Salmon Poke on Baked Wonton Crisps

There’s something about fair food that brings out the gluttonous evil twin in people. Foods that we normally wouldn’t touch all of a sudden become strangely enticing (cronut ice cream sandwiches, anyone?), despite how fantastically bad they are for you. Out of all the naughty foods at the OC Night Market last weekend, there was one snack that stood out from the rest as being not only delicious but healthy too…poke!
While my hubby was waiting for his order of Garlic Crab Fries to come out, I peered into the adjacent booth to find some fresh fish poke (pronounced POH-kay) being prepared. Wonton skins, seaweed salad, and fleshy chunks of fresh salmon…I watched these beautiful bites being stacked together and immediately thought that I’d have to make them once I got home.
Poke is basically marinated sushi-grade fish. In Hawaii, the dish is commonly served on its own like a salad, similar to the way ceviche is served. Soy sauce, fresh ginger, and roasted sesame oil pack a ton of Asian flavor and keep the dish tasting light and bright. Here, I’ve made a slimmed down version of the dish by baking the wrappers instead of frying them. The skins turn out just as golden and crunchy as the deep-fried version.

Salmon Poke on Baked Wonton Crisps is so incredibly fast and easy to make. The hardest task is finding a well-stocked Asian market to get sushi-grade fish and ready-made seaweed salad. Sencha or gyokuro do a delicious job of highlighting the fresh sea flavors in these healthy gourmet treats. Serve the tea hot and the savory umami tastes become richer. Serve the tea iced and the contrasting soft and crunchy textures will stand out that much more.  
Salmon Poke on Baked Wonton Crisps

Makes 12 crisps.

Ingredients:

8 oz. sashimi grade salmon or tuna

1 tsp grated ginger

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp sesame oil

squeeze fresh lemon juice

shichimi togarashi, to taste (optional)

12 potsticker wrappers

non-stick vegetable oil spray

1 cup seaweed salad

1/4 cup sliced green onion (green parts only)

1 Tbsp black and regular sesame seeds

1 Tbsp masago or fish roe

Equipment:

sharp knife

large bowl

grater

large baking sheet lined with foil

Directions:

1.)  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the salmon into 3/4″ chunks. To make the poke, place the chunks into a large bowl and mix them together with the soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, lemon juice, and shichimi togarashi (if using). Set aside.

2.)  Spray the foil lined baking sheet with vegetable oil spray. Place the 12 potsticker wrappers on the baking sheet, then spray the tops of the wrappers with an even layer of vegetable oil spray. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until the wrappers are golden brown and crisp. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the crisps cool for a few minutes.

3.)  Place a rounded Tbsp of seaweed salad on a crisp and spread it out evenly, leaving a 1/2″ unfilled border. Now place a rounded Tbsp of the poke on top of the seaweed salad. Top the poke with a scattering of sliced green onion and a tiny dollop of masago or fish roe. Finish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Repeat this step to make 12 finished poke crisps.

Tea of the Week: Den’s Tea’s Gyokuro Suimei

My hubby and I are planning on moving into a new home this summer. Choosing cabinets, comparing countertops, rethinking paint samples…it’s been an exciting process. Figuring out what to do with our yard is officially next up on our to-do list. With the wretched California drought staring us in the face, we’re actually having to consider the option of synthetic grass now (boo!). I’m not sure what will become of our yard, but with Den’s Tea’s Gyokuro Suimei I know I can always count on an authentically grassy experience–drought or no drought.
The thin, string-like needles of Den’s Tea’s Gyokuro Suimei produce a richly vibrant green liquor that’s bursting with spring vegetable flavor. One of the marked characteristics of this tea is the color of the brew, which looks and tastes as if the tea was juiced not just steeped. If you like your green tea to brew to true green (not yellow, amber, or brown), then this is definitely the cup for you. 
I love to treat this Japanese green tea as one of my very special green teas, not for the everyday. It’s a slightly pricier tea but absolutely worth it if you are an avid green tea lover. As the days get warmer, this is delicious when prepared as an overnight, cold brew. Enjoying it this way will help to accentuate the fresh, bright qualities of this tea…super refreshing and crisp to the last drop!

Tasting Notes for Den’s Tea’s Gyokuro Suimei:

BREWING TIPS:  Brew at 140 degrees F for 2 1/2 minutes for the first steep. Increase the brew temperature to 160 degrees F for 1 minute for the 2nd steep.
THE TEA:  Rich, dark, needle-thin green leaves. The tea looks like perfectly preserved, cut grass.
THE SCENT:  The scent is reminiscent of seaweed and fresh-cut green vegetables like bok choy, asparagus, or baby kale.
THE STEEP:  The brew steeps to a brilliant, dark, emerald green, as if it were a clear version of matcha. It’s taste is a balance between sweet and savory. The tea is rich with pronounced umami flavor, almost like a green vegetable broth. Mildly sweet and very slightly bitter.
GET IT:  At Den’s Tea’s website.
FOOD PAIRING:  The steeped leaves of this tea are so tender and flavorful that you can actually eat them! I love throwing them into steamed rice that’s paired with light Asian dishes. Try using them in my White Cut Chicken with Ginger Scallion Oil and Tea Rice or as a replacement for matcha when making Matcha Sushi Balls. For dessert, try a cup of this vibrant brew with Coconut Milk Pudding.

Dim Sum Recipe # 13: Coconut Milk Pudding

For me, springtime officially marks the season when my love for green tea reawakens to full force. There’s something about the sprouting of fresh vegetation that makes me crave a clean and grassy cup, nature’s purest offering.
I think of gelatin based desserts the same way I think about green tea. They’re light, refreshing, and best of all…simple to put together. Coconut Milk Pudding is a favorite in my family. You’re most likely to spot it as it goes rolling by on windowed dim sum carts where it looks like an unassuming wobbly square of white jello, cut into huge cubes.I love to enjoy Coconut Milk Pudding with Chinese green teas like Tai Ping Hou Kui Tea, an impressive, large leaf green tea (sometimes 4-5″ in length!) that’s mildly sweet and smooth. Tai Ping Hou Kui is low in caffeine and some liken its taste to sugarcane. Another complementary pairing to this pudding is hand-rolled Jasmine Pearl Tea. This tea gets its intoxicating scent from blending with jasmine flowers overnight. Its intensely aromatic quality highlights the tropical flavors in this light, creamy dessert.


Coconut Milk Pudding

Makes 4 small bowls of pudding. 

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp powdered gelatin

1 cup water or coconut water

1 can coconut milk

1 cup half & half

2/3 cup sugar

non-stick spray (if planning to unmold the pudding later)

Equipment:

medium pot

small bowl

cups, molds, or containers

Directions:

1.)  In a small bowl, bloom the gelatin with the water.

2.)  In a medium pot over low heat, stir together the coconut milk, half & half, and sugar until the mixture comes just under a boil and the sugar dissolves completely. Turn off the heat, then add in the bloomed gelatin, mixing to make sure the gelatin dissolves completely.

3.)  Spoon the coconut mixture into cups, molds, or containers. Chill the pudding in the fridge for at least 4 hours before serving. If you plan on unmolding the puddings later, grease the cups, molds, or containers with non-stick spray before spooning the hot coconut mixture in. After chilling, immerse the bottom of the cups, molds, or containers under warm water before unmolding.

Azuki Bunny Buns

Soft, fluffy, sweet, and classically Asian. There’s no other way to describe red bean buns. Where Americans have chocolate chip cookies, the Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans have their red bean buns. Whether it’s someone’s birthday or time for an afternoon snack, in Asian food culture red bean buns are always a welcome treat.

Maybe it’s the American in me, but I don’t find red bean buns nearly as appealing as chocolate chip cookies. After all, they’re made with–of all things–beans! Everything changed this past week when I did some tweaking on my recipe for savory steamed buns. Inspired by spring, I sought out to make an Easter bunny-themed variation, with the perfect mild sweetness and tender texture. The results are some seriously yummy buns that can easily steal the spotlight from those chocolate chip cookies.

Azuki buns are so popular that you’ll often find them ready-made in the freezer or fridge section in Asian markets. The tell-tale sign of a mediocre (or bad) azuki bun is that it’s chokingly dry and dense. And a good one? Tender and slightly chewy with just the right amount of filling. 
I based this recipe on the dough used for my Steamed BBQ Pork Buns and Chinese Fold-Over Buns, with a few changes. Instead of using Hong Kong flour, which is harder to find, I use regular all-purpose flour here. I also swap out the powdered sugar for superfine sugar, which creates a chewier, slightly heavier dough that steams up with a perfectly thin skin and smooth surface.

Decorated with a pair of bunny ears and a nubby nose made from soft candies, the humble buns are instantly transformed into wagashi-like Easter treats. You can also just scatter some sesame seeds in the center of each rounded bun before steaming. The buns will look elegant and easy, ideal for no-nonsense adults who aren’t in to adorably chubby bunnies. Enjoy these with Japanese green teas like a pale jade gyokuo, a toasty genmaicha, or a delicate sencha like Palais des Thés Tawaramine Shincha. Any tea that’s light, grassy, and fresh on the palette is ideal with the classic Asian flavor and look of these buns. Some may say that these Azuki Bunny Buns are too cute to eat, but as you can see I clearly don’t agree!Azuki Bunny Buns

Makes 10 buns.

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup superfine sugar

1 tsp SAF instant yeast

1 tsp baking powder

1 Tbsp non-fat dry milk powder

1/8 tsp salt

1 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil

6 Tbsp lukewarm water + 1-2 tsp water more (if needed)

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp sweetened smooth red bean paste (koshian)

black sesame seeds, for bunny eyes

soft, pink chewy candies, for bunny ears and noses (I used Hi-Chews)

non-stick spray or oil, for coating proofing bowl

Equipment:

stand mixer with dough hook attachment

large bowl

plastic wrap

work surface

chef’s knife

Tbsp measure

large bamboo steamer

wok with slightly larger diameter than steamer OR a stockpot with exactly the same diameter as the steamer

parchment paper, cut into 2 1/2″ squares

small cupcake liners (optional)

Japanese bento grass (optional)

Directions:

1.)  Place all dry dough ingredients into the bowl of a large stand mixer. Start the mixer on low, then gradually add the water and oil. About 3 minutes in, the shaggy dough should come together to form a ball. If it does not, add 1-2 tsp of water until the dough comes together. Let the dough continue to mix on low for 10 minutes, until you get a soft and supple ball of dough.

2.)  Lightly spray a large bowl with non-stick spray, coating the top surface of the dough with some of the same oil. Place the dough ball in the large bowl, then cover it with plastic wrap and place it in a draft free place to rise until almost doubled in volume.

3.)  After the first rise, take the dough out onto a work surface. Give the dough a few light kneadings, then portion it out into 10 equal pieces using a chef’s knife. Shape each dough piece into a ball, then flatten each ball into a disk about 3 1/2″ in diameter and fill it with 1 Tbsp of red bean paste. Gather the edges of the flattened dough disk, pinching them together to seal. Flip the filled dough ball over, then roll it into a slightly oval circle. Place this shaped bun on a small square of parchment paper.

4.)  Attach the eyes of the bunnies with the slightly wetted tip of a toothpick. Place the bun into the bamboo steamer. Shape a total of 10 buns, placing them at least 1″ apart in the steamer. Cover the steamer and let the buns rise for about 15 minutes, until just slightly puffy. Meanwhile, boil some water in a wok or stockpot so that the water is at least 2″ deep in the pot. 5.)  Steam the buns for 12 minutes over water at a full boil. After the buns have finished steaming, let them cool before decorating them with soft, pink candies (I used Strawberry Hi-Chews, but you could use any soft pink candy). Cut a candy crosswise, in 1/4″ thick pieces. Shape the pieces (see below) into elongated bunny ears. Use the center pink part of the candies to make tiny balls to make the bunny noses. Attach the candies to the surface of the cooled, steamed buns using light dabs of water. Decorate these buns just before serving as the attached candies get soft and sticky after being adhered to the buns. Place the buns on cupcake liners decorated with bento grass for a festive Easter finish.

Dragon Fruit Blueberry Tea Gummies

The first time I discovered tea flavored gummies I was at Surfas, a true chef’s paradise and my favorite culinary store in Los Angeles. I found myself moseying through the glorious candy aisle, when bam!, there they were: blackberry hibiscus gummy bearstotally over-priced but quite possibly the cleverest tea & food invention around.

Since that first bag of tea gummy bears, I’ve taken to the kitchen several times to experiment with tea gummy recipes. With the weather heating up this week, I was inspired to make a tropical version of these treats using Tea of the People’s Blueberry x Dragon Fruit Dragon Well Green Tea. This vibrant Lung Ching blend is sweet, tangy, and packed with exotic fruit flavor. You can literally taste the antioxidants and vitamins in the brew, which takes on the most gorgeous shade of ruby-red after a few short minutes of steeping.

My best secret for flavor-packed tea gummies is to steep the tea in juice instead of water. Drop for drop, the candy base will pack equally concentrated tea and fruit flavor. An overnight, cold steep in the fridge produces a brew that’s pure in taste and not cloudy.

I have to admit that I find the shape of dragon fruits to be quite puzzling…attractive, yet rather odd. Dragon fruits actually come from cactus plants. In taste and texture, their flesh tastes a lot like bland kiwi. The color of a dragon fruit’s flesh is either white or hot pink, and is characteristically flecked with small, black seeds. If you’re lucky enough to find one, don’t be scared…try it! That being said, the less adventurous can easily swap out kiwi for dragon fruit in this recipe.

Just like regular gummy candies, these gourmet tea gummies yield a chewy, thick bite that you can really sink your teeth into. If candy molds aren’t your thing, then simply pour the liquid mixture into a baking dish, let it chill, and cut the jelly sheet into small squares. In less than an hour, you’ll be in tea gummy bliss. Guilt-free, antioxidant-packed snacks to munch on whenever you want…there’s lots to love about this adult take on a childhood favorite!

Many thanks to Joshua Caplan, Founder of Tea of the People for sharing his delicious teas with me! Check out the Tea of the People site for more enticing and unique tea flavors, including Acai x Goji Dragon Well and Pomegranate x Yumberry Dragon Wellalso great for making antioxidant gummies.

Dragon Fruit Blueberry Tea Gummies

Makes 5 cups of gummies.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups organic blueberry juice (no sugar added)

2 rounded Tbsp green tea (I used Tea of the People’s Dragon Well Green Tea, Blueberry x Dragon Fruit)

3/4 cup gelatin

1/2 dragon fruit or 2 kiwis, skin removed

1/2 cup organic blueberries

1/4 cup agave or honey

1 tsp stevia

non-stick vegetable oil spray

Equipment:

large pitcher

strainer

blender

candy mold or 9 x 13 baking pan

large pot

large glass measuring cup (with a spout)

Directions:

1.)  In a large pitcher, cold steep the tea by combining it with the 2 1/2 cups of blueberry juice. Mix in the tea leaves so that they are able to fully and freely steep. Set this in the fridge to chill for 6-8 hours, then strain the leaves from the juice until ready to make the gummies.

2.)  Purée the 1/2 dragon fruit (the white flesh only, not the tough pink rind) and 1/2 cup of blueberries in a blender on high. Set aside. Mix the gelatin into 1 1/2 cups of the blueberry juice tea, and allow it to bloom.

3.)  Pour the other 1 cup of blueberry juice tea and the dragon fruit-blueberry purée into a large pot and bring it to a boil over low heat. When it comes up to heat, dump the bloomed gelatin into the hot juice-tea-puree mixture and let it gradually and completely dissolve. Turn off the heat, then skim off and discard any foam off the surface of the mixture. Mix the agave and stevia in until dissolved.

4.)  Give the candy mold or baking pan a very light, even spray of vegetable oil. Pour the mixture from the large pot into a liquid measure. Fill each cavity of the mold, carefully pouring directly from the liquid measuring cup. If using the baking pan, pour the entire amount of the mixture from the large pot to the baking pan. Place the filled molds or pan into the fridge or freezer until the gummies are fully set and firm to the touch. In the freezer, it will only take about 5 minutes for the candy mold gummies to set.

5.)  Use your fingers to remove the gummies from their molds. If using the candy mold, repeat steps 4 & 5 as many times as it takes to use up all the tea mixture. If the gelatin tea mixture starts to set in the measuring cup, give it a zap in the microwave for 10 seconds to return it to a liquid state. Store gummies in the fridge in an airtight container.

Tea of the Week: Wedgwood’s 1870 Golden Rose

Are you ready for Valentine’s Day? Whether you are buying a bouquet for your sweetie or even for yourself this February 14th, roses are always a good idea. For a change on tradition, you might think about gifting your bouquet in tea form. That’s where Wedgwood’s 1870 Golden Rose comes into play. This blend is a lovely potpourri of fruit and flowers, a blended Chinese green tea that I am officially over the moon about.

If the Wedgwood name sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same British company known for its elegant porcelain and bone china. I was so happy to discover that Wedgwood recently started selling their teas here in the US, and this tea was one of the main reasons for that excitement.

Wedgwood’s 1870 Golden Rose is a distinctively feminine blend, a treasure among perfume-like teas. This steep is elegant and charmed, like a pure taste of romance. If you or your sweetie loves the idea of stepping through a bountiful English garden of sweet berries and fragrant blooms, then I’m sure that you’ll simply adore this tea.

Tasting Notes for Wedgwood’s 1870 Golden Rose:

BREWING TIPS:  Brew at 175 degrees F for 3-5 minutes. As this is a delicate green tea, be careful not to overbrew.

THE BLEND:  Made up of twisted green tea leaves, large rose petals, strawberry pieces, and cornflowers.

THE SCENT:  If I were rich, I would place piles of this tea around my house. The tea is scented like a thriving English garden between spring and summer. Or, if you can’t imagine that, it’s like going to a farmer’s market and walking into a stall that only sells ripe strawberries and big, fat, just-bloomed roses. If the winter has you missing the scent (and taste!) of red, ripe strawberries, then this is the tea for you…true aromatherapy!

THE STEEP:  A golden, soft orange. This is a lightly sunny sip with mild bok choy notes from the Chinese green tea base. You could add a touch of honey to this tea to accentuate its floral notes.

GET IT:  Online, at the US Wedgwood site, the Canadian Wedgwood site, or the UK Wedgwood site for tea lovers living in Europe.

FOOD PAIRING:  This is a great tea to have with a classic afternoon tea spread of English Scones or Mini Cream Sconestea sandwiches, and petit fours. Also lovely when enjoyed with a simple slice of toast and jam

Matcha Sushi Balls

Sushi rice balls or temari are easily becoming my new favorite tea meal. These colorful rice bites are a twist on ordinary cut sushi rolls, simpler to make (no sushi mat required!) and with an added touch of artistic flair. I love that you can make them using leftover tidbits of this and that, whatever you have on hand in the fridge. Like dim sum or a tea sandwich, they are delightful little delicacies, ideally served with a soothing cup of Japanese tea.

Sushi balls can be made with host of pre-prepped ingredients like lunch meats, cocktail shrimp, or even thinly sliced sushi grade fish. Here, I’ve used smoked salmon, which is easy to find and enhances the rich umami taste of the matcha flavored rice. Eaten together this way, you can taste the best of flavors from land and sea.

For vegetarian variations, you’ll want to showcase the beauty of your produce as much as possible. A cluster of carefully sliced green onions, thin pieces of ripe avocado, or vibrant orange carrot cut-outs add flavor and visual flair to your sushi game. Even Western ingredients like cheese, capers, and sliced olives make pretty embellishments.Above all, remember that creativity is key when making temari sushi. Try selecting colorful ingredients that are easily molded around the rice ball, not too bulky or too large. If you like your sushi more on the traditional side, you can nix the matcha power and make the rice balls plain, seasoned simply with sweetened rice vinegar. These crafty homemade sushi are ideal for parties, bento lunches, or even a romantic dinner. Serve them with emerald green gyokuro, grassy sencha, or caffeine-free soba cha and your artful Japanese tea meal is complete.
Matcha Sushi Balls

Makes 20 rice balls. 

Ingredients:

{Seasoned Rice}

2 cups sushi rice

3 cups water

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

1 1/2 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

2 tsp matcha

{Toppings}

a few slices of smoked salmon

capers

furikake

avocado

masago or caviar

cocktail shrimp, halved down the spine

black sesame seeds

Equipment:

rice cooker or medium pot with cover

small pot

small sifter

wooden spoon

plastic wrap, a piece the size of a sheet of paper

small bowl of cold water

large plate or baking sheet

2 Tbsp cookie dough scoop

sharp paring knife, kitchen scissors, or mini vegetable cutters

Directions:

1.)  Place the rice in the pot, then wash it several times until the water runs clear. Drain off the water from the rice, then add the 3 cups of water. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat, then let the rice cook for 20 minutes on a low simmer until all the water is absorbed.

2.)  While the rice is cooking, prepare the seasoned vinegar. Warm the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

3.)  When the rice has absorbed all the water, let it sit for 5 minutes, then add the sweet vinegar seasoning. Sift the matcha over the hot rice, then gently incorporate it with the wooden spoon.

4.)  To make the rice balls, dip the ice cream scoop into a bowl of cold water, then scoop out the seasoned rice onto a large plate or baking sheet. For the sushi balls to all be the same size, pack the rice into the scoop and level it off.

5.)  Place the toppings on each rice ball. Use a sharp paring knife, kitchen scissors, or mini vegetable cutters to cut the toppings into pretty shapes. The toppings you add at this point will end up lying flush against the surface of the rice ball. Shape the rice balls by placing one in the center of a piece of plastic wrap lightly damped with water. Use the plastic wrap to mold the topping against the rice ball, using your hand to create a smooth surface.6.)  Remove the rice ball from the plastic wrap and place on a serving platter. At this point, you can finish the temari with delicate finishes like capers, masago, furikake, or sesame seeds. Repeat steps 4-6 to create 20 sushi balls…enjoy!