classic taiwanese meat sauce

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comfort food – asian style!

Growing up with a mom who cooks lots of traditional and delicious taiwanese foods has really influenced how I make meals for my family at home.  This is one of those dishes that we had once in awhile growing up and we never got tired of it.  The combo of shiitake mushrooms, soy sauce, and shallots is pretty classic for taiwanese cuisine.  Just the aromas of the sauce simmering away brings me comfort. I would equate this meat sauce to a bolognese; slowly simmered to marry all the flavours and then it’s good to go on top of noodles, rice, or a bed of thinly chopped up raw veggies if you’re carb free. It’s super easy and it freezes well – make extra so that you can store it in your freezer and pull it out anytime for a quick meal.

This sauce does well in our house because piepie and boss don’t eat anything tomato (not even ketchup!), and my husband isn’t too keen on marinara sauce (I know…crazy). I think it goes particularly well tossed with noodles (e.g. ramen or egg noodles). You can go to your local Asian grocer and find a variety of dried noodles – my favourites are Japanese Ramen Noodles (Hime brand) or Taiwanese dry noodles (Wu-Mu brand). A lot of the ingredients for the sauce are also found in the Asian food aisle or your local Asian grocer, however you can easily substitute with what you already have in your pantry.IMG_0430.JPG

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prep time: 15 min   cook time: 30 min    yield: 4-6 servings

what you need:

  • 1 lb (~450 g) package lean ground pork
  • 1/2 cup naturally brewed soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 large shallots (or 1 small cooking onion)
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • rock sugar (about 4 small pieces) or you can use 1 tbsp regular sugar
  • 2 tbsp dried fried shallots (*optional, if you can’t find this ingredient don’t worry!)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp grape seed oil (or other cooking oil)

what to do:

  1. Rehydrate shiitake mushrooms with boiling water in a small bowl (about 15 minutes). When softened and cool enough to handle, chop finely.
  2. Chop shallots finely.
  3. In a bowl, combine the liquids: water, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.
  4. In a pot over medium heat, add about 1 tsp cooking oil. Lightly brown shallots (add in dried ones if you have them as well) – then add in ground pork, breaking up loosely with a wooden spoon, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add liquids carefully to deglaze, then add in sugar and stir. Cover and bring to gentle boil, then turn the heat as low as possible but keep a slow simmer, for about 20 more minutes.
  6. Cook noodles (see package for instructions), then toss with desired amount of meat sauce. Optional to garnish with chopped green onions and cilantro. Enjoy!
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butternut squash spaghetti sauce

butternut squash spaghetti sauce

embracing the fall season

We’ve had to say goodbye to summer (although the weather has been wonderful! We finally got a lengthy warm September!) – but now we’re saying hello to fall and the grocery store is full of Ontario produce goodness. Amongst one of my favourites is the butternut squash.  It is sweet, hearty, and maintains good texture when cooked. It’s packed with Vitamin A, beta-carotenes, and other amazing nutrients. A classic spaghetti sauce would have celery, onion, garlic and carrots as the base – I find replacing the carrot with butternut squash gives it a slightly sweeter taste (great for the kids!). This recipe tastes fantastic on it’s own and is hearty like a stew, or you can serve it up with some pasta (spaghetti, penne, etc) and topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

prep: 20 min   cook: 1 hour   yield: serves 4-6

what you need:

  • ~450 g lean ground beef
  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 3 ribs of celery
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 3 gloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 700 g tomato sauce or tomato pure or diced tomatoes (I like to buy the ones in the tall glass jars)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes *optional
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • cooking oil (I used grape seed oil)

what to do:

  1. Prep your vegetables by thoroughly washing and then peeling them. Remove onion peel and dice into small pieces. Peel butternut squash, remove seeds, and dice into small chunks. Dice celery as well – you want your veggies diced about the same size.
  2. Roughly chop garlic after removing peel.
  3. In a large pot add about 1 1/2 tbsp cooking oil on medium – high heat. Add diced vegetables & garlic and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid burning but you want some even browning to occur.
  4. Add ground beef and break it up with a wooden spoon roughly. Sauté for another few minutes, until beef doesn’t look very pink anymore.
  5. Add chilli flakes and oregano, salt and pepper. Continue to sauté, stirring for another 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add tomato puree and bay leaves. Bring the sauce to a boil then turn it down to simmer with the lid on for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Once the squash is tender it is ready! It actually tastes better though as it sits with some time – so if you have made it head, leave the lid on and just allow the flavours to marry until you are ready to serve. I love storing it in small portions in mason jars for a quick ready meal for the boss (my baby who turned 1 recently!).
  8. Enjoy!