Monthly Archives: April 2007

North Korean Chicken Soup

north korean style chicken soup

I’ve blogged previously about Korean sam gye tang, an herbal, medicinal chicken soup. But tasty as it is, that is not the chicken soup I grew up on. (One of the reasons being that children aren’t always served sam gye tang, as ginseng is supposedly overpowering for children).

I grew up on North Korean chicken soup with “ohn bahn.” Ohn bahn is a spicy chicken mixture that sits, garnish-like, atop clear chicken broth and rice, in a deceptively simple composition. But it is so much more than garnish–it is the heart of this soup’s flavor. It is this spicy chicken that brings the spirit of this chicken soup alive on my tongue, spicy and flavorful, often bringing a vigorous line of sweat to my upper lip as well as endless delight and comfort.

north korean ohn bahn for chicken soup

This particular soup has made me VERY picky about chicken soup. I had not realized how close my heart and tastebuds lie to North Korean food, but apparently that is the food of my heart and childhood, just as it was the food of my mother’s childhood, which started in Pyongyang in North Korea where this dish originates.

And while I grew to make and adore Jewish chicken soup, with fluffy matzo balls (I like “floaters” not “sinkers”), chunks of celery and carrot, garnished with dill…North Korean Soup with Ohn Bahn is THE pinnacle of chicken soup for me. (And it goes without saying that Campbell’s chicken soup has always brought a big frown to my face. Like I said, I am a chicken soup snob).

I thought long and hard before sharing the directions to making the soup here–but why not share what I love with others? I would be thrilled to proliferate a family recipe.

Recipe follows…

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Strawberry Lemonade

strawberry lemonade

I’ve been a huge fan of strawberry lemonade after I tried Odwalla’s version when I visited Santa Cruz in 1991. Ever since then, when I’m at a restaurant that offers strawberry lemonade, I’ll order it. The weekend’s more temperate weather caused a craving. Coupled with the sale on strawberries and lemons at the local market meant it was time for me to make strawberry lemonade.

I knew I wanted a recipe with fresh ingredients only, no concentrates or frozen fruit/ fruit juices – with this parameter in mind, I found the perfect recipe on the internet.

Recipe follows after the jump…
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Asparagus? Risotto.


After a few months of eating out nearly every meal, I’ve turned towards homecooking again. I dreaded the return to the kitchen–it was so nice to be pampered, sit at a different table most meals, and have my meal brought to me, without a mess to clean up afterwards. But necessity drew me back to my beloved kitchen.

My love for cooking returned the instant I turned on the burner and heated up some butter, watching it bubble, filling the house with the rich and comforting smell of browned butter. I had forgotten the chemical, physical shifts of ingredients and how the process piques my curiosity and all my five senses. In this case, the smell tickled my nose, the butter’s transformation from a semi-solid cream colored square to a liquid brown, and its sizzling spatter made me feel so…alive. (No, I did not TOUCH the butter while it cooked–it would have been quite hot).

chopped asparagus

I was cooking a Spring asparagus risotto, an ode to the season, and an accompaniment to roast chicken. It was a practical choice, but it soon became one filled with fancy, at least in my own mind. It started out with chopping the asparagus–I diced the woodier stems into flat cylinders, falling into the rhythm of consistent shapes and sizes. I was soothed to no end. I left the spears intact, their characteristic heads in contrast with the chopped stems. Soon, I had a pile of asparagus that delighted me with its beauty.

Really, I thought it was beautiful.

lemon, zested

As with most dishes, I began to improvise throughout the process–I walked out into my yard and spotted the last lingering fruits on the meyer lemon tree. The deep yellow citrus fruits beckoned to me, “Take me! Pick me!” And so I did. But what would I do with them. One sniff of the fruit gave me an idea: zest the rinds for the risotto. Aha. (And I would juice them later for a nice hot lemon and honey drink).

asparagus risotto

The end result was a beautiful asparagus risotto–with shallots, parmesan and lemon zest.

My recipe follows… Continue reading

literature and food

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely LOVED Gourmet Magazine’s literary supplement last summer–the one that included fiction from Monique Truong, Pat Conroy, Jane Smiley, Ann Patchett, Calvin Trillin, and the long-absent-but-very-much-missed Junot Diaz. It was thrilling to read essays from the Literati–and now I see that Gourmet magazine has continued its relationship with literature on their blog.

Most recently, there was a post by Ann Patchett on 7 reasons she prefers home cooking

And previous to that, were a couple posts by Elizabeth McCracken (Patchett and McCracken are incredible writing buddies) on New Orleans.

I am a big lover of food magazines, and I am a big fan of literature. Imagine my delight. I hope you are delighted, too.

A brief promotion

mysterious dining

The Dissident Chef has some seatings open for his upcoming meals.

Muffin Top’s previous mentions:

To the West, back home and then to the Middle

Carmel Market

I’ve been doing some bouncing around in the world these days–no sooner had I returned from England and its tasty treats, which included the venerable Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, that I found myself bound for the Middle East.

The purpose of my trip was not focused on pleasure, but still, a human being must eat.

So it was that I found myself in Israel, and while I did not explore the world of food wholeheartedly, I still knocked into some interesting and pleasant discoveries, none the least of which was Shouk HaCarmel…or Carmel Market. The market is the center of life in Tel Aviv, full of vendors selling their wares: clothes, music, trinkets, and food. The food was tremendous! There were candies and fruits, vegetables, meats (the butcher section is a fantastic display of carcasses–“Is that an EAR I see on the head?!” my husband at one point exclaimed), fish, piles of spices (ohhh! why oh why do we buy and sell spices inside sterile little bottles that hide the beauty of spices here?), and outside of Passover, many many pastries and breads.

I love outdoor markets, and so I found myself venturing down to the “shouk” as often as I could–in some ways, it served as a sanctuary for me as I browsed the stalls in blissful distraction.

One of the gorgeous finds was nougat–not the French nougat montelimar, or Italian torrone, but a beautiful white and airy, rosewater and cardamom flavored middle eastern nougat filled with pistachios or almonds. Here was the Real Thing! I quickly bought a handful to devour.

pistachio nougat

And devour them I did.

pistachio nougat

We loved them so much, exclaiming “This is the Real Thing!” that we went back to the stall and bought dozens more to take home (we still have them, nibbling one a day each). The vendor was an Iraqi Jew, it turned out, making a treat from his childhood. He offered us more items to taste: Turkish delight, and another nougat that melted in our mouths. Heaven.

Still, there were other things that amused me. Such as the Caesar Salad as made in Israel.

Caesar salad

I ordered one at the hotel, looking very forward to the creamy parmesan and anchovy-based dressing on romaine lettuce. I was dismayed to find salad greens with a dijon dressing and olives. I hate dijon dressing. I hate olives. Later on in the week, we went to a restaurant that carried a caesar salad. “Salad with caesar salad dressing, complete with egg.” It sounded authentic to me–one of caesar salad dressing’s signature ingredients IS an egg.

Oh, I was dismayed again. Not a single piece of romaine lettuce. And a hard boiled egg drowning under what smelled very like–oh yes it was–dijon dressing.

Not to be discouraged, I ordered some “home fries” with the salad. Whoops.

“Home fries” in Israel is really potatoes dressed in a sweet chili sauce. Kind of like a cold potato stew type thing. Delicious enough, but nothing like the “home fries” at a decent breakfast place in Berkeley, cooked atop a hot grill with caramelized edges, often served with breakfast eggs.

It makes me wonder what kind of foods we Americans bastardize here–what do Italians feel about our pizza, for starters?