Earthy Mushroom Soup

Okay, so whenever I see “earthy” in any recipe I immediately get suspicious.  Why do I want to eat something that’s like dirt????  After I took a sip of this soup I just had to have a moment of silence, because (probably to people’s delight) for once I had nothing to say.  That’s how decadent this savory soup is!  Adapted from Mark Bittman, this is such a great autumn dish that is incredibly easy.

If you do live in Shanghai, it would be great to check out 草菇 (caogu)for this recipe.  In English it’s called a paddy straw mushroom.  It’s the same mushroom other than shitake that’s used in Chinese cooking and I picked these up because unpeeled, they look like quail eggs and were just bursting with flavor.

egg or vegetable?

egg or vegetable?

earthy mushroom soup


Earthy Mushroom Soup

Prep time: 10 minutes                        Cooking time: 30 minutes                      Servings:  4 people

Budget for ingredients: 40RMB (if you go to the wet market)

Cutting board
2 Pots

3 handfuls of mushrooms (approx. 3-4 cups)  I chose paddy straw, shitake, and shimeiji
4 T butter
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 celery stalks
1 block of vegetable soup
1/4 c soy sauce
Salt & pepper to taste
Strips of dried seaweed


  1. Chop up mushrooms and put it in a pot with high heat with pats of butter until it starts to release liquid.  Should take around 5-10 minutes.
  2. Add all other veggies and cook until onion turns translucent.
  3. Pour in soy sauce & veggie cube with  around 3 cups of water, and cook the soup until all vegetables are tender.
  4. Sprinkle on salt & pepper to taste.  Top with the dried nori (seaweed) and mix it in until it turns soft too.  Serve immediately.

Sweet Potato Puree & Noodles

I might have committed a cooking sin.  Writing a cooking blog without ever referencing Mark Bittman the NYtimes food journalist who used to write The Minimalist!  But hey, the day is here and I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised by this recipe–I mean sweet potato on noodles?  Starch on starch?  Kind of gross, right?  but nooo, this mix was simple and really delicious.  Really easy to get these ingredients anywhere too.    The cool thing is I found purple sweet potatoes at the market and they look so great with the scallion.  Soba is a Japanese buckwheat noodle that’s a cheap staple.  Eaten hot or cold, I find this dish to be a great fit for the weather– in between Summer/Fall, at least in Shanghai.

sweet potato noodles

Sweet Potato Puree & Noodles

Prep time: 10 minutes                        Cooking time: 20 minutes                      Servings:  4 people

Budget for ingredients: 100RMB (if you go to the wet market)

Cutting board
2 Pots

2 sweet potatoes (さつまいも)
4 T peanut butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
400g soba noodles (usually when dried, each bunch should be 100 g for each serving)
3-4 stalks of scallions
  1. Peel, cut and boil sweet potatoes until you can mash them.
  2. Drain any excess water, mash, and mix in peanut butter and garlic.
  3. Boil water and add in soba noodles.  Should be around 5-6 minutes until cooked.
  4. Put purée  on top of noodles and garnish with scallions.  Serve immediately.

Pumpkin & Carmelized Onion Quiche

As autumn approaches once more I can’t help but reach for the gorgeous pumpkins available in Shanghai at the wet market I live near.  It’s always hustling and bustling, filled with the freshest ingredients at rock bottom prices.  From supermarkets geared towards foreigners such as City Shop and City Super, you can basically find everything you could ever want (except for Queso Blanco that I’d need to re-create Cafe Habana’s corn.  Help here anyone?).  I am no longer in unknown territory, with a few language snafus, but pretty much, I am found and no longer lost as I was when I moved to Japan.  However, if there is any kind of ingredient that I think is special or needs an introduction, I will use a spot of Japanese here and there.  Prices are going to now on be reflective in RMB.

I digress.  Pumpkin, carmelized onion, sage, and gorgonzola makes an amazing mix for a mouthwatering quiche.  On top of that, I made a nice crust using canola oil–absurdity, I know!  Adapted from closet cooking.

Pumpkin and carmelized onion quiche

Pumpkin & Carmelized Onion Quiche

Prep time: 45 minutes                        Baking time: 50 minutes                      Servings:  6 people

Budget for ingredients: 100RMB (if you go to the wet market)

2 Bowls
Cutting board
Frying pan
Springform pan

For Crust:
1 c flour
1/3 c ice water
1/3 c oil (I used canola)
For Filling:
1 T olive oil
2 c onion, thinly sliced
1/4 c water
2 c pumpkin, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
salt and pepper to taste
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c half and half
50 g gorgonzola or other blue cheese, crumbled
20 fresh leaves of sage, chopped


  1. Put onion in a pan with 1T of oil over medium heat, and after 10 minutes add water and lower the heat and stir every 10 minutes until a lovely golden brown.
  2. Toss pumpkin with oil, salt and pepper and place in the oven with a tray at 180C and set timer for 30 minutes.
  3. Make the crust by adding together flour and salt.
  4. Whisk water and oil together and then add it slowly to the flour mixture.  Using a fork, the crust should clump together.  Press it into the springform pan.
  5. Mix together the half and half with the eggs, and then mix with all other filling items and pour into the springform pan.
  6. Put into the oven and turn up the temperature to 200C and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Pumpkin coconut soup

So fall/winter/the holiday season is upon us, and I am really excited to share this recipe with you!  It is a luscious, rich soup that makes me happy that it is so freezing outside!  It was originally going to be adapted from Global Gourmet, but as usual, I have tweaked the recipe to my own tastes and to more accessible items in the Japanese supermarket–in particular the 金時人参 (きんときにんじん) kintoki ninjin, or Kyoto red carrot.  This carrot is a blood red color and is so sweet and much better than the regular carrot!  The recipe also calls for only using the white part of the scallions, which apparently have a more mild flavor than the green part.  The accompanying photo was taken by my talented friend Cat.  I got to be a model for a day.  Please check out her website!


pumpkin coconut soup
Soup in a breadbowl!

Pumpkin coconut soup

Prep time: 20 minutes                Cooking time: 20-25 minutes              Servings: 6

Budget for ingredients: ¥1000


1 grater
1 masher
1 pot


1 kabocha pumpkin (the only kind you can get here, with the green rind)
2 kintoku carrots
1 T fresh grated ginger
1 T chopped garlic
3 blocks of consommé
1 bunch of scallions (only the white part), chopped
1 can coconut milk
1 package Italian parsley, chopped
Juice from 1 lime
Salt and white pepper to taste


1. Remove seeds from the pumpkin.   Wash and place in pot, and add enough water that 2/3 of the pumpkin is covered.  I leave the pumpkin in halves.

2. Chop carrots into coins and drop it in the pot.  Add grated ginger,garlic, and consommé.

3.  Bring to a boil, and remove pumpkin peel with tongs after it has softened.

4. Although this is probably not the correct procedure, I usually just stick my masher in at this point to mush up the mixture.  Much faster than just stirring with a wooden spoon!  Slightly dangerous but whatever.

5.  Turn down the heat, and add in chopped scallions and coconut milk.

6. Heat the soup through without boiling.  Add parsley, juice from the lime, and salt and pepper to taste.

Steamed white melon and tofu

I found these melons that are called 白瓜 (しろうり) shiro-uri.  Literally, it means white melon but every search result led me to winter melon.  For the life of me, I couldn’t find an English name for these!  They taste like cucumbers and remind me of calabash. They look like this in the supermarket.

white melon

Cousin of the cucumber!

I decided to braise them like a Chinese dish my mom makes.  The white melon can also be used in place of cucumber in your salads.

white melon with tofu

Healthy and light dish

Braised white melon

Prep time: 10 minutes               Cooking time: 2o minutes              Servings: 4

Budget for ingredients: ¥600


Glass bowl
Steaming stand


2 pieces fried tofu
2 white melons
2 T dried shrimp
1 t salt
1 t white pepper
1 T ponzu sauce
1 t sesame oil


1. Peel white melons and quarter lengthwise,  then slice.  Place into bowl.

2. Slice the tofu.  Add tofu, dried shrimp, salt and pepper.  Mix!

3. Pour the ponzu sauce and sesame oil over the mixture.

4.  Fill up pot with water up until the level is right below where the steaming stand is.

5. Place glass bowl in the pot, and bring to boil for 15 minutes.

Surprise cake!

So I have wanted to make zucchini bread for the longest, but it seems as though they have all but disappeared from my local grocery. Instead, I found myself searching for recipes anyways because either I am extremely stubborn, full of wishful thinking, or both, and found a recipe from Cooking Ninja that was labeled “Only for the Brave Ones”.  I made it but before I served it I didn’t tell anyone what was in it in case they wouldn’t try it.

In fact, I made them guess what the ingredient was, and most people thought it was some kind of shellfish.  Why, I can’t really tell you, but I guess I will search for some kind of seafood bread medley next time.

Anyways everyone loved it, and were totally surprised after I told them what the ingredient was in this “Surprise cake”. Want to know what it was?  DAIKON (Asian radish)!!! :-O!!!   OMG.  But, cheap and EASY to make.  The taste is like a spongecake and very delicious.

Surprise cake

secret ingredient at the back...

Surprise cake

Prep time: 20 minutes                Baking time: 20-25 minutes              Servings: 8

Budget for ingredients: ¥600


1 pot
Square pan
Toaster oven


4 eggs
1 3/4 c sugar (brown or white)
3/4 c vegetable oil
lemon zest from 1 lemon
1 3/4 c plain flour
3 c  carrot & daikon (shredded)
3 t baking powder
1 t ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 t ground ginger
a pinch of salt


1. Beat the eggs and sugar together until it gets fluffy.

2. Add lemon zest and oil.

3. Stir in dry ingredients.

4. Fold in shredded vegetables.

5. Pour the batter into an oiled baking pan at 175C for 20 minutes until you poke a hole in the middle with a chopstick and it comes out clean!

Macaroni and cheese

Nothing says ”comfort” like macaroni and cheese!  Ok yes this is really unhealthy but I just can’t help it, it just is so tasty.  Additionally, whenever I have any extra crab meat I just dump it in too!  When I am missing NY (I have never been to the actual south to eat) Mama’s Food Shop is at the top of the list when it comes to grub.  This is my tribute to them.  Macaroni and cheese goes great with a salad or green beans.  As all fatty foods go, it is good to temper it with something fresh and light!  Be careful not to overeat because this recipe is SO GREAT! Props to Alton Brown.

macaroni and cheese

So homey, so gorgeous, so drooling over this

Macaroni and cheese

Prep time: 10 minutes                Baking time: 25-30 minutes              Servings: 4-6

Budget for ingredients: ¥600


1 pot
1 frying pan
Gratin dish
Toaster oven


1 bag elbow macaroni
1 cup of milk
3 T butter
3 T flour
1 T mustard
3 c milk
1/2 c onion
1 T garlic
1 t paprika
1 egg
2 handfuls shredded cheese
1 t salt
1/2 t black pepper


1. Boil macaroni in salted water.  Drain and set aside.

2. Melt butter in pan and add mustard and flour and stir with the whisk.

3. Add milk. onion, garlic, and paprika.

4. Simmer for approximately 10 minutes and add in the egg and half of your cheese (also add in crab meat or whatever you want at this time).

5. Stir in the cooked macaroni and pour mixture into the gratin dish.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese on top with salt and pepper.

6.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 180C.