Beef and Asparagus Stir-Fry with Noodle Pancake

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I’ve been making this dish since I was a teenager. I can’t even remember the source anymore, and over the years, it’s changed from the original recipe to something entirely anew. But it remains one of my favorite things to cook and eat. The Hong Kong-style crispy noodles soak up the spicy, savory sauce oh so wonderfully. The meat is tender. The vegetables are crisp. This dish, my friends, hits all the right notes.

It may take a while to cook, but the results are well worth it. The leftovers won’t last nearly as long as you think they will. Consider yourself warned.

Beef and asparagus stir-fry with noodle pancake

1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon ginger
1 lb sirloin beef or flank steak, sliced thin
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
8 ounces fresh thin Chinese egg noodles
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces

1. Marinade beef: stir rice wine, soy, 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, garlic and ginger in a large bowl. Add beef to marinade.

2. In a separate bowl, mix chicken broth, oyster sauce, chili garlic sauce, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, pepper and sesame oil together. Set aside.

3. Cook noodles in large pot, according to directions. Drain, rinse under cold water, drain again.

4. Heat nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and coat. Spread noodles evenly and cook, pressing lightly from time to time to form a cake, until bottom is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn cake over. Drizzle one tablespoon oil on bottom and cook other side, about 5 minutes. Transfer to plate.

5. Heat wok over high heat and add remaining tablespoon of oil. Add meat and stir fry until cooked through and no longer pink. Remove from wok. Add onion to wok and stir fry for two minutes. Add asparagus and cook for four minutes.

6. Return meat to wok, pour in sauce and bring to boil. Cook until slightly thickened, about two minutes. Spoon over noodle pancake and serve.

A Weekend Road Trip to San Diego

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Sometimes all you need are a couple of days away in the same time zone to recharge. Most Californians take the quick route down to Southern California via Highway 5, but this time around, I wanted to enjoy the scenic route. Here’s my recommended itinerary for a roadtrip to a long weekend in San Diego, Yogurtsoda style.

Big Sur

Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles

Day one: Wake up early for the long, beautiful coastal drive down Highway 1. Stop in Carmel to grab a coffee. Putter through Big Sur and take in the vistas. Once you’re in Los Angeles, take a detour away from Highway 1 to Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles in Long Beach for dinner. The rush hour gridlock will be worth it. Afterwards, finish the drive to San Diego and check in to your hotel. (Make sure to bring Roscoe’s leftovers with you.)

La Jolla Cove

Don Carlos Taco Shop

Day two: Head to La Jolla Beach for a lazy beach day and walk along the coast. Eat tacos.

Coronado Beach

Tacos

Day three: Drive over to Coronado Beach for gold sand, happy crowds, and lots of ice cream. Eat more tacos.

Mashti Malone's ice cream sandwich

Day four: Check out early and get on the road back to Northern California. Take the much faster Highway 5 back and save yourself a few hours. Before leaving Southern California, definitely stop at an Iranian grocer and grab a kalbas (mortadella) sandwich and ice cream sandwich for the road.

Fresh Cabbage and Cucumber Kimchi

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Ever since the Great Kimchi Disaster of 2005, where I naively thought that using pre-packaged kimchi flavoring powder on cabbage would result in the vinegared vegetables of my dreams, I’ve stayed away from trying to make kimchi.

Until now. This kimchi recipe is fresh rather than fermented, resulting in a crispy texture. Less funk, more crunch. The preparation couldn’t be simpler and the results are oh so worth it.

Cabbage, cucumber, and radish kimchi

Ingredients:

1 small head napa cabbage (1 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
5 Persian cucumbers, sliced 1/3 inch thick
3/4 pounds daikon, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
10 radishes, quartered
1/4 cup salt
1/3 cup ginger, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup gochugaru
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 green onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sugar

1. Place the cabbage, cucumbers, daikon and radishes in 4 separate bowls. Add 1 tablespoon of the salt to each bowl and toss well to coat the vegetables. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, in a blender, combine all of the remaining ingredients and puree until smooth.

3. Drain the vegetables and squeeze out excess water. In a bowl, mix all of the vegetables with the gochugaru-vinegar sauce. Cover the kimchi and refrigerate overnight before serving.

Fish Cutlets

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The first time I tried fish cutlets I thought I’d accidentally set my mouth on fire. I hadn’t yet acclimated to Sri Lankan levels of spiciness (read: extremely spicy) and I was expecting cutlets similar to, you know, Iranian kotlet. The next thing I knew I was downing ice water in a futile attempt to revive my taste buds.

Fast forward a few years and I can pop these cutlets like no one’s business. They’re delicious, and lucky for you, dear reader, you can adjust the chile level according to your own preference. Fish cutlets are easy to make and are perfect as an appetizer. I like to serve them alongside Iranian yogurt with cucumbers and mint (mast-o-khiar) as a cooling dip.

Sri Lankan fish cutlets

Ingredients:

1 potato, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus additional for frying
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 inch piece ginger, minced
2 green chiles, chopped
1 sprig curry leaves
1 can tuna
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon ground fennel
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
salt to taste
1 lime, juiced
1 egg, beaten
2 cups breadcrumbs

1. Boil potato in water until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain.

2. Heat two tablespoons oil in a pan. Saute onions until translucent. Add garlic, ginger, green chiles, and curry leaves and saute for 5 minutes, until lightly browned.

3. Add tuna, potatoes, cayenne pepper, coriander, cumin, fennel, turmeric, black pepper, and salt. Mash potato with the back of a wooden spoon while tossing ingredients in pan. Add lime juice, saute for 3 minutes, and set aside to cool.

4. Using your hands, form filling into 2 inch-size balls. Beat egg in a bowl and dip balls into mixture. Spread out breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl and coat cutlets with breadcrumbs.

5. Heat oil in a deep pan to 350 degrees. Oil should be deep enough to shallow fry the cutlets. Fry cutlets until golden brown, turning occasionally to evenly brown. Remove cutlets with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve warm or room temperature.

Sigeumchi Namul (Korean Spinach Banchan)

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The best sigeumchi namul I ever had was during a hurried ten hour stopover in Seoul. My sister and I had just spent a week in Hanoi and were on our way back to San Francisco. Exhausted, we were determined to see — and eat — as much as we could during our day long excursion into the city. Our banchan spread during lunch in a nondescript Insadong restaurant included this spinach banchan. Jet lagged and half asleep, the bright, fresh greens perked me up and fortified me for the precious few hours we had in the city. The rest of the meal was just as good, but that’s another story.

Whenever I eat this simple but delicious spinach dish, I’m transported back to that rainy day in Insadong. This mild banchan comes together in less than 15 minutes. Perfect for when you’re exhausted but hungry.

Sigeumchi namul (spinach banchan)
Ingredients:

1 pound spinach, trimmed
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

1. Fill a saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the spinach and blanch for 1 minute, then drain in a colander and rinse under cold water to cool. Drain and squeeze out excess water, then chop into 1-inch pieces.

2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Add the spinach and toss to coat. Serve or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.