Sunday, May 08, 2005


I wish I'd photoblogged the monstrosity I had for dinner this evening. It was a dish worthy of Rory's What Not to Cook entries. Truly horrifying.

Just try to visualize the following.

It's a few days ago-- say, Wednesday or Thursday evening. I'm low on money, low on food. I've got the following ingredients:


(the above is all you need for basic Béchamel sauce)

I've also got:

a can of tuna
a couple onions
cooking oil
dried pasta
3 potatoes
various Italian spices

Things I don't have, but wish I had:

olive oil
cheese (any cheese)

Shrugging, and with little sense of proportion, I begin to make a tuna/pasta dish. Now that I have two burners, I can do sauce and pasta prep simultaneously, so

1. I boil some water.
2. While the water's getting angrier, I chop up an entire onion and stick it in the newly acquired blender (thanks, Max), then blend it into oblivion. The result isn't the mince I wanted: I've basically got cream instead. This amuses me, and I have to confess that I at least semi-intended to do this to the onion. I hate onions, therefore I abuse them. I plop the shapeless mass into a strainer and let the fucker drain.
3. Oil into frying pan. Begin heating gently.
4. Peel one large potato, then dice it into very small cubes.
5. Potatoes into frying pan, to heat and soften.
6. Onion (whole thing) into frying pan.
7. Pasta into now-boiling water.
8. Near-liquefied onions and diced potatoes give off awesome odor. Add salt, pepper, Italian spices, and finally the can of tuna (drained before adding, of course). Stir and heat; stir and heat.
9. Take frying pan off burner. Start on Bechamel. Milk into saucepan, followed by butter. Heat.
10. Stir pasta so it doesn't stick to itself.
11. Sift flour into heated milk-and-butter-- carefully. Must avoid clumping, and can't do this too fast or you burn the bottom, which results in more clumps. Béchamel is easy to make, and the recipe, which can be eyeballed, is tolerant of wide variations in the proportions of the ingredients, but the actual sauce-making is a matter of timing and technique.
12. As sauce thickens, add salt and pepper.
13. Pour completed sauce over the onion/potato/tuna mess. More Italian seasoning.
14. Check pasta. When it's al dente, drain that puppy.
15. Pour sauce over noodles. EAT.

The result of this Frankensteinian experiment was surprisingly good... for about five minutes. That's when I realized that sticking an entire onion into your sauce isn't good policy. I began to feel a bit queasy as I realized just how much onion I was ingesting.

Another five minutes and I had to stop. I looked sadly at my spaghetti. It still appeared beautiful, but was no longer tolerable. With regret, I packed up the leftovers and stuck them in the fridge, unsure of how to salvage the food for my next meal. I didn't have enough money to buy new milk or other ingredients... the only thing left in my stores was some uncooked rice and a half-bag of mat-kimchi.

Tonight I had what speakers of British English would call a brain-wave. (We Yanks tend to say "brainstorm." We also tend to put our periods inside our quotation marks, which is where they properly belong-- ha ha.)

The only way to make the spaghetti edible was to dilute the onion-y taste. If I'd had milk, I'd have crafted some more Béchamel sauce and lobbed that in there. If I'd had cheese, I'd have done the same thing.

But what I had was kimchi.

It's surprising, but kimchi is often the saving grace of many an otherwise-lame Western leftover. I can see why Rory seeks it out so often for his recipes. Kimchi's strong flavor can bolster a tasteless dish. The cabbage in kimchi is heavier, more rib-sticking, than a lighter veggie like iceberg lettuce, which makes kimchi a good choice for adding oomph and volume to your meal. The leftover kimchi was already a few days old-- i.e., perfectly fermented, properly stinky. Tonight, proud of my brainstorm, I popped my spaghetti into the frying pan with some oil, heated that puppy up, then added the kimchi.

The result was marvelous. The onion problem was solved, and a new fusion cuisine was born.

In the States, I've often kept kimchi as a side dish when ordering Chinese food. American-style Chinese food tends to be bland, sauce-covered hunks of meat and vegetables. I don't blame the Chinese for catering to mainstream American tastes, but the end result is that Chinese food, while nifty, can get kind of depressing. Enter kimchi. No more problem.

So I rescued my spaghetti from the dishonorable fate of being thrown in the "circular file." The only drawback to tonight's rescue was that the dish was ass-ugly. Foul. Menstrual-looking. But holy shit it tasted good!

It suddenly occurred to me this evening that I might want to try making a shrimp curry dish. Koreans love curry preparations, even though curry isn't really native cuisine. I've always enjoyed a cool curry chicken or shrimp salad in the summer; strangely, one of my best memories of such a salad comes from France, while riding the TGV.

Now that I think of it, I'm also in the mood for some Jaggery cake, a super-sweet cake they sell in Sri Lanka, to which I was introduced by my buddy Dr. Steve's fiancee.

Must banish food thoughts. Gotta go hit Namsan again tonight.


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