Soul for Real was a very talented R&B singing group that I listened to as a kid. And I admit to having mix tapes with “Candy Rain” that I still listen to today. Great record.
Anyway, my first introduction to Korean cuisine was less than great. My family and I were headed to the Philippines for vacation. (Keep in mind I was 13 years old at the time and my palette wasn’t as sophisticated as it is today.) We flew via Korean Air and had an 8-hour layover in Seoul. (Despite how long the layover was, the shopping at the airport, however, was very exciting!)
Our mid-flight meal consisted of a menu I honestly cannot remember in great detail. But the food that me, my brother and cousins ordered was what was labeled as, “Pancakes and Sausage.” Of course, to kids we were overwhelmed with excitement. “Pancakes?! YESSSSSSS!” <hands in the air> Little did we know, the airline’s interpretation was not what we had imagined. I remember the pancakes being super thin and pale, and the sausage being white in color. “White sausage?!!” Us kids complained. We didn’t know any better, of course. Remember, we were just kids. So we refused to eat it. Looking back now, I really do wish that I did at least try it.
So now that I’m older and wiser (haha) I’m lucky to have been exposed to several different cuisines and foods that I would have never tried before. Culinary school and my genuine curiosity is to thank. But my favorite current Korean-style meal right now is Beef Bulgogi (Korean bbq) and Hobak Jeon (savory zucchini pancakes). Check out the following links for these very delicious and worthwhile recipes!
1 lb. lean steak, frozen
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons sesame seed oil
3 ea. cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
1 bunch green onions, chopped, whites and greens separated
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
While the steak is still frozen, trim the excess fat and slice into thin strips. (Cook’s note: the steak is easier to cut through when it’s frozen.)
Place the steak into a large bowl with the next 7 ingredients. Toss all of the ingredients to coat, and then adding the white parts of the onion. Allow the steak and marinade to thaw for about 1 hour.
Heat a large skillet or wok to medium-high heat. Using a pair of tongs, place the meat onto the heated skillet. Spread the pieces of meat evenly to allow all pieces to cook evenly. After about a minute, add the marinade onto the pan. Toss to coat and allow the sauce to caramelize. Once the marinade is cooked down and the steak is cooked to desired temperature, turn off the heat.
When ready to serve, garnish with sesame seeds, green onion.
Hobak Jeon Korean Zucchini Pancakes
Recipe adapted from Insanity Theory Yields about 6 pancakes
1 ea. zucchini and yellow squash
2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 ea. medium onion, peeled and minced
2 cups AP flour
2 large eggs
2 cups water
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cut off the ends of the yellow squash and zucchini, and then slice into 1/4-inch rounds. Then julienne the rounds.
Toss the squash with the salt, and then place into a bowl for about 30 minutes to drain out the water from the squash.
While you’re waiting for the squash to soften, beat the eggs together till combine. Slowly add in the flour and whisk till incorporated. Then add in the water slowly to thin out. You want the mixture to resemble pancake batter. Add in more water or flour accordingly.
Place the shredded squash into a kitchen towel or cloth, and squeeze out the excess water. Add the squash into the batter, discarding the water. Add in the minced onion.
Heat a cast-iron skillet or non-stick frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat. Once the oil starts to haze, add in a scoopful (I used a 1/2 cup) of the pancake batter to the pan. Swirl the pan to evenly coat.
Cook the pancake till light brown on one side (about 2-5 minutes, depending on your pan), then carefully flip over using a spatula and finish cooking, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer the cooked pancake onto a paper towel-lined plate, then repeat till all batter is used. Reapply oil as needed. Serve with hot dipping sauce. (I mixed 1 part Sambal 1/2 part soy sauce.)
I was never a Girl Scout. In lieu of those activities, my mom encouraged me take ballet and tap dance classes, piano lessons and vocal coaching. I was a bit of a singer/dancer as a child, taking any chance I could to steal the limelight to sing in front of an audience (large or small). I loved singing and dancing so much that I didn’t miss or even notice the other activities I could’ve been doing with other kids my age. It wasn’t until I was about 12 years old when I first saw Troop Beverly Hills, a movie about a group of Wilderness Girls from the 90210, led by the fierce (and amazingly dressed) Shelley Long.
Troop Beverly Hills is one of my favorite movies, and after re-watching it in my 20s I immediately recognized one of my favorite artists, a young Jenny Lewis. In fact, the movie is flooded with young stars you may recognize.
Looking back, I kind of wish I would’ve been a Wilderness Girl, just so that I could sing the “Cookie Time” song.
So right now (with all of my social media channels flooded with posts of Girl Scout cookies) I’m craving Thin Mints so very much. But no such luck on finding any Girl Scout cookie sales booths. Being the proactive and slightly impatient person that I am, I decided to create my own. The resulting recipe is vegan-optional (if you choose to use margarine instead of butter) and has a very subtle coconut flavor. ‘Cause mint and coconut go together like khaki and green, right? I’m calling ’em “Thick Mints” for obvious reasons.
Homemade Thick Mints
Recipe slightly adapted from BakingBites.com
Yields about 2 1/2 dozen
For the cookies:
8 ounces butter (or margarine)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup rice flour (I used Mochiko)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon peppermint extract
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
For the dipping chocolate:
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon peppermint extract
1/8 cup canola oil
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter (or margarine) and sugar till fully incorporated. Stir in the salt, extracts, coconut milk and cocoa powder. Mix until the cocoa powder is integrated and the batter looks like chocolate frosting. Add the flours and mix till just combined, making sure to not over-mix.
Form the dough into a cylinder-like roll (think rolling pin-sized). Wrap the dough completely in Saran or other plastic wrap tightly. Place the dough into the freezer for at least 3 hours or overnight.
After properly resting, remove dough from the freezer and carefully discard plastic wrap. Using a sharp serrated knife cut dough into 1/2-inch discs, slowly cutting so as to not break the dough.
Place the cookies on a baking sheet and bake for 11-13 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack, about 5 minutes.
While the cookies bake, make the peppermint coating. Heat a sauce pot of water till boiling. Place the baking chocolate into a heat-resistant bowl over the boiling water, making sure not to get water into the chocolate.
(Cook’s Note: I have read recipes online instructing to place chocolate into a microwave. Please, I repeat, please don’t do that. Heating chocolate in the microwave will oftentimes scorch it. Chocolate is a temperamental food that needs to be treated carefully. On that note, please don’t ever heat chocolate over a direct flame. Melting chocolate over a double-boiler creates a more controllable heat source.)
Once the chocolate has melted, stir in the peppermint extract. Then slowly add in the oil to thin it out.
Slowly drop the cookies into the melted chocolate. Turn to coat the cookies entirely, then lift the cookie out of the chocolate with a rubber spatula.
Place the dipped cookies onto a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Place the cookies in the freezer to set for at least an hour, preferably overnight if you’re patient!
Now it’s “cookie time, it’s cookie time, it’s cookie time!”
(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots are property of Weintraub Entertainment Group)