Saturday, January 9, 2010

Barley Tea

I have a soft spot for Korean food. I developed a taste for it in college, at Steve's Diner. This was a former deli -whose heartland-sounding name stuck after its conversion to a Korean diner- known to be the place to get the best bebimbap in town. Replete with a long counter and attached stools, Steve's was the most humble in a sea of Korean restaurants that popped up in Ann Arbor in the 80s. However, my allegiance to Steve's never wavered despite having eaten at all its other competitors.

I would walk into Steve's, glad to escape the wintry blast that without fail, blew into town this time of the year, and peer at the blackboard tacked to the otherwise bare walls. I'd scan the list of homey Korean fare, going through the ruse of deciding what to get, and end up with the invariable choice of the bebimbap. An egg cracked on a bed of steamed rice, festooned with chewy root crops whose identities were quite obscure to me, all these sizzling away in a big clay bowl that was plopped in front of me by the smiling cook. I'd hunker over the bowl, perched on one of the coveted stools, and forget for the moment that I had an organic chemistry exam to study for.

Steve's closed years ago, not long after I finished college and left town. I think that there are still many other places to go for Korean food in town, but I have not gone to them when I have returned to visit. Perhaps, I still harbor an outdated allegiance to a former dining place where the stuff of olfactory memories reside. But I don't want to cede these memories just yet.

Today, I can recreate the Korean barley tea (boricha in Korean), first tasted at Steve's, in my kitchen. I make it from roasted barley, sold in bulk at a Korean market in Detroit.

I poured the tea into cups for E and me, and we sipped this most nutty of tisanes. The fragrance and warmth revived my remembrance of things past.

How to make boricha:
Boil 10 cups of water.
Add 3 tablespoons of roasted barley to the boiling water.
Turn heat down to medium and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Ladle the liquor and serve the tea hot.

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