Category Archives: Main Dish

Gumbo Ya-Ya

One of my favorite culinary destinations is New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans is a melting pot of many immigrant cultures, but the French influence is quite apparent all around the city, but especially in the French Quarter. From the beignets at Cafe du Monde to escargot at Galatoire’s, the French culture is a major influence on their cuisine. And of course Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”, the last day to eat rich and party before fasting for lent. Today, we celebrate Mardi Gras and it’s the perfect reason to share my gumbo recipe.

Gumbo is one of my favorite New Orleans dishes because it is delicious, spicy, hearty and full of great flavors. The key to a good gumbo is slow-cooked dark roux (a thickener made with butter and flour). In this recipe, the roux takes about an hour to cook. The original recipe for Gumbo Ya-Ya was created by the late Paul Prudhomme, who was an amazing New Orleans chef. This gumbo has chicken and andouille sausage (a firm Cajun sausage full of great spices), but if you can’t find andouille sausage, you can alway substitute Louisiana hot or mild links. This is not a quick recipe, but completely worth it in the end. I aways reserve making gumbo for special occasions and there’s no better time than Mardi Gras. Enjoy!

Gumbo Ya-Ya

Serving Size 4-6

2 lbs of organic chicken thighs

Kosher salt

1 tablespoon of sunflower oil or other neutral oil

10 cups of water

1 carrot, cut into 3 pieces

1 stalk of celery, cut in 3 pieces

1 onion, quartered

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter

3/4 cup of Sonora wheat or unbleached all-purpose flour

1 bell pepper, small dice

1 sweet onion, small dice

1 celery stalk, small dice

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon of Creole Seasoning  (can be store bought)

1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon of chili powder

1/4 teaspoon of dried hot red pepper flakes

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons of Kosher salt, more to taste

2 andouille sausages or Louisiana smoked hot links (about 10 ounces), cut into 1/4 inch-thick slices

1/2 teaspoon of file powder

3 cups of steamed long-grain rice, converted

Chopped parsley

Louisiana hot sauce for serving (optional)

1. Sprinkle the chicken thighs with a generous amount of Kosher salt on the skin side. Heat a large pot, preferably enamel coated cast-iron, to medium-high heat. Add the oil. Place chicken thighs in the pot, skin-side down. Sprinkle the other side of the chicken with more Kosher salt. Sear the chicken skin until it gets golden and crispy (about 5-7 minutes). Turn the chicken thighs over and cook for another 5 minutes.

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2. Remove the chicken thighs and place on a plate. Pour the chicken grease into a small Pyrex bowl or a heat-proof bowl and reserve for later. You should have about a 1/4 cup.

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3. Add the chicken thighs back to the pot, along with 10 cups of water, the carrots, celery, onion and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Then reduce to a low simmer and place the lid on top. You will braise the chicken for about an hour.

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4. Meanwhile, heat another large pot to low heat. Add the butter and the reserved chicken grease into the pot. Once the butter is completely melted, gradually add in the flour while stirring with a wooden spoon. You will continue to stir and cook the roux for about 1 hour until you get a dark chocolate color. Don’t get tempted to leave the roux unattended. It is important to constantly stir throughout the whole process.

5. Check on the chicken. It should be tender, almost falling off the bone. Remove the chicken thighs using tongs, place on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Quickly strain broth through a chinois (or a fine mesh sieve) into a large bowl and reserve the broth for the gumbo.

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6. Once the roux is nice and dark, add all the diced bell peppers. Stir for 1 minute. Add the diced onions and celery, stir for another minute. Add the garlic and chopped thyme and stir for 15 more seconds.

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7. Slowly add the broth to the roux mixture while stirring, two cups at a time, for a total of eight cups. (Save any remaining broth to thin out the gumbo later.) Add all the dry seasoning, bay leaf and the andouille sausage. Give it a good stir and bring to a boil.

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8. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure you skim the fat on the surface.

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9. While the gumbo is simmering, take the braised chicken and remove the meat off the bone, pulling it into to bite-sized shreds. Discard the bones.

10. After the gumbo has simmered for 30 minutes, add the file powder and the shredded chicken pieces. Add more broth or water if the broth is too thick. Give it gentle stir. Simmer for another 20 minutes.

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11. Taste for seasoning and adjust as need.

12. To serve, ladle the gumbo into shallow bowls. Add some steamed rice into the gumbo and sprinkle some chopped parsley on top. Serve with your favorite Louisiana hot sauce.

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Jajangmyeon

Growing up, we’d often order jajangmyeon at our local Korean-style Chinese restaurant. Jajangmyeon is a traditional Korean noodle dish that is a combination of pork and wheat noodles in a black bean sauce. It originated in China but made its way to South Korea with Mandarin Chinese immigrants, who adapted the dish for the Korean palette. The Korean version has more sauce and a richer flavor, and usually has less fat on the pork and in the sauce.

One of my fondest food memories was watching the chef hand-pull the noodles, transforming the dough into even strands of beautiful noodles by pulling, stretching and twisting it in the air. I was in awe whenever I watched the chef perform his magic, as the noodles danced and floated in front of him until they were the perfect thickness. He did this all for a single bowl of jajangmyeon. Today, most Korean-style Chinese restaurants serve jajangmyeon with factory-made noodles, so finding hand-pulled noodles is a real treat.

My version of jajangmyeon is a healthier version of the dish, as I use less oil and and leaner pork to try and cut down on the fat. I also pre-marinate the pork, which ensures tender pieces of meat. This sauce is rich and full of great flavor, and I love to eat a big bowl of these noodles with a side of cabbage kimchee or takuan. Enjoy!

Jajangmyeon

Serving Size: 4

Sunflower oil or organic canola oil

1 large sweet onion, chopped into 1/2″ in pieces

1/2 large zucchini, cut into 1/2″ pieces (3/4 cup)*

1 small Yukon gold potato, 1/2 ” dice (3/4 cup) – parboiled for 5 minutes

8 ounces of par-cooked, marinated pork (recipe below)

2/3 cup of fermented black bean paste**

2 teaspoons of organic sugar

1 tablespoon of organic soy sauce

1 1/2 cups of water

2 tablespoons of organic cornstarch

22 ounces of fresh jajangmyeon noodles or Chinese wheat noodles (medium thickness)**

1/2 cup of julienned cucumbers (seeds omitted)

 

1. Heat a wok to medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Once the oil starts to smoke, add all the chopped onion. Sauté for about 3 minutes until the onion becomes translucent.

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2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil.
3. Add the cut zucchini pieces to the wok with the onions. Sauté for 2 more minutes.

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4. Add the par-cooked pork and potatoes to the wok.

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5. Add the black bean paste. Stir to incorporate.

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6. Add the soy sauce, sugar and water and bring it to a boil.

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7. Meanwhile, add the noodles into the boiling water. Follow the instructions on the package. Rinse and set aside. (You want to time the noodles so they will be ready when the sauce is done)

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8. Mix the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water to create a slurry. Stir into the sauce.

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9. Cook and stir until thickened.

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10. Divide the noodles evenly into four bowls. Ladle a generous amount of sauce into each of the bowls. Top with some julienned cucumbers and serve with cabbage kimchi.

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* When cutting the zucchini, remove the center seedy potion.  The section with the seeds becomes mushy when cooked. Then dice the  zucchini to 1/2″ pieces as shown.

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**  Fermented black bean paste and jajangmyeon noodles can be found at your local Korean supermarket.

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Marinated pork recipe 

8 ounces of lean pork chuck or tenderloin

1/4 teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of organic cornstarch

1 teaspoon of organic soy sauce

1 teaspoon of Shoxing wine or Sake

 

1. Dice the pork into small pieces just shy of 1/2″

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2. Place the cut pork in a small bowl and sprinkle with baking soda. Mix well and let it sit for 10 minutes (I would suggest using a timer for this step because you do not want exceeded the time allotted or the pork will be too tender.)

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3. After the 10 minutes, add the cornstarch, soy sauce and the wine. Stir and let sit for 2 minutes.

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4.Meanwhile heat a wok to high. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Once oil gets hot, add the marinated pork. Leave undisturbed for 30 seconds.

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5. Using a wooden spoon stir and sauté for about one minute.
Place in a bowl and set aside until ready to use.

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Pumpkin and Swiss Chard Lasagna

I was hesitant to post a recipe with pumpkin this season because of pumpkin spice overload. Come fall, most markets dedicate a whole section to products with pumpkin spice. Trader Joe’s started this trend a few of years ago and other supermarkets quickly followed suit. There is pumpkin spice in chips, crackers, BBQ marinade, and even in kombucha. It has gotten so out of control, Anthony Bourdain said “I would like to see the pumpkin spice craze drowned in its own blood. Quickly.” Even though this lasagna recipe doesn’t contain any pumpkin spice, pumpkin has gotten a bad rap, kind of an instance of guilt by association.

Despite Bourdain’s loathing of pumpkin spice, pumpkin is a wonderful autumnal ingredient perfect for savory dishes. This pumpkin lasagna recipe is a nice change from your traditional meat sauce lasagna. There are two layers of pumpkin purée and one layer of Swiss chard/ricotta, and the dish is topped with béchamel, mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano. There is also sage brown butter in the pumpkin purée, which adds a layer of nutty and woody flavor. There is some advanced preparation involved before assembling the lasagna, so plan ahead. This a good dish for a crowd, or if you omit the chicken stock, a nice vegetarian option at a potluck. Serve it with a side salad for a complete meal. Enjoy!

Serving Size: about 12

Non-cooking spray, preferably olive oil-based
Béchamel sauce (see below)
1 lb. of lasagna noodles, no-boil
Cooked Swiss chard (recipe below)
Pumpkin layer (recipe below)
Ricotta layer (recipe below)
1 cup of grated mozzarella
1/4 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup of chicken stock or low sodium chicken broth (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375°

2. Spray the bottom of a 13″ x 9″ x 3″ baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Ladle and spread half of the béchamel sauce on the bottom of the baking pan.

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3. Place 4 lasagna sheets, overlapping, on top of the béchamel layer.

4. Spread 1/2 of the pumpkin mixture on top of the lasagna noodles.

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5. Add another layer of lasagna sheets.

6. Spread the remaining ricotta mixture on top of the lasagna sheets.

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7. Evenly spoon all of the Swiss chard mixture and top with 1/2 of the grated mozzarella.

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8. Add another layer of lasagna sheets.

9. Spread the remaining pumpkin mixture on top of the lasagna noodles.

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10. Add another layer of lasagna noodles.

11. Ladle and spread the remaining béchamel, then the remaining mozzarella, and finally the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. If using, pour the chicken stock along the sides. Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes.

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12.  Remove foil and increase the heat to 400° and bake for 10 additional minutes.

13. Place the lasagna on a cooling rack. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Swiss Chard

2 tablespoons of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups of chopped onions
1 teaspoon of chopped thyme leaves
Pinch of red pepper flakes
8 cups of chopped Swiss chard
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté of for 15 seconds. Add the onions and thyme leaves. Sauté for 3 minutes.

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2. Add all of the Swiss chard and red pepper flakes. Sauté and cook until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Season to taste.

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3. Add the lemon juice and transfer to a bowl until ready to use.

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Béchamel sauce

2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of low-fat milk, heated
3/4 teaspoon of sea salt
1 pinch of ground nutmeg (half of 1/8 teaspoon)
Freshly ground pepper

1. Heat a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the butter and stir until melted.

2. Slowly rain in the flour while whisking to prevent clumping. Cook while whisking for about 1 minute.

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3. While whisking, slowly add the heated milk. Add the salt, nutmeg, and pepper. Continue to whisk and cook until the sauce thickens and the mixture bubbles on the sides. Turn off the heat. Set aside until ready to use.

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Pumpkin layer

2 tablespoons of butter
8 fresh sage leaves
3 cups of cooked pumpkin (fresh or canned)
3/4 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
Pinch of nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper

1. In a small sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sage leaves. Cook until the butter turns brown and toasty. Turn off the heat, remove the sage leaves and set aside.

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2. In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt, nutmeg and few turns of the pepper mill. Stir to combine.

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3. Add the brown butter. Stir well and set aside until ready to use.

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Ricotta layer

1 1/2 cup of ricotta
1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Freshly ground pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside until ready to use.

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Kimbap with Beef and Vegetables

Exactly one year ago today, I started my recipe blog. During the past year, I’ve had viewers from around the world visit my blog. To celebrate my one-year anniversary, I share with you my mom’s kimbap (Korean rice rolls) recipe. Kimbap are beautifully colorful and taste delicious. My mom made them for celebratory meals, and the thought of them made my brothers and I excited whenever one of our birthdays was around the corner. My mom would wake up before dawn to prep all the ingredients and once we were awake, it would only be minutes before we would begin devouring them. This recipe stays true to my mom’s original recipe – I haven’t altered it one bit, down to ingredients I wouldn’t typically use today.

The key to a successful kimbap is properly cooked rice. I typically use a little less water than what the directions call for on the package. The cooked rice should separate a bit when moving it around with a rice paddle. You want the rice fully cooked, not al dente like risotto rice, but also not too soft or mushy. Be sure to allow the rice to cool down a bit before placing it on the nori sheets. Note that there are 3 Japanese ingredients in this recipe that contain MSG or a derivative of MSG – takuan taro, kamaboko, and powdered sushi flavoring – so if you are sensitive to MSG, this is probably not the recipe for you. I searched for non-MSG versions of these three ingredients but they were difficult to come by, and I ultimately decided that maintaining the authenticity of the recipe was more important than using different ingredients that were MSG-free. If you try this recipe, though, you will experience a piece of my childhood through the flavors of one of my favorite comfort foods. Enjoy!

Kimbap with Beef and Vegetables

About 6 servings

Special Equipment: Bamboo Sushi Mat

Beef
1/3 lb. of brisket (cut into 1/3″ long strips, cut against the grain)
2 teaspoons of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of mirin
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
Freshly grated black pepper

Vegetables and Other Fillings
2 large carrots (peeled, sliced into 1/4″ strips, boiled 2 minutes, and shocked in ice water – blotted dry)
1 bunch of spinach (washed, boiled 1 1/2 minutes, and shocked in ice water – squeezed dry)
2 teaspoons of sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 red kamaboko (Japanese fish cake) – 6 oz*
3 eggs, beaten well
Vegetable oil
1 takuan taro (Japanese picked daikon) – about 8 ounces, sliced 1/3″ strips**

Rice
6 cups of cooked short-grain sushi rice
2 tablespoons of roasted sesame oil
2-3 tablespoons of powdered sushi flavoring***

Other
5 sheets of unseasoned nori sheets
Roasted sesame seeds and black sesame seeds
Extra daikon for serving

1. In a small bowl, add the brisket strips, soy sauce, mirin, baking soda, sugar and a couple turns of the pepper mill. Stir well and let marinate for 20 minutes at room temperature.

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2. In a small bowl, toss the carrots, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, and a pinch of salt. Place the carrots on a platter.

3. In the same bowl, add the spinach, the other teaspoon of sesame oil, and a pinch of salt. Place on the platter next to the carrots.

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4. Heat a 6-inch non-stick sauté pan on medium heat. Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add a pinch of salt to the eggs and give them quick beating. Add the beaten eggs in the pan. You want to create an egg cake that will be 1/4″ thick when sliced. Flip and cook on the other side until fully cooked. You don’t want a runny center.

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5. Transfer the cooked eggs to a cutting board. Let cool before slicing.

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6. Take the kamaboko and slice out the pink portion and white portion into 10 equal strips. They will be about 1/3″ thick. Heat a small sauté pan on medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the kamaboko and sauté for 2 minutes. Transfer the kamaboko to the platter.

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7. In the same pan, add the beef strips and cook on medium high until you get a nice sear on each side. This should take about 5 minutes. Transfer to the platter.

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8. Add the cut pickled daikon on the platter.

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9. In a large bowl, add the cooked rice, 2 tablespoons of the powdered sushi flavoring and sesame oil. Using a rice paddle, mix until the powdered sugar and sesame oil is evenly distributed into the rice. Taste the rice and add more powder if needed.

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10. Lay 1 sheet of nori on the bamboo mat, long side down and the nori touching the bottom portion of the mat. Add about 1 cup of the rice and spread evenly throughout the nori, leaving about 1 1/2″ on the top.

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11. Carefully add the filling (one of each) on the lower potion of the rice. You will need to add about 6 spinach leaves, evenly distributing the leaves so when cut, each one will have leafy greens.

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12. Take a hold of the bamboo mat on the bottom side and, while rolling, press down to secure the filling and roll the kimbap away from you.

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13. Repeat four more times.

14. Slice the kimbap with a serrated knife into 3/4″ pieces. Place the pieces on serving plates and sprinkle the sesame seeds. Serve with miso soup and extra pickled daikon pieces.

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15. Kimbap are best eaten the same day they are made. Place any leftover pieces in a airtight container in the refrigerator. The leftover kimbap can be heated in the microwave for a few seconds or eaten at room temperature.

 

*This Kamaboko is processed in Los Angeles, California and it is my favorite Kamaboko brand. You can find it at most Asian markets.

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** Here is the Takuan brand I use for this recipe. I tested quite a few brands and this one has the best flavor. You can be find this Takuan at most Japanese markets.

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*** This is Japanese powdered sushi flavoring I use for the rice. You can find it at most Japanese and Korean markets.

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Kongguksu (Chilled Soy Milk Noodle)

Koreans love cold noodle soups during the summer. One of the most popular Korean cold noodle dishes is naeng myun, which is made with beef broth and buckwheat noodles. Kongguksu, a distant cousin of naeng myun, is made with chilled soy milk and somen noodles. Every summer, when my mom made kongguksu, it always put a smile on my face. I’ve had many versions of kongguksu and have yet to try one better than my mom’s. Most restaurants blend the cooked soybeans but don’t strain it, resulting in a thick, clumpy soup, but my mom adds an extra step and strains the puréed beans in a cheesecloth, yielding a smooth and silky broth. After learning how to prepare kongguksu from my mom, I wrote down the recipe and added it to my repertoire. Note that the recipe requires the soybeans to soak overnight, so please add a day to your prep time.

For those who are only interested in the homemade soy milk portion of the recipe, you will end up with with two quarts. You can easily cut this recipe in half to make 1 quart. To make a sweet soy milk for use in cereal or coffee, add a little superfine sugar and vanilla extract. To make Taiwanese salty soy milk, heat the prepare soy milk, add pork song, Chinese donuts, preserved vegetables, fried shallots, and scallions. Enjoy!

Kongguksu (Chilled Soy Milk Noodle)

Yield: 2 quarts of soy milk for 4 bowls of noodles.

1 pound of dried organic soy beans*
Superfine sea salt, to taste
1 package of organic somen noodles, 9.5 ounces*
1 large Japanese cucumber
2 teaspoons of toasted sesame seeds*
12 small ice cubes
Kimchee for serving
1. Soak the soybeans in water overnight in 10 cups of water.

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2. The next morning, strain the soybeans and rinse well.

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3. Put the soy beans in a large pot and place enough cold water to cover 1 1/2 inches above the beans.

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4. Bring to a boil and skim the impurities during the boiling process.

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5. Reduce to a simmer. Cook the beans uncovered for about 25 minutes.

6. Turn off the heat and leave the pot sitting on the stove top for 10 more minutes.

7. Strain the beans and give them a quick rinse.

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8. Rub the beans together and try to remove as many skins as possible.

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9. Place 2 cups of beans and 3 cups of water in a blender and purée on high until smooth. (This will be about 1/3 of the cooked beans.) Transfer the puréed beans to a large bowl and repeat this process 2 more times.

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10. Pour the puréed soybean liquid into a chinois or cheese cloth over a large bowl. Strain, using a large paddle or spoon to push down the solids to push out as much of the liquid as possible. Discard the solids.

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11. You should have about 2 quarts of soy milk. Add sea salt to taste.

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12. Cover and store the soy milk in the refrigerator until it gets cold. You can store the salted say milk in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

13. Cut the cucumber into 2-inch strips using a mandolin, and discard the center with the seeds. Set aside.

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14. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the somen noodles and boil for 2 minutes. Rinse noodles in cold water.

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15. To assemble the kongguksu, divide the noodles equally in 4 large bowls. Ladle some soy milk over the noodles. Place 3 ice cubes and some sliced cucumbers into the bowl and sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon of sesame seeds. Serve with kimchee.

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*You can find these ingredients at most Korean or Japanese markets.

 

 

 

Asian Noodle Salad with Chicken Meatballs

A refreshing cold noodle salad really hits the spot during warm-weather days. When I think of noodle salads, “bun” (a Vietnamese rice vermicelli noodle salad) comes to mind. This dish also has fresh vegetables, lettuce, fragrant herbs, and includes some type of protein. The protein can be grilled pork, lemongrass chicken, shrimp paste, crispy tofu or even egg rolls. Nuoc cham, a Vietnamese dipping sauce made with fish sauce, ties the dish together. I love bun because it’s light yet satisfying with many layers of flavors and textures. Bun is the original “lean cuisine.”

Here is my version of bun using a chicken meatball recipe I created. My kids love meatballs, and these are made with Asian flavors that really compliment this noodle salad. The meatballs are so versatile that you can use them in a Thai curry, in Vietnamese sandwiches or serve them with rice and eggs for breakfast. The meatballs freeze well too so you can make them in advance and then heat them up in the oven before serving. Enjoy!

Asian Noodle Salad with Meatballs

Yield: 4 servings

1 pound of ground organic chicken
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon of grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 teaspoons of hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon of chili paste
2/3 cup of panko flakes
Mai Pham’s Vietnamese dipping sauce recipe
8 ounces of thin rice vermicelli (cooked and drained)*
1 ripe tomato, cut into wedges
1 Persian cucumber, cut into 1/4 inch circles
4 ounces of chopped romaine or baby greens
1/4 cup of thinly shredded carrots
1/4 cup of fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro leaves
1/8 cup of toasted peanuts, chopped
Lime wedges for serving

1. Mix the chicken, onions, ginger, cloves, egg, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, chili paste and panko flakes until just combined. Don’t overmix or you will end up with tough meatballs.

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2. Roll into 2″ meatballs. You should have roughly 16 meatballs.

 

3. Heat a 12-inch cast-iron or stainless steel pan on medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of oil. Brown on each side until you get a nice sear, which will take about 1 minute per side. Be sure to sear all sides as if it were a cube.

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4. Place the meatballs in a paper towel-lined colander. Set aside.

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5. To assemble the the noodle salad, place some noodles on the bottom of 4 serving bowls. Place some mixed greens on top and arrange the rest of the vegetables and herbs. Place 4 meatballs in the center and sprinkle the peanuts on top. Serve with the Vietnamese dipping sauce and lime wedge.

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*Rice noodles come in different thicknesses. Make sure you use the thin rice vermicelli noodles and follow the cooking instructions on the package.

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Sweet and Spicy Shrimp

Kan Pong Sae Woo is a popular shrimp dish at Korean-style Chinese restaurants. It is essentially sweet and sour shrimp with a little heat. My older son loves shrimp and whenever we order take-out at Dragon restaurant in Koreatown, we include this dish in our order. Dragon makes their shrimp with a lot of batter, but I created a version with a light cornstarch coating. The shrimp in this recipe is supple and juicy and has a little pop when you bite into it. The trick is a method call salt-leaching.

Salt-leaching is a technique used by many Chinese chefs and I learned it from reading one of David Rosengarten’s books. You add roughly 1 teaspoon of salt per pound of raw shrimp, toss and let sit for 30 minutes. Rinse. Add more salt. Rinse. Add more salt. Rinse. This process does not make it salty, but glossy, supple, and almost crunchy….like sweet shrimp at sushi restaurants. You can use this technique for other recipes like shrimp fried rice or when adding shrimp to a stir-fry. You will be pleased with the results. Enjoy!
Sweet and Spicy Garlic Shrimp

Serving Size: 2 or 4 with other sides

12 ounces of medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (31-40 count per pound)*
1 1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of organic ketchup
1/2 teaspoon of ground chili paste (Sambal Oelek)
1/2 teaspoon of organic soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon of ginger juice*
1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of pineapple juice, optional
1/4 cup of cold water
3 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon of organic cornstarch or potato starch
1 1/2 cups of sunflower oil or peanut oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 green onions, thinly sliced crosswise
6-7 dried Tien Tsin or Arbol chiles
Steamed Jasmine rice

 
1. Place the shrimp in a colander over a bowl. Sprinkle the 3/4 teaspoon of salt and toss to coat. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

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2. Meanwhile, add the sugar, vinegar, ketchup, chili paste, soy sauce, ginger juice, salt, and pineapple juice in a small bowl. In another small bowl, add the 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch and water and whisk well. Set aside both mixtures until ready to use.

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3. At the 30 minute mark, heat oil in a wok or a deep-fryer to 375°.

4. While the oil is heating, thoroughly rinse the salt off the shrimp with cold water. Add 1/4 teaspoon more salt and toss. Wait 30 seconds. Rinse. Repeat one more time. Pat dry with paper towels.

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5. Transfer the shrimp to large bowl and add 3 tablespoons of cornstarch. Toss well.

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6. Once the oil reaches 375°, add half of the shrimp. Deep-fry the shrimp for about 45 seconds or until the coating is nice and crispy. Remove the shrimp with a spider or slotted spoon and place them in a colander lined with a paper towel. Repeat with the process with other half of the shrimp.

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7. If using a wok, carefully pour out the oil into another pan. Place the wok back on the burner on high. Add garlic and sauté for 15 seconds.

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8. Give the water and cornstarch mixture a quick stir and add it to the sauce mixture. Pour the entire mixture to the wok.

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9. Once the sauce thickens, add all the cooked shrimp, dried chiles, and scallions. Toss to coat. Transfer to a plate and serve immediately.

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*When buying frozen shrimp, make sure there are no other ingredients besides shrimp. Avoid shrimp with additives like sodium tripolyphosphate. There is no need for preservatives. If at all possible, purchase wild caught shrimp.

*To make ginger juice, finely grate about 1 teaspoon of ginger. Squeeze the grated ginger over a fine mesh sieve. Discard the ginger solids and use ginger liquid for the recipe.

Mongolian Beef

Growing up in Koreatown in LA, the Chinese food I ate was quite different from the Chinese food I know today. Most of the Chinese restaurants in Koreatown served Mandarin cuisine, and the owners, servers, and cooks were all Chinese who previously lived in South Korea. When communicating with their customers, they spoke perfect Korean, and when talking amongst themselves, they spoke Mandarin. The food served at these Chinese restaurants was adapted for the Korean palate, with lots of bold flavors. (They even served cabbage kimchee with every meal!) One of my favorite dishes at these Korean-Style Chinese restaurants is Mongolian beef.

Mongolian beef is a dish with a distinct hoisin flavor and lots of scallions. What makes this dish so unique is the texture of the beef – unlike most sautéed meat dishes, the beef is extremely tender. The trick, I learned, is to tenderize the beef with baking soda. Just 1/4 teaspoon will tenderize 8 ounces of beef. I tried this technique at home with flank steak and it worked like a charm, yielding the same tenderness as the Mongolian beef I’ve had at Young Dragon Restaurant. The key is to not let the beef tenderize in the baking soda too long, so be sure not to tenderize the meat until you have everything prepped. As always, please read the entire recipe before you start. Enjoy!

Mongolian Beef

Serving Size: 4 (with rice and side dishes)

8 ounces of flank steak (thinly sliced against the grain)*
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of organic cornstarch
2 tablespoon of homemade chicken stock or low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons of organic soy sauce
1 tablespoon of hoisin sauce
2 teaspoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of fresh ginger juice*
Freshly grated ground pepper
2 tablespoon of sunflower or peanut oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 organic scallions, sliced in 2 inch pieces
Steamed jasmine rice
Kimchee for serving

1. Place the flank steak in a small glass bowl. Sprinkle the baking soda all over the meat. Give it a good stir to coat evenly. Let the meat tenderize for 15-20 minutes.

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2. While the meat is tenderizing, in a glass measuring cup, add the chicken sock, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sugar, ginger juice, and good pinch of freshly grated pepper. Whisk and set aside.

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3. Once the the meat is tenderized, sprinkle the cornstarch and mix until all the meat is coated. Heat a wok or large stainless steel pan on high, adding 2 tablespoons of oil in the wok. Add the minced garlic and stir fry for 10 seconds.

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4. Add the beef, spreading it out so most of the meat touches the surface of the wok. Let it sit undisturbed for 1 seconds. Sauté until the beef is slightly pink (about 45 more seconds).

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5. Add the green onions and stir for a few seconds. Quickly move the beef and green onion to the sides of the of the wok, creating a well.

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6. Add about 2/3 of sauce mixture into the center of the wok. Let the sauce thicken for about 30 seconds. Bring the meat down from side of the wok. Sauté into the sauce for 30 more seconds. Taste for seasoning and add more sauce, if needed.

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7. Transfer to a serving plate. Serve immediately with steamed jasmine rice, kimchee and other vegetable side dishes.

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*Cut the flank steak against the grain, just shy of 1/4 inch in thickness and about 2 inches wide.

*To make ginger juice, finely grate about 1 teaspoon of ginger. Squeeze the grated ginger over a fine mesh seive. Discard the ginger solids and use ginger liquid for the recipe.

 

Agnolotti dal Plin

In April of 2003, Los Angeles Times featured an article in their Food section about Il Ristorante di Guido da Costigliole, a restaurant in the Piedmont region of Italy. The article focused on a regional, filled pasta called agnolotti dal plin. Lidia Alciati, the owner and chef of the restaurant, cranked out thousands of agnolotti every week for 40 years. I was was intrigued and I saved the article for my honeymoon trip to Italy that June.

When my husband and I arrived in Asti, we learned that Lidia had retired and that her sons had taken over the family business and found their restaurant a new home. We were directed to a beautiful 5-star hotel in a restored 1619 monastery, atop a hill overlooking a picturesque valley of vineyards. The restaurant was located under the hotel in a converted wine cellar. Once we were seated at our table, I was overcome with excitement. When the agnolotti arrived, the little, yellow pillows of pasta were glistening in light butter sauce. When I took a bite, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The delicious pasta packets were filled with rabbit, pork, veal, spinach, Parmesan cheese and hint of nutmeg.

Today I bring you my version of Guido’s agnolotti. Instead of adding rabbit and veal, I used all pork for my recipe, and I also replaced the spinach with Swiss chard. Make sure you roast the pork a day in advance. For the pasta, I really like Thomas Keller’s pasta recipe for the agnolotti. It’s easy to work with and the perfect texture for this dish. You can also make the pasta a day ahead if you prefer. Making this dish requires a lot time, but it’s worth the effort. This recipe makes enough to feed an army so it’s perfect for the holidays or any other special occasion. Enjoy!

Agnolotti dal Plin

Serving size: 12

Olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 teaspoons of finely chopped rosemary
2 pounds of roasted pork shoulder (recipe below)
3 cups of Swiss chard, chopped
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
Salt
Freshly grated pepper
2 large eggs
28 ounces of fresh pasta dough – Thomas Keller’s Pasta Recipe
1/2 cup of unsalted butter
1/2 cup of reduced pork or veal stock
6 sage leaves
Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

 
1. Take the pasta out of the refrigerator and bring to room temperature.

2. While waiting for the pasta to come to room temperature, take the roasted pork out of the refrigerator and remove most of the fat using a knife. Cut into large chunks and then pulse a few times in the food processor until it resembles ground beef. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Remove the reserved pork drippings from the refrigerator. Scrape off the fat cap and you should be left with a gelatinous pork stock. Set aside.

4. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the Swiss chard for about five minutes. Add a 1/4 cup of water and cover with a lid until most of the water is absorbed. Transfer to a food processor and process until smooth. You may need to add a little water. Set aside.

5. Heat the same sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add the garlic and rosemary. Sauté for one minute. Add the ground pork meat and cook for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer back to the large bowl and cool at room temperature.

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6. Once the meat has cooled, stir in the Parmigiano, 2 eggs (slightly beaten), Swiss chard, reserved pork stock, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. This is the agnolotti filling. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator while you roll out the pasta.

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7. Roll out the pasta dough a few sheets at a time and keep any unused portion of pasta tightly wrapped in plastic. On your pasta roller, roll the pasta sheet to the second thinnest setting.

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8. Remove the filling from the refrigerator. Using a small teaspoon, place a portion of filling about 1 inch from the bottom of the sheet. Continue placing portions of filling across the bottom of the sheet, leaving 1 inch space in between each.

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9. Fold the bottom of the pasta sheet to partially cover the filling.

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10. Fold from the bottom again, rolling the pasta while pinching between each pocket of filling. It is important to leave this “pinched” area between the agnolotti, or when the agnolotti are separated, they may come unsealed.

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11. Run a crimped pastry wheel away from you and between the center of each pinched area to create the individual agnolotti. Place the filled agnolotti on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the baking sheet with the agnolotti inside the freezer until frozen.

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12. Repeat the process until all the agnolotti is filled.

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13. Fill a large pot of water halfway and add a generous amount of Kosher salt. Bring to a boil.
14. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, add half the butter until melted. Add three sage leaves, sauté for one minute. Add 1/4 cup of the reduced pork or veal stock. Lower the heat to warm.
15. Once the water is boiling, add about 1/4 of the agnolotti. Once the pasta rises to the top cook for about one more minute. With a large slotted spoon, transfer to the sauté pan with butter sauce.

16. Bring the water back to a boil and add another 1/4 of the agnolotti. Once cooked, transfer to the same pan. Toss to coat. Transfer to a large serving platter.  Repeat the process with the remaining agnolotti or you can also freeze the rest in a plastic bag for up to 1 month.

17. To serve, place about 8 to 10 pieces of agnolotti on a plate. Grate a generous amount of Parmesan cheese, a couple turns of a pepper mill, and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Served with a nice glass an Italian red wine.

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Roasted Pork Shoulder

1/2 teaspoon of paprika
1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
2 1/2 lbs. of pork shoulder
Leaves from 1 sprig of rosemary
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery ribs, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf

1. Mix the first 6 ingredients in a small bowl and rub all over the pork. Then rub the pork with the smashed garlic and rosemary leaves. Let the pork rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

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2. Heat oven to 450°.

3. In a small roasting pan, add the pork. Scatter the onions, carrots, celery, and the bay leaves in the pan. Roast for 30 minutes.

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4. After 30 minutes, turn the heat down to 325°. Remove the pork out of the oven and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Put the pork back in the oven and roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

5. Cool to room temperature. Transfer the meat drippings into a container with a lid. Cover the pork with foil. Place both the pork and the drippings in the refrigerator until ready to use

Korean Dumplings

My mom may not have been the best cook in our neighborhood when I was growing up, but she had a few good recipes up her sleeve. One of those recipes is for her mandu, which are Korean dumplings. Every Korean mom on our block had her own special mandu recipe – one mom added sweet potato noodles to her dumplings, while another added bean sprouts – but I always liked my mom’s dumplings the best because they were simple but delicious. It was good home cooking.

Over time, my mom ended up making dumplings for special occasions like our birthdays and major holidays. Every Christmas morning, I remember waking up early and sitting in the kitchen with my brothers, folding dumplings, as we would race to see who can fold the most. Once everything was assembled, my mom would make fried dumplings, steamed dumplings and dumpling and rice cake soup. We were in dumpling heaven! Those are some happy food memories for me, so whenever Christmas comes around, I reminisce about those dumplings, and so I’ve put together my version of her recipe. Enjoy!

Korean Dumplings (Mandu)

Yield: About 3 dozen

Ingredients

7 ounces of organic soft tofu
1 cup of grated cabbage
1/3 cup of finely grated carrot
1/4 lb. of beef brisket, finely chopped (or extra-lean ground beef)
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil
1/4 cup of finely grated onion
1 green onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon organic sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated pepper
1 packet of round wonton skins (36 wrappers)
Vegetable oil for frying
Dipping sauce (recipe below)
1. Place the tofu in a cloth napkin or cheese cloth. Wrap tightly to create a beggar’s purse. Squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible. Remove the tofu from the napkin and place in a bowl and set aside.

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2. Placed the grated cabbage in a sieve and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Place over a bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Squeeze as much of the liquid out of the cabbage as possible. Place in a small bowl and set aside.

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3. Place the grated carrot in a small sieve and sprinkle with a smidgen of salt. Place over a bowl and let set for 5 minutes. Squeeze as much of the liquid out as possible. Place in a small bowl and set aside.

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4. In another bowl, combine the beef, sesame oil, and baking soda. Stir to combine and let it sit for 5 minutes.

5. In a large bowl, add the tofu, cabbage, carrots, beef, onion, green onion, sugar, egg, salt and pepper and stir to combine. You can also use a clean hand to mix all the ingredients.

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6. Get your wonton skins and a small bowl of water. Take one of the wonton skins and place a heaping teaspoon of the dumpling mixture onto the skin. Dab some water around the edges and fold over to make a half-moon. Press tightly to seal (if you want to get fancy, you can create pleats). Place the dumpling on a parchment lined half sheet pan. Keep the rest of the wonton skins covered with a towel to prevent them from drying.

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7. Repeat the process until all the filling is gone.

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8. Heat a cast-iron skillet to medium. Once the skillet is hot, add 2 tablespoons of oil. Place about 1/3 of the dumplings in the pan. Cook on one side for about 3-5 minutes or until golden brown.

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9. Flip the dumplings over and cook for another minute. Reduce the heat to low, add 1/4 cup of water and cover. Cook for about 5-10 until all the water has evaporated. (You are essentially steaming the dumplings to cook the filling.)

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10. Remove the dumplings and transfer them to a plate. Serve with the dipping sauce.

 
Dipping sauce

1/8 cup organic soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of coarse Korean red pepper powder
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 small garlic clove, minced

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Serve with the dumplings.