kkwan525's blog

Bringing Malai Kofta To the Table

Recessionista is the new BoHo, as funemployed is the new investmenet banker. As underground eateries become the new Babo/Momofuku, we all find ourselves around a new table. Here in San Francisco, they are larger tables, perhaps viking length tables in warehourses, carpets in our parents' houses, parks. We are not eating in pairs or three, but in tens and twenties.

We are all underground restaurants, cooking a select menu of 5-6 dishes for our masses. We are pooling resources to remain eaters of good food without waste and considerable spend. We remain people who can focus on how we feed ourselves and how we prefer to eat. Hopefully, some really interesting stuff is happening here.
A couple weeks ago my friends and I came together in a Herculean effort to fill a table with tomato lamb curry, chicken tikka masala, samosas, chicken vindaloo, vegetarian curries, chutneys, naan, and malai kofta. We brought what we had: nuggets of experience, bastions of inexperience, optimism, sweat, fenugreek leaves.
And we created a kitchen table. We got comments like, "fucking better than going to a restaurant". The food we devoured without looking up, but moreover, the time we spent together, the excitement that we had, the "holy shit, things are burning -- fuck it" attitude we shared made us owners of our meal.
I made Malai Kofta, a vegetarian "meatball" in tomato sauce. Basically, a ball of mashed potatoes and purple yams, filled with paneer, coconut and spices, which is then fried and topped with a sauce. The sauce contains poppy seeds, nuts, onion, tomatoes, and more spices.
My sister snatched this recipe through her travels in India. She tried to annotate and translate a woman's movement into metrics. But how do you translate handfuls and glassfuls into replicable instruction?
And how do I, by secondary association, visualize my movements? Blind-folded.
I attempted what few instructions my sister scribbled in her journal and document it here. I did this because, these scribblings are the drop off into which recipes by word of mouth or proxy can be lost.
There is so much to learn in time spent evoking this dish.
This recipe is a culmination of what I want out of a day. Running around to Indian bazaars, asking advice from strangers who are holding the same ingredient I am holding, banging things in my mortar and pestle, making cheese, shaping balls, guessing, editing, drinking, enlisting help. Watching a day come together in a succinct dish.
In the end, I loved my output. Though I stand by my interpretation of this recipe, it did come out like an appetizer rather than a main dish. The sauce was thick and chunky when it should've run thinner, like a marinara sauce.
I have made some changes to the original dish, so it is aspirational. If you have a day to putz in the kitchen, make these meatballs. In additional tasting like a win, they have a really delicate sweet flavor. Spices are not too strong, and moreso harmonious.
MALAI KOFTA (Makes a number of balls - easily serves 10) Total time - 6 hours, active time - 6 hours
SUMMARY Much of what you do you can do ahead of time. You make a set of pastes (onion, and white paste), you pound a small pot of spices, you boil potatoes and mash them, you peel tomatoes and puree them, you make cheese and place it in a bowl. Two hours before eating, you form little balls of potato with filled in side. You fry meatballs, make your sauce by cooking up some paste, and you end up with fried balls in sauce. The following diagram may be more helpful.
- 1/3 lb Paneer, crumbled - I made my own
- 1/4 c raisins or currants
- 1/2 raw cashews, chopped
- 3 T coconut milk
- 1/2 t "kinnamon", recipe follows
- 4 Medium russet potatoes
- 2 purple yams
- 1 Heaping T cornstarch
- water
- oil for frying
- 2 small onions, chopped
- 2 T raw cashews
- 2 T pumpkin seeds
- 2 T white poppyseeds (look in your local Indian bazaar, but I used black and it was just fine)
- 4 large tomatoes
- 1 t "kinnamon", recipe follows
- 1 T oil
- 1/2 t meat masala
- 1 t garam masala
- 1 large fenugreek leaf (very fragrant - look in your local Indian bazaar)
- 1 c milk
Kinnamon spice blend
- 2 parts cinnamon
- 2 part cardamon
- 1 part cloves
PART 1 - Building the components together.
These can happen in no particular order. I have not numbered them so do them at your leisure. They are categorized as for the 'dumpling' or for the 'sauce'.
Potatoes - Dumpling
Peel potatoes and purple yam. Put in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to boil on the stove. Cover and reduce flame to low. Cook until tender, roughly 20-30 minutes. Depending on the size of your potato. Mash together with cornstarch and a splash of water! The texture should be such that you can form it into little amoebas or faces. Salt to taste. Pics

Make the "kinnamon" spice blend - Dumpling
In a mortar and pestle, pound together the cinnamon, cardamon, and clove until finely ground. You will be eating this, so please do not leave chunks. Don't be lazy - or use a spice grinder.
Prepare the filling - Dumpling
Crumble the paneer in a bowl. Add currants/raisins, coconut milk, 1 t kinnamon, and cashews. Salt to taste. Pics

Make Onion Paste - Sauce
Saute the onions in some clarified butter or oil on medium until soft. Pour a glass of 1/4 c water on top and continue to cook on medium covered for 10 minutes. Blend into a paste. If too thick, add some water. Pics

Make White Paste
Boil some water. Pour over a boil containing poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, and cashews until just covered. Let sit half an hour.
Strain through a fine strainer and transfer to a mortar and pestle. Pound until it forms a paste. Alternatively you can use a blender, which is must faster, but less rewarding.
A white paste will form. (Yours will be whiter when you use the white poppy seeds.) Pics

Tomato Puree - Sauce
Peel tomatoes by scoring them at the top and blanching for 30 seconds to a minute. Puree.
Part 2 - Shaping the Kofta
Take a golf ball size of potato, roll into a ball, and poke a hole in the middle. Fill with paneer mixture (just a bit or it will overflow). Close the ball up by pulling the potato over the filling. Pics

Repeat until you are able to pawn it off on somebody else... Thanks to Kasia for making all these balls.
 Part 3 - Getting ready to eat.
1. In a large wok, heat your onion paste in a bit of oil. Saute for 3-5 minutes on medium.
(Heat another wok full of oil for frying. Get to a sustained 350F.)
2. Add the white paste to the onion mixture and continue to saute. Add meat masala, garam masala and 1/2 t kinnamon. Crumble in the fenugreek leaf. Saute for 5 more minutes.
3. Pour in the tomato puree, bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
4. Fry the balls until crispy and brown on the outside.
5. Right before serving, pour the milk into the sauce, bring to a boil, simmer for a couple minutes.
To serve. Scoop some loveballs up can cover with the sauce! Trust me. These balls are delicious. They are extremely balanced in texture and flavor. Delicate balls, with a slightly sweet inside. Crispy, and extremely flavorful sauce.
ps. My hair smells like spices.


Homemade Tofu is easier than Homemade Cheese

 I am going to great lengths for something I could buy for 94 cents at the Asian grocery store.  I am making tofu from desiccated soybeans. 

Why?  Because, in the end, this tofu was delicate unlike any other.  It was clouds; and, while mild in flavor, a perfect base for a simple tart sesame sauce. 

I was inspired by (read: looking to plagiarize) a recipe published in Gourmet Magazine.  The article was about how Korean food was the new... Burmese food.  (And yes, Gourmet did take a sub-authentic spin (Re: no rice flour in Jun pancakes) on a Korean menu.)
Nestled betwen the glossy pages of the monthly publication was a warmed tofu dish with a sweet sesame soy sauce.  I will say that the homemade tofu made ALL THE DIFFERENCE.  It was porous and soaked up the sauce like a little sponge.  It melted in my mouth.  I downed and saved one single bite for my boyfriend.  I left the house to keep myself from finishing it off. 
Here is the recipe - loosely put:
1. Gently lower a 14-18 oz piece of homemade tofu in a saucepan of boiling water.  Cover simmer.  
2. Muddle 1 t minced garlic, 1/4 c chopped scallions, 2 t tasted sesame seeds, 3 T soy sauce, 1 t sesame oil, 2 t peanut oil, 1 t sugar, a splash of rice vinegar, and 1 t chili flakes together.
3. Remove tofu from the saucepan and drizzle with sauce.  Top with a couple more sesame seeds and some freshly chopped cilantro.

Sufficiently tempted?
Click here to see how I actually MADE the tofu. 
Alternatively, if soy milk is more you schtick, click here to see the milk in process!

Homemade Soymilk - So many possibilities!


The strangest thing about this endeavour is that I am allergic to soymilk. Yup.  I am Asian.  I am lactose intolerant.  I am allergic to soymilk.  Yet... I refuse to shy away and head for the rice milkaisle.  
Christ. Some people are just so good at marketing free stuff.  My mother would scoff at the fact that rice milk is basically the dust that coats rice kernels + water. 
So my rebuttal to physiology is to eat as much stinky cheese and soy products as I can.  Makes sense, right?
My best memories of soymilk were when we used to go visit my grandparents' grave and eat at this one Beijing style restaurant. We would order hot sweetened soymilk (dou jiang) and pieces of fried dough, an oriental coffee and doughnuts if you will.  My dad's patients sometimes bring him cartons of their own soymilk, still warm to the touch.  I envy him.  He gets the best presents--like a roasted duck, one half wrapped in a take out carton, the other wrapped in a plastic bag. 
To be more than honest, this soymilk was just a pit stop to homemade tofu. I stole the recipe from Just Hungry.  She actually has a much more informative post.  Instead of repeating her didactic recipe, I will show you how simple and intuitive it is to make soymilk. 
HOMEMADE SOY MILK (makes 2 quarts) Total time 11 hours; Active time 3 hours 

SUMMARY: You will have to start the night before to soak dried out beans.  The next day you will blend boil and strain.  Very simple. Just a bit time consuming. 
WARE: This is the most important part of the process.  Having the right stuff.  You will need a blender (or immersion blender), a large pot (probably 6-7 quarts), a strainer, and some cheese cloth.
INGREDIENTS: 1/2 lb of soybeans
1. Soak beans in a large bowl of water undisturbed all night long. 
2.  In the morning, uncover your beans.  They should be twice the size they once were. In batches, blend the beans to a thick yet light puree.  There will be foam and froth.  Just ignore it. 
In fact, the froth looks so deceivingly inviting that you make think that you have already arrived at a delectable morning beverage.  You haven't.  Move on.   
3. Put on a large pot of water, filled with 8 cups of water, on the stove and begin to heat on high. The pot must be large enough so that the liquid is about 1/2-2/3 up the side of the pot.  As the water is heating, pour the puree into the pot.  Continue to heat.
4. Eventually your mixture will come to a boil and develop a bubonic foam growth, like a top hat willing on top of the soy milk.  Turn down the flame to a medium or at whatever setting you can control that mangy fro. Splash some cold water onto the froth if it threatens the top of your pot.  Boil thusly for 20 minutes. 
5. Line a strainer with cheesecloth.  Place a bowl large enough to catch all the liquid underneath.  If you don't have a large bowl, manage straining in batches. 
6.  When the boiling mixture looks as if it has spit into soy milk and lonely shards of ruffage, it is done.  Kill the heat and pour through the strainer.  Cool or continue on to make tofu!  Wheeee! Or eat with fried doughnuts. 
Of and about that other part of the mixture, the fibrous part.  They call that Okara. I am not sure what i want to do with something that has essentially given all its nutrients and taste to thesoymilk, but I am sure I can find something to do with it... thoughts?


Bougey Pork and Beans - Yes Please!

In preparation for April showers I am culling the last of my hearth recipes. Like most others who entertained cassoulets and lentil stews, I too approached the legume. These beans were my first try at beans and I thought them to be a vibrant success. My second try at beans ended in disastrous disappointment.


Oddly enough, I cooked these beans based on pure sensory diagnostics, whereas I pulled the others from a Mexican cookbook that I bought at the airport, looking to spend the last of my pesos. In it, they specified 16 cups of water for 2 cups of beans.

Cochinita Pibil: Buried Piggie

 Arcenia calls me "cochina" all the time.  It's a term of endearment, but as it directly translates to the word "pig", I am only mildy flattered.

Who Says You Can't Be a Fatty at Home? French Fries!

I wanted to be all Spanish with my meatballs, because in the past I have been all Italian with my preparation. Tired of tomatoes, because they have a tendency to overpower my mouth, I have adopted chicken broth, sherry, almonds, and begrudgingly some saffron. My roommate Andrew evoked his familial roots,and, in true Spanish fashion, fried up some french fries.

Uni three ways

Does your local farmer's market have this? UNI (Sea Urchin)
Probably not.
San Francisco has the most ridiculous farmer's markets.

Stinging Nettles: Pasta and a Bit of Kink

Last night I attended an underground dinner, in association with Forage SF, in which our meal focused on wild foraged foods.  Living in the pacific northwest, we have a bounty of naturally occurring ingestible & medicinal plants ...

Steamed Rice Tutorial

I love rice. Its in my blood. There are so many options for rice. It is a launching pad for so many other good foods, or even plain. Despite being a lover of flavors, I am also easily amused by bland balls of rice.


I think great chefs make everyday items taste ridiculously brilliant. They showcase at their best. This is how I view the Rosa sauce. Simple ingredients in, technique applied, and a phenomenal result in the end. It will impress any crowd and the best thing is that it is CHEAP!!!! You will have to make a ton because it is irresistible.

Sticky Rice Pudding: The Affordable and Irresistable Desert

I recently discovered the ease of sticky rice.  Being not of the south-eastern Asian descent, I have never gotten to know how to cook sticky rice, but  found it in the  small bamboo baskets they pass out at Thai restaurants or in the confusing beans-as-dessert section of Vietnamese markets.

Even Better Tomorrow: Chile Verde Short Ribs

You know when you go to the taqueria and they have those innocent little salsa buffets and you end up hording sauce in a soda cup, like it's one of those free for alls?  Like when my mom asks me to fill 6 six little tubs of pico de gallo because she eats them like appetizers?
Yeah.  You horde them too, especially the green sauce.
I should've just stopped by my local taqueria to swipe some salsa for my less than blog-able "south of the border" crab cakes, but I bought tomatillos instead, determined to make my own sauce.

Andalucian Potato Egg and Tuna Salad... Swoon

Spanish tuna is a flavor unbeknownst to the Chicken of the See Jessica Simpsons. It makes this salad other worldly! Like all Spanish food, for better or for worse, it is served room temperature as tapas. Bar Bahia in Cadiz, a city known for its Carnival, serves it as a tapa. Some wine/Cruzcampo and you're set.
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