Crazy for Carbonara

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Some things just go together. In fact, sometimes they complement each other so well, any other addition becomes redundant and excessive. Take a good, crusty bread just baked out of the oven, for example. You’re not going to want to overcrowd its fresh-baked goodness with a whole lots of toppings. No, just good-quality butter, or a hunk of nice artisanal cheese, and you’ve got yourself the perfect combination. Think, also, of cinnamon and brown sugar. Peanut butter and jelly. Butter, sugar, egg, and flour. Garlic, onions, olive oil. And then of course, the classic breakfast combination, bacon and eggs.

You know I love my breakfasty meals. I love them so much that I unconsciously base my meal creations around breakfasty themes, like my Eggplasta Pudding that I have almost every night (It’s that good!). So when I heard of a pasta dish called Pasta alla Carbonara that uses minimal ingredients while spotlighting bacon and eggs, I was hooked.

I’ve never tried Pasta alla Carbonara before. I’ve seen them on menus of restaurants, but never bothered to order them since I never cared much for pasta. But ever since I found out what this pasta dish was, I’d had carbonara on the brain. After enduring several days of little Italian men singing “Carrrrr~bonarrrrrra~” in my brain, I decided to shut them up by trying out this dish.

Unfortunately, I am very much broke, especially after that Penang trip. But I was pretty sure this would be an easy dish to create at home. I mean, come on, the key ingredients are bacon and eggs! I looked up on recipes for Carbonara online, and was glad to find out I was right. This dish was freaking easy to make.

Now, you know I can never resist tweaking a recipe to my own tastes and preferences. All the recipes call for long thin noodles like spaghetti, but I decided to try a different route and substitute some kind of grain. I wanted something distinctive and chewy, something that did not stick together in lumps or become nushy, something that held its shape well. I chose pearled barley.

So here’s my version of carbonara, Barley alla Carbonara:

Cook 1/3 cup pearled barley in salted water at a 1:3 ratio until desired doneness.

Meanwhile, cook some minced garlic and a small finely chopped onion until soft, then add about 2 tablespoons of chopped bacon (I used a fatty back bacon) and fry until fragrant.

In a separate bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons yogurt/ sour cream/ whipping cream (I used yogurt), an egg, 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, and black pepper.

Toss the barley into the bacon mixture, stir to mix.

Turn off heat, then stir in the egg mixture and mix to coat each grain.

Add more cheese on top, and sprinkle on some chopped spring onion or some kind of herbs for color and extra flavor!

And here’s the result:

Okay, I have no idea how a real Carbonara is supposed to taste like, but oh my freaking god it was freaking good! You might be a bit wary about using raw eggs, but the heat from the barley cooks up the egg mixture ever so slightly to form this really creamy and flavorful binder.

How can just the simple combination of bacon and eggs be so…intricately and elaborately delicious? The smoky, salty background of the bacon was so subtle, yet so striking.

I loved the each individual grain of barley! Can you believe this is the first time I’ve tried cooking barley? What took me so long to discover the joy of barley? I remember my mother once saying that poor farmers in Korea used to eat barley all the time because they couldn’t afford white rice, but if this is the poor man’s grain, poverty sure sounds darn tasty to me!

Each bite sent me moaning with ecstasy. I was like Romeo, serenading and wooing my sweet Juliet. Like Casanova, I have fallen head over heels in love with this simple dish, and I wanted to compose love songs and poems about the great Carbonara.

I plowed my way through this little mountain of scrumptiousness with luscious enjoyment, loving all the textures of crunch from the crisp bacon, creaminess from the eggs, and chew from the barley. I felt quite heartsick by the last bite…

But like Casanova, I got over my lovesickness pretty quickly come dinner time…

Monte Cristo sandwich again! What can I say? If Casanova is an womanizer, I’m a food-izer. Go
d made everything taste so good!

So that’s my little food romance I had today. I hope you guys have some great foodie flings this weekend as well! Now, I bid you farewell with the usual question of the day: What are some of your favorite classic food combos?