Monthly Archives: January 2016

Recipe: Chole/Chana Biryani (Indian Rice Dish with Chickpeas)

YUM! This is one of the best rice dishes I have ever had! It is SO GOOD! If you like Indian rice dishes, I strongly recommend it!

The biryani is a rice dish cooked with “dum” method. The rice is partially cooked, while a tasty gravy with spices is made. The rice is put on top of the vegetable gravy, and then it is covered tightly and cooked over low heat. This is somewhat time-consuming, so it is best to eat on weekends.

I have previously shared a Hyderabadi Vegetable Biryani recipe. In my opinion, this Chole Biryani is even more delicious! 🙂

Chole or Chana means chickpeas in Hindi. So this biryani uses chickpeas as its main ingredient besides rice.

My recipe is adapted from Veg Recipes of India. I use a can of chickpeas instead of dry chickpeas, which makes the cooking process faster and does not require a pressure cooker. Please see the original recipe for lots of great pictures!

Serves about 5-6, depending on how hungry you are! 🙂

Like my Japanese curry recipe, I will be splitting the ingredients into different sections because the recipe has many steps. The ingredients are bolded so they are easier to find.

1.25 cups white basmati rice

1. Rinse and drain the rice.

2. Then, cover with water and soak while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

1 medium onion (American size)

3-4 cloves garlic

1/2 inch ginger

2 small roma tomatoes (American size)

2. Thinly slice the onion.

3. Finely mince the garlic and ginger.

4. Dice the tomatoes into small cubes.

2 tbsp cooking oil

1 tsp caraway seeds (you may use cumin instead, for a different flavor)

2 green cardamoms, lightly smashed open with rolling pin

1 black cardamom, light smashed open with rolling pin (optional if you do not like it or cannot find it)

1.5-inch-long cinnamon stick

1 Indian bay leaf (tej patta) (optional if you cannot find it)

2 or 3 cloves

2 or 3 single strands of mace (if you cannot find, skip or substitute with about 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg)

5. Heat a large pot. (I use a Dutch oven)

6. Add oil.

7. When hot, add all the spices above. Sauté over medium-high heat for about 15 seconds.

1 pinch salt

8. Add the thinly sliced onion and minced garlic and ginger.

9. Add the salt.

10. Mix well and sauté for about 5 minutes until the onion becomes soft. If the heat is too high, turn it to medium.

heaping 1/2 tsp turmeric power

heaping 1/2 tsp red chili power (use Kashmiri red chili power for non-spicy)

heaping 1/2 tsp coriander power

1/2 tsp garam masala power (optional)

11. Add the diced tomatoes. Mix well and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes.

12. Add the spice powders above. Mix well and sauté 1 to 2 more minutes.

1 can (14 oz) chickpeas

13. Drain the chickpeas and rinse well.

14. Add to the pot and stir well.

15. Sauté 1 to 2 more minutes.

about 1 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

16. Add water and salt, stir well. The water should just cover the chickpeas. (I used 1.5 cups water, and it was a bit much, so I had to reduce the liquid later.)

17. Bring to a boil, cover, and turn heat to low.

1.5 cups water

1/4 tsp salt

18. Meanwhile, take out a smaller pot that can fit the rice.

19. Drain the rice well. Add to that pot.

20. Add water and salt to the rice.

21. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high to high. Meanwhile, do the next step.

1 pinch saffron threads

2 tbsp hot water

22. Put the saffron in a small bowl and pour the hot water over it. Set aside.

23. Back to the rice. Once the water is boiling, stir it well, and cover again.

24. Cook about 5 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.

25. Turn off the heat and stir the rice well. It should be about 80% cooked, not too hard but not fully cooked yet.

26. Cover the pot and leave it until the rice is ready to assemble.

1 cup thick coconut milk (I use one carton of Aroy-D coconut milk. Shake it very, very well and tear open the carton where it tells you to tear.)

27. Back to the pot containing the chickpeas! Open the lid, and pour in all the coconut milk.

(Note: The coconut milk makes the gravy very creamy and the finished dish very delicious. It does not add a lot of coconut flavor! I was surprised when I did not taste much coconut flavor in the end. So do not be too worried about its flavor.)

28. Mix very well, and turn the heat back to high.

29. Bring back to a boil. Reduce the broth if necessary. It should be a little high than the chickpeas. This might be hard to judge if you are not experienced in dum biryani-making. If you only added 1 cup of water earlier, it should be all right.

30. Turn off the heat when ready.

1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro (I didn’t have it, so I skipped it.)

1/4 cup finely chopped mint (I used 1 tsp dried mint instead.)

2 tsp finely julienned ginger

2 tbsp fried onions (optional)

31. Over the chickpea gravy, evenly sprinkle half of the cilantro, half of the mint, and half of the ginger. 

32. Evenly spread all of the rice on top of the chickpea gravy.

33. Evenly sprinkle the fried onions on top of the rice.

34. Evenly sprinkle the rest of the cilantro, mint, and ginger on top of the rice.

35. Evenly sprinkle the saffron water on top of the rice, including the saffron threads.

Time to DUM! 🙂

36. Turn the heat back on.

37. Cover the pot tightly with a lid.

38. Turn the heat to low, and cook for 25 to 30 minutes.

39. Turn off the heat and leave the rice covered for a couple minutes.

Serving the Biryani

40. Open the lid!

41. Cut into the biryani like a cake, so you can remove all the layers at once. Serve on plates.

42. If you have plain yogurt, I recommend serving the biryani with some of it. It is very refreshing and tasty!

Tip! Do NOT eat the whole spices. Be very careful of cloves and cardamoms, because you might accidentally bite into them and it is not a pleasant experience!

Enjoy your biryani! 😀

Plated Biryani:   

Biryani right after Dum Cooking:


Biryani after “Slicing”:  


Recipe: Sichuanese Braised Fish with Tofu(豆腐烧鱼)

Braised Fish with Tofu(豆腐烧鱼 dou fu shao yu, pronounced “doh foo sholl yee”)is a common homestyle dish in Sichuan Province. It is flavored with the Fermented Chili and Fava Bean Paste from Pi County that Sichuanese people use in many other recipes, such as Mapo Tofu. The tofu and fish go well together with the sauce.
I will admit, I do not like whole fish myself. This is because of the small bones inside the fish. They make it very challenging to eat, and as a result I usually only eat the tofu. My parents love whole fish (my mom buys a whole fish almost weekly – I will be introducing a steamed fish recipe sometime as well), so they eat all of the fish 🙂

If you do like whole fish, I strongly recommend this recipe. If you are a vegetarian (or if you don’t like fish), you can even make this recipe with only tofu. Just cut all other ingredients in half to account for the lack of fish 🙂

Adapted from Land of Plenty by Fuchsia Dunlop

Ingredients for Fish Preparation:

1 whole fish, 0.75 to 1.5 lb (adjust the seasonings based on fish size) (carp is used in Sichuan, bass is fine, we use snapper)

a little salt and 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine

Fish Preparation:

1. Remove scales of fish and make shallow slashes with a knife on both sides of fish if you wish (these will help flavor penetrate the fish, but this is optional).

2. Rub the fish with salt and Shaoxing wine, then set it aside while preparing other ingredients.

Rest of the Ingredients:

1 block tofu (about 1 lb), cut into 1/2 inch thick slices

1.5 tbsp minced or 2 tbsp finely julienned ginger

1 tbsp minced or 2 tbsp thinly sliced garlic

cooking oil

2 green onions, thinly sliced, separate green and white parts

2 tbsp fermented chili and fava bean paste from Pi County(郫县豆瓣)

1.5 to 2 cups Chinese stock or chicken stock (no sodium preferred) or water

1 tsp dark soy sauce

2 tsp fermented sweet flour paste(甜面酱)

2 tbsp Shaoxing wine

1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water into a slurry

1 tsp Chinese black vinegar (Chinkiang or Baoning vinegar)


1. Heat a wok over high heat and add 2 tbsp oil.

2. Pat the fish dry with paper towels, then add it into the wok. Be careful of splattering! Hold a lid to protect yourself.

3. Fry a couple minutes on each side over high heat until golden.

4. When done, take the fish out and set on a plate.

5. Add more oil so there is about 2 tbsp oil in the wok.

6. Add chili bean paste and fry over medium heat for 30 seconds until oil is fragrant and red.

7. Add ginger, garlic, and white part of green onions. Stir-fry 30 more seconds, increasing heat to high.

8. Add stock/water and soy sauce.

9. Gently place the fish into the wok. Bring to a boil over high heat.

10. Add the Shaoxing wine and sweet flour paste, gently stir to mix.

11. Turn the heat to medium-high and simmer 5 minutes. Flip over the fish and simmer 5 more minutes. If your fish is smaller than 1 lb, decrease the simmering time.

12. Place the tofu slices around the fish, turn heat to high, and cook 2 more minutes.

13. Gently remove the fish to a serving plate. Make sure it is large and deep enough to fit everything.

14. Mix the starch and water slurry, then add to the wok, along with the green part of the green onions. Adjust the amount of slurry depending on the sauce left. If very little sauce is left, add more water. Stir well and bring to a boil to thicken.

15. Lastly, turn off the heat, stir in the vinegar, and pour the sauce and tofu over the fish. It is ready to serve!

Serve with rice and a green vegetable dish. Enjoy!

Recipe: Baked New Year’s Sticky Rice Cake(烤年糕)with Coconut, Red Bean Paste, and Walnuts!

Happy New Year! / 新年快乐!(Chinese) / 明けましておめでとうございます!(Japanese)

In Chinese, sticky rice cake is called nian gao(年糕, pronounced “nyehn gall”, literally “year cake”)and is traditionally eaten during the Lunar New Year. This year, I made some for the Solar New Year (January 1). There are two main ways to cook it, steaming or baking. Baking sticky rice cake is interesting, producing a slightly crisp crust and a very chewy inside.

Today, I am sharing the recipe for baked sticky rice cake! You can make it with coconut, red bean, and walnuts, or make a plain cake, or use any combination of flavors. If you do not like coconut, you can just replace the coconut milk with milk or water. Enjoy!

The red bean paste is very delicious inside the rice cake, so I recommend adding it. You can use either chunky or smooth red bean paste, depending on your preference. 🙂

Walnuts or pecans are also very tasty because they become very crisp and fragrant on top of the cake.

Remember, sticky/glutinous rice flour is gluten free! 😀


1 lb sticky rice flour AKA glutinous rice flour (use 1 bag of Erawan brand glutinous rice flour, the one with an elephant and green text)

1 tbsp baking power

1 can (400 ml) coconut milk (Chaokoh brand or Aroy-D are recommended), shake well before opening!

about 80 ml water (to bring batter to correct consistency)

(If you are not using coconut milk, use 2 US cups = 480 ml milk or water instead.)

3 eggs

1 cup sugar (Some recipes use 1.5 or even 2 cups, but 1 cup is enough to make it sweet! If you are not using the red bean paste, you could add 1 1/4 cups sugar because the red bean paste is sweet.)

1/3 cup oil (Do not use olive oil, which has too strong of a flavor. I used melted coconut oil, which is great if you want to make a coconut-flavored cake. You can use peanut, canola, corn, soybean, etc. other oils as well.)

red bean paste (optional), about 1/2 cup

walnuts (optional), about 1 cup, you can also use pecans – I used raw walnuts, because baking will roast them fragrantly 🙂


1. Add sticky rice flour, baking power, coconut milk or milk or water, eggs, sugar, and oil to a mixing bowl, and mix everything well with a whisk.

2. Adjust batter consistency with water if necessary. If you lift the whisk from the batter, the batter should flow like a folding ribbon.

Tip: Don’t worry about overmixing! Mix as much as you like. Because rice flours are gluten free, you do not have to worry about gluten developing as you have to with batters made with wheat flour. 🙂

3. After you are done mixing, remove the whisk (tap on side of bowl to remove excess stuck batter). Then, pour the batter into the baking dish, using a flexible spatula to scrape the batter from the bowl.

For the baking dish, I used a 9-inch diameter Pyrex glass pie plate. The batter was filled exactly to the very top! When baking, the cake will rise, but don’t worry, it will not overflow from the sides but rather rise like a cupcake.

Also, I forgot to grease the pie plate with oil, but the cake did not stick to the pie plate. However, you may still grease the pie plate with oil if you wish, just in case. 🙂

4. If using red bean paste and walnuts: After pouring the batter, place small balls of red bean paste evenly on top of the batter. Use a flexible spatula or chopstick to gently bury the red bean paste under the batter. For walnuts (or pecans), evenly sprinkle the walnuts on top of the cake.

5. Bake the cake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour! Watch it rise!

6. Take the cake out to cool. As it cools, it will also deflate! You do not have to cool it until actually cool, but you can still remove it when it is warm. Just leave it for at least 10 minutes.

7. For removing the cake, I used a knife to gently release the sides of the cake from the pan and it surprisingly did not stick. Then, I placed a plate on top and flipped it over, so the cake was released upside down onto the plate. Then, I removed the pie pan and placed another plate on top of the cake, flipping it over again, so the cake was right-side-up.

8. Slice pieces from the cake to eat (the cake is very sticky inside, so it may be a bit diffucult to slice) and enjoy! 😀

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Slice of the Cake: 

Rest of Cake after Slicing: