Monthly Archives: December 2007

Dduk bok gi (or the ever boring sounding “stir-fried rice cake with vegetables”)

dduk-bok-gi

I loooove dduk bok gi–whether it’s the spicy kind or the mild kind with bulgogi.  The chewy cylindrical rice cakes nestled amidst savory soy sauce seasoning, or hot sauce–both are wonderful and fun to eat.

My fondest food memories are comprised of walking through the streets of Seoul with my cousins or aunt and eating red hot dduk bok gi from food stands, bursting out with tortured laughter between bites and gulps of water.  The stuff can get REALLY hot!  And we love it that way.   We love it so much that one of my cousins theoretically gave herself digestive problems from eating dduk bok gi so often.  (She claimed she had an ulcer from dduk bok gi consumption).

for dduk-bok-gi

Of course there is the mild kind, too–with soy sauce marinade and bulgogi.   So delicious as well, but oh so different.  I first ate the mild ddukbokgi variant at my cousin’s house–I was surprised to see the rice cakes swimming in a sauce that was NOT red and bubbling, but I ate them ravenously, just the same.  Maybe I just love rice cakes.

Still, nothing tops the fiery red spicy dduk bok gi, the stuff that sets your mouth on fire, the stuff with just a hint of sweetness, the stuff that is reminiscent of the foodstands on the streets of Seoul.

Even today, I seek out spicy dduk-bok-gi, such a comfort food.  I’ll go to the Korean market and buy myself some, quickly down it for lunch (with a glass of water).  But you can make your own, too.

Recipe follows after the jump…

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egg nog, eggnog

homemade egg nog

Apparently there are two ways to spell this wonderfully custardy holiday time beverage: “egg nog” or “eggnog.”

I’ve always bought my eggnog from the store throughout the years, our recipe for eggnog being the comical, “Open box, pour into glass, drink!” We looooove eggnog. And it is purely a holiday time drink, because you can’t buy eggnog in a carton except for during the holidays.

But this year, out of pure curiosity, I decided to make a batch at home, complete with whipped egg topping and grated nutmeg. My reaction: OH.MY.G*D. It was AWESOME. Sorry, I can’t get more eloquent than that (I’ve had a couple cups now and am officially tipsy).

Though unnecessary, I decided to do a taste test against some store bought eggnog–the store bought eggnog was entirely bland (though nice and thick) and tasteless in the wake of homemade eggnog which just tastes so fresh and sparkles with each of the ingredients.

I made my egg nog very lightly alcoholic but you can certainly add more liquor if you please. Enjoy!!!!!

(btw, if you have problems with eggs in your area, don’t make this–the eggs are raw in this recipe)

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David Lebovitz’s James Beard’s persimmon bread

David Lebovitz's Persimmon bread

My friends gifted me a few hachiya persimmons a couple months ago.

I looove persimmon trees, especially when all the leaves have fallen off and all that remain are the bright orange fruit hanging off the bare branches. It is one of my favorite Autumnal sights, a fruit laden persimmon tree under a gray sky.

If you’re reading carefully–you’ve noticed I write “I love persimmon _trees_.” Not so much the fruit–even though I am ethnically Korean and that almost obligates me to love persimmons. My parents love the fruit so much they had several persimmon trees in our backyard and because of their overeager urging to eat persimmons, I may have rebelled. I never grew to love the fruit.

Since my friends’ gift, I have learned that it’s fuyu persimmons I don’t like (my parents ate, almost exclusively, fuyu persimmons, which can be eaten when firm). Of course, I learned this the hard way, first biting into the hachiya persimmons when hard.

Ack!

The tannic, bitter fruit besieged my mouth, my tastebuds–I quickly gargled with water. No dice. There was a sickening coating all over my mouth, a sensation that felt like corduroy jeans, and a taste–bleah.

Hachiya persimmons MUST be eaten when super squishy, when they appear as if they’ll totally fall to pieces, when the fruit is “liquidy.” Then, and only then, are they soooo yummy and sweet and delicious and juicy. I am so buying hachiya persimmons, go forward.

And thankfully, I made this discovery not too far into persimmon season. There are still persimmons left to enjoy! And if you’re still hesitant to eat the fruit while fresh, you can do as I’ve done all these years: use the fruit in baked goods.

Particularly excellent is David Lebovitz’s rendition of James Beard’s persimmon bread recipe. It is entirely fantastic–I made it this morning and now the house is filled with the perfume of baked bread and my tastebuds are so very happy.

Recipe follows after the jump…

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Bakesale Betty’s

Fried Chicken Sandwich

The above sandwich is Bakesale Betty’s fried chicken sandwich. In our household, it is a sandwich categorized as “legendary.” Nothing beats it. We just kick ourselves for not discovering Bakesale Betty’s and her fried chicken sandwich sooner.

Just look at the picture–that’s absolute food porn!

Let’s look at it from another angle:

Fried Chicken Sandwich

See the layers? The buttermilk drenched fried chicken breast? The tangy spicy cole slaw? The wonderful Acme torpedo roll? It all adds up to a series of heavenly bites. Much has been made of the sandwich’s nearly 1,000 calorie total, but it is worth every calorie. Just eat a light dinner and/or take a walk. Or eat half a sandwich. Nothing good in life is free, right?

(and a note: they often sell out of sandwiches everyday by 2pm, so do not dawdle).

And because the name of the place is “Bakesale Betty’s,” the fried chicken sandwich is not the only wonderful thing to devour there. There are numerous baked goods that top the charts, such as their chicken pot pie.

chicken pot pie

According to our household chicken pot pie aficionado and fan, it’s a tremendously yummy chicken pot pie. It has a wonderfully flaky crust. So flaky, that I’m going to try their pies. I’d have tried them by now, but I’m pacing myself. And quite honestly, I can never avoid the fried chicken sandwich, thus hindering my progress with pastry consumption.

My husband, not known for liking dessert, likes their sticky date pudding:

Bakesale Betty's sticky date pudding

Bakesale Betty’s is located on 51st and Telegraph avenues in Oakland–there is no sign on their store, but you’ll notice the line out the door. That’s how I noticed it at first (“What is that place? Everybody in the world is there everyday!”)

Don’t take as long as I did to check it out.  And oh, about that line?  It goes fairly quickly,Bakesale Betty’s has their process down very well…and they give out samples to those waiting in line.  I’m not talking little bites, either–but ENTIRE cookies.  When I’ve gone, I’ve seen them hand out ginger cookies, pecan cookies, and mega pieces of their wonderful lemon bars.

Plus, when you get to order, you’ll encounter the charming staff, some of whom will you address you by, “My love.”  You can never hear that phrase enough in life.  You’ll walk out with both your stomach and heart full.

Recipe for Bakesale Betty’s fried chicken sandwich follows after the jump…

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Road Food: The Mad Greek

road ahead

When you’re on a road trip, the day is punctuated by milestones–whether they be sights, destinations, or meals. I love road trips.

Being on the road is one of the few situations where I begin to relax and toss my “rules” out the window. There are no firm schedules, and we’re constantly hitting unknown territory. Oh yes, there may be a beginning and end point to the trip, but in between? Anything can happen, and we’re open to it.

So it goes with food as well. We’ve had bad road food, and terrific road food. Though we’ve mostly consumed predictable and consistent fast food from McD’s and Taco Bell, the longer the road trip, the more adventurous we become with our food choices. This is a consequence of longer road trips leading us into more remote locales, and the fact that we just become bored (and horrified) by eating McDonald’s meal after meal.

Food on the road, when it’s good, becomes the most memorable of meals. All of us have a story about a delicious meal eaten along a highway–I remember a guy I knew, he raved about “the best sandwiches ever” eaten along the I-5 somewhere as a child with his family. He couldn’t remember the place, alas, but that memory has been burned into his mind forever, and it still gave him an endorphin rush years later. And the great thing about road food surprises are that they truly are surprises.

We’ve been surprised by the perfect rice balls (onigiri) in Japan, by wonderful kim bap and other treats bought by the road in Korea, by prepackaged sandwiches at a gas station in France, and we’ve had plenty of nasty nondescript food at dozens of diners and cafes, all of which become a collective blur in our memory.

A Tuna, Ham, Tomato and Hardboiled Egg sandwich

Seriously–a “tuna, ham, tomato, and hardboiled egg sandwich”? Do you expect that to be good? It was good. The French can make most things taste delicious. The prepackaged sandwich you see above was more delicious than most sandwiches made to order. I’m not sure how they achieve that. Nevermind the fact that tuna, ham, tomato, and hardboiled egg is such a surprisingly tasty combo. (Seriously? Seriously.)

Also delicious are the gyros at The Mad Greek, housed in a delightful blue and white building that screams, “Greek food!” Literally AND figuratively. The billboards, which line the I-15 in California for miles leading up to and from The Mad Greek are almost as obvious as the Mad Greek Cafe itself, filled with neon signs welcoming you in over a dozen languages and blue booths. Yes–when you walk in, you’ll think the world has become duo-chromatic: blue and white.

Of course, you are going to order a gyro.

lunch!

It is delicious, the best that road food has to offer. You can order it 24 hours a day–the place is open at all hours, and I’m sure a welcome treat in the middle of the night. It sure was a welcome treat for us, after eating horrific food throughout the California desert. And it was NOT a burger or a patty melt or any other all-too-common food found on the road.

Plus–it’s a gyro! Gyros are terrific and yummy! We didn’t try anything else (well, other than a strawberry shake)–but I gather the other food is great. The menu is large and ranges outside of Greek food (so if you’re traveling in a group and some of you want a burger, you can get a burger).

strawberry shake

It’s an oasis, delightfully kitschy, in the one road town of Baker along the I-15 in California, about 90 miles west of Vegas. While we were lunching, there was quite an eclectic crowd–teenage girls in shorts and flip flops (I don’t know why–it was 50 degrees Fahrenheit out), and couples and families of various sizes, ages, and ethnic backgrounds (all of them dressed appropriately for the weather). I quickly gathered this is a regular stop for many people making the drive to/from Vegas.

We’ve got a regular stop from now on too, if we should ever drive from San Francisco to Las Vegas again.

The Mad Greek

Joe’s Stone Crab

Joe's stone crab

Back when I was in South Beach Miami, I drove by Joe’s Stone Crab, and lamented the fact that I wasn’t able to stop by. I’d sure heard wonderful things about the restaurant, and about stone crabs, but it was not meant to be.

So while in Las Vegas, we were giddy when we saw a sign for Joe’s Stone Crab on a billboard. Oh–put that on our list of things to eat while in town! I did some quick research to confirm that it was indeed the same Joe’s Stone Crab, and that it was indeed stone crab season…and off we went to procure reservations. (The stone crabs are apparently shipped straight from Miami to Las Vegas, coddled in dry ice, but unfrozen for dining consumption–no telling what happens in the off-season. I’m guessing the crab is frozen and not as tasty). Consensus is that the stone crabs at the Las Vegas location are not as good as the ones in Miami, but that they are still quite delicious.

And ohhhh–they are so wonderful, whether or not you choose to dip them in Joe’s special house mustard.

Even though Joe’s does an excellent job of cracking the crab so that the meat is very accessible, do be careful–I still managed to slice my thumb. The shells of the crab are thick, and evidently quite sharp (it took quite awhile to get the bleeding under control). But nonetheless, I enjoyed my dinner! And the crab!

Dinner is a bit spendy (and crabs have high cholesterol)–so this isn’t fit for everyday dining, but it sure is a great treat. And what a thrill to get stone crabs a little closer to the West Coast.

p.s.  Needless to say, this isn’t locavore-friendly dining.

Daddy’s snack: tamago kake gohan

Comfort food

This is a dish I learned to make from my father.

There aren’t many foods I’ve inherited from my father, mostly because he rarely ever cooks anything, being the macho guy he is. He can make a good ramen, and he can make a good “dahl-gyahl bap” (egg with rice) or “tamago kake gohan.” Growing up with this dish, I always thought it was my dad’s idiosyncratic concoction (maybe he learned it in the army?  or some desperate night as a bachelor with only rice and eggs on hand?)–only recently did I learn that it is a common dish in Japan, often eaten for breakfast.

My dad taught me that a good meal was just a bowl of rice, a raw egg, and a dash of soy sauce away.

We would eat it with a side of kimchi, the spicy pickled cabbage acting as a lively foil to the mellow, creamy rice mixture. Each grain of rice would glisten with the egg, and the soy sauce would add a caramel color. It might seem odd to you (particularly the raw egg), but this is such a wholly comforting dish–and it’s still something I eat when I’m eating alone at home and need a quick bite.

And if you keep rice on hand at all times, such as in a rice cooker–you needn’t turn the stove on at all for a warm and hearty meal.

the nth attempt

making kubba batata

I’m still trying to make a decent kubba batata or kibbeh batata…kubba/kibbe made with a potato shell. The kubba I remember and love had a shell that was savory but very light, unlike the more rustic and “chewier” bulgur based shells.

Oh, and of course, I have a long lasting love affair with potatoes. There are very few, if any, dishes made of potato that I dislike.

I constructed the kubba into round flat patties–the outside being potato, the inside with normal kubba filling. Half of the batch was made with a pure (cooked) potato shell…and half the batch was made with a mixture of cooked potatoes and rice, mashed together. Assembled, before frying, they looked delicious and oh so delectable.

kubba batata in progress

But alas! Disaster struck once the kubba went into the hot oil.

I’m not one to only advertise culinary success–I think that tragedy is only part of the cooking experience, and always entertaining. After all, without unfulfilled desire/tragedy/disaster, the story gets pretty boring and insignificant.

So–revel in my potato kubba tragedy:

disaster

Bleah.

At this point, I’m convinced that the shell must contain egg, even though my husband says he’s never seen his mother include egg as an ingredient. He never actually saw her construct kubba, so I have my doubts. I’ll be sure to use egg next time. I’m desperate to find a potato kubba recipe, or at least know what ingredients the shell might contain. Cooked, mashed potato…egg…flour?

Calpico

Kimono Kitty

I think I have discovered a new favorite drink. For more reasons than one.

Persian Nougat at last!

Persian nougat, done

Ah–victory at last! After miserable failed attempts, I made a successful batch of Persian (or Middle Eastern) nougat, thanks to the help of a friend with experience in candy making.

Persian nougat is a candy that I have longed to make for years. Similar to Italian torrone, yet substantially different in texture and flavor to merit distinction, it is a candy that is not sold in many places, nor is it a candy that is popular in recipe books. I know. I searched far and wide. And failed to find how to make it. But a reader here pointed me to a basic recipe for the nougat, and I quickly saved it to make with my friend R, who I knew would not lead me astray in candy making. I was sick of making mistakes. This time, with the actual recipe in hand, I had to have a perfect result!

I could TASTE the nougat in my mouth as I read the recipe. Oooooh.

I didn’t grow up with this candy but many members of my extended family did and this is a favorite snack in the household. I know why, because I have fallen in love with it–the nougat has brought joy and delight and consolation in many circumstances. It is just the best.

The initial recipe left out some crucial spices and ingredients (ooooh, it bugs me when cooks post recipes but leave out “secret ingredients,” secret ingredients that in this case are critical path), but the most crucial bit was documented: the main nougat part with the egg whites and sugar syrup. And you too, can fine tune the spices to your own tasting. I like to add a good amount of cardamom as well as rose water (generous amounts of cardamom and rose water), you might want to add different things such as orange blossom water instead.

I’ve posted the recipe below, with my own adjustments. I hesitated to post this, because this recipe is so precious and a part of me feels incredibly selfish, wants to keep it for herself! But no. This isn’t a family recipe, it was handed to me by a reader, and I pass it back to you, with good amendments.

The process is fairly straightforward–but like with all candymaking, precision is of the utmost importance. Take the sugar syrup to the precise temperature (next time, we’re going to take it a bit higher than we did this time, for a firmer nougat). Make sure the egg whites are stiff.

Boiling sugar syrup

And in stages, you’ll add the syrup to the egg whites. BE VERY CAREFUL. The sugar syrup will be beyond boiling temp, and you are pouring it into egg whites AS THEY ARE BEING WHISKED, so pour slowly, pour at a distance, pour out of the whisk’s way…or else you run the risk of it spattering.

Persian nougat in progress

Add your spices and rose water…then put into a shallow dish and let cool.

This nougat wasn’t as fluffy as the nougat from the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, and in fact I was initially disappointed in the dense texture of this nougat. However, according to a good source, this resembles the nougat out of Baghdad. A true compliment, as my source grew up in Baghdad and he said this candy reminded him of his childhood.  This is real “baba kadrasi!” he cried out with a smile.  He was the reason I sought out this recipe, really–and I was glad to make him happy.

Persian nougat!

I hope you enjoy the recipe and if you make some, enjoy the nougat, too. My next ambition is to make some Korean candy…and also to figure out how to make this nougat without using corn syrup (yes, it’s a listed ingredient).

Basic recipe follows after the jump…

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