Canh Chua Tom, Sour Soup with Shrimp

Yesterday was a Friday in our house. It was the last day of my husband’s service week and now he deservingly gets a few days off… which means a bit more help at home for me! yay.

I’ve been making Canh Chua more often lately. It’s so simple and comforting. I definitely didn’t appreciate the soup as much when I was younger and now that I’m older (and wiser) I can appreciate it for it’s nutrition and the memories of my parents making it for us. I’m trying to introduce as much foods to my kids while they’re young in hopes of having them appreciate it also when they’re older.

My parents and my husband’s parents as well, didn’t put fried garlic on the soup but I really enjoy the extra note of flavor that it adds. This soup is so versatile in that you can add as much or little protein or vegetables that you like. I like a lot of broth in my soup so I tend to be cautious with how much vegetables I put in. But if you like more, feel free to add more, and if you think I’m adding too much..feel free to add less! ahh the beauty of cooking for yourself =)

Typically served with Braised Claypot Fish (which is really good too), but my dad usually did fried salmon and I like doing the same. Served with some fresh or pickled veggies and dipping sauce….it’s nearly a perfect Vietnamese meal!

Canh Chua Tom
6 cups water or chicken broth
2-3 roma tomatoes quartered  (about 1/5-2 cups) (1/2 cup for stir-frying)
1 1/2 cup pineapple
2 Tbs vegetable oil
3 Tbs minced garlic
1/4 chopped shallots
1 cup ngo om
1 cup culantro
1 1/2 cup chopped okra
1 1/2 cup elephant ear stem (peel, cut in small slices and soak in salt water)
1 lb shrimp
4 Tbs tamarind concentrate
3 Tbs fish sauce
1 inch rock sugar (30 grams)
2 tsp white sugar
1/2 tsp salt (1/4 tsp + 1/4 tsp)
1 cup bean sprouts
1 stalk lemon grass, bruised (optional)
2 slices of ginger
1 kaffir lime leaf

Marinate shrimp with 1/4 tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, and back pepper
Fry garlic, remove for later
Using garlic oil, sauté, shallots and lemongrass, ginger
Add shrimp and sauté for 1 minute, remove to plate
Add pineapple and sautee for 1 minute
Add tomatoes and sautee for 1 minute
Add water and sugar and bring to boil
add tamarind and lime leaf, stir
Bring to boil
Add fish sauce and salt, 
Simmer 5 minutes
Add okra and elephant ear steam
Simmer another 1 minutes
Simmer 3-5 minutes
Add tomatoes
Add shrimp
Once shrimp is cooked taste broth and adjust as necessary
And add herbs and bean sprouts.
Add fried garlic (remove lime leaf and lemon grass stalk)


Happy Lunar New Year and Chicken Adobo Recipe

This past weekend was a busy one! Lunar New Year and Valentine’s day rolled in one. We hosted a small get together at our place. I spent the whole morning and afternoon making a pot of Chicken Ragu and Sous Vide Nem Nuong Rolls. Everything turned out well except for my rolls. *Note for future* pre-rolling spring rolls- DO NOT use damp paper towel to keep rolls separated, IT WILL STICK haha. In the future I’ll probably use either cling wrap or damp cloth towels or even risk my rolls sticking together, rather than have napkin paper stuck to it 😖. So anyways, aside from possibly feeding everyone some paper napkins, I’m happy with how everything went and it was nice to enjoy good company and of course the kids had fun!

Today I’m sharing a recipe on my site I already posted a while back, but it must have gotten deleted when I changed my platform….so here it is again! This time video included =) Chicken Adobo! This is a Filipino dish and it is super simple but so delicious and and so unique. The tangy bold flavors of vinegar and soy sauce pairs perfectly with steamed white rice.

Chicken Adobo
2 lbs. bone-in skinless chicken pieces (8 pieces)
4 Tbs soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 Tbs dark soy sauce
1 small onion, sliced
1 Tbs garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
1 Tbs whole peppercorns

Marinate chicken with 4 Tbs soy sauce, 1 Tbs garlic, 1 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp black pepper for 2-24 hrs.
In a large skillet over medium high heat, add 1 Tbs of vegetable oil.
Brown meat on both sides and remove to plate (about 2 minutes per side).
Lower heat to medium, add onions and cook until soften.
Add vinegar, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, 1 tsp sugar, peppercorn, scraping the pan to release flavor stuck to the bottom of the pan. 
Add chicken back to skillet top-side down, cover and bring to boil.
Once boiling, add bay leaves, and loosely cover again.
Simmer for 20-30 minutes.
Turn chicken over half way through cooking time and remove lid.
Continue to simmer until desired color and doneness.
Serve with hot white rice. Don’t forget to spoon the delicious sauce over the chicken and rice. Enjoy!

Happy Year of the Ox! Wishing everyone Good Health, Happiness, and Prosperity!

Vietnamese Lemongrass Grilled Pork, Thit Heo Nuong Xa

Reading my last post, I can’t help but laugh, “It’s suppose to storm this week in California and I’m ready for it.” 😂 Well I thought the “storm” would be just some heavy rainfall, I didn’t expect it to knock down two of our fences as well as break off a huge limb from our protected pine tree, and wreak havoc on our yard. Some people, including my poor sister, were left without power for hours. Luckily we weren’t among those that lost power for a significant amount of time. I think in the future I will be more careful with what I decided to say to nature. All in all, we are fine and our property will be fine, and life moves forward.

Last week was my husband’s birthday and I wanted to make a special dinner for my family, Com Tam Thit Nuong, which translates to Broken Rice Grill Pork. This is a recipe I only make for special occasions, mainly because it does use a lot of sugar, but indulging every once in a while is ok, right? The amount I make is usually shared with other people so at least it’s spread out a bit. The moment I announced the menu to my family, I had a little bit of uh-oh maybe I should back track. It was A LOT of work preparing everything, but at the end of the day, I never regret the work I put in when I see the family gather for a wonderful meal. At least I decided to forego making the cake myself (good decision on my part).

The grilled pork itself is not hard, but to make it a wonderful meal, you need to accompany it with dipping sauce, scallion oil, pickled veggies, salad…etc, which acutally ends up taking a lot of time. On top of that I added egg rolls, and that is a whole venture in its own. The good thing was I had the dipping sauce, scallion oil, and pickled veggies already made and so that left me with only the pork and egg rolls.

Just a couple notes for Vietnamese grilled pork, scallion oil is very important. It’s adds a nice flavor to the meal that I think it essential for Vietnamese rice plates and noodle dishes. Nuon mam dipping sauce is also necessary. All these flavors layer together and create a very authentic, unique, and tantalizing meal!

For the pork (enough to feed about 6-8 people)
2 stalk lemongrass
2 shallots
3 green onions white only
5 cloves garlic (2 tbs garlic)
5 Tbs caramel sauce (nuoc mau)
5 Tbs sugar
3 Tbs vegetable oil
4 Tbs fish sauce
1 Tbs dark soy sauce
1 Tbs oyster sauce
1 Tbs black pepper
2.5 -3 lbs pork tenderloin or shoulder,  sliced 1/4 inch thickness
or 4 lbs thin-cut pork chops

Glaze
3 tbs caramel sauce, 1 tbs water, 1 tbs oil 1/2 tsp salt

Blend all ingredients from lemongrass to black pepper in a food processor until smooth.
Add to the pork and marinate for 24 hours.
Grill on medium heat about 5 minutes per side or until pork is cooked through.
Apply glaze to each size about 1 minute before pork is done cooking.


Bo Luc Lac | Vietnamese Shaking Beef

Happy Monday! Here’s to another week. It’s suppose to storm this week in California and I’m ready for it.

I wanted to share a special recipe today, Shaking Beef also known as Bo Luc Lac. This dish was my absolute favorite growing up. Since I’ve learned how to make it myself, I’ve made it so many times with many versions to see what our family liked most, and it always came back to the simplest version. A lot of recipes use oyster sauce which I’ve used also, but our family just preferred this dish without it. Feel free to explore different recipes and try different versions and see what fits you and your family’s taste best!

For the meat, since I make this fairly often, I typically use flap meat from Costco. It’s cheaper than ribeye and filet mignon but it still works for us. If you’re making this for the first time or if your budget allows, get yourself a nice ribeye or filet, you won’t regret it! But for me, I just use flap meat and it works. This dish is all about how tender the beef cubes are. I think tenderness is even more important that flavor for Shaking Beef. If you do get flap meat, get the best quality you can get. Costco has always been pretty good for us. I’ve learned that adding a little oil and cornstarch while the meat is marinating helps produce a more tender product. I do think the oil and cornstarch has to go in after the rest of the ingredients are mixed. I don’t know why, but that’s what I found worked the best.

You have to serve this dish with a fresh salad. The crisp greens goes very well with the flavorful beef cubes. Watercress is very authentic with the dish, but any lettuce will do. I have done romaine and butter leaf lettuce and enjoyed it both. You can also add onions and sweet bell peppers to the frying for some more color and vegetables if you prefer. The possibilities are endless once you have the basics of it. So here is my recipe and I hope you enjoy it.

Have a great week!

Bo Luc Lac
1 Lb beef cut in to 1 inch cubes
1 Tbs fish sauce
1 Tbs soy sauce
1/2 tbs sugar
1/4 tsp salt and black pepper
1/2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 Tbs minced garlic
1/2 tsp corn starch

For the Salad
6 cups watercress
1 cup thinly slice red onion
2 tomato, sliced into pieces (2 cups tomatoes)
5 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3  tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp black pepper

Add beef, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, salt and pepper to a bowl and mix.
Add half of the garlic and 1/2 tbsp oil and mix.
Add cornstarch and mix. Let sit for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile prepare you salad.
Combine vinegar, oil, salt, sugar, black pepper.
Add sliced onions to the vinegar dressing
Toss watercress with dressing and arrange on plate.
Add tomatoes slices.

Heat pan over med-high heat
Add 1 tbsp oil
Add beef
Sear 1 side for 1 minute
Turn over sear other side
Add garlic cook for another 2-3 minutes
Transfer to serving plate on top of salad
Enjoy with a salt and pepper lime dipping sauce and rice!

I leave you with some beautiful flowers from this weekend that greeted me whenever I walked out to my kitchen. I’m learning to appreciate the value of balance and aesthetics. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and while aesthetic is not everything in life, it is important because it can create a mood, a feeling, an inspiration that can impact that very moment in your day or even in your life.

Crispy Baked Chicken Wings

I almost want to say these are better than frying them…almost. But I don’t want to make this a controversial blog post 🙃, so I will just say this, baking chicken wings is my go-to method for making wings. It’s simple, uses A LOT less oil, and while they’re baking, I can makes sides or clean up the kitchen or anything really, win-win! I’ve been baking them for years. The method is pretty fail proof, and they taste and look delicious. The only caveat is that they need to bake for nearly 1 hour (flipping them half way in between cooking time). But the time is worth it! They can stand up to any sauce you make or just eat them with a simple lemon pepper seasoning. I followed the method from watching Chef John’s Food Wishes Youtube Channel and there’s not much I needed to change. For my kids, I leave out the hot sauce 😑 (the things we do for our kids, amirite?) but we always add the spice on the side!

Crispy Baked Chicken Wings (adapted from food wishes)
3 1/2 Lbs. Chicken wings (about 33-35 wings)
1 1/2  cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 Tbs vegetable oil
Combine oil, salt and pepper
Mix

Preheat oven 400℉
Add to large spill proof bowl with lid or bag with flour (work in batches if necessary).
Cover the lid.
Toss to coat wings, shake off excess flour.
Line baking sheet. 
Spray sheet with non stick spray.
Place wings on top (do not crowd)
Spray top of wings with non stick spray.
Bake 30 min.
Turn over. 
Bake another 30 min.
Wings will be nicely browned and crispy!
Toss in your favorite sauce or seasonings and serve.

Spray the bottom of two baking trays so the wings do not stick. A convection setting on oven helps save on cooking time so you can bake two trays at once.
Close lid and shake, shake, shake!
Nice and coated. Make sure to shake off excess flour so your wings are light and crispy.

Spray the top of the wings, so they get nice and brown.
This is after 30 minutes, flip and bake another 30 minutes. They will be perfect!
After 1 hour, they are nicely browned and crispy! Trust the process.
Toss with your favorite seasonings or sauces.
Lemon Pepper, Korean Sweet and Spicy, and Buffalo Sauce

Tofu Larb

Happy Monday! I hope it was nice weekend in your neck of the woods.
I’m sharing this recipe because it’s always a hit. From my meat loving husband to 4 1/2 year old daughter to my 20 month old son, everyone in the family loves it, so I think it’s worth sharing!

I use frozen defrosted Tofu for this, which I have to leave in the fridge for a couple of days to completely thaw out, but I’m sure you can use fresh firm tofu that’s been pat dry. I’ve never tried it fresh, but I’m sure you can use it. Once the tofu has been defrosted and thawed out, it takes on a spongy texture that makes it more meaty. Like most tofu dishes, you just have to make sure you remove as much water as you can from the tofu before cooking. Fortunately, with thawed out tofu, it’s really easy to just squeeze out the water.

Tofu was previously frozen then thawed out.

This recipe is very simple but I think it does require all the ingredients listed to really bring the dish to life. 1 necessary ingredient most people may not have on hand is toasted rice powder. No worries though! It’s very simple to make. You take how ever many amount of uncooked rice you want to have, dry toast it on a skillet untill golden brown, then pound or blend until fine and powdery! Store in an airtight container for months, but use quickly for optimal freshness. In case you may be more of a visual person, I have a video on how I make the rice powder and also the tofu larb. Feel free to check it out below!

Once you have your rice powder, you can easily make Tofu Larb. Through out the cooking process (which is very quick) continue to break up the tofu pieces with your spatula while you mix in the fish sauce and rice powder. I always serve it over a bed of romaine lettuce. The crunchy fresh lettuce goes well with the salty and nutty flavors of the the tofu larb!

Squeeze out water from tofu and tear into bite size pieces.
Heat oil over med to med-high heat.
Add garlic while oil is still cold then let cook until they begin to sizzle and become fragrant.
Turn heat to low and add in tofu
Add in fish sauce.
Add in toasted rice powder.
Turn off heat and add in red onions.
Mix well.
Squeeze in lime juice.
Add in fresh herbs.
Taste and adjust seasonings according to preference!

Tofu Larb
1 (16 oz) package of firm tofu (frozen and thawed)
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onions
1 head of romaine lettuce
1 Tbs dry roasted rice powder
2 tsp fish sauce
juice of 1 lime
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbs vegetable oil
chili flakes
2 Tbs chopped cilantro 
2 Tbs chopped mint

Tear tofu into small pieces
In a large skillet turn heat to medium high
Add oil and garlic
Cook untill just fragrant
Turn heat to low
Add tofu and mix  with oil
Add fish sauce and salt
Mix
Add rice powder mix
Turn off heat
Add slice red onions while pan is still hot
Add lime juice and mix
Place on top of chopped lettuce
Serve with rice and tom yum soup

If you’re a fan of Thai food, give this recipe a try!

Recommended product for this dish:
Lemon Squeezer

Vietnamese Beef Stew || Bo Kho

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There are a handful of dishes I consider Vietnamese comfort food, Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) is one of them. Aromatic, savory, full of flavor, it’s one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes in general. I’m sure every family has their own recipe and preference of how to make it and eat. Some enjoy it with rice noodles while others prefer having it along side toasty french baguette. I have grown up with the latter, enjoying this stew with a nice crusty piece of bread to soak up the aromatic robust broth. We already had Hawaiian Rolls at home so we just had the rolls, but definitely get the baguettes if you can. My parents have always used the packet of pre-made marinade/seasoning found at any Vietnamese or Chinese grocery store, but over the years I developed my own recipe that I feel taste just as good and dare I say better than using the pre-made packet seasoning. It’s a recipe that I’m pretty proud of!

Like most recipes, you still have to adjust seasonings according to your preference, but the basis of the recipe will result in an extremely flavorful, deep broth for a delicious Bo Kho. Traditionally, Vietnamese beef stew is made with beef shank and tendon. I’m not a huge fan of tendon and I find using beef chuck gives me the most tender and soft meat, so I always use beef chuck, but you can definitely use shank and tendon if you want! With this recipe, simmering for 2 hours is the minimum, the longer you can let it simmer the better. I think it even tastes better the next day. This recipe makes enough for my husband, me, and my daughter, but she’s 3, so she doesn’t count as a full portion😛, with a little left over for the next day. If you’re making this for at least 4 adults (and you want leftovers) I would double the recipe. The herb that typically gets served with this stew is Thai Basil, but I really enjoy eating an herb called Tia To, a Vietnamese Perilla. Also don’t forget a slice of lime for a little tang. The citrus cuts the richness of the broth very nicely.

Bo Kho Recipe (about 4 servings)
2-3 lb beef chuck cut into 1.5 – 2 inch pieces
1.5 Tbs annatto seeds
¼ cup olive oil
1 yellow onion cut into slices
1 Tbs of minced garlic
4 large carrots cut into 2 inch pieces
2  Tbs frozen lemon grass or 3 stalk of fresh lemon grass bruised
1  Tbs grated frozen ginger or 3 slices of fresh ginger
3 ounce of tomato paste
3 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbs five spice powder
2 tsp curry powder
½  Tbs paprika
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
1 Tbs fish sauce
1-2 cups coconut juice or water
4 cups beef broth, chicken broth, or water

  1. In a small pan heat olive oil and annatto seeds until color has bled and oil is red about 1 minute. Remove seeds and keep oil.
  2. Marinate beef with ½ tbs of fish sauce, garlic, onion, salt, five spice powder, curry powder, paprika and 1 tbs of the annatto oil.  Marinate for at least 30 minutes, or preferably overnight.
  3. In a large pot add in about 2 Tbs of annatto oil over medium heat, add lemon grass, star anise and cinnamon stick, ginger and stir until fragrant (about 1 minute).
  4. Add meat and brown for about 1 minute on each side.
  5. Add carrots, coconut juice, broth and more water (if necessary) until meat is covered by about 1 inch.
  6. Add tomato paste and bring to boil, lower heat and simmer for 2 hours until meat is tender.  Add rest of fish sauce and adjust seasonings if needed.
  7. Serve with Thai Basil or Vietnamese Perilla and lime.
    IMG_5468Beautiful red annatto oilIMG_5469IMG_5476IMG_5478

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    This broth is packed with flavor.

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    Enjoy!

It’s Good to Be Home and Opo Squash Soup with Shrimp

 

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Moving back home has a been so nice. Being near my parents has made a huge difference in our daily lives. A major benefit of being near my family has been the abundance of family support and company they have offered us the minute we got back. From cooking to unpacking, they’ve added so much more enjoyment and warmth to our day.

Aside from the company of our family, the abundance of vegetables and herbs from my dad’s garden has been so enjoyable.  I know we’re adults with our own daughter, but it feels nice to have our parents nearby and feeding our bellies every so often. Opo Squash and Kabocha Squash are two abundant vegetables in my dad’s garden and I’ve been happily accepting them when I’m offered. One of the easiest ways to use it is in soups.

The method is very easy and a trick I learned from my mom is to not add too much water  when making soups because a lot of vegetables release their own liquid so it will make your soup that much sweeter if you don’t dilute it by adding too much water. So for about 4 cups of chopped up Opo Squash or Kabocha Squash I’ll add about 2.5 cups of water.

I usually use water because I prefer the milder flavor for this soup compared to using chicken broth but you can definitely use chicken broth if you prefer! You can use any protein you want to add to this soup, pork ribs are very common addition, but I like using shrimp.

Ooo Squash Soup with Shrimp (Canh Bau)

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup -1/2 cup of onion, minced
4 cup of opo squash, peeled and chopped in 1/2 inch to 1/3 inch pieces
1 cup of peeled shrimp, chopped and season with a pinch of salt and pepper
1 Tbs fish sauce (You can always start with 1/2 Tbs and add more later, but I like more salty flavor)
2.5 cups of water (If using chicken broth use less fish sauce to start)
salt and pepper
cilantro for garnish
2 tsp vegetable oil

In a medium size pot add oil over medium heat sauté onion and garlic untill onions are translucent. About 2-3 minutes
Add shrimp and sautee untill shrimp turns pink.
Add water cover and bring to boil.
Once boiling add the squash and slight cover with lid.
Once water comes back to boil, add fish sauce, pinch of salt, and pepper and lower to medium low.
Cook for about 15-20 minutes until squash is soft.
Taste and adjust season as necessary.
Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

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Salt and Pepper Tofu

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When it comes to tofu there are only a few recipes that I can depend on that both my husband and I will enjoy, Salt and Pepper tofu is one of them.  It’s such a simple dish and if you buy your tofu already fried it’s also a very quick dish to make. Despite it’s simplicity, it is so tasty and packed with robust flavor. My sister wanted to try to make this so I’ll share with you the recipe! Like other recipes, after making this a few times, you’ll discover the ratio of spices that suits your taste buds best.

Salt and Pepper Tofu (adapted from Viet World Kitchen)
1 package fried tofu (cut to your preference, I like 1 inch cubes)

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I like buying pre-fried tofu for this recipe

1 Tbs cooking oil
1 Tbs minced garlic
2 stalks of green onions, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 jalapeño cut into pieces
1 small bell pepper cut into 1 inch cubes (optional)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp white pepper

1. In a small bowl, mix salt, sugar, and white pepper and set aside
2. In a large skillet on high heat, add oil
3. Once pan is hot, add bell peppers and cook until soft (3-5 minutes)
4. Add garlic and stir for about 30 seconds – 1 minute
5. Add tofu and stir until brown to your preference. You may have to let the tofu sit on each side for a while to get it to brown.
6. Once the tofu is cooked and browned on each side, add in the salt and pepper mixture and toss.
6. Add in green onion, cilantro, and jalapeños and quickly toss untill herbs are wilted and turn of heat.
Serve and enjoy!IMG_7024 2

 

 

Asian Inspired Fish en Papillote, and an actual weekend (sort of)!

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Yay for weekends. Too be honest, weekends don’t always feel like weekends to me. I’m a stay at home mom and my husband’s schedule is never consistent often working on weekends and nights. So while I can appreciate weekends for their offerings of free time and a break from the work week for many, my own routine and life does not change much on weekends.

But this week, my husband had a rare three days off, no calls, no moonlighting, no presentations to work on… and it was nice. We were able to take our daughter for one last splash in the pool before the weather got too cold, we went to Balboa park and enjoyed the nice weather, had family relaxation time at home, and got dessert at a new restaurant we haven’t tried.

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Delicious Brownie Shake

On Friday, I made Fish en Papillote but I wanted to try something different with it and so I used ingredients for Asian Style Steam Fish. It was such a quick recipe, so easy to make and best of all it was tasty! I wasn’t going to make a blog post about this recipe so I didn’t take many pictures, but it was so good and easy I figured I should just share it now. I know I will definitely make this again.

And now friends, it is Sunday, and my husband is back at work, my daughter is napping, and I am back to the routine. 😌

Asian Inspired Fish en Papillote
For one fish packet
1/4 tsp of salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/2 Tbs sesame oil
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 inch knob of ginger sliced into thin strips
1 scallion, sliced
a couple slices of chili pepper
1 white fish filet

1. Lay fish onto parchment paper.
2. Sprinkle salt and pepper.
3. Add soy sauce and sesame oil on top of fish.
4. Lay on top ginger, scallions, and peppers.
5. Seal parchment paper.
6. Back at 375 for 20-25 minutes.
7. Garnish with cilantro.