Butternut Squash with Tulsi ‘Holy Basil’ Chutney

I was going to call this ‘Butternut Squash with Holy Basil Pesto’ but I decided not to because: Why- when we contextualize Eastern flavors- do we always have to put a Western reference on it? Europeans are not the only people who blend herbs with nuts to produce mind-blowing sauces. In a way,  And of course, chutney is not just a jammy-something you have with toast. I remember a friend of ours was very weirded out by me telling her the chutney we made her was to be eaten with a curry. She gave it back to us without trying it, apologizing profusely, saying she isn’t into curry. I made it again a few months later (unbeknownst to her), called it pesto this time and she did not hesitate to try it on some pasta. I get it. We shy away from things we don’t recognize unless they are presented in a familiar form. So this is why we must normalize all foods, in all their varieties, giving credit and actual cultural context, even if it means teaching someone a little something. And so, friends, I bring you Butternut Squash with Tulsi Chutney, god dang it! This is a very indulgent tasting dish but super healthy, flavourful, vegan and gluten free! And the chutney itself can be made with a variety or combination of different herbs depending on availability and taste. Have fun experimenting. You can’t really go wrong.

Butternut Squash with Tulsi ‘Holy Basil’ Chutney

Serves 4 as a shared dish

1 large Butternut Squash, about 1.3kg/3lbs

1large Onion, thinly sliced


150g fresh Tulsi leaves and/or basil, cilantro, mint or a combo of (if you don’t have the right amount you can add other types of basil or even cilantro)

2 Green Chilies

50g Peanuts (or Cashews or Almonds- both will work but will all taste slightly different)

4 cloves Garlic

1/4 cup Lime juice (lemon will also work)

1 tsp Sea Salt

2 tsp Palm Sugar (or brown sugar)

To make the chutney, place all the ingredients in a blended or food processor and blitz it, using water to help it along. It should be smooth, something similar to a blended Salsa Verde. Of course you should choose your preferred consistency. Taste and add more salt of needed. Add more citrus if you like something more acidic. Put it into the fridge in a jar for later.

Leaving the skin on, halve your squash, scoop out the seeds and cut it into about  1/4″-1/2″ thick wedges, depending on your preference. Coat lightly with a drizzles of olive oil and toss in a couple pinches of salt.

Preheat to oven to 350F and bake the squash for about 30-35 minutes or until tender. Turn them halfway through.

While the squash is baking, thinly sliced your onions and caramelize them in a pan with 2-3 Tbsp of canola oil and a tsp of sugar over medium low to low heat until clear, golden and….well, caramelized. About 20 min.

When the squash it done, transfer the pieces to a serving plate. Get out your chutney and drizzle it all over the pile of squash. Use as much as you want. We go a bit crazy with it. Then top with your caramelized onions and serve. It also goes great when served with a dollop of Greek yoghurt and a simple rice pilaf! Ps the night we made this, we also rubbed some sea salt into shiso flower buds and sprinkled them on top for an extra herbaceous layer of flavor! Just an fyi for you.

Bitter Melon, Carrot & Mushroom with Vermicelli Noodles

Just a quick bitter melon idea for Radical Family Farms. Bitter Melon is new to many of their CSA members and finding new ways to cook with it can be difficult. Here is an easy recipe which loosely resembles a Korean Jap Chae in texture and flavor, something like a cooked noodle salad. This recipe uses Oyster Sauce but you could use Mushroom Sauce or even Hoisin sauce instead for a vegan option. And as for the tatsoi, you could also substitute with another delicate leafy green like baby spinach, arugula, sorrel or micro greens.

Bitter Melon, Carrot & Mushroom with Vermicelli Noodles

Serves 4 as a side dish

1 Bitter Gourd, about 8″ long or 2-3 small, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced

8-10 small Mushrooms, Straw, Button, etc, cut in half

1 medium Carrot, julienned

A small handful of Tatsoi leaves, or other delicate leafy greens, roughly chopped.

1 bundle (about 50g) of  dried Vermicelli Noodles or Bean threads, soaked for 30 minutes in warm water and drained

2-3 cloves Garlic, finely chopped

1 fresh Red Chili, finely chopped (optional)

Green Onion, chopped, for garnish

1 Tbsp Oyster Sauce

1 Tbsp Soy sauce

1/2 Tbsp Sugar

1/2 Tbsp Sesame Oil

Sea Salt, to taste

Heat some canola oil in a wok at medium-high heat and stir fry the garlic until fragrant.

Add the bitter melon, carrot and mushrooms and stir fry for a few minutes, until al dente.

Quickly and roughly cut into the pile of soaked and drained vermicelli noodles with some large kitchen scissors 2-3 times. They won’t  be even lengths but that’s ok.

Add the noodles and tatsoi to the wok along with the sugar, oyster sauce and soy sauce and toss everything together for a couple more minutes. I find using chopsticks in one hand and a spatula in the other is the most effective for tossing and stir frying noodles, but c’est moi. At this point you’ll feel the sauce beginning to dry out. Add the sesame oil and some sea salt to taste before tossing one last time to evenly coat the ingredients.

Take off the heat and transfer to a serving bowl with some chopped green. onions on top.

Karela & Ladies Fingers Subji (aka Bitter Melon & Okra Veggie Dish)

Some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life was when Chris & I were living in Singapore & Sri Lanka. The Indian influence on the cuisines from both these countries was always omnipresent and the spices, herbs and vegetables from the wet markets we once found ‘exotic’ are now staples in our household. Generally, South Asian communities- in Singapore & Sri Lanka in my experience- call Bitter Melon “Karela” and Okra “Lady Fingers”. And while in America people tend to associate these two vegetables with either East/Southeast Asian or American Southern cooking respectively, both are heavily prevalent in South Asian cuisine. I am by no means a South Asian food expert, but I’ve been privileged and lucky enough to have been welcomed into many an Indian & Sri Lankan family kitchen to watch the magic at work. Here’s a take on a subji (vegetable dish) which I have had many times and have grown to love as a kitchen staple. This recipe also includes a filler of cabbage which helps to soak up excess oil and runaway spices. The recipe calls for 1 cup of cabbage but you can add more depending on your taste. The other day, I added 2 cups to get more of a salad-like texture.

Karela & Ladies Fingers Subji

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side

1 medium 8′ bitter melon or 3-4 small, thinly sliced

About 8 pieces of okra, or more if they are small, cut into small chunks

1 cup (or more) shredded cabbage, green, savoy or napa

1 yellow onion, halved and diced

1 inch knob ginger, peeled and crushed

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp coriander

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 chili powder

A handful of rau ram/laksa Leaf or cilantro, roughly chopped

Heat up about 2 tbsp of canola oil in a pan at medium heat and add the mustard seeds. Once they begin to pop, add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes or until golden, tossing occasionally to coat the onions in the mustard and oil.

Grind the cumin and coriander with a mortar and pestle or in a cleaned coffee grinder and add to the onions along with the ginger and garlic. Cook for another 10 minutes or so, again, moving them around so they don’t stick or burn.

Add the bitter melon and okra and cook and saute with the onion spice mixture until al dente. Halfway through, season with salt and pepper to taste. Then throw in the cabbage, followed by the turmeric and chili powder. Toss all the ingredients together until the cabbage starts to wilt.

Turn the heat off and fold in rau ram or cilantro, reserving a small mount to garnish on top.

Transfer to a serving plate, top with the the remaining rau ram or cilantro and serve!

This goes great alongside a meat dish or other vegetable dishes like a dal and should be served with rice or chapattis and a healthy dollop of yoghurt or raita.

Ginisang Ampalaya- Filipino-style Bitter Melon with Cherry Tomatoes, Garlic & Eggs

The first time I’d ever had bitter melon, or ampalaya in Tagalog, it was cooked by my bestie and roomie (back in the day) Nico. Being from the Bay Area, I have always grown up around a very large and very tight knit-but so open-armed- Filipinx community. I’ve got very fond college day memories of hitting Jollibee in SF or Red Ribbon and Goldilocks in the South Bay-waaaaaay back in the day- just so we could get some cheap spaghetti with ketchup, pancit or at least some ube ice cream or some cassava cake. Is that too much to ask? And then… Nico’s mother moved to the US to be closer to him….and the floodgates flew open. Big potlucks at the family house with tables overflowing with infinite varieties of lumpia, huge piles of pancit, troughs of ox tongue in creamy mushroom sauce, trays upon trays of crispy lechon and my guilty pleasure- Dinuguan: pork in pig blood stew. Mind you, I was much more fit back then, with a faster metabolism and much more of a meat eater than I am now.

But I’ve gone off track. The first time I’d ever put a bitter melon in my mouth was in our old apartment in twin peaks. I wasn’t quite sure to make of it. The sound of a bitter, wrinkly, warty green gourdy melon wasn’t too appetizing to an 18 yo. But then I tried it….and I never looked back. I’ve eaten a lot of bitter melon in my life since and, while the Okinawan version remains my favorite, Ginisang Ampalaya reminds me of home. The bitterness of the melon is tempered beautifully by the sweetness of the tomatoes but supported and held high by the strength of the fried garlic and onions. And of course, I don’t think you can really have bitter melon without eggs. I just can’t imagine it without. When you eat this, please do think of broke-ass 18yo Adrian with post-raver spikey pink hair huddled over an 1970s electric stove in his 2 bedroom apartment with his 2 roomates. Agh memories. I think I’ll need to make this again now!

Ginisang Ampalaya- Bitter Melon with Cherry Tomatoes, Garlic and Eggs

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side

1 Medium Bitter Melon (about 8 inches long) or 2-3 Small ones– cut in half lengthwise, seeds scooped out and thinly sliced into half moons.

1 medium yellow onion– Diced

3-4 cloves Garlic- thinly sliced

1 handful (approx) Cherry Tomatoes- Halved or quartered if large. 1 diced tomato would also work.

3-4 Eggs

1Tbsp Fish Sauce (optional)

Sea Salt & Pepper to taste

This is going to be very easy and quick!

Prep all the veg and get about 2 Tbsp of canola oil heated in a wok or pan on Medium-High Heat.

First throw in the garlic for a few seconds until it’s fragrant and then toss in the onions and cook until they start becoming translucent. Together it’s about 1-2 minutes.

Toss in the bitter melon and cook for about 2-3 minutes until al dente. I personally don’t like my bitter melon too soft but if you aren’t keen on the bitterness you could cook it another 1-2 minutes more.

Throw in the tomato and keep stir frying until they start to soften.

Next push everything to the outer edges of the wok or pan. Whisk your eggs well, with the Fish Sauce if using, and pour them into the center, the middle of the ring you made with the veggies. Let the bottom set slightly and as the egg starts to set on the top, scramble them like you would any old scrambled eggs, mixing the vegetables into it and seasoning with sea salt and pepper. It will look ‘sloppy’ and that’s how you want it. Before the egg cooks all the way through, turn off the heat and transfer to a serving plate. I’m predictable and would eat this with rice but it would also be VERY nice over pasta like spaghetti, with a side of ketchup! A bit of Chinese garlic chili crisp also wouldn’t go amiss!

Goya Champuru

In Japan, bitter melon is referred to as “goya”.  Goya Champuru is a popular stir-fry dish hailing from the islands of Okinawa, combining thinly sliced goya with ham (or spam traditionally!), firm tofu, egg and a variety of other vegetables depending on the cook.  This version is my husband Chris’s favorite and is the closest to the traditional classic.  My favorite is vegetarian style which you can do by simply omitting the ham or replacing it with fried gluten, making it “fuu champuru”-“fuu” meaning wheat gluten.  It also tastes great without the egg if you are vegan but do use soft (not silken) tofu broken up in place of firm tofu to mimic the custardy texture of the egg. This is true Island Food, Japanese-style! Enjoy!  

Goya Champuru 

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side dish

1 medium bitter gourd or 2-3 small (Japanese is preferred for its bitterness but any kind will work!)

2-3 eggs

1 cup of ham diced into 1/2″ cubes or batons

1 block of firm tofu drained and diced into 1″ cubes or batons (in addition to or in place of ham)

1/2 cup mung or soy bean sprouts (not pictured ☹)

1 small dried chili pepper

2-3 clove garlic

2 green onions 

A pinch or 2 of katsuobushi bonito flakes as garnish (optional)

Cut the bitter gourd in half lengthwise and spoon out the seeds and spongy white part.  Don’t be too precious about the spongy bit, a little left on there is fine. Slice the bitter gourd 1/8″ thick and set to the side. 

Dice the ham and/or tofu according to the size above or whatever size or shape you want and set aside.

Slice the garlic thinly.

Cut the green onions into 2 inch long pieces, then quarter lengthwise. Use the green parts too!

First prepare the eggs by making an omelette. Whisk 3 eggs in a bowl with salt and pepper to taste. Heat about 2T oil up in a wide pan on medium high and just before it begins to smoke, pour the egg in a circular motion from the outside in, swirling the pan to keep it from sticking to the bottom. If you’re not confident with this, use a nonstick pan. Lower the heat slightly and allow it to cook until just set, then turn of the heat and cover to steam. After a couple of minutes it should be fully set. Transfer it carefully to a plate to cool, making sure it stays flat like a sheet. Once cooled enough to handle, cut the round sheet of egg into 1”x2” strips

Heat 2 Tbsp of oil on medium-high heat in a wok or pan and add the dried chili pepper until fragrant but not brown.  Add the garlic and bitter gourd and stir fry for a couple of minutes until no longer raw. Add the ham, tofu and green onions (reserving some for garnish) and continue stir frying for a further 3-4 minutes or until they are cooked through. Throw in a generous pinch of sea salt (about 1/2 tsp) just before it’s done.  Be careful not to salt too much if the ham you are using is particularly salty.

Add the eggs and bean sprouts and quickly toss it all together for another minute. Take the pan off the heat immediately and transfer to a serving plate. Sprinkle with a couple hearty pinches of katsuobushi if desired and the leftover green onions. Admittedly the photo shows more than just a couple of pinches of katsuobushi because I do love it so!

Serve with some steamed Japanese short grain rice. I love adding a few slices of fresh raw cucumber or tomato to the side. Also consider a small dollop of Japanese Mayonnaise as an accompaniment. You can mix it in or add it in small amounts to your bites. It sounds weird but you’ll thank me for it later, everyone always does 🙂 Chris loves to add a bit of Nuoc Cham or Sriracha on top.  I don’t think it needs it but if you are partial to spicy-goodness, by all means!

Fried Eggplant with Perilla & Ponzu

Perilla is a unique herb and goes best with co-ingredients which allow its flavors to shine through. In the case of vegetables, I love pairing perilla with eggplant. In addition to the stark contrast of flavors, there is also a beautiful marriage of textures. When fried, the eggplant takes on both a crispiness and a moist softness which compliments the coarse, and sometimes lightly bristly, texture of the perilla. It is particularly beautiful if you add an extra layer of citrus to the mix as I have done in this case. Ponzu is a japanese sauce made from soy sauce, sake, mirin, bonito flakes, kombu and yuzu. Yuzu is an Asian citrus with a flavor that meets ambiguously between something like a lemon and a tangerine. Some also compare it to a meyer lemon…..but I’m not so sure I agree with that as meyer lemons tend to be rather sweet to me ;). Yuzu are not particularly sweet but rather sour and with a more savory, aromatic flavor. The rind is as equally as aromatic and infuses into liquids brilliantly. This recipe uses a mixture of ponzu and sesame oil to create a “dressing” of sorts. Simple and easy, this dish will be easy to whip to together, so long as you are not afraid of a little deep frying.

Fried Eggplant with Perilla & Ponzu

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side

5-6 small to medium Japanese Eggplants- any long skinny Asian variety of eggplant will do. Small and/or young eggplants work best for frying.

A handful of Perilla leaves– Choose the smaller leaves if you can. If all you have is large leaves, tear them into smaller pieces. Japanese Green Shiso is my preferred and tends to be on the smaller side anyway, but Korean Kkaenip will also work here!

1/4 cup Ponzu + 2 Tbsp Sesame Oil– If you can’t find ponzu, I’ll be posting a recipe for it on my website soon once I’ve finished testing this latest batch I’ve made. In the meantime, you can mix 2Tbsp Soy Sauce with 2Tbsp Mirin (or Sake with some sugar to sweeten) and the juice of about half a small lemon to replace the Ponzu. Although it is worth the effort to find and buy Ponzu or try my recipe for it (soon!)

Roasted Sesame Seeds to garnish, Optional

Frying Oil– Canola or Rice Bran oil are my preferred here

Sea Salt to taste

Cut your eggplants in half lengthwise and score the skin in a cross-hatch pattern. This keeps the skin from turning into a solid, impenetrable “helmet” (haha) and looks super pretty. Cut into large 2 inch chunks.

Heat a few inches of oil in a wok or other pot or pan suitable for shallow deep frying. The oil should come to approximately 375 F.

While the oil is heating, mix the sauce ingredients together and set aside in a small receptacle with a lip for pouring.

When the oil is ready, slide the eggplant pieces in and at the beginning keep them moving. When they come to the surface and are exposed to air before going back down, it helps them crisp up better. Fry your pieces for just a few minutes until soft and golden brown.

Take them out with a slotted spoon and lay them out on a plate lined with newspaper and/or paper towel. Not sure why but newspaper is a superstar at absorbing oil or so says any Asian aunty. Let drain slightly.

Get your your perilla and tear off the small pieces or tear up the large leaves.

Transfer the eggplant to a serving plate and lightly fold in the raw perilla leaves. Season with a bit of sea salt.

Lightly drizzle the sauce, ensuring you get the flesh of the eggplant so it absorbs in. You’ll know it’s enough sauce when it begins to pool at the bottom of the plate slightly. A shallow pool is good but don’t let them swim in liquid.

Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and serve just as everything is beginning to cool to room temperature. This dish doesn’t need to be eaten piping hot.

Chinese Greens in Oyster or Mushroom Sauce

This is a super duper easy recipe to make as it only requires steaming your vegetables and making an oyster or mushroom based sauce to pour over them. Whenever I am short on time and want something substantial AND healthy, this is my go-to. You’ll want to use something like Bok Choy, Kailan or Choy sum- something with an equal leaf to stem ratio. By that I mean something that has tender greens but also a good amount of edible stem which will hold up when cooked. It’s the combination of the soft leaves and tender but crunchy stems that provides a beautiful balance of textures. As an alternative to steaming, you could always boil the vegetables but then you lose all the nutrients to the water.

A quick note on the sauces. Oyster Sauce is a popular Chinese condiment used in many dishes, traditionally made by simmering oysters in water for a very long time until it becomes a caramelized liquid. It doesn’t taste anything like actual oysters in my opinion and is sweet and savory at the same time. For vegans & vegetarians, like I mostly am, there is a mushroom alternative to this which I actually find to be more enjoyable as it tends to be less rich. This dish uses either oyster or mushroom sauce to flavor a broth based gravy but many dishes simply use them on their own drizzled on top. If you are unable to find them or find the idea of them kinda gross (to each their own), you can simply substitute with just sugar as described below. The flavor is not nearly as intense but is a nice, milder alternative. I am currently working on perfecting my own vegan oyster sauce alternative which doesn’t require use of special, one-off ingredients. Once I’ve perfected it, I’ll post it up here.

Chinese Greens in Oyster Sauce

Serves 4 as a side

A few bunches of Chinese Greens: Kailan, Choy Sum or Bok Choy

A Bamboo Steamer (any steamer is fine but Bamboo sounds cooler :p)

2 cups Broth– Any kind of broth is fine HOWEVER I find broths made with carrots and celery, ie European style broths, to be not quite right. For best results use a dashi broth, plain chicken broth or kombu dashi broth.

2T Light Soy Sauce

2T Oyster or Mushroom Sauce (OR 1T Sugar)

5 dried Shiitake Mushrooms-reconstituted in boiling water for 10-30 minutes until softened.

4 cloves Garlic– finely chopped

Starch Slurry: 1T Potato or Corn Starch + 2T Water mixed together.

Sesame Oil

Get your steamer and water warming up to a boil.

If using gailan or choy sum, chop off the tough ends and either leave whole or cut into long pieces. If using bok choy, leave the ends if they are not too tough but if you do have to cut them, try to keep the leaves together in their natural bunches.

Chop the reconstituted mushrooms and garlic finely. Heat a little sesame oil in a saucepan and throw the mushrooms and garlic in. Saute for about 1-2 minutes.

Add the broth, soy sauce and oyster sauce to the pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let it gently simmer.

By now, the steamer should be ready. Put your vegetables in the steamer on a heat-safe plate stacked neatly in a pile and steam for about 5 minutes.

When the vegetables are done, turn off the heat and crack the lid of the steamer to let the steam out just a little bit so the heat doesn’t fully escape but enough so the veggies stop cooking.

Turn your broth mixture up slightly to a gentle boil and slowly add the potato or corn starch slurry while stirring until the sauce gets to the consistency you like. It should be thick but not syrupy or gloopy.

When the sauce is right, turn off the heat. Transfer the still-hot steamed vegetables to a serving tray, again, piling them up neatly and then pour the the thickened sauce over the top.

Notes on steaming, boiling or stir frying

It’s pretty obvious but this sauce can literally be poured over anything. So if you don’t have a steamer or can’t be bothered:

a) Simmer the gailan, choy sum or bok choy whole for a few minutes or until they are tender, then drain and chop as desired or leave whole. Remember though that simmering or boiling will cause many of the nutrients to go into the water.

Alternatively, you can blanch the kailan or choy sum in boiling water off the heat for a few minutes, just to soften the stems slightly then drain, chopped as desired and stir fry them for a couple of minutes. Bok choy doesn’t need to be blanched before stir frying as the stalks are more delicate. Kailan and Choy Sum have thicker stems and sometimes need to be tenderized a bit for a stir fry this quick.

Once cooked, you can pour the sauce over it as previously mentioned. Hope at least some of this made sense! I’m writing this after a long work dayyyyyyy……Zzzzzzzzz…..

Kkakdugi-Kimchi Daikon

King of kimchis in my opinion. There is nothing like crunchy, garlicky, spicy, fermented daikon. We like having a jar of this in the fridge AND fermenting under the stairs at all times. It usually takes about 5 days to ferment during mild seasons but when it’s hot out, it takes less time and of course possibly more time in the winter, depending on where you live. You can pack your Kkakdugi into jars or ferment them in ceramic lidded pots. We find chinese clay pots or earthenware casserole dishes with lids work a treat. Keep in mind though that pots don’t seal so if you are anxious about making your own ferments, perhaps just use a sealable jar to put your mind at rest. But I encourage you to try not to worry about mold too much. Obviously BLACK MOLD IS BAD, but white surface mold is easily wiped off without any contamination. Think about what cheese actually is and it should put your mind at rest. It’s mold! And furthermore, if you follow the steps, use the right salt and measurements, there won’t be any mold unless you happen to forget about it for ages! It’s the older-the-better when it comes to kimchis. That’s how you get that ‘umami’ from ferments. Taste-as-you-go is key. When the kimchi reaches the flavor that suits you, go for it! And don’t forget, your gut will thank you for all those healthy enzymes you’ll be feeding it!

Note: Many people use plastic gloves when making Kkakdugi and other kimchis bc it makes their hands garlicky and slightly stained with red. If you don’t find the smell of garlic an aphrodisiac, then perhaps wear gloves, otherwise…you’ll be fine. The smell will wash out eventually!


2-2.5lb Daikon Radish– Small daikons are fine to use but you’ll need to peel them as the skins tend to be tough. Also be prepared for them to be particularly sharp tasting.

2T Sea Salt– make sure this is non-iodized salt. Iodization inhibits the fermentation process.

3-4T Gochugaru Chili Powder- totally up to your taste. You could also try using cayenne, paprika or Indian chili powder if not available but taste test before you chuck it all in!

1-2T Fish Sauce – Again this should be to taste as it depends on how salty you want your Kkakdugi. Omit this for a vegan version, or replace with soy sauce.

4 cloves Garlic- chopped and crushed into a paste with a pinch or two of salt. The salt, helps break the garlic down as you crush it with a mortar and pestle or the back of your knife.

1 small bunch Green Onions or Garlic Chives, optional- Chopped into 2″ lengths.

Cube your daikon into 2-3 inch thick pieces, put them into a bowl and massage the salt into them. Let them sweat for a few hours-about 2-3.

Crush your garlic into a paste. If you aren’t using a mortar and pestle, transfer the garlic to a bowl. If not, you can use the mortar as the bowl. Add the fish sauce & chili powder and mix. Add enough water to turn it into a thick paste.

Pour out any liquid that pooled under the daikon and add in the chives or green onions.

Next add your chili garlic paste and massage it into the daikon and chives until distributed evenly. Next tightly pack everything into a jar (if you’re squeamish about fermenting) or the ceramic lidded pot we were talking about. Make sure you really pack it in, we want as little oxygen or air bubbles as possible.

If in a jar, seal it shut or if using a ceramic pot, put the lid on it and tie the whole thing with a tea towel or a scarf. Let it sit in a dark place for about 5 days, again depending on the temperature of the season. Do check on it everyday if you feel inclined and feel free to have a taste test occasionally after about day 2. It’s all up to personal preference. 5 days seems to be the magic number but we have even gone for up to 10 days in the winter months.

When it’s reached the level of fermentation that suits you, pack it into a jar (if you used the ceramic pot) and put it in the fridge. It will last you at least a couple of months. If you don’t eat it within days! 🙂

Chinese Sweet & Spicy Pickles

This is a really easy and quick recipe for a delicious mixed pickles dish that even your kids will love. The first time I made these for Radical Family Farms, their kids devoured them. Then I made a jar for their daughter on her birthday and again, they were gone in minutes. They are crunchy, sweet, slightly spicy and can be ready to eat in just a few hours. I like to eat them with Japanese Curry Rice or as a snack with a cold beer on a hot summer afternoon. You can use a variety of different vegetables such as daikon, jicama, pearl onions, sliced garlic, etc. In fact, daikon is my husbands favorite! In this recipe I make it with cucumbers, carrots & red onion. If spicy is not your thing, you can easily omit the chili.

Chinese Sweet & Spicy Pickles

makes 1 jar

1 Cucumber, cut into batons- Any kind of cucumber works but my preference is Japanese or Persian. If you use a standard cucumber, be sure to peel and de-seed first.

1 medium Carrot, cut into batons- unpeeled is fine

1/4 Red Onion, cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch chunks

1-2 dried Chili Peppers (optional), chopped with or without seeds

1 cup Rice Vinegar, white or apple cider vinegar could work but will drastically change the flavor. White is too sharp and apple cider is too fruity (duh) for me personally.

2/3-1/2 cup Sugar, depending on your sweet tooth

1/4 Water

First heat up your rice vinegar and water on the stove. When it boils quickly turn it down to a simmer, pour in the sugar and continue simmering until the sugar dissolves completely. Immediately take it off the heat and allow it to cool to at least room temperature. You can cool it fastest by pouring it into a glass bowl uncovered.

While the liquid is cooling, chop your cucumber and let it sweat by salting the pieces lightly with about 1t of sea salt and massaging it in. Let sit for up to 30 minutes. 10 is fine if you’re in a hurry.

Next chop the rest of your veg and your chilies.

When the cucumbers are done sweating, pour out the liquid that pooled at the bottom of the bowl and wipe some of the excess salt off.

Put all your chopped vegetables and chilies into the jar and then pour the cooled liquid over it. Close it up and put it into the fridge overnight or for at least a couple hours.

You’ll notice the veggie sticks will occasionally float to the the top. That’s ok. Just tilt the jar upside down every once in a while to re-coat the top end that’s sticking up.

Keep in the fridge for up to a week and use them as accents to your main meals. I’ve even julienned everything finely and made them into a coleslaw or as a filling alongside grilled char siu pork for banh mi.


Steamed Chinese Cabbage Rolls

While there are actual Chinese recipes for cabbage rolls (I know cause I’ve seen em), this one is entirely made up. Really it’s inspired by a Ukrainean dish first introduced to me by Olia Hercules, a Ukrainean cook and author in the UK and one of my favorite food people! Really the only reason I call these Chinese is bc I’m Chinese….and I made them?

This recipe came to be because we had just harvested all of our cabbage in the garden and were up to our ears in it. We also had leftover potsticker filling so it seemed logical to marry the two together. Really, stuffed anything is a no-brainer but these are particularly great because they are a great way to use up some of those outer cabbage leaves, as well as the less tender leaves people tend to toss away. Cabbage rolls are also a wonderful vegan and gluten-free alternative to standard dumplings. The rolls in this recipe contain meat BUT you could easily omit the meat and substitute with more vegetables and maybe smashed firm tofu. The potato starch will help in holding everything together as it coagulates the excess liquid in the filling when it cooks.

Just a quick word of warning, I made these up on the fly and there were a few things here I forgot to measure. But even though I’ve estimated based on memory, the filling is the very easy to play around with. Much like with dumpling fillings, you should definitely experiment and make them your own. And as always, if you have any questions, leave a comment, email me or dm me on IG.

Happy cabbaging!

Steamed Chinese Cabbage Rolls

Serves 3-4, makes approximately 10-12 rolls

Bamboo Steamer

10-12 medium to large cabbage leaves, Taiwan flat cabbage or Savoy is the best but standard or even Napa cabbage will do.


1/2lb ground Pork, or any ground meat. We don’t eat red meat but I challenge someone to do these with (ethically raised and slaughtered) Lamb for a gamier flavour!

1/2 cup chopped Shiitake Mushrooms, re-hydrated first with boiling water for 30min-1hr, or until softened. Save the water then chop finely.

1/2 cup chopped Bamboo Shoot, I used whole bamboo but the strips in the can is fine. Chop finely.

1/3 cup, chopped Water Chestnuts, I only do fresh when my Mom is with me bc I’m completely inept at peeling them properly for some reason. Canned is just fine, but go for whole.

1/2 cup chopped Green Onions, saving 1/4 cup for garnishing at the end.

2T Potato or Corn Starch

2T Soy Sauce

2t Sesame Oil

Salt & Pepper


2 cup Stock– use some of the mushroom water to make up this measurement

4T Soy Sauce

2t Sugar

3T Corn Starch, diluted with water to make a slurry

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch your cabbage leaves for 2 minutes. Drain (save the water for your plants!), plunge the cabbage leaves into cold water until they’re cool then drain and pat dry. Set them to the side.

Next mix all your filling ingredients together. First mix the meat and veggies together, then mix in the potato starch and seasonings. Use a fork to mash everything around and mix it thoroughly. You may notice that your filling doesn’t look as “meaty” as you might have thought. I prefer to consider the meat as a binder rather than the main ingredient-so it’s less like a meatball than you might have imagined. BUT if you prefer more meat, it won’t hurt to add more or to reduce the amount of veggies. If you add to my proportions rather than take away, be sure to adjust the seasoning.

Place a spoonful of filling into the middle of each cabbage leaf and roll into parcels by first tucking in the sides, then rolling from the bottom-up. The spoonful size can depend on the size of your cabbage leaf. Do what works for you and your “rolling confidence”. If you find yourself needing to be stingy with the filling to make cleaner, neater rolls, you can always blanch more leaves and make extra!

Place your cabbage rolls on a heat-proof plate in a steamer but do not pile them on top of each other, otherwise the liquid from the top rolls will ooze into the bottom rolls and make them soggy. Best is to either use a stackable steamer (as I have) or do them in batches.

If you use a stackable steamer, divide your rolls between 2 plates, place each one on a separate tray and steam them stacked on top of each other for 35 minutes. When done, allow to steam covered off the heat for a further 5-10 minutes.

If you have to do them in batches, divide into two and steam them each for 20 minutes. When the 2nd batch is done, you can pile the 1st batch of rolls on top of them and then give it a final 5-10 minutes covered but off the heat, using the steam to warm them back up together.

While they are steaming off heat for the last 5-10 minutes, mix your stock, soy sauce and sugar together in a pot and bring to a boil. Lower to a rolling simmer and dilute your corn starch with some water, mixing it well. While stirring the sauce, slowly pour the diluted cornstarch into it. At this point you can choose how thick you want your sauce to be. Watch as the corn starch thickens your sauce. Once it riches a consistency you like, you can stop with the corn starch. Give the sauce a good stir to make sure everything is dissolved then take it off the heat.

Transfer your cabbage rolls to a serving plate. I like piling them on top of each other because they look like little chubby hens in a hen house and it’s cute. Don’t ask. Next pour about half your sauce- or however much you want- over and around the base of the cabbage roll pile. Decant the rest to a pitcher or gravy dish to add more later. Sprinkle with green onions all over the top. We ate these as the main dish with rice (obvs!) and stir fried Chinese long beans in garlic. Enjoy!