Sunday, September 21, 2008

Some Chow

It was my birthday last week and much celebration was had. I started off the day by stopping off at Dr. Dolphin's office and getting an I.V. in my left hand. Good times. Then I went to work where a cake was produced, a song was sung, and I was made to blow out candles.
Apparently I just turned six.

That cake was just another example of miscommunication. A couple weeks ago my co-workers were animated in the Teacher's Room, speaking to one another in Korean. One of them turned to me and asked, "what is your favourite kind of cake?"
I thought I was just joining in their cake discussion, and so replied, "Chocolate. No, cheesecake. No chocolate,, cream cake!"* In my mind was a picture of some gorgeous ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins. See I wasn't specific with my favourite cake, and so I was gifted a silly ice cream bear cake from one of the local bakeries. In all, it wasn't bad. It was covered in that sugary bakery icing my sister-in-law always requests on her birthday, (that stuff's good to have about once a year) and the inside was vanilla and strawberry. I felt bad hacking into the bear's face, but it was the bear's own fault for having such delicious choclatey ears, eyes and nose!

On the weekend, friends of mine took me out for lunch to some new seafood buffet restaurant. I think it was called "SeaMart" or something. You could order some quite expensive entree or just go for the all-you-can-eat "salad" bar, which had a lot more than just salad. We headed up toward the buffet. It must be a common complaint that the food on offer at buffet joints is generally just so-so, and in that respect this place didn't disappoint. Strangely enough, I thought one of the best things was the ju'uk - which is a common bland rice porridge. They also had a platter of crab legs, which you'd think would be awesome,...
but wasn't so much. I should have held my hand up for a size comparison, because these legs were about as thick as my ring finger. Delicious crabby meat? Not so much (of it.)

The best thing was watching what my friend Naré came back to the table with. She is a Food Stylist, that one.
It looked a lot better than it tasted.

Finally, I cooked myself up a batch of soup this weekend. Comfort soup. Onion soup. Those of you folks in Korea may have the same sort of kitchen set up as I do. I don't have an oven, but I've got a three burner gas range counter top thing with a broiler part underneath. This was the first time I attempted onion soup and it was an awesome success, reminding me of the French Onion Soup my mom gourmet-ed up in proper hollowed handled ceramic bowls when I was young. Google a recipe if you want, but what I'd suggest is first acquiring some stock. I used chicken stock that I made myself. If you ever get chicken off the back of those rotisserie trucks, or even order in something like Kyochon or what not, save the bones in the freezer. Once you've got a decent pile of them, make some stock by throwing in some vegetables and water into a bot with the bones. Bring it all to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for a good hour or two. Strain it all and cool it. Then you can skim the fat off and freeze that if you want to.

Onion soup is more often made with beef stock, but I found chicken stock worked well. I'm sure the fact my stock was so flavourful and, after it was chilled, almost gelatinous, made it even that more yummified. Next time I may try it with homemade beef stock. My friends run a "galbi jip" and I'll steal their bones and roast them a bit under the broiler before making the stock.

When you feel like making onion soup, get a great big pot. Slice some onions fairly thin and cook them over low heat for a long time in some butter or olive oil. Eventually they'll get all soft and caramel coloured. Sprinkle some flour over that, bring the heat up and splash in some white wine. Once the alcohol's burned off, pour in the chicken stock and let that party on a medium flame for a little while. Spice it up a bit by adding pepper and a couple bay leaves or (if you're lucky like me and have some) a sachet of bouquet garni. So yummy.

When you feel like eating onion soup, ladle some into one of those cheap ramen pots and slip some sliced baguette in. (I think Paris Baguette offers the best version.) Top that off with shredded swiss or gruyere or even mozzarella and put it under the broiler for a couple minutes until the cheese melts and browns a bit.
Seriously,...yum yum yum yum.

*As for cake, I'm SURE there's a cake out there that would blow my mind, and it's certainly not Baskin Robbins ice cream cake. I've learned to specify my answers for my location, and if I'd said "Manhattan Peanut Butter Chocolate French Devil Cinnamon Cheese Swirl layered with That White Stuff in Nanaimo Bars avec Macadamia Mousse" I'd have had to explain what the hell that was (if such a beast ever existed.) And so I answered like the question was "What's your favourite cake in Korea?" Actually, I edited my answer toward that question. Frankly, this isn't the best country for cake by any means. Luckily, I've never been a big fan of cake or pie. But good bread? Don't start.


Kitikata-san said...

Happy Birthday! What did Kamikaze get for you?

Bohemian in Korea said...

I'm not much of a cake person but I did find a lovely Black Forest German chocolate cake that The Bohemian says is better than sex and only half as messy. Again happy belated B-day.