Onion Bhajis

So the other night I made the best onion bhajis of my life! I felt compelled to share the recipe with you. It’s not that the ones I made before were bad per sei its just they didn’t quite hit the mark. There are two secrets to my new success. One is using gram or chickpeas flour. I picked some up at the foreign food mart for a couple of thousand. I can’t tell you exactly how much it was, as I was pretty wasted at the time. Previously I had been using the ottogi frying mix, which did yield better results than regular flour but not as good as gram flour. If you’re not able to go to the foreign food mart, id still suggest giving it a go with the frying mix, if you have a hankering for bhajis. The other successful secret I have to share is deep-frying them. I’m not usually a fan of deep frying, as it always seems like such an effort, so I used to put a little oil on top of them and bake them in the oven.  Again this produced reasonable results and they are clearly much healthier but the way forward is definitely deep-frying. Even if my house does smell of  eau de chip fat.

Onion Bhajis

Ingredients

3 onions

1 teaspoon of cumin (just use regular run of the mill curry powder if you don’t have the individual spices)

1 teaspoon of coriander

1 teaspoon of garam masala

120g of chickpea flour / gram flour (i got mine at the foreign food mart in Itaewon)

4 -5 tablespoons of water

1 egg (beaten)

900ml soy bean oil for frying

Directions

Thinly slice the onions, cove with 2 teaspoons of salt and leave in a bowl for 30 minutes. Fry the onions in olive oil until they have softened. Add the spices and fry for a few more minutes. Transfer the onions to a bowl and stir in the chickpea flour. Add the egg and the water and mix again. Heat a saucepan of oil filled 1/3-1/2 of the way with soybean oil. Soybean is the best and cheapest option for deep frying in Korea. They should cook quite quickly depending on how hot your oil is. I don’t have a thermometer but you know its hot enough when you put in a couple of drops of the batter and they sizzle at the top. If they sink to the bottom then its needs to be hotter. As soon as they are golden brown on one side flip them over  and cook on the other side. When they are done strain them on kitchen paper to remove the excess oil.

Raita

Ingredients

6 tablespoons of greek/ plain yogurt (try making your own, using my recipe)

3 tablespoons of sourcream

1/2 a cucumber

6-10 mint leaves

Directions

Take six tablespoons of yogurt and three of sour cream and mix. Grate or chop a cucumber finely and add to the mix. Chop the mint and add to the mixture. Serve with delicious onion bhajis. Voila an irresistible Indian snack.

Lemon Infused Vodka

Saturday is upon us and to me that means cocktail time!!! In fact for us lucky ducks here in Korea its Chuseok which means a 5 day weekend. The contents of my booze cupboard is going to take a serious hit this week. So like any forward thinking alcoholic I like to plan ahead.

I love vodka, in particular flavoured vodka, I have a variety of flavors within my possession but these delicious drinks do not come cheap, especially when they are compared to Soju, which is always cheap and plentiful. So armed with a bottle of Forever Vodka (about 7,000 won) I set about making this yummy lemon vodka.

Ingredients

1 bottle of Vodka

1 lemon (any fruit will work though)

1 glass jar

Directions

Make sure the jar is clean and harbors no smells from the previous occupant. Slice your fruit and add to the jar. Pour in the vodka and secure the lid. Store in a cool dark place for 1 week. You may want to shake the jar once or twice a day to improve the infusion. Voila a deliciously easy homemade infusion.

China Factory

So for us it has been a week of factory eating. First came Poutine Factory and now here’s China Factory. I do enjoy my food when it’s in factory form. China factory is a chain of restaurants owned by the CJ group, those wonderful people who brought us VIPS.  I thought that it’s about high time that I started covering a few more chain restaurants. I know that we are very fortunate to live in foreign food heaven, but everyone isn’t as lucky as us. Korea is a pretty big country and some of you are flung far and away from the glittering lights of Itaewon. So I want to start covering more places that are found here there and everywhere.

We had spent an enjoyable and fun packed morning at the immigration offices and since we had cleverly made an appointment we had an hour or so to kill. What else to do than to go for lunch. The big Hyundai department is in Mokdong, brimming over with delectable delicacies from around the world. However we decided to go and pay China Factory a visit. I had been once before and enjoyed it immensely, also because it was lunch time I knew it would be cheap.

When you arrive they will give you a menu. For the set price fee you can either choose one premium dish or three regular dishes. Never one to believe that less is more, we opted to get three each. The menu is pretty extensive with lots of western style dishes as well as the Korean ones. You also get your choice of tea, access to the all you can eat dim sum bar plus fruit and ice-cream for dessert.

We perused the menu, chose our dishes, and set about attacking the dim sum bar. They had various fried and steamed dim sum or mandus if you will. These were fine but nothing special in the taste department. They did have the very adorable hello kitty dim sum as well as other various animals and cartoon characters. Although sadly they were filled with red bean which I find to be the most vile food on the planet so I couldn’t actually eat those but they were still cute none the less.

As we were tucking into our mandu the first plate we ordered came out. It was the Beijing style sweet and sour pork. I really liked this dish, the slices of pork were tender, covered in a crispy batter and smothered in light sweet and sour sauce. My only complaint was that the portion was far too small, by the time I had given Niall his share there wasnt much left. I could have eaten twice this much by myself! Other than that it was good.

The next dish to arrive was the Kungpao Chicken. This is Niall’s favorite dish so we had high expectations. Sadly they were not met. Although the portion was of a decent size the taste left a lot to be desired. It just had a kind of unpleasant bland burning taste that so many Korean foods have. There was no sweet or spiciness just a kind of numbing heat. Compared to one we had the other day elsewhere it really didn’t fare well. It’s a shame as last time we enjoyed it.

The Mongolian beef arrived shortly after and it had so many beansprouts on it I first thought it was something else. Since it has shrimps and squid in it, I think you can understand my confusion. The few pieces of bulgogi in amongst all that veg qualified as Mongolian beef. There was nothing wrong with the meat per se, I was just expecting large chunks of it in a sticky brown sauce. The real problem of this dish was again the bland burning sauce that covered it.

Finally things turned around as out came the lemon chicken. This was my favorite dish. The chicken was light, tasty, and covered in a lovely batter. The sauce was lemony and sweet. It could have had a little more zing but overall I enjoyed it. Again a bigger portion would have been nicer, luckily I had managed to trade off my portion of the il fated Kungpao chicken and got to enjoy this mostly to myself.

After the meat came the spicy fried rice with chicken and onion. It had the look and smell that you want in a fried rice, but sadly in my rush for fried rice I had overlooked the word spicy. It wasnt that it blew my brains out, I do enjoy hot food. It’s just after some of the previous dishes containing that same bland heat I was looking for a bit of respite. This rice was doused in flakes of red chili. Clearly someone in the kitchen was being far too heavy-handed with it. I’m quite certain that it wasnt that bad last time. The onions were crunchy and there was plenty of egg it’s just after all that chili I couldn’t really taste anything. The heat had scalded my taste buds rendering them near to useless and all the green tea in the world wasnt able to change that.

Last of all was the Singaporean fried noodles. These were fairly good and at last it was nice to eat a dish that tasted a little different. They were nothing to write home about in the taste department but a good way to finish the meal. It would have been good to have more noodles and less vegetables though. A common problem in Chinese noodle dishes.

Overall I think the review is more positive than negative and I would go back again. There are some nice dishes on the menu and plenty of others that I would have liked to try. I would definitely ask them to tone down the chili flakes though. After tax it worked out at about 20,000 each which is pretty fair considering the amount we got. Considering you get the tea and as much coffee as you like plus the fruit, ice-cream, and dim sum bar, I think it is worth it. You also get to try a lot of dishes at once , which is what I personally want from a Chinese meal. No, it’s not as good as Ho Lee Chow but it’s also half the price, and we still left equally as full if not more so.

We visited the Mokdong branch which is open from 11am – 11pm. Prices vary from 18,000 -26,800 depending on the day and time you visit. If you would more information about China Factory, including location and phone numbers  check out their website. http://www.chinafactory.co.kr/

Gnocchi

So ever since I made ricotta gnocchi (recipe here) I have been itching to try the potato version. However what with my busy yet fabulous life as an international  partygirl I havent had the time to make it. In fact I have been neglecting the blog rather a lot this week. It’s not that I havent found the time to eat, I have!  The scales would certainly agree with me on that one. I just havent had much time to write or cook. God knows what I have even been doing except lying on the sofa, eating pizza, feeling sorry for myself and watching Downton Abbey.

Anyhow I’ve decided to to pull myself together and get this show back on the road. A professional eater like myself can’t be put off by a lousy 2 day hangover. So last night I rolled my sleeves up and got to work on this delicious pan-fried gnocchi. I boiled the gnocchi first and was fairly pleased with the results. They had a wonderful pillow like texture but I thought they needed something more. I recalled that when I worked as a waitress at a fancy restaurant that they fried them. So I thought that I too would give it a go. I ask you what food out there isn’t improved with the addition butter?

Sorry if this recipe is a little vague. I’m not usually one for all that measuring malarkey but I tried my best to get you the exact measurements I used. Obviously potatoes are not all the same size so its difficult to weight them, you may also need more or less flour. I think this is just one of those things you can just tell by looking at it and tasting it. So just give it a try, mine came out really well and it was the first time I had made it.

Ingredients 

8 medium potatoes

2 eggs

4oz of flour

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of black pepper

Directions

Peel your potatoes then boil them in salted water until they are cooked and soft in the middle but not falling apart. Drain the potatoes and leave them to cool. I spread them out on a chopping board to speed this up. You want all of the water to evaporate from the potatoes so they dont make the gnocchi mushy. When they have cooled you can grate them into a bowl. I used my parmesan grater for this as it’s finer. You can use a potato ricer too if you have one. Add the salt and pepper to the potatoes and mix. Then stir in the beaten eggs to the potato mixture. It should look pretty much like mashed potato at this point. Now it’s time to start adding in the flour. You should do this  by adding a couple of tablespoons at a time, then  mixing them in and adding more until it starts to look a little bit like dough. Once its like dough, take a handful and roll it out on a floured surface into a sausage shape that’s about 1 inch thick.

If it doesn’t roll then you probably need more flour in the mix. Cut the sausage into once inch chunks. If you have more of a creative streak than me you can run the fork down the side of them to create little groves to catch the sauce. However when I tried this they just got a bit squashed and I preferred the look of the squared ones.

Now test them by cooking small batches in boiling salted water. They should only take a minute or two to cook. They are done when they float at the top. My first batch tasted light and fluffy but still too much like potato so I added more flour and tried again. The second batch were much better.  I continued like this until all the gnocchi were done and left them to drain in a colander. Heat up a table-spoon or two of olive oil and a large knob of butter. Fry the gnocchi in small batches for a few minutes until they are lightly golden brown and they have a thin crust on the outside. Serve with your favorite sauce and top with grated Parmesan and ricotta. Voila a deliciously easy Italian treat.

Poutine Factory!

So a couple of nights ago we stopped by the new restaurant on the block, Poutine Factory.  It opened last Thursday and seems to have been pretty busy since it opened its doors. As the name suggest this places serves up that Canadian classic Poutine. I have to admit that before coming to Korea I was oblivious to this tasty treat. For those not in the know, poutine is chips/french fries covered in gravy and melted cheese. Sure you can get cheesy chips or gravy and chips back home but rarely does anyone put these things together to make a batch of super chips.

Anyhow on to poutine factory. They have a variety of different kinds of poutine on the menu. We opted for a classic and the Saunders which is sweet chili shrimp. It had been a very trying hangover Monday so we got ours to go. They came served up in cute little boxes , a real improvement on the polystyrene containers we would get back home.

The classic poutine was pretty good, a generous amount of gravy and topped with authentic curds rather than the grated mozzarella you seem to get offered as cheese in most Korean establishments. Although I would like to have seen more curds on the top.

I had never tried a flavoured poutine before and I have to say I preferred it. The chili shrimp was good, although there were only 4 of them in the small portion. I would be eager to try the vegetarian option with guacamole and sour cream.

They have recently lowered their prices and a portion now runs from 9,000 -12,000. This is much better value than it used to be. They also have a special on chciken on Fridays 50% off which is such a bargain. You will more than likely see me there on a Friday night buying wings by the dozen.

As well as the various poutines, there is also a side menu consisting of chicken balls, chicken wings with a choice of various sauces, hot, teriyaki or honey garlic, garlic, cheesy garlic, thousand island, mustard etc. A side salad and a pulled pork sandwich (I do enjoy a menu that considers a sandwich to be a side dish). They also serve up draft beer and various bottled beers.

The interior had that fast food kind of vibe. This is not the kind of place to bring a date. However is a great place to come if you want to grab something quick and easy with your mates. I think places like this do pretty well in Korea, not everyone wants to sit down in a restaurant for a proper meal and they enjoy the easiness of this kind of establishment.

Poutine Factory is located at 242, Noksapyeong- Daero, Yongsan-Gu, Seoul. T get there come out of Noksapyeong station (line 6) exit 2 walk straight until you reach the overhead bridge. Walk over the bridge and take the stairs on the right. Go straight and Poutine Factory is on the left. You can call them on 070-8692-3907 or check out their facebook page.

3 Ways to use Bulgogi!

As you may know I’m not really all that partial to Korean food. I don’t hate everything, there are a fair few things that I will tuck into with gusto and bulgogi is one of them. At my last school they gave us lunch everyday. Once or twice a month if we were lucky, it would be bulgogi day!!!I would eat lunch twice on those days just because it was so good.

For those not in Korea, bulgogi is thinly sliced pieces of beef. fried with onions, pieces of carrot and mushrooms in a sweet gravy like sauce. Koreans serve it with rice, which is a very enjoyable way to eat it. However it got me thinking about what other dishes we could use bulgogi for. Beef in general is quite expensive here in Korea and lots of people shy away from buying it, especially if they are living by themselves. The great thing about bulgogi though is all the big store like homeplus sell it by weight, so you can easily get a small potion just for yourself. We bought a huge pack at Costco 2kg for 22,000. So I decided to make a trio of western delights using the bulgogi as my base.

If none of these babies tantalize your taste buds you could also use it to make Spaghetti Bolognese, fajitas/burritos, stew, chili, hotpot, pies,burgers, empanadas, stir fries or nachos supreme.

Steak Sandwich

Ingredients 

250g of bulgogi per sandwich

1 Panini, baguette or sub roll (you can always use two slices of bread in a pinch)

75g of grated cheese (whatever you have is fine, or use Philadelphia for a philly steak sandwich)

Lettuce, tomato, onions etc (optional)

Directions

Cook the bulgogi in a frying pan, no need to add any oil as there is already fat in the meat. Meanwhile toast your roll or bread in the oven for a minute or two. Sprinkle on the grated cheese and pop it back into the oven until the cheese has melted. If you are using Philadelphia then you can omit this step just spread on a thick layer on to your roll or sandwich. Load the bulgogi into roll and top with salad if using.

Bulgogi Noodle salad

Ingredients

500g of bulgogi

250g of Vietnamese rice noodle (you can use any kind of noodles for this though)

1/2 cucumber thinly slices

1 red pepper thinly slices

150g of cooked endamame beans (found at my local veggie mart)

5 spring onions

2 tablespoons of soy sauce

2 tablespoons of sweet chili sauce

1 tablespoon of sesame seed oil.

1 tablespoon of sesame seeds

Directions

Cook you bulgogi in a frying pan without oil. When the meat is completely cooked through leave to cool a little. Meanwhile boil your rice noodles for 5 minutes or until they are done. Drain the noodles until dry then mix in with the bulgogi meat while it is warm but not hot. The noodles will absorb all of those flavorsome juices. Leave to oneside until it has gone cold. Meanwhile slice your vegetables. You can use anything you like really, I just used what I had in the fridge. When the noodle bulgogi mixture has cooled. Mix with the sliced vegetables, throw on the endamame beans and add the soy sauce, sweet chili sauce and sesame oil and mix well. Sprinkle on the sesame seeds and spring onions. Voilà a quick and easy noodle salad.

Stroganoff

Ingredients

500g of Bulgogi

1 onion

2-3 cloves of garlic

200g of mushrooms

1 tablespoon of paprika

1 tablespoon of mixed herbs

4 tablespoons of sour cream

1 glass of white wine

300g of flat pasta  or noodles (I used fettuccini)

A glug of olive oil

A knob of butter

Directions

Fry the garlic and onions in the oil for a few minutes until they have softened. Add the mushrooms and the butter then fry until the mushrooms have cooked. When they are done transfer them to a bowl. Fry the bulgogi in the frying pan. When it has started to color add the paprika and continue cooking until the meat is done. Add the onion and mushrooms back into the pan along with the wine. Cook for 5 minutes or until the wine has cooked out. Add the sour cream and mixed herbs, then  stir in to make the sauce. When the mixture is ready serve with the pasta. Voilà a delicious bulgogi stroganoff. .

Five and Two Diet – Day 3

Yesterday was another fasting day. We had been out to the pub the night before and sadly after a sampler plate and several drinks I have gained a pound and a half. So I was glad to back on the diet. Things have been going very well thus far so I will need to be careful with what I drink, especially mid-week.

So I thought I would start off with a healthy smoothie and a banana. I made my smoothie from 140g of frozen strawberries (50 cals) 70g of frozen mango (50 cals) and 100ml of orange juice (50 cals). I also added in 100ml of water to get it going a bit. With my banana this added up to a nice round 250 calories for my first meal. I also waited until 1pm  before eating. I think if you are able to then waiting as long as possible is the way to go.

For last nights dinner I made a prawn salad. I was actually surprised about how much you could actually get for that amount of calories. I had 9 large king prawns (100 cals) a tomato (18cals), a small red pepper (32 cals), lettuce (10 cals) a cucumber (15 cals)  and half a carrot (15 cals). I used three tablespoons of balsamic vinegar as my dressing (50 cals) and the whole lot came out to 240 calories.

Yesterday I decided  I would try a new tack and instead of waiting until I get home to eat my dinner I will eat it during my break at work at 7pm. Last time it was just too long between meals so I didn’t really feel that great, so I made my breakfast later and my dinner earlier.  However around 9.45pm, I was desperate to rip into a bag of salt and vinegar crisps, it was still hours before I would be asleep and I wanted them so much!! Watching TV is not the same without a delicious snack. Luckily for my waist line my boyfriend has a lot more willpower than I do and encouraged me not to give in. He made me a nice soothing cup of peppermint tea instead.

I weighed myself today and I had lost a pound, so I’m still half a pound up from Wednesday. So my weight loss so far is still 6lbs.

T.G Brunch

Unfortunately T.G Brunch has sadly closed down due to the rent prices. 

Last weekend I woke up feeling slighy worse for wear and needed hot brunch injection fast. Thankgod we have finally moved out the culinary desert that is Oryu dong and into to Hae Ban Chon which has a plethora of brunching options. It was so nice to finally be able to have somewhere nice to eat that didn’t involve a 45 minute train journy. Oryu dong’s brunch options include Paris Bagutte or Lotteria. Not the most appetizing start to the day.

Anyhow we decided to venture off to T.G Brunch. Since brunch is mentioned in the name, I knew we were on to a winner. We rocked up at about 1pm on Saturday to find all the table occupied, however we only had to wait a couple of minutes until a table for two became available.

They serve brunch all day and had a wide selection of breakfast style items including a full English, 8 different kinds of Benedict’s, omelettes, croissant sandwiches, scrambled eggs and a breakfast burrito. As well as the usual salads, pastas, sandwiches and burgers you would expect.

I opted for the asparagus and mushroom Benedict while Niall went for the tomato avocado bacon Benedict, both priced at 12,000.

I was starving hungry and was very pleased to see the huge portion served up for me. 2 english muffins topped with 2 poached eggs, mushrooms and asparagus spears and finished with hollandaise sauce, served with french fries and a side salad. This portion was perfect for me, but those with a smaller appetite or budget could easily share and still be satisfied. The eggs were cooked perfectly. The yoke oozed out when I cut into it and the white was perfectly firm. The first bite certainly warranted that Mmmm feeling you are looking for. The hollandaise was rich but could have done with a little bit more oomph. The asparagus and mushrooms were also well cooked and tasty. The fries were good as was the spinach side salad topped with a balsamic dressing. The only criticism I did have was that I wished the quality of the eggs was better but overall I was pretty damn happy.

I tried a bite of Nialls avocado bacon option which was also pure heaven. The avocado and tomato were what really set this dish apart. I would definitely be very tempted to go for this one next time. Although the menu had many other appealing options. We will be certain to return.

The only other point they fell short on was the lack of a bloody mary on the menu. For me going out to brunch screams bloody mary and without one it cannot be a perfect breakfast. They have wine and beer on the menu if that’s what floats your boat, but sadly it doesn’t float mine. I could always settle for a bucks fizz if they could organise some sparkling wine.

T.G Brunch is located in Kyungnidan 305-5 Itaewon -2dong, Yongsan -Gu, Seoul. You can call them on 02-749-8005. Take a train to Noksapyeong Station (Line 6) Come out of exit 2 and walk straight for about 200 meters. Go underneath the underpass to get to the other side of the road. Take the road leading right and walk about 100 yards, T.G Brunch is on the right. Happy Brunching.

Thai Chicken Soup

So I realize its still pretty warm outside at the moment and hot soup is not really on everyones mind but since I just moved house I had a few bits and pieces that needed using up so I thought I would make this tasty Thai soup. I am a big fan of anything I can make a large portion of in one pan. That way I can portion it out and eat it for a few days in a row. Some people might think that’s a bit boring but once I get a taste for something I have to eat it again and again until I get sick of it. You could also put it in little containers and put a couple in the freezer and just zap them in the microwave when you want to eat it. I do this with quite a lot of the foods I make so there is always something for dinner if I don’t fancy cooking.

Ingredients

2 pints of chicken stock (preferable home made, just boil left over chicken bones in water)

300g of left over roast chicken

1 can of coconut milk

1 onion

4 cloves of garlic

1 red pepper

1 green pepper

2 table spoons of green curry paste

3 stalks of lemon grass (I bought mine at the foreign food mart in Itaewon)

4 kariff lime leaves (a friend brought me these from home, but I think they are in the foreign food mart too)

200g of rice noodle

A bunch of spring onions

1 lemon

Directions

Fry the onions and garlic until they have softened. Add the green and red peppers and fry for a couple of minutes, before adding in the curry paste. Pour the chicken stock into the pan along with the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Chop up the lemon grass very finely and throw it into the soup. Add the kariff lime leaves and leave to reduce by half. Add the rice noodles into the soup and cook for a further 5 minutes or until the noodles are done. Add the juice and zest of the lemon. Throw in the chicken and spring onions and serve. Voilà a tasty Thai chicken soup.

The Five and Two Diet – Day 2

I managed to survive my second day of the five and two diet. Although today was a lot harder than the last time. I started my morning with grated apple and strawberries topped with low fat homemade yogurt (recipe here) and 2 spoons of healthy nut muesli. This is what I would normally eat for breakfast although on a normal days I would eat a slightly bigger portion. This clocked in at about 250 calories.  I ate this around 1pm just before I set off for work. I got up at 11am so I made this meal my breakfast. I also had a black coffee which although it woke me up I felt light-headed later in the day.

At 4.30 I was given a Lotteria bulgogi burger as my work snack. I was already feeling pretty damn hungry at that point and usually would have devoured it. However I drew upon all my strength and will power and gave it to one of my students. The hunger soon passed and I continued the day drinking plenty of water and herbal teas.

By 7pm I was starting to suffer, I had a headache from the caffeine and was starting to feel weak, I  think the caffeine in the green teas had sped up my metabolism and I was feeling light-headed because my blood sugar level had got low. I was starting to regret giving away my burger at this point, but I had another class to do with no breaks so I had no choice but to suck it up and finish. I think doing the fasts on week days is definitely the way to go, as I’m busy and don’t have the time to eat even if I want to.

I got home at 8.15 and made a healthy omelette made from 2 eggs, a red pepper, a tomato, some spinach, some courgette, half an onion and some salt, pepper and herbs. If you want to know what 100 calories of vegetables looks like then here it is…..

Your really hitting a new low when your reduced to weighting your vegetables, although eating 8 mini cupcakes in row just because there was no one else to eat them also falls under the same category. My omelette racked up to 240 calories making it 490 for the day. Well done me.

Since starting the diet last Wednesday I have lost 6 pounds, taking me back down to my usual weight. I have to say that I had gained 6 pounds whilst on holiday which is quite normal for me and it generally comes off in a week or so anyway. So I think next week will be the tell to find out how well its working.