Chef Matty's Mind

A look at Chef Matt Rojas' creations, ideas and thoughts.

On the menu: Daikon Salad

This is a classic Japanese daikon salad and I just had to put it on the menu because I just love it so much.  The daikon is julienned and tossed with a soy dressing made with soy sauce, mirin and yuzu.  Tiny sardines are then fried up and then used as a topping along with shiso, fried shallots and sesame seeds.  The crunchy sardines act like a crouton. It’s simple and goes great with a beer.

edOn the menu: Daikon Salad

On the Menu: Green Papaya Slaw with Crispy Shrimp

Green papaya salad is a classic dish found throughout Southeast Asia.  It’s a great salad that I enjoy very much, so I put a couple twists to it.  The green papaya is julienned and tossed with cilantro, scallions, sweet Japanese tofu and red curry dressing and then topped with fresh red chilies.  The sweet tofu balances out salty and sour flavors of the red curry dressing.  The red curry dressing is house made with fish sauce, red curry, lime and spices.  The crispy fried shrimp makes a great protein with this salad and the crunch adds another layer of texture.  I use baby shrimps, which have a thinner skin and get really nice and crispy when you fry them.  Eat the shrimp whole, no shelling required!

edOn the Menu: Green Papaya Slaw with Crispy Shrimp

On the Menu: Char Sue Pork Ribs

Spare ribs are a mainstay at just about every takeout Chinese place out there.  Everyone loves great ribs, plus a restaurant named “Char Sue” would be remiss if it didn’t have at least one hanging pork in the window!   The ribs are first marinated in a garlic brine.  Then they are brought to the precise cooked temperature using our fancy kitchen equipment.  This is done to achieve a very specific effect.  I wanted to make sure the ribs are always soft and juicy, but I also wanted the meat to have some chew, as opposed to the meat falling of the bone ribs you might find at a barbecue joint.  After being cooked to temp, the ribs are grilled and glazed with our secret sauce.

edOn the Menu: Char Sue Pork Ribs

On the Menu: Char Sue Garlic Chicken

This dish is a play on the Garlic Chicken you’ve probably had at every Chinese banquet you’ve been to.  It’s often called “House Special Chicken with Garlic”.  Sometimes it’s called “Garlic Fried Chicken”.  I’m talking about this dish: 蒜香鸡.  I love the garlic flavor and traditionally, this dish is served as a whole chicken with the skin crisped up by deep frying.

In my rendition, I wanted the meat to always be juicy and bursting with flavor so we only use thigh meat marinated in garlic, soy and Chinese celery.  The thighs are then cooked to exact temperature using our fancy restaurant kitchen equipment.  The meat is finished on the grill to crisp the skin and give it a bit of char.  Hence, our “Char Sue” Garlic Chicken!

edOn the Menu: Char Sue Garlic Chicken

On the Menu: Mapo Pork Belly

Traditional Sichuan Mapo Tofu is a famous Chinese dish that happens to be one of my favorite things to eat.  It’s spicy, hot, aromatic, tender and sometimes numbing!  Now that i’m opening my own place, I just had to put something Mapo on the menu.  In my version, I dispensed with the ground pork and upped the ante with pork belly.  I use a tweaked traditional Mapo sauce, braise the pork belly, and lay them on top of rice (or your carb of choice) and a bed of silken tofu.

edOn the Menu: Mapo Pork Belly

On the Menu: Chinese Five Spiced Short Ribs

The short ribs are seasoned with five spice, seared and then braised for hours along with daikon, onions, chilies and garlic.  I used to work on a similar dish in my days at Nobuo at Teeterhouse back in Arizona.  At Nobuo, we used oxtails in a fine dining experience.  I wanted to make a rustic dish that could be served over rice, is easy to go and fast to serve.  Short ribs are used because like oxtails, they come out soft and tender when braised for hours.  The advantage of the short ribs is that they are easier to debone, have a higher yield and most importantly, are more affordable!  This dish would also go great on noodles or in a mantou bun.


edOn the Menu: Chinese Five Spiced Short Ribs

On the Menu: Thai Green Curry Tubers

I learned this Thai green curry sauce years ago and it’s something I’ve been tweaking ever since.   It’s just a really great sauce that you can use on anything, but I thought it would be particularly great on tubers, or root vegetables.  The root vegetables used in this photo are potatoes, turnips, sweet potato and carrots.  The tubers are first roasted and then tossed in the green curry sauce.

The green curry sauce is made fresh from scratch and it’s complexity stems from the numerous ingredients required.  Aside from fresh ground green curry, it also has a blend of spices, chilies, lemongrass, galangal, coriander, ginger, scallions, cilantro, cumin and coconut milk.  This is definitely one of my favorite recipes.

One thing about the photo, the tubers are laid on top of the sauce so you can see them!  When we serve this dish, it will all be tossed together.

edOn the Menu: Thai Green Curry Tubers

On the Menu: Japanese Curry Lamb Necks

Even though many Asian cultures have their own style of curry and I have a lot of experience working with them, the Japanese curry stands out as one of my favorites.  I’ve always wanted to make a Japanese curry.

One day as I was visiting my butcher, we struck up a conversation about the different cuts of lamb.  I was thinking lamb would make a great protein for my Japanese curry dish, but I wanted to use something new.  I didn’t want to use lamb legs because they would be too dry, not to mention it’s not what you would call affordable.  My butcher then recommended lamb necks.  It’s a cut that isn’t used very often, in fact it’s not even sold in many places.  However, he was more than happy to sell them to me.  I got the feeling he was happy to get rid of them!  I figured the fat to meat ratio in the lamb necks would keep them moist and tender.  The lamb necks in this dish are marinated in Japanese curry and then braised for hours until tender.  The meat falls off the bone and goes great with rice, noodles or a mantou bun.

About the photo, the lamb necks are laid on top of fried noodles, but we felt that it wasn’t as great for soaking the sauce!  So the fried noodles as a carb are not available as menu option, but never say never!

edOn the Menu: Japanese Curry Lamb Necks

Our name: “Char Sue”

Char Sue (\ˈchär sü\ ; Chinese: 叉酥): An eatery in New York City that serves creatively new Asian Cuisine.

char siu: Cantonese, literally “fork roast”, a popular way to flavor and prepare Cantonese roasted meat, typically pork. Alternative names: char siew, cha shao, xa xiu
cha shu: Japanese, meat rolled into logs and braised of low heat for a long time.

Regions: East Asia, Southeast Asia, Chinese speaking areas

edOur name: “Char Sue”

Mushroom Palette

My favorite mushrooms laid out like a chef’s palette.

edMushroom Palette