kombucha (plain, ginger, huckleberry ginger) sourdough bread taiwanese fluffy pancakes (zhua bing) chocolate grand marnier ice cream


copyright jennifer yu © 2004-2018 all rights reserved: no photos or content may be reproduced without prior written consent

archive for asian

neva’s year is coming

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Recipe: taiwanese fluffy pancakes (zhua bing)

Chinese New Year is Friday, February 16th this year and it’s going to kick off the Year of the Dog. Neva is particularly excited about this. Actually, she could care less, but I’ll take any excuse to celebrate our lovable canine companions. And who am I fooling? Every year is the year of the dog at our house, right?


fetching on sunny days

playing on snowy days



I had grand plans of pulling off a Chinese New Year’s Eve feast and inviting friends over to celebrate, but something in my head is telling me to lay low and keep things mellow this year. Or maybe I’m simply adjusting to my life being dictated by the schedules of several fermenting foods of late. Whatever it is, I’m trying to keep the stress levels to a minimum and sanity at a maximum.

Okay, maybe sanity at a little less than maximum. See, I always feel compelled to try at least one new Chinese recipe for the Lunar New Year. If you are a fan of Chinese scallion pancakes, these Taiwanese fluffy pancakes or zhua bing are similar, but more fun.


flour, boiling water, cold water, star anise, sichuan peppercorns, sesame seeds, more flour, salt, vegetable oil, chinese five spice, scallions



I didn’t grow up eating this style of pancake, but my parents would sometimes order it as a side dish at Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area when we visited my Grandma in California. Most of the time they arrived plain – made from flour, water, salt, and oil – with concentric layers of hot delicate, crisp-edged dough. I could be mistaken (likely with my poor understanding of Mandarin Chinese), but I always thought zhua bing meant “grab pancake” as in, pull it apart with your hands. This version is flavored with spices, scallions, and sesame seeds.

mix the salt and flour together

mix the boiling water in the center well

stir in the cold water

the dough will be rough and shaggy

knead until smooth and cover with damp cloth for 30 minutes



**Jump for more butter**

the in between

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

Recipe: shabu shabu (japanese hot pot)

I hope all of my friends who celebrate Thanksgiving had a lovely holiday last week. The university combines Fall Break and Thanksgiving to give a week off from classes, which means Jeremy can work from home. But which home? Well, it always depends on who has better snow come early season – the Front Range or Crested Butte? Both resorts and Nordic centers were looking pretty bleak, so we opted for Crested Butte in the hopes that the backcountry would have some cover.

We were able to ski tour and uphill ski, but we didn’t bother skate skiing as the snow was rather thin in town. For the most part we skied, worked, did some house maintenance, and kept our holiday low key. Crested Butte was especially quiet with more than half of the restaurants closed or on reduced hours for shoulder season until December. With so many locals off to visit families over the week, I stepped in to help someone with meals and dog care. I mean, that’s part of Thanksgiving – the giving.


enjoying lovely trails right after crested butte nordic had groomed

top of the climb on donation day

a 3 month old puppy runs up to say hi

feeling much gratitude for this life with this guy



Instead of turkey, I made sous vide pork chops (an hour in the sous vide and four minutes finished with a pan sear). The only thing that resembled a turkey was Neva’s Thanksgiving meal, which was made of raw beef, cheese, carrot, a strip of ham for the wattle, and two nonpareils sprinkles for the eyes.

neva’s thanksgiving “turkey”

eyes on jeremy as she waits for her release word



You can watch Neva eat her Thanksgiving plate on Instagram, because who doesn’t love to watch a dog eat an animal made of other foods?

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the clock is ticking ever louder as The Holidays approach. I basically have three weeks to figure out how I will turn butter, chocolate, flour, eggs, and sugar into a mess of gifts for Jeremy’s administrative staff, our local service folk, my oncology department, and friends. I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I do think the start of winter is a fine time to let people know how much they are appreciated. The trick is to get that and everything else on my to do list done!

While I would prefer more consistently cold weather and some (actually, a lot) of snow, it’s cool enough that we have been enjoying hot soups, stews, multi-hour simmered sauces, and hot pot. I grew up eating Chinese hot pot on chilly evenings, but it wasn’t until I went out with a girlfriend to a shabu shabu restaurant that I realized shabu shabu was another form of hot pot – Japanese hot pot. There are a lot of similarities in the ingredients, although I must admit the Japanese version is so much cuter. I wasn’t able to source all of the ingredients in the original recipe, but hot pot is more like a set of guidelines, so I went with what I could find and what I had on hand.


tofu, flank steak, enoki and matsutake mushrooms, scallions, napa cabbage, carrot, kombu (dried kelp)

soak the kombu in water



The broth starts with a piece of kombu soaking in water in your hot pot vessel (I use an electric wok here). It needs to soak for at least 30 minutes, so you may as well do that first and then make your sauce and prep your ingredients. There are actually two dipping sauces you can serve with your shabu shabu: a sesame sauce and ponzu. I made the sesame sauce, and it’s as simple as measuring out the ingredients, grating a clove of garlic, and stirring everything together. Nice.

mirin, rice vinegar, sake, sesame oil, canola oil, ponzu, tahini, miso, sugar, garlic

grate the garlic

stir everything together

smooth sesame sauce



**Jump for more butter**

forest bathing

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Recipe: grilled matsutake

I read about “forest bathing” or shinrin-yoku a few years ago and my immediate thought was, “What a great way to describe time in the mountain forests.” If you aren’t familiar with the concept, you might think it is rooted in some ancient Japanese practice of spending time in forests for improved health. It’s actually a campaign started in 1982 by the Forest Agency of Japan to promote a healthier lifestyle. But I really like the concept because I find my heart, head, and body feel better with time spent in the forests (and mountains – which are partly covered in forests). It’s how I coped with my sister’s death, my cancer treatments. It’s where I go when I need healing.

Last Monday we received our first substantial snowfall of the year in the mountains. Locally we got close to a foot of new snow and some of my favorite ski mountains in Colorado were reporting nearly two feet. There’s a feeling that comes over you when that first snow storm hits for the season. After all of the sunshine and glowing yellow aspen leaves and mild autumn days, the world suddenly turns cold and white and you want to curl up in a warm blanket. I get that feeling for all of two seconds and then I’m running downstairs to get my ski gear out of the basement. Jeremy would probably have been bundled in all of his warm clothes, sipping hot coffee, and working on his laptop for days if I hadn’t shoved him out the door with me. Every season he needs reminding that he loves winter – because he really does.


our first backcountry ski of the season



It was a short-lived storm and by mid-week we were back to sunshine and pleasant temperatures. This is the Colorado way. Every season the weather has these “surprise” swings and each time it happens, people on the flats flip out because they have unreasonable expectations and a poor understanding of statistics and physics. You learn to go with the flow in the mountains. One day you’re skiing fresh snow and the next you’re trail running through an amphitheater of gold.

my favorite local aspen stand



As the weekend approached, Jeremy and I made plans for a short backpacking trip with Neva. She had been doing so well with her training that we thought we should squeeze an overnight in before we would be on skis for six months. We originally planned to take her up to a local lake, but when the overnight wind forecast was for 50 mph gusts, snow, and temperatures below freezing, we postponed by a day. I have a love-hate relationship with the Front Range. Part of the reason I hate the Front Range is the wind. Oh wait, that IS the reason. We pulled out trail maps, looked up trail information, searched Google Maps, and read weather forecasts until we found a trip that could work. We had always wanted to explore the Gore Range, but never got around to it because wrangling Neva made backpacking a miserable experience. Now we were hoping for some improvement.

starting off near a stand of orange aspens

the ten mile range in the distance

copper mountain across the valley



Silly us, we didn’t make the connection that double digit snow totals at the ski resort across the valley would mean snow on the trails less than a week later. We should have known, but we’re out of practice. Despite snow and ice covering more than half the trail, we enjoyed clear skies, mild winds, beautiful views, and a good dog! Neva had a blast and I think this means we can look forward to more backcountry exploration with her next summer – something we all love to do.

first views of lost lake

neva went for a dip after this picture was taken

beautiful potholes with snowy mountains in the distance

neva supervises as we finish dinner



Of course, when you spend a good bit of the last six months walking the woods and looking for mushrooms and berries, it’s a hard habit to break. There were zero mushrooms, because it was too cold and late in the season at that elevation, but we DID find a section of huckleberry patches that were still loaded with huge berries. They were tired looking, having been through a freeze and thaw cycle several times already. Some were beginning to shrivel, almost all of them fell off the plant when you so much as looked at them, and they tasted so complex and sweet – like the grapes they use to make ice wine. We ate a handful and I picked some for Neva to taste, at which point she began to eat them off the plants.

On our drive home from the trailhead, Jeremy and I couldn’t help but note all of the lodgepole forests that looked like prime candidates for matsutake mushrooms next year. If you will recall, matsutake means “pine mushroom” in Japanese. If you can find them fresh, grilling is a super simple and delicious way to prepare them. If not, you could try a different fleshy fresh mushroom. But the special pine-cinnamon flavor of a grilled matsutake is probably the only way you can taste the embodiment of a camping trip in the pine forest.


fresh matsutake mushrooms, soy sauce, mirin

slice the mushrooms thick

combine the soy sauce and mirin



**Jump for more butter**