Wednesday, June 16, 2010

June 9th - Vegetarian Korean Curry with Eggplant Portobellas and Tofu

When we were growing up, this was one of my favourite dishes.  Mom, for some reason, gave anglicised names to some, not all, of our food.  Kimchee was still kimchee, same for Bulgoghi, Kalbi and others.  Korean Curry though, we used to call 'Yellow Bap' which means yellow rice or yellow food.  'Bap' means both Rice and Food.  I used to drown it with black pepper to have it as spicy as possible.  This was when I was  younger than 10.

Korean Curry is somewhere between Japanese Katsu Curry and Indian yellow Curry.  Japanese Curry is sweeter, darker and for reasons that are odd to me, are just the plain, sauce normally poured over some sort of breaded chicken or pork cutlet on rice. This was everywhere in Tokyo the last time I went last year.  It was the quick meal of choice which was disappointing since as a foreigner I was searching for good sushi or Okonomiyaki or Takoyaki.  I can only assume they'd gone out of fashion to some extent in the city core.  I'm not sure but I digress.  The Korean version, classically, as you will observe on the sauce bullion boxes, contains, Carrots, Onions and Potatos with Beef.  Mom adds peas.  It is spicier and not as sweet as the Japanese variety.  I love it.

Over the years as my sister V and I stopped eating Beef and Chicken, mom had  to adjust many of her recipes and Yellow Bap was one of them.  For a while, when I was not eating any seafood at all, she would scoop out a separate little pot and add, at my request, Chickpeas.  I still do that.  Now, mom will use Prawn and at times add Chick Peas.  The Bullion cubes are a must.  I do not know any Korean that actually does this from scratch unlike some people who may do Thai or Indian Curry from scratch if they have the time and access to all the ingredients.  Korean curry is simply not like that.  Mom who even makes her Soy sauce, Dengjang (miso) and Gochujang from scratch uses the cubes. 

All Korean markets have several brands, or if you are in an Asian Market, look for the Korean section.  They will be there.  They come in large candybar shaped boxes in varying degrees of heat.  I have tried a few and tend to avoid Vermont, Apple and another one dominated by cartoony Japanese writing.  They are too sweet and have too much starch filler.  I generally buy the ones with Hangul/Korean letters or Golden.  Golden, though it is Japanese is closer to the Korean taste and use.  S&B, the makers of Golden have other varieties like the Apple one that are not to my taste for Korean curry.    Choose the HOT regardless of the brand.  None of them are hot, really.  It's not like Indian curry where you really want to heed that warning.  You have room to add heat.  I do.

The bars actually look like candy bars, well, like baking chocolate anyway.  A few years back they started compartmentalising the cubes which is brilliant for me because only larger families need the whole pack in 1 go.  You need to break up the cubes and sit them in 2 c Boiled water, not boiling on a stove, for at least 10 minutes or more.  I just do it first and let it sit there and then whisk it all up before pouring in.

Prepare some Jasmine Rice. 1 c, raw for 2 people.

Vegetarian Korean Curry with Eggplant Portobellas and Tofu
(Serves 3-4)

4 cubes Hot Korean/Japanese Curry, ~100 g
1 medium Eggplant, cubed large
1 Portabella, stemmed and brushed
1 medium (~3/4 c) Carrot, finely chopped (because I do not like big hunks of cooked carrot)
1 medium (~3/4 c) firm fleshed Potato or 6 small new Potatoes, diced large,
1 small Onion or half large
3 cloves Garlic, chopped
1 inch Ginger, julienned (this is my add, Mom does not use Ginger)
2 hot Chilis (the small Thai ones are awesome)
200 g Extra Firm Tofu, cubed (optional)
3 c Water
1 t Black Pepper

I parcook the Eggplant.   I am not as skilled as some in cooking an eggplant through in a short period of time.  If I am stewing this for an hour like in say an Indian Eggplant Curry, no worries, but for a mid week meal, parcooking in the oven helps me.   First thing I did when I got home was turn the oven on 450F.  Toss the Eggplant cubes in 1 T of vegetable oil in the large Pot/Skillet I will be cooking in.  Spread out evenly on a lined baking sheet and bake for about 20-30 minutes.  Basically, until I need them is alright too.  I turn the oven off at around 20 minutes and leave the door closed.

In a large Pot/Skillet, heat 1 T vegetable oil on Medium High.  Add the Carrots.  Hardest veg first.  Sautee for 3 minutes.  Add the Eggplant, Potato and Onion.  Sautee for another 3-5 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium. Add the Ginger, Garlic, Chilis, Tofu and Mushrooms.  'Wok'-Stir actively but gently so as not to break up the Tofu too much for 2-3 minutes.  Add a splash of water if stuff is sticking. 

Add the softened Curry Cubes which have been sitting in 2 c Boiled Water to the pot and stir. 2 c because that is the size of my heatproof measuring cup.   Swirl 1 c about the measuring cup to get the rest of the Curry and add to the pot.  Add the Black Pepper and Salt to taste.

Cover and simmer on low to medium low for 10-15 minutes.  I timed it with the rice.  You can stew it for longer if you wish.  Aaaaah pure childhood comfort. YUMMMMMO!

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