I had Korean barbecue in Hong Kong at a restaurant called Kan Kan Kan situated in a shopping centre tucked away in a corner you would easily miss if you weren’t looking for it. It’s one of those places that sticks a hot grill in the centre of your table and gives you a selection of meat and seafood to cook on said grill while surrounding the table with small plates of salads and garnishes, in other words you play chef for the night.
It’s a great experience and Korean food is delicious, why isn’t it more popular back home? Such a great combination of marinated pork belly, spicy kimchi and a lettuce leaf to encase it all in. That’s just one feature of the experience. Everything was good, the rice dishes, grilled prawns, all sorts. Chopsticks,however, for the inexperienced are a mission at the best of times. This place provided metal ones. Metal sticks + greasy meat = a job and a half eating your dinner. We managed. Just.
So on the Korean theme here’s another of the Changmeisters installments, a popular Korean snack of rice cakes served with a red dragon sauce. Rice cakes are almost like frozen mashed potato pellets in appearance. These are made by beating rice until it’s strong enough to be rolled into sticks. They are then toasted on a grill or skillet, cut into pieces and served in a sweet sauce. I found these cakes already sliced into the size recommended to finish the dish in the freezer section of my local chinese supermarket.
This is a pretty quick dish that can be finished in under an hour provided you have some ramen broth to hand. I began with the roasted onions which take around 50 minutes for a large quantity but as i was doing a portion for two of us the cooking took around 20 minutes. I roasted the sliced onions on a high heat in a saucepan with a little vegetable oil and sea salt. This is until slightly charred and slowly cooked on a low heat until golden and soft.
Next up is the red dragon sauce which begins by making a simple syrup of sugar and water before adding ssamjang, a korean pepper paste. I’d had gochujang paste before, unfortunately in a large quantity and it about eroded my insides! Really fiery stuff, thankfully ssamjang is a lot calmer. I seasoned the sauce with a little sherry vinegar, light soy sauce and sesame oil while I reduced a little ramen broth and some mirin. The sauce then gets added to the reduction and reduced until thickened.
I have to say the reduced sauce was one of the best things that i’ve ever tasted. Sweet, sharp, spicy, salty, it had everything, so so good. Final step is to roast the rice cakes on the hob in a pan. They took a little longer, defrosted of course, than Chang specifies in the book. However once they took on a great golden colour and slight char I was in business. All that’s left is to add the sauce and serve, garnishing with spring onions and sesame seeds
I’ll be honest and say that this dish blew me away. The flavour of the sauce as stated earlier was insane. However the onions and the texture of the rice cakes take it to another level. The best way I can describe this is like eating crispy pork with a slight chewy texture in a sweet sauce with slight smokiness coming from the onions. It’s just brilliant and you have to try it. Bravo Mr David Chang.
Momofuku by David Chang is available from Amazon