Sometimes it takes forever to make changes in life and sometimes they rush in like a torrent. These last few weeks have been a monsoon of change – uncomfortable, scary change.
Great opportunities seem to be coming my way, yet nothing is ever certain. Then last night – via text message – I received news that the restaurant I’ve worked at for almost four years is shutting its doors for good, a restaurant that’s been open thirty years so… bombshell.
It seems more often than not I’ve been feeling untethered, wild. Johnny was recently on tour out west with GHT and for two weeks I didn’t cook a single meal for myself. Making beautiful meals is one of two major ways I ground myself (the second being cocooning in dark movie theatres by myself, seeing shitty tear-jerkers and grandstanding character pieces, completely anonymous).
I never realized just how important food and basking in hearty, familiar flavours is for healing turbulence related scars. A rich beef stew, a gooey chocolate cake, cheesy cannelloni or warm spiced tourtiere – inviting foods that act like a warm embrace.
After two weeks of pizzas, subs and anything made to be eaten in shame (damn you chicken wings!), I righted my aimless self by making these sweet, spicy and garlicky tacos. For me, comfort is pretty much anything wrapped in a tortilla shell, slathered in some sort of fiery sauce and enjoyed with someone you love.
When life becomes unrecognisable, there will always be some special meal that brings me back to myself.
(SORT OF) BULGOGI BEEF TACOS
serves 3 -4
This recipe makes no claims of being an authentic Bulgogi dish. I’ve simply lifted a few flavours and added some familiar Korean toppings.
You don’t find a huge amount of recipes using blade steaks, but they are so economically viable and if cooked with a little love, can come out quite tender. Hanging out in the marinade and braising with it makes this tough cut melt in your mouth. It looks like a lot of steps here, but it comes together fairly quickly and you will definitely be rewarded!
600 grams blade (simmering) steaks
1 clove garlic, minced
1″ piece ginger root, minced
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp each sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar
optional: a few squirts sriracha
1 tbsp safflower oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 large onion, sliced lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, minced
2″ piece ginger, minced
1 small bunch cilantro, leaves picked and tender stems thinly sliced
optional: a hot pepper (Thai chili, jalapeño, whatever you have on hand), seeded and diced
225 grams mixed mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp brown sugar, packed
1 tsp each oyster sauce and soy sauce
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 – 2 tbsp cornstarch
8 – 10 small flour tortilla shells
a bunch (about 7 or 8) green onions, thinly sliced
kimchi or shredded cabbage
sriracha and hoisen sauce
optional additions: bean sprouts, pea shoots, pickled hot peppers, thinly sliced daikon or radish, sliced cucumber, thin matchsticks of carrot, hearty greens, crisp lettuce
Prepare your steak: whisk together your marinade ingredients in a large bowl where your steaks can lay relatively flat. Allow to sit while you slice and sauté your garnish, or leave covered in the fridge over night, turning a few times.
For your garnish: place a large pan or skillet over medium/low heat. Add both your oils. Toss in your onion, garlic, ginger, cilantro stems, and hot peppers, if using. Sauté very gently for 5 minutes allowing everything to soften rather than brown quickly.
Add the mushrooms and sugar, stirring to combine. Then add the oyster and soy sauce, vinegar, water and sesame seeds. Continue to soften for another 10 minutes, or so, until the mushrooms cook down and everything looks a little gooey. Now turn up the heat and sprinkle in 1 tbsp of cornstarch, adding up to 2 tbsp depending on how much liquid you have. Sauté until the liquid thickens into a sauce and it begins to brown and sizzle. Remove from heat and toss in half the cilantro leaves.
To cook the steak: heat a pan (preferably cast iron), to high. Slide in you steaks, reserving the marinade, and sear each side for 2-3 minutes. Remove to a cutting board to rest. Turn the heat down to medium high. Pour in the marinade and heat it to a boil watching it closely so it doesn’t burn. Add a little water if it needs to be thinned out.
Slice your steaks very thinly against the grain and toss back into the pan with all that yummy sauce. Keep stirring about so it doesn’t burn, cooking until the steak is done to your liking and the liquid is well absorbed.
To assemble: heat the tortillas in an oven or microwave. Arrange your toppings, reserved cilantro leaves and mushroom mixture on a platter. Serve the steak family style right from the pan and allow your guests to create their own delicious tacos!