Crisped-up Korean rice cake plus Northern Thai-style curry equals love.
NOODLE MASTER Paolo Campbell, of Seattle’s Trove, says Korean rice cake is traditionally eaten in a New Year’s soup for “good luck and prosperity and things.”
The ingredient might be best described as partway between noodles and gnocchi; it’s made of rice flour. For the lamb curry rice cake at Trove Noodle — one of its most popular dishes — they use rice cake shaped like little oblong disks.
Trove is a Korean-influenced but decidedly nontraditional restaurant on Capitol Hill. Actually, it’s four places in one: tabletop DIY barbecue in the back, an intimate bar, a built-in ice-cream truck and a counter-service noodle spot. It’s all very tasty, but once you try Trove Noodle’s rice cake, you might have trouble making it past that streetside, all-windowed space.
500 E. Pike St., Seattle (206-457-4622 or troveseattle.com)
The gas two-burner wok range at Trove Noodle will fill the home cook with both envy and fear. Campbell says it’s 90,000 BTUs: “It’s a wild beast. … The sheer power and heat that comes from this thing is crazy.” You’re not going to be able to cook your rice cake in a minute and a half at home, but you’re also not going to neglect your oil for 10 seconds and have it go up in flames. Customers at Trove Noodle love it, Campbell notes ruefully, when they accidentally set stuff on fire. (At home, he makes do with a regular old electric range.)
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The amount of oil in this recipe might be a slight understatement. At Trove Noodle, people kept asking for the rice cake to be crispier until, Campbell says, “It’s almost like deep-fried — so it’s really crispy on the outside and then really chewy on the inside.”
The individual pieces of rice cake come out golden-brown, with a few of them puffing up like heavenly, edible little pillows.
Trove Noodle’s curry is Northern Thai style, with a distinct ginger note and an overall savory goodness that might make you want to serve it over almost everything. Campbell says, “A lot of people think our food is pretty salty, but to us, we just call that flavor.”
Korean salted fermented shrimp, or saeujeot, is exactly what it sounds like; it’s also used in making kimchi. Uwajimaya carries it, as well as the disk-shaped rice cake (next to the other fresh noodles in the refrigerated section). So does H Mart (in Lynnwood, Bellevue and Federal Way), and if you’ve never been to H Mart, you’re missing out.
Campbell notes that for Trove’s rice cake dish, the ground lamb is simply seasoned with a little salt and pepper.
The butter might seem like overkill, but, he instructs: “Put that butter in there, just for that sheen and to kind of mellow it out … it gives it a really good mouthfeel at the very end.” It’s not traditional for Asian food, but at Trove, he avers, “We love butter. We love butter.”
Trove Noodle goes through 60 to 80 pounds of rice cake a week, for just this one dish. (It costs $13 — yes, pricier than some noodles elsewhere, but also worth it.)
The principle of mise en place — everything ready to go before you start cooking — is key to this recipe, Campbell says. Once you get going, there’s no good point at which to stop. And be sure to serve it immediately, while it’s still hot (with, ideally, some puffy pieces).
Trove Rice Cake
2 Tbsp. canola oil
4 oz. rice cake
2 oz. ground lamb
2 oz. Trove curry sauce (see below)
1 Tbsp. butter
1 cup kale, roughly torn
2 tsp. chopped scallion
1. Pour canola oil in a wok or saute pan on high heat.
2. Add rice cake, and spread into an even layer.
3. Reduce heat to medium, and crisp until golden brown. Flip and crisp the other side until golden brown.
4. Add lamb crumble, and sear until cooked through.
5. Add curry sauce, and cook until the sauce is thickened.
6. Stir in butter.
7. Add kale, and cook until kale is wilted.
8. Plate and garnish with chopped scallion.
Trove Curry Sauce
Yield: 1 pint
2 oz. lemongrass
2 oz. ginger
2 oz. garlic
1 oz. salted fermented shrimp
½ cup mirin
¼ cup coconut milk
½ cup sake
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
¼ cup tamarind puree
½ tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1. Combine lemongrass, ginger, garlic, salted fermented shrimp, mirin, coconut milk and sake in a blender, and blend until roughly blended (it should be a little chunky).
2. Pour mixture into a bowl, and whisk in fish sauce, tamarind puree, coriander and red pepper flakes.
Note: Sauce can be stored in the fridge up to two weeks or frozen.