Aran Goyoaga's Red Lentil Hummus
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Elizabeth Andoh's Soboro Donburi

Soboro Donburi

After 16 years of food blogging (!), I have yet to figure out how to make ground meat look appealing at dinnertime, when it's dark out and there's no natural light and everyone is hangry and the overhead lamp is casting a shadow. It practically pains me to post this photo above, which looks so...2005, doesn't it? Ack. But you need to know about it. I practically screamed in delight at dinner last night. Besides, you're not here for my photos, are you? You're here for the important stuff! The bossy opinions! The recipes! The mad ramblings of a middle-aged mother who mostly feels like she's at her wit's end! So I'm throwing vanity to the wind. (Besides, a much more photogenic picture of this slam dunk is right here.)

The recipe, by Elizabeth Andoh, is considered one of F&W's 40 best recipes in 2018. Does this mean 40 best ever or 40 best in 2018? I don't know. What I do know: It is currently at the top of my best in 2021.

Cooking it took 9 minutes last night. NINE MINUTES. Nove. Nueve. Neun. (Plus rice in the Instant Pot*, which took 13 minutes.) And it involves literally zero skill. You simply dump ground beef in a pot with sake (or Shaoxing wine, which is all I had), soy sauce, dashi (or water, which is all I had) and sugar (I reduced the sugar to 1 tablespoon down from 1.5 tablespoons). Then you cook it all together, mashing the beef around so it cooks evenly. You add a big mound of grated ginger and frozen peas. The original recipe says 1/2 cup peas to a pound of beef, but I like peas a lot and I wanted to bulk up the meal a little more, so I put in two cups and it was perfect and I'd do it again. You keep cooking until the peas are tender and the liquid evaporates and then it's done and you can sit down and have the most delicious, easy meal and don't forget the pickled ginger on top, because it really makes the whole thing sing.

It's sweet-salty and chewy and fragrant and the grated ginger sort of melts into the background, but gives the whole thing some backbone and it was just such a lovely little meal. I already know we'll be making it all the time. I may even put this baby up on the side of the fridge, it's that good. Plus, NINE MINUTES, PEOPLE. I'm still not over it.

Updated to add that Elizabeth herself chimed in on Twitter, alerting me to the fact that she updated the recipe on her website last year! More here.

*My beloved Cuckoo rice cooker gave up the ghost a few weeks ago. I have yet to rebuy one because the Korean grocery store where I bought it has closed and Cuckoo rice cookers are a lot more expensive than they used to be when I bought mine and the IP did such a beautiful job with the rice last night that now I find myself contemplating buying a second IP rather than a rice cooker. Is this a good idea? What should I do? Help!

Mel D. Cole
Photo by Mel D. Cole.

I'd like to close out this post by acknowledging the pain of the AAPI community, as well as Asians living in other countries who mourn yesterday's shocking murders in Atlanta and the past year's uptick in assaults and injuries, fearing for their own safety. This past year has unleashed a wave of racialized hatred towards Asians throughout Europe and the United States and it is outrageous and completely unacceptable. The deaths of the women in Atlanta are a tragedy. I am also devastated by the thought of Asian men and women everywhere fearing a random attack just because of what they look like. Lisa Lin has listed a few community organizers and advocacy groups in need of support. And Joanna also has a list of organizations to support. While the United States continues to have an unconscionable gun situation, which certainly makes everyone less safe, all Western societies need to do a better job of seeing and treating Asians as full and whole human beings who are every bit as deserving of their humanity as anyone else.

Elizabeth Andoh's Soboro Donburi
Serves 4
Print this recipe!

1 pound/450 grams lean ground beef
1/3 cup/80ml sake or Shaoxing wine
1/4 cup/60ml soy sauce
1/4 cup/ 60ml dashi or water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 cups/240 grams frozen peas
1 tablespoon peeled grated fresh ginger
Hot cooked white rice
Pickled ginger

1. Stir together ground beef, sake, soy sauce, dashi, and sugar in a small Dutch oven or medium-size, heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-high, stirring often to break up large lumps of beef, 5 minutes. Stir in peas and ginger; cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is mostly evaporated and beef is no longer pink but is still moist, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Divide rice evenly among 4 large bowls. Spoon 1/2 cup beef mixture over each. Garnish with pickled ginger.

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