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July 27, 2007

Sun Du Bu

Back when I was in graduate school and living in Berkeley, I used to eat Korean food quite a lot. Back then, my favorite dish was bibimbap - basically a big bowl of rice, topped with an assortment of raw, cooked, and pickled veggies, and a bit of meat or maybe tofu. You topped it with spicy sauce, mixed it together with chopsticks, and ate.

Since I started trying to eat a lower glycemic-index diet, enormous bowls of rice don't feature in my meals as much, and I haven't ventured into many Korean restaurants lately. Which is a shame, because I've been missing out on my new favorite Korean dish: sun du bu.

Sun du bu (which apparently means "soft tofu") is a hearty soup made with, well, soft tofu. I tried it this evening at the slightly oddly named Tofu & Box restaurant on N. First St. in San Jose. They have 4 kinds of sun du bu: seafood, mushroom, vegetable, and one other that I forget (probably some kind o meat?). I had the vegetable (carrots, zucchini, and onion), medium spicy.

Shortly after I ordered, the server brought me one of those weird iceberg lettuce salads with the creamy pink dressing that you always get in Asian restaurants, and a dish with an egg in it. I shook the egg gently, deduced from the sloshing sound that it was uncooked, and ate my salad.

Then a boiling hot bowl of red broth filled with chunks of tofu and vegetables arrived. The server picked up the raw egg and cracked it into the soup. I let the egg poach and the soup cool to a safe temperature, and ate some of the accompanying side dishes that came with the soup. (Cooked spinach, shredded pickled daikon, some kind of cooked or pickled bean sprout, and kimchee. And, of course, rice.) Based on what I've now learned by googling "sun du bu", I think you're supposed to actually stir the egg into the soup to thicken it, but I liked my poached egg.

So, what I ended up with was tofu and vegetables in a spicy broth with a poached egg. What's not to like? I think I could probably eat this stuff every day.

Posted by spaceling at 10:35 PM

July 21, 2007

Mango Nectarine Update

I've now eaten 3 of the 4 mango nectarines that I bought, and I have to say: meh. They continue to smell heavenly, and they have a very nice firm texture that would make them great for cooking, but their flavor, while pleasant, is just a bit watery. It doesn't have the intensity that I'd expect from the scent.

The firm texture, and the fact that a couple of the nectarines have a bit of green near the stem end, suggests to me that maybe they were picked a bit too early, before they were fully mature. (Russ Parsons does a great job of explaining this in How to Pick a Peach - basically, peaches and nectarines will continue to ripen after picking, but once they are removed from the tree, they pretty much have all the sugar and flavor they're ever going to develop. Pick them too early, and you're going to get an underflavored fruit.)

Posted by spaceling at 05:42 PM

Mushroom, White Bean, and Summer Squash Ragout

This recipe is a riff on the Mushroom and White Bean Ragout with Truffle Oil that I blogged a few months ago. It was inspired by my coming across some itty-bitty bite-sized baby pattypan squash at Whole Foods, and by having ~3/4 lb. of shiitake mushrooms in the fridge that really needed to be used up.

It was very tasty, and this time Mr. Spaceling ate all his mushrooms instead of picking them out. (Perhaps Mr. Spaceling like shiitake mushrooms better than crimini mushrooms? Maybe it's the magic of parmeggiano reggiano cheese? I dunno. Further experimentation warranted.)


The Steps

  1. Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium high heat, and add the leeks. Saute for a few minutes until they start to get soft.
  2. Add the garlic, sage, and mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are just starting to look cooked through, 6-8 minutes.
  3. Add the water or broth, and then arrange the squash in an even layer on top of the mushroom/leek mixture. Cover the skillet and let the squash steam until tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the cannelini beans, stir everything together, and cook for just a couple of minutes to heat through and blend the flavors.
  5. Ladle the mixture into bowls. Drizzle each serving with a bit (~1/2 tsp. or to taste) of white truffle oil, and top with a sprinkling of grated cheese.

Makes about 4 servings.

Posted by spaceling at 05:26 PM

July 15, 2007

Mango Nectarines

I discovered a new type of fruit at the supermarket today: mango nectarines. They look like largish apricots, but the skin is a pale yellow rather than orange, with a bit of green on what I assume are some of the underripe ones. They smell divine - an almost floral scent, very like a mango.

This blog post was the most informative source that a quick Google search turned up. They're not related to mangoes - they must be some kind of complicated stone fruit cross (apricot/nectarine? apricot/nectarine/plum?)

The ones I got aren't quite ripe yet, so I don't know how they taste. I'll report back.

Posted by spaceling at 10:44 AM

July 13, 2007

Fresh Bamboo Shoots

So, I had a go at cooking a fresh bamboo shoot today. I've heard it said by those in the know that fresh bamboo shoots are incomparably superior to the canned ones. So I picked one up at 99 Ranch, and consulted A Cook's Guide to Asian Vegetables on how to cook it.

A bamboo shoot is a vaguely conical thing covered in a husk of tough outer leaves. I peeled off as many leaves as I could remove with my fingers, and removed the rest with a paring knife.

The book recommended placing the bamboo shoot whole in a saucepan, covering it with water, and bringing it to a boil. Then you drain off the water, cover it with fresh water, and repeat the whole procedure two more times. This apparently removes the hydrocyanic acid that makes the bamboo shoot bitter. Then you cover with water for a final time, and simmer "until the shoot is tender". I simmered the shoot for an additional ten minutes, and then sliced it up and added it to a stir fry for the last couple minutes of cooking. (The other ingredients of the stir fry were shiitake mushrooms, red bell pepper, firm tofu, snow peas, ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil.)

Is it incomparably better than canned bamboo shoots? I don't know about that. The texture is nicer - the bamboo shoot retains a bit of a crunch, in a way that's almost similar to water chestnuts. The flavor is still very mild. I don't think I'll feel at all bad in the future about using canned bamboo shoots if I'm pressed for time, or if they're all I have handy, but preparing the fresh shoot is easy enough that I'll probably do it again the next time I plan on a stir fry.

Posted by spaceling at 09:18 PM