Friday, May 7, 2010

Shameless Midnight Indulgence- Yaki Brown Shirataki

I often question: is it possible to indulge without guilt? Is it truly necessary always to feel remorseful after the midnight meal? Does this guilt increase pleasure or eat away it?

At least, I found one solution to tame the shameless midnight hunger without shame or remorse. The answer is called "shirataki". Shirataki is Japanese type noodle which has only about 12.5 kcal for 7 oz serving. The noodle is made from konjaku plant. Don't worry. This is not something a crazy scientist invented in a lab. The plant has high fiber, which forms jelly like curd. So unlike other noodles, this noodle is almost all fiber. It has great texture but not so much flavor. So I use brown version flavored with sea weed.

'Yaki' means stir-fried or grilled in Japanese. I found instead using other noodles, shirataki works great in yaki soba recipe. So, here it is. In the middle of night, wake up by the stomach screaming hunger, tame it with plateful of goodies with way less calorie (about 300kcal) and guilt.

Yaki Shirataki

7 oz shirataki, 7 oz bean sprouts (I used soy bean sprout, but any bean sprout would work), 2 slice of aburaage (deep fried tofu), 2Tb chopped green onion, 1/2 Tb sesame oil, 1 Tb soy sauce, pinch of pepper

1. Soak aburaage in hot water (watch out your fingers!) for a min, take out and squeeze them dry. Cut it into thin strips.

2. place shirataki and bean sprouts in the colander and wash them under the running water. Drain them well.

3. Heat sesame oil (be careful not to burn it) in the sautee pan and put shirataki and bean sprouts. Stir it well while cook gently.

4. Add aburaage, soy sauce, pepper and choped green onion. Stir well.

Serve hot. Adding sugar snap pea and strip shaped nori is also nice.

ps. You may wonder why I suddenly sound like a nutritionist. It is because I AM a nutritionist. You are hearing a confession of nutritionist. Yes, we do have midnight cravings, too. No, even though this dish was one without shame (therefore I can share), this is not always the case.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A story of comfort food: 비빔밥 Bibimbop

It is typical Korean soap opera scene: a girl in distress crying over the love which ended. She cries her eyes out, collapsing on the table, massing her hair up, as if the world has ended. Suddenly, she gets up and rushes into the kitchen (if she wasn't there already), opens rice cooker, takes out entire load of cooked rice into huge bowl. Then she runs to her refrigerator empties all Banchan (반찬, side-dishes) including kimchi into the bowl, puts generous spoonful of Korean chili paste and sesame oil, mixes with anger as if her looser boyfriend is in that bowl, and eats it like hungry wolf. No matter how dainty little lady she may look like, she is now she-wolf gulping down her enemy. After that she will go her favorite hair salon and get new hairdo.

This scene always puzzles me: how a single busy working women has so much banchan in her refrigerator!? What if she is like me, living alone in strange place, and found nothing (some times even no Kimchi) in the refrigerator!?!? It turned out, it wasn't only me who was baffled by it. I found one of famous blogger in Korea blogged about it and many agree that the full refrigerator is some sort of TV fantasy.

Bibmbop is quite handy food to make. Whenever I need to empty refrigerator or have nothing to cook (or have no intention of cooking), it is great food to make. As long as there is a bowl of steamed rice, an egg, Korean chili paste, and sesame oil I can make it.

Here is one example: Rice with dried Korean radish seasoned with say sauce and chili flake.

And just with steamed zucchini and egg plant.

And even simpler, with salad greens.

The possibilities, yes, are endless. However, I think these all shares miraculous power: give energy to go on.

Some time between the mixing and eating, I find new energy. As it fills my stomach I get stronger. Fiery chili paste burns but yet has sweet after taste to it, a gentle reminder of good world even though at first it seems hopeless and ruthless place. This 'tough love' gives enough 'guts' to face the hard world out there and comforts the troubled mind.

Spring has come!

It seems to late to say, but I truly feel it. Now I can finally say, spring has come.

During the Winter, everything freezes, including mind. When the Spring comes, everything relaxes, and this make people little bit nostalgic and lethargic. It sounds very counter intuitive, while the frogs are jumping out of their slumber and the sprouts are sprung, people rather look like the sleepy cat. But that is how we describe the sign of Spring in Korea. To wake up from the spring slumber, we use bitter spring greens. Dureup (Fatsia), Neangee, Chwi, Mindulea(Dandelion green), and countless other bitter greens will be in the market. People also go and gather wild greens. It is tradition born out of necessity since spring was lean season in Korea.

Now, I found myself hungry. Hungry for the spring greens in Korea. When I was back home this year, it was still too early for the greens I craved for. Well, I can not get them here in Boston, MA, U.S.A. I may get it with big money but it wouldn't be the same: the fresh and bright bitterness wouldn't be there. Yes, my head understand all of it, but my hunger went on for a while. So, when I found fresh chicory I have to grab it. Even though it is not the perfect thing.

I made my comfort food: kimchi bibimbop. First I made chicory kimchi and add it on the freshly made steamed rice, adorned with fried egg, sesame oil and Korean chili paste. The taste was as bright as the spring sun.

Chicory Kimchi

chicory 2 lb, soy sauce 1/4 cup, Korean chili flake 1/4 cup (or up to taste), garlic, grated 1 T,
1/2 small Asian pear grounded (or 1t sugar with 1/4 cup water)

1. wash chicory well and drain it well.
2. mix soy sauce, pear, chili flake, garlic well.
3. add seasonings to chicory, mix well (but be gentle!!!) and let it sit for a day in room temperature.

It can be eaten as it is, but adding sesame oil or toasted sesame seeds right before eating is good option. (Do NOT mix sesame oil when you make kimchi if you intent to store it. sesame oil goes rancid faster than you can say rancid. :) )