I love butter and sugar.

Archive for April 2009

Sesame Seed Cake

I love sweets and have been known in my family to make all the cookies, cupcakes, and pies at our gatherings, but I’ve never been great at making cakes. The traditional cheesecake that my family always had around the holidays, one made with cottage cheese in place of cream cheese, was something that I made often during high school and college, but somehow, the center of the cake would always crack. Yes, it would taste great, but I wanted aethetics, too. So when I found out that professional bakers actually use a bain marie, or a water bath, I tried doing the same… which resulted in a complete mess; despite the three to four layers of aluminum foil I’d have wrapped around my springform pan, somehow water always managed to leak into my cake, resulting in the potential beauty dissolving into a big puddle once the spring was released.

I’ve also attempted to make flour-based cakes, like Dorie Greenspan’s tiramisu cake and a good handful of chocolate cakes, but the crumb would always turn out dry and dense. When I’d prepare these failed cakes for gatherings, my relatives would always smile and down large glasses of water or milk with their cake, smiling at me and insisting that “the frosting is delicious!” Well, at least I got one part right.

Eggs and vanilla extract in a yin-yang pattern

So when I saw this recipe for a sesame seed cake in Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert, I was a it hesitant to actually face my cake-making fear. Since my failed tiramisu and cheesecakes, I’ve only managed to get a steamed Chinese sponge cake right (that’s almost full proof for me. A recipe will follow in the near future). But I couldn’t resist trying out this cake. For one thing, I’d never heard of a cake that used sesame seeds (poppy seeds, yes, but sesame seeds? Nope). The more peculiar thing about this recipe is that it uses toasted sesame oil. I’ve always had sesame oil in my pantry for savory Asian dishes I’ve made, but this new use in cake had me intrigued.

Bottles of vanilla extract, sesame oil, and sesame seeds

I am a huge fan of sesame oil; my favorite brand is Kadoya. Whether it’s for savory dishes or for this sesame seed cake, stay away from the cheaper sesame/soybean oil blends, and be sure to buy a pure sesame oil. It should be a deep brown color. They’re most easily found at Asian supermarkets, where the oil will almost definitely be toasted. The nutty, sweet smell is almost unmistakable. Sesame seeds can also be purchased easily at Asian markets. Stay away from the containers that are imported from China, as those tend to have twigs and other foreign things in them. The ones from Korea, Japan, or right here in the U.S. are the ones you want to get, as these almost always have already been sorted.

Mixing initial ingredients for sesame seed cake

As with almost all other baked good recipes you will see, always remember to start out with all ingredients at room temperature. With liquids like milk or buttermilk, take them out of the refrigerator about an hour beforehand. With eggs, you can either take them out about an hour or two before you plan to beat them, or you can prepare a bowl of warm water and place the eggs in the bowl to sit. Once you pick up the eggs and they are no longer cold to the touch, you will know that they are ready. Eggs need to be at room temperature, especially for cake baking, because warmer eggs will whisk to higher volumes and will also ensure that the cake rises properly during baking.

Incorporating the dry with the wet

In this recipe, when folding the dry ingredients into the wet, only fold until just incorporated. Overbeating is one of the worst things you can do with a cake batter because it will inevitably result in a drier and potentially denser cake. I’ve always feared taking a bite into a cake I’ve made and tasting flour in my mouth, so that’s probably resulted in my unconsciously overbeating the batter.

Beaters covered in batter and sesame seeds

If I had followed the suggestions I listed above, perhaps I wouldn’t have had such terrible cake making experiences before. Luckily this time, the sesame seed cake turned out perfectly — evenly browned, well-flavored with a strong background of toasted sesame oil, and most importantly (at least, for me and my cake fears), moist! It’s a beautiful cake, flecked with black sesame seeds on the inside. The sesame seeds also add a pleasant crunch to each bite.

Maybe there will be more cakes in my kitchen since this one came out so well. I served it with a small scoop of Haagan Daaz ginger ice cream, but Medrich suggests that you serve it with her honeyed ice cream. Either way, it is yummy and something you should try if you need a change from the typical chocolate or yellow cake.

Sesame seed cake, cut

Sesame Seed Cake
from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert
makes one 8-inch round cake

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup toasted black sesame seeds
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of a cake pan or a springform pan – I find the springform works really well. Make sure the pan has high enough sides as the cake really rises in the oven!

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl and set aside.

Beat the eggs together in a bowl with a whisk. Add the sesame oil and vanilla and thoroughly combine.

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on medium for a few minutes to soften it up. Add the sugar and beat for several more minutes until it is light-colored and fluffy.

Add in the egg mixture a little at a time while the mixer is still running, letting it slowly combine over a couple of minutes.

Stop the mixer and pour in a third of the flour mixture, and beat just until combined. Scrape down the sides as necessary.

Add half the buttermilk and beat until combined.

Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture, the rest of the buttermilk, and finally the rest of the flour mixture with the sesame seeds. With each addition, beat it only until it is just incorporated.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool on the rack for a few minutes before unmolding. If you baked the cake in a regular cake pan, invert it onto the rack, and turn it right side up to finish cooling. Before serving, dust with powdered sugar.

This cake will keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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Since the first morning I spent wandering around the streets of Shanghai three years ago, I’ve had a mild obsession with street food. It was my first time outside of the U.S., and really my first time ever seeing food prepared on the street — if you don’t count the pretzel and roasted nuts trucks in some areas of Los Angeles.

Despite all the warnings I had from teachers at the local university to my Lonely Planet guide about staying away from street food, it was hard to ignore the sizzling sounds of a batter being spread over flat griddles to make an eggy crepe (dan bing 蛋餅), or the sight of fresh soybeans being pressed to yield hot soybean milk, all coming from these tiny stalls densely lining the bustling streets of one of the most chaotic metropolitan areas in the world.

The Bund/Wai Tan, Shanghai, China

Being cognizant of American snobbery surrounding eating food in foreign lands, I tried my best to eat the same way locals ate, whether that meant eating food out of street stalls or going into tiny and dingy mom-and-pop type shops that were recommended to me by native Chinese friends I had made. It was exhilarating to see all the energy along the streets with people shouting their orders and street vendors quickly stir-frying these noodles or mixing up those sauces. In less than five minutes, a plate of yum could be ready for you to carry and take off wherever you’d like.

Although my experience in China was only in Shanghai and surrounding areas, being there helped me learn more about Chinese culture in general, as well as the prominence of street food in China. Many of the comfort foods that Chinese people who leave China crave and miss are ones that are prepared on the street. These treats, also known in Mandarin Chinese as xiao chi (小吃) or “little eats,” are generally made by vendors who each create a specialized snack, from spicy cold noodles to steamed dumplings to pudding-like bean curd (dou hua 豆花). In the past, street vendors would travel all over the cities or towns where they lived in China to get as much business as possible; it’s been said that in the early twentieth century, street vendors lived or died by the quantity of their food sold, so they consumed themselves with creating unique dishes that would keep people coming back.

Fresh mung bean sprouts

Fuchsia Dunlop, an East Asia Specialist at the BBC World Service, was the first non-Chinese educated at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine in Chengdu, China. After her culinary education in Sichuan, in 2001 she published a cookbook called Land of Plenty, the first-ever Chinese cookbook written by a Western author in English specifically on Sichuanese cuisine. Land of Plenty devotes an entire section to little eats, consisting of many noodle dishes, dumplings, sweets, and other dishes that can be seen being prepared on streets in Chengdu today.

Sauce ingredients

One of the street foods in the book that has most recently been prepared in my kitchen is the spicy cold noodles with chicken slivers. It’s a xiao chi that is distinctively Sichuanese. Thick, cold noodles are served with blanched bean sprouts, cooked chicken slices, and a complex, mouth-tingling sauce that is all at once sweet, salty, sour, hot, and numbing.

Spicy numbing sauce for noodles

The “numbing” sensation comes from the Sichuan pepper, or in Chinese, hua jiao 花椒,  which literally translated means “flower pepper.” It’s probably the most important and dominant condiment/spice in Sichuanese cooking. Before being roasted and ground, the Sichuan peppercorns look like this:

Whole Sichuan peppercorns - hua jiao

Once roasted whole, they are then ground finely and added to hot dishes, cold dishes, sauces, and dressings. Sichuan pepper’s strong scent is unmistakable — flowery and spicy at the same time. It adds a distinct taste to Sichuanese dishes and never fails to make your lips tingle after eating it. This is what the pepper looks like after being grounded:

Ground Sichuan pepper

In Chinese supermarkets, Sichuan peppercorns are often not labeled in English, so be sure to look out for these Chinese characters: 花椒.  One problem I’ve had with the peppercorns is that the twigs and leaves of the plant are often still attached to the peppercorns in the packages, so when taking them out to roast and grind, carefully sort through the peppercorns and remove the excess beforehand.

Putting lunch together

This dish makes a satisfying lunch for 2-3, or if you have a full pound of noodles, you could easily double the sauce ingredients and add more chicken if you’d like for a bigger crowd. In case you like heat but not too much of it, try to add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the chili oil to the sauce to start, and increase it if you’d like more of a kick. The list of ingredients for the sauce seems long, but all of the ingredients are extremely versatile and can be used in any type of Asian cooking. So don’t be afraid to buy them, as you will use them over and over again.

Cold noodles mixed with sauce and chicken

Spicy Cold Noodles with Chicken Slivers
ji si liang mian 雞絲涼麵

Adapted from Fuchsia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty
Serves 2-3 as a main lunch dish

Noodles

  • About 1/2 pound fresh Shanghai-style wheat noodles (slightly thicker than spaghetti)
  • 1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil
  • 5 ounces bean sprouts
  • 1 cooked chicken breast, 2 chicken thighs, or some leftover chicken meat
  • 4 scallions thinly sliced, green parts only

Sauce/Seasonings

  • 2 tablespoons sesame paste, thinned with about 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Chinkiang or black Chinese vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground roasted Sichuan pepper 花椒
  • 2-3 tablespoons chili oil with chili flakes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil

Cook the noodles in a medium sized pot of boiling water until they are just al dente; take care not to overcook them. Rinse them with hot water from the kettle, then shake them in a colander and quickly spread them out to dry. Sprinkle over the oil and mix it in with chopsticks to prevent the noodles from sticking together.

Blanch the bean sprouts for a few seconds in boiling water, then refresh in cold water. Drain well. Squash the chicken breast or leftover chicken pieces slightly to loosen fibers, and tear or cut into slivers about 1/4-inch thick.

When the noodles and bean sprouts are completely cold, lay the bean sprouts in the bottom of your serving bowl or bowls. Add the noodles.

To serve, either combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl and pour the mixture over the noodles, or just scatter them over one by one. Top the dish with a small pile of chicken slivers and a scattering of scallions. Allow your guests to toss everything together at the table.

homemade banh xeo with garnishing

One of the nice things about being bi-ethnic is the exposure I’ve had to two unique cultures growing up. My dad’s side is Toisan (台山) Chinese, while my mom’s side is Vietnamese. But since almost everyone on my mom’s side of the family is still in Vietnam until this day, growing up in the Bay Area I have had more exposure to my Chinese roots rather than to my Vietnamese ones.

I didn’t really start learning more about Vietnamese culture until the second half of high school, and then my desire to learn more grew in college when I got involved with my school’s Vietnamese Student Association. I made Vietnamese friends, and through them I learned more about my culture and in the end, myself.

Village in Binh Dinh province, Vietnam

Then in January of last year, I went back to the Motherland; it was my first time in Vietnam. It was slightly disorienting, knowing that halfway around the world I have a hundred relatives who all know who I am, what I look like (their homes have albums with pictures of me at various ages that my mom sent), and what I am doing with my life. I couldn’t communicate with them, as I hadn’t learned any Vietnamese growing up, and I barely knew anything about my relatives there. They all felt like strangers to me, and I constantly questioned how much I really belonged there. Few things felt familiar to me.

You can feel like you belong in a place in different ways. You might physically blend in, or you could speak the native language of that particular country.

…Or you could just eat everything there and feel like gastronomically, your life is complete — which is sort of how I felt while I was in Vietnam.

One day, I was walking along a street in Quy Nhon, a coastal city in Binh Dinh province in Central Vietnam, and I came across this street vendor preparing something familiar to me:

home style banh xeo on the street in Quy Nhon, Vietnam

It was a type of home-style bánh xèo, a Vietnamese sizzling crepe.. Literally translated, bánh xèo means “sizzling crepe,” as “xèo” is like the “ssssee-oh!” sizzling sound heard when the crepe batter hits the hot frying pan. The crepe is typically made from a batter consisting of ground rice, mung beans, pork, and shrimp, and then filled with fresh mung bean sprouts to be served with fresh vegetables and herbs, rolled in bánh tráng (edible rice paper), and then dipped in nước mắm (Vietnamese fish sauce).

homestyle banh xeo in Quy Nhon, Vietnam

The picture above shows the home-style bánh xèo that the street vendor we befriended had made (which we happily bought and devoured). It reminded me of another type of bánh xèo that I have always loved, one that is most typically found in the southern region of Vietnam. They look like this:

Banh Xeo aka Saigon Crepes

Yellow from the turmeric and mung beans, fragrant from the shrimp, pork shoulder, and coconut milk, and stuffed with fresh mung bean sprouts, these sizzling babies are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Bánh xèo is considered one of Southern Vietnam’s most famous dishes, and as a result, if you see this on a menu at a Vietnamese restaurant in the U.S., it will typically be called “Saigon Pancake” or “Saigon Crepe.” At other places, I’ve seen it on the menu as a “Vietnamese moon pancake/crepe” due to the crepe being folded over and resembling a half moon.

Banh Xeo batter

The problem with most Vietnamese restaurants in the U.S. is that they usually use a pre-made mix for the batter, and because of this, the texture of the bánh xèo is always flagrantly off. It ends up being soft and soggy; no bánh xèo should ever be associated with either of those two adjectives. Not to mention that the crepe is usually served by itself without the traditional bánh tráng or at least with large lettuce leaves to wrap the crepes in.

Frying up a banh xeo

The only way to get around this was for me to make it myself. And luckily for me, I had done a lot of digging on Vietnamese cooking and came across Andrea Nguyen’s Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, which probably has some of the most authentic Vietnamese recipes I’ve seen in English. As an added bonus, her bánh xèo recipe was thoroughly researched during her trips to Vietnam, and she was able to replicate the crispy, chewy pancakes in her home kitchen after multiple trials, and then bestow it upon all of us in the States who love these crepes so much but are not literate in Vietnamese. I was in heaven.

Flipping the banh xeo over

You will look at the below recipe(s) and think that this will be a time-consuming endeavor. Well, I’m not going to lie to you: it’s going to take a lot of prep work and a lot of patience with the soaking and the cutting and the washing, but in the end, it will be worth it. Gather up eight or nine of your closest friends or family who you know will appreciate homemade Vietnamese food, and have them sit around the table to enjoy this meal with you. Better yet, get them all to pitch in and help cook the meal, as you will see below that there are quite a number of steps to the final product.

But once that sizzling sound is heard and the first few pieces of the crepes are torn off and eaten, they won’t regret helping out one bit. Bánh xèo doesn’t get any better than this.

Banh xeo wrapped with veggies and banh trang

Bánh Xèo (sizzling crepes)
Adapted from Andrea Nguyen’s Into the Vietnamese Kitchen
8-10 Servings

Nước Mắm – Vietnamese Fish Sauce (for dipping)

•    1/4 cup lime juice
•    2 tablespoons rice vinegar
•    2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
•    1 clove garlic, finely chopped and mashed
•    1 cup boiling water
•    5-8 tablespoons fish sauce
•    1 to 2 Thai bird, dragon or seeded Serrano chilies, thinly sliced

Place the lime juice, rice vinegar, sugar and garlic in a bowl; stir to combine. Add the fish sauce, starting with 5 tablespoons. Then add about 1 cup boiling water. Taste and adjust the flavors. Aim for a balance of tart, sweet and salty. The color of the liquid should be a deep amber.  Add chilies and allow sauce to cool. Serve the sauce chilled. Yields about 1 1/2 cups.

Batter
Yields 3 cups of batter (enough for about 8 crepes).

•    1 cup long-grain or jasmine rice
•    2 tablespoons cooked rice, firmly packed
•    1 tablespoon steamed, ground mung beans, firmly packed
•    1/2 teaspoon salt
•    1/2 teaspoon turmeric
•    1/4 cup coconut milk
•    1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
•    1 green onion, sliced into thin rings (1/4 cup)

Place the raw rice in a bowl and add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Let soak for 3 to 4 hours. Drain.

Place the soaked rice in a blender with the cooked rice, mung beans, salt, turmeric, coconut milk and water. Blend until very smooth and lemony yellow, about 3 minutes.

Pour the batter through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl and discard the solids. Stir in the green onion. Set aside. As the batter sits, it will thicken to a consistency like that of heavy cream. The batter can be made up to 4 hours before serving.

For assembly:

•    1/2 cup canola oil, divided
•    1 1/2 cups thinly sliced yellow onion
•    3/4 pound boneless pork butt, shoulder, or belly, thinly sliced
•    1 (15-ounce) can whole or broken straw mushrooms, drained, cut lengthwise if whole
•    1/2 pound medium (41 to 50 count) white shrimp, trimmed of legs and tails, de-veined
•    1 recipe batter
•    1 recipe steamed, ground mung beans
•    8 ounces bean sprouts (about 2 1/2 cups)

For garnish:

•    Leaves from 2 heads butter lettuce, red leaf lettuce, or romaine lettuce
•    1/2 small English cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced (1 1/4 cups)
•    1/4 cup cilantro leaves
•    1/4 cup mint leaves
•    1/4 cup torn tía tô leaves (optional)
•    1 recipe dipping sauce
•    2-3 packages bánh tráng (Vietnamese rice paper; these usually have about 22-25 sheets per package)

For each crepe, heat 2 to 3 teaspoons oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough to gently sizzle a slice of onion on contact, add one-fourth cup onion, one-fourth cup pork, one-fourth cup straw mushrooms and 4 shrimp. Sauté quickly, breaking up the meat and letting the ingredients sear and aromatize, about 1 minute. Visualize a line down the skillet’s middle and roughly arrange the ingredients in the two halves. Anything arranged in the middle will make it hard to neatly fold the crepe.

Give the batter a good stir with the ladle. Pour about one-half cup batter into the skillet, swirling the skillet to cover the bottom. The batter should dramatically sizzle (making that “xèo” noise!) and bubble. When it settles down, scatter 2 tablespoons mung beans over the crepe surface and place a one-third cup bean sprouts on one side. Turn the heat down to medium-low, cover and cook until the bean sprouts have slightly wilted, about 3 minutes.

Remove the lid and drizzle about 1 teaspoon oil around the edge of the crepe. Continue cooking, uncovered, to crisp the pancake. After about 3 to 4 minutes, the edges should have pulled away from the skillet and turned golden brown. At this point, use a spatula to check underneath. From the center to the edge, the crepe should gradually go from being soft to crispy. Lower the heat if you need to cook further. When you are satisfied, use a spatula to fold one half over the other. Either lift the crepe with a spatula or slide it onto a serving dish. Repeat the cooking process. If there’s leftover batter, make the poor man’s crepe without the goodies.

To eat, tear a piece of lettuce roughly the size of your palm and place a piece of the crepe inside (use kitchen scissors or chopsticks to cut the crepe). Add cucumber slices and a few herb leaves. Use your fingers to bundle it up, then dunk it into the dipping sauce.

For a more traditional way of eating the crepes, use the bánh tráng. Prepare a large bowl of warm water and place at the table. With each sheet of bánh tráng, place it into the water, making sure the top and bottom of the sheet comes into contact with the water. Place on a flat plate and allow the rice paper to soften. Once softened, fill with a piece of the crepe, cucumber slices, lettuce, and herb leaves. Then roll it like a thin burrito. Dip into nước mắm and enjoy.

Steamed, ground mung beans
Yields 1 1/4 cups, enough for 8 (10-inch) crepes

•    1/2 cup dried yellow mung beans

Place the mung beans in a bowl and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Let soak 2 hours.

Drain the beans and place in the steamer basket, spreading them out to an even layer. Fill the steamer bottom halfway with water and bring it to a rolling boil over high heat. Steam the mung beans until tender, about 8 minutes. Remove the basket from the steamer bottom and set aside to cool.

Grind the cooled beans in a food processor to a fluffy consistency. The texture should resemble fine cornmeal, but you’ll be able to pinch together a bit between your fingers. Steamed, ground mung beans may be frozen and defrosted when needed.

Hoddeuk Homemade

I think my fascination with Korean food began after I moved from the Bay Area to the East Coast for college. At the time my school, a private college in the New England area, ranked number 1 in student diversity in the region. Among that diversity was a very visible Korean student body, from South Korea as well as throughout the States. On the Foodies e-conference that we could access online, many students talked about the Korean markets and restaurants in the area. All this Korean food talk made me think, “I want!”

Hotteok dough rising
So I began my research on Korean cuisine — popular plates to order, everyday preparations, special occasion dishes, snacks, street eats, even down to proper Korean table manners (when I get into something, I really get into it). I had a fair share of Korean barbeque nights, got excited every time I went to a different Korean restaurant and had a new variety of ban chan (like appetizers at the beginning of a Korean meal), and even got as far as rolling and making my own kimbap (a Korean version of sushi usually eaten for lunch or prepared for picnics).

Hotteok dough balls to be filled

But among all of the dishes and snacks that really peaked my interest was a sweet Korean pancake called hotteok (pronounced “ho-duck”). I’d heard from college classmates and through food talk in the blogosphere that hotteok is a popular South Korean street snack, especially on cold winter nights. The pancakes are made of a mixture of all-purpose flour and glutinous rice flour with a rising agent, and then they’re filled with a brown sugar nut mixture. Once heated on a pan, they are golden brown, firm and chewy on the outside, dripping with molten brown sugar goo on the inside.

Hotteok being filled with cinnamon sugar nut mixture

I tried finding them at a nearby Korean bakery when I’d heard of them, but the one I bought definitely wasn’t hot or fresh; hotteok is meant to be eaten HOT (the “ho” part of the name comes from the “ho!” sound that people make when their mouths are being scalded by the goo oozing out after taking their initial bite). So I figured the only way to get one was to make it myself. I had one before, though it wasn’t fresh, so I had an approximate idea of what it should taste like.

All the recipes I found in cookbooks and online were flawed in that they used all all-purpose flour. All-purpose flour would never be able to replicate the distinct chewiness that I knew hotteok had to have. Chewing a hotteok can be likened to chewing half a pancake (soft and light) and half a piece of Japanese mochi (chewy and slightly sticky from the pounded rice).

Hotteok being pan fried

So I played with the proportions of the all-purpose flour and the glutinous rice flour, and decided that three parts all-purpose to two parts glutinous rice flour yielded the perfect balance of softness to chewiness. If you use too much all-purpose flour, the pancake won’t be chewy enough; if you use too much glutinous rice flour, eating the hotteok will be more like eating sticky rice than a pancake. In this pancake, balance is key.

Peanuts or walnuts are used as the nut filling for hotteok on the street in South Korea, but I have a personal preference for walnuts. They should be eaten as soon as they are taken off the griddle or frying pan, as this is when they taste the best and how they are usually eaten.

Hoddeuk frying on pan

Hotteok 호떡 – Sweet Korean Pancakes
Yields 6 pancakes

Pancake:

  • 3 teaspoons lukewarm water
  • 1/4 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry-active yeast
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup glutinous rice flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • Butter or canola oil

Filling:

  • Scant 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Prepare the rising mixture by combining the water, sugar, and yeast in a medium sized mixing bowl. Allow it to sit and get bubbly for 10 minutes. Then add in the milk, all-purpose and glutinous rice flour, and salt. Mix well, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and  allow the dough to rise for about 3 hours.

Once the dough has about doubled in size, mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, and walnuts in a separate bowl. Butter a large frying pan and set it to medium heat.

After greasing your hands, take out the dough and knead it for one minute. Then separate the dough into six equal sized balls (they should be just slightly smaller than the size of your palm). Take one ball and flatten it with your hands, then place a generous spoonful of the cinnamon-sugar-nut mixture in the middle; pull the dough together to seal it and make a ball. Repeat with remaining five dough balls.

Place as many as can comfortably fit into the frying pan. Press them down with a greased spatula. After about 3-4 minutes, check the underside to see how done they are. When both sides are a golden brown shade and the cinnamon-sugar filling is almost leaking out, you will know they are done.

Serve hot as a snack or dessert with green or barley tea.

Best Roast Chicken

A lot of people, including myself, find roasting a chicken a bit daunting. Maybe it’s the notion of cooking an entire animal that seems scary, or maybe it’s because in the U.S., it’s so easy to stop by any ol’ market and pick up any chicken part you want, cleaned, butchered, and packaged neatly for your culinary convenience. Who needs to cook an entire chicken when you could just get the individual parts that you like the most?

Chicken seasoned before roasting

But there really is an intrinsically satisfying feeling in preparing a whole chicken yourself. Few things are more pleasing than the smell of a whole bird roasting with butter and fresh herbs, wafting through your own home. It almost makes home feel… well, a little more like home.

And although individual chicken parts are so ubiquitous today, so are whole chickens in many varieties — hormone-free, free-range, cage-free, kosher, organic — the list goes on. With the chickens already deceased, de-feathered, and with the innards removed, it’s really not as scary as it seems. Plus, if you’re on a budget, it’s generally more economical to get a whole chicken than it is to just get breasts or thighs. And maybe it’s just me, but I love the idea of taking a chicken carcass and all the leftover bones to create homemade stock. Nothing in the world is better than a stock made at home.

Roasted chicken right from the oven

The methods of roasting chicken are quite abundant, but as I was doing research for my very first roast chicken, I wanted to make sure that I stuck with the methods that seemed the most acknowledged and embraced. Some of these tips include:

  • Use butter instead of oil to coat the outside of the chicken. Butter creates a more beautiful, evenly browned exterior. Plus, it’s yummy yummy. Who doesn’t love butter?
  • Make sure to put a good amount of butter inside the cavity of the chicken. Do NOT skip this step. It’s key to creating a moist bird.
  • Nix the twining. It just adds more work to roasting a chicken, and the goal here is to make roasting a chicken as painless as possible. So whenever you can eliminate a step that can enable you to do this in your sleep, go for it.
  • Season your bird well. Salt and pepper should not be tasted when you take bites into your food; they should simply enhance the natural flavor of whatever you are eating. Liberally season inside the cavity and the exterior.
  • If you can, make sure that you have a roasting rack for your chicken to sit on. The rack creates a separation between the chicken and the roasting pan, and this will enable not only even roasting but also a chicken that has a crispy exterior. No sogginess!
  • Use the drippings from the bottom of the pan to baste your chicken. You want to use as much of the chicken as possible to have the chicken-iest chicken experience.
  • Lastly, allow the bird to rest for about 30 minutes before cutting and serving. This way, the chicken will have time to retain its juices as well as even out its temperature and doneness.

So once you have roasted your chicken and it seems about ready, take it out of the oven, and take a cut right at the leg to see if the juices run clear. If the juices are clear, it means that the chicken is done. The juices should look like this:

Chicken juices running clear

We decided to serve our roast chicken with a chicken stock-based polenta and roasted brussel sprouts (we are BIG brussel sprout fans. For those who find these little mini cabbages revolting, we urge you to try them roasted, as roasting brings out the natural sweetness of brussel sprouts that goes completely unnoticed if only boiled or sauteed).

Our bird was quite lovely and was even more rewarding since it was our very first roast chicken. The breast meat was succulent, not even a tad dry. The dark meat proved even juicier, and the skin smelled fragrant from the garlic powder and thyme and had just the right crispness. Who ever thought that something so delicious could be this simple?

Roast chicken, roasted brussel sprouts, and polenta dinner

The Best Roast Chicken
Adapted from multiple sources, including Ina Garten, Tyler Florence, and Allrecipes.com.

  • 1 (approx. 3-4 lb) hormone-free whole chicken, giblets removed
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder, or to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
  • 5-6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 stalk celery, leaves removed
  • A handful of fresh parsley
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 1/2 bulb of garlic, cut in half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Wash the chicken inside and out with cold water; thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Allow chicken to air dry either in your kitchen if it is cool enough, or in the fridge for about half an hour. We want a completely dry skin.

Once the chicken is completely dry, place her in a roasting pan and season generously inside and out with salt and pepper. Then sprinkle inside and out with 1 tablespoon of garlic powder.

Rub inside of the chicken with about 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Then sprinkle thyme on the chicken inside and out. Cut the celery into about 4 pieces and place in the chicken cavity with both halves of the lemon, parsley, and the half bulb of garlic.

Spread remaining 3-4 tablespoons of melted butter all over the outside of the chicken.

Bake uncovered for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, to a minimum internal temperature of 180 degrees F (82 degrees C). Remove from heat, and baste with the drippings from the bottom of the pan.

Cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest for about 30 minutes before serving.


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  • itsgrant: I want to goooo! Me next vacation, hopefully
  • Jesslyn: Thank you so much for posting this! My husband (who spent several years in Korea) and I have been searching for a good recipe that will produce Ho Duc
  • Didi: I have been searching everywhere for a recipe for this dish and this was spot on!! Thanks for making me and my boyfriend VERY happy :)

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