Weekly Menu Series: On Warming Weather, and Trying to Crave Salads

Ah, Spring. The great season of pollen.

Welcome, pollen!

Welcome, pollen!

In the last couple of days, I’ve found myself mourning the loss of crisper and cooler weather. Why? Because I love cold-weather food more than I love warm-weather food (with a notable exception of watermelon – I could eat that all day, every day, duh). I am fond of all things stewed, roasted, broiled, baked,  and braised, and find it a bit difficult to do these things in hot temperatures without feeling like my apartment has become a really fragrant and unbearable sauna. If I had to choose between meals that are comforting and meals that are refreshing, well, you probably know where I would land. But I suppose those things aren’t mutually exclusive, and perhaps this season can serve as an opportunity for me to learn how to make exceptional spring/summer foods.

To make sure that I am not the only one to blame for a potentially lackluster spring/summer menu for the week’s meals, I sent to my husband a survey, where he had to choose his top seven lunch/dinner selections, top three side dishes, and top dessert. I already harbor a ludicrous level of anxiety about not enjoying these meals as much as I’d like to (how many salads can I bear?), so it is important for me to redistribute the blame for the potentiality of mediocre food. Thanks, husband!

Of course, I’m not going to entirely stay away from the oven – I would definitely rather eat vegetables roasted than raw. But, I want to minimize the amount of time spent on the range and oven, so that my adorable apartment doesn’t become a sweat box. I thought it would be nice to incorporate a calzone into the mix because elements of each can be prepared at different times. Then, when the apartment has been purged of all cooking-related hotness, I can stick those babies in the oven.

For the record, I’m not anti-salad. Salads can incorporate so many things, like grains (farro is a favorite of mine), pasta, rice, vegetables, cheese, etc. I just don’t find myself craving salads the way I crave a hearty porkchop, braised beef, or miso ramen. I’m hoping that an exploration of new recipes will help change this attitude.

So, without further ado, here is the week’s menu:


  1. Chard, mushroom, and burrata calzones
  2. Quinoa salad w/ cherry tomatoes, edammame, artichokes, peppers, chickpeas, and parsley
  3. Spring greens bibimbap (Korean mixed rice dish) with fried egg
  4. Bibim guksu (Korean spicy mixed noodles) with cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, lettuce, and kimchi, topped with slices of marinated flank steak
  5. Halibut with summer squash & roasted potatoes
  6. Roasted cherry tomato pasta
  7. Pickled egg salad
  8. Pasta salad with roasted cherry tomatoes, tuna, mozzarella, cheddar, olives, and basil


  • Arugula salad with roasted asparagus, pine nuts, cherry tomatoes, and lemon vinaigrette
  • Roasted potato wedges
  • Sauteed zucchini
  • Garlic sauteed swiss chard


  • Blueberry maple scones

And my first Mandu+Me selfie of the season:

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

On Inherited Memory, and a Recipe for Kimchi Spam Fried Rice

Our tastes are often molded by memory. In particular, we find ourselves fond of foods that make us nostalgic, dishes that take us back to a cherished moment, tastes that reestablish a feeling or experience, and meals that help us to feel like we’ve returned to ourselves and remember who we are. This makes sense to me. More puzzling than the fact that memory can impact our tastes buds in a powerful way is the possibility that these buds can even be affected by memories that are not our own.


Spam. God, what the fuck is spam, and why am I so keen on eating it? I’m fairly certain that if someone introduced Spam to me as an adult, I would snobbishly spit out the salty and gelatinous mess and give that someone a damn dirty stare. But it was introduced to me by my parents as a treat to cherish. For them, Spam signified a moment in Korean history that gave them a deep feeling of ambivalence: the Korean War. The weird canned good was brought over to the peninsula by American soldiers and became a coveted luxury (yes, a luxury) in the dark and desperate years immediately following the war. At a time when meat was difficult to come by, it denoted prosperity and nutrition, luxury and finesse. It became a sign of America, an image of prosperity and processed privilege, an imagining of an unreal future where a canned meat equaled progress. And, of course, symbols of everything America were and continue to be met with deeply uncertain sentiments. America as savior. America as imperialists. America as progress. America as excess. America, the threat to a strong (and masculinist) Korean national identity. Whether or not Spam is delicious is obviously arguable, and also a bit irrelevant, to me. What is inarguable is the fact that Spam holds a lot of power over our memories (and therefore, our taste buds) because of the moment of history it represents. This canned treat is still categorically popular in S. Korea. Here’s an interesting tidbit: S. Korea is the second largest consumer of Spam in the world, eating roughly half as much as the U.S., which has six times as many residents. My people sure love their salty pork products.

Anywho, back to the original point. I was not born in S. Korea, and I don’t have my own memories of the war, or a remembrance of the desperation that marked its aftermath. With every gloopy bite, I don’t close my eyes and quiver with anticipation for feelings and memories to come. I don’t think about American soldiers, progress, safety, poverty, imperialism, or anything beyond “this is really fucking salty.” But I love it, anyway. I blame my grandparents and parents. They grew up with this experience. And though they didn’t say much about Korean history when pan frying this “meat”, I witnessed their strange love for Spam and thought it was  nice. And through either genetics or osmosis, I began to harbor my own strange love for the canned good.

I’m not saying that the only reason Koreans love Spam is because of the history/circumstances surrounding its introduction – I certainly know people who straight up love it. But I think it’s bizarre and lovely that I somehow absorbed my parents’ love and memory of the boxed pork. It’s perhaps a testament to my love for them that I inherited their fondness for a food that I could have hated. So, to all the naysayers who proselytize about Spam being the worst: suck it. I’ll love it for as long as I love my parents and grandparents, and you won’t take that away from me.

And now, the recipe.

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

Kimchi Spam Fried Rice
Adapted from Dale Talde’s Recipe (featured on Buzzfeed)
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Prep time: 45 minutes
6 Servings


2 cups white jasmine rice, cooked
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
3 eggs, beaten in a bowl until yolks and whites are combined
1 12-ounce container Spam, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Kimchi, strained, thinly sliced, liquid reserved
1 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 bunch scallions, sliced in 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoons fish sauce (optional, but you should totally use it)


  1. Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat (I used my handy dandy cast iron wok). Add the egg mixture to the hot skillet all at once, turn the heat down to medium, and use a flexible spatula to move the egg around the skillet constantly. Just when the egg is fully cooked (around 45 seconds), put the eggs on a plate and set aside.
  2. Return the skillet to medium-high heat, then add 1 tablespoon of canola oil and the cubed spam. Cook the spam, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until they are golden brown, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the onion and stir for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, stirring frequently to make sure that the minced garlic doesn’t burn, about another 2 minutes.
  4. Add butter, and let it melt. Add the sesame oil, chopped kimchi, and hot pepper flakes, and cook for about 2 minutes. Make sure to stir. Add the reserved kimchi liquid (should amount to about half a cup) and stir.
  5. Add your already cooked rice, and stir until all of the rice is fully coated. Add the cooked eggs, sliced scallions, soy sauce, and fish sauce, and continue to stir.
  6. Turn off heat, serve fried rice into bowls.
  7. If you want to add fried eggs, put that shit on top! (the only reason I didn’t add a fried egg atop my kimchi spam fried rice, the other day, is because I had already consumed 3 eggs that day. Whoops.)

On Courage and Kimchi Ramen

Many of us have read through the NYTimes article entitled “No. 37: Big Wedding or Small” with varying degrees of amusement, excitement, annoyance, and thoughtfulness. As a classic (and perhaps insufferable) ENFJ (one of sixteen personalities delineated by the Myers-Briggs personality test), I went on a spree of asking close friends and relatives some of the questions in the article, favoring one particular question:

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

My answer is always the same: I would like to wake up with more courage.

I’ve never felt like a brave person. After binge-watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, American Horror Story, or even something like Damages, I sometimes make Nico check behind the shower curtain of the bathroom before I tinkle. Much like my insanely skiddish dog, I jump and yelp when surprised, which is all the time. Though I do have a strange streak of breaking up fights between strangers on the B44 or the subway, I generally feel like a namby-pamby. Also, I don’t think my perceived cowardice is unrelated to my obsession with over-preparedness. Apparently, I didn’t start walking until I was over two years of age. I would slowly get up, and just as slowly sit down, without taking one darn step. Basically, I didn’t start walking until I could run. Typical Yejin. I always want to know that I have the potential to do something decently before I actually do it for fear of being mediocre or crap –  to me, this is a lower form of cowardice.

In any case, it’s occurred to me that no quality or trait is a package deal. To be sure, I am unlikely to survive a zombie apocalypse; I would never make it into the Gryffindor House; I may sooner want to die than to fight, depending on the nemesis; I would categorically hate running my own tech startup company with a billionaire antagonist trying to destroy me (boy, I need to stop watching TV and movies). But here are things I do for which I should give myself some credit:

  1. I have no reservations about holding colleagues, family members, or friends accountable;
  2. As much as I make a fuss about over-preparing for success, I handle ‘failure’ pretty well, and make sure to try again, and to try smarter;
  3. I strongly believe that people deserve better, and work hard to be an integral part of making that happen (whether in work, love, or life).
  4. Even though I torment myself an unhealthy amount over making a new dish/meal, I make a new dish/meal, anyway.

Yea, yea, this is a pretty mild list. But it’s a start in taking the road less traveled (where the beaten path = practices of self deprecation). I start my new job tomorrow as Director of Development, where I’ll be a supervisor for the first time, so I need to believe that I have a little bit of courage!

At the very least, my attempt (however arduous and painful) to make new meals has resulted in something quite delicious! Here is the recipe for my very first homemade miso ramen w/ kimchi and other fixins:

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

Miso and Kimchi Ramen Recipe
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Prep Time: 45 minutes
4 Servings


6 cups of chicken stock (homemade is best!)
1 cup of kimchi, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons of red miso paste
2 teaspoons of soy sauce
1 scallion, sliced diagonally
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
2 bunches of baby spinach, rinsed thoroughly
12 oz of authentic Chinese noodles (these are good)
Salt, as needed

4 soft boiled eggs, peeled, and cut in half
1/2 cup of kimchi
1 scallion, sliced diagonally
4 marinated and broiled chicken thighs, coarsely chopped (recipe below)


  1. Bring your chicken stock to a gentle boil.
  2. Prepare your toppings. Take your soft boiled eggs and cut them in half; slice the second scallion diagonally; put 1/2 a cup of kimchi in a bowl; and cut up your recently broiled chicken thighs.
  3. Once the stock is up to a rolling boil, add the miso paste and mix thoroughly, making sure to break up the chunks. Once incorporated, add the coarsely chopped kimchi, soy sauce, scallions, and red pepper flakes.
  4. After boiling gently for 10 minutes, add baby spinach. Taste the broth and add salt, as needed.
  5. As you wait for the flavors to incorporate into the ramen broth, bring a separate pot to a boil. Make your noodles per package instructions and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
  6. Once everything is ready, put the noodles into the pot with with boiling broth and cook for an additional minute. Carefully place noodles into a bowl, then the broth. Add toppings, and enjoy!

Marinated and Broiled Chicken Thighs Recipe


4 chicken thighs
3 tablespoons of gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
3 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of honey
1 teaspoon of white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil


  1. Mix all marinade ingredients in a bowl, and pour into a freezer bag.
  2. Pat the chicken thighs dry, and place them into bag with marinade, making sure every part is covered.
  3. Let the chicken marinade in the fridge for at least an hour.
  4. Take chicken out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature.
  5. Turn on the broiler. Take the chicken out of the bag and place onto a lined baking tray with the skin side down. Place tray into broiler for 10 minutes. Carefully take the tray out, flip over the chicken, add some additional marinade. Put the tray back into the broiler for another 10-15 minutes. Keep watch to make sure nothing is burning – every broiler is different.

On Trying Something New: Self-Doubt as Motivation, Plus a Recipe for Blueberry Pie

I’m an odd combination of traits. I don’t mean this in some self-aggrandizing, quirkier-than-thou, braggart kind of way. For the most part, I’m really quite bland. But there are strange impulses that share a moment in time in my mind and body, that really ought not be paired together. For example, I absolutely adore attempting to cook/bake new things. There is nothing better in this world than trying something different, and having the courage to expand, even if the results are not ideal. But, at the same time, I experience an inordinate level of anxiety whenever trying something new.

Here’s my “how to reduce/create anxiety when trying a new dish” rule book:

  1. Look through some food-porn blogs, and find which picture makes you drool the most. Pick that dish as the new thing you’d like to conquer and eat.
  2. Incessantly peruse 10-30 different recipes of the same dish, just so you know you have the best one.
  3. Pick one or two or three of the best, but keep going back to aforementioned 10-30 recipes, just in case you missed something.
  4. Buy all the ingredients from the winning recipe, but if there are any differences between that one and the second or third best, make sure you buy those groceries, as well. Just in case.
  5. For the few days leading up to your new cooking adventure, study the ingredients, measurements, techniques, and method. Do that at least 10 times before you even think about beginning the process of cooking something different.
  6. The night before your new cooking adventure, visualize your pending experience. Imagine how much time you’ll need in order to perform at your best, and arrange your next day accordingly.
  7. A half hour before your planned cooking time, do one last comprehensive review of the recipe and method. Perhaps find a couple of videos that make a similar dish, and absorb all the knowledge you can handle.
  8. COOK, while obsessively revisiting the recipe.
  9. Prepare to eat, and cross your fingers (and hope to die if the food tastes like shit).

This is pretty much an unfiltered list of how I handle the creation of a new dish.

Why do I behave this way? Why am I a chronic over-preparer? What is the worst thing that could happen? The answer, my friends, is all in my penchant for self-doubt and my fear of disappointing others and myself. I’m not entirely sure from where this mode-of-being comes, but I know it to be a very integral part of Yejin. But I find that my self-doubt, when not all-consuming, is actually very motivating and productive. I don’t cower when self-deprecating thoughts come my way. In fact, I try harder, work more comprehensively, and enjoy shouting “in  your face!” (to myself, like a crazy person…) after a successful adventure. However, I should note that this is probably pretty unhealthy. I do wish I could just enjoy an activity without being consumed by the prospect of joy or disappointment. I’m working on it. In the meantime, I’ll deal with my anxiety by being overly prepared, and hopefully, by enjoying the delicious fruits of my labor.

I’ve never made pie before, which explains the completely imperfect lattice top. But there is something so satisfying about making and rolling your own dough. Also, I really enjoy the process of heating blueberries, because eventually, it turns into this beautiful dark color, and bubbles like a thick cauldron concoction. In any case here’s the recipe I decided to use (and study, and restudy):

Processed with VSCOcam with kk2 preset

The inaugural pie

Blueberry Pie
Recipe taken from America’s Test Kitchen 


Foodproof Pie Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, cold, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 cup vodka, cold (see note)
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Blueberry Filling

  • 6 cups fresh blueberries (about 30 ounces) (see note)
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated on large holes of box grater
  • 2 teaspoons grated zest and 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
  • 3/4 cup sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca, ground (see note)
  • pinch table salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water


  1. 1. For The Pie Dough: Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds; dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

    2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into 2 even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

    3. Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate while preparing filling until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

    4. For The Filling: Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place 3 cups berries in medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Using potato masher, mash berries several times to release juices. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and mashing occasionally, until about half of berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly.

    5. Place grated apple in clean kitchen towel and wring dry. Transfer apple to large bowl. Add cooked berries, remaining 3 cups uncooked berries, lemon zest, juice, sugar, tapioca, and salt; toss to combine. Transfer mixture to dough-lined pie plate and scatter butter pieces over filling.

    6. Roll out second disk of dough on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 11-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Using 1 1/4-inch round biscuit cutter, cut round from center of dough. Cut another 6 rounds from dough, 1 1/2 inches from edge of center hole and equally spaced around center hole. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over pie, leaving at least 1/2-inch overhang on each side.

    Lattice that pie!

    Lattice that pie!

    7. Using kitchen shears, trim bottom layer of overhanging dough, leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Fold dough under itself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with tines of fork to seal. Brush top and edges of pie with egg mixture. If dough is very soft, chill in freezer for 10 minutes.

    8. Place pie on heated baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

Since I’m a bit of a nut, I also decided to make empanadas, today. They’re filled with ground beef, shallots, red peppers, olives, raisins, honey, salt, pepper, and cumin. Gotta love making dough for both sweet and savory treats!


Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Moral of today’s entry: My obsessive behavior surrounding the creation of something new serves as the release valve for my undying anxiety…and the end results are usually pretty delicious. So, until I figure out how to mollify my constant state of anxiety, I think this’ll do just fine.

Menu Series: I’m still alive, and I’m back!

I know, I know – I really fell off the face of the food-making/eating/writing planet over the past two months. Those who know me are well aware that I had been chin-deep in gala planning for my (now former) organization. Though the Benefit went superbly, these events suck my time, energy, soul, and spirit, so I’m terribly happy that it’s all over.

Looking smart as hell as I hustle at the Spring Benefit

Looking smart as hell as I hustle at the Spring Benefit

For the past few weeks, I’ve been unable to cook and eat the way I like to cook and eat, which is decidedly the worst thing ever. An unmitigated disaster. For example, my stomach shrunk so much in the last month that I couldn’t even finish my egg, bacon & cheese croissant sammich, the other day (see photo below). Who am I? WHO AM I?

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

Anyway, I’m pleased to say that I’m entering a new era of my life and career, as I’ve accepted a role as Director of Development at a wonderful school in Brooklyn. The new gig starts on May 18th, so my plans for the coming week’s staycation are to cook, eat, relax, and repeat.

Because I’ve been eating small portions of junk for the last month or so, I really need this week’s meals to be both light and delicious. Without further ado, here’s the menu:

  • Steamed whole sea bass with ginger, garlic, and scallions + jasmine rice + spicy sauteed swiss chard
  • Nicoise salad (w/ arugula, tuna, German potato salad, olives, string beans, and hard boiled eggs) + rye bread
  • Kimchi fried rice w/ spam + arugula and roasted asparagus salad
  • Farro salad w/ roasted sweet potato, roasted carrots, radishes, pickled shallots, and crumbled feta cheese
  • Porcini mushroom risotto (w/ homemade roasted vegetable and chicken stock) + roasted brussel sprouts
  • Ddak bulgogi + jasmine rice + butter-braised brussel sprouts
  • Miso ramen w/ charred chicken, bok choy, mushrooms, and corn
  • Beef, olive and raisin empanadas (w/ homemade dough)
  • Plus: my very first attempt at making blueberry pie!

Coming up…On Trying Something New: Self-Doubt as Motivation, Plus a Recipe for Blueberry Pie