Categories
dessert Filipino street food

Puto Bumbong

Puto Bumbong is a Filipino delicacy that’s traditionally served during the Christmas season in the Philippines. It literally translates to steamed glutinous rice (puto) cooked in bamboo (bumbong), and it’s a staple at my best friend’s house, where we gather for Noche Buena at midnight on Christmas Eve. The purple color comes from the mixture of sweet rice and black rice (pirurutong), but I’ve seen recipes that call for purple food coloring, which is obviously cheating! Puto bumbong is served with butter, sugar and freshly grated coconut on top. I asked my friend’s mom if she would show me how to make puto bumbong, and she was happy to oblige.

Puto Bumbong
Dave Chappelle says “I want that purple stuff!”

Cooking puto bumbong is fairly quick but preparing the rice is a three-day process. On the first day, you take a mixture of equal parts of sweet rice and pirurutong and soak it overnight. On the second day, you take the mixture and grind it in a blender. (In the Philippines, you’d traditionally use a grinding stone of some kind.) Then the mixture is placed in a cotton sack (like a flour sack) for another day in order to drain any excess water. Since it’s generally warm at Christmastime in the Philippines, you’d simply hang the bag outside and let gravity do the work. With the colder winters here in the States, better results are obtained by putting a heavy weight on the bag to force the excess water out.

The rice mixture should be ready the next day, and it should be moist, not dry. The next step is to use your hands to mix it up and break up any clumps.

Purple Rice Mixture
Clumps are bad.

To cook the puto bumbong, you need a special steamer. This one has three holes on top so that the steam can escape and cook the puto in the bamboo. The cloth wrapped around the bamboo helps prevent burnt hands.

Puto Bumbong Steamer

Simply fill up the bamboo with the rice mixture and put it on top of the steamer. You can tell when it’s done when the rice turns dark purple and kind of shrinks into the bamboo.

Three Different Stages of Doneness
Clockwise from top: almost done, just started (light purple), and finished (dark purple).

Before you remove the puto bumbong from the bamboo, hold the top of the bamboo over the steam to finish cooking the end that was farthest away from the steam.

Finishing the Ends...
Finish off the tip.

To remove from the bamboo, hold the bamboo in your left hand…then hit the pinky side of your left hand against your right palm by the base of your thumb. The puto bumbong should plop onto plate.

Puto Bumbong with Butter
Lots of butter is very important!

To finish, slather the puto bumbong with butter and then top it with freshly grated coconut and sugar (either white or brown). In the Philippines, puto bumbong is sold by street vendors after Mass during Christmas week and is wrapped in banana leaves so customers can take it with them. Since we normally enjoy these at home, we just eat it fresh from the steamer…no banana leaves required.

Thanks to my Tita Lety for showing me how this delicious Christmas treat is made. It’s always great going to their house on Christmas Eve for Noche Buena just a few hours after finishing our own Christmas Dinner.

Categories
barbecue beef Korean recipes street food

Korean BBQ Tacos

Kalbi Tacos v2.0
Kalbi Taco (actual size at 1440×900 MacBook Pro resolution)

Korean BBQ tacos have been a street food phenomenon since LA’s Kogi BBQ trucks started drawing hundreds of hungry Angelenos to street corners around Southern California. Kogi’s popularity spawned a blatant knock-off, inspired others to start their own mobile food ventures, and compelled other Korean establishments to add Korean tacos to their menus, such as SF’s Seoul on Wheels, Namu, and John’s Snack and Deli, and NY’s Seoul Station). For food bloggers, creating our own version of the dish we don’t have easy access to becomes a fun little project.

Seoul on Wheels - Korean Tacos
Seoul on Wheels’ Korean tacos at Oakland’s Eat Real Fest 2009.

I set out trying to emulate the famous Kogi taco, and this led me in several directions. I focused specifically on kalbi tacos since I’ve always been a big fan of grilled Korean short ribs. In the past, I’ve relied on jarred marinades, but this time I wanted to make one from scratch. I put out a call for recipes on both Twitter and Facebook, and my friend Kevyn came through with an excellent kalbi marinade. Feel free to use your favorite kalbi recipe if you have one.

The question of corn v. flour tortillas doesn’t exist here because tacos should ALWAYS be on corn tortillas, but tortilla size is an important issue. I used 4-inch tortillas because it makes the tacos easy to pick up and eat one handed. However, the smallest tortilla that is carried by most mainstream American supermarkets is 6 inches in diameter, which I generally find too big and unwieldy for taqueria-style or street tacos. If you have Mexican market nearby, 4-inch tortillas shouldn’t be hard to find.

Figuring out the rest of the taco required a lot more research. I started at SteamyKitchen.com and Jaden’s recipe for Korean-style Kogi Tacos, which includes a BBQ sauce recipe developed for her by Kogi Chef Roy Choi. The Kogi BBQ sauce is intended to go with pork or chicken, but I think it works really well to balance out the rest of flavors in the taco. Tasty Eats at Home did her own version of Korean tacos, and I used her cilantro-red onion relish for this recipe. I like the color and flavor that the red onion provides over brown or yellow onions. The last major topping is napa cabbage/romaine slaw dressed with a chili-soy vinaigrette that I lifted from the New York Times.

I ended up making the tacos based on the recipe that follows three times, and by the third time, we pretty much had all the logistics down. I also made some other Korean taco variations a few days ago, and you can see those at the end of the post.

INGREDIENTS AND RECIPES
4-5 pounds of flanken-style short ribs
4-inch corn tortillas, 1 bag (at least 40)

Kalbi Marinade
adapted from a recipe by Kevyn Miyata
(for 4-5 lbs of short ribs)

1½ cups soy sauce
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
¼ cup sesame oil
8-10 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed
6 large green onions, roughly chopped
1 Asian or Korean Pear (½ roughly chopped, ½ sliced then mashed by hand)
Toasted sesame seeds

Combine all ingredients except meat in a bowl and mix well. In a one gallon ZipLoc bag, combine meat and marinade. Let sit for 24-36 hours, flipping over the bag every 12 hours or so to ensure the marinade is distributed evenly.

Kogi BBQ Sauce
adapted from Steamy Kitchen
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp gochujang (Korean fermented hot pepper paste)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp rice vinegar
Sriracha to taste (optional)

Whisk together all the ingredients. If desired, add Sriracha a few drops at a time to the sauce until it’s hot enough for ya. :) If you have one, put sauce in a squeeze bottle to make taco assembly more efficient.

Cilantro-Onion Relish
adapted from Tasty Eats at Home
½ red onion, minced
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Pinch or two of salt

Add onions and rice wine vinegar in a bowl. Allow to sit for about 5-10 minutes. Drain and rinse. Add rest of ingredients to onions and stir to combine.

Napa/Romaine Slaw with Chili-Soy Vinaigrette
dressing recipe from The New York Times
2 cups Napa cabbage, shredded
4 cups Romaine lettuce, shredded
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
2 small jalapenos, seeded and minced
1 tsp minced fresh ginger

Whisk together the soy, vinegar, garlic, jalapenos and ginger and set aside. Combine Napa and Romaine in a bowl until mixed well. You should have a nice green/white color contrast. For best results, divide slaw into batches and dress each batch as needed so that the greens don’t get soggy.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Grill short ribs about a minute per side on a really hot grill.
    Grilling Kalbi
  2. Separate the kalbi meat from the bones and gristle. Cut the meat it into strips lengthwise, then turn 90-degrees and dicing the meat into a “brunoise” of kalbi, if you will. :) If you like the gristle, I’d separate that from the bones and dice it up too. Set the meat aside in a bowl until there’s enough meat to start making tacos en masse.
    Kalbi "brunoise" :P
    Kalbi “brunoise”

    OPTION: After all the meat is diced up, you can either use it straight away or refry it to caramelize the meat so that each piece has a little crunch to it. This extra step is also good if you’re going to use the gristle since it lets it break down a lot more. I’ve done it both ways, and the extra caramelization is really nice.

  3. Heat a lightly oiled cast iron skillet over medium heat. Toast tortillas 30-45 seconds on each side and set aside. Working with a partner or two in an assembly line works great here so tacos can be made right after toasting.
  4. Start assembling the tacos by putting a little meat in the tortilla, then top with a bit of the cilantro-red onion relish, a little slaw, a little more cilantro-onion relish, and then drizzle a little BBQ sauce to finish. We eyeballed all of these amounts, but don’t overstuff the taco or else it will too hard to pick up and eat. You can arrange about eight tacos per plate.
    Kalbi Tacos

VARIATIONS

  • Replace the cilantro-onion relish with a pickled radish/carrot salad (known colloquially as “mu,” if anyone knows what this is actually called in Korean, I’d love to know.) This was my second-favorite version of the taco that we made.
    Bulgogi Tacos 2.0
  • To go even more Korean, I stole an idea from my friend Euge and blended up a jar of kimchi to make a Korean salsa that replaced the Kogi BBQ sauce. I’m not a big kimchi eater, but I liked this a lot. If you like kimchi, this is a great alternative.
    Bulgogi Taco

I’m not sure how many tacos this actually makes because we’ve never had to use all the meat for tacos, and it’s never a bad thing to have extra kalbi around. :) I do know that you can get at least 40 tacos out of 4-5 pounds of meat. You can easily scale this recipe down for your own needs, but I was cooking for parties and needed a lot of food.

Categories
bacon hot dog recipes street food

The Bacon Hot Dog

Memorial Weekend is one of the most patriotic American holidays, so when we decided to have some friends over yesterday, I decided that I wanted to make bacon hot dogs. My friends don’t normally eat street food, so I thought I’d bring street food to them, and seriously, what’s more American than bacon and hot dogs? Truth be told, the bacon hot dog has its roots as street food in Mexico, but it also has a strong cult-like following in California. You can even get arrested for selling bacon hot dogs in L.A. as I’ve discussed here and here.


Bacon Hot Dogs

We normally have Niman Ranch thick-cut bacon in the fridge, but I got a tip from a friend that cheap bacon works better for this purpose because it’s thinner and easier to wrap around the hot dog. It also doesn’t add extra girth to the hot dog that would prevent the bun from closing.

I ended up using Oscar Meyer bun-length hot dogs and Bar S bacon. Next time, I’m going to try a different brand of bacon because the Bar S bacon didn’t have a very strong flavor. Otherwise, it was very easy to wrap the bacon around the hot dog. Simply wrap the bacon around itself at the end of the hot dog to hold it in place and then move down diagonally until the rest of the hot dog is covered. The process reminded me of regripping my tennis rackets back in the day.


Bacon Hot Dogs

I also had some meat glue (i.e. Activa TG-RM or transglutaminase) on hand, so I made a slurry and I brushed it on the hot dogs before wrapping them with bacon and refrigerating them to let the “glue” set. If you have access to some Activa, by all means use it.