27 October 2008

Kalbi Jim

Korean Braised Short Ribs
Kalbi Jim (with title)
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I've been wondering if I should even post something like this, but lately it's been one of those days when I stare blankly at the computer or lie awake in bed, thinking about everything that's happened in the world lately. This post, in particular, encouraged a healthy amount of calorie-burning pacing from me. First of all, it brought to mind these two pages from the comic book Excalibur, issue 15, published in 1989:

It's interesting how very rarely true world crises are reflected in the pages of comic books, given how the start of each mission usually involves an imagined one. Even more interesting is when writers (Chris Claremont above, at his finest) do include them. These pages in particular prompted a very passionate reader to write the editors a letter, part of which I quote here:

That comedian Sam Kinneson did a black humor bit about how the starving Ethiopians should just get out of the desert. What he apparently did not know is that Colonel Miriam (sic)... put about a million of his countrymen onto freight planes, and dumped them four hundred miles out in the desert, with the warning that they'd be bayonetted to death if they somehow got through the deadlands back to more livable regions. He did it to insure that rebels in the area would have their food supply taken by these refugees. It is apparently these rebels who are attacking the relief workers, to entrench their long-term strategic positions.

What hurts most of all is that the world not only has its share of seemingly insurmountable problems, but it is also littered with real-life super-villains who have, in some cases, come to seats of power, enjoying the hatred and fear that choke the people of the world until there is nothing left.

Thought comic books may be afraid to expose real problems too much because it may sugar-coat and mislead the readers into thinking they are too easily solved, especially with, oh, maybe reality-altering powers and boundless telepathy and telekinesis (Phoenix force, I'm counting on you), it still goes to show that we can get knowledge, understanding, and hope from what may seem like the unlikeliest of places. I don't know if the first ever person who wrote the first on the first food blog in the universe ever thought that someday, it would get people to unite for so many causes, or in special cases, one special person. My heart is broken that Bri is gone, and I hope that I was able to touch her life, even if it was only for a short time. I know she did mine and I will always be grateful for that.

Whenever you cook something for someone else, even if it's just their daily meals, you really are making the other person infinitely happier than whatever praise or gratitude you may get makes you. Which is why I'm glad to be part of the community of food bloggers. Even if we individually have our faults, there are good people out there. Sorry if I may sound like an airheaded hippie (not to mention preachy, I think), with all this free love and peace, er, thingies. I just had to, at least today. I wish for love and peace for you, gentle reader :)

Kalbi Jim
I couldn't find a way to insert the word "faux" into this, because true Kalbi Jim is braised for several hours, not to mention marinated. While this version isn't (it doesn't even have Asian pear or ginger, which I think are part of the original), it's still extremely flavorful-- don't be fooled by the water-only pressure cooking. I haven't yet optimized it so that there's no transfer of pots at all (which means pressure cooking throughout), but I'm satisfied with the outcome. I prepared this for Genie and Vany when they helped me with my exam practice, and they pressured me to release the recipe as soon as possible. This is yet another one of those "Making History" recipes, out of my mom's kitchen notebook, with a few revisions by me.
Photography notes: Well, this is for my own archives, anyway. The main inspiration is Masashi Kuma's work. There's no way I can achieve his hyper-elegant style but again, I'm quite satisfied with how it turned out, especially since I was forced to go out of my white comfort zone and experiment.
  • 2.5 lbs (1kg) beef short ribs, cut into about 2-inch lengths

  • 1 cup soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 small onion, minced

  • 2 large carrots, cut into large chunks

  • a handful of dried mushrooms, torn up (I used Chinese white mushrooms and black wood-ear mushrooms on different occasions, and I like them both.)

  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

  • 3 stalks green onions, chopped

Place the short ribs in a pressure cooker and add enough water to cover. Snap the lid in place and bring to pressure over high heat, then decrease the heat to medium and process for an hour. Take off the heat and release the pressure (our model works by dousing the top of the cooker with cold running water for a minute). Transfer the ribs to a pot (save the broth) and add the rest of the ingredients except the sesame seeds and green onions. Add enough of the broth from the pressure cooker to complete cover the ingredients and cover. Bring to a low boil and cook for 40 minutes. The meat will be tender, but if you want it to melt away, simmer over very low heat for an additional 1-1/2 hours. Alternatively you could use a crock pot for this step-- it will take about 3 hours. Turn the heat off at the desired stage of tenderness and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and green onions.

Cooking notes: I wonder how feasible the results would be to make it from start to finish in a pressure cooker, or a crock pot?

22 October 2008

El Segundo, Parte Segundo

Main Street, El Segundo
We now return to our irregularly-scheduled tour of El Segundo. Anyone who's surprised that I'm able to write TWO posts about a city that's so under the radar obviously hasn't gotten the hang of my posts and comments (though I have a feeling that some bloggers might actually hate my smiley, upbeat comments). Well, that's just the kind of person I am. We're going to finish this series with downtown El Segundo, which consists of Main Street (above)...
Richmond Street, El Segundo
... and Richmond Street, just one street parallel to Main. It's a 20-minute walk down Grand Avenue from Sepulveda Boulevard, but you can take the 124 Bus for only $1.25. I did so once, and the token thingy was broken so the driver just let me ride. I was confused when I disembarked (I didn't know you didn't have to pay if the thingy was broken) and I stupidly dumped $1.25 down Ms. Driver's lunch pack. Ms. Driver laughed and gave me my money back, saying she can't accept it. She must have thought it was a tip.
Teen Skate Park
I wanted to get a closer look at these young skaters and maybe ask them to do a trick, but many couldn't even manage an Ollie. Plus, I didn't want to appear like the youngest pederast ever so I stole this shot from a distance. I actually saw a bunch of cute schoolchildren walking to school with their teacher, and it was such a perfect scene but I didn't want to alarm the teacher or anger the parents by taking a shot, so I let it go. How would the photographers/ travelers among you go about it? I am paranoid of other people's paranoia.
El Segundo High School
This is El Segundo High School on Main Street. The architecture is so well-done that I actually thought it was a University.
School Gazebo at El Segundo
Gazebo opposite the school. There was a creepy shirtless guy walking around in circles a short distance from this. It still doesn't compare to the guy I saw tweaking (er, in a druggie way) in front of Westfield in San Francisco. Speaking of which, I saw a shirtless guy and his maybe 7 year-old shirtless daughter or sister enter a Carl's Jr. Am I being too much of a prude by being freaked out or am I right?
Old Town Music Hall
The still-active Old Town Music Hall. Did not get a chance to go in, unfortunately. :(
Arts and Crafts-influenced house, El Segundo
Beautiful house on Main Street, with an Arts and Crafts Influence-- my favorite style.
Halloween-decorated house, El Segundo
Halloween-ready house in Grand Avenue. We don't go all-out in celebrating Halloween in this country, so I was quite amused to find that someone went through the trouble of boarding up their windows. Four weeks in advance.
Me with friends at Pinkberry
The day before I left, my friends who were awaiting their residency interviews discovered I was lurking and insisted that we meet up. Aren't they pretty? Aren't I chopped liver with a sprinkling of ugly powder? (Well, at least when you put me beside them-- they were my groupmates for almost all of medical school-- the ones I was with in story #5 here.)
The Shore
The Shore (Interior)
The Shore (Bar)
Mr. Douglas at The Shore
If you spend maybe five seconds with me, you'd know that a nightclub is one of the last places you'd find me. But take note I said "last places"-- not "never". The five of us (the girls' male companions) went to The Shore at Hermosa Beach after a long day of shopping. I ate a $6 chicken katsu (half-off during happy hour) that was okay, but I was more surprised by how much I enjoyed the musical act. If you spend TWO seconds with me, you'd guess correctly that there is not a single rap song on my iPod. There have been several times in the past where I invoke the power of rap to make people laugh (you should hear me do BEP-- or not), because it's so dissonant with my personality. But I was very impressed with Mr. Douglas-- very passionate and angry-sounding.

I did say, "Oh my God! Edward Norton is our MC!" though.
El Segundo Bakery
Back to the food. This shuttered-up El Segundo bakery is a sad metaphor for the state of pastries in general in the area. A bit of a disappointment for a sweet tooth like me, but there's still plenty of highly-recommended restaurants in the area, in case you have a few hours' layover at LAX.
Big Mike's
Big Mike's Pizza Steak
One such place is Big Mike's Cheesesteaks on Main Street. If actual Philadelphia does a better job at cheesesteaks than Big Mike, I'll be beyond impressed indeed. For $5.25 you can get a 6-inch pizza cheesesteak (basically a cheesesteak with a little tomato sauce and herbs), though it seemed like more than 6 inches at the time. I didn't finish it, even if it was so good. From now on, whenever I'm hungry, my mind will return to the few clumps of thinly-sliced steak that I didn't eat. Sigh.
El Tarasco
El Tarasco (Interior)
El Tarasco's Chicken Enchilada
After I'd been surrounded by Latinos and Latino music for a few days, I thought it would be a total shame not to eat authentic Mexican food while in Los Angeles. I chose the place that boasted being the "Best in the South Bay", El Tarasco. I had an Enchilada, of course, which came with a chile relleno (my first time), giant chips and salsa, refried beans, and a drink. Though the enchilada was verrry good-- moist and tender inside-- I still preferred the ones at Tia Maria's here in Manila. Because their sauce is slightly sweet, which I realize must be sacrilege to some, but that's my taste. The only disappointment was the relleno, which was sour, not that spicy, and greasy-- just not my thing.

I have another question. If the change is approximate to the amount that you should tip, is it customary for waiters not to bring you your change (or even a receipt) at all? I find this very strange, especially since I was willing to go over the usual percentage. I was supposed to leave a tip of $2 at El Tarasco, but after a long time waiting for my change of $1.89, I had to remind them and I got $1.50 instead, which is what I left as the tip (and they couldn't give me a receipt for some reason), since apparently the $0.39 disappeared into limbo.
Second City Bistro
Second City Bistro (Interior)
Second City Bistro (Interior 2)
Second City Bistro Kitchen
Another highly-recommended place in Richmond Street is The Second City Bistro. I love bistros-- the relaxed atmosphere, and the good, fresh, and fast food. Since I came in at 5PM (opening time in the evening), I was the only person there and proceeded to freak out the kitchen by taking a picture. It was a rare opportunity for me so I couldn't let it pass (plus, there are no angry parents to chase me with torches).
Second City Menus
Second City Pasta
Second City Banana Filo
I ordered the pasta with tomatoes, artichokes, spinach, and capers. It was very well-done (and very substantial, given it was only $8.50 and I'm just this wee person), though the tomatoes were very obviously about to go out of season, I think. I ordered the banana phyllo parcel with caramel, chocolate, cream cheese (!!) and peanuts, and it was a joy to eat. Definitely something I'll look into imitating in some way at home (probably very easy to make, too).
Icky Self-Portrait
Eight in ten doctors recommend Canon cameras for icky mirror pictures.
Here's a tacky self-portrait of myself in full physician "regalia." I know I keep referring to myself as a wee person but Marvin reassured me that I was average-size height, which was quite a relief the day before my exam-- I was afraid of looking out of place, which would have affected my confidence. I think I did well enough, but we'll know for sure this December. Also helping my confidence was the fact that the weird tailors of the coat made the sleeves too short. I had to wear white inside so the difference wouldn't be so jarring. Originally I had planned to take a picture of what I was wearing each day, but I realized how douchey that sounds so I scrapped it. I received a compliment about my Rockman (Megaman to you Yanks) t-shirt. The cashier at Surfas said, "That shirt is tight!" At first I thought he meant the literal sense, which made me cringe a bit.
St. Anthony's Church, El Segundo
This picture might have worked out a beeeeet better if I had stepped back a little and gotten the top of the cross. Yeesh.
So, that's my summary of my five days in El Segundo. It may be a head-scratcher to some how I was able to stay that long while only occasionally moving to other parts of Los Angeles, but I can honestly say that I enjoyed myself and I was even able to score plenty of really good meals at that. Definitely not a bad place to make your home-base if in Los Angeles without a place to stay. Next time, I'd pay closer attention to the Bus Lines so I can move around a bit more freely. Alternatively I can just get a freaking international license and drive around.

16 October 2008

Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons (with title)
Eep! I know I said I'd write part 2 of my El Segundo trip but I just realized the Making History blog event's deadline is tomorrow! So, this is my contribution to Making History hosted by RecoveredRecipes.com.
Whenever people ask me when I started cooking, I always say that it was shortly before I graduated medical school-- early 2007. Before then, most of my cooking experience consisted of chocolate chip cookies and empty boasting. But I've always considered myself a person who liked food and the process of cooking, since my childhood. Looking at old recipe cards, I found the manual to my family's first Sunbeam electric hand mixer, copyright 1981-- the year of my birth. It would be funny to claim that it was my birthright and it was put in my hands as a neonate, but that's just the copyright. I was a few years old when we got it and I distinctly remember the family making severely overbeaten cakes in my childhood. What can I say, it was fun to see the batter get more and more satiny, gluten developing before our very eyes.

Ideas In Food, eat yer heart out! In other news, ketchup and shrimp? Barfff.
I remember carrying around a notebook when I was young, and flipping through the pages of the Betty Crocker Encyclopedia of Cooking, and attempting to write my own senseless recipes (like cakes made with "bread flour", as cake is SO the same thing as bread, naturally), dreaming about the dizzying hundreds of cakes and pies in the imposing tome (it has since gotten lost, sigh).

I copied this one, obviously. But why did I write "POOF"? The hell, lil' Mark. (Note that I wrote a reverse POOF on the back of the card. Maybe I was experimenting with a mirror.)
Growing up my dad did all the cooking and my mom was the breadwinner. Since my dad inherited his mother's recipes (they came from Pampanga, culinary capital of the Philippines) and the tricks he learned in college, he didn't write any of them down. My mom, on the other hand, occasionally cooked out of recipe cards (clipped out of the newspaper, painstakingly copied onto index cards, or collected from groceries courtesy of Lee Kum Kee and Del Monte) and while she relied on my dad to fine-tune the taste, she's a respectable cook and I looked forward as a kid to those rare times she would cook. For some sweet reason she sometimes allowed me to do the copying with my mediocre penmanship (much better now, obviously), and she even kept a few of my senseless recipes, even though they should NEVER be attempted by anyone who wishes to keep his sanity. Moms.

To this day, I adore ham with pineapple glaze. I dunno if we ever used this "recipe," I always just use brown sugar and not syrup. Note the artistic sketch of a bowl full of crap, or maybe a ham.
Then in early high school we got cable, and each afternoon I'd tune in to the Discovery Channel and watch Caprial's Cafe, Biba's Italian Kitchen, Baker's Dozen, and the not-so-enjoyable trainwreck Cooking with the Urban Peasant. Even if I still didn't really cook, I pretended that I knew how to cook, that by watching the shows ("Don't touch the meat!" Caprial says EVERY SINGLE SHOW, "You want the surface to caramelize.") I was absorbing the necessary skills I would eventually need... Apparently 12 years later. I don't know if they helped. But the summation of these people and experiences-- my parents, the encyclopedia, the recipe cards, the mixer, my crazy imagination, the cooking shows, and now, my insatiable hunger to cook everything I love to eat and more: that's the history of my love for cooking. Is your experience anything like mine at all?

Coconut Macaroons
This comes from a notebook my cousin kept of cooking lessons she took as a young girl. It was probably the mid-80's. Now that I've seen the recipes of coconut macaroons from the States, I wonder how different the taste is. I for one can't imagine them being made without the egg yolks and that sweet, sweet condensed milk (the only reason why I love this dessert despite my hatred for coconut). So I consider these to be appropriate "Filipino" Macaroons, perfect as tiny bites to be served with coffee or milk. I tested these today and I not only adjusted the instructions (OKAY, they're in Filipino, don't worry, I'll translate them), but also the baking temperature and time, and the size of the muffin tin. Standard size is too overwhelming for such a sweet bite.

  • 57g (1/4 cup) butter or margarine

  • 133g (2/3 cup) granulated sugar

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 2 large eggs

  • 390g (300mL or 1-1/4 cup) sweetened condensed milk

  • 93g (2/3 cup) all-purpose flour

  • 285g (3 cups) desiccated (fine unsweetened dried) coconut

Center a rack in and preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, baking powder, and vanilla until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs alternating with the condensed milk, beating after each addition until well-combined. Add the desiccated coconut alternating with the flour in 3 and 2 additions respectively, folding after each addition until well-combined. Line 2 12-well mini-muffin tins with mini-muffin paper liners and fill each 1/2-2/3 full with the batter (use a regular teaspoon and another to scrape the batter off it, or a truffle scoop) and bake for 15 minutes or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out slightly wet. Turn out onto a cooling rack and let cool (it will continue to cook for a while until firm). Makes about 6 dozen.

12 October 2008

El Bolsa Mezcla, Primera Parte

El Segundo Downtown Banner
There was once a wise old priest who told me that part of being considerate means supplying all the details of a story. So, when someone asks you, "How was your trip?" you're not really being a friend by replying with non-answers like "It was okay." I carried that piece of advice with me ever since, which is probably why my posts go ON and ON. And now I'm excited to write about my experience in El Segundo, California-- what some Americans might consider a "sleepy town." But I wanted to be fair to it, since I spent five whole days there and I've come to like it, mostly. I think I've got it down, at least as best as a non-El Segundian (?) would be able to describe it (I'd dare say this will be the longest any nonresident would write about El Segundo).
El Segundo Downtown Banner (fake)
I cracked myself up quite a bit thinking of alternative slogans the city council might be able to use. I publish the mock-up I created up there with nothing but affectionate joshing. El Segundo and I are like this (imagine I'm doing cutesy things with my fingers).
Hacienda Hotel Courtyard
Hacienda Hotel Room
First off: the hotel. I stayed at the Hacienda Hotel, which was relatively inexpensive for the Los Angeles area and only a ten-minute walk north of my testing center. It has free wireless internet (which I wasn't able to use-- d'oh!) and the rooms are quite comfortable. I could've used some Bravo, The CW, or Comedy Central but I'll just get my PR, ANTM, TDS and TCR fix off the internet one of these days. I thought there might have been a problem with them double-charging my credit card (as I'd reserved off Hotels.com) but it turns out, the concierge was talking about the floating charge for incidentals. Yeesh.
Sepulveda Blvd.
El Segundo, in a nutshell, is Sepulveda Boulevard and Main Street, connected by a residential/industrial area. A huge part of it is the Chevron Oil Refinery Park, which you can see at the left side of the photo, and a golf course, The Lakes, at the right. Every day I made a 25-minute trek south from the hotel to Borders Books and Music. Marvin told me as he was driving us down Sepulveda: "I don't think this street is walkable." Well, he's half-right. For most of the day, I was the only pedestrian, which is kind of creepy-- the opposite of San Francisco, and the Philippines. There are barely any trees too, so I got quite a tan. People there rely a LOT on cars. Me, I've got nothing but time.
Plaza El Segundo
El Segundo Sur La Table
As you can see, the daily walk was worth more than the calories I burned on it. I bought a Magical Mystery Tour/ Abbey Road/ Let It Be songbook, and DVD sets of The Office, 30 Rock, and Extras. I got a Whole Foods reusable bag. Unfortunately, I can't take home anything fresh, so buying a shitload of fresh fruit and vegetables wasn't an option. Also in the Plaza El Segundo Area was Costplus World Market, Linens And Things (closing out), Best Buy, PetSmart, Banana Republic, J. Crew, and a few other boutiques. Of course, there is the magical Sur La Table-- but I bought my kitchen wants (acetate, cast iron pan, crumpet rings) at Surfas when Marvin, his wife and I chanced upon it.
El Segundo Water Tower
The scenic water tower greets you.
El Segundo Water
It doesn't rain much, does it?
The temperature was 15-25°C (60-77°F), which is quite comfortable by my standards. I hated that there was little shade, though. The two pictures above are some of the places you might see on your way from Sepulveda to Main Street, which is 25 minutes walking west. I'll talk about Main Street on the next blog post. Even in the residential areas, before 5PM, it looks like a ghost town. I guess I'm the only bum?
Manhattan Village
Just crossing Rosecrans Avenue south of Plaza El Segundo, you'll find the Manhattan Village mall in Manhattan Beach, which has a Macy's and a Williams-Sonoma, among other shops. Unfortunately, sidewalks and crosswalks are closed between El Segundo and Manhattan Beach, so drivers win again. I was only able to go when some friends picked me up.
Father's Office Bar
Father's Office Burger
Father's Office Boylan Cola
The day after I arrived, Marvin and his wife picked me up at the hotel to take me to Father's Office at Helms Avenue, Los Angeles. Marvin was quite impressive with his knowledge of brews. I'd say it was an intimate knowledge, har har. They are so funny and cool and I had a great time (even if Marvin was apologizing all the time for Lord knows what! Dude, I seriously enjoyed myself and thanks for lunch!). He asked me a few tough questions which I should really know the answers to. We also talked about food (of course!) television, work, life, politics and how all my knowledge of it is derived from comedy shows like Saturday Night Live. The burger is reputedly one of the best in LA, and I think that opinion is absolutely right. It had onions caramelized in bacon fat. I mean, come on. I even loved the sweet potato frites, something I hate here. The cola is a diet cane cola. We were quite puzzled by that oxymoron. But it was really good-- it had a rootbeer-like kick. We spent quite a bit of time at Surfas afterward.
White on Rice Couple
After a brief nap back at the hotel, Todd and Diane of White On Rice Couple picked me up for dinner at Honda Ya in Japantown (Downtown LA). There was so much good food (buttered cod and grilled prawns, arrrrh) but for some reason I forgot to take a picture of even one dish! Where do I surrender my food blogger card? Anyway, these two are every bit as friendly and lovely in person as they are in their blog and videos. They gave me a pep talk for my exam the next day, which was really sweet. I'll have to wait till next time to see if Todd can counter my anything-goes martial arts, ha ha ha.
Salt Creek Grille Interior
Salt Creek Grille Kitchen
Salt Creek Grille Hickory Ribs
Salt Creek Grille Reuben
Salt Creek Grille Creme Brulee
For lunch on Wednesday, I met up with my friend Tina (who had been living in California now for a few months on an observership) at Salt Creeke Grille, which was also in Plaza El Segundo. We were a bit intimidated by the ambiance but the prices were quite reasonable. I ordered my first Reuben ever, and while it tasted good and I finished the whole sandwich, I'd have to say sauerkraut is not my thing. Too sauer. I'm craving the ribs Tina ordered now, and the fries too. Their barbecue sauce is not the best or most unique I've tasted but the thin layers of fat running through the ribs really made a difference.
For a snack later that day, we ate at Pinkberry, also on Plaza El Segundo. Each cube of mango was a hit-or-miss. I've been spoiled by the mangoes here in the Philippines, of course.

One thing I noticed about the people in El Segundo is that they were a lot more guarded and not as friendly as the people in San Francisco, which I suppose would be expected, as the latter is primarily a tourist destination. But I felt kind of let down by the fact that I was the friendliest person in the area. The ghost town aspect of El Segundo probably wouldn't bother many of you, as you'd probably roam around town in a car, but for someone who enjoys the simple pleasure of walking around town, it made me feel uneasy. I joked that at least I'd see a mugger coming at me from a few minutes away.
So Tired!
Me goofing around after my exam-- I'm so exhausted!

Next update: Downtown El Segundo, and a little bit more of L.A., where I surprised myself!