What a year it’s been. We plum can’t believe it’s almost over—it passed like a blink of the eye. Sarah got married(!) and we wrote a dang cookbook. We also just moved a couple months ago, which will lead to some exciting projects here on the blog. (We’ll share more about that in the new year!)
Sometimes we laughed, and sometimes we languished. The summer of cookbook shoots was harder than we all thought, but we’re ultimately so excited about showing the work to all of you when the cookbook comes out next fall.
As for what has been going on in the wider world, the meals we ate and the people we shared them with bolstered our spirits in tough times.
some friendly family competition
In spite of the craziness of yet another year in the increasingly notorious 2020s, as I gathered the top 20 recipes of 2021, I couldn’t help but feel the familiar tickle of glee that comes with some friendly family competition…
For the past two years, the matriarch of the family, Judy/my ma has reigned supreme!
I hope that maybe this year, I’ll have a fighting chance, but something tells me that history may repeat itself…
WHOSE CUISINE REIGNS SUPREME?
Let’s find out!
OUR MOST POPULAR RECIPES OF 2021
This soup by Judy is a testament not only to her, but to our readers’ love for a taste of home—and your parents’ cooking. The bitter flavor of the mustard greens is actually mellowed after simmering, and the result is pure flavor. While the overwhelming consensus on Instagram is that most people just can’t fully embrace mustard greens, there were enough devotees out there for this soup to rank!! WOoO!
Pan-fried Belt Fish is a recipe that had everyone transfixed because of that irresistible crispy coating. This buttery, dense fish has an amazing flavor. It’s a taste of Shanghai that we’ve grown up with over generations.
My mom strikes again! Her salad was the perfect balm to the heat of summer, and who knew that thinly sliced lemon would be so refreshingly delicious and not at all too sour to be enjoyable! This was one of our favorite recipe discoveries of the year too!
It seems like every year up ’til now, we’ve missed the extremely narrow window during which you can find tender garlic scapes. This year, we were finally able to document this recipe!
by: Kaitlin (me!)
This XO Sauce Fried Rice with Chicken is a fantastically simple and incredibly satisfying recipe—whether you use our homemade XO sauce or not!
This Chinese Button Mushroom Soup was released late in the year, but you all discovered the simple brilliance of it—the deep flavor comes just from searing mushrooms and adding water, plus a few seasonings.
Vegan Korean BBQ is simultaneously the most obvious and yet most unexpected find of the year for me. I’ve always enjoyed mushrooms and onions alongside my sizzled pork belly, but with a little mental re-framing, they perform beautifully as the main event!
Laksa Instant Ramen was an inexpensive and delicious way to jazz up a package of instant noodles. As lifelong ramen eaters, this one was a particularly fun way to jazz up an old favorite!
Money Bag Dumplings were a highlight of our Chinese New Year dinner table last year. From the irresistibly fun shape, to the colors, to the bright green of the tie that holds it all together—and the taste of course—these vegan treasures are truly enjoyable to make and eat!
This is a quick shortcut to an at-home hot pot. It’s the tomato that makes it—a delicious and mild alternative to the boiling Sichuan hot pot bases favored by the masses.
I’m positively tickled that my Ham and Bean Soup made the top 10 list!!! We’ve made this soup so many times since we published it. It’s become a staple when the weather turns cold. Just the other day, I made an enormous batch—this time with a smoked ham hock as my aunt intended!
This retro classic is an affordable way to enjoy “ribs,” as boneless country ribs are cheaper cut—but just as enjoyable spread over a Chinese takeout-style fried rice. Don’t forget the hot sauce!
Our take on this flavorful and tangy Thai soup is delicious, and thanks to Sarah’s signature touch, wonderfully simple to make!
Sarah’s quite the queen of simple meat stir-fries, and this Beef with String Beans was no different. It’s a classic combination that is perfect for quick lunches and dinners.
This is an unexpectedly delicious way to prep chicken wings—though I’ll be the first to admit that chicken wings these days are pricey and hard to find. Happily, this recipe works just as well with drumsticks or chicken thighs. Just be sure that the larger cuts have a chance to get crispy, as there’s not as much skin and fat.
And so begins the top 5 countdown! Tan Tan Ramen is a Japanese take on dan dan noodles. It can be more mild, but just as delicious!
Who’d have thought that our humble Chinese Vegetarian Duck would make it this far?! Though I shouldn’t be surprised, as everyone has been in keen search of more and more excellent plant-based recipes.
I’m not surprised to see this easy Chicken Asparagus Stir-fry in the Top 3. It tore through Instagram as an easy and tasty weeknight stir-fry with easy-to-find ingredients!
In an uncertain year, this is the kind of comfort food that people needed. You really haven’t lived until you’ve had an egg with a bite of this pork and rice…
I said it before, and I’ll say it again, Sarah really is the queen of a quick ‘n easy meat stir-fry! This Beef Onion Stir-fry has elemental flavors that really shine through, thanks to the simple seasonings. Even better? It takes literally 5 minutes standing at the stove to make, as long as you’ve got a hot wok!!! 5 minutes! No wonder it’s a winner.
Whose cuisine reigned supreme?
Sooo, which Woks of Life family member had the most recipes on this list?
We’ve got an UNPRECEDENTED outcome. It’s a tie between Sarah and
ma Judy! My dad Bill is trailing uncharacteristically behind, but I have to say, it’s nice to be in third place rather than last for once heehee. We can’t blame him, as he’s been quite busy with other projects (including that new house we mentioned!).
Here are the final scores from the judging table:
Wishing everyone a healthy and happy new year ahead! See you in 2022!