Hawaiian Night: Making Lau Lau and Malasadas

Last weekend, Jonathan and I had some friends over, so we decided to make some Hawaiian food! Even though Jonathan is from Hawaii, he’s never actually cooked Hawaiian before…

I had thought about making Lau Lau a while back, but couldn’t find taro leaves in Boston, so at some point, I had flown home to LA to pick up the closest thing I could find: dry lotus leaves. I packed them back in a hanging suit case just to keep them flat… so finally putting them to good use was not a bad idea at all.

Jonathan tackled making the Lau Lau, which is pork and butterfish steamed in taro leaves (in this case lotus leaves), the Lomi Lomi Salmon, and tuna poke, while I handled the MALASADAS!

As you recall, I had made malasadas once before, and I was not prepared. But this time, I knew exactly what I was getting myself in to, and lo and behold, they turned out to be beautiful, golden, round donuts!

We’re booked to return to Hawaii this coming January, and I will have a chance to go back to Leonard’s again. One day, I will become a malasada master just like him, but for now, I gotta learn how he injects that coconut cream…

Korean Dinner Night: Japchae Recipe

There is a family-run Korean market that is a ten-minute walk from my house. And whenever I shop there, I am always reminded of the awesome Japchae my friend’s mom made for us. So when Jonathan suggested making Korean barbecue for a dinner party, I saw an opportunity to learn how to make Japchae.

Of all the recipes I found online, the one from Maangchi (link to recipe) seemed the most authentic. The directions were slightly confusing, so I had to reference a few other recipes to make sure I was doing it right. Since I have the legwork done already, here’s some simplified/aggregated tips for the recipe:

  • When cooking your vegetables, you can cook them all in one skillet. Just be mindful of how long it takes certain vegetables to cook. For example, if you are using carrots, make sure to add them to the pan first because it takes longer from them to soften.
  • Lots of the recipes call for different amounts of sugar, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Instead of measuring the ingredients, I recommend adding to your taste preference. The soy sauce serves as the salt; sugar for the nice balance of sweet and salty; and the sesame oil provides the umami. Stir fry the vegetables with a little bit of the soy sauce and sugar so the vegetables can absorb some flavor, but add the sesame oil when mixing the noodles with the vegetables. If you decide to cook the ingredients with the sauces initially, you will find that you will be adding more of the ingredients to mix in at the end.
  • You can also serve it cold. When cold, the Japchae works really well like a noodle salad. Great when eaten with warm rice!

We finally had a nice day in Boston, so we decided to grill the Korean barbecue outside and eat on the backyard picnic table.

It was a perfect evening with good company and good food. Definitely looking forward to more delicious outdoor meals!

Fava Beans: The Neglected Legume

When I stand in the aisle of the grocery store looking for canned beans, I always see the usual suspects: kidney beans, red beans, pinto beans, black beans, navy beans, and garbanzo beans. Based on a study by the Can Manufacturers Institute, Americans consume more than five cans of fruits and vegetables in an average week, so naturally, these legumes are always top of mind in the legume consideration set.

Let me preface this post by saying: I love all legumes and do not discriminate. Canned garbanzo beans have saved me on many quick-meal nights (great add for vegetable curries), and I will never refuse a bowl of Boston baked beans. Unfortunately, I feel that there are a lot of foods, though they may be foreign or do not come in a can, that deserve to be in an American consumer’s consideration set… like the fava bean!

Also known as “broad beans,” these legumes are popular in Mediterranean and South American cuisines and are high in plant protein like other legumes. They are also full of nutrients including vitamin B, iron, and manganese. Interestingly, these little beans also contain L-dopa, which is a pre-cursor amino acid in producing dopamine in your brain, making you feel happy!

As with anything beneficial or rewarding, there is always some work involved. These little nuggets take some time to prepare because I have never seen them in a can, but I could be wrong. Fava beans come in long green pods and need to be shelled twice to get to the good stuff.

How To Pick Fava Beans

Only the beans inside the long pods are edible, so it’s unfortunate that these beans are purchased by the pound and most of the pod gets discarded (we do live in a capitalist country…). Pick green pods that are full, firm, and bright green. This indicates that the beans inside are ripe and full.

How to Prepare Fava Beans

As I mentioned before, fava beans require two shellings. Open the outer green pod and set the beans aside.

  • I find that the easiest way to open the whole pod in one fell swoop is by pinching the top stem and pulling the seam down the middle of the pod. Or if you’re not always about perfection, efficiency, or want to get messy (this is a great kid’s activity), I also like to stick my fingers through the spongy pod and pop them out one-by-one.

The light green shells (the ectoderm) also need to be removed. Steam or blanche the beans, and once they are cool enough to be touched, remove the light green outer shell as shown below.

If the beans are not tender yet, you can cook them a little longer, steam, blanche, incorporate into a dish… but there you have it, your fava beans are ready to be eaten!

How To Use Fava Beans

What I love most about fava beans is their creaminess. Mash them up, add some tahini, olive oil, garlic, and lemon, and you’ve made yourself some delicious fava bean hummus. Add them to a stir fry, salad, or pasta and it will give your dish an added layer of texture.

My favorite way to cook fava beans is with a little bit of bacon or pancetta. Because of the fava beans’ creamy texture, I like to pair it with a little bit of crunch, and crispy pork does just that. On that particular day, I used the fava beans and bacon in a curried couscous appetizer, which incorporated texture and flavor to create a well-rounded and dynamic dish. My guests thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it was the best dish of the night!

The average diner may run into the fava bean once in a while at a high-end restaurant from a tasting menu, but that is not enough exposure to bring the bean mainstream and in to kitchens. Fava beans are so delicious and deserve to be in the spotlight more often, especially since they’re so nutritious! I encourage you to take the time to explore your local grocery store and buy something you haven’t seen before (maybe even some fava beans!). With the internet, you can learn almost everything and anything about an ingredient.

I wholeheartedly hope that one day, the fava bean will gain enough fame to rival the pinto bean and have a place on the bean aisle. Until then, I will continue to be its ambassador and cook them more often in my kitchen!

Are there ingredients you wished more consumers knew about or enjoyed?