My craving goes back a long time, but my hankering for Kasha & Bows began with my friend Jerry Katzman telling me in an email that he bought a container at a Kosher deli to take home for dinner. I commented, “Oh yum!” We agreed that it was one of our favourite side dishes. I vowed to find both the kasha (AKA buckwheat) and the bow tie pasta. Quite a while ago I found the bow ties and today I bought buckwheat from Metro Wholesalers, a German big box warehouse store in my city in China.
In the Jewish community Kasha & Bows has gone out of favour, mainly because of frying the onions in oil. So I’m going to call it sautéing to make it sound less oily. Then we can bring this wonderful recipe back, in loving memory of our parents and grandparents who probably survived any number of deadly diseases because of a steady diet of buckwheat, with it’s extremely healthy and high nutrient content…iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, to name only a few.
I just knew Kasha would be available here and that I would bump into it sometime, somewhere, since I’ve eaten buckwheat pancakes in China before. Unfortunately without maple syrup, I think they are kinda gross. My mother, may she rest in peace, loved the buckwheat pancakes at the Golden Griddle Restaurant on Finch Avenue West in Toronto, but I’m digressing so I’ll leave that story for another time.
The buckwheat you buy in Toronto comes in a box called Kasha, or is it Buckwheat? But it’s probably Streit’s or Manischewitz brand. Look, it’s been 10 years or more since I’ve bought it, so I could be wrong. And digging back deep into my memory bank, I figured out from some internet research that the one I bought here in China looked somewhat different, somewhat the same — and the reason is mine wasn’t roasted.
Today was the day to have Kasha & Bows for dinner, so off I went into my little cubicle of a kitchen in the 28°C heat to make my desired meal, salivating all the while. I had to turn on my “Easy Bake Oven” (I call it that because it’s as small as one, and not built in, like the ones back home), and I roasted the buckwheat. This is the point where I knew I was on the right track. The roasted buckwheat smell coming from the oven was the wonderful smell that was in my memory bank. It all came home in a flash!
The recipes I read online might be tasty but definitely not cooked the way ‘we’ do it – ‘we’ meaning those of us cooks being of Jewish/Polish descent (smooth and politically correct, right?). Cooking the kasha dry with a raw egg first was the secret missing ingredient and the important step to making it right. Of course it would have helped to have a regular white cooking onion, but no, don’t expect everything in Yunnan except on rare occasions! Red onions are the only ones available here.
Unfortunately for me, because I try to reduce my workload at every turn, it takes 3 steps and dirties 2 pots to put the dish together. But the results are simply sublime.
Makes 3 servings
1 cup dry buckwheat
1 cup dry bow tie pasta
1/4 cup oil
1 large onion, diced finely
Salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder to taste
1 raw egg
3/4 teaspoon more salt
1 3/4 to 2 cups water
Preheat the oven to 400°C and place the buckwheat on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 5 to 10 minutes or until the grains turn brown. Stir twice to move and turn the buckwheat.
While the buckwheat is roasting, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and add the bow ties, cooking until slightly more than al dente. Remove from the water into a strainer.
Heat a frying pan to medium high. Add the oil and allow it to get hot. Sauté the onions until translucent and not burnt or overcooked. Remove from the heat. Add the cooked bow ties and seasonings to the frying pan and mix carefully. Set aside.
Pour the uncooked buckwheat into the pot that you used to cook the bow ties. Turn the heat to medium high and add the raw egg and salt. Stir constantly over the heat until the egg and buckwheat mixture gets a bit drier. Add the water, break up the clumps with the back of the spoon and cover. When it comes to a boil, turn the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until the buckwheat is cooked and the water is absorbed. You may need to add more water.
Add the buckwheat to the frying pan and mix thoroughly over medium heat to dry out the mixture a little more and blend all the flavours. Serve hot.