It’s become a new tradition for us to look back on the year and take stock of our readers’ favorite recipes.
As we say goodbye to the 2010s and close out the decade that saw the founding of The Woks of Life (!!!), it feels particularly important to reflect on the food we ate, shared, and enjoyed with you all.
Out of *164* posts, what made these 25 recipes the most popular?
Of the 164 posts we published in 2019 (I’m reliving the grease splatters and ill-fated batch after batch of homemade rice noodles as I type), there were the stir fries that soared, simple kitchen hacks that made dinners sing, and foundational recipes like stock and Chinese hot mustard that you never realized you needed in your life.
So what are the takeaways we’re bringing into the next year—and the next decade!?
- Legends never die! We refreshed some of our most beloved recipes this year, like Char Siu Pork and Mapo Tofu with new photos and remembered why they were our favorites to begin with.
- Easy recipes win at mealtime, from my mom’s easy shredded poached chicken breast in ginger scallion sauce, to sticky sweet and sour ribs as easy as 1-2-3-4-5, and 30-minute chicken larb lettuce cups!
- FINALLY, one non-Asian recipe gets its due! Unsurprisingly, you all come here for Chinese and other Asian eats, but that hasn’t stopped us from posting the odd recipe for our favorite non-Asian recipes. My surprisingly simple home-style Mexican Rice made it onto the list! A black horse to win, if I ever saw one. Funnily, it came from another family archive of a friend, so it’s not all that surprising!
- Leveling up never tasted so good—you all were hungry for recreating truly authentic dishes that call for some handy Chinese cooking techniques like Shrimp Rice Noodle Rolls, Chinese Handmade Noodles, and Butterfly Shrimp with Bacon.
- But the basics are necessary: from the perfect all-purpose stir-fry sauce to great Asian vegetable stock to “basic” but delicious dumpling dipping sauce.
- Cantonese is still king—it’s no surprise given the immigration patterns in the U.S. that Cantonese cuisine still holds a place near and dear to the hearts of our readers. In particular, the sweets: From our Hong Kong Milk Tea to the tricky Ma Lai Go Chinese Steamed Cake and Portuguese Custard Tarts we finally mastered!
And of course, I’ll once again stir the pot of family competition with another tally of WHOSE RECIPES REIGN SUPREME in the family! So maybe the original Iron Chef died with our 90s childhoods, but he lives on here!!! As the chairman would say,
Disclaimer: In case you didn’t already realize, this is really just an excuse for the oddball youngest child to unleash a stream of consciousness on the internet.
25. Chicken Larb – Sarah
Perhaps it was thanks to Spider Man: Homecoming, but this Chicken Larb was a hit! Add some low-carb lettuce cups, having it all done in less than 30 minutes, and you’ve got a winner.
(Though the secret is that there’s crushed rice in the larb that yields the toasty and crunchy texture! Peter loves larb just as it is!). A strong opener to our list, and Sarah’s the one to beat here in Kitchen Stadium!
24. Stir-fried Chinese Green Beans with Pork – Judy
This simple stir-fry is reminiscent of everyone’s favorite Sichuan-style dry-fried string beans. But chopping the string beans adds a whole new level of texture! We enjoyed this one on our own weeknight dinner tables many times this year!
23. Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce – Kaitlin
Chicken Satay is a beloved classic, and we took extra care to sift through all the online chicken satay gospel and make sure ours had the right ratios of red curry, lime, and tangy peanut sauce!
Bonus if you make them with whole chicken thighs or chicken breasts and grill or sear them as is to save on skewer-time! So far the ladies of the family are all representing here in Kitchen Stadium!
22. Steamed Chinese Eggplant with Spicy Lao Gan Ma – Judy
As per usual, some great vegan recipes made it to the top of the heap. This easy steamed Chinese eggplant relies on a few spoonfuls of the famous, OG chili sauce: Lao Gan Ma, aka Lady Sauce (after the lady on the jar)!
21. Ma Lai Go Chinese Steamed Cake – Bill
This Ma Lai Go is a dim sum classic, perfect with a strong cup of tea. Many recipes, however, have been watered down by modern shortcuts.
It was a tough recipe to get right (so many of these steamed cakes hit our table that we were *this* close to staging an intervention, driven to the brink of our sanity and skinny jeans). But we finally got that perfect caramel flavor and fluffy texture! And with this recipe, our dad finally enters the heat of competition!
20. Steamed Eggs with Crispy Pork – Judy
This is an unexpected great addition for any Chinese meal that we whipped up on many a weeknight: silky steamed eggs are topped with flavorful crispy pork for an incredible topper for white rice. Add a vegetable, and you’ve got a protein packed dinner. January resolutions are right around the corner. Are you gonna hit your macros, bruh?
19. Chinese Tofu Sheets Stir-Fry (千张肉丝) – Judy
This may have been *our family’s* #1 dish of 2019, as once we discovered the tofu sheets at our local Chinese grocery store, it’s turned up on our dinner table almost every week!
Trust us, and make this great peppery pork and tofu sheet stir-fry! You can also literally use whatever meat and vegetables you have lying at the back of your fridge.
18. Chinese Hot Mustard – Bill
Over the years, we’ve been slowly putting our foot down on sub-par packaged foods, and Chinese hot mustard was definitely one of them!
No one should be subjecting themselves to sad coagulated packets of thin chemical mustard when you can easily make a rich, wholesome, and spicy mustard at home for your egg rolls and fried chicken wings. Booya.
17. Butterfly Shrimp with Bacon – Bill
This recipe has been requested by many people over the past year, and we dusted off some old techniques from the family Chinese restaurant to get this recipe right for you all: from the careful butterflying of the shrimp to the best technique for keeping the bacon, shrimp and egg in one delicious piece. Don’t forget the ketchuppy onions!
16. Chinese Handmade Noodles – Sarah
This was the year where we finally perfected an all-purpose handmade noodle! They come together in a snap in an electric mixer, and yield perfectly tender and chewy noodles that really hold up well to sauces or soups!
We won’t tell if you just keep using boxed spaghetti, but why oh why would you? I thought this would be the one to beat, but that late in the year publishing data is working against Sarah’s favor!
15. 1-2-3-4-5 Ribs – Judy
This was a personal favorite of mine, because of how easy and jazzy these ribs are. That sticky sweet and sour sauce that usually comes from a long braising time comes together in about 20 minutes with the easiest measurements in yes—not 1, 2, 3, or 4—but *5* ingredients! Perfect for when you want to make a big Chinese spread with minimal frenzy.
14. Boiled Daikon Radish: A Healthy, Tasty Side Dish – Judy
This was another unexpectedly popular vegetable dish. We’re always looking for healthy, tasty side dishes, and this is one of our family’s favorites, because the daikon does an incredible job of absorbing the flavor of the stock, ginger, and scallion. It’s a great change from your standard sautéed greens and tastes like Chinese home cooking at its best.
13. The Ultimate Asian Vegetable Stock – Sarah
This Asian Vegetable Stock has a remarkable flavor that in a blind taste test we may not have realized wasn’t a slow-simmering chicken and pork stock!
Yes, it’s that good. At the middle of this competition, Sarah’s pulling a strong showing, but will she have an equally strong finish at the judges’ table?!!!
12. Shrimp Rice Noodle Rolls (Shrimp Cheung Fun or “Ha Cheung”) – Judy
This may be the pride and joy of my mother’s culinary year. What you didn’t see behind the scenes was batch after batch AFTER BATCH of failed shrimp rolls. The day we cracked the code was a happy one indeed. Now we can enjoy our favorite dim sum dish at home! Let’s take a moment to admire the technique behind those glistening pillows of silky shrimp and sweet soy sauce.
11. Braised Instant Pot Pork Belly – Kaitlin
Over the years, I’ve learned the boundlessness and unexpected limits of the Instant Pot, but one delightful discovery was this braised pork belly, which comes together in a snap. And you best be saving that master stock for next time! Every time a reader told us they’d squirreled away their Soy Sauce Chicken master stock/sauce in the freezer, we were proud as proud can be.
10. Mexican Rice – Kaitlin
The moment I’ve been waiting for, a shining non-Asian beacon of a recipe, and proof that maybe we are more than our stereotype!
Okay, so maybe the chiles rellenos recipe was more work than I bargained for, but this simple, wonderful Mexican rice that I’ve been cooking for years now came from my college roommate’s family, and you all loved it as much as we do! (And kicking off the top 10, no less!)
9. Hong Kong Milk Tea – Kaitlin
This was the best discoveries of our trip to Hong Kong last year and one of my favorite recipes of 2019. It’s a deceptively fickle cuppa to pull off at home, but after lots of careful research and note-taking on the sweaty tea masters hawking the real thing in Hong Kong, I came up with the perfect flavorful—yet easy—homemade brew.
8. Chinese Stir-fry Sauce: For any Meat / Vegetables! – Bill
This all-purpose Chinese stir-fry sauce became the secret weapon for many a weeknight dinner. The best thing about it was hearing about the different variations of each of your stir fries in the comments!
7. Poached Chicken with Ginger Scallion Sauce – Judy
This was a sleeper hit of the year—we did NOT think it would be as popular as it was, but you all know an easy and tasty dinner dish when you see one. It’s got all the flavor of bai qie ji, a whole poached chicken, without the time and effort of preparing the whole bird.
6. Portuguese Custard Tarts (Pasteis de Nata) – Bill
The second we bit into silky Portuguese Custard Tarts in Macau, I knew we were in for a rollercoaster of a recipe testing process.
My dad made so many of these little tarts, with variations on the custard, and pastry cups up the wazoo. But this recipe is equal parts deliciousness and escapism, with a flaky crust and the rich, caramelized and blistered filling that transports you halfway around the world!
5. Chicken and Broccoli with Brown Sauce – Bill
This summer, I realized that we had a huuuuuge hole in our Chinese takeout oeuvre, and our recipe for Chicken and Broccoli with Brown Sauce was realized. This standby offers health, protein, and taste, so it’s no surprise it’s in our top 5!
4. Ginger Chicken – Bill
I will admit that this Ginger Chicken is a surprise for the top 5 on my part. But it’s an incredibly simple recipe, with a great, sticky brown sauce flavored with lots of shallot, ginger, and scallion. What’s not to like?
3. Perfect Dumpling Sauce – Sarah
We’ve posted many perfect dumplings, but this year we finally posted the perfect dumpling sauce! We give you the core ingredients and our suggested ratios, but as with anything, this is one of those recipes you can really adjust to your taste–and your dumplings!
2. Mapo Tofu – Kaitlin
Our Mapo Tofu, once described as the “real deal Mapo Tofu” when we posted it way back, was originally made when I was still struggling in my college kitchen. We refreshed the janky college-era photos and you all reiterated your love for it!
1. Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork) – Bill
We’ve been cooking and writing about our favorite foods for years now, but you can’t mess with the classics, and this Char Siu took the top billing! Another refreshed recipe, you all love my dad’s guide for creating perfect restaurant-quality roast pork. Pro tip: make a big batch, because you will want it.
So whose cuisine reigns supreme?
As the dust settles in Kitchen Stadium, the final verdict is in on the most popular recipes of 2019.
It’s a dead heat between the parental half of the Woks of Life! And the younger daughter—last year’s straggler, has pulled ahead of the older in the culinary upset of the year! Woohoo! Go me!!! (There are perks to being both contender and commentator.)
Judy – 8 – With a strong foundation of hits throughout the top 25!
Bill – 8 – Slow to start but with a strong finish and representation in the top 5!
Kaitlin – 5 – Surging ahead of her older sister for once, and it tastes GOOD!
Sarah – 4 – A strong performer last year, but bringing up the rear in 2019!
Until the end of next year, happy readers! In the meantime, we will continue chopping, mincing, steaming, and wokking into 2020!