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.



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