Fiction-Food Café

March 29, 2013

Little Food Adventures Diary #1: Moving to Seaside, CA

Beef Bulgogi lettuce wrap
          Here's a little somethin'-somethin' about what I've been up to foodie-wise surrounding our big move to be with B in CA.

          Shortly before leaving Utah, I had lunch with a friend at a local Korean restaurant. I love Korean dramas and they very often feature food (because that's how cool the shows are and the creators understand the importance of food in story) so I'm always curious to try more Korean dishes. I remember lettuce wraps from a few of the dramas, maybe Princess Hours and definitely Aarang and the Magistrate (specifically pork), so that's what I ordered--bulgogi. I got the beef bulgogi and it was divine. It's like a meaty, lettuce taco with a hint of sweet. I'll try my hand at making it soon.

          Our journey to Seaside took us directly through the town of my awesome friend and former roommate Sugar Cookie, so how could I not make her home part of our trip? She is also a "Doctor Who" fan so we took the opportunity to make a couple desserts featured in the show, namely the ball bearing cupcakes of the Tenth Doctor and the jammy dodgers of the Eleventh. As you can see, we had no yellow cake mix on hand for the cupcakes, but tha's okay! You get the idea. Recipe posts will go up for these two treats in the near future.
Ball bearing cupcakes (10) & jammy dodgers (11). Who paper bookmarks by Beth Yates available here!
          Wee, Moon, and I have been in our new home for a week and still no stuff. The truck should be arriving any day now (any day...any day...) so in the meantime we've had fun with paper plates, etc. etc. and some very VERY quick and easy meals. We've made bacon pancakes a la "Adventure Time" (see post here or click the image below), tamagoyaki, or rolled eggs, featured in many anime and korean dramas, and tikka mahala from "Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch" using beef bits and tikka masala sauce from a jar. I'll post instructions soon on how to make the tamagoyaki and I'll post a recipe for tikka mahala too, but I want to make it again, this time with sauce from scratch instead of a jar. So stay-tuned!
Bacon pancakes
Tamagoyaki egg rolls + random extra
Tikka mahala (not masala)

March 28, 2013

Bacon Pancakes from "Adventure Time"

          This is a super-quickie from our still pretty much empty new home in Seaside, CA. The Wee One, Moon >^‿‿^<, and I arrived here safely after a very long drive that thankfully included a stop at Sugar Cookie's home in NV where we made some Doctor Who goodies (see the post coming later today for pictures).
          Because all of our belongings are--hopefully--en route (i.e. not here yet), I bought a frying pan at Target, and then while rolling down the isles of the commissary I spied a box of pancake mix and thought, "oh how easy-peasy for dinner! But we've got to add some bacon (or "macon" as Wee likes to say)". We have a stove, one bowl, one pan, and some plastic utensils, so this dinner was totally doable without all of our other stuff. Mathematical!

Jake the Dog makes bacon pancakes in the "Adventure Time" episode "Burning Low" (s. 4, ep. 16).
Here's Jake's song by Rebecca Sugar, mixed with "Empire State of Mind". Because. Awesome.
(video by jbattyb)

Bacon pancakes, makin' bacon pancakes, 
Take some bacon and I'll put it in a pancake, 
Bacon pancakes, that's what it's gonna make, 
Bacon pancake!

          Feast of Fiction did a real bangarang job with this food including making an extended version of the song with a recipe! Check it out here and be prepared to have the tune stuck in your head if it isn't already.

Jake's Bacon Pancakes
(uber-easy version)

Pancake Mix (powder)
1-2 pkgs Pre-cooked Bacon

1. Heat a frying pan or electric skillet. Mix the pancake powder with the appropriate amount of water as per the directions on the box.
2. Pour a circle of your preferred size into the pan (or onto the skillet) & while the bottom side is cooking place several pieces of bacon onto the uncooked top side of the pancake, tearing the bacon strips as needed to fit onto the pancake. Once the top of the pancake is bubbly, carefully & quickly flip it over so that the bacon side can cook.
3. Remove from heat once the pancake is the desired golden-ness & repeat until all of your batter & bacon are used up.

March 14, 2013

Steamed Buns from "Spirited Away"

(image from Anime Food Gifs)
          Food plays a major role in the Studio Ghibli animated film "Spirited Away", not only by adding to the richness of the Japanese spirit culture depicted in the film, but also by adding layers of meaningful storytelling through food symbolism.

          Lin is a tough-cookie bathhouse worker (and a weasel spirit going by what The Art of Miyazaki's Spirited Away says) who begrudgingly sneaks the main character, Chihiro, through the levels of the bathhouse to meet the boss, Yubaba, so that Chihiro can ask for a job. Shortly thereafter, Chihiro, now called Sen, is assigned to be Lin's assistant in cleaning and preparing the baths for the customers. Lin gives the impression of being hard-shelled and abrasive but when she is alone with Sen, or if it looks like Sen is in danger, Lin's loyalty, kindness, & big sister personality come through.
          In one particular scene, Sen is sitting alone on a moonlit balcony overlooking the newly formed sea, reflecting on the significant event that took place in the scene before. Lin shows up with a plate of steamed buns (she calls them dumplings in the English version) snagged from the festivities going on inside. She hands a bun to Sen and then eats her own bun while lying next to Sen on the balcony.

          Lin’s gift of food not only shows her kind heart but also alludes to the bond forming between Lin and Sen. This gesture, in light of the previous scene's major event, is also telling of Sen’s growth into her current situation.
          The fact that the food is warm bread, symbolic in many cultures of comfort and home and basic human need, can be related to the importance of Sen’s relationships and the necessity of her personal growth, two major themes in the film. The bread could also be seen as a nod to the fact that Sen is now in the workforce and striving for the benefit of her family (this is the basic idea behind the term “breadwinner”).
          Unwinding the symbolism string even further, the bun appears to be filled with anko, sweet red bean paste (made from adzuki or azuki beans) and one could say that it foreshadows the sweetness at the heart of Sen/Chihiro’s journey.

Lin's Steamed Buns

1 cup warm water
(+ water for the steamer)
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 cups cake flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp sugar
(+ a sprinkling for the yeast)
Desired filling
(suggestions: red bean paste, pre-cooked pork, Nutella)

Important Items:
Parchment Paper or Wax Paper

Dissolve a sprinkling of sugar in the warm water & then add the yeast. Let it sit with a towel over the bowl, undisturbed, for a few minutes so it can get foamy.
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients & make a well in the center.
Whisk the canola oil into the yeast until thoroughly combined.
Pour the yeast mixture into the well of dry ingredients in the large bowl & combine with your hands. Knead the dough until it is smooth & no longer sticky.
Form the dough into a ball & place it in a lightly greased bowl with a damp towel over the top. Let it rise for about an hour.
Sprinkle a very small amount of flour on a clean, flat work surface & roll the dough into a log shape.
Cut the dough log into sections, depending on the size & number of buns you'd like to make. *
Roll each dough piece into a ball & cover with a damp cloth to rest for about 15 mins.
Use this time to get your steamer going (I used my little rice cooker that came with a vegetable steamer tray). You want to fill the pot with enough water so that you don't have to worry about it all evaporating & the bottom of your pot getting scorched, but of course you don't want so much water that it reaches the bottom of your steaming tray either!
Now's also a good time to cut little strips of parchment (or wax) paper for your buns to sit on after you form them.
Using your hands & then a rolling pin (optional), flatten each ball, keeping the center a little thicker than the edges (because you'll be gathering the edges up in a minute & they will become thick if you're not careful!).
Once your dough is the circle size you want, spoon a mound of whatever filling you've decided on in the center.
Gently gather the sides in by making pleats, pressing them together & keeping them thin as you go around, building up the sides & bringing the edges closer & closer together.
Close the bun by carefully twisting the dough together & pinching off the top. Incorporate the excess dough into another dough ball. Let the bun rest a minute or two before continuing.
Place the closed bun, seam side down, on a strip of parchment paper & place it in the steamer. If you have a large steamer that can hold more than one bun, with the buns being at least an inch apart, wait until you've made the number of buns you can fit before placing any in the steamer.
Steam the buns (or bun) for 15 minutes (if you are steaming only a couple of tiny buns, take a few minutes off of the steaming time).
When the time is up, remove the steamer lid quickly, trying not to let any of the condensation fall onto the buns, & remove the buns using the ends of the paper strips.
Allow them to cool for a minute or two & enjoy them hot/warm (if you used Nutella for the inside, be very careful that you don't burn your tongue)! And since you have a few, why not share one with someone you care about?

* a dough ball a little smaller than what can sit nicely in your cupped hand is a decent size.
a little tip: add a small amount of vinegar to your water. This is said to keep your buns white.
strips, instead of squares are helpful when it's time to remove the buns from the steamer--you can lift either side of the paper strip instead of touching the hot bun directly or using a utensil to get it out.
seriously, the Nutella is very good. I chose it for all of those people who have been betrayed by the traditional red bean paste filled buns, who took a bite thinking it was chocolate. B, this is for you. But get to it before Smalls does or else all you'll find is a little Nutella smeared face.
  if you want to store your buns in the fridge, simply use plastic baggies or plastic wrap. You can reheat them by covering them with a damp cloth or paper towel & microwaving them for about 30 seconds.
You can freeze your steamed buns by placing them on a tray in the freezer, not touching, & then, once they are frozen, you can put them in a plastic bag together. To reheat, cover them with a damp cloth or paper towel and microwave for about 45 seconds.

You can also freeze raw, un-steamed buns in the same way as described above. When you want to eat them, simply steam them for about 20min.

March 10, 2013

Doughnut Cops from "Wreck-it Ralph"

          Wynchel & Duncan are the doughnut policemen (shown in the scene above) in the fictional video game "Sugar Rush Speedway" from the Disney computer animated film "Wreck-it Ralph". These doughy dudes were inspired by, you guessed it, the stereotype of law enforcement's love of doughnuts. The names Wynchel & Duncan, Wynchel for the tall one and Duncan for the round one, are based on the names of two big doughnut companies, Winchell's Donut House, more common in the western US, and Dunkin Donuts, more common in the eastern US.
          Another factoid dealing with these doughnut cops and US geography; Wynchel is an eclair, which is apparently more common out west, and Duncan is a sugar ring, more common back east. For the recipe below, I did not use an eclair, but a maple bar, which caused Wynchel to be a little wider than he's used to. Thanks goes to my friend Melanie (who I saw "Wreck-it Ralph" with) for being such a good sport and making these with me!

Wynchel & Duncan: Doughnut Cops

1 Brown Eclair or Maple Bar
1 White Frosted Doughnut
White Fondant (homemade recipe here)
Black Fondant (if you make it, make sure it's BLACK & not dk. purple)
Pink Candy Writer (or you can use pink fondant)
Gold Color Mist (food color spray)
White Cookie Icing
Chocolate Jimmies

Important Items:
Parchment Paper
Rolling Pin
Tiny Star Fondant Cutter (recommended, but not required)
Paring Knife
Fine-tipped Paint Brush

1. Place the doughnuts on a parchment lined cookie sheet. On another sheet of parchment paper, roll the black fondant to about 1/8in. thickness. Using your paring knife, cut from the fondant the black shapes shown below (if you'd like, you can print the image & use the shapes as cutting guides. Right click on the image & select "save as". When you print it, make sure the image will print actual size & not scaled to fill the page). Place the cutouts on parchment paper & fold the fondant pouch cutouts on the dotted lines as shown above. Fashion two batons out of black fondant & place them with the rest of the fondant items.
2.  Next, roll out the plain white fondant & cut out the rest of the shapes in the image above: circle, buckle, & star using a tiny star cutter if you have one. Place these shapes on a large plate & spray them with the gold color mist. Do not shake the can before spraying (the directions on the can say to shake, but by not shaking it, the gold color is more concentrated & the fondant is more evenly & appropriately colored).
3. Using the white cookie icing as glue, apply the fondant shapes in the appropriate places as shown in the images above & below, beginning with the black fondant pieces & then placing on the gold pieces. When applying the hats, take two small-ish blobs of black fondant, place one each on the top of the characters' heads, & affix the hat cutouts to the fronts so that the rims overlap the characters' foreheads. Shape & smooth the black fondant blobs so that they are hidden behind the hat shapes.
4. Attach the chocolate jimmies in the appropriate places using the cookie icing applied with a toothpick (eye brows on both characters & a mustache on Duncan--3 long jimmies on each side, 6 total).
5. If using the pink candy writer, heat the tube either in hot water or in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds. Stick a toothpick into the top to clear a path for the pink. Very carefully, draw a tiny circle (doughnut) onto both of the gold star badges. Carefully layering the pink, build up noses for the characters, a long thin one for Wynchel & a fat round one for Duncan. If using pink fondant simply make tiny donut shapes to put on the badges & shape the noses & stick them on with cookie icing.
6. Spray a small puddle of gold color onto the plate & use your fine-tipped brush to paint a thin line around the rim of the sunglasses. Paint small gold dots on either side of the hats & a dot on the front of each belt pouch.
7. Lastly, carefully using a toothpick in an in & out motion, cut a somewhat threatening mouth on each character. Duncan & Wynchel reporting for duty! Ready to serve & protect Princess Vanellope!

March 4, 2013

Sausage & Avocado Pizza from The Raven Boys

When I asked Maggie what's up with the halfsies on the pizza she responded, "You know Gansey is the avocado half. He has dangerously hipster tendencies."
          Stranded on the side of the road with his orange Camaro after a long night in a Henrietta, Virginia graveyard, Gansey, one of the main characters in Maggie Stiefvater's young adult, contemporary fantasy novel The Raven Boys, strips off his Aglionby Academy sweater adorned with the school's raven emblem, and tosses it into the back seat of the car. It lands on several items including a digital recorder, a flashlight, a willow branch, and a pile of old receipts with differing dates for Nino's large, deep-dish, half sausage, half avocado pizza.
          Going to Nino's and getting the halfsies pizza is a common ritual for four raven boys, Gansey, Noah, Adam, and Ronan. It's a place to cool off, a place to stay together, and a place to make plans for their next move to discover the sleeping Welsh king Glendower. It's also the place one night where they meet Blue, the holds-her-own female main character of the story who lives in a house of psychics and is like a battery for supernatural energy. She becomes an indispensable part of their group, both in friendship and in the search for the sleeping king.
          The half sausage, half avocado pizza appears at the beginning of the story as we are introduced to the characters, and is referenced at the very end, after we have become attached to those characters and don't want the story to end. I would say that the "raven boys' pizza", aside from being yummy, is a relate-able, just-unique-enough-to-be-their-own, symbol of unity. A circular, cheesy, symbol of unity. For my review of The Raven Boys, please click here.
Drink Note: Because the setting is Virginia and because Gansey is often chewing on fresh mint leaves and even has his own little mint plant, an appropriate drink for this meal would be mint iced tea (which I lurve!). Simply boil a large pot of water, add several mint tea bags or a bundle of fresh mint, and let it steep for a while until the flavor is strong. You can add sugar to taste if you like. Remove the tea bags or strain the leaves and pour the tea into a pitcher. Place the pitcher in your icebox until it is sufficiently chilled.

March 1, 2013

"Hari's Special" from One Boy, No Water

          Drifting off in thoughts of rising ocean bubbles and the sensation of thinning air, Zader, the main character of Lehua Parker's Hawaiian fantasy novel One Boy, No Water, is brought back to reality by his Uncle Kahana's hand on his shoulder and a warning reminder that he needs to make sure he eats every two or three hours.
           Uncle Kahana asks Zader if he wants potato-mac or tossed salad and scribbles a note for "Hari's Special" from the shop below his home. He gives the paper to his uber smart dog 'Ilima and she heads downstairs to place the order. After a brief conversation about how to protect yourself from potentially man-eating sharks, sharks that can discern and reason, 'Ilima returns carrying a plastic bag with Zader's meal. When Zader peels back the foil on the loaded paper plate he finds golden chicken katsu with dipping sauce, sticky white rice, and creamy potato-mac salad. To drink, Uncle Kahana gives him a cold can of guava juice wrapped in a paper towel and plastic bag so the condensation doesn't touch Zader's skin. Just from looking at the plate Zader doesn't think he can finish it, but once he takes the first bite he devours it all like he hasn't eaten in a week.

"Hari's Special" (Chicken Katsu, Potato-Mac, & Sticky Rice)

Chicken Katsu

4 Chicken Breasts, boneless, skinless
1 Egg, beaten
Panko Bread Crumbs
1 cup Oil
Lemon Wedges (optional)

Heat the oil in a large pan on medium heat.
Place the flour and panko crumbs on separate plates near the chicken & the bowl with the beaten egg.
Dredge a chicken breast in flour.
Then dip it in egg.
Coat it all over in panko.
Gently lay the breaded chicken into the oil.*
Cook on each side until medium-dark golden in color.
Continue the chicken coating process and fit as many chicken breasts in the pan as you can, leaving space to turn the chicken over.
Have a plate with a paper towel ready for the finished chicken katsu pieces.
Before you cut it, let the chicken cool a little until you are ready to serve.
Place a chicken piece each on your serving plates & cut into horizontal or diagonal strips.
Squeeze a little lemon juice over the chicken if desired.

*you'll know when the oil is ready when a tiny flick of water into the pan sizzles instantly.
test for done-ness by cutting a small slit in the fatter part of the chicken breast & checking to see if the meat is cooked all the way through.
metal tongs are great for this.

Katsu Sauce (according to the flavor described in the book)

1/2 tsp. Mustard Powder
1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp. Ground Ginger
2 tsp. Water
1 cup Ketchup
Not quite ¼ cup Worcestershire Sauce
4 tsp. Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar

Whisk together mustard, garlic powder, ginger, & 2 tsp. water in a bowl until smooth.
Add ketchup, Worcestershire, soy sauce, & sugar & whisk until smooth.

Potato-Mac Salad

8oz. box Elbow Noodles
2 Potatoes
4 Eggs
1 can Peas, drained
2 large Carrots
1 Sweet Onion
1 1/2 cup Mayonnaise (or 2 cups if you want it really creamy)
1 Tbsp. Apple Cider vinegar (or Rice Vinegar)
1 tsp. Curry Powder

Hard boil the eggs, cool, peel, and dice.
Peel the potatoes & cut into bite-size pieces & then boil in salted water until tender. Drain & let cool.
Cook the elbow noodles in lightly salted water until tender, but not too soft. Drain & let cool.
Combine the eggs, potatoes, & noodles in a large bowl.
Add the drained can of peas.
Using a cheese grater, grate the two carrots and add the shavings to the large bowl with the other ingredients.
Dice the sweet onion and add to the other ingredients.
In a separate bowl combine the mayonnaise and vinegar with a whisk.
Add the curry powder, as well as the salt & pepper to taste.
Whisk the mixture until completely combined & smooth.
Pour the mayonnaise mixture into the large bowl of other ingredients and toss until fully coated.
Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge overnight.

Sticky White Rice
Prepare the rice in a rice cooker or on the stove top--however you normally do it--but make sure you use long-grain sticky rice, sweet rice, or glutinous rice & soak it in water for at least 30 minutes before cooking. Add 1/2 tsp. salt, too. For sticky rice tips, click here.

Serve this meal with a cold can of guava juice and you're all set!

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