Fire cabbage

Hi! It’s me (Sarah) again! Chiming in seems a teeny bit inauthentic at this point, since posting on a food blog implies that I’ve been cooking, which is not entirely true. I have been eating surprisingly well for a surgical resident, but that has been all Dennis’ doing. Without him around, I think I would be about 50% Clif bars, 30% coffee, and 20% peanut butter. It would be a bleak existence indeed. Instead, most days I open the front door to the sound of something sizzling and some combination of ginger, garlic and chili wafting around. Let me tell you, after a day of race-walking around the hospital, those are some lovely sounds and smells to come home to. Because of him, I may be one of the first surgical residents in history to not lose several pounds during my first rotation. Of course, the weight maintenance could also be due to all of the graham crackers and ginger ale I keep stealing from the patient nourishment closets, but I digress.

With respect to meal prep, I pitch in when I can, joining Dennis in the kitchen when I have a weekend day off, and taking the lead on the rare days that I actually beat him home. While I would love to say that I use those times to try one of the many new recipes that I’ve earmarked in blogs and books over the past months, more often I turn to something tried and true that I know we both love. One of those star recipes for me is a concoction we call ‘fire cabbage’. The inspiration for fire cabbage originally came from a recipe I found in Bon Appetit, but we have since riffed on it and morphed it enough that I feel comfortable claiming it as our own. It may just be the German half of me talking, but I have long felt that cabbage is one of the most under-rated and underutilized vegetables – it is crazy cheap, keeps for weeks in the crisper, and is remarkably versatile. In this recipe, it gets gussied up with some of our favorite flavors – garlic, ginger and chilis. We tend to fancy things up by mixing in some pickled mustard green stems and topping the whole mess with some minced thai basil, but that is only because we regularly have those sorts of things lying around the house – it will still be delicious if you simply top it with a fried egg and call it a day. That said, the thai basil really does transform the dish if you can find it – it adds a vaguely sweet herbal dimension that cuts through the burn of the sambal oelek.


Fire Cabbage

  • 1 head green cabbage, sliced into thin (1/4″) ribbons
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 2 T rice wine vinegar
  • 1-2 T sambal oelek (to taste)
  • 1-2 T pickled mustard stems (optional)

Heat some oil (either sesame or vegetable oils work well here) in a wok over high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the cabbage. After a few minutes, once the cabbage begins to soften, add in the remaining ingredients. Cook for several more minutes, until the cabbage is cooked through. There is plenty of wiggle room in the cooking time – you can keep everything in the wok for mere minutes if you prefer a more crisp, slaw-like cabbage, or you can cook the cabbage down to silky ribbons. I lean more in the ‘silky ribbons’ direction, but it truly is a matter of preference. Serve the cabbage over rice, topped with a fried egg (with a runny yoke, non-negotiable). Top with thai basil, if you can find it.



Chive-alry isn’t dead

This Friday marks the completion of our first month of residency! Only 11 more to go…I will fully admit that Sarah has definitely had the tougher schedule of the two of us. Luckily, I can utilize the extra time that I have to at least make sure a nice hot meal is waiting for her when she comes back.

DC despite being home to a ton of nationalities and embassies from around the world is truly deficient in the ethnic grocery stores. This past weekend, we drove out to Rockville and visited one of our favorite Asian supermarkets, Great Wall, to stock up on some supplies for the week. After our long carnitas kick, we decided it was time for a bit of a cleanse with a lighter diet packed with a lot of veggies.

This particular recipe took me around 15 minutes from beginning of prep to finish. The ingredients are cheap. The result is delicious.

Stir-fried Tofu with Chives


no filter


  • Pressed firm tofu                                       1/2 lb, sliced thinly
  • Chives (including the flowers)              1 bunch, cut into 1 in segments
  • Oil                                                             1 T
  • Salt                                                                  1/2 T
  • Pepper                                                            1/4 T      

Rinse the chives thoroughly. Depending on how tender your chives are, I usually trim off about 1 inch from the bottom stem because that region is a bit tough. Chop up the rest of your chives into 1 inch segments. Heat up oil in pain on high heat. When the oil is hot, add in tofu, chives, salt, pepper. Stir fry for 5-10 minutes until chives turn to a vibrant green. Serve on a bed of rice.

This dish requires no additional aromatics other than the chives. That being said, be forewarned that if you bring this for lunch, you might want to bring some gum or mints along with you.


Warm smell of carnitas

When it comes to misheard song lyrics, one of my best faux pas has to be singing along to Hotel California while hungry. The familiar guitar riff intro to the ballad by the Eagles is just simply too enticing not to make you want to sing along.

This particular song always brings me back to my high school water polo days. Every morning before before the crack of dawn, I’d make my way down to the din and musk of the basement weight room, lie down on the floor with my eyes closed waiting for the bright lights and classic rock that signaled the inevitable beginning of our circuit workout. It was always way too early to eat anything before morning training and doing so would have meant risking a technicolor yawn midway through. Partway through the circuit urged on by the music, I start feeling like I’m getting into a nice rhythm and can’t help but belt out:

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of carnitas, rising up through the air…

Slow Cooker Carnitas Al Pastor



  • Pork shoulder(bone in if possible)                     5-6 lb
  • Onion                                                                    1 large, sliced
  • Garlic                                                                    8 cloves, smashed
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Smoked paprika
  • Chipotle chili
  • Cumin
  • Chili powder
  • Coridander
  • Oregano
  • Canned tomatoes with juice                           28 oz
  • Canned pineapple with juice                          20 oz


Add your sliced onion and garlic cloves to the bottom of the slow cooker. Pat your pork shoulder dry with paper towel and trim areas of some excess fat. You may notice that there are no measurements for the spices. This is because I literally try to get a nice even coating on the pork of everything. Rub the pork shoulder with the spice mixture (salt, pepper, smoked paprika, chipotle chili, cumin, chili powder, coriander, dried oregano) and set it on top of the onions and garlic. Pour the canned tomatoes and pineapple around the pork shoulder. Try not to wash off that nice seasoned rub. If you used whole tomatoes, smash and tear them into small pieces by hand. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 8.5 hours.

After it’s done, tear up the pork shoulder with two forks. Serve on flour/corn tortilla with garnish of diced onion, cilantro, and green sauce.

This recipe makes a huge portion that is great for dinner parties or you can freeze any leftovers for later.


Explosion of patriotic flavor (小籠包 Part 2)

Sarah and I were both fortunate enough to have the 4th of July off this year. Unfortunately, the weather was rather uncooperative so we decided not to slog out to the National Mall in the humidity and rain for fireworks that may or may not have happened. Instead, we enjoyed a morning jog through the zoo, visiting our favorite pandas and great apes who were also enjoying a sleepy and lazy holiday in their exhibits, and came home to meddle about in the kitchen.

Since I had posted about the science behind soup dumplings or xiao long bao (xlb) prior, I’ve been dying to give it a shot at home. I will preface this recipe by saying that it is pretty labor and time intensive. Usually xlb is done with a pork broth and ground pork filling. I happened to have a chicken carcass lying around and leftover ground turkey so I made use of those instead. The finished product still tasted awesome.


The Broth and Aspic

  • Chicken carcass/bones
  • Shiitake mushrooms                3
  • Green onions                                3
  • Ginger                                            1.4 cup, sliced
  • Basil                                                4-5 leaves
  • Water 
  • Salt                                                  To taste
  • Unflavored gelatin                     1 T to every 2 cups

Place all ingredients into a large pot. Bring to a boil then turn down heat to a simmer and let it go for 45 min to 1 hr. Strain your mixture through a sieve so you only reserve the liquid. Mix in the unflavored gelatin (the broth needs to be hot at this point). Pour the mixture into a shallow pan and refrigerate. After a few hours, it should have turned broth jello aka aspic. Use a knife and score the aspic into small cubes and place back in fridge to reserve for later.


Mmm savory jello

*You can skip the time intensive broth part and use prepackaged chicken broth or veggie broth if you desire. I like having a bit more control over customizing the flavors in the broth.


  • Flour                 3 cups
  • Hot water        1 cup
  • Oil                      1 T

Put flour in a bowl and slowly add in the hot water as you mix. Add in 1 T of oil and knead until you get a dough ball that is nice and smooth. Wrap your dough ball in plastic and let it rest for 1 hour.


  • Ground Turkey               1 lb
  • Garlic                               4 cloves, minced
  • Ginger                             2 T, minced
  • Green onions                 3, diced
  • Shaoxing wine              1 T
  • Soy sauce                        1 T
  • Sesame Oil                      1 T
  • White pepper                 0.5 T
  • Aspic                                1 cup

Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix by hand, trying to incorporate the ingredients uniformly. Take a cup of your aspic cubes and mix them in as well.

The Sauce

  • Ginger                       1 inch, julienned
  • Soy sauce              2 T
  • Black vinegar       3 T

Combine all into small saucer.

XLB Assemble!

You have to move pretty fast in this process or else your aspic will begin to melt or your dough may dry out.

Take the rested dough and divide into 4 pieces. Roll out each piece into a long cylinder. Cut each cylinder into roughly 1 inch pieces. Squish each piece of dough with your hand into a small circle. Use your rolling pin to roll out the edges so you have roughly a 3.5 to 4 inch diameter circle. You can let the middle of the dough be a little bit thicker, but the outer edges should almost be translucent.

Place 1 T of your filling in the center of the dough and add an additional small bit of leftover aspic on top. The technique for making the pleats is exactly the same as the dumpling recipe except you just need to go in a circle. You should end up with a small dough nub on the top of your soup dumpling. Pinch it closed and give it a twist to finish.

Repeat this process with the rest of your dough and filling. Place your soup dumplings into a steamer lined with either a baking sheet or some napa cabbage. Steam for 5-10 minutes. Carefully remove from steamer basket and enjoy! Careful. It’s hot.



Lean, Mean, Green Bean Machine

Hard to imagine it’s only week 2 of residency with all the things we’ve done already. Sarah has removed a lymph node and a lipoma in the operating room and managed >40 patients on call. I’ve done a few lumbar punctures, reduced a nursemaid’s elbow, and sutured a head and a chin laceration. With all the go go go pace of the ED, it’s nice to take a break from the diet of scarfing down apples and Clif bars while typing notes and make some real food.

I love green beans. I loved them growing up. I love them now. I remember requesting that my mom buy green beans almost every time she went out to the store. When she got home with a bulging bag of green beans, I would sit on the ground with my grandma and my dad perched on stools, chit chatting as we trimmed the beans. My mom would be busy chopping garlic or preparing the rest of the meal.

One of my favorite renditions has to be dry cooked green beans or gan bian si ji dou (干煸四季豆). There’s something about the texture of the beans with their blistery skins and the flavorful morsels of ginger, garlic, bits of meat, and spices that make it absolutely delicious. It’s a dish that you can find at most Chinese restaurants, and one that I tend to order everywhere I go. The biggest issue with recreating this dish at home is getting that nice blistery outside on the beans without a wok that goes up to 900 degrees (although my mom doesn’t seem to have a problem with this…some kind of mom magic). Luckily, there’s a nice work around.

Dry Fried Green Beans


  • Green beans                                         1 lb, washed and trimmed
  • Ginger                                                    2 T, minced
  • Garlic                                                      2 T, minced
  • Preserved mustard stems                2 T, minced (cheap at Asian grocery stores)
  • White pepper                                       1.5 T
  • Salt                                                          1/2 T
  • Oil                                                             2 T

Start off by tossing green beans in oil, salt, and white pepper, trying to get an even coat. Place the seasoned beans on a sheet pan, and stick it in the oven at broil for 15-20 minutes (depends on the power of your oven). By the end, you should start seeing the skin of the beans start blistering. When your beans are getting close to done, heat up oil in a wok/pan on medium high heat and begin to saute the ginger, garlic, and preserved mustard stems until they start to brown. Remove the beans from the oven and add them to your wok/pan. Continue stir frying for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.