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Chicken Breast Asparagus Red Bell Pepper Stir Fry September 11, 2011

Posted by marksun in chicken.
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So you have chicken breast in the freezer, a bunch of hopefully fresh asparagus, a red bell pepper (or some other vegetable) brown rice cooking.
Now what?
2 boneless chicken breasts
1 egg white, beaten
Bunch fresh asparagus
3 T  shoyu (soy sauce)
1 T cornstarch
1/4 c.  wine ( used dry Vermouth and a little red)
2 t sesame oil
2 T olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 T minced ginger ( I keep food processor minced fresh ginger in a baggie in the freezer)
1/4 c. chicken broth (also from the freezer)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 c. dry roasted cashews or peanuts

1. Cut chicken into cubes. Combine with beaten egg white and toss lightly. Set aside.2. Snap off bottom ends from asparagus and discard. Cut spears into 1 1/2 inch pieces.

3. In a bowl, combine shoyu, cornstarch, wine and sesame oil.  The cornstarch tends to settle on the bottom – stir so the cornstarch is suspended.

4. Heat large skillet (on my stove – setting #4 on the double element for 3 minutes)  then add 1 T oil. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add asparagus and stir-fry 1 minute longer. Add chicken broth, cover and cook 2 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender. Remove asparagus and wipe pan.

5. Heat remaining oil. Add chicken and stir-fry until chicken is white on the outside. Add asparagus, red pepper, and cashews. Stir sauce then add to pan. Cook until mixture thickens.

6. Empty contents to serving bowl and put the pan back on the heat.  Add some wine to residue on the bottom to create a fond – a sauce.  Add the fond to the dish.




Joy of Sake – Sep 11 September 10, 2011

Posted by marksun in Japanese.
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For a good time, check out  a Joy of Sake event, by far the premier sake tasting event in the world, possibly even including Japan .   Of course, for 2011 in Honolulu, you missed it; last night it was at the Sheraton Waikiki.  A huge crowd showed  up to sample 300 sakes and tapas style  offerings from 15 fine local restaurants.  We arrived late, battling heavy traffic, armed with our own little sake cups to check out the staggering array of Daiginjo A, Daiginjo B, Ginjo and Junmai sakes.

Sake is brewed from rice,  polished to remove the outer layers of the rice kernels.  Rice kernels are seeds and as such, have multiple layers with different properties,  adding flavors and effects to the brew.  Sake is graded by the % of rice remaining after the outer layers are polished away by Japanese villagers armed with tiny vises and files.  Junmai sakes are made from kernels with a polishing ratio of 60-70%, Ginjo 60%, Daigino B 40-50%, and Daiginjo A 40% or less.   The economics: the more polished the rice, the more expensive the sake.  Naturally, the raw material is only the beginning of the brewing process but it is more or less the case that the polishing ratio has a major effect on the overall quality of the final drink.

The Sheraton at night is a busy place.  T-shirted guides got us to the right place – check in tables, parking validation ($8),  a JOS t-shirt table,  and Mr JoyOfSake himself, Chris Pearce greeted us – this is his event, and it was obvious and no doubt a relief, that from the overall aura of happiness that the night was beginning well.

The layout is such that tables are set up for the various kinds of sake, each brew assigned a number, such as “Born Kusen Junmai Daiginjo”,  from Fukui Prefecture, # A01, Silver Star.  How do you attack 326 bottles of sake and live to tell about it?

Getting there more or less puts the final touch on a week of work.  Traffic into Waikiki was epic.   70 minutes into the car ride,  10 minutes and 300 feet from our destination, we realized that we had neither cash nor checks.  However, there on the sidewalk we spied a First Hawaiian Bank ATM.  D got out, sauntered over to the ATM,  downloaded some cash, and got back into the car.   Sheraton Parking  Navigation tip for 7 PM Fri night.  Do not enter Waikiki via on Kalakaua Ave. unless you have a full tank of gas and time to kill. Find a route that takes you south on Royal Hawaiian St. which runs perpendicular to Kalakaua and which leads directly to lobby of Sheraton. Before you get to the lobby loop (which will have an insane valet situation) , turn right  before entering the lobby loop on Don Ho St and then hang a  left into the Sheraton parking structure ramp.

Alpha Plumbing August 20, 2011

Posted by marksun in Plumbing.
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The sound of a pipe organ, in fact, the refrain from Bach’s Toccata in D-minor, blares out suddenly. It comes from the cell phone of Wayne, Alpha Plumbing.  Ignoring it, Wayne, feet protruding uncomfortably from under the bathroom cabinet, continues to install the second of eight cutoff valves in my place today.   Wayne is here because all of the cutoff valves under the sinks and toilets of the house are jammed.

“If this kind valve jams and you try for force um, the plastic stem going broke, and you’re dead meat.”  The valve is stuck, jammed on to the copper pipe by the original plumbers 40 years ago when my townhouse was built, and it takes the right tools, experience, and brute force to get the sucker off.  Yup, that’s why he’s here, me knowing that if I tried it, I would be dead meat.

Most of these valves no longer turned, or dripped if you did move them.   This made working on the house plumbing a dicey business for me, the last straw being the handles breaking off the upstairs lavatory sink faucet.  The main cutoff under the kitchen sink, the cutoff to the hot water heater, the upstairs faucet valves were frozen.   Wayne got the main cutoff to move.  I didn’t want to try it, having no idea what would happen but once that one moved, it could do about a 98% cutoff, the remainder allowing an irritating drip for the rest of the plumbing, but at least allowing replacement of the valves.

What about the main valve? “She no close all the way now.  ‘as because was opened too far.  You got to open the valve, then back it off one turn or going leak.  Lucky can at least close.  Otherwise, you’re dead meat because you gotta cut open the wall for get at ‘um, shut off the water to all these buildings and then replace the valve.”  Ok, so the main thing is that it’s not too bad for now.  No action on that one.    What about the hot water heater valve?  “How often you going change the heater? Leave ‘um.”  Wayne had a few words about other plumbers who in repairing the dreaded “heater set to boil” syndrome only change the bottom element, and not the top one at the same time.  “idiots!”

“You put oil on this valve?”  Now we’re in the downstairs bathroom.  I said yeah, quoting two friends who recommended WD40 to loosen the valves.   Snorting  sound comes from under the sink.  “Oil no work.”  “What you can do for maintain the valve then?” I ask.   “Nothing.  Open the valve, but then close down one turn and leave um.”   I make a note of that.  “No can eat oil…”, or words to that effect, meaning that you really don’t want WD40 leaching into the drinking water “but not going work anyway, ”  meaning I hope, that the oil is not going to penetrate to the actual water flow.

I mention that I’m going to replace the faucet.  “You know get one gasket come with the faucet right?”   Yes.  “Throw ‘um away and use plumbers putty under the faucet.   The gasket going rot, and then she going leak.  You not going know, and the water going rot through the particle board and you going be dead meat.”   I make a note of that.   Later on I did replace the faucet, which to make a long story short, I now wonder why I did it instead of getting Wayne to do it while he was here. One of the plastic nuts came off easily.  The other one was frozen on by corrosion and I ended up using a Dremel to cut the nut to release it, then a hammer and chisel to get it to rotate and eventually come off.  The new one, I seated on a fat seal of plumbers putty… we’ll see how that holds up.

So for the record, new valves in the plumbing.

Other advice. “If they cut off all the water to the units, open the shower first and let um run.  Otherwise the stuff in the water going clog in your sink or toilet.”  Then long story about using bread to stop a pipe to allow soldering, and the $8000 rag that some dummy plumber used to stop a pipe then soldered into the works.  Interesting side notes on plumbing on Molokai and Lanai, and his first plane ride to Hilo in 1984, encounter with turbulence and bloody mary’s.

The next crisis I expect will be the hot water heater.  I going call Wayne, not Sears on that one.


12″ Stainless Steel Skillet August 20, 2011

Posted by marksun in fry pan, saute, tools.
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Often I realize how little  I know about cooking.  I am amazed by what I just learned by googling “frying pan.”

Today I replaced my years old used and abused TFAL non-stick skillet with a 12″ Kenmore stainless steel skillet from Sears.   This is a fairly heavy skillet, perfectly flat and thick on the bottom.  I always thought that non-stick teflon pans were easier to use, required less oil,  and clean up easier.   The problem I had with the teflon pan was that over time the coating breaks down.   I actually have a large (14″) stainless steel (ss) pan but never learned how to use it correctly.  Mainly,  I never learned  to control the heat and problem of food sticking to the bottom of the pan until now, particularly in the case of frying and sauteing.

(some time later) I am getting the hang of it and I really like cooking with this pan.  To prevent sticking, the technique is to heat the pan first and get it hot, then add oil.  The pan is at the right temperature when a drop of water falling on the pan forms little balls that skitter around – that’s Moms pancake griddle test.  Now add the oil, taking into account that different oils break down and smoke at different temperatures.  The experts say you want to add the food at the point the oil starts to smoke.  OK maybe that’s the point at which oil starts to break down and too hot but close to that point.  When you add food, the temperature is going to drop immediately.

One of the first tests the skillet got was to cook a salmon filet.  I heated the pan as described above,  added oil, and placed the filet in, half expecting it to bond like crazy glue to the bottom of the pan.  It sizzled and started to cook – you can see the filet cook as it changes color from red to pink – … time to turn it, and, the skin did not stick.  Yes!

Another thing about this kind of skillet is that after cooking the fish and removing it, nicely seared and intact from the pan, there remains a brown residue sticking to the bottom of the hot pan.  Add some wine or other liquid and this residue releases in the liquid forming an intensely flavored sauce called a fond.  The fond is a really nice by-product of cooking with a stainless steel skillet.

Cleanup? Easy.


New Stove: Kenmore 92402 June 18, 2011

Posted by marksun in tools.

the new stove

We got a new  Kenmore 92402 stove from Sears.   This is a freestanding, flat glass-top stove going for about $630.  Pricewise, I put it in the lower mid-range.  Initially after a couple of meals and a batch of biscuits, the stove seems to do what stoves do.  The stove doesn’t have many wow factors, save one, which I’ll get to in a minute.  No convection oven, no turbo mode fast boiler element.  The electronic features are basic and functional.  I like the clock timer.  The oven light works great.

As far as cooking, I’d have to cook more to report on this stove’s performance.   After two days, so far so good.   Biscuits came out fine.

Adjustments:  It’s an adjustment from the old coil-top design to the ceramic-glass top.  The heat is different, not necessarily better or worse.   The main adjustment from a coil top to this flat glass-top is  residual heat.    The glass/ceramic retains a lot of heat and releases it slowly after the stove is turned off.  That’s a property of this design.

The main issue has to do with the oven and the fact that use of the oven causes the stove chassis to get hot.    The stovetop front rim gets hot with the oven on, and the entire dashboard panel including the panel top gets hot.   I used to put stuff on the dashboard top – that is a bad idea with this stove and since electronics abhor the heat, may affect the longevity of the electronics  housed in it.  The bigger issue is that the stovetop front rim gets hot (127 to 145+ deg) which brings us to  the wow factor, as in “WOW! that’s hot!”.

Venting.   Normally I don’t focus on venting in stoves, but that is probably one of the issues with this stove. The oven is vented by the space between the back of the stove-top and the rear dashboard causing the rear of the stove to heat up.  The top of the oven door itself has vents to release heat from the interior of the double wall of the oven door. While this contributes heat to front rim through convection, I don’t think it is the main source of heat. Rather, heat is conducted directly by metal to metal contact of  the  oven interior to the  stovetop rim. This seems to be due to the stoves construction. The Google hits on “kenmore oven door gets hot” indicates that this is an issue with Kenmore stoves and their OEM, Frigidaire.  A quick search shows similar complaints for Kenmore 9745, 9747, 9517, 9661[01245].

Can I live with this?  Sure-  I can and do live with all kinds of dangerous stuff around the house, but   D, alarmed, called Sears to complain.   The sales person called right back, concerned  that the unit may be faulty. A technician will be here next Saturday to determine if the stove is faulty.  (I don’t think so) ..

Flash to the present.  Tech came today- … as expected this is how new stoves are – the tech pointed to the place in the manual that the stove gets hot.  He says all the stoves get hot, and it is due to the modern construction of stoves that leave little space for insulating the oven from everything else.  He also said that price does not improve the situation, it’s the design.

Out of five stars possible, the stove gets four.  It’s not a bad stove and but for this flaw, it would be fine, one point off for the modern trend away from niceties like insulation and heavier construction we say back in the day.

Postscript – 3 months later.
Initially we were a bit put-off by the heat from the oven heating up the metal parts of the stove-top.   I don’t know for sure but I think the construction and insulation on my old stove (purchased at least 15 years ago, maybe 20) was just better and it did not conduct heat from the oven compartment like the newer designs do.   After using the stove, I no longer worry about the heat from the oven.

As for the venting at the rear dashboard and loss of that space to store salt, sugar, what have you, I constructed a wooden shelf over the dashboard.

The flat top stove seems to heat a bit slower than the coil top but the heat is more even, and the flatness works well with straight-edge flat modern pots and pans.

Which brings me to another thing … pots and pans have to complement the stove and with the “upgrade” to a flat stove top, I am going to upgrade the cookware too.   My oldest pressure cooker (the one that belonged to my dad) for example, is not perfectly flat on the bottom – it’s rounded.  It won’t work well on this stove.  I’ll have to replace it, probably next time I’m ono for lau-lau.

Ya just gotta adjust!

Hawaiian Chili Pepper Water June 5, 2011

Posted by marksun in Hawaiian.
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What to do with chili peppers?

Make chili pepper water!

small handful chili peppers
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 garlic cloves, sliced/diced
2 slices fresh ginger
2 teaspoons hawaiian salt
2 cups hot water (not boiling)

Add the ingredients to a sterilized jar and steep overnight or longer, then refrigerate.

Biscuits May 21, 2011

Posted by marksun in baked.
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You don’t need Bisquick.   According to food.com, “good biscuit-mixing means cutting shortening in only until the mixture is like corn meal, no longer”, and in Hawaii – no add da liquid all at once. A variation to the latter – “make a well in the middle of the flour” and add the liquid all at once.
It’s only biscuits so either works. For shortening, anything will do from  a half stick of butter = 4T to chicken fat or lard for shortening? wow. Think about that when you have to do something with all that bacon grease.

3/4 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 T shortening
4 t. baking powder
1 t salt

Sift flour, add baking powder and salt and sift.
“cut” in shortening to get crumbly texture.
Turn out and knead briefly. Roll out to 1/2 – 3/4″ and cut.
Place on cookie sheet to bake.

12-15 min at 475

When using baking powder, biscuits are also called “baking powder biscuits”. You can use yeast – next time I’m going to try yeast!
21 May 2011 – 17 June (I forgot about the yeast – next time)

Rack of Lamb May 9, 2011

Posted by marksun in Lamb.
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The time when we had lamb and mutton ribs we got hunting on Mauna Kea is long past.   These days, lamb comes Times supermarket.

Remove lamb from refrigerator, cut off the plastic package, rinse, dry and allow to come to room temperature.

Rub down with olive oil, hawaiian salt, garlic, thyme and rosemary on a roasting rack.

Preheat oven to 400.  Roast at 400 for 7 minutes, then lower to 300 and roast until internal temp is 125 for rare, 135 for medium.  I like it rare.

passover and mothers day, 2011

Himalayan Kitchen April 3, 2011

Posted by marksun in restaurant.
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Dinner last night with my mom and the D.  We’ve eaten at this popular Kaimuki restaurant three or four times now and though it’s a fun place, we still haven’t figured out how to order to get a good balance.  Entres come with white rice. Our order came with two bowls of rice.  BYOB with no corkage (big plus). Reservations are good idea (leave a message on the answer machine).



  1. Naan – 1 piece per order- very nice with a green ginger sauce, included.  $2     2 orders/3 people
  2. Mix tandoori grill:  chicken, beef, and shrimp.   I find this dish dry and salty.  There is an orange yogurt-like sause and small salad with it with the green sauce.  Not bad but not the best value.  $18
  3. Lamb curry:  Lamb chunks in a deep brown curry.   Lamb a bit on the dry but really tender but not tough.   $16
  4. Yellow Dahl:  Lentils in a sauce.  A good value.  $6
  5. Rice pudding – uhh ok , little odd for me.  arourn $7

Next time,

Tika Chicken Massala, possible something with a Korba sauce.    Maybe  try a Vindaloo.  A chutney would have helped.

I brought six or seven containers  for leftovers in the bag with the wine.  While that is a little strange, it worked awesome to bring back the leftovers and saved us from asking  the restaurant for seven take-out containers, or having to mix everything up in a leaky Styrofoam box.

$50 +-

Close relative : aloha crepes in waimalu …


pizza crust July 18, 2010

Posted by marksun in baked.
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Beauty is yeast, flower, water and rising bread dough.  This makes two medium crusts or one giant one. The crusts are slightly crunchy, pan pizza styº

Update watch this:  pretty good. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/02/toss-pizza-dough_n_6770618.html

Original which has too much water

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar or honey
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil  + more for  bowl to rise
  • 2 1/2 cups flour for dough + 1 more cup for kneading

To try this next time.

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar or honey
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil  + more for  bowl to rise
  • 2 1/2 cups flour for dough + 1 more cup for kneading


mix the yeast, sugar and warm water  and let sit for 10 min

add the rest flour and salt  and mix into a dough.

Scrape out the dough mixture on a floured surface  and knead in flower  until the dough forms a  ball.

Place dough ball into greased bowl, cover with a  towel or cloth,  and let rise until doubled – about an hour

Punch dough down and form into a tight ball.  wait a few minutes then form your crusts, one giant or two medium.

Preheat oven to  500º or more – hot to get the crust crispy, the fillings cooked and the cheese browned, all at the same time.

Add toppings, bake until crust is golden.
The bottom drip pan normally used for roasting turkeys works well.

The unbaked crust will keep in the fridge for a few days.