There is one character trait that I value very highly, almost above all others and that is a person's ability to laugh and make others laugh. I find that I surround myself with such people because I love to laugh. I love to hear something so funny that it makes me want to lie down on the ground and pound my fists with sheer laughter. I love to say things that are funny and in turn make others around me scream and shriek with laughter. I love to laugh and I love being surrounded by laughter.
Husband can still make me double over with laughter, whether in person, via text or by instant messaging; he knows how to phrase things and say things that just kill me. They slay me, knock me out of my chair, and make me lose my breath. It may be his deadpan way of saying things or just the funny way he views the world (he is the center of his own universe) but he never fails to get me to laugh.
Aside from Husband, I'm surrounded by friends who make me giggle and laugh helplessly. And some of the best times I've spent have been with people who make me laugh so hard I lose all sense of propriety. I just squat down and laugh as hard as I can. There are no lady like giggles behind a delicate handkerchief or dainty hand - I belt out my laughs. And it is probably the best medicine that anyone could ask for. I think that laughter keeps me young and I'll continually seek out people who keep my heart joyful and the laughter loud.
Over the weekend, three families hung out at JEL's house (who isn't funny, but still makes me laugh like crazy) and I begged her to cook something of hers that I have been craving for a long time - this steak duhkbokki. Her version isn't like the kind you get in a bar or even in the supermarkets because hers uses steak and other vegetables, elevating the dish in taste (and price). She readily agreed to my begging, and the whole while she was making it, the two of us went back and forth about the amount that I wanted to make...which was 2 pounds of rice cake versus the 1 pound she normally makes. She kept on muttering under her breath about how it wasn't going to be eaten and I kept reassuring her that it would be. The whole while we cooked together, the other two women present kept on coming by with crazy comments and the whole situation of just kept me giggling. It was great having someone else do the cooking, while I madly snapped pictures and took notes. I also had to stop and measure everything before JEL dumped it in, because she is also a cook who never measures.
At the end, right after it was done, the four women gathered around the pan on the fry pan and madly stabbed forks into the rice cakes and gulped them down. The scene in itself was funny as four women met over a fry pan with this possessed look in their eyes as they gobbled down the food, but as we ate there were many jokes cracked and lots of laughter. Somehow, all that giggling made the dish taste extra special and helped us eat more. (we polished off those two pounds of rice cake.)
**Cooking Notes: Rice cake preparation**
If your rice cake is from a package (like mine was), then you'll need to do an extra step of preparation. If your rice cake is FRESH, made the day you are cooking, then you can save yourself a few steps. If your rice cake is from a package, you'll need to first take it out of the package and soak it in cold water. You will also need to parboil the rice cake right before sauteeing it with all of the vegetables and meat in order to get the right texture. Doing these two steps dramatically improves both flavor and texture of your entire dish.
Steak and Vegetable Rice Cake Stirfry (Sogogi Yachae Dduhkbokki 소고기야채떡볶이)
2 lbs Korean rice cake (the stick kind, not the ovalettes)
1 cup carrots, sliced
1 cup sliced onion
1 cup zucchini, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/4 to 1/2 lb sirloin steak, cut into strips (if you like it meatier, go with 1/2 lb)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup Korean chili pepper paste (gochujang 고추장)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 cup of water
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seed
If your rice cake needs to be parboiled (because it is not fresh rice cake), then fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add rice cakes and cook for about 2 minutes or until rice cakes are soft and chewy. Cooking times can vary depending on your particular dduk condition so watch. Do NOT over cook. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat add 2 tablespoons of oil. Add steak, carrots, and onion. Do NOT add zucchini or garlic as they cook much faster than the other vegetables. Saute for about 2 minutes and then add 3 tablespoons of soy sauce and a dash of black pepper. Saute for 1 minute longer and then add garlic, chili pepper paste, and sugar. Saute together, coating the steak and vegetables. Add zucchini and water and cook until zucchini begins to get tender, about two minutes.
Add prepared rice cakes all at once and stir once again in order to coat the rice cakes. Cover and allow to cook with the lid on for 2 minutes. Remove lid and then drizzle sesame oil all over mixture. Finish with green onions and sesame seed sprinkled on top. Serve hot!
Laughter and this dish go hand in hand