27 November 2013

Korean Sweet Potato Breakfast Bread

Inspired by a luscious-looking cake over on Smitten Kitchen, I finally went and bought my first baking pan since moving to Korea over a year ago.  Can you believe it?  I haven't hardly baked in over year!

Yes, life has been busy.  And ingredients and equipment have been lacking.  But finally, on Thanksgiving Eve, thinking of how many of my family and friends back home are probably madly at work in their kitchens, I pulled it together and exerted a little extra work myself, celebrating (or commiserating? hehe...) with them in spirit.  Starting with a dreamy-looking cake recipe, I decided to make it a bit healthier (since after all, I'll be the only one eating this over the next couple of days), and I ended up with a yummy scone-like delight that I have dubbed "Korean Sweet Potato Breakfast Bread."  Thanks to the name, as well as the slimmed-down ingredients, I definitely have fewer qualms about indulging in this morning, noon, or night!

Though I don't have access to the yams and sweet potatoes that are plentiful throughout the USA, I do have the distinct pleasure of being able to buy these more petite-sized goguma (고구마), or Korean sweet potatoes, any time I want.  Here in Korea, they're a beloved street snack, roasted over coals in portable ovens on the back of a mini-truck or on hand-pulled carts.  They're warm and cozy treats to hold in your hands on a cold winter day, and they're delicious in texture and naturally sweet.  If you've never had goguma before, I heartily recommend heading to your nearest Korean market and roasting them up for a simple, unadorned snack!  (For my Santa Barbara readers, Tri County Produce was actually stocking these regularly back in 2012; anyone know if they've continued stocking them?)

This breakfast bread is quite simple to make, being that I have few fancy gadgets on hand here.  You just need an oven, a baking pan, a bowl, a whisk, a spatula, a blender, and a grater, though you could use an electric hand mixer and a potato ricer, as in the Smitten Kitchen version.  I also found that leaving some of the goguma roughly cubed, rather than having it all completely grated, is marvelous thing, creating soft nuggets of extra sweetness here and there in the bread.

Wishing all my US readers a very happy Thanksgiving!
Korean Sweet Potato Breakfast Bread
Inspired by Smitten Kitchen

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger

3 small eggs
¼ cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup plain yogurt
¼ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ packed cups cooked, grated Korean sweet potato
Sift together dry ingredients (first 6 ingredients listed) in large mixing bowl.  Next, blend together the wet ingredients (eggs, oil, yogurt, sugar, vanilla) in blender until light and frothy.

Pour the blended mixture into the dry ingredients in the large mixing bowl and crumble the grated sweet potato over.  Gently mix the ingredients together with a spatula, using as few strokes as possible to incorporate them together.

Spread batter in a 7x10-inch cake pan lined with parchment paper.  Bake in a 175 C (350 F) preheated oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Serve immediately.  (Leftovers taste best when reheated and toasted!)

31 July 2013

A Summertime Snack: Mul Naengmyeon (물냉면)

Mul Naengmyeon Portrait

Mul naengmyeon is so refreshing during the summertime heat.  An icy cold, vinegary, sweet and savory broth.  Chewy buckwheat noodles (for boba fans, think "Q"!) and crunchy fresh vegetables.  A bit of salty, crispy dried seaweed.  Some protein on top.

It's thirst-quenching and nourishing, and it's just the right amount for a light meal or snack.  I've been eating a lot of this stuff the past few weeks, sometimes with more veggies, sometimes with a dab of gochujang (Korean red pepper paste).  Any which way, it's so so good!  Make some today if you need relief from the summer heat!

Mul Naengmyeon Bowl

Mul Naengmyeon (물냉면)
Recipe adapted from Maangchi
1 serving

1 1/2 cups very cold broth (recipe below)
75 g buckwheat noodles (memil mulnaengmyeon/메밀물냉면)
1/4 cup julienned cucumber
1/4 cup julienned Asian pear (배)
hard-boiled egg
julienned kim (sesame and salt-seasoned seaweed laver), to taste
about 1/2 cup crushed ice

Bring a saucepan of water to boil, then add the buckwheat noodles and cook according to package directions (3-4 minutes).  Drain noodles in a colander and rinse with cold water until thoroughly cooled (this helps to improve the chewy texture).  During rinsing, use the running water to help untangle the noodles, and then wrap the serving of noodles into a tight spool.  Place the noodles into an individual serving bowl and set aside in the refrigerator to chill.

Prepare the julienned cucumber and Asian pear, along with the hard-boiled egg and kim.

To assemble, pour the prepared cold broth over the noodles, add the crushed ice around the noodles, and arrange the cucumber, pear, egg, and kim on top.  Serve with extra vinegar and salt (and kim!), as desired.

For the Mul Naengmyeon Broth
8 cups water
4 dried shiitake mushrooms (표고버섯)
4 1-inch pieces dried kelp (dashima/다시마)
8 dried anchovies, heads and guts removed (마른멸치)
2 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. salt
2 1/2 Tbs. vinegar

Place water, mushrooms, kelp, and anchovies in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Strain out and discard the solids, then whisk in the sugar and salt until dissolved.  Let broth cool to room temperature, then add the vinegar.  Transfer broth to a non-reactive container and refrigerate until very cold.  (Keeps for one week, refrigerated.)

20 July 2013

Flavors of Taiwan: Lǔ​ Ròu Fàn (滷肉飯)

Lu Rou Fan 滷肉飯

I've been missing Asian food.  Funny, right?  I mean, here I am in Asia...  But, it's actually pretty hard to find legit, non-Korean Asian food here.  Last week I couldn't take the cravings anymore, and a friend suggested that I try making lǔ​ ròu fàn (滷肉飯), a classic Taiwanese dish.  Armed with a shopping list of ingredients, I made a 1 1/2 hour trek by foot and by subway to the other side of Busan, where, I had heard, there were a couple little "international food" shops that sold non-Korean Asian groceries.

It's easier to find European and U.S. groceries and brands in Korea than it is to find Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, or even Japanese groceries and produce.  Sigh.

The shopping experience was fraught with funny moments.  Initially, I tried explaining in Korean to the shop lady what I needed, but as I had my shopping list written in English and Chinese, the urge to explain in Chinese was overwhelming and the cognitive dissonance was apparently way too much--and eventually both brain and tongue gave up and went blank for a while.  So, I started browsing, regrouped and cleared my brain of the Chinese, and then tried pointing to items that looked about right and asked the shop lady what they were, to confirm if my suspicions were correct.  As it turned out, however, she herself didn't really even know what some of the items on her shelves were!  Thankfully, in the end, I was able to find all I needed (except for five spice powder--I just subbed extra star anise and cloves) in that distant neighborhood far into the other side of Busan.

Back at home, I set about following Taiwan Duck's recipe for this absolutely delicious lǔ​ ròu fàn.  It turned out fragrant, sweet, and salty, perfectly hitting the mark of the classic Taiwanese flavor profile that I'd been missing.  Closing my eyes and savoring the flavors, I could really imagine I was back in Taiwan.  Hooray!

Lu Rou Fan

07 July 2013

Another spaghetti ai frutti di mare

Pasta ai Frutti di Mare 1

Summer is here, and with this season in Korea come the summer rains.  I still haven't quite gotten used to the fact that rains here generally mean warmer temperatures, so when I look outside and see the rain falling and hear it spattering against the windows, I get in the mood for something warm, savory, and tomato-y.

One recent rainy day, I cooked this lovely dish for dinner.  I needed some good comfort food.  Yes I confess, I was missing home--I suppose I should qualify that as "home-in-Santa-Barbara"--and this fantastic tomato seafood sauce over spaghetti, finished with fresh parsley and a hint of crushed red pepper flakes, always does the trick for my tastebuds and for my heart.

Pasta ai Frutti di Mare 2


Can you tell that twirled pasta with seafood is a theme with me?  Try some of these recipes!
Linguine with seafood, fresh fennel, and tomatoes 
Spaghetti ai Carciofi con Scampi 
Linguine ai Frutti di Mare
Seafood alla Puttanesca on Capellini 

30 June 2013

Dilled Shrimp and Tomato Toasts with Cucumber

Shrimp and Tomato Toasts 3

July is around the corner, and the weather sure is heating up here in Korea!  Most days, between the soaring temperatures and the exhaustion after a long day of work, I don't feeling like cooking at all.  Instead, I just putter around in the kitchen and see what I can create with whatever is on hand, pulling together easy nibbles when hunger hits.

I've been craving dishes that are cool and refreshing, yet healthy and nutritious.  Like this chilled salad of satisfying shrimp and juicy tomato in a creamy dill vinaigrette, served over crisp-toasted rye bread from my favorite local bakery.  My parents, who just wrapped up two weeks visiting me here in Korea, were as delighted as I have been with OPS Bakery here in the Haeundae district of Busan.  OPS sells some of the most authentic German bread I've tasted anywhere outside of Germany, and my father, the son of a Bavarian baker, would concur!

The special days with my parents flew by all too quickly.  We explored volcanic formations on Jeju Island, drank a little too much makkeolli and ate a little too much after long days of site-seeing in Seoul, and spent time resting either flopped on the floor of a jjimjilbang or over a simple bread and cheese dinner at home.

With this lovely little lunch, all I needed was a simple accompaniment of cool cucumber slices sprinkled with sea salt and freshly-cracked pepper, just like my father so often prepares for lunches at home.  I'm thankful for the happy memories we created while they visited, and I'm grateful for these tasty bites that helps to keep a little bit of them beside me even though they've returned back home to California.

Shrimp and Tomato Toasts 1

I didn't keep track of the exact measurements of my ingredients, but here is my best estimate of the recipe for you!

Chilled Shrimp and Tomato Salad
1 cup cooked shrimp, coarsely chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup cucumber, finely chopped
1-2 Tbs. creamy vinaigrette
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. dried dill
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients until evenly coated with dressing.  Chill well, then serve immediately over toasts or mounded over a bed of salad greens.

03 May 2013

Flourless Black Bean Espresso Brownies

20130502_Brownies 3

Brownies.  I think these are something that most of us love.  But, for the sane among us, they generally fall into the "enjoy sparingly" category.  I'm here to tell you today, however, that it's time for total freedom and abandon.  I bet that these delicious brownies will be the healthiest brownies that you will ever eat!  Okay...is this something to get excited about or what?  These brownies are high in protein and fiber, which is fantastic of course, but they are also flourless and dairy free (other than whatever's in your chocolate).  It's kind of crazy, but it just gets even better: my recipe uses no added oil or butter, and I only add just a couple teaspoons of sugar.  Whoa!

Soft, espresso and vanilla-scented, crunchy-walnut-studded, chocolatey.  These treats happily strike harmony between health and flavor!

20130502_Brownies 1

So, how do you get a luscious fudgy-like brownie that is totally guilt-free?  I took inspiration from an "amazing" flourless brownie recipe, which swaps out flour for black beans.  I then replaced part of the butter and sugar with applesauce--a common trick for paring down the calories in quickbreads and muffins.  And as it turned out I totally forgot to add the rest of the butter, and serendipitously realized it was perfectly soft and smooth without any butter at all!  I do admit I don't like my sweets glaringly sweet, so if you find your batter not quite sweet enough (those not afraid of raw eggs, go ahead and taste-test, I knooow you won't be able to resist!), you can increase the sugar, but if you just want a pan of brownies that you don't mind finishing half of on your own...ahem....then this recipe is good as-is.

20130502_Brownies 2

I couldn't wait to try these guys just minutes after pulling them from the oven yesterday, but they definitely hold their shape better as they cool.  And if you pop them in the fridge and chill them up (or heavens, cool, split, freeze, and make ice cream sandwiches with them!) they'll take on an even denser consistency.  Sigh... There's only one more piece left...I need to make another batch soon.

Flourless Black Bean Espresso Brownies
For one 8x8-inch pan

1 cup soft-cooked black beans, completely drained
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 ounces (55 grams) dark or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup apple sauce
1/4 cup espresso or strong brewed coffee (plus more, as needed)
2 eggs
1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely crumbled

Place beans, vanilla extract, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor (or blender).

Mix the chocolate, apple sauce, and 1/4 cup espresso in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave, stirring occasionally, until melted.
Add hot chocolate mixture to beans, and pulse until well mixed.  Add more espresso, as needed, if mixture is stiff.  Let the mixture cool so that the eggs won't cook when you add them, then add the eggs and blend until smooth.

Remove food processor bowl (or blender) from electric stand and stir in the walnut pieces with a spoon or spatula.

Line a small baking dish (8 x 8 inches for thin brownies) with parchment paper and pour the batter over.  (I actually had to use a larger pan, but my batter was thick enough to stay in place in the center of my pan without spreading too far.)  Bake at 325 F (165 C) for 25 minutes.  Cool completely (a deeper chill will produce a denser consistency), then slice and serve.

22 April 2013

Yeongeun Jorim (연근 조림) Sweet and Chewy Lotus Roots

IMG_4780 - edited

A month or so ago, I made this side dish for my very first dinner party here in Korea.  Deciding to go take the plunge and prepare an all-Korean menu for the group of local Busanites that I'd invited, I was a bit nervous wondering if my cooking would make the cut with real Koreans.  ^^

I got positive feedback on my dishes, which I'm sure my new friends would have given me whether or not they were real successes.  However, this particular side dish, yeongeun jorim, received multiple rave reviews and was snapped up by my guests so quickly that I knew I had hit the mark with this one.

Though I usually don't have sweet dishes as part of the main meal, this side dish (반찬 / banchan) of chewy lotus coated with a sweet, sticky soy sauce glaze is actually a pretty fun contrast for flavor and texture when served as part of an array of Korean side dishes.

I love how the saltiness of the soy sauce keeps the syrup from being cloying, and I've been enjoying this yeongeun jorim as a little snack when I am just craving something sweet!

Yeongeun jorim (연근 조림) literally means "lotus root simmer."  The word for lotus root, yeongeun/연근, comes from the Chinese 蓮根 (lián gēn), while jorim/조림 is a pure Korean word referring to something that has been simmered or stewed in soy sauce.  Here I use a dark syrup made from rice malt, which yields a great depth of flavor, but you could substitute it with corn syrup in a pinch.

Yeongeun Jorim (연근 림) 

350g package of sliced (0.5mm thin), pre-boiled lotus root
3 1-inch square pieces dried kelp (다시마/dashima)
1 dried shitake mushroom
4 cups water
1/4 C soy sauce
3/4 cup rice malt syrup (known as 쌀올리고당/ssal oligotang or 조청/jo cheong)
Sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds for garnish, optional

Place all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for 2 hours, uncovered, until lotus slices are soft and chewy, stirring occasionally to make sure lotus slices stay submerged and cook evenly.  (If water evaporates too quickly and you haven't yet achieved the desired degree of chewiness, add more water as needed.)

 During cooking, the water will evaporate, and by the end of cooking, remove the kelp and mushroom and continue reducing the sauce until it becomes a syrupy consistency.  The lotus root is pretty forgiving, so it should be fine if you want to speed things up at the end and just boil the syrup down to finish it off.

Remove from heat and gently stir in the sesame oil and garnish with sesame seeds.  Cool to room temperature; store refrigerated.

20 March 2013

Hallabong (한라봉), the Sweetest Orange

IMG_4815 - edited 

Some of the sweetest oranges you'll try, Hallabong oranges, a specialty of Jeju Island in South Korea, are a treat for the eyes and the tastebuds.

IMG_4812 - edited

Look for the characteristic, funky bump surrounding the stem.  I wonder what makes the orange's bump?

IMG_4813 - edited

These oranges are in season from winter through early spring, so I'm seeing a lot of them here in Korea right now.  After harvesting, the oranges are sometimes held back from the market for a time, allowing the acidity levels to fall and the sugars to develop until a desired flavor profile is attained.

IMG_4814 - edited 

They peel so easily!  Which is a good thing--a really good thing--if you are the hostess preparing fruits at the end of the meal, working under the watchful eyes of your guests.  I'm no expert in actual fruit preparation, but I have learned that here in Korea, the way you prepare and present fruits in front of others, especially your elders and (potential) in-laws, is filled with meaning!  One of my next goals in life is to master the art of cutting and peeling fruits the Korean way...yep.

 IMG_4816 - edited

In Korea, these are grown primarily on Halla Mountain, or Hallasan (한라산), from which the oranges get their name.

IMG_4817 - edited

Keep on the lookout for these Hallabong oranges--are they available outside of Korea and Japan (there they are called dekopon)?  In any case, don't forget your vitamin C; we're just coming out of winter and it's important to stay healthy!

17 February 2013

Squid and Vegetable Muchim (오징어야채무침) -- And How to Clean a Squid

After 6 months of gallivanting about the globe (racking up well over 60,000 flight miles and sleeping in over 22 different places in that span of time), I've finally settled down in Busan, South Korea for this season.  I've been crazy-blessed, getting to see so much of the world (thought my passport pages weren't going to last me!), but I have to say I am blessed once again to stay put now for a while.

As I try to recover from the whirlwind of 2012, I'm slowly finding energies again to do non-survival-activities, like cooking and photographing.  Sadly my DSLR is back in California, being well-cared for by my parents, so I'm back to just point-and-shoot photography again.  And, all my lovely dishes, linens, and tableware is also back home, packed up in storage, which does put a damper on my food photography.  Sigh.

But the culinary landscape has been absolutely a dream here in Korea!!  One of these days I'll have to get my DSLR back again and start trying to do justice to all I encounter.  I feel like I'm eating constantly, with the best banchan, tastiest stews, and delightful Euro-Korean baked goods everywhere.  I'm doing my best to learn about what I am eating on a daily basis, and I'm hoping that one day I'll know these awesome dishes well enough to make them all myself.

IMG_4683 - edited

Taking things one at a time, I decided to recreate a tasty side dish (banchan) that I had for lunch a couple weeks ago.  It's a bit like a salad of sorts, a mix of sauteed squid and fresh vegetables all tossed in an amazing spicy and tangy red pepper paste dressing, with the fragrance of roasted sesame and the fresh perilla leaves.

I loved it just the way I've written the recipe below, but next time I might add more perilla leaves and perhaps use one more squid, or add in some other type of seafood for a medley of textures.

But back to this particular version, here's what you'll need: Green cabbage, Swiss chard, fresh perilla (wild sesame) leaves,  fresh squid, rice vinegar, roasted sesame oil, soy sauce, sesame seeds, Korean red pepper paste (gochujang), and sugar (forgot that in the photo!).

Ingredients - Korean Squid and Vegetable Side Dish

Not having my trusty Trader Joe's nearby to sell me pre-cleaned and pre-cut squid, I entered into new territory and cleaned squid myself for the first time!  Turns out it's pretty easy and fun to do, so if you ever want to get some fresh squid, don't be intimidated, just go for it!

How to clean a squid at home in 6 easy steps:

1. Position your squid on the cutting board. (Ahem, see how easy this is?)
2. Placing the knife below the eyes and above the beak (you'll find where the tentacles join together), cut through the body.  (Oops...I cut through the ink sac!)
3. Find the beak, and then cut it from the tentacles and discard it.
4. Grab the mantle (large portion on the left in the photos) firmly with one hand and then with your other hand grab the head (region with the eyes) and pull the "guts" out of the mantle.  Discard the eyes and the attached guts.
5. Find the end of stiff quill within the mantle and pull it out.  At this point, if you find there is any "gloop" still inside the mantle, scoop it out with a spoon.  Briefly rinse the squid, if necessary.
6. Finally, slice the squid as desired (I cut the mantle twice, lengthwise, then cut crosswise for a very coarse "julienne").

Squid Step-by-Step - edited

Next, cut up your veggies.  I won't elaborate much here, but it sure makes it easier when you fold the large leaves before slicing!  (Oh and yes, I washed the cutting board between the squid and the veggies.  You've got to be careful about cross-contamination in the home kitchen, you know.)

Vegetable Step-by-Step 2 - edited

This kind of Korean side dish is called a "muchim" (pronounced moo-chim), which refers to anything that gets seasoned with this tangy red pepper paste dressing.  I find it pretty addictive, and the great thing is, this kind of food is super healthy so everyone has permission to indulge!

오징어야채무침 Squid and Vegetable Muchim

2 fresh squid (오징어)
1 tsp. vegetable oil
5 leaves Swiss chard, cut in ribbons
10 perilla (wild sesame) leaves, julienned (깻잎)
1 ½ cups chopped green cabbage (양배추)

¼ cup gochujang (고추장)
3 Tbs. rice vinegar (현미식초)
2 Tbs. soy sauce (진간장)
2 Tbs. roasted sesame seeds (볶음참깨)
1 Tbs. roasted sesame oil (참기름)
1 Tbs. sugar (설탕)

Clean the squid and cut into small strips (about 1 ½ inches long).  Heat a little sesame oil a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and stir fry the squid until opaque and just cooked through, about 1 minute.

Place the Swiss chard, perilla leaves, cabbage, and squid in a large work bowl, then add the seasoning ingredients on top.  With a gloved hand, mix until all ingredients are thoroughly combined and everything is coated evenly with the seasoning mixture.

Serve as a side dish for a traditional Korean meal at home or in your dosirak (lunch box)!  Store any leftovers in an airtight container, refrigerated.

Korean Squid and Vegetable Side Dish