Manti with Tomato Butter and Yogurt

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The first time Nishan had manti was at the Calgary Turkish Festival in 2013. I spotted a booth of aunties selling the tiny meat-filled dumplings and was so excited for Nishan to have a revelatory eating experience. Except the mantis weren’t very tasty, and that was that. Mantifail.

I had to make things right. Fast forward to 2017 and this recipe has righted all the manti wrongs of the world. The original version is intended to make six servings but the two of us ate the entire thing in one sitting. That’s how good these spiced manti are, covered in a yogurty, buttery, tomatoey sauce. They’re labor intensive but worth all the effort.

One last word about manti: it’s no coincidence that the name of these lamb or beef dumplings encased in a dough wrapper sound so similar to Chinese mantou and Korean mandu. Food has no borders.

Manti with tomato butter and yogurt

Ingredients:

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 egg
salt
1/2 pound ground beef
1 onion, grated
3 tablespoons minced parsley
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup Middle Eastern or Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon finely grated garlic
4 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 teaspoon paprika
Dried mint
Aleppo pepper

1. Make the dough: In a bowl, combine the flour, egg, and 1/4 teaspoon salt with 5 tablespoons of water and mix with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. On a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough until smooth, about 5 minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 1 1/2 hours.

2. Make the meat filling: In a bowl, combine the beef, onion, parsley, 1 teaspoon, salt, pepper, and mix well.

3. Make the yogurt sauce: In a bowl, combine the yogurt and garlic and season with salt. Mix well and set aside.

4. Make the tomato-butter sauce: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Stir in the tomato sauce 
and paprika and keep warm.

5. Lightly dust a baking sheet with flour. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. On a lightly floured work surface, using a rolling pin or pasta machine, roll out the dough 1/16 inch thick. Cut the dough into 2-inch squares. Spoon 
1/2 teaspoon of the filling in the center of each square. To form the manti, fold the dough over the filling to form a triangle; press the edges together to seal. Transfer the manti to the baking sheet.

6. In a large pot of boiling water, boil the manti until tender and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a serving platter. Top with the yogurt sauce and warm butter sauce, sprinkle with dried mint and Aleppo pepper and serve.

Fried Smelt with Garlic Chips

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Why don’t Americans eat smelt more often? I have a theory: for starters, it’s called smelt. Not the prettiest word, amirite? Secondly, smelt slightly resemble anchovies and there’s that whole anchovies-on-pizza revulsion thing from our collective Saturday morning TMNT cartoon childhoods. But let’s be real: smelt is delicious. And if it were called, I dunno, Maritime butterfish or Japanese elvenfish, they’d fly off the shelves.

This is my favorite way to enjoy smelt: dusted with flour, fried to a crisp, and covered in heaps of garlic. A perfect finger food. These are addictive. You have been warned.

Fried smelt with garlic chips

Ingredients:

2 or 3 large garlic cloves
3/4 pound smelt, cleaned
1/2 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons umeboshi (pickled ume plums), pitted and minced to a paste
2 cups flour
salt
vegetable oil for deep frying

1. Thinly slice the garlic cloves. In a medium saucepan, heat 1/2 inch of oil. On low heat, fry the garlic slices until lightly golden, about 7-9 minutes. With a fine mesh sieve, transfer the garlic to a plate. Sprinkle with salt and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, mix the fish sauce, water, sugar, and umeboshi. Add the smelt and leave to marinade for 15 to 30 minutes.

3. In the same saucepan as the garlic oil, add enough oil to reach 2 inches and heat to medium-high. Remove the smelt from the marinade, dredge in flour, and add to the saucepan. Deep fry until golden and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, drain smelt on a paper-lined plate and sprinkle with salt.

4. Garnish the smelt with the garlic chips and serve warm.

Green Onion Pancakes

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This might be the first bread I learned to make. I was practically a baby Yogurtsoda, obsessed with PBS’ roster of cooking shows in the 1990s. Martin Yan’s Yan Can Cook was one of my favorites and these chewy green onion pancakes looked like an irresistible snack, so I learned how to cook them.

Rolling out the dough for this unleavened bread takes a bit of getting used to but once you get the hang of it, the rest is easy. The accompanying dipping sauce isn’t authentic, but it adds a deliciously savory layer of flavor to the final dish.

Green onion pancakes

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups warm water
1/4 cup cooking oil plus additional for pan-frying
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons chopped green onions
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce

1. Place flour in a bowl. Add water, stirring with a fork, until dough holds together. On a lightly floured board, knead dough until smooth and satiny, about 5 minutes. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

2. Combine chicken broth, soy sauce, 2 teaspoons green onions, garlic, and chili garlic sauce in a bowl and set aside.

3. On a lightly floured board, roll dough into a cylinder, then cut into 12 portions. To make each pancake, roll a portion of dough to make an 8-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick; keep remaining dough covered to prevent drying. Brush with cooking oil. Sprinkle sesame oil, green onions, salt, and pepper on top. Roll dough into a cylinder and coil dough into a round patty; tuck end of dough underneath. Roll again to make an 8-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick.

4. Place a 10-inch frying pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil, swirling to coat sides. Add a pancake and cook until golden brown on each side, about 4 minutes total. Remove and drain on paper towels. Add more oil as needed and repeat with remaining pancakes.

5. Cut pancakes into wedges and serve with dipping sauce on the side.

Halibut with Wood Ear Mushrooms and Bamboo Shoots

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Gimme all the wood ear mushrooms. Dried or fresh, in soups or stir-fries, their crunchy-yet-slippery mouthfeel adds texture to any dish. In this entree, juicy, flaky halibut pairs perfectly with wood ear mushrooms and bamboo shoots in a savory sauce redolent with garlic, ginger, and green onions.

Halibut with wood ear mushrooms and bamboo shoots

Ingredients:

1/3 cup fish stock or chicken stock
3 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon brown bean sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon chili bean sauce (tobanjan)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds halibut or sea bass steaks
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup sliced bamboo shoots
1 cup fresh wood ear mushrooms, cut into thin strips
4 green onions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
6 quarter-sized slices peeled ginger, cut into thin strips
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

1. Prepare the seasonings: stir the fish stock, rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, brown bean sauce, sugar, and chili bean sauce in a small bowl and set aside.

2. Sprinkle the salt over the fish and let stand for 10 minutes.
3. Heat a wok over high heat until hot. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and slide the fish into the wok and pan-fry, turning once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Once the skin is firm, carefully transfer the fish to a plate.

4. Return the wok to high heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the bamboo shoots, mushrooms, green onions, ginger, and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the seasonings and bring to a boil.

5. Return the fish to the wok and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the seasonings are simmering, cover the wok, and simmer until the fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Turn the fish once during cooking. Remove the fish from the wok and place on a platter.

6. Stir the dissolved cornstarch into the sauce and cook, stirring 30 seconds to 1 minute. Spoon the sauce over the fish and serve.

Bibimbap

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Bibimbap! Fun to say, funner to eat. This colorful Korean rice bowl is endlessly adaptable. Keep the toppings vegetarian or add extra meat if you please. Go heavy on the seafood. Add your egg yolk raw. Or top it with a fried egg instead. The world is your oyster. (Ooh, how about oysters on bibimbap though? Can you do that?)

Bibimbap

Ingredients:

8 ounces ground beef or flank steak, cut into matchsticks
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons gochugaru
5 teaspoons sesame oil, plus more for serving
4 teaspoons sesame seeds
2 cups soybean sprouts
8 ounces spinach
2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
3 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
8 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
6 cups freshly cooked rice
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup gochujang
salt

1. Make the spicy soy seasoning: combine 1/4 cup soy sauce, green onions, 1 teaspoon garlic, sugar, gochugaru, 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, and 2 teaspoons sesame oil in a bowl. Heat 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add the beef, stirring to break up into small pieces and until cooked through and slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

2. Combine the meat, remaining tablespoon soy sauce, honey, remaining tablespoon garlic, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon sesame seeds in a large bowl. Set aside.

3. Clean the soybean sprouts and pick out any brownish roots. Put the sprouts in a saucepan, add 1/2 cup water, cover, and cook over high heat for 5 minutes. Drain and mix with a pinch of salt and 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil. Set aside.

4. Blanch the spinach in boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain and rinse under cold water. Drain again and squeeze out excess water. Coarsely chop the spinach and mix with a pinch of salt and 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil. Set aside.

5. Heat 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil in a skillet over high heat. Add the carrots and cook until slightly wilted, about 1 minute. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

6. Combine the zucchini and and pinch of salt in a bowl and let stand for a few minutes, then pat dry. Add the zucchini and saute until slightly wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil, remove from the skillet, and set aside.

7. Combine the cucumber and and pinch of salt in a bowl and let stand for a few minutes, then pat dry. Add the cucumber and saute until slightly wilted, about 1 minute. Remove from the skillet, and set aside.

8. Heat 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add the mushrooms, stirring occasionally until softened, about 3 minutes. Remove and set aside.

9. To serve, divide the hot rice between 4 to 6 bowls and arrange the vegetables and beef on the rice. Top with egg yolks while the rice is still hot. Sprinkle the bibimbap with sesame seeds, drizzle with sesame oil to taste, and serve with gochujang and soy seasoning sauce on the side.