Because of this, Jason and I had almost nothing but a bottle of soy sauce to sip on Chinese new year’s eve. Because of my fixation on having something called a “meatloaf melt” in my archive, I was giddying and bustling in the kitchen the night before NOT on a Chinese feast but an American staple with a Korean twist. Because nowadays I am more a traffic-seeker than a considerate home-cook, we desperately loitered on the deserted Beijing streets only few hours before new year’s eve dinner, earmuffs and Uggs equipped and all, bracing an empty pot from home meant as a carrier for hot-pot soup which turned out was irresponsibly gone on holiday as well. Like I said, almost nothing to eat.
This unhealthy obsession was seeded the moment I noticed a boom of kimchi grilled cheese recipes sprouting everywhere on TV, magazines, restaurant menus and all across my peripheral vision. As weird as the union between the spicy and garlicy Korean pickle and a slab of cheese may sound to some, it really isn’t… if you have the slightest investment in the world of infinitely diverse, surprisingly complex and artful craft of… instant noodle. Almost every culture in Asia has its own manual on how to bypass the dumbed-down instructions on the back of the package and carve out a creative way to transform this cheap-eats into culinary bliss. And throughout the past decade, Korea has undoubtedly established itself as one of the major culture exporter. As duly noted even in the way they enjoy their most popular instant noodle – that is with a slice of American cheese.
I am no food historian but I’m going to reasonably suspect that this little odd invention has something to do with the flare-up of recipe called the kimchi grilled cheese that’s been flying around. For the record, I have tried the kimchi grilled cheese and it was… good… but not good enough to be left alone yet. It needs something more substantial to bring it home and that is when the word “meatloaf” grew a stubborn root. Some may argue otherwise, but meatloaf is but a patty that doesn’t belong anywhere but between 2 pieces of bread. They complete each other. Kimchi and meat?… they want nothing but to complete each other as well. That’s a lot of completing to be ignored by my recipe-hungry brain. So on the eve of Chinese new year’s eve, I decided to give it a go. If anything is worth having nothing on the table for CNY’s eve, a moist and slightly spicy and garlicky meatloaf with the tang and crunch from the kimchi, topped with melty American cheese and mozzarella sandwiched between 2 pieces of buttery crusty bread… would unregretfully do.
But don’t worry, we ended up having Peking duck for CNY’s eve.
- 900 g of any meatloaf grind (I am using 500 g of ground beef + 400 g of ground pork)
- 300 g (arrpox 2 cups) of Korean napa cabbage kimchi (drained of excess liquid), finely chopped
- 1/3 cup of dried porcini mushrooms (or other variety you have), approx 2 tbsp after minced
- 1/2 cup of whole milk
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1 tbsp of ginger, grated
- 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
- 1 1/2 cup of panko breadcrumbs
- 1 large egg
- 3 tbsp of corn starch
- 1 tbsp of soy sauce
- 2 tsp of toasted sesame oil
- 1 tsp of salt
- 1 tsp of dashi granule
- 1/4 tsp of ground black pepper
- To finish:
- 1 loaf of crusty bread
- 2 slices of American cheese for EACH sandwich
- 2 tbsp of mozzarella cheese for EACH sandwich
- A few tbsp of unsalted butter, melted
Make meatloaf: Preheat the oven on 500ºF/230ºC.
Add the dried porcini mushrooms in the milk and microwave it on high for 30~40 seconds. Let it soak for 15 min. Once soft, finely mince the porcini and add it to a big bowl along with 6 tbsp of the porcini milk. Add the ground meat, chopped kimchi, garlic, ginger, onion, panko breadcrumbs, egg, corn starch, soy sauce, sesame oil, dashi granules and ground black pepper. Evenly mix the ingredients together with your hands.
Lay a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet (I didn’t do this and it stick a little), shape the meatloaf as the sandwich bread you will be using. For ex, if you are using a square loaf then use a square pan to bake the meatloaf in. I’m using an oval shaped country bread, so I’m shaping it into an oval on a baking sheet. Evenly mix all the ingredients under “glaze” into a thick paste, and brush it all over the meatloaf. Bake in the 500ºF/230ºC oven for 10 min until it starts to brown, then turn the heat down to 400ºF/200ºC for another 40~50 min, until the internal temperature of the meatloaf reads 160ºF/70ºC.
NOTE: once you inserted the heat thermometer in the meatloaf, DO NOT pull it out until the loaf is fully rested otherwise the juice would run out.
Make the meatloaf melt: Slice the meatloaf and bread, then assemble the sandwich. Add 2 slices of American cheese and 2 tbsp of mozzarella into each sandwich. Brush enough melted butter on each sides of the sandwich and brown it nicely on a frying pan under medium-low heat. Putting a lid or a piece of aluminum foil on the pan would help the cheese melt. Devour while still hot…