Best Street Food in South Korea! Yachae Hotteok (야채호떡)

1024182022~2 (2)The golden rule of street food for foreign visitors to any country is simply “Follow The Crowd.” If locals are lining up, you can be confident that you’ve stumbled upon something delicious. Walking the outer perimeter of Namdaemun Market, we knew we were in for a treat when we happened upon this line:

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Standing at the back of the line, our context clues were rather limited. A large red sign clearly advertised a price of 1000 Won, the USD equivalent of 88 cents. Savory, fried aromas wafted toward us as folks walked by happily holding folded golden brown circles of what looked like… fried dough?

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The circles looked like large fritters, or perhaps large servings of Native American fry bread. After being carefully lifted from sizzling oil, they were brushed with what appeared to be a sweet soy glaze flavored with apples, lemons, dates, and onion. Watching people enjoy their snacks, it became apparent that the fried treats were stuffed with some sort of filling. I saw vegetables and… were those noodles?

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Why yes! But… bread stuffed with noodles? It didn’t sound all that wonderful to my American palate. Wow, was I happy to be wrong, wrong, wrong. This treat, which I later learned is called “Yachae Hotteok” (and translates approximately as “vegetable pancake”) is – hands down – the best food I sampled in Seoul, South Korea.

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Clear, chewy, flavorful noodles were tucked inside the warm shell along with thin strips of carrot, green onion, and other fresh vegetables. No wonder the locals were smiling. These treats were fantastic!

If you’d like to try your hand at preparing Yachae Hotteok at home, I’ve found a few great links for you. Maangchi, a famous Korean cook, has a recipe that looks very approachable. The Smart Local offers another variety which looks fun.

The world is small – have big fun!

 

 

Eat Your Veggies Lentil Soup

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This soup is perfect “10” nutritionally. Simply put, there is nothing in this recipe that ISN’T good for you! The lentils themselves are chock full of fiber, protein, and iron. Carrots, greens, and salsa veggies offer a rainbow of vitamins and minerals. In earlier posts, we’ve discussed the powerful anti-angiogenic properties of onions, garlic, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, and cumin. There’s a whole lot to love in this soup… and it Continue reading

Snacking Tokyo-Style: Plum Onigiri

riceAre you looking for an easy way to jazz up your weekday lunch?

All over Tokyo, food courts and convenience stores sell triangles of sticky rice filled with all sorts of wonderful goodies. Called onigiri, these snacks fit easily in the palm of your hand, are quite filling, and are very affordable – many cost the equivalent of $1 or less. Our whole family enjoyed sampling onigiri filled with pickles, plums, smoked salmon, and even hard boiled eggs. Our favorite were the plum-filled snacks, which we are creating today.

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Onigiri mold

You can Continue reading

Best Lobster Roll in Salem!

dotty-ray-s-lunchFirst things first. A few hours after arriving in Salem, we ventured into a cute little restaurant right off of the touristy Essex Street pedestrian mall. We were able to escape the bright sun while still enjoying the open air, grabbed a quick bite to eat (grilled cheese with fries) and listened to some really excellent live music.

However…

If we weren’t jet lagged, we might have realized before we asked for a table that restaurants in touristy areas also have touristy prices! We passed on the $25 lobster roll. Seriously – who charges $25 for a lobster roll when you can practically see the ocean from the restaurant kitchen? I digress.

Time to contact my good friends GOOGLE and UBER!

A quick web search for the best local lobster roll and where do Salem locals eat pointed us squarely in one direction – Dotty and Ray’s Restaurant. Located about a mile from The Hawthorne Hotel, Dotty and Ray’s is across the river from the touristy town center in residential Salem, where locals live and eat. Google says it’s a 16 minute walk. Uber says it’s a $4 ride. Take your pick, but GO!

For $12.95 you’ll get a lobster roll that’s so generously portioned and delicious, I dare you not to go back the very next day for more (we did!). Look! Look and imagine how delicious this is!
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Casual, delicious, regional home cooking with great service and very reasonable prices -what more does a hungry tourist need? It was fun to watch the staff visiting with other diners in a familiar way; Dotty and Ray’s is clearly the place to catch up on local news over lunch. Even as outsiders, we were welcomed and enjoyed a bit of conversation with our server. It felt a bit clandestine to be the only tourists in a beloved local establishment, as if we’d discovered something too magical to share.

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Scallop Roll

(Magical… Salem… see what I did there?)

Their scallop roll was amazingly sweet and also generously portioned. We substituted the fries for mashed potatoes, which were buttery and wonderful. If you’re in the Salem area, don’t miss out on lunch at the tucked away gem that is Dotty and Rays.

High Protein Peanut Butter Chocolate “Play-Doh”

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Who says you can’t play with your food?

We’re bringing the whole family into the spirit of “New Year, New You!” by making a super healthy, kid-friendly, high protein snack. This is real food, friends – but don’t worry, your secret is safe with me. Let the kiddos think they’re eating dessert instead of the nutritional equivalent of an expensive protein bar. Win! Win! Continue reading

Tokyo Food Tour! Ramen!

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Shoyu Ramen with Dumplings and Rice

Ah, ramen. There are approximately 80,000 ramen restaurants in Japan. Try to wrap your head around that for a moment… that’s three times the number of McDonald’s restaurants in the entire world. Volumes of cookbooks have been written about ramen, the quintessential Japanese comfort food. Revered chefs from David Chang to Ivan Orkin have perfected their own signature bowls. You haven’t tried a bowl of real ramen yet?

Well, you simply must.

Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’ll be happy to share a simple and delicious ramen recipe. We need you, our readers, to point us in the right direction! Would you prefer a ramen flavored with soy sauce (Shoyu Ramen) or a broth that’s even saltier (Shio Ramen)? Does a fermented broth (Miso Ramen) sound lovely? Or, would you prefer to go all in with a fatty but delicious pork stock (Tonkotsu Ramen)? They’re all delicious, it’s just a matter of personal taste.

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Many ramen shops have a vending machine such as the one shown here. Customers place their orders and make their payment at the machine, then give a ticket (like a receipt) to the server and wait for their food to arrive.

Vote here, and we’ll create something just for you!

 

Tokyo Food Tour! Uobei Sushi

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Salmon Roe with Cucumber

Is it possible to stumble upon the most fun restaurant in Tokyo during one’s first day in Japan? Let’s put it this way – if I find something more fun than Uobei Sushi in all of Tokyo, I may never go home!

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Spicy Shrimp

My traveling companions and I visited Uobei Sushi in Shibuya, which feels a bit like Times Square in New York City. Upon exiting the Shibuya train station, we were overwhelmed in a fabulous way by the sights and sounds of this booming metropolitan area. The main intersections are a sight to behold. When the crosswalk signals allow, thousands of people cross 5- and 6-way intersections in all directions. Loud music is piped into the intersections, accompanied by flashing advertisements on giant screens mounted on the sides of buildings. Wow.

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Snow Crab with Crab Butter

We may never have found Uobei Sushi without Natsu, a dear local friend who generously helped us navigate our first days in her amazing city. Let’s be honest… without Natsu, we not only would missed out on Uobei Sushi, we might still be standing in the airport!  🙂

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Smelt Roe

Back to Uobei Sushi… it’s fun! It’s casual! It’s very affordable! And it’s DELICIOUS! This isn’t an ordinary restaurant, friends. At Uobei Sushi, customers order from a vast menu of nigiri sushi, rolls, and sides using an iPad. Food is delivered on computerized, high speed conveyor belts that stop right in front of the customer for whom the items are intended!

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Conveyor Belt System

Green tea and ice water are self-serve and complimentary. Most varieties of nigiri sushi are just under $1 (USD equivalent) for 2 pieces. How can I not go back? If I don’t come home, friends, you know where to find me!  🙂

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Tuna and Salmon

 

 

Springtime Tea Party

 

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Recently, I hosted a Springtime Tea Party. It was great fun! If you have a few friends you haven’t seen in a while (don’t we all?), consider inviting them over for a simple tea. Here are a few suggestions!

First, don’t worry about being matchy-matchy.

I used an inexpensive tablecloth to cover an old, scratched up kitchen table. It looked juuussst fine, and didn’t require a big investment. My little fruit bowls are completely different from my plates, and yet they worked together nicely. Those little dishes of chocolate? Mismatched! The napkins? Borrowed from my mother! You get the idea.

Second, if you don’t want to cook from scratch, don’t.

A tea party does not require hours of slaving away in the kitchen. If you don’t feel like spending prep time in your kitchen, here is a “recipe” for a fuss-free tea party:

Boil a pot of water, and steep a pot of tea! Offer cream and sugar on the side.

Break one or two high-quality chocolate bars into bite size pieces, and arrange the pieces in a small serving dish.

Layer a few cups of berries in a pretty bowl. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup.

Purchase a tray of cookies or scones. My local Aldi offers a surprising variety of delicious cookies at very reasonable prices!

gazpachoThinly slice a loaf of artisan bread from your local bakery. Spread each slice with butter or cream cheese, and top with thin slices of cucumber or prosciutto. Delicious!

Feel like cooking?

If you’d like to prepare a dish or two from scratch, here are a few suggestions:

croque ingredientsSpringtime Gazpacho served in little tea cups makes a lovely chilled starter!

Mini Croque Monsieurs make lovely tea sandwiches!

Rainbow Shortcake makes a beautiful, individually plated dessert!

 

 

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Life is short. Enjoy your friends!

Korean Garaetteok

WIN_20160424_142917Korean Garaetteok, a type of rice noodle, is fast becoming a staple freezer item here at Crowded Earth Kitchen. These noodles are fun to remove from the freezer on busy weeknights and use to quickly jazz up dinner. Often, I add a cup or two of frozen Korean Garaetteok into soups during the last 15 minutes of simmer time. Occasionally, I’ll allow a batch of Korean Garaetteok to thaw on the countertop before stir-frying in sesame oil for about five minutes. Stir-fried Garaetteok can be tossed with vegetables for a savory side dish, or lightly coated with honey and crushed peanuts for a fun dessert. Enjoy this versatile item!

WIN_20160424_122115Ingredients (Makes about 2 cups)

2 cups rice flour

1 1/4 cups boiling water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Directions

Step 1) Combine rice flour, boiling water, salt and sugar in a medium size, microwave safe bowl. Stir together with a fork.

WIN_20160424_122945Step 2) Cover bowl with plastic wrap, leaving a small edge uncovered to allow steam to vent. Microwave bowl for 2 minutes. Stir, cover again, and microwave an additional 2 minutes.

Step 3) Grease the bottom of a large bowl with 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Transfer rice flour mixture to the greased bowl. Knead with your knuckles (pressing into the mixture) for 5 minutes, until a smooth dough forms. If mixture is too hot for your hands, try pressing into the mixture with the bottom of a mason jar instead.

WIN_20160424_125954Step 4) Grease countertop with remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Divide dough into 4 pieces, and use your hands to roll each piece on the greased countertop into a 12 inch length.

Step 5) Set the lengths of dough aside for one hour, uncovered. This will dry the dough slightly, allowing it to slice easier.

Step 6) After 1 hour, slice the dough on a diagonal into bite-size pieces approximately 1/2 inch thick. From this point, do one of the following:

  • Add your Korean Garaetteok to a pot of soup and simmer for 15 minutes. Delicious!
  • Stir-fry your Korean Garaetteok in sesame oil for about 5 minutes, until crispy on the outside. Toss with cooked veggies for a fun side dish, or drizzle with honey and crushed peanuts for dessert!
  • Freeze your uncooked Korean Garaetteok in an airtight container for later use.

Happy Cooking!

 

 

Raisin Crisp Cookies

WIN_20151119_160152My Mom makes these and, like everything my Mom makes, Raisin Crunch cookies are delicious. I enjoy Raisin Crunch Cookies with coffee, because they are crunchy enough to hold up to a quick dunk. To be fair, I enjoy anything with coffee, but still… Happy baking!

Ingredients (Makes 4 dozen)

1 1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup oats (I use old fashioned; quick oats will also work)

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup raisin bran cereal (variations such as “Honey Bunches of Oats” also work well)

1 1/4 cups flaked coconut

1/2 cup raisins

Directions

Step 1) Cream together butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Mix well.

Step 2) Fold in cereal, coconut, and raisins.

Step 3) Drop heaping teaspoonfuls onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 14 – 16 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.

Step 4) Remove from oven and allow cookies to rest on the baking sheets for 4 minutes. This helps them to crisp – and these cookies are supposed to be crispy! After 4 minutes, transfer cookies to cooling racks. Allow to cool completely before covering and storing.

Chinese Tang Yuan Chicken Soup

WIN_20160424_133707Tang Yuan are glutinous rice balls – easy to prepare, versatile in recipes, and a delicious comfort food. In my German-American kitchen, the equivalent would be dumplings. Today we are making a simple chicken soup with Tang Yuan. Children and grown-ups alike have given this soup rave reviews. I think you’ll enjoy it, too!

One friendly tip: There are only a few ingredients in this recipe, so each of them is important! Please don’t skimp on the quality of the chicken stock by substituting cans of chicken broth or cubes of bouillon. Chicken broth is a watery, less flavorful cousin of true chicken stock… you’ll taste the difference in this soup. Bouillon cubes are mostly salt.

WIN_20160424_132041Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 cup glutinous rice flour (sometimes called “sweet rice flour” or “sticky rice flour”)

3/4 cup boiling water

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 quart good quality chicken stock

1 cup diced celery (or substitute carrot)

1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

Salt to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon of salt)

WIN_20160424_132455Directions

Step 1) Combine glutinous rice flour, boiling water, and sugar in a medium size, microwave safe bowl. Stir together with a fork.

Step 2) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, leaving a small edge uncovered to allow steam to vent. Microwave the bowl for 2 minutes. Stir, cover again, and microwave an additional two minutes.

Step 3) Grease the bottom of a large mixing bowl with 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil. Transfer the microwaved rice flour mixture to the greased bowl. Use your knuckles to press down on the mixture, kneading and compressing the mixture into a dough. Do this for at least five minutes, or until the mixture has formed a smooth dough. If the mixture is too hot for your hands, use the flat bottom of a cup or a mason jar to press down on the dough.

Step 4) Break off tiny pieces of dough and roll them into balls about the size of marbles. Be careful not to roll your Tang Yuan balls too large, especially if you are feeding children! Small, marble size Tang Yuan are more desirable.

Step 5) In a medium size pot, heat chicken stock to just below boiling. Add Tang Yuan balls, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes add celery, ginger, and salt. Cook for an additional two minutes. Serve and enjoy!