Your viewing "Soup" (7 posts).

Attempted chicken soup last night.

Bought the happiest looking chicken at Whole Foods.

Placed cooked chicken on cutting board, turned on stove, board melted, no chicken.

Didn't have extra carrots, either.

Chicken stock with celery, onion, and herbs is still good.

While still hopeful about chicken soup, made flavored salt.

Sage, rosemary, lemon zest, garlic.

Live clams in the fridge. Have sherry and white wine, will cook.


Today, I tested Steamy Kitchen's recipe for Mom's Daikon Soup.  Not my mom, exactly; in fact, I'm unsure whose mom this recipe has in mind.  I was attracted to this recipe because of my love for my mom's mooguk.  This soup doesn't taste like mooguk, but it certainly tastes like something someone else's mother might make.  I'm filing this away under "Quick Weeknight Dinners."

After a long day of wearing a suit, I came home and immediately got to work testing my first recipe for Steamy Kitchen's new cookbook.  Today, it was a simple rendition of vegetable tom yum soup.  It's tailored to people without access to ingredients you typically see in Thai food.  I loved it.  The balance of flavor is there, and I'll be making this in the future.  It's an easy, cheap contender with what you sometimes get in a restaurant.  You'll have to wait for the book to come out to see the recipe!

And sorry for the weird photos! Chalk it up to not being able to cook during daylight hours and having the most unflattering kitchen light.  Add the fact that I'm 5'3" with a macro lens and no stepstool.

Last weekend, I traveled home for my mom's birthday.  She described growing up in Pusan, eating live sea creatures straight out of the ocean.  Sea women prepared them for her, slicing up every wriggling specimen and adding at most a dressing of hot red chili pepper paste and vinegar before she devoured them.  For me, she made pajeon, a savory pancake, with fresh squid and buchu (Korean garlic chives).  There was radish soup.  Santa Maria barbecue.  More sea creatures.  We ate together, we cooked together. 

All that time with family, over food, told me this: Food isn't about determining the boundaries of my own preferences.  In fact, it's not about me at all.  I can't put my finger on it.  Sharing?  Family?  Or, that familiar term, culture? 

A college nonfiction writing professor gave me this gift:  Never say whether something is good or bad, but simply ask, "Does it work?"  One is open-minded and constructive; the other is mere opinion.  Indeed, there is little to no empirical "good" and "bad" in this world.  Yes, I know this statement is vulnerable to healthy debate, but let's stick with one application of the theory: There is no good and bad in food; there is only your awareness of what you're eating, where it comes from, and the person with whom you're eating.  Everythings stands in relation to something else.

It pains me to see someone turn up his or her nose at a dish offered by a host or discount the value of an entire cuisine.  I'm no Emily Post, but my head nods vigorously in agreement with Anthony Bourdain’s Grandma rule, which is that you “should eat what's put on your fucking plate…That's called fucking manners.”

But this is so much more than etiquette.  It’s about shedding the convenience and security of labels and actually being open to considering cultures, practices, and preferences besides our own, especially when they make us uncomfortable.  It's about growing, not confining.  By labeling a dish “good” or “bad,” we state opinion, which has little value and likely sits on shaky ground.  I’m talking deceptively benign statements, like “Burgers are disgusting, but pizza is delicious.”  “I would never eat food out of a can; that’s gross.”  You get the idea.  These statements are, at best, tedious and imprecise.  At worst, they reveal a sense of cultural and class superiority.   They seem so harmless; after all, it’s just your opinion!  But sometimes, it's not about you.  Would you tell a family at a soup kitchen that they should never eat food that comes in a can?  Have you ever had someone tell you that the food you ate growing up was gross (I have)? 

I’m a hypocrite.  I commit the above offenses on a regular basis.  I am doing my best to be more aware, but in order to really-truly-change, I have to do more than just bite my tongue.  Changing the way I think about food, being more aware of the effect each word I say might have (even when no one is listening), believing that things outside my comfort and preference zone may not be all that bad.  This is what I’m talking about.

I would like to live in a world where we do more than give lip service to acceptance.  Some do, but many don't.  I'll still keep trying.

I get it.  What’s the relation to FOOD?  I’m hungry!

In the theme of authenticity and having an open mind, I’m going to face some of my food fears this year.  My goal is to rely less on my foolproof dishes (single-pot dishes, I’m looking at you) and to try my hand at things I love but have been intimidated to try.

Number 1: Korean food.  Yes, today marks my first, official day of attempting to make Korean food, the way my mother makes it.  I haven’t tried until now because I have been too afraid of failure.  But the time to learn is now.  I’ll be mining my mom for recipes, so stay tuned! 

Number 2: Meats.  I don’t really know how to prepare them (and seafood? Heaven forbid.). 

Number 3: Pastries and breads.  Enough with the cookies.  It’s time to get serious. 

Number 4: Cuisines that are not American, not Korean. 

Let's start with Number 1.  Below is my recipe for my mom's mooguk.  Moo is the name for Korean white radish, similar to Japanese daikon.  Guk means soup.  Mooguk is delicious. 
It should have a subtle beef flavor, enriched with the faint sweetness of radish.  The key is the umami flavor, and for that reason, it’s important to get the broth right.  I've listed substitutions where appropriate, though to be frank, be careful of tweaking this recipe too much.  With so few ingredients, it only takes a little adjustment to completely change the flavor of the soup.   One of my all-time favorites, and it only gets better with each day.  I would insert ten exclamation points here if I didn't think it would turn you away for good.

And sorry for the wonky photo lighting.  I was in a rush to get this recipe to you!

Korean Mooguk (Radish Soup)
Serves: Your entire family, and then some


  • Beef stew meat - or better, says Mom, beef with bone.  I used beef brisket.
  • Daepah (Korean leek) - Green onion works, but daepah tastes different and is milder.  Use a lot.
  • 1-2 onions, peeled but left whole
  • Kelp - You could be like me and use hon-dashi (Japanese fish soup stock), or better yet, dried anchovies, which are featured in many Korean recipes
  • Moo, aka Korean white radish, peeled and cut into small sections - Japanese daikon could work, too.  Moo is shorter and stouter than daikon.
  • Guk ganjang - Guk = soup, ganjang = soy sauce.  Hence this is Korean soy sauce made especially for soup.  Do not use regular soy sauce!  They DO taste different.
  • Garlic, several cloves minced or squeezed through a garlic press
  • Salt


  1. If you are using boneless beef, soak the meat in cold water for up to an hour to remove the blood.  If you have meat with bones, boil it thoroughly to remove any off aromas, then discard the water and set the meat aside.  This is a (mostly) clear soup.

  2. Add the beef to a large pot, along with the daepah, onion(s), salt, and hondashi (or kelp, or dried anchovies).  Boil for about 20-25 minutes, until the meat is fully cooked.
  3. Remove the meat, then turn down the meat to medium or medium-low.  Continue to boil the onion and daepah.

    Cut the mu into thick slices, about half an inch thick.

    Cut each round in half, then (not pictured) cut each half into three squat pieces by making two cuts.

  4. Slice the meat (I cut against the grain) or tear into shreds.  Add the meat to the pot, along with the moo, garlic, salt, and a few tablespoons of guk ganjang.  Don’t add too much soy sauce.  The soup should remain clear.

  5. Boil for 25-30 minutes, or until the radish is soft to the bite.  Adjust the seasoning to taste.
  6. Serve in bowls, along with rice.  Enjoy.


  • This soup doesn't rely on strict measurements, but if you are curious: I used 2 moo, 4-5 tablespoons of guk ganjang, 5 cloves of garlic, and several teaspoons of hondashi. 
  • I think using kelp or anchovies would give a more natural, and better flavor than hon-dashi, which tasted a little artificial to me.  It's first two ingredients are salt and MSG.    

Well, so much for a sunny staycation.  This week is likely to bring rain, rain, and more rain.  Not that I mind.  It's a good chance to catch up with work and to take a quiet breather.

Last night, I had absolutely no dinner plans.  I wearily put a few onions on the cutting board, peeled off their flaky skin, chopped off the blunt ends, then split them lengthwise.  A full few minutes passed as I stared at the half domes, dreading yet another saute.  I was just about to do my customary cross-section dicing but then began slicing them into half moon slices instead.  "Caramelized," I thought.  I had nowhere to go; there was time to wait for the onions to sweat and sweeten.

I stuck a dab of butter in the dutch oven, and when it melted, I added two onions worth of half moon slices.  I let this cook over low heat, stirring only occasionally.  A few minutes in, they were translucent.  A half hour later, they were exhausted-limp and losing form. 

After about an hour, the onions started to form a sweet-smelling, clumpy mass.  Onion residue was sticking to the bottom of the pan, so I poured in some leftover white wine.  The brown bits released and turned the onions a deep brown.  I waited some more.  The heat went up to medium.  In went the last quarter cup of wine.  I grabbed my last box of stock-beef stock-and poured about a third into the pot. 

A few minutes later, I ladled the soup into a bowl, topped it with cheese, and had an unexpected dinner of onion soup.  It was my favorite meal of the week, even sans bread and herbs.

Funny how recipes get passed around.  Word of mouth from a friend, a favorite blogger's review.  I knew I wanted a recipe with asparagus, per my spring plans, but was uncreative with my online search.  Luckily, the words "spring" and "asparagus" landed me on this recipe via Serious Eats, adapted from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook.  I haven't read the book, but M and I have good memories of Zuni's polenta with mascarpone (mm).

So consider this an adaptation of an adaptation.  Is it good?  I thought it was decent.  For me, this soup could have used something extra-maybe a splash of vinegar, some cheese, or as my friend suggested, cilantro. 

Maybe I used too much asparagus in proportion to pancetta, or maybe I didn't fry the pancetta long enough before adding it to the soup.  I'll never know.


Olive oil
About 2 cups onions, diced
1/2 cup white rice
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
8 oz. asparagus, woody parts removed, diagonally sliced into 1/8 inch pieces
4 oz. bacon or pancetta, diced
Salt and pepper

How To:

  1. Heat about 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a saucepan.  Add your onions and a bit of salt.  Cook about ten minutes, until translucent.  Stir occasionally.  [You want the onions to sweat, not to caramelize.]
  2. Add your rice and liquid to the pot.  Add 1/2 cup of water (in addition to your chicken stock).  Bring it all to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.  Cover the pot and cook until your rice is cooked but still a bit firm (15-20 minutes).
  3. While your rice and stock are cooking, get a big skillet and heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat.  Add your bacon or pancetta and cook for a few minutes.  Toss in your asparagus and mix it in with the meat.  Then leave it alone for about four minutes.  Stir.  Leave it alone for another four minutes.    
  4. Add your asparagus and bacon mix to your rice and stock pot.  Bring this all to a boil for about a minute.  Turn off the heat.  Add a ton of black pepper and serve.


  • I could only find ultra thin asparagus at the grocery store.  I wonder whether using thicker stalks would have imparted more of an asparagus flavor.
  • Slicing the asparagus took forever.  So did dicing the pancetta.  A sharp knife helps.  So does patience.
  • I used arborio rice and ended up adding more water and stock as the rice soaked up a lot of liquid.
  • The soup is best eaten the day it's made, before the rice and delicate asparagus have congealed into a solid mass.


Freezing your leftover soup in muffin tips helps you get through busy weeks that leave no time for cooking.  Or people who make giant pots of soup before realizing they can't finish a giant pot of soup.  You may want to use a bigger tin than mine.  [Tip from Apt Therapy]

I froze homemade miso soup.  The tofu made it through just fine, though I imagine some ingredients would be more freezer-tolerant (ex. carrots).

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