On road trips to visit my grandmother in Santa Barbara, we used to pass billboards advertising Andersen's World's Best Split Pea Soup. I don't think I even liked split pea as a kid, but my gullible 8-year-old brain was shocked that we never stopped to try something dubbed the best in the world. Perhaps my parents knew better . . . perhaps they, too, had been sucked in by this extravagant claim and subsequently disappointed. We never stopped. I believe the restaurant still exits, so one day I hope to put my unanswered questions to rest.
My recent memories of split pea soup are colored by thick, gloppy, paste-like substances that required serious will power to swallow. So it never occurred to me to attempt it from scratch until my mom gave me a leftover ham bone (she knows me so well). It was well worth it: the soup had a creamy consistency, and the herbs and spices gave it more depth than I remember. For the recipe, read on.
Every now and then, I come across a dish that makes me say "DUH!" — yes, a dish so elementary in its concept, it makes me speak like a 14-year-old. Yook soo is beef broth that you drink like tea. DUH. How perfectly genius is that? It's usually served at naeng myun restaurants where the steaming, rich broth offsets the cold spiciness of bibim naeng myun or hwae naeng myun. It's also a great counterpoint to the vinegary tartness of mul naeng myun. I can usually go through a jug of this stuff on my own . . . I don't think that you're supposed to drink that much, hence the strange looks from our servers when I request for my cup to be refilled again and again. But to be honest, I don't really care about appearances when I'm confronted with a seemingly bottomless carafe of yook soo. It's that good.
I made a pot of this a few months ago, and we managed to polish it off rather quickly. So tonight I pulled out the 16-quart stockpot and went to town. As with any rich stock, it needs to simmer for several hours to draw the flavor out from the bones. In fact, as I write this, it's still on the stove. Not sure where I will end up storing it all considering that my freezer is at capacity. Guess we'll just have to drink it. Darn. For the recipe, read on.
It's amazing the difference between what you learn at college versus what you learn and retain during those four years. I went to (some) classes, took exams, and came out the other end with a degree, but can I solve the limit of a function when x approaches a constant or recall the dates and significance of the Han Dynasty? Sorry. I do remember all of the places I could use my student ID to buy meals on campus and who played point guard my freshman year (Anwar McQueen). And the first time I had niu rou mian was when Dave and I first started dating, and he took me to Taste of Taipei in the Durant Food Court for one of his favorite dishes. Our palates (and stomachs) demonstrated incredible tolerance back then.
Of course, if we went there today, we'd wonder what we were thinking. But for a couple of college kids who were accustomed to eating instant ramen, Jack-in-the-Box tacos, and sorority-house salad bars, it was heavenly. Later, we discovered the nuanced styles and varieties of niu rou mian at Queen House in Mountain View (fiery chili) and Spices in the Richmond District (numbing peppercorn) who both put Taste of Taipei to shame. But all had a few key ingredients: star anise, ginger, onions, soy sauce, and loads of tender beef. Mine has all of the above plus a bunch of tomatoes which really deepens the flavor of the broth. Not a bad evolution considering it all began at a dirty hole in the wall near Telegraph Avenue. For the recipe, read on.
They are talking about snow on Twin Peaks this weekend. I know they get a dusting here and there on Mt. Diablo and Mt. Tam, but Walnut Creek and Marin are practically in another country. I can see the top of Twin Peaks from my living room window, so the idea of it being that cold is really hitting close to home, and that means that all I can think of is soup.
Soup is the bubble bath of food. It's inviting, comforting, and luxurious on nights when even the dog would rather hold it than go outside for her whiz. But it's SO cold, you might need jacuzzi jets in that bathtub. And that's where jalapeños come in.
Most recipes for tortilla soup that I have tried are the Amercanized, kind of dumbed-down versions of sopa de lima, a chicken- and lime-based soup that one could do the hard way (I have...it's delicious, but I was exhausted by the time we sat down to eat), but it's actually quite easy to do a simplified version that involves the help of some store-bought chicken broth, canned diced tomatoes, and tortilla chips. Oh, and a nice punch of diced jalapeños. Because those jacuzzi jets are starting to sound really great right about now. For the recipe, read on.
As a lucky recipient of the lactose intolerance gene, I don't often get the chance to have creamy soups (technically, I could...I just wouldn't be great company for the next few hours). And when the weather gets chilly, that handicap seriously gets in the way of soup diversity. Cream of broccoli, tomato bisque...forget about it. So when I discovered that potato leek soup is creamy and dairy-free (not to mention easy), I gladly added it to my repertoire to prepare with grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches. For the recipe, read on.
Today was one of those days where inspiration took a long time to strike. The weather was gorgeous, so Lily and I went for a leisurely walk around the neighborhood before I headed to the Richmond for lunch with one of my best high school friends. By the time I got home and looked in the fridge, I had no ideas for dinner except the pangs of guilt that I had tons of fresh produce in the vegetable bin. So nabeyaki-ish udon was born! As I don't have single-serving iron pots such as the ones traditionally used for nabeyaki, I had to make do by cooking my noodles separately and carefully poaching each egg in the broth, but it was tasty all the same. For the recipe, read on.
My first encounter with miyuk guk dates back to about 2003: Dave and I were living in Mountain View, and we were fortunate to live near several great Korean restaurants, including Palace BBQ: an all-you-can-eat mecca of smoky-sweet kalbi, bulgolgi, dak gui...and virtually anything else you could wish for. One buffet line was devoted to the raw, marinated meat, another held roughly 30 types of banchan (side dishes), and the table in the back served the mundane -- but necessary -- rice and soup. The first few visits we focused our efforts primarily on the meats and banchan, but on the fourth visit, I wandered past the soup tureens to see if there was anything I was missing.
And then I found it: an enormous vat of dark green, rich-smelling broth imbued with undulating strands of wakame seaweed and bits of tender beef. I scooped up two bowls, and a love was born. Fortunately, it's incredibly easy to make, so on cold nights (as most are here in San Francisco), I can whip up a pot to serve alongside our favorite meats or even for a simple dinner with rice and the ubiquitous banchan. Read on for the recipe.