Review of 101 Asian Dishes You Need To Cook Before You Die by Jet Tila + Recipe

The cookbook and dishes in this post were provided by Jet Tila and Melissa’s Produce but the opinions expressed here are my own.

Photo credit: Ken Goodman
Anyone who watches anything food-related to Asian-inspired dishes knows this man, Chef Jet Tila. His parents owned the famous Bangkok Market in Los Angeles, the first Thai market in the U.S. This is where he worked when he was younger and delivered ingredients to famed chefs in Los Angeles. This experience, formal culinary school training, and mastery of ancient traditions from his Cantonese grandmother, inspired him to go into the culinary world. Now, he’s a media personality with a competitive spirit with appearances on Iron Chef America, Chopped, The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Cutthroat Kitchen.

I met Jet back in 2014 at the Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival. He is the most down-to-earth, humble, and personable guy you’ll ever meet. Meeting him again in July was so exciting as he has done so much in his career over the last 3 years. He is a big inspiration to me as an Asian American foodie, food judge, and competitive home cook.

I’d like to give a big thank you to Melissa’s culinary team and Jet who prepared the following dishes with the utmost care and expertise.

In the Rock The Wok: Stir-Fry Mastery chapter, Kung Pao Shrimp, while very popular in the U.S., originated in southwest China. Jet makes a classic version but substitutes cashews for the peanuts which add a nice crunch and flavor. The dish is quite versatile so you can substitute the shrimp with meat, seafood, or tofu. The shrimp are plump with a nice snap. The sauce is rich and full of flavor. All you need is a bowl of rice and you’re set. Rating: 5/5

Photo credit: Ken Goodman
Mongolian Beef is a Chinese-American dish. The secret to this dish is the marinade which turns out tender pieces of beef. The beef is so tender and the sauce has the perfect balance of flavors: salty sweet, sour, and spicy. Another dish where a bowl of rice would be great to utilize all the sauce. You won’t want to waste a drop! Check out the recipe below! Rating: 5/5

Mongolian Beef
From 101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die by Jet Tila, Page Street Publishing Co. 2017

1½ lb (750 g) flank steak, trimmed
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp (16 g) cornstarch
2 tbsp (30 ml) water
2 tbsp (30 ml) vegetable oil

1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
3 tbsp (45 ml) oyster sauce
3 tbsp (45 ml) hoisin sauce
2 tbsp (30 ml) soy sauce
3 tsp (16 ml) white vinegar
½ tbsp (4 g) cornstarch

3 tbsp (45 ml) vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
4–6 dried chilies
½ red bell pepper, cut into large dice
½ green bell pepper, cut into large dice
½ medium onion, cut into large dice
2 green onions, sliced

Slice the flank steak across the grain into ¾-inch (19 mm)-thick slices on an angle to make planks then cut the planks into ¾-inch (19 mm) cubes. Place the steak in a shallow bowl and add the baking soda, salt, cornstarch, water and vegetable oil. Massage all the ingredients into the meat. Set it aside until ready to use, or you can cover and refrigerate for a few days.

Combine all sauce ingredients and set aside.

Heat the oil to medium high in a wok or medium sauté pan, and sauté the garlic until light brown. Stir in the beef and allow to cook undisturbed for about 30 seconds. Stir and scrape the pan and cook for another 30 seconds. Stir in all the vegetables and let them cook for about 2 minutes, until the onion starts to turn translucent.

Add the sauce, stir constantly and let it cook for about 2 minutes, until the sauce thickens.

Stir in the sliced green onions and serve.

Szechuan-Style Green Beans uses a “twice cooking” technique. They are blanched in hot oil, not quite deep-frying, and then stir-fried in a wok. The technique removes the “rawness” of the green beans and jumpstarts the cooking process. These are some of the best green beans I have ever had! The green bean flavor is intact and amplified by the flavors of the sauce – sweet, salty, zingy, and refreshing. Rating: 5/5

Buddha’s Delight – Vegetable Feast is perfect for the vegetarian or if you are just craving veggies. It’s crammed full of veggies like bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, bean sprouts, Napa cabbage, and snow peas. Tofu and mushrooms adds that meaty, protein packed texture to the dish. Personally, I would use this as a side dish to chicken or seafood. I need my meat! Rating: 4.5/5

In the Sushi, Salads And Other Veggies chapter, Chinese Chicken Salad has become a California favorite since the 1990s and is displayed on menus as an entrée salad all across the country. Jet makes this dish easy to make at home. It has all the flavors and textures you know and love about Chinese chicken salad from the crunchy cabbage and wonton strips to the sweetness of the dressing and mandarin orange segments. Rating: 5/5

You know I can’t end a review without dessert! In the Sweets: The Tastiest Way To End Any Meal chapter, Cinnamon And Five-Spice Easy Donuts shows you a donut “hack”. Yes, you can make a yeast donut from scratch, but if you don’t have time to wait for the dough to rise, these donuts are amazing! This hack includes some Asian flare by utilizing five-spice into the sugary outer goodness. It’s like pixie dust for Foodie Neverland! Rating: 5/5

If you love Asian cuisine, you need to add 101 Asian Dishes You Need To Cook Before You Die to your foodie bucket list!

For more information:
101 Asian Dishes You Need To Cook Before You Die by Jet Tila

On the search for an ingredient that you can’t find in the store, check out Melissa’s Produce.

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Sweetbread aroma sparks childhood memories at Punalu’u Bake Shop in Na’alehu, Hawaii

The menu items in this post were provided by Punalu’u Bake Shop but the opinions expressed here are my own. 

The aroma of baked goods like breads, pastries, cookies, cakes, etc. evoke memories of being in the kitchen as a child while your mom and/or grandma baked sweet delicious delights. Punalu’u Sweetbread brings back memories of my grandpa. He would load up the kitchen with my favorite foods to welcome me back home every summer – pupu rockets, Meadow Gold Guava Nectar, and Punalu’u sweetbread.

As history goes, Hawaiian sweetbread originated from sweetbread recipes of Portuguese sugar plantation workers in the 19th century. Punalu’u Bake Shop’s recipe is an adapted family recipe once prepared at a resort in Punalu’u (Ka’u District on the Big Island of Hawaii). In the 1970s, it became an instant hit with visitors and kama’aina. The Punalu’u Bake Shop opened in 1991 with on-site bakery and visitor center. Perfect stop to/from Volcanoes National Park and just down the road from the Punalu’u Black Sand Beach where you can view the Honu (Hawaii Green Sea Turtle)! You can also find their sweetbreads at most local markets like KTA Super Stores and Sack N’ Save (Foodland).

  • Fun fact: Punalu’u Bake Shop is the southernmost bakery in the United States.

My mom had never been to Punalu’u Bake Shop before. She was so impressed by the facilities and variety of baked goods made on-site. We got a tour of the bakery and see how the sweetbread is baked and fresh malasadas coming out of the hot oil. You can get a total “foodie sweet high” just from the aroma of the freshly baked sweetbreads and malasadas. So ono!

Inside the visitor center, you can grab freshly baked malasadas and a hot cup of Ka’u coffee. You can also purchase “omiyage” or gifts for your friends/family back home ranging from souvenirs to packaged baked goods. Too many choices! I wanted to take everything home. You can also grab some freshly baked items from the display case like malasadas, pastries, and desserts.

Here is a taste of some of Punalu’u Bake Shop’s tasty delights:

Haupia Filled Malasadas ($1.69) are malasadas (Portuguese donut) filled with soft cubes haupia (Hawaiian coconut pudding). If you love haupia as much as I do, it is just to die for! It is not a creamy filling like a custard but more like a cross between a pudding and gelatin. It has a creamy flavor from the coconut and is just sweet enough. The malasadas are spongy texture with a beautiful golden-brown exterior. Rating: 5/5

Bread Pudding ($1.89) is made with their traditional Hawaiian sweetbread and raisins. It is not too sweet and has a custardy texture with coconut and raisin flavor. Great way of using up extra bread at the bakery! Rating: 5/5

Taro Malasadas ($1.19) has a spongy texture with a beautiful lavender color from the taro. The purple contrasts nicely with the golden-brown exterior. The malasadas have a mild taro flavor. Rating: 5/5

Lilikoi Glazed Malasadas ($1.39) are just amazing! The glaze is sweet and tart and full of lilikoi flavor. It works great with malasadas like the perfect glazed donut. This beats out maple as my favorite glaze! The lilikoi is very fragrant and unmistakable. Rating: 5/5

Pineapple Filled Malasadas ($1.69) are light and not too sweet. This is a great choice if you are looking for tropical flavor that is not overly sweet. Hawaii’s version of the jelly-filled donut but with flavors of aloha! Rating: 5/5

If you are on the Big Island as a visitor or kama’aina, Punalu’u Bake Shop is a great place to stop and relax with the sweetness of aloha!

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars

For more information:
Punalu’u Bake Shop
Route 11
Na’alehu, HI 96772
+1.866.366.3501 or +1.808.929.7343
Hours: Daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day
Parking: Free parking in lot
Seating: Exterior

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Melissa’s Deluxe Pantry Box in this post was provided by Melissa’s Produce but the opinions expressed here are my own.