The idea of doing a ‘Sides as mains’ feature came to me when I was racking my brains for menu ideas with the chef at Eddies Bistro. Since I’m the kind of person who loves a bit of variety on the table, the mezze-style of eating really gets me excited. Small bowls of punchy flavours to mix, match and spoon into my plate is really all I need for a complete meal. I’m ready to forego the heavy mains and dive into a second helping of say, pickled greens or braised beans. Korean ban chan is my new obsession and just the idea of having over ten different portions of pickly, spicy, sweet, sour and funky sides is glorious.
I worked with new Asian greens like choy sum flowers, kangkong, bokchoi and gai lan broccoli, a bitter green like radicchio, watercress and dark yard long greens to make tons of different sides. I’ve presented all of them as run-on recipes instead of as recipe cards, because they’re super simple and don’t require more than a few minutes of preparation, unless specified.
Choy Sum Greens Tossed With a Korean Hot Sauce
For 250g of greens, start by washing the choy sum leaves thoroughly and chop any larger leaves into smaller pieces. You can choose to keep the stems whole or chop those too into 2-inch pieces. Bring a big pot of water to a boil. When boiling, drop the greens in the hot water for exactly three minutes, then fish it out and shock the greens with cold water. For the hot sauce, mix together 2 tbsp of Doengjang/white miso with 2 tsp of Gochujang, 2 grated cloves of garlic, 1 tsp sugar, 1 finely chopped onion and finish with a 1-2 tsp of toasted sesame oil. Mix the greens lightly in this sauce and adjust the salt of the bean pastes with some more sugar if needed. Serve hot or cold.
Note: You can buy Gochujang and a few other Korean ingredients at Crawford Market from Uncle Stores. If you’re using dark miso instead of white miso, reduce the quantity by half, and taste as you go.
Wilted Watercress With Scrambled Eggs and Kecap Manis
Wash 100g watercress thoroughly. In a frying pan, heat a tsp of oil and sauté two cloves of grated garlic, then add in the watercress and toss the leaves for just 1 minute till it has just started to wilt. Season with salt and set the cress aside. Whisk together 3 eggs, 1 tbsp cream, 1 tbsp of cold butter, some salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan over low to medium-low heat with a smidgen of butter and add in the cream, eggs and milk mixture. Stir the contents of the frying pan whilst constantly maintaining low heat till the eggs begin to firm up a bit but are still ever so slightly runny. Take it off the heat and serve with a splash of kecap manis. To make kecap manis at home, you can follow my very good recipe here.
Stir-Fried or Blanched Bok Choy With An Oyster Mirin Sauce
Wash the bok choy. If you’re stir-frying the bok choy, heat a skillet with a few teaspoons of oil till shimmering and hot. Sauté 2 grated cloves garlic and 1/2 tsp of grated ginger. Add in all 5 pieces of baby bok choy and stir-fry it over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes till the stalks are crisp and it has wilted. Season the bok choy and take it off the heat. Alternately you could blanch the bok choy for 3 minutes exactly in hot water, then shock it in cold water and top with the oil of sautéed ginger and garlic and season. For the sauce, mix together 2 tbsp Oyster sauce with 1 tbsp Mirin or just add sugar, 1 tsp light soy sauce (I use Kikkoman) and 1 tsp toasted sesame oil.
Broccoli With My Favourite Goma Ae or Sesame Sauce
Rinse 1 head of broccoli or about 250g of Gai lan broccoli. Chop the broccoli into florets and chop the tender part of the stem. If using Chinese broccoli, chop into 2 inch pieces. Bring a pot of water to boil and add the broccoli to the water. Blanch for 3 minutes if using broccoli and between 2-3 minutes for Chinese broccoli. Shock under cold water and season with some salt and pepper. You could also steam the broccoli for 3-5 minutes over a pot of boiling water in a steamer basket or something makeshift. For the sauce, mix together 4 tbsp tahini, 2 tbsp water, 2 cloves of grated garlic, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tsp dark soy sauce, 1 tbsp White vinegar and 1 1/2 tbsp Mirin or an equal amount of sugar.
Marinated Radicchio, Crumbled Malai Paneer, Pickled Onions
Separate the leaves of 1 head of radicchio and wash them to get any dirt out. Make the marinating solution by mixing together 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or any other sweet vinegar of your choice. Add to this 1 thinly sliced onion and the radicchio leaves. Let the leaves and the onion sit in this marinating liquid for an hour at least. Drain the marinating liquid and separate the onions from the liquid. Over medium-high heat in a saucepan, reduce the marinating liquid till it thickens a bit. Take it off the heat and stir in 1 tbsp of honey and let it cool. Drizzle in as much as 1/2 cup of olive oil into the dressing whisking al the time. I used only 1/4 cup. Chop the radicchio into rough squares, season it, then top with 100g crumbled paneer, the pickled onions and drizzle over the dressing.
Kangkong leaves in a Filipino Adobo Sauce
Clean 250g kangkong leaves thoroughly and chop them into 2-inch pieces, stems included. Start by making the sauce. In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil and sauté together 1 finely chopped onion and 1 garlic with a bit of salt till it’s brown and sticky. Mix together 1/4 cup light soy sauce with 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup water and add it to the pan. Reduce this mixture by a little more than half. Add about 1 tbsp of sugar or more to adjust the taste. To this, add the chopped kangkong leaves and stems and let it wilt for a whole minute, then take it off the heat. Drain some of the liquid and serve the greens with 6-minute boiled eggs.
Dark Yard Long Beans With Red Chilli Thecha Butter
Preheat an oven to 200 degrees celsius and line a baking tray with foil. Rinse 250g of yard long beans in a colander with cold water. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and once boiled, add the long beans and blanch them for 1-2 minutes. Test the long bean. It should still have a crisp bite to it. Dot the yard long beans with about 2 tbsp of flavoured butter and transfer it to the oven for a minute. I used Red Chilli Thecha butter from Little Treats, and it tasted delicious. Take the pan out of the oven and toss the beans in the melting butter. Put it in the oven for another minute and serve.
You can buy Little Treats’ flavoured butter from Scootsy or by calling her on +9198203 05472 if you’re in Mumbai.