The Barre Bro Babysits Some Barre Babes (And Meal Preps Too)

Sunday means meal prepping, so let’s get this party started! Above is a $55 haul from HMart. This post is dedicated to Rachelle, who bought me a bangin new cutting board.

Look at that beauty!

After the travesty of a film that was The Meg, I decided to go with a classic to accompany today’s meal prep – The Beach, featuring a very young Leonardo DiCaprio.

First things first, put the ramen in the ramen drawer. What, you don’t have a ramen drawer? Everyone needs a ramen drawer.

Let’s start with the tofu. The heck is going on here, you may ask? Tofu needs a nice, crispy skin to be delightful, and you can’t do that without getting a lot of the moisture out of tofu. Most recipes tell you to quickly blot it with a paper towel – LOL, yeah right, that’s not going to do it. You need to slice the tofu up first, then somehow extract as much water as possible so the hot oil can really crisp up the skin. So, you gotta build a water-extracting tofu lasagna before you get to frying. Bottom layer is newspaper, then a layer of paper towels (if you drain straight on newspaper, your tofu will have headlines on it) then the layer of tofu, another layer of paper towels, another layer of newspaper, and then…

A heavy ass book to squeeze it all down so the water really gets squeezed out of the tofu.

This weekend’s meal prep was less about actually meal prepping, and more about experimenting with dukboki (or tteokboki) – spicy Korean rice cakes. This was my all time favorite food as a kid. If you’ve never had it, rice cakes have the consistency of gnocchi but much chewier, and it all comes covered in a very spicy, somewhat sweet gochujang based sauce. Now I’ve been making dukboki for years, but this weekend I ended up briefly having to babysit some barre babes while they went afternoon-drinking at Bing Bing Dim Sum and saw something I wanted to play with. Allow me to digress for a minute.

Callie, as many of you know, has no respect for time, other people, plans, or anything civilized, especially when it comes to organizing impromptu get togethers. I was going to be spending most of Saturday evening at UFC Philadelphia, so she decided to hang with a few of her barre babes who were free. Except, Callie’s idea of organizing something like this is texting someone the day of, “Hey, want to grab a drink, like, later today, like, somewhere? Can you tell, like, some people?” and hoping things just come together. I thought I would be at UFC by this point, but it started a lot later than I expected, so I volunteered to drive them around.

I’m not clear on the exact sequence of events, but Callie eventually ended up at Bing Bing Dim Sum with Ann, Molly and Rachelle, but not without some drama. See, this weekend featured the warmest day of 2019 to date. And what does everyone want to eat on a nice, warm day? Piping hot soup dumplings, right? Wrong. Except Ann, she really wanted soup dumplings.

Molly, like most normal people, was not particularly keen on hot ass soup dumplings on a hot sunny day. She was more in a nacho taco mood. But when we proposed Mexican to Ann, she threw a grande tantrum and threatened to eat soup dumplings filled with her own tears by herself because we’re all so mean. Now, to be fair, Ann had just recently spent a week in Mexico, so the prospect of Americanized tacos was probably less than appealing, but in the end, her dramatic threats worked, and we settled on hot ass soup dumplings on this hot ass day.

Here’s Molly after she burned her tongue on a soup dumpling. She probably got a sunburn that day too. Thanks Ann.

Here’s Callie trying to make a sexy face, but looking like a dandruff commercial instead.

Oh, did I mention that tuck recently got some new shirts made? By the way, four girls wearing shirts that say “I live for butt stuff” and walking around South Street on a busy day is a GREAT idea. I can’t believe how respectful Philadelphia dudes are. Guys on the street were totally like, “Hello, what a nice day it is! You ladies look wonderful in those amazing shirts! I truly and deeply respect your right to wear whatever you want, and I will keep all my very mature thoughts to myself so you can enjoy the public without fear of harassment or catcalls!” their eyes said.

Man, I really got sidetracked there for a second. The point of all of this, was that at Bing Bing Dim Sum, they had a dish called “Mapo Tofu Spicy Rice Cakes” which sounded to me like a cool new fusion dukbokki.

And it was delicious! But the really cool thing was, the rice cakes had a crispy, fried skin on them – something I had never experienced before. So, back to the meal prep, I decided to try and make a version of dukbokki with crispy rice cakes.

Normally, you can make dukbokki with refrigerated/frozen rice cakes, but since I knew I had to somehow crisp these guys up, I knew I had to start with fresh rice cakes. This used to be a full package, but rabid Callie clawed a few pieces out on the drive home from Hmart.

The dukbokki sauce is just broth (or water), gochujang, a couple shots of soy sauce, a little sugar, and… that’s about it. It’s the most forgiving dish ever – you could literally dump it all into a pot, heat for 15 minutes, and it would be pretty decent.

I was going to pull the rice cakes apart and pan fry them, but they were sticky as all hell and getting all over my fingers, so I ended up tossing them in oil first.

Meanwhile, I brushed some olive oil on Nemo so I’d have a meal prep snack to nibble on throughout the day.

The fried rice cakes… were less than fully successful. I think I need to use A LOT more oil. Also, looking back, I suspect that Bing Bing may have lightly coated the rice cakes in corn starch to really create that extra crispy skin. This will certainly take more looking into. On the left, I threw some fish cakes into the dukbokki.

Scallions and some bibimbap kale, because why not. Little corn starch slurry on the left in case I need a thickener (can’t remember if I used it or not).

Yay! Tofu looking nice and dry and ready to pan fry.

Send off the dukbokki to Callie, who was complaining about the slow service and threatening to write me a bad Yelp review.

Decided to try a few new brands of frozen veggie dumplings. These are a flat shape.

Hello, Nemo! Looking mighty fine!

So frozen dumplings – most packages tell you to pan fry them from frozen in oil, then steam to finish. But if you think about it, this is a flawed process for two reasons – one, dropping frozen things with an icy coating into hot oil will do to your forearms, what those soup dumplings did to Molly’s tongue. Two, you’re going to crisp up those dumplings, then ruin the crispiness by steaming to finish? While you’re at it, why don’t you grill a steak, then finish it in a pot of boiling water?

So what I do now is what’s suggested on the back of a package of Ling Ling potstickers (the kind at Costco) – start with a cold pan, add oil, add dumplings, add a cup of water, then cover and turn on high heat. This way, the steaming process happens first, cooking the dumplings through. Then, once the water has all steamed off, the oil stays behind, and you can crisp up the skins in the oil.

Meanwhile, let’s see how that tofu’s doing –

Whoops! Got some serious uneven heating on this pan. Took a minute to move the dumplings around and even out the skins. I’m going to blame my weird black-glass range. I miss gas.

Now let’s try this brand. Delicious Big Size the package says! I’m getting excited! I love big!

But this is some bullshit – 2 pieces per serving? For who, squirrels?

I was going to steam/fry these too, but then I saw the shape – flat bottom, very rounded sides. Not very conducive to crisping up. Time to bring out the steamer, and claim I was trying to be healthier the whole time!

Line with lettuce, steam for 7 minutes.

Mmm beautiful.

I like dipping steamed dumplings in the same sauce I make to top fried tofu. I have no idea what the exact measurements for this are – I start with maybe 1/4 cup of soy sauce? Dilute it with 2 tablespoons of water, then add a fuck ton of scallions and coarse red pepper flakes until it’s kind of thick.

Couple minutes later! Now, to take care of weekday breakfast…

I really like eating cold, rolled, japanese-style omelets in the morning. Four eggs beaten, salt, scallions, and I usually mix it all up in a pyrex measuring cup with a spout. I pour maybe 1/4 of it into this square omelet pan until it starts setting.

Then start rolling it up – for the first roll, I find it easiest to do with wooden chopsticks. For final shaping, I use a spatula. Once you roll it all the way to the left, you move the whole roll to the right, then pour another 1/4 of the egg mixture in for the next layer.

You want to lift up the first roll, and make sure some of the egg makes it underneath so it all gets connected. Then, roll, and repeat, two more times. Eventually you get something that looks like this-

Time to crisp up some veggie bacon so we can have wedge salads during the week! Also, breakfast burritos with eggs, cheese, and veggie bacon.

Let these guys cool a bit

Crisp and cool.

Slice these up to place in deli containers for easy transport to work.

After the “bacon” has cooled, break them up. Nemo didn’t fill me up, so I decided to make some instant jjajang noodles (black bean noodles). These things are delicious – it’s Koreanized Chinese food (the same way there is Americanized Chinese food, there is Koreanized Chinese food in Korea). Also, some pickled radish. I have no idea why it’s a neon yellow color, but it’s always been that way.

I also spent a minute Marie Kondoing my pantry from this:

to this!

 

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