As 2020 comes to a close, we’re all reflecting on what a year it has been. They’re calling it, “a year like no other.” A year that challenged us, transformed our everyday routines, and had us all grappling with anxiety, loss, grief, and frustration.
But it was also a year that connected us, made us reflect on ourselves and our society, and allowed us to care for each other in so many ways.
Many of us turned to our kitchens this year—to what may be the one of the ultimate signs of resilience in the face of uncertainty—cooking and enjoying a great meal in spite of it all.
In our family, we had our fair share of eating distanced outside, leaving meals on doorsteps, swapping recipes we normally would have made together, grabbing takeout to save our favorite restaurants, and virtual family dinners.
So many of you wrote in to tell us that our family’s recipes helped you and your loved ones through this tough time, whether it was with new cooking projects to fill the long stints at home or techniques to improve your kitchen skills, recreating flavors you didn’t know you could and rekindling memories of flavors past.
While earlier this year, we recapped all the top recipes of 2020 lockdown cooking, today we’re looking back on our most popular recipes of 2020. These were the brand new recipes you cooked through all the Zoom calls, day-pajama-to-night-pajama changes, binge-watching, and banana-bread-baking.
We were surprised to see how quickly our readers jumped on brand new recipes this year—sometimes getting into the kitchen to make them within hours of us hitting the “publish” button. It was wonderful—as always—for us to see all the great meals you shared and the comforts they brought.
It’s been a hard year, and we’re not sure what’s to come in 2021, but we’ll keep cooking!
Our Most Popular Recipes of 2020
20. Pad Thai
Kaitlin made it her mission this year to perfect Pad Thai, doing her research and watching video after video of street stall vendors in Thailand cooking up these tasty noodles. (In short, ditch the ketchup, up the sauce, and long live tamarind!) She finally perfected it, and many of those who tried it agree!
19. Salt and Pepper Tofu
We’re happy to report that the surge in plant-based cooking is still going strong! For anyone who loves Cantonese Salt and Pepper Pork Chops, this tofu version does a surprisingly excellent job scratching the itch!
18. Perfect Baked Japanese Sweet Potatoes
As everyone sought out ways to boost their immunity and develop healthy habits, our baked Japanese sweet potato guide became a go-to for fluffy, tender results every time.
17. Mango Sago
We’ve posted many Honeymoon Dessert inspired sweet soups and ice cream confections over the years, but this one was particularly popular! The squishy sago, simple mango puree, topped with more chunks of juicy mango was a sleeper hit!
16. Chicken Mei Fun
This was a simple lunchtime joy of my mom’s from her days working 9 to 5 in Manhattan. Some things don’t need much explanation. They’re just really really tasty.
15. Chicken Khao Soi
2020 escapist cooking at its best. This Khao Soi is one of those dishes that takes some extra effort to assemble, but is totally worth it in the end!
14. Taiwanese Pork Chops
With Chinatown hit hard this year, everyone was craving a Taiwanese pork chop. In New York City, you can grab a plate from May Wah Fast Food and Taiwan Pork Chop House for about $7, and be in and out in 20 minutes. The immediate gratification of the original is hard to beat (and we got many requests for the ground pork sauce that May Wah ladles over the top), but you all loved this treasure trove of pure Taiwanese goodness until it became safe to grab takeout once more.
13. White Sugar Sponge Cake – Bai Tang Gao
This bai tang gao has been consistently requested over the years, and my mom finally got it right. It may not look like much, but this is such a comfort food from childhood for so many of you!
12. Pork Ribs with Black Bean Sauce
Black bean sauce is one of the most comforting Chinese flavors. Dishes like these pork ribs come together fast (especially if you’ve blanched the ribs in advance). It’s so tasty and satisfying with a big bowl of steamed rice.
11. Yunnan Rice Noodle Soup
This humble, customizable bowl of spicy Yunnan noodles had you all running for your pantries and your stores of chili oil. We weren’t sure how popular it would be, but we were pleasantly surprised!
10. Yaki Udon
Jumbo chewy udon noodles are hard to say no to, but when they’re crisped up with dashi butter (yes, dashi butter), vegetables, and chicken in this Yaki Udon? Mmmmm.
9. Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup
It didn’t take long for you all to realize that our vegetarian hot and sour soup is just as good as our Hot & Sour Soup with pork! In fact, Kaitlin sampled it unawares and didn’t even realize it was vegetarian!
8. Vegan Pad Krapow
Some of your favorite recipes on the blog are our easy Thai basil stir fries, like our Thai basil chicken, Thai basil pork belly, and Thai basil beef. This version made with minced seitan was just as delicious! If you’re more flexitarian or plant-based rather than strictly vegan, you can add in fish sauce to make it even more delicious. (Vegans can also check out vegan fish sauce, which is made from seaweed!)
7. Zha Cai Rousi Mian | 榨菜肉丝面
It’s always delightful to see simpler, humble dishes like this one be received so well. Tasty pickled zha cai (mustard stems) is known as a bit of a lazy food—you crack open a bag and have it with rice or porridge when you’re feeling lazy. But when it comes together in a stir-fry with strips of pork, the result is an incredibly easy topping for a tasty noodle soup.
6. Chinese Cold “Salad” Dressing
This year in particular, folks were on the hunt for summer recipes that were light on effort as the fatigue of spring gave way to a brighter summertime. This simple Chinese cold “salad” dressing—that can be paired with a number of vegetables—did the trick!
5. Thai Grilled Chicken – Gai Yang
With the summer upon us, we weren’t about to let grilling season go to waste! Enter this Thai Grilled Chicken, with its lime, lemongrass, shallot and garlic heavy marinade and nam jim jaew sauce.
4. Tuna Tomato Pasta
Our pantries were the saving grace of 2020. This tuna tomato pasta has always been a family favorite—it usually shows up on our table on Christmas Eve—but this version, made with all pantry ingredients (and pictured here with carrot tops in lieu of parsley), became a reader favorite!
3. Golden Fried Rice
Golden Fried Rice is one of those rich, life-affirming dishes. Cooked rice is coated in egg yolks and stir-fried. Add in a little handful of something green and that’s it!
2. Korean Fried Chicken
While we posted our Korean Fried Chicken recipe relatively recently—just about a month ago—it quickly rose in the ranks to the #2 spot for the year. Full credit goes to our family friend David, whose love for Bonchon Chicken and expertise (born of late night chicken tender orders on more than one occasion) led him to develop this excellent version!
1. Homemade Chinese Egg Noodles
It’s not surprising that a recipe made of just the basics takes the top spot! Flour, salt, eggs, water. (No yeast!) It seemed that everyone had a renewed energy to take on foods they would never make from scratch, whether it was out of a desire to reduce trips to the grocery store, or to pass the time. Finding much solace in carbs myself, I made these at least once a week for about three months straight! (Thankfully, the fashion item of the year was sweatpants.)
There you have it! Our most popular recipes of 2020.
…Aaaaaaaand you didn’t think that Kaitlin would let this post go by without keeping a record of our third-annual competition of WHOSE CUISINE REIGNS SUPREME, did you?
Which Woks of Life family member had the most recipes on this list?
Here are the final scores from the judging table:
Judy: 7 – WINNER
It’s not surprising that in a year of upheaval, mother knew best!! We will be back next year with more recipes. Byeeeee, 2020!
Happy New Year!