Tag Archives: Asian

Savory Oatmeal – A Healthy Breakfast with Asian Flair

Experiment with Oatmeal

I first thought of making oatmeal for breakfast because of its health benefits – full of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, oatmeal can lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and even reduce weight.  Knowing virtually nothing about this hot cereal except for its benefits, I did some research on different types of oatmeal and their tastes.  My first bite of unflavored oatmeal left me less than impressed.  Americans in the mid-1800s called oatmeal “nothing more than horse feed” and I suddenly felt sorry for the horses.  Still, I thought, oatmeal has to be good for you.  Anything that tastes this bland, but has been around for this long, must be healthy.  Otherwise oatmeal would be extinct with the dinosaurs.

Healthy and Sweet Oatmeal

By nature, oatmeal is bland.  Oat grains take a while to cook (about 30 minutes). Instant oatmeal solves the problem of this time-consuming and tasteless breakfast, yet most brands are loaded with sugar and artificial flavors.  Reading the ingredients, I instantly ruled out instant oatmeal.  Instead I purchased a box of McCann Irish Steel Cut Oatmeal and cooked it with fat-free organic milk.  The milk made it creamier and added a boost of calcium.  Then I added maple syrup (or honey) instead of sugar, and replaced artificial flavors found in instant oatmeal with organic raisins, banana slices and walnuts.  I even added freshly ground flax seeds to make my breakfast super healthy.  The result was wholesome and delicious. But I was happy with this recipe for only one month.  Perhaps because my sweet tooth was never developed (I was one of those strange kids who didn’t love chocolate or cake), I always crave something savory instead of sweet.  So I quickly searched online to see if there were any unique oatmeal recipes that would fulfill my jones for salt.  As I guessed, I wasn’t the only one craving a savory breakfast.  Although a couple of savory recipes looked delicious and interesting, many contained cheese and meat, which was not the kind of “clean” food I’d hoped for.

Asian Flavored Savory Oatmeal

I quit searching online and started searching my childhood food memories.  My grandmother used to make different types of congee (a rice porridge popular in many Asian countries) for me and my sister. Some of her congees were sweet (rice cooked with sweet potatoes and water) but most were savory.  I combined her cooking technique with ingredients readily found in any supermarket and came up with this recipe:

Oatmeal with Chicken Soup and Mushrooms Recipe

Oatmeal Cooked in a Rice Cooker

Ingredients for 1 serving:

  1. ½ cup of McCann Irish Steel Cut Oatmeal (or any other steel cut oatmeal)
  2. 1 ½  cups of organic, low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth (the ratio of oatmeal to chicken broth is 1:3)
  3. 2 pieces of dried shiitake mushrooms (or fresh shiitake if dried mushrooms are not available)
  4. ½ scallion
  5. 1 dash of black or white pepper (according to your taste)


  1. Soak dried mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes until soft.  (You can prepare the mushrooms the night before)  If you use fresh mushrooms, no soaking required.
  2. Julienne mushrooms.
  3. Place oatmeal, chicken broth, and mushrooms in the rice cooker, and follow your rice cooker instructions.  If you don’t have a rice cooker, you can cook the oatmeal in a pan over the stovetop at low heat for 30 minutes (stir occasionally to avoid sticking).
  4. After the rice cooker is turned off, let the oatmeal sit in the cooker and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Chop the scallion very fine
  6. Garnish the oatmeal with your scallion and a dash of white or black pepper.

This unique recipe requires only three main ingredients which you can find in your supermarket. Since the rice cooker is doing all the work for you, you can get ready for your day while the oatmeal cooks. Or, you can make the oatmeal the night before, keep it in the refrigerator, and heat it up in the microwave for 3 minutes in the morning.  Savory oatmeal is a delicious, healthy and almost effortless breakfast.  Give it a try!

The Best Asian Hot Sauces – Lao Gan Ma

When it comes to Asian hot sauce, you probably think Sriracha.  It’s the most common brand in US supermarkets and it does the job when you want to add bite to your bites.  But every condiment comes in many shapes, sizes and tastes and there are some fine alternatives to Sriracha if you look hard enough.  For me, the best hot sauces are rich, chunky, flavorful and, of course, hot.  My favorites also share another characteristic—I can actually see the ingredients in the sauce, whether chili peppers, hot oil, pieces of garlic, onion bits or soybeans.  Lao Gan Ma fits all my criteria.  It has complexity.  It has bite.  It’s an outstanding hot sauce.
I first experienced Lao Gan Ma in Tina’s Long Island home the day after Thanksgiving.  Turkey is a very dry bird to begin with and leftover turkey breast tastes just a little bit better than unsalted cardboard.  Tina must have seen my face as I tried to swallow each bite of this foul fowl.  She handed me a jar of red sauce and said, “Here, add this to your turkey.”  Tina is a first-generation Taiwanese whose parents immigrated from Szechuan, China, which means she grew up eating spicy food and lots of hot sauce.  I knew instantly that her sauce would be a fine addition to my dry turkey.  Indeed, all it took was half a teaspoon of Lao Gan Ma and in no time I had miraculously cleaned my plate.  Wanting more of her hot sauce, I asked Tina for more of her turkey.  She smiled and said, “I know you don’t like the turkey.  Do you want some Taiwanese egg-pancakes instead?  You can add the hot sauce on the pancakes too.”  I was nodding my head before she finished the sentence.

Lao Gan Ma has a long history and the company, which started as a one-woman business, has been perfecting this hot sauce for eighty years.  Already a very popular brand in China, the Chinese community in the US started to discover its appeal just a few years ago.  This unique sauce includes crisp red chilies, garlic, onions, soybeans, canola oil, tree nuts and, its most distinguishing ingredient, peanuts.  I use Lao Gan Ma as a both a dipping sauce and a cooking sauce, adding it to flavor many meals: dumplings, fried rice, noodles, hot pot, fried eggs and stir fries.  And on nights when I’m too tired to cook and want something quick and tasty, I simply boil some noodles, mix them with Lao Gan Ma, some light soy sauce, a half-teaspoon of black vinegar and two drops of sesame oil.  It’s delicious.