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cookbook Modern Asian Kitchen

Kat Lieu, author and Asian cooking influencer, cooks with son Phil. Photo courtesy Kat Lieu

Kat Lieu makes Asian cooking easy for families

New book Modern Asian Kitchen is winning raves

Kat Lieu, the former physical therapist turned full-time author, recipe developer, and food influencer, loves three things: Asian food (obviously), writing, and family. 

Lieu, a Seattle resident and mom to 11-year-old son Phil, believes in the benefits of kids and parents cooking together and hopes that her newest cookbook, Modern Asian Kitchen, will inspire families to do it more frequently.

The book is Lieu’s second book in as many years. Her 2022 release, Modern Asian Baking at Home, won raves and robust sales, and Lieu’s Subtle Asian Baking FaceBook page and Instagram pages are popular at nearly 160,000 subscribers each. Lieu expects to release her third book, 108 Asian Cookies, in 2025. That’s a  lot of success for a woman who wanted to be a writer at age 21 but spent 13 years as a doctor of PT because she was told, “Asian culture will not sell.”

Seattle’s Child reached out to Lieu to discuss her newest book and her hope for families who use it. 

Seattle’s Child: Why this book? Was there a need you hoped it would fill?

Kat Lieu: Food is my career now, but it’s also a daily bane of my existence. Meal-prepping and planning for the week has always been a struggle, especially since everyone at home has different preferences and tastes. [This book is about] sharing with the world of busy parents, remote workers, and normal people like me meals that are fast, easy, delicious, and budget-friendly. [It’s for people] who just have to put a hot meal on the table every day for their family. My goal with this book is to show people how easy it is to achieve restaurant-quality Asian dishes at home and to continue building a love and appreciation for Asian cuisine, flavors, and ingredients. And finally, to tell some stories.

SC: How do you choose what to make for your family?

Lieu: I have a handwritten book with all my recipes, the ones I cook every week, on rotation. It’s everything I love to eat, and since I have good taste, what I like to eat tends to be what my family loves to eat. I have a pho recipe for our pho nights and simple one-pan recipes like roasted salmon for nights when it’s already 5 p.m., and I have nothing planned for dinner. Salmon takes 10 minutes to marinate and about 15 to 18 minutes to roast in the oven.

SC: Do you try out your recipes on your kid?

Lieu: Does my husband count as a kid? [My son] Phil is turning eleven this fall. I always try my recipes on him, and we actually cook and bake together. We make a lot of sushi rolls, poke bowls, and sashimi together. He seasons our steaks and gives ideas for what I should make for dinner or weekend brunches. He’s a great foodie and knows how to balance flavors like a little chef.

SC: Why involve kids in cooking?

Lieu: I involve Phil in cooking and baking because it builds his appreciation for the person putting the cooked food on the table. He sees how I prep the ingredients, season the meats, and cook everything. I don’t know what the future holds for him — will he get married in the future? Will he eat out all the time? I want him to be able to cook simple meals for himself, and I get to leave him with all my recipes so he can remember and recreate my food when I’m gone. Also, he hasn’t been to Hong Kong or the Philippines yet, so I want him to experience the flavors and ingredients of his rich, mixed heritage early on.

SC: What do you want for your books?

Lieu: I hope parents find it fun to cook from my cookbooks and make it a family experience. I hope they have their children read through the recipes, pick something to cook, and that they enjoy delicious food together. In writing my cookbooks and experimenting in my kitchen, I found joy in food again, and it’s no longer dreadful to prep or plan a meal. When you eat something you cook, and it tastes as good as a restaurant, you save money and feel a sense of pride. And it’s healthier, too. You control the amount of sodium, sugar, and fats that go into your dishes.

SC: Are the recipes in the book modern adaptations of your own family recipes or brand new?

Lieu: Modern Asian Kitchen is very special, and it’s unlike other cookbooks in that it has a mix of my modern creations and modern adaptations of tried and true recipes. For example, I recreated a laksa from listening to my good friend Jamie describe the best bowl of laksa she had during her trip to Singapore. There’s my pho, which tastes as good as pho you make in 48 hours, but I make it in less than 2 hours. I got the recipe from my Vietnamese auntie Eva, whom I visited a few years ago in San Francisco. It took her the entire day to make a chicken pho. I took her recipe, used an instant pot, and recreated it. 

Then there’s my gochujang chocolate mochi cake, a one-bowl or one-blender cake you can turn into brownies. It’s so good that a Seattle brewery, Lucky Envelope Brewing, turned it into a chocolate stout. There are also recipes from members of my online baking group, Subtle Asian Baking. They’re all recipes from grandmothers or mothers of my group members, and I loved sharing and telling their stories.

SC: Any recipes in the book you feel are particularly “family-friendly?”

Lieu: Not to toot my own horn, but the beauty behind my recipes is that they are highly customizable, like my very easy-peasy sushi bake. Don’t like salmon? Use fake crab meat or scallops. Or make it completely vegan with tofu and veggies. That’s a very family-friendly and easy recipe. The onigiri or rice balls are hit because you can add spam or canned tuna or, again, make them vegan. A family-friendly dessert that anyone loves is halo-halo or Filipino mixed ice. It’s colorful and highly customizable, like an adventure in a glass.


cookbook Modern Asian Kitchen

Gochujang Chocolate Mochi Cake from Kat Lieu’s Modern Asian Kitchen cookbook. Photo courtesy Kat Lieu

Gochujang Chocolate Mochi Cake

From Modern Asian Kitchn by Kat Liey

“Chocolate lovers, this is the cake for you. It’s not too sweet, has a fun chew, and will undoubtedly be a stunner at any potluck. If you love to spice things up, drop a heaping tablespoon of gochujang into the batter. Then decorate the cake however way you’d like, because you can’t really go wrong with a beautiful chocolate canvas like this. Enjoy the cake hot, right out of the oven, or give it a day for the mochi to cure. The cake will be chewier then.”

Prep Time: 15 minutes; Cook Time: 50 minutes; Yield: one 8-inch (20-cm) cake 

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs (about 3.5 ounces or 100 g)
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon miso or 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Up to 1 heaping tablespoon (17 g) gochujang, adjust to taste
  • 1 cup (235 ml) milk
  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • About 17/8 cups (296 g) glutinous rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon (8 g) cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons (14 g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/3 cup (60 g) finely chopped or flaked semi-sweet chocolate

Optional toppings

  • Confectioners’ sugar
  • Cocoa powder
  • Paprika
  • Sliced strawberries
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Edible gold flakes

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) with a rack in the center. Generously grease with cooking spray or line an 8-inch (20-cm) round cake pan with parchment paper (including the rim).

2. In a large bowl or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk together the eggs, sugar, condensed milk, miso (or salt), and gochujang. Once the mixture is fluffy, whisk in the milk and melted butter until combined. Sift in the dry ingredients: baking powder, glutinous rice flour, cornstarch, and cocoa powder. Mix until well combined.

3. Pour the mochi batter into the prepared pan. Spread on the chocolate chips or chopped chocolate, evenly distributing them around the top of the cake. Bake until an inserted toothpick or bamboo skewer comes out clean and the top is semi-cracked, with a brownie-like crust, about 50 minutes.

4. Remove from the oven and let the cake cool in the pan itself, or take it out to cool on a wire rack. If you prefer cakes sweeter, drizzle with a liquid sweetener of choice.

Decorating with sliced fruits, like strawberries, gives the cake a beautiful pop of color, and if you love edible gold flakes like I do, add them! Dust with confectioners’ sugar and/or cocoa powder, if desired, slice, and serve.

5. Store the leftover cake in an airtight container. It should still be good and chewy the next day.

Note: If you prefer a nonspicy chocolate cake, simply leave out the gochujang. Please note that most gochujang isn’t gluten-free, so including it makes this cake not gluten-free.

Make it vegan: Substitute the eggs with 3.5 ounces (100 g) silken tofu, the condensed milk with vegan condensed milk (available at health food stores or online) or agave syrup, the milk with water or plain plant-based milk, the butter with vegan butter or neutral oil, and use vegan-friendly chocolate chips.

Read more:

Our family kitchen: Three-generation pot roast

Pushing back against ‘mommy wine’ culture

Kids need whole grains for optimal health

About the Author

Cheryl Murfin

Cheryl Murfin is managing editor at Seattle's Child. She is also a certified doula, lactation educator for NestingInstinctsSeattle.com and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at Compasswriters.com.