Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok

Complimenting on the cookbook Pok Pok at this point is like stating that cats are fluffy. People have acknowledged it, and already moved on. However, I just cannot get over how every dish I made from the book has turned out amazing. Sure, the dozens of homemade condiments listed in the ingredients are time consuming to make, and I did end up subbing a lot of ingredients (although it is explicitly stated not to do this) due to the large number of hard-to-find or hard-to-use-up ingredients. But even with my constant bastardizing of the dishes with Japanese/Korean ingredients, every dish provided a wholly novel flavor that took me out of the monotony of my home cooking.

I love this cookbook as dearly as I love the Thai recipes from the blog She Simmers. Besides the obvious commonality that they both feature Thai cuisines is that they both take a critical stance against the notion of authenticity.

 

So here are some of the highlights:

Khao Phat Muu: stir-fried rice. I thought I was bored, tired of any iterations of fried rice dishes. I was wrong.

Khao Phat Muu, Thai fried rice from Pok Pok

Khao Tom: Rice soup. Wonderful for warming your body, getting over colds, and hangovers.

Pok pok's rice soup

Yam Makheua Yao: eggplant salad

Thai eggplant salad

Phat Fak Thawng: stir-fried squash. My partner’s new favorite way of eating squash. Actually, her only favorite way of eating squash.

Squash from pok pok

Tam Taeng Kwaa: Cucumber salad

Thai cucumber/tomato/vermicelli salad

Holy basil chicken without the holy basil. I feel remorse.

Thai basil chicken

Yam Khai Dao: Fried egg salad. I am not sure if I would qualify this as a salad. But it’s delicious.

Thai fried egg salad

Kung Op Wun Sen: glass noodles and shrimp baked in a pot. This one’s one of the more Chinese influenced dishes in the cookbook. It’s one of the few noodle dishes that actually pairs wonderfully with rice. Thai-Chinese vermicelli baked in clay pot

PHak Buung Fai Daeng: stir-fried water spinach. Although I used gai-lan. Oyster mushroom, Thai chili, gai-lan

Khao Soi Kai: Northern Thai curry noodle soup with chicken. It’s hell making this dish without a mortar and pestle (I used a cylindrical baking pin with pint glasses.) But it’s worth it. If this dish involved less work, I would seriously consider replacing this with my curry udon recipe as my hangover morning food.

Khao Soi Gai

 

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Today’s food: deep fried cauliflower with tahini sauce

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With tabbouleh-like salad, and baba ganoush, and leftover french bread.

Cauliflower deep fried at 350f for 3 minutes: not crunchy, but delicious nevertheless.

 

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Today’s food: Taiwan maze-men

Taiwan maze-men has nothing to do with Taiwan. It’s a dish that came from Nagoya, the Japanese equivalent of a midwestern city, a middle child living in the shadows of Tokyo and Osaka. However, there are numerous strange culinary inventions that originated in that city, such as the cutlet doused in miso sauce, or Japanese style spiced wings. Taiwan maze-men is not the best known of Nagoya foods, but it’s still a highly popular dish.

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Maze-men is a direct translation of the Chinese ban-mian, soupless noodles that are meant to be mixed before being eaten. Taiwan maze-men consists of thick noodles, onion or garlic oil, spicy sauteed ground pork, shredded nori, and chopped Chinese chives, and an uncooked egg yolk on top.

I didn’t have any chives, so I topped it with some thinly sliced cabbage. Not the best substitute, but it’ll provide some crunch. I had some doubts about the freshness of my eggs, so I threw them in a 140f hot water for 45 minutes, so that they would come out soft-cooked. The eggy parts are essential to this dish.

The spicy pork I made by sauteeing doubanjian (Chinese spicy chili bean) with garlic until the oil turned red, and then threw in some soy sauce, sugar and sake. The ground pork is the main salty element in this dish, so season heavily.

If you have the ground pork, noodles, and the egg yolk, I think you got the most essential parts covered. This sum of this dish is much, much greater than its parts. It becomes this eggy, spicy, porky mass when it’s mixed.

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Today’s food: making okonomiyaki without the sauce

I haven’t had okonomiyaki since I moved to Vancouver. Partly this is my fault, since I refuse to buy any okonomiyaki sauce unless I come upon an industrial sized bottle. I take the smaller bottles as a personal insult to my okonomiyaki obsession.

So yesterday I was stuck with a strong desire to eat okonomiyaki, but without any sauce. So I stumbled off the path of authenticity and made strange multicultural cabbage pancakes. Gochujang okonomiyaki and another with fish dipping sauce

They don’t look pretty. But they turned out pretty good.

The one on the right has a gochujang/grated apple/garlic/scallion/sugar sauce, and had some Korean rice cakes (the tubular kind) and pork slices for toppings. The white, gloppy things on top is my homemade mayo, to smooth out the hotness.

The one on the left comes from my recent infatuation with the cookbook Pok Pok. That one is brushed with mayonnaise, topped with octopus bits and cilantro, and the batter was mixed with fish sauce and water in place of dashi stock. The dipping sauce is actually the leftover from the Khao Phat Muu (fried rice) from the Pok Pok cookbook. It’s a dipping sauce made from fish sauce, chopped Thai chilis, and sliced garlic.

The parallel drawn between okonomiyaki and pancakes and pizza are strangely appropriate, because all three are simple creations that are glorious receptacles for new sauce/topping combinations. I will keep on with the bastardized okonomiyaki dishes.

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Today’s food: knife cut noodles with seaweed chili soup

Knife cut noodles, douban jian, soy sauce, sugar, ground pork, shredded nori

Usually, being time constrained leads me to make something that tastes like crap, but this time the dish worked. This dish turned out pretty amazing. The seaweed element is essential for this dish, and you can use either the Chinese dried seaweed that comes in big, round slabs, or just shred some nori, which is what I did.

So to make this dish, you fry up some chili bean paste (doubanjian, 豆板醤), garlic, ginger in oil until the oil turns red. Put in ground pork and mix it up with the chili bean paste. Once the pork changes color, pour in chicken broth, wait until it’s boiling, and add some cooking wine, soy sauce, and sugar. Once the noodles are boiled and ready, throw in the seaweed, pour everything over, and garnish with green onions.

One of the key points is to use very little broth, less than 200cc per person. This makes for a small amount of intensely flavored broth, rather than a lot of bland liquid.

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Today’s food: Gazpacho Asian noodles

Cold noodles are wonderful. Much like watermelons, swimsuits, and ripe tomatoes, they are only meant to be enjoyed during a limited time, and lamented over the other seasons (although the jazz pianist Yosuke Yamashita was a strong advocate for cold noodles served year-round at restaurants.) With the beginning of the fall, we approach the end of cold noodle season. Simultaneously, we’re at the tail end of the period when tomatoes are the most flavorful.

Gazpacho somen

The gazpacho part of the gazpacho noodles follow the conventional recipe for the cold soup, except for the additions of ginger, soy sauce, and a bit of sesame oil at the end. Today it’s topped with scallions, homemade kimchi, cucumbers, and leftover roast beef. Any kind of asian noodles would do, but my favorites are sômen noodles and ramen noodles.

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Beer making: 5 gallon all grain with a 19L pot

I’ve been brewing my own beer for about an year now. I started mainly because of the cost of beer in Vancouver, which is at least a dollar and a bit for the shittiest beers, and close to two dollars for a bottle of decent beer. Brewing my own, and reusing yeast has lowered the cost of beer to about 50-60 cents a bottle. Now that’s how much I paid for Hamm’s in the US. Wonderful. Brewing with extracts don’t take too much time or attention, so I was quite content.

However, my tendency towards obsession and cheapness drove me further. I wanted to do all-grain brewing for its lower cost and the potential to customize my mashing. I only had a 19L (or maybe it’s 20L) canning pot that I picked up at the thrift store, while people usually agree that you need at least a 7.5 gallon pot for brewing a 5 gallon batch of all-grain homebrew.

I usually love sticking to people’s recommendations, but I decided to test out all-grain in a 5 gallon pot anyway. I really wanted to try all-grain, and I don’t have the resources (or the space) to get a burner and a big pot for outdoor brewing.

I decided to use a combination of brew in a bag and sparging (or putting it simply, just dunking grains in a bucket full of hot water). The result was a success! I’ve done this twice now, and I constantly hit at least 75% efficiency with my brews.

So here’s the explanation to what I did. My brain is too jumbled to explain it verbally, so I just drew the whole thing on a tablet. That’s why the whole thing is horrendously ugly.

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2-All grain 2-001

I would love to have a better setup with a dedicated mash tun in the future, but this works pretty well in the meantime. I can throw in about 2.5 kg of grains without problem.

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