24 February 2008

Chocolate-Toffee Cookie

I've been stuck at home the whole weekend, or more accurately, I've been bound to my laptop because once in a while I'd receive an sms asking me to check my email as soon as possible. It's no fun, so I'm glad this won't last for long.

Given lemons, we should make some tangy, refreshing and spunky lemonade. Given bittergourd, we should stir-fry them with deliciously salty black bean sauce and pork ribs until meltingly soft. So I stopped whining about not being able to visit my favourite shopping haunts, and did something I had not done in a while - bake.

As easy as 1, 2, 3, 4.

Epicurious recently did an article about their most popular recipes on their website. Among a Three-Cheese Fondue with Champagne, Creme Brulee French Toast, and a Double Chocolate Layer Cake was a Giant Chocolate-Toffee Cookie that looked like all the elements of a great chocolate cookie rolled (or in this case, baked) into one.

Thinking it'd be a great idea to bring a big jar of chocolate cookies to work to help everyone cope with the Monday blues, I went out to buy some chocolate-coated toffee bars and eggs. When I settled into the whisking, stirring, scraping and chopping in my kitchen, I was reminded how much I really enjoy baking, cooking, preparing food. I literally stood in front of my oven, unable to peel my eyes away from the beautifully bubbling batter.

True enough, all elements of a great chocolate cookie - chewy, intensely chocolate-y and yummiliciously rich. Not to mention that these are not difficult to bake, and do not require any fancy equipment or ingredients.

I think I could get used to this. Not that I want to get stuck at home during the weekends, virtually chained to my laptop. But if this ever happens again, I know just the thing to do to help ease my pain.

03 February 2008

Kim Bak Soon

If not for my younger cousin who has a liking for all things Korean, and has just returned from an exchange programme in Seoul, I would never have thought of preparing kimchi (Korean appetisers usually served in tiny portions at the beginning of every meal) or anything from that land of abusive girlfriends and chauvinistic men.

Like a fish out of water, I scrutinised every item on the shelves in the Korean mini-mart baffled by the unfamiliar strokes, trying to find for Jajangmyeon noodles and other things like Shin Kimchi or the hot, red pepper powder that I'm certain has another tongue-twisting Korean name for it.

Surprisingly however, the preparation in the kitchen is not as complicating as shopping for the ingredients. It was terribly easy once all the ingredients were at hand. To make Bak Choi Kimchi it was just a matter of soaking the vegetables in brine and rinsing it before mixing it with the homemade Kimchi paste that was put together in a flash the blender. Other Kimchi-s such as the Poggi Kimchi (Napa cabbage) or the Kaktugi (Radish) followed almost the same steps.

Making the Kimchi Jeon (Kimchi pancake) or Pa Jeon (Seafood pancake) was even more brainless. Flour, egg, water, whisk, add filling, fry! According to my little cousin, only the most sour type of Kimchi that is generally used for cooking and not eating (very much like cooking chocolate vs. eating chocolate) should be used for the Kimchi Jeon. Unfortunately there was no Shin Kimchi in the mini-mart, but I settled for what the store owner pointed to as the more sour version of all the kimchi-s she had.

Our Kimchi Jeon turning out hilariously thick as I had poured too much batter into the tiny frying pan, resulting in it having nowhere else to run but upwards. But it was still incredibly tasty and satisfying. The kimchi provided enough saltiness to allow it to subsist without the usual accompaniment of light soy sauce.

Being adventurous and perhaps overly ambitious, we also made JaJangMyeon (Zha Jiang Mian, Black Bean Paste Noodles) and rice balls using recipes from my latest cookbook purchase: 'Discovering Korean Cuisine - Recipes from the Best Korean Restaurants in LA'. We also made pork nuggets using a recipe my cousin picked up from Seoul.

The following morning I decided I'd use some leftover cooked crabmeat to make a Pa Jeon. I added sliced squid rings and fresh prawns and attained a more delicate tasting pancake whose flavours were accentuated with a touch of light soy sauce.

If I had known it'd be so easy, I would have started much, much earlier. Of course, now the problem would be figuring out which of the 20 varieties of roasted, seasoned seaweed staring at me blankly in the mini-mart the recipe is asking for! And if I can single-handedly finish all the kimchi my cousin and I made that is now sitting pretty in huge containers in the fridge, I will turn into what my brother calls 'Kim Bak Soon'. Very bak (meaty) indeed. If anyone would like to challenge how one can get bak purely on vegetables alone, one look at my perfectly rotund bunny who eats hay, hay and more hay, should put an end to that conversation.