Friday, December 10, 2010

Exorcist coffee

Here's an interesting coffee shop I came across in Edae a few weekends ago*:
What kind of coffee would an exorcist drink?
Apparently teddy bears love it.
(*although note that 'exorcist' in the Korean context typically refers to someone like this and doesn't necessarily evoke something like this)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tip: Cheater's Omuraisu

Though I made this, I have to give credit to M. for the idea. Made this for lunch this past Tuesday. I had made the omuraisu (omelette rice) filling but using Jasmine rice instead of Korean short-grain, which I normally use, and I was worried it wasn't going to hold together very well (the grains are more distinct with Jasmine). Then, M. suggested I just make a flat omelette and drape it over the mound of rice (the cheese blanket, I should say, was his idea too). Isn't it purdy?:
Fried rice waiting with cheese blanket
Close-up on the masterpiece
Looks like some kind of sea creature...a horseshoe crab, perhaps?

This time I added canned diced tomatoes, sliced pyogo 표고 mushrooms (my current favorite Korean mushroom, kind of like a shitake, sooo good) and broccoli florets to the rice filling (whatever happened to be on hand).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Recipe: Black Eyed Beans with Spinach and Dill (from Madhur Jaffrey)

For a description of the making of this recipe and ingredient notes, see this post.

Parveen Haroon's Black eyed Beans with Spinach and Dill
From Pakistan

From Madhur Jaffrey's "From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail." Clarkson Potter 2003.

1 cup dried black-eyed peas
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
3 Tablespoons corn or peanut oil
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon whole brown mustard seeds
4 cloves garlic, chopped
15-20 fresh curry leaves, if available (I used 8 or so dried)
1 pound spinach, washed, finely chopped, and left to drain in a colander (I used one bunch, probably half a pound)
7-8 Tablespoons very finely chopped fresh dill
6 Tablespoons plain yoghurt (I used about 4 Tablespoons milk)

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons coarsely ground, pure chili powder (gochu karu!)
1 dried lime or 1 fresh lime or 1 to 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Cover the beans generously with water and leave to soak overnight.  Drain them the next day, put in a pan with 4 cups of fresh water, and bring to a simmer.  Partially cover with a lid, and cook for 50 to 60 minutes, or until tender (mine took 2 hours). Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt.

Pour the oil into a large pan or wok and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the cumin seeds and mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, a matter of seconds, put in the garlic and curry leaves. Stir once, then add the spinach and dill. Stir and cook until most of the liquid in the spinach is absorbed. Reduce the heat to low and add 1 1/2 cups of water, the chili powder, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir. If using a dried lime, crack the lime and take out the dried black pulp. Remove any seeds and crush the pulp. Add it to the spinach. Now pour the contents of the spinach pan into the pan containing the beans. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Serve with tomato-garlic rice (separate recipe).

Rorschach Peas

I continue on my Indian/Curry cooking jag, inspired by Madhur Jaffrey and her cookbook, "From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail."  Tonight it was a Malaysian lentil curry (no photographic evidence of that, unfortunately...).

Everything I've made from that cookbook (4 recipes and counting) has turned out well. Last Sunday I decided to try a black-eyed pea (she calls them 'beans' in the book) curry seasoned with curry leaves and dill. I hadn't been planning on it, but while at the Foreign Food Mart in Itaewon I noticed they had some packs of dill (why didn't they have it when I needed it for my Thanksgiving rice dish? Oh well...) and decided to make it for lunch on Sunday. It was the dill that I was hesitant about...but it turned out to be one of the best curries that I've ever made, and one of M.'s favorites.

Also, happily, it was via this dish that I discovered the frozen limes in my freezer (brought to us from a friend coming back from an unnamed tropical location) were salvageable after all, and I didn't have to use the suggested lemon substitute (which I think wouldn't have been as good).

I served it with tomato rice, as she suggests, although without an oven I couldn't bake it and had to, instead, stir-fry the rice with the tomato-garlic sauce before serving. It was a great combination: The dill and curry leaves blended together beautifully to create a wonderful tang, and the milk (my yoghurt “substitute”) added a bit of creaminess. It was a bit watery, but this allowed for plenty of rich, delicious broth. The comforting tomato-garlic rice balanced the bold flavors of the peas.

It took a bit more time than I anticipated – even though I soaked the peas last night, they still took double the time she indicates to cook (2 hours instead of 50-60 minutes) – but the results were well-worth it. South Asian peas and rice! I could live on the stuff. (I'll post the recipe tomorrow; too good not to share).

A note on the ingredients: I got the dill and dried curry leaves at the Foreign Food Mart in Itaewon (where you can also get plain Denmark yoghurt in individual containers like they have at Costco; not sure why I didn't buy any at that time...). I was delighted to read in Jaffrey's headnote that she recommends Korean coarse-ground red pepper powder (gochu karu 고추가루) – something you can get in any supermarket here! If you can't get the Korean version, she recommends cayenne pepper as a substitute. 

A final note: M. thinks that this pea looks like Rorschach from Watchmen:

What do you think?

'Western' food: A one-two punch, take two: Chili King

I first heard about Chili King via Seoul Eats and was curious to try it, particularly the chili burgers. So I recruited K. again, and along with M., the three of us checked it out for dinner this past Thursday.
The restaurant, a short walk from Itaewon station, is small and cozy. The place threw K. off a little, because everything was written entirely in English only – the menu and the signboards. An army of hot sauces lined the shelf under the passthrough to the kitchen. We sat next to a group of three young guys, one of whom, judging from his Gophers jersey and Twins cap, was apparently a fellow Minnesotan.

Instead of a chili burger, I ended up ordering a bowl of chili, K. got a bacon cheeseburger and M. ordered a chili dog. The chili itself was a solid, meat-and-beans chili, evenly textured and spiced (I'd say on the low end of medium-spicy for me) topped with a bit of cheese and accompanied by sliced French bread. M. really enjoyed his chili dog accompanied by crinkly fries, and K. liked her burger (well, it had bacon on it, so it had that going for it at least).

The waitstaff were friendly and seemed to speak English pretty well. Unlike Butterfingers, Chili King is located relatively close to me (in Itaewon) and I could see going back there again, though it's a bit spendy for a bowl of chili (8,500 won). I don't know if I'd go back just for the chili, but I could see getting a chili dog again.

The following directions and info are from Seoul Eats :

The Chili King
010 6873 1304
Hours 11-11
Closed on Tuesday because the King goes to Three Alley Pub to have wings.

Directions go out Exit one of Itaewon Station and make the second right: make a right at "Pacific Shopping," you'll see OK2 Kitchen on your left. Go up the hill about 200 meters and you'll see it on the left.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Malaysian Street Food!

M. and I are heading to Thailand and Malaysia over the winter holiday this year. While researching our trip, I stumbled across this awesome site, which led me to this site: a series of short promotional videos for the street food nominees, in 12 different categories (scroll down to 'And the Winners Are').

Apparently the contest was held on December 3rd, but I don't think they've announced the winners yet.

I'm really looking forward to our trip! The food looks really interesting and delicious; a lot of old favorites and some new ones. I miss going to Malaysia Kopitiam...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Curry season

Lately, with the chilly weather setting in, all I've been wanting to cook at home is variations on the theme of Indian-style curry.

I got this recipe from a cookbook by Madhur Jaffrey, which I found a copy of in my university's library (somewhat unexpectedly). Here's the recipe, with my modifications and notes:

Chickpea, Potato and Cabbage Curry (from Guyana)
From Madhur Jaffrey's "From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail." Clarkson Potter 2003.

Serves 4 to 6

1 cup dried chickpeas
1 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 wiri-wiri peppers, 1/8 of a congo pepper (scotch bonnet; habanero), without seeds, or 3 bird's eye chiles, chopped
4 Tablespoons corn, peanut, or olive oil
1 Tablespoon hot curry powder
1 teaspoon roasted and ground cumin seeds
3 medium potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice
1.5 teaspoons salt, or to taste
4.5 cups green cabbage, its leaves cut into 1/2-inch squares (or substitute 1 large bunch spinach, chopped)

Soak the chickpeas overnight in 5 cups of water. Drain the next day, put in a pan, add 5 cups of fresh water, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook very gently for 1 to 3 hours, or until the chickpeas are very tender. If the water in the pan threatens to dry out, add more boiling water. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid. Pour the liquid into a measuring cup and add enough water to make 2.5 cups.

Put the onion, garlic, peppers, and 4 Tablespoons of water into a blender and blend until smooth.

Pour the oil into a heavy, preferably nonstick, lidded pan and set over medium-high head. Put in the paste from the blender. Stir and fry for 2-3 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, removing the lid to stir frequently. Add the curry powder and roasted cumin. Stir once and put in the chickpeas, potatoes, salt, and the mixture of chickpea-cooking liquid and water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat, and cook gently, stirring now and then, for 20-25 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Add the cabbage and a further 1 cup of water. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, or until the cabbage has just softened. Taste for salt before serving. My serving suggestions: Serve with pickle and rice, or tortillas browned over a gas flame and buttered (a good substitute for naan or chapatis, I've found) if you like.

My notes: I substituted one bunch of spinach (it's been so cheap and good these days) for the cabbage. If you use spinach, you don't need to cook the curry for as long at the end (maybe just 5 extra minutes) since spinach cooks so fast compared to cabbage.

Since I don't have a food processor, the garlic cloves were smashed with a mortar and pestle instead, and I finely minced the onion and chiles (I just substituted 2 green gochu with the seeds removed). I didn't add the 4 Tbsp water either.

For the "hot curry powder," I mixed about equal amounts (about one generous Tablespoon each) of 1) ground red pepper and 2) ground coriander.
Just went to the Foreign Food Mart in Itaewon to stock up on more chickpeas, and now I'm set to make this again next week! So good, cheap, and easy.

Cutest. Cake. Ever.

Look what my students got me for the last day of class last week!
A cute and delicious bear cake from Tous Les Jours!

I suspect they chose it because it 'bears' (haha) some resemblance to the bear on the bag that I used to collect money from them whenever they spoke Korean (1,000 won fine each time):
Am I a cruel teacher? Well, considering I used that money to buy them all treats on the last day, probably not...

'Western' food: A one-two punch, take one: Butterfinger Pancakes

 As much as I love Korean food, sometimes I just crave something from back home, like a proper (quote unquote) American breakfast. Before moving here, I wondered what I would miss the most, and actually predicted one thing right: bacon. Real bacon: not the uncured samgyupsal that everyone is crazy about here and that I also enjoy, but salty, cured, crispy bacon. Not only do I miss bacon, but also biscuits and gravy (hard for me to make with only a teeny tiny toaster oven) and good sausages. I can do eggs at home – we have a lot of British-ish breakfasts consisting of fried eggs, toast-and-jam, and baked beans (thanks to HomePlus a.k.a. Tesco's in Korea) and sometimes do pancakes or potato hash, but it's those breakfast meats that I typically crave.

So last Sunday, my friend K. and I decided to go to Butterfingers, a favorite of K.'s. They have two branches, and we went to the one near Gangnam station. K's a bacon fiend, more than me – she tells me that for 6 months while studying and living in the U.S., she ate 10 pieces of bacon at each meal! (sometimes in fried rice, she says, but still) – and Butterfingers is a place she can go to satisfy her cravings. The atmosphere was bright and open, and reminded me a bit of The Diner in D.C., although a little more upscale. The menu was huge and everything looked delicious (chive waffle with sauteed cherry tomatoes and bacon on the side; corned beef hash platter; blueberry pancakes). As expected, it was a bit pricey. We didn't get any coffee because the prices started at 5,000 won for a regular drip coffee. At last, I decided to order my breakfast a la carte (spiced pecan pancakes with apple compote; hashbrowns; bacon), which added up to be around 12,000 won. The two pancakes alone cost 5,500 won. K. ordered a waffle platter with eggs, potatoes, sausage and bacon for about the same price, and we shared our food and gushed over the bacon. My food came out on three separate plates, probably because I ordered a la carte, which made it a bit hard to eat the pancakes; serving it all on one plate would have made more sense to me.
 The food was good, but not awesome. Basically, like something you'd get at a good diner back home. The hashbrowns were pre-frozen and not cooked very well; they could have been crispier. I preferred K.'s potatoes (homefries), although even those could have been better (a bit undercooked but well-seasoned). I could have made those pancakes at home myself, and I agree with this review - the portion should have made it a side order. The bacon and sausage were a highlight: the former crispy-chewy and smoky, the latter plump, juicy, and mildly spiced (kind of like a weiswurst). At those prices, and the fact it's in Gangnam, I wouldn't go regularly, but it'd be a nice place for the occasional treat.


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