Steamed Korean Buns

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It’s a cold, rainy day here and I’m enjoying just shuffling around the home and being grateful for the warmth, shelter, and food in our tummies.  I’ve got a little slot of time before the Thursday afternoon madness resumes  so I thought I would post an old-time favorite snack of mine that we made a while back but I never got around to posting.  If you noticed my last post was some time ago … there’s been some crazy real estate swapping that went on which kept me just a bit preoccupied.  I’m the type that likes to concentrate on one thing at a time and feel frazzled if I have too much going on and of course I ended up starting a part-time job at the same time we decided to sell and buy…  so there’s my excuse 🙂

Back in SoCal, I loved walking through our big neighborhood Korean grocery store and walking to the back of the store where they made “Wang Mandoo” and sneaking a pack into the grocery cart.  “Wang” means king and “mandoo” means dumpling.  So you can imagine they were giant, softball-sized dumplings filled with my favorite “Japchae” or glass noodles.  The slightly sweet steamed bun exterior mingled with the savory beef and veggie japchae interior was perfection that would leave you feeling like the “after” of a Snickers Bar commercial.

I found this recipe for steamed Korean buns many years ago on a Korean baking site, and it’s just perfect when you live 30 mins from the nearest Korean store (compared to 5 mins growing up) and you do not want to do the Caldecott Tunnel but you want some “Wang Mandoo”.  Plus, homemade is always better, right?   The recipe was all in grams so I measured all the ingredients into volume measurements for my own sake and I’m sharing them with you.  I didn’t notice any difference in the result when I used my converted volume measurements to make them again and again.

I made two different fillings for my buns: “Wang Mandoo” with Japchae filling and “Hobbang” with sweet red bean paste filling.

You can use my Japchae recipe here for the “Wang Mandoo” and the red bean paste filling was purchased at my past Korean store excursion.  You can really put anything you want inside the bun, Spam and kimchi is super yummy, too!  Or you can just make buns without any filling!  I made both japchae filling and the red bean paste filling and they were both so delicious!  Would be perfect for this cold, rainy day… wish I had some right now.

img_1843In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, yeast, sugar, salt, and dry milk powder.

img_1847Add the warm water and mix/knead until dough forms.  You can use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment.  Once you have a ball of dough, add in the oil and knead until you have a nice, shiny dough that isn’t sticky.

img_1848Divide the dough into little balls (60 gram balls, about the size of a golf ball).  Place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper, cover with clean cloth and let rest for 15 mins.

img_1861Flatten a ball of dough and fill with desired filling of choice.  Pinch ends closed then place onto a square of wax paper.  (If not using filling, just place ball of dough onto wax square)

Watch my mom pinch and close the dough for the bun.  Apologize for the static background noise.  watch with sound off 🙂

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This is my store-bought Red bean paste

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Traditionally for the “Wang Mandoo” you place the seam side facing up and for the “Hobbang” you place it seam side down.

img_1871Let dough rise in a warm place for 30 mins

img_1872While the dough is rising, start heating your pot of water for the steamer over med high heat

img_1874Place the dough into the steamer (don’t over-crowd, they will grow) once the water is boiling and you see steam rising.  Steam for about 10 mins. Don’t open the lid while steaming.

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And Voila~ beautiful, fluffy, warm, delicious buns!!!

Steamed Korean Buns Recipe (왕만두/호빵)

Makes: about 2 dozen buns

Ingredients (Bun)

  • scant 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 TBS baking powder
  • 1 1/2 TBS dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 TBS non-fat dry milk powder
  • 1 cup warm water (more or less)
  • 1/6 cup vegetable or canola or grapeseed oil

Filling

Japchae Recipe or store-bought Red Bean Paste or be creative! 🙂

Directions

  1. Prep: cut out 24 little 3″x 3″ squares of wax paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, yeast, sugar, salt, and dry milk powder.
  3. Add the warm water and mix/knead until dough forms.  You can use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment.  Once you have a ball of dough, add in the oil and knead until you have a nice, shiny dough that isn’t sticky.
  4. Divide the dough into little balls (60 gram balls, about the size of a golf ball).  Place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper, cover with clean cloth and let rest for 15 mins.
  5. Flatten a ball of dough and fill with desired filling of choice.  Pinch ends closed then place onto a square of wax paper.  (If not using filling, just place ball of dough onto wax square)  Traditionally for the “Wang Mandoo” you place the seam side facing up and for the “Hobbang” you place it seam side down.
  6. Let dough rise in a warm place for 30 mins
  7. While the dough is rising, start heating your pot of water for the steamer over med high heat
  8. Place the dough into the steamer (don’t over-crowd, they will grow) once the water is boiling and you see steam rising.  Steam for about 10 mins. Don’t open the lid while steaming.
  9. Carefully remove and enjoy your steams buns!!!
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Before my mom devoured hers 🙂

I’m going to get my butt out to the Korean store soon.  My stock of Korean ingredients is dwindling… probably when it stops raining.  Yes, I’m spoiled with good weather here and don’t go out when it rains… and my parents live in WA… ha.

Thanks for reading and stay dry and warm out there!

-Flora

Umma’s Kimchi (Napa Cabbage Kimchi)

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I have a confession to make.  I am Korean.  Okay, that wasn’t my confession.  Here it is:

I am Korean.  And I buy my kimchi.  -_-  I know, I know.  I don’t deserve to lay claim to my Korean roots if I don’t make my own kimchi or own a kimchi refrigerator.  (Yes, there is such a fridge and it keeps kimchi and regular produce fresh forEVER!)  But wait, do you know what kimchi is?  It’s only the best, tastiest, and healthiest Korean mealtime staple with natural probiotics and lots of Vitamin A and C.  Basically it’s fermented Chinese cabbage (can also be made from a variety of other vegetables and seasonings) that is eaten as a side dish and ranges from mild to spicy, to watery, to fishy.

My mom’s visiting and I’m taking full advantage of her Korean cooking skills and documenting her kimchi-making process so I can try to replicate it next time I run out of her kimchi.  I’ve made kimchi by myself once before in my lifetime and I must confess it was a fail.  My mom sort of walked through the steps and ingredients with me over the phone and I tried to mimic it… and well… it just wasn’t the same.  Hopefully, standing over her shoulder and breathing down her neck while watching her make this kimchi will help me the next time I attempt it.  We sort of measured the ingredients as she went along because, like many Korean moms out there, her measurements and recipe is in her head and her hand.  She just sort of eyeballs it and adds more or less by taste.  I was probably frustrating her whenever I stopped her to measure the ingredients 🙂  but she was super patient with me.  So here is how my mom makes her kimchi:

 

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Add lots of salt to a bucket of water (should taste like the sea). We used Kosher Salt because I don’t have Kimchi salt, but my mom prefers to use Kimchi salt (which might be the same as rock salt).

 

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Slice your cabbage in half, vertically.

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Slice again, so you have quartered your cabbage. Cut off the hard core/stem, but we want enough of the stem to keep the leaves together.

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Dunk your cabbage quarters in the brine water, let it drain, then salt between each leaf, concentrating on the thicker, white (non-leafy) portion of the cabbage.  Repeat for all.

Here’s a quick video to help you (and me) see how to prep/brine the cabbage.

 

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After salting all the cabbage, pour the rest of the salt water over the cabbage and let it brine for about 2-3 hours. (depends on how much salt and water.  taste it after 2 hours to determine)

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Turn and rotate the cabbage halfway through brining

 

Meanwhile, make the kimchi paste/marinade by chopping your onion, Korean pear, ginger, garlic, and radish, place in a blender, add your fish sauce, then puree.

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Add your red pepper flakes and brown sugar to your puree and you have your kimchi paste

After the cabbage is salty enough, dump out the salt water, then rinse your cabbage in running water 2-3 times and let drain for about 30 mins.  Now get on some food service gloves (the red pepper on your skin will sting) and smear on that kimchi paste all over and between the cabbage leaves.  “Wrap” the outer most leaf around the quarter of cabbage then carefully tuck into a glass jar.  Fill the jar (cover w/ lid) then place in the refrigerator (or to eat it sooner, leave it out at room temperature for a day).  And you lucky ducks with a kimchi refrigerator, you know what to do.

Ingredients

  • 2 Napa (Chinese) Cabbage, washed
  • Lots of Coarse salt (Preferably Kimchi salt)
  • 1 cup fish sauce (I used Tiparos brand Thai Fish Sauce. Korean ones are saltier and less sweet, so add more or less according to taste)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 Korean pear, chopped
  • 1 cup Daikon radish, chopped
  • 1 inch ginger root, chopped
  • ~13 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 ½ cups coarse red pepper flakes
  • 1 TB brown sugar

*You will need a big, wide bowl to brine, a bucket, food service gloves, and wide-mouth glass (preferably) jar to store kimchi)

Directions

  1. Add lots of salt to a bucket of water (should taste like the sea)
  2. Slice your cabbage in half, vertically. Then slice again, vertically, so you have quartered your cabbage.
  3. Cut off the hard core/stem, but we want enough of the stem to keep the leaves together.
  4. Dunk your cabbage quarters in the brine water, let it drain, then salt between each leaf, concentrating on the thicker, white (non-leafy) portion of the cabbage.  Repeat for all.
  5. After salting all the cabbage, pour the rest of the salt water over the cabbage and let it brine for about 2-3 hours turning and rotating the cabbage halfway through brine period . (depends on how much salt and water.  taste it after 2 hours to determine)
  6. Meanwhile, make the kimchi paste/marinade by chopping your onion, Korean pear, ginger, garlic, and radish, place in a blender, add your fish sauce, then puree.
  7. Add your red pepper flakes and brown sugar to your puree and you have your kimchi paste
  8. After the cabbage is salty enough, dump out the salt water, then rinse your cabbage in running water 2-3 times and let drain for about 30 mins.
  9. With food service gloves (the red pepper on your skin will sting), smear on the kimchi paste over and between the cabbage leaves.
  10. “Wrap” the outer most leaf around the quarter of cabbage then carefully tuck into a glass jar.  Fill the jar (cover w/ lid) then place in the refrigerator (or to eat it sooner, leave it out at room temperature for a day).  And you lucky ducks with a kimchi refrigerator, you know what to do.

*I bought only one Napa cabbage but the recipe makes enough kimchi paste for two Napa cabbages so the recipe calls for two of the cabbages.

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Good luck to you (and to me)!

Thanks for reading!

-Flora (and my mom)

Back to School with Tangmyun SukiYaki

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Today was the kiddos’ first day back to school as a 1st grader and a brand spankin’ new Kindergartener and my first day having to make 3 trips to the same school in one day with pickups and dropoffs.    I’m hoping and praying that my kids will both be an early bird or late bird because I would NOT want to increase my trip to school to 4.  Not to mention, my youngest little will be starting preschool next week and that’s another school drop-off and pick-up to add to the list.  I think I should change my job title to: Chauffeur.  Despite the multiple trips, I did love being able to see their faces light up when they spotted me during pickup today and being able to ask them about their day, what they did, their friends, and hear about how exciting it was for my son to eat lunch in the multi-use room for the first time and hear my daughter talk about how all the boys in her class are silly except for two.  These really are all precious little moments… of them walking to school together with A holding my youngest C’s hand while B is charging ahead of them, C whining that she is tired and asking to be held, all 3 of them squealing and talking in their beds as I type this, when they should be sleeping…  One day, I will miss all of these little moments that, presently, make up my chaotic life now.

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Being the first day of school and all, I thought about taking the children out for some Loard’s Ice Cream after the last pickup, but my youngest fell asleep during the short trip to school… So that called for a party in the WOK tonight!

Growing up, this sukiyaki recipe is similar to what my mom would make and is probably a Korean-ized version of the traditional Japanese sukiyaki.  I used regular cabbage instead of napa cabbage and also used Korean Tangmyun (Vermicelli), which is what my mom always used.  And we don’t have Sake lying around the house… the mirin is the closest thing you’ll get.

It was a little warm today, so I cranked up the A/C while we were eating dinner, so we wouldn’t be sweating while eating this “hot pot”.  I sent a picture of dinner to the hubby and he immediately left the office to get some before he had to go to a meeting.  I know when I make this, that hubby will run home.  muhaha.  My children all love this dish as well and asked for more “soup”, although this is not really a soup… and with all the seasoning coming from soy sauce, i did’t want them downing it like soup.

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I used Shabu Shabu meat (super thin sliced beef)

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About 1/2 lb, defrosted.

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Soak dried Shitake mushrooms in hot water while you prep.  Squeeze excess water then slice. remove and discard stems.  Use only the “umbrella” of the mushroom.

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Prep your veggies. My favorite Trader Joe’s Shredded Carrots has made yet another appearance on my blog

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Heat slightly greased wok on med high heat. Brown meat quickly and transfer to plate. Don’t overcook

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Add 8 cups of broth/stock (I used a mixture of 2 cups beef broth and 6 cups chicken stock), soy sauce, sugar, mirin, and garlic and bring to a boil. Start with 1/3 cup soy sauce and add more as needed. Skim the foam off the surface

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Once the soup is boiling, add the cabbage and the tangmyun and let it boil.

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Next, add the mushrooms, onions, red bell peppers, and carrots and bring to a boil

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I slice my green onions after all the veggies are in the wok.

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Add your meat back into the wok and sprinkle the green onions on top.  Serve hot. 🙂

Sukiyaki w/ tangmyun recipe

Ingredients
  • 1/2 lb shabu shabu or sukiyaki beef
  • 8 cups mixture of Beef Broth and Chicken Stock (2 beef, 6 chicken)
  • 3 cubes Trader Joe’s frozen crushed garlic (or 3 cloves garlic, minced)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup Low-Sodium Kikkoman Soy Sauce
  • 1/3 cup very lightly packed brown sugar
  • 2-3 TB Mirin
  • 1/4 head of cabbage, sliced
  • big handful of tangmyun (about full spaghetti pack)
  • 6-10 (depends on size) dried Shitake mushrooms, soaked and sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 2 fistfuls of Trader Joe’s Shredded Carrots
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 3 green onions, chopped
Directions
  1. Soak the dried Shitake mushrooms in hot water while you prep your veggies, then squeeze the mushrooms of water, remove and discard the stems, and slice the “umbrella’ portion of the mushrooms.
  2. Heat a lightly greased (Pam spray is perfect) wok over medium high heat and brown the meat and transfer to a plate.  Don’t overcook the meat.
  3. In the same wok, bring 8 cups of beef and chicken broth/stock to a boil and add the garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, and mirin.  Taste the broth and adjust as needed.  Start off adding 1/3 cup of soy sauce then add more to taste.  Same for the sugar and mirin.  Skim off any foam on the surface of the soup.
  4. When the broth is really boiling, add the cabbage and tangmyun noodles.  Then after that boils for a minute, add the rest of the veggies except the green onions.  Bring to a boil.
  5. Add the meat and the green onions and bring to a boil and you’re done!

*note: the Tangmyun noodles like to soak up liquid, so only add the amount that will be eaten.  You can also boil the noodles separately in water and add as you eat.  The noodles are less flavorful using this method since it takes away the time the noodles sit in the broth to soak up the flavor.

This Sukiyaki recipe is perfect to tuck away for the cooler weather that will be upon us as quickly as this summer has escaped us.  You’re welcome to crank up the A/C like us and make it during the last heat spell of summer too!

Thank you for reading and please subscribe~ My posts should be more regular with school back in session.

Tonkatsu 돈까스: Japanese Breaded Pork Cutlets

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Another weekend gone!  We packed in our Saturday with dental appointments, T-ball game, ballet class, friend’s birthday party, and cleared out our little patio to make some extra room for the kiddos to hang out in.  We are planning to be adventurous and TRY to make our own DIY teepees in the near future so the kids don’t burn outside since we don’t have any good trees for shade.  But in the meantime, I made A and B’s favorite dish: Tonkatsu!  We like to serve it up with cabbage slaw, white rice, and the special tonkatsu dipping sauce.

Back in March, I asked A what dish she wanted for her birthday dinner and she asked for Tonkatsu! She loves the crunchy breaded pork dipped in the sauce with the slightly sweet and tangy cabbage slaw on the side.  I think it’s safe to say it’s a family favorite.  My kids have never been huge meat eaters but I can always count on them to clean their plate when I serve them Katsu.  C likes to lick her dipping sauce bowl clean… … …

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Before you start on anything, you want to make your rice since it takes a good 40 mins in my rice cooker.  I used my handy dandy electric rice cooker and made 3 cups of white rice (we like to have rice leftover for making rice balls or fried rice for lunch the following day).  After you cook your rice, you want to make the cabbage slaw, the tonkatsu sauce, and the tonkatsu (pork) last.

Tonkatsu is a Japanese dish, but is quite popular with Koreans and was a favorite of mine growing up (now you know why my kids love it).  I like adding some garlic into my egg to help offset any “pork smell” and I think it makes it taste better.   You could “hammer” down the pork to make it more tender, but I don’t find it necessary.  Feel free to substitute pork with chicken or beef, too. And you can add tonkatsu to curry, ramen, and other dishes. How can you go wrong with crunchy, fried pork?

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Look how pretty and green the cabbage is!

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I used half a head of cabbage and sliced it nice and thin.

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Make your cabbage slaw sauce by mixing the mayo, vinegar, and sugar.

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Then mix the sauce with your sliced cabbage and add some shredded carrots. I usually have a bag of shredded carrots on hand from Trader Joe’s.

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Make the Tonkatsu sauce by mixing all the ingredients together.

Before you touch the pork, you want to get all the prep ready.

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Heat the oil on medium heat in a pan deep enough and wide enough to fry about 4 cutlets at a time.

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Prepare the flour mixture by mixing in the salt and pepper.

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Start with 1 cup of panko bread crumbs in a wide dish. I ended up using 2 cups total.

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Lightly beat the egg (I used a fork) with 1 TB of milk and a cube of frozen crushed garlic (from Trader Joe’s)

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Get your assembly line ready! 1.Flour 2.Egg 3.Panko

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Now time to handle the meat!

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You can buy the thin cut pork, or if it’s thicker, just slice it in half, horizontally.

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All sliced and ready to “bread”

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Coat in flour mixture

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Dunk it in the egg mixture

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Press it into the Panko bread crumbs until coated

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Bread half (4) of the cutlets then carefully place into hot oil to fry before breading the rest

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Gently and carefully place the pork into the hot oil and fry

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It should be hot enough that it bubbles. I had my heat on Med high heat. Raise or lower the temperature as needed.

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Flip it and fry until nice and golden.

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You can cut one in half to see if it’s ready.

Now for the recipes.  The ingredients are all easy to find.  Mirin is a sweet rice wine and can be replaced with these and they can be found in the Asian aisle at most grocery stores.  And I can’t imagine any grocery store that doesn’t stock Panko Bread crumbs in this day and age.  🙂  And you know where to find all the other ingredients.

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Cabbage Slaw Recipe
  • 1/2 head of cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 TB vinegar
  • 1 TB granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Mix mayo, vinegar, sugar, and salt together in a small bowl then add it to the cabbage and carrots and mix.  You can add more or less vinegar and sugar to taste.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Tonkatsu Sauce Recipe
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2-3 TB worchestershire sauce
  • 1 TB light soy sauce
  • 1-2 tsp Mirin
  • 1-2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl.  Adjust worchestershire, mirin, and sugar to taste.  (If you like a stronger kick, then add 3 TB worchester, otherwise, just 2 TB) You can also omit the Mirin and add another 1/2 tsp of sugar, if desired.

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Tonkatsu (Breaded Pork) Recipe
  • 1.5 lb bonless pork loin chop (thin cut preferred)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 TB salt
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 TB milk
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (1 cube frozen crushed garlic from Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 cups Panko bread crumbs
  • Canola or Vegetable Oil (approximately 4 cups, enough to fry the pork)
  1. Heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat in a saucepan or pot that is wide and deep enough to fry the pork (4 at a time).
  2. Prepare the flour mixture by placing 1/3 cup of flour into a wide plate and mixing in the 1 TB salt and 2 tsp ground pepper
  3. Lightly beat 2 eggs and add in 1 TB milk and garlic and mix.  Place in a wide plate deep enough to hold the egg mixture.
  4. Place 1 cup of bread crumbs into a wide plate and add more as needed.
  5. Prepare the pork by coating it in the flour mixture, dipping it completely in the egg mixture, then coating it with the panko bread crumbs.  Lightly press the pork into the bread crumbs to ensure a full and even coating.  Set aside and repeat for half of the pork.
  6. Check that the oil is hot, then carefully slide the breaded pork into the oil.  Fry about 2 mins on each side.
  7. Meanwhile, bread the remaining pork following the same order: flour, egg, panko.
  8. Fry the remaining pork cutlets in the hot oil and place the fried cutlets on a plate lined with paper towels.
  9. Cut and serve immediately with the dipping sauce, the rice, and cabbage slaw.

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If you’ve never tried Tonkatsu, then TRY IT!  L&L Hawaiian BBQ’s Chicken Katsu is sort of a spin-off of the Japanese Tonkatsu if you’ve tried that before.  I used to frequent L&L for their chicken katsu many times during my college years (I lived right behind it). Now I just make my own.  🙂

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful week!

-Flora

Easy Seafood Soon Tofu (해물 순두부)

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Friday nights = I don’t cook nights.  With the exception of this past Friday night, that equation proves true.  We made a trip out to the Korean Market in Oakland a couple Saturdays ago and bought all the ingredients to make this Tofu Soup but for whatever reason, never got around to making Ken’s favorite soup.  Friday nights are always pizza and a movie night with the family and last Friday was going to be no exception, but I got a text message from Ken asking if we could have the Seafood Tofu Soup for dinner that night… I immediately thought to reply “of course not!  I don’t cook dinner on Fridays!” but then thought… well… I guess I could.  And that, my friends, is because this soup so easy and quick!

I already mentioned this soup is Ken’s favorite soup, and it’s also high up on the list for my kids as well.  They love Korean soups and like to dump their bowl of rice into their soup and eat it together, which is exactly what I did growing up, and is exactly what Korean moms feed their little toddlers after they start solids.  This tofu soup is a bit spicy but the kids didn’t have a problem finishing their food with a cup of water on hand.

Easy Seafood Soon Tofu (Korean Soft Tofu Soup)

  • 2 cups kimchi, finely chopped
  • 1 pack frozen seafood mix, 12 oz (or canned chopped clams, about 3 cans)
  • 3-4 cups chicken stock or chicken broth
  • 5 packs silken tofu, 11oz each
  • 2-3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • vegetable or canola oil
  • finely ground red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • salt & pepper

Optional step: Add a teaspoon of vegetable oil to hot, large pot and add 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes to make the spicy oil, then add the kimchi.

  1. Heat a large pot and add a teaspoon of oil.  Add the kimchi and cook the kimchi on med-high heat until it starts to become translucent, about 3-4 mins.
  2. Increase heat to high, add the frozen seafood and stir-fry until it is almost cooked. Or add the canned clams with the clam juice.
  3. Add the chicken broth and bring it to a boil.
  4. When the soup is boiling, add the silken tofu and break it up into big chunks with a spatula and bring to a boil.  Add the eggs and again bring to boil.
  5. Add a teaspoon of sesame oil and the green onions then season with salt and pepper.

Done!

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Super quick and easy. The only prep you need to do is to chop the kimchi and the green onions.  Tip: I like to wear food service gloves when handling kimchi so I don’t end up with orangey-red fingertips and a lovely kimchi smelling hand.

The soup tastes great with canned clams as well!  The clam juice in the canned clams make the broth really flavorful and gives it a stronger seafood taste.  Just add less chicken stock if you are using canned clams since the juice in the cans will count towards the liquid you are adding to make the soup.

Korean Soon Tofu is closer to a stew in the sense that your tofu chunks should not be swimming around in a lot of liquid, but if you like it with more soup then add more of the chicken stock, just don’t drown your tofu.

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The only “exotic” ingredient I used for this dish is the kimchi, and even that can be found at your local grocery store around the Bay Area.  I must confess, I buy my kimchi from the Korean market and don’t make my own.  But I have tried once!  Fun Fact: Did you know many Koreans have a separate Kimchi refrigerator that keeps their kimchi at their perfectly fermented state for months?  They actually sell these little (and sometimes, not so little) kimchi fridges.

Next time you’re at the grocery store, see if you can’t spot a little jar of kimchi! I bet you’ll see it, if you haven’t already.

As always, thank you for reading and hope you have a great week!

-Flora

Quick Chicken Wonton Soup

I’m an avid Trader Joe’s fan and of course I enjoy going to Costco just as much.  So it’s no surprise that most of the ingredients for this wonton soup are either from Trader Joe’s or Costco, with the exception of the rice vinegar, which I purchased at a local Korean grocery store.

The frozen wontons, chicken stock, and the soy sauce (refill) are from Costco.  Everything else, minus the rice vinegar, are from Trader Joe’s.  And don’t get me going on their frozen crushed garlic: They are just SO convenient and easy to use, and the same goes for their shredded carrots.

So it’s been cold here in the Bay area (as cold as it can get here in Nor Cal) and I have been craving a lot of hot soup to warm me up.  This is such a quick and satisfying soup that I have been making it quite often and just made some tonight to go with some fried rice (when husband’s not home for dinner, I like to keep dinner quick and easy).  It can definitely stand on it’s own for a lunchtime meal and makes enough for myself and my 3 little musketeers.  I originally got this recipe from my favorite book “The I Love Trader Joe’s Cookbook”  (which I scored from my local library’s used bookstore for $2) and made some tweaks to suit our taste buds and has been and will continue to be my quick go-to soup.  Try it! You won’t be disappointed!

Ingredients

  • 1 quart (about 4 cups) chicken stock or broth
  • 2 cubes of Trader Joe’s frozen crushed garlic (or 2 cloves garlic minced)
  • 1 TB light soy sauce
  • scant 1 TB rice vinegar
  • chicken cilantro wontons (fully cooked, frozen from Costco) (about 2-3 handfuls)
  • handful of shredded carrots (Trader Joe’s)
  • quartered (or halved) baby bok choy
  • 2-3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Directions

  1. Add chicken stock, garlic, soy sauce, and vinegar in a medium pot and bring it to a boil
  2. Add the frozen wontons, bring to boil, then simmer until ready 
  3. Put in a handful of shredded carrots and the baby bok choy and simmer until tender.
  4. Remove from heat and add the sliced green onions and the sesame oil
  5. Serve hot and enjoy!

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Cheers,
Flora


Vegetable Chow Mein

I’ve just returned from a long trip to Orange County which was so fun seeing my relatives and having a little family reunion the last weekend we were there.  I grew up in the OC area so being able to stay for about 2 weeks and revisit some of my old stomping grounds was quite nostalgic and makes me want to move back there again.  I just LOVE the convenience of having my favorite Korean stores and restaurants so close by and i LOVE LOVE LOVE the M&L Discount Fabric store in Anaheim.  It may be a good thing I don’t live close to that fabric store or I might just break the piggy bank.  My husband is soooo against southern California but the only excuse he can come up with is the traffic.  But there’s bad traffic here in NOr Cal!  He takes the BART up here so that makes it a lot better.  The traffic in So Cal is bad… I must say, but people still make do there!  Not to mention the food seems to be sooooo much more affordable!  The food prices in Nor Cal seem to be hiked up compared to the prices in So Cal.  The housing market seems more affordable in certain areas as well in SO Cal.  I’ve still have a ways to go before convincing my husband that we can move to So Cal.  Actually, I love Nor Cal as well.  I definitely love that it is more green and not as hot in the summer (in the bay area), love the people, love just the feel.  So Cal just seems a lot more busy and people seem to be less relaxed.  Every area has their good and bad.  🙂

So one of the reasons for my visit to OC: My cousin just had her first baby and she is the most adorable chubadub!  I wish we lived close so my Clara (who will be 1 yr in less than a month) and Elise can play together and be like sisters just like me and my cousins were growing up.  My 3 kids and I stayed at my aunt’s house for those 2 weeks and I’m sure we drove them crazy…  Really appreciate that my aunt and uncle love children.  They loved having us there… or so they say.  ha hah a.

Now, you’re probably wondering where the Chow Mein comes in… Well, it really doesn’t have anything to do with my OC trip, but this is a blog and I get to rant, right?  🙂  Thanks for reading.

This is a recipe adapted from the Williams and Sonoma Recipe book.  I decreased the amount of vinegar is uses, and make a few other minor tweaks to really make it mine!

Vegetable Chow Mein
Ingredients
10 oz pack of egg noodles
1 zucchini, cut into matchsticks
3/4 onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 cup dried, sliced shitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water
5 TBS canola oil
1 TBS grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBS each: soy sauce, oyster sauce, water
1 TBS each: rice vinegar, sesame oil
1 tsp sugar

 Prep your vegetables, ginger, and garlic.  Soak the dried shitake mushrooms in warm water, then gently squeeze out the excess water once mushrooms are soft.

Bring a medium pot of water to a full boil, add the noodles, and cook for about 2-3 mins.  Drain, rinse well with cold water.  Place the drained noodles in a bowl and toss with 1 TBS of canola oil.

In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, oyster sauce, water, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and sugar.  Set aside

Heat a wok over high heat until very hot and add 2 TBS canola oil.  Stir-fry the bell peppers and onions for about 2 mins until almost tender.  Add the mushrooms and zucchini and cook for about 2 more mins then transfer all the vegetables to a plate/wide bowl.

Return the wok to high heat and add the remaining 2 TBS oil and stir fry the garlic and ginger for about 5 secs.
Add the noodles to the pan and cook until heated then add the cooked vegetables and the sauce and stir-try until heated through, about 1 min.  
Then serve!
Makes about 4 adult servings as a main dish, more as a side dish.