Way back in 2009, before the Tea Party or the iPad, over some goodies like a chile-verde omelet and strawberry waffles at the Breakfast Club (394-3238), I asked Pat Tanimuhardja for some Indonesian proverbs.
At the time she was living in Pacific Grove, starting a family, working on a cookbook and writing about food for the Weekly. Somehow, in describing how she grew up in Singapore and lived in Seattle before migrating to Monterey County, she mentioned how her dad, who hails from Indonesia’s endless islands, liked to supply her with lots of little ditties to live by.
One of them: Sambil menyelam minum air (the last part is pronounced “ah-year”): “Diving while drinking water.” In other words, trying to do two things at once.
The proverbs came to mind six years later because of a pancake. Not just any pancake, and not one they serve at the Breakfast Club.
This was a curly kale-and-celery Korean pancake, made with rice flour and served with a soy-sesame-green onion sauce.
I plucked the recipe from the pages of brand-new cookbook Farm to Table Asian Secrets: Vegan & Vegetarian Full-Flavored Recipes for Every Season (and adapted for what was available at the market, swapping in curly kale for chard).
The pancake’s proverb: Fresh, interesting and tasty Asian recipes don’t have to be foreign, challenging or complicated. Not only was it easy and fun to make, it was delicious, vegan and fun to photograph.
Farm to Table Asian Secrets is Tanimuhardja’s second cookbook, arriving Tuesday, March 28, at bookstores including Bookworks in downtown Pacific Grove and on Amazon.com. (In keeping with the proverbial elder wisdom, her first cookbook was The Asian Grandma’s Cookbook: Home Cooking from Asian American Kitchens.)
The book bursts with eye-catching photography and practical concepts – recipes “designed for regular folks who don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen,” she writes – plus handy notes on things like cooking equipment and stocking a pan-Asian-food friendly cabinet. (A selection of recipes appear on the blog, mcweekly.com/edible.)
The recipes are sorted by season, which speaks to one of the most important proverbs of conscious eating. Tanimuhardja riffs on that in the introduction, with a shoutout to Pacific Grove Certified Farmers Market run by Everyone’s Harvest that happens 3-7pm Mondays at the corner of Central and Grand (394-6961).
“My affinity for seasonal produce developed while managing a farmers market in Pacific Grove, California,” she writes. “I was at the market every week, getting to know the people who grew my food and discovering all their wonderful locally grown produce.
“As a result, I’m a full-fledged, card-carrying member of the farm-to-table club, eating whatever is grown locally according to the rhythm of the seasons.”
There are plenty of discoveries in the book’s 144 pages – including spring recipes like spicy Korean green onion salad, sweet soy and black pepper cauliflower, Chinese mushroom buns, ponzu-butter vegetables, coconut-cream asparagus and “everyday” pad Thai. But the tastiest discovery is that my remedial-chef self can cook snappy, crunchy, fresh and fun Asian. Which until now, felt a little bit like a futile effort – like trying to measure smoke. Or as Tanimuhardja’s dad would say, menggantang asep (mung-gun-tongue ah-sup).
Which was precisely her hope.
Rainbow Chard Korean Pancake
15 min. prep, 30 min. cook time, 4 servings (2 large pancakes)
- 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup rice flour
- 1 ½ cups water
- 8 ounces rainbow chard
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- ½ cup sliced yellow onion
- Fine sea salt
Mix the all-purpose and rice flours together with the water in a mixing bowl.
Gently tear or cut the chard leaves from the center ribs. Chop the ribs into half-inch pieces. Stack the leaves lengthwise into cigars, then cut crosswise into half-inch ribbons. Keep ribs and leaves separate. You’ll have about 1 cup ribs and 3 cups packed leaves.
Swirl 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the onion and chard ribs. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes, until the onions turn translucent. Add the ribs and stir for another 2-3 minutes. Add the leaves and a pinch of salt, then cook until they wilt, another 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Fold the chard and onions into the batter.
Wipe out the skillet and heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat for 30 seconds. Pour half the batter into the skillet, tilting and swirling so the batter forms an even layer about ¼-inch thick. Cook, shaking the skillet occasionally, until the bottom is golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Lift up one edge and pour in 1 more tablespoon oil, then flip the pancake carefully and press down with a spatula.
Cook until the pancake is golden brown on the bottom and the edges are crisp, another 1 to 2 minutes.
More recipes, including the longer version of this one, appear at mcweekly.com/edible.
- There reportedly were no passwords involved as an unmarked speakeasy-style bar opened last Friday, March 17. It sits on Lighthouse Avenue in the modest space next to Hula’sIsland Grill (655-4852), in what used to be Gold Coast Tattoo & Body Piercing.
- El Rey Pollo is now open in Seaside, honoring its family recipe for charbroiled whole chickens. More on the blog.
- Popular Carmel tapas spot Mundaka (624-7400) closes after service Saturday, April 22, before reopening as a coastal-Mexico-flavored El Pescadero in May. “We’ve decided to reinvent ourselves,” reads the email that went out to a list of friends and customers. The specifics are far from in place, but chef Brandon Miller and owner Gabe Georis will get in the kitchen and start playing with recipes and concepts as soon as next week.
- Miller does his signature paella at new cigar shop The Humidor in Monterey 1-2pm Saturday, March 26, paired with his homebrewed craft beers as part of an open house (free/members; $10 donation/nonmembers).
- Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Chef Matt Beaudin and Real Good Fish Founder Alan Lovewell are among 16 finalists for The Seafood Champion Awards in the “vision” and “innovation” categories, respectively, handed out at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit, June 5-7, 2017, in Seattle, Washington.
- After a number of delays, Poke Time on Lighthouse in New Monterey is scheduled to soft-open as soon as the end of the month. Sister Sushi Time (884-5011) continues to rock some of the best lunch box deals in Seaside.
- Johnny DeVivo and Porters in the Forest pair barbecue with fine domestic whiskeys 6pm Sunday, March 30 ($65, 622-8240).
- The Beach House at Lovers Point (375-2345) teams up with Bernardus Winery for a three-course winemaker’s dinner ($75) 6pm May 25, but it will sell out a lot sooner.
- Galante Vineyards in Carmel (624-3800) does another of its big-value library tastings ($15/members, $25/nonmembers) 4-6pm Friday, March 24.
- Charles de Gaulle: “How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”