Friday, February 3, 2012

Rutabaga Dduk Bokki

It's a little difficult to love a rutabaga. Compared to a genial, mild mannered potato, a rutabaga can come across as sharp and bitter. I like to temper its impact by roasting it together with a variety of root vegetables; mixed in with mellow, earthy parsnips and sweet beets, it brings complexity and depth to the discussion. 

But maybe the rutabaga is just a bit misunderstood, and we should stop thinking of it as a bitter potato and embrace it as a big, lovable radish. In this way it can play a staring role in Asian dishes, standing in for sharp, crisp daikon. 

During my first pregnancy I had strong cravings for sweet and spicy Korean stir fries that more than once sent my husband to Cafe Seuol for late night take out orders. Recently I've been experimenting with making a Korean street food, dduk bokki, that features these fun rod-shaped rice cakes. I started with this recipe, but wanted to include more vegetables, and it turned out that rutabaga was the perfect fit, adding bulk and a sharpness that balanced the sweet carrots and leeks.

This dish worked well for dinner because the kids enjoyed it deconstructed, having developed a taste for teriyaki beef from Ume Grill, and the grown ups enjoy a flavorful and satisfying one pot meal. And I think the rutabaga enjoyed being appreciated for its unique and special qualities. 

Dduk Bokki

Note: this recipe includes teriyaki style beef, but for a vegetarian version, you could simply omit the beef or substitute in baked tofu.

Marinated beef
1/3 lb beef, such as tri tip
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
4 Tbsp rice wine
plenty of black pepper
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp corn starch

Rice stick stir fry
1/2 lb rice cakes (available at Asian markets in the freezer section)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp gochujang (Korean red pepper paste, in a box like this)
1  Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 rutabaga
2 carrots
1 leek (or 1 bunch of green onions)
2 medium bok choy or 1/2 small cabbage
1 Tbsp canola oil
sesame seeds for garnish

1. Set a large pot of water to boil. Slice the beef into thin slices. Stir together the sugar, soy sauce, rice wine, and black pepper, and marinate the meat in this while you prep the vegetables and rice cakes.

2. When the water is boiling, add the frozen rice sticks and cook for about 5 minutes until they are cooked through (taste to make sure). Then drain them in a colander and drizzle over a little canola oil to prevent them from sticking.

3. Peel the rutabaga and carrots and cut them into small matchsticks. Trim the root and green ends from the leek, slice lengthwise, and wash thoroughly. Then cut into 1/2 inch slices widthwise. Chop the bok choy or cabbage into thin strips.

4. Mix together the minced garlic, sugar, gochujang, soy sauce, and sesame oil and set aside.

5. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium high heat. Add the oil and when it is hot, add the sliced meat. Cook for a couple of minutes and then flip with tongs to cook the second side. Mix the cornstarch into the marinade, and when the beef is cooked through pour over the corn starch mixture and cook for another minute, stirring. Remove the beef to a plate, scraping off as much of the sauce as possible.

6. Return the pan to the heat and add a little more oil. When it is hot, add the rutabaga and carrot matchsticks and cook for a couple of minutes. Once they start to soften slightly, add the leeks, cook for a minute, and then add the bok choy or cabbage. Keep cooking and stirring until the vegetables are cooked through but still slightly crispy. Add the rice cakes and toss with the vegetables. Then add back the cooked beef and stir in the gochujang sauce. If the sauce seems too thick, you can add a little water. Cook everything together until it is warmed through and then remove from the heat and serve garnished with sesame seeds.

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