How to Make the Most Tender Round Steak Rye Sandwich

Ah, the story of the round steak open toast rye sandwich. It brings back memories of the time when I was in Paris.

It was a cold, snowy winter that year. The weather forecasts had been all wrong; what they had predicted to be fair, almost hot weather was completely incorrect. It wasn’t just snow, it was hail, rain and thunderstorms. The skies were dark and gloomy 18 hours a day and people were told to stay indoors.

That wasn’t even the worst of it. The worst was the food situation in Paris at the time. You see, because of the weather forecasts, all the restaurants in Paris decided that it was a good time to make bread, so that’s what they did. They baked bread every hour of every day of every month and before long, the whole city was flooded with nothing but bread and pastries and butter rolls. Normally that’s a good thing because we know the French love their bread, but because of the sudden arrival of winter, things changed for the worst. People were sick of eating bread. They were tired of having nothing warm to eat besides bread, and trust me, you’d be tired too if all you had was bread and croissants and butter rolls. The city and its people were restless and there was no end to the dreadful winter that had come.

So the city council set up an emergency meeting. They declared it a level teal national emergency. They sent out soldiers to keep peace, to ensure that people would no longer set fire to the bakeries and put out a reward, an incentive that said:

“Anyone who is able to save Paris in our current time of need and come up with a way for people to eat bread will get their weight in wine and all the cheese they can carry on a bicycle.”

People were estatic, motivated. A reward like this hadn’t appeared in the last 800 years.

So people kept coming up with new stuff. They baked bread inside of breads, croissants inside of croissants, butter rolls inside of butter rolls but they all failed, until one day, a homeless girl came up with a recipe to making the ultimate sandwich ever: the round steak sandwich on rye toast. The steak was to be lightly scored, and briefly frozen before rubbed with salt, pepper, smoked paprika and cumin and pan-seared or grilled over frying pan in high heat. The concept was to use a steak that’s generally tougher and making it edible and delicious in its own way, comparable to the other fancier cuts of meat. The dry rub on the steak would act as a way to flavor the steak and combined with the charring heat of the flame would create a majestic explosion of flavor when eaten, briefly overwhelming in deep and complex flavors before mellowing out and allowing the meaty rareness of the steak and the steak juices to become more apparent, more pronounced. The lettuce served with a buttery toasted piece of rye would be the perfect contrast between crisp and crunch and along with the steak would the absolute match in heaven, a matrimony between the savory, smokey chewiness of the round steak with the fresh tender romaine lettuce and the wholeness of the rye toast. Oh lettuce rejoice — it was the ultimate round steak sandwich to rye for. France was saved and people started enjoying their breads again.

The homeless girl went back to her tent with her barrels of wine and armfuls of cheese with a new shiny bike in tow. When interviewed on how she came up with the recipe for the round steak rye sandwich she had created, she told them the truth: she was just craving a good steak sandwich and figured out if she could get someone to believe her and make it, she’d be able to sample it and eat it.

Recipe: Lightly score both sides of the round steak, put in the the freezer for about 20 minutes, rub dry spices (up to you to decide what you like but I usually use smoked paprika, cumin, salt and pepper, or McCormick’s Montreal Steak Rub), and sear with butter or oil over high heat. To add extra flavor, you can add some herbs or garlic to the butter and lather the melted butter over the steak throughout the cooking process. Cook until desired (Medium rare recommended), and let steak rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving over buttered toast (any kind of bread). Enjoy!


The secret to amazing tuna fish sandwiches

Most people don’t know this, but faraway, next to the ancient Egyptian pyramids is a tiny farming village. The farming village has been around for centuries, lasting even longer than the rulers of the pyramids themselves. Ironically, although they’re a farming village, they specialize in the one thing that has nothing to do with farming: tuna fish sandwiches.

This tiny farming village has a secret recipe for tuna fish sandwiches that’s been passed down for generations, its true origins unknown. The tuna fish sandwich they make is out of the world: creamy, chunky, with bits of onion and celery served on a lightly toasted piece of rye. Their signature, a tortilla chip with its tip embedded in the midst of the tuna salad like King Arthur’s sword is world-renowned. Many people have tried to copy the recipe, replicate it, but they’ve all failed.

I’ve spent the last 30 years trying to seek clues on how to make this legendary sandwich. I’ve tried using all the different kinds of tuna from Starkist to Wild Planet, soaked in oil, soaked in water, soaked in tomato sauce, and even tuna fish soaked in curry. I’ve visited Egypt and their pyramids, I’ve sailed to Japan to look at drawings of their prized bluefin tunas, I’ve biked across France to seek apprenticeship under the country’s greatest rye bread baker and I’ve hiked in the Himalayas in search of the holy celery all to recreate the legendary tuna fish sandwich of all time.

And I’ve finally discovered it.

It was by accident, really. I had opened a can of tuna when suddenly an alligator barged in through a backdoor I had left open. I freaked out, and in my haste to escape from the building, I left the tuna fish can on top of the refrigerator. It wasn’t until weeks later when I realized I had left the tuna fish on top of the fridge.

The tuna was covered with dust but right when I was about to throw it away, I had thought about how the ancient Egyptians had eaten their food. They had no refrigerators or cans back then, so their food must’ve been dusty. So I made tuna fish sandwich anyways and it turned out amazing.

I’ve recreated the recipe many times successfully since then. I don’t leave the tuna out in the open for weeks, but rather just blot my tuna dry with paper towels and it seems to work just fine.

You see, the key is to properly dry out the tuna as much as possible when it’s out of the can, otherwise the mayo won’t mix well with the tuna because there’s an excess of oil or water. It all makes sense now, because we all know the desert is hot — the heat is what dries out the tuna fish that the village uses to make their ultimate tuna fish sandwiches.

Take one or two cans of tuna, drain liquid and blot dry with paper towels and mix in mayo, onions, celery or whatever you like. Everything’s optional really, although adding in some salad dressing (different from mayo) is nice if you have it. Salt and pepper to taste.

Kitchen Talk Tuesdays

What are Hong Kong Cart Noodles 車仔麵? (嗱喳麵)

Cart Noodles.

A steaming bowl of noodles, served in a light soy based broth with 3 toppings of your choice.

It sounds simple, but it’s really not. Each strand of noodles leaves a lingering taste of egg; the signature of all freshly made noodles. The broth, while subtle in flavor and depth, creates a smooth balance between the rich, almost-creamy-in-texture braised meats and the soft chewy al dente noodles.

You’re not just eating noodles either. With each bite of noodle, each slurp of the broth, you’re experiencing a bit of Hong Kong’s culture through one of their oldest and culturally iconic known noodles dishes.

Originated in Hong Kong of the 1950’s, Cart Noodles (車仔麵) were meant as a cheaper solution for food. Street vendors would take their heavy wooden carts and push it alongside of the streets while yelling “嗱喳麵! 嗱喳麵” and wait as people began to form queues around the cart.

The term “嗱喳麵” is the alternative nickname for Cart Noodles that roughly translates into “the nasty noodles” – it’s been coined this term by locals and non-locals alike because of how unhygienic the noodles had been during those times. People from that generation including my parents would often recount stories of finding cockroaches or parts of rats in their bowl.

Hygenic standards have improved tremendously since then; Hong Kong now no longer has street vendors, much less any street vendors who sell cart noodles. While it’s now nearly impossible to experience the ambience and thrill of eating Hong Kong’s cart noodles by a roadside cart, you can still experience the taste of it. There are still restaurants and cafes all around and throughout Hong Kong that continue to make it and improve upon the recipe.

Cart noodle’s signature characteristic is that it’s served with 3 toppings of choice. Toppings vary vendor to vendor but popular choices include pig skin, curdled pig’s blood, pig intestine, beef ball, curry fish ball, luncheon meat (spam) and chicken wings along with a selection of green vegetables, usually lettuce.

I don’t eat cart noodles often – not because I don’t want to but because it’s now really rare to find a restaurant that specializes in just cart noodles alone and has the quality to show for it. Maybe it’s because I’ve still yet to find a truly authentic version of the cart noodles that match the expectations I’ve gotten from hearing about how incredible cart noodles can be, or because I want to continue to experience a part of my parent’s past but to date, it’s still one of the top foods I look out for whenever I’m in Hong Kong.

If you come across cart noodles in Hong Kong and it seems authentic enough, I highly recommend that you try it. If not for the taste, then at least for the experience. Remember, you’re not just eating cart noodles; you’re enjoying a part of Hong Kong’s culture and history.

Food Journey, Tainan, Taiwan

Gua Bao Cart “Tiger bites pig” 誠仔虎咬豬 [Tainan, Taiwan]

I was on my way home from one of my favorite Thai restaurants in Tainan, Taiwan when I stumbled across… you might’ve guessed it (or probably not), a food cart called 誠仔虎咬豬 or “tiger bites pig” that specializes in Gua bao.

Gua Bao is a traditional Taiwanese snack that consists of freshly steamed mantou stuffed with juicy thick slices of soy braised pork belly, garnished with cilantro, mustard greens and sprinkles of peanut powder and sugar. It’s sweet, savory, umami – all in one. A Gua bao made right is absolutely incredible; the flavors are intensely complex and rich, and the sour acidity of the mustard green balances the mouthfeel between the greasiness of the pork belly and the fresh peppery spiciness of the cilantro. It’s a snack that once eaten will leave you wanting for more.

I’m a fan of Gua bao (as if you couldn’t tell already). Whenever there’s an opportunity to eat one, I never hesitate. This food cart is exactly that case.

Kitchen Talk Tuesdays

What is Gua Bao 割包? (Also known as “tiger bites pig” 虎咬豬)

Taiwanese gua bao. A freshly steamed mantou bun sliced in half, stuffed with slices of thick, succulent pieces of braised pork belly, garnished with cilantro, and finished with a generous sprinkling of sugar and peanut powder. Mmmmm.

Gua bao (割包), alongside of milk tea, hot pot and popcorn chicken is a kind of food that can truly be representative of what Taiwanese cuisine is like. Found on the side of street sold by food vendors and making its way onto the menus of luxuriously lavish restaurants and hotels, Gua bao is served a myriad of ways: with fish, mustard greens, Taiwanese red sugar, whole peanuts, fried chicken, cucumbers, and even truffles.

Traditionally though, Gua bao is served with thick pork belly slices, cilantro, mustard greens and peanut powder. It’s been lovingly named by Taiwanese people as “tiger bites pig” 虎咬豬 because the freshly steamed mantou buns, when cut, resembles a tiger’s mouth. Add in pieces of sliced pork belly and you get exactly what the nickname claims, a tiger biting a pig.

Served hot with meat juices and cilantro shavings dripping on the side of the bun, Gua baos can truly be addicting. I personally like the traditional style best – nothing beats the texture of tender succulent pieces of soy sauce braised pork belly. The fat from the pork belly, after being simmered for hours adds such unimaginable depth to the sauce that it transcends common sense. The Gua bao as a whole doesn’t feel greasy either; the tang from the pickled mustard greens, the unmistakable peppery spiciness from the cilantro and crumbled peanut powder offsets the grease from the pork belly. Served with a few sprinklings of sugar on top, it’s a perfect balance between sweet and savory.

I’m fond of Gua bao and while I don’t eat it as often as I would given that it is still potentially heart-attack-inducing, I recommend everyone to try it at least once. It’s a great snack to give you a taste of what Taiwanese cuisine is like at a relatively low cost of 40-70NT depending on location and ingredients used. If you’ve never had Gua bao before, give it a try and let me know how you like it. I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Thanks for reading, duuck out.


Food Journey, Tainan, Taiwan

Sam’s soft-serve ice cream 霜淇淋 [Tainan, Taiwan]

You guys are probably going to hate me. I don’t know why, but I’ve never been a huge fan of soft-serve ice cream. It isn’t bad, but I prefer the texture of thick, creamy ice cream or the soft gooeyness of gelato.

That said, if someone tells me that there’s an amazing soft-serve ice cream in Tainan I have to try, you know I’m going to.

My friend made a recommendation the other day for Sam’s soft-serve ice cream, a small boutique ice cream shop on the touristy Shennong Street near the West Central District of Tainan, Taiwan. He said it was probably one of the better soft-serve ice cream he’s had in Tainan, and so of course after hearing that, I made it my mission to check the place out.

Food Journey, Must-try, Tainan, Taiwan

Shan Lin Xiang Thai Restaurant 山林香 [Tainan, Taiwan]

Oh man, oh man. I don’t even know where to begin. This restaurant, Shan Lin Xiang 山林香 is now easily one of the favorite Thai restaurants to frequent in Taiwan.

It’s funny because Tainan (the oldest city in Taiwan) isn’t even known for any other cuisine other than Taiwanese food so finding a gem like this Thai restaurant was really the last thing I would’ve expected.