Lately, I think a lot about my childhood. Where/how I grew up, stuff I used to enjoy, kind of food I loved to eat, school holidays, old friends, holidays at my grand parents and our odd weekends together as family. I miss home. Not in a sense of missing my mum or dad, because I no longer have that kind of relationships anymore, sadly (that is another story to tell, one day) but more I miss my root that I somewhat abandoned for the past 19 years, in the name of integration.
My 20s were bloody good fun but hard. As a just turned 20yrs old foreign student with very little english, trying to study and make living, for a very long time, it was nothing more than a survival. Having left home that I never really felt I belong to, I wanted to dive deep into my then new found freedom and integrate fully to feel part of London. I wanted make life here. I didn’t want to be recognised as a foreigner. And yes, I probably achieved that. I feel more British than Korean in many ways. I now have my own family. I worked hard to achieve my goals. I am paving my pathways to live my dream. But I also rarely use my mother tongue. I probably speak better english than korean. I am sometimes confused. I am a Korean living in London but when I go home, I’m also a foreigner visiting Korea. It is a strange feeling. That I am neither.
But I have a kid. Stark realisation that it is her birth right and my duty to pass on her other half of heritage often hits me hard with big question marks. I want to tell her the stories. Where I come from and why I am here. I want us to cook the kind of food I ate as kid and taste my childhood together. I want us to speak the language and whisper our secretes to each other. I really want her to feel the part of my home, where I come from. My root. But it is a real effort. I have to dig deep.
I wonder if I will ever be able to share it all with her. The tiny snippets I tell her every now and then are so out of context. She doesn’t really understand I am Korean. She refers it as auntie Sara’s country. To her, I am mama. Her home. So I keep telling her small tales from my childhood and we snack on things I used to love. It’a a start.
I am a sucker for anything deep fried.
Rather substantial part of my school summer holidays were spent between helping my parents’ business in exchanges of feasting on takeaways from local street food vendors, which sold deep fried snacks call Twigim. I would usually opt for mixed vegetables, seaweed spring rolls and dried squid bathed in airy batter and fried golden. Occasionally, I would add one or two candid sweet potatoes as a treat. Beautiful orangey sweet potato chunks deep fried and coated in thick syrup that sticks to your teeth. Every summer was delicious.
And while we are gone, mum would sometimes buy ruby red tomatoes from near by grocers. She will skilfully cut them up in her hands with tomatoes in one hand and knife in the other. Chunky pieces of tomatoes were sprinkled with sugar and kept in the fridge for afters to wash down our palate. That was also quite sensational.
I can just about remember the street, the takeaway stall and me jolly skipping back to mum and dad’s shop with my sister and brother, holding hands. I can smell it and taste it. Happy memories.
This will make a good snack. As a matter of fact, we did demolish the entire plate after the shoot, washed down with very cold beer. You could easily make this into a meal. It is great simply tossed in with some grains and greens of any sort. I like to have mine with hot and tangy sriracha sauce to cut through the richness.
Depending on kind of tofu you use, you may need to drain excess water by pressing it. Couple of cans of beans for 30mins or so will do. I have become a big fan of tofu brand ‘The Tofoo co.’. Their extra firm type is very good for this as you can skip the pressing. Good to go as is.
Put all ingredients for the marinade and cubed tofu in a large bowl, mix well and refrigerate for couple of hours turning them half way though to ensure they soak up the flavour evenly. I have left them for overnight before, which is absolutely fine, but I found couple of hours enough to give it a good flavour without making tofu go too squishy in the middle.
When ready to fry, drain, coat them carefully in corn flour and rice flour mix and fry in hot oil until golden.
It is worth ensuring all sides are well covered as this will give you that lovely crunchy crispy finish. Addition of little salt is also a good idea for seasoning. You could however, do this after it’s fried, if you prefer. I like to salt mine before frying.
If you’re using shiso leaves, cut them up in thin strips, coat them in corn flour and fry them in same oil. I love the slight aniseed flavour and freshness of this delicate leaves.
There are some debates on whether potato starch is better than corn flour when it comes to karaage. In my opinion, I think corn flour gives crispier finish for tofu. I use optional glutinous rice flour in this but it is not a must so if you just have corn flour, just up the quantity.
for the marinade
1 pack of tofu, cubed
pinch of oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2tbsp corn flour
1tbsp glutinous rice flour (optional)
pinch of flaked salt
2 shiso leaves (optional)
some frying oil