Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mushroom Party

How many different kinds of mushrooms have you eaten in your life? Both Min and I are mushroom lovers, but when we saw a wide array of mushrooms on display at the Monterey Market a few weeks ago we realized there are so many types of mushroom that we have never known about, let alone taste it. So, we decided to try every single kind of mushrooms sold in the market. The price range varied as widely as from $1 to $20 a pound. We ended up buying about a dozen different kinds of musrooms totaling more than $40. Since there were so many kinds, we left the ones that we normally intake such as shitake, white button, portabella, etc. We bagged each kind in a different bag, and I kind of felt guilty for wasting so many grocery bags. Looking at the long line of mushrooms on the conveyer belt, the cashier asked if we were Chinese. That made me curious whether Chinese buy that much mushroom usually.

Each mushroom is so unique in its appearance, and they look like pale flowers. We took pictures of every single one of them before setting onto a unique dining expereience. One thing we regretted afterwards is that we didn't write down the names of each musroom when we were at the market. We tried to look up online, but the scientific names kind of put me down. If any mushroom experts out there are reading this post, please share your expertise with me.

With all these mushrooms, we decided to make a mushroom hot pot (or mushroom shabu shabu) so that we can taste each mushroom at a time. To enhance the flavor, I added some beef, vegetables, and udon noodles at the end. As unique as their appearance, not a single mushroom tasted the same as another kind. The differences were rather subtle though. The fun of mushroom hot pot is in noticing this subtle difference in aroma and texture as you eat each mushroom. Yumm..


all kinds of mushroom
anchovy stock (5 cup)
Korean soy sauce (1 tbl)
sliced beef for shabu shabu (1 lb)
kabocha (1/3, optional)
zuchini (1/2, sliced, optional)
pepper (1/2, sliced, optional)
Korean leek root (3 inch, sliced, optional)
Korean parsely/crown daisy/ssookkat (1/2 bunch)
baby bokchoy (3 heads)
soybean paste (1 tbl)
chili powder (1/2 tbl)

Prepare some vegetables to go with the mushroom hot pot. These are optional.

Leafy vegetables like this baby bokchoy makes a good addition to mushrom hot pot.

Make anchovy stock by boiling approximately 3 large or 5 medium size dry anchovies in 5 cups of water and a table spoon of Korean soy sauce. If you prefer meat-based stock, you can use beef stock. Add beef first.

Once the beef starts cooking, add the vegetables and mushroom into the hot pot. Within five minutes of cooking you should be able to eat mushrooms and beef directly from the hot pot. If it tastes too bland at this time, you can dip in soy sauce.

When you are about halfway through, add soybean paste and chili powder to the hot pot and add udon noodle to experience the full soybean-mushroom hotpot. Enjoy.

Yosemite National Parks

In my last post, I had mentioned about upcoming camping trips this summer. Here is our first one this year to the Yosemite National Parks. We went for a 1 night 2 day camping trip with friends.

The weather was just perfect, not too cold and not too hot. We left Oakland around 9 a.m. and arrived at the Crane Flat Campground by 1 p.m. Our camp site was quite spacious and was surrounded by a wall of sequoia trees and a beautiful meadow right next to it.

After we set up our tents, we had beef salami sandwiches with avocado spread on focaccia bread and watermelon for lunch. And then we went on hiking to the Tuolumne Meadows. Though this was my third time to the Yosemite, I had never been to this part of the park, so I was very looking forward to the trip. After driving for about 40 minutes on Tioga Pass Road, a breathtaking view of open prairie came into view with a backdrop of mountain range. It was a totally unexpected and different view from what I used to see in the valley. This reminded me of why people keep coming back to the Yosemite over and over again; the park offers a different experience every time we come. The meadow looked so peaceful and beautiful.

We stopped by the Tolumune Meadows Visitor Center to ask for a not-too-long-but-beautiful-trail nearby. Per their recommendation, we decided to hike a short portion of the famous John Muir Trail to the Twin Bridge. On the trail we came across a creek, then a rocky but not-too-steep path, and about 30 minutes into the trail, beautiful sight of grass meadow with river running right in front of it came into view. Then everybody started clicking cameras in all directions. It was such a lovely place to be.

After this, we decided to check out the Soda Spring trail that was nearby. It was also a short and beautiful trail with some surprises. We ran into dears and other wild animals along the way. As the name of trail suggests, there is a shallow spring of carbonated water which used to provide mineral-rich water to native Indians in the area in the old days. The area near the spring is covered with reddish mud and small amount of water bubbled up all over. The water, which we were told was safe to drink, had a very strong iron aftertaste.

Hiking is fun, but when it comes to camping I am most excited about preparing and having dinner. And on this trip, dinner was definitely the highlight of the trip. The menu for the night was samgyupsal (sliced pork belly meat) and chadolbaegi (thinly sliced beef brisket). There is something about eating outdoors that makes me want to see and hear foods sizzle in front of my eye. We had two grill pans going at the same time, so we can grill samgyupsal and chadolbaegi at the same time. To accompany the meat, I also prepared kimchi chigae, Korean lettuce, gaenip (sesame leaves), ssamjang, and scallion salad. We were all very hungry after we returned from hiking. Korean BBQ dinner after a (half) day of hiking was, as a Korean saying goes, "like everything was glazed with honey". So delicious. We almost forgot to take pictures, but luckily I remembered to take some pictures this time. After dinner we sat around the camp fire and continued on with desserts - roasted corns, sweet potatoes and s'mores.

Whenever I go camping, I feel that spending time in the nature provides so much boost of energy to our life that no urban life can offer. I think I got a pretty good dose of that energy this time. It was a short but fun and memorable trip that definitely made me want to come back again.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tofu Stick Salad

The weather is finally becoming more like summer! I am already getting excited because we already have two camping trips and a few outdoor activities planned for coming months. In this kind of weather, a simple cold dish is just about what I need. When the weather turns hot, you really want to avoid any thing to do with the heat, be it your stove. Also you don't want to have left-overs sitting in your refrigerator for too long since the foods tends go bad more quickly even when kept in the refrigerator.

So here is a perfect dish for this summer, Tofu Stick Salad. It combines these two essential elements of summer dish: you don't have to use the heat, and you are most likely to have these ingredients in your fridge that should to be consumed pretty soon. No need to go grocery shopping. Just enjoy minimal cooking and refresh your appetite for this summer.

Main Ingredients:
tofu (1 block. firm)
cucumber (1/2)
cherry tomato (10)
fake crab meat (4-5)

Ingredients for Sauce:
water (6 tbl)
vinegar (3 tbl)
sugar (3 tbl)
soy sauce (1 tbl)
garlic (1 tbl, minced)
sesame oil (1/2 tbl)
salt (1/2 tsp)

Tofu Salad-1.jpgCut tofu to about 1/4 inch thick sticks.

Tofu Salad-2.jpgJulienne cucumbers and other vegetables of your choice thin and long.

Tofu Salad-3.jpgCombine all the ingredients for sauce and shake well.

Tofu Salad-4.jpgPlace the tofu sticks at the bottom and stack all the other ingredients on top. Then pour the sauce over.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tomales Point Hiking

A few weeks ago we went hiking with a group of friends to Tomales Point in the Marin County, about 40 miles north of San Francisco. It was the first hiking trip for this year, and I was so happy to be finally able to pursue outdoor activities after several months of hibernation through not-too-cold but very wet California winter weather.

I love going on a weekend trip to the Marin Headlands. Whenever we come to visit this part of our town, I am awe-struck at how much beauty can be present in one place and time. Any bubbles of worries and stress seem to evaporate from us when we breathe in the fresh air here. We always tell ourselves that this is one of the reasons we can't leave the Bay Area despite the high cost of living and being away from our families.

This was our first time on the Tomales Point trail. It's not fair to compare one trail to another because they are all natural wonders, but in my opinion the Tomales Point trail was one of the most beautiful trails I have been to thus far. The trail gently rises and falls, passing through a vast field of wild flowers and grass against a backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. When we got there in the last week of May, the wild flowers were blooming up to our waist high. I felt so tempted to free-fall to my back onto these flowers. It would've been totally like a scene from a movie.

About half way into the trail, we met a herd of elks that were freely roaming the field not too distant from the trail. They didn't seem to bother our presence at all. This reminded us they are the hosts and we are only visitors to this part of land.

About three quarters into the trail, the horizon off the Pacific Ocean started getting dark, and gray clouds ascended first from the ocean and slowly towards us. What seemed to be a drizzle at first turned into a pouring rain. So we reluctantly decided to turn back. With no place to shelter under but a few a few groves of pine trees along the way, we got soaking wet by the time we came back to the trail head. It was getting cold, too. On the way back, we unanimously agreed to have hot noodle soup for dinner. So we headed to Saigon Pho in Albany. Nothing could have warmed us up better than a hot bowl of noodle soup.

The first hiking trip for this year started out as rather memorable. Thankfully, none of our friends or we caught a cold from the trip. After that I felt very proud of myself for being so fit! I think I am ready for more eventful activities this summer.