This dish comes with a Code Red alert: It's delicious, but the pepper-fueled heat can be overwhelming for those not accustomed to very spicy food. Cautious cooks should start with about a quarter of the amount of dried peppers and pepper powder called for here; more pepper powder can always be added later if you find your taste buds can take it. And, of course, the whole dried peppers in the dish are not to be eaten.
All the ingredients were found in an H Mart and very probably are available at any Asian supermarket. You may discover that spellings differ; the duk, for example, were labeled "tteok." If you're uncertain, ask a store employee for help.
Make Ahead: The sauce can be made and refrigerated in an airtight container for a few days, or frozen for a few weeks.
Servings: 4 - 6
- 8 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil
- 3 large yellow onions, cut in half, then cut into very thin slices (about 8 cups)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 1/2 ounces (2 very loosely packed cups) dried red chili peppers
- 2 medium cloves garlic, cut into thin slices
- 2 tablespoons toban djan (Chinese fermented bean and chili sauce or ssamjang, the Korean equivalent)
- 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon kochukaru (Korean chili powder)
- 6 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon usukuchi (light soy sauce; lighter in color and saltier than regular soy sauce)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 cups sliced or coarsely chopped Chinese vegetables, such as Chinese broccoli, bok choy or otehr Asian cooking greens (about 8 ounces)
- 8 cylindrical rice sticks (duk), cut into 1-inch lengths
- 8 ounces silken tofu (soft style), drained
- 1 or 2 bunches scallions, white and light-green parts, cut crosswise into thin slices (1 cup), for garnish
- 1/2 cup packaged Chinese fried shallots, for garnish
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to take on color and reduce in volume. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 20 minutes, turning the onions over on themselves every 5 minutes or so, until they are golden and soft and sweet.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a separate large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the ground pork and cook for about 10 minutes, breaking it up with the edge of a spoon, until it just loses its raw pinkness but does not brown or dry out. Transfer to a bowl; return the skillet to the stove.
Add the remaining 5 tablespoons of oil to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium. When the oil is hot, add the dried chili peppers and cook for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the sliced garlic and cook for about 1 minute, stirring, to infuse its flavor into the oil. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the Chinese chili bean sauce, Sichuan peppercorns and kochukaru; mix well.
Add the cooked onions to the skillet, along with the water and pork; stir to combine. Add the soy, sugar and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. (At this point, the pork sauce can be transferred to an airtight container and refrigerated for a few days or frozen for a few weeks.)
When ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.
Meanwhile, return the skillet to the stove over medium heat. When the pork sauce is bubbling at the edges, add the chopped Chinese vegetables and cook for 3 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the stems are just tender; the cooking time will depend on the thickness of whichever vegetables you are using.
Drop the pieces of rice sticks into the boiling water and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until they are warmed through; some may float to the surface. Drain and add them to the pork sauce. Whisk the tofu until creamy and fluid, then add to the sauce mixture, stirring to combine.
Divide among individual serving bowls. Garnish each portion with some scallions and fried shallots; serve hot.
Adapted from "Momofuku," by David Chang and Peter Meehan (Clarkson Potter, 2009).
Tested by Jane Touzalin.
Email questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.