“Live however you want, it’s your life anyway”
Theme song by BTS “Burning Up (Fire)” from The Most Beautiful Moment In Life: Young Forever
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I’m not going to guarantee this will be the only K-Pop track for the Music & Food project, but I doubt there will be others. Not that there is anything wrong with K-Pop, but honestly BTS and Blackpink are pretty much my entire knowledge of the genre. This choice also serves as a bit of a karmic balance for my sandwich recipe appropriation.
I have a musical soft spot for boy groups that extends back to my earliest music fan days listening to the Jackson 5 and Osmond Brothers. During my record biz years, I found myself appreciating quite a few tracks from NKOTB, Backstreet Boys, Boys II Men, N*Sync, and a variety of other ’80s/”90s boy groups. I can even think of One Direction and Jonas Brothers tracks I think are catchy.
This is why I am fascinated by the BTS Worldwide Phenomenon. I remember a couple of years back, walking through Greenwich Village, and seeing a BTS poster in the window of the 3rd St. 7-11. My first thought was “Is 7-11 selling a line of Korean metrosexual hair care products?” When I discovered it was a poster for a Korean boy group (still have no idea what it was promoting), my next thought was, “Really?!? SEVEN members?!?! It takes SEVEN members for this group?” Hell, the only U.S. boy group with a member total close to BTS was The Osmond Brothers, and they actually played instruments. I get that it somehow works, and it appears every member had their fan base, but still, it seems a bit excessive and unnecessary. I guess this gives them an insurance policy against whichever member is Justin Timberlake and goes solo. With six other members, they can still keep BTS-ing.
This is a plant-based mash-up of Nashville Hot Chicken and Korean Fried Chicken. Basically, a Korean ingredient swap for the traditional hot chicken sandwich ingredients. I recommend making the daikon pickles a day in advance for maximum pickle punch. Don’t skip the twice frying for maximum crunch. Add more or less gochugaru to the hot oil to suit your spice level.
BURNING UP (FIRE)
Gochugaru hot tofu, daikon pickles, and kewpie mayo on a potato roll
Makes 3-4 sandwiches
Gochugaru fried tofu (see recipe below)
Daikon pickles (see recipe below)
For the tofu
1 (14- to 16-ounce) package of extra or super firm tofu, drained and sliced into bun-sized portions. I usually get 3 bun-size pieces and three smaller planks.
1/3 cup rice flour
2 tablespoons gochugaru
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons MSG
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon MSG
2 tablespoons of your favorite hot sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
3/4 cup chilled beer, seltzer, or club soda
2 quarts of vegetable oil for frying
For chili oil
1/4 cup gochugaru
2 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoon MSG
2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups of hot oil from frying
For the pickled daikon
8-ounces daikon radish, peeled & cut into matchsticks
3/4 cups water
3/4 cups unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
8 whole black peppercorns
Make the daikon pickles
In a medium saucepan, stir together water, vinegar, sugar, salt, turmeric, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to ensure that sugar fully dissolves. Remove from heat and add daikon. Press a paper towel directly against the surface of the brine and let cool to room temperature, for 1 to 2 hours. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Make the tofu
Start by making the base for your hot oil by adding the gochugaru, smoked paprika, brown sugar, and MSG in a medium heat-proof bowl. Set aside.
In a wok or deep pan, bring the frying oil up to 375°F.
Assemble your dredging station with two bowls. Mix the dry dredge (rice flour, gochugaru, smoked paprika, MSG or salt, garlic powder, onion powder, ground ginger, and cumin) in one bowl. In the other bowl, make a batter with the all-purpose flour, baking powder, MSG or salt, hot sauce, rice wine vinegar, and beer or seltzer. Whisk the batter gently and just enough to combine. Do not overmix – a few lumps are OK.
Place a cooling rack in a sheet pan. Working with 2 pieces of tofu at a time, dredge in the rice flour mix, pressing all sides of tofu into the rice flour. (The tofu should be completely coated with flour.) Dip in the batter, allowing excess to drip off. Return to the rice flour mix and coat again. Place the coated tofu gently in the oil. Fry undisturbed until batter sets, about 2 minutes. Continue to fry, turning gently, until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes longer. Remove from the oil and place on the cooling rack. Repeat frying the rest of the tofu.
When all pieces are fried once, bring the oil temperature up to 375°F. Refry all of the pieces for about 3-4 minutes, turning occasionally. Do not over-fry. You want extra crispy & golden brown but not burnt. Transfer to the cooling rack, and season with salt.
Take the bowl with the chili oil base and add 1 1/2 cups of the hot oil from frying. Be careful. It will bubble up. Carefully mix together to dissolve the sugar and blend the spices.
Assemble the sandwich
Spread kewpie mayo on the inside of a potato roll. Take a piece of tofu and carefully dip it into the chili oil to coat. Place tofu on the roll and top with pickled daikon. and the top bun Add a few dashes of Samyang Buldak sauce if you live dangerously.
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