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archive for asian

going back to cauli

Sunday, April 19th, 2020

Recipe: cauliflower karaage

We’re in the middle of our sixth week of self-isolation and no one has gone off the deep end yet. Colorado’s governor recommended wearing face masks in public places a few weeks back, so I consulted with my mother-in-law on patterns (she and her quilting pals have been sewing a bazillion to donate to health care workers!) and sewed a couple for us. Because elastic and other materials for making masks are in short supply right now, I made due with what scraps of elastic and pipe cleaners I had. The Olson mask pattern (https://www.craftpassion.com/face-mask-sewing-pattern/) took me forever on the first two, because I’m a shitty sewist and I had to learn what various terms and techniques were, and discover parts of my sewing machine I never knew existed. Jeremy’s mom said sewing in progressive assembly is much faster and my next ten definitely went faster. Then I tried a modified version of a pleated mask (second version here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCCtGq6maw8) which I think I like better. I plan to make a mashup of the two designs to optimize fit and fabric use.


my first two olson masks with nose pieces and filter pockets

my next ten to donate or exchange for a donation to the recipient’s local food bank

pleated version (with nose pieces and filter pockets)



Our neck of the woods has enjoyed a string of cold, snowy storms between stretches of gorgeous sunny days. Instead of wishing for more powder days or wishing for clear trails, we roll with it and try to enjoy whatever the atmosphere has to offer. It’s wonderful. All of our skiing is human-powered these days and I am loving it.

deliciously snowy views under a bright spring sun

skinning up through the trees

neva and yuki love barreling through the deep snow

powder day wrestlemania



Our new backpacking tent arrived in the mail this week and we set it up in the living room for a trial run (to make extra sure we want to hike into the backcountry with Wingus and Dingus and sleep in a confined space with them). It’s spacious enough to fit all of us in theory, but in practice we are going to have to tell the dogs where to sleep. Our overnight resulted in Yuki hogging the center of the tent and Neva restlessly resettling herself all night on our legs because she was too scared to snuggle up against Yuki. We’ll figure it out!

curious pups

they decided they liked it well enough



At the start of the shelter-at-home order, we went to town for groceries once a week. None of the stores had established good protocols yet. We found it quite stressful to wait in crowded lines next to people who were coughing and close-talking and acting like everything was fine. Businesses eventually implemented good practices (some faster than others) to streamline the process while we quickly figured out how to reduce to bi-monthly trips. Aside from planning our menu and having a good inventory of our food, I use the more perishable produce the first week, and prepare produce that has a longer shelf life (in the refrigerator or in the dark, cool basement) for the second week. Sometimes cooking vegetables that are on their way out will buy you a few more days in the refrigerator.

Cauliflower, like most vegetables in the Brassica family, can last in the refrigerator for more than a week. Sometimes it will start to get light brown spots, but those are fine. You can scrape or cut the brown parts off, or eat them. The browning is due to oxidation. If the spots turn dark or black and the flesh becomes soft, you are looking at rot. For small sections, cut them away. If the entire head or floret has succumbed, then it’s time to send the cauliflower into the compost. But let’s say your cauliflower is just fine. There are so many ways to enjoy this nutritious and high-fiber vegetable. I recently tried it as karaage cauliflower.


potato starch, cauliflower, garlic, ginger, sugar, sake, and soy sauce



This is the same recipe that I use for chicken karaage but without the honey sriracha sauce. I really love the subtle nutty-earthy-slightly-bitter-and-sweet flavor of cauliflower and didn’t want to mask or overpower it with sriracha. I wasn’t convinced that the marinade would come through, but it does so nicely. To make the recipe gluten-free, just substitute tamari for the soy sauce.

grate the fresh ginger

stir the soy sauce, sake, and sugar with the ginger

toss with the cauliflower and marinate for 30 minutes



**Jump for more butter**

snowy october

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

Recipe: korean jajangmyeon (black bean noodles)

Ready or not, winter is here! At least in Colorado, it’s been the snowiest October in a while with records being broken in various locations after multiple storms have tracked through the state. Not only are we experiencing a snowy October, but it is downright cold for this early in the season logging a low of -8°F at our house this morning. Even the pups couldn’t dawdle long in the yard before they had to come in to warm their little paws.


clearing after an earlier storm (but with more snow on the way!)

slipping out for a quick ski tour

fresh snow or white sand dunes?

jeremy breaking trail to earn his first turns of the season



This sort of deep freeze is conducive to baking and soup-making. So far I’ve cranked out lots of sourdough épi de blés, banana breads (the result of a sale at the local grocer on spotted bananas), and big pots of 13 bean soup. Actually, it was 12 bean soup and if you really want to know why, you can read about it on Instagram. Also noodles. Noodles are forever a part of my year-round menu because I am a bona fide Noodle Girl. But please don’t think that I stand around at home cranking out hand-pulled Asian style noodles all the time… or ever. There is no shame in store bought packs of ramen (my current favorite is Nongshim Shin Ramyun Black) that get dressed up with lots of vegetables, spicy pickled radishes, a few slices of char siu pork, and a soft-boiled egg.

I’m always on the lookout for good varieties of instant ramen that appear along the noodle aisle of the Asian grocery store. It’s hit or miss – mostly misses, but occasionally I’ll come across something worth remembering. Last year I chucked a black bean Korean noodle affair into my cart. The preparation was a simple boiling of noodles, straining the noodles, and tossing them with a packet of black bean sauce. I didn’t notice the blazing fire symbols on the packet and half of my face melted off while I ate it. It was delicious – and painful – but delicious. After a couple more face-melting events, I finally inspected the noodle packets on my next trip to the Asian grocery store and found a version of the same Korean noodles without the inferno symbol. Bingo!

At this point I was so in love with these noodles that the next logical step was to make it at home. Pictures matter, especially when you venture into unfamiliar cuisines and don’t speak or read the language. I have moderate comfort when it comes to navigating Chinese ingredients because I grew up with this stuff and I also have my Mom as a helpful reference (Dad could be considered a reference, but a lot less helpful). I understand some Mandarin Chinese, can speak less than I understand, and the extent of my reading comprehension ends at mah jong tiles. I’m a big fat zero on Korean. And so I found myself squinting at photos of black bean paste labels on my phone as I held it next to all of the black bean pastes on the shelf at the H-Mart (Korean grocer) in the Denver suburbs. Most of the pastes were spicy, but I wanted the mild version so Jeremy could eat it, too. As a last resort, you could order online. The black bean paste is probably the only ingredient you might have trouble tracking down. Everything else appears to be easier to get or substitute.


two brands of non-spicy black bean paste

the korean noodz i used (i think most asian noodles could work)



The other ingredients can be found in most grocery stores. My Whole Foods carries daikon radish on occasion, but I picked up the Korean radish from the Asian store since I was already there. And if you are more of a Rice Person than a Noodle Person, it’s easy enough to serve the sauce over steamed rice instead.

onion, cucumber, zucchini, korean radish, potato, pork belly

water, more water, vegetable oil, sesame oil, black bean sauce, salt, sugar, potato starch



**Jump for more butter**

slow, but steady progress

Monday, April 15th, 2019

Recipe: shrimp tatsuta-age

April is a flirt, taunting us with peaceful warm days of spring and chasing those with wintry snowstorms. I enjoy experiencing both kinds of weather, but this interplay of seasons certainly keeps you on your toes. We took advantage of the sunshine and sent Neva and Yuki to a doggy daycare in Boulder last week. It was their trial day as we finally caved rather than holding out hope for a competent, responsible, and professional outfit to emerge in Nederland (that trio of requirements is a rare find in mountain towns).

I went about the day expecting a call to come get my dogs because they were causing a ruckus, but none came. Instead, when we went to pick them up, they were happy and excited to see us. We learned they were both on the shy side, warming up slowly to all of the regular pups. That’s not surprising for either one considering Neva has issues reading other dogs’ signals and Yuki puts her guard up in strange or new settings as part of her survival instinct. They both received baths once we were home and then proceeded to pass out. Mission accomplished.


yuki doesn’t like baths, but she’s good about tolerating them

so tired



The next day, Colorado received her second bomb cyclone in a month. Temperatures in the teens left us with a foot of fluffy powder reminiscent of proper winter. We skied it, then we skied it with the puppies, and then we skied it again. Yuki is getting the hang of this ski dog thing (see her video here). It appears we are slated for more snow through the end of April, and I’m all for it!

uphill skiing with the pups in our local wilderness

jeremy grabs some turns in the backcountry



Neva’s fur is fluffier lately. First the fur on her hind quarters had grown thicker and softer over the holidays. In the last month, her tail began filling in with more hair and looking like the signature otter tail of a Labrador Retriever instead of her usual thin whip-like tail. We suspect it has to do with her anti-anxiety medication. She started on it last fall and it takes some weeks to see results. The prescription doesn’t make her instantly good, but it helps Neva keep a more even keel during events that would normally send her into a frenzy. With less anxiety, she is able to focus on our commands. As she concentrates on what we tell her to do, we can train her to remain calm around wildlife on the trails, or the FedEx and UPS trucks driving past the house, or strangers, or riding in the car. Pre-medicated Neva would lose SO MUCH HAIR each time she got worked up. Pre-medicated Neva would never settle down long enough to cuddle. Now, she will offer up her belly for a rub or hop onto the bed for a scratch behind the ears in the mornings. Neva still requires an enormous amount of training and she’ll probably never be a normal dog, but she seems more relaxed, happy, and furry than this time last year. I’m fairly certain that’s not because of Yuki – ha!

And while we’ve noticed incremental improvement in Neva, the same could be said for our home. The replacement of some major appliances forced us to do a serious scrub down of the kitchen last fall. We have since been slowly and methodically cleaning up different parts of the house. Tackling it all at once would leave the household cranky (me), disoriented (us), feeling hopeless (Jeremy), and confused (the pups). Breaking this behemoth endeavor down into several smaller manageable tasks increases the likelihood of success. My process involves organizing everything into categories of keepers, donations, re-purposing, recycling, and as a last resort – trash. Jeremy is a reluctant participant to my madness. It’s a bit like pulling teeth at times, but we are getting there and I try to minimize his involvement to only when necessary. I don’t think of it as the konmari method so much as making my crap easy to live with while I’m alive and easier to deal with should I die. If you’ve ever had to clean out someone’s belongings after they’ve passed on, you will understand what I’m talking about.

Don’t worry, I don’t plan on dying anytime soon. I simply like to get things in order, including fixing recipes that weren’t quite right. While I loved my friend’s interpretation of dynamo shrimp, it wasn’t what I had in mind. I spent a little time researching, tapping into my taste memory, and studying some photos I had taken of the original “dynamo shrimp” from Lil’s Sushi Bar and Grill and came up with a very close version. It’s pretty straightforward to make if you are okay with frying (pan fry or deep fry – either works). Jeremy gushes over it so much that I practically have to eat in another room.


sriracha mayo, unagi sauce, thai sweet chili sauce, raw shrimp, ginger, soy sauce, mirin, potato starch



I learned in my research that karaage and tatsuta-age (or tatsutaage) both refer to fried foods, but technically tatsuta-age is marinated before frying. It seems most people play fast and loose with the terms and rarely make the distinction between the two. I decided to go the tatsuta-age route with these shrimp because I couldn’t resist the idea of shrimp flavored with ginger, mirin, and soy sauce. Gluten-free? Good news! You can easily convert this recipe to gluten-free by subbing tamari for soy sauce in the marinade as well as in the unagi sauce (which you will need to make from scratch – but it’s easy). The coating is already potato starch, which I prefer to wheat flour for a superior fry texture.

tail-on peeled shrimp, grated ginger, soy sauce, mirin

mix the soy sauce, mirin, and ginger together

gently toss the shrimp with the marinade and sit for 5 minutes



**Jump for more butter**