Monday, December 19, 2011

Caramel Apples From Scratch

Sometimes I buy things I truly regret.  One time, I bought an inflatable raft while I lived in Boston.  One time, I bought a pair of Dolce and Gabbana boots that were so hot I was too scared to ever wear them.  One time, I bought a car and crashed it into a tree, twice.  One time, I bought miniature apples that were too cute to eat.

Unfortunately, apples are perishable, and with the clock ticking down, I made the decision to make caramel apples.  It was a gloriously delicious decision.  I know most of you are like EFF the apples, let's go back to the car in a friggin' tree.  TWO TIMES?!  REALLY?!  What kind of psycho is behind this blog?!  Come on, y'all...I mean...we all go through stages...

Buttery Delicious Peanut Brittle

Christmas is the season for tins - tins of shortbread, peanut brittle, holiday cookies, and, of course, flavored popcorn (whose terrible idea was that?).  As a tasty munchie for a hotel party I was hosting for a dear friend of mine, I thought peanut brittle would be a perfect snack.  I've never made peanut brittle, but my mom used to make Korean bobbki which is a kind of Korean snack/candy of burnt sugar and baking soda.  The burnt sugar has a wonderful caramelly taste and the baking soda gives it a nice airy crunch.  After looking up several recipes for peanut brittle, I've discovered that the two are pretty similar.

My mom is a bit of a disaster in the kitchen (as am I).  She's the Korean Julia Child except much shorter, and no one knows who she is.  My mom is a bit like me in the sense that she improvises with what she has.  She'd make hoddeuk using Pillbury biscuit dough and press out bobbki using the bottom of a heavy saucepan sprayed with PAM nonstick spray.  She had a chemistry degree that sat latent in her brain for a few years until she started making her own lotions, face washes, laundry detergent, and even some cosmetics.  I use all her stuff, and I'd like to believe it's the reason why people comment on my skin (in the good way...they aren't screaming "OH GOD!" and handing me plastic surgery business cards).  Anyway, I'm not letting my Umma steal my thunder.  I made peanut brittle.

Before I share the recipe, I have to comment on the final result.  Glorious.  It's the culmination of stripping clean all the best aspects of sweets to just BUTTER and SUGAR, and forcing the sparse marriage between the two (with some peanut babies strewn in).  I could not stop snacking on the "chips-that-are-too-small" or "uneven" or "offensively-phallic-so-I should-just-eat-it-because-no-one-wants-to-eat-penis-shaped-brittle-at-a-cocktail-party."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Graham Crackers from Scratch

Lately, it's been just the right weather to sit outside around a giant campfire and roast marshmallows.  This, of course, requires marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers.  As I was about to buy graham crackers at Lotte Department store for $10, it dawned on me that I could possibly make them myself.  A quick Google search via my phone liberated me from the expensive graham crackers, and I made my way home with visions of irresistibly delicious graham crackers and their sexy cousin, s'mores.

When I told my friends about my great idea, they all looked at me with a face that unmistakably read, "WTF are s'mores?"  Obviously, none of them are American.  S'mores is a weird word.  Apparently, it's a contraction for "some more" and was first invented by some highly uneducated and speech impaired Girl Scouts.

To go back to the graham cracker, they're fairly easy to make.  Just mix together some common household ingredients (brown sugar, honey, flour, butter, salt, vanilla extract, etc.), chill, and roll out.  The result is mind-blowing.  My sister and I couldn't stop eating them.  They have a wonderfully deep, rich molasses-like flavor and a snappy, airy texture.  Words cannot express the level of nonverbal shaming that went on when it was discovered that I had ate the last of the graham crackers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pumpkin Pancakes

I shared my Thanksgiving with a very un-American crowd.  My sister and I (Korean American).  Two Koreans who went to school in the states most of their lives.  One Korean Korean.  One Ukrainian New Zealander.  One French Australian from New Caledonia.  One Taiwanese American from Kuwait.  One Frenchman.  And one plain ol' white American.  If Noel hadn't been stuck in Japan, that would have been one more American to the count.

Without Noel, that left me alone in the smallest kitchen in Seoul to cook a massive thanksgiving dinner for 9 guests.  All in all, I was able to pull it off with the help of all my heat-producing appliances.  (Ever used a fan heater to keep your dishes warm?)  One of the dishes I made was pumpkin pie from Japanese Kabocha pumpkins.  I steamed the flesh and mashed it to make the puree necessary for the pie.  I ended up with 5 pumpkins pies (all consumed within two days).

I used two Kabocha pumpkins (on sale for 1,500 won, usually 3,000 won each).  Kabocha pumpkins are also known as 단호박 or dan-ho-bak, which means "sweet pumpkin."  I had about 1/2 cup of puree left.  Pumpkin pancakes!!!!  It's not just the alliteration that excites me.  These pancakes combine the buttery sweetness of the Kabocha pumpkin with the fluffy carbness of the pancake.  The result is a light and airy pumpkin pie-infused pancake.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner: Butter Pecan Sweet Potatoes

Candied yams is a Thanksgiving dish I've never cared for.  I love the flavor, but why does it have to be the texture of baby food?  I've grown up eating Korean sweet potatoes.  My mom would poke them with a fork and throw them in the microwave.  I looooooved them like this.  When I went away to college, I'd buy sweet potatoes and prepare them in the same way.  I was the girl walking around eating a sweet potato like it was an apple.  I remember the first time I had a candied yam casserole with the marshmallows on top.  It was mushy and sickeningly sweet.   My friends raved about the toasted marshmallows.  Toasted marshmallows are awesome (as are all slightly burnt sugary concoctions), but they're really just there to trick children into eating the gloppy mess of yams hiding under them.  For this Thanksgiving, I decided to combine my beautiful Korean sweet potatoes with the ugliness that is the candied yam casserole.

Candied yams aren't actually yams.  What Americans know to be yams are actually orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.  If you really care, read this, and let me get back to my dish.  I used Martha Stewart's Butter Pecan Sweet Potato recipe, but adapted it by using a mix of local Korean sweet potatoes.  Pecans are insanely expensive in Korea.  I've paced back and forth whimpering in front of an itty-bitty package of 10,000 won ($10) pecans at Homeplus.  WHY?!  In Texas, they fall from the trees like manna.  Anyway, my point is, feel free to substitute a more economical nut or blend of nuts if you wish.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner: Green Bean Casserole

My first proper Thanksgiving meal was in the projects of San Antonio where my mother had consigned me to child slavery volunteering for the less fortunate.  It's strange to remember my perspective as a child.  I didn't quite understand how the people we were serving were "less fortunate."  Everyone seemed to be laughing, eating, and having a great time.  No one was sucking on gasoline rags or had flies crawling all over their faces.  Where were the suffering masses?  How was I to live out my Savior complex and practice my benevolent, Mother Theresa face?  As a ten or eleven year-old who wasn't seeing enough sorrow nor grateful teary eyes (god, I was completely delusional and annoying as a kid), I started "sampling" all the dishes.  Needless to say, the Thanksgiving spread wasn't cooked with the love and dedication of an All-American mom bent over her 100% organic turkey.  But, it was my first Thanksgiving dinner experience, and I came to understand the greatness of the Thanksgiving feast.  I also had a bread roll thrown in my face.

If I can get past the bread roll, I remember the green bean casserole.  It was watery and overcooked.  It wasn't until I had it fresh and delicious out of some loving Texan mother's kitchen (can't remember whose but I can assure you, it wasn't mine), that I my fondness for green bean casserole grew.  I love green bean casserole.  The original recipe is so easy - some Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup thrown together with some green beans and topped with French's Fried Onions.  In Korea, all three of these ingredients would be subject to tariffs.  Who wants to pay $5 for cream of mushroom soup?  Not me. Furthermore, French's Fried Onions aren't sold in Korea.  So, I found Alton Brown's recipe in order to make the beloved dish entirely from scratch.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner: Smoked Oyster and Bacon Stuffing

I chose to make a smoked oyster stuffing because I love smoked oysters.  Oysters have a distinct oyster taste that is delicious when fresh and simple.  When smoked, they take on a whole different smokey, meaty property while still maintaining a subtle lilt of oysterness.  In searching for a recipe to incorporate smoked oysters, I found Martha Stewart's Smoked Oyster and Bacon Stuffing.  I adapted the recipe to be friendlier towards ingredients I could get in Korea (i.e. switching out brown rice vinegar for sherry vinegar).  I also used the rice cooker to finish the stuffing instead of the oven because there were so many other dishes that needed to be cooked in my small convection oven.

This smoked oyster and bacon stuffing was the star of the dinner.  (Some may argue it was the turducken roll.)  The smoked oyster, with the support of some savory bacon, really revived plain ole' bread stuffing.  The result was an aromatic stuffing accented with pockets of smokey, oyster flavor and crumbles of salty bacon.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner: Turducken Roll

Being Korean American, my family had a lot of learning to do in the American culture department. Peeled apple on a chopstick was my lollipop.  I once heard Oprah say that moms who lovingly cut the crust off their kids' sandwiches - THAT was love.  I needed to know mom loved me so I got her on that right away. Christmas was an awkward time when we'd all sit around and stare at each other before slowly receding to our rooms to read or study.  There was one time we tried to do presents, and I got wire hangers. I don't think I've ever gotten over the trauma of that gem of an experience.  Perhaps the most successful example of how we adapted to the American way of life is Thanksgiving. Once my siblings and I left home to attend college as far away as possible from Texas (Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Chicago), we'd gather at my oldest sister's house in Philadelphia to do the thanksgiving. It was a perfect holiday. No parents and the freedom to cook amazing thanksgiving dishes we hadn't had a chance to cook yet. It's how I discovered how to roast a turkey. We made a green bean casserole that actually tasted good, and it finally made sense to me why people ate them.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thai Noodle in Gyeongnidan

Thai places always catch my eye.  Just this year, I've made two trips to Thailand.  In Korea, Thai restaurants are generally overpriced, Koreanized, and lacking a great deal of authenticity.  While I don't find that Thai Noodle is a total deviation from this description, it does have some brightness to offer to the Thai dining scene.  The first thing that struck me as inviting and appealing about Thai Noodle is the environment.  It looks clean, simple, and honest.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Moto Japanese Fusion in Gyeongnidan

I've passed Moto many times with interest.  It looks very commercially designed with banners featuring the chef's smiling visage looming over an array of his "fusion" dishes.  It's a bit inset from the street so the orange also helps attract attention like children to a gingerbread house.

I don't write reviews of a place I've been to only once.  This case is different because there were systematic and technical failures in their dishes that I can't simply attribute to "someone having a bad day."  I was probably testing my luck too much after having had several successful dining experiences at Earl Sushi Bar.  Moto was a devastating and pointlessly expensive dining experience.

Monday, November 28, 2011

California Rolls

When I was a kid, I was the pickiest eater.  I wouldn't eat chocolate (as a 7 year old, WTF), mayonnaise, cream cheese (strawberry or plain), avocados, cucumbers, onions (still kind of true), pork (not ham, chops, or even bacon - no, I'm not Jewish), bell peppers, beans...I could go on and on.  As I grew older, my fear of strange foods melted away with each palate-opening episode.  

California Rolls aren't my favorite roll.  Per contra, I appreciate it for how it changed my life towards avocados (black-listed) and cucumbers (black-listed).  My mom's friends own a sushi restaurant back in Texas.  I worked there as a sixteen year-old for two weeks to earn money for my trip to Europe.  Not wanting to embarrass my family (so Korean of me), I dutifully ate whatever was put in front of me.  It's a sushi restaurant.  Obviously, I was obligated to eat that avocado and cucumber stuffed contrivance.  I honestly felt like they had plunked down a platter of boar testicles for me to eat.  I ate it (the cali roll, not the testicles).  I loved it.  Avocados and cucumbers pardoned from the blacklist.     

Ravioli Using Eggroll Wrappers

Ravioli dough is pasta dough made from flour, eggs and a wee bit of water and salt.  Egg roll or mandu dough is made from (rice) flour, eggs, water, and salt.  The proportions are different; pasta dough has more egg and less water than mandu dough.  However, the distinction is not noticeable when substituting mandu wrappers for fried ravioli.

It was so delicious that I bought two packs of ravioli and ventured down the path of plain ravioli from mandu wrappers.  With plain boiled ravioli, I can definitely taste that they're mandu wrappers and not ravioli dough, BUT I really do think it tastes delicious and a little less heavy than pasta dough.  For those without a pasta machine to roll out beautifully even sheets of pillowy, fresh pasta, there are mandu wrappers.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Herbed Ricotta Salata: Pressing Cheese in a Sink Drainer

Making cheese isn't something I've ever been interested in. I've just been interested in eating it. It wasn't until I came to Korea that my interest for cheese consumption collided with cheese production. After realizing I could make my own cottage cheese and ricotta, it wasn't a big leap to making pressed cheeses. The largest obstacle in making cheese isn't the process; it's getting the materials. Rennet can be purchased online in Korea, but cheese cultures are a bit more difficult to procure. The beauty of ricotta salata is that it doesn't require any special ingredients like rennet or cultured buttermilk. The hardest part is waiting for the cheese to cure for at least two weeks.

I've already posted about making a cheese mold and pressing out a ricotta salata. This post is still about ricotta salata, but instead of laboring over making a cheese mold, I've found that it's much easier to use a sink drainer.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Making Condensed Milk Without Powdered Milk

I normally just buy condensed milk.  It's cheap and delicious.  To be honest, I think condensed milk tastes BETTER than dulce de leche, and if it had a better name like dulce de leche or confiture de lait, as it's known in French, it'd probably be touted as a finer culinary product.  Anyway, my local Korean grocery store sells condensed milk for 7,000 won ($7).  I know condensed milk doesn't cost more than $2 in the states, and thankfully the Foreign Food Mart in Itaewon sells it for 2,500 won.

Before trying to make condensed milk, I didn't know condensed milk was made from powdered milk.  Almost every google search I punched in returned recipes using powdered milk or sometimes evaporated milk.  This made no sense to me since condensed milk sounds like it should be made from real milk.  So I found one recipe outlining how to make condensed milk from un-scienced milk.  I adapted the technique a bit and made the butter optional.

Vietnamese-Style Avocado Smoothies

I first learned to make these smoothies in high school back in Austin.  Aside from California, Texas is home to the largest Vietnamese population in the States.  I learned more about the history behind this in an Asian Studies class in college.  Basically, following the Vietnam War, the Vietnamese immigrants were siphoned through resettlement agencies whose goal was to "minimize the impact on local communities."  So, they scattered the new immigrants throughout the States to godforsakenly cold areas.  This didn't stop them from gravitating to more sensible climates.  Ergo, Texas.

My brother used to eat avocados straight out of the skin with a spoon (maybe he still does).  He calls it "green butter;" the Vietnamese call it "butter fruit."  Being from Texas, I know avocados to be used to savory preparations like guacamole.  My mind screamed in protest when I learned of avocados being used in smoothies.  Whatevs.  You just have to try it.

The traditional Vietnamese recipe calls for avocados, milk, sugar and condensed milk.  I added in a few flavor enhancers (lemon zest and mint) to brighten up and enhance the avocado flavor.  The result was what I'm sure Jesus sips on every day perched atop a pearly gate.

Monday, November 21, 2011

3 Minute Brownies

I, too, couldn't believe it when I read the box.  Three minutes?!  JT and Madonna had the immense task of saving the world in four.  But baking brownies in THREE?  WTF, it's like the ramen noodles of the dessert world.

I generally give the baking mixes of Korea the cold shoulder.  In fact, I didn't purchase this brownie mix.  I got it fo' free at Homeplus for signing up for their point card.  (You can purchase it for 3,200 won.)  I had no intention of ever using it, but I seemed to have forgotten that I am a woman with a hormonal dependency on chocolate.  (Is anyone else appreciating how delicately I phrased the relationship between menstruation and chocolate?)  So last night around 2 a.m., I microwaved my way to brownie in the time it takes my sister to eat an entire watermelon.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

된장 찌개 Doenjang jjigae (Korean Fermented Soybean Paste Soup)

The secret to a good doenjang jjigae is to use a good doenjang (fermented soybean paste).  I sound like Ina Garten though I doubt she'd ever sink her delicate palate into anything as mordacious as fermented soybean paste.  Anyway, I use my grandma's doenjang which she makes herself out on her farm in Jirisan.

When my sibs and I were wee ones growing up in Texas, this same grandma would make this same stinky-ass doenjang.  It was so potent the neighbors complained - this is out in Texas where the nearest neighbor is not so near.  Not surprisingly, this homemade doenjang did not make me the most popular girl in school when I brought my friends home for play dates.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Chocolate Ginger Snap Cookies

It's cold and the perfect time for a winter cookie.  The chocolate ginger snap cookie delivers sweet, spicy and chocolate-y.  It's especially nice with some thick socks and a hot cup of tea.  (I hope it's pretty obvious that I don't eat socks.  Except for the ramen socks when I'm drunk confused.)

How to Candy Ginger

I've never been a fan of candied or crystallized ginger.  Tastes too gingery.  But I had some recently finely chopped and folded into a rich, dark chocolate bon bon, and the combination converted my ginger-hardened heart.  I became inspired to candy some ginger when I set out to make my own Pepero for Pepero Day.  But then I thought to myself, "Do I really want to be the kind of person who sits at home candying ginger?"  I decided not to candy any friggin' ginger.

Then I went to Bangsan Market to pick up some sprinkles for the Pepero and saw swarms of young teenage girls doing the same.  My eyes narrowed.  Candying of ginger BACK ON.

Homemade Pepero/Pocky Sticks

November 11th is Pepero Day.  It's pretty similar to Valentine's Day in that children and couples exchange gifts of this chocolate-dipped stick.  It gets pretty out of control.  More pepero are sold in the two weeks leading up to this holiday than all the other weeks of the year combined.  There's even a song.

There are several layers of double-entendres to add cheesiness to this day of marketing ploys.  Because Pepero resembles sticks, 11/11 is meant to commemorate the Pepero silhouette.  Pepero is also supposed to serve as inspiration - to be long and thin like a Pepero stick.  How disturbing.  Also, Pepero Day is meant for couples so if 11 represents a person, 11/11 represents a couple.  How gay.   This past Pepero Day was 11/11/11, so it was THREESOME ULTIMATE PEPERO DAY!

Apparently there was a lot of hype surrounding this "once in a millenium" (technically a century) Pepero Day.  But really the biggest piece of news was what Hyori had to say about this holiday.  (To be read in a heavily sarcastic tone.)

To honor this day of being skinny by eating lots of chocolate, I decided to make my own Pepero.  It's basically a crunchy breadstick covered in chocolate.  To make the "crunchy breadstick", I found a recipe for grissini, Italian breadsticks, but modified it by substituting flour for semolina and doing away with the sesame seeds.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mono Japanese Food Mart in Seorae Village

I had never intended to come to Mono Mart; I found it while looking for a place to eat.  Seorae Village is known for it's "Frenchiness" with the international French school located right on the street.  40% of Seoul's French population live in this area.  Accordingly, many wineries, bakeries, and French restaurants dot the area.  Surprisingly, Seorae Village is host to many Japanese establishments - sushi bars, izakayas, and a Japanese mart.

Cold Soba Noodles with Dipping Sauce (Zaru Soba)

I had zaru soba for the first time when I was in middle school.  My mom whipped it up one day, and it instantly became one of my favorites.  So light yet so delicately flavorful.  I was intrigued by the newness of these flavor profiles.  They were so different from the in-yo-face, zingy Korean dishes I knew so well.  After having zaru soba in several restaurants in the states and in Korea, I've found that the best way to enjoy them is at home where you can execute the steps properly.  The flavors are so gentle in zaru soba that each ingredient needs to be prepared with care, especially the noodles.  They need to be washed in cold water to rid them of any starch which can adversely affect the flavor.  Nothing should be boiled rigorously, just simmered delicately.

There are three areas of preparation for this dish - the tsuyu or dipping sauce, the noodles, and the yakumi or condiments.

Korean Green Onion Pancake with Seafood (해물파전 Haemul Pajeon)

Want some?
For Koreans, pajeon is for rainy days.  I chose to make massive piles of pajeon for another reason.  Most of my friends are broke-ass college students here in Seoul.  To accommodate their poorness, I decided to host a party.  I like to host parties, but I usually end up spending buckets of cash and waking up to the ungodliest mess.  While there's no way around the mess that'll inevitably be waiting for me in the morning (who sprayed bags of popcorn all over my roof?), I can host a party for less by throwing together some pajeon and going the BYOM (Bring Your Own Makkeoli) route.  In all, I think I spent less than 20,000 on this party.

Homemade Crème Brûlée

Crème brûlée is an unpretentious dessert that's simple yet incredibly rich - the little black dress of desserts if you will.  I've come to expect a rich, creamy layer contrasted with a snappy disc of burnt sugar that cracks beautifully when introduced to a spoon.  I've never been tempted to try crème brûlée in Seoul because it's a dessert that, in this society, is sure to command a high price tag.  The story traversed down the usual path - I ended up making my own.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Colossal Sandwiches at Deli Heinzburg on Garosugil

I've been frequenting Deli Heinzburg over the past year.  I hadn't been there in quite some time so I went back recently for what I remembered to be great sandwiches.

Deli Heinzburg is trendy.  Petit-framed hipsters wearing pants so trendy they're cut at oddly non-functional lengths to reveal a wanton peek at bony ankles tucked into boat-stitched suede driving shoes.  Couples so trendy they have Missoni Bugaboo strollers for their ugly babies.  Plenty of couples looking lovelessly into each others' eyes but looking splendidly smashing while doing it.

I arrived in style wearing a tarp (my oversized jacket) and flip flops so worn down my foot is the only thing keeping it together.  (We can discuss later why I dress like a homeless person.)

Friday, November 4, 2011

No-Knead Bread in a Rice Cooker - It Don't Get No Easier

Baking bread in a rice cooker isn't ideal.  They can't produce a nice hard crust, and the texture of the bread can have a slightly spongy texture to it.  To quote the New York Times, "Cooking foods other than rice in a rice cooker is like baking a layer cake in an Easy-Bake oven: best approached with patience, curiosity and something to snack on in the meantime."

When I was in college, the only appliances allowed in the dorm rooms were microwaves and auto-shut off appliances like rice cookers.  Rice cookers might seem unifunctional.  They cook rice.  With a bit of deduction, it becomes obvious that they can cook other things too.  So, I started getting more demanding with my rice cooker, making spaghetti, ramen, eggs, steamed vegetables and even fish. Recently, I've made some amazingly fresh yogurt in a rice cooker.

Before I was brave enough to test the no-knead method of cooking bread, I first started with a tried-and-true bread-in-a-rice-cooker recipe.  I spiced it up with some diced jalapenos and within a few hours, I had a soft pillow of jalapeno bread, which my sister immediately devoured.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Earl Sushi in Gyeongnidan

Look at this man staring deeply into his date's eyes.
I went to school in Boston, which hosts some of the best sushi restaurants I've ever been to (save Tokyo and New York City).  I miss American-style sushi with its creative take on Japanese traditions starting from the California Roll and venturing out to one of my favorites, the Spider Roll.  Sushi in Korea has gravitated towards a perplexingly BAD-tasting direction.

If I order sushi in Korea, many times the fish comes out frozen.  When I've inquired about this, I was told it's more "refreshing" this way.  I don't think tuna-flavored ice cubes are refreshing.

The biggest qualm I have lies with the maki here.  Holy god are they revolting.  Covered in squiggles of different mayonnaise sauces of every color under Seoul's polluted sun, the actual roll is stuffed with bland crap - usually a blend of mayonnaise and fake crab meat.

To preserve my standards, I had stopped eating sushi in Seoul unless my relatives are footing the bill at Sushi Hyo.

When Earl opened in my neighborhood earlier this year, I had made a mental note to try it since restaurants in my neighborhood tend to aim for authenticity.  That was nearly eleven months ago.  Last week, I finally went.

24 Hour Korean Food Delivery in Gyeongnidan/HBC

Late night picnic of 제육덥밥.  Yummay. 
It's super frustrating to be hungry at 3 a.m. with little to no food options.  I've googled my way to food several times only to find out they're not actually located in my neighborhood and can't deliver, or they're closed.  My hunger gives birth to an insatiable rage which usually results in me angrily stomping off to a GS25 to eat every disgusting 삼각김밥 (samgak kimbap) and watery yogurt in sight.

That was before I found 밥사랑 (Bap Sa-rang), my favorite 24-hour Korean food delivery.  The name translates to "rice love," and this is my go-to for quick, cheap, good food.  I order here after almost every hangover or 3AM late night picnic.  They're usually pretty quick, and when I say "no onions, please," they actually listen.

The tray of 반찬 (ban-chan) or "side dishes" change each time I order so I never know what I'm going to get.  For the most part, they're all pretty good, and if not, then at least the main courses are, without fail, very very good.  Especially for 3AM.

Fudge Puddles

Every time I've made these fudge puddles, they've disappeared.  They're essentially a cup-shaped peanut butter cookie filled with fudge.  It's the embodiment of the classic combination of peanut butter and fudge, and though they look like they'd be a ton of work, they're actually quite easy to make and popular with the masses.

Spaghetti and Meatballs From Scratch - Even the Noodles

When I watch The Godfather or any other Italian-esque movie, I get an irrepressible craving for spaghetti and meatballs.  One time, I was watching a French movie and got confused by the accent, and the cravings cranked back up again.


Jalapeno Bread in a Rice Cooker

Not made in China.
I was curious to try baking in a rice cooker because what is a rice cooker but a container which emits heat semi-evenly from all directions?  Like Alton Brown or like anyone who lives in a small apartment, I'm all about multi-functional appliances.  A rice cooker is a surprisingly versatile appliance.  I had already figured out how to make yogurt out of both my rice cooker and crockpot.  I really wanted to know if it would bake bread.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chili King - But Not Really

Good chili requires some key criteria.  A rich, complex chile flavor that combines sweet, bitter, hot, fresh, and fruity elements in balance. A robust, beefy flavor.  Beans that are tender, creamy, and intact.

Chili King's chili is not bad, but it's not great.  When we ordered a bowl of their steaming hot chili, I was expecting greatness.  This expectation was founded on rave reviews online, an article in 10 Magazine, and a friend's recommendation.  Unfortunately, Chili King really under-delivered.

A Classic Gin Martini

I have major qualms with martinis.  They're the sort of drink you don't order at a Ho Bar else you end up with a warm tumbler full of bottom-shelf gin that's mysteriously blue.  If you order it at a bar where the decor suggests that they'd know how to make a martini, you end up with the same thing except in a martini glass.  The only situation in which I've been able to get a proper martini (gin or vodka) is if I paid 20,000 won for it.  (Cafe 74 in Apgujeong makes a beautiful martini).  The puzzling part is that gin martinis are moronically simple to make, and it only requires a few key components - good gin, good dry vermouth, a chilled glass and some olives.

Battle of the Wing Nights in Itaewon

Wings nights in Seoul are brilliant.  At 300 won per wing, it's a deal, and consequently it's one of Seoul's premiere social events (it's not).  I was flipping through one of Seoul's expat magazines, and it dawned on me (via Noel's superior brain) that we could do "wing night" for nearly an entire week by hopping from one restaurant to the next Monday through Thursday.  Conceptually, the idea was brilliant.  By Thursday, I had successfully managed to demote one of my favorite foods into a dish I didn't care to eat again for a long, long time (ah hem, one week).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The World's Best Granola

A few years back, I got sick of paying 15,000 won for a box of dry, uninspired granola.  So instead, I found a way of making my own, super delicious granola at home.  Looking at the this recipe, I knew it would be outrageously expensive to make.  Maple syrup, honey, almonds, pecans, walnuts, rolled oats, wheat germ, oat bran, vanilla extract, and dried cranberries...$$$.  But, it's honestly worth it.


Friday, October 28, 2011

How to Make Potato Gnocchi

The first gnocchi dish I've ever tried was in Boston at Taranta Cucina Meridionale, a fusion Peruvian-Italian restaurant.  It was a yucca root gnocchi with spicy green lamb ragu topped with shaved parmesan.  It stands out as a dish I'll remember FO-EVA.  It's unfortunate that my first experience with gnocchi was so unforgettable.  Since then, I've come to accept that gnocchi isn't droppings from the gods.  The texture is chewy and without a sauce, gnocchi is pretty damn bland.  Forgive for drawing yet another comparison between the two cuisines, but does anyone else think gnocchi tastes similar to tteok 떡?

Anyway, I decided to make some gnocchi because I had a few guests over and it seemed like a fun dinner food that we could all make together.

Italian Sausage Pasta Sauce with Garlic, Peppers, Mushrooms, and Eggplant

This post is an addendum to the post on how to make gnocchi, but this sauce goes well with anything.  My friend, Kiara, was spooning straight into her mouth.

Pasta sauce is all about the seasonings.  I pretty much scoff at anything straight out of the jar because in most cases, the sauce is bland and boring.  Any jar of pasta sauce can be transformed with the addition of fresh vegetables and the right blend of seasonings.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How to Throw Away Old Oil in Korea

The trash laws in Korea can be exasperating.  Rather than trying to figure out all the little categories of disposal, I had a friend who would throw away his trash on the street. This caught up to him when he was presented with a hefty 200,000 won fine.  Apparently, they had gone through his trash and found a slip of paper with his address on it.

A bit of a deviation from the usual photos I post.

I've fried french fries for the masses, filtered the oil and reused it to make myself some fried ravioli and fried pickles.  The oil looks nasty.  I'm past the point of filtering and reusing, so I did some research on Naver, and found an answer.

Apple Brownies from Surplus Apples

Fruit prices are outrageous in Korea - so outrageous that every time I walk by a seedy fruit truck where an ajushi with one leg is yelling at you to buy kiwis, I actually do it.  And that's how I ended up with a giant potato sack of apples.

I love apples, but I've been spoiled.  Growing up, I ate through every kind of apple there is.  In Korea, there is one apple - the Fuji apple.  No Granny Smiths, no Red Delicious, no Gala, no Honey Crisp, no Macintosh, no, no, no.

Staring at a colossal bag of racially uniform apples growing squishier each day made me wring my hands in worry, waving apples in my sister's face and accusing her of not eating her was time to scour the internet for some way to bake these apples to freedom.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fried Ravioli from Egg Roll or Mandu 만두 Wrappers

I saw somewhere that Giada De Laurentiis made Spinach and Mushroom ravioli from mandu wrappers.  Mandu wrappers are widely available at any supermarket for about 2,000 won for 60 wrappers.  What is ravioli if not a cheesey, less-garlic-y ravioli?  I'm gonna get it for even drawing the comparison. 

Food sacrilege aside, I couldn't ignore my T. G. I. Friday's Fried Ravioli craving this morning.  It's 9:30 a.m.

How to Make Breadcrumbs Without a Blender or Food Processor

I had a massive party this weekend and was left with a dozen mismatched hamburger buns.  I didn't know whether to blame low-carb diets or the sangria.

A great way to turn stale bread rejects into an edible food form is breadcrumbs.  I ended up with some great fried pickles to accompany my buffalo wings and some fried ravioli with marinara sauce, both in the same day.

Making a Cheese Press and Mold - Homemade Goat's Milk Ricotta Salata

I discovered ricotta salata through desperation.  I don't have access to cultures needed to make cheese.  I did some research, and found that I could simply press ricotta into a cheese mold to produce a semi-hard cheese.

Linguine Primavera From Scratch with Homemade Ricotta Salata

Waiting for cheese to age is agonizing.  Especially if you're required to take the cheese out and lovingly rub it with salt every day for a week.  I felt as frustrated as the cannibalistic witch in Hansel and Gretel when Hansel was taking too long to fatten up.  Age, cheese, age!

But after two weeks, I had produced my first pressed cheese - ricotta salata.  It can age longer, but I could not wait longer than the requisite two weeks.  Or the more rational answer - I had to test it to make sure I was doing it right.  It would be devastating to wait four weeks only to find out the whole thing had gone rancid, no?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

T.G. Brunch Café. All Day. Every Day. Yay!

Was that the worst title ever?  I hope by sounding like a cabbage patch doll, I've been able to express my enthusiasm for my favorite neighborhood restaurant.


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