Sunday, 6 February 2011

34 days late and a year older

Don't get me wrong.
Of course I'd like things to be easy and simple.
There're always plenty of things to juggle about and never enough time on hands. Anything to do with easier life, so I can have more fun?! 
Oh yes, I'm well up for it!

But there are things that you just need to take time. 
Let it take its course. 
Let it do its own thing.

My mum used to say it about cooking rice.
She said it was important to wash the rice thoroughly in fresh running water and let it stand for a while. 
She would often preserve the water from the rice to use it as a base of soups and broths. She told me it gave depth of flavour to the stock.
Rice was cooked on high heat to start with the lid on, then a medium heat with the lid slightly ajar for a bit and then a low heat with the lid shut fully.
It was like a ritual for her.
It was such a simple thing that was beautifully choreographed. 
It was very soothing to watch.

She cared. 
She cared for a humble yet, very important staple ingredient of our living.
She looked after us by looking after what she put on the table.

This was the backbone of my family.

I remember the days where all my family sat around the table preparing mountains of food to celebrate a new year.

In Korea, you get year older every new year.
Depending on individual family, you can celebrate 'the new new year' which follows western calendar or 'the old new year' which follows the moon calendar.

On new year's day, there will be a ceremony to your ancestors with a sumptuous breakfast table and the food will be shared with your relatives and family.
You will bow to the elders. 
They'll give you a word of wisdom and maybe some pocket money. It will be presented to the individuals in a prestine white envelope and inside of it, will be crisp new notes.
Little sum of money means that the wealth is wished upon you for your year ahead.

And the 'rice cake soup', signature dish to welcome the new year.
Beautifully textured rice cakes made with a new crop, cooked in slowly braised oxtail broth, garnished with dressed oxtail meat, separately fried egg squares, spring onions and some grilled seaweed.
It is honest food. 
It is feel good food worth and deserves every minute of your time.
And my time... for sure.

Rice cakes in Oxtail broth

for stock
6 oxtails
5 white peppercorn
5 black peppercorn
1 star anise
2 celery stick
1 onion and 2 spring onions
6 garlic cloves
1inch ginger
bunch of thymes
salt and pepper

for meat dressing
1 garlic, chopped
1 spring onion, finely chopped (minced)
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin
pinch of white pepper
pinch of sugar
pinch of sesame seed

for garnish
2 egg white, lightly whisked
2 egg york, lightly whisked
grilled seaweed, cut into strips
spring onions, chopped
some oil for frying

2 handful of rice cake slices for soup ( You can source this from good Korean supermarkets. If you can't, substitute with some rice noodles)
fish sauce
black pepper

First of all, making stock.
Put all of ingredients for the stock into the large saucepan and fill it with water. Bring them to boil and simmer for about 3hours or until meat falls off the bone.
It might be necessary to refill the saucepan with water every now and then to get enough stock depends on the size of the pan.
Once ready, take the oxtails out, collect the meat into separate bowl and put the bones back into the pot for another hour.

Meanwhile, keep back and freeze half of the meat you collected. This should weigh roughly about 180g. I'll use this meat to make amazing oxtail pie another day.
Dress the other half of the meat with all ingredients for the meat dressing I listed above and set aside.

While the stock is bubbling away, make your egg garnish.
Fry the separated eggs in little oil as if you're make pancakes and cut them in small squares.
Cook your rice cake slices for 3-4mins in a separate saucepan, like you'd do with fresh pasta then strain.

Once all compartments are ready to go, it is time for you to put everything together.
Stock should be strained through the sieve and reheat them.
Add cooked rice cake to the clear stock to warm up. Season the stock with little fish sauce.

Now, get your bowls ready.
Divide rice cakes into 2 bowls and garnish them with dressed meat, eggs, seaweed and spring onions. Pour the hot broth over until everything is almost covered with liquid.
Serve it with Kimchi ( spicy pickled cabbage).

030211, 34 days late and a year older...

Happy new year to you all.

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