Last modification: 01/19/08 19:26

Cooking Corner

Everyone has a few time-tested recipes that they roll out for special occasions. The thing with these recipes is that I didn't run into most of these casually - I hunted them down from the original sources, or tried to recreate the ones that knocked me out. With regards to international cuisine, the problems I run into often fall into two categories: 1) Recipes that are completely inauthentic, or 2) Recipes that are a little too authentic (Haggis!) if you get my drift. That said, any restaurant that carries separate menus just for the expatriates is usually a good sign.

There are still a few things that I would love to recreate at home, for example: Mexican "Al Pastor" pork, Szechuan (hot & sweet) crispy beef, and the Horchata cinnamon rice drink. If you have any recipes for these items, please contact me.

So, without further ado:

Arroz a la Mexicana
Benihana Dipping Sauces
Bon Chon Style Chicken Wings
Chicken Zopes (sopes)
Crispy Shredded Beef Tacos
Dammy's Stuffing &
DJ's Wor Wonton Noodle Soup
Igor Bars
KFC Original Recipe Fried Chicken
Modernist Macaroni & Cheese
Olde English Toffee
Paper Wrapped Chicken
Planet Hollywood Chicken Crunch
South Beach Arepas
South Beach Arepas II
Szechuan Dry-Braised Prawns

Arroz a la Mexicana

Rice is so versatile; it can be sticky, dry, converted, or puffed. Often the difference is only in only in the preparation, and this is where all those soggy Spanish Rice recipes get it wrong. It takes awhile to make this recipe, but it freezes well so make a big batch. Then you'll have the dry, fluffy, light, cracked-kernel type of rice dish favored by both Mexican and Indian restaurants.

Arroz a la Mexicana
Serves 6
1 1/2 cups Long Grain unconverted white rice
1/3 cup corn oil
1 1/2 cups tomatoes, roughly chopped (see note)
1/4 small white onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic
3 1/2 cups well-salted chicken broth


1 small carrot, scraped and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons peas
1 whole sprig parsley
Campbell's tomato soup (see note)





Note:  This recipe can be refrigerated and reheated the next day in the same manner, or wrapped in foil and frozen, to be reheated later by baking (350' for ~45 minutes).

Campbell's tomato soup is an excellent (and mild) substitute for the fresh tomatoes in this recipe. Reconstitute 1.5 cups with water and proceed as usual.

For this quantity you will need a heavy-bottomed, flameproof pan about 4 inches deep and 9 inches across. Pour hot water to cover the rice and let it stand for about 5 minutes. Drain the rice and rinse well in cold water, then shake the colander well and leave the rice to drain for a few minutes.

Heat the oil. Give the rice a final shake and stir it into the oil until the grains are well covered, then fry until just turning color, stirring and turning the rice over so it will cook evenly and not stick to the pan. this process should take about 10 minutes, depending on the size of the pan - but it should be done over high heat or the rice will become mushy in its final stage. The rice will have a very dry appearance and slightly popcorn-like smell. Drain or strain off any excess oil.

Puree the tomatoes, onion and garlic until smooth - there should be about 1 cup. Add the mixture to the fried rice, continuing to cook over med. high heat. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan until the mixture is dry, being careful not to burn the mixture lest you impart a smoky flavor to the rice.

Taste the chicken broth and add more salt if necessary. Add the broth, carrot, peas and parsley. Cook over medium heat, covered, until the liquid has been absorbed and small air holes (from the boiling process) are left in the rice. This will take about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and cover the rice with a piece of terry cloth. Cover with a tightly fitting lid so that no steam can escape, and set aside in a warm place for about 20 minutes so the rice can continue cooking and the grains will expand.

Before serving, loosen the rice with a fork from the bottom.




Benihana Dipping Sauces

There Can Be Only Two - remember, mustard for steak, ginger for shrimp.

Benihana Dipping Sauces
Serves 2/3 cup, 1/2 cup
Mustard Sauce (makes about 2/3 cup) :

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons Oriental mustard (can be found in the international or Asian food sections of most supermarkets)
2 teaspoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Ginger Sauce (makes about 1/2 cup)

1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 ounce gingerroot (a nickel-size slice), peeled and chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon (2 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon white vinegar


For Mustard Sauce: In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, water, mustard, cream and garlic powder. Stir or whisk until well combined. Chill before serving.

For Ginger Sauce: In a blender combine the onion, soy sauce, garlic, gingerroot, lemon juice, sugar and white vinegar. Blend on low speed for 30 seconds or until the gingerroot and garlic have been pureed. Chill before serving.

While most of the slicing and dicing at Benihana steakhouses takes place in front of the diners, these sauces are prepared behind the scenes where their secrets are kept. Here are recipes for Mustard Sauce, which goes particularly well with chicken and beef, and Ginger Sauce, which is used primarily with vegetables and seafood. Both were adapted from the Benihana sauces by recipe sleuth Todd Wilber.

Note: The mustard sauce has a relatively short shelf life compared to the ginger, due to the heavy cream.











Bon Chon Style Chicken Wings

Bon Chon is a very small chicken chain that I first saw written up in the NY Times back in 2007: "Koreans Share Their Secret for Chicken With a Crunch". We have at least two places like this in the South Bay, but it was the second one (a real Bon  Chon) that sold me. In a world full of mediocre wings & drummettes, these are the Real Deal; unique, and unlike any other type of wing you may have tried native to the U.S. Imagine a wing where the skin is like a slightly sweet potato chip, and the inside is tender, Chinese spiced, and completely non-greasy. The secret is to the technique is that the meat is simmered, then cooled twice in liquid before frying. Props to my wife Masumi for tracking this recipe down in an old cookbook., where it was originally entitled "Crispy 'Five Spice' Chicken Legs".

Bon Chon Style Chicken Wings
Serves 4-6
8 chicken drumsticks (and/or equivalent amount of wings)
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Cooking sauce:

1 1/2 cups good stock (see note)
1 1/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons yellow bean paste
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons mixed five spice pieces

Note: "Good stock" is your basic Chinese chicken soup stock, consisting of 3-4 chicken or duck carcasses boiled and skimmed in 8 1/4 cups water along with 3-4 slices of fresh ginger root. The rest of us Americans usually just open a big can of broth.

Rub chicken drumsticks with mixture of salt, pepper and ground ginger. Leave to season for 30 minutes. Bring pan of water to boil, add drumsticks and cook for 3 minutes. Drain and cool.

Place cooking sauce ingredients in wok or pan and bring to boil. Add drumsticks and simmer for about 15 minutes. Leave drumsticks to cool in sauce for 15 minutes, then remove and drain thoroughly. Heat oil in wok or deep-fryer. When  hot, gently fry chicken for 5 minutes until golden brown.

If liked, remove knuckle from drumstick and put cutlet frill on exposed bone. Arrange on heater plate and serve with Peking Duck Sauce (a sweet reduced sauce made with yellow bean paste, sugar and sesame oil)





Chicken Zopes (sopes)

A favorite of mine when I lived in Florida. The thing that held me back from making these myself were the cornmeal shells - little did I know that you can buy them pre-made in your Mexican market!

Chicken Zopes (Sopes) with Soup
Serves 3
1-2 skinless chicken breasts
1 large white onion, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1.5 tbsp Knorr boullion

6 Zopes shells ("El Mexicano Brand" Sopes shells, half of an 18 oz. bag)
6 oz. Queso Fresco (a mild crumbly Mexican cheese with a consistency like feta, 1/2 pkg)
Dash salt
1/2 head lettuce
Sour cream & salsa
Refried beans (optional)
Vegetable oil for frying
Pressure-cook chicken breasts, along with the onion, carrots and bouillon for 1/2 hr in a quart of water. Remove chicken, shred, salt lightly and set aside. Strain remaning broth if necessary and reconstitute with desired amount of vegetables for soup.

Quickly fry zopes shells in an inch or two of oil, drain and set aside. Assemble zopes in following order: Shell, beans (or salsa), chicken, lettuce, sour cream, salsa. Crumble cheese and sprinkle over top.



Crispy Shredded Beef Tacos

Real Mexican tacos are either served fresh off the griddle, or fried crispy and served hot. This recipe for crispy shredded beef tacos is pure ambrosia, and absolutely true to the Real Thing I would eat on weekends as a college student in San Diego. The difference between this and Taco Bell is like the difference between Wonder Bread and a hot French loaf bought on Fisherman's Wharf.

Note: The shredded beef can be prepared in advance and refrigerated, making this an outstanding quick family dish.

Crispy Shredded Beef Tacos
Makes 12


1 lb. skirt or flank steak, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove
Sea salt to taste


12 Tortillas (flour or corn)
Corn oil for frying
Sour Cream
Queso Fresco or similar white, salty cheese, grated
Shredded Lettuce (optional)

Note: This recipe works well even if you just fill the tacos with shredded beef straight from the refrigerator. Although flour tortillas are typical at El Torito, corn tortillas work best. For Salsa, I prefer Pace Fire-Roasted Tomato & Neumann's Own Pineapple (if you can find it.)

To make the Shredded Beef, put the beef and other ingredients into a large saucepan, cover well with water, and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering over low heat until the beef is tender - about 40 minutes. Leave the meat to cool in the broth, then drain, reserving the broth for another purpose. When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred coarsely, removing any sinew or gristle.

To Serve, spoon a thin layer of beef across diameter of tortilla, salt if desired, and gently fold in half. Fry in about 2" of oil until lightly crisp. Drain, then serve immediately topped with salsa, sour cream, lettuce (optional) and cheese.






Dammy's Stuffing

My grandma, Elsa (Dammy was her nickname) was the cooking columnist for the Los Gatos Times and a treasure in the kitchen - she cooked nearly every family meal we ever ate. Her stuffing recipe, which was a hit every Thanksgiving, was a closely held secret that she didn't reveal until after I was married. I think it made her feel indispensible, a bit! More veggies & spices are possible when roasting alongside the bird for gravy purposes, but this is the simple recipe.

Dammy's Stuffing
1 loaf of white bread
1 cube salted butter (4oz.), softened
pinch of salt
1/2 cup dried parsley flakes
3 tsp. dried oregano
1 large onion, chopped
3 eggs, whipped
Break bread in pieces, Put in pan and bake at 300' until dry (about 30 min.)

Crumble dried bread, add softened butter and mix. Add parsley, oregano, chopped onion & pinch of salt.

Pour the whipped eggs over stuffing & hand mix.

Dammy's British Popovers

Like Yorkshire Pudding, this British recipe goes incredibly well with roast beef au jus. If you're not sure about whether you want to splurge on a set of popover pans just for this one recipe, Do It - few recipes are as easy, tasty, and visually impressive at the dinner table as this! Serve with plenty of butter and enjoy the steaming rich aroma you get when breaking them open at the table.

Dammy's Popovers
Makes 8 medium-sized (i.e., pretty large!) popovers.

2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour



Preheat oven to 425'. Grease popover pan with butter, and place in oven.

Beat eggs slightly. Add milk, flour and salt. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.

When very hot, use mittens to remove pan from oven and fill each cup 2/3 full with batter. Don't burn your hands!

Bake 40 minutes until puffed & brown. For best results, use a heavy-duty real popover pan with butter - don't substitute!

DJ's Wor Wonton Noodle Soup

An infinite range of Chinese dishes can be made from a dozen or so 'exotic' ingredients, most of which can be found (in California at least) in your local supermarket. The exception is ground pork, which can be hard to find. Ask your butcher to grind some up for this soup which is so packed with good stuff that it can stand alone as a main dish.

DJ's Wor Wonton Noodle Soup
Serves 3-4
4 cups water
1 can (14 oz) Chicken Broth
1 pkg. Instant Chicken Ramen
Soy Sauce
Sherry (dash)
White pepper (dash)
1 tbsp. Vegetable Oil
1 tbsp. Sesame Oil
1/2 lb. ground pork
5 med. green onions, sliced
1/2 med. yellow onion, sliced
1 can Bamboo Shoots
1 can Water Chestnuts, sliced
1 pkg Wonton skins
Bean Sprouts (optional, about 2 handfuls)
Chinese Pea Pods (about 1 handful)

Note: It may be tempting to substitute hamburger or even mild sausage for the ground pork in this recipe. Don't do it. The former will be dry, and the latter will remind you of breakfast. Other items such as shredded chicken, Chinese barbeque pork, shrimp & black mushroom make excellent additions to any wonton soup. Avoid overcooking in order to ensure crispness. My favorite soy sauces are Kimlan, Chun King (slightly sweeter) and Kikkoman Low-Salt.

Set the water, chicken broth & ramen soup packet together in a large pot to boil. Mix the ground pork with 3 sliced green onions,  sherry, dash of white pepper and enough soy sauce to moisten & set aside. Meanwhile, slice the 1/2 onion into rings and brown (don't cook) over high heat in the vegetable & sesame oil. Add the onions and carrots to the boiling soup.

At this point, fill & wrap the wonton skins with the marinated pork mixture. Follow the folding directions on the package, being sure to give the ends a 1/2 twist after folding. Keep a bowl of water handy for moistening you fingers as you work. Toss any leftover bits & pieces of meat into the soup.

Mix the Bamboo Shoots & Water Chestnuts together, and rinse thoroughly in a bowl of cold water. Scoop out a large handful and add it to the soup, followed by the wontons. Add a dash of soy sauce for color.

Let the soup boil for 10 min. or so, stirring occasionally. Rinse the bean sprouts and peas, & cut the ends off the pea pods. Add the ramen noodles & remaining sliced green onion, reduce heat & gently stir. Once the noodles are cooked (< 2 min) add the bean sprouts & pea pods. Cook 2 min more, stir & serve.


Igor Bars

Sticky, heavy & delicious, Igor Bars are a robust snack bar first documented by Dork Tower artist John Kovalic.  Best described as part cookie, part Rice Krispies treat and part Snickers - powerful!

Igor Bars
Makes 15 dense, life-sustaining gamer snacks. Originally described at, recipe clarified here

1 roll refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough (1 lb. 2 oz)
1 14-oz. bag of Milk-Maid Caramels (about 45 pcs)
3 tsp. milk
1 1/2 cups roasted peanuts
40 large marshmallows
3 tablespoons butter
6 cups Rice Krispies
12 oz. bag of chocolate chips
Optional topping, such as Heath Bits or chopped nuts (4 oz. or so)

Cooking Spray
Wax Paper
10” x 7” pan
Double Boiler, for melting caramels
Microwave Oven, for melting chocolate








Pre-heat oven to 350’. Line pan with wax paper and cooking spray. Press cookie dough into pan. Meanwhile, get the double boiler going and start melting the caramels & milk as this can take awhile.

When the caramels are about half melted, start baking the cookie dough. The bag says 9-11 minutes, but this is a solid pie base so give it about 13 minutes. Do not overcook. 

Start making the marshmallow treat layer. Melt the marshmallows over medium heat in a large pot with the butter. Stir often, and once melted add the rice krispies and stir some more. Careful not to burn this – put the heat on low when finished and cover the pot so the mixture stays warm and pliable. 

By the time you take the cookie dough out of the oven, the caramels should be almost melted and the cereal topping ready. Scatter the peanuts over the cookie base, give the caramel a good stir and quickly cover the peanuts in caramel. Spread quickly and evenly, because this will solidify rapidly. 

Spread the cereal mixture on top of the caramel, peanuts and cookie dough base. Spread quickly and evenly, because this will solidify also. Press down on the topping, possibly using some more wax paper, just enough to get a good form – don’t make the bars too dense. 

Melt the chocolate in your microwave about 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each interval. After a few minutes of this the chocolate should be melted sufficiently to spread over the cereal layer. The Rice Krispies should still be quite warm, so there's no need to rush this step. Customize your Igor Bars by sprinkling on any additional toppings such as Heath Bits or crushed nuts while the chocolate is still soft. 

Let cool until the chocolate layer is firm, and remove from pan via the wax paper. Chop into fifteen cookie-sized bars. These are powerful snacks!

Clean the caramel & cereal pots afterwards by filling them with water and letting them boil on the stove. Empty, rinse and repeat until clean.

KFC Original Recipe Fried Chicken

This is another one of those recipes where it's an unusual method of cooking, rather than unusual ingredients, that makes it great. "Colonel" Harland Sanders successfully obfuscated the simplicity of this recipe for years behind the "11 herbs and spices" tag, and is nearly identical to similar recipes used by Popeye's and the (slightly sweeter) Chick-Fil-A chains. The toughest part is estimating the cooking time (typically 3 min/lb), because you don't have the luxury of eyeballing the result when cooking with a heavy duty pressure fryer. ( Read Harland Sanders' pressure frying patent here.)

KFC Original Recipe Fried Chicken
Makes 12 pieces
6-9 cups peanut oil (Corn is the second tastiest and works fine, but peanut/soybean/canola are the "pressure fry" oils. Basically you want the oil to be deep enough to cover the thickest piece of chicken)
1 egg, beaten
2 cups buttermilk (milk works OK)
2 cups self-rising flour (all-purpose flour works OK)
3 1/2 level tablespoons salt
2 level teaspoons cracked black pepper
1 level teaspoon MSG (i.e., Accent)
2 frying chickens with skin, each cut into 6 pieces


Note: Brining the chicken is optional. If doing this, reduce salt to 2tbsp.

Note: For Chick Fil-A recipe, cut pepper in half and add 5 tablespoons powdered sugar to dry mixture.

  1. Pour oil into pressure cooker and heat over medium high heat, 375'-390'F.

  2. In a small bowl, combine the egg and milk

  3. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining four dry ingredients.

  4. Dip each piece of chicken into the milk until fully moistened.

  5. Roll the moistened chicken in the flour mixture until completely coated.

  6. In groups of four, drop the covered chicken pieces into the oil. Once batter sets, stir pieces to separate and lock lid in place.

  7. Reduce heat to medium low. When steam begins shooting through the pressure release, set the timer for 10 minutes.

  8. After 10 minutes, release the pressure and remove the chicken to paper towels or metal rack to drain. Repeat with the remaining chicken.



Modernist Silky Smooth Macaroni & Cheese

...And in this case, it's an unusual ingredient that makes it great! Borrowing a trick from James L. Kraft, this silky-smooth recipe substitutes sodium citrate for Velveeta's harder-to-find sodium phosphate in order to eliminate the flour-based bechamel sauce approach which doesn't melt as well. Some groceries stock this ingredient in the spice section as Sour Salt, but beware - half the time this is actually Citric Acid, so check the label or buy online. The sauce recipe has been cut in half in order to match the noodles - and forget the immersion blender, use an egg beater!

(Credit to Microsoft's own molecular gastronomist, Nathan Myhrvold for the Sodium Citrate tech)

Modernist Macaroni & Cheese
Makes 2 Quarts
5/8 cups milk
5.5g sodium citrate (about 1/2 tbsp)
Finely grated cheddar cheese (2 cups)
8 oz. (by weight) dry elbow macaroni
2 quarts water

  1. Pour water into large pot and preheat over medium high in preparation for boiling macaroni. Add a bit of salt to water if desired.

  2. In small pot, dissolve sodium citrate in milk and heat on medium until simmering. Add cheese a small handful at a time, briskly stirring with egg beater while melting into sauce. About halfway through, set the pot of water to boiling and add macaroni.

  3. Lower the sauce heat to prevent burning while continuing to beat and add cheese while keeping an eye on the boiling macaroni. Remove finished sauce from heat.

  4. When macaroni is suitably al dente, remove from heat and drain (don't rinse) in a strainer. Return macaroni to pot and add cheese sauce

  5. Stir and serve!

Olde English Toffee

English Toffee is better known as the confection we love as Heath, Skor or Almond Roca. You probably already have the ingredients lying around the house, so you're only an hour away from making the freshest, richest batch you've ever tasted. Cleanup is simple, and it's much easier to make than you'd think.

English Toffee
Makes 1 1/2 lbs
1 cup salted butter (2 sticks)
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 cup slivered almonds
3/4 cup semisweet or milk chocolate chips
Candy Thermometer

I used Ghiradelli Double Chocolate chips in this recipe, yielding a thick, delicious dark hard coating with plenty of "snap".





Toast the almonds at 300' in a small baking pan for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Empty onto paper towel and pound to a coarse grind using the bottom of a cup or jar.

Melt the butter over low heat in a heavy 2-quart saucepan, coating the sides. Add sugar, water, and corn syrup. Cook over medium heat to 290' (soft-crack stage), stirring frequently. Watch carefully after 280'; the bubbling mixture will turn dark brown and creamy, smoking slightly. Remove from heat and quickly stir in half the almonds. Immediately turn mixture into a buttered 6 1/2"x10 1/4" pan.

Wait for 2 to 3 minutes for toffee surface to firm, then sprinkle with chocolate chips. When chocolate is softened, spread evenly with the back of a spoon like cake frosting.

Pound the remaining almonds to a fine consistency and sprinkle on top. Chill until chocolate is firm. Remove bar from pan and drop onto hard surface, shattering into large chunks. Break up remaining pieces by hand.



Paper Wrapped Chicken

Also known as Foil Wrapped Chicken, this recipe is very difficult to find on the East Coast. It makes a great appetizer, it's very unique, and kids like it too. The intense caramelized chicken flavor is simply irresistable.

Paper Wrapped Chicken
Makes 6-8 servings

1 whole chicken breast, split, boned, cut into 12 pieces


1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon minced green onion (white part)
1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
1 thumb-size slice fresh ginger, minced
Chinese five-spice, pinch

12 sprigs cilantro, cut in pieces
12 pieces aluminum foil or parchment paper, cut into 6-inch squares

Sesame oil
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Combine chicken with MARINADE ingredients and let stand for 20 minutes.

To assemble, brush each square of parchment with sesame oil. Wrap 1 piece of chicken and 1 piece of parsley inside. Fold in half to form a triangle; then fold over edges a few tunes to seal completely and twist corners.

To deep-fry, heat 4 cups oil in a wok (or electric deep fryer) to 350'. Drop in wrapped chicken, push down to submerge in oil using a strainer, and cook for about 2 minutes. Remove and drain well on paper towels. Allow to cool a few seconds before opening carefully. Eat out of hand.





Planet Hollywood Chicken Crunch

Supposedly from a recipe by actress Demi Moore. Imagine chicken fingers reminiscent of coconut shrimp, only with a Cap'n Crunch breading. What's not to like? Pretty much as good as it gets for chicken fingers.

Planet Hollywood Chicken Crunch
Makes 3-4 servings

1 lb. chicken tenders, or breasts cut into strips (10-16 pieces)

1 cup Cap'n Crunch cereal
1 cup corn flakes

1 cup flour
1 tbsp. minced onion
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt (optional)

1 cup milk (or buttermilk)
2 eggs

Vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Smash cereals in bag or blender to the consistency of rough crumbs, and pour into bowl. Combine remaining dry ingredients in a second bowl. Beat eggs and mix with milk in third bowl. Flatten breast tenders, then dredge in milk mixture, followed by flour mixture, then finally in cereal crumbs. Chill tenders while preheating oil, then deep fry at 325' for 3-4 minutes or until cooked thoroughly. Remove and drain well on paper towels. Service with Creole mustard.






South Beach Arepas

Arepas are delicious cheese sandwiches made with corn-pancakes, a sweet, Westernized version of a Columbian dish served all over Miami. I tried several different variations before settling on this recipe, which comes pretty close to the Arepa Queen standard. For  the commercial version of this recipe, make sandwiches by placing a round slice of unmelted white cheese between two pastries, and freeze them six to a bag. Arepas can be most easily found in Costcos around South Florida. To reheat, griddle the sandwiches with a little butter until the cheese melts.

South Beach Arepas
Makes 4 sandwiches or 8 pastries
1 cup arepa flour
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup coarsely grated Monterey jack or Mozzarella cheese
3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
About 1 cup very hot water




Note: Arepa flour is a special flour milled from cooked, dried, ground corn kernels. It's finer than cornmeal, but coarser than all-purpose flour - the closest in flavor is quick-cook grits. White arepa flour supposedly makes lighter pastries, but I've never seen a white arepa. This flour can be found at Hispanic markets and select supermarkets under the Goya, Iberia and Pan brand names, sometimes labeled as masarepa or areparena. 

Variation: Adding cooked sweet corn kernels or puree to the mix for that "ultra corn" flavor.

Combine the arepa flour, salt and cheese in a large mixing bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons melted butter and most of the water. Knead the mixture with your hands to obtain a moist, pliable dough. Add more water as necessary: the dough should be the consistency of mashed potatoes. You may not need all the water, or you may need a little more.

Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Wet your hands and roll each piece into a ball, then flatten it to make a patty about 3 inches across and 1/3 inch thikc. Continue wetting your hands to prevent the dough from sticking. Alternatively, roll out the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap or waxed paper and cut our 3-inch circles, using a cookie cutter.

Heat some of the remaining melted butter in a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Fry the arepas until crusty and golden brown, turning once, about 3 minutes per side on medium low in pre-heated nonstick pan. Work in batches, as necessary, to avoid crowding the pan. Add more butter or oil if needed. Serve at once.




South Beach Arepas II

Here's another recipe I found from that compares itself directly to Arepa Queen. I haven't tried it yet, but I suspect that this is even better!

South Beach Arepas II
Makes 4 sandwiches or 8 pastries
1 cup milk 
5 tablespoons butter 
1 cup ground frozen corn kernels 
1 cup Arepa Flour or finely ground yellow corn meal 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/3 cup sugar 
1/2 cup water (approximate) 
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese 
Mild Baby Swiss, Mozarella or Monterey Jack, sliced 

Bring the milk to a boil in a small pan. Add the five tablespoons of butter. Let stand. Grind one cup frozen yellow corn kernels in a food processor. 

In a large bowl, mix the arepa flour, salt, sugar, ground corn, and mozzarella. Make a well in the center and gradually add the hot milk. Stir until there are no lumps. Work the dough until it is smooth and sticky. Add water as necessary if the dough is too thick.


Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough between two sheets of wax paper to about 1/4" thickness. Cut out arepas with a large round cookie cutter-- about 3 inches in diameter. (We've had good luck using a small straight edged bowl.)

Heat a lightly buttered griddle on medium. Cook the arepas in batches until crispy and golden brown on each side. Immediately place a slice of cheese on one arepa and cover with another to make a sandwich. Heat on griddle until cheese melts.

You can also make the pancakes only and store them in the refrigerator or frozen until ready to serve. Just lightly butter two pancakes, put a slice of cheese in between and heat up on griddle at low-heat until the cheese melts.


We have also made these by thinning out the batter slightly with a little water so that it can be spooned directly onto a griddle, like a pancake. This saves all the work of rolling out and cutting!


Szechuan Dry-Braised Prawns

This recipe is served at Chef Chu's restaurant in Palo Alto. Lawrence Chu also hosts a cooking school, and is quite a character himself. Make this dish as hot as you like, it's one of the best fiery Chinese dishes you can make.

Szechuan Dry-Braised Prawns
Makes 6-8 servings

1 pound medium-size prawns (26 to 30 count)


Pinch salt
Pinch white pepper
1 egg white
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons oil

Vegetable oil, for blanching


1/2 small white onion, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon chili paste


1/2 cup catsup
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce

1 green onion, chopped
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Shell and devein prawns, leaving tails attached. Rinse and pat dry. Combine MARINADE ingredients with prawns in the order listed. Let stand 10 minutes.

To oil-blanch, set wok over high heat for about 1 minute. Add 3 cups oil and heat to 300'. Add prawns, stirring gently to separate. Blanch until pink, remove and drain.

To braise, remove all but 3 tablespoons oil from wok. Add onion and brown slightly; stir in remaining SPICES and cook until fragrant. Add SEASONINGS and prawns and braise over high heat until sauce is reduced. Stir in green onion and sesame oil. Transfer to platter to serve.

Notes: it doesn't hurt to double the SEASONINGS sauce mixture to avoid being scanty.

You can adjust the chili paste according to your own taste.

Substitute the meat from 2 lobster tails to make dry-braised lobster!








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