Recipe Review: Japchae (잡채)

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Japchae

Japchae is one of my (and many other people’s from around the world) favourite Korean dishes. Essentially it is sweet potato starch noodles stir-fried with vegetables. On the various occasions I have had it, I either have that as a dish, or have it with rice too.

And if you would like to try cooking Korean food yourself, a particularly good website to start with is maangchi.com. It has an amazing array of recipes, and because it is in English it is perfect for those of us who can’t speak / read Korean. I’ve known about the site for a long time (literally everyone I knew raved about it) but haven’t tried any recipes from them, so after a lack-luster rendition of the Japchae recipe from another recipe website I normally love. I decided to try maangchi’s recipe for Japchae.

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I followed the recipe as it is, with the exception of adding the egg, and it came out absolutely perfect. No changes to the recipe required – perfect balance of salty and sweet taste.

It will feel like a fair bit of work with all the prep work, but once that is done, the cooking itself took minimal time. Well worth the effort. The noodles can be served warm or cold!

A few things to note:

  • Invest in a mandolin slicer. This recipe requires julienne carrots and because I didn’t have one I found that task fairly time consuming (and hated myself for not getting one on the few occasions that actually called for a mandolin slicer).
  • My local grocery store / supermarket sells stir-fry beef pre-cut into strips, and to be honest if I didn’t have to julienne carrots by hand I would buy a proper piece of beef and cut it into strips myself. That way the beef strips would be thinner and the marinate sauce would be better absorbed into the beef.
  • The ingredients are fairly simple and easily sourced. The only ‘specialty’ items are Shiitake mushrooms, sesame seeds (which is something I don’t usually have lying around in the pantry), and the dangmyeon. Maangchi did a post on dangmyeon here, and I have tried both brands from the last picture on their page. Both worked well for me.
  • Maangchi’s recipe had a certain order to stir-fry the ingredients, but other than starting with the spinach, noodles and ending with the beef, the order of the vegetables being cooked in the middle probably don’t matter.
  • The recipe called for mixing all the cooked ingredients by hand – but to be honest I found it too hot to handle, so I used a tong to do it.

Doppel Bewertungen – Double Restaurant Reviews: Stiegeles, Mediterrane

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There is nothing, I repeat, nothing wrong with eating alone at a restaurant. In fact, it’s a fairly empowering thing to do and I encourage anyone to do it at least once in their lifetime. There is no need to feel embarassed, and since you’re alone it probably gives you more the reason (and the right!) to people-watch. Quite often waiters or waitresses will be nicer to you as well for whatever reason – but you get the benefits of course.

So during a work occassion last year I visited a couple of restaurants in Karlsruhe, Germany. And boy am I glad that I am not afraid to dine out alone.

Stiegeles Restaurant is a hidden gem on Mathystrasse, in the northern part of Südweststadt (Southwest City) just outside of Innenstadt-West (West side, city center). I happened to stop by when the owner / chef returned from his holiday in Thailand, and the restaurant was blissfully empty on a Thursday evening. The owner trained restaurants in various countries such as Switzerland, France, and had lived in Thailand for quite a long time before returning to Germany to open Stiegeles. The food itself is Euro-Asian fusion, but it was done beautifully and brilliantly in harmony and with respect to the individual taste, texture, and techniques special to each cuisine. I had a selection from the menu (not the full one), but the menu is available here, and the translated version is here. Definitely well worth a visit, highly recommended.

I picked the Mediterrane Restaurant simply because I was passing by. Excellent service, and the waiter kindly translated the menu for me (without trying to dig out my german-english dictionary on my mobile phone!). The Cappuccino Vegetables was complimentary courtesy of the chef (thank you!), with lovely bread and I ordered the fish. Pretty good food, and slightly on the salty side for me personally but the fish was cooked just right. If I can I’ll have the Cappuccion Vegetables again any time. Just loved it!

Stiegeles

Stiegeles Restaurant
Mathystraße 22-24, 76133 Karlsruhe, Germany
Phone: +49 (0)721 460345

Mediterrane Restaurant

Mediterrane Restaurant Selektion Karlsruhe
Karlstraße 70, 76137 Karlsruhe, Germany
Phone: +49 (0)721 8196978

Food Review: Libby’s Free Range Pork Crack

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Libby’s Free Range Pork Crackling

Pork Crackling! Yummo~!

Being an almost monthly Air New Zealand flyer, I saw the Air New Zealand’s January Kia Ora magazine did a small and very favourable review of Libby’s Free Range Pork Crack. And having eaten pork crackling since I was young, of course I had to try it!

I ordered 3 bags of 30g mixture – namely 1 small bag each of the available flavours – Au Naturel, Moroccan Spiced and Hot & Spicy. They also come in individual larger bag of 80g, or 3 bags of 30g of the same flavour.

Yes – the picture only showed two, because I devoured 1 whole bag immediately before even remembering to take pictures.

Definitely very tasty, crunchy, and you’ll need some good strong teeth to eat them! Personally my favourite is the Moroccan Spiced flavour, but only because I can’t eat very spicy food. If you can take the heat – hot & spicy is the way to go. There is a hint of fatty taste sometimes (which I personally dislike), but definitely more apparent in the Au Naturel ones than any others.

I do find the pork crackling a bit pricey. They will definitely be something I order when I have a very severe craving for them. You can order them directly at Libby’s Pork Crack website. Preordering may be required.

Strawberry and Lemon Tart

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Strawberry and Lemon Tart

After a long hiatus of not feeling inspired about baking anything in particular, the Summer Cuisine Magazine caught my attention last month.

The section collected recipes from Australian chef Belinda Jeffery’s new book, Utterly Delicious Simple Food.

Simple – check. Summer fruits – check. Easy baking – check. “Go forth and bake!” I said to myself.

Recipe really is easy. Some tips / notes:

  • Recipe called for a pre-baked shortcrust pastry tart shell. You can either make it yourself (plenty of recipes online), or buy ready-to-roll. True to my current lazy self I went for the store-bought stuff. Still good, but my tart tin is 30cm and so I had to join 2 pieces of pastry dough together. I managed to do that but the dough had cracks over the pastry joints post blind-baking. Gotta figure that one out and if anyone knows a fix for that please leave a comment!
  • I think ceramic beans are probably still the best for blind-baking. Used rice and had bits of them stuck into the case – had the take them out post blind-bake.
  • In essence this is almost like a baked cheesecake. Admittedly because I had to change pan size and volume I might have overbaked and had cracks forming on the surface of the filling too. No need to worry though if that happens to you – it’ll all be covered up by those gorgeous strawberries.
  • Talking about hulling the strawberries – according to the internet, just use a drinking straw! Easy – just check out this youtube video: https://youtu.be/kA5QBiFpAoc

Food Review: Trader Joe’s Speculoos Crunchy Cookie Butter

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Look what arrived in the post today! I first tried Trader Joe’s Speculoos Crunchy Cookie Butter when a friend coming back from U.S. gave it to me as a gift. And man-oh-man I got addicted alright. My normal breakfast doesn’t feature any toast or waffles, but I am able to eat at least (ahem..) a few spoonfuls of this just by itself. It’s delicious, not so sweet that you can’t eat more.. and is a good test of your self control! They also have the smooth ones. I think there’s also another brand (Lotus’ Biscoff Spread) which I had not tried before – may be even better. Julie from Willow Bird Baking had done a comparison of it though – read up on it here!

Three Berry Pie with Vanilla Cream

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For quite a long time I’ve resisted baking pies, mainly because I don’t particularly enjoy things like apple pies (i.e. using actual fruits in baking). Not sure what changed my mind, but I decided to give berries + pie a try, given that it’s summer over here in the Southern Hemisphere!

True to the reviews, the Three-Berry Pie with Vanilla Cream is very deliscious. The recipe seems fairly easy to do, with a few things to watch out for.

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  • The recipe calls for a pan that has 4 cups capacity. Measure your pan size and depth carefully to adjust your pie dough and fillings. In my case, I have a same size pan but deeper (6 cups) so I had to adjust both.
  • Try not to use frozen berries, but if you do – definitely defrost and drain the excess juice out. I tried making this pie twice. First time I did it with 70% fresh and 30% frozen (but defrost and drained) – the fillings came out beautifully. Second time I used the reverse and didn’t defrost. Fillings were VERY watery.
  • Put some cornstarch and sanding sugar at bottom of pie, before you put in the fillings.
  • I used Arrowroot instead of Quick-cooking tapioca (couldn’t find that at local supermarket)
  • Trim your pie dough around the edges well, so when the top crust meets the bottom it’s not too thick.
  • I think I prefer a thicker bottom pastry, so that when you line the pastry into the pan, it will not tear so easily around the pan edges.
  • Trim the pastry overhang ASAP. Excess will cause the pastry to start to rip around the pan edges. I’ve trimmed it and then make the overhang ‘stand vertical’ instead of still hanging over the pie pan. Put that into the fridge to chill while working on rolling out top crust.
  • Crimp the dough on the side however you like
  • Definitely use a baking tray or sheet below your pie pan, to catch those butter drips as the pie bakes
  • This pie is heavy – you might be tempted to rotate the pie to get it browning more even. I would say do so, but with caution (that’s how I lost 1/3 of my first pie!)
  • I would make the pie the day before serving – to let the fillings thicken even more

Charity Bake for Typhoon Haiyan Victims

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

A week ago, a friend suddenly contacted me to help donate some baked goods as part of her office’s Typhoon Haiyan Phillipines fundraiser. I like baking so naturally, it’s a yes!

Summer time is approaching in New Zealand so I’ve opted to bake things that are fruity and refreshing – something light, in other words. At the same time I’ve been consciously avoiding baking anything too complicated (aiming for simple and deliscious in the last 6 months)

Ta-da! So here we have some Lemon Meringue Cupcakes, and Coconut & Passionfruit Slices.

Coconut & Passionfruit Slices

Coconut & Passionfruit Slices

As you can see I’m hopeless at cutting anything straight, but the slices are very yummy.

I got the recipes here: Lemon Meringue CupcakesCoconut Passionfruit Slices

They are both good recipes and I’ve only had to make minor adjustments.

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

  • Make the Lemon Curd (the link can be found within the cupcake’s recipes) 1 day ahead. That means it’ll set properly and one less last-minute thing to do.
  • Recipe says it makes 24 but it’s probably closer to 16-18. I was using muffin paper and a muffin pan so that’s probably why.
  • Didn’t alter anything in the recipe, but definitely taste test everything, especially the Lemon Curd and the Cupcake batter to make sure you’re happy with how it taste. Adjust by using less lemon juice and then add more to get to your preferred taste.
  • I borrowed the kitchen torch from a friend of mine and just bought a can of butane gas to fill torch back up before returning. Good way to save money!
  • I had trouble with the piping (my own inexperience) – and I think I would have chosen a different tip instead. Might look nicer.

Coconut Passionfruit Slices

  • Receipe calls for a 16x26cm pan – I don’t have it, so I had to bump up the recipe by a factor of 2.5. If you’re going to do something similar, then slightly reduce the temperature and just keep an eye out when the baking time is reached and adjust the time accordingly. I used a pyrex dish by the way.
  • These slices are quite rich. They say use 100g caster sugar, I would say probably 50g is enough. Also cut those slices smaller – perhaps like little squares.
  • Up that butter to 120 to 125g.
  • Taste test the topping part before transferring to your baking dish. Adjust by adding more lemon juice, more passionfruit pulp, or condensed milk. Probably 80% of 1 can of condensed milk would be enough.