Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Enjoying Stinky Socks Stew

Well not actually... I had Chongukjang today. Some foreigners find that the heady aroma of Chongukjang (or fermented soybean paste stew) comparable to the wonderful ripe odors of unwashed foot covers and rotten cabbage. But for those who like the stew (like me) it is like a delicious aroma at par with a ripe durian (which makes my mouth water while drives most sane people away).

Jane, a student at the Church where I volunteer teaching English, invited me to lunch today. She heard that I love Chonjukjang stew and took me to a renowned Korean restaurant which specializes in serving it. The name of the restaurant is Weh Halmoni Jip which literally translates into My Grandmother's House. I like this restaurant, it has a nice homey feel to it.

Coming into the place you will see a lot of antiques, old Korean furnishings, knickknacks, dust gatherers, what-nots... It covers the walls of the restaurant and adds a special turn of the century feel to the place.

There's old ceiling tiles accenting the top part of the wall. Old brushes for calligraphy on another. Even a Dali-esque wooden sculpture that doubles as a coat hanger.

There's various little ante-rooms that one can choose if they want private dining. But there are also sit-down areas with tables or little korean tables where one can eat korean-style (meaning cross-legged on the floor). And right in the middle of the main dining area is a huge kiln which is kept burning during the winter.

Before the food was served, I took a picture of my student Jane and her two adorable girls - Sunny and Anne. Sunny is a 4rth Grade student while Anne is 6th grade. Jane works at a local elementary school (Ogap Elementary School) and is a choir singer in our church. I like her cherry personality and zest for learning English.

And then they served our appetizer - Tofu with Fried Kimchi.

Next up was the Chongukjang stew. It is served in the customary stone bowl. This stew I loved. It was earthy, filled with chunks of zucchini, onion, chili peppers and a chockful of soybeans. It also had squares of soft tofu.

And they served my favorite part of the meal, the Banchan or the side dishes. Of course it contains various kimchi (cabbage, radish slices, and non-spicy radish). There was also braised spinach, mushrooms, hot chili peppers, salty fried anchovies and stewed beef with quail eggs in soy sauce (this was a little bowl of heaven!).

We had a great meal and it was time to go. The cashier/manager was a friendly guy who greeted all the restaurant patrons warmly like they were long-time customers. I think most of them are. We saw about a dozen groups that came in and out while we were dining. I snapped some more pics of the restaurant before we left.

And here is a happy picture of us, full and happy with our meal.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Baked Spaghetti

This is one of my sons' favorite dinners - Baked Spaghetti. The most important thing to have to fix this is an oven. I don't technically have an oven but I have a convection cooker, known popularly as a Turbo Broiler. Here's how to fix Baked Spaghetti (and avoid ordering ones from restaurants with crappy sauce and exorbitant prices).


1 pound (half a kilo) of lean ground beef
1 onion, minced
1 cup of whole tomatoes, peeled and diced or 1 can of peeled, whole tomatoes
1 can of tomato sauce
1 tablespoon of ground basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, minced
1 bay leaf, whole
salt & pepper

Pasta: Spaghetti, Angel Hair, Penne or any kind that you like.
Cheese: Mozarella and Parmesan

To cook:
1. In a large stockpot, dump the ground beef and minced onion. Turn the heat on moderate and brown the meat, stirring constantly.
2. Make sure that there is no water left behind, if there's some rendered oil, take it out with a spoon.
3. When the meat is browned, add the herbs (basil, oregano, fennel and bay leaf).
4. Dump the tomatoes and stir for 5 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and add about half a can of water (stirring the water in can to get the leftover sauce residue).
5. Cook the sauce for 20 to 30 minutes. Taste the sauce, if needed add more salt and pepper.

To assemble:
1. Cook your pasta according to your package directions. Whether you want it al dente or soft & soggy (like my hubby wants it), it's up to you. It doesn't matter really.
2. Drain the pasta and add it to a spaghetti boat or an oven-proof dish.
3. Ladle the sauce over the pasta and make sure you cover every inch.
4. Sprinkle some parmesan cheese and then cover it with shredded mozarella. Again, make sure you cover every inch of it.
5. Set your oven to 150 degree Celsius and cook your spaghetti for 10 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is golden-brown.

Take it out and set it aside for a few minutes before serving. It's too hot to eat when it is fresh out of the oven.

Have you done the Loco-Moco?

When I first heard about the Loco-Moco, I was intrigued by the funny name. It turns out nothing to be Salisbury Steak on a mound of rice, topped with an egg and finished with brown gravy all over it. It's a homey food that originates in Hawaii and can be ordered from local mom and pop eateries on the island.

So here's the recipe for the Loco-Moco

Salisbury Steak ingredients:
1 pound (half a kilo) ground beef
1/2 finely minced onion
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 egg

Gravy ingredients:
1 1/2 cup of water*
2 tablespoons of flour
1 tablespoon of butter
1 chicken boullion*
salt & pepper

*(If you have good chicken broth, you can substitute this for water and chicken boullion).

*Cooked Rice
*Cooked Egg, preferably sunny-side

To make the Salisbury steak

1. Put in a mixing bowl all the ingredients.
2. Mix well and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour for the flavors to mix.
3. Shape into patties (This will make about 4-6 depending on the size of the patties that you form)

To make the gravy:

1. In a heavy bottom sauce pan, melt the butter and add the flour when it is fully melted.
2. Cook the flour until it is golden brown.
3. Add the water and chicken boullion or the chicken broth.
4. Continue stirring until the gravy thickens and comes together. Taste it to determine if you need to add more salt. But you definitely have to add pepper.

To assemble:

1. In a plate, add a mound of rice. To make it easier, put the rice into a small bowl, press down and turn upside-down on the plate. It makes the rice nice and pretty.
2. Cook one of the patties and put this on top of the rice.
3. Add the cooked egg ontop of the rice on the plate.
4. Drizzle the gravy around the rice.
5. Serve hot and enjoy.

You can also omit the sunny-side egg if you have a boy who doesn't like eggs. :)