Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ham Ji Park ~ Delectable Pork Belly, Spareribs & Stew

The Pork Spareribs at Ham Ji Park make me seriously question why I bother to make ribs at home. HJP's Spareribs are tender, meaty and well-marinated in a rich salty sweet sauce with a gentle spicy kick.

I have a serious addiction to Korean BBQ; I need help. I've been on a Ham Ji Park binge lately (3 times in a month?) and super cheap certificates from Restaurant.com doesn't help me. Oh well, just got to workout more! The Core Performance Center is currently my best friend, 5 days a week, if not 6 :)

The Pork Neck Stew is full of spices and heartiness. The meat is soft and falls off the bone. It's absolutely delicious with a bowl of rice. Trust me, you'll want that rice to soak up every bit of that stew. It's comfort food at its best.

Black Pork Bacon. BBQ till crispy and the fat is delicious. Go workout before AND after you enjoy this.

Marinated Sirloin Beef. Fat is well-marbled and I like the light marinade. The onions and green onions are a nice addition to the grill.

The beginning of the carnage. Disclaimer: it's really hard for me to remember to take photos when the food arrives - it's exciting and I'm hungry you know...

There are two Ham Ji Parks in the Koreatown vicinity. I've only been to the 6th St. location so far because parking is so easy there ($2 valet and plenty of street parking on 6th or Catalina).

Ham Ji Park
3407 W 6th St
Ste 101-C

Los Angeles, CA 90020
(213) 365-8773


4135 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(213) 365-8773

Oxtail Stew: Comfort Food That Keeps You Warm

Ah. Been busy. Been sick. Had some fun in between.

This just means all the posts I've been meaning to write has been snowballing and I better tackle some before it drives me crazy in the back of my mind!

Oxtail Stew is one of my favorite comfort foods especially for the Fall and Winter seasons and I love to cook it for Sunday dinner when I have a couple of hours at home. My Uncle Ricky has taught me many important carnivore dishes over the years and he initially taught this to me as a Beef Short Rib stew so feel free to use short ribs if oxtail is not your thing. Both have become my favorites for Sunday dinners.

The first time my uncle showed me how to cook this, I was amazed that he was just eyeballing stuff and throwing them into the pot. After having made this many times, my "recipe" is not really exact because I eyeball everything now too. But that's okay. That's why sometimes cooking is more relaxing than baking because it doesn't always have to be exact.

Shop for your ingredients and have them handy on your kitchen counter.

Mix flour, kosher salt and black pepper in a large bowl and set aside. Or, use a large rubbermaid with a lid (useful later).

Rinse oxtails and pat dry with paper towels.

Use kitchen scissors to snip away excess fat and tough sinewy parts and discard.

Toss the oxtail in the flour mixture. I like using a large rubbermaid container and I just put the oxtail in in batches and put the lid on and shake - the oxtail comes out evenly coated every time.

Heat a large pot (or use a separate pan) and add canola oil. Sear the oxtail on all sides. Try not to crowd the oxtial because it won't sear properly. Sear in batches if necessary.

When it's pretty much seared, add diced onions if you like onions melted into the sauce of your stew. Or, you can save the onions to add last. I tend to do both.

Add chicken stock, stewed tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to a medium boil and turn the fire on low and simmer for 2 to 2.5 hours total. Don't put a tight lid on the pot. Either tilt the lid to let out steam or use a lid that has a small hole for ventilation.

At the1.5 hour mark, add the cut carrots. After 15 minutes, add the cut potatoes and stew for 30 more minutes. Carrots and potatoes should have been peeled and cut (about 1 to 2 inch pieces) beforehand. Tip: If you can, get fresh carrots (with the greens still attached) at the Farmers Market - the sweet carrot flavor will really come through.

Check for doneness by inserting a fork into the oxtail; the meat should separate pretty easily. At that point, you can add mushrooms and sliced onions if you like - I did both here.

Stew for 15 more minutes after adding mushrooms and your stew should look like this. Do a quick taste test; add more kosher salt if you think the taste needs to be adjusted.

There you have it. Carbs, Protein and Veggies all in one pot :)

Oh, of course don't forget to plate it with a nice plate of steamed rice. Rice or a thick, crusty French bread is the perfect side dish pair with a stew because it'll soak up all the delicious, rich sauce. I cheat; I'm Chinese so I have two main entrees - rice and stew!

Shopping List for Oxtail Stew
(remember, measurements aren't exact but it's okay...it's cooking so eyeball it!)
  • 1 Oxtail - about 3-4 lbs (Western markets will have it all cut up already; Chinese markets tend to have the whole tale at the meat counter so make sure you ask the butcher to cut it - you cannot do it at home!)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 tablespoon kosher salt (have extra to salt stew later if necessary)
  • 0.5 tablespoon black pepper (fresh ground if possible)
  • 2 cans Stewed Tomatoes (I like Del Monte Original Recipe)
  • 3 - 4 cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 box/8 oz of crimini mushrooms (or any sturdy mushroom that'll be good at soaking up the sauce)
  • 1 medium potato
  • 1 medium brown onion
  • 0.5 to 1 lb of carrots
  • 1 - 2 tablespoon Canola oil - to coat pot/pan

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

To Parboil or Not to Parboil?

I am squarely in the camp of not parboiling pork spareribs when I cook ribs at home. A lot of recipes recommend parboiling to soften the meat but I think that removes a lot of flavor from the meat. So, my solution is to slooooooooow cook my ribs. It's not hard, it just takes time.

I live in an apartment with no access to a grill so I can't exactly make BBQ Ribs so here's my recipe for Apt Slow-Oven Baked Ribs. It takes at least 4 to 6 hours of cooking time and 24 hours to marinate but the results are worth it. Tender, juicy, fall-off-the-bone meat that beats any ribs I can buy from a restaurant in LA.

I prefer spareribs over baby back ribs because it is meatier and less expensive. Choose a piece that's 3 - 4 pounds. A smaller piece is fine too but if you're doing all this cooking why not make more for friends or for a couple of meals?

The recipe will most likely give you extra dry rub. Save it in an airtight container so you can use it again in the future.

Wash and pat dry the ribs using paper towels. It is really important that you remove that tough membrane on the back of the ribs. Take a spoon and work your way under the membrane and slowly rip the whole thing off.

Ribs sans membrane. Use kitchen scissors to trim any leftover membrane and excess fat. As the ribs cook, fat will drip onto your pan so trim the excess fat or else you might have to take your pan out and pour out the fat.

Rub the dry rub all over the ribs (front and back). Wrap tightly in foil, put it on a tray or in a plastic bag in case of leaking and put it in the fridge to marinate for 24 hours.

After marinating, remove foil, pat away any moisture and excess dry rub and place the ribs on a rack on top of a tray. Bake at 275F for 4 to 6 hours. It may take the full 6 hours depending on the size of the ribs and oven temperature (I finally bought an oven temp gauge and found out my oven runs 25 degrees lower than what it's set for). Ribs are done when two ribs can easily be separated by hand (the ribs in the pic above are done cooking).

Okay, final stretch. To finish, add BBQ sauce. I like to use Bull's Eye Original Barbecue Sauce and for a spicy kick, I mix in a little tabasco sauce before I brush it on the cooked ribs (tabasco optional). Of course, brush sauce on both sides of the ribs.

Set the oven to broil and place ribs in for about 5 to 7 minutes. It will look bubbly as the fire heats the sauce. Then, take it out and flip and broil the other side. Monitor the broiling very closely by looking through your oven window. You don't want the ribs to burn; you just want the sauce to soak into the ribs. So, if it looks like it is burning, take it out immediately even if the time isn't up yet

Apt Slow-Oven Baked Ribs done! I served it with fresh corn from the farmers market and rice. I'm Chinese so I must have rice :)

Recipe for Dry Rub
(I mixed and matched dry rub recipes I've used in the past)
  • 3/4 cup of white sugar
  • 3/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup salt (I prefer Kosher which I think brings out the meat flavors better but regular salt is fine too)
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of black pepper (fresh ground if you can)
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Store extra dry rub in an airtight container for future use.