How to Revive Leftover Pasta…

Leftover pasta after the liquid treatment

Before.... Leftover pasta

Do you ever eat leftover pasta?  What do you do to revive it?

I love batching something, and use it little by little to create many different dishes later in the week and I even blog and teach people how to do that, but pasta is one of very few things I don’t over-make.  Because, noodles are best when it’s cooked, right off the pot.  The older they get, the stickier they become.
As many of you read on my previous post, I hosted a cooking class party last Sunday at our kitchen, and as a host, I wanted to make sure to be prepared, and have more than enough food.

I got carried away, and served and showed how to make all these dishes:

  • Appetizers
    • 2 kinds of Mushroom bites (one with goat cheese, one without)
    • Mushroom, spinach and feta cheese gozleme (Turkish version of Quesadilla)
    • Crudite with pesto mayonnaise
  • Served during the Class
    • Made Sauteed button mushrooms and Asian mushroom mix (use these as a base)
    • Okara Quiche with chicken, leeks, asparagus, mushrooms, and gruyere cheese
  • Dinner
    • Magic Mushroom Soup
    • Tuna and Mushroom Pasta, Japanese Style
    • Kinoko Mizore Ae (Japanese Mushrooms and Grated Daikon Salad with Ponzu Sauce)
    • Cranberry and Fruit Relish with Whipped Cream

A lot of mushrooms, I know.  But this class was called “Flexipes: Mushrooms and Beyond”, and designed to teach people how to make a large batch of something (in this case, sauteed mushrooms), then turn it into many different dishes throughout the week (or later if they choose to freeze it).   Naturally, a lot of mushrooms had to show up on the menu.   The good news is, when you make them different flavors and treatments, people often don’t feel they are eating only mushrooms — and no one complained.  Phew!

Pretty much all the food was gone, except the pasta.  I forgot the fact that they ate quite a bit of appetizer and okara quiche before dinner, and made extra in case people were hungry.

Well, something I don’t like more than old pasta is throwing away perfectly good food.  Almost all Japanese have “Mottainai” as a motto. “Waste not”, it means.  So, I needed to do something with this pasta leftover.

So I decided to moisten the pasta with a little bit of liquid (I used vegetable broth I had on hand, but you can use other kind of broth, white wine, pasta water, or even water in a pinch), covered and microwaved it.

Of course, it was not quite as good as newly cooked al-dente pasta, but it was far better than leftover pasta without that treatment, or pre-made pasta from store.  And I definitely liked the fact that I was able to eat it just by heating up.  It’s hard to see on the photo, so just try it and see what you think.

In any case, it’s best to mix the pasta with the sauce as soon as you cook it.  Plain pasta without anything starts to stick right away, and will be harder to revive, especially spaghetti.  Even worse are capellini and flat pasta like linguini.

So the best pasta practice is, in my opinion:

1. Make the exact amount of pasta, and eat it right away.

2. If there’s any leftover, make it into pasta salad as soon as possible.

3. Mix the pasta with sauce or dressing right away or, if undressed,

4. As a last resort, sprinkle with a little bit of liquid on top, cover and microwave, and enjoy the time -saving!

So what do you do with your leftover pasta?

Kitchen Tip du Jour: Do the Math on Paper First When Multiplying a Recipe

Do you ever need to double, triple or make it half or one third of a recipe?  If so, read on…  It could be your life saver (or at least your dinner saver!)

When you are following a recipe, and need to change the portion, don’t do the math in your head.  Write it down — ideally right next to the original volume of each ingredient, and how many serving it is for.  If you cannot write it down next to it (say, it’s your friend’s cook book, the recipe is online and your printer is broken, etc.), then at least write down the original measurement on a piece of paper, and write down the multiplier and do the math.

For example:

Original recipe  2 servings                          Your portion: 6 servings (6/2=3 is the multiplier.)

1 Egg                                             X3                  3 Eggs

4 oz flour                                    X3                  12 oz flour

2/3 cup water                          X3                  6/3 cup = 2 cups water

As you can see, especially when you have to deal with 3 (especially 1/3) it gets complicated. 

This is even more true when you are using a recipe from a different country — meaning those who uses metric system.  Since I grew up in Japan with metric system, I used to get confused with American measurement of oz and pounds often, resulting in quite a bit of frustration and less than perfect dishes.  Once I start writing them down, all I need to do is just to follow that amount.  Believe me, do the math first, then cook is so much easier than trying to do the math as you prep and cook! That kind of switch-tasking or multi/tasking end up costing you a lot of time.

So rather than trying to save time and end up with huge frustration and disappointment (and an inedible dish), take time to do the math on paper first when changing th portion of a recipe.  And as always, when adding stronger flavored ingredients and seasoning, taste as you add them gradually.  The same is true for liquids (water, broth etc.)

The biggest bonus: By writing down the convenient portion for yourself directly on the recipe, you will save the time to do the math next time!

So just remember to write them down!

Do you have any kitchen tips that help you save time and frustration? Look forward to hearing your tips in the comment section!

PS: This hold true for most of the things, especially for cooking that doesn’t require much chemistry or precision, yet not EVERYTHING is multiplied ie oil, salt, baking soda, baking powder.  Thank you Sam, for pointing that out.

  If you are cooking for a crowd, this resource gives you further details about super-sizing a recipe. 

 Another resource about reducing a recipe portion.  This one also talks about cooking time difference, etc. 

As a rule of thumb, the cooking time is affected by the type and size of the pan (esp. the bottom surface) heat, how much moisture the food cooked has etc. so it’s best to determine how much longer you need to cook by the look, smell and taste/texture.  Remember, a recipe is a guideline, not rules.

Leftover Make-over: Chowder to Doria 2: My version of “It’s Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder” Seafood Chowder


Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant Inspired "It's Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder!"

So here’s the recipe for my “It’s Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder!”, inspired by the Best Irish Chef 2009 Kevin Dundon’s “It’s Not a Bleeding Chowder”. (Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, FL)

Ingredients (4-6 servings – Reserve half for the doria)

  • Cleaned and chopped leeks: about 1 large. Dark green part removed.
    • How to clean leeks:  Split the leek from the center lengthwise, bottom part attached, and wash off sand/dirt well with running water.
    • Save the tops for making chicken/fish/vegetable stock.
  • Diced boiling potatoes (such as Yukon Gold): 2 medium
  • Seafood (scallops & shrimps) chop them if they are large: 2/3 lbs (300g)
  • Bay leaf: 1
  • White Wine: 1/4-1/3 cup
  • Fish stock or Milk and fish bouillon (or chicken stock/bouillon): 2 1/2 cup
  • Corn:  1/2 – 2/3 cup
  • Cream: 1 1/2 cup


  1. Sprinkle salt, pepper and white wine lightly on seafood.
  2. Clean leeks well and chop them.  Sautee in extra virgin olive oil, and light amount of salt.
  3. Add diced potatoes and sauté for a while, add seafood and white wine.
  4. Add fish stock or milk and crumbled fish bouillon and cook until hot, and seafood is heated through.  Make sure to not to boil it.
  5. Add cream and corn, and adjust the seasoning.  Serve hot.

Kitchen Wizard Tip: I highly recommend you clean and saute the entire bunch of leeks, and save the rest in a zip-loc bag for later use, either in the fridge or freezer (keep it thin, less than 1/3 inches so that you can break only the amount you need).  It’ll be very handy.  I promise!

The original version from Raglan Road has a lot more seafood, such as smoked fish, mussels, fancy prawns etc… It might have even had some shredded cabbage in it…  They had a Colcannon soup called Colpucchino that had cabbage in it… Mine is easier weeknight version.  You can also use other mild seafood on hand.  If you are planning to make doria later in the week, it’d be better not to use smoked fish.

Tomorrow on Secrets of a Kitchen Wizard…

Drum roll please… (Some people have been waiting for this post for a while!)

Leftover Make-over of this…  “It’s Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder!  It’s Now Seafood Doria!”  Don’t miss it!

Batch & Fridge: Thai/Vietnamese Dipping Sauce: Thai Chicken Salad (Laab Gai)

Laab Gai, Thai Chicken Salad
Laab Gai, Thai Chicken Salad

As promised on the last post, here’s my other favorite Laab Gai, Spicy Thai Chicken Salad.  This is also easy to make, especially if you already have the same sauce from the eggplant dish on hand, and/or toasted rice powder in a small jar.  I recommend just toast about 1/2 C of rice, so that it will last for a few times. I can guarantee this will become another of your favorite, you won’t regret it.

The first time I had it was over 15 years ago in New York at this Thai restaurant where we used to host a new graduate welcome lunch for our graduate school Thunderbird.  We didn’t order it, but the friendly owner wanted us to try it.  We all loved it.  Every time I have this dish, I think of these friends and good old days (and some other crazy stuff from the life in New York.)

The problem was,  because we didn’t order it, I didn’t know how it was actually called. I’m sure I asked the owner how its called (so that I can order again), but a Japanese girl trying to decipher Thai dish name is not the easiest.  After I moved from New York to California, I was looking for it, but it was nowhere to be found.  This is a Northeastern Thailand specialty, so if the owner or chef is not from that area, they normally don’t put it on the menu.

As for any other my food quest, I finally found it! at a Thai restaurant on someone’s table. I asked the name, and the rest is the history.  I even got the recipe, so I can easily cook it at home.

This is traditionally made with chicken, but you can also make it with other meat or seafood.

This recipe is adopted from the recipe I cut out from San Francisco Chronicle years ago.  My version will allow you to use the sauce made in advance.

Thai Chicken Salad (Laab Gai)

Ingredients – serves 3 – 4:

  • Ground chicken 1/2 lbs or chicken pulsed in food processor until coarsely chopped
  • White rice 2 TBS
  • Garlic  1 ts, grated (optional)
  • Red onion or shallots  1/4 C, thinly sliced
  • Lemon grass 1 TBS, minced
  • Lime zest, grated (optional)
  • Onion, thinly sliced, 1/2 C
  • Green or red chili  1-2, seed removed, and thinly sliced, or red pepper flakes
  • Sugar 1 -2 ts
  • Fish Sauce 1 1/2 TBS
  • Lime juice 2 TBS
  • Water or lime juice 1 TBS
  • Cabbage (white, red or napa) julienned
  • Cilantro 2-3 TBS chopped
  • Mint leaves


  1. Dissolve the sugar, fish sauce, lime juice.  Taste and if you like it a little milder, add water. if you like it more sour, add lime juice.
  2. Toast rice in a small skillet until golden. Make sure to shake it consistently for even toasting. Grind it in spice mill until coarsely grinded. (I make extra and save in a small jar for the next time)
  3. Heat 1TBS vegetable oil in skillet on medium heat. Cook chili until fragrant for a few seconds. Add chicken and a little fish sauce and cook, while breaking up the chicken lumps.
  4. Turn heat off, mix in onion, lime zest, lemon grass, 1 and 2, and herbs.  Let it sit for about 15-20 min to allow flavor to blend. Serve on the bed of julienned cabbage.

Just like the Thai eggplant salad, I LOVE the flavor fireworks in my mouth — balance of sweet, sour and spicy.

As in my past post (click here if you missed it), fish sauce adds depth and flavor to many dishes, both Asian and non-Asian.  Be sure to click the link at the bottom of the post for San Francisco Chronicle article how celebrity chefs are using fish sauce to add umami to their dishes, and recipes. So, if you don’t have one, get a bottle, and use it often as your favorite flavor booster.  They are available at Asian market (best selection and price) or large supermarket’s international section.

Easy, Exciting (Grilled) Eggplant Extravaganza 4: Thai Eggplant Salad (Yaam Makhuea Yow)

Thai eggplant salad

Thai eggplant salad

The last of the Easy Exciting Grilled Eggplant Extravaganza series is Thai dish.  I can go on and on with this, to share the versatility of grilled eggplants, yet just like me in Turkey (if you missed my Turkey eggplant story last week, click here), some of you may be wondering “would Mari turn this into an ‘eggplant blog’?”

No… As I said many times, I thrive on VARIETY. Even for writing.  Don’t forget, I cook things I write about and EAT them for dinner.  I’ll save other eggplants recipes for later (nice fall/winter dishes….).

In Thai restaurants, this dish is often made with dried shrimp.  But that’s not the easiest to come by for most of us, or even if you find it, could take years to finish unless you cook South-East Asian dishes all the time.  Therefore, my version is simplified with something you can use more often, and every grocery store should have, and some people like me always keep some in the freezer…  regular shrimp.

What’s exciting about this is that you can double the amount of the sauce and onions, to make Thai Chicken Salad (Laab Gai) as well.  It’s a bit like that Indian spread, you can have two Thai salads really quickly. (or one today, another next day.) Or make a large batch, keep a jar in the fridge, and use them for other Thai as well as Vietnamese dishes such as fresh spring rolls and Bun, cold Vietnamese vermicelli noodles salad.

I’ll share the Laab recipe on my next post.  Again, make sure to subscribe from the top right, so that you won’t miss it.  You have 3 options: email, RSS or Networkedblogs Facebook application.

Thai Eggplant Salad (Yaam Makhuea Yow)

Ingredients – serves 2-3:

  • Eggplants (Japanese, Chinese or Italian)  4 small to medium, grilled, and cut in bite size pieces (click here for how to make grilled eggplants)
  • Cooked shrimp  2 large (cut in 1/2” pieces) or 3-5 medium (if frozen, thawed)
  • Red onion  1/2 C, thinly sliced
  • Green or red chili  1-2, seed removed, and thinly sliced, or red pepper flakes
  • Sugar 1 -2 ts
  • Fish Sauce 1 1/2 TBS
  • Lime juice 2 TBS
  • Water or lime juice 1 TBS
  • Mint leaves or julienned ao-shiso as garnish


  1. Dissolve the sugar, fish sauce, lime juice.  Taste and if you like it a little milder, add water. if you like it more sour, add lime juice.
  2. Mix shrimp, eggplant, onion and the sauce.  Let it sit for about 15-20 min to allow flavor to blend. Garnish with mint leaves (or my favorite, julienned ao-shiso leaves).

Note: You can also omit shrimp and serve with hard-boiled egg wedges. Or to make it more substantial, cook 1/4 lbs ground meat (chicken, turkey or pork works best) in oil, and proceed to 2.

If you are vegetarian or vegan and cannot use fish sauce, here’s the resource for the alternative.

I LOVE the balance of sweet, sour and spicy burst in my mouth, along with cold slippery texture of eggplants and shrimp in summer. (It’s great in any season.) As you can see, you can make this with everything you have at home (or easily accessible.)

As in my past post (click here if you missed it), fish sauce adds depth and flavor to many dishes, both Asian and non-Asian.  Be sure to click the link at the bottom of the post for San Francisco Chronicle article how celebrity chefs are using fish sauce to add umami to their dishes, and recipes. So, if you don’t have one, get a bottle, and use it often as your favorite flavor booster.  They are available at Asian market (best selection and price) or large supermarket’s international section.

Sneak Preview of the next post…  mmm….

Laab Gai, Thai Chicken Salad

Laab Gai, Thai Chicken Salad

Easy, Exciting (Grilled) Eggplant Extravaganza 2: Chinese Eggplant Salad with Chicken and Hiyashi Chuka (Cold Chinese Noodle Salad)

Chinese chicken cukie and eggplant salad

There are so many dishes you can make with grilled eggplant.

Today’s recipe is Chinese Eggplant Salad with Chicken.

This is really easy to do especially when you have shredded chicken (click here for how to make it) on hand, and perfect for summer.

Chinese Eggplant Salad with Chicken


  • Cooked, shredded chicken – 1 c
  • Grilled eggplant, cut in about 2” –1 c
  • Cucumber – 1 small cucumber or about 2” English cucumber
  • Napa cabbage or romaine lettuce – 2-3 c (preferably center part and/or top 1/3 of the bulb)
  • Sliced tomatoes (Optional) – 1 or 2
  • Chinese dressing (recipe follows)


  1. Roll up the napa cabbage leaves and slice thin. If using romaine lettuce, you can just chop them into bite size pieces. Cut cucumbers into thin sticks. (If using regular cucumbers, peel the skin, cut in half, remove seeds first.)
  2. In a salad bowl, pile up napa cabbage/romaine lettuce at the bottom, and arrange shredded chicken, eggplant and cucumber (and tomato if using).
  3. Serve with Chinese dressing. Optionally, top with cilantro, fried wonton skins etc.

Note: If you don’t have chicken, you can substitute with a can of tuna (in Olive Oil preferred.)

Chinese dressing:

  • Mix equal parts sesame (or vegetable) oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and some sugar (adjust the amount based on your taste). Add either grated ginger, chopped green onion and/or ground sesame seeds. Add chili oil if you have any.
  • You can use this dressing for Hiyashi Chuka (Cold Chinese Noodle Salad), or on any other salad, as well as dipping sauce for gyoza and marinade.  Especially tasty with vegetables with high water content, such as grilled eggplant, cucumber, tomatoes as well as wakame seaweed.

Since summer is almost over, here’s the bonus recipe of Hiyashi Chuka.

hiyashi chuka w sesame sauce

Hiyashi Chuka (Cold Chinese Noodle Salad)

It’s pretty much the same with the Chinese eggplant salad above, except, you’d want to use boiled and chilled fresh Chinese noodles instead of napa cabbage.

When it gets really hot, I lose my appetite (many of you who know me personally probably do not believe that’s possible).  I survived the muggy summer in Tokyo with this dish, and still make it when it’s hot in the Bay Area (even though the the humidity is a lot lower, we don’t have an air-conditioner, so all I want to eat is something cold when it gets beyond 85F!)

Traditionally we use shredded toppings of various colors and nutritional values – protein from egg and ham or chicken, and vitamins from vegetables. The most typical veggies we use for this dish are tomatoes and cucumbers. Yet you can use bean sprouts, boiled and julienned asparagus or green beans, as well as corn (my favorite!) or wakame seaweed.


  1. Boil fresh Chinese noodles (thin egg noodle or spinach noodle – I use 3 oz per person,  6 serving to one pound of noodles).  Should be done in 2-3 min. Drain and wash with cold water until noodle is cold.
  2. If using egg (about 1/2 per serving), either boil eggs cut into thin wedges, or beat egg with a little bit of salt and sugar, make a very thin omelet (just like you would make a crepe). When the egg is set, let it cool, and julienne.
  3. In a salad bowl, pile up cold noodles in the center, and arrange shredded chicken/ham, and julienned vegetables and egg attractively.
  4. Pour generous amount of Chinese dressing. (Note: You’ll need enough amount of dressing to coat all the noodles, make a large batch and dilute the dressing with water or dashi broth a bit.)

Our 26 month old nephew Hugo loves Hiyashi Chuka (he’s 100% American, no Asian blood at all as you can tell from his size), and so are many of our friends and their kids.  (Sorry I forgot to take photo of him when he was eating it…  So instead, here’s the photo of him adult-size coffee ice cream – all by himself.  I’m so proud of him!)

Try it before the summer is over and please leave us a comment on how you liked it.


Batch & Fridge/Split: Curry Base

From top left: mango lassi, chana masala, raita, potato and swiss chard curry, keema curry

L to R: mango lassi, chana masala, raita, potato and swiss chard curry, keema curry

One of my (many many) favorite cuisine is Indian food.

It’s really fun to go to Indian restaurant with whole bunch of friends and share various curries and tandoori dishes.  (OK, I love sharing and trying various dishes with any cuisine, and am known to get really disappointed when some people don’t like that idea. (Maybe they are worried that their share will be mostly end up in my stomach?)

I cook curry periodically.  One of my dilemma had been this — when I cook curry at home, I only made one kind.  If I wanted some other curry, I had to wait until next time I felt like eating it, which in our household, well over a month later.

Now I figure out how to cook various curries easily all at once, so our single curry days are over.  Just like at the Indian restaurants — at home.

Do you want to know the secret?

It’s pretty simple. You just make a large batch of curry base, and then split it and cook with any cooked vegetable or meat you have.  For example, one will become Keema curry, one with eggplant, one with potatoes, one with spinach, one with cauliflower…  The choice are endless, only limited by, pretty much what else you have in your fridge, ready to go and your imagination. If you use leftover blanched or sautéed vegetables like I did, it shorten the process significantly.

So today, I’ll explain how to make the base.  Later this week, I’ll share the recipe on how to make other kind of curries.

Curry Base: 2-3 servings


  • Vegetable oil – 2 TBS
  • Garlic (minced) – 2 cloves
  • Ginger (minced) – 1 inch/2.5 cm
  • Curry Powder – 2 TBS
  • Cumin powder – 1 ts
  • Garam masala – 2 ts
  • Onion (chopped) – 1 large
  • Tomato (chopped) – 2 large, or 1 small can chopped tomatoes


  1. Heat oil in a skillet on medium heat.  Add minced garlic, ginger, and once it becomes fragrant, add the spices, stir briefly until the mixture becomes fragrant with the scent of curry spices.
  2. Add chopped onions and cook until soft (and a little browned, if you have time), stirring occasionally.
  3. Add chopped tomatoes and cook until most of the moisture evaporates and the mixture gets a bit “pasty”.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

You can keep this in the fridge for a few days.

Be sure to check back for curry recipes you can easily make with this…  Or simply choose one of the subscription options (email, RSS feed, or Networked Blogs Face book app) so that you will not miss them!

Kitchen Tip du Jour: Always Keep Leftovers to Repurpose into Many Other Dishes.

Many people ask me how I can whip up variety of dishes so easily.

It’s because I have many pre-prepped food that can be used in many different things.

For example, when my sister-in-law, and her family was visiting, I was able to whip up a Turkish Eggplant dip in less than 5 min.  If you make from scratch, this would take well over 1 hour.

Yesterday, I made a spicy Spanish omelet for breakfast in less than 10 min. It would take about 45 min to one hour if you follow a normal recipe.

For lunch, I made flavorful Moroccan style Chickpea & Chorizo Chowder for quick lunch.  Time required?  To heat up the soup, about 5 min as well. If you make this from scratch, this too could take quite a while.

So why I can make these dishes that take a long time so quickly?  All from scratch!

“Is she really a wizard?”

No… I wish!

It’s all because I grilled extra eggplants when we BBQ a few days before, and saved the flesh in the fridge.

It’s all because when I was making clam with chorizo dish, I saved some sautéed onion and chorizo mixture before adding the clams, and kept it in the fridge.  All I did was adding that and (also leftover) sautéed potatoes to beaten eggs. All I did for the chowder is to add can of garbanzo beans and chicken broth (or even water!) to the chorizo mix and heat it up and puree with a stick blender.

Now you can see how many different varieties of dishes you can create by combining these leftovers and some other things you have in your pantry, fridge or freezer.

That’s why I am able to cut so much time from cooking the next time.

This is quintessence of Kitchen Wizard style cooking.

You can do the same.  Always keep leftovers to repurpose into many other dishes, so cooking & eating will be always a breeze and fun. Even when you don’t have time.  You’ll impress your family and friends for sure.

It’ll be like a magic! You too will feel like a wizard.

And never underestimate the power of leftovers!

Flavor Booster: Olive Tapenade

One of my pantry item, which is a flavor booster is olive tapenade.

This is great on baguettes, crackers and veggies. 

And did you know it also turns boring dishes to something brilliant with a bright flavor? It adds a lot of umami, the 5th taste (the other five are: salty, sour, sweet, bitter).

You can use it where you use olives and more…  I love using olive tapenade in my pasta, salad dressing, and you can top it on meat and fish, even crudo…  Italian style sashimi. 

You can buy this from the store, or make it easily when you have leftover olives.  Basically it’s a mixture of good olives (I love Calamata or Nicoise olives), anchovies, a little bit of capers and garlic pureed with extra virgin olive oil.  If your capers is in brine, add about a teaspoon of that liquid… if not, add about the same amount of lemon juice or vinegar. The exact amount doesn’t really matter.  Create a spread that taste good to you.

Keep it in fridge, and it should keep about a month. You can also use this as a base, and add chopped tomatoes, nuts, herb, nuts etc. to expand the variety as you use it in different dishes.

Here are the list of resources about Umami:

What are your favorite flavor boosters?  How do you used them?  Why do you like them?  Please share with us!

Flavor Boosters: Anchovy Paste and Fish Sauce

ceasar salad

Short-cut Ceaser Salad

Anchovy paste in a tube is my favorite purchase from our last visit to Italy. Even though the quality of anchovies are better when you buy them in salt or oil in jars, anchovy pastes are far more convenient, because all you have to do is squeeze out the amount you need, and they also last much longer. Plus, there’s no need to make it into a paste, or someone identify these and say “Oh, I hate anchovies!”  If they don’t see them, and you use just a little bit, they will love the flavor. (Example: Who doesn’t like Caesar’s salad?)  The only thing is, it’s almost gone, and they are hard to come by in the US.

So now what do I do?

I’ve been using the “liquid version”, which is far more economical, and easier to get, at least in the Bay Area where Asians are abound.

It’s fish sauce. Not just for Thai and Vietnamese dishes, you can add a dash of this instead of anchovies to add depth in flavor, called umami in Japanese.  If you make home-made Chinese noodle soup, use this to season the broth. Without adding much else, it creates a delicious soup.  I used to take a long time to make noodle soup without using anything with MSG in it.  Now all I need is a cooking liquid of poached chicken (which is shredded and often added back as topping of my noodle soup), a few slices of ginger, and fish sauce.  That’s pretty much it.

Just be careful not to use too much when using in non-Southeast Asian dishes.  The smell could be overpowering!

There are many kinds… I recommend the Three Crab brand. (Also SF Chronicle Food writer, Mai Pham’s and Slanted Door Chef, Charles Phan’s favorite.)

Many celebrity chefs are also turning into fish sauce as secret ingredients lately.  Click here for an article by San Francisco Chronicle food writer Janet Fretcher about using fish sauce for both Asian and non-Asian dishes.

Here’s the recipe for “pregnant-woman-friendly” Short-cut Caesar Salad from Janet’s article.

Shortcut Caesar Salad
This makes a main-course lunch salad or a small dinner salad.


  • 16 baguette slices, about 1/3-inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup prepared mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce, or more to taste
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced to a paste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound hearts of romaine, in bite-size pieces
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Brush the baguette slices with olive oil on both sides, then cut each slice in half to make half-rounds. Place on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Put the mayonnaise in a small bowl and slowly whisk in the olive oil, lemon juice, fish sauce and garlic. Add several grinds of black pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  3. Toss the romaine with enough of the dressing to coat the leaves nicely. Add the Parmesan and croutons and toss again. Serve immediately.
  • Serves 2 to 4
    PER SERVING: 255 calories, 5 g protein, 7 g carbohydrate, 24 g fat (4 g saturated), 11 mg cholesterol, 724 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.

Do you like fish sauce or anchovy?  What do you use in it?  Please share with us!