>>Grocery Trekker by Sharon Hahn Darlin Blog archive at the bottom of the page.
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2008-10-25

>"parent-child" bowl 親子丼 vs. "strangers" bowl 他人丼

What is oyakodon (親子丼)? This donburi dish comes with chicken and eggs. A family assembled in a bowl.

(parent) + (child) +
(bowl) = oyakodon

What is in tanindon (他人丼)? This donburi comes with meat (beef, pork...) and eggs, that is to say, strangers gathered in a bowl.

(other, third) + (person) + (bowl) = tanindon

Don't like parents or strangers? You want to go simply eggy? Then 卵丼 it is.

(egg) + (bowl) = tamagodon

Don't like bowls? Omuraisu, then - not tonight, though, brat.

2008-10-19

>marbled ribeye beef, "flower" or "frosty" cut, 꽃등심, 霜降り肉

Talk about apples and oranges.

Bon vivants routinely attempt good-natured taste-offs, and the quest for the best tasting beef is no exception. Ever since wagyu
(和牛) or Kobe beef rose in prominence, diners have been asking for, and at times disappointed by, the exquisitely prepared dish, as steak or otherwise. It does not help that expectation tends to be rather high when you pay a hefty premium.

Well, not every cut of a wagyu or the pricey 한우 (hanu) tastes the same (do I get to say "duh"?) which definitely makes it an advantage to be friendly with your butcher.

Cattle breed makes a difference, so do feed and age (and preparation.) But the most important criterion is which part of the animal the cut of meat comes from.

Taste is a subjective matter, but one consensus is that the tastiest cut hails from a specific rib area, with rich marbling and just the right balance of flavor. In the part of the world where beef is most treasured, minutely classified and priced accordingly, this would be the "flower" or "frosty" cut - 꽃등심 / 霜降り肉, which are mostly translated as marbled "sirloin". It's a general mistranslation owing to their antiquated dictionaries. What they are looking for is closer to prime rib, rib steak or rib-eye roll area rather than sirloin, within thoracic (not cervical or lumbar) vertebrae 1 through 13. (Cows have 13, humans have 12.)

Another taste criterion: It helps if the cow was fat and idle. (Requiescat in pace.)

2008-10-17

>self-heating train lunch box, ekiben, 加熱式駅弁

Self-heating cans existed during World War II. Quicklime added to water produces heat. Apparently its history goes further back, to the turn of the century pioneers.

In our time,
flameless chemical ration heaters appreciated by soldiers on the field are mostly ignored by pampered civilians living in office and home microwave cocoons. We don't need this portable source of heat in the kitchen.

A company which is trying to apply this ancient technology to our modern lives,
OnTech (Ontro), seems to be concentrating their efforts on beverage. Coffee, mostly, and it seems to me their effort is slightly misguided.

Think of a place where you'd need this convenience the most. Long hikes (not camping, necessarily - it is fun to fire up that little butane stove), long train rides. it's not too hard to carry a little hot thermos, and I don't mind cold drinks in any case.

It is still pretty neat to ponder, however, a self-heating lunch box.

In Japan (and China - 自熱式, self-heating style), there are actually enough people on the trains for this convenience to be viable. And here they are, the self-heating meals, mistaken for a brand new technology, "latest invention" according to this WSJ.com video caption.

熱式駅弁 (kanetsushiki ekiben) added heat style train station lunch box
過熱式駅弁 (kanetsushiki ekiben) superheating style train station lunch box



2008-10-15

>rice balloon cake 바람떡

This stuff is ethereal, yet dense.

It's no puff pastry, it's close to poetry. The almost elastic rice cake dough makes an airtight skin possible, and this concoction immediately brings to mind soup dumpling pouches (小籠包, xiaolongbao), except these balloon cakes are not filled with broth, but air. Well, half air, half sweet filling.

What do balloon cakes look like? Surfboards crossed with balloons. Overblown paraglider chutes?

바람떡 sounds close to "baramtuck," but apparently no one calls it that. Here, you'll see why.

Bite-size starchy snacks, different forms of
粿 (kueh) are found throughout Asia, and the concept is as big as "cookie" or "cake" itself. Unfortunately, 떡 (tuck) the traditional Korean confectionery, comparable to 和果子 (wagashi) or もち (mochi), is not that easy to transcribe. Korea also has a rich, diverse snack culture, (no, they don't call them desserts) and they do not customarily partake in them right after a meal. They are terrible marketers, so you rarely hear what goodies they are hiding in their grandma's kitchen.

Also, we don't hear about them because their language is difficult
and catchy names are hard to come by.


바람 (baram) is wind/air, simple enough.

Then there is 떡. How would you like to remember "tteok", the official version? You also have thuck, 'tuck, ddok, dduk, duk, tuk, ttuk, ttok, [t͈ʌk], tʌk̚, ddeock, dok, ddeock, dok, ddeog, teok, tok, tok, tock.

Uh, I don't care how tasty you are, you have to have a name, like ... "cupcake"!

Some try to call it sticky cake. I doubt it will stick, since 떡 is not the only sticky cake around. Some are not even sticky. I personally like tuck.

This particular air-filled (by this machine) delicacy, 바람떡 (baramtuck), is also known as 개피떡 (gappy'tuck?)

I shall call it "rice balloon cake." Wind cake...? More tucks to come.


2008-10-14

>a kuppa soup, クッパ, 국밥

Kuppa is a huge East Asian tradition.

Decidedly more generous than a mere cuppa,
as common as pizza and paella,
enjoyed in Japan by way of Korea,

this versatile dish has so far
eluded detection by savvy foodistas.


If you like a hearty bowl of soup/stew, see for yourself. Try googling kuppa (クッパ). You will find virtually nothing in English, but numerous entries are written for クッパ, and
the dish (料理) appears ahead of the Nintendo game character (ゲームキャラクター) Koopa, also written as クッパ.

It is sometimes called クッパスープ,
"kuppa soup", and there are hundreds of recipes online. (クッパレシピ, クッパの作り方, etc.). 국밥 sounds like "cook bop" ("cook Bob"?), and might explain gukbap's relative obscurity, as opposed to, say, bibimbop♪(비빔밥, ビビンパ, bibinpa, bibimbap).

The dish means "soup rice", so naturally
rice is used in the stew instead of noodles. Beef (소머리국밥 and karubi kuppa, カルビクッパ) seems to be the meat of choice, but depending on regional origin, you may see pork (돼지국밥, デジクッパ) sausage (순대국밥, スンデクッパ) bean sprouts (콩나물국밥, 豆もやしクッパ) or tofu (두부국밥, 豆腐クッパ) featured as the main ingredient. Pictured right is a seaweed kuppa. (미역국밥, ワカメクッパ)

You may be able to order this dish at 焼肉 (yakiniku, "grilled meat", 불고기, bulgogi) BBQ restaurants, but your best bet, of course, is to find a restaurant that specializes in this dish. The broth is key.

Restaurants have mutated overseas, however, so even if you find a place that serves this dish and does it well (again, broth is key) communication is an issue. I suggest you print this page.