rabokki fork to belly

I don’t remember the first time I learned about deokbokki or rabokki. I also don’t remember when I first tried it for myself. Maybe at one of Roy’s favorite spots in Koreatown with a pub-like atmosphere and some dang good twice fried kfc wings or in Hawaii at this hole in the wall Korean restaurant with like 15 seats that will graciously add a slice of kraft cheese over top upon your request (I’ve been to several restaurant that though may have cheese corn on the menu will not also add cheese to any other dishes when asked).

But what I do remember is the very first time I was inspired to make this dish at home and all my fleeting attempts that followed to perfect it. I watch a lot of videos on YouTube with all sorts of content. I’ve been a fan of Simon & Martina (previously Eat Your Kimchi) for quite sometime. Simon & Martina, now living in Japan, previously lived in Korea for 8 years after moving abroad to teach English. They started a YouTube channel to let their family and friends in on their new lives in a foreign country and it took off! Eat Your Kimchi was one of my first introductions to Korean food and culture. On a late and particularly chilly night, I watched Martina’s cooking video on Dakgalbi and knew it was what I needed in my life ASAP. The next day I gathered all the ingredients at our local asian market and made Korean food for the first time. This sparked my interest in Korean dishes and eventually led me to other channels like Seonkyoung Longest, and Maangchi whose recipe I eventually adapted this Rabokki I’m sharing today from.

rabokki fork to belly

For those who aren’t familiar with Deokbokki, it’s a dish made up of these cylindrical shaped rice cakes cooked in a spicy red sauce, occasionally with green onions, fish cake, and a hard boiled egg or two. Rabokki is the version of Deokbokki with ramen noodles added to it instead of rice cakes. It’s very simple to put together, a sort of throw everything into one pot and let it all cook kind of deal, but so delicious and addicting. It’s spicy and I imagine that’s why it’s so hard to stop eating, like when you can’t stop shoving spicy cheetos in your face because if you stop your mouth might catch on fire. There’s got to be some science behind why spicy food does this to our tastebuds. I’ve watched my best friend order a level 5 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 spicy ramen after a concerned look from our waiter and literally cry, sweat, and sniffle through eating the entire bowl whilst saying: “So spicy… but so *sniff* good…”

The good news is that Deokbokki is not level 5 spicy ramen spicy! Well, unless you want it to be. But I do have to be honest and say that even when using the mild level gochujang, there’s a definite spiciness to this dish. And it’s Korean spicy, meaning it lingers. I swear its delicious, but Roy who loves wasabi and Chinese hot mustard does not handle long term spicy very well and will warily eye this when I make it.

rabokki fork to belly

rabokki fork to belly

Rabokki is made with a red pepper paste called gochujang, the shining star of many Korean dishes. It’s thick and glossy with an intense deep red color to it. You mix the paste with korean red pepper flakes and a little bit of sugar and this creates your sauce which you then add to the broth along with the rest of the rice cakes, veggies, etc. Gochujang comes in all different levels of spice. I’ve tried medium hot in the past but mild is now my go-to as I feel like I can control the spice more when starting with less of it.

The way I enjoy my Rabokki is with a handful of rice cakes, green onion, carrots, fish cake, oodles of instant ramen, and a generous helping of special guest: *parmesan cheese*. The good kind! This without the cheese is yummy on its own but the parmesan takes it to a whole new level and now there’s just something missing for me if I have this dish without the cheese. I used to eat Rabokki with good ol’ American or swiss cheese but didn’t happen to have any on hand once and discovered the beauty that is parmesan and Rabokki. I figured I could grate off some of the wedge of parmesan I had in the fridge. While doing so, a big chunk fell into the noodles and I didn’t care enough to take it out. Upon reheating and mixing the leftovers later, a bite was covered in a bit of parmesan that had completely melted onto the noodles and my life was changed. Plus, the cheese makes the dish a little less spicy too and I have no complaints about that.

rabokki fork to belly

Rabokki is a dish that makes me so happy. If you’re not familiar with the ingredients they may seem like a lot of different things to have to add to your pantry but I’ve found ways to use most of them in my everyday cooking. Dried anchovies and kombu are a quick and easy way to make a soup base more flavorful and if you’re ever planning on making other Korean dishes, gochujang and gochugaru Plus, gochujang basically lasts forever and the rice cakes freeze great!

Rabokki with Cheese
Recipe makes 2-4 servings.

4 cups water
6-7 dried anchovies
1 large piece kombu
1/3 cup gochujang (red pepper paste)
1 tbsp Korean red pepper spice
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 handful korean rice cakes
3 stalks green onion, chopped into 3 inch pieces
1 large carrot, sliced
Fish cake
2 packages dried instant ramen noodles (save or discard any seasoning packets)
1/2 cup grated good quality parmesan or 2 slices american/swiss cheese

1. Fill a large pot with 4 cups of water. Add the anchovies and kombu. Boil for about 15 minutes before removing the anchovies and kombu. Keep on a low simmer while preparing the other ingredients.
2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the gochujang, red pepper spice, and brown sugar. Add to the water with the rice cakes and stir until the paste is dissolved. Bring the pot to a boil again.
3. After a few minutes, add the carrots and fish cake. Continue to simmer until the sauce has reduced and the rice cakes and carrots are cooked through. Add in the ramen noodles. You may need to add another 1/2 – 1 cup of water if the sauce is too thick for the noodles to cook. Add the green onions.
4. Rabokki is best served immediately after cooking. Keep it quite warm on the stove and when ready to serve, add the grated parmesan. Let it melt and then mix all the ingredients around again. Serve and enjoy!

Note: If refrigerating leftovers, the rice cakes will become quite hard. I suggest using the microwave when ready to eat again but you will most likely have to cook them for at least several minutes before they soften up again.

ahi poke cake fork to belly

I am back at it again with another unusual birthday cake recipe! Last year, I sort of blew Roy’s mind with this Korean Fried Chicken Cake and had to do something just as fun this go around. Poke is without a doubt Roy’s favorite thing to eat. While we were back in Hawaii last month, I’m quite positive he had it every single day over the course of a week. FYI, I have never swayed his mind on the dangers of mercury poisoning.

Yama’s Fish Market is still his favorite place to grab a 1/2 lb of wasabi masago or limu poke, but I also really enjoyed Ono Seafood and Steph introduced me to (though not exactly a poke bowl) this awesome Spicy Ahi Avocado bowl from Hawaii Sushi in Diamond Head.

ahi poke cake fork to belly ahi poke cake fork to belly

ahi poke cake fork to belly

This cake took me a few tries to get right. Unfortunately for my wallet. For my first attempt at this cake while we were home, I used the Shoyu and Hawaiian style poke from Ono Seafood. I was shooting for a 6-inch cake but found it required too much poke and the layers of rice became too heavy for the layer of poke between them. My second go was much more successful, and I made my own poke this time so you all can make this cake at home too!

Instead of a Birth-day this year, Roy got a Birth-month. We went to Disneyland with his family, had a nice steak dinner in Beverly Hills, and drove up north near Magic Mountain to play paintball which I was very nervous about because I’m a big wimp and I’ve seen paintball bruises before… On our last round, I was the last person left on our team – mostly because I was hiding behind hay barrels the entire time – with three people closing in on me. I fell to the ground and barely made it out after taking a paintball to the head which felt like someone had thrown a small stone. During another round, Roy was somehow shot by some of our team mates while trying to get out of the game and now has some sizable bruises. Also no one mentions how physically exhausting it can be to carry a gun, extra ammo, and armor around with you as you dodge hits and hide behind objects. I had sore muscles in the strangest of places the next day. But I have to admit it was pretty fun and I kind of get why people enjoy it so much now.

ahi poke cake fork to belly

ahi poke cake fork to belly

Here are some key tips I recommend you stick by when making this cake:

a) Sashimi grade tuna is a mustmustmustmustmust. I’ve mentioned this in previous recipes on here but you want the highest quality fish you can get your hands on. Preferably fresh, not frozen (flash frozen though is ok). Look for ahi with a deep and rather vibrant red color. Avoid any fish that looks tinged with brown or gray. Also be aware of fish dyed to appear red. The fresher the fish, the better the taste and texture of your poke.

b) Use that acetate! I know it’s kind of a pain to buy online and most people aren’t making Milkbar style cakes every week – I bought a wrapping paper sized roll 3 years ago and still haven’t used half of it – but this will make your life so much easier.

c) Be careful with the poke layer. It does not hold its shape as well as the rice layers and if not left to set in the freezer before serving or if the acetate is removed too long before serving, the poke will begin to push out and under the weight of the rice. The cake won’t look nearly as pretty as it does with straight edges.

ahi poke cake fork to belly

Ahi Poke Cake
Recipes makes one 5 in. 3 layered cake.

2 cups (dry) rice
1 – 1 1/2 lbs sashimi grade tuna
1 tbsp shoyu
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 stalks green onion, chopped
1/4 cup kewpie mayo
2 tbsp sriracha
1 tsp chili oil
2 tbsp masago
pinch of Hawaiian salt

special tools:
5 in. cake pan

1. In a rice cooker or over the stove, cook your rice according to the package instructions. After the rice is ready, let it cool sightly before handling. Line the bottom of a 5 in. cake pan with plastic wrap. Press about half of the rice into the pan. Press hard! You want the rice as compact as possible so it will stay together. Use the edges of the plastic wrap to pull out the layer of rice. Wrap and repeat to make the second layer of rice.
2. Cube the fish into about 1/2 or 1 inch chunks. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with shoyu, sesame oil, and half of the green onions. Cover and let marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. In the mean time, mix the spicy sauce by combining the mayo, sriracha, and chili oil.
3. Once the fish has finished marinating, add in 2-3 tablespoons of the spicy sauce and toss to coat. Mix in the masago, Hawaiian salt, and the rest of the green onion. Refrigerate poke until ready to assemble the cake.
4. For assembly, with a 5 in. cake pan turned so the bottom is facing up, place the first layer of rice on top of the cake pan. Wrap a sheet of acetate around the pan and tape closed securely. For the second cake layer, place about 3/4 of the poke on top of the rice layer. Try to pack this down fairly well against the sides of the acetate ring but you don’t want to smash the fish. Slide the second layer of rice over the poke layer. Transfer the cake to the freezer for 15-20 minutes so the poke layer can firm up (you may also have to do this again just before serving if not doing so immediately). You don’t want to freeze the fish but you’ll need to do this so the poke layer will hold under the weight of the top rice layer.
5. Remove the acetate just before serving. Ideally you want to make and consume this on the same day. Keep the cake refrigerated but please eat this cake on the very day you buy the fish for maximum freshness and deliciousness!

shave ice cake pops hawaii fork to belly

I am soaking up each and every bit of being home that I can. In the last week, I have been gorging myself on the ripest papaya, mangoes, and lychee. The local fruit this summer is so incredibly sweet and I can’t get enough of it. PS – I had cotton candy grapes for the first time!!! My best friend happened to find them at Whole Foods and I swear – WHAT. The flavor… Well, I’m now addicted.

shave ice cake pops hawaii fork to belly

shave ice cake pops hawaii fork to belly

Another year, another #PopsicleWeek! Hosted by Billy over at Wit and Vinegar, a whole slew of bloggers have come together this week to post some insane summer popsicle recipes for all of you out there looking for a little refreshment from that summer sun. Admittedly, I am very very very intimidated by popsicles. Especially taking photos of them, where they turn on me and become sticky melted puddles of popsicle juice. I already turn into one big ball of stress every time I make ice cream with the AC at full capacity, and in this humid Hawaiian heat, I knew popsicles were going to give me a headache. Instead, I figured what better way to celebrate Hawaii and #PopsicleWeek than making shave ice inspired cake pops!

shave ice cake pops hawaii fork to belly

Shave Ice is the local version of popsicles. It is classic and timeless and every trip to Waiola or Kokonuts in Hawaii Kai takes me back to childhood and enjoying this increibly refreshing treat on hot summer days. Inspired by all the “cake pop popsicles” I’ve been seeing all over the ‘gram, I have for you these monsters of a frozen dessert. Though you should probably let it thaw for a few minutes before biting in or you could give yourself some jaw pain!

shave ice cake pops hawaii fork to belly

Shave Ice Cake Pops
Adapted from Tessa Huff. Recipe makes 4 large cake pops.

for the cake
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk

for the frosting
1/2 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar

special ingredients
white chocolate candy melts
red, blue, yellow sanding sugar
4 red coffee stirrer
4 wooden spoons
4 shave ice/water cups

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Grease and line a tall 6-inch cake pan with parchment and set aside.
2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a standmixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on high until pale and flufy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating until each is well combined into the bater. Add the vanilla, beat again for a few seconds then stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
4. With the mixer on a low sped, gradually add in half of the dry ingredients. Slowly stream in the milk with the mixer going until combined, then add in the rest of the dry ingredients. Mix until there are no longer any streaks of flour left but no more than 30 seconds long.
5. Transfer the batter to the cake pan and bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let cool to room temperature.

6. In the mean time, beat the butter on a high speed until pale and fluffy. Add in half of the powdered sugar and beat for another minute or two until combined. Add in the rest of the powdered sugar and repeat. The frosting should be pale and fluffy but smooth.

7. Once the cake has cooled, trim off any crisp bits around the outsides of the cake. In a large bowl, break it up into crumbles. Add in the frosting a few dollops at a time. The consistency of the mixture shouldn’t be wet yet when pressed together in your palm will hold its shape and not break.
8. Make four balls large enough to fit in each water cup. Set on a plate and transfer to the freezer to firm up for an hour or so.

9. When ready, melt the white chocolate on 15 second intervals in the microwave. Work with one cake pop at a time. You will need to work fast before the chocolate cools. Cover each ball the white chocolate, then immediately sprinkle on the sanding sugars. Add the coffee stirrer and spoon to the cake pop and set aside for the candy melts to firm up. Repeat the process for the other three cake pops. Store in the fridge or freezer until ready to eat and enjoy!

stroopwafel fork to belly

STROOPWAFEL!!!!!!!!!! My metropolitan life has provided me many opportunities to learn about baked goods from all around the planet. Lately, I’ve been real obsessed with this classic Dutch cookie called stroopwafel – pronounced “stROPEwafel” and translated literally to “syrup waffle”.

Stroopwafel is made up of two layers of crispy wafflecone-esque cookies pressed together with a thick caramel filling. In Amsterdam, they are the size of your face and made to order on street corners for something like 2 euros. You can’t find them in the states, though they are almost always imported and therefore smaller, laden with preservatives, and much pricier. They can be eaten dipped in a hot cup of coffee or all on its own as a snack. I’ve loved this cookie before I even knew its name. I called them gooey waffle cookies and always jumped at the opportunity to get my hands on them at bakeries or markets that just happened to sell them. It’s the textural bliss in a bite of crunchy cookie layers with a gooey caramel center that gets me.

stroopwafel fork to belly stroopwafel fork to belly

stroopwafel fork to belly

If you’ve never had stroopwafel fresh, then let me tell you, it’s a game changer. Plus, when making it yourself you get to eat all the wafel scraps or dip them into any extra caramel filling which is nothing to complain about. You’ll need to get yourself a pizelle or shallow waffle iron (the kind used for waffle cones), but the process of smashing each ball of dough into a crispy cookie was so fun I wasn’t the least bit annoyed I’d have to find room for another unusual kitchen appliance.

*Many of the recipes I found for the stroopwafel filling were darker in hue than the caramel-like one I was familiar with. That’s thanks to the molasses. Its really personal preference. Roy loved the version I made with half molasses and half golden syrup, though I thought it was a little too strong and “molassesy” for me. If you prefer a filling more similar to caramel or just know you’re not a fan of that distinct molasses flavor, you can use golden syrup instead!

stroopwafel fork to belly

stroopwafel fork to belly stroopwafel fork to belly

The last thing I’d like to mention is these babies last forEVER. If stored properly, preferably in an airtight container at room temperature or even frozen, they outer cookies will stay crunchy for quite a while time. After this batch, I snagged a few for storing the freezer so I can appease any stroopwafel craving the next time it comes.

stroopwafel fork to belly

stroopwafel fork to belly

stroopwafel fork to belly

Brown Butter Stroopwafel
Recipe makes 10-15 cookies depending on the size of your iron.

for the wafel:
250g unsalted butter
500g all purpose flour
150g caster sugar
4 1/2 tsp dry yeast
60ml milk, warmed
1 egg

for the filling:
350g molasses, golden syrup, or a mix of the two (*see notes above)
200g light brown sugar, packed
50g butter
2 tsp cinnamon

special tools:
food scale
pizelle maker or waffle iron (I used this one from Amazon)
round cookie cutter, about 3.5-4 inches in diameter

1. In a small saucepan over the stove, brown the butter for the wafel on a medium heat. Cook for 5-7 minutes until the butter turns caramel brown and has a distinct nutty flavor. Keep a close eye during this process and be careful not the burn the butter as once it begins browning, it will darken very fast. Set the now browned butter aside to cool to room temperature.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, caster sugar, and dry yeast. Once the browned butter cools, add it to the dry ingredients along with the warm milk and egg. Mix with a spatula until the dough begins to clump together. Transfer the dough to a clean work surface and knead it with your hands until the dough is uniform and will hold its shape when formed into a large ball. Place the ball of dough back into the mixing bowl and cover with a clean towel. Set in a warm area in the kitchen for at least 45 minutes so the dough can rest.
3. To make the filling, add syrup of choice, brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon to a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar and butter have both dissolved and the mixture is evenly combined. The filling becomes hardens and becomes difficult to work with when it comes to room temperature. If this happens while waiting to fill the stroopwafel, you can always pop the saucepan back onto the stove and reheat it to a more liquid texture.
4. Once the dough is finished resting, use a food scale to portion the dough into 50g balls. Depending on the size of your iron, this takes a few tries to get right. When the waffle iron is heated, grease it lightly with cooking spray and place the dough ball in the center (positioned a few centimeters more towards the back of the iron) and close the iron. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the wafel is a golden brown color. Remove from the iron and immediately use the cookie cutter to trim off the uneven edges. Use a serrated knife to cut the cookie in half. This must all be done while the cookie is still hot or it will break. Spread one side of the cookie with the stroopwafel filling and press the two halves together. Set aside to cool and repeat with the other cookies. Best served with a hot cup of coffee! Pro-tip: don’t throw away the wafel scraps! They stay crispy if stored in an air-tight container and are delicious to munch on or for dipping into any extra filling 🙂

kale and caramel fork to belly

After a mildly wild night out, filling my belly with Oaxacan food and micheladas, I later found myself lying in bed with Lily’s book, armed with a glass of water, my sushi page markers, and a passionfruit candle burning away on my nightstand. I first met Lily while meeting up for brunch with a few other blog buddies a few years back. We’d been seated and chatting away when in walked this woman in the cutest overalls and the most gorgeous head of red hair. Throughout the rest of the meal I gravitated towards Lily’s smile and easy laughter and her way of making you feel like you could just tell her anything and she’d never ever judge you. She talked about jumping into the *i am writing a cookbook* literary fire and I remember being so amazed by her unique understanding of food. Oh, and her last name too because how cool is it to be named Lily Diamond???

Lily is without a doubt one of the sweetest, truest, and open-hearted women I’ve met and it was a complete joy to see her shine at her book signing. I hope you’ll all enjoy Kale & Caramel: Recipes for Body, Heart, and Table and this recipe from the book for a very amazing cream pie!

kale and caramel fork to belly

I can’t say I’ve made very many cream pies in my baking career, but this one right here was a whole new experience. It’s simple and light, which really lets the natural flavors of the strawberries and basil shine through. I’m the kind of person that only ever knows how to use basil in savory dishes dishes like pesto and pasta and pizza. Though, I have recently learned it tastes wonderful with a little mint in a green grape and orange smoothie. But that’s as far as my scope of uses for basil reaches when it comes to the sweet side.

Roasted strawberry and basil sounds nothing less than delicious, yet I’ll admit I didn’t realize just how delicious the two would work together (I demolished one tart entirely on my own, standing over my kitchen counter with a large fork). I am in complete awe of this pie. Seriously. My favorite way to describe it is this: the most gentle and loving hug for your soul.

Roasted Strawberry and Basil Cream Pie
From Lily Diamond’s Kale & Caramel: Recipes for Body, Heart, and Table
Note: This recipe is meant for a 9 inch pie. I doubled the graham cracker crust and filled a large tart shell with the extra cream filling.

for the basil whipped cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
1 tbsp honey

for the graham cracker crust
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) salted butter
13 1/2 graham crackers (1 1/2 sleeves)
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt

for the roasted strawberry cream filling
2 cups strawberries, washed and stemmed, plus 5 to 7 strawberries for garnish
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
1/3 cup honey

1. In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream over medium heat. When steam rises, slightly crumple the basil leaves, add them to the cream, and reduce the heat to low. Stir and compress the basil with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, cooking for another 1 to 2 minutes. Do not let the mixture boil. Remove from the heat and let the basil steep for 30 minutes, covered. When the basil has finished steeping, strain the cream and discard the basil. Let the basil-infused cream cool, then whip with the honey until soft peaks form. Set aside in the fridge.

2. Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Crush the graham crackers in a food processor or blender until they have a sandy texture. Don’t over-blend into a flour. Pour the crumbs into a large bowl and mix in the sugar, butter, and salt. Mix until you have a wet sand-like blend. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown. Remove and let cool completely on a rack.

3. With the oven still at 375°F, cut the strawberries in half. Place in a large bowl and toss gently with the sugar. Arrange them on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor or blender, puree, and set aside to cool completely. Whip the heavy cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Set aside. In a second bowl, whip the cream cheese, cooled strawberry puree, and honey until completely smooth, about 5 minutes. Fold the whipped cream into the strawberry cream cheese mixture until incorporated and even in color.

4. Once the pie crust is completely cool, spread the strawberry cream cheese mixture into the bottom of the pan. Spoon the basil whipped cream in a smaller circle over the top of the strawberry filling, leaving a 2-inch border. Garnish with fresh strawberry halves and small basil leaves. Chill, covered in plastic wrap, for at least 2 hours. Slice and serve with extra strawberries and a sprinkle of minced fresh basil leaves and small, whole leaves for garnish.