A hapa holy trinity? Hey, there’s a first for everything. Sweet and pungent (coleslaw), smoky and spicy (beans), and some of the aforementioned with savory with herbal tossed in (potato salad), these were the flavors that drenched the side dishes at our Hapa Kitchen BBQ on Saturday. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera on hand that day; if I’d had it, I would not have had a clean hand to use it. Therefore, this photo is stolen from Robert Sietsema’s recap of the meal in Village Voice‘s food blog. (The three sides are pictured on the bottom half of the very stylish paper plate.)
A plate like this, with different choices of meats (or tofu) on a stick in the bun, was served to more than 250 people at the ‘cue. We sold out of food to the last scrape, and I was more than happy to sacrifice my “staff meal” portion, after tasting and testing the stuff for the better part of the week prior. Now that I’ve gotten some distance, however, I must say: these sides were pretty good! And the recipes are hardly more complicated than what their names betray.
As for our entrees, they were a bit more complicated. A soy and tequila-marinated pork skewer main course was the work of fellow cook Bryan Zupon, and I dare not spill his secret formula. Tom Helmick led the Vietnamese-style meatball skewers experiment, which he says was adapted from a recipe by his favorite cookbook author/adventurers in Hot Sour Salty Sweet. Both these meat options were topped with the diners’ choosing of hot Chinese mustard, five-spice ketchup, and for the meatballs, Vietnamese nuoc cham (“everyday table sauce”) with shredded carrots.
We called the vegetarian option “Buffalo Tofu” skewers, and unlike the other main courses, it was deceptively simple. I’ll spill the secret ingredient responsible for this:
a tub of spicy, smoky, deliciously complex gochujang
Gochujang, a Korean chile sauce. On a hunch, I picked this up at the Asian market, and after a fun night of recipe testing with the gang, we all agreed that when mixed with a little rice vinegar and weakened with some vegetable oil, this sauce tasted surprisingly like Buffalo chicken wing sauce… only more Korean.
It’s screechingly spicy, too, so not for the faint of heat — but then again, so is Buffalo sauce. To counteract that, Buffalo wings are typically served with blue cheese dressing, a creamy concoction with a little pungency. Instead of going for dairy (we wanted to keep the vegetarian option also vegan-friendly), we had our minds set on pureeing a block of silken tofu and adding something for minimal, light flavor. I’ll spill the second secret ingredient used for this — not that anyone will dash out and buy it now, I imagine. It’s Chinese fermented tofu, and it comes in a jar. Sometimes it’s packed with a little chile in the brine, others, a bit of sesame oil. It’s fermented, so it smells and tastes putrid straight up. But just a dab mixed into something — stir-fried veggies, or a smooth tofu sauce, in this case — and it’s magic. Fermented tofu or moldy cheese, what difference does it make?
With those sauces all set, we chopped extra-firm (but not silken!) tofu into cubes and baked them on a sheet with oil until their surfaces were crisp and golden. A dunk in the “Buffalo” sauce and another quick bake later, they were skewered and served with the “blue cheese” sauce. I’d eat these easily over meat, and it seemed that our vegetarian diners were pleased with the option, too. But my favorite part of the meal might have just been those sides. So here are the complete recipes for those. Hope you have a hapa-y barbecue, too!
Honey Miso Coleslaw
(makes about 8 servings — a party-sized bowl)
1 small head green cabbage, shredded
1 small head red cabbage, shredded
1-2 large carrots, finely shredded
2-3 scallions, both green and white parts, finely chopped
2 tablespoons miso paste
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
juice of 2-3 limes
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup mayonnaise (give or take — and we used Kewpie mayo, which is tasty, if MSG-laden)
black sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
In a food processor or a large bowl with a whisk, combine the mayonnaise, honey, ginger and miso paste. Taste and add more of any ingredient as desired. Fold in the vegetables and chill for at least 30 minutes prior to serving. Top with optional sesame seeds.
Hoisin Chipotle Baked Beans
(makes 8-10 servings)
3 1/2 cups dried red kidney beans, soaked overnight in at least 5 inches of water to cover
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/3 cup canned chipotles in adobo sauce, pureed in a food processor with all its sauce
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain beans and place in a large pot or Dutch oven with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, and add hoisin, chipotles and sugar. Stir to blend thoroughly, and transfer if necessary to to an oven-safe casserole.
Bake covered for 1 hour; check to see if the mixture needs more liquid and add more water if beans on top are beginning to look dry. Continue baking until beans are tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
Curry Potato Salad with Chickpeas and Rosemary
(makes 6-8 servings)
about 2 lbs red potatoes, cut to 1-inch wedges
1 cup chickpeas, either dried and cooked to tender, or canned and drained and rinsed
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 bunch fresh rosemary, chopped
about 2 tablespoons curry powder (adjust to taste)
1 cup mayonnaise (again, we used Kewpie)
juice of 1-2 limes
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to boil and add potatoes; potatoes should be tender and ready to drain in about 5 minutes. Drain and let cool.
Meanwhile, combine the mayonnaise, curry powder, lime juice, garlic and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Taste for seasoning and add more of anything. Add the rosemary, celery, onion, chickpeas and potatoes and toss to coat evenly. Seal and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.
(for all three recipes — up to 26 servings)
2 heads cabbage (at $1/lb): $3.00
2 carrots (at $2/bunch): $0.30
2-3 scallions (at $1/bunch): $0.45
2 tablespoons miso paste (at $4/tub): $0.50
1/2 cup honey (at $8/jar of local stuff): $3.00
3 limes: $0.80
1 1/2 cups Kewpie mayo: $2.00
3 1/2 cups dried kidney beans (at $8/4 lb bag): $3.00
1/2 cup hoisin sauce (at $2.99/jar): $1.50
1/3 cup canned chipotles (at $3.50/can): $1.75
2/3 cup brown sugar: $0.50
2 lbs red potatoes (at $2/lb): $4.00
1 cup chickpeas (from dried): $0.25
2 celery stalks: $0.40
1/3 cup chopped red onion: $0.30
1/2 bunch rosemary: $1.00
2 Tablespoons curry powder: $0.35
salt, pepper, garlic clove, optional sesame seeds: $0.15
Five brownie points: Considering all three recipes combined, you could do a lot worse with party-favorite sides. There is a lot of sugar in these recipes, the beans especially, and there are some jarred and canned substances, such as the hoisin (read: preservatives). There’s fat and cholesterol from the mayo, but we kept it to a bare minimum in the coleslaw. The beans are actually vegan as well as vegetarian, and if you forego the mayonnaise completely (which we’d considered), the coleslaw could be, too. This was not to be the case for the creamy potato salad, but at least it has vitamins from those crunchy celery bits, red potato skins and chickpeas for protein, too.
Two maple leaves: The green highlight of this barbecue meal was our pork itself, which we’d ordered from Vermont’s Tamarack Hollow Farm. However, none of the sides really featured local or even seasonal vegetables. When it came down to it, we had to think BIG, and make great portions of stuff that could stay tasty for a few hours straight, was easy to serve up, and fit the theme of barbecue food. So beans, cabbage and potatoes it was, and we didn’t have the budget nor did many of the farmers we spoke to have the quantities we’d need. This was a major headache and remains a slight bummer, the only mar in the final meal for me.