Sides

Japchae 잡채 (Sweet Potato Noodles with Beef & Vegetables)

One of Korea’s most loved dishes, japchae seems to be one of those dishes that can be found almost everywhere and at any time. Be it at breakfast, dinner or at a party, japchae is almost sure to be a feature. Like so many national dishes in Asia, food can represent so much more than just a tasty meal; in the case of japchae it is all about colour and harmony. Translating as “many kinds of various vegetables” japchae is made with the five colours that the Koreans believe reflect obang saek or world harmony to you and me. Each colour symbolises one of the five universal directions – North (black: beef/mushrooms), East (green: courgette/cucumber), South: (red: carrot), West (white: onion) and, most profoundly, the Middle (yellow: egg).

World harmony aside, the best news about japchae is that it is banting and LCHF friendly! Okay, so there is a bit of sugar in the recipe, but at its core japchae’s sweet potato starch noodles are a great low carb alternative to the regular wheat variety and taste infinitely better than courgette noodles.

Noodles without the carb-induced guilt; now what could possibly be better than that?

To be honest I was a bit hesitant about trying japchae when I first encountered it at a breakfast buffet in Seoul. I had tried cooking with Korean sweet potato noodles previously and it was a bit of a disaster, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it another go. I’m so pleased that I did! Chewy, beefy and incredibly satisfying; from the first bite I knew japchae was going to be one of the first Korean dishes I would attempt to recreate when I got back to my kitchen in Cape Town.

As it turned out, making japchae at home is relatively easy and aside from the sweet potato noodles themselves, all the ingredients are Asian store-cupboard staples. The only real difficulty is that the numerous components of the dish need to be individually prepared and cooked before being assembled, but other than that it is actually pretty straight-forward. Just don’t be tempted to soak the sweet potato noodles for longer than 30 minutes or overcook them as this will affect their texture.

Most of the japchae I had whilst in Korea actually didn’t contain any meat so if you would like to make a vegetarian version of the dish simply omit the beef. If you do, however, want to make a meat version then you can also substitute the beef steak with some mince instead.

For more Korean recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

For tips on stocking a Korean Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Nasu Dengaku なす田楽 (Oven-Roasted Eggplant with Miso)

Eggplants, aubergines or brinjals; call them what you will, but most of us are pretty much clueless as to what to do with this perfect purple delight.

Nasu Dengaku なす田楽 (Oven Roasted Eggplant with Miso)Along with an undeserved reputation for being bitter, eggplants are unjustly thought of as greasy. Typically shallow fried, eggplant’s absorbent flesh is easily saturated with excessive amounts of oil and can result in the dish becoming too rich. Luckily, however, there are a couple of ways to cook eggplants without the need to have your local cardiac surgeon on speed-dial, those being steaming and roasting. As the name of the recipe suggests this dish involves the latter method and the results are just to die for, as roasted eggplants and miso are quite simply a match made in heaven.

Traditionally nasu dengaku is made with eggplants that have been cut in half and then grilled, but this method only really works with thin Japanese eggplants which are, unfortunately, quite hard to come by in Cape Town. As such, you are welcome to oven-roast halved eggplants if you prefer, but it just seems so much easier to cube them instead, as the end result isn’t that dissimilar and makes for a more chopstick-friendly meal.

This dish makes for a wonderful addition to any Japanese spread and is also great in salads or even sandwiches (nasu dengaku on a ham and cheese sandwich would be all kinds of awesome!).

For more Japanese recipes, please click HERE or to find out more about how to stock a Japanese Pantry, please click HERE

Click here for the recipe

Asian Coleslaw

Lets be honest, coleslaw has been called many things over the years but trendy has never been one of them – at least until now, that is.

A salad stalwart of 80s potluck dinners, coleslaw has since been pretty much relegated to being nothing more than a questionable side-order to a greasy bucket of chicken – a lazy attempt to elevate our deep-fried indulges into something that resembles a balanced meal! Thankfully, however, these days coleslaw has made something of a comeback and is looking (and tasting) better than ever! Personally I think coleslaw owes its unexpected revival to the recent trendy-burger movement: after all what is a gourmet burger without a helping of gourmet sides?

Truffled skinny fries, tempura onion rings and umami ketchup, it was only a matter of time before coleslaw got in on the action and got a much needed makeover. Whilst the Western incarnation of coleslaw has undergone somewhat of a reinvention, the greatest evolution of the dish is, however, truly manifest in Asian Coleslaw. An ubiquitous name at best, Asian coleslaw is really just regular coleslaw but with a fusion twist.  Don’t get me wrong, regular ‘slaw is awesome, but Asian ‘slaw is simply next-level awesome! Whilst no single ingredient turns regular coleslaw Asian, the star of this particular version of Asian coleslaw is undoubtedly the sesame seeds, which add a wonderful toasted flavour that suits the rich creamy tang of the mayonnaise.

Perhaps one of the best things about coleslaw is its versatility. Traditionally the only two mainstays of the dish are white cabbage and mayonnaise, other than that you can add or omit just about anything. Try making it with some shaved fennel or replace the spring onion with thinly sliced regular onion. Leaving out the sultanas and  doenjang (Korean soy bean paste) would instantly make for the perfect LCHF side dish. Of course if you really wanted to push the boat out you could always substitute the sesame seeds with toasted pine nuts, but given the exorbitant price of pine nuts it does rather feel like an extravagance too far for something as humble as coleslaw.

To call this a “recipe” is somewhat of a stretch as making coleslaw is really just an assemblage of ingredients rather than an actual recipe per se. Okay so there is a fair amount of chopping involved when making any coleslaw, but if you have a decent mandolin handy then there really isn’t anything to it. It seems almost criminal that something so good can require so little effort, but it does and I don’t mind admitting that I’m a little obsessed. I’ve been eating coleslaw with just about everything recently, but that’s because it goes with just about everything! Burgers, sausages, grilled chicken and tonkatsu / chikenkatsu (Japanese Pork / chicken schnitzels) – all make the perfect companion to a healthy dollop of ‘slaw!

Click here for the recipe

Charred Courgette Ribbons with Capers & Mint

 Charred Courgette Ribbons with Capers & MintRich in potassium and virtually carb-free, courgettes are a vegetable worth getting excited about. Inexpensive and readily available, courgettes are perhaps second only to the mighty cauliflower when it comes to surviving any Banting/LCHF diet. That coupled with the fact that they are also rather delicious, it should come as no surprise that I’ve been eating a lot of courgettes lately! Simply sautéed, slow-braised or grated and eaten raw, courgettes are anything if not versatile.

Recently, however, but I’ve taken to grilling them on the braai.

Whilst not a natural-born braaier, I just acquired a fabulous new gas braai (an early 4oth birthday present), so I’ve understandably become a mite braaiverskrik of late and have been grilling up a storm at every given opportunity! I’ve been braaing virtually everything I can get my hands on and given that courgettes are pretty much omnipresent in my fridge, it was only a matter of time before they too found their way onto the griddle. As it turns out courgettes and a flaming griddle are a marriage made in barbecue-heaven, making them one of my favourite vegetables to get the flame-grilled treatment!

As with most good braai salads, this particular concoction was born out of what happened to be lurking in the fridge at the time. The zingy capers work an absolute treat with the smoky charred courgettes, the sprinkling of cheese gives the dish depth and the blast of fresh mint lightens the whole dish.

Deliciously summery…now lets get that braai started!

Click here for the recipe

Skinny Sweet Potato “Fries”

Undoubtedly the best thing to come out of my recent flirtations with the Banting lifestyle is a renewed love affair with sweet potatoes.

I’ve always been fond of sweet potatoes, but they have never really been a major part of my diet. These days, however, I can’t seem to live without them. Whilst still a carbohydrate, luckily sweet potato finds itself on the Banting Orange List, making it the “occasional carb” of choice for many of us on LCHF diets. Provided they are eaten in moderation, this Skinny Sweet Potato Friestuberous gem is nutritious, tasty and most importantly, relatively guilt-free. Chock full of goodness, sweet potatoes are high in Vitamins A, B6 and C, beta-carotene, potassium, antioxidants and contain enough dietary fibre to account for 16% of your RDA. That’s a lot of ‘goodness’ packed into a humble root vegetable!

The nutritional value of sweet potatoes aside, what ultimately makes them so popular is their versatility; they can be used to make soup, mashed, microwaved, oven-roasted, gratinéed or glazed, although the latter is most definitely not for those of us avoiding sugar! Currently, however, my favourite way of preparing sweet potatoes is to use them to make skinny fries.

Cooked in a hot oven, skinny sweet potato fries are just the absolute bomb. Easy to make, healthy and incredibly tasty, these skinny fries are downright irresistible, making them almost TOO good! Personally, I prefer skinny fries over making sweet potato wedges as their ‘skinniness’ encourages a light singeing of the edges, resulting in a ‘burnt’ bitterness that perfectly plays against the inherent sweetness and earthy tones of the vegetable.

Trust me, wholesome has never tasted this good.

Click here for the recipe

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Chorizo & Walnuts

Like most food bloggers, I am not without the occasional food obsession. Between walnuts, curly kale, kimchi and an alarming appetite for Peppermint Crisps, my obsessions of choice are as varied as they are peculiar. Currently, however, I can’t seem to get enough of brussels sprouts, so much so, I’ve taken to eating them by the veritable fistful. Thankfully, however,  this particular obsession is one of my healthier food fixations.

Widely regarded as one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat, brussels sprouts are packed full of nutrients (especially Vitamins C & K), protein and dietary fiber. Banting approved and suitable for those of us who are slaves to the LCHF lifestyle, ‘sprout are even reputed to have cancer busting properties. What more could you ask of the humble ‘sprout? Oh, and they just so happen to taste bloody amazing too!

However, all that said brussels sprouts nevertheless remain a hard-sell.

Bitter and cabbage-like, unfortunately ‘sprouts have always suffered from a bad rep. What, however, is the root of our collective loathing of this much maligned wonder-food? As with almost everything in life, you can probably blame your parents. Most of us bear the childhood scars of being force-feed our greens by well-meaning parents and (with perhaps the exception of the dreaded broccoli) arguably the most detested vegetable was the poor brussels sprout. When most of us think about the ‘sprouts of our youth, we remember them as part of a typical Sunday roast, invariably boiled to within an inch of disintegration. Is it any wonder most of us smothered them in gravy or fed them to the dog on the sly! Sadly, never has such a noble vegetable been treated so poorly and by so many. Whilst many of us remain understandably traumatised by our early experiences, I have actually come to enjoy boiled ‘sprouts and they are almost always part of my roast dinners. More recently, however, I’ve taken to sautéing my ‘sprouts and I have never looked back!

Quick, tasty and incredibly healthy, shredding and sautéing your ‘sprouts is the ultimate way to enjoy this nutritious vegetable. A versatile side-dish, sautéed ‘sprouts go well with any roasted/grilled meats, sausages and burger patties, and whilst they are delicious just shredded and then lightly sautéed on their own, there are endless ways of jazzing up the dish. Add some diced bacon, red onion, mushrooms, red chilli; the options are limitless and all tasty. My personal favourite combination is with some chorizo, spring onion and walnuts – add a runny fried egg on top and you’d have my own personal cruciferous Banting-bliss on a plate!

Obsessed!

Click here for the recipe

Kkakdugi 깍두기 (Cubed Daikon Kimchi)

I have an unholy passion for kimchi and I’m not ashamed to admit it! I simply can’t get enough of this spicy Korean delight and it seems I am not alone. Some of my most popular posts to date have been kimchi related, so I thought it was about time I fed our collective obsession and posted another kimchi recipe. So this time around, I’m making one of my favourite types of kimchikkakdugi or cubed daikon kimchi.

Kkakdugi 깍두기 (Cubed Daikon Kimchi)Perhaps second only in popluarity to the almighty mak kimchi, kkakdugi is a great addition to any Korean dining experience. As you would expect with any type of kimchi, this version of the Korean staple is wonderfully piquant and highly addictive; though unlike most others, daikon kimchi has a delightful crunch and crispness to it which helps temper the spiciness of the chilli powder.

Personally, I find the process of making kkakdugi marginally less involved than mak kimchi and the fermenting period is also a little bit shorter, meaning you don’t have to wait quite as along to tuck into your kimchi! On the downside, kkakdugi doesn’t seem to fair as well as other kimchis in terms of its shelf-life, however, this may have more to do with my lack of technique and experience than a shortcoming of the dish!

With regard to technique, making any sort of kimchi is a matter of trial and error. Whilst the core process for making kimchi remains similar for each variety, each version has its own quirks and it may take a few attempts before you end up with a kimchi that suits your own tastes and preferences. Making the perfect kkakdugi has, up to now, been particularly vexing for me as I often find the kimchi comes out too watery and the daikon too limp. I have now taken to draining off the excess water as the kimchi ferments and I have also stopped peeling my daikon – both these seemingly minor tweaks to the process has resulted in a far superior end result (at least in my opinion).

For more Korean recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Miso Butter

Broccoli with Red Pepper and Miso Butter

Broccoli with Red Pepper and Miso Butter

Okay, so I have confession. I can hide it no longer: I’m a closet Banting/LCHF dieter.

At least I’m trying to be.

Admittedly, I’m not yet a complete high-fat convert – I’m sorry, but butter in tea?!? Seriously, I’m not a Tibetian yak herder; so thanks, but no thanks. I have, however, taken to a reduced carb diet and have developed a new obsession as a result of an increased fat intake – miso butter!

Simple and insanely tasty, miso butter is a must-have staple in everybody’s freezer – whether you subscribe to Banting or not. Quick to make, the miso butter ‘log’ can sit in your freezer almost indefinitely. Not that it will last that long as you will probably end up eating it with everything!

Great on grilled steaks, vegetables, grilled chicken and burgers – miso butter will perk up virtually any meal.

Click here for the recipe

Quinoa & Chickpea Salad with Asparagus, Avocado and Sugar Snap Peas

Quinoa & Chickpea Salad with Asparagus and Sugar Snap PeasQuinoa: the mere mention of the word is enough to instil a sense of dread in any meat lover!

Thankfully, the recent popularity of couscous and, to a lesser extent, bulgar wheat, have paved the way for a quinoa renaissance of sorts. With an increased appreciation of grains as a healthier alternative to traditional carbs, quinoa is no longer the preserve of sandal wearing hippies and long forgotten Incas. This once sacred grain is now the darling of the health conscious and has even sneaked into the hearts of some of the most ferocious carnivores among us, myself included!

Which brings me to this awesome salad.

Packed with the best of nature, this salad tastes like Spring on-a-plate and makes for an excellent side dish to a braai or just as a great vegan/vegetarian dinner. I must confess, this sort of food is not usually my style, but this fabulous salad was a result of the need to feed a guest who was on a restricted diet and my repertoire is all the better for it!

Forced to go “healthy” for the sake of my guest, I turned to the healthiest food I knew of – quinoa. Unfortunately, my previous experiences of this protein rich grain were limited to its popular use as a poor meat substitute in the 90s – not a great starting point for any dish! Nevertheless, after a flurry of panicked internet trawling and cookbook research, I discovered that quinoa has come along way since the days when it was relegated to being stuffed into vegan sausages.

Simple to cook and easy to digest, quinoa was an absolute revelation! Delightfully flavoured, quinoa is, in my opinion, far nicer than couscous (which can be rather dull) and bulgar wheat (which is, at best, indigestible). With its distinctly nutty flavour, quinoa is tasty without being overpowering, making it the perfect base for any tabbouleh style salad.

So, quite unexpectedly I find myself in love with quinoa…and after you try this dish, the chances are you will be too.

Click here for the recipe

Roti Jala

Bored of curry and rice? Well don’t despair, roti jala makes for a fantastic alternative to your traditional curry fare. Lighter than other types of rotis, roti jala is perhaps the ultimate way to enjoy your favourite curry!

More of a pancake than a bread, roti jala’s name is inspired by traditional Malay fishing nets, known as jalas. Also widely referred to as lace bread, roti jala is a delicate web of coconut flavoured batter, lightly fried and then served either with curry or as a traditional sweet, eaten with a mixture of boiled coconut milk, palm sugar and pandan leaves called serawa. Personally I’ve never eaten it as a desert, so to my mind roti jala is very much a savoury treat. Perfectly designed to mop-up sauces, I suggest pairing roti jala with a good chicken curry with plenty of gravy, such as the classic kari kaptian or even a Cape Malay Chicken Curry.

Whilst the recipe for this lacy delight is very straightforward, unfortunately roti jala can be a little tricky to make. Made with a special 5-holed ladle or pourer, roti jala requires a steady hand, some assured wrist-action and plenty of trial and error. As with all “pancakes” you can expect a few mishaps in every batch you cook, but you should yield about 12 roti jalas out of this recipe, give or take the ones you’ll inevitably throw away.

I won’t lie, making roti jala can be a frustrating affair, at least initially. Between getting the batter to the right pouring consistency, that damned wrist-action and maintaining the perfect heat, it is easy to become disheartened, but don’t – you’ll get it right eventually! I’m still getting the hang of making it, but I like to think that I’m slowly getting there. To be honest, I doubt that I will ever truly master the art of the perfect roti jala, but when trial and error tastes this damn good, I’m happy to keep on muddling through!

To discover other delicious Malaysian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe