Category Archives: Uncategorized

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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Filed under cookbooks, Food, Thai, Uncategorized

Saury three ways

Saury are wonderful. A Korean grocery store nearby were selling 10 for $8, which meant that I was able to escape from my seafood deprived state, and that I needed to keep eating saucy for several meals. This did not pose a large problem for me, since I love blue fish and their intensely fishy flavor. If white fleshed fish were coffee made by drip systems, blues are the less refined yet robust and strong french press coffee. Blue fish are not for everyone, but people who like it, love it.

Day 1, Grilled saury

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Wash, dry, salt on both sides, let sit for 30 min, create shallow incisions on both sides (as you might when baking a baguette), and broil on high, with the fish sitting at least 6 inches apart from the heating element. Common garnishes are grated daikon (highly recommended) and citrus (sudachi, if you can get your hands on it).  You can gut the fish if you want, but enjoying the bitter, rich taste of the fish offals are considered to be a marker of mature taste.

Day 2, Stewed.

Lay sliced ginger in the bottom of a pressure cooker, pour some sake, sugar, soy sauce, and a bit of water. Cook under pressure for 15 min. Or, stew for a while in a regular pot. The pressure cookers thoroughly softens the bones, making the fish much easier to eat.

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One added bonus is that you can add stewed saury on top of soba noodle in dashi based soup, and the soup gets enriched with saury fishiness.

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Day 3, saury onion pasta with garlic, garlicky toasted breadcrumbs, and italian parsley

Saury, breadcrumbs, garlic, onions, and italian parsley

 

The whole thing tastes like a large mass of saury and garlic. Wondefully tasty, but horrible for your breath. Sauté breadcrumbs with garlic until a bit browned. Sauté garlic, add filleted saury, fry in couple tablespoons of oil. When the thing’s crisp, throw in pasta water, toss with pasta, cram everything into a dish, and sprinkle some italian parsley on top. Filleting saury may be tedious, but this dish is well worth it.

 

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Filed under Fish, Japanese, Japanese noodles, pasta, Uncategorized, Western stuff

Flying To Taiwan

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The way to get the most out of your in-flight meal is: out of the two choices, choose the less appealing options (cheaper ingredients, less innovative quality, or sounds just plain weird).

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Although this has proven successful many times for myself, I cannot get other people to try this.

This is perhaps due to people’s fear of choosing the less appealing option and actually receiving an unappealing dish.

The irony of the situation is that whatever you choose for your inflight meal, whatever investment you have for your choice, the difference in quality is marginal.

This quality, this critical “choice” during the flying experience that proves to be have little substantial difference makes me feel that I have learned a life lesson every time.

 

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Filed under Food, Travel, Uncategorized, Western stuff

Today’s food: ramen in cold broth (hiyashi ramen)

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This was really good. Only about once or twice a year I hit on an original recipe that’s very simply, without a doubt, delicious.  What started out as a half-assed attempt to recreate the hiyashi-ramen that I’ve been reading about turned into a wonderful dish. Proximity to the authentic hiyashi-ramen ceased to be an issue.

Boil konbu (kelp) in small amount of water for konbu stock. Add salt and dash of fish sauce. Discard konbu and chill. Combine with refrigerated mature hen stock. Make flavored oil by heating oil with dried shrimp, garlic, sesame seeds, green onions, and whatever aromatic stuff.

Boil and rinse noodles in cold water. Top with tomatoes, sliced red cabbage, cilantro, boiled egg, whatever protein you have on hand (grilled chicken, charsiu), and flavored oil.

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Filed under faux chinese, Japanese noodles, Uncategorized

Today’s food: torisoba, noodles in chicken broth

Throw mature hen in pressure cooker for 1.5 hours (after cleaning and quick parboil). Set aside 200-300ml for torisoba. Season soup with rice wine (or Shiaoxing wine), a dribble of soy sauce, and salt. You can soak some kelp in there for some added glutamate umami. Blanche some Asian greens, shred meat from hen, and throw everything together with some very thin ramen noodles (or egg noodles, or thin wheat (like sômen) noodles). Add a drizzle of sesame oil.

Tori-soba: simple chicken noodle

 

Stare into the clear, golden broth and slurp.

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Filed under faux chinese, Japanese, Japanese noodles, Uncategorized

Making the best (okonomiyaki) of what you have (in North America)

I am not an okonomiyaki snob. But coming from Osaka, I have a lot to say about okonomiyaki. I still hold an okonomiyaki grudge against a friend from about 3 years ago. I have another okonomiyaki related grudge against a person that I am even ashamed to voice. Apparently, okonomiyaki is important to me.

Okonomiyaki requires ingredients that are not really pantry staples. Mountain potato or mountain potato powder? Little fried tempura nuggets (tenkasu)? Aonori? Who would have a regular supply of those in the kitchen?

And those okonomiyaki mixes sold on the shelves of Japanese food stores? Don’t buy them. First, they are what Bisquick is to pancakes.  Second, the sugars and whatever nutritious things in those mixes attract insects. If you have them lying around for an extended amount of time in room temperature, the chance is that you have a whole breeding farm on your hands.

So, after several years, I devised a simple, okonomiyaki recipe that is different, yet wonderfully tasty and can be made with ingredients that are easy to acquire.

I also realized that many North American home cooks have some advantages above the Japanese home cooks.

1. The ubiquity of cast iron cookware.

Cast iron cookware is quite rare in Japan, which is a shame considering that it’s probably one of the best materials to cook okonomiyaki on. A cast iron griddle is the ideal vessel for cooking a crisp yet light okonomiyaki.

2. Access to ingredients that are expensive in Japan.

While pork, squid, and shrimp are probably the most standard toppings for okonomiyaki, there are infinite variations. Among those non-conventional okonomiyaki are those that use ingredients in Western cooking, such as cheese and cured meat. However, supermarket quality cheese and bacon in Japan are of very, very sad quality. Bacon and cheese that are equivalent to generic supermarket brand quality in the US are very expensive in Japan, and not something you throw into a cabbage pancake. By using stuff like hormel bacon and Kroger cheese, you already get a Western themed okonomiyaki that’s much better than what you might get in Japan.

Anyway, you can make pretty good okonomiyaki in North America.

Okonomiyaki consists of three parts: the base (cabbage, flour), the toppings (pork belly, squid, shrimp, etc.) and the sauce.

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The base:

Basic steps are:

1. mix the dry ingredients, then the dashi stock (or dashi granules with water)

2. Throw in the cabbage

3. Throw in an egg, and mix

Making a fluffy and light okonomiyaki relies on the use of grated mountain potatoes (yamaimo) to make them light and fluffy. However, mountain potatoes are hard to acquire, or are quite expensive. In order to compensate for the lack of mountain potatoes, I increase the amount of cabbage relative to the amount of flour, so that the okonomiyaki would have a lighter, less doughy texture. I use about 50-60g flour (that’s about 2 ounces, or a bit less than half a cup of flour) to about 150g (about 1/3 pound, a bit more than 5 ounces) of cabbage per one okonomiyaki. Basically, that’s enough cabbage to create a 1 inch high 10 inch disc shape on its own.

Mix the flour with a dash of salt and half a teaspoon of baking powder. You want to mix about 60-70ml dashi (or water mixed with dashi stock) taking precautions not to over mix it.

And now, the cabbage.

Here’s the important part: DON’T mince the cabbage. Cut the cabbage into strips, from pole to pole (lengthwise, not sideways. I hope this makes some sense. If the cabbage was earth, you cut from north to south, not the way parallel to the equator). Cutting into strips will create an intricate network of cabbage that supports the structural integrity of the okonomiyaki, even with the small amount of flour that we are using for this recipe.

Throw the cabbage into the batter, crack an egg on top, and mix until everything is distributed evenly. But don’t over mix.

 

Toppings:

In okonomiyaki, you can either mix the toppings into the batter or have the topping line one side of the okonomiyaki, cooking the ingredient into the surface of the okonomiyaki. Mixing in is popular with ingredients that are either not raw or are ready to consume without cooking, such as cheese or cubes of rice cakes. Cooking into one side of the okonomiyaki is more popular with ingredients such as pork belly and squid that develops a nice sear. I once made an okonomiyaki with hatch chilis lining one side, which created a charred, peppery crust to the okonomiyaki. As I said above, one of my favorites is okonomiyaki with cubes of dry mozzarella and bacon.

Sauce:

Throw anything you want on there. Of course, okonomiyaki sauce by Otafuku (the one with the creepy face on it) is the standard. My friend swears by a mix of “aurora” sauce, which is just ketchup mixed with an equal amount of mayo. I once slathered some wonderfully cumin-heavy BBQ sauce from Gates (my favorite sauce for KC style BBQ), which was pretty interesting. Another interesting method when you’re out of okonomiyaki sauce is to brush the top with some soy sauce and throw it under the broiler until the soy sauce sizzles. In this case, sprinkling some Shichimi chili peppers on the okonomiyaki is a good idea. Don’t forget to top the okonomiyaki with some bonito flakes, mayonnaise, and some sliced scallions, regardless of what sauce you throw on there.

The procedure:

Heat pan until lightly smoking, lower to medium heat, throw the cabbage batter on there, line the top with toppings, and wait 3 minutes.

Flip (and I guarantee the first try will be disastrous. Squish the broken pieces together until they resemble okonomiyaki, and you’ll be fine. The second flip is much easier) and leave for another 3-4 minutes.

Flip one last time, and sauce the whole thing while it’s on the pan. This will ensure that the okonomiyaki will stay warm.

Enjoy one last look of your beautiful okonomiyaki until you cut it, and make it into a mess.

 

 

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Filed under Japanese, Uncategorized

Lasagna, and making regular lasagna noodles no-boil

Lasagna, and making regular lasagna noodles no-boil

The loveliness of a conventional béchamel and bolognese doused lasagna. I did a little testing, and instead of boiling lasagna noodle sheets or using no-boil sheets, I soaked the pasta in cold tap water for over an hour, and stuck it in a lasagna. The result were pasta that were fully cooked but retained some texture. This technique could probably be used for most casserole applications.

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December 18, 2013 · 10:23 pm