Asian Steak Tacos

When I was little, my parents tried to entice me to try new foods by calling it the Chinese version of something familiar. Scallion cakes were “Chinese pizza.” Rice noodles wrapped around pieces of shrimp were “Chinese burritos.”

I remember one time my brother, exasperated with these comparisons, complained that just because the food has the same shape as something familiar doesn’t mean that you’ll like it. After all, a scallion cake might be flat and round, but it doesn’t have the cheese, tomato sauce, or variety of toppings that make pizza delicious. It’s just dough with green onions. True, calling it Chinese pizza didn’t tempt me to eat it. I was tempted to eat it because it was fried dough and onions. My parents could probably have saved themselves a lot of trouble by just telling me that it’s fried, so I’d like it.

In any case, I thought about my brother’s rant while I set out to make this Asian style taco. The idea came to me while looking at bunches of baby bok choy, radishes, cilantro, and a jalapeno from the CSA. Being a fan of pickled radishes on tacos, and remembering how I put bok choy on a burger, I thought why not combine the two ideas? I marinated some skirt steak in oyster sauce, soy sauce, garlic, and Chinese Five Spice powder; made a spicy pico de gallo of sorts with the radishes, cilantro, jalapeno and a touch of rice wine vinegar; I chopped and sautéed the bok choy with some garlic; and for my taco shells– those crispy fried scallion cakes.

These tacos were so delicious– the steak was tender and juicy, the radishes added crunch and spice. The bok choy added a fresh green flavor and the scallion cakes were soft, yet crispy and laced each bite with a light onion flavor. If the picky eaters in your life don’t respond to these Chinese tacos simply because it doesn’t have the refried beans, cheese, and tomato salsa that makes Mexican tacos so tasty… well, just tell them that these are fried.

Marinade

  • 1/4 cup Tamari soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1.5 teaspoons hot mustard
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped

Radish Pico de Gallo

  • 1 bunch, medium pink radishes, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • salt and pepper

Tacos

  • 10 oz skirt steak
  • Montreal steak seasoning
  • 1 recipe scallion cakes
  • 2 bunches baby bok choy, chopped with stems separated from leaves
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • salt and pepper

Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Put the skirt steak in a large ziplock plastic bag and add the marinade. Seal the bag and make sure the marinade covers the steak. Place in the refrigerator, rotating every now and then, and let marinate for at least 4 hours or over night.

Combine the ingredients for the radish pico de gallo and set aside to give the radishes time to soak up the flavors of the lime juice and rice wine vinegar.

Take steak out of the refrigerator to take off some of the chill while you make the scallion cakes according to your chosen recipe. Cook the steak and bok choy while you fry up the pancakes, keeping pancakes warm in a low temperature oven if necessary.

Preheat broiler or grill. Take out the skirt steak and discard the extra marinade. Sprinkle both sides of the skirt steak with steak seasoning. Grill for 3-4 minutes per side for medium rare or grill longer to your desired degree of doneness. Remove skirt steak to a plate and cover with foil, allowing the steak to rest while you make the bok choy topping.

Heat 2 teaspoons of canola oil and 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped bok choy stems and saute until tender, about 3-4 minutes, then add the chopped boy choy leaves, and continue to cook until the leaves have wilted, about another 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Thinly slice the skirt steak against the grain and on a bias. To assemble tacos, place 2-3 slices of skirt steak on each scallion cake. Top with a small pile (about 2 tablespoons) of boy choy then finish with a spoonful of radish pico de gallo. Serve with these Sweet Potato Cilantro cakes if you wish.

Serves 4, with 2-3 tacos each.

CSA Count: 4

Radishes, baby bok choy, cilantro, jalapeno

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Asian Style Turkey Burgers

Back in May, John and I made a trip back to Cleveland. We lived there together for two years while he finished medical school. We had an amazing time visiting good friends, seeing how our old neighborhood has changed, and devouring delicious new finds in Cleveland’s always amazing dining scene. One of our favorite discoveries was Happy Dog. When we lived there, Happy Dog was a concert venue with a huge bar but lacking a liquor license, but now it’s got liquor license intact and sells hot dogs with a toppings list a mile long.

We’re talking everything from grape jelly to kimchi. I perused the menu trying not to drool too much before finally settling on a combination of black truffle honey mustard, caramelized onions, and garlicky escarole with a side of tater tots with saffron aioli. Never have I been so deliriously happy with a hot dog… well, okay, there’s one other hot dog place that makes me that happy. I soon grew sad that we didn’t live in Cleveland because there were still so many other toppings I wanted to try. My full stomach said no, but my heart kept wanting me to order one more dog so I could try another topping– their coca cola baby bok choy stir fry.

Alas, John forced me to listen to reason and we walked away before I could order a second dog, but I thought about the idea of baby bok choy as a topping for a sandwich when I looked at yet another giant bag of the vegetable from our CSA. With ground turkey on sale from our grocery delivery service, I thought why not make turkey burgers with some garlicky, wilted baby bok choy?

Our CSA share also included a bunch of cilantro and when I see cilantro and bok choy together, my taste buds automatically start anticipating the flavors of hoisin sauce and the crunch of water chestnuts– it must be something embedded deep in my memory from childhood. So I added soy sauce and hoisin sauce to the ground turkey for flavor then chopped up some water chestnuts, a bit of the baby bok choy, and some cilantro and chives to ensure that these burgers had plenty of elements to add texture as well as moisture since lean turkey has little fat in the first place to keep the burgers moist after cooking. I then chopped up the rest of the baby bok choy and cooked it with plenty of garlic while the burgers were on the grill, topping off the burgers with that stir fry in place of your usual lettuce and tomato burger topping.

Man oh man were these burgers delicious! The hoisin and the garlic add a little bit of spice that paired nicely with the cooling, green flavors of the cilantro, chives, and baby bok choy. The water chestnuts added a pleasing crunch, contrasting with the softness of the turkey meat, reminiscent for me at least of what I enjoy the most when eating dumplings at dim sum. If you’re looking for a way to switch up your burgers for your Labor Day weekend cookout, you should definitely give these a try.

Note: I topped my burgers with a mix of mayo and a pistachio hazelnut cumin nut butter that was purchased at a local outdoor market. The mayo mixture was also great on the grilled sweet potatoes that we had on the side. Realizing that the average pantry is not likely to have this delicious nut butter, you could try mixing some mayo with a bit of garlic, cumin and Asian five spice powder. Alternatively, I bet a mix of ketchup and Sriracha hot sauce would also be amazing on these burgers. That mix is certainly a favorite in this household for grilled french fries.

  • 5 baby bok choy
  • 1.25 lb lean ground turkey breast
  • 3 medium cloves of garlic, minced and divided
  • 8 oz water chestnuts, chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Tamari soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • toasted sesame oil
  • canola oil
  • Montreal steak seasoning
  • hamburger buns

Finely chop one baby bok choy and place into a large mixing bowl. Add the ground turkey, 1 minced garlic clove (about 1 teaspoon), the chopped water chestnuts, chives, and cilantro. Add the soy sauce, hoisin sauce and 2 teaspoons of toasted sesame oil. Using your hands, mix all of the bowl contents together until just combined then form into four patties. Sprinkle both sides of each patty with steak seasoning.

Grill patties over direct heat on a hot grill, 6-7 minutes per side or until burgers are completely cooked through. While burgers are on the grill, rough chop the remaining baby bok choy and heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil mixed with 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. When oil is rippling, add the chopped baby bok choy and the remaining minced garlic cloves and stir fry until the stalks of the bok choy are tender and the leaves have wilted, about 4-5 minutes. Place patties on buns and top with the stir fry bok choy. Yields 4 burgers.

CSA Count: 4

Baby bok choy, chives, cilantro, garlic

Grilled Bok Choy & Glazed Snow Peas

As previously complained before, my one problem with getting baby bok choy and snow peas in bulk from the CSA is that I can’t really think of what to do with them other than put them in a stir fry. As delicious as stir fry may be, it can be tiring if you end up eating it 3 or 4 times a week trying to use up all those bok choy and pea pods. And so therein lies the challenge: find new ways to use up these vegetables to keep things interesting.

This would be one of those efforts. I looked at these vegetables and the bundle of basil we received in the CSA share box and some beef that I bought on sale and thought… well, stir fry. But then I looked at our grill which seemed kind of lonely and suddenly, the beef no longer wanted to be cooked in a skillet but skewered and grilled (recipe for that to come later this week.) Since the beef was going on the grill, why not try cooking the bok choy with it? After all, I’d seen recipes for splitting heads of Romaine lettuce in half and lightly charring them for salads, heck, even tried it myself with more or less good results with a head of radicchio. So I split each baby bok choy in half, lightly painted them with a mix of sesame and canola oils and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, then handed the plateful of them over to John to set on the grill.

Don’t they look pretty? All bright green with light caramelization and crispy edged leaves? These would have been delicious on their own as a simple side, but there were those snow peas… those damn snow peas. I quickly sautéed those suckers with a little bit of garlic and a glaze of honey, soy sauce, and sesame oil until the snow peas were bright green and still crisp. I then combined them with the grilled bok choy which bulked them up into a more substantial side dish. All together, the vegetables were crunchy with subtle flavors of smoke from the grill, sweetness from the honey, and nuttiness from the sesame oil. A light but hearty side dish, perfect for a summer meal courtesy of the grill.

  • 3 baby bok choy, split in half lengthwise
  • canola oil
  • toasted sesame oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 pound snow peas, trimmed
  • 1 large clove green garlic, chopped (yields about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons Tamari soy sauce

In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 tablespoon of canola oil with 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Brush all sides of bok choy halves with oil mixture then sprinkle with about 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper. Grill over direct heat for 4-5 minutes per side or until vegetables are bright green with light brown grill marks and slightly charred, crisped edges of the leaves.

While bok choy is on the grill, heat about 2 teaspoons of canola oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the snow peas and garlic then saute until pea pods are bright green, about 4-5 minutes. Drizzle with honey, soy sauce and about 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Mix in the grilled bok choy then season with salt and pepper to taste.

CSA Count: 3

Baby bok choy, snow pea pods, green garlic

Sesame Glazed Bok Choy & Radishes

Bok choy and I have a late in life love affair. I’ve grown to love the subtle sweetness and celery like crunch of the stems and how it contrasts with the slightly wilted, tender leaves. Plus, there’s the added benefit of how cute it is when presented to you in little baby form.

Inspired by a recent food blog’s post about making Korean bibimbop with radishes, I decided to add some thin slices of radish to this stir fry. The slight peppery flavor of radishes and their crunch paired nicely with all the things I love about bok choy. To deepen the flavor, I used browned butter instead of a vegetable or peanut oil for the fat. A handful of roasted almonds added a toasty crunch, the nuttiness of which was enhanced by a drizzle of toasted sesame oil which lightly coated the vegetables. If you’re in a stir fry rut, definitely give this a try.

  • 5-6 baby bok choy, ends trimmed off and chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 3-4 radishes, sliced thinly
  • 5-6 fresh chive stems, chopped
  • 1 large clove of green garlic, minced (yields about 1.5 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup roasted, unsalted almonds, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • salt and pepper

When chopping the bok choy, separate the stem pieces from the leaves as they cook at different times. Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Watch butter carefully, stirring often to avoid burning. Butter will foam, then foam will dissipate and butter will smell nutty and turn a rich brown color. When this happens, add the bok choy stems, radish slices, and garlic. Stir frequently, cooking until stems are just tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add the almonds and the bok choy leaves then drizzle with honey and sesame oil. Remove from heat when leaves start to wilt then season with salt and pepper to taste.

CSA Count: 3

Baby bok choy, chives, green garlic