Making Deviled Eggs With Honey Mustard

Greetings! Let me introduce myself.  From a young age, I have been drawn to the pasta cutters and tangled webs of cheesecloth shoved into the forgotten corners of my mother’s cupboards.  I’ve always appreciated a culinary challenge, and living in Korea never fails to deliver.  Whether it’s banana bread in a rice cooker or a 3-day endeavor for  homemade hummus, I will find a way.

Fueled by passion and PMS, I maintain the attitude that  no craving shalt go unnourished.  Join me on my culinary goose chase, and I promise your palette will be rewarded!

As one who lives life through her taste buds, what better way to introduce myself than with  a few of my greatest culinary discoveries thus far. Continue reading

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More Than Meets the Eye

In my orientation to living in Korea, I was told to consult YouTube to learn how to operate my Korean appliances. Needless to say, I was thankful when I arrived at my new home and my rice cooker only had one button. I scoffed at my friend’s futuristic device, with a flurry of Korean characters dotting the front control panel.

When things were not so simple, a strategic trial and error process ensued. Sometimes, there were surprises, such as when another friend discovered a toaster lurking within her microwave:

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It paid to keep your mind open to new discoveries.

With this guiding mantra, this past spring I embarked on a journey. Following two years teaching in Korea, it was time for the next adventure. I decided to travel Southeast Asia by bicycle. Travel by motor vehicle inhibits the senses. Countless sights, sounds and smells are lost with the speed of transit. On bicycle, I wasn’t taking in the scenery – I was part of the scenery.

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Besides this non-traditional path to experience the region, I wanted a way to connect with the community. Previously, I had worked with the environmental organization Trees, Water & People on their fuel-efficient stove program in Honduras. Their program works in developing countries to introduce slight modifications to an existing cook stove design for greater efficiency. With their help, I was able to identify a similar organization, GERES, leading the way to clean cooking in Cambodia.

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Living divides us, but eating is universal. It was decided that my riding partner and I would stop through one of the communities where GERES was active to see their work in action. The use of stoves with modifications introduced by GERES has the potential to save up to 2 million tons of resources by 2017. My hope was to show support for their mission, and to experience clean cooking firsthand.  It was arranged that we would prepare a collaborative meal for the community on one of GERES’ stove models, the New Laos Stove.

After receiving a tour of the stove production facility and a cooking demonstration by our host (read about it here), the first order of business was a visit to the market. Our brigade was made up of my riding partner and I, our GERES host, Makhara, and friendly Savy, whose home was hosting the event. With a rough sketch of a menu, we entered the web of local vendors in search of fresh ingredients. Surrounded by mounds of produce, fresh pineapples caught my attention. Encircled by spiraling ridges, my eyes were intrigued by the intricate pattern carved into the fruit.

I decided that the pineapple would be of use, and we requested to take four. With only one fruit manicured for sale, we patiently waited as the vendor prepared our order. Watching the woman carefully wind her knife up the sides of the fruit, I noticed she followed a pattern. Her knife seemed to follow the spiraling growth of the fruit’s outer “eyes.”  It struck me that the carved pattern wasn’t simply a facet of presentation, but an ingenious way to preserve the greatest amount of flesh while removing the sharp outer skin. Smitten by the new technique, we finished up at the market and returned to the village.

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One characteristic of the New Laos Stoves is their mobility. Essentially self-contained buckets, the three sizes are able to be shifted and moved depending upon the occasion. The modified design also has a better ease of use than traditional models, with lesser amounts of harmful gases escaping during food preparation. Outside of Savy’s home, we found our set-up for the day. With her family’s production facility beneath her house as a backdrop, we had one large stove on the ground, accompanied by a prep table and loads of curious onlookers.

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We began our prep work, dicing up the pork slabs and comparing the worth of our biceps with a turn at the mortar and pestle. At some point, a loud-speaker was rolled out on a dolly, and before we knew it “Gangnam Style” was echoing throughout the village.

When the coals were deemed ready, we began to cook. One stove, one pot, one thing at a time. We started with the main event: pork and pineapple stir fry. We put the ingredients in the pan and the nominated stove attendant stood by, spatula in hand. 

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As things simmered away, eventually it was time for the taste test. Skeptically, the spoon was passed around. Just as I was wondering what was missing in the flavor, someone appeared with a bottle of soy sauce. It was tipped in, along with a few tablespoons of palm sugar.  

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Preparations continued with a version of basil fried rice, and were remedied again by the ladies’ culinary know-how. At last, lunch was ready.  Our panel of discerning judges, the local children, waited on a tarp rolled out for the occasion.

Nervously, I waited for the first gag. But, it didn’t come. When I got the universal signal for all clear, a thumbs up, I eased up and wiped my brow.  

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Happy with the meal’s success, we kicked back and enjoyed each others’ company.  More than anything, I was impressed by the warmth with which we were received.  At first difficult to find our common ground, in no time we were taking turns tending to the stove and comforting the baby, all anxiously awaiting a meal to share. The result was fusion stripped down to its core, peppered with laughter and garnished with cultural exchange. 

With a few new culinary tricks in my back pocket, and an unforgettable experience, we pedaled off into the sunset with a new respect for Cambodia, its people, and the work GERES leads within the community.

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Pork and Pineapple Stir Fry

Serves 4

pork

2 cloves garlic

2 tbsp. ginger

2 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. oil

1 lb. pork shoulder, diced

1/2 pineapple, diced

2 dried chili peppers, crumbled

1/8 cup soy sauce

1/8 cup palm sugar

2 limes

Rice, to serve

Combine garlic, ginger and salt in mortar and pestle, and mix until ground together.  Or, crush together using the side of your knife on a cutting board.  

Next, mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and stir to combine.  

Heat oil in a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat.  Add pork mixture and stir-fry until pork is cooked through and pineapple is tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Add more soy sauce and palm sugar to taste.  Squeeze lime juice into pan to finish.  Serve with rice.  

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One’s Waste, Another’s Potential

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There is a certain sense of satisfaction that comes from overtaking a motorized vehicle.   On a dusty road in central Cambodia, the game of catch-up continues down an expansive stretch.  Ourselves on bicycle and our challenger being a heavily laden motor-cart, we smile and wave each kilometer or so as the vehicle creeps slowly along, boasting a variety of fine ceramic goods. Amongst the rust-colored selection, the glint of sun on metal highlights one particular product for sale: the New-Laos Stove.

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Across Cambodia, carts such as these make their way through communities – stopping and starting down the highway to make sales to local consumers.  Operated by distributors of ceramics from the Kampong Chhnang region, they sell their wares off one-by-one and then return home to reload and set off once again.  Seemingly straight-forward, it is the cooperation with stove producers and distributors such as these that has led to the success of GERES’ Improved Cook Stove initiative with over 2 million stoves sold to date.

Begun in 1994, the Improved Cook Stove initiative was a response to the stress being placed on Cambodia’s precious natural resources.  The program brings change home, quite literally, with the introduction of new technologies to the long-standing stove design.  Traditionally a self-contained device allowing for fire or charcoal to apply direct heat to a pan nestled on top, GERES partnered with the producers of the region to implement slight design modifications for greater efficiency.

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Research dictated that by increasing the number of holes in an internal grate allowing for oxygen flow and by controlling the amount of heat loss with insulation and the narrowing of gaps, it was possible to increase the stove’s efficiency by 22%.  Producers embraced the new design seeing a promise for greater sales and the stoves hit the market.

Intrigued by the success of this program, my riding partner and I decided to stop and see the results in action, hoping to learn a thing or two about Khmer (Cambodian) cuisine in the process.  We made our way to the project center, Kampong Chhnang, about 80 km northwest of Phnom Penh.  There, we were met by Mr. Makara Srey, one of GERES’ 80 employees working in the region.

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First, our new friend escorted us to see the production.  We arrived at what seemed to be a typical cluster of houses lifted up from the earth on stilts.  Makara explained that the lofted home design allows for the families to do their living up above, while also having a sheltered space underneath from which to run their business.  In the community where we arrived, the trade of choice was stoves.

We were introduced to Ms. Sakun Tes and her family.  Ms. Tes is the matron behind a production facility of New Laos Stoves.  Working independently from GERES, this facility is part of a nationwide cooperative of stove producers that is reaping the benefits of the demand for modified stoves.  Made with materials such as locally sourced clay and rye ash as insulation, each stove takes about 7 people and 14 days to complete – depending upon the season.  After a tour of the assembly, we settled in to observe Ms. Tes’s daughter, Soy Savy, as she prepared the family’s meal on a tandem of New Laos Stoves.

Working in the corner of a cinder-block structure, Savy lit the charcoal in one of her stoves.  Able to be used interchangeably with charcoal or wood, Savy rationalized her preference for charcoal in that it left her cooking pans clean while wood tends to blacken the surface.  While she waited for the briquettes to burn down in order to cook, she began her preparations on the menu of the day: fish head soup.

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Savy chopped and pounded away with little Sovanphanha tugging at her pants, scurrying in and out to make sure her father didn’t need anything and her baby was still sleeping soundly in the hammock.  When the briquettes were glowing at temperature, she set a pan with rice on the stove to simmer away.  Once confirmed as done, she removed the pan, shuffled a few of the warm briquettes over to her second stove to warm the rice, and set to work on the soup.

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Savy relied on a common selection of Khmer ingredients to develop her flavors.  Simple and straight-forward, she made a stock of sorts by simmering the fish heads in water.  Later, she tossed in salt, palm sugar and kaffir lime leaves. A crispness was added to the dish when Savy finished each bowl with a julienne of green mango.

Eyeing up our supper nose-to-nose, a taste confirmed that a harnessing of often wasted resources can lead to great things.  The depth of flavor the heads imparted the soup was simply divine. Myself included, squirming at the thought of heads for dinner, it goes to show that when we open our minds to a new way of thinking, as was the case when GERES consulted with the local stove producers, what we find in the end may be better than before.

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Fish Head Soup

Serves 3-4

3 cups water

4 fish heads, butterflied and pounded to allow for flavor release

1 teaspoon salt

2-3 kaffir lime leaves, torn

1 teaspoon palm sugar

1 green mango, julienned

Rice, to serve

Bring water to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Toss in fish heads and allow to simmer, about 5 minutes.  Add salt, lime leaves and palm sugar and stir to combine.  Simmer another 5 minutes and then remove from heat.  Garnish with green mango and serve with rice. 

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For more on GERES and to support their work with families such as Savy’s, click here.

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Thai Curry in Cambodia

A rooster screams and the scent of combusting wood greets the nose as I focus on my pedal stroke – steady in the scorching midday heat.  As we stop to refuel with a coconut, my riding partner and I take note of the kitchen set up in the corner of a simple palm-thatched structure.  Appliances are absent and instead replaced with the bare necessities; a table, cutting board and a smoldering ceramic stove reminiscent of a bucket.

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Copyright GERES / A. Crook

Since leaving Korea, the next adventure has begun.  Along with a close friend from home, I have set out on a journey through the countryside of Cambodia and beyond via bicycle.  As each passing village greets us to a chorus of “hello!”, we make our way to the project site of Kampong Chhnang.  Here, about 80 km northwest of Phnom Penh, we will be partnering with the NGO GERES Cambodia in an exploration of their Improved Cook Stoves (ICS) initiative.

A part of the Group for the Environment, Renewable Energy and Solidarity (GERES) based in France, GERES started their work here in 1994.  Taking note of the rampant deforestation, GERES set out to assist Cambodians in protecting their precious natural resources by decreasing the community demand.

A portion of the stress placed on the forests of this region is due to the high demand for fuel wood, used directly or manufactured into charcoal for cooking.  To lessen this stress, GERES looked first at the traditional methods in action.  Finding a high percentage of the population cooking on basic stoves or open fires, the organization set out to incorporate some modifications into the stove design with the hopes of improving efficiency.  Wanting to take an integrated approach, they partnered with local stove producers to provide insight and training so that these same individuals could retain ownership of the domestic industry and ensure the project’s longevity.

Today, GERES oversees the production of two different models of improved cook stoves by providing quality control and technical support.  Together with the stalwart cooperative of stove producers and distributors, they have contributed to the sale of over 2 million units, making up nearly 40% of the market share and saving nearly 1.2 million tons of natural resources.

After working on a similar project in Honduras with the organization Trees, Water and People,  I have seen the overwhelming impact of clean cooking.  Besides the implications on lessening one’s carbon-footprint and preserving forests, the benefits strike close to home when a financially burdened family spends a little less each month on fuel and a little more each month on rice.   Not to mention the role these improved stoves play in helping to eliminate Indoor Air Pollution (IAP), a common culprit in the deaths of women and children who are subjected to the constant inhalation of indoor cook smoke.

In this next chapter, join Thai Curry in Korea as it ventures abroad to explore clean cooking in action.  Using food as a common denominator, my riding partner and I will be visiting families with these improved cook stoves to learn and share the foundations of Cambodian (Khmer) cooking.  After assisting in the preparation of traditional foods, stay tuned for the culmination of this project: a fusion meal prepared and shared with a Cambodian family on a fuel-efficient stove.  Come along as we help you to warm your hearth with Cambodian flavors and bring the tropics home.

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Feeling inspired?

Consider making  a donation to support GERES’ work in Cambodia and their five operational themes:

  • Clean energy production
  • Energy saving and efficiency
  • Local policy and land use
  • Economic development for vulnerable communities
  • Fight against climate change

Click here for more information!

Where the Magic Happened

Home is where the heart is, and to be specific, you’ll find it in the kitchen.  Food is love, and it’s the shared experience that brings us together.

Upon first arrival in Korea, I became more aware of the differences rather than the similarities between the East and Western ways of life.  The fork was a forgotten ally and portions were relative  to the group size.  Ready to soak it all in, I slid off my shoes and gazed up from the floor to a whole new way of  life.

Where it all happened

Consumption Junction

In the exploration of ovenless kitchens and a market ruled by kimchi, I set out to bring along an audience.  Thai Curry in Korea gave me the opportunity to justify my weekly indulgence in hopes of sharing a bit of insight  into cooking foreign food in Korea.  We all need to find our happy place somehow, and particularly when abroad, food never fails to comfort the soul.

As my time in Korea comes to a close, I am drawn back to the idea that food is a common denominator.  It transcends cultural lines and unifies a group.  Something shared and something savored.  Across this virtual table, I hope that Thai Curry in Korea has provided its readers with recipes, ideas, and perhaps a chuckle on a rainy day.

After leaving Korea, this may be the end of the blog as we know it, but much like the cheeseburger, it’s never too late to reinvent oneself.  In the coming months I will be taking on Southeast Asia: by bike.  I’ve heard there’s a guarantee of at least 20 miles per burrito, and I will find a way to consume one.   Stay tuned for cooking trials and tribulations born from a whole new set of rules.  Thank you, dear readers, for the support your views have given me over the last 17 months.  I look forward to version 2.0. and I’ll keep you posted as it takes shape.

Go Nuts

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It’s impossible to eat just one.  You can almost chisel your biceps while practicing the hand-to-mouth technique.

I am a big fan of spiced nuts.  Sweet and crunchy, they’re the perfect accompaniment to those ample holiday cocktails.  Already delicious naked, it’s only an improvement to dress nuts up in sugar and coat them with seasonal spice.

When I lived in Santiago, Chile, I was a slave to the roasted almond carts.  Their sweet vanilla scent would dictate my path throughout the city. Fresh from the roasting pans and tepidly warm, they were addicting.

As the Christmas spirit takes me under its wing, I’ve found comfort in the tastes of home.  Around the holiday season, spiced nuts seem to be one of those things.  Like on the streets of Santiago, the aroma takes you prisoner and swaddles you in its warm blanket of spice.  Rounded out in flavor by the addition of just a bit of heat, these nuts are the perfect snack if you can keep them around more than an hour.

Spiced Nuts

Makes 4 cups

1 egg white

1 teaspoon water

4 cups nuts of your choice, I used almonds and walnuts

1 cup sugar

1 heaping tablespoon cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoon cayenne or chili powder (optional)

Whisk together egg white and water in a large bowl until foamy.  Toss with nuts to coat.  Add sugar and spice to mixture, then toss to coat evenly.

Heat a dry pan on the stove over medium heat. In small batches, roast the nuts stirring frequently.  Adjust heat if needed.  You’ll want a kitchen fan as it will get a bit smokey.  When the nuts take on a deep brown caramelized color, they’re finished, about 3-4 minutes per batch.  

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Spreading on the Pumpkin Cheer

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About the time of year when carols strike up in endless succession, peppermint and cinnamon emerge from their warm-weather hibernation.  Lattes abound in seasonal flavors and pumpkin is suddenly the guest of honor at dinner.

In the spirit of things, last Saturday I prepared my contributions to our Thanksgiving extravaganza. After last year, my chestnut stuffing and pumpkin dip were requested for a return appearance.

Clockwise from left: Turkey, chile roasted sweet potato, cranberry sauce, gravy, sweet potato and spinach gratin, mashed potatoes, Cajun potato salad, stuffing, roasted veggies, glazed carrots, green bean casserole and a trifecta of macaroni and cheese

Dinner, clockwise from left: Turkey, chile roasted sweet potato, cranberry sauce, gravy, sweet potato and spinach gratin, mashed potatoes, Cajun potato salad, stuffing, roasted veggies, glazed carrots, green bean casserole and a trifecta of macaroni and cheese

The stuffing recipe was covered in one of my first posts (“yay” for one year of blogging), and the pumpkin dip also received a nod.  In retrospect, however, I think the dip deserves another moment of glory.

The recipe was lifted from another blog, turned on to me by a friend, Haute Apple Pie.  My friend brought the dip along for a holiday party and immediately it entered my repertoire of go-tos.  In the States, this was complicated by the fact that the dip is best served with sliced apples and a particular Swedish cookie, Anna’s Original Ginger Thins.  Locating the Ginger Thins was a bit of a challenge, but you could always count on your local Ikea.

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Which brings me to the next challenge.

Locating just about anything in Ikea can bear semblance to assisting Indiana Jones in finding the Lost Ark. You have two options: submit to Ikea’s intricately woven maze of ergonomic chairs and locate the cookies in approximately 3.25 hours, or shave off time by gambling with a case of vertigo and take on Ikea in reverse.  If you choose the latter, just remember, when you inevitably lose sight of up from down, walk away from the smell of meatballs.

It's not your fault.

It’s not your fault.

By some coincidence, Ginger Thins are available in all Korean Emarts.  And in three flavors, no less! We must take this as a sign that we are to consume as much pumpkin dip as humanly possible this holiday season.

Great as an appetizer or dessert, it’s always well received.

Pumpkin Dip

From Haute Apple Pie, with modifications

Yield: 2 cups

1 cup fresh pumpkin puree (For Korean kabocha squash, halve then scoop out seeds and microwave about 12-15 minutes or until tender. Scoop out soft flesh and mash with a fork.)

1 package cream cheese

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice, or any available combination of ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and cloves.

apples, to serve

Anna’s Original Ginger Thins

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, then serve with Ginger Thins and sliced apples.

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PB & C

All the main food groups

Peanut butter and jelly is one combination that America has stamped its name on.  A sustenant combination of non-perishable spreads, it’s the poor man’s wonder and the picnicker’s joy.  

Quite honestly, I don’t care too much for peanut butter, but when mellowed out with just the right sweetness it certainly strikes my fancy. Jelly works, but chocolate is my preferred match.  Something about the salty peanut butter with sweet chocolate is clearly addictive.  So much so, that without Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, my life is devoid of all purpose.  Motivation dwindles and the threshold of enjoyment is pushed to an unacceptable level.

Since moving to Korea, I have sought to get my PB & C satisfaction wherever I can – stocking up on visits to the army base and relying on imports from my dearest friends.  I can’t deny the fact, however, that it’s still not enough.   

Last spring, we made a somewhat groundbreaking discovery.  It was that if you put granulated sugar into a blender and pulse, you actually end up with a blender full of powdered sugar (a rarity here).  This lent itself wickedly to cream cheese frosting, and now is making a return appearance.

Best. Discovery. Ever.

With this little kitchen trick, it’s 100% possible to make your own version of  peanut butter cups in Korea. And, in under 15 minutes.  Known at home as “buckeyes,” I’m afraid to say it, but they may even be tastier than Reese’s.  Super soft and creamy, you can even freeze a batch to keep around for later.

Note: The recipe calls for the peanut butter mixture to be balled and individually dipped into chocolate for the full effect.  I’m lazy and operate typically in a craving-fueled frenzy, so I just slapped mine in a dish as layers.  Either way suffices. 

The intended end product. Fancy.

JIF Buckeyes  from allrecipes.com

Makes 5 dozen

1 1/2 cups peanut butter

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups powdered sugar

1 12-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips / 6 bars Ghana chocolate

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening / butter or margarine

1. Combine peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt in large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on LOW until blended (I mixed with a fork) . Add 2 cups powdered sugar, beating until blended (Wear out your arm muscle with that fork). Beat in additional powdered sugar until mixture, when shaped into a ball, will stay on a toothpick. Shape into 1-inch balls (Or, spread in an even layer in a dish of some sort – I used a large Tupperware). Refrigerate.

 2. Place chocolate chips and shortening in microwave-safe bowl (Break Ghana bars into chunks, place in microwave-safe bowl along with butter or margarine). Microwave on MEDIUM for 30 seconds. Stir. Repeat until mixture is smooth. Reheat as needed while coating peanut butter balls.

3. Insert toothpick in peanut butter ball. Dip 3/4 of ball into chocolate, leaving top uncovered to resemble a buckeye. Remove excess. Place on wax paper-lined tray. Remove toothpick. Smooth over holes. Refrigerate until firm.

OR

3. Smear that chocolate goodness all over the layer of peanut butter, refrigerate until firm, then cut into squares. 

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Paratha Pie

The United Nations of Comfort

The United Nations of Comfort

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. These days, it’s all about fusion.  Peking duck tacos and curry vinaigrette.  An affiliate of  reinvention, sometimes it’s all that’s left to forge ahead.    Using new ingredients in unexpected ways not only crosses cultural barriers, but elevates our taste buds as well.

A method used by pros to forge new ground, in an expat’s situation it’s built right in.  Substitution is the name of the game and if you can’t get creative you’re doomed to a life of cereal and steamed rice.

Ample time spent with my new English, Irish, Kiwi and South African comrades made me aware of one area in which the US is lacking.  It’s ability to employ pastry for more than just after-dinner delights.  Sure, we’ve all been to a party with pastry-wrapped brie, but it would probably cause a stir to break through a crust and puncture a mushroom.

Happy to have been introduced to the realm of steak and ale, chicken and mushroom and Shepard’s pies, I embrace them wholeheartedly.  Particularly when it rolls around to the comfort food time of year.

I’d been craving a pie recently, and I had some cream of mushroom soup to use up.  I was thinking it’d be just the thing to whip together a filling, but I was faced with one glaring void regarding the crust.  The lack of  an oven.

Realizing I had just the thing, I scurried home and pulled out the parathas from my freezer.  Now, these are a discovery I made about a year ago.  Available from both Emart and Homeplus, they’re a tasty little treat.  With Indian roots, they’re a flat bread intended to serve with curry.  The ones of the Korean variety I’ve noticed have a particularly buttery crispness.  One that would perfectly jive as puff pastry.

I threw together the filling, quickly browned the paratha and we were in business.  The next best thing to a warm bubble bath on a cold autumn eve.  Stay tuned for my alternative for a tub.

Representing India and the United States

Chicken and Mushroom Paratha Pie

Serves 1

1 tbsp oil

1/2 onion, diced

4 button mushrooms, quartered

1 chicken breast, cubed

1/4 can cream of mushroom soup

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp mixed herbs

salt and pepper, to taste

1 frozen parantha

cream cheese, optional

Heat onion in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute until softened and beginning to brown.  Add mushrooms and continue to cook another 3-5 minutes.  Toss in the chicken.  Continue to cook until all bits are cooked through.

Pour in soup, Worcestershire, herbs and stir to mix.  Season to taste. Allow to heat through, about 2-3 minutes.  For a treat, you could also stir in some cream cheese.  Season with salt and pepper and remove from pan.  Set aside.

Heat another dry skillet (or wash and heat the same one) to medium heat.  Place the frozen paratha flat in the pan.  Allow to cook until starting to crisp around the edges and puff slightly, then flip.  Repeat until paratha is browned on both sides.  Remove from heat and cut a circle out of the middle.  Fill the hole with the reserved filling and top off with the crispy circle.

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Gimme S’more

It was just the welcome I was looking for.  This past summer, it was time for the long-awaiting trip to visit home.  After 18 months, I would be able to catch up with the ones I love.

I slotted in Colorado first, and the plan was to head straight up to the backwoods for a dose of mountain air, wide vistas and good company.  A friend scooped me at the airport and it was go-time from the moment I sat in the front seat.  Being the rock star that she is, she’d emailed my Korean counterparts and taken suggestions for the most pined-after snacks.  She had a selection at my disposal for the drive up to the mountains.  I was greeted with mini wheels of cheese, Cape Cod’s finest chips and chocolate-covered pomegranate bits containing just enough anti-oxidants to cancel out all fattening properties.

We made our way through the dark curves of I-70 and miraculously arrived at our destination.  Following our friend’s nondescript directions to a long driveway and some Christmas lights smack  in the middle of a cellular dead-zone, it was nothing short of a miracle.  Upon arrival, we left the vehicle behind and hurried over to reminisce beside a cranking bonfire.  Flanked by great friends in a perfect setting, I was content.  That is, until our Budweisers ran dry.

Man and pride

About the time we ventured inside to replenish the stocks, I found out just how much more was in store for me.  Scattered about the counters, I encountered the remnants of a neighborhood BBQ earlier in the day.  Deviled eggs, venison brats — it was the embodiment of  the land I love.

How I had dreamed of this moment!  Wasting no time, I dove in and did a number on the leftovers.  It was then that I encountered the holy grail.  Shrugged off as a picked over mess, I hadn’t really taken note of the pile of crumbs.  One taste, however, and I dove in deep.  Deep into that ooey, gooey, chocolate-y rendition of s’mores.  God Bless the U.S.A.

Back in Korea after the trip, I’m left with many fond memories.  And many unrelenting cravings.

Poised to burn

This weekend, it was time again for a fire.  For a Korean version of the British holiday Guy Fawkes Night, we gathered on the beach.  The holiday celebrates the triumph of the monarchy after a dissident tried to blow up their parliament.  The plan was for a feast, followed by a burning of the guest-of-honor — a cardboard effigy of Guy Fawkes himself.  Thinking nothing pairs better with homicidal arson than a chocolate-y mess, it was time.  Time to take on the masterpiece.

Toast the Rockies

A friend made his contribution to the event by shipping in some marshmallows, by way of Costco in Seoul. I’m told you’re also likely to find some at HomePlus or Emart. In the spirit of things, however, it was only appropriate to employ the Rocky Mountain’s finest as a nod to the dish’s roots.

Starting first with crushed Diget digestive cookies, you make a base.  

Following the crust, you add a layer of brownies.  

When it’s  all baked together, the magic happens.  You pile on the marshmallows and torch those babies up.

Upon sharing this dish, I was propositioned with marriage, under the pretense that this creation could be our wedding cake.  Later, I was told that one party-goer (who shall remain anonymous) was found in a corner siphoning all remaining crumbs into his mouth.   I think it’s safe to assume they shared my sentiments.

Brownie S’mores Bars

Serves…1

9 Diget digestive cookies (or graham crackers for those at home), crushed

6 tbsp butter, melted

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 box brownie mix (Tous les Jours makes one readily available)

marshmallows

9-inch round cake pan

Combine the crushed cookies, butter, and sugar until mixed evenly.  Press the mixture into the bottom of the cake pan.  Toast in the oven just briefly, about 5 minutes on 175C/350F.  While the crust bakes, make brownie mix according to package instructions (the Tous les Jours mix only requires water).  Remove crust from oven.  Spread the brownie mixture over the cookie bottom to form an even layer.  Bake according to package instructions.

When the brownie has cookies through, again remove the pan from the oven.  Top the whole thing off with a layer of marshmallows.  Throw it back into the oven one final time, for only about 3-5 minutes.  The marshmallows should puff slightly.

Here comes the fun part.  Spark up a torch and toast the marshmallow topping to a nice golden brown.  Hide from your friends and enjoy.  All of it.  :)

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Cookies n’ Cream Dream

Today I did something naughty.  Unfortunately, it pales in comparison to the disobedience of some of my classes.  Unhappy with the points delegated for your team answer? Sure, feel free to rocket propel your sandal against the front board.  The chalk shrapnel almost took out my eye and it certainly ruined my outfit.

Fast forward to the justification of my indulgent act. Today was that day, and I made it out alive from one of my most notorious classes — all except my vocal chords. The noise level seemed to hold at a nearly deafening level.  In attempts to maintain order, my vocal chords were compromised.

Necessary healing components

On my way home, I cruised by a local CU Mart, one of the multitude of convenience stores in every block.  In the front of the store, a baked goods section caught my eye.  Small, chocolate cookies were available for merely 300 won.  They molded to my touch and the sale was sealed.  I scooped up four and hustled home to remedy my tired voice.

Leftover from a healing session just a few days earlier (Could you imagine – those children were even worse…), I had a container of cookies and cream ice cream.  The chill of the ice cream is the perfect refresher.  I heaped it on top of a chocolate cookie, smashed another on top, and we were in business.

The effects of this remedy were nearly spontaneous.  Without question,  I knew it was my duty to share.  Cheap, efficient, and natural.  I have a feeling my classes are going to be rough tomorrow.

Sweet relief

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