Does anyone love HMart like I do? Shopping at this enormous Asian grocery store is always an adventure, despite being a challenge and somewhat frustrating at times! You can find almost anything you might need to prepare delicious dishes of multiple ethnicities at the market ranging from fresh produce, sliced meats, pantry items and as many noodles as you can imagine. It’s good to have a plan if you go and to really investigate what you need ahead of time. Some ingredients are organized by ethnicity, but others are by category and lots are not packaged in English so you may have to take a gamble on occasion, but that’s part of the fun. Finding assistance can sometimes be a challenge too – I often think how fun it would be to have a personalized tour and education on all of the different offerings. You cannot imagine how many types of soy sauce there are and how confusing that decision can be!!!
In any case, I did go there recently and was unable to find a specific fresh wide noodle I was looking for that turned out to be Thai, and ended up with a 5 pound box of dry, wide noodles instead so I may be making those noodles every other week for the entire winter (no problem, they were delish). Other things I like to get at HMart are garlic chives (for dumplings), all kinds of greens and herbs which come in large quantities, dumpling wrappers (frozen and I like those made by Twin Marquis), black vinegar (for a killer dumpling sauce), toasted sesame oil (you can get a large bottle), Korean chili flakes and all kinds of fresh noodles!
And do you know what word I think has all but evaporated from our language during 2020 is “linger”. I mean, who lingers anywhere anymore? Nope, it’s in and out, mask on, mask off. I want to linger again! It’s going to be dangerous to my pocketbook when we are allowed to linger again, let me tell you! I have been and out of a lot of stores, but it’s just not the same and talk about lingering – you could spend an afternoon at HMart and still not see everything.
So, I don’t know about you but as I said before, cooking during this pandemic has mutated from “I’m so excited to cook for everyone and have family dinner!” to “How about cheese and crackers for dinner, honey?!”. Just kidding, sort of. The part that I’m not kidding about is that cooking even for someone who loves it like me has become chore like. We are not eating out, although we are taking out and just last night I said to myself that I’m going to try to be more religious about doing that at least once a week to support not only my local restaurants but a few in Cambridge and Boston if we can.
Keeping things relatively simple has been key to my sanity. And mixing up what we are having so dinners can be fun and interactive, even if it’s just the two of us.
One of my favorite recipes here on the blog is my Turkey Larb Lettuce Cups which, if you haven’t made and are looking for a lighter dish is really delicious. My friend, Francine says it’s one of her family’s favorites and she often doubles the batch! I love the idea of using large leaves of crisp lettuce as a vehicle for any kind of topping, be it vegetarian with hummus and vegetables and maybe some feta cheese, Turkey Larb, or the Korean Lettuce Wraps I’m offering today. But I must warn you, they can be a little messy so make sure you have some napkins near by!
Inspired by a couple of different recipes, and always intrigued by the complex flavors of Asian cuisines, I made these Korean Lettuce Wraps last night using one rib-eye steak and it served two easily with just a smidge for leftovers today. And before you ask, you can definitely make these with chicken but use boneless thighs for the best flavor.
The rib eye steak is the traditional cut used for this type of dish. You could use flank steak but it will be a lot tougher so I would marinate it for an afternoon so it will break down a bit. Or, use chicken thighs if red meat isn’t your thing. In any case, the steak is very thinly sliced and marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, a bit of brown sugar, garlic, ginger, scallions, sesame seeds and Korean chili flakes (you can swap out red chili flakes). While the beef is marinating, make a sauce to top the wraps using things you actually can find in your regular supermarket – gochujang which is a Korean chili paste, white miso paste (in the refridgerater section), toasted sesame oil, unseasoned rice wine vinegar, sesame seeds and some more chili flakes.
Wash large leaves or red leaf, green leaf or butter lettuce and pat really dry. Prepare some rice, white or brown you choose. Cook off the beef in a hot pan until cooked through. Add a scoop of rice to each lettuce leaf, top with beef, add some of the sauce and sprinkle with more sliced scallions and sesame seeds. Enjoy! These are not super spicy but they have some kick. Slice up some cucumbers or avocado to serve alongside for a cooling effect.
So, do you think you will make these lettuce wraps using either beef or chicken? Please let me know if you do!
Until next time…
(Night time photos)