Kalbi Beef Salad

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One disadvantage of being the only female in the house is that it’s quite difficult to campaign for main dish salads as dinner fare. It’s not that it’s impossible, because I’ve done it before. But there’s always the chance that the salad just wasn’t filling enough, and then they end up having cheese-and-hot-sauce sandwiches for dessert. (It’s happened.)

But Tom just re-built our grill, and was excited to use it. So I figured this was my chance to plan a main dish salad with something grilled. In my mind, I imagined a nice Asian salmon salad, and figured I could serve it with some sushi rice on the side to help boost the full-ness factor.

Then I walked into Costco and saw packages of gorgeous slabs of beef short ribs, minus the bone. And of course, I instantly thought of kalbi. I am, after all, the daughter of a former Philippine military attache assigned to South Korea. One look at how Tom gazed longingly at the beautifully marbled beef, and I decided to ditch the salmon plans and concoct a kalbi beef salad instead.

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Kalbi beef is ridiculously easy to make. I made it for a family dinner in the Philippines during my last visit, unfazed by the prospect of having to make 25 pounds of it. All I’ll say is that I never saw meat disappear that quickly. The few latecomers never had a chance.

My plan was to make kalbi on the grill two ways: thinly sliced on a skewer and left whole. We also marinated some baby bella mushrooms with the same kalbi marinade, and grilled those as well. The dressing? My favorite Asian-style dressing, which is simply fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, sweet Thai chili sauce, and some water. I’ll sometimes add a touch of salad oil to it, but really, you can use it without the oil, which makes it a tad healthier than regular vinaigrettes. Sometimes I’ll throw in a bit of grated carrots and a touch of garlic and/or hot pepper for some bite.

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When Tom was done grilling, we plated the salad while letting the meat rest. Spring greens on the bottom, then julienned vegetables that were tossed in the dressing along with chopped cilantro. Kalbi beef and mushrooms on top, a handful of salted roasted peanuts and fried onions for some crunch, and I added a few slivers of jackfruit for some sweetness. (You can use mangoes instead of jackfruit.)

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How good was this salad? All I’ll say is that we had it three dinners in a row. We had the skewered version the first night, and the sliced-from-whole version the following nights. I much preferred the sliced-from-whole version. I love how flavorful the fish sauce dressing is, which means you also don’t need much of it on the salad. Tim didn’t care much for the Asian dressing, so he used a simple balsamic drizzle. You can certainly use your favorite dressing for this.


Kalbi Beef Salad
Serves 4 to 6

For the Asian-style dressing:
2 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
2 tablespoons finely grated carrots (optional)
1 to 2 tablespoons salad oil or light olive oil (optional)
just a little bit of finely grated garlic, to taste (optional)
minced hot pepper, to taste (optional)

For the marinade (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated):
1 pear, peeled and diced (it’s going into the blender, so no need to be precise)
8 cloves garlic
1 knob ginger (about 3/4″ in length), sliced into coins so you don’t get long fibers
1 whole Thai bird pepper (optional, only if you like it spicy)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup scallions (optional, substitute 2 teaspoons onion powder or 1/2 medium regular onion)
1/4 cup cilantro (optional)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

For the salad:
3 pieces beef short rib meat, boneless (around 2 pounds)
10 ounces baby bella mushrooms, washed and cleaned (optional)
3 small bell pepper, preferably different colors, julienned
1 small zucchini, julienned
1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly
1/2 small cucumber, sliced into thin coins
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
salad greens
1/2 cup canned jackfruit, drained and julienned (or fresh ripe mangoes)
roasted salted peanuts
fried onions (optional)
Korean hot bean paste (optional)

Mix all the dressing ingredients together. Add water to taste, and set aside.

Blend the marinade ingredients together until smooth. Marinate the beef for at least 2 hours or up to overnight. If using mushrooms, marinate mushrooms as well 1 hour before grilling.

Mix the julienned and sliced vegetables together in a bowl. Dress lightly with some of the dressing and the chopped cilantro. Set aside.

Grill the beef and mushrooms to desired doneness. Plate the salads while letting the meat rest. Put a generous amount of salad greens in each plate. Top with the dressed vegetables. Garnish with jackfruit, peanuts, and fried onions. Top with beef and mushrooms. You can add a small amount of hot bean paste on top if desired.

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The great thing about this salad is that you can skip the salad greens and serve this with the dressed vegetables on a bed of rice instead. The meat is absolutely tender and packed with flavor. If you want to make this completely vegetarian, skip the beef and double up on the mushrooms. The kalbi marinade really makes the mushrooms taste even meatier. (Oh, and if you’re making this vegetarian, don’t forget to skip the fish sauce and use salt or soy sauce instead.)

Ah. Kalbi. It’s one of the reasons I will be forever grateful that my dad’s final assignment was in Korea, and that I was old enough to truly appreciate the introduction to such a wonderful world cuisine.


Lunch at Khun Thai

Lunch with mom has always been a treat I’ve enjoyed since my early college years in the Philippines. And by “early” I mean as early as the first of my three majors. (Just call me Ms. Decisive.) I still remember one of the first places we frequented on our Wednesday lunch dates: Cosa Nostra in Manila, which at that time was a tiny restaurant with only a handful of tables, where I had some of the best puttanesca ever.

Then we moved to the New York area, and suddenly, it was like an invitation to the big league. So many different restaurants, celebrity chefs, dinner-and-a-show packages … my mom was soaking it all in, and I was right there with her. Alas, much as I enjoyed being my mom’s date as she explored what the big city had to offer, I eventually had to give up the student life and join the working class. (In other words, I realized how old I was and stopped mooching off my mama.) And, as one of our many family mottos goes, work got in the way of having a good time.

One thing, though, has never changed. We still try to have lunch together at least once a week, or every other week if our schedules are tight. Because I’m an only girl, our “girls only” lunches have mostly been just me and my mom.

But now I have a sister-in-law, and she doesn’t live in a different state. In fact, her office is only about 20 minutes away from my house. Yay! So we’ve started a lunch club, and a few weeks ago, the three of us enjoyed lunch at Khun Thai.

khun thai menus

I was perfectly fine ordering off the lunch menu (in the top photo), which was surprisingly very affordable. But my mom was hungry and the very reasonable prices on the lunch menu concerned her; she figured the portions would be tiny and there might not be enough food. So she asked for the dinner menu as well.

When she’s feeding others, not having enough food is a VERY BIG DEAL to my mom.


My mom had the Green Papaya Salad ($8) from the dinner menu, and I had the Tom Ka Gai ($4). The salad was fresh and crisp, with a lovely Asian dressing that tasted of fish sauce, lime, and sugar. My soup was absolutely delicious, and came in a large bowl. So much for tiny portions.


My sister-in-law had the Rare Tuna Spring Rolls ($8), also from the lunch menu. It came with a seaweed salad, and was almost a light meal in itself.


For her entree, my mom ordered Pan Fried Salmon Fillet ($18.50) from the dinner menu. It came with a green curry sauce, with the salmon resting on roasted eggplant. It was wonderful, and the salmon was moist and full of flavor.


My sister-in-law ordered from the dinner menu as well. She had the Khun Shrimp ($19.50) on the left, with massaman curry, tomatoes, and avocado. It was delicious too, especially with the avocado.

And me? I had the Garlic Shrimp with Rice (seen above, on the right) from the lunch menu, and it was—ready for this?—all of $10. They were huge shrimp, sauteed in a faintly sweet sauce with white pepper and garlic. It was my favorite of all the dishes, and I’m not just saying that because I ordered it. I’m already looking forward to having it again.

Then came dessert. No meal with my mom is complete without dessert. In my family, sometimes meals are an excuse to have dessert after.


My sister-in-law and I ordered the same thing: the Chocolate Grand Marnier Souffle ($7). It was really a no-brainer for us. My mom, on the other hand, ordered the Apple Tart Tatin ($6), which had caramelized apples on a crispy wonton skin, topped with vanilla ice cream and berries.

This is how my mom ended up ordering the Apple Tart Tatin:

Mom: Excuse me, do you have fried bananas?

Server: I’m sorry, we don’t.

Mom: Are you sure? Nothing with bananas? I like bananas.

Server: I’m very sorry, ma’am. We don’t have any desserts with bananas.

Mom: Oh. Okay. (Scans menu one more time.) In that case, I think I’ll have the bananas.

Server: (confused, pained silence)

Mom: Or maybe I’ll try the Apple Tart Tatin. But only if you don’t have any bananas.

You can see where I get my incredible maturity.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, the food. Let’s talk about the souffle, shall we? Because you may think the souffle above looks nice enough, but oh, by the time they were done with it, it looked both unceremoniously demolished and irresistibly … irresistible.


Yes, please. More, please.

And even though I’m the kind of person who likes her plate clean and orderly, that most definitely doesn’t apply where chocolate is involved.


Yep. I definitely had no problems cleaning up this mess.

If you’re in the Short Hills, NJ area and want to treat yourself to an amazing lunch, I highly recommend Khun Thai.

But whatever you do, please don’t try to order bananas. I don’t think the poor server can take another round of that.


Dear chicken

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Dear Dinner Chicken,

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you. For you. For all that you do for me. Please bear with me as I attempt to count the ways I do love thee.

Classic Granola: Off to a good start

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Friday night, I finally had the chance to meet Maggy and Pam of Three Many Cooks, who invited me, my husband Tom, and my mom to a cozy dinner for seven at Pam and David’s home in Pennsylvania. I could go on and on and gush about the evening, but I’ll leave that for another post. (Or hopefully Maggy will be more on-the-ball than I am and post about it first.)

The Andersons are such a lovely family, and you immediately get a sense of how close they are to each other. Maggy is beautiful, inside and out, and she just lights up the room. And I will say this: Pam looks good. REALLY good. And after having read the story behind The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight and Eating Great, I was instantly drawn to how she managed to do it. It’s not rocket science, after all. It’s centered around creating a healthy lifestyle, not depriving yourself, and getting active. Most of it, we already know. We just need that push to put it all together and actually get started on creating that lifestyle.

We all have a few “unhealthy” habits, and in isolation, few of those are so damaging that they negate all the other healthy habits we do have. (I can name a few, but I’m not getting on that soapbox right now.) I’ve always had just those one or two bad habits, but for the most part, they’ve never given me trouble. And I was always able to whip myself back into shape in a matter of weeks.

But I’m not in college anymore, and my metabolism isn’t what is used to be. If I don’t watch myself, things can slide. Slide far, and sometimes, slide fast. And since age is going to handicap my metabolism, I better take stock of my unhealthy habits and start nipping them in the bud. Well, mid-life bud, really. But better mid-life than never.

So this weekend, I resolved to finally kick my worst habit of all: skipping breakfast. I’ve never been a breakfast person, and I think much of it has to do with the fact that, even as a child, everyone in my family was a night owl. We would be the house on the street with kids running around outside playing agawan base (our version of Capture the Flag) at 2 o’clock in the morning, and yes, the next day was a school day. When you get used to going to bed late and waking up late, you tend to rush into your day because now you already have to play catch up. Often, I’d decline breakfast, saying “my stomach isn’t awake yet.” It’s a habit I’ve carried on to today. Except now, when I’m alone working from home, there’s no one around who’ll make me stop for a few minutes to eat a proper meal. And when I start working on something, it can be hours before I take a break. More than once, I’d find myself having my first meal of the day at 2 or 3 in the afternoon.

Much of this also has to do with the fact that breakfast is the meal for which I’m least prepared. When I grocery shop, I get the mainstay eggs and milk, but I don’t really fit breakfast into my meal planning. I bake bread all the time now, so usually, breakfast for my guys at home is a slice or two of homemade bread with some butter and sometimes jam. Sometimes, they’ll put slices of cheese and slather hot sauce on it, but that’s a whole other story.

And so, to start off my renewed commitment to eating properly, this weekend I made a simple and yet flavorful Classic Granola. The cherries and almond variation was posted recently at Three Many Cooks, but since I’m allergic to almonds, I opted for the classic version (also in the book).



Classic Granola
Recipe from The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight and Eating Great by Pam Anderson

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup coconut flakes
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons warm water
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Spray a 9×13-inch pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients (except the cinnamon and dried cranberries). Bring the liquid ingredients and the cinnamon to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Drizzle over the oat mixture and stir to combine.

Pour the mixture into the pan. Grab handfuls of the mixture and squeeze to form small clumps. Bake at the middle rack position for 30 minutes, stir in the cranberries, and continue baking an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool. Store in an airtight container.

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A few things: don’t be like me and fail to follow directions properly. Else, in your head you’ll think that the recipe calls for squeezing the oat mixture into small clumps AFTER the first half-hour of baking. Then you’ll do it, albeit very painfully, and wonder if maybe the Anderson family has genetically heat-resistant hands. My fingers were not happy about squeezing that hot granola. Oh, and when Pam says use a 9×13-inch pan, please use a 9×13-inch pan. Don’t go and use a cookie sheet. Especially if you’re clumsy like some buttheads I know, and then not only are you doing the whole squeeze-the-hot-granola-then-let-go-really-fast-while-biting-your-lip routine, but you’re also trying to avoid touching that hot pan AND not spill anything.

Other than that, it was a breeze! Coupled with my homemade yogurt, this made an excellent and filling breakfast. The batch should last me a week, unless my son devours half of it by Tuesday. (He loves granola.) Now I have no excuse not to have breakfast.

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I also made whole wheat pumpkin spice mini muffins (from the book) for a midday treat, which will be the subject of my next post. I sometimes need a little sweet bite during the day, and it’s just the thing for me. The granola and the muffins didn’t take long to make, and now I’m set with breakfast and snacks for the week.

I absolutely love The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight and Eating Great, and I’m not saying that just because I got to have dinner with Pam and her family. The book is loaded with great recipes and tips, and honestly, I think it focuses more on the Eating Great part. These are recipes I’d make because of their flavor and ease of preparation (no more excuses!). The fact that they’re healthy and can help you lose weight is almost like a mere bonus.

My only lament is that now I really, really want to start walking/running again, but I’m stuck indoors for as long as we’re under a pollen siege. But as soon as the fresh spring air stops making me sick, that steep driveway outside and our hilly streets better watch out for me.

(It’s actually the other way around, but I’m feeling feisty today. It must be the granola.)

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Simple Thai Tea Ice Cream

I love Thai iced tea, and so does my son Tim. He always orders it if we’re at a restaurant that has it on the menu. So it was only natural that, as I started experimenting in the kitchen to come up with a good recipe for Green Tea Ice Cream, I couldn’t help but think that Thai Tea Ice Cream would be just as good. Or even better, since it already is typically served sweet and creamy.

Thai tea has a unique flavor and a cool orange color. The flavor comes from the star anise powder that’s blended in with the black tea, as well as orange blossoms. Some varieties include cloves, cinnamon, vanilla, and sometimes, rose tea leaves. No wonder it tastes so awesome with cream! It also has food coloring added, and if you need any additional proof of that, look at my fingers after brushing some of the tea off my table with my bare hands.


Orange mutant ninja fingers. I was tempted to lick them just for kicks, but decided against it. Nope. As far as you know, I didn’t do it.

This ice cream was very easy to make, since I already used a similar method to make my Honey Vanilla Chamomile Garlic Coconut Ginger Chicken Adobo Ice Cream. Minus the garlic and chicken adobo. (Sorry, I’m loopy from puffing on my inhaler today.)

To give you an idea of how good this was, Tim—who is very particular about the texture of ice cream and wants it properly frozen with some bite to it—had a serving and a half of this while it was still in its soft serve state. He took one taste and said, “Now that’s good.”

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Simple Thai Tea Ice Cream

1 1/2 cup half-and-half or whole milk (I used whole milk)
4 tablespoons loose leaf Thai tea
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Put the half-and-half or milk in a sauce pan and scald the milk. Add the Thai tea and sugar and stir to dissolve the sugar. Once it comes to a simmer, take it off the heat and continue to stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool, allowing the tea to continue steeping, then add the heavy cream. Put the mixture in the refrigerator and let it get cold. You can also stick it in the freezer to speed up the process.

Strain, then pour into your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Makes about 1.5 quarts.

Tip: I used a coffeemaker basket strainer (or you can line a regular strainer with a paper coffee filter) to strain the mixture, as the tea can have very small particles that ordinary strainers won’t catch.


The ice cream tastes exactly like the drink because, well, it has exactly the same ingredients. It’s a wonderful end to any meal. The process is incredibly simple, and I fully intend to experiment with other tea variations. Early Grey, chai, jasmine …

I think I may have to start making ice cream in half-batches. This could get ugly. And I mean that in an utterly delicious way.



about me

I write, cook, play music, and make pictures. Not necessarily in that order. I was born and raised in the Philippines, and it shows. That means I eat rice with every meal, love my cousins like my own siblings, and firmly believe that avocados are best eaten with cream and sugar.

If you want to learn more about me, here are 43 things I'd like to do. Here's a little something about my name, in case you were wondering. Here are some other places you'll find me:

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One summer night in 2010, our house burned to the ground and we lost everything we had. This is the story of what happened and how life and hope can always rise from ashes.

I'm proud to belong to an amazing community of Filipino food lovers. Together, we celebrate this often-neglected Asian cuisine, sharing our family's treasured recipes and discovering new ones along the way. This is our club.
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