Korean chilled noodle soup with a few Vietnamese twists

Sometimes my craziness surprises myself. I woke up one morning, reflecting that the week’s been warm, and decided to make mul naengmyeon (물 냉면). Weeks earlier, I bought the buckwheat noodles but never had the time to cook, or the mood. Now I still don’t have time to cook, but today is the day. I remember the main ingredients of a true Korean naengmyeon, but just to make sure that I don’t have them, I look at Maangchi’s recipe anyway. Beef bones? No. Mushroom? No. Dried anchovies? No. Kelp? No. Yeolmu kimchi juice? Hah. In my dreams. I don’t even have cucumber. Am I going to the store? Of course not. The wind might blow away my cooking mood, which is already rare as it is. Besides, I have a blind confidence that what I do have will make a fine bowl. The deaf ain’t scared by gun fires, they (we Vietnamese) say. Naengmyeon has three fundamental components: the broth, the buckwheat noodle, and the toppings. The broth needs to be clear and slender. To get the sweetness, I substitute beef bones by pig trotters. They have plenty of bones, and unfortunately […]

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Little Kiraku on Telegraph

#gallery-1 { margin: auto; } #gallery-1 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-1 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-1 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Not so long ago, I got chuckled at for not having tried every single restaurant in my vicinity. There are excuses I could make, but the bitter truth is I’m lazy. At school, I try to arrange my schedule to minimize the distance between buildings. I tend to eat at places either really nearby or a bus ride away. The things in between require walking. I can walk. I don’t mind eating alone. I love wandering into a restaurant unplanned. But when I wake up at 8 on Sunday, I don’t think “oh feet, let us take a stroll six blocks uphill to have lunch at who knows where”. I stay in, (try to) work, and blog. I would never have discovered Kiraku without Teppei-san: a number of us gathered […]

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To Hyang – The flavors of earth

Recently, someone asked me how often I cook, I said not often at all, I spend most of my time at school trying either to speak some foreign language or to tell the computer to understand my version of its language. I cook maybe once a week, very simple stuff, like boiled bok choy. He then questioned the credibility of my taste. “Can you taste as well as someone who cooks a lot?” I believe so. I might not have the knowledge to make the dish or to fix its shortcomings, but fermenting the grapes doesn’t help an oenophile judge his wine. However, that got me thinking about what I would do if I had time to cook. I would like to work in a restaurant kitchen. It’s okay if I have to peel shrimps all day, I simply would like to look and learn from the inside. I’ve even picked out the place I want to work at: To Hyang. Because I’d like to learn how to make kimchi, soybean paste, pickled bellflower, fried dry anchovies, and maybe infused soju from a Korean lady. Of course there are recipes online, which I tend not to […]

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House of Prime Ribs is the solution…

… to my skinniness. If there’s a place I should frequent to quickly improve my willow look and strengthen my Texas tie, it’d be the House of Prime Ribs on Van Ness Avenue. I might have lived in the Bay for too long and hung out with too many vegetarian, environmentally conscious, ethical-eater friends that sometimes the thought crosses my mind; except I always feel extremely hungry on my vegan days so I don’t think I can give up cookies and ice cream. Thankfully, I also have a number of fleischliebend friends who keep me from straying by putting me face to face with a slab of tender, juicy red meat. All ethical thoughts begone, I helplessly grabbed the knife and fork. I actually got a gasp, a deep sigh and a disapproving look from my company when I asked that my prime rib be medium. The men asked for “as raw as possible” because they wanted to “taste the meat”. Men… I could taste my medium meat just fine. The second difference between their dinner and mine is the size. There are four sizes (and a kid size with milk and ice cream, which kinda sounds attractive to […]

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Lunar August 15

Yesterday Yookyung and I made songpyeon (송편), japchae, bindaetteok (mung bean pancake), dotorimuk (도토리묵 acorn jelly) and 5 kinds of jeon (battered fried vegetables and seafood in this case). Actually, Yookyung prepared everything, I was just making a few bad looking songpyeon and flipping some jeon in the skillet, but I felt so Dae Jang Geum. 😛 What did I contribute to the festive dinner? Four baked red bean mooncake. Yookyung liked them. 🙂 Then in my Korean class this morning, Chang seonsengnim gave each of us two songpyeon, smaller than our homemade version but prettier, one filled with sweetened sesame seed and the other with mung bean paste. Life’s good. Songpyeon is kinda like bánh dẻo (literally, “chewy cake”) bánh ít trần in Vietnam, steamed, chewy, and a tad sticky, but because they’re so much smaller than bánh dẻo bánh ít, they don’t get repetitive and overdosing as quickly. They’re also not as dense as the baked mooncakes. They’re cute. Happy Chuseok! Happy Trung Thu! 🙂

Dinner with Rau Om

Early September. Monday night. An adorable meal that combines various elements of two Far Eastern cuisines. The parts harmonize, the mixture represents a cuisine of its own: the kind that you can only find in a home kitchen and enjoy with friends in the living room. We sit on the floor, we share twelve courses plus some, we listen to a record of traditional Vietnamese instrumental, we drink chrysanthemum tea in wine glasses. We talk fooding. We feel luxury, “like the wealthy landlords of the old days” as Dang put it. 🙂 A dinner with Oanh and Dang, the Rau Om lady and man, is fine dining without the frilly designed plates, the crisp white napkins, and the pompous lighting. Each of the twelve courses has just enough twists to wow us while retaining enough familiarity to comfort us. But what I like the most about Rau Om creations is the way Oanh and Dang use one country’s familiar ingredients in the other country’s familiar dish, surprising (at least) me with the compatibility and similarities between the two cuisines. It’s the fusion of the authentics. My ladies and gentlemen, the September 5th Japanese-Vietnamese (+ […]

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Namu and Authenticity

My Lucky Peach finally made it home. It took only one month from the time I placed the order, and just when school started and me getting buried beneath ten miles of homework. But I’ve taken a peek every now and then at its colorful albeit tiny pictures of ramen (this first issue is all about ramen) and gorged in the fourth article while waiting for the bus. This is the bad thing about food magazines (or anything serial and food related, except cookbooks): it’s so easy to read it’s addictive, I can’t even fall asleep reading it, then I get sleep deprived. So I never buy them. But Lucky Peach is different: it’s recommended by a friend, subsequently ordered by two other friends, all of whom have highly experienced and respectable tastes; what I can do? I haven’t finished the entire thing, but the fourth article is a good one. Good enough to console myself for surrendering to peer pressure. In hindsight, it’s one of the highlights of the lunch we shared at Namu. (Not that the magazine is in any way related to Namu, Rob just showed it to us […]

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