Broccoli-Almond Chicken

Home ec class, Hollywood Senior High School, Nedlands, Western Australia.
That’s where, in the fall of 1997, I fell in love with cooking. I had cooked periodically before that, but that was the first time I got to do everything myself, start to finish. I was in heaven.
One of the first things we made in that class was stir fry. And for months, I stuck with the recipe I learned. It was good, but basic, and it got pretty old. That’s one of my gripes about stir-fry. Too often, it’s just the same mix of vegetables with the same flavor of sauce.
But with my extraordinarlily limited batterie de cuisine, stir fry is one of the things I can actually make, so I have made it my personal mission to come up with more interesting stir fry. Like this one.
I love the broccoli and almond combination, and I dressed it up with a lemon-based sauce. It’s a great, simple stir fry, and it’s just crying out to be served over brown rice.
A little note about lemon zest… I do not have a zester. I don’t even have a grater. But I improvised a little and came up with passable zest using just my knife. Check it out!
Cut thin pieces of peel, avoiding the white part as much as possible
Cut those pieces into thin strips
Chop the strips into little pieces. It doesn’t look as pretty as lemon zest, but if you chop the pieces fine enough, you get the flavor and don’t notice that you’re eating lemon peel.

Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbps broth or water
1 tsp cornstarch

Whisk together all ingredients and set aside.

Stir Fry:

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 lb boneless-skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 a small yellow onion, chopped
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 large head broccoli, cut into florets
1/3 cup almonds, cut in half lengthwise

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
Add the chicken, onion, and ginger, and cook, stirring, until chicken is cooked through.
Add the broccoli florets and a few tablespoons of water. Cook until broccoli is crisp-tender.
Add the sauce and almonds, and stir until sauce has thickened and coats the chicken and broccoli.
Serve over brown rice.

Exploring Seoul: Tteokbokki Town

I love the social, hands-on aspect of going out to eat here. In addition to Korean Barbecue, there’s a lesser-known (outside of Korea) dish called Tteokbokki, which I’ve heard described as the Korean equivalent of macaroni and cheese because it’s simple comfort food. We decided to go to Seoul’s “tteokbokki town” to experience the phenomenon for ourselves.
We took the subway to Sindang-dong, and not far from the station exit, we saw this and knew we were in the right place.
It literally reads “Sindang-dong Tteokbokki town” in Hangul.  The street has a number of restaurants, and they all specialize in Tteokbokki.
This restaurant is the original, and while they apparently don’t serve the traditional version of the dish, it was the most crowded restaurant on the street.  We took that as a good sign.
The menu is simple – they only serve one thing, and you order based on how many people are eating.  Since there were two of us, we paid 10,000 won, or under $5 per person.
All the tables have a burner in the middle.  The waitress brought us a HUGE pan with noodles, rice cakes, onions, cabbage, hard boiled eggs, chili sauce, and fried dumplings and we started cooking our dinner.
The restaurant provides aprons for diners, because the cooking process can get a little messy.  As you can see, I was not the only person wearing one!
Mike (who opted not to wear an apron) took over stirring duty as the water began to boil.
After a few minutes of cooking, the sauce thickened and the noodles were cooked.
Each person gets a small metal plate and fork, and you serve yourself from the pan.  It’s a really tasty, filling (and cheap) dinner!IMG_7099

Grilled Eggplant Salad

Eggplant salad
I LOVE the smoky flavor grilled eggplant brings to baba ghannouj and baingan bartha, but those dishes can be a little heavy. When I saw this recipe linked on Thirty A Week I was immediately inspired.

I made a few changes based on my preferences and the ingredients that are available here, but this recipe is definitely a keeper! The smokiness from the eggplant is what makes this salad, but the citrus and all the fresh vegetables keep it light and perfect for summer. I added some cubes of tofu that I browned in a nonstick pan to make a light lunch, but grilled chicken breast would work well for that too.

(adapted from Food and Wine)

Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp lemon zest
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 hot red chili pepper, minced

Whisk together dressing ingredients and set aside.

2-3 Japanese eggplants (about 1 1/2 lbs total)
2 carrots, julienned
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 English cucumber (cut in half lengthwise, scrape out the soft middle part and slice thinly)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1-2 cubs cubed cooked tofu or chicken (optional)

Put the eggplants on a grill or right on a gas burner and cook until all the skin is charred and the eggplants are very soft.
Set aside to cool, then scrape off all the charred skin and discard.
Cut into long, thin strips, and discard the seeds. Cut the strips into 1/2″ lengths, and mix with the dressing. Toss with the tofu or chicken, if using
Toss all remaining vegetables (carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, and cilantro) together in a serving bowl, then top with the dressing mixture.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds to serve.

Mu Shu Tofu

Mu Shu Tofu
Every time I see a recipe now, I have to stop and think for a second about whether or not I can get all the necessary ingredients at my local grocery store, and whether they will be reasonably priced. I just can’t stomach the thought of paying over five dollars for one stick of butter!

I also have to consider whether I have the necessary equipment, because my kitchen currently consists of 1 medium saucepan, 1 large nonstick frying pan, a big knife, a small knife, a large spoon, and a large spatula. THAT’S IT! No mixer, no food processor, no baking pans…

It’s good for me though. I like a challenge.

I knew I definitely wouldn’t be able to find mu shu wrappers at my grocery store, and toyed with the idea of making my own, but in the end, just decided to serve this on its own. It’s still fantastic! If you can find hoisin sauce and mu shu wrappers, I think you’ll absolutely love this. But even if you can’t…it’s worth making anyway.

(adapted from The Way The Cookie Crumbles. originally from Use Real Butter)

3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp corn starch
3 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
12 ounces tofu
2 eggs
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup bean sprouts
1 small head of napa cabbage, julienned (about 2 cups)
10 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, cut into thin strips

Whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, and corn starch and set aside.
Cut the block of tofu in half horizontally. Press between clean towels to remove excess moisture. Cut into thin 1″ strips.
Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large frying pan. Add the tofu and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until tofu is golden brown on all sides. Remove and set aside.
Whisk the two eggs together, and heat another tablespoon of oil. When it’s hot, add the eggs and swirl the pan to make a thin sheet. When just set, flip to cook the other side. Remove to cool, then cut into thin strips.
Heat the last tablespoon of oil, and add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring, for about a minute, then add the garlic. Cook another minute or two, then add the bean sprouts, cabbage, and sauce. Stir well, then gently stir in the tofu and egg. Cook for about a minute, then remove from heat and serve.

Exploring Seoul: Insa-dong

Insa-dong is a designated cultural district that is supposed to look like a traditional Korean marketplace. As a result, it’s pretty touristy, but fun to see.   It’s a great place to sample a bunch of different traditional foods, because there are snack vendors like this all along the main street.
Because the area gets so crowded on weekends, a lot of groups were out campaigning for various causes.  I’m not sure what these gold robots have to do with protecting the rights of African women, but they definitely attracted some attention

Now that I can read Hangul (it’s SO much easier to learn than the Thai alphabet!) I think it’s funny to see English words or brand names written in it.  In case you’ve always wanted to know what “Starbucks Coffee” looks like in Korean, here you go:
This man was doing some calligraphy, and attracted a small crowd.  Around this area, there were quite a few stores selling calligraphy brushes in all sizes, as well as paper, ink, and stamps.

These two people were working together to make rice cakes (in jeol mi).  The man pounded rice with a giant mallet, and the woman reached in and clumped it back together.
IMG_7048Then they carried the rice cake over to these ladies, who covered it with toasted bean powder.
IMG_7049There was a “fighting fun festival” (that’s what the sign said), which we watched for a little while.  I’m not really into that kind of thing, but they did have a decent-sized audience.

I’m just happy we finally ventured outside our own neighborhood.  I can’t wait to see more of this city!

Thai Noodle Salad

Thai Noodle Salad 1

I am and have always been a morning person. So when I found out my working hours in Korea would be 3-10 PM, I wasn’t quite sure how I would cope with having to be a functional human after about 7:00 at night. Fortunately, the schedule seems to be working out, and it’s probably the best thing that ever happened to the food photography on this blog!

I now cook at about 11 AM, then pack up what I made to take to work for dinner. As a result, all my cooking is done during daylight hours, giving me much better light for pictures.

I know using lemon juice is not authentically Thai, but I couldn’t find limes at my grocery store. Either type will work, but if you crave authenticity, reach for the limes. If you have an aversion to fish sauce, or are vegetarian, soy sauce would probably work as a substitution, but I haven’t tried it yet. If you do, let me know how it tastes!

(adapted from Orangette)

Juice of 1 lemon (or 2 limes)
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp rice vinegar
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 hot red chili, finely chopped (omit if you don’t like spicy food)

Combine all ingredients, and taste. (This is really important! If it’s too fishy, add a little sugar and vinegar…if too sweet, add a little vinegar and/or fish sauce). Add a little water if the dressing seems to sugary and thick (again, this will depend on how you alter it to suit your tastes).

12 ounces tofu (or you could use a chicken breast or two)
1 1/2 cups julienned napa cabbage
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 carrot, julienned
10 ounces rice noodles
1/4 cup roughly chopped peanuts

Cut the tofu (or chicken) into bite-sized pieces and cook in a frying pan. (Tofu should be brown on all sides; chicken should be fully cooked). Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the vegetables and tofu.
Cook the rice noodles according to package instructions, drain, and rinse with cold water. Add to the bowl of vegetables.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well.
Sprinkle with peanuts to serve.

Gimbap, Take One

After eating gimbap at least once a day for the first four days we were here, I knew I had to try and make it myself. I didn’t have too many interesting ingredients for the filling, so I wanted to make a simple roll as a trial run.
I browned some sticks of tofu
and cut a cucumber into long, thin pieces.
I also cooked up some short grain rice and bought some 8″ x 8″ squares of nori.

I found this absolutely GENIUS recipe for cooking rice without a rice cooker: (It works really well if you have a pan with a glass lid, so you can see how much water has absorbed)
1. Rinse about 1 1/2 cups of short-grain rice
2. Place in the bottom of a saucepan, put your hand flat on top of the rice, and fill the pan with water just until your knuckles are covered.
3. Cover the pan, put over high heat, and boil for about 6 minutes
4. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for about 10 minutes.
5. If it looks like all the water has been absorbed, turn off the heat and let the pan sit for about 15 minutes. If there’s still water, simmer until it’s gone, then let the pan sit for about 15 minutes. Don’t remove the lid!
6. Give the rice a good stir with a wooden spoon before serving.

Here’s the general idea:
1. Mix about 1 cup of cooked rice with about a tablespoon of rice vinegar
2. Place a sheet of nori in front of you, and spread about 2/3 of it with rice (the rice should be about 1 cm thick)
I learned through trial and error that you want the side with the rice toward you, and the uncovered nori away from you.
3. Put a few pieces of cucumber and a few sticks of tofu along the middle of the rice, and carefully roll it up. You don’t need one of those fancy looking sushi-mats, just your own two hands.
The end doesn’t look that pretty, but it’s okay.
4. Cut into slices about 3/4″ thick and enjoy!
Now that I know how easy it is, next time I’ll branch out and use some more interesting fillings.


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