As I was driving home yesterday, M called to say that he was having few drinks with his work colleagues. I didn't want to join them so I came home directly. I looked in the fridge to see what I could have for dinner and found some pork cutlets and Korean perilla leaves. Since M wasn't going to be home for a while, I decided to get my hands dirty with deep-frying. I rarely deep-fry because it can be messy, at least when I do it. And the sound of deep frying can be really loud and I always think about people having to listen to this hissing sound, so I prefer to deep fry when I am alone. That way, nobody can say, hey, it sounds like you're blowing up the kitchen, or something like that. If you think about it, however, it's not that hard to deep fry and when done right, not greasy at all.
In my family, making donkatsu (deep-fried port cutlets, which Koreans pronounce dong-kat-sss) is under the domain of my brother-in-law, who spent some time in Japan as a student and is quite knowledgeable about Japanese food. This is the only thing he'd ever get his hands dirty in the kitchen for but he's quite proud of his skills as a donkatsu provider. Which is to say that I'm not a skilled donkatsu provider but have some sense of what is a good donkatsu. And then there's my mother who is a great tempura provider.
Anyway, perilla leaves are similar to Japanese shiso leaves and some people describe them as having minty flavor. I love perilla leaves. I eat them raw, seasoned with soy sauce and red pepper, steamed, etc. They are pretty easy to grow in the summer if you have a garden. I guess they have some minty flavor but not too overpowering and just a hint of bitterness. They also have a wonderful texture.
My donkatsu and perilla tempura were respectable. Crisp, relatively light and flavorful. I wasn't too thrilled with the Korean brand frying powder I used, however, since it could have been lighter. But it was certainly better than fish and chips you get at most restaurants. Something did take my fancy and it was on the back of the pouch the frying powder came in.
In addition to the regular instructions accompanied by visuals, there was an addendum, in red ink. Here's my translation.
* Etiquette for Forward Looking Housewives!
When a droplet of the frying mix is dropped in the oil and it falls to the bottom of the fying pan and takes 2 seconds to come up to the top, the oil is about 150°C. If it comes up to the top before it drops to the bottom of the frying pan, the the oil is about 180°C.
*Use a lot of frying mix and you can enjoy a sophisticated frying cuisine.
Other instructions in the top section said that it is best to fry vegetables at 150°C and fish at 180°C. Also, that the tempura can be more crisp if the batter is made with ice water. All good and helpful hints, but it made me laugh. Is it just me, or do the words have the feel of a Soviet era collective farm or a developing country on a 5 year economic recovery plan? Everyone can contribute, including the housewives! Just look forward and imagine the future!
Yeah, it's just one of those things that are pretty strange to someone who hasn't been in Korea for a long time. Hmmm. I wonder what else the forward looking housewives know.