Dinner for one

Few things tug the cords of nostalgia in the hearts of second-generation Asian Americans/Canadians than bubble tea and and Shin Ramyun. The former being what tided us over the 3PM hunger at hang-outs with schoolmates until dinnertime rolled around, the communal consumption of which was a proxy for one’s social acceptability. The latter was what our moms made for us when time was short, an enthralling metaphor for the quotidian struggles and peculiar comforts of new immigrant families.

These two are, to us, what Starbucks and KD are to the white kids.

These two are, to me, still what they were all those years ago. When scarcity was a little closer than comfort allows. But also when troubles felt much less personal.

What has changed, though, is my damned metabolism. I now order bubble teas with less ice and no sugar. Sometime because it tastes better that way, but always because my body can’t handle it. The other day I Snapchatted my cousin of a picture so harrowing I almost, almost lost my appetite. It was of a broken half-disc of shin ramyun, zipped up in a clear sandwich bag, much like a severed corpse being removed from a crime scene to some morgue. I literally can no longer finish a single-serve pack of instant ramen by myself.

Yet I am as hopeless as an addict to the sadistically spicy, tongue-dryingly abusive umami hidden hidden in the little Neoguri soup base packets. So as an addict in her quite rightly deranged mind, I reverse-engineered the Neoguri soup base, and the only weird-ish thing you’ll need to do the same is dried Japanese anchovies or niboshi (煮干), which you can probably find in your neighbourhood asian grocery store.

Anchovy Kimchi Stew
Anchovy Kimchi Stew

THIS is my weeknight clutch meal, it’s very personal, quite uncensored, and not politically correct by any stretch of the word. But so is the second generation Asian American/Canadian disposition. It’s a mutt of cultures, brought together by a convolution of convenience, obsession, and not giving a dumpling.

Neoguri Nabe Base

  • 1 medium brown onion, sliced into 1 cm strips
  • 1/4 head of Taiwanese cabbage, sliced into 1 cm strips (it’s flatter than it’s american cousin, and tastes better in every application I’ll ever care about)
  • 3 king oyster mushrooms, cut crosswise into thirds and torn into 1 cm shreds
  • 2 cups mat kimchi (the older the better, I love buying kimchi in advance and letting it sour in my fridge until too far gone to eat on its own)
  • 12 dried Japanese anchovies
  • 3 tbsp dried bud wakame
  • 2 tsp sea salt (or more, the broth should be borderline too salty since we’ll be adding more stuff later)
  • 2 tsp korean red chili powder
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp bacon fat (strain rendered bacon fat into a small mason jar every time you make bacon, and keep it stored in the fridge – it’s more useful than you think)
  • 1 box silken tofu, cubed
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste (or use ketchup, if you’re my mother)
  1. You can make this in your rice cooker (it’s my favourite appliance in the kitchen for a reason) on the weekend with 15 minutes of prep (even better). Add all the ingredients except the tomato paste in the listed order to the inner pot of the rice cooker. If you don’t have a rice cooker, a large pot will do.
  2. Thin out the tomato paste with a cup of water and pour it over the ingredients. Add more water to just cover all the ingredients, probably about 1.5 to 2 liters. Precision is not the lesson here.
  3. Place the pot in the rice cooker, add 1 1/2 cup of water to the outer bowl of the rice cook. Turn your rice cooker on and let it boil away. Once the switch pop backs up, let it cool completely then refrigerate until you need it.

Nabe Clutch Dinner (everything’s optional, listed here are what I put in mine)

  • 2/3 cup cooked rice or half a disc of shin ramyun
  • 5 slices frozen hot pot beef ribeye
  • 1 medium organic egg
  • As much as you want of the Neoguri Nabe Base
  1. In a small clay pot or saucepan, add the rice and neoguri nabe base (broth with all the vegetables/anchovies/tofu etc..). Arrange the beef slice rolls on top and crack in the egg.
  2. Cover with a lid and bring to a simmer over medium heat and continue cooking until the egg is as done as you want it and the beef is cooked through.
  3. Serve immediately.

Thoughts? I'd love to hear them!

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