Many students are curious about how I learned to cook. They wonder if my mom or dad taught me when I was little, teaching me to fold dumplings fifty different ways. I do not want to ruin this fantasy, but I never cooked with my parents when I was little. NEVER. When I was little, my father hired an old lady from the countryside to cook for us. Her last name was Sun, so we all called her Miss Sun.
My father was a businessman, and even though he enjoyed cooking, he hardly had the time. Occasionally, when Miss Sun had her day off, he would cook milkfish porridge. Milkfish aquaculture started around 800 years ago in the Philippines and spread into Indonesia, Taiwan, and into the Pacific. While it is very popular in Taiwan, milkfish is almost impossible to find in the USA. In my memory, my father's milkfish porridge was the most delicious porridge I have ever had!
Even though I have happy memories of my father cooking us milkfish porridge, I missed out on a lot of bonding time because he was so busy. My family could be considered "old school" from an American's perceptive. My father worked, and my stepmother took care of the household. (My mother passed away before I turned one, and my dad remarried.) I rarely spent quality time with my dad. I don't have any photos of us doing father-daughter activities. Sometimes my stepmother, stepbrothers, and I would tag alone when he had a business trip. He would have meetings all day and would hire a driver and a limo to take us to the zoo and theme parks. We usually didn't see him until dinner time.
In the USA, many men like to spend time with their families and create memories with them through cooking. And I get to teach dads how to cook in their homes, so they can cook with their families. My client, Michael, called me before we started our first baking lesson. He told me how he remembered cooking with his father when he was little, and he wanted to do the same to his two daughters. My mission is never just about cooking and eating. It's not just about passing the techniques to my clients. It is about creating delicious memories.
If you want to host a "Cooking with Dad" summer party, my top choice on the menu would be a salmon burger. Salmon is tasty and nutritional—credited with everything from extending your life span to preventing heart attacks and cancer. Salmon possesses a high amount of omega-3, and each serving is packed with tons of vitamins, minerals, and protein. When you go to the market, you may notice there are many kinds of salmon. My suggestion is wild-caught salmon—if the budget allows.
I like to make the salmon burger buns from scratch—although you don't have to. If you enjoy making bread from scratch, like my clients, Michael and Steve, I provide a bun recipe. I made many buns when I worked at Farmstead Table, a farm to table restaurant in Newton Center. Our chef would sauté the diced onions in duck fat, which I would add to the burger buns. The aroma of sautéed onions in duck fat was truly heavenly. It's the most delicious burger buns ever. I can devour the buns by themselves!
Super Salmon Burger
For the Farmstead Table Onion Burger Buns
- 3 1/4 cup of water
- 5 eggs
- 5 ounces of vegetable oil
- 10 tablespoon superfine sugar
- 3/4 cup toasted onion
- 28 grams yeast
- 24 grams salt
- 62 ounces all-purpose flour
- Egg wash: one egg and one tablespoon of water
For the Salmon Patty
- 2 1/4 pounds salmon belly
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup minced red bell pepper
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 teaspoon five spice powder
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon chili paste
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the Red Pepper Aioli
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 clove of garlic peeled and chopped optional
- ¼ teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 red pepper roasted skin removed, seeded, and puréed
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice or wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup vegetable oil
To make the Farmstead Table Onion Burger Buns
- Sauté the diced onions with butter (or duck fat).
- Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients—by mixer or bread machine—to make a soft, smooth dough.
- Cover the dough and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours or until it's nearly doubled in bulk.
- Gently deflate the dough and divide it into 30 pieces. (Each piece will weigh about 4 1/2 ounces on a kitchen scale.) Shape each piece into a round ball. Flatten the balls to about 3" across. Place the buns on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover, and let rise for about an hour, until noticeably puffy.
- Brush the buns with the egg wash.
- Bake the buns in a preheated 375°F oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden. Remove them from the oven.
- Cool the buns on a rack.
To make the Salmon Patty
- Cut salmon into small 1 inch chunks. Chop in a food processor. Careful not to over process the fish—you are not looking for paste.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients, and add the salmon. Combine thoroughly. Cook a small patty of the mixture to adjust for seasoning.
- Make patties and grill until cooked through. The internal temperature should be over 145°.
To make Pepper Aioli
- Whisk together yolks, mustard, garlic, lemon juice or vinegar, and salt. Slowly whisk in oil, teaspoon by teaspoon. When ⅓ to ½ of the oil has been added, add the remaining oil in a slow steady stream. If mixture becomes too thick, thin it with a little water or lemon juice.
- Adjust seasonings. Whisk in the puréed red pepper.
- Place in refrigerator until ready to use.
To assemble burgers:
- Brush buns with butter and toast lightly under a broiler or sauté pan. Spread the aioli on the bottom bun, place cooked patty and another dollop of aioli, and serve.
Join Our Community at Patreon
Perks for Friends of Food Patrons only:
Friends of Food is a digital members-only community designed to empower and connect food folks alike.
- Invitation to private community & food folk directory
- Access to a highly vetted network of Chefs
- One hour Zoom cooking lesson once a month
- Cookbook club + happy hour once a month
- 30 mins cooking consultation
- E-mail us your cooking questions and we will get back to you with our best answer within a week.
- Polls (Help us choose a topic for an upcoming video + more!)
- Behind-the-scenes / Bloopers
- Exclusive perks from brand partners
Chief Entertainment Officer
Melissa is 100% MIT (Made in Taiwan), where she worked as a food writer. She’s also worked alongside renowned chefs like Ming Tsai and Joanne Chang, honing her craft and gathering stories along the way. Part story-teller, part educator, and part food lover, Melissa brings a special blend of experience, skill, and enthusiasm to her work. She blends her Asian background, her new home of New England, and love of food and culture to bring joy, optimism, and inspiration to food lovers and fun-seekers everywhere.
What sparked your passion for the industry?
The desire to make things by hand. The joy of sharing delicious, hearty food with students. The opportunity for people to get connected via cooking and baking. When a child smiled broadly and told me it’s the best scone he has ever made and eaten, it really made my day!
In your opinion, what’s the most important course?
Well, I usually take a peek at the wine list first. I like tapas style, so the course doesn’t really matter. Cheese and charcuterie are always a good place to start. And since I’m a pastry chef, there is always room for dessert!
Bill Gates is picking up your tab, where would you go?