Hokkaido Potage (AKA Pumpkin Soup)

 

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Hokkaido Pumpkin Potage

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m an American, or just underexposed to culinary words, but potage was a new word for me. In case it is for you too, it’s a soup where you boil everything until it’s soft. In other words, a very very easy soup.

I was a little bit on the fence about posting this recipe here because I’ve been trying to focus on Asian dishes. However, even though this is a Western dish, I feel like it is the sort of thing that would be popular in Japan. To reassure myself, I did a quick Cookpad search and it turned up over 5,000 potage recipes written in Japanese. So there!

The original recipe that inspired this one comes from an online Asian store demonstrating how to use kabocha. Inside of Japan they translate it as “pumpkin,” in the West I’ve always seen it referred to as “kabocha squash.” In Germany, Hokkaido squash is the most common squash, and luckily quite similar to kabocha. So that is what I used here. I found it funny that the most common squash in Germany also has a Japanese name! I’m not an expert, but I think the main difference is that the Hokkaido is a little softer and has a thinner skin. I think sugar pumpkin would also probably work well if you can’t find kabocha or Hokkaido.

Hokkaido Pumpkin Potage

Serves 2, Time: approximately 30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter or bacon grease

1/2 kabocha or Hokkaido squash (sugar pumpkin is also probably fine, but I’ve never tried it)

2 carrots (or 1 really big fat one)

1 russet potato (about the size of a small lady’s palm, not a huge man one 🙂 )

1/2 large white onion, minced

500 ml chicken broth

100 ml cream

salt

pepper

basil (optional)

First: Clean out the seeds and the squishy part from the squash. Peel and cut the squash into large chunks. Around 1 inch by 1 inch is good, but the exact size isn’t that important. You just want it to cook quickly when it’s simmered. Mince onion. Cut carrot into small bite sized pieces (mine were about 1/4 inch thick, left in a round carrot shape). Peel and cut potato into quarters. Aside from the onion, the size you cut things really doesn’t matter that much.

Second: Sauté onions in butter until translucent. They should be soft, but not brown.

Third: Add the other vegetables and chicken broth. Bring everything to a boil, then turn the heat down. Put the lid on and simmer until everything is soft. Mash or puree the soup. If you like a thicker consistency, put the soup back on the hot stove and allow the soup to simmer until it reaches your desired consistency. When you are happy with the consistency, continue to the next step.

Fourth: Stir in cream and season to taste with remaining ingredients.

Done! My preferred accompanying menu: brussels sprouts cooked with bacon (and garlic), bread, and butter.

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I was so happy to have this leftover mug of soup for lunch today!

Link to the original recipe this was adapted from at Japancentre.com.

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Couple’s Dolsot Bibimbap

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Dolsot bibimbap…sort of

So, I’ve tried to make bibimbap a few times, but have never been terribly satisfied with the results. Making it at home, the rice didn’t have that crunch of being cooked onto the piping hot stone bowls (dolsot) they use at restaurants. However, I wasn’t a big fan of spending 15 dollars per bowl for a recipe I make less than once a month.

But, it occurred to me that I own something else that’s hot like a dolsot stone bowl–a frying pan! And my frying pan is also coated in some kind of stone teflon free stuff. That counts as stone, right? Apparently so! After cooking everything separately, I stuck the rice in the hot pan and put the toppings on. My husband and I ate out of it with spoons while watching TV. It was fun and cozy sharing a big pan of food between the two of us. So, I have named this “Couple’s Dolsot Bibimbap.”

One of my favorite things about bibimbap (and most Korean food) is that there are a lot of vegetables incorporated into the dish. Each of these vegetables adds flavor and texture too. They’re not just there to make you feel healthy! And of course there’s some tasty meat too! Don’t be too turned off by the long list of ingredients. Most of this is just sautéing quickly for 2-3 minutes and then moving on to the next ingredient. For best results, do vegetables first, then meat, then eggs.

This was super fun to make, and fun to eat! I hope you enjoy it!

Bibimbap

Ingredients:

Cooked White Rice, enough for two people

Fried Eggs (I made three for the two of us)

For the Beef:

Bulgogi marinade (I bought a jar from the store, but you can make your own if you want)

Beef, as much as you want, cut into small, thin strips (we used 100 grams (3.5 oz.) for the two of us)

For the Vegetables:

Carrots, julienned, about 2 cm or 1 inch long, as many as you want ( I used 2 carrots)

Shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin (I rehydrated some dry ones by microwaving them in a bowl of water for a few minutes), as many as you want (I used about 4 mushrooms)

Salt, to taste

Small amount of oil, for frying

70 grams or more (2-3 Packed Cups) Spinach, or Baby Spinach

1/2 Teaspoon Sesame Seeds

1/2 Teaspoon Soy Sauce

1/2 Teaspoon Sesame Oil

For the Sauce:

2 Tablespoons Gochujang

1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar

1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil

1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar

1 Teaspoon Toasted Sesame Seeds

1 Tablespoon Water

Method:

For the Vegetables:

Carrots: Sprinkle carrots with a pinch of salt. Using a little bit of oil cook the carrots on medium high until soft with a slight crunch (or preferred doneness). Remove from heat.

Mushrooms: Sprinkle mushrooms with a pinch of salt. Using a bit oil, cook mushrooms until soft and cooked entirely through.

Spinach: Combine spinach with 1/4 cup (60 ml) of water and cook on high heat until the spinach turns dark green. Immediately drain excess water, and squeeze the spinach with your hand to remove more moisture. Stir in sesame seeds, sesame oil, and soy sauce.

For the Sauce:

Combine all the sauce ingredients, and slowly add water until you like the consistency.

For the Meat:

Marinate meat for at least one hour. Cook on high heat quickly with a small amount of oil. Remove from heat.

Assemble and Eat:

Put eggs in center with sauce, and group the other ingredients around the edges. Contrasting colors next to each other is best. Admire it for a second, then mix it up with a spoon and dig in!

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So good! I’m getting hungry again just looking at this!

Fun fact: Unlike Japanese and Chinese, Koreans eat their rice with a spoon, not chopsticks! Want to learn more about proper utensils and eating etiquette? Check out this fun Reddit thread.

Big thanks to Sue at My Korean Kitchen. My recipe is based on hers. She also has a lot of different vegetable variations! The sauce especially, is almost the same. Here’s the link.

Samgyeopsal: Korean Lettuce Wrap

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I can say without reservations that samgyeopsal is my FAVORITE way to eat lettuce! While I would probably struggle to eat a salad as a main course, my husband and I can easily eat an entire head of lettuce when we’re eating samgyeopsal.

So what exactly is samgyeopsal? It’s grilled pork belly, eaten with different sauces, particularly ssamjang, wrapped in leaves, sometimes with other veggies on the side or in the wrap. It is ridiculously easy, and ridiculously delicious. I like to serve it with rice, kimchi, pajeon, and other banchan (Korean side dishes). If you’re feeling lazy, or are short on time, it’s great by itself with just rice!

There are a lot of ways to make samgyeopsal. You can use and combine different sauces. I’ve seen people eat it with raw garlic or sautéd garlic. You can use a mild lettuce like Bib lettuce, or layer different varieties in one wrap (Perilla is popular in Korea). My husband likes to add kimchi to his. In Korea, I’m pretty sure I also saw someone eating theirs with a raw jalapeño! My version tends toward the milder and simpler side, but keep in mind that you can customize this to your own tastes.

A note on finding ingredients: Ssamjang can usually be found in a small plastic tub in your local Asian market. If they don’t have good labeling in your native language, look for an icon with spicy red sauce and vegetables on it. Or you know, just ask someone for help. Here’s what mine looks like:

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Notice the lettuce in the corner? That’s how you know it’s the right one. I only realized today when I was taking this picture that there’s also English on the label! Oops!

Alright, let’s make some samgyeopsal!

Samgyeopsal

Serves: 2 people

Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

1 large onion, sliced

2-3 garlic cloves (leave whole for more spice, slice thinly for a milder one)

200 grams (about 1/2 lb.) pork belly

20+ edible leaves of your choice (In Korea this is usually served with a large variety of different types of leaves ranging from mild bib lettuce to pungent Perilla. I usually just stick with Bib lettuce, because it’s large and mild.)

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

Ssamjang Paste (50 grams (1/3 cup USA) is probably enough for 2 people)

First: Slice the pork belly as thinly as possible. Paper thin like sukiyaki is best, but mine usually ends up significantly thicker. Cut to whatever length you want in your wrap. Lightly sprinkle both sides with salt.

 

Second: Heat a frying pan to high heat and place the pork on it. When one side is done cooking, immediately flip and cook the other side (about 1 minute or less per side). Pork is like chicken breast in that there’s a narrow margin of juicy and delicious that lives between underdone and unsafe and overdone and tough. If you have a grill, go ahead and grill it! It’ll be extra delicious! Remove from heat and move to serving dish (cover with foil to keep it warm if you’re not ready to eat yet)

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Behold, my inability to cut meat into the same size and shape 🙂
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Stilled turned out okay!

Third: If possible, do this while the pork is cooking. In a separate pan, cook the onions and garlic cloves on medium to high heat until fragrant, slightly opaque and wilted. If you want a sweeter onion, add some oil and cook until they start to brown and caramelize. Remove from heat. Again, you can do this on a grill if you want.

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Cook onions and garlic to whatever charred or caramelized state you prefer

Fourth: You’re ready to eat! Assemble your wrap by spreading some ssamjang on a leaf of lettuce along with pork, and (if desired) onion and/or garlic cloves. Wrap it up and eat it!

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Yum!