Effortless Paella

"Paella is not an easy dish." (quoted from actual recipes)

And I have always thought so too, until I made this up, taking the essentials from various recipes. Paella, for me, should have the following characteristics: 

1. Rice is not soggy. 
2. It has to be yellow. 
3. It's got a distinct cumin-meat-seafood flavor. 
4. There's paprika or bell peppers cooked until nicely soft. 
5. The rice is deliciously browned and caramelized at the bottom.

Thanks to the even cooking of the rice cooker, an essential in every Asian home, you get perfectly cooked rice that is browned at the bottom every single time. Is it authentic Valencian Paellla? Probably not but who cares? We love it. It's an effortless one-pot flavorful dish that I guarantee you'll make again. 

1 cup rice (I used Japanese rice)
½ onion, choped 
2-3 cloves garlic minced
1 red bell pepper/paprika diced (I have also used yellow, orange and green peppers successfully in the past but prefer bright red in my paella
50-100g shrimp and/or scallops
50-100g chicken breast diced
1 chorizo sausage or similar sliced (The closest thing I could find is beer sausage)
1 T olive oil
½ t turmeric powder
½ t cumin
1 t Better than Bouillon soup base + 1 t Bragg's Liquid Aminos (These two are staples in my kitchen and are very versatile but in the event you don't have either, go with chicken broth)
pepper to taste 

Wash the rice. Place rice in the rice cooker with the recommended amount of water or broth if doing chicken broth (follow the line indicated on the pot). Set aside. Heat olive oil in a pan. Saute onions and garlic. Add paprika, shrimp and/or scallops, sausage, and chicken. Turn off heat when chicken turns white but not fully cooked. Pour everything into the rice cooker. Add the turmeric, cumin, black pepper, the Better than Bouillon soup base and Bragg's Liquid Aminos. Stir to gently mix. Press the cook button on your rice cooker. That's it!

Club Bistek

When I was a child, my family had a membership at a sports club. Almost every afternoon in the summer, my sisters and I would swim at the club's pool. The pool was near the lounge and every now and then, mouthwatering smells from the lounge's restaurant would waft to the pool area and one of their specialties is "Bistek Tagalog" (Tagalog Beef Steak). I believe our nose has its own memory because every time I smell the distinctly wonderful smell of onions and garlic in butter, I can also almost smell the chlorine of the swimming pool and I am transported back to the happy days of my childhood. This recipe is an attempt to recreate that wonderfully savoury dish, Bistek Tagalog which the club restaurant serves in a sizzling plate. For bistek, calamansi is usually used, a citrus local to the Philippines. Since it's almost impossible to find calamansi in Japan, I substituted lemon which can be found in any supermarket.  I am also partial to using the nice thin slices of pork as my kids find that easier to eat than beef or even pork chop slices. Soy sauce is crucial to this dish. It is essential for marinating the meat and it gives the meat and the onions a beautiful caramel color. 

3 cloves garlic chopped finely
ground black pepper
1-2 T fresh lemon juice
3-4 T soy sauce
300 g thinly sliced pork (or beef if preferred)
1 large onion sliced into ring
1 T butter (or olive oil if preferred)

Mix the garlic, ground black pepper, lemon juice and soy sauce in a bowl. Marinate the thinly sliced pork in this mixture for at least 30 minutes. In a frying pan, heat the butter or oil on medium high and pan fry the onions until soft. Move to the side of the pan. Pan fry the pork pieces until done but do not overcook. Serve hot with rice.

Simply Stroganoff

Growing up in Manila, I have always associated stroganoff with upscale restaurants. In my recollections, the menus featuring this dish would always be written in fancy curly fonts and served in an ambiance of fine dining. Stroganoff is a delectable fare that I equate with the luxury of eating out. When I moved to Japan about five years ago, I craved stroganoff and wished to recreate the dish I remember back home but sour cream, one of the essential ingredients is difficult to find, and if available, too expensive. I discovered that if I strained plain yoghurt (which is widely available in supermarkets and convenience stores and is relatively cheap), I end up with something that is very similar to sour cream. The resulting dish is as delicious but doesn’t leave you with a heavy feeling afterwards and so I believe this version is healthier. Most stroganoff recipes call for salt but I prefer to use soy sauce and Bragg's Liquid Aminos. They bring out the flavor of the pork and the mushrooms better than salt and it blends nicely with yoghurt creating a satisfying sauce that complements pasta wonderfully. It is so easy to recreate this five star dish and this healthier version is a great addition to our family’s weekly dinner fare, thus, Simply Stroganoff!

300 g plain yoghurt
1T butter (or olive oil if preferred)
1 large onion
150 g fresh mushrooms (or canned if fresh are unavailable)
300 g pork thinly sliced (thinly sliced beef can also be used)
2 T soy sauce
ground black pepper

Prepare the yoghurt at least 2 hours before cooking. Place the yoghurt on a cheesecloth lined strainer and drain off the excess liquid or the whey to end up with a thicker creamier consistency. Slice the onions into rings. Slice the mushrooms into small pieces. Heat 1 tbsp butter in a pan over medium high heat. Saute the onions until slightly browned and then toss in the sliced mushrooms and heat through. Add the thinly sliced pork. Season with pepper, soy sauce, and Bragg's Liquid Aminos. Heat through and make sure that the pork is done but don't overcook. Turn off the heat. Add the thickened yoghurt and mix until fully incorporated. Serve it over cooked pasta or rice and top with parsley.