ten fat seconds.

The Filipino-style Chinese donut, or shtekeleh, is the great contribution of the District of Sitka to the food lovers of the world. In its present form, it cannot be found in the Phillippines. No Chinese trencherman would recognize it as the fruit of his native fry kettles. Like the storm god Yahweh of Sumeria, the shtekeleh was not invented by the Jews, but the world would sport neither God nor the shtekeleh without Jews and their desires. A panatela of fried dough not quite sweet, not quite salty, rolled in sugar, crisp-skinned, tender inside, and honeycombed with air pockets. You sink it in your paper cup of milky tea and close your eyes, and for ten fat seconds, you seem to glimpse the possibility of finer things.

Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policeman's Union


We had some folks over for a semi-impromptu dinner the other night, and I decided that, rather than continue to borrow Andy's Korean cookbook every couple of months and then forget I had it, I would return the cookbook once and for all, and commemorate the occasion by actually cooking some things out of it. And invite him over to eat it, since he's actually spent some time in Korea and would have some idea about accuracy.

So, I decided to try bibimbap (eG thread here) for the first time, since it seems to be one of those dishes that people get hooked on, and you know me, I can't help but enjoy getting hooked on all manner of things. When I told Klary that I was making bibimbap, she told me to "be careful, this could turn into a very healthy dinner," and I quickly realized she was absolutely correct. So we added donuts to the menu (hoddeok).


The bibimbap was fun to make, essentially very easy, and yes...healthy. It also provided a useful cooking lesson, in that the cooked vegetables were prepared with almost exclusively sesame oil, salt and garlic, with no soy sauce at all. I didn't realize that this was an option: it's actually way more multi-dimensional on the tongue than using soy sauce as the salty element, and more effectively highlights the natural flavors of the vegetables themselves, and in more distinctive ways. Me likey.

We used carrots, zucchini, gai lan, pak soi (each cooked separately and then separately dressed with sesame oil, salt, and garlic), mung bean sprouts (same dressing plus a little rice vinegar and a surprising amount of sugar) and bulgogi. We served it over our standard, completely non-traditional bulgur recipe: a little butter and a little soy sauce, sprinkled with furikake. We almost never make white rice anymore, it just seems to lose on every front in a direct comparison with bulgur: taste, texture, nutrition.

We also did pa jeon, scallion pancakes with minced shellfish (we used crayfish/rivierkreeften). These were good, I think they could've been better with more shellfish. And the dipping sauce recipe I used failed a last minute taste test and had to be scrapped in favor of a diluted soy sauce and sesame oil thing with a dash of black vinegar. Anyway, I'd like to try them again.

And then Mara, in addition to actually cooking the bulgur and pa jeon, decided to go nuts and bust out some hoddoek. I love it when she does this: I dive into an ambitious cooking project and she jumps right after me into the dessert end of the pool.

Hoddeok are donuts, like Chabon's shtekeleh above, that are not overly sweet, and sometimes rolled in sugar after they're fried. The molten center can contain a variety of fillings: ours contained either brown sugar and cinnamon, or honey and peanuts.

You know this, but I'll say it anyway: there's nothing like a hot donut. These were excellent, and yes, dipping them in a hot breakfast liquid the next day yielded shtekeleh-esque results.



Nina said...

you are one hell of a cook and a foodie.
you make me want to cook, cook, cook, learn and cook some more.

I love your blog! keep writing - posting - cook, cook, cooking.

MEM said...

hi nina,

thanks for the nice words! i don't think I can stop cooking or posting so no worries there...

and i have to say that your blog is reminding me that i need to start trying to cook some Malay food...