rice cake

Happy Asian-Fusion New Year

I am Addicted. It is as simple as that.
A few years ago I ate something at David Chang’s Momofuku that has lodged itself in my brain and will not leave. That isn’t a bad thing, but I can’t eat there very often, and so, I had to figure it out and make it at home.
I read a bunch of recipes online and tried a few. Below you will find the combination that, to my taste buds/brain really does it right.
Roasted Rice Cake Noodles

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Nian Gao (the Chinese version) is normally eaten for Chinese New Year, as a symbol of good fortune for the upcoming year.

I found them in the freezer section of my Korean/Chinese/Japanese grocer.
After making them the first time, I read that the key is soaking them.
So, defrost them on the counter or in the fridge, cut them into pieces about ¾” long, then soak them in cold water for a few hours.
This recipe serves 4 as a side dish. We never have leftovers, regardless of how many people we are….
OK, here goes – read through before starting.

For the caramelized onions:

1 teaspoon canola oil
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced ( I really love my mandolin!)
pinch of kosher salt

For the Red Dragon sauce (that I now like on just about anything):

1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup chicken broth
— (this is separated for a reason…keep reading)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
⅓ cup ssamjang (fermented bean and chile sauce – I trusted the woman at the local Korean market to point me to the right section – there is NO English on the labels)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

For the roasted rice cakes:

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound rice cake sticks

To serve:

1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 scallions, ends trimmed, green parts thinly sliced

How to make this deliciousness:

Heat oil in 12-inch cast-ion skillet (if you have one – otherwise use your heaviest pan) over medium-high heat until lightly smoking. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally until onions begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and reduce heat to medium-low. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until richly caramelized, about 30 minutes longer. Adjust heat as needed to prevent burning. Transfer cooked onions to bowl.

Meanwhile, make the sauce.

Pour mirin and broth into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium-high and cook until lightly thickened, about two minutes. (Pour into a bowl if you want to save using an extra pot. In that case, wipe out the pot, and then…)
Combine water and sugar in medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved then remove from heat. Let cool for a minute, then stir in ssamjang until dissolved. Add soy, sherry vinegar, and sesame oil.

Add back the reduced mirin and broth, reduce heat to medium, and cook until glossy and thick, about six minutes. Add  onions and stir well.
(if you are prepping this in advance, store the sauce and onions separately, the combine when heating just before serving)

Meanwhile, clean out iron skillet, and return to stove. Add two tablespoons of canola oil and heat over medium-high heat until just starting to smoke. Drain the rice cakes and towel dry. Add rice cakes to pan and reduce heat to medium. Cook until light brown on all sides, about 3 minutes per side.

Toss rice cakes with sauce. Garnish with sesame seeds and scallions.

Please tell me if this isn’t one of the yummiest things you have eaten.  I need to go and make more this minute!

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