Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Budae jigae: One of the first Korean fusion dishes

When I was teaching in Korea some friends told me about this famous stew called Budae Jigae, which roughly translated means, "Military Soup." Everyone prefaces the description by saying, "It sounds horrible, but," which is a fair assessment. When food was scarce in the Korean War period people improvised and came up with this fusion soup of traditional Korean red pepper broth and added the hot dogs and spam that were readily available. It takes something like this to make me touch Spam with a ten foot pole, but I have to admit, this is pretty good food. The items below are fairly standard, but people have been known to add bulgogi, baked beans and rice cakes. If the idea of spam and hot dogs is too horrifying, one variation is to omit those and use a can of tuna. This is basically called chamchi jigae, and is also very good. It sounds strange, but it is a nice dish. Serve it over rice of course.

3 tablespoons Korean soup stock mix
3-4 cups water
2-3 tablespoons gochujang or more if you like it even spicier
2 hot dogs sliced up
2 slices spam
2 green onions chopped up
3 garlic cloves chopped
1 or 2 packages of ramen noodles
bean sprouts
leafy vegetable like kale
kim chi, of course

Saturday, December 27, 2008

From the Bill Simmons mailbag

Q: How hilarious would it be if President Bush pardoned O.J.???!!! I just think that would be a great ending to a terrible presidency! He'd go out with a bang.-- Gian Gonz, Austin, Texas

SG: This idea slayed me for some reason -- not the premise as much as how everyone would react to the news. I think it would make Bill Maher self-combust. He'd just explode like a hot-air balloon.

Friday, December 26, 2008


I was strolling down memory lane this morning looking at old pictures, and this one struck me. I'd see some awfully strange stuff living in Korea.
Out in the open in one of the most polluted cities on earth, Incheon, it might seem like a good idea to wrap up those chickens sitting quite close to the exhaust fumes on this pick up. It was cold as hell that day, I'm not sure ice was the most important idea to be had.

And how many eggs exactly can fit on one motor scooter, which leads me to the Ja Ja Myeong problem as philosophers call it. In Korea, restaurants will deliver food to your place in minutes, and they'll give you real plates. They come around and collect the plates and silverware from your hallway an hour or so later. Tipping is also forbidden. If you try to tip them, they'll refuse. The drivers take their scooters on snow and ice and take quite a few nasty spills. If you screw up in high school, noodle deliveryman is pretty much your fate. Late bloomers aren't such a huge feature of Korean society. I'd pose the question to my students on whether these guys were nuts to deliver food for little money risking life and limb, or noble servants doing their duty. Most sided with the latter option.
I used to live in this little office tel in Incheon, and I do mean small. I never knew any of my neighbors. I'd just hear the click of high heels late at night. The only people who would live in that place were English teachers, a ubiquitous lot in Korea, and room salon girls, who were equally ubiquitous. Korean businessmen pay a couple hundred dollars to sing karaoke, eat fruit and drink whiskey with young, attractive Korean women. Supposedly that was all that went on. Around that apartment I would see several ajummas, the perm was the telltale sign, carrying off the cardboard in their rickshaws.

Now this is a warning sign. How many drunken, pregnant, old people attempt to ride a roller coaster? Unrelated to Korean experiences, but I took this in the late 90s on the Staten Island Ferry. It still seems like some kind of bizarre movie idea that those towers went the way they did.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Peruvian Aji Verde Sauce

When I worked in New York City I used to have lunch as much as possible at a place called Sophies. It's cheap, it's good, and it's different. The key to the whole restaurant was their slightly spicy green sauce they'd offer for most anything. There are a lot of people who have discussed this sauce on the internet. It's killer. I tried to make it many moons ago and failed miserably using green bell peppers. I tried it again today and came real close. It looks and is prepared like a pesto, though cilantro and peppers are the key. Normally I don't go lightly on things like garlic and onion, but too much of either will ruin this sauce. It needs just a touch. Put all these in the blender and puree it all. It's great with rice, chicken, pork or most anything.

3/4 cup of cilantro leaves
1/3 cup olive oil
one garlic clove
2 jalapeno peppers (stemmed and seeded to taste)
1/4 of one green onion
dash of lime juice
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
salt and pepper

I'm going to add Cotija Cheese next time. I think the Cotija is what made the Sophies' version slightly whiter in color. Cotija is salty, which is something to keep in mind.

Santas turn to Civil Disobedience

One of the most annoying features of the Phoenix Metropolitan Area is the police state method of having photo radar everywhere. If you are driving more than ten miles over the speed limit, you get flashed by the all seeing eye like Britney Spears tongue kissing Paris Hilton at a paparazzi convention, and a near $200 ticket arrives in the mail. My major beef is that the speed limit keeps changing on the highway, so what is legal on one stretch of highway with the cruise control set, suddenly becomes illegal and expensive. I've not been ticketed, though I got flashed once. Overall, photo radar is not very popular. Some people have spray painted the lenses, taken target practice with paintball guns, simply covered them up, or in this case, knocked them out with Christmas cheer. This state is regressive enough with its obscene 10 percent sales tax, so three cheers for the Kris Kringle vigilantes.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mr. October is only a compliment in baseball, not football

Man is it frustrating being a Dallas Cowboys fan over the last twelve years. This team is underachieving and is finding creative and disturbing ways to lose. I invested my Saturday night in the debacle against the Ravens. The Cowboys traded a first and third round pick to the Lions for Roy Williams, then gave him the second largest wide receiver contract and the guy is absolutely no factor at all. I'm so sick of the underachieving and whiny Terrell Owens there aren't words. The rookie sensation Felix Jones got knocked out for the season without even playing. Somehow his hamstring harmed his toe. I don't get that one. The team has a lousy coach, which continues the trend going on since the owner fired one of the best coaches ever in Jimmy Johnson fifteen years ago. Other than Bill Parcells, the Cowboys have not had a competent coach in all that time as it went from Barry Switzer, the worst ever, to Chan Gailey, forgettable but not as bad as others, Dave Campo, a complete disaster, Parcells, did some good things but the team always faded late and Parcells came up with the hair brained idea to make Vinny Testaverde the starting QB at 40 plus, and now the comatose Wade Phillips.

On the baseball front, the Yankees are doing an even better job of giving money to rich people than the Bush administration. A.J. Burnett killed the Yankees, and the Red Sox for that matter, over the last several years, and if he stays healthy will probably be a good signing, but I have to wonder about 290 pounds of CC Sabathia in the August heat at Yankee Stadium. This guy couldn't close out the Red Sox with a 3-1 series lead in the 2007 ALCS and now gets seven years and $161 million. Yikes. I have more faith in Burnett at about half that price. The Yankees are going to be more hated than ever with this over the top spending spree. No one was bidding even close to what they gave Sabathia, and who still wasn't in any rush to be a Yankee and has a three year escape clause in his bloated contract. The ticket prices at the new Yankee Stadium will be completely off the chain.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Black beans and rice with mojo marinated onions

I'm not one normally for vegetarian meals, but this is one I like: black beans and rice with sliced raw onion marinated in mojo, which requires:

1/3 cup olive oil
1 orange
1 lime
1 lemon
4 garlic cloves chopped
ground cumin

To make the marinade, I heated up the olive oil over medium heat and cooked the garlic about 90 seconds. I wouldn't even call it cooking, just trying to extract some of the flavor. I then combined the oil with the juice of one orange, one lemon and one lime and mixed in the cumin and oregano and let the onions marinate in there a couple hours. The marinade takes some of the punch out of the raw onion aspect, and I then just topped them over some black beans and rice, and garnished with a fair bit of fresh cilantro. The extra marinade is good for pork chops as well, which I think work best grilled, and from experience I do not recommend marinating the chops excessively -- just a couple of hours.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Getting even cuter and showing lots of personality

This sweetie is developing quite the personality now at eight months, moving around quite a bit, showing reckless disregard for her head, which she bumps frequently, and is definitely in the Christmas spirit thanks to mom.
And Alex is now six years old and has quite the keen sense of humor.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Portuguese style chicken in garlic sauce

My second favorite Portuguese dish is chicken in garlic sauce. I've tried it recently in different attempts using white wine, sherry and brandy. The white wine version seemed too conventional, the sherry just didn't catch me in the mood I guess, but the brandy was just right. This dish requires a lot of garlic. I served this with a packaged saffron rice, and to see what would happen, I tried a mix of white wine and chicken stock in lieu of water to cook the rice. The result was damn good. It turned out like a creamy risotto, so that ode to spontaneity worked out well.

2 lbs chicken thighs
splash of olive oil around pan
8-12 garlic cloves
1/3 cup brandy
1/2 cup chicken stock
4 saffron threads
chopped parsley

1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and cook the garlic. Remove garlic from the pan.

2. Cut up the chicken pieces, add salt and pepper, and saute them in the oil. Chopping them up makes them cook faster and throughout.

3. When chicken is brown and cooked through, return garlic to pan, pour in chicken stock.

4. Pour in the brandy. Do not pour brandy into a hot pan or it will flair dramatically.

5. Add saffron threads.

6. Simmer over medium high heat until sauce thickens a bit.

7. Garnish with chopped parsley.