While cooking, listen to this: Small Talk by Katy Perry
Have you missed us? Sorry we went MIA, but This Is Us was on hiatus, so we thought we’d take a break too.
Kidding, of course. But we do apologize for the break — some of us were traveling a lot this summer.
And by some of us, I mean me.
But I had a magical summer crossing timezones to visit Japan, and don’t worry — I was thinking about you the whole time. Well, more thinking about what delicious treats Rina and I could recreate for you all!
Japanese food is on a whole other level — I had my fair share of, well, pretty much every organism in the sea, but also lots of vegetarian treats — from melon buns to tempura corn to matcha flavored everything to endless Pocky (yes, I know they sell it in the US, but believe me it’s NOT the same!). It’s really hard to eat wrong in Japan — just turn a corner, find the quietest alley and look for white flags written with Japanese characters. Some of the best places are the ones without English menus (though the best place might be a hidden gem in the Roppongi district of Tokyo that requires befriending the chef on Facebook to get a reservation…).
In sum, Japan was incredible. My brother, David, and I spent two weeks visiting cities in every corner of the country — from Hiroshima to Hokkaido. This was actually part of a larger 2 month post graduation trip for David. He traveled all over Asia and, even though I still kind of want to make fun of him for pretending he knows Japanese, he actually knew it pretty well. It certainly helped when we were trapped in a cab our last night with a driver who knew zero English, was born before WWII and had no idea how to use Google Maps.
After I (reluctantly) left Japan, David went on to Korea with my cousins for a few days to round out his trip. He really bounced around — and you should follow his faux vlog on YouTube, if you’re interested in seeing more of his adventures. I had serious FOMO about missing Korea. I was back in my cube at work and he was roaming the streets of Seoul, probably doing something random and weird, but still!
Two weeks later, I was home in Detroit when David suggested we visit the new Korean place that just opened by our house. I was skeptical — of course — it used to be a Chinese restaurant and they didn’t even change the outside from the Chinese palace-inspired facade it had been for over a decade! But man, was I wrong. I think after five years of living in New York, it’s safe to say I’m a bit snobby when it comes to food. This place was fantastic — the kimchi pancake was a particular fave (something I’m determined we recreate for the blog) and the bibimbap was delicious. But my favorite part (aside from the Korean-themed TV channels playing what looked like a Tae Kwan Do reality TV show) was the gochujang sauce glazed and drizzled on just about everything. I was in spice heaven.
Coincidentally, Rina’d been dying to make Korean Fried Broccoli inspired by one of her favorite restaurants in NYC, Dirt Candy. There’s nothing we love more than taking something healthy and frying it into oblivion, but, honestly, it’s the gochujang-based sauce we glazed these bad boys in that really added the magic touch.
You’ll definitely want to serve this alongside some rice (we sprinkled ours with black sesame cuz we FANCY) — this dish has some heat. But, if we’re being honest, we wouldn’t judge you if you ate it straight out of the frier, completely burning the roof of your mouth. No? Just us?
Either way, this dish will make having your whole house smell like frying oil worth it, I swear. But maybe open your windows for good measure.
3 broccoli crowns
1 cup flour
⅔ cup cornstarch
1 and ½ teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
About ½ water (more or less depending on how humid your area is)*
Neutral oil for frying, such as peanut, canola or vegetable
½ cup gochujang paste**
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
2 Tablespoons tamari or soy sauce, plus more to taste
1 Tablespoon honey, plus more to taste
Salt (only if needed!)
rice/grain of choice or lettuce cups
scallions, thinly sliced
*The day we made this, it was so humid that I had to TRIPLE the amount of water.
**You can find gochujang at certain grocery stores like Whole Foods and we highly recommend it here - it’s just SO flavorful and great. If you can’t find it, though, your favorite chili paste will work, too.
Prep the broccoli: cut up the broccoli into medium-sized florets - pieces that are bite-sized but have some heft to them. Set aside.
Heat the oil: in a wok or heavy-bottomed pot or pan, add enough oil so that the broccoli florets will be completely submerged. I tested my level just by putting a piece of broccoli in my pan and pouring the oil on top of it. Heat the oil to 350 degrees, or when you stick a wooden spoon in the oil bubbles form around it.
Prepare the batter: while the oil is heating up, make the batter. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Add water and whisk to combine. The batter should be thick enough so that it clings to the broccoli, but excess should be able to drip off. When you drip it from your whisk, it should run down in a thick ribbon.
Prepare the sauce: in a small bowl, combine the gochujang, sesame oil, tamari/soy sauce, honey and salt (if using). Season to taste and set aside.
Coat the florets: the nice, neater way to do this is to individually coat the broccoli in the batter. The way I do it is to plop in a bunch of pieces at once and stir them around with some chopsticks. Do what feels right.
Fry the broccoli: line some cookie sheets, plates or cooling racks with paper towel. In small batches, place the broccoli into the oil with a pair of chopsticks or tongs. This way, oil won't splatter at you when you put the broccoli in. Let it fry for a couple minutes, then turn it over. Do this a couple of times so that the broccoli is truly crispy everywhere, and has that gorgeous golden brown color. When done, place the broccoli on the paper towel to sop up some of the excess oil. Continue this process until all of the broccoli is done.
Combine the sauce and the broccoli: put all of the fried cauliflower into a bowl, and pour all of the sauce on top. Stir well but gently, so that the broccoli is coated in sauce evenly but doesn't fall apart.
To serve: this is great on its own, or on a bed of rice or in some lettuce cups. Garnish with some sesame seeds and scallions and dig in. This also was an excellent addition to the crispy rice bowls we had for dinner last night.
To keep: like all fried foods, the broccoli will not stay crunchy past the time it was made. It will still taste delicious as leftovers, but you'll definitely lose the crunch factor.