand why.


  1. Sesame Paste (100 g)
  2. Black Sesame Seeds (1/2 cup)
  3. White Sesame Seeds (2T)
  4. Pecan Nuts (40g)
  5. Brown Sugar (1/2 cup)
  6. Butter (120g)
  7. Rum (2T)
  8. Puff Pastry Sheet (1)


  1. Take out the puff pastry pack for defrosting and preheat the oven to 180oC (350oF).
  2. In a bowl, mix half a block (120g) of soft butter with the brown sugar by hand. There is no need for the sugar to melt or anything, just mix it well. You can microwave the butter for 15 seconds to soften it if it is straight from the fridge.
  3. Put 1t of the sugar-butter mixture and 2 pecans into each of 8 muffin cups. As the puffs are baked upside down, the sugar from this will melt and become the glazing after baking.
  4. You should still have more than half of the sugar-butter mixture at this stage. Mix into it 2T of rum and 2T of black sesame paste, and all the BLACK sesame seeds. This becomes the sesame filling. Sesame paste is extremely dry, so if you decide to skip the rum, you’ll need to replace it with another liquid.
  5. Detach the puff pastry sheet from its stack while it is still semi-hard and return the rest to the freezer. Put the sheet on a surface lightly dusted with flour. Using a butter knife, spread the sesame filling evenly onto the puff pastry sheet. Arrange horizontally on top of the sesame filling 4 rows of pecan nuts. You have to work fast as puff pastry becomes unworkable once it warms too much.
  6. Roll up the puff pastry sheet as you would a log cake or sushi. There is no need to seal the edges with egg or anything as the muffin cups will keep the puffs rolled tight. With a sharp non-serrated knife, cut and discard quarter inch from the two edges before further cutting into 8 equal pieces. Don’t worry too much if the pieces are not round after cutting; as the pastry puffs the rolls will regain their roundness. Arrange the rolls into the muffin tray with the cut surfaces facing up. If you’ve taken too long and the pastry is too soft, the alternative is to cut the pastry sheet into 8 strips with a pizza slicer and roll them individually.
  7. Bake for about 20 – 22 minutes. When the rolls are fully ‘puffed’ and golden brown, remove from the oven and flip them over onto a wire tray for cooling. Immediately sprinkle the WHITE sesame over the glazing while it is still slightly wet. This is a purely aesthetic refinement and you may choose to saturate the entire surface with the seeds or just sprinkle lightly for a starry night effect.

sesame 2

This picture shows four muffin cups before the rolls are put in as per “3” and another four muffin cups with the puffs already positioned as as per “6”. Don’t fret if your roll loses its shape a bit in the cutting process. When baked, the puff pasty will initially flatten into the muffin cups and then become round-shaped as they expand against the sides.

sesame 3

This picture shows the puff pastry sheet being rolled up. I find it is most convenient (or least messy) to use a wooden cutting board with some flour sprinkled on it. It will be easier to start the roll if you place one row of pecans at the ‘inside’ end and avoid putting pecans too near to the ‘outside’ end.



  • Kudos to Ina Garten (in her Sticky Buns) for figuring out that muffin cups are the best way to control the shape of puff rolls.
  • Some people (like my brother) swear by 220oC (425oF) for 15 minutes for puff pastry but I’ve found a lower temperature is better for this recipe, probably because its not a pastry outside/filling inside type recipe.
  • This recipe assumes that the sesame paste (it is normally sold together with other bread spreads) is not sweetened, which is likely to be the case if the paste is Japanese (Tahini also comes to mind). I recommend that you taste the paste first and if you find it sweet, reduce your sugar from 1/2 cup o 1/3 cup.
  • You can experiment with any number of substitutions, and if you can think of it, it usually will turn out all right. Some alternatives include peanut butter, cinnamon powder, raisins and crushed walnuts.
  • In my neck of the woods, puff pastry sheets come in a 9.5 inch (24cm) square shape. Remember to adjust accordingly if the sheets you buy are of a different size.
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Posted by on September 26, 2009 in Desserts, Japanese, Recipe


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