Today we turn to 50 underrated recipes that have simply flown under the radar. Under-loved and sometimes almost completely unknown (unless you counted yourself as an original reader back in the early 2010s), these recipes deserve more!
These recipes are our hidden gems, unsung heroes, long-lost loves. Heck, sometimes we’ve even forgotten about them.
If your repertoire is in need of a little shaking up, this list is the perfect way to find something new and exciting!
Don’t judge a recipe by its cover
Their reign is omnipresent and unceasing. No one ever says no to these recipes!
Everyone hunts them down! They try multiple versions!
So we’re raising a glass to our underrated recipes today. They may not have the tastiest sounding or easiest to say names. They may be cursed with our poor early days photography. Or they may have unfairly vilified ingredients like lard or *gasp* gluten.
But not every recipe can boast a sexy piece of shining pork belly. So we encourage you to give these a chance!
giddyup, round ’em up
Kaitlin here, breaking the fourth wall even more than I usually do. Sometimes these roundups can become, dare I say, tedious to write. And when you round up a bunch of already unloved, underrated recipes? Well…
As I wrote this, I thought to myself, how can I possibly make these dishes sound as alluring and tantalizing as humanly possible?! How can I make them sound so thrilling—so thrilling indeed, that the descriptions might make you feel they have the power to reaffirm not only your belief in yourself in the kitchen, but the very state of your existence!
Well, when I find myself carried away by a particularly indulgent description, I imagine that I’m none other than Nigella Lawson. Or Nigella, as she is powerfully known (no last name clarification necessary).
So, if at various points you think, “hey Kaitlin, maybe you’re getting carried away here on how this chicken salad is going to change my life,” just remember that I’m here, typing away whilst pretending I’m Nigella—utterly, completely, and totally ensconced…in an attempt to stave off boredom for both your sake and mine.
RICE AND NOODLES
Ever heard of a little preserved veg called sui mi ya cai? If you love Dan Dan Noodles, chances are you know how tasty these little bits of very un-special looking preserved veg are. This fried rice has a liberal amount PLUS bits of fried ham for a salty hit with every bite. Yummm.
This is an old recipe, but kimchi fried rice is always easy and totally satisfying thanks to the fermented deliciousness of the kimchi, the beef, and the egg on top.
For a more health-conscious choice, this completely humble fried brown rice is surprisingly delicious! It makes a satisfying meal indeed, when one is harried or perhaps coming off of one too many indulgences. We made this with beef, but you can substitute virtually any proteins and vegetables you have on hand.
Saozi Mian is a noodle soup from Shaanxi province made with a variety of colorful ingredients. The soup itself is spicy, fragrant, and slightly sour. It looks a bit like the kitchen sink, with noodles, pork, mushrooms, potato, carrots, and bright green chives and scallions, but the broth is the secret to its magic. Mmm…
A classic lo mein combination that doesn’t get enough love compared to beef lo mein! This is the perfect thing to make if you’ve got some char siu squirreled away in the freezer. And if you’re not freezing leftover char siu…well, I encourage you to start!
The secret to this bowl of noodle soup is a small spoonful of pork lard. I know that this must be eliciting some gasps of horror from at least some of you, but it’s a convenient, traditional, and cost-effective way to get the flavor of a long-simmered soup! You have to taste it to believe it.
If this were a 90s rom com, Beef Chow Fun would be the Cool Kid that you think you want to date, and Vegetable Chow Fun would be the Nerd Waiting to Turn into a Butterfly that you end up with. Okay so maybe that’s a little strong, but the vegetable version is really tasty!
This is an easy and comforting soup that we gobbled down bowlful after bowlful until this entire wok was totally gone! Nuff said.
This is a recipe that my hard-to-impress-mother has requested time and again in the years since we’ve blogged it. The golden breadcrumbs, ample amount of luscious anchovies coating the noodles, the parsley, and the liberal sprinkling of grated parm at the end makes it a sensation and cherished dish in my pasta repertoire.
These tea eggs may seem fussy, but you won’t be complaining when the next day you have a fragrantly delicious breakfast or snack. Bonus if you chow down with Shanghai scallion pancakes, a Shanghai scallion qiangbing (flatbread), or you tiao. Breakfast. Of. CHAMPIONS.
Seitan puffs are one of our favorite ways to enjoy this protein. It’s impossibly delicious when combined with verdant pea tips. This is a one wok meal that my mother (once again, hard to impress) happily makes again and again.
A sweet and mild napa cabbage plus Chinese black vinegar is a flavor match made in heaven. A few dried chilies tossed into the wok gives it a very mild warm burn. You could eat this with a bowl of rice and some scrambled eggs for dinner and be a very happy camper.
This recipe can be made with just about any variety of crunchy lettuce. Forget your regular rotation salad for a moment and try the dynamic combination of oyster sauce + cooked lettuce. Remember when I said that some of these wouldn’t sound good but that they taste good? Click! Cook!
When lotus roots are in season, you may be at a loss for how to prepare them without whipping out a complicated Chinese New Year dish or a long simmered soup. This stir-fry is the perfect solution for getting a healthy and diverse mix of veggies into your rotation.
10 minutes. TEN MINUTES.
When daikon is in season it’s one of my parents favorite foods to eat. Paired with sweet carrots, this makes for a healthy and tasty side dish.
Stir fried cucumbers sounds like it wouldn’t be good, but it is astoundingly satisfying, especially when paired with wood ear mushrooms. This vegetarian version uses bean threads, but you can also make our traditional Moo Shu Pork recipe, which is similar and also totally under-loved.
Vegetarians and vegans out there looking for an excitingly interactive dish, this vegetable moo shu is perfect!
A prime example of a dish cursed by early days photos! This easy tofu noodle stir fry is a dish we grew up eating and loved as kids. It was always satisfying and tasty.
CHICKEN & DUCK
A comforting claypot meal where everything goes in and comes out silky, earthy, and lusciously delicious. Add some veg, and it’s a taste of Chinese home-cooked comfort.
A can of sha cha is a secret weapon. It’s bursting with umami and just a scoop makes a boring old chicken stir-fry explosively flavorful!
This duck does not look like much—no it does not look like much at all. However, the brilliantly simple combination of salt and Sichuan peppercorns nearly cures the meat and gives it soul you wouldn’t have thought possible.
When this sour plum duck comes up in conversation (as it is wont to do more than one would think—even when you’re in our line of work), my mom’s eyes go misty, and she can’t help but gush at how tasty it is. My dad doesn’t make it nearly enough, but if you need an unorthodox special occasion meal, this is the ticket. Make sure to buy a plump duck so there’s plenty of meat for your labors.
Wouldn’t it be nice if THIS were what we thought of when we heard the words, “Asian Chicken Salad?” And not the other one with the crispy noodles and mandarin oranges?
Thinly, thinly sliced lemon like this is best achieved with a Chinese cleaver. This combination is a refreshing wonder to taste. It’s just plain old delicious lemon, utterly transformed by spice and fresh herbs.
A spicy, crispy, and heady fried chicken inspired by the cumin-tinged flavors of Xinjiang. Don’t let the questionable food styling and blurry photos deter you!
A simple one-pot braise that yields a stickily delicious and impressive dinner. A side of rice and veg is all you need.
When salt, pepper, and ample chicken skin surface area meet over a hot flame, the results are transformative and much more than the sum of their parts. Just read through some of the comments—the few people who’ve tried this recipe are blown away by how much flavor just salt, pepper, and fire can impart. We make this recipe regularly every summer.
In general, people should be making better use of their chicken bones. Not to break character, but Nigella gave us the great tip of freezing cooked chicken carcasses and chicken bones (from large cuts like leg quarters, deboned chicken thighs, etc.) until you have a critical mass to make a stock.
BEEF & PORK
This stew doesn’t look like much, and the names of the ingredients don’t inspire much confidence for the uninitiated (“sour…cabbage…”), but the the strong flavors are so delicious, and the recipe is so simple that we make this during the week as a matter of routine.
When you dip the pork belly into little bowls of soy sauce and minced raw garlic, you’ll find yourself gobbling up piece after piece, punctuating each bite with sour cabbage (sauerkraut is a shockingly credible substitute) and rice.
Three pepper chicken is a delicious dish thanks to the crispiness of the deep fried bits of chicken. This version takes that principle and multiplies it x10 with pork belly, which crisps effortlessly.
Another opportunity to use boiled pork belly as a blank canvas. Spicy. Garlicky. Peanutty. Totally delicious.
A packet of pressed tofu has long been a champion in our kitchen. It’s the stuff of rapid weeknight stir-fries that are more satisfying than they ought to be, based on the time they take to prepare. This recipe is one crystallized iteration of a stir-fry that my mother has whipped up countless times with whatever vegetables we happen to have on hand.
“The rib” in a Chinese takeout joint can take a few forms—there’s the rib tip, the bone-in spare rib, and then these, a cost-effective workaround referred to as “boneless spare ribs” that really uses pork butt. Any of these are delicious—but you’ve gotta make sure to nail the fried rice too for maximum enjoyment.
The comments section for this recipe is filled with people who thought they would rue the day they decided to make this admittedly slightly fussy recipe and then realized that their labors were entirely and completely worth the trouble. It does have the much derided GLUTEN—unsophisticatedly referred to as “gluten balls” no less—but if you haven’t turned your back on gluten, give this recipe a try when you want to lay something that feels festive and special onto the dinner table!
A recipe like this is simply delicious. It doesn’t have a clear provenance. It exists to showcase the versatility of pork belly and to help you take on even your most finicky eaters.
Slice upon slice of juicy char siu with its bright red glaze soaks into a crunchy roll, coated in a potent mixed garlic oil that is so garlicky it becomes ever so slightly spicy. Add in even more heat with Chinese hot mustard, and then mellow it out with a slicked on layer of duck sauce for a magical sandwich that has origins in the storied resort years of the Catskills.
This decadent treat lies in the grey zone between savory and dessert. It makes for the perfect breakfast item, afternoon—or anytime—snack. And, for anyone thinking it and doubting themselves: why not have a char siu-stuffed bun for dessert?
This rather ornate dish is more complicated-looking than it is. The result is something more luscious than eating braised pork belly with rice thanks to the ground rice that coats the pork when it’s uncooked and slowly expands and aborbs the pork juices during steaming, encasing each piece of pork in a cloud of comforting rice.
Sarah’s carnitas recipe is firmly engraved in the family archives. We’ve made this recipe so many times over the years (she used it to feed the family at her wedding weekend!) that if you didn’t ever make it, we simply wouldn’t care because it’s mostly here for us. But we’ll be thrilled when you love it just as much as we do.
Skirt steak is an underrated cut that we love to eat with rice, beans, and chimichurri. Rest assured that this chimichurri has been through the internet gauntlet. Horrified Argentineans thoroughly scolded me for living in the dark, omitting oregano and red wine vinegar. The two are quintessential chimichurri ingredients which definitively makes the sauce much, much better.
This crispy fried flounder is the stuff of Chinese banquets, but it’s not so hard to pull off at home when you can cook it with a smaller flounder from the fishmonger. When we go out on fishing trips and bring back a fresh fluke, nothing beats a classic Cantonese preparation like this!
This fish is probably not all that popular, because if you enjoy it or eat it with any regularity it’s likely that your Chinese mom or grandma is already there to prepare it for you. (Or in our case, grandpa—it was the one dish he was excellent at making, and the only dish he would nudge my grandma away from the stove to make.)
For those of you who have never tried it, it’s a revelation. Pork isn’t the only meat that’s transformed by the hong shao braising treatment. The fish is remarkably tasty, and the sauce is addictive spooned over rice.
This is one of my dad’s personal favorites. It was inspired by a trip to New Orleans, where you can find the best shrimp étouffée.
Whole shrimp is definitely intimidating, but if you love shrimp, this dish is a concentrated explosion of shrimp flavor that’s not at all fishy. It’s all in the technique, which calls for multiple rounds of flash frying the shrimp in oil. Nothing that gets added in is too strong or assertive. It’s all about amplifying the deep flavor of the shrimp.
A simple cheesecake that’s not too heavy and not too sweet is a thing of beauty, and this is our family’s version. Top it with an easy strawberry sauce—no need for fussy arrangements. We just let the strawberries tumble out of the saucepan onto the cake and cascade over each slice as we cut into it.
Plain iced tea goes to new heights with the addition of tangy tamarind. You can either use the easy shortcut of tamarind concentrate or better yet, go the extra mile of reconstituting tamarind in hot water and straining out the seeds to make your own paste.
This delicate and wobbly dessert is made with a brilliant elixir of milk and egg. Top it with fresh fruit or perhaps granola—even a drizzle of honey if you like extra sweetness. It’s a particularly good dessert for the very young and the very old, as there’s not too much sugar, and it’s easy to eat.
Sarah’s yellow cake is the result of years of careful study and unfulfilled yellow cake hopes and dreams. This is *the* yellow cake that you want. Fluffy, cakey but not too dense, and cheerfully golden rather than wishy washily beige, this yellow cake never disappoints us.
Even we are guilty of not making this dessert nearly as often as we should. I will go ahead and blame this past year’s poor peach harvest (a late spring frost put a tragically sizable dent in the year’s yield here in Jersey). But there’s always next summer to dream of and wait for when we can once again grace our grills with drippy, fragrant peaches.
Where is the love for the dessert soup, we ask? People will nosh on smoothie bowls with fruit, granola, and chewy chia seeds, so why not these lightly sweet bowls of coconut, fruit, and sticky rice? I implore you to open your minds—only for your own good and enjoyment.
Give these underrated recipes a chance, folks, and happy cooking!