Good Eats

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

It's been quite a while since my last post, during which I did a rather hellish OB/GYN round and a physically exhausting but also highly entertaining GS round. And now it's finally summer holidays! So an update on what I've recently been up to, and things I would like to do during my newfound (and short-lived) freedom. Predictably, it's all about food.

In fact, it's high time I updated my bookmarks list, mainly because the traffic I contribute to certain food blogs and cooking channels on Youtube far, far outstrips the sum total of the visits I make to those websites to the right column in the past year. In addition to Smitten Kitchen, 101 Cookbooks and Simply Recipes, I've discovered Foodwishes, Cooking With Dog, ShinShine, and Eat a Duck I Must (the last title which I find really cute: a phonetic approximation of the Japanese "itadakimasu" into English). I've also found the various guides to ethnic food to be a rich repository of surprisingly excellent recipes.

So some of the things I've recently cooked:
  • Za'alouk. Normally I scoop it up with crusty bread, but this time I sliced the bread, drizzled with olive oil and toasted, rubbed with a garlic clove, and served up the za'alouk bruschetta style. Huge success.
  • Eggplant parmigiana. I have two recipes, from Jamie Oliver and Simply Recipes. I made my sauce like Oliver because given a choice, I seem to always take the more tortuous route (but it was fun, and also less involved than the recipe would have you think). I still went with battering and frying the eggplant (as is traditional) rather than simply grilling it. Because who doesn't love fat?
  • Tuna pizza. I ran across the recipe on (believe it or not) the About Moroccan Food guide, and apparently this is the most popular style of pizza in Morocco. Not having a pizza stone or the temerity to try my hand at making the dough myself, I lined up the toppings (tomato sauce, sriracha swapped for harissa, tuna, olives, red onions, and cheese) on a tortilla and it worked out fine.
  • Makhani murgh, also known as butter chicken. I really liked Journey Kitchen's approach: grinding the stronger and more fragrant spices with the almonds together, separately from the spices that go into the yogurt marinade, and again stewing the tomatoes separately and adding cream at the very end. It's this layering of flavors that elevates this curry house staple far beyond Campbell's Tomato Soup (which is seriously the way a place near my house does it... yet everyone I know really likes it there, which mystifies me.)

  • This phớ bò was an absolute labor of love, and oh the layering of the flavors looks almost too much for what seems like a "simple" bowl of noodles: the char-grilled onion and ginger root, dry-roasted spices, beef bones simmered for hours to draw out and mature all the flavors, and finally the scatterings of fragrant cilantro and the clean-edged heat of green pepper. One may wonder if it was worth it, but because I'm so intimate with the whole process that went into the dish, I can appreciate much better the intricacies of the resulting flavor, even if it was—in this case—unavoidably Koreanized.
  • Cooking With Dog has awakened in me a new enthusiasm for Japanese cuisine, and the first recipe I actually tried was the tamagoyaki, which is basically the Japanese version of the 계란말이 from my childhood. I hadn't yet got the knack of cooking the layers of egg without browning them when I did the version you see at the top of the page, and I put in too much soy sauce so it looks an unappetizing shade of gray. But still, don't tell me you'd refuse a platter like that for a midnight snack, eh?*
And some of the things I have lined up to cook:
  • Patatas bravas. I cooked this today, following Chef John's recipe from Foodwishes. It's a multistep affair: boiling the potatos in flavored water until just barely cooked, cooling and drying in air, and deep-frying, finally tossing with flavored salt and covering with an allioli sauce. For all the steps involved, it was a surprisingly short time before I had the potatoes done and on the table.
  • I really never considered a plate of wienerschinitzel as anything more than Austrian donkassu. I still don't think of it as any more than donkassu, but the description of what schnitzel can be like when properly done is mouthwatering: a golden puffed up crust with a sandy texture that melts in your mouth to reveal succulent juicy meat inside. If that doesn't get you, everything else on the plate just might: Viennese cucumber salad, warm potato salad dressed in vinegar and pickled onions, and tender, succulent lettuce rich with a fragrant oil, like pumpkin seed or hazelnut.
  • I relish Korean food, which makes it come as all the more of a surprise that I never cook it for myself. Possibly Korean dishes don't fire my imagination like more exotic recipes do, or I find the prospect of making all those banchan too daunting. Whatever the reason, I feel a little ashamed of myself, as if I'm betraying my heritage. Then I discovered ShinShine, which made cooking Korean look attractive again. I plan to try my hand at some banchan soon: braised black beans and lotus root, tofu battered in egg and pan-fried, and various namul dishes seems like a good place to start.
  • Grilled mackerel with blistered skin and succulent flesh, possibly served up with blackened tomatoes or rose petal harissa. The harissa recipe I got from, and while it seemed so nifty at first, I'm less enthusiastic about it now, and while rosewater and edible roses are not that hard to come by, it requires jumping through a few hoops to get, so we'll see.
  • I have a side of salmon on order, cured in the gravlax style, which I got for a steal. I've got quite a few plans for it: a sort of salmon nigiri-zushi I've made before, more like a salmon-rice petit-four, with layers of flying fish roe and remoulade sandwiched in between layers of rice, and the salmon in place of frosting. Then I'm also planning to grill some of it and serve it with fondant potatoes and green beans. The rest I'll use to top ochazuke, perhaps the humblest recipe of the three, but the one I've been looking forward to the most... mostly for the visual effect of the sunrise-tinted flesh against mellow leaf-green water.
Phew. This list is very long, for one, and for another, cuts across all sorts of national boundaries. I think that's a very good thing, quite an improvement from my repertoire as of a year ago, when I was mostly cooking the Italian-influenced, Jewish-influenced, French-influenced but in the end mostly Americanized recipes that occupies most of the popular recipe sites out there. And while, okay, though French food can blow your mind if done properly, I wonder if the cuisines of less exalted countries and cultures are not actually objectively superior: Mediterranean, Middle-eastern and Southeast Asian cuisines just seem so much more varied, more intricately flavorful, and packed to the gills (sometimes literally, Anglos just don't eat enough fish) with nutrition. And I bet that's just scratching the surface: I haven't even properly got started on Caribbean or Ethiopian or Ghanaian cuisine yet. So many rich culinary heritages out there, and don't you agree that they deserve so much more than being relegated to the "ethnic" corner of the cookbook, a token recipe in place for each nation in a half-hearted attempt at political correctness?

But that's enough of my soapbox talk. Dear reader, what are you cooking up these days?

*Unless you follow Kosher / Halal law. Or are gluten-intolerant. Or allergic to eggs. In which case I totally understand.



gordsellar said...

Yeah, food blogs have really done a lot for me lately.

I have to try Za'alouk. If you like that, you'd like baigan barta, it's close but a little different.

Pho Bo... there's a place in the backpacker district of Saigon (I know, ugh) but they serves bowls of the stuff for, I don't know, a buck or two, and the broth is so rich, so thick, so good. I would say the key is a slow cooker, ox tail, and a lot of boiling the broth down to thicken it. Served with a baguette. I have a snap of it someplace, wonderful stuff. I plan to master it before we leave. Oh, and they serve it with a plate of holy basil, which you can eat raw or pluck leaves and throw them into the soup. (A lot of food is accompanied that way here.)

I agree that foods from around the world -- meaning, dishes mostly perfected by people who resemble me not very much at all -- deserve a place outside the "ethnic" corner. For one thing, the food is often less insanely unhealthy than a lot of popular American dishes, and often also less meat-centric, which is good.

You know what I wan to make? 닭도리탕 of a quality to rival that of the place I recommend everyone in Jeonju. (Gilsonnae, across the street from Jeonbukdae Gu Jeong Mun. I seriously recommend making a pilgrimage there, if you have a day before school starts.) I am pretty sure with a slow cooker (to make the broth), and a little dwenjang, and perhaps some misutgaru, we could pull it off.

(Please pardon the kludgy romanizations, by the way, I'm lazy and don't feel like switching alphabets, I haven't set up the IME shortcuts on my Mac yet.)

Ha, does culturing a ginger beer plant the old fashioned way count? I am about to do that. I will be making kombucha soon (a local contact gave me a traditional Vietnamese recipe for culturing up a mother) but since it takes 45-60 days for the mother culture to form, I'm waiting till we move. By then, I should have some ginger beer plant and my contact will have some kefir grains. Which leads me to ask -- kimchi aside, have you ever tried home fermentation? Not necessarily alcohol, but, you know, kombucha, or meat curing or something? I get the feeling you'd get a kick out of doing that, and I have a killer recipe for homemade omija bacon that doesn't require curing salt. (Since anyway you're freezing it and cooking it before eating.) All the bacons I've made are good, but the omija bacon was kind of mind-blowing. I had no idea it would be as good as it was. Let me know if you'd like a recipe: if you can handle remembering to turn over a ziplock baggie of salted, brining pork belly in your fridge daily for a week, it's insanely easy to make, and pure glory to taste. Though, you know, you'll need fresh omija berries. (You could try omija juice or extract, but I did it with berries.)

Anne said...

Ooh. I've tried sauerkraut and that was pretty fun, but omija bacon? Sounds so much more interesting. Yes please to the recipe!

Hmm. I don't have time this summer, but maybe next winter I'll ask H. to take me to Jeonju. I love dalk-dori-tang, but I'm curious as to what goes into this version to make you rave about it so. I'm pretty sure there's no doenjang or misutgaru in the version I know of, but perhaps that's what makes your dalk-dori-tang so special?

Oh yeah. Real pho. *dreamy sigh* Though I am personally not a fan of the holy basil taste. I like it okay in drunken noodles, but not so much in my pho. Pure personal taste, though. My broth ended up being a little thin because I was too cheap to buy oxtail. I don't really regret it, but I agree it would have made a huge difference.

gordsellar said...


Yeah, saeurkraut is fun, but omija bacon is just... out of this world.

I'll tell you what: I'll post a recipe online tonight. :) It's simple.

the Misutgaru and deonjang are just guesses, attempts to reverse engineer the recipe based on tasting it. One of our brewer friends, Soyoung, is also a cuinary arts major, and a hell of a cook, and she said she tasted doenjang, and theorized that was why the soup lacked the "nasty chicken" aroma some talk dori tang has. She said it was probably only a small, small amount of the stuff, though. She's got an insanely sensitive palate, so I'm inclined to think she was really tasting that, or something like it.

The misutgaru was something I didn't taste till I brought some other brewer friends there, and they said they could taste something grainy like misutgaru in it, or maybe just powdered barley, in it.

All I know is that everyone I've taken there thought I was exaggerating, but when they tasted it, they realized I wasn't. That place should be a national treasure. I'm not kidding.

Real pho is great. Jihyun also isn't too big on the holy basil, but I like it. Do you seriously need an oxtail to make thick broth? I put a few chunks of raw pork, onion, and garlic into the slow cooker for about 16 or 20 hours once and got an insanely thick, flavorful broth... like, so much so that it had to be watered down and used on successive days in different dishes. Maybe that's just pork, though... beef can be more tame, by comparison. Bones help though. I used some pork bones last week and the broth was just crazy. I'm going to have to buy a slow cooker when we move out.

Anne said...

Ah, so the doenjang is there not as a flavorant but as something to modify the featured tastes? That makes sense. More people should realize that you don't always have to be able to taste every ingredient in the final outcome.

I hear from friends all the time that I have a sensitive palate (I picked out curry powder in dak-galbi once), but your friend seems to be in a league beyond my own (she'd probably have to be, to graduate from culinary school). I'd love to train my palate too.

I don't know if oxtail is necessary for good beef broth, but all the collagen that seeps out from it certainly helps deepen the flavor... I suspect partially by enrichening the mouthfeel, and partially by the flavor compounds that you get from the heterogeneity of all the tissues in there. I think. I'm not an expert, and I've actually not made oxtail broth on my own yet.

I want a slow cooker :( Seriously. I expect it will be one of those acquisitions that revolutionizes the way I cook, like my food processor and my cheap-ass convection oven did.

A Deceit of Lapwings

All happy people are more or less dissimilar; all unhappy people are more or less alike.