Last Friday was my turn to host the neighbors’ monthly get-together.  Inspired by the Chinese New Year celebrated this year on January 31, I decided to make it a dim-sum night.  These are the items I prepared.

Beef Sio-mai on spinach wrap

Beef Siomai on spinach wrap


  • ½ lb ground sirloin, I purchased the pack with the lowest fat content
  • ¼ cup chopped water chestnuts
  • ¼ cup chopped bamboo shoots
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 t sesame seed oil
  • 1 T rice wine
  • 1 t sugar
  • ¼ cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 25 pieces spinach wonton wrapper.  The package suggests to use this type of wrapper to make vegetable dumplings, but I thought it would add some color and I decided to use green peas to complement the  spinach wrap.

Mix all the ingredients and refrigerate for an hour to overnight to meld the flavors.

Chicken and Shrimp Siomai

Chicken and Shrimp Siomai


  • ½ cup boneless chicken breast, chopped
  • ¼ c chopped water chestnuts
  • ¼ c Chinese black mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 1 T rice wine
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 T sesame seed oil
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • ½ t pepper
  • 15 pieces shrimps, shell and slice in the middle to remove the black vein
  • 25 Siomai wrapper

Mix all the ingredients, except the shrimps and refrigerate for an hour to overnight to meld the flavors.

Wrap the siomai using 1 T of chicken top with half the shrimp. Make a circle using the index finger and the thumb. Put the siomai on the hole and lightly grab the ends to make the siomai pockets.

Chicken Siopao

Chicken Siopao

I have posted the recipe for Chicken Siopao. For this occasion, I just made them smaller, about 2 inches diameter.

Turkey Dumpling

Dumpling with Turkey

This is actually called Peking Kuo-Tieh Dumplings.

Dough Skin:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 ½ cup boiling water
  • 5 T cold water

Sift flour in a bowl, mix in the boiling water. Leave for 5 minutes, then add the cold water. Transfer into a mixer or knead manually until it forms a soft ball.


  • ½ lb ground turkey
  • 1 T chopped  fresh ginger
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup chopped bamboo shoots
  • 1 T rice wine

Cut the dough into round the size of a pecan nut. Using a rolling-pin, flatten each and put 1 T of filling.  Make pleats on one side of the round and pinch on the other side to form the dumpling. This process really takes time but it is worth it.

Boil water in a pot. Drop the dumplings into the boiling water few pieces at a time. The dumpling will first sink into the bottom of the pan and then rise to the top when cooked. Scoop out each floating dumpling and set aside. Spray some oil to prevent from sticking to each other. Store in the refrigerator. This can be done the day before.

On the day of the party, fry the dumplings in a hot pan with little oil to prevent it from sticking to the pan. This takes about 3 minutes on each side.



Chicken Skewers With Philippine Inasal Flavor

Chicken Skewers With Philippine Inasal Flavor


  • 2  lbs boneless and skinless chicken thighs, If you buy the ones with bones, simply cut around the bones. Cut in bite-size squares.

Marinade overnight in:

  • ¼ c vinegar
  • 1 whole clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 inch fresh turmeric, finely chopped or 2  t turmeric powder if fresh is not available
  • ½ cup chopped lemongrass
  • 2 T salt

On the day of the party, put 3 or 4 pieces in small bamboo skewers.  With little oil to prevent sticking, cook the sticks in a pan for 5 minutes each side. Start with a really hot pan.

Egg Noodle Salad with Sesame Dressing

Egg Noodle Salad with Sesame Dressing


  • 1 lb egg noodles. udon noodles will work too
  • 4 pieces scallions, the white part only, slice lengthwise
  • 3 pieces of kirby cucumbers, or Persian cucumbers, or equivalent measure of English cucumbers
  • 1 sweet red pepper, slice into strips
  • 1 cup carrots, cut in sticks
  • Dressing: 2 t sesame  oil; 1 T peanut oil, 1 T peanut butter, 2 T rice vinegar, 1 T miso, pepper to taste .

Boil water in a pot and cook the noodles according to package directions.  Rinse and drain when done.

Make the dressing and toss everything. Serve immediately or keep cool in the refrigerator.

Siopao with Sweet Red Beans and Sweetened Coconut Filling

Siopao with Sweet Red Beans and Sweetened Coconut Filling


  • 1 can sweet red beans. I cooked mine using dried azuki beans, sweetened with little sugar
  • 1 cup  Philippine sweet coconut or macapuno, optional

Use the same dough as for siopao. Put 1 T filling inside and steam for 10 minutes.

Egg Custard Tart

Egg Custard Tart


  • 1 ½ c hot water
  • ½ c sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 t white vinegar
  • Dissolve sugar in hot water. Allow to cool and add the remaining ingredients. Strain and set aside.


  •  1 ½ c all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 stick, plus 2 T cold butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t vanilla
  • Combine flour and sugar. Cut in the butter until it resembles coarse meal. Combine the egg and vanilla and add to the flour mixture. Transfer into a floured surface and knead for 1 minute.
  • Divide the dough into 18 or 20 pieces and press into 2 ½: tart pans. Since I don’t own the small  tart pans, I used the mini muffin pan.
  • Stir the custard mixture and pour into each tart. Bake in pre-heated 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Can be served hot or cold.

I offered different sauces to go with the dim-sums.

  • Soy-Vinegar.  ¼ cup soy sauce,  3 T rice vinegar, ½ t black pepper, finely sliced 1 scallion. Mix together. This is good for the dumplings. For variation, instead of scallions use, 1 T finely diced fresh ginger.
  • Hoisin-Sesame:  3 T hoisin sauce, 1 t sesame oil. Mix. This is good on Chicken Siopao.
  • Worcestershire: Also good used in the chicken siopao.

For drinks I served lychee juice,  jasmine tea and chilled sake.

Making each dumpling requires patience.  It’s been my habit to turn the TV on while I work in the kitchen. This time I tuned in to Netflix for my favorite old movies. I figured since I already saw the movies several times,  there is no need to pay attention much to the dialogues while making the dumplings.

Dim-sum night was a hit. My friend Isabel said to me, ‘this is over the top, you know I can’t match this’,  while her Italian husband said, ‘I am serving pizza on my turn!’.

To that I responded, ‘I would like that since I have been saying that the day I meet a pizza I like, is the day I become a true Floridian’.

Because right now, when it comes to food,  my heart still belongs to New York!

By the way, I completed the preparation of these good morsels while two of my favorite old movies played on the TV: School Ties and Last Holiday.  It provides me with the proper rhythm. Try it, it’s fun.


Chicken Siopao

I haven’t met a Filipino who does not  like siopao. This dish also called  Siu Bao was introduced to the Philippines by the Chinese centuries ago. This is  traditionally made with pork filling. Not many bao store in New York Chinatown sells chicken bao and being that we don’t eat pork, I make it with chicken.


  • 1 chicken breast, diced
  • 1 T oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 pieces dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked in 1 c water for 30 minutes or until fully hydrated, sliced thinly. Strain and reserve the mushroom water.
  • 1/3 c chopped onion
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 2 T Hoisin sauce
  • 1 T Oyster sauce
  • ground black pepper
  • 3 T Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 t  sesame oil
  • 2 t corn starch
  • 3 sprigs of green onions, sliced

Cook the filling.

  • In a pan, heat the oil and cook the garlic until light brown. Add the onion and mushroom and cook until the onion is soft.
  • Add the diced chicken meat and saute until opaque in color.
  • Add the soy sauce, hoisin, oyster  sauces, cooking wine and  half of the reserved mushroom water, cover and simmer to allow the chicken to absorb the flavor.
  • Dissolve the corn starch using the rest of the mushroom water. Add to the pan along with the sesame oil and sliced green onions.
  • Stir and cook until thick. Cool before filling the buns.

Cooked chicken filling.


  • 3 cups of white bao flour, also called HongKong flour which is lighter than the regular all-purpose flour. You may also use low-glutten all purpose flour.
  • 3/4 c water
  • 1/4 vegetable oil
  • 3 T fine sugar
  • 2 t instant yeast

This is the flour I use. This is available in Asian groceries.

I use the bread machine to knead and rise the dough. You can also knead manually or in a mixer and rise for 30-45 minutes.

Kneaded dough.

Divide the dough into 16 pieces for small buns or 12 for big buns.

Flatten each piece and fill with about 3 T of filling. Wet the edges with water.  Gather the ends in pleats and seal.

Put a piece of wax paper under each bun. Bring the water in the steamer into a rapid boil. Cover and steam the buns for 12 minutes. Resist opening to peak.

Steamed bao.

Serve warm. We like it with a little Tabasco sauce. Enjoy!

Rice Vermicelli with Chicken and Vegetables (Pancit Bihon Guisado)

I am glad that my husband’s eldest sister  lives in the same town. When we first moved here  she showed us places to shop for Asian foods. We now shop at FoodTown, an ethnic food superstore very much like the International Foods we go to in New York. In addition to fresh tropical produce, fresh fish and meats, there are endless supplies of pantry foods from the  Caribbean, India and above all multiple isles to delight any Southeast Asian cook from China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines. There is an isle lined up with noodles made from rice, beans, sweet potatoes, various types of starches and flours, with eggs, without eggs, white, yellow, brown, flat, round, fine, thin, thick, straight or curly. In Filipino cooking, they are all called  pancit with a qualifying description, sort of like a second name,  derived from either what it is made of or how it is cooked, mostly from how it is cooked.

I believe  the Chinese introduced the noodles to the rest of the world.  This dish is the simplest and most common Philippine noodle version. Simply called Pancit Bihon, bihon being Tagalog for  rice sticks, it is also referred to as Pancit Bihon Guisado, guisado being Tagalog (derived from Spanish) for sautéed. It is rice sticks sautéed with any type of meat or shrimps and vegetables. To give the noodles a bit of color,  soy sauce or annatto extract is added. Usually the proportion of noodles to vegetables is about 3-to-1 but to cut down on carb, I like to increase the vegetable proportion to as much as 50-50. My only problem with cooking pancit is I find it very difficult to cook just a little of it, making this an ideal dish for company.

Pancit Bihon


  • 1/2 package thin rice vermicelli
  • 1  chicken breast, cut into thin strips
  • 2 c shredded cabbage
  • 1 c french cut green beans
  • 1 carrot, cut in slices or sticks
  • 1/2 lb snow peas
  • 1 onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • lemon for serving
  • 1 c no-salt chicken broth
  • 1 t annatto powder or 1/4 c soy sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 T vegetable oil

Saute the meat and vegetables. Filipino sautéed dishes always starts with the browning of garlic in oil.

  • In a big pan or wok, heat 3 T oil, slightly  brown the garlic, add the onions and the meat. Cover and cook until the chicken is no longer pink and thoroughly cooked.
  • Add the vegetables except the scallions and lemon. Season with salt and pepper . Cover until the vegetables are wilted but not soft.
  • If using the same pan for the noodles, remove the meat-vegetables mix and set aside.
  • Put the chicken broth on the pan, add the choice of color: annatto or soy sauce, start with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper and 1 T vegetable oil. Bring to boil.
  • Add the dry noodle and keep stirring to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the broth is absorbed by the noodles, test for doneness like pasta. Normally, the noodles are soaked  in cold water first but like my pasta, I like my noodles al dente so I skip the soaking.
  • Add the vegetables back to the pan. Mix the veggies into the noodles.  Taste and adjust salt if necessary.
  • Transfer to a serving dish and top with the sliced scallions.
  • Filipinos like topping their pancit with sliced hard-boiled eggs we also like to eat it with a squeeze of citrus like the calamundin or lemon.

Pancit is always present in any Filipino birthday celebration. We believe that the long noodles symbolize long life so don’t even think of cutting the noodles to put into your mouth!

Chicken Sauterne with Whole Wheat Pasta

We spend everyday at the pool swimming laps for an hour from eleven o’clock until the sun totally covers the lap side of our huge clubhouse resort-like pool. Without a waterproof watch, this is how we can tell that it is already noon.  And we go home famished all the time. This means lunch is always hurried and consists of whatever I can find in the refrigerator. Today, I was craving for pasta but since Rey and I are both very hungry, I needed something really quick. OK, there’s chicken breast. I saw olives, capers and mushrooms in the refrigerator. I was thinking either chicken Marsala or chicken piccata.  With the ingredients I gathered, I think I am about to come up with a cross between the Marsala and the piccata, except that I should use  the opened bottle of sauterne in the refrigerator instead of opening a new bottle of Marsala or white wine. So why not? Chicken Sauterne. I am sure someone somewhere has a version of Chicken Sauterne. Here’s mine.

You will need:

  • 1 chicken breast split into 2. Slice each half breast making 3 slits but not cut through. Marinate with the juice of 1 lemon, 1 tsp salt and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, slice
  • 1/2 c mushrooms, slice
  • 2 T capers
  • 1/2 c green olives, slice
  • 1  T fresh oregano or 1 t dried
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c sauterne
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 lb thin whole wheat spaghetti

Boil water and cook the pasta as directed.

Cook the chicken:

  • Heat the olive oil in a pan.
  • Add the  chicken, reserve the lemon marinade
  • Brown both sides of the chicken.  Remove from the pan.
  • Add the garlic and saute until clear. Add the mushrooms, olives and capers.
  • Return the chicken to the pan.
  • Pour the sauterne and the lemon marinade. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked.

Arrange the chicken on top of the pasta. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.

We didn’t have to wait very long to eat, this was done in half an hour.

Mangiamo! (Though the only Italian about this dish is the pasta.)

Meat Empanada

Empanada is a favorite Filipino snack of fried filled pastry or turnover. But for a healthier version, I like to bake them.

You can be creative with the filling, use any kind of meat you desire. I used chicken this time.

For the filling:

  • 1 lb ground meat
  • 2 T canola oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 C finely chopped onion
  • 1 C diced potatoes or carrots
  • 1 C sausage, chopped
  • 1 C raisins
  • 1/2  C green peas
  • 1 small can of button mushroom
  • 1/2  C sliced green olives
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce

Cook the filling and cool before filling the empanadas.

  • Fry the diced potato in the oil. Drain and set aside
  • Saute the garlic, onion, meat and sausage. Season with salt and pepper and Worcestershire sauce
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and continue cooking.
  • Adjust seasoning according to taste.

Pastry dough:

  • 3 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 c shortening. The amount of shortening dictates the flakiness of the empanada crust, it can be adjusted down to 1/2 c to 3/4 c  to make a firmer crust.
  • 1/2 C to 3/4 C cold water

Prepare the pastry.

  • Sift all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  • Cut the shortening into the flour until pea size
  • Add the water little by little until the flour is moistened
  • Knead the dough until smooth.
  • Alternatively, use a food processor and pulse until the dough is smooth and forms a ball.
  • Take the dough and form a ball.
  • Flatten into a floured surface using a rolling-pin.
  • Roll
  • Cut into 1 1/2 inches pieces
  • Roll out each piece in to form a circle, fill with about 3 T filling. Add a slice of hard-boiled egg if desired.
  • Wet the edges of the dough with water, fold half over and using the tines of a fork, seal the edges.
  • Makes 18-20 pieces.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

  • Place the completed empanadas in a baking sheet and bake until brown, about 20 minutes.

Enjoy it with a drop or two of Tabasco sauce. Yummy!

By the way, you will probably have leftover filling, in which case you can use it to make  Stuffed Eggplant or simply make more empanada dough.

Here’s a twist that is fun to do. Add 2 t of any spice to the flour to complement the flavor of the filling. For instance, if the filling has a curry flavor, add curry powder to the flour. Or add dried herbs like oregano or basil.

I think cooking is an art and the cook is the artist. So don’t adhere to exact ingredients so much.

Just have fun in the kitchen!

Moringa Chicken Soup (Chicken Tinola with Malunggay)

The last time I ate moringa was at least 30 years ago back in the Philippines. But I never knew that this plant is loaded with nutrients too many to list, that it’s now dubbed as the ‘miracle tree’. I remember when I was growing up, whenever we needed some moringa leaves for this dish, my grandmother simply sent the house help to go to the nearby farm which was just across the street,  to pick some moringa branches. I am so glad to find that this tree is widely grown as a backyard plant here in South Florida. We now have one growing in our backyard. Back in New York, though frozen moringa is available in Filipino food stores, I find it  convenient and healthier to simply use fresh baby spinach or the young leaves of the pepper plant which is a staple in our summer vegetable garden.

And today I learned something new. We went to an Indian restaurant for brunch with our Indian friend and guess what they had on the buffet selections,  a soup with the moringa pods.  I didn’t know that the moringa pod is edible (but why wouldn’t it if the leaves are?). Our friend said that in India, it is called the vegetarian chicken because eating it is like eating chicken around the bone.

These are the ingredients for this dish:

  •    1 lb cut-up chicken pieces. I usually get a whole chicken but reserve the breast for another dish.
  •    2-3 pieces of chayote. In the absence of chayote, zucchini can be used. Cut in spears.
  •    2 cups of moringa leaves
  •    1 small onion, sliced
  •    5 cloves of garlic, minced
  •    3 quarter size slices of ginger, pound with the edge of a knife
  •    2-3 pieces of Thai green pepper
  •    2 tsp sea salt or 2-3 T Patis or fish sauce
  •    freshly ground pepper
  •   1 T oil
  •  1 qt water

In a deep pot, heat the oil and add the garlic and ginger until medium brown, then add the onion. Add the chicken, salt and pepper and let it saute for about 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add the chayote or zucchini and the Thai peppers, let it saute for  an additional 2 minutes, then add 1 quart of water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. When the chicken is done and the vegetables are tender, add the moringa leaves, cover and turn off the stove. The moringa leaves will continue to cook in the covered pan.

Filipinos always eat rice with this dish and we like to season the chicken as we eat. So we make a dipping sauce by mixing a little fish sauce, a piece of the cooked Thai pepper and  juice of 1/2 lemon.

Tandoori Flavored Chicken with Sauteed Indian Eggplants

We recently met a very nice seventy-one year old Indian woman who is a retired doctor from the Northeast. There’s 10 years between us, but I think it will be a very good friendship. We shared a number of odd commonality.  How odd  it is that we both take the same two prescription medicines (I haven’t met anyone else who does). We both have two children. Both our daughters graduated from New York University, about 12 years apart; both our sons graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, also years apart. Upon discovery, we both said the word almost at the same time: Karma. We both love cooking and gardening,  that is,  cooking from the garden. We have already started a plant and food exchange.

After 911, from 5WTC, our office moved to the Flatiron district of Manhattan. It is in the proximity of Lexington Avenue and 26th Street, which is home to various reasonably priced (i.e. cheap) but good Indian eateries which we frequented for lunch. My husband worked in downtown Manhattan where he also frequented cheap but good Indian eateries. Needless to say, we both miss eating cheap but good Indian foods. Today, our newfound  friend inspired me to incorporate Indian spices in this chicken recipe.

  • Half of chicken
  • 1 T tandoori powder which is available in the spice section of most supermarkets
  • 1 tsp paprika, for heat and color
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Massage the dry rub all over  the chicken. Let it marinade for  at least 15 minutes.

While the chicken is being marinated, heat a heavy pan on high. I use a bacon press, a cooking brick will work as well. You can be creative, in the absence of a bacon press or cooking brick, use another pan. Put the bacon press or brick on stove top on high heat for 10 – 15  minutes. It will be very hot so handle carefully. The pan has to be really hot to crisp the chicken skin. When the pan and press are ready, put the chicken on the pan skin side down and put the press or brick on top. It should produce a sizzling sound if both the pan and the press are properly heated. Cook each side for about 10 – 15 minutes. When pricked by a fork in the leg part, clear juice indicates that the chicken is done.

Meanwhile  prepare the eggplant:

  • 1/2  red onion, sliced
  • 8  pieces of Indian eggplants
  • 1 sweet pepper
  • 1 t turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 T oil

In another pan, heat the oil.  Pile the ingredients on the pan in the order they are listed, spread the spices on top. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Stir and check the eggplant if done.

There you go, dinner in no more than 45 minutes. We ate  it with steamed brown and red rice and the spicy Indian lime chutney  from our new friend. The dish marries well with the spicy lemony Thai basil which I happened to have at the time.

By the way, I paid our Indian friend a dime for the chutney, she only asked for a penny, but I didn’t have a penny. She said in India, it is customary to ‘pay’ for a spicy gift so as not to ruin a friendship (with the spice)! As they say, chalo khana khayenge! Let’s eat!