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.

Cold Soba Noodles with Walnut Paste and Dashi

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It’s hot outside. You need cold pasta. You need radishes. You need this soba noodle salad.

This easy entree is a little bit salty, a little bit sweet, and entirely refreshing. You may not be used to seeing walnuts in a Japanese-style dish, but don’t omit this part. Trust me, it works.

Cold soba noodles with walnut paste and dashi

Ingredients:

1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 cups water
3 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 4-inch square dried kombu seaweed
2 ounces bonito flakes
1 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
6 ounces daikon, peeled and grated
6 green onions, thinly sliced
12 ounces soba noodles

1. Make the dashi: In a saucepan, combine water with mushrooms and let stand for 1 hour. Add kombu and bring the water to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, discard the mushrooms and kombu, and stir in bonito flakes. Let steep for 10 minutes. Pour the dashi through a sieve set over a bowl and discard the bonito flakes. Set aside.

2. Make the kaeshi sauce base: in a small saucepan, combine soy sauce, mirin, and 2 tablespoons sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the sugar dissolves, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the sauce cool. Set aside.

3. In a food processor, grind the walnuts with the remaining sugar until it forms a paste. Set aside.

4. In a small bowl, stir the dashi with the kaeshi sauce base to make a dipping sauce. Set aside. Decoratively place the grated radish and green onions on a serving plate, keeping each in its own separate pile.

5. In a large pot of boiling water, cook the soba noodles until al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain the noodles and rinse the noodles under cold running water until the water runs clear. Drain again divide the noodles among 6 serving bowls. Serve the noodles immediately with the dipping sauces, grated radish, and scallions.

Goya Champuru (Okinawan Bitter Gourd Stir-Fry)

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For the uninitiated, goya champuru is a bitter gourd, pork, and egg stir-fry originating on the Japanese island of Okinawa. It’s like the comfort food I never grew up with, a dish balancing soft with crunchy, bitter with savory.

But is my version even goya champuru? I omit the traditional pork belly, which I understand is a pretty consistent ingredient despite there being countless versions of goya champuru throughout Okinawa. But you know what? This is still one of my favorite dishes to cook and eat. If you’ve never had bitter gourd you’re in for a treat. The soft tofu and ethereal eggs are a perfect foil for the astringent bitter melon.

Goya champuru

Ingredients:

3 small bitter melons (about 1 pound)
2 teaspoons salt
1 block (12 ounces) extra-firm tofu
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup dashi broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 eggs lightly beaten
1/3 cup bonito flakes

1. Cut each bitter melon in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, remove and discard the seeds. Slice the bitter melons crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons and transfer to a bowl. Add the salt, toss until evenly combined, and let stand for 20 minutes. Using your hands, squeeze the bitter melon to release as much liquid as possible, then transfer to a colander and rinse under cold running water. Squeeze again to drain any liquid, transfer to paper towels, and pat dry.

2. Place the tofu on a flat plate lined with a kitchen towel. Cover the tofu with another towel and plate and then weight the plate with two 14-ounce cans to press the tofu and release excess water. Let the tofu stand for 20 minutes. Remove the weights and uncover the tofu. Using your hands, crumble the tofu into 1-inch pieces into a bowl.

3. In a medium skillet, heat the oil over high. Add the bitter melon and cook, undisturbed, for 5 minutes. Stir and cook 2 minutes more. Add the tofu along with the dashi and soy sauce and cook until the liquid has almost completely evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and cook, stirring to break up the curds, until the eggs are just cooked, 2 minutes more. Remove the skillet from the heat and pour the stir-fry onto a serving platter. Sprinkle with bonito flakes and serve warm.