Japchae: Korean glass noodles

I’ve already talked about my love for Korean food, it’s time to show you some of that love in my kitchen. Japchae is a type of Korean noodle made from potato starch, and it is deeelicious. The springy texture of the noodles is the true star of this popular stir fry. Unfortunately, for this exact reason, you can’t really substitute it with anything else (besides, you can’t really call the dish ‘japchae’ if there is no japchae in it). If you live in a part of the world that has an Asian market nearby, you’re sure to find the raw noodles. If you live in Delhi/NCR, see the note for where to find it. If you live elsewhere in India, you’re on your own folks, sorry.

Japchae
Inspired by a local Korean restaurant, recipe adapted from several sources

Note: I dont usually do the mise-en-place thing, but I do make an exception for stir fry’s like these since they come together so quick. Also, I used a mandolin for the carrots, onions and mushrooms, because it’s infinitely quicker, though you can cut these easily by hand. 

300 gm japchae/korean potato starch noodles
2 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
2 small onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6-7 mushrooms, sliced (dried and rehydrated wood ear mushrooms are best, I used button because thats what I had)
4 green onions/scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup spinach, chopped, steamed till wilted, and drained
3 tbsp good quality soy sauce (please please don’t use the usual Indian brands for this – they’re all salt and no flavor. Kikkoman is a good brand and easily available; I use an unbranded bottle of the stuff I bought from the Korean shop listed below)
1 1/2 tsp sugar
3 tsp sesame oil, divided
1 tbsp vegetable oil
optional: about a cup of cooked chicken/pork/beef – whichever you prefer (you can cook it in the wok and set aside before starting with the rest of the recipe)

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add noodles and stir them in. Cook for five minutes, drain and rinse with cold water. Toss with 1-2 tsp sesame oil to prevent sticking

In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and soy sauce, set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large wok, add the onions and carrots. Stir and cook till slightly softened. Add the mushrooms, garlic and spring onions. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often. Once the vegetables are cooked, add the spinach, stirring well, and the noodles, soy mixture, meat (if using), and a teaspoon of sesame oil. Stir everything together, stir frying for a minute.

You can serve these noodles hot, warm, at room temperature or even cold. You can also reheat it in a microwave.

Note on the Korean store: The owners of ‘Korea’, the restaurant near North Campus (address: 1612 Outramline Kingsway Camp), have opened up a small store down the road called Mandu Heaven. This is where I buy my kimchi, gochujang, soy sauce, and of course dry japchae. You can also get a bunch of other Korean ingredients, instant noodles and frozen meats here. The name of the store literally means ‘dumpling heaven’, and so of course it also stocks house-made frozen Korean dumplings. It’s a bit of a drive, so I usually go here once in two-three months, eat at the restaurant and stock up on ingredients and lots of house-made kimchi. 

Know any other good specialty stores in Delhi, or anywhere in India? Drop a comment, share the goods!
 

Posted in Asian, Savory | 2 Comments

Adventures with Kimchi

I haven’t yet declared this on the blog, but most people who know me know I have a slightly unhealthy relationship with Korean food – unhealthy for my finances, that is (nutritionally speaking, it’s infinitely better than a lot of other eating out options in Delhi). I crave it daily, but can only allow myself a fix about once a month. This is mostly because there are two Korean restaurants in this city that are really truly good. The first (where I was introduced to the cuisine) is succinctly named “Korea”, and is an affordable joint run by a Korean family near Delhi University’s North Campus (which is located in a far corner of the city, while I live in the other corner, and now work in yet a third one). It was here that in my last year of college, I first fell in love with japchae – springy potato starch noodles with crunchy vegetables, wood ear mushrooms and meat; Jjamppong – a spicy noodle soup that was my staple order for a few months; and of course kimchi – which needs no introduction. Sadly college ended sooner than I was willing to bid farewell to Korea, and it would be two years before I’d get my fix again.

Enter: Gung (The Palace). I first heard about this restaurant from a friend of a friend, who new to the city had naturally discovered places that us residents had been completely unaware of (somehow Delhi offers itself up more easily to newbies and tourists). It sounded expensive, but fortunately by this time I was gainfully employed (it was only later that I realised how much more gainfully employed I needed to be to eat here often enough to satiate my cravings). I was mesmerised. It started with the barbecue, which more than the theatrics of having meat cooked at your table, was the best pork I’d ever eaten in the city, and was accompanied by sides that covered our whole table. Carmalised sticky savory peanuts, bean sprouts in a sesame dressing, wilted spinach, cold potato salad, cauliflower in a funky addictive sauce, oh lordy I don’t think I can go on. Each time you went back, they’d have changed the lineup a bit…you just couldn’t get bored.

I was hooked, to the barbecue, to the seafood stew, and most of all – to the Kimchi. I cannot adequately express my love for it. But I can tell you I’ve paid a pretty penny to buy kilos of it to eat at home: with rice, fried into rice, with noodles, fried into noodles, with stews,..you get the drift.

The thing is that despite my undying love for Korean food and kimchi, I need to be able to spend my money on other loves: clothes, japanese food, shoes, other newer food, inexplicably expensive tickets to cultural events, fancy pants baking ingredients, and you know…other stuff.

Hence, I have decided to start learning how to make this stuff at home. I’ve already got a pretty good handle on japchae (which is dead easy, I’ll share the recipe soon), but what I really really need to know, is how to make kimchi.

This was my first expriment:

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Sadly, this hasn’t been successful, though I have a pretty fair idea of why and how and what I need to do next time for better results (welcome to the world of cooking friends, it only rarely starts and finishes with a perfect recipe!). As a cautionary tale, I’ll give you a brief list of the reasons why this attempt did not work:

1. I used oyster sauce instead of rice porridge for the fermentation: I saw one odd recipe that used this, and since I always have a bottle of the stuff on my shelf, and don’t usually stock rice flour, I thought it would be a good idea to use it since it would make my grocery shopping easier. But it didn’t work too well fermentation-wise and also color-wise. It made the bright red chilli color darker, and a more muted orange.

2. I used Indian chilli powders: Once again, what I wanted from the homemade version was accessibility, I wasn’t looking for a recipe that required trips to the one or two Asian stores in the city. But, there was a marked difference in flavor. The Indian chili powders (I used a combination of Kashmiri and kuttu) were much spicier and gave the kimchi a smoky flavor, which I didn’t want.

3. I used too much salt: I combined a more traditional recipe with the oyster sauce recipe, without realising I was salting twice – once during the salting process and then again in the seasoning (the oyster sauce recipe didn’t call for the salting process). This was a silly calculation error on my part.

So, despite this little failure, I have to say I’m not going to find it hard too finish my jar of kimchi – it’s still a pretty delicious pickled cabbage and the salt balances out when frying it with rice. However, I am going to plan my next adventure a bit better, and I’ve already found a more sensible (and single!) recipe for this: http://eatingandliving.blogspot.in/2012/01/baechu-kimchi-napa-cabbage-kimchi.html. The only change I’m going to make to the new recipe is to chop the quartered cabbage into bite sized pieces before salting: it makes storage and portioning a lot easier.

 Wish me luck!

Posted in Asian, Savory | 2 Comments

Strawberry ricotta scones, bad habits

Oh my lovelies, I seem to be full of bad manners and bad habits. The winter holiday season has come and gone, and I haven’t shared any of the delicious fun I’ve been having. I do have good reason for this though, most of this fun has not happened in my kitchen but in the millions of little restaurants that have been popping up in this city. I think I should start posting restaurant reviews on this blog, if for no other reason but to justify my inability to go through the week without eating out 4 out of 7 nights.

In the meanwhile, let me offer you some scones, strawberry ricotta scones to be exact.

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(Don’t ask me why I stacked the scones in this picture, I won’t have an answer more convincing than “it seeeemed like a good idea at the time…“)

These scones are delicious. Delicious, with a crumbly crust and a fluffy center. However, they are delicious for exactly one hour after they come out of the oven. Regrettably, I know this because I packed a bunch of them and took them to a picnic….the horror of what time did to these beauties haunts me, but I take solace in knowing that you won’t be as daft as I was. Make the dough, cut it up, decide how much you want to serve, and freeze the rest of the dough, please.

Also, this is a great place to use that yummazing homemade ricotta you made earlier (If you haven’t already, give in. You know you want to, you know you can. Just do it.).

Strawberry Ricotta Scones
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

The original recipe is a wholewheat ricotta raspberry scone. I changed it up mostly because I don’t like raspberries, and didn’t feel like using atta -the only type of whole wheat flour available here- in this recipe. I’m glad I did, because these were positively dreamy when eaten warm. Also, I usually cut my scones in smallish, 1.5 inch, squares because I like scones in smaller portions. Feel free to cut them any size or shape you like. And finally, I use salted butter, because it’s hard to find inexpensive unsalted butter here. If you would like to use unsalted butter, add 1/2 a tsp salt to your dry ingredients for this recipe. 

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon  baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut in cubes
1 cup strawberries, or whatever berry you like, roughly chopped
3/4 cup whole milk ricotta, or fresh homemade ricotta
1/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk dry ingredients together: In a large, bowl, whisk the first three ingredients together, enough to make sure the baking powder is evenly distributed.

Work in the butter: Using a pastry blender, or your fingers, cut/rub the butter into the flour, till the largest pieces are about the size of a pea.

Make the dough: Using a sturdy spatula, or wooden spoon, mix in the berries, ricotta, and cream till you form a rough shaggy dough. Try not to overmix the dough. Gently knead and pat all the shaggy bits together to form one mass. You want the dough to remain shaggy and craggly, not smooth, so be careful not to knead too much or you’ll end up with a much denser scone.

Pat it out into a square: Flour your work surface (either a clean kitchen counter, or any smooth flat surface like the back of a large tray will do for this). Using floured hands, flatten the dough into a square or rectangle about an inch tall.

Cut the dough into squares: or whatever shape you like and transfer to your lined baking tray. You can bake these right away, or freeze them and bake as and when needed.

Bake for about 15 minutes, till lightly brown. Serve warm as is, or with more ricotta, or lightly whipped cream.

Posted in Fruit, Sweet | Leave a comment

Baingan bharta and marinated vegetables pizza

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Folks, I begin to type this post three slices in to what is undeniably the best pizza I have ever made at home (ignoring, for a moment, it’s amoeba shape). It’s an unusual marriage of ingredients, I concede, but please give me a chance to explain why I think you should see this in the light it deserves: a slightly different take on a very traditional combination of foods. What if I simply called this a ‘roasted aubergine and tomato pizza with marinated vegetables’? Would this name make you want to scream “Lady, give the silly fusion-izing a rest, please!” a little less? I sure hope so, because you will thank me later.

(For the non-Indians, baingan bharta is a very common vegetable dish made with smoky-roasted eggplant, tomatoes and onions, with a nice red chilli powder kick. I made this pizza with some leftovers at home, but I’ve given an easy, to-scale version below. If you have a favorite baingan bharta recipe, make it for dinner one night, and use the leftovers for this pizza the next day.)

Baingan bharta and marinated vegetables pizza
Serves 2-3

For the baingan bharta:
2-3 skinny/long aubergines, cut in half lengthwise
1 tomato, chopped (can use tinned)
1/2 red onion, chopped (or a couple of tablespoons of whatever onion you have on hand)
1/4 tsp red chilli powder / 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
a generous pinch of smoked paprika
1 tbsp olive oil, divided
salt to taste

For the marinated vegetables: 

5-6 thin slices zucchini
2-3 mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 tomato, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 sprigs thyme
1 tsp sumac (completely optional)
salt to taste

For the pizza dough (you can use store bought/another favorite recipe, but here’s a basic recipe for a nice sized thin crust pizza):

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp dry active yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil

Parmesan, to shave on top (optional, but very very good on this)

Optional: I also used about a tablespoon of jarred chilli-garlic sauce because this batch of baingan bharta wasn’t as spicy as I wanted.

If making, prepare your dough:
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and yeast (if unsure about your yeast, mix it into your warm water instead and wait for it to froth. If it doesn’t, discard, curse a bit, and try again with a fresher packet of yeast).

Make a well in the center, add the water and olive oil. Using a fork, mix the flour into the liquid by stirring steadily, and drawing the flour in. Once it becomes faily clumpy and un-stirrable, using lightly floured hands, start to lightly knead and bring in all the floury bits into on cohesive mass. If too dry, add a bit more water, if too sticky, add a bit more flour (1/2 tsp at a time).

Knead for a few minutes, till the dough feels slightly elastic and springy under your fingers. Lightly oil the bowl, and your ball of dough, cover bowl with clingfilm and place in a warm place to rise. This may take anywhere between 1 hour to 3 hours. The important thing is that your dough double to twice its size. If impatient, cheat: heat oven to 50 degrees celcius, turn off, place bowl in oven for an hour, till risen.

If making, prepare your eggplant while waiting for your dough to rise (or up to three days in advance):
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Prick the cut sides all over with a fork, and coat with 1/2 tbsp olive oil, season with some salt. Place on a baking sheet and roast for about 45 minutes, or till completely tender. Heat the remaining 1/2 tbsp olive oil in a pan, add the onion and saute till lightly browned and soft. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook till any rawness is gone and they have melted.

In the meanwhile, using your fingers, or a spoon, scoop out the flesh from the aubergines and discard the skin and stems.

Add the chilli powder and paprika tothe tomato mixture, and mix well. Add the aubergine flesh and stir to combine. Adjust seasoning if required and cook on a low flame for 5 minutes. Take off the heat and allow it to come to room temperature (and place in fridge if making in advance).

Marinate your vegetables:
Mix all the ingredients for this together, cover and keep aside.

Now, finally the good part! Assemble your pizza!

Lightly flour a baking sheet and roll/press out your dough as thin as you like/can manage. Let it rest for 15 minutes. In the meanwhile, preheat your oven to its highest temperature (about 200-250 degrees Celcius).

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 If using, spread the chilli garlic paste onto your pizza base.

Spread the baingan bharta on top of this.

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Arrange the veggies next.

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Bake on a lower shelf for 10-12 minutes, shave over some Parmesan and serve!

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(Whew! That was a long post!)

Posted in Savory | Leave a comment

Devils Food Cake

When you want to make somebody you love something special for a special occasion, chocolate is a pretty good place to start, and very often, its also a good place to end. Especially if that person is my sister (she can wolf down a pack of Lindt Thins like its popcorn on movie night!).

Warning: a lot of chocolate went into the making of this cake. Four hundred grams to be precise (just for the frosting, the cake itself used only cocoa powder)

The David Lebovitz recipe I tested last week was perfect. The cake was moist, with a lovely, deep flavor that I amped up with a good dose of homemade vanilla. Looking at the recipe, I knew I wouldn’t need to test the frosting. Melted dark chocolate with some butter thrown in for good measure? What could possibly not be right about that! And I was right, the frosting came out beautiful and glossy with an unadulterated chocolate flavor.

Devils Food Cake
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Makes 1 three layer, 9 inch cake.

I scaled up the recipe to make a three layer cake, tossed in some vanilla and brushed the layers with coffee liqueur to help keep them moist. I would definitely recommend both extra ingredients. You don’t of course, need to use a coffee liqueur, just a simple syrup of even water would suffice, just to help keep the layers moist.

Also, because my oven is not very large and is a bit temperamental, I made and baked the batter for the three layers individually, one after the other to avoid mishaps. This was quite painstaking and time consuming, and it makes much more sense to make all three layers at once if your oven can handle it. 

For the icing:
400gms dark chocolate (I used 3 bars of a regular good quality dark chocolate, and 1 bar of a bitter 85% chocolate, to very good results)
3/4 cup water or cream (I prefer water)
1 cup (200 gms) unsalted butter, cut into cubes

For the cake layers:
1 cup (or 13+1/2 packed tbsp) cocoa
2+1/4 cups flour
1 scant tsp salt
1+1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup (or 150gms) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2+1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup strong coffee or water
1/4 cup milk
3 tbsp pure vanilla extract (great place to use a rum or bourbon based extract)
Simple syrup or coffee liqueur to brush the layers

 Make the icing:
Chop the chocolate as small as possible and melt with the water in a double boiler, over low heat. When the chocolate is almost fully melted, take it off the boiler and add the cubes of butter. Whisk till smooth and glossy. Set aside. My frosting took well over two hours to firm up to a spreadable consistency, despite Delhi’s tolerable temperature. If your frosting is taking too long to firm up, and your cake layers are cooled and ready, pop it in the fridge for 10 minutes, take it out, give it a good stir. If you live in Saharan temperatures, you may need to repeat this process a few times till the frosting is ready.

Make the cake layers:
Prepare three 9 inch round cake tins: line the bottoms with parchment or butter paper, butter the paper and the sides of the tines.

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees Celsius.

Place the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer, if you own one).  Sift the rest of the dry ingredients and set aside. Mix together the milk, coffee and vanilla, set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar till creamy. Add an egg and beat till incorporated, before beating in a second egg. Add a third of the dry ingredients, and beat. Add the last egg and beat, add the milk mixture and beat till incorporated, scraping down the sides. Add the rest of the dry ingredients, and beat till just incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the three tins. Shake and rap the tins on the counter, to get the surface of the batter as even as possible. Bake for 25 minutes, rotating the position of the tins mid-way.

Cool completely before frosting.

To assemble:
If the cake layers are uneven on top, trim the tops using a long sharp knife.

Place one cake layer on a plate or cake stand and brush with some simple syrup or coffee liqueur. Dollop some of the frosting and spread evenly (you’ll have to eyeball the amounts here).  Place the second layer on top of this and brush with more syrup/liqueur. Dollop on more frosting and spread evenly. Top with the last layer of cake and brush with more liquid. Pile the rest of the frosting on top, and using your spatula, coax the frosting to the sides, so that it starts to spill over and you can work at covering the sides. Smooth the top and sides, or make swirly patterns, whatever you like.

I sprinkled on some white chocolate shavings on the edges of my cake, but really, this cake doesn’t require any further adornment.

Serve at room temperature, or if you live in a warm climate, pop it in the fridge for about half an hour for the frosting to set a bit.

Posted in Chocolate, Sweet | 4 Comments

Recipe testing in progress!

So my sister just got engaged and we’re having a formal shin-ding at home later this week so that the two families can meet roka-style. Naturally my contribution to the whole event will be cake-related, and because I know my sister well, it will more specifically be chocolate-cake-related.

Hence I am making use of this unusual mid-week holiday (thank you Diwali, you annoy me with das hazaar ladhi noise and parties that make gambling way more socially acceptable than it should be, but you do give me mid-week holidays, lots of gifted dry fruits and an excuse to light pretty diyas and candles) to test chocolate layer cake recipes. I am really hoping that the first recipe I try (currently in the oven) will be a clear winner because unlike bloggers with more character and caliber, I do not have the stamina or inclination to test recipe after recipe to find The One. I am hopeful since David Lebovitz is a man who knows his chocolate and also knows his cake. And this Devils Food Cake looks like the exact kind of confection my sister would happy-dance over.

Wish me luck :)

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Caramelized White Chocolate

The word “caramelized” followed by anything in a recipe is usually enough to have me salivating. Fruits, vegetables, condensed milk, anything. Hence, it’s not a surprise that I’ve been lusting for caramelized white chocolate for some time now.

I have to say though, I did have trouble making this. This was mostly because I couldn’t find a good bar of white chocolate, and had to make do with a dubious brand that didn’t even list the percentage of cocoa butter on the label. The chocolate kept getting grainy and was difficult to stir. But pleasantly enough, it transformed itself to a nice, delicious, smooth consistency after I blended it with some cream in my mixer.

Because I had so much trouble with the recipe, I think it’s best I point you in the direction of the original recipe that is quite detailed and helpful (the cream+blending tip was from here):

Caramelized white chocolate from davidlebovitz.com

Posted in Sweet | 3 Comments