Pan-Seared Salmon with Mushroom-Miso Dashi

posted on: Monday, February 24, 2014

Pan-Seared Salmon with Mushroom-Miso Dashi | via Chandara Creative

Oh that lovely peachy flesh on the salmon just makes me swoon!  Aside from the mega dose of omega 3 fatty acids that eating salmon provides, it's one of the healthiest fish options for anybody out there, especially my expectant mothers. While I wouldn't advise you to go nuts and eat it everyday because after all, everything must be eaten in moderation and we do need to be careful of heightened mercury levels in our seafood these days, it should still be on your must-eat list.

So, to be completely transparent with you, I don't normally cook salmon on a daily basis, but what I do pretty daily, admittedly, is stalk foodie Instagram feeds.  Yes, I said it: I'm an Instagram food stalker and my name is Chandara. But in my defense, it's just so tempting to simply sit back and drool over amazing food images. One of my favorite feeds out there is the one by the guys over at Heirloom LA. They're a catering company and food truck in Los Angeles and I must say, if ever I had the funds to have them cater my events or if you're a newly-engaged couple looking for a wedding caterer, they'd be the first ones I'd call or refer to you. I'm dead serious.  Their Instagram feed is always chock full of drool-worthy images of their culinary creations. I'm talking about pigs roasting over an open fire, and crudités artfully presented on wooden serving platters gracing a buffet table.  

So a few weeks ago, the guys posted an image of their Salmon with Soba Noodles that I found so beautiful, and it inspired me to create my own version with my own twist: Pan-Seared Salmon with Mushroom-Miso Dashi, a dish that would be perfect for you to serve on any date night. When it comes to cooking, sometimes, all you need is a little inspiration to begin with, and then you just let your imagination do the rest. Now, why don't you give it a whirl and let me know how it goes! 

Salmon with Soba Noodles | Heirloom LA | via Chandara Creative
The dish that set it all off: Salmon with Soba Noodles | via Heirloom LA on Instagram 

Alaskan Salmon | via Chandara Creative
Oh the vibrant peachy hue of fresh Alaska Salmon | via Chandara Creative

Japanese Shimeji or Beech Mushrooms | via Chandara Creative
Japanese Shimeji or Beech mushrooms | via Chandara Creative

Green Scallions & Dried Shitake | via Chandara Creative
Dashi broth infused with scallions & dry shitake mushrooms lend a wonderful layer of umami | via Chandara Creative

Silken Tofu with Dashi | via Chandara Creative
Warm silken tofu with Shimeji mushrooms in a sea of dashi acts as a lovely side dish | via Chandara Creative
Pan-Seared Salmon with Mushroom-Miso Dashi | via Chandara Creative
Pan-Seared Salmon with Mushroom-Miso Dashi | via Chandara Creative

Pan-Seared Salmon with Mushroom-Miso Dashi
Inspired from the awesome folks of Heirloom LA
Serves 1

• 1 6 oz center-cut salmon filet (with skin)
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 1/4 tsp or dash of black pepper
• 1 tsp olive oil 
• 1 tbs canola or vegetable oil (higher smoke point than olive oil)

Ingredients -- Mushroom-Miso Dashi
• 2 cups water
• 4 small dried shitake mushrooms
• 1 green scallion (green portion thinly sliced for garnish, white portion left in tact for dashi)
• 1 small piece Japanese seaweed or kombu
• 1 tsp white miso paste
• 2 tsp soy sauce or tamari
• 3 edamame pods, pre-cooked & shelled
 1/4 bunch of fresh shimeji mushrooms*

*NOTE: Japanese Shimeji or Beech mushrooms come pre-packaged in plastic as a small bunch. This recipe only requires 1/4 of that package.

  • Instructions:
  • 1. Prepare the Dashi: In a small sauce pan, pour in 2 cups of water along with the white ends of the scallions, kombu, and dried shitake mushrooms. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 10 minutes. Strain out the kombu, scallions, and dried mushrooms and return to stove. Allow dashi to simmer over low heat and stir in soy sauce and miso paste.  After 2 minutes, place the silken tofu cubes and shimeji mushrooms in the dashi and allow it to simmer for another 5 minutes over the the lowest heat setting. Keep dashi broth warm.
  • 2.  Pat your salmon filet dry with a paper towel, and season both sides with salt, pepper, and the olive oil.  Set aside.
  • 3.  In a stainless steel pan or cast iron skillet, heat 1 tbs canola oil over high heat. Once oil is hot enough or after about 2 minutes, place the salmon filet skin side down in the pan. You should hear a sizzle. If you don't then your oil is not hot enough and you'll need to wait a little longer. Allow your salmon filet to sear for 4-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish, and then using a spatula, flip it over. Lower your heat to medium high, and sear for another 4-5 minutes.  Tip: The 2nd side should take slightly faster to cook. Once cooked to your desired preference (medium rare or well done), turn off heat and set aside.
  • 4. Spoon 3/4 of the dashi broth in a shallow plate. Gently place your salmon over the dashi broth, and sprinkle broth with edamame and sliced scallions. Garnish the salmon with a layer of shimeji mushrooms and extra sliced scallions. Serve with a side of silken tofu and the remaining dashi. Enjoy!

Nesting with Calamari + Pomelo Salad

posted on: Thursday, February 20, 2014

Calamari & Pomelo Salad | via Chandara Creative

I don't think I've blogged this frequently in quite some time, and I have to tell you: I miss it! I scheduled this post as I was nesting and counting down the days till our nugget's arrival, knowing full well that when that moment came, I'd have no time to even comb my hair, much less compose a coherent post for you.  So, consider this my treat for all those months that I left you neglected and yearning to drool over your computer screens from these food images.


One of my personal photographic goals for this year was to really learn how to shoot in manual so I could maximize the capability of my new Canon Mark II 5D when shooting food. When I first started out, I shot primarily in aperture priority auto mode, but so many fellow photographers and friends kept insisting that once I learned to master my camera, I would be mesmerized by what it was capable of giving me. And boy oh boy, I've been pretty amazed! I gravitate to visual imagery when it comes to blogs which clearly explains why I truly believe in honing in on this food photography craft alongside my food styling. When I finally decided to rebrand this blog, I knew that I wanted clean lines with lots of white space in the design aesthetic. As I sought to further elevate my food photography style, I also grappled with figuring out the mood that I wanted to convey with my images, and in the end, I realized that I love images that are light, slightly overexposed, natural, and cheery. I only photograph using natural light and I actually make & taste my food, so what you see is really what you get. I don't believe in adding fake inedible props to spruce up the look of my food because that's just not my style. In any case, if you're here reading this, I presume that you share my sentiments. Food is really an art, and food styling is how I paint on my canvas.

Speaking of which, I hope you enjoy this refreshing Calamari + Pomelo Salad with a Chili-Lime Dressing because it's just the type of salad that makes me want to snap pictures all day long! I had a fabulous time shooting this particular dish because if you haven't guessed it yet, I am smitten with citrus, especially blush-toned ones like these ruby pomelos!

Ruby Red Pomelo | via Chandara Creative
I love the ruby blush-pink flesh of pomelos

Ruby Red Pomelo | via Chandara Creative
Broken segments of pomelo getting ready to mingle with the calamari

Chili-Lime Dressing | via Chandara Creative
Chili-lime dressing infused with flavors of garlic and fresh Thai bird chili peppers

Red Onions | via Chandara Creative
The secret to crisp strands of vibrant red onions is to soak them in an ice bath
Calamari & Pomelo Salad | via Chandara Creative
Calamari + Pomelo Salad w/Chili-Lime Dressing | via Chandara Creative

Calamari + Pomelo Salad with Chili-Lime Dressing
Recipe Adapted from Calamari, Pomelo and Chili Salad, Gourmet Traveller (Feb 2009)
Serves 2

• 2 large calamari, cleaned
• 1/2 ruby red pomelo (or citrus fruit), peeled & segmented
• 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
• 1 small cucumber, preferably Persian or Japanese variety, sliced into matchsticks
• 6 sprigs fresh mint leaves, chopped or leaves plucked
• 6 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped
• 1 tbs lemongrass, thinly sliced
• 2 Thai birdseye chili peppers (fresh or frozen), thinly sliced or minced
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 2 tbs lime juice, adjust according to taste
• 2 tbs fish sauce, adjust according to taste
• 2 tsp light soft palm sugar, or plain granulated sugar
• 1 tsp sea salt (for blanching calamari)
• Ice
• Water

  • Instructions:
  • 1. Prepare the chili-lime dressing by combining lime juice, chili peppers, garlic, sugar, and fish sauce in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside.
  • 2.  Slice the calamari into 1/2"  bite-size rings.  Blanch the calamari in lightly salted boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on its thickness, or until calamari is no longer translucent. Be careful not to overcook the calamari or it will taste rubbery. Remove from water and shock the calamari by immersing it an ice bath. 
  • 3. Toss calamari with chili-lime dressing, herbs, broken pomelo segments, lemongrass, red onions, and cucumbers. Serve immediately and Enjoy!

My Sweet Valentine

posted on: Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's from Chandara Creative
Sweet Danish butter cookies and cup of coffee | via Chandara Creative

Our sweet little bun who's been baking for 9 months has finally arrived! I wanted to wish you and yours a very sweet Valentine. This year, we got ourselves the loveliest little cherub...warm, cuddly, and cute, and our hearts could not be more fuller! While we take some time to enjoy this special moment in our lives, rest assured I already thought about you and have some scheduled posts already coming each week. In the meantime, go out and show the people you love just how much they mean to you. 

Cheers to a Sweet Valentine's Day! | With Love, Chandara + baby

Fruity Fetish: Mexican Guava

posted on: Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I'm always enamored with the selection of fresh fruits available in California, so I'm sharing my love with you with my new series: Fruity Fetish where I'm posting snapshots of the fruits (and maybe even veggies) that's making its way into my kitchen.

Today, I'm lusting over the sweetly intoxicating scent of ripe Mexican Guavas.  They're miniature in size, but big in taste and so much more fragrant than the ones grown in my backyard.  I love my guavas with a bit of crunch, so I eat them green and unripe, skin on and all. The seeds can be a bit of a challenge (and my parents tell me it may cause constipation...yikes!) so depending on how large the seeds are, I sometimes forego them.

But here's the kicker: According to my mom, the leaves of the guava plant have medicinal purposes since they can be boiled and steeped to prepare a tea that can be used to cure digestive problems. Back in Laos, my mom's family raised pigs and every time their pigs had a bout of diarrhea, she'd boil the leaves of the guava plant and have her pigs drink the tea with the leaves and all! Apparently, it's an herbal remedy that worked amazingly well for her piglets and to this day, it's something she swears by even for us! It appears that guavas are packed full of natural antioxidants and antimicrobial agents that make it a prime herbal remedy for aiding digestive health. I love it when I can ward off my ailments with plants in our backyard. 
Mexican Guava | Guava Tea to cure Diarrhea | Fruity Fetish | via Chandara Creative
Mexican Guava | Photography via Chandara Creative

Guava Tea (for curing diarrhea)
Makes 1 pot

• 1 handful fresh guava leaves, washed & coarsely chopped
• 3-4 cups water

  • Instructions:
  • 1. Boil guava leaves in water. Turn heat to low, and continue to steep guava leaves in tea for at least 30 minutes (the longer, the better). Turn off heat, strain out leaves, and drink a cup every 1.5-2 hours. 

Mocktail Monday: Sparkling Citrus Fizz for Valentine's

posted on: Monday, February 10, 2014

Sparkling Citrus Fizz Mocktails for Valentine's | via Chandara Creative
It seems that everywhere you look, you're bound to find an abundance of citrus gracing our winter season, and I absolutely love it! The citrus family oozes with some of my favorite color palettes from the subtle soft blush tones of pomelo and grapefruits, the warm peachy hues of kumquats, and the ruby red flesh of blood oranges, it's really a kaleidoscope of ombre deliciousness that's perfect to usher in your Valentine's celebrations.

Whether you're single or taken, Valentine's Day should simply be a day to celebrate the people you love, romantic or otherwise. During college, when the hubs and I were in the throws of a long-distance relationship, my Valentines were always my girls, and to this day, I'm so happy I have those memories to cherish. I've long believed that you should always, always surround yourself with amazing girl friends---the ones who will hold your hair when you puke, bring you tubs of ice cream when that fool breaks your heart, or simply laugh with and listen to you when you need it most.  No matter how much you love your significant other, cherish your children, or enjoy your career, you'll always need the helping hands and wittiness of smart, passionate, and inspiring girl friends to enrich your life.

In celebration of love this week, I'm featuring some simple, but refreshing citrus mocktail recipes that not only celebrate the bounty of the season, but would also be great for a cocktail (or mocktail) party. If you are opting for cocktails, I would suggest that you add in a few splashes of your favorite sparkling rosé wine or prosecco and serve it up in some lovely champagne flutes, but most importantly, make sure you toast to all the lovelies in your life. I know I will.

Grapefruit + Blood Orange | via Chandara Creative
Sparkling Grapefruit Fizz Mocktail for Valentine's | via Chandara Creative
Sparkling Grapefruit Fizz Mocktail | via Chandara Creative
Sparkling Blood Orange Fizz Mocktai for Valentine'sl | via Chandara Creative
Sparkling Blood Orange Fizz Mocktail | via Chandara Creative
Blood Orange | via Chandara Creative
Sparkling Kumquat Fizz Mocktail for Valentine's | via Chandara Creative
Sparkling Kumquat Fizz Mocktail | via Chandara Creative

Sparkling Citrus Fizz Mocktail
Adapted from Pink Grapefruit Fizz recipe via Absolut 
Serves 1

Ingredients - Sparkling Grapefruit Fizz
• 3 oz sparkling grapefruit juice, chilled
• 1.5 oz fresh squeezed citrus grapefruit juice
• 1 wedge grapefruit, thinly sliced 

Ingredients - Sparkling Blood Orange Fizz
• 3 oz sparkling blood orange juice, chilled
• 1.5 oz fresh squeezed blood orange juice
• 1 wedge blood orange, thinly sliced 

Ingredients - Sparkling Kumquat Fizz
• 3 oz sparkling grapefruit juice, chilled
• 1.5 oz (15-20) fresh squeezed kumquat juice
• 1 kumquat slice

  • Instructions:
  • 1. Fill glass with combo of sparkling & fresh citrus juice of choice, mix & stir well. Garnish with a wedge of grapefruit/blood orange/kumquat and enjoy!
  • NOTE: If you're going to turn this into a cocktail, top with 2-3 splashes of your favorite sparkling rosé wine or prosecco and serve it up in tall Champagne flutes! Cheers! 

Turkey Neck Pho Noodle Soup

posted on: Monday, February 3, 2014

In lieu of mocktails this week, I'm sharing my coveted recipe for Turkey Neck Pho to continue the celebration of Lunar New Year. Noodles have long been revered during this festive occasion to symbolize a life of longevity and prosperity. We were invited to enjoy so many amazing dishes this weekend, and noodles definitely made an appearance each time. I hope you enjoy!

Turkey Neck Pho Noodle Soup | via Chandara Creative

It's hard to realize that I've never blogged about my infatuation for Vietnamese pho because if you have ever eaten with me, you'll know just how much I love my noodle soups. Whenever there's a savory broth and some rice noodles involved, rest assured that you'll find me salivating as I hold out my bowl for seconds. This pregnancy has been a bit tough because not only does my gestational diabetes bar me from sweets, but along the same lines, I am also forced to curb my carbs which will eventually turn into sugar that cannot be absorbed by my body.  During my initial consultation with my dietitian, when others were probably getting upset over not being able to eat cookies and cakes, all I could think about was, "Wait! I have to give up my rice and pho? Awe man...this is going to drive me nuts!"  So, in lieu of rice noodles, I've managed to substitute these carbs with my glass vermicelli noodles because they're made from mung beans instead of rice, so while it's not entirely void of starch, it still contains less of it than rice. But you go ahead and knock yourself out with the real deal. I won't hold it against you.

Turkey Neck Pho Noodle Soup | via Chandara Creative

Turkey Neck Pho Noodle Soup | via Chandara Creative
Soaking your jalapeño peppers in an ice bath ensures that it's crisp when served alongside your pho

When it comes to pho, there are so many variations of this traditional Vietnamese noodle soup.  Every family has their tried and true "secret" recipe. So, what exactly is Turkey Neck Pho, you ask? Well, the recipe came to me one fine day when I was craving pho, but had no beef knuckle bones in my fridge, but simply a ziploc bag of turkey necks that I had lying around after making gravy from Thanksgiving.  It's coincidentally one of the richest, but oftentimes overlooked cuts of the turkey that you'll ever find to make pho because not only does it impart amazing umami to your broth, but it only takes up to 1.5 hours to simmer before you can produce a hearty broth versus the tedious 3+ hours it takes to really get the flavor profile from simmering beef bones for pho.  The result is a light, but extremely savory pho broth that will leave you wondering why you never thought of it for yourself.  Trust me, I had the biggest critics in my family give me the crazy eye when I first cooked this pot of pho, but since their first slurp, they haven't looked back and neither will you. 

Turkey Neck Pho Noodle Soup | via Chandara Creative
Chinese celery is smaller but much more fragrant than traditional celery, thus making it perfect for flavoring your pho broth
Turkey Neck Pho Noodle Soup | via Chandara Creative
Glass vermicelli noodles gracing my bowl alongside some rice noodles for you
Turkey Neck Pho Noodle Soup | via Chandara Creative
Turkey Neck Pho Noodle Soup | Photography via Chandara Creative

Turkey Neck Pho Noodle Soup
Serves 4-6

Ingredients - Turkey Pho Broth
• 2 large (1-2 lbs) turkey neck bones
• 1 package meat balls (your choice of pork, chicken, or beef)
• 2 chicken breasts, boneless & skinless
• 1 yellow onion, halved & charred
• 2 cinnamon sticks, toasted
• 5 whole star anise, toasted
• 5 cloves, toasted (optional)
• 3 stalks Chinese celery (may also sub with 2 stalks regular celery, chopped into 3" pieces)
• 1/4 cup fish sauce, preferably Phu Quoc "Flying Lion" brand, adjust according to taste
• 1 oz rock sugar
• 3 slices ginger root, charred
• 2 tbs salt, adjust according to taste
• 6 quarts water + 2 cups for prepping pho noodles

Ingredients - Pho Condiments
• 1 lime, sliced into wedges
• 5 sprigs fresh Thai basil
• 2 handful fresh bean sprouts
• 1 jalapeño or 1-2 Thai bird chills, thinly sliced & soaked in ice bath for 10 minutes to retain crispness
• 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
• 1/2 bunch green onions or scallions, chopped
• 2 packages (about 2 lbs) pho rice noodles (fresh or dry)
• Sriracha sauce
• Hoison sauce
• Optional:  Fried garlic slices, hot chili oil, chili sambal, crushed peanuts, fish sauce, black pepper

  • Instructions:
  • 1. Prepare the Aromatics:  Begin by charring the onions & ginger over an open flame, and lightly toasting the cloves, star anise, and cinnamon sticks in a pan.  Also wash your celery stalks and cut into 3" lengths. This will serve as the base that will perfume your broth. 
  • 2. Cook the Broth:  Fill a large stock pot with water, fish sauce, rock sugar, salt, aromatics, turkey neck bones, and chicken breast and allow to boil over high heat. Once broth is boiling, lower to medium low heat and allow pot to simmer for 1.5-2 hours, or until neck bones are fully cooked. Chicken breasts will cook within 40-45 minutes, so once cooked, remove from pot and allow to cool before shredding into bit-sized pieces. After removing chicken breasts, place meat balls in the pot and allow to cook for 15 minutes.  After which, you can simmer the meat balls in the broth.
  • NOTE:  Unlike traditional pho beef broth which requires parboiling to remove the scum and blood from the bones, turkey neck bones are usually much cleaner and therefore, when boiled, releases very little scum to the broth. You will occasionally need to skim the surface of the broth to remove the small amounts of scum that rises to the top. This is normal and when done right, ensures a clear, rich tasting turkey pho broth. 
  • 3. Prepare the Pho Noodles:   In a separate smaller pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Working in batches, place fresh or dry pho noodles in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, or until it softens to your liking. Set aside and portion into individual bowls.
  • NOTE:  If you are using dry rice noodles, you will need to soak it in warm water for at least 30 minutes to soften it before boiling it. If you are using fresh noodles, you can skip this step if you feel that the soft texture is already to your preference. 
  • 4. Optional in lieu of noodles if you are carb-conscious: Soak glass vermicelli noodles in warm water for 20 minutes. It will be somewhat al-dente until you ladle the broth over it. 
  • 5. Prepare to Serve the Pho:  Once you're ready to serve, bring the broth to a rolling boil. Fill each bowl with your desired portion of pho noodles, meat balls, chicken breast meat, and fresh herb condiments. Ladle heaping spoonfuls of boiling broth atop each bowl. Garnish bowls with extra herbs, sauces, and condiments. Serve immediately and Enjoy!

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