Life Hack: Using an electric kettle as an instant noodle-maker

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RocketNews 24 (by Casey Baseel):

Cooking udon, or any other kind of fresh pasta, just got a whole lot easier.

Excluding the pot of leftover curry and can of Ebisu sitting in my fridge, I think my T-fal electric kettle might be the most wonderful thing in my kitchen. All I have to do is fill it from the tap, flip the switch, and in seconds I’ve got a pot of boiling water with which to make tea, coffee, or hot chocolate.

It also comes in handy if I’m craving noodles, since the spout makes it easy to pour into cup ramen. But it turns out an electric kettle can be useful even for making noodles of the non-instant variety, as shown by Japanese Twitter user @aya_royal_1025.

@aya_royal_1025 hails from Kagawa, which is so famous for udon noodles that it’s jokingly called “Udon Prefecture.” As a staple food of the region, Kagawa’s residents of course spend a lot of time every year cooking udon, which would ordinarily entail boiling a pot of water, tossing in the noodles, then stirring them as they cook.

At some point, though, @aya_royal_1025 came up with a quicker way of getting things done: just toss the uncooked noodles into the kettle along with the necessary amount of water and flash cook them with the press of a button.

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Despite the unorthodox cooking method, @aya_royal_1025 says the resulting noodles aren’t soggy or mushy, an also promises that they taste just as good as udon made in the traditional manner.

There are a couple of things to be aware of. For starters, @aya_royal_1025 doesn’t mention one way or another whether using the kettle for a purpose it clearly wasn’t originally designed for has any effect on its longevity. Also, since you’re now using the kettle to cook instead of just boil water, you’ll want to wash the apparatus out when you’re done, so that no udon residue sticks to its inside (just like you would after making noodles in a regular pot). Finally, a normal-sized kettle is only going to have room to make a single-person-sized portion.

But if you’re in the mood for some actual udon (or any other kind of noodle) even though you’re strapped for time, this sounds like an amazingly convenient way to speed things up in the kitchen.

Korean-American celebrity chef David Chang bans tipping at his new Momofuku Nishi restaurant

Tucked away in NYC’s vibrant Chelsea district lies Momofuku Nishi, the newest restaurant by celebrity chef David Chang which opened its doors for the first time last week. With locations already in Toronto (Momofuku Daisho), Washington, D.C. (Momofuku CCDC), and Sydney (Momofuku Seiobo) in addition to its Noodle Bar headquarters in NYC, Nishi is the first full-service, original Momofuku restaurant to open in the past five years.

What else is new for Momofuku? Plenty. With his latest venture Chef Chang takes it back to his Korean roots with an Italian and Korean cuisine-inspired menu infused with classic Cantonese barbecue and of course, dishes inspired by his mother and grandmother.

Nishi is what Noodle Bar would be if I opened it up as a 38-year-old, not a 26-year-old. We know how to play all our instruments now. The skill level here is higher,” Chang told Lucky Peach in a recent interview.

Chang had a few words to share about his menu’s price points:

“I’m done with people telling me that I can’t charge what I want to charge for things. The only difference between these dishes is price point and regionality. It pisses me off that Asian food has to be cheaper. Why? Not one person has given me a reason why. All the ingredients that we’re getting are top quality, and just as expensive as any other restaurant. Look at the version of cacio e pepe we’re serving here. The only expensive ingredient we’re not using is parmesan—and guess what parmesan is? MSG. We’re replacing the parmesan with our own fermented chickpea paste that took us six to nine months to make. So fuck you guys. I’m not getting on the phone and ordering a wheel of parmesan. Don’t tell me that I can’t charge like Italian food.”

His stance for a no-tip system stems from the restaurant’s success at their Sydney location:

“We have a restaurant in Australia where tipping is not like it is here. I got to see just how much our cooks and servers make. It’s a considerable amount, and there is greater parity between the front and back of house. I don’t know if anyone has a restaurant in Australia who can say that, but we can. It is crazy how much money a cook can make relative to NYC—still not enough, but a lot. It was an idea that we want to try. Bottom line is we want to pay sous chefs, cooks, and dishwashers a living wage. People say, ‘Why don’t you just charge more money?’ They’re idiots. Margins are slim to none. Restaurants are not a very profitable business. This is an opportunity to pay our cooks more… We want to be able to grow as a company so we can provide for more people. This is a way we might be able to do that. And if it doesn’t work, we can always go back to the old way.”

Nishi’s menu has not been released yet, but the eatery is now open five days a week, from Tuesday to Saturday.

Momofuku Nishi
232 8th Ave. (between 21st and 22nd streets)
New York, NY 10011

Japanese Zen Buddhist temple starts selling instant vegan soba and udon noodles

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RocketNews 24:

Upon coming to Japan, a lot of people are surprised to discover just how difficult finding vegetarian food can be. Many people imagine Japan as a country that eats very little meat, and while that’s definitely true in comparison to North America and western Europe, the flipside is that you’ll find at least a little bit of meat in just about all dishes, including salads and vegetable stews with surprising frequency.

Things get trickier still if you’re trying to stick to a vegan diet. Even something as simple as noodles are generally out, since almost all broths are made with meat or fish stock. But if you’ve got an aversion to meat coupled with a craving for soba or udon, you’re in luck, with two new types of vegan instant noodles produced by a Zen Buddhist temple.

As a temple of the Soto sect of Zen, Yokohama’s Soji Temple is primarily concerned with nourishing the souls of worshippers. The institution’s newest venture, though, is more concerned with your physical nourishment, as evidenced by its name, Zen-Foods.

Many devout Buddhist monks in Japan adhere to a strict vegan diet called shojin ryori. In recent years, the cuisine has obtained a somewhat chic status, bolstered by its healthy image and connection to temple lodges that have become increasingly popular places for travelers to stay.

Under the supervision of Soji Temple, Zen-Foods has produced two types of instant noodles, both completely animal product-free, in accordance with the rules of shojin ryori.

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The Gahomen Soba buckwheat noodles, despite their elegant background, are made like any other instant variety. Open the lid, sprinkle on the soup powder, add hot water, and wait three minutes for everything to cook. Once it does, you’ll have a bowl of soba, swimming in a kelp/soy sauce broth, topped with soybeans, fried tofu, kikurage mushrooms, and an assortment of chingensai, warabi, and zenmai greens.

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Meanwhile, the Gahomen Udon wheat noodles’ has a vegetable broth seasoned with salt. While soba and udon toppings are largely interchangeable in Japanese cuisine, Zen-Foods gives its two types of noodles completely different accompaniments. With the udon, you can look forward to lotus root, green beans, and taro, among other veggies.

The udon does require a little more patience, though, as its cooking time is listed as five minutes. Looked at another way, though, that’s two more minutes for quiet meditation, self-reflection, or simply looking forward to your hot, healthy meal.

Gahomen Soba and Udon can be ordered here, directly from Zen-Foods, in packs of 12 for 3,600 yen (US$30).

Asian remedies that will cure your hangover

 

Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup

Audrey Magazine (by Jianne Lasaten):

Sure, Asian glow is one thing to worry about, but what about those nights when things go a bit too far and you end up taking one (or five) more shots than intended? Hopefully you got home safe and sound (that’s what’s most important, after all).

But when you wake up the next day, you have to face an immediate problem. When the world is still spinning and you feel too nauseous to move, you know you’ve been hit with the dreaded hangover. For my friends and I, a comforting bowl of pho usually does the trick. But what helps everyone else?

Buzzfeed shared their list of interesting traditional hangover remedies from around the world. Below, we bring you the hangover cures, Asian style! We have to warn you though, you may have to be a brave one to try a few of these…

Philippines: Balut and Rice

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Ah, yes. The signature “weird” delicacy of the Philippines is also a well-known hangover cure. According to the Travel Channel, balut, which is a developing duck embryo, contains cysteine– a substance that breaks down alcoholic toxins in the liver.

 

China: Congee

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This rice porridge contains ginger, garlic and scallions. All three ingredients combined should help ease those headaches.

 

Japan: Umeboshi

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Umeboshi is a pickled sour plum that is well-known for its health benefits. It contains natural bacteria, enzymes, organic acids and alkaline. These help eliminate excessive acidity in the body.

 

Mongolia: Picked Sheep Eye in Tomato Juice

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Commonly known as the “Mongolian Mary,” this beverage is not for the faint of heart. Tomato juice contains simple sugars to boost your glucose levels back up as well as re-hydrate you after a night of drinking. The significance of the sheep eye? Well, that’s still a mystery.

 

South Korea: Haejangguk

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South Korea definitely came prepared because Haejangguk literally translates into “soup to cure a hangover.” Although the recipe differs in every region, this spicy beef broth usually contains pork, spinach, cabbage, onions and congealed ox blood.

 

Indonesia: Kaya Toast

Courtesy of latimes.com

This traditional Indonesian breakfast will satisfy all of your sweet and salty hangover cravings (ladies, this would probably be just as helpful for that time of month). Warm toasted bread slices are served with salted butter and Kaya Jam, a sweet mixture of coconut milk, sugar, eggs, and pandan.

 

Bangladesh: Coconut Water

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We can’t argue with this one. Coconut water is known to have a significant amount of potassium and will keep you hydrated.

 

Thailand: Pad Kee Mao

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Nicknamed “drunken noodles,” this spicy dish is said to be a favorite among Thai men after a night of drinking. It usually consists of wide rice noodles, ground beef (or other meat), basil and other spices, onions and bell peppers.

10 distinctly Japanese comfort foods

RocketNews 24:

Comfort food” is traditional cooking that tends to have a nostalgic or sentimental connection, often one related to family or childhood: the grilled cheese sandwiches your mother used to make; the thought of your grandmother’s bread pudding makes your mouth water; the way the whole house would be filled with the intoxicating aroma of roasted turkey or ham at Christmas? Because of such memories, these foods comfort us, especially when we’re longing for home or feeling especially vulnerable.

Not surprisingly, the sentimental Japanese have their own comfort foods. While you might think they’d be waxing over the octopus tentacles of home, very few of the dishes we’re about to talk about have much to do with seafood. Many Japanese comfort foods have a rice connection and may even center around the unique relationship between mothers or wives and their role in family food preparation. And in Japan, make no mistake about it–her kitchen rules!

Here are 10 distinctly Japanese comfort foods:

1. Miso soup and rice (味噌汁とご飯)

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Miso soup and its companion bowl of rice are sometimes described as a “marriage.” This is the food Japanese miss most when they leave home to live on their own for the first time or if they travel abroad and tire of “Western breakfast.”

Miso soup is hardly ever served without its faithful rice. For centuries this edible couple has been considered the main part of a classic, healthy Japanese breakfast. “Mom’s miso soup” is, quite simply, to die for. And each Mom adds her own touch to the recipe, so the subtle flavors vary according to household. So powerful is this aromatic duo that the mere thought of smelling miso upon waking up in the morning can leave a study-abroad student salivating as he or she is transported temporarily back to the mother ship.

Other than the miso base, other ingredients in the soup may include dashi broth, tofu, chopped green onion, wakame seaweed and a plethora of others. See some miso soup anime ads that bring out the true miso spirit.

Try making it! Learn how to make miso soup in the Rocket Kitchen. No miso? No problem–miso can be made at home too!

 

2. Onigiri (おにぎり)

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While women’s hands are said to be too warm to become sushi chefs, those ostensibly hot hands surely come in handy when it comes to making rice balls. This favorite snack, made from either fresh steamed rice or leftover rice from the night before, is standard fare for bento lunches and picnics. All good outdoor gatherings feature the highly portable and nutritious triangular-shaped sticky rice ball, which is geometrically formed by squeezing it just so in the palms of the hands. Each ball is filled with one of a number of ingredients from sweet salmon to sour plums, and the triangle of rice is girthed with a seaweed belt so moist, it doesn’t actually stick to your lips like the papery convenience-store kind.

According to Japanese aesthetics, any food tastes better with proper scenery, so you’ll find rice balls at every “Hanami” cherry blossom party.

 

3. Tempura (天ぷら)

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This favorite food of foreigners is also a favorite of the Japanese (even though tempura is thought to have originally come from Portugal). Surely, worldwide, everyone loves tempura! And mama’s home made has gotta be the best. But I can’t help think that the nostalgia surrounding this food (the taste of which doesn’t vary that much from kitchen to kitchen) has to do with the method of preparation: the wife dutifully stays in the kitchen throughout the meal, only emerging occasionally when the next batch of piping hot veggies are ready to be served to her expectant family. And of course a Japanese wife is happy, perhaps even ecstatic, to do this, in order to fulfill the expectations of the perfect mother who, at least in the old days, was said to “make and serves food with all her heart” (kokorokomete ryoriotsukurimasu).

Tip! Be sure to have fun with your tempura–make it colossal!

 

4. Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)

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A close runner up as an all-time favorite by foreigners and Japanese alike is oknomiyaki (literally “grilled as you like it”). What could be more fun than playing with your food? Mix up the cabbage with a combination of okonomiyaki flour and milk, add a raw egg, then ingredients such as mochi, cheese, fish, pork, or corn (anything really–as you like it!). Leave it on the grill to cook then top it with sweet okonomiyaki sauce!

Whether Hiroshima style or Osaka style, oknonomiyaki satisfies even the most unsophisticated pallets. It’s what I serve to my parents who don’t like Japanese food (surely the only two people left in the world). This pancake-like food is certainly interactive and gets everyone communing at the table.

Not only that, but such comfort foods pull at the heartstrings of boys when they become myopic, nostalgic adults missing their mommies. In Japan, the relationship between mothers and sons is supposed to be extra special (sorry girls!).

Watch it! A video of one man’s gourmet food trip through Japan, including oknomiyaki.

 

5. Tamago Kake Gohan (卵かけ御飯)

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This simple dish is so fast, so simple, and so good! Just a raw egg, a little soy sauce (if you like) and some cooked white rice will give you a meal on the go. One of our RocketNews24 writers who grew up eating TKG, says it’s her go-to comfort food. Just pour the raw egg yolk over the rice and mix it together: ta-da! Isn’t that convenient?! Who said you couldn’t cook Japanese food?

Make it! Try Rocket Kitchen’s Ultimate TKG

6. Nabe (鍋)

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Nabe is one of those foods in the “cooked in large earthenware pot” family. It is stewed in a vessel that sits in the middle of the table. Meat and vegetables are added throughout the entire dinner session, with each person around the dinner table reaching into the pot with their chopsticks to pick out their own vegetables or meats (or perhaps dished out by mom) as the ingredients slowly cook. This dish is only shared with family or good friends who you’re absolutely sure don’t have any contagious diseases. The constant dipping of your chopsticks into the broth to dig out mighty morsels means that you’ll be sharing your germs. On the other hand, you can console yourself that the boiling broth may kill most of the cooties someone might unknowingly be passing on. Nabe, a winter food, is usually associated with close friends and family, the equivalent of sitting around a bonfire with a guitar and singing songs together. Being invited to a nabe party is a definitive indication you’ve been accepted into the inner circle. Try yosenabe–or “fling it all in” nabe!

Make it cute! Tips on how to make your nabe look as kawaii as possible!

 

7. Okayu (おかゆ)

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When Japanese feel a cold coming on, they reach for okayu–a warm, easily digestible watery mush made from rice. It’s also the food of choice if you’re missing your teeth. Even Kiki, the heroine of the anime film Kiki’s Delivery Service, can be seen eating okayu in a scene when she is sick. So next time you’re feeling a bit under the weather, do what Kiki does and try some rice porridge!

Make it! Ghibli-inspired rice porridge

8. Udon (うどん)

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While both ramen and udon noodles are loved by the Japanese, I’m going to stick to Udon here because, well, it’s Japanese (whereas ramen in technically Chinese) and udon is the Wall Street Journal of noodles–it’s way more sophisticated than ramen. Ramen’s reputation is that of an easy, greasy food eaten when you’re in need of something filling and moreish but not especially good for you–often after a night out drinking. But while ramen satisfies, udon nurtures. The warmth of steam emanating from a large bowl of udon, and enveloping your face in the wintertime is enough to warm you to your toes. It’s no wonder that in Kagawa Prefecture, the udon capital of Japan, and where they are known to eat udon while in the bath, that they’re using the long unleavened egg dough to generate power. How cool is that?!

9. Curry Rice (カレーライス)

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Curry rice doesn’t sound like it’s Japanese, and surely its origins aren’t (Japanese curry comes from India by way of the British navy, would you believe), but the way the Japanese have modified their knock-off version is distinctly their own. It’s sweet, gooey and heaped over sticky rice! And it’s usually not spicy at all. Kids and adults alike love this cheap, easy-to-prepare food, usually made from boxed curry you buy at the store. And anything can be added to it including meat and veggies. For me, I prefer the real thing, but the fact is that Japanese kids grow up eating and loving the Japanese version. Curry rice is served in school lunches, at ski resorts, on the beach, and at restaurants everywhere. It’s ubiquitous, which means it’s a fallback food anywhere, anytime. Except abroad, where you’ll rarely, if ever, find it.

Tip! Twelve meals to make using leftover curry

10. Ochazuke (お茶漬け)

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We saved ochazuke for last because this dish is consumed at the very end of a meal. Ochazuke is most likely only encountered by foreigners who dine with Japanese, so may not be well-known to mere tourists. But most foreigners’ first encounter is similar: You’re at the end of a meal, feeling like a total pig because you’ve eaten so much amazing food. You’re sitting back in your chair, hands folded over the swollen stomach, thinking you couldn’t eat another bite of anything even if it were apple pie, when suddenly, someone at the table pipes up, “Let’s have ochazuke!” They tackle the waiter who dutifully takes away one thing from the table: the leftover rice. This is taken back to the kitchen, where the chef mixes it with green tea (and perhaps some other things). The rice concoction is brought back out to the table and presented as the last course, like a sort of savoury dessert. It’s warm, it’s delicious, and you somehow find a little extra room in your distended stomach for it before completely passing out.

Tip! Just combine green tea and rice.

 

The defrosted reality of 24 frozen meals at Thai 7-Elevens

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RocketNews 24:

The frozen food section at the local convenience store may not hold any lofty culinary treasures, but it does hold the key to saving time and energy after a long day. All around the world, people value frozen foods for their convenience and, sometimes, their deliciousness.

But can you really trust the picture on the front of the package to be what comes out of the microwave? One Thai netizen went on a quest to demystify the frozen food section of Thailand’s 7-Elevens and posted photos of 24 heated up meals to see how they compared to people’s expectations.

Lonelynite, a user of the Thai webforum Pantip, posted the photos to share what a diet of only frozen meals from 7-Eleven would look like. The meals all cost between 30 to 45 baht (US$0.92 to US$1.38) and were a variety of Southeast Asian, Chinese, and Western cuisine. There were even a few Japanese foods including karaage fried chicken or Japanese-style curry. While some of the food looked pretty good, some did not look appetizing at all. Check out all 24 meals below!

 

1. Fish in red curry fried with rice

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2. Pork fried rice

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3. Japanese curry and tonkatsu (pork cutlet) with Japanese rice

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4. Stir fried mixed vegetables and omelette with rice

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5. Shrimp fried rice

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6. Korean-style chicken with rice

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7. Spaghetti carbonara with ham

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8. Spaghetti with chili pork basil leaf

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9. Stir-fried Japanese rice with salmon

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10. Chicken sausage fried rice

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11. American fried rice

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12. Stir-fried basil shrimp with rice

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13. Stir-fried chicken with chili paste and bamboo shoots

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14. Fried mackerel and shrimp paste sauce with rice

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15. Hainanese chicken rice with soup

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16. Pork panang curry with rice

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17. Karaage chicken with Japanese rice

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18. Spaghetti tomato sauce with chicken

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19. Stir-fried basil vegetarian protein with rice

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20. Stir-fried pork and basil with rice

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21. Noodles

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22. Stir-fried pork with basil leaf and rice

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23. Grilled pork steak with Japanese rice

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24. Crab fried rice

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How did the frozen meals of Thailand’s 7-Eleven match up to the photos on the package?