Chapter 24: Chapter 24: 3 plates and one cooking (2)
The first thing Cho Min Joon put his hands on was oil. Cho Mon Joon poured oil into a pot and turned on the stove. It took quite a long time for the oil to boil. There was a need to start it ahead of time, and the same went for water. Cho Min Joon put another pot on the stovetop and put in a few pieces of kelp.
There were a total of 4 gas burners at his station, and two of them were claimed by Cho Min Joon. The other two were for Chloe. And as for Marco, he didn’t need any burners.
While the oil and water boiled, Cho Min Joon quickly prepared the soft tofu. He could prepare the soy sauce and vegetables later on. It would have been different for those that needed ripening, but fried soft tofu salad was all about the fresh flavors.
The tofu wasn’t very big. They were appetizer size, and when it came to course meals, the smaller the portions, the better.
People were sad when they saw restaurant portions. Cho Min Joon understood why. The fancier restaurants charged 5 times more than the average. But their portions came smaller than a thumb, so it was no wonder people were disappointed. It made one wonder, ‘Aren’t they being too frugal?’
But restaurants didn’t keep the portions small to save money. That sadness was a part of the flavor. And when it came to food of big portions, it was difficult to feel touched by the flavors. Restaurants knew that customers were the most touched when eating smaller portions.
‘Just one bite size.’
The knife sliced through the soft tofu. There was no better portion than just one bite-size.
He moved the tofu into a strainer. The moisture had to be eliminated before frying it in oil. And it was also to prevent the tofu from breaking when covering it with batter. So getting rid of the water was crucial.
But it was also a difficult thing to do. The straining sheet easily attached to the tofu, and if one used a towel, it wouldn’t absorb the water properly. So using a more slippery strainer to get rid of the water without damaging the tofu was the best way to go.
Cho Min Joon put a paper towel on top of the soft tofu. He then took a break and looked around him. Marco was working hard on making his biscuit, and Chloe was in the middle of cutting the Guanzi.
He wanted to look over at Kaya’s table, but he held back. This wasn’t the time to worry about someone else’s cooking. Cho Min Joon reached for the soy sauce. Fried soft tofu was actually a Japanese dish. Agedashi tofu. What Cho Min Joon was making was just like Agedashi tofu. It was pretty similar. He was basically making Agedashi tofu and changing the sauce a little bit.
Cho Min Joon turned off the boiling water and put the dried bonito in. Up until this point, it was pretty similar to the original recipe. The same went for making the broth by adding soy sauce to the broth. But that was when Cho Min Joon changed it up. Lime juice. A very small amount. It was just one spoonful. But that lime juice made the flavors of the Agedashi tofu come alive.
And after that was easy. Cho Min Joon stared at the soft tofu with a glare.
The filter and paper towel were very wet. That meant that all the moisture in the soft tofu was almost absorbed. Cho Min Joon sprinkled starch and put down the soft tofu on top. It was a very sensitive process. The soft tofu would break under the smallest pressure.
Luckily, he successfully put it on top of the starch, but it was too early to feel reassured. Cho Min Joon held his breath as he rolled the tofu around. If he left it alone for too long, it was possible for the moisture and starch to start cracking.
Maybe he was lucky. Or maybe it was his skills. The soft tofu didn’t break as he finished applying the batter. Cho Min Joon breathed and looked at the boiling oil. The small soft tofus inside the oil looked cute. He felt like he was looking at newborn babies.
When the color turned white, Cho Min Joon quickly took it out. He heard a voice from the side.
“Min Joon! Is it going well?”
“Don’t worry. It’s perfect.”
Cho Min Joon gave a short answer to Marco’s question. He felt pleased just looking at the white fried tofu. While the oil was getting absorbed from the fried tofu, Cho Min Joon prepared the vegetables. First was radish. After slicing the radish and putting it in soy sauce, he sliced the green onions. That was it.
Cho Min Joon quietly watched Chloe. He wanted to help, but that wasn’t allowed. Cho Min Joon held back and watched the two chefs cook. It had been a long time since he watched someone cook from up close. When he worked at the restaurant as a helper, all he did was peel materials in the corner, so he hadn’t seen many chefs dealing with the pan.
Marco put the biscuit in the oven and proceeded to make the yogurt ice cream to put on top. Like most baking, it wasn’t very entertaining to watch.
That was why Cho Min Joon turned his attention to Chloe instead. She was shaking the Guanzi and vegetables in red sauce. Even some flames lit from the food. There were a total of 9 dishes being made at the cooking station, but Chloe’s Gunazi smelled the best.
‘Maybe we can reach for 8 points.’
He thought that was realistic. Considering the visuals and scent, Chloe’s Guanzi was perfect.
And a moment later, Cho Min Joon confirmed that his estimation wasn’t wrong. Cho Min Joon watched Chloe’s cooking in awe.
Origin: (Too many ingredients for an accurate estimate)
Quality: High (Average)
Cooking Score: 8/10
This was the first 8 points that he saw since Kaya’s eel. Cho Min Joon licked his lips. Even the contestants watching from the 2nd floor were in awe. Chloe’s fish-flavored Guanzi was no joke. Cho Min Joon asked, “Do you need someone to taste it?”
“No… Why, do you want to try it?”
Chloe looked at Cho Min Joon in a teasing way. But Cho Min Joon didn’t sense the tease and just nodded. Her fish-flavored Guanzi was amazing. Chloe placed Guanzi and vegetables on a spoon. She then pushed it toward Cho Min Joon.
It was a perfect dish. The way the Guanzi showed off a pepper oil glisten made it look like a sculpture, and the vegetables on top helped to get rid of some of the stronger flavors.
And it was the same inside his mouth. The pepper oil and the oyster sauce on the Guanzi tasted savory and deep. Cho Min Joon didn’t like the combination of sweet and salty, but he was in awe with this one. There was an ocean scent left on the Guanzi, but it was the most perfect amount. It was pure and not so fishy.
And the vegetables weren’t there for no reason. Every time he chewed on its crispiness, the moisture of the vegetables cleaned his mouth. It was fascinating how it could completely alleviate the strong flavors of the Guanzi.
So Cho Min Joon was shocked. He would have understood if she lost to Kaya. But from what he remembered, Chloe wasn’t there even when there were around 10 contestants left.
But that wasn’t the issue at the moment. And he wasn’t going to arrive at an answer just by thinking about it. Cho Min Joon looked back at the soft tofu. The oil would have been extracted by now. And time was almost up. He had to pour the sauce on top of the soft tofu.
While Cho Min Joon finished off his fried soft tofu dish, he felt his heart sinking. At first, he wondered if he had indigestion from the Guanzi, but that wasn’t the case. And the true reason surfaced soon afterward.
Origin: (Too many ingredients for an accurate calculation)
Quality: High (Average)
Cooking Score: 7/10
7 points. He always felt like that was enough and a stable enough score. But he didn’t feel so satisfied this time. He remembered Kaya’s eel. And he also thought about the fish-flavored Guanzi he just had.
Cho Min Joon picked up his spoon and put a piece of his fried soft tofu in his mouth. The crispy texture and the oily flavors, as well as the savory flavor of the tofu. However, it wasn’t quite satisfying enough.
Was it lacking in flavor? Or was it because he just saw that it was a 7?
If he hadn’t seen the score, would he have been satisfied?