Monday, April 30, 2012

Secret Recipe Club: Hobak Jeon (Fried Zucchini) with bonus dipping sauce

This month's Secret Recipe Club rendition comes from Angel's Homestead. As I scanned through her recipes, I found her recipe for Fried Zucchini. I'm certain she has no idea (until today) that her recipe is as Korean as King Sejong.

I made a couple of changes to showcase the dish's Korean side as 호박전 hobak jeon. Ae-hobak (애호박), or Korean zucchini, is shorter, fatter and lighter green than the Italian versions most of us grew up eating.

Because the vegetable is smaller and I have a smaller family to feed, I downsized the recipe to Korean proportions.

Hobak Jeon (호박전) aka Fried Zucchini

1-2 Korean zucchini
1/2 cup Korean pancake mix (preseasoned with garlic powder, salt and pepper)
1/2 to 3/4 cup of water
High-temperature oil for frying (safflower, coconut, etc.)


  1. Wash zucchini, then cut into thin slices. (Throw away the end pieces.) Set aside.
  2. Heat oil (about 1/8 inch deep) over medium-high heat in a heavy skillet.
  3. Mix the pancake batter and water according to the directions.
  4. Dip the zucchini slices into the batter and mix until the slices are coated.
  5. Place the zucchini rounds in the pan to fry, browning both sides. Times vary on this because of water content in the zucchini, but start with frying for two to three minutes per side.
  6. Keep an eye on the frying. If the oil starts to smoke, turn the heat down some and allow the oil to cool a little before frying more zucchini. The rounds will burn, if left unwatched.
  7. Place the browned zucchini slices onto a plate lined with an absorbent material such as paper towels. Serve immediately for full flavor.

As a bonus, here's a simple Korean dipping sauce recipe to accompany your hobak jeon.

Yujacha Dipping Sauce

The Kimchi Chronicles: Korean Cooking for an American Kitchen, page 168

1 tablespoon 유자차 yujacha (Korean citron marmalade)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon 고추가루 gochugaru (Korean chili flakes)
pinch ginger, freshly grated


Whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Recipe: Kimchi Okonomiyaki

Since I have a large half-used bag of 부침 buchim pancake mix begging to be brought onto the front lines of my kitchen, I decided to make kimchi okonomiyaki. I'm always in such a hurry — 빨리 빨리 bbali, bbali! So what could be better than adding kimchi to the popular add-whatever-you-like Japanese pancake?

Okonomiyaki makes a wonderful canvas for nearly any kind of topping you want, even pizza type toppings could work. After all, the Japanese name (お好み焼き) literally means, "Cook what you like, the way you like it."

With that commission, I threw almost everything everything in my kitchen on top of mine:  Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise, bonito flakes and seaweed mixed with dried anchovy. Hubby's was a little more spartan, with just dabs of spicy mayonnaise but without the ocean products.

OK, I got a little too happy with the bonito flakes. Some may deride them and seaweed as "fish bait," but the bounty of bonito was more like cat bait. Both my kitties tried various ploys to get at the plate.

Kimchi okonomiyaki

Loosely inspired by Okonomiyaki World's Osaka-style okonomiyaki recipe
Makes 2 pancakes


1 cup buchim mix
2/3 cup water
2 eggs, scrambled
4 cups finely chopped 배추김치 baechu kimchi (common red-pepper cabbage kimchi)
1/4 cup chopped green onion

Optional condiments

Bonito flakes
Seaweed flakes
Okonomiyaki sauce or Worcestershire sauce


  1. Mix the buchim powder, water and egg together. Mix until there are no clumps.
  2. Put the chopped kimchi and green onion in the batter, and mix well.
  3. Heat up a frying pan, and add high-temperature-rated oil.
  4. Pour the batter into the frying pan, smoothing it into a circle.
  5. Turn the heat to medium.
  6. When the bottom of the okonomiyaki is almost brown, flip it over carefully to avoid breakage.
  7. Use a chopstick or a wooden skewer to poke the center of the okonomiyaki to check if the middle is cooked. If the skewer comes out dry, it's cooked.
  8. Plate the okonomiyaki, adding as many of the optional condiments as you like. Serve with 반찬 banchan, of course.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Recipe: Yuja Ramyeon Balls

Ramyeon aka ramen is one of those inexpensive staples expats stock up on in case of a rainy day, or tuck away in a bugout bag. In our house, we're getting puffed-up foodstuffs out in time for Passover, so I've been looking for creative ways to run through the ramyeon.

However, how many bowls of instant ramyeon can a person slurp up and how many "add ons" can one pile — scrambled egg, fish cakes, sprouts, cheese — before boredom turns to revulsion?

This creative little recipe posted on Mattzang, of one of Korea's more popular food blogs, is one way to use up those ramyeon pouches without a salty, spicy broth. After all, it's difficult enough to do all this carb-loading this week without maxing out one's sodium intake for the month too.

I had visions of popcorn balls floating in my head when I found this recipe.

The technique of the recipe is better in theory than in practice. By the time the mixture had cooled enough for me to handle, it was sticking better to my nonstick ceramic frying pan than to itself. That's a problem when you're trying to mold this sugary mess into neat little balls.

So, I let it cool a little longer — cooler than luke-warm — and went to work to form the ramyeon noodle medley into shapes resembling small ping-pong balls. I didn't have to salvage the recipe by calling it "yuja ramyeon brittle."

Yuja ramen balls

Recipe translated and adapted from Mattzang
Makes approximately 30 balls

1 package ramen noodles (Throw out the seasoning packets or save them for something else.)
1/4 cup 유자차 yujacha
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1/4 cup vegetable oil


  1. Break ramen noodles in half, longways.
  2. Place ramen noodles in a large skillet with vegetable oil on medium high heat.

  3. Fry the ramen until it's golen brown.
  4. Remove and set on paper towels to drain.
  5. Once they have cooled, crumble the ramen noodles into small pieces.
  6. Place yujacha and water into the skillet and bring the yujacha to a boil, stirring frequently.

  7. After the yujacha syrup has reduced a bit, add the broken ramen pieces and sunflower seeds and toss until the ramen noodles are completely coated.
  8. Allow the mixture to cool briefly.

  9. Take approximately 1 tablespoon of the mixture and roll into a ball. Repeat until all the mixture is rolled up.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Recipe: Lotus Root Pizza

I have a plethora of chametez in my refrigerator — phyllo dough, ramyeon noodles and the standard package of "skinny bread" — that's taking a cruise through my alimentary canal before Passover.

What do I do with a package of pita bread if I'm not pining for pita pockets filled with falafel?

A photo posted on Twitter by JLandKev, aka Busan Kevin, of a small personal-sized pizza smeared with tomato sauce, topped with sliced lotus root and sprinkled with mozzarella cheese inspired me. I saved this recipe idea "for such a time as this." I would make a pre-Passover version for myself.

Lotus root doesn't taste like much, but it's a decent source of vitamins B and C and is high in fiber.

Lotus Root Pizza

6 pita pockets, left whole
18 tablespoons pizza or spaghetti sauce (3 tablespoons per pita)
6 slices lotus root
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Spread the pitas lightly with tomato sauce, pressing them to flatten while spreading.
  3. Top with mozzarella and lotus root slices.
  4. Spread the pitas on a large baking sheet. (Depending on large your pitas are, you may need two baking sheets.) Bake in the preheated oven eight minutes, or until the pitas have reached desired crispness.
  5. Serve whole, or cut into slices.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Unleavening the planned meals for Passover

The spring festival of Passover (aka Pesach) this year is coming Friday night, and I have less than seven days to get the chametz totally out of my house. Here's the what, why and how in jettisoning the leavening in Korea, the States and wherever you are.

Buttermilk biscuits are chametz, but the premade dry batter sitting in the pantry may or may not be. Check with your rabbi. (Tammy Quackenbush photo)
Chametz is a Hebrew word for "leaven," or more literally, "fermented grain." This pre-Passover fervent focus on ferreting out the ferment comes from Exodus 12:19 in the Bible, "Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is an alien or a native of the land."

Leaven is a spiritual symbol of corruption in one's innermost being and is a memory trigger for the life of slavery in ancient Egypt from which Israel was freed. Chametz must be consumed, burned or sold before Passover begins.

Chametz is any food item that contains wheat, barley, oats, spelt, or rye that has been mixed with water and processed in any way. These grains will ferment by themselves in the presence of water.

A few thousand years ago, nonfermenting leavening agents such as baking soda and baking powder and dry active yeast weren't in common use. Foods with leavening agents include breads, cakes, pastries (such as Orion's Choco Pie chocolate-covered marshmallow mini-cakes), pasta (including ramyeon, frozen mandu and mandu wrappers), cookies, crackers, pretzels (including the Peppero chocolate-dipped pretzel sticks being saved for Nov. 11), breaded foods, etc. need to be removed from your home before Passover starts.

Egg toast is chametz, too. (Tammy Quackenbush photo)

Many rabbis also consider beer, whiskey and grain alcohols chametz, too.

If you live in Korea, check in with Rabbi Litzman of Chabad Korea to order your matzahsell off your remaining chametz or to find answers about questionable matters such as, "Is my soy sauce chametz?"

This week, I'll post creative recipes showing how I'm disposing of my chametz. Some may help you too.

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