New blog:

Dear friends,

I have moved my blog over to, produced in tandem with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook blog will remain up but I won’t be posting here regularly. We’re migrating followers and the email list over to the new site but if you don’t want to miss a post please subscribe directly on Pickles and Tea!

Thank you very much for your support all these years and hope to see you at the other end!




How to Cook Rice–3 Ways

People who cook rice at home often belong to one of two camps: those who cook their rice in a rice cooker, and those who cook it on the stove top.

When I was in the beginning stages of researching my cookbook, I met a woman who was adamant that I should include a recipe for cooking rice the “right” way on the stove. I smiled and told her sweetly, “I use a rice cooker.”

Then, last year, during our multi-pronged move from Seattle to Washington D.C., I had to survive four whole months without my beloved rice cooker.

In those few months, with only two pots to my name, I had no choice but to learn how to cook rice on the stove. I even attempted micorwave cooking as well! Through trial and error, I perfected cooking rice using three methods, no special equipment necessary.

I realize now how spoiled I’ve been by my rice cooker—all I had to do was rinse, add water, and push a button. It was a humbling experience learning to cook without one of my most-used kitchen gadgets. Not to mention, I’m very surprised how much tweaking a seemingly simple food requires to achieve perfection.

Needless to say, if I met that woman again, I’d have to put my foot in my mouth.


I used jasmine rice for all these recipes but you can use any type of rice you prefer. You just have to adjust cooking times and the amount of water accordingly. For example, brown rice requires more water and a longer cooking time. The rice package should give you guidelines.


1. Stovetop Absorption Method

absorption_methodThis method can be tricky, as the ratio of rice to water varies depending on how old the rice is. The older the rice, the drier it is, and the more water you’ll need for it to come out tender. As a general rule, new-crop rice uses a one-to-one ratio, but older rice needs 1 cup rice to 1¼ cups water. New crop rice is usually labeled as such on the bag. Regardless, always pay attention to the rice-to-water ratio the first time you make rice from a new bag, even if it is your favorite brand that you’ve been buying for decades. If the rice is too dry, add more water, a few tablespoons at a time, and continue cooking. If it’s too soggy, decrease the water gradually the next few times you cook. You may have to make a few mediocre pots before you get perfect rice, but it will be worth it! Look for Thai or North American jasmine rice—they are of the highest quality.

Time: 40 minutes (10 minutes active)
Makes: 2 to 3 servings

1 cup jasmine long-grain rice, rinsed until the water runs almost clear
1-1/4 cups water

Combine the rice and water in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight-fitting lid (preferably glass so you can observe the changes). Set the saucepan over high heat and bring the water to a simmer. Bubbles will gather around the edge of the saucepan. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cover the saucepan tightly with the lid. Cook for 15 to 18 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed.

Turn off the heat and let the rice steam, lid intact, for another 10 minutes.

Lift the lid and gently fluff the rice with a fork or a pair of chopsticks. The rice should not be lumpy and the individual kernels should be separate.

Keep the rice covered until ready to serve. Serve hot.

2. Stovetop Pasta Method


Just as the title suggests, you can cook rice the same way you cook pasta. I don’t measure the water, I just fill my pot up with just enough water so that it won’t boil over. I love how the rice grains come out plumper and fluffier, and the kitchen rebel in me likes that precision isn’t key. My friend swears by this method for cooking brown rice–she claims it only takes 30 minutes and the rice comes out perfect every time.

Time: 20 minutes (5 minutes active)
Makes: 2 to 3 servings

1 cup jasmine long-grain rice, rinsed until the water runs almost clear

Pour in enough water to reach about three-quarters up the sides of a 4- to 6-quart pot and add the rice. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down until the water simmers sprightly but isn’t boiling over and cook uncovered. Stir when you remember.

Start testing the rice at around 15 minutes. When the rice is cooked to your liking, turn off the heat and strain in a colander over the sink. Serve immediately.

3. Microwave Method

microwave_methodThe best vessel to cook rice in the microwave is the tallest one that can fit in your microwave as the contents tend to overflow making a huge mess. You can buy one here. I’ve tinkered with this recipe a little and I’ve found that a large, wide vessel with straight sides works well. (I used a 2-1/2 quart Corningware casserole dish.) But, you can’t cook too much rice at one time, and you have to cook it on very low. All microwaves are different (and depending on the rice you use) so you’ll probably have to use trial and error to get this right, but don’t be discouraged!

Time: 20 minutes (5 minutes active)
Makes: 2 to 3 servings

1 cup jasmine long-grain rice, rinsed until the water runs almost clear
1-1/2 cups water

Combine the rice and water in a microwave-safe container.

Cover and program your microwave on low (I programed mine to 60%) and cook for about 20 minutes. Starting at 10 minutes, check every 5 minutes and stir.

Once the rice is cooked to your liking, leave the lid on for about 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork and serve.

And the Paperback Launches …

I’m so happy to announce that the paperback version of The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook is now out.

To celebrate this special occasion, I produced a book trailer using photos from the book, a soundtrack, and Windows Live Movie Maker. Et voilà, you can feast your eyes on many delicious recipes featured in the cookbook.


I also decided to create a Favorite Recipes page. Many friends have asked me, “Which are your favorite recipes?” I know how overwhelming it can be to navigate through a cookbook with over a hundred recipes so I came up with a list of recipes that have found their way into my permanent cooking repertoire.

If you live in the Greater Seattle area, I’ll be at several events over the next few months. Do pop by and say, “hi!” Here’s a list of events where you can buy copies of the book, and of course, I’ll sign your book if you’d like!

That’s all for now, until next week, cheers!


Pike Place Market Prunes–A Love Story

Pike Place Market‘s neon sign and clock backdropped by a typical grey and cloudy Seattle sky.


That’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Pike Place Market. Not golden Rainier cherries blushing with rouge; nor freshly-foraged morels hiding under a light dusting of dirt; or, the blinding flash of silver-skinned salmon soaring overhead.

I first encountered Pike Place Market in 1992, a year of many firsts. It was my first time in Seattle, and in the United States. It was my first autumn. It was my first year at the University of Washington.

Everything was frighteningly foreign and excitingly new at the same time.

I was attending day one of the international students orientation organized by FIUTS (Foundation for International Understanding Through Students, it’s a great organization btw) and a trip to Pike Place Market was on the agenda. Besides a hike to the Ice Caves, the market excursion was one of the highlights of the weeklong orientation. That morning, I was nodding off during most of the presentations thanks to jetlag and also because they were, quite frankly, boring.

After lunch, a group of us headed downtown on a Metro bus: Annie, our soft-spoken group leader from Taiwan; Sabine, a German Claudia Schiffer lookalike, all blond hair and mile-long legs; Top, a Thai guy who went everywhere with his camera slung around his neck; Yuki, a bubbly Japanese girl with curly—very curly—hair; Luwei, a smart and sassy Indonesian; and Hsin, a Singaporean gal who became one of my best friends.

We dropped off at Westlake Station and Annie told us our first stop was Pike Place Market. I didn’t know what to expect. In Singapore and Indonesia, markets were wet, dark, dirty places teeming with crooked vendors, squawking chickens, and foul odors. They weren’t my favorite places, let alone tourist attractions!

As we approached the market heading west along Pike Street, the “Public Market Center” sign loomed in the distance. As we drew closer, my eyes grew rounder and my jaw dropped.

People were snapping photos left, right and center and everyone seemed more interested in browsing than bargaining. The market was sparkling clean (relatively speaking) and the only aroma my nose sniffed out was that of summer’s last chance peaches mingling with the fresh sea scent from Elliott Bay.

The market is always busy, no matter the season or day of the week

I stopped to pet Rachel the Pig. I jostled with the crowds watching grown men play with fish. I marveled at the glorious blooms grown by Hmong farmers. I oohed and aahed at peaches, apricots, squash, Brussel sprouts–all fruits and vegetables I wasn’t accustomed to seeing at a market.

Hmong farmers grow and sell the most beautiful blooms year-round

As we were wandering the market, I spotted a stall selling deep purple, almost black, oval orbs with wrinkly, leathery skins. Prunes! I don’t know about you but when I travel I always have issues with you-know-what so I lingered, perhaps hoping to absorb the fruit’s magical properties via osmosis.

Prunes and lychees together at the market, what a juxtaposition!

I hesitated to open my mouth. Just the day before, I had an embarrassing (if only-to-me) kerfuffle at the University Bookstore. I had asked the sales person if they sold “cohk boahds” in my British-inflected English and I repeated myself several times before I realized what I was doing wrong. I wasn’t pronouncing my ‘r’s.

“Corrrrk boarrrrd,” I trilled. Only then did her eyes register a flicker of understanding. Who knew English could pass for a foreign language?

I took a deep breath, pointed to the prunes and squeaked, “Half pound please.” Then I grabbed the brown paper bag held out to me and shuffled off in a hurry.

I dug into the bag and brought a prune to my lips. I was so startled I stopped to a halt. This was not the rubbery-medicinal- Sunsweet-supermarket kind of prune I was used to. This prune was pillowy-soft and tasted of sunshine and sugar. It had obviously spent its last days happily basking in the sun, concentrating as much of its pluminess/pruniness as possible.

By the time we left the market, only seeds remained in the brown bag as evidence. I enjoyed those prunes immensely, and needless to say, I achieved my initial goal.

The stall I used to buy my prunes from is no longer at the market. Now, I buy them from “From Garden to You”

It’s been 20 years since my maiden encounter with Pike Place Market. Since then, I’ve returned to the market again and again, and brought home salmon, strawberries, tulips, Dungeness crab–all the bounty the Northwest has to offer. They’ve all been fresh and fabulous. But it’s only prunes that I always make a beeline for, if not for nostalgia’s sake then just because.


This post is dedicated to my friend Jess Thomson (yes, this is a disclaimer, I know the author) and her new book Pike Place Market Recipes (Sasquatch Books, May 2012). Jess compiled 130 fresh recipes, many from market vendors and restaurateurs, and tossed in smart tips and tricks for utilizing the varied products the market has to offer. For everyone who’s had the pleasure of visiting Pike Place Market, it’s a wonderful way to bring the market home with you, whether you visit every week or once in a lifetime.

I wish I could share a recipe with you but there are no recipes using prunes in the cookbook (I know, whaa?!). But what I can do is share Jess’s cookbook with one lucky winner.

Do you have memories of Pike Place Market, or how ‘bout them prunes? Just leave a comment and I’ll pick a winner through some complex randomized system, or just by eeny meeny miny mo-ing.

Winners will be announced on June 30th!

5 “Why Didn’t I think of That?” Ideas For Your Memorial Day BBQ

Memorial Day marks the beginning of grilling season (and unofficially, summer!) in the U.S. Unless, of course, you live in Seattle where we feign insouciance and grill under gray skies while listening to the rhythmic pitter-patter of raindrops until at least July 4th.

Growing up, satay, chicken wings, and pork chops were always staples on the grill. Yes, every family does it differently. You may think that satay, chicken wings and pork chops are very exciting but inevitably the same stuff on the grill, bbq after bbq (regardless of the numerous permutations and combinations), does become a bit of a bore.

So, if you, like me, are tired of the same ole same ole, here are 5 ideas to help you break out of the boring barbecue box:

1. Aloo Paratha

aloo paratha by you.

Easy to make and nutritious too, aloo paratha is a potato-stuffed flatbread. This one-dish Indian meal can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or at your next barbecue. In this recipe, Champa uses an electric griddle but I think the barbecue grill would make a fine substitute. Just be sure the grill grates are well-oiled.

2. Steamed Lemongrass Fish


I don’t usually grill fish on the barbecue but this isn’t quite grilling. Follow all the steps in this recipe but instead of steaming the fish in a claypot, wrap it up in aluminum foil and place it on the grill. The fish will steam nicely inside the foil packet. Remember to check on it frequently so it doesn’t overcook.

3. Cambodian Stuffed Chicken Wings 

What’s better than chicken wings on the grill? Stuffed chicken wings on the grill! Prepping this dish is a little laborious but the accolades from your guests will make it all worthwhile. Whether you choose to stuff chicken wings or a whole chicken, you will be rewarded with delicious bird.

4. Cantonese-style Steamed Cake

Steam a cake on the grill? Why not? In this case, I’d use a metal cake pan, not a glass one.

5. Grilled Rice Balls (Yaki Onigiri)

Photo by:

I’m Asian, I like rice. And these delicious rice balls are a delightful way to have my rice and grill it too.
Here are more fanciful ideas for the grill from around the Web:

The Daily Meal’s “8 Unlikely Grill Foods”’s “12 Unusual Recipes for the Grill”

HuffPost’s “Foods To Barbecue: Strange Options You Never Considered Before”


What are some of your break-out-of-the-box items you like to put on the grill?

Paperback here we come …

If you could see me now, you’d notice my cheeks are red ***blush*** and the very embarrassed look on my face …

Yes, I have been delinquent with my blog postings but I have a very good excuse, promise! A little project named Isaac has been keeping me busy. The little man, by the way, turns ONE next month!

I’m afraid I can’t say I’m going back to posting regularly but I do have brilliant news–The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook is going into a second printing and in paperback! This means several things:

1. Paperback means a lower price making it more affordable so more people will buy it

2. The cookbook is doing well and will stay in print!

3. I can make corrections. And for this I’d like to enlist your help. If you’ve found any mistakes/discrepancies, or would just like some clarification about a recipe or fact, please leave me a comment or send me an email: My deadline is February 22, so please get in touch soon.

Thank you for all your support!



Asian ingredients at your fingertips

Whew … the last 6 months have whizzed by!

Little Isaac (who is not so little anymore) is a joy but I haven’t been able to do very much else except well, maybe to design an iPhone app.

I know it’s crazy but yes, I’ve launched an app called “Asian Ingredients 101,” a comprehensive glossary with photos and descriptions of a cornucopia of Asian ingredients ranging from sauces, spices to vegetables. It’s the perfect companion to The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook and perfect for any Asian food lover who finds it hard to navigate the aisles of an Asian market. It’s a work-in-progress so feel free to give me feedback and let me know what to include!

For more info or to purchase the app (it’s only 99 cents!), Please click on the icon below:

As grandma always says, please share:

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