Thursday, November 28, 2013

Teriyaki Pork Belly

This teriyaki pork belly will melt in your mouth. It's so good that it's easy to overindulge yourself. This is a treat that should be enjoyed on a special occasion and memories of it be kept for a long time until another special occasion arise :)

Blog's Category: International


As a Ukrainian, I was treated to this special type of pork cut way too often. We, Ukrainians, can't leave without our beloved pork (oops... I'm a vegetarian for almost decade already :). There is two key points to cook nice pork belly - it has to be as fresh as possible (no-no to frozen one) and it has to be cooked in a simplest way for natural flavors of pork meat to shine.

The recipe posted here is somewhat different. Presumably, it's the way Japanese like their pork belly (hey, my Japanese friends, is it so?). Anyway, whatever has come out of this recipe was overwhelmingly approved by my folks. I'll, definitely, take this recipe on board. It's easy, impressive and looking sooo good.

What is it?

Slices of pork belly, cooked for a long time in a mix soy sauce, mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine) with a green onion, ginger and garlic. At the end, sauce reduces into a great caramelized teriyaki glaze.

Taste Description

By testimonies of my folks, it's just plain yummy and addictive. Pork is very soft to the point of melting as soon as your teeth touch it; flavorful, with that special combination of sweetness and saltiness good teriyaki sauce are known for.

How to Serve

There is so many ways to serve it. I served it with thin, lightly buttered spaghetti, rolled in a Heston Blumenthal style (really cool way to serve spaghetti I picked up from youtube's Heston Blumenthal video about spaghetti bolognese). It can easily be served hors d'oeuvre style, on a tiny piece of melba toast and small piece of pumpernickel bread. Or, Japanese style - skewed on a wooden skewer or sprinkled with sesame seeds or green onion.

Japanese Teriyaki Pork Belly

  • 8" x 5" piece of fresh pork belly, cut in half along side and then sliced into 2/3" slices
  • 0.5 cup soy sauce
  • 0,5 cup mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine)
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 green onions, cut in 1" pieces
  • 1 " ginger, minced or thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or thinly sliced
  • 9 black peppercorns

- In a pot, bring all ingredients, except pork, to a boil. Add pork, bring to a boil and turn heat down to slow simmering.

- Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until liquid reduces to a half-thick caramelized glaze. It will take from 1 hour up to 3 hours.

- Voila, enjoy!


- Mirin can be found in Asian groceries. I guess it can be substituted with 4-5 tbs of brown sugar or honey (liquids has to be upped then) although resulting taste may be different.

- Pork belly with or without skin can be used. For the fun, I cut out skin from one half of pork belly. This piece of skin was sliced then in strips and ended up in a same pot as the rest of pork belly slices - skinless and otherwise. Needless to say that everything was gobbled without any "what", "why" or "how". Now I know that it's perfectly fine to leave skin on.


Here is how to make spaghetti "roll" for a nice presentation. Using grilling fork (longer teeth - better), pull over cooked spaghetti onto a fork trying to distribute them evenly and detangle a little bit hanging ends.

Move fork with a hanging spaghetti onto a wooden board, lower in down spreading spaghetti along the board and then, tucking them with another hand under the fork, quickly roll them onto the fork.

Now the fun part - move fork with a rolled spaghetti on a serving dish and, holding spaghetti in place at the end, pull the fork out.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Zucchini Pudding

I'm in a hurry to post this wonderful recipe in a wake of upcoming Thanksgiving. It's Zucchini Pudding - you will be surprised how boring zucchini can be a star of this great cheesy delight.

Blog's Category: International, Vegetarian


The recipe is from my new awesome Mexican cuisine cookbook. Mexican cuisine is one of the few cuisines adored here in US but it seems like we know just small part of it. According to this book, there is much more to it, far beyond familiar taco, tamale and enchilada. I can't praise this book enough.. so let's get back to recipe.

I had being pretty skeptical about the recipe when started, I just needed to use couple of zucchinis hanging around my fridge. I 'm glad I did - the recipe is a keeper and a perfect candidate for Thanksgiving celebration table. I hope you are not settle on your holiday menu just yet and will give it a chance.

What is it?

As for all puddings, this is airy, soft and buttery mix of cracker crumbs, mashed zucchinis, eggs, cheese and seasoning. The key is to get the right ratio for all of it.

Taste Description

So-o-o-oft, but-t-t-tery, smo-o-o-o-oth and tender texture brings comforting flavors of this dish components. Just right amount of black pepper gives gentle kicks in a middle of heavenly fragrance of this rich, though not heavy at all, pudding. I was surprised how pleasant zucchini's aroma was in here (I would never expect it from such a basic vegetable as zucchini).

How to Serve

It's best to be served right away, in an individual dishes or family style, in a large baking dish. Also, I was reheating it the next day and enjoyed it no less.

Zucchini Pudding

For about 4 servings:
  • 3 medium zucchinis, unpeeled, ends trimmed, sliced in 1/2 "
  • 6 large crackers, crushed
  • 1.5 cup cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350F.

- In a pot with a boiling water, cook zucchini until soft, about 7 minutes. Drain and mash with a potato masher - small chunks of green skin is OK.

- In a bowl, mix all ingredients together reserving 3 tbs of cheese for topping.

- Distribute mix among 4 individual oven-proof dishes (or in a large baking dish to have mix layer no more than 1" thick). Top with a reserved cheese.

- Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown crust forms. Serve and enjoy!



Thursday, November 21, 2013

Korean Soft Tofu Stew

Soondubu Jjigae is Korean soft tofu stew. Sounding intimidating, it's easy and fast to cook and will definitely satisfy your craving for a hearty Korean food.

Blog's Category: International, Vegetarian


You must be know already about my addiction to Korean food? This is another recipe from Maangchi (take a look at Youtube) which I simplified a little bit (if it's possible at all to simplify already simple dish). The main obstacle here may be lack of right ingredients but if you have oriental grocery around - it shouldn't be a problem.

At a first glimpse it may seem gross to make stock of dry anchovies and weird looking sheets of seaweed called kelp but try to overcome this and go on and you'll be rewarded with a great stew (though I would call it soup). This stew will give you fire and strength much needed during these dreadful rain-snow time of the year. 

What I like about this jjigae that is making really flavorful stock, which is, naturally, base of any good soup, is very easy and fun here. You just throw funny dry ingredients in a pot of water and watch their transformation into wonderfully colored, appetizing stock.  At this point you are half way there. Couple more steps and amazing Soondubu Jjigae is standing right in front of you, bright red, steaming and inviting.

What is it?

It is a stew, based on a stock made of dry anchovies, dry shiitake, kelp (seaweed) and garlic. There not that many Ingredients for stew itself - shiitake from a stock, Korean red pepper flakes, soft or silken tofu and seafood mix. Right after stew is taken from a heat, egg added on a top of everything. This egg gets cooked right in front your eyes while you mix it in piping hot, bright red liquid of soondubu jjigae.

Taste Description

Yes there is some bite to it, as with practically all Korean food. Just learn to handle it (hey, it's healthy!) The more spicy food you eat the more tolerant you become to it. Through spiciness (it's actually not that spicy - somewhat medium level) you definitely will notice complex and bold flavors coming through - anchovie's umami undertones, some seaweed-y Japanese flavors and earthy taste of shiitake. Egg will round up all these flavors. Tofu, infused with surrounding goodness, will create blobs of wonderful and tender bites you will be hunting after in your bowl. Shrimp and other seafood will award you with chewy texture and nice flavor they adopt from a liquid.

How to Serve

Serve piping hot (ideally - in an individual chafing dishes those with a fire underneath). Break an egg into individual bowls - the point is that eggs has to continue to cook while you mix it in and eat at the same time.

Korean Soft Tofu Stew or
Soodubu Jjigae

For about 4 servings:

  • 0.5 cup dried small anchovies
  • 8" x 8" piece of dried kelp
  • 7 garlic cloves, unpeeled, smashed with a chefs knife
  • 1/2 onion, unpeeled, washed, roots cut off
  • 7 dried shiitake
  • 3-6 tbs Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru, they are much milder than regular)
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 blocks of soft tofu (or silken tofu)
  • 12 raw, peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 1 bag (2 cups) mixed seafood
  • 1 small green chili pepper (optional), chopped (with seeds for hotter stew)
  • 3 green onions, chopped (optional)
  • 2 tbs fish sauce
  • 4 eggs
- To make stock, Put all stock ingredients into pot with 1.5 quart of water, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove shiitake onto cutting board and set pot with a stock aside to brew until needed.

- Cut off shitake stems and discard. Slice shitake cups thinly (3 mm).

- In a separate, 3-quart pot, cook sliced shitake with olive oil, stirring, for about 3 minutes.

- Add hot pepper flakes and cook stirring for 1 minute. Drain stock into a pot to separate liquid. Discard solids. Add liquid to the pot with shiitake.

- Let stew simmer for about 5 minutes. Add whole clocks of tofu, fish sauce and sesame oil. Stir, breaking tofu into smaller pieces and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Add shrimp and seafood mix, bring to a boil and let it simmer for a 2 more minutes. Add green onion. Taste and add salt if needed. Your stew is ready!

- To serve, pour piping hot stew into individual earthenware bowls (they keep heat nicely) or, even better, into individual chafing dishes. Break an egg into each bowl and serve. I like this stew eastern-european way - with a nice piece of country bread with a tough "noisy" crust.

- Enjoy!


- It's crucial to serve it very in order egg to be cooked properly. It's up to eater: to break egg in a bowl into thin strings or to keep it whole, let whites to cook and have yolk runny.

It's a small anchovies. If you use larger anchovies - tear off heads and remove intestines (that's why I don't like to use bigger ones - too much work :))
This is kelp. Visually it's not very appealing. Those white dust is not mold, it's salt. Though they are nice to touch - leathery and flexible. 

Garlic (and onion, not shown here) goes in a pot unpeeled - we just need to grab a flavor out of it.

fish out shiitake, cut off stems (they are not usable - too woody and tough) and slice them. They might be a ted undercooked but we are not done with them just yet

stock looks like yellow pearl
I use frozen peeled and deveined shrimp

I "chickened-out" and put just a half of chili pepper in my stew. It's better to "underspice" than to go over the top with it

gochugaru is my favorite type of red pepper flakes - relatively mild, beautifully red. They sold at my local asian market in a huge bags.

right before adding shrimp and seafood