I’ve often been asked, mostly by Filipinos based abroad who intend to vacation in the country, to suggest restaurants where they can take their families. I’ve shied away from making these recommendations because, in many cases, restaurant food is never consistent. While I may enjoy the food in Restaurant X one Sunday in 2008, a year later, after cooks have changed several times, the restaurant menu has changed tremendously and so has the quality of the food.
A bummer, really, but that’s how it is. Chefs and cooks are employees (unless they are also the restaurant owners) and differences arise. Or, sometimes, a better opportunity comes along and the chef or cook moves to another establishment. Those in the inside track follow these sought-after kitchen artists wherever they go while the rest of us have to grumble with the less than satisfying meals in the restaurants they have abandoned.
When I go to a restaurant and I find a dish particularly interesting, I try to deconstruct it. See, if I can deconstruct a dish and learn to prepare it at home, a restaurant can change cooks every other week and I couldn’t care less. It’s a skill I always thank all the kitchen gods for although my daughter Sam is better at it as she can discern even the subtlest flavor and aroma of an herb or spice no matter how small the amount added to a dish.
One such dish is the beef stew from The House of Kimchi. As far as I know, the stew is still is good as it has always been but after we moved to the suburb and found out that the nearest branch was more than an hour’s drive away, I found it better to just prepare the beef stew at home. This is my version.
Recipe: Korean beef stew a la House of Kimchi
- 1 and 1/2 kilos of beef short ribs, cut into serving pieces
- 1 whole garlic
- 1 whole onion
- 3 thumb-sized pieces of ginger (wash and scrub, no need to peel)
- 1 tbsp. of chili powder
- 1 tbsp. of whole black peppercorns
- 3-4 siling haba (finger chilis), optional but recommended
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 c. of dark soy sauce
- 3/4 to 1 c. of white sugar
- 12 to 15 stalks of scallions (onion leaves)
- 1 to 2 tbsps. of sesame seeds
- Place the beef in a cooking pot. Cover with water. Place over high heat and, boil for five to ten minutes or until the meat is no longer red. Throw out the water and rinse the beef to remove all traces of scum.
- Rinse out the pot, replace the beef and cover with water once more. Add the whole garlic, onion, ginger, chili powder, finger chilis, if using, and bay leaves. Pour in the soy sauce and stir in the sugar. Simmer gently for two hours or until the meat is very tender.
- Halfway through the cooking, taste the broth and add salt. Do not be tempted to add more soy sauce instead of salt; otherwise, the broth will turn too dark.
- While the beef simmers, toast the sesame seeds. Place them in a small frying pan and set over medium-low heat. Shake the pan often for even toasting.
- Slice the onion leaves finely.
- To assemble, place two to three pieces of beef in individual soup bowls. Ladle plenty of broth over them. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and sliced onion leaves. Serve at once.
Preparation time: 15 minute(s)
Cooking time: 2 hours(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4
*Republished from the archive — just in case you missed it the first time it was published.