Ramen at Koko Kitchen

koko ramen

What a dreary day I was having. Just one of those what-is-the-point-of-getting-out-of-bed days full of mopes and sighs. And then one of the blogs I was reading through talked about homemade ramen. I thought, what a brilliant idea? Is there any better food for lifting one’s spirits than hot Asian soup? I think not.

So I did a quick google search, and praise the gods that be, there was a ramen shop right down the street from me.

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IMG_1960 (2)This is an Asian noodle dish that I learned about from my fascination with Korean culture and kdramas.

This is a Korean dish. It is also a Chinese dish. It is, in fact, a Korean Chinese-fast food dish. Very popular in Korea. Also one of the traditional dishes for those who spend Valentine’s Day alone! (I mean it’s just too messy for date food. And I would eat spaghetti on a date.)

Now time for a confession. I have not tried any “authentic” jjajangmyeon. I’ve never bought it at a restaurant or had a Korean friend make it for me. I just thought it looked so delicious that I had to try it. So I looked up this recipe and made it. Twice. To make sure it tasted the same, of course. XD

After finding the proper ingredients, it actually wasn’t that difficult. The recipe itself was a bit confusingly written, so I’m going to re-write it below. The original however comes from the ever-entertaining Nasties Simon and Martina. Watch EatYourKimchi, you won’t regret it!

This is a very unusual dish – very salty, slightly sweet, very savoury and thick. The noodles are slightly dense and chewy and the sauce is very unique and I love it. I made half of the original recipe (my half recipe measurements are listed below) and still had enough for two more servings.

Make sure you add NO additional salt. Because this sauce can get quite close to briny.

The modified recipe!


– 3 Tbsp oil
– 2.5 TBSP Black Bean Paste AKA Chunjang 춘장
– 1 medium sized onion (or however much chopped onion you desire)
– 1/4 Lb ground pork
– 1/8 TSP ground black pepper (or add more to taste)

– 3/4 Tsp sugar
– 1/2 TBSP Oyster Sauce
– 1 Cups of water or broth
-Fresh noodles, preferably kalguksu 칼국수 noodles (4 servings)

For The Thickener:
– 1/2 Tbsp potato starch (or corn starch)
– 1 Tbsp cold water

Thinly sliced cucumbers, or carrots or any thinly sliced crisp and light flavoured veggie.

Cooking Instructions:

1. In a small sauce pan heat the oil over low heat. Add the black bean paste and stirring constantly for 6-8 minutes.

**If you stir well enough and constantly it will be smooth and sauce like. If you do not it will look like this=> (this isn’t a bad thing, but it looks the opposite of appetizing.)

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2. When the mixture starts to release a strong smell (like chocolate or freshly baked bread) or once the time is up, strain/pour off the excess oil. Set the black bean paste aside off the heat.

3. Add more oil if you need to, then toss in the onions. Sauté on medium heat until softened but not totally cooked.

4. Add the pork, grind on some black pepper while yelling BAM and let it cook.

5. As the pork cooks, start boiling hot water for the noodles.

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6. Once the pork is lightly browned (don’t dump off the pork oil) add the black bean sauce and stir furiously! You should coat the pork well.

7. Add the 2 cups of liquid and simmer for about 5 minutes. If you’re adding more veggies, add them now but reduce the liquid to 1.5 cups since the veggies will create more liquid.

8. While the pork mixture simmers, cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Most kalguksu noodles require you to rinse them in cold water after you drain them until they are almost cool or else they will form a death ball of noodles that cannot be separated. Unless you’re into that kind of thing.

9. Combine the starch and water thoroughly. This is your thickener, aka slurry.

10. Add the sugar and oyster sauce. Mix thoroughly and adjust seasonings to taste!

** The more your reduce the pork and black bean sauce, the saltier and more intense the black bean mixture will be, so you can test the flavour as you simmer it and decide when you want to stop.

11. Once you like the flavour, add the potato starch slurry to thicken it. Stir well and it should thicken almost instantly. Sauce is finished!

12. Add the noodles to a bowl and scoop on a hearty serving of sauce. Garnish with thinly sliced cucumber and eat before it gets cold!

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Cheng’s Beijing

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(Sorry for posting late! I swear I had this all ready and set for yesterday. It was supposed to post at 10am as always… I just had some technical issues apparently. <.>  Here it is!)

Cheng’s Beijing is one of the many Asian restaurants in the Northwest Tucson area. Lately, it is one of my favorites. The dishes are light unlike many Chinese restaurants where you finish eating and feel like you have drank a whole bottle of sauce and a bag of breading. Not necessarily bad, mind you, it simply gets too much VERY quickly.

Cheng’s however  has a lighter touch with sauces and breadings and a heavier one with it’s vegetables. It is primarily Chinese-American dishes, but on my latest venture there I discovered a delicious expansion into the Thai and Vietnamese dishes!

Feeling something veggie heavy, I opted for the Thai Eggplant with Tofu and my dad for the Thai Bangkok Chicken.

The Eggplant dish was exactly what I was expecting from past Thai eggplant experiences. The eggplant was sweet and soft with a crispy skin. The tofu was fried expertly-not soggy or chewy. The vegetables were equally crisp and refreshing.

The chicken dish was well composed. Oftentimes I find that the peanut sauces on these dishes can be too much, but this dish had enough chili and other flavors to balance out the peanuty flavor. The chicken was cooked well, though I came across more than a couple fatty and inedible bites.

This dining experience, like the few I’ve had before at this restaurant, was pleasant and enjoyable and offered a nice variety of flavors and options.

You should also try the Thai Iced Tea when you go. They do it good. (And now serve boba as well!)

Ethnic-ly Confused Chicken, Rice and Salsa

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This was a meal I made with my good friend who is now living in L.A. pursuing her dreams of writing for TV and films. Before her trip we were hanging out a bunch and cooking – one of our many common interests. This Mediterranean/Hispanic/Asian inspired is really hard to describe, so I’ll just give you the basic recipes. But trust me, the flavors go perfectly together!

Salsa Chicken – Though cooked in salsa this dish turned sweet and rich in flavors. We were using Pace so there wasn’t much spice, another brand might make it less sweet. The chicken was tender and the cinnamon gave a nice warm background to the tangy tomatoes.

Chop up some raw chicken breast and pour in enough salsa to cover the poultry completely. Add cinnamon/nutmeg and some chili powder and stew/simmer on medium until cooked through. About 20 minutes.

Coconut Lime Rice – If you simply substitute half the amount of water you would normally use with coconut milk or water, it creates a slightly sweet and tropical tasting rice. We added further dimension by squeezing some lime juice in the rice while it cooked as well. Once it was done in the rice cooker, we mixed in some chopped parsley to give it a fresh zing to further counterbalance the sweetness of the coconut.

Avocado, Blackbean and Corn Salsa – depending on the ripeness of the avocados this will either be more creamy or more like a salad side dish. But it’s such a vibrant mix of veggies, legumes and flavors that it works either way. It’s also really good spread on a sandwich with turkey (or leftover chicken!)

Mix 2 avocados, diced, with a can of black beans (drained), a can of corn (drained), half a diced onion, a bunch of chopped parsley, and some lime juice to taste.