January 4, 2014 § 13 Comments
Update: I added more pictures at the end of the post of the second batch I made the next day. Much easier since I seasoned the pan one more time. As you can see, the takoyaki formed much prettier. I also added some info on what I did differently as well.
Happy New Year! Thought I’d start the first post of 2014 with one of the first dishes the Mister and and I had on New Year’s Day. We decided to get some noodles at Raki Raki since I really enjoyed my lunch with CC earlier in the week (check out CC’s post here for some great shots of ramen). I’ll post on the Mister’s and my lunch at Raki Raki at a later date.
Anyway, we enjoyed Raki squared takoyaki so much that I wanted to try making it at home. For those who aren’t familar, takoyaki are octopus balls (snicker, balls…). And you know this opens up to a whole slew of “that’s what he/she said” jokes, right???
Funny thing is that I’ve had a takoyaki cast iron pan in my Amazon save cart for over a year but just never got around to buying it. Guess I just needed somethingmotivation (like a kick in the ass). I debated between the cast iron pan, which is stove top, or get one of those fancy electric ones. In the end, I went with my first choice.
Being a noob at this, I decided to start with the simplest method and ingredients as possible, which meant not making the batter from scratch. First picture from top left: takoyaki sauce, Kewpie mayonnaise, bonito flakes, takoyaki mix. We liked the taste of the mix and quite frankly, unless I’m making takoyaki every week, I’d probably just stay with the mix. Well, unless I’m out and too lazy to go to the store.
Next we have some aonori, which will get sprinkled on top of the finished product.
A few more items: tenkasu (tempura flakes), thinly sliced green onions, and another shot of the bonito flakes. You can buy tenkasu at a Japanese market but I had a hard time finding them on the shelves so I made my own using my little Fry Daddy. I probably could have done without the tenkasu but there were some zucchinis that were crying to be tempura’ed. So two birds.
Next: the batter, tako (cooked octopus) cut into bite size pieces, and um, more tenkasu (yeah, I made quite a bit).
If you look to the left of the Fry Daddy, you can see part of the takoyaki pan. It makes up to 16 balls at a time.
I didn’t get a chance to take photos while making the (ahem) balls since I was too busy manning the pan. They were sticking to pan a bit first time out of the gate. I also had to use a bit more oil to get the balls unstuck. Definitely need to season the pan in the oven at least one more time before the next batch.
I was able to get 1 perfectly shaped ball and a handful of pretty good ones. The rest were, well, sort of resembled a sphere but they were very tasty nonetheless. Once I get the technique down, I’ll take some “in process” pictures and will do an update post. But for now, a quick summary of what I did.
First, heat the pan on medium heat (my stove). You might need medium-high heat but my gas stove cranks out some pretty good heat. I oiled the pan liberally (and more so while cooking) and when it just starts to smoke, poured in the batter, filling each hole almost full. Then add a piece or two of tako (depending on the size…that’s what she said), some tenkasu and green onions. Then pour a bit more of batter on top of each to almost overflowing. It’s okay if it overflows a bit since it’ll just get tucked in.
After a few minutes, the balls are (suppose to be) ready to be turned 90 degrees. My balls needed a bit of coaxing (that’s what he said). It took about 10-12 minutes for most of them but a few of the less cooperative ones needed a few more minutes and extra oil. (Wow, I could have gone to town on jokes with that one but I’ll refrain.) Anyway, once all the balls can be rotated fairly easily, they’re ready to be served (bwahahahaha!). Put them on a plate, add some takoyaki sauce, some mayonnaise, sprinkle some aonori and benito flakes on top and boom, takoyaki for the snacking.
I have to be honest that I was a bit disappointed when I first tried to turn them since they stuck so much. But with some finessing and some patience, all turned out well in this first rodeo! I should have taken a picture of the lone perfect ball but that got eatening first. So pictures will have to wait for the next batch.
Hope everyone had a good New Year celebration and may 2014 be everything that you wish for!
P.S. I forgot to mention that the brand of takoyaki mix was Otafuku and the package was only in Japanese. Good thing Otafuku has the instruction on their website in English! I knew most of the instructions and recognized some kanji characters but there were a couple of things that I wasn’t completely sure of. So good thing I found the English version. The takoyaki sauce was also Otafuku and it had a takoyaki recipe on the package, which I noticed after I was done cooking (of course).
P.S.S. I seasoned the pan one more time in the oven the next day and made a second batch. What a difference it made to the sticking problem. Not only was I able to turn the balls easier, it also took me half the time to make the same amount. You can see in the left picture below some balls in various cooking stages. I found I like to move some of the balls to the middle since those are hotter than the outside wells. Gets really nice and crispy. The second picture is the final product. Some of them were starting to deflate a bit as they cooled but for the most part, they retained their spherical shapes nicely.
I was able to use less oil than the first time. I suspect this will decrease a little more as I use the pan more. I was also faster in turning the balls since I have some experience now in making these suckers.
One other big thing I changed this go around was using dashi stock instead of plain water. I used dashi granules the first time and I thought there was a subtle difference in the taste for the better but not enough to where I would go out of my way. Now if I was making the batter from scratch, then certainly would opt for the dashi granules.
The third batch that I made, I used dashi stock I made from a dashi packet in boiling water. Now there I really tasted a difference. Much more flavorful, nice and dashi! This I definitely recommend.
Funny thing as I was making the second batch, I thought to myself, “Self, this is actually pretty fun to make.” Of course I had to make some ball jokes to the Mister as I was making these. But hey, who doesn’t like a good balls joke? The third time I made these, it went even faster. What I realized that go-around was that I work best by filling 6 of the holes (cavities?) first, get those prepped, then fill in another 6 more. By the time the second set was prepped, the first 6 were ready to rotate. And so on and on.
October 8, 2013 § 10 Comments
A friend of mine asked why I haven’t been posting lately. Well, life gets in the way. But also I’ve been cooking much of the same things so nothing too interesting or new, lots of Korean dishes (they need their own posts). There has been a few of things in the past month that I found interesting and new. The most recent has been homemade beef jerky and the one I’ve been most excited about.
Yup, beef jerky. We love them, eat them by the pound if we had them. Years ago when Bisher’s was still in the Old Poway location (and under the old ownership), they used to carry a spicy sweet jerky that was akin to crack. Couldn’t stop eating it but it was almost as costly as its weight in gold. Could have been for all I knew. I would have sold the kids if that’s what it meant to get more. Luckily I don’t have kids. Well, that’s if you don’t count the four-legged versions. Anywho…
The notion of making jerky is not a new one, been rolling that idea in my head for quite some time. Even tried the oven method once upon a time with sub-par results. Just never got serious about it since a dehydrator would be another gizmo to store somewhere. I really didn’t want to do the whole smoker method which required that I sort of watch over the smoker all day. With a dehydrator, I could just plug it in, walk away and in so many hours, jerky! Since life is short, I said why not. I had a gift card that was burning a hole in my pocket (as the Mister claims) and so I gotz me a new food dehydrator. The Mister wasn’t convinced that it would be cost effective to make our own say to buying Jack’s. But it’s not about being cost effective but more about time effectiveness AND having jerky that’s better than what we could buy.
I got the Nesco FD-80 based on the reviews. I liked the shape of it and the ability to control the temperature. It was a bit bigger than I realized but I was glad for the size when I did my first batch of jerky.
The recipe I used was pretty straightforward. I was making kalbi that day so I used the same liquid base and went from there.
- 1 C soy sauce (I used Sempio Korean soy sauce)
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing cooking wine (can substitute with sake or soju, I was out of both)
- 2 tablespoon Worchestshire sauce
- 1/4 C honey
- 3/4 C sugar (you can use brown sugar too)
- 2 garlic cloves (can substitute with 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
- 2 tablespoon gochugaru (Korean pepper flakes), adjust amount to your own liking
- 1 heaping tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon powder ginger (you can always use fresh, I was lazy)
- Pinch of Accent (msg), about 1/8 teaspoon (leave out if you’re squeamish)
Everything went into the blender for the marinade.This will marinade up to 2.5 lb of sliced beef.
I went with flank steak from Costco since flank is low in fat content. There were 2 pieces in the package but I just used one of them, about 2 lb. Sliced it without freezing it first. One hour in the freezer will make slicing easier but I didn’t this time. I removed some of the excess fat but there weren’t much. I was able to get two fairly consistent thickness, the thickest being 1/4″ and thinnest at 1/8″. Didn’t worry about the different thicknesses since the thicker ones went on the top 2 trays and closest to the fan and heat. Beef went into the marinade, into the fridge for 20 hours. It was 20 hours only because that’s what it worked out to be. Goal was to marinate overnight. I don’t know, can the meat be over-marinated for jerky? Certainly if the slices were too thin.
Next morning, drained and patted dry the meat so they weren’t soaking wet. Stacked and ready for drying! Like I mentioned, the thicker slices were on the top trays with the thickest on the outside of the trays since those areas dry faster.
I checked around the 5-hour point. The thicker ones were starting to look good and the thinner ones are coming along beautifully. The thinner ones were ready in about 7 hours and the thicker ones 1.5 hours later. The flavor turned out great. The thinner ones were very similar to the ones from Bisher’s, just not as hot (more pepper flakes next time!). The thicker ones were chewy, the way the Mister likes them.
The cons of having this inside the house is that the whole house smells like a teriyaki jerky factory all day long and when it gets to the almost ready point, I found it really hard not to sneak a thin piece, for taste testing purposes of course. The pros obviously is a turn-on and leave setup, for the most part. And that you can easily sneak a piece to taste test. Also after the first few hours, my nose got used to the smell. Drove the dogs crazy.
The jerky will keep at room temperature in an air-tight container for 3-4 weeks, as if they will last that long in this house. If the jerky has some fat on them, like in some of my strips where I couldn’t trim them away without tearing the meat apart, those should go in the fridge if not eaten in a few days. Those were the ones I ate first actually and the rest went into the fridge after a few days. Got a bag of it stashed way in the back for the MIL since I promised her a bag to call her own.
So was it time consuming and did the Mister think it was cost effective? He loved the taste and said it was better than any store bought version. And since all he had to do was open a bag to have some, it was extremely time “un-“consuming for him, hehe. But really, compared to what else I’ve attempted in the past, this was quite easy in prep and clean up. Oh yeah, the trays went straight into the dishwasher. So easy.
Next batch will be an attempt to make a Paleo version for the Mister at his request. I’m planning on using tamari, lots and lots of cracked black pepper with lots of red chili flakes to give it heat. He wants it hot, he’ll get hot. If it turns out well, guess what the SIL is getting for Christmas? (Holy crap, only 77 more days as of this posting.) So stay tuned for that one in the (hopefully) near future. It’ll be a good one for those who don’t want or can’t have sweet jerky.
September 14, 2013 § 9 Comments
For this year’s wedding anniversary, I suggested Ruth’s Chris Steak House. We’ve always enjoyed our past meals here and this one didn’t disappoint either.
When we arrived, we were led to a large booth that seats 6 people. I requested a booth when I made the reservation but I didn’t expect this! The host that walked us to the table sprinkled a handful of rose petals on the white linen table before he sat us down. I thought that was a nice touch. He wished us a happy anniversary and gave us our menus.
After placing our order for drinks, our server went over the menu with us since it has been a few years since our last visit. Not too much has changed with the exception of the specials menu.
The Mister decided to start off with the Tomato and Onion salad. Very nice start.
I had meat on my mind (that’s what she said) and since they had filet carpaccio as a special appetizer that night, I knew exactly what I wanted. The Mister and I actually have this deal that if we were dining out and carpaccio was on the menu, we would always order it. Deal fulfilled.
I don’t know what the deal was with all those long cheese croutons, overkill if you ask me but they were tasty. I only ate one of them. The carpaccio was awesome. I like the little side greens and generous amount of shave parm.
Apologies for the quality of the remaining pictures. I was losing natural light and the flash made much of the dishes washed out.
For sides, we usually each pick one. I chose shoestring fries as my side. (eegad, that picture is awful) This was really good! Enough to share.
The Mister chose cream spinach. This was really good! A side of ketchup for the fries.
The Mister got his usual, New York strip, cooked to a perfect medium-rare, with the blue cheese topping.
I was craving a t-bone steak. Medium-rare please!
Uh, yeah. That t-bone was huge! I only ate about a third of it.
They usually have a set dessert that they give for free for anniversaries and birthdays but our server was really nice and let us choose whatever dessert we wanted. The Mister chose the Caramalized Banana Cream Pie.
This was just okay but the Mister was in the mood for some kind of banana dessert since we were talking about banana fosters. The bananas and cream were decent but the crust bowl that holds everything together was meh.
Nonetheless we really enjoyed our meal and made a vow to come back for another visit soon.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
11582 El Camino Real
San Diego, CA 92130
August 13, 2013 § 15 Comments
Can you believe summer is almost over? We have been in the steady low 80’s here, not that I’m complaining. August has been typically the hottest month in San Diego. The record was 93F in 2003. I always seem to focus on August’s temperatures since our wedding day had felt like the hottest day ever. It really wasn’t but it felt that way.
For this year’s anniversary, I decided to get a Strawberry Freshcream cake from Paris Baguette. I was running errands in the Clairemont area so ended up at the Zion Market location. There’s also another location in H-Mart in Mira Mesa, just fyi.
I’ve been wanting to get a freshcream cake from Paris Baguette for some time and have been waiting for the right occasion. The cakes are not cheap for the size of the cakes, certainly not something I would just get on a whim. Included in the price, you can get complimentary candles as well as a plastic serving cake knife, which I thought was cool. The good news for anyone who doesn’t want to shell out $28-40 dollars or just don’t need a whole one, some of the cakes are available by the slice.
The freshcream cake reminded me of the birthday cakes my mom would buy me from Asian bakery stores when I was growing up. I love these kind of cakes because the cakes are fluffy, just lightly sweet so the fruit filling can shine through. Whipped cream frosting and filling are my favorites.
I got the smaller of the cakes available since I wasn’t sure how we (I) would like it. I figured that if we loved the cake, I can get another one for the Mister’s birthday in a couple of weeks. To quote him after his first bite, “Mmmmmm, oh this is really good.” He concurred that this was the best cake I’ve brought home to date. Even better than the strawberry coconut cake I got him last year.
Here’s a look at the x-section. The only complaint I had was that there could have been more strawberries in the filling. What little there was was sweet and fruity. I’m using all the will power that I can muster not to go slice a piece right now!
While I was waiting for my cake to be boxed, I got really hungry staring at all the pastry so I bought a small red bean mochi and a soft cheese cake. I ate both of them before I had the mind to take pictures. I did say I was really hungry, didn’t I? Both were very good. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the cheese cake but it is NOT like the Western cheesecake. This was an actual cake with cheese flavoring. The texture was soft, as in the name and had a mild cheese flavor. The texture and flavor are hard for me to explain but I liked it. You should try it. I think I’ll pick up a few more variety of desserts the next time I’m there. Certainly have to get one of these soft cheese cake for the Mister since he gave me a hard time for not getting him one. Not really a hard time but hey, I was hungry, okay?
One more thing, not hard to notice that my blog has a different look. I’m playing around with an updated theme and color scheme. There are some limitations to the template so I decided to go back to my old logo header rather than spend hours on end editing the the codes to fit the animated version. Simple is best these days. Let me know what you think.
Hope everyone’s enjoying their summer so far. Have a great rest of the week!
July 3, 2013 § 7 Comments
The Mister and I have been on a choco pie kick for the past few months. Love having one (or two) of these chocolatey chewy pies with the morning coffee! So far I’ve only tried the two main brands, Lotte and Orion. Both available at the local Korean markets. But while The Mister was in S. Korea, he sent back some Orion choco pies. It wasn’t until I bought some Orion locally that I realized there were slight differences between brands and even within the same brand. So let’s take a look at some side-by-side comparisons.
Here we have the Korean Orion brand on the left in each picture (the ones the Mister bought in Korea) and the Lotte brand on the right (bought locally in SD). Orion’s package is a little bigger than the Lotte because the actual pie is slightly bigger.
It might be a little easier to see in these pictures. The Orion is the pie on the bottom.
As far as taste, they both had the same flavors, meaning if I were to close my eyes and bite into them, I wouldn’t be able to tell solely based on taste. Texture-wise, on the other hand, was the big difference. The Orion had a softer cake. The Lotte ganache was firmer, reminding me of a s’mores like texture although the cake wasn’t dry like a graham cracker. The cake was drier than the Orion brand. The Orion was more like a whoopie pie. I think because of the softer ganache and cake, the marshmallow texture seemed to be more prominent. I tried just the marshmallow from both to see if one was softer than the other but no, they were both the same. The Mister and I both preferred the Orion brand. But neither of us would say no to a Lotte choco pie.
Even though we can get Orion brand locally, we still prefer the Korean version of Orion. Here’s why. Introducing the Orion US choco pie on the left, Orion Korean on the right.
The first thing I noticed was that the US version is smaller. The picture makes the US ganache seem shinier because of the lighting but it really isn’t.
The US cake is just minimally thicker at the most. Two other side-by-side comparison showed more of the size difference.
I didn’t take any comparison pictures of the Lotte and Orion US versions but they are pretty similar overall. The only slight difference I noticed was that sometimes the Orion cake was a little softer.
So there you go. I got some other snacks as part of the care package but they will have to wait for another post later.
Hope everyone has a fun Independence Day! Stay cool and safe!