Cold Buckwheat Noodle Salad (막국수 Makguksu)

Cold Buckwheat Noodle Salad (막국수 Makguksu)

Cold Buckwheat Noodle Salad (막국수 Makguksu)

Cold Makguksu (막국수) and hot summer go together like hot chocolate and cold winter. There’s just something curiously cooling about all the fresh crunchy vegetables and cold buckwheat noodles(메밀국수 maemil guksu) mixed together. But then again, nothing curious about it I guess, since maemil/buckwheat IS a cooling food. Buckwheat is so effective in cooling your body that almost every adult in Korea knows that it can cause diarrhea in people with a sensitive and cold stomach.

When I lived in India with my parents, we ate cold maemil noodles at least once a week. The HOT New Delhi weather just screamed for these cooling, soothing noodles. FYI, the temp in New Delhi, India can get over 110°For 45°C in the summer!! “I think my head is melting!!! I can’t walk another step!!!! ” haha.. This is what I actually yelled to my brother when we got lost in New Delhi 3 days after arriving there. My brother swore he knew the way from school to our house and so he just set off walking…I kept saying let’s wait for our car but noooo…Mr. smarty pants ;) knew the way and couldn’t wait. My brother was in 11th grade and I was only in 5th grade – so I simply did not have the courage to stay behind, alone, not knowing a single word of English. Needless to say, I did my utmost to learn English after that! :))

Buckwheat, maemil, soba all refer to the same thing – seeds from a broad leaf plant related to rhubarb.

Buckwheat Maemil flower

Buckwheat Maemil flower – taken during a summer trip to Bongpyong(봉평)

Maemil (Korean Buckwheat) noodles usually have bits of black specks in them which is the skin of the maemil seed. Having no gluten, the typical chewy texture you get with flour noodles are missing in these noodles. However, its unique earthy flavor makes it very flavorful unlike the kind of plain tasting flour noodles. Because of lack of gluten, often times, some flour is mixed in the dough. So be aware of this fact when you buy or eat maemil noodles.

Mak (pronounced mahk) can mean ‘just’ or ‘whatever’. So some Koreans say Makguksu means noodles that was JUST freshly pressed from the noodle machine and then others say Makguksu means noodles that is made in a rough, haphazard way. Whatever the right answer is – the important thing is that it’s very refreshing, cooling and also very healthy. It’s also low-calorie, gluten free food.

Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Perricone’s superfoods (from Oprah.com):

Buckwheat Protein’s Unique Health-Promoting Properties:

  • The specific characteristics of buckwheat proteins, and the relative proportions of its amino acids, make buckwheat the unsurpassed cholesterol-lowering food studied to date.
  • Its protein characteristics also enhance buckwheat’s ability to reduce and stabilize blood sugar levels following meals—a key factor in preventing diabetes and obesity.
  • Like the widely prescribed “ACE” hypertension drugs, buckwheat proteins reduce the activity of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), thereby reducing hypertension.

In addition, according to Korean traditional medicine book 동의보감 Dongyi bogam – maemil helps with digestion and constipation by helping the stomach and spleen function properly so all around, it’s indeed a superfood!

Servings: 4                           Cooking Time: 25                        Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 package maemil (buckwheat) noodles
  • 1 large chicken breast
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/8 cabbage, sliced thinly
  • 1/3 english cucumber, julienned
  • 1 small bunch curly endive or chicory (치커리) – is available as ssam veggie in Korea
  • 4-5 romaine lettuce leaves, cut into strips
  • 4-5 perilla leaves, cut into strips
  • a handful of ssukkat (crown daisy)
  • 2 green chili peppers
  • 1/2 red onion (missing from picture)
  • 1 chicken breast (missing from picture)

For the sauce

  • 2~3 T red chili powder(고추가루 gochukaru)
  • 5 T chicken broth (unsalted)
  • 1 T onion, grated
  • 1 T pear, grated
  • 1 T radish, grated
  • 3 T sugar
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 2 tsp yellow mustard
  • 3 T + 1~2 tsp vinegar
  • 3 T sesame oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp maesil syrup (optional)
  1. Boil chicken breast in water until fully cooked. (15 min. or so) Let it cool.
  2. Make the sauce by mixing in all of the sauce ingredients. Tip: Make sauce ahead and let the flavor fully develop overnight in the fridge. For easy prep, use a blender/chopper to finely blend onion, pear and radish altogether. And use the broth made from step 1 for the sauce.
  3. Prepare ingredients below:
    Vegetables for Makguksu(막국수)

    Vegetables for Makguksu(막국수)

    Thinly julienne carrots, red bell pepper and red onions. Cut cucumbers into thin slices and then cut lengthwise. Cut cabbage, perilla leaves and romain lettuce into 1/2 in wide strips. Cut curly endive, ssukkat into 3 in long pieces. Cut green chilis into thin slices – like so~

    Veggies for Buckwheat noodle salad (막국수 Makguksu)

    Veggies for Buckwheat noodle salad (막국수 Makguksu)

  4. Tear or cut the chicken breast into strips.
  5. Boil water and cook buckwheat (maemil) noodles according to package directions. Rinse noodles in cold water 2-3 times to until noodles are completed cooled. Drain.
  6. Plate the noodles and vegetables. Serve the sauce and mix at the table. Drizzle some sesame oil and sesame seeds at the end.  For extra nuttiness, add chopped peanuts or pine nuts as garnish.

Plating suggestion for party – make small noodle piles when serving for group of people. Along with the veggies on the side so people can choose what they want to mix in.

Plating suggestion for family – just get a large bowl and mix everything together and dig in!

Makguksu (막국수) close up - Buckwheat noodles with chicken and veggies

Makguksu (막국수) close up – Buckwheat noodles with chicken and veggies

Notes

Noodles – if you can’t buy Korean maemil noodles, you can substitute Japanese soba noodles or even just plain flour noodles.

Vegetables – use whatever vegetables you have in your fridge and it can work. Just try to have some that’s crunchy (carrots, bell pepper, cucumber, cabbage), something leafy (lettuce, frisee, curly endive, etc) and then something aromatic and flavorful (ssukkat, perilla leaves, green onions, onions, green chilis).

Sauce – use the sauce for a quick side salad to any Korean meal!

 

Noodles in Black Bean Sauce (간짜장면 Kaan Jjajangmyeon)

Noodles with Black Bean Sauce (짜장면 Jjajangmyeon) jajangmyeon

Noodles with Black Bean Sauce (간짜장면 Kaan Jjajangmyeon)

In almost every Korean drama, you will see characters devour this black sauce noodle dish-ending with black sauce all around their mouths. And it’s almost always in an office setting or at home, where these are delivered in a steel or plastic box. Jjajangmyeon (짜장면) is actually a Chinese dish, introduced in 1905 by a Chinese chef in Incheon. Since then, it has fully become part of the Korean culture, invoking all sorts of memories for many Koreans young and old. There’s even a saying among Koreans about how a move to a new home is not complete unless you order Jjajangmyeon at the end of a long moving day. For every Korean neighborhood, there’s always a Chinese restaurant nearby and delivery is a must.

Few days ago, in one of my TV favorite show – “Dad, where are you going?”(아빠 어디가? Appa Uh-diga?)- I watched Jjajangmyeon being delivered to a rice field!!? Even the dads were surprised to see the food when it came. Now, I call that service! In many ways, Jjajangmyeon is equivalent to America’s Pizza.

I have been making home made Jjajangmyeon since 91′ after I got married (over 20 years?!) at the request of my husband. My recipe has evolved quite a bit over the years and I have to say I’m quite happy with this one. When I gave it to my daughter for tasting, she happily chanted “Your Jjajangmyeon tastes better than the restaurant version!”. And the best part is, there is no MSG!

Couple things to note about different kinds of Jjajangmyeons -

  • 간짜장면 Kaan Jjajangmyeon – more intense flavor because the sauce is condensed (just black bean paste and vegetables, little water) also more expensive
  • 짜장면 Jjajangmyeon – water or broth added to Kaan Jjajang so it’s milder in flavor
  • 삼선간짜장면 Samseon Kaan Jjajangmyeon – ‘sam’ means 3 and ‘seon’ means taste. Traditionally, it contains 3 kinds of seafood like squid, sea cucumber and shrimp in addition to pork and veggies.
  • 사천짜장면 Sahcheon Jjajangmyeon – Sahcheon (사천) means Szechuan. as with many things Szechuan, it had added spiciness

The version I’m making here is Kaan Jjajang. You can easily make regular Jjajangmyeon by adding more water or broth.

 

Servings: 3                    Cooking Time:  35 min                           Difficulty: Medium

Ingredients for Kaan Jjajangmyeon

  • 1/2 C Chinese black bean paste (춘장 choonjang)
  • 1/2 C or 3 fresh, dried or fresh shitake mushrooms, chopped (optional)
  • 3 oz (80g) pork loin, cut into cubes
  • 1 medium size onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 C cabbage, chopped
  • 1/2 C zucchini, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped (optional)
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber, julienned (as garnish)
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 C water
  • 1/2 C + 3 T vegetable oil
  • 1 pack of fresh noodles for jjajangmyeon or kal gooksoo

In Korea, this Jinmi Choonjang (진미 춘장) is the standard black bean paste to use for Jjajangmyeon. They used to have MSG in it but not any more so that’s a good thing. :)

Jinmi 춘장 Choonjang (Chinese Black Bean Paste)

Jinmi 춘장 Choonjang (Chinese Black Bean Paste)


Directions

  1. Prepare ingredients below:

Vegetables and pork for jjajang

Vegetables and pork for jjajang

*See the lovely yellow carrot?! The pretty carrot is from my farm – we grew some colored carrots this summer and I decided to add the carrot for additional flavor. Carrot is totally optional but is a great way to hide additional nutrition for kids. I loved these carrots so much, I decided to take a picture -

colored carrots from our farm

colored carrots from our farm-more beta carotene than regular carrot

2. Chop all vegetables into small cubes.

Chopped vegetables for Jjajang Myeon

Chopped vegetables for Jjajang Myeon

3. In a non-stick frying pan, add equal amount of choonjang and oil to pan on medium/medium low heat. Should be bubbling but not burning. Stirring often, cook for 7 min.

stir frying jjajang in oil

stir frying jjajang (black bean paste) in oil

Lot of oil will be leftover after stir frying the paste.

Jjajang sauteed in oil

Jjajang sauteed in oil (after 7 min of cooking)

4. WHILE the choonjang is cooking, in ANOTHER pan, add 2 T oil to pan on medium heat. Sauté just onions and cabbages for 10 min or more until onions become translucent. This will make your sauce taste sweeter!

stir frying onions and cabbages

cooked onions and cabbages

5.  Remove choonjang from pan. It should be easy to bunch up the cooked choonjang and remove from oil. Like so-

chunjang cooked in oil

chunjang cooked in oil

6. Discard the leftover oil in pan.

7. Remove onions and cabbages from pan and set aside. Sauté pork on med-high heat for 2-3 min in the same pan.

8. Once pork is cooked, return onions, cabbages to pan. Add 1 T oil and remaining vegetables. Sauté all ingredients on med-high heat for 5 – 7 min. Veggies should still be slightly crunchy.

9. Add the cooked choonjang paste to pan (step 8) and stir everything, making sure the paste coats the ingredients evenly.

Jjajang sauce with vegetables

Jjajang sauce with vegetables for jjajangmyeon

10. Stir fry for 2 min. Add 1 C water and 1 T sugar. Cook until the sauce is reduced to half. Reduce further for more condensed flavor.

11. Fresh noodles (국수 Kooksoo) are best for Jjajangmyeon. If you can buy one’s that says “짜장면 국수”, it should work fine. Believe it or not, I could not find it at my local market. Probably because not many Koreans make Jjajangmyeon at home in Korea. I bought 칼국수 (Kalgooksoo) and that worked fine. Just cook the noodles in boiling water for 7-10 min (based on package directions) and rinse in cold water.

fresh Korean noodle package

fresh Korean noodle package (생 칼국수 saeng kalgooksoo)

12. Sauce is now ready!

KaanJjajangmyeon sauce

Kaan Jjajangmyeon sauce (간짜장)

Just add noodles or rice to a bowl and top with this amazingly yummy Kaanjjajang sauce!

Jjajang Bap (짜장밥) - Rice with Black Bean Sauce

Jjajang Bap (짜장밥) – Rice with Black Bean Sauce

 

  • How to make Jjajangmyeon/jajang myeon? – In step 8, instead of reducing the sauce, just add 1 T corn starch mixed with 1/4 C water to the sauce and stir. The jjajang sauce should thicken up and there you go!
  • Choonjang(춘장) and Jjajang(짜장) are used interchangeably when referring to the black bean paste. Sometimes you may find 볶음짜장(bokkeum jjajang) which means it’s already been fried in oil which means you can skip step 3.
  • Meat substitutions – use beef or chicken instead of pork and it will still taste great!
  • For richer sauce, use chicken broth instead of water. Watch out for saltiness though since chicken broth already has quite a bit of sodium. Use low sodium chicken broth or maybe half broth and half water.

Sweet Kabocha Squash Salad (단호박 샐러드 Danhobak Salad)

Korean Kabocha Squash (단호박 Danhobak) Salad

Korean Kabocha Squash (단호박 Danhobak) Salad

Danhobak(단호박)/Kabocha Squash and Goguma (고구마)/Sweet potato are probably some of the most popular ingredient in Korea these days. I say that because I see these two ingredients everywhere – actually to the point where I am tired of seeing them as the ‘featured’ ingredient in a dish. One of the things that bothers me the most is how Koreans add sweet potato to pizza. Mashed sweet potato is used to either top the pizza or to fill the crust with. I just can’t imagine that tasting good – I mean adding a pasty, sweet substance on top of pizza?? I guess I will have to give it a try someday just to prove myself right but for now, I will pass. :)

So, when I first encountered Danhobak Salad at our local restaurant, I was not sure I was going to like it. But surprisingly this was good. So I had to try making it. Before we go on, a little history behind it:

Kabocha Squash or Danhobak (단호박) is a relatively new vegetable in the Korean kitchen. This squash only appeared in Korea about 20 years ago in the 90’s. Before then, there were only green zucchini type squashes and giant pumpkins (늙은 호박 neulgeun hobak). The giant pumpkins are exactly the same as Halloween pumpkins in the US. Except, in Korea, the giant pumpkins are left in the field longer into fall, until they are fully aged (Neulgeun means ‘aged’). At which point the pumpkins become pale orange and rock hard.

These aged pumpkins (늙은 호박 neulgeun hobak) were traditionally used to make porridge (죽 jook), rice cakes (떡 tteok) and kimchi.  In addition to seaweed soup (미역국 meeyoek guk), pumpkin porridge (호박죽 hobak jook) is a must eat food to new mothers because it helps with fluid retention after childbirth. Problem with 늙은 호박 though, is that it’s just way too big for today’s smaller family. And the very hard skin makes cutting really difficult. For those reasons,  the smaller Kabocha squash is perfect because it has similar nutritional benefits but is much easier to handle and smaller in size.

NUTRITION: Danhobak is high in beta-carotene, vitamin C and low in calories. The high beta-carotene content makes it a great food for the eyes. But in Korea, everyone knows that it has been used for generations to help with postpartum edema or fluid retention and also considered a great healing food for colds.

 

Servings: 5                  Cooking Time: 20 min                       Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (455 g) Korean Danhobak (단호박) aka Kabocha Squash
  • 2~3 T mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 T dried raisins
  • 1 T pumpkin seeds
  • 1~2 tsp honey
  • 1 ~ 1 1/4 tsp dijon mustard

Directions

  1. For a good size danhobak, half weighs about 1 lb. Clean and cut squash into slices:
    Cut half of Korean Danhobak(단호박) or Kabocha Squash

    Cut half of Korean Danhobak(단호박) or Kabocha Squash

    Remove the seeds with a spoon:

    Remove seeds from Danhobak/Squash

    Remove seeds from Danhobak/Squash

    Cut squash into about 1.5 inch thick slices for quicker cooking.

    Cut 1/2 squash into smaller slices for steaming

    Cut 1/2 squash into smaller slices for steaming

  2. Steam the squash slices for 15 min or so until the thickest parts are easily pierced with a fork.

    Squash slices in steamer

    Squash slices in steamer

  3. Cut the green skin off the cooked squash. Cut squash into smaller pieces and put in a bowl. Mash squash like making mashed potato. I didn’t have a potato masher so I just used a whisk. Don’t kill yourself trying to mash it completely – leave some small chunks to give the salad more texture.

    Mashing cooked squash for salad

    Mashing cooked squash for salad

  4. To the mashed squash, add 2T mayonnaise, 1 tsp dijon mustard, 1/4 tsp salt and 1 tsp honey. Mix it all well. Taste and adjust by adding more mayo for creamier taste, more mustard for more zing and more honey if you like things sweet. Finally add raisins and pumpkin seeds.
  5. Serve the salad chilled. The salad goes great with many Korean dishes – especially hot and spicy or meaty dishes. Kids will also love the slightly sweet and creamy salad. Enjoy!

 

Korean Kabocha Squash (단호박 Danhobak) Salad

Korean Kabocha Squash (단호박 Danhobak) Salad

 

 

 

Vegetarian Lettuce Kimchi (상추김치 Sangchoo Kimchi)

Lettuce Kimchi (Sangchoo Kimchi 상추김치)

Lettuce Kimchi (Sangchoo Kimchi 상추김치)

Summer is starting and that means we can no longer eat our Kimjang Kimchi anymore..Sad sad.. It has become way too sour but is still edible though. I give it a good rinse and then use it in dishes where the Kimchi is cooked: such as Kimchi soft tofu stew, Kimchi fried rice, Budae Jjigae, and Kimchi jjigae. Just add extra red pepper powder, spoonful of gochujang, couple cloves of garlic and a bit of sugar to balance the sourness of the Kimchi that is too old and too sour to eat fresh. This is a great tip to know if you ever want to revive or save sour and old tasting Kimchi in your recipes.

At our farm, summer also means our green/red leaf lettuces are reaching the end of its cycle and is getting ready to bloom to spread seeds. This process where lettuces grow tall is called “bolting”.

Bolted lettuce for Kimchi

Bolted lettuce for Kimchi

The leaves at this point start to taste bitter and is considered unpalatable by many. However, you know Koreans..;) they really don’t let anything go to waste!

And so.. ‘When life gives you bitter lettuces, you make Kimchi with it!’ :)

“Lettuce Kimchi (Sangchoo Kimchi 상추김치)”  is a kimchi that I never heard of before coming to Korea. And even in Korea, it is still not very common. It is because Sangchoo Kimchi is still mostly made and eaten at temples (i.e. temple food).  Until recently, Korean temple food (Sachal Eumshik 사찰음식) was rarely available outside of temples. But with people wanting to eat more healthy, temple food is gaining more and more attraction. There are now cooking classes offered by monks and their protégés. These days, there are even few celebrity monk chefs that have their own shows on TV!!..hmm.. something about monks having their own TV show?! But why not, it is the age of the mass media.

Because buddhist monks do not eat any meat or fish and also avoid most aromatics such as garlic, ginger and onions (builds too much stamina for men), this Kimchi is also Vegan. What’s wonderful about Lettuce Kimchi is that it is mild enough that it can appeal to many foreigners and is an easier dish to make for many outside of Korea because no special Korean ingredients are needed. The only drawback to this Kimchi is that it will not keep as long as cabbage Kimchi – so try to eat it sooner than later!
Servings: 10+                Time: Prep 15 min + Cook 15 min          Difficulty: Moderate

Ingredients                * gram weights are approximate

  • 2 lb (1 kg) green leaf lettuce (bolted or regular)
  • 5 oz (150g) potato (med size), peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 C water
  • 4 oz (100g) fresh Korean red chili pepper, minced
  • 2 T chopped garlic
  • 3 T Korean red chili powder (gochukaroo 고추가루)
  • 1 T sea salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 4 tsp sesame seeds
  • 2 fresh Korean green chili (putgochoo 풋고추), cut into slices
  • 2 fresh hot green chili (chungyang gochoo 청량고추), cut into slices
    • substitute thai chilis but cut very thin
  • 1 bunch Korean purplette onions or bunching onions (chokpa 쪽파)

** Notes about ingredients **

  • Korean chokpa 쪽파 is something I have really started to love. It is basically a cross between shallots and scallions. It’s not only cute and pretty but has a bit more sweeter flavor than regular scallions. Finding the exact English equivalent was hard but Alllium Wakegi is the closest one I could find. Some people say it is Japanese bunching onions but I don’t think it is an exact match. It is also called purplette onions by some and I think this is closer.

    Korean bunching onions, chokpa, 쪽파, Allium Wakegi, purplette onions

    Korean bunching onions, chokpa, 쪽파, Allium Wakegi, purplette onions

Directions

  1. Wash and rinse lettuces with the stems and all. If some of the stems are too woody, smash them once with a knife.
  2. Wash, peel about 5 oz weight of potato. 5 oz potato is about 1 medium size potato. Add 1 C of water and potato chunks to blender and blend until you get potato juice. ;)

    blended raw potato

    blended raw potato

  3. Put potato juice in pot, bring to boil and immediately lower heat to simmer. Stir the mixture often to prevent it from sticking to bottom of pot. Simmer for 10 min or so until the mixture tastes cooked and becomes potato paste.

    Potato paste for Kimchi

    Potato paste for Kimchi

  4. Prepare the seasonings – chop the fresh red chili pepper and garlic. Rinse and cut Korean bunching onions (chokpa).
  5. In a extra extra large mixing bowl (Koreans have this just for Kimchi making), add the potato paste (감자풀 Gamja Pool), chili powder, garlic, salt, sesame seeds and sugar. Mix well.

    Seasoning base for Summer Kimchi

    Seasoning base for Summer Kimchi

  6. Add the chopped fresh chili pepper and mix again.

    Kimchi seasoning + fresh chopped red chili

    Kimchi seasoning + fresh chopped red chili

  7. Add in the cut purplette onions and green chilis.

    Kimchi seasoning with bunching onions, green chilis

    Seasoning with purplette onions, green chilis for lettuce Kimchi

  8. Mix the lettuce and seasoning together. Be careful not to handle the lettuce too much. Just gently toss.

    Finished lettuce Kimchi (Sangchoo Kimchi 상추김치)

    Finished lettuce Kimchi (Sangchoo Kimchi 상추김치)

  9. You can eat lettuce Kimchi right away or eat 1-2 days after it has ripened in the fridge. Here is a closeup of how lettuce Kimchi looks when it’s fully ripe.
    Ripe Lettuce Kimchi

    Ripe Lettuce Kimchi

    Lettuce has lots of vitamin C and so do the red chilis so it’s a great dish to have in the hot summer! It’s also very clean tasting since no fish sauce was added. Enjoy~

 

 

Gomchee Ssam (곰취쌈)

Korean Gomchee Ssam(곰취쌈) is high in Vit C and beta carotene

Korean Gomchee Ssam(곰취쌈) is high in Vit C and beta carotene

Ever since I moved to Korea, I have discovered so many different San Namul(산나물)/mountain greens for the first time. I think that with the advances of the internet and technology, greens that were only known to local populations are now much more widely known and available.

This particular beauty is called Gomchee and the name means “Bear’s Food”. Because these plants grow deep in the mountains, people said bears ate the plant!  Gomchee looks like this when it’s fresh -

Gomchee is called Fischer's Liguaria and is of the Aster family.

Gomchee is called Fischer’s Ligularia and is of the Aster family.

English name for Gomchee is Fischer’s Ligularia and belongs to the Aster family.  The plants only grow in the mountainous regions of Korea, Japan and China so it is really not even known as an edible plant in other parts of the world.

Korean Gomchee Ssam(곰취쌈) tastes great with grilled meats!

Korean Gomchee Ssam(곰취쌈) tastes great with grilled meats!

Gomchee has high beta carotene and vitamin C content and has also shown to have anti-cancer properties (especially in regards to lung and stomach cancer cells). In traditional Korean herbal medicine, it is known to ameliorate coughs, asthma and also alleviate back and arthritic pain.  And modern research has actually showed that the leaves have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect on laboratory animals so it IS a good thing!

 

[네이버 지식백과] 곰취 (요리백과: 쿡쿡TV)

Soy Bean Sprout Soup for the Soul (콩나물국 Kongnamul Guk)

Soybean Sprout Soup (콩나물국 Kongnamul Guk)

Soybean Sprout Soup (콩나물국 Kongnamul Guk)

Wonderfully warm and light – this amazingly soothing soup is Koreans’ Chicken Soup for the soul. If you get a terrible cold, this soybean sprout soup is what mom will make for you – with extra red pepper flakes to chase the cold away. The non-spicy version of this Kongnamul Guk is also a perfect soup for children. Kids love the flavor and it also aids with their brain development. If you are suffering from a hangover, Kongnamul Guk is another fabulous soup (next to Bugeo Guk or Dried pollock soup) that will help your body get rid of the alcohol in your body.

For those interested, here’s the science behind it:

Amino acid asparagine – contained in the root end of soybean sprouts, research has shown that it helps healthy brain development in children. This amino acid also helps the liver get rid of acetaldehyde – a compound produced from partial oxidation of ethanol – which is known to contribute to hangovers.

Vitamin C – soybean sprouts contain large amount of vitamin C which is helps with immunity

In addition, Soybean sprouts are a good source of protein, B vitamin folate and fiber.

Making this soup is surprisingly simple and interestingly, kids love this soup! So, try making some for your little one!

Servings: 2-3            Time: 30 minutes                  Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 6 oz (170g) Soybean Sprouts (콩나물 Kongnamul) – add more or less, it’s OK
  • 15 dried large anchovies for stock (국멸치 Kookmyeolchi)
  • 1 piece of dried Kelp (다시마 Dashima) – approx 3 x 3 in
  • 4 C water
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 3 tsp red chili pepper powder (고추가루 Gochukaroo)
  • 1 T chopped garlic
  • 2~3 T chopped green onions
  • 1 tsp or more fermented salted shrimp, chopped (새우젓 Saewoojeot) – OPTIONAL

Directions

  1. Make the fish stock. Add 4 C water to pot and add dried anchovies and kelp. Simmer for 15-20 min.
    Dried Anchovies and Kelp for stock

    Dried Anchovies and Kelp for stock

    Fish stock for soybean sprout soup

    Fish stock for soybean sprout soup

    If you have time, let it sit with heat turned off for 20 min. Extra time will make the broth even more richer and flavorful. Like so-

    Finished anchovy kelp fish stock

    Finished anchovy kelp fish stock

  2. Rinse soybean sprouts (kongnamul) and discard any black and spoiled pieces.
  3. Remove the kelp and anchovies from the fish stock. Add salt and soybean sprouts to pot. Cover and bring to boil.

    Sprouts in pot for Kongnamul Guk

    Sprouts in pot for Kongnamul Guk

  4. Boil COVERED on medium heat for 8 minutes. DO NOT open the cover until sprouts are fully cooked. Opening before it’s fully cooked will leave a fishy smell/taste to the soup so don’t do it!!! Be patient..
  5. Add garlic, green onions and red chili pepper powder. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Taste the soup and adjust saltiness by adding more salt or optionally saewoojeot.
  6. And that’s all! Serve with some rice and other side dishes for a warm and soothing meal.

    Non-spicy Kongnamul Guk

    Non-spicy Kongnamul Guk – great for kids!

EXTRAS

  • Anchovy stock – see My Tips page to make the anchovy stock ahead of time. There’s also a new type of dried fish that I recently discovered in Korea. These guys add even better flavor to the stock. It’s called Bendaengyi (밴댕이) or Dipori (디포리) and is referred to as Herengula Zunasi/Sardinella Zunasi or Japanese Sardinella. The fermented, salted form is called Bendaengyi jeot and is used in Kimjang Kimchi.
  • Soybean Sprouts – When buying sprouts, don’t go for the big, thick ones as they probably have fertilizers or chemicals in them. Buy thin, slender sprouts and go for organic or ones with no chemicals (무농약) if you can. Also, turn the bag over and see if there are any sprouts that have become mushy at the bottom of the bag. This means the sprouts are not as fresh as they should be.
    Fresh, best quality soybean sprouts (콩나물 Kongnamul)

    Fresh, best quality soybean sprouts (콩나물 Kongnamul)

    See how beautiful these sprouts are? Not a brown, yellow or blackish spot anywhere..

  • Root or no root? – People have different opinions about taking the root ends off of soybean sprouts. I personally stopped removing the root ends long time ago because I learned that the roots have a lot of nutrients in them. To be honest, it’s probably more because it was too time consuming. :)
  • Saewoojeot (새우젓) – add fermented, salted shrimp for extra flavor. Reduce amount of salt if you are going to finish the soup with this.
  • Use papertea bags for anchovies – fishing for anchovies from the stock can be a bit of a hassle so you can buy and use a paper bag (sold at Korean or Japanese stores) to keep the fishes while they are in the pot.

    anchovies in paper bag for stockanchovies in paper bag for stock

    anchovies in paper bag for stock

 

GlutenFree Sweet Red Bean Rice Cake (떡빵 Tteok Ppang)

Oven Rice Cake (Tteok Ppang 떡빵)

Oven Rice Cake (Tteok Ppang 떡빵) – somewhere between tteok and cake.

This deliciously addictive Sweet Red Bean Rice Cake has the best of both worlds – the rich buttery taste of a regular cake but has the chewy(but not overly chewy) smooth texture of a rice cake. Koreans, especially those who live outside of Korea love this cake because it reminds them of the traditional Korean rice cake but it is easy enough to make at home. The ingredients are also pretty easy to get since it uses just Sweet Rice flour which is now readily available in most markets.

I first got to taste this gluten free Sweet Red Bean Rice Cake at my friend SoYoung’s house many years ago after I first found out I had gluten intolerance. I was still very weak after my gall bladder surgery and she invited me for lunch and this wonderful sweet dessert afterwards. She made it for me to help me get my cake fix and once I tasted it, I was totally hooked on it. It was so good, I think I ate it straight for many weeks after! I am always grateful for her for this wonderful recipe.

Servings: 10       Cooking Time: 10 min prep + 1 hr baking     Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 lb sweet rice flour
  • 1/2 ~ 1 C sugar
  • 2 C milk
  • 1 stick (or 4 oz) of butter (softened or melted)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 ~ 1 can Azuki red bean paste OR 1 C home made red bean paste
  • 1 C chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans will do fine!) – optional
  • 9×5 loaf pan

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F or 180°C.

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine rice flour, baking powder and salt.

    Mixing bowl with flour, baking powder, salt

    Mixing bowl with flour, baking powder, salt

  2. Add milk, eggs, butter and sugar.

    Rice cake batter with eggs, butter, milk

    Rice cake batter with eggs, butter, milk

  3. Mix with cake mixer for 3 min. or more until well blended with little or no lumps. Like so~ it looks almost exactly like a regular cake batter, doesn’t it? :)

    Rice cake batter mixed

    Rice cake batter mixed

  4. Fold in red bean paste into the batter.

    Folding in red bean paste into rice cake batter

    Folding in red bean paste into rice cake batter

  5. Chop nuts and add to batter.

    Chopping walnuts

    Chopping walnuts

  6. Pour batter into a 9×5 non-stick loaf pan and bake for 1 hour at 350°F. The cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean after poking the cake. I prefer to overbake then underbake because the top comes out nice and crusty when baked until golden brown.
    Oven Baked Sweet Rice Cake

    Oven Baked Sweet Rice Cake

    One note about baking rice cakes — depending on the pan, it may sometimes stick to the sides of the pan. Lightly grease the sides of the pan if you want to make sure the cake comes out cleanly.

    Oven baked rice cake baked in pumpkin bread pan

    Oven baked rice cake baked in pumpkin bread pan

    I bought this loaf pan for baking pumpkin bread but the rice cake came out even better looking than the bread. It also tasted great because it was crispy on both sides and it was a great hit at my Studio Mari open house!

Storage

  • Store the cake at room temperature for 2-3 days. You can also freeze it right away and it will taste freshly baked when you defrost.

Variations

  • Use less or no butter for a more traditional rice cake consistency
  • Use less or more sugar to taste
  • Add raisins or pine nuts for additional flavor

Enjoy this yummy Korean gluten free dessert with some ice cream!

 

A Sweet Gift for Korean New Year

Yakwa cooling on rack

Yakwa cooling on rack

For this New Year’s, I made Yakwa to share with friends and family. The last time I made yakwa was almost 2 years ago and it took a couple tries to get it just right. Instead of the original diamond shape that my mother-in-law uses, I changed the shape to a square. Then my sister had the idea of using chocolate paper liner cups to hold them in. Like so – pretty huh?

Yakwa in box

Yakwa in box

To top it all, we ordered this beautiful gold logo sticker.

Studio Mari sticker

Studio Mari sticker

 When a friend of my sister’s tasted my yakwa, she wanted to order them for her own family too! So we went out and got boxes, liner paper and wrapped them for delivery. And my newly designed Studio Mari name card arrived just in time~ ;)

Yakwa wrapped for New Year's

Yakwa wrapped for New Year’s

Thank you again everyone for supporting my blog for the last few years with your encouraging words. I can’t believe I’m in my 4th year of blogging and in 2010 when I first started, my average daily visits were only 4. Now my blog’s average daily visits are in the 1200s!! I hope to share more fun recipes with you all in 2014 and will try my best to post more often. :)

새해 복 많이 받으세요(Saehae bok mani badeusaeyo)! Happy New Year!

Sweet and Savory Beef Rib Stew (갈비찜 Galbijjim/Kalbijjim)

Kalbijjim_finished

Kalbijjim_finished

This is Korean food at its best. Kalbijjim/Galbijjim(갈비찜) was certainly one of my favorites as a kid and is still very much at the top of my list to this day. As a kid, I loved to eat just Kalbijjim, rice and Kimchi. It was a perfect balance of flavors for me. The combination of sweet yet savory, juicy yet melt in your mouth tender beef ribs with a great depth of flavor and the crunchy, spicy cabbage Kimchi to break up that little hint of fat was simply just too delicious for my figure. haha.. Even when all the ribs were gone, I savored every last drop of the remaining Kalbijjim sauce by mixing rice and the sauce together.

Koreans traditionally make this dish for great holiday occasions such as New Year’s and also for their most honored guests. So if you have visited many different relatives homes during the New Year’s, you do kind of get sick of it towards the end. Sadly, very few Korean restaurants (both abroad and in Korea) serve this dish anymore so you may not have been able to taste this at all.  If you like Korean BBQs like bulgogi or kalbi, then you must try making this dish.

Kalbijjim is also a great party dish because you can make ahead of time. You just reheat when guests arrive. Kalbijjim, rice, kimchi, lettuce salad and any kind of jeon makes a fabulous party menu anytime.

Among the various beef cuts, Korean beef ribs are perhaps the most expensive cut and is certainly not something average Koreans eat or make often. When I went shopping to buy beef ribs (갈비 Kalbi) from our neighborhood market, I was told that it’s not a beef cut they normally carry because it’s so expensive. The butcher told me to come back during New Year’s or Chuseok holiday.

** Cool Kalbijjim overnight for best results.

 

Servings 6       Time: Prep 15 min + Cook 2 hrs       Difficulty: Moderate

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs (1.8kg) beef short ribs (갈비)
  • 5~6 large dried or fresh shitake mushrooms
  • 10 oz (300 g) Korean radish (daikon also works) – about 1 1/2 C cut up
  • 2 carrots
  • 12 chestnuts, peeled (canned chestnuts is ok)

Ingredients for Kalbijjim sauce

  • 3/4 C + 3 T (add later after tasting) dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C mirin or sake
  • 2 T honey (+ 1 tsp as a finish)
  • 2 T sesame oil + 2 T (add right before finish)
  • 1/2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 2 ~ 3 T chopped garlic
  • 2 T chopped green onion + 1/2 stalk for broth

Directions

  1. Soak dried shitake mushrooms in warm water. Fully immerse mushrooms in water by adding weight on top. This will help reconstitute mushrooms quicker.

    soaking shitake

    soaking shitake

  2. Peel and cut radish and carrots into roughly into 1.5 inch pieces.

    carrots_radish

    carrots and radish for Kalbijjim

  3. Rinse ribs in cold water to get rid of any bone fragments. (I bought these short ribs from emart. They are imported from Canada.)

    canadian beef short ribs for Kalbijjim

    canadian beef short ribs for Kalbijjim

  4. Trim any excess fat and score center of the ribs so that the meat will cook faster and also absorb the sauce more readily.

    cleaned and cut short ribs

    cleaned and cut short ribs

  5. Add cleaned and trimmed ribs to a large enough pot and fill with cold water. Bring water with ribs to a quick boil and flash cook the ribs for 3~5 min. This is to get rid of any gamey taste that beef ribs can sometimes have. This step is optional.

    ribs cooking in water

    ribs cooking in water

  6. Turn off heat.  Drain and discard all liquid.

    flash cooked ribs for Kalbijjim

    flash cooked ribs

  7. Make the sauce by mixing all sauce ingredients listed above EXCEPT for 3 T soy sauce, 1 tsp honey, 2 T sesame oil. You will be adding the additional soy sauce, honey and sesame oil to taste later on.

    Sauce for Kalbijjim

    Sauce for Kalbijjim

  8. Add sauce to pot. Turn heat to med-high and cook ribs in sauce for 5 min.

    kalbijjim with sauce

    kalbijjim with sauce

  9. Add 5 C water and bring back to boil.
  10. Add radish and additional green onion for extra flavor. Simmer for 30 min.

    Kalbijjim beginning

    Kalbijjim beginning

  11. Mushrooms should be fully soaked by now. Rinse and quarter shitake mushrooms like so.

    shitake mushrooms

    shitake mushrooms

  12. If using canned chestnut, just drain. If not, you will have to peel your own.. :( Nice thing about Korea, many markets peel raw chestnuts for you for free when you buy a bag. Here’s how they look –

    peeled raw chestnuts

    peeled raw chestnuts

  13. After simmering for 30 min., add carrots and mushrooms. Continue to simmer.
  14. After 20 min or so, add chestnuts. Optionally add dried jujube dates.
  15. Simmer for another 1 hr or so (total 1:50 min~ 2 hrs) until the meat is fully tender. Best way to check the tenderness is to tear a little piece off and taste.
    Testing Tenderness of Kalbijjim meat

    Testing Tenderness of Kalbijjim meat

    I am holding up this piece of Kalbi with tongs after simmering for 90 min. You can see that it’s not falling off which means it still has another 20~30 more mins to go.

  16. When it’s almost done, taste the meat to see how you like it. Add more soy sauce (up to 2 T) and touch of honey (1 tsp) to taste.
  17. Kalbijjim produces a LOT of fat and you need to skim the fat before you serve. My tip for trimming off fat is to cool the stew in the fridge for several hours or in colder climates, leave it outside.
    Kalbijjim cooled with fat

    Cold Kalbijjim with fat solids

    See how much fat has solidified overnight in Korean winter!

    kalbijjim solid fat thickness

    kalbijjim solid fat thickness

    Now just break off fat pieces and discard them. You can easily remove fat from Kalbijjim or any other stew using this method without a lot of fuss.

    Fat solids removed from Kalbijjim

    Fat solids removed from Kalbijjim

    Yup – that’s quite a lot of fat…good thing we removed it all. :)

  18. After removing the fat solids, add 2 T sesame oil and reheat Kalbijjim before serving.

 

So here is the final closeup of my yummy Kalbijjim -

Galbijjim/Kalbijjim (갈비찜)

Galbijjim/Kalbijjim (갈비찜)

In my opinion.. 

  • Most Korean recipes will tell you to soak the beef in cold water and let it bleed out. Recipes say that the meat will smell bad otherwise. But in my opinion, you don’t need to do it unless the beef is especially gamey tasting. I think this was the case in the old days because many beef in Korea was from cows that worked the field which means they had a lot of muscle and was grass fed. I never really followed the advice for the last 20 years in the US and never had a problem. And the same here in Korea so I think I can say it’s safe to ignore it.
  • Some Kalbijjim recipes add gingko nuts. Personally I don’t like the taste of it but you are welcome to try. It’s supposed to be good for your brains!

Storage

  • Freeze leftovers for later. It will reheat nicely. Vegetables will be a bit mushy though.

Tip

  • Save every bit of leftover Kalbijjim liquid and make Kimchi Jjigae with it. You will end up with a very hearty Kimchi Jjigae~

 

Enjoy!

Life in Korea – Merry Christmas from my new studio!

Christmas centerpiece

Christmas centerpiece

Last year’s Christmas really did not feel like Christmas at all. There was no tree, no cards (Koreans really don’t send cards to each other anymore and maybe because we don’t have a lot of friends?), no Christmas parties to go to (I so miss our old CA friends.) and no daughter (she was traveling with her friends in Europe). It really made last year’s holidays pretty quiet, uneventful and almost depressing :(

This year, however, I am happy to report that I hosted a Christmas party for my college alumni friends in my new cooking studio!!! What?? A cooking studio?? Yes, you heard it right folks! My sister and I will be opening a cooking studio in Itaewon called Studio Mari Seoul!

Moving to Korea was pretty hard and I still miss California very much but things are finally happening for me here. Thanks to my sister #3’s generosity, my dream #2 (#1 was farming) of having my own cooking studio has become a reality much much sooner than I thought it would. It all happened when my sister recently built a 3 story home in Itaewon. She originally planned to just rent out the 1st floor but one day we decided to use the space to pursue our dreams as partners. My dream was to teach Korean cooking in English to foreigners. My sister’s dream was to sell her own line of tableware and home decor items for the home having a modern and updated version of traditional Korean designs. Our current plan is to open the studio in February 2014 so stay tuned! I will soon post more details about my cooking classes once I have them all designed.

Now, back to my party. When my college friends had our Christmas get together at a restaurant last year, we almost got kicked out because we were too loud. :) So this year, the group was looking to have the party somewhere more private. And so I offered to have the Christmas party in my future studio. The entire process involved lot more work than I initially estimated. Mainly because I had to furnish the studio with everything from furniture to spoons. And then I still had to come up with the menu, prepare dinner and decorate! yikes!

Anyway, here is the result. The picture below is the Christmas party centerpiece made from 3 candles, bokchoy leaves, red chicory leaves (Rossa Italiana), pine tree leaves, pines and red berries.

DSC_4844The red chicory leaves are a popular Ssam vegetable in Korea and it had the perfect red stem in the middle. The leaves are a little bit wilted in the picture because I took the photo next morning but everyone loved it at the party!

MENU

I wanted to offer something different than Pizza/Pasta for our Christmas dinner. So we made -

Paella for Christmas party in Seoul

Paella for Christmas party in Seoul

Paella: Korea has such an abundance of seafood, so Paella was a great dish to prepare both in terms of ease and color. The only seafood we used that’s not local is the lobster and you can certainly substitute crabs instead! Since Korean rice is a bit too sticky for Paella, I mixed 3 part Korean short grain rice to 2 part Jasmine long grain rice.

Beef Kababs: I bought Korean Blade Steak (부채살 Buchaesal) from Costco and cut into cubes but was careful to remove all connective tissue (gristle) that is in the center of each buchaesal steak piece. Cause the gristle part can be quite tough. My friends thought they were so tender and asked me what the cut was. They were quite surprised when I told them it was relatively this inexpensive cut.

Beef Kebab - Middle Eastern style

Beef Kebab – Middle Eastern style (before grilling)

Greek Salad with Tzatzki Dressing: Unfortunately, I have no picture. I do have one tip though for those of you living in Korea who are interested in using plain unsweet yogurt for cooking – it’s hard to find plain, unsweetened yogurt here. So far, the only one I have found is Denmark Plain Yogurt. This is surely the best yogurt to use for the Tzatzki dressing.

Christmas cheesecake tart

Christmas cheesecake tart

Last but not least, we finished off the dinner with a home-made lemon cheesecake tart and pear + apple compote, topped with whipped cream. The tart is a creation by my niece who is a natural born baker. I usually don’t like cheesecakes because they are so thick and heavy but this one was light but yet just creamy enough to feel indulgent.

Table setting for Christmas party in Seoul

Table setting for Christmas party in Seoul

Sharing good food and good times with family and friends is part of what makes holidays special. I have been truly blessed in that sense and more.. I truly hope all your holidays will be special, warm and just as blessed as mine. Hoping to share many more recipes and stories about Korean food in the coming new year, Happy Holidays my friends!

PS. Kalbi jjim 갈비찜 (Korean short rib stew) is coming next, so stay tuned!

My first Kimjang at home! (Tips on brining cabbage for Kimchi)

cbrined cabbages for Kimjang Kimchi

brined/salted Korean napa cabbages for Kimjang Kimchi

About this time last year I helped my mother-in-law’s Kimjang at her house and in return, I brought home couple containers of her yummy Kimjang. This year, I decided that it was time I tried it all on my own. I was a bit worried that I may not be able to handle the large amount of ingredients but hey, you have to take risks in life, right?

In late September, after my potato harvest, we planted Korean cabbages (배추 Baechoo), radishes (무우 Moo), Korean leeks (대파 Daepa) and mustard greens(갓 kaat) at our family farm for Kimjang.

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After about 2 months, they were ready for picking. These pictures were taken around 11/20 or so. I came home with 16 cabbages, 9 radishes and a huge bunch of mustard greens. Also about two large bunches of Korean leeks.  I bought the rest from the market.

Because I basically used the same Kimjang kimchi recipe from last year I will not list it again here. However, I will write more in depth about prep work- especially brining/salting cabbages. I know I mentioned in my last year’s post how most people just buy already brined cabbages (절임 배추 jeorim baechoo) because people say that’s the most difficult part of Kimjang both in terms of complexity and effort. You can use these tips for pickling cabbages in making regular small batch Kimchi at home.

How to brine (pickle) Korean napa cabbage (배추 baechoo) for Kimchi:

Ingredients

  • 5 KOREAN NAPA CABBAGES (about 6 lb/2.7 kg each)
  • 7 1/4 Cups or 2.5 lb/1.2 kg coarse SEA SALT (bitterns removed)
  • 13 1/2 Cups cold or lukewarm WATER
  • 1 gallon size bowl
  • 1 giant container or bathtub to hold cabbages while they are brined
  • 1 giant strainer/colander to drain brined cabbages

 

Directions

  1. Clean cabbage – Clean and cut away any outer leaves that are too damaged, brown or dirty. Most likely, your local market will sell already cleaned cabbages in which case need to do nothing.                                                        **Make sure you leave some good greenish outer leaves so you can use it to wrap the kimchi at the end.
    Cleaning cabbage for Kimjang kimchi

    Cleaning cabbage for Kimjang kimchi

    Note how large the baechoo is on the left compared to the cleaned and cut ones on the right.

  2. Cut each cabbage in half. Tip for cutting cabbage for Kimchi: just cut about 1/3 of the bottom half (from the root end) and rip apart by hand. Like so –
    How to cut Kimjang cabbage baechoo in half

    How to cut Kimjang cabbage baechoo in half

    It won’t be a huge disaster if you cut it all the way with a knife but it’s just easier this way and also you will not end up wasting cabbage pieces.

  3. In a large container, dissolve about 5 C of salt and 13 1/2 C of cold or lukewarm water for the brine. Reserve remaining 2 1/4 C salt for sprinkling. Please read my Kimjang tips post on discussion about salt. Solar sea salt is best if you can get them.
  4. Put cabbages in brine (made in step 3) – make sure the brine seeps fully into the cabbage by spreading out the leaves with your hands and swirling it around.

    soaking cabbage in brine for Kimchi

    soaking cabbage in brine for Kimchi

  5. Leave cabbages in brine for 2~3 hrs until the leaves start to get soft.
  6. When leaves are soft, For each 1/2 cabbage, REPEAT the following 3 steps:
    1. Take each cabbage out and let it drain for couple seconds and put in a bowl. DO NOT discard the brine because you will be putting cabbages back later on.
    2. Get a handful of salt from the remaining 2 C and sprinkle (more like spraying) the salt in between leaves of each 1/2 cabbage, starting from the outer leaves.  Aiming the salt mostly on the thick, white fleshy part of the cabbage.
    3. Put salted cabbages back into the brine.
    • Salting cabbage for Kimchi

      Salting cabbage for Kimchi

      ** We do this because the thick white fleshy part takes longer and more salt to pickle. You only need about 2 T for each 1/2 cabbage. You may not need to do this if your cabbage has very thin white flesh.

7. Let cabbages sit in brine for another 10~12 hrs. Making sure cabbages are evenly pickled by rotating the ones on the top with the ones in the bottom, every 4 hrs or so.

salted cabbage in tub for Kimchi

salted cabbage in tub for Kimchi

8. Next morning, the white part of the cabbage should be fully bendable like so-

soft pickled cabbage

soft pickled cabbage

9. Rinse cabbages 2~3 times thoroughly. Let cabbages drain for 1 hr or so. Place the cut side down when draining.

Now you are ready to make the seasoning and finish up the Kimchi!

Most modern Kimchi recipes tell you to brine cabbages for 6-8 hrs (at room temp) but traditionally, Kimjang cabbages were pickled overnight in cold winter weather. In my opinion brining overnight works better simply in terms of scheduling because you can start brining cabbages at night time and then finish making Kimjang kimchi the next morning. If you brine them for only 6-8 hrs, then you either end up making Kimchi at wee hours of the night or you end up starting the pickling process after midnight.

None of which is fun..

So in my case, I washed and cleaned all the vegetables first during the day and then started pickling the baechoo (cabbage) in our bathtub around 7pm. Which meant I could rinse it around 8 am next morning.

Well, now you have it! With my tips on how to pickle/brine Korean cabbages for Kimchi, you should be able to make a very delicious Kimchi anytime!

About the BRINE:

  • Pickling in 15% salt solution is the traditional standard for Kimchi cabbages. e.g. If you want to make a 10 C brine solution, you need to mix 8 1/2 C of water and 1 1/2 C salt. The 15% salt solution is pretty much similar to sea water. In fact, in some coastal areas, Koreans pickle their cabbages in sea water instead.

Interesting Korean Cooking event

I was recently asked to share about a fun Korean food event that was held in Korea. The event is called K-Cook Delight and this is an exerpt from their site:

“We invited foreigners from 22 different countries living in Korea, both professional chefs and food enthusiasts, learned how to cook signature Korean dishes.

They participated in a creative cook-off to show their creativity by adding some flavor, ingredients, and ideas from their own home countries, ultimately creating a unique fusion dish, such as Pork Belly Pajeon or Spice Salami Bibimbap .

Every participant recorded a video, which introduces their dishes. Although the event is over, we believe people from all over the world can benefit this content because participants speak their own language and use local ingredients.

Links to the Videos: http://tinyurl.com/qc42lmd

Our Website: http://www.inspiredsteps.org/en/k-cook-delight”

Korean Rib Eye Steak Salad with Soy Plum Dressing

Hydrangeas in fall Korea

Fall Hydrangeas, Korea 2013

Cool and crisp fall days mean it’s perfect weather for Korean BBQ and ssam. Luckily, I had a beautiful piece of Korean rib eye steak in the fridge! My first thought was just to grill it and make ssam with it.

But today was just lunch for 1 and I was too lazy and hungry to make rice. I wanted something different but easy to make…hmm..then, why not a steak ssam salad?

Steak Ssam Kimchimari style

Steak Ssam Salad – Kimchimari style

Before I talk about the salad, a little note on the Korean style rib eye or deungshim (등심) steak cuts: they are a lot thinner (only about 1/2 in or 1.25 cm thick) than American rib eye steaks which makes them ideal for BBQ and ssam. The Korean deungshim steak cut is also bigger than the US rib eye and typically includes the back strap (yellow ligament 황색 인대, see lower left part of the picture).

Korean deungshim (등심) or rib eye steak cut

Korean deungshim (등심) or rib eye steak cut

The back strap is always removed in the US cuts probably because Americans find it  too chewy and tough. However, many Koreans actually consider it as a delicacy. I also generally prefer chewy texture, but I actually found the back strap too chewy, even for me.. ;)

So what kind of dressing should I make for the salad? Then I thought of a relatively new side dish for grilled meats that is now served in just about every BBQ restaurant in Korea. The side dish is sliced fresh onions served in soy-vinegar sauce that’s meant to be eaten with grilled meats. I am not sure when exactly it came into existence but the onion salad definitely did not exist 20 years ago. Sadly, the dish has no clear name. If you have eaten at a Korean BBQ (Gui Jip 구이집) restaurant recently, the chances that you had something similar to this onion salad (양파 무침 yangpa moochim) is very high.

Korean onions in soy vinegar sauce

Korean onions in soy vinegar sauce

This example of the onion salad is from a Korean blog.

I love the tangy and fresh taste of this onion salad (양파무침 Yangpa Moochim) so I created the following dressing with an added twist of lime.

Soy Maesil Dressing Ingredients

  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 2 T maesil (plum) syrup
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp lime juice (optional but tastes so much better if you add it)

Make the dressing by mixing all the ingredients together. You can substitute 2 T maesil syrup for 4 tsp rice wine + 3 tsp sugar + 1 tsp water.

Steak Salad

Servings: 2           Cooking Time: 10 min            Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (450g) Korean rib eye steak (deungshim steak 등심 스테이크)
  • handful of chrysanthemum(ssukat 쑥갓) leaves
  • 1 small head of green and/or red leaf lettuce
  • 1/2 large purple onion
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 T olive oil
  • sesame oil
  • sea salt

Directions

  1. Wash ssukat and lettuce leaves. Tear into small bite size pieces and set aside.

    Red and green lettuce, purple onions, ssukat for Korean Steak Salad

    Red and green lettuce, purple onions, ssukat for Korean Steak Salad

  2. Slice onions and garlic thinly.
  3. Trim off any excess fat from the rib eye steak as much as possible.
  4. Heat pan on medium high heat and add 1~2 T olive oil. When oil is hot (swirls around like water), add garlic slices and brown them. Set aside. Drain garlic oil from pan and use it in other dishes.

    Fried garlic in olive oil

    Fried garlic in olive oil

  5. Wipe any remaining oil from pan and heat up the pan again for 1 min on high heat. Cook the steak in the pan for 1-2 min on each side or until it’s browned nicely on both sides. Do not overcook.

    Korean steak salad with plum soy dressing

    Korean steak salad with plum soy dressing

  6. Cut steak into bite size pieces and serve with onions, lettuce, ssukat, roasted garlic and salad dressing.

Alternate Serving Suggestions

JJ's style Korean rib eye steak salad

JJ’s style Korean rib eye steak salad with ssam elements

This is somewhat of a reconstructed ssam (minus the ssamjang) with a style similar to a lettuce wrap. But it comes already assembled so all you need to do is just to wrap and eat it.

  • Assemble and stack (starting at the bottom) : couple pieces of small leaf lettuce -> purple onions -> piece of steak -> a drizzle of sesame oil -> few specs of good quality sea salt -> roasted garlic -> top it with ssukat -> sprinkle soy plum dressing.

And there you go! You have just made a fabulous Korean style steak ssam salad a la JJ (or Kimchimari) style. See picture at top of page for the final presentation.

For extra kick of flavor, add some yellow mustard paste (1 tsp or less) to the dressing.

Chuncheon Chicken (춘천 닭갈비 Chuncheon Dak Kalbi)

Chuncheon Dak Kalbi (춘천 닭갈비)

Chuncheon Dak Kalbi (춘천 닭갈비)

Last winter, an old college friend of mine invited me and a few friends to visit her in Chuncheon. In return she offered to buy us the famous Chuncheon Dakalbi (춘천 닭갈비). Chuncheon is a city east of Seoul that is near the upper Han river and is known for it’s natural beauty – especially near the Chuncheon Dam. The city is only about an hour away from where I live so it was an easy trip to make.

Chuncheon Dak Kalbi was born in the late 60’s and became quite popular because of its taste and price. Just how popular? Guess how many restaurants there are in Chuncheon? 618!!! And population is only about 270K!?! With the abundance of chicken farms in Chuncheon, restaurants could buy the chicken at very reasonable prices which was a big plus in the 60’s or anytime I guess. Dak Kalbi (which literally means Chicken Ribs) and white meat were especially cheap at that time because white meat was not a popular cut at that time – no one worried about diets back then.

The restaurant we went to was quite full even though it was a very cold winter day and it snowed just a couple days before. But a perfect room was ready for us – a traditional Korean style ondol(온돌) room where you sit on this toasty warm floor.. Once your butt meets the ondol floor..well, you just melt onto the floor.

We ordered the Chuncheon Dak Kalbi for 4 and they brought in this large saute pan filled with chicken marinated in their special gochujang sauce. We were then instructed to cook the chicken first for a bit and then add the vegetables. Here’s a picture of their Dak Kalbi.

Chuncheon Dak Kalbi(춘천 닭갈비) at restaurant

Chuncheon Dak Kalbi(춘천 닭갈비) at restaurant

We cooked it until everything is soft and tender and then ate it with some ssam! Yumm.. Koreans just love to eat ssam with everything I guess.  And then when you think you just can’t eat any more, they add rice to the leftover sauce and make fried rice with it!!

Chuncheon Chicken Fried Rice

Chuncheon Chicken Fried Rice

Much like my Soft Tofu Stew recipe, you can make the sauce first and use the leftover later.

Ingredients for Dak Kalbi Sauce

  • 4 T gochujang
  • 3 T Korean red chili powder (고추가루 gochukaroo)
  • 1 T Korean curry powder or 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp Garam masala (optional) – you can just increase curry powder instead
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 T Apple lemon soy sauce
  • 4 tsp dark soy sauce (진간장 jinkanjang)
  • 2 T red wine or 1 T mirin
  • 2~3 tsp sugar
  • 2 T Green plum syrup (매실액 maesil syrup) OR 2 T rice malt syrup + 2 tsp vinegar
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 2 T Garlic pear seasoning paste
Gochujang sauce for chuncheon chicken

Gochujang sauce for chuncheon chicken

Make the sauce for Chuncheon Dak Kalbi by mixing all of the above.

*In case you don’t have some of my special ingredients:

Instead of 2 T Apple Lemon soy sauce + 4 tsp dark soy sauce, substitute

  • 3 T dark soy sauce
  • 3 T sweet rice wine (mirin)
  • 2 tsp sugar

Instead of 2 T Garlic Pear Seasoning paste, substitute

  • 1 T chopped garlic
  • ½ tsp chopped ginger

Servings: 4         Cooking Time: Prep 15 + Cook 25 min      Difficulty: Moderate

Ingredients for Chuncheon Dak Kalbi

  • Approx 1/2 of the sauce or more to taste
  • 1 ½ lb chicken (thigh + breast)
  • 6 oz sweet potato (heaping 1 C when cut – see pic)
  • 6 oz cabbage (4 C when cut)
  • 1 onion
  • 3~4 oz rice cake (ovals or ttoekbokki)
  • 3 green onions or 1 Korean large green onions (대파 Daepa)
  • 6~10 perilla leaves (깻잎 Kkaetnip)

Directions

  1. Remove fat and skin(optional) from chicken into bite size pieces.

    Chicken thigh meat cut into bite size pieces for Chuncheon Chicken

    Chicken thigh meat cut into bite size pieces for Chuncheon Chicken

  2. Marinate chicken with the sauce. Use about 1/2 of the sauce to coat all the chicken. Leave chicken for 1 hour or overnight.

    Dark and white meat chicken marinating in chuncheon dak kalbi sauce

    Dark and white meat chicken marinating in chuncheon dak kalbi sauce

  3. Peel onions and sweet potato. Cut onions, cabbage into roughly 1 inch squares. Cut sweet potatoes into 1 inch squares 1/3 inch thick. Slice green onions.

    Vegetables for Chuncheon Dak Kalbi

    Vegetables for Chuncheon Dak Kalbi

  4. Cut perilla leaves into 1/2 in strips.

    How to cut Perilla (Kkaetnip) leaves

    How to cut Perilla (Kkaetnip) leaves

  5. Heat pan and add chicken, rice cakes and sweet potato.I used my favorite Staub sauté pan here but you can use whatever pan available. Make sure it’s not too shallow. Add 3 T water and sauté on medium heat for about 5 minutes.

    Chicken in pan with sweet potato and rice cakes

    Chicken in pan with sweet potato and rice cakes

  6. Add remaining vegetables (cabbage, green onions, onions) and sauté on medium heat for 10~12 min until chicken is fully cooked. Taste and add more sauce if necessary. *I added about 2 T additional sauce to taste.

    Chuncheon chicken with vegetables added

    Chuncheon chicken with vegetables added

  7. This is when it’s fully cooked.

    Finished Chuncheon Chicken

    Finished Chuncheon Chicken

  8. Finish the dish by adding cut perilla and optionally some toasted sesame seeds.

Serve with rice.You can also eat it with some ssam and it will taste even better.

For an extra treat, finish the meal by making fried rice with drippings from the pan and any leftover chicken from the table. Add some remaining ssam lettuce if you’d like as you see in the picture above.

The unique taste of this dish comes from the slight hint of curry flavor hidden behind Korean gochujang sauce. Korean curry powder contains only about 10% actual curry spices so the flavor is much milder compared to the original curry powder mix so be careful not to add too much when you are using real curry spices otherwise you may end up with Chicken curry instead!

Bon Apetit!

Korean garlic pear seasoning paste

Korean Seasoning Paste made from Garlic, Radish, Pear, Onion and Gnger

Korean Seasoning Paste made from Garlic, Radish, Pear, Onion and Ginger

Ready for a fabulously fresh and flavorful seasoning paste that you can use just about anywhere? This seasoning blend works great for many Korean recipes- for braising fish, marinating meats, for jjigae, for Kimchi or just about Korean food that requires basic garlic and ginger flavor. This is a pretty recent discovery for me although the recipe has been around since the 80’s. The original recipe comes from Ms. Youngsoon Shim who is a well known cooking instructor and also is a judge in a popular Korean TV cooking competition called Hansik Daecheop (한식대첩).

If you make this ahead of time and keep it frozen, it will save you a LOT of time and effort when you cook.I just added it to my Tofu yangnyumjang for today’s dinner and it had a wonderful freshness to it.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz onions
  • 8 oz Korean radish (daikon is OK too)
  • 8 oz garlic
  • 8 oz Korean pear or Asian pear
  • 1 oz ginger
Ingredients for garlic ginger paste

Ingredients for garlic ginger paste

* Blender works best but you can also use a chopper or grater.
* Original recipe calls for 200g each of onions, radish, garlic, pear and 10g ginger.

Directions

1. Wash/clean and peel all ingredients. Optionally, you can leave the pears unpeeled.

2. Cut pears, radish and onions into large chunks and put in a blender.

garlic and ginger paste in blender

garlic and ginger paste in blender

3. Blend until smooth.

Garlic, onion, pear, radish and ginger blended

Garlic, onion, pear, radish and ginger blended

4. The original recipe and many Korean food blogs tell you to strain the paste and use the juice only from the blended mixture. But I think that’s just too much work.. :) And I really don’t think it’s necessary in most cases so I freeze everything. Freeze the paste in a plastic bag (see My Tips page on how I freeze garlic) and score into squares so they break off easily. If you are going to freeze the juice only, freeze them in ice cube trays.

Use the seasoning paste on any recipes that use both garlic and ginger. The Asian pear and onion add a bit of sweetness so don’t use this in dishes that’s not supposed to be sweet. Since the paste contains only small amount of ginger, additional ginger will be needed for fish and pork recipes.

Now go ahead and make the paste and make your life easier by storing this amazing seasoning paste in your freezer!!

Happy cooking~

Know your Pork Cut!!

Pork is probably the most popular meat in Korea. Partly because it’s much more affordable than beef but also because the fatty flavor of pork really goes well with many Korean seasonings and condiments, especially Kimchi. Adding pork to Kimchi Jjigae really transforms it into a very hearty, flavorful stew.

When compared to beef, Pork cuts are simpler – 22 pork cuts vs 100+ beef cuts! And as far as the primal cuts go, there is almost a one-to-one correlation between Korean cuts and US cuts. But again, Korean pork cuts are further divided into more detailed smaller cuts.

First, here’s the US pork cut diagram from http://www.clovergarden.com:

North American Pork Cut Diagram

North American Pork Cuts

And below is a diagram that shows all the different Korean Pork cuts within each US primal pork cut. Believe it or not, I drew this by hand!!! I just could not find one that properly showed all the different cuts in the right location so after searching the internet for many hours, I decided I would spend even more hours to draw the Korean pork diagram myself…why I do these things, I don’t know.. :)

Korean pork cuts diagram by JinJoo Lee (www.kimchimari.com)

Korean pork cuts diagram by JinJoo Lee (www.kimchimari.com)

Now, let’s go over each of the 22 Korean cuts of pork along with applicable US cuts.

Primal Cut Korean US
Tenderloin (Ahnshim 안심) 1. Ahnshim sal(안심살) Tenderloin
Loin (Deungshim 등심) 2. Deungshim sal(등심살) Boneless loin
3. Al deungshim sal (알등심살) Boneless loin (center loin, closer to spine)
4. Deungshim dut sal or Gabrit saal(등심덧살, 가브릿살) Blade end loin (front top loin)
Butt/Boston Butt (Mokshim목심) 5. Mokshim sal (목심살) Butt
Picnic, Shoulder (Apdari 앞다리) 6. Apdari sal (앞다리살) Boneless picnic (shoulder)
7. Apsahtae saal (앞사태살) Boneless picnic (more leg than shoulder)
8. Hangjeong sal (항정살) Neck (part picnic, part butt)
Leg, ham (Dwitdari뒷다리) 9. Bolggi sal (볼기살) Butt end of ham
10. Sulkit sal (설깃살) Center part of ham (middle)
11.Dogani sal(도가니살) Center part of ham (near loin, belly)
12. Hongdukkae sal(홍두깨살) Center part of ham (near tail end)
13. Boseop sal (보섭살) Rump
14. Dwitsahtae sal(뒷사태살) Shank end of ham
Belly (Samgyeop sal 삼겹살) 15. Samgyeop sal(삼겹살) Belly meat from rib #5,6 to end of side, ending before hind leg
16. Galmaeggi sal(갈매기살) Flap meat
17. Deung kalbi sal(등갈비살) Baby back ribs (from rib #5 to end)
18. Tosi sal(토시살) End part of flap meat, near butt end
19.  Ohdolsamgyeop sal(오돌삼겹살) Rib tips (from rib #5 to end)
Ribs (Kalbi 갈비) 20. Kalbi (갈비) Front ribs (#1-#5)
21. Kalbi sal (갈비살) Boneless rib meat (#1-#5)
22. Maguri (마구리) Rib tips (#1-#5)
Jowl (Bolsal 볼살) 23. Bolsal (볼살) Cheek/Jowl

Note that the cuts are not always an exact match.

  • 24. Jok bal(족발) usually includes bottom part of the hock but not all. The upper part of the hock is also included in Sahtae(사태).

Here are some additional tid bits that’s worth mentioning:

  • 16. Galmaeggi sal(갈매기살) – This is Flap meat taken from the concave part of the spareribs and Saint Louis ribs. In the US, it is usually trimmed off from the ribs and is either ground up for sausage meat or chefs just eat it as snack(aka Chef’s bonus). Koreans consider this cut a delicacy and restaurants advertise this cut as their featured menu. Because this is a muscle near the diaphragm, it can get exposed to the pig’s innards and can be contaminated. Careful cleaning and preparation is important when eating this cut.
  • 18. Tosi sal(토시살) – This cut is separated from Galmaeggi sal and is so small (only about 3 oz per pig) that it’s often sold as part of Galmaeggi sal. Some people love the taste of Tosi sal because of it has more intense flavor and chewy texture than Galmaeggi sal.

Finally, here is a list of which cuts work best for each cooking method:

Soups(국 Guk or 탕 Tang)

  • shoulder, picnic(apdari sal, apsahtae sal)
  • center cut of ham(seolkit sal, dogani sal)
  • rib tips(maguri)

Stew/Hotpot (찌게 Jjigae/전골 Jeongol)

  • center cut of ham(dogani sal)
  • butt(mokshim sal)

Grilling (구이 Gui)

Koreans are masters at grilling all kinds of tough, chewy meat by slicing them thinly against the grain.

  • basically all cuts except the Loin area are popular for grilling. Most popular are slices from the Belly(samgyeop sal) and Tenderloin(ahnshim sal).

marinated bulgogi recommended:

  • loin(deungshim sal)
  • butt(mokshim sal)
  • butt end of ham(bolggi sal)
  • rump(boseop sal)
  • leg of ham(dwitsahtae sal)

Braised (Jjim 찜, Jorim 조림)

  • tenderloin(ahnshim sal)
  • picnic(apdari sal)
  • rump, leg, butt end of ham(boseop sal, dwitsahtae sal, bolggi sal)
  • baby back ribs(deungkalbi sal)

Boiled Meat (Suyuk 수육, Pyeonyuk 편육)

  • butt(mokshim sal)
  • leg of ham(dwitsahtae sal)
  • belly(samgyeop sal)
  • rib tips(ohdolsamgyeop sal)

Sweet and Sour pork (Tangsuyuk 탕수육)

  • tenderloin(ahnshim sal)
  • loin(deungshim)
  • center cut of ham(seolkit sal, dogani sal)

** Special appreciation to Mr.Grygus at www.clovegarden.com for granting me permission to use his chart and cut information. His site has some great information about the various cuts.

** AmazingRibs.com also was a great resource for understanding how exactly the ribs and belly parts were cut.

Hope this was helpful!!! Hope you will get to enjoy some great samgyeop sal BBQ very soon!

Good bye Coco

Coco smiling

Coco smiling

Good bye~ sweetie..our cutest dog ever..Coco.

We recently lost our beloved dog, Coco, because of an illness she had since 2008. She was only 11 and it all happened just too soon but we are thankful to have spent many wonderful years together.

There’s so much more to write but I’m having an extra hard time writing today so I will include my daughter’s FB post instead -

Thanks to everyone who made this dog’s life a happy one. She waited until my dad got home from work and my mom was no longer alone. I would like to think she waited until I was done with my essays, so I could grieve freely. She was a good dog ’til the end: 30 minutes before she died, she refused to pee inside the house and stood herself up to be carried outside. When I was a child, she was an only child’s playmate, the little sister I never had. When I was a struggling teenager, often reduced to sitting on the floor, crying, she would immediately hear me, appear out of nowhere and lick away my tears. When I was a joyfully hard-working student preparing for college, she would keep me warm during late-night homework hours; she would fall peacefully asleep on my lap while I sat at the computer, typing away. Good girl and goodbye, Coco. I’ll see you when I see you.

Thank you Coco. Our life was so much richer and better because of you.You brought so much love and laughter to our family. What a special dog you are. You will always be in our hearts, forever.

** BTW, the illness she had was IBD which is an incurable disease that can only be managed. The cause of this disease is still not fully known so there are many theories out there. One thing for sure, food and stress plays a big role. If you have a dog with continued gas pain, diarrhea and weight loss – be sure to ask your vet to check for this disease because it very often goes undiagnosed. Anyway, if you have a dog (or a cat) give them an extra hug for me today. :)

coco dog wearing 3D glasses

coco dog wearing 3D glasses

Sweet Rice Punch (식혜 Shikhye/Sikhye)

sikhye (식혜 Korean sweet rice punch)-c

sikhye (식혜 Korean sweet rice punch)

During New Year’s, as part of tradition, our family visited many elderly relatives to pay our respects (세배 saebae). I didn’t particularly enjoy every visit (kind of boring to sit thru adults conversation.. ;) ) but what I always looked forward to was eating the traditional Korean snacks and drinks that was served at each home.

Back then (late 60’s, early 70’s), in almost every home, Korean moms made at least one of two (if not both) drinks at home for the New Year holiday : Shikhye (or Sikhye 식혜) or Soojeongkwa (수정과). And along with these drinks, sweets like yakwa and hankwa was offered. I LOVED the sweet taste of shikhye, especially the soft, melt in your mouth rice that came floating in the drink. As for Soojeongkwa – I never found it yummy. Because I never liked the hot spicy taste of cinnamon and ginger together. There is usually so much of both, I felt my mouth was on fire!!!

Anyway, sadly, like many things these days, it is hard to find real home made shikhye anymore. If you ever tasted the canned shikhye/sikhye that is available in most Korean markets worldwide – I am so sorry… that is really NOT anything close to what the real one tastes like. The canned shikhye is nothing but sugar water. The real shikhye flavors are just not there…sad, sad..

I will show you how you make it the traditional way (well, semi-traditional :) since we do use the modern gadget called the “rice cooker”).  BTW, the milled malt barley used here is the same malt used to make beer and bread. However, when a non-Korean malt barley is used, for some reason, it does not always produce the same effect. Perhaps it’s milled differently or not enough of the needed ingredients are in there.

Servings: 10 cups          Cooking Time: 6~7 hrs           Difficulty: Mod (Difficult if you want rice to float when served)

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cup yeotkireum (엿기름) or milled malt barley
  • 10 cup water
  • 1 cup short grain rice
  • 3/4 ~ 1 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
  • pine nuts/dried jujubes/citron syrup/mint leaves (optional)

Directions

  1. Soak the crushed milled malt barley (yeotkireum 엿기름) in 10 C of warm water for 1 hour. While soaking, massage the malt barley with your hand 2-3 times so that all the good stuff gets loose from the husk.
    malted barley in water for sikhye

    malted barley in water for sikhye

    *In the summer, be careful not to use too warm a water because it can actually spoil during the soaking process.

    malt soaked in warm water for 1 hr for sikhye

    malt soaked in warm water for 1 hr for sikhye

    * The little green sprigs are the sprouts from the barley.

  2. Strain malt barley water, making sure you squeeze out all the good stuff by hand in the strainer before throwing it away.

    strained malt barley

    strained malt barley

  3. Rest the strained malt water for 2~3 hrs and you will see white sediments accumulate at the bottom of the bowl.*For a clearer sikhye, let it rest 4~5 hrs.
  4. In the mean time, cook 1 cup of rice.  When cooking rice, use less water to produce a drier rice. The rice granules should easily separate when cooked and not stick together. The old traditional way is to steam the rice which produces the driest rice for sure but that’s a bit too much trouble..People also use leftover rice instead and it does an OK job – the result is just not as pretty.* And when the malt water looks something like below, you are ready to start the next step!

    malt barley liquid for sikhye

    malt barley liquid for sikhye

  5.  Add the top liquid part of the malt barley water to the rice cooker with the cooked rice already in it. Leave the white sediments in the bowl as much as possible.* You do not need to pour all the liquid into the rice cooker. It just needs to fully cover your rice. Keep any remaining liquid in the bowl and let it rest until the step 7.
  6. Keep the rice + malt barley liquid mixture warm ( use the ‘keep warm’ option) in the rice cooker for around 5 hrs or more until about 4~5 rice granules rise to the top like so –
    rice floating in rice cooker (sikhye)

    rice floating in rice cooker (sikhye)

    This means the amylase in the malt has been activated in the warm temperature and has transformed the starch in the rice into maltose making the rice lighter and therefore floating to the top.

    *If you don’t have a rice cooker, keep it at 120~140 ℉ (50 ~60 ℃) in a double boiler.

  7. Now, based on what you want, choose one of the following:
    1. IF (you want the rice to float when servedTHEN strain rice from liquid and rinse under running cold water and drain. Store in the fridge. Also be sure to use 1 cup sugar in step 8 to make the rice float.
    2. IF (all you care about is the taste) THEN leave the rice in the liquid
  8. Pour the liquid (and the rice, if you chose option 7.2) into a large pot and any remaining liquid from step 5, again making sure white sediments are not added.  Add sugar. Use 1 cup sugar if you like sweet desserts and also if you want the rice to float. Otherwise, start with 3/4 cup.
  9. Boil on medium heat for 10 minutes. Skim off any foam while it’s boiling.Taste the sweetness and adjust sugar to taste. Also remember that the drink will taste less sweet when served cold.

And now you have a fabulous sweet, flavorful Korean rice dessert drink for parties and guests. Kids will also love this drink!

Cool and store this wonderfully sweet and delicious shikhye/sikhye in the fridge.

Variations

  • Add couple pieces of sliced ginger to step 9 for additional flavor.

Serving suggestions

  • For the floating rice effect, add the separately stored rice to the drink right before serving. The rice will only float for couple minutes so time it right. If the malt drink is not sweet enough, the rice may not float. Add a tsp of sugar to the cup and mix right before adding the rice. That should do the trick but I do have to warn you, this part is really tricky. It doesn’t always work.. ;)
  • Traditionally, pine nuts, dried jujube sliced thinly are used as garnish.
  • You can also use little bit of yuzu syrup (유자차 yuja cha) to add a citrus finish before serving.
  • My recent favorite find – serve with some mint leaves and it adds a whole new level of freshness!
    Korean Sweet Rice Punch with mint (sikhye/shikhye 식혜)

    Korean Sweet Rice Punch with mint (sikhye/shikhye 식혜)

    Extra Stuff

  • Due to the amylase content of shikhye, it acts much like your saliva and helps with digestion. That’s why it is served as dessert after a full meal. So don’t forget to drink it when you feel like you are just too full!!
  • Through generations it has been known that shikhye has an effect on nursing mothers – it drys up breast milk. So, don’t drink shikhye if you are pregnant or nursing just as a precaution.
  • You can also use malt barley powder instead of the rough milled malt barley I used here. The good thing about this is that you don’t have to strain. But traditionally the rough milled malt is used and I think it has more flavor than the powder.

    malt barley for sikhye

    rought milled malt barley for sikhye

Crispy Potato Pancakes (감자전 Gamjajeon)

Korean potato pancakes (감자전 Gamjajeon)

Korean potato pancakes (감자전 Gamjajeon)

What do you do when life gives you too many ugly potatoes? You make potato pancakes!

Back in June, in my Life in Korea – Farming Anyone? post, I wrote that I was planting colored potatoes in my farm. Well..we harvested them in late July. And I have been busy selling them the last 2 months. I have already sold most of it but I had a lot of oddly shaped ugly potatoes left -not fit for sale but totally fine for eating. And then an old college friend came up with the idea of making Gamjajeon(감자전) and selling them at our Ewha University Alumni Baazar event. It was a perfect way to get rid of these excess potatoes, to help raise money for school and also for another alumni friend with cancer.

The morning started out with buckets of rain but it got light just enough for students to come out and buy our yummy crispy potato pancakes – freshly made on the spot. People said that the piping hot pancakes were a perfect thing to have on a rainy, cool day. It was such a success that we were making these non stop with people constantly waiting. It was actually a bit stressful because we couldn’t make them fast enough but we had a blast making them! Even though I have not seen some friends for 20+ years, spending the day together made it as if I had never left.

Now back to gamjajeon -the most delicious (and actually my first) gamjajeon I had was during our family trip to the Seorak Mountains. It was when I was in high school. My dad, mom, brother and I were hiking up the seorak mountain and on our way, we found these little shacks near mountain streams, wherever they was a flat ledge that was big enough to hold them. Perhaps it was the mountain air, or perhaps it was because I was really hungry but I still can’t forget how good the gamjajeon was. Slightly crispy on the outside and full of potato goodness inside.

I used colored potatoes here but you can simply substitute other potatoes. Best potatoes for Korean potato pancake (gamjajeon) are starchy potatoes like regular russet. You can use waxy potatoes but you probably will need to add more flour to keep it together and may not be as crispy.

 

 

Servings: 4                                Prep Time: 20 min                       Difficulty: Moderate

Cooking Time: 4-5 min for each pancake (recipe makes about 6 six-inch pancakes)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb potatoes (starchy) – I used a mix of red and purple potatoes here
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 T flour (adjust based on how wet your potatoes are)
  • vegetable oil for pan frying

Directions

  1. Wash potatoes. Peel if the skin is thick like russet but you can leave the skin on if it’s thin enough.
  2. Cut potatoes into smaller pieces.
    cut colored potatoes for gamjajeon

    cut colored potatoes for gamjajeon (mix of red and purple)

    Originally, Koreans used graters to finely grate the potato but chopper is easier and works just as good.

  3. Cut onions into pieces small enough to fit in the chopper.

    potato and onions in chopper for gamjajeon

    potato and onions in chopper for gamjajeon

  4. Chop onions and potatoes in blender, like so –

    chopped potato in blender for gamjajeon

    chopped potato in blender for gamjajeon

  5. For the following amount of extra potato liquid,
    watery potato and onion mix

    watery potato and onion mix

    I added 3 T of flour. After you add the flour, the consistency should be so that the mix does not run down easily from a spatula.

    gamjajeon (korean potato pancake) mix

    gamjajeon (korean potato pancake) mix

    Add more flour if needed. If the gamjajeon falls apart too easily while cooking.

  6. Heat about 2 T of oil in frying pan on med high heat.
    • Using sufficient amount of oil is key to making a good gamjajeon so don’t skimp on oil. Gamjajeon will also stick easily to the pan if there isn’t enough oil.
    • Heat oil until it swirls around in the pan like water.
  7. Ladle the potato mix onto the hot pan. Spread out evenly to about 1/3 in thickness. One full ladle should make one 6 inch pancake.

    Gamjajeon frying in pan

    Gamjajeon frying in pan

  8. Lower heat to medium and fry for 2 minutes or so. Check doneness by lifting up the side slightly to see how brown it is. When it is THIS brown, turn it over!!

    Gamjajeon browned in pan

    Gamjajeon browned in pan

  9. Fry the other side for another 2 minutes until done.

And there you go~ Serve with some yangnyum jang(양념장) for jeon (see my post for yangnyum jang)  or chokanjang (초간장) and it is a great snack or banchan for kids and adults alike! It is also a great appetizer for Korean rice wine (막걸리 Maakeoli), so go ahead try it!

Variations

  • For more zing, add some chopped green chili peppers to the mix or to the yangnyum jang.
  • The colored potatoes can be eaten raw so I added them on top (as in the picture) as garnish and it was a fabulous combination because it added a crunchy texture.
Crispy Potato Pancakes - Korean Style

Crispy Potato Pancakes – Korean Style

  • DO NOT turn over the pancake prematurely, before it is fully browned – it’s the number one reason why it will fall apart.
  • Loosen the pancake from the pan before you turn over, by loosening it slightly all around and then shaking the pan until the pancake starts sliding around.

Kimchi Sausage Stew (부대찌게 Budae Jjigae)

Korean Kimchi Stew (부대찌게 Budae Jjigae)

Korean Kimchi Stew (부대찌게 Budae Jjigae)

After the Korean war, the US military stayed behind and setup bases in several locations throughout Korea. Usually near these bases,  one could buy American products -especially canned foods like, yes, the infamous SPAM!! So what to do with SPAM?  Well..what else? Add Kimchi!! Kimchi makes everything taste better!! And so this Kimchi Sausage Stew (aka 부대찌게 Budae or Boodae Jjigae) was born.  The name Budae means Army Base in Korean and by now you know Jjigae means stew. This dish is still very popular today and there is even a franchise restaurant that serves only Budae Jjigae. I wouldn’t say they serve the best but it’s not horrible either. Most Koreans say the area for the best Budae Jjigae is actually 의정부 (Uijeongbu) -the place of origin.

Talking about American foods from these army bases…One memory I have about SPAM and other American goodies is that even when I was a kid (in the late 60’s early 70’s, many years after the war) this one lady (ajoomas) came  to our house and secretly sold various foods that were basically smuggled out of the army bases.  I remember getting excited every time this 양키 아줌마 (Yankee Ajooma – haha.. get it? ) would visit, to see what yummy goodies came out of her bag! Because, at that time, things like peanut butter, grape jelly, SPAM, American Kraft Cheese singles, corn beef, baked beans and chocolates were not available anywhere else.

There are many variations to Budae Jjigae and the recipe here is the very basic one. I will list other variations at the end.

 

Servings: 4                          Cooking Time: 30 min                           Difficulty: Easy (very)

Ingredients

  • 2 large half cabbage kimchi (4 C sliced)
  • 1/2 can SPAM, sliced
  • 2 hotdog sausages, sliced
  • 4 oz ground pork
  • 4-6 oz firm tofu, sliced
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 T chopped garlic
  • 2/3 C rice cake slices (optional)
  • 3 C water
  • 1 T gochujang (Korean red chili paste)

Directions

1. Selecting a good quality, sour Kimchi is very important. The kimchi I used here is actually the Kimchi I made as part of my Kimjang last year. Can you believe that it’s still good? It’s way too sour to eat fresh but totally tasty in jjigaes or fried rice. Here’s a pic of how it looks now-

kimjang kimchi in August

kimjang kimchi in August

Notice how the flesh has become kind of translucent – this is a definite sign that the kimchi has become quite sour. Normally you don’t want to buy this unless you are buying overly ripe, old kimchi (묵은지 Mookeunji) on purpose to make stews or fried rice.

Now, cut the kimchi into slices like so..

Kimchi sliced for Budae Jjigae

Kimchi sliced for Budae Jjigae

2. Prepare remaining ingredients by washing, cutting slicing…

budae kimchi jjigae ingredients

budae kimchi jjigae ingredients

3. Now, get a pot or skillet with a cover and first layer Kimchi at the bottom and then the remaining ingredients on top except for the garlic. Pour water, cover and start cooking on Med High heat until it starts to boil. Lower heat and simmer for 15 min.

jjigae in pot with water

jjigae in pot with water

4. Add the chopped garlic and simmer for another 10 min or so. Taste the broth and adjust if necessary. If it’s too sour, add a little bit of sugar. For more spicy or stronger flavor, add more gochujang and garlic.

Budae Jjigae close up

Budae Jjigae close up

And it should be ready to eat!~ :)) Yum, yum..

Serve with some rice and you have a complete easy one dish meal! For a great side dish make stir fried string potatoes and serve it with mayonnaise.

Budae Jjigae (부대찌게) and Rice

Budae Jjigae (부대찌게) and Rice

For variations, you can add one or more of the following:

  • a slice of American cheese on top
  • ramen noodles – just add dried noodles to the pot in the middle of cooking. Be sure to add more water because noodles will absorb a lot of water (If you think you will have leftovers, don’t add ramen noodles to the pot since the noodles will continue to soak up any excess liquid).
  • baked beans
  • bacon
  • chrysanthemum leaves (쑥갓 sookat)

Storage:

Budae Jjigae keeps well in the fridge and tastes even better when reheated. Just be sure to leave out noodles or rice cakes when storing. It also tastes good cold with hot rice – when you don’t feel like going through the trouble of reheating.. :)

Green Plum Syrup (매실청 Maesil Chung)

Korean Plum Syrup (매실청  Maesil Chung)

Korean Plum Syrup (매실청 Maesil Chung)

Korean green plums (매실 Maesil, also: Chinese plum or Japanese ume) have been around for a long time. Records of  its medicinal purposes go far back as 200 AD. But  매실 엑기스(Maesil  Aekiss) or 매실청 (Maseil Chung) – green plum syrup – has only appeared in Korean cooking in the last 10 years or so. If you watch any Korean cooking shows or look up recipes on the internet these days, the syrup is used just about everywhere. In fact, it’s used a little too much in my opinion but that’s just me.. :)

The two terms, Aekiss (엑기스)  and Chung (청) are used interchangeably to describe green plum syrup. The word  “Aekiss” comes from Japanese and it was their take on the word “extract”.  Don’t ask me how you get “aekiss” from “extract”.. :) On a side note, it IS amazing how languages change in different cultures..I’m constantly reminded not to pronounce English words correctly in Korea because people never understand what I say. For example, if I say “Food” almost no one will understand whereas if I say “Pood”.. then everyone knows it!

The word Chung actually means a type of  syrup that’s made by either physically or chemically changing certain grains without any added sugar.  For example, Brown Rice Syrup (called 조청 Cho Chung) is made from culturing cooked rice with enzymes with no additional sugar.  So if you think about it, neither of these terms are fully accurate..

While I was living in the US, I resisted using Maesil Chung in my recipes. It’s not something I grew up eating and therefore I did not feel it was authentic.  Also, green plum syrup is not a very readily available ingredient for many people outside of Korea, so I hesitated using them in my Kimchimari recipes. BTW, if you can’t get any plum syrup, no worries, just use plain ol’ sugar or rice syrup instead.

Now that I’m living in Korea, I’m finding that I just can not ignore Maesil Chung anymore. It is such an integral part of Korean cooking that both my mother and mother-in-law (who is usually very traditional) now make maesil chung every year! In addition to being a great fragrant sweetener in cooking, Maesil also has many health benefits. Probably why it’s become so popular in Korea because Koreans just LOVE anything that is known to be healthy.

Chinese Plum or Japanese apricot plum tree

Chinese Plum or Japanese apricot plum tree

This May, I found these wonderful plum trees in our farm and after having tried it for a year, I just could not pass up the chance to make the maesil syrup myself!

Ingredients

** 2 lbs of plums produce about 1 quart of syrup

  • 2 lbs Green Plums
  • 2 lbs sugar (white or organic unbleached)~ 2.4 lbs  sugar
  • 1 glass jar or breathable earthen ware (항아리 Haangari) large enough to hold both sugar and plum

Directions

  1.  Wash the plums and drain. Let the plums completely dry by leaving it for few hours in a colander or better yet, spread them out onto a baking pan or tray lined with paper towel.

    plums_washed and draining

    plums_washed and draining

  2. While the plums are drying, remove any stems including the little stub near the stem. Removing the stub is not a must but if you don’t, stubs will later float around in the syrup and you will have to strain it to get rid of it.  Leaving the stubs intact also increases the chance of mold developing in the syrup.

    Cleaned maesil plums for syrup

    Cleaned plums maesil plums for syrup

  3. Discard any plums that are rotten because these can spoil the syrup.
  4. Sanitize the glass jar by rinsing it with boiling water or alcohol.
  5. Layer sugar and plums alternately in the jar. This means you need to divide the sugar and the plums equally so that you don’t run out of sugar at the end. If you layer the sugar so that it just about covers the layer of plums, it should work out OK.
    plum and sugar in jar

    plum and sugar in jar

    jar filled with sugar and plums

    jar filled with sugar and plums (approx 7 lbs of plums and sugar)

    And that’s it! Cover the jar and leave it in a cool place for 90 days and the syrup should be ready.

BUT WAIT!!! A bit more work is still needed..many (including me) have failed because they did not stir the syrup afterwards. See below – notice how the sugar has accumulated at the bottom of the jar. You need to stir the syrup every 2 days or so (prob. for about 7-10 days) until the sugar is fully dissolved in the plum juice. You should still stir the plum syrup every now and then for the remaining 80 days.  Stir if you see the top plums take on a different color or if you see white stuff appearing on top.

plum syrup- day 3

plum syrup- day 3

In addition, consider the following:

  • Don’t hold back on the SUGAR!!
    • The key to making good plum syrup is the ratio of plum to sugar. The basic  is 1:1 but depending on how big and juicy the plums are, you may want to increase the ratio to 1:2. More sugar increases the success rate since more sugar means less chance for mold to develop or turn sour instead of sweet. A friend of mine used exact 1:1 ratio and failed on her first try. So I decided to increase the sugar amount to not quite 1:2 but something like 1:1.5..and SUCCESS!!
  • · What sugar to use? Brown vs White vs Organic?
    • This is quite a dilemma…Using white sugar will intensify the plum fragrance in the syrup but we all know it’s not the best thing for your health. I used organic unbleached sugar here.  Brown sugar contains molasses like substance in addition to sugar which can diminish the flavor and fragrance of the green plums.

History of Korean plums: The oldest record of these little plums is in Chinese medicine. Chinese smoked these on top of a fire and used it to relieve pain and also take care of intestinal problems.  Japanese used Ume Boshi to prevent rice from going bad in the summer.

In the last few years, studies have shown the following:

  • The large amount of citric acid in the plums help the body get rid of lactic acid therefore helping the body recover faster
  • The acidic plums help with secretion of saliva and digestive enzymes aiding with digestion
  • The plum syrup kills off harmful bacteria to help with diarrhea and promote normal bowel function

From my personal experience. drinking plum syrup + water definitely helps with indigestion especially after a large meal so it’s definitely a great dessert drink. Enjoy!!

plum syrup after 30 days

plum syrup after 30 days

Life in Korea – farming anyone?

Our family farm in Korea

Our family farm in Korea

Here’s another reason why I have not been able to blog more often..suddenly I’m now helping my family take care of this farm in Korea.

Great River Farm… that’s the name of the farm that our family has owned for over 40 years. My dad had a full time job in the government but running this farm was his passion in the hopes of retiring someday and living on this farm. Unfortunately, he passed away before this became a reality. So my mom has been managing the farm so far on her own for the last 20+ years but now that I’m here, I offered to help her out because I just love being there. I love how the air smells, how green everything is and how every time you look around, something is different – flowers bloom and fade and fruits appear and grow.

Just as my mom said, I guess it’s in the genes. My grand father owned a huge farm in North Korea before the war. My dad rode horses to get around to inspect the farm because it just took too long to walk from one end to the other. Anyway, so I guess the farming and the horse genes got passed down me? Too bad I can’t ride horses here.. :)

When I was young, my dream was to own a farm and ride horses. Now my dream has changed somewhat and become more specific – to own an organic farm in the US somewhere, grow Korean fruits and vegetables and share them with people, along with Korean food recipes. It’s only been about 3 months since I started working but I now have so much more respect for farmers. The incredible amount of work they have to do and how vigilant they have to be about everything – it’s simply amazing.

So, what do we have in the farm? We have quite a big orchard of Korean Shingo pears, fuji apples and peaches.

Korean Pear (Shingo) orchard

Korean Pear (Shingo) orchard

We also have several Maesil (매실) trees which I just harvested to make some Maesil syrup. Maesil (Japanese apricot plum or Chinese plum) are in full season and people buying them from stores to make syrup at home.

Chinese Plum or Japanese apricot plum tree

Chinese Plum or Japanese apricot plum tree

I will be posting the recipe for that very soon because I made a batch myself.

In addition, we wanted to grow some vegetables to make more profit this year. Colored potatoes (blue, red, red skinned)

are the latest thing in Korea as well as US, so with the help from the local farming organization, we decided to plant and grow these  potatoes using no pesticides and no herbicides. But I can’t say it’s fully organic yet since the land has to be chemical free for few years before it is officially certified organic.

I know potato is not your unique Korean vegetable but it’s supposed to be one of the easiest crops to grow, so with the advice from the local farmers, I decided to start easy.

If you search on the internet, you will find that these purple and red potatoes have great health benefits. They have large amount of antioxidants and is anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, lowers blood pressure and helps with obesity. So, if you can get these potatoes where you live, you should definitely give these a try!

We hope to harvest them in late July. Hopefully we can sell them all – so wish me luck!!

Field of colored potatoes

Field of colored potatoes

Easy Young Radish Kimchi (총각김치 Chong Gak Kimchi)

Young Radish Kimchi (Chong Gak Kimchi)

Young Radish Kimchi (Chong Gak Kimchi)

If you like crunchy foods then you will love how crunchy and flavorful this Kimchi is. This young radish Kimchi – also known as Chong Gak (pronounced ‘gaak’) / Chongkak Kimchi -is definitely my favorite Kimchi of all because it has both great taste and great texture. Chong Gak Kimchi is also a very simple Kimchi with minimal ingredients. No fussing about with extra ingredients like pear, persimmon, chestnut, etc.. Also this kimchi makes a fabulous Kimchi Jjigae (stew) when it’s too sour to eat fresh so remember that when you make Kimchi Jjigae next time!

The word Chong Gak (총각) means bachelor and the most common story behind the name is that the young radish greens look similar to how bachelor’s braided their hairs in the old days. The other story is that this Kimchi is so easy to make that even bachelors could make this Kimchi without too much trouble. Which is also quite plausible since traditionally this Kimchi is pretty much made with the whole radish intact, the green leaves and all – no cutting to make it into edible sizes or to make it look pretty. And unlike Baechoo (whole korean cabbage) Kimchi or Cucumber Kimchi, there’s no need to make any fancy stuffing to go inside.

You may wonder if this radish is just a young version of the usual large Korean radish you see at Korean markets. Unfortunately, the answer is no. It actually is a different variety. In Korean, this radish is called by three different names: chong gak moo (총각무), altari moo (알타리무) and dalang moo(달랑무). Hence, it goes by 3 different kimchi names – chong gak kimchi, altari kimchi and dalang moo kimchi. In English, the plant variety is called Passion Altari or Altari Radish with Raphanus sativus being the scientific name. The radish is very tender and crisp with almost no pungency. It usually grows 2-3 inches long and 1 in wide. In Korea, it is a fall season vegetable but is now produced pretty much all year around.

When buying the altari radish, don’t buy radishes that are too big. If the radish part is larger than 3 in long and/or the greens should are too thick (thicker than 1/4 in?) then it is going to be a little too fibrous and stringy.

 

Servings: 10 servings               Time: 2 hrs                              Difficulty: Moderate to Hard

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs Young Korean Altari Radish (총각무)
  • 1/4 C sea salt (for salting radish) – see my Kimjang post for discussion on salt
  • 1  C water
  • 2 bunches green onion
  • Yangnyum (Seasonings)
    • 3/4 C Korean red chili powder (고추가루 Gochookaroo)
    • 3 T chopped garlic
    • 2 T chopped ginger
    • 1/4 C fermented anchovy liquid (멸치젓 Myeolchijeot) or fermented shrimps (새우젓 Saewoojeot)
    • 1~2 T sugar
    • pinch of salt (if needed)
  • Flour paste
    • 1 T flour
    • 1 C water

 

Directions

  1. Wash radish and clean off excess dirt and roots. Works best if you scrape the outside with the edge of a knife. Clean the edges where the root part ends and the green stems start. Cut off any yellow leaves or stems and the outer greens if they look tough. Cut off the pointy root ends of the radish.

    cleaned radish for chong gak kimchi

    cleaned radish for chong gak kimchi

  2. Get a large bowl as in the picture below. Salt radish evenly by layering the radish and salting each layer as you go. Evenly spread out 1/4 C salt throughout. Sprinkle 1 C water on top of the salted radish. Gently turn the radish and salt water to make sure it gets an even coating of the salt and water. DO NOT handle the radish too much because it can bring out a grassy taste from the kimchi. Let it sit about 2 hours. In hot weather, 1 1/2 hrs should be sufficient. About half way through, turn the radish once making sure every radish is salted properly.

    cleaned altari radish for kimchi

    cleaned altari radish for kimchi

  3. Wash and clean green onions (about a handful or 2 bunches). Cut some of the thicker root ends in half and then cut green onions into 2 in long pieces.

    handful of green onions

    handful of green onions

  4. Prepare the flour paste :
    flour and water

    flour and water

    1. Mix 1 T flour and 1/2 C water until there are no big lumps.
    2. Heat 1/2 C water in a pot.
    3. When the water starts to boil, add the flour mixture and lower heat immediately.
    4. Simmer while stirring often so the flour does not stick to the bottom and everything is evenly mixed. The paste is fully cooked when it no longer looks opaque (prob. 3~5 min on med heat). It is OK if there are some small lumps as long as there are no huge ones.
    5. Set aside and let it cool.

      flour paste for kimchi

      flour paste for kimchi

  5. Prepare the yangnyum (seasoning):
    1. To the flour paste (should be cooled, it can be lukewarm but not too warm), add chili powder and mix it well.
    2. Set aside for few minutes so the chili powder has a chance to soak.

      chili flour paste for kimchi

      chili flour paste

  6. Back to the radishes…when radishes are fully pickled, like so-
    close up of salted radish

    close up of salted radish

    Rinse it in cold water 2-3 times and drain. When rinsing, be careful when handling the radish because you can easily bruise the radish and release a pungent grassy taste. Just gently shake the salted radish in the water 2-3 times and then drain.

    rinsing salted radish in water

    rinsing salted radish in water

  7. Cut the rinsed and drained radish into bite size lengths – about 2-3 in long. Leaving the smaller radishes whole and cutting larger ones -along with some of the green stems attached.
    cut salted radish for kimchi

    cut salted radish for kimchi

    If the radish is too big, you can cut it in half or even into quarters like below but leaving the top end intact.

    radish quartered for kimchi

    radish quartered for kimchi

     

  8. In a large bowl, add the radish, green onions, fermented anchovy liquid, ginger, garlic and the chili flour paste.

    chong gak kimchi ingredients

    chong gak kimchi ingredients

Gently mix the kimchi and yangnyum until everything is blended. Add 1~2 T sugar and salt to taste. Remember raw kimchi is supposed to taste a bit saltier than how you want it to taste when it’s ripe so if it taste just right when it’s raw, then it’s not salty enough.

Finally, fill a container with the chong gak kimchi. Press the radishes down into the liquid to make sure there are no air pockets.

young radish (chong kak) kimchi in container

young radish (chong kak) kimchi in container

Store the kimchi at room temperature for 1~2 days to kick off the fermentation. In cooler temperature, you may need to leave it out longer. See my No Crazy Kimchi post for more detailed info on how to ferment Kimchi.

Extra

  • Do I NEED to use flour or rice paste? Using paste is actually optional. The flour or rice paste serves as food for the bacteria, and it helps to ferment the kimchi so definitely use it in cold temperatures. It also helps with any green grassy taste from the radishes. See my Kimjang Day: Part 2 post for more info.
  • RICE vs FLOUR paste: Optionally, you can use rice paste or sweet rice paste instead of flour paste. Traditionally, flour paste is used for kimchis that uses radish or other greens because it is known to do a better job of taking away the grassy taste. It is also known to protect the minerals and vitamins in the radish so overall, it’s a better match with radishes.
  • Can I use fermented shrimps (새우젓 saewoojeot) or any other fish sauce instead of fermented anchovy liquid (멸치젓 myeonlchijeot) ? Yes, you can use fermented shrimps instead of anchovy sauce or use both. I happened to have a great tasting fermented anchovies so I used the liquid. Here’s a picture of what my mother-in-law gave me. See how this one has whole anchovies with the liquid. This is the real stuff.. I did not use the anchovies itself but only the liquid.
    fermented anchovies (멸치젓 myeolchijeot)

    fermented anchovies (멸치젓 myeolchijeot)

    Access to better quality fermented shrimps (saewoojeot) is probably easier so go ahead and use saewoojeot if you have it.

Check out my bulgogi photo!

I have some exciting news!!

The owner of the newly opened El Nuevo Mexican Grill in Greensboro, North Carolina, recently contacted me about using my bulgogi photo in his restaurant. The owner, who’s Korean, has added a bulgogi Taco to his menu in order to add a bit of Korean flair to traditional Mexican food. He told me that very few people in his area know much about Korean food, so he wanted a picture to show what bulgogi looks like to his customers. He said he searched online for bulgogi photos and found my photo to be the most appetizing!

I was very flattered and grateful that he took the time to contact me and ask my
permission to use the photo. I know he could have just easily tried to use the photo
without my permission (even though the version I put on the web has very low
resolution so it is not really suitable for print). I was happy to say yes, under one
condition: that he sends me a picture of his restaurant showing my photo and also that
he gives me credit for the photo. I also promised him that I would post the picture on my
blog so that maybe someone in the area will see it and pay the restaurant a visit. So if
you are in the area, give this restaurant a try! I would love to hear from you if you did.

Wishing the El Nuevo a huge success! Thanks again!

El Nuevo Mexican Grill door

El Nuevo Mexican Grill bulgogi photo

Stir-fried cucumbers (오이나물 oyi namul)

cucumber namul

cucumber namul

This Oyi Namul(오이나물) is also sometimes called Oyi Bokkeum (오이볶음) which literally means cucumber stir fry. When you saw the name of the dish, you might have thought – “What? Stir fry cucumbers? How can that taste good?”.  But you will be surprised how good this tastes – the slightly pickled cucumbers have such a wonderfully crunchy and chewy texture. Any raw cucumber taste (that some people don’t like) is nicely smoothed out by the cooking process. Even my husband, who frowns when I give him the little bit of fresh cucumbers that go on top of Zazang Myun, ate these and thought they were ‘pretty good’.

Since I had such an abundant harvest of cucumbers this year – just from one plant, I think I harvested more than 20 cucumbers so far – I have been busy trying to eat all the cucumbers. I shared some with my neighbors of course. Then I made 2 batches of the summer soy sauce pickles, used them in salads, ate them raw with gochujang, ..etc. I remembered that I had some leftover stir fried ground beef from some Dduk Gook I made recently and then remembered how I loved to have oiy namul when I lived in Korea. Now, all I had to do was to cut, pickle, squeeze the cucumbers and stir fry them with the beef!

Prep time: 2 min (if you already have the cooked ground beef, 8 min)

Cooking time: 3 min assuming you have the beef already cooked

Servings: 2-3

Ingredients:

  • 1 cucumber (Korean, English or Persian)
  • sea salt for pickling (1 tsp sea salt per 1 C of sliced cucumbers)
  • 2 T Korean seasoned ground beef (optional)
    • quick recipe for Korean seasoned ground beef
    • 1/3 lb beef  ground beef
        • 2 tsp soy sauce (Kikkoman)
        • 2 tsp sugar
        • 2 tsp rice cooking wine
        • 1 tsp sesame oil
        • 1 tsp minced garlic
        • 1/8 tsp garlic powder (optional)
        • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper

About cucumbers: Having the right kind of cucumber and using good quality sea salt is really is the key here. The best kind of cucumber is Korean (of course) and then English or Persian. Choose ones with as little wax on the skin as possible (using the skin adds additional texture) with the skin not being too tough or thick. If the skin is tough, that means the cucumber is too mature which often leaves a bitter taste in your mouth – which is not good.. If you can’t buy any of this variety, small pickling cucumbers will also work. If the skin is still too tough, peel the skin before you use it.

Directions

1. Cut the cucumbers into 1/8 inch thick slices. I usually don’t emphasize the thickness but it’s kind of important here because how well the cucumbers pickle will depend on the correct thickness. Too thin, and it will actually rip apart when you squeeze it later. Too thick, and it will take a long time to pickle. And try to cut with even thickness throughout so they all pickle evenly.

sliced cucumbers for oyi namul

sliced cucumbers for oyi namul

2. Put the sliced cucumbers in a bowl. Sprinkle the sea salt and toss the cucumbers to make sure the salt is evenly distributed. Let it sit for 5-7 minutes until the cucumbers are easily bendable without breaking.

3. You can reheat the leftover already cooked, seasoned ground beef in a pan on medium heat. If you don’t have any leftovers, just season some ground beef (use my recipe above) and stir fry it in a pan on medium high heat until the beef is all cooked.

Korean seasoned ground beef in pan

Korean seasoned ground beef in pan

If you like mushrooms, you can also add some sliced mushrooms to the ground beef as I did here. When the beef is nice and hot, turn the heat off and let it wait until you get the cucumber ready.

4. Squeeze out excess water from the cucumbers. You can just take a handful in your hands and squeeze the water out as much as you can (the more you squeeze the liquid out, the crisper the cucumbers will be). You can also use a cheese cloth to wring out the liquid like below:

Wringing out excess liquid from cucumbers in cheese cloth

Wringing out excess liquid from cucumbers in cheese cloth

Put the cucumbers in the cheese cloth and wrap it into a ball. Hold one end with your left hand and the ball shaped end with your right hand (if you are right handed) and twist the liquid out (like you wring out water from your clothes).

cucumbers (before)

cucumbers (BEFORE)

cucumbers (AFTER)

cucumbers (AFTER)

5. Add these squeezed, pickled cucumbers into the pan and stir fry the beef and the cucumbers together for 2 min or so on medium high heat.  You don’t want to cook the cucumbers too long. Just long enough for them to lose their raw taste. Sprinkle some crushed roasted sesame seeds and now you have your oyi  namul!

stif fried cucumbers and ground beef

stif fried cucumbers and ground beef (oyi namul)

Oyi namul tastes great at room temperature so it’s another great side dish or banchan for doshirak. You should store it in the fridge because of the beef and it will keep well for days. Another way to eat the oyi namul is to make bibimbap out of it. Just mix some rice and the oyi namul with some gochujang and sesame oil and it will be another simple and quick meal.

Tuna Tataki Salad

Tuna Tataki Salad

Tuna Tataki Salad

This is not really a traditional Korean dish but this version definitely has a Korean twist to it and it’s so yummy and healthy that I thought I should post it. My sis #3 made this for me when I was visiting Korea in February and it was really really delicious. The wonderfully cooked tuna tataki (crispy on the outside and still very moist and soft on the inside) with the fresh greens, the crunchy roasted garlic and the creamy, zesty dressing all goes so fabulously together. The word “Tataki” is Japanese and it refers to the way of cooking fish or meat by briefly searing the outside on a hot flame and leaving the inside raw.

Although for a salad, the amount of work is a bit more than usual, I think it is totally worth it – especially if this is all you are making for dinner. We ate this as our only dish for dinner few days ago and it was really filling and satisfying. Not to mention how good it was for our body.. :)

 

 

Servings: 4          Prep Time: 15          Cooking Time: 10               Difficulty: Medium

Ingredients

  • 12 oz Ahi Tuna ( I bought mine at Costco) – divide into four 3 oz portions
  • 8 oz mix of red leaf lettuce, baby spinach or other baby spring salad mix
  • a bunch of daikon sprouts
  • 1/2 onion sliced
  • 6-8 garlic cloves (sliced thin)
  • 3 T olive oil
  • good quality sea salt
  • roasted sesame seeds
  • black pepper or Trader Joe’s Lemon Pepper (optional)

Dressing

  • 4 T Mayonnaise
  • 2 T Ponzu Sauce (Kikkoman)
  • 1/2 tsp Wasabi (Japanese green mustard)
  • 1 T + 1 tsp lemon juice

Directions

1. Make the dressing – mix the Mayo, ponzu sauce, wasabi and lemon juice. Ponzu sauce is soy sauce mixed with Yuzu and Citrus juices. If you don’t have Ponzu sauce (if you can, I recommend you buy some, you can use it for various dishes),  substitute 2 T of Ponzu sauce with (2 tsp my Apple Lemon soy sauce+ 1 tsp yuju juice) or (1 tsp soy sauce + 1 tsp mirin + 1 tsp yuzu juice)  or (1 tsp soy sauce + 1 tsp mirin + 1 tsp lime juice + 1/2 tsp sugar). Add more wasabi to taste.

Creamy Yuzu dressing

Creamy Yuzu dressing

2. Prepare the greens- wash and dry 8 oz of baby spring mix. If you have lettuce, wash and tear them into bite size pieces. Peel the onion and cut it into thin slices. The red leaf lettuce is from my garden and then I added Ssukat (crown dasies) for additional flavor(this is optional).

lettuce and other greens

lettuce and other greens

3. Time to season the fishies..My Tuna piece was quite big so I cut it into two. If you can, buy long narrow pieces.  Otherwise cut them so that they are close to a shape of a log.

Tuna - this was more than enough for 3 ppl

Tuna – this piece is about 1/2 lb in weight

Tuna seasoned (Left with just lemon pepper and right with sesame seeds)

Tuna seasoned (Left with just lemon pepper and right with sesame seeds)

Tuna completely seasoned

Tuna completely seasoned

Season the tuna by sprinkling some sea salt and TJ’s lemon pepper or just black pepper on all sides. Be careful not to salt too much – less is better than more. Finally coat the tuna with sesame seeds. Set aside.

4. Make the garlic chips – cut the garlic cloves into thin slices and fry them in 3 T of olive oil on medium high heat until they are brown and crisp. Watch closely because these little guys brown very quickly! Don’t leave the stove .. keep a close watch please.. and turn them as soon as they are brown on one side. I used chopsticks to turn them. If you are not an expert chopstick user this part may be a little challenging. Use little tongs or just stir often.

cut garlic into thin slices

cut garlic into thin slices

Garlic crisps

Garlic crisps

5. Sear the tuna -Take the garlic out of the pan and there should be some oil leftover. Do not throw away this oil since it’s now wonderfully seasoned with garlic. Reheat this oil (add a bit more oil if there is not enough to coat the frying pan) on medium high and when the pan is nice and hot, start searing the Tuna- about 25 -30 seconds on each side.

Tuna being seared

Tuna searing in oil

Tuna seared on 3 sides - one more to go!

Tuna seared on 3 sides – one more to go!

When the tuna is seared on all four sides, let it cool a bit while you get the greens ready for the salad. Do not leave it in the pan because the hot pan will continue to cook the tuna. When sliced, the tuna tataki should still be pink in the middle. I kind of prefer meats to be well done so I seared my tuna a bit longer but you can certainly sear it for a shorter time to leave the tuna more raw.

Tuna Tataki sliced

Tuna Tataki sliced

5. Slice the tuna and layer it on top of the greens like below.

tuna tataki on lettuce

tuna tataki on lettuce

6. Drizzle the dressing on top of the tuna and the greens. Add the daikon sprouts and the garlic chips. The amount shown in the picture is for 1 serving so dress it accordingly.

Tuna Tataki Salad

Tuna Tataki Salad

There! You are ready to enjoy this wonderful salad. The picture below shows how you can serve the salad in one large bowl to share. This is how my sister served it in her home-family style-which also works well. Enjoy!

Tuna Tataki Salad (by Sis #3)

I didn’t try it myself yet but as a variation, I think you can certainly substitute salmon instead of tuna. Try it if you feel making the tuna tataki is a bit too much work for you or if you don’t want to eat tuna raw. Season some salmon with salt and pepper, pan fry it and serve with the salad.

Sauteed Dried Shrimp (마른새우 볶음 Maleun Saewoo Bokeum)

Korean Sauteed Dried Shrimp

Maleun (Dried) Saewoo(Shrimp) Bokeum (Sauteed)

This is a dish I made kind of on the fly but my daughter loved it so much that I decided to make a recipe of it. Hopefully, she can make it on her own someday… This dried shrimp is great because it has a high calcium content due to the fact that you eat the shells as well. Some may worry that shrimp have high cholesterol but there are studies that shows shrimp raises the good cholesterol(HDL) even more- so it’s not bad at all. (Article on shrimp cholesterol)  So, I made a big batch and sent it back with her when she left for school. Being on your own, away from home, really makes it difficult to eat healthy and I hope my recipes can help our daughters/sons get into cooking for themselves as much as they can.

Another good thing about Korean side dishes (most of them anyway) is that you can make a large amount and eat it over time which means you end up saving time overall. So think about making it…

 

 

Difficulty: Easy             Prep time: 3 min              Cooking Time: 10-15 min                    Servings:8

My Tips on Bokeum side dishes:

Sauteing or making 볶음 side dishes can be a bit tricky because it’s so easy to burn them. So keep stirring things around to prevent burning and also to ensure that they are cooked evenly. Don’t hesitate to lower the heat if you feel you are too overwhelmed! It usually works well to lower the heat before you add any sauce or sugar so always remember that. Then after the seasonings are all mixed in, you can raise the heat again and you are now ready to stir things around without burning it.

Also, having things a little browned and crispy always makes these dry sauteed dishes taste really good so remember to cook a little bit extra at the end. And as always – remember to taste in between seasonings!

Ingredients

  • approx 5 oz (150 g) Dried Pink Shrimp [ approx 3 cups in volume]
  • 2 T canola oil (vegetable oil)
  • 4 T sugar
  • 1 T rice syrup(조청 Jochung) or maple syrup

 

Dried Shrimp(Maleun Saewoo)

Bag of Dried Shrimp (Maleun Saewoo)

Some dried shrimps have their heads attached which can be quite prickly. If that’s the case, you should sauté the shrimp first in a pan without oil for couple minutes, put it into a towel and then rub the shrimp in towel to brush off the prickly stuff.

The shrimp that I bought from my local market ( Samho 삼호 is the brand) have the heads removed which makes things easy. So try to buy the same kind if you can. Also taste the dried shrimp before you cook – they should taste good even at this stage. They should not be too dry or tasteless which means they are probably too old or of poor quality.

Dried Shrimp

A closer look at dried shrimp – nice and pink and plump!

Sauce

1 T soy sauce (Jinkanjang) +  1 T sugar + 1 T cooking sake or mirin

Directions

  1. Make the sauce ahead in a separate bowl by adding and mixing 1 T each of soy sauce, sugar and sake (or mirin).

    soy sauce mix

    sweet soy sauce mix

  2. Heat 2 T of oil in a frying pan over med high heat.
  3. When the oil is hot (when it flows around like water), add the shrimp to the pan and sauté for 3 min.

    Shrimp sauteed

    Shrimp sauteed in oil

  4. Lower heat to medium and sprinkle 3 T of sugar all around and sauté for another 3 min.

    shrimp with sugar

    sugar added

  5. Lower heat to low and sprinkle the sauce (made in step 1) all around the shrimp so that it’s all nicely mixed. Continue mixing and sauteing for 3 more minutes.
  6. Drizzle 1 T of rice syrup (조청) or maple syrup on the shrimp mixture. Turn heat up to medium and continue stirring and frying for 2 minutes or until they look nicely browned like the pic below:
    Dried shrimp cooked

    Shrimp with sauce added and cooked to perfection!

    Well, that’s it! You can save these in room temperature for a week or more and much longer in the fridge but won’t taste as good. This served as a great side dish for the lunch I made with Miyeok Gook.

Bulgogi – Korean Beef BBQ (불고기)

Korean BBQ Beef - Bulgogi (불고기)

Korean BBQ Beef – Bulgogi (불고기)

This is probably one of the best known Korean dish other than Kimchi. I offer several substitutions and variations that you can try. They will all taste good but I think it is good to have options in case you don’t have all the ingredients or if you prefer one ingredient over another. I start with the most authentic recipe and then add options/variations.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Thinly sliced beef (top sirloin or any tender loin area)

Make Marinade as follows:

  • 3 T soy sauce (Kikoman)
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 T honey [ 2 t sugar is also ok ]
  • 2 T rice cooking wine [sake or leftover red wine is also ok]
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 1 t ground black pepper
  • 2 t toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 T chopped green onion
  • 2 T pear puree [ pear is a tenderizer - 1 T chopped kiwi or 3 T minced onion will also work] Another emergency fix is to add 2 T or so of diet coke if you find that the meat is too tough. Always good to cook a little piece beforehand and see how it tastes.
  • Optional veggie ingredients – traditionally, Koreans just have the beef by itself but you can add some sliced onions, mushrooms (shitake, white, oyster), bell peppers and even sliced carrots as you cook the meat.

So, let’s start with the meat.

Beef slices

Beef should look like this – thinly sliced, marbled.. sirloin works best

Beef for Bulgogi is sold in almost all Korean super markets but probably is not always available anywhere else. You can ask your butcher to cut it for you or if not, you can use thicker slices of meat.  Just make sure it is a tender and also has some marble to it.

1. Now, make the sauce by mixing all of the marinade ingredients together except for any optional vegetables such as onions or mushrooms.

sauce for marinade

Sauce for Marinade

My favorite tenderizer is the kiwi. It’s not traditional since kiwi is not a native Korean fruit but it really makes the meat melt in your mouth. Be careful not to use too much as it can actually make the beef almost crumble into nothing in your mouth.

chopped kiwi for bulgogi

Chopped Kiwi

2. Mix in the beef into the sauce prepared above – in a bowl big enough to hold the beef. Make sure the sauce is well mixed with the beef. You will need to use your hands here and just massage everything together.

You can make it well in advance and leave it in the fridge overnight. Or if you are short on time (as is always the case with me.. ), making it just a few hours ahead works fine too. It also works if you marinate it even 30 min. before. I’ve done that many times and most people don’t even seem to notice the difference. :)  But of course, meat will taste better if you give it time to marinate and absorb all that good flavor.

beef that's been marinated

Beef with the marinade

3. OK! You are now almost there! You have couple options in cooking it. The easiest and simplest way is to just cook on your stove top. You can heat up your favorite frying pan on high heat and just pan fry/stir fry the meat until it’s slightly brown on both sides. Your pan should be hot enough so that the meat sizzles as it touches the pan. Also, if you put too much meat into the pan and/or the heat is too low, you will end up with a lot of the meat juice leaking out of the bulgogi and you end up with Bulgogi stew. You can add your sliced vegetables to the pan about a minute after you start cooking the Bulgogi.

The most authentic and traditional way to cook is on top of a charcoal grill- you will either need a fine steel mesh or tin foil to cook the meat because otherwise it will fall through. Bulgogi is supposed to be well cooked and tastes great if it’s a little burnt… You can also broil it on the top rack of your oven (Broil temp)  but remember to keep a very close watch so it does not burn!

Finally, Bulgogi can be eaten with some rice and salad or with Ssam and Ssamjang. Slices of raw garlic can also be enjoyed in the Ssam or grilled together with the Bulgogi.

Yummy eating!

P.S. I have recently (11/10/11) made some bulgogi and used red wine instead of the rice wine, light brown sugar instead of white and added a swirl of diet coke. The results were fabulous! My husband told me that it was actually the best bulgogi I ever made!! So try these substitutions if you want some extra yummy bulgogi.

No Crazy Kimchi chart featured in Yakima magazine

Recently I was asked by Yakima magazine (a wonderful local lifestyle magazine written for and by the local people in Yakima valley in the state of Washington) if I would allow my No Crazy Kimchi flowchart to be included in their upcoming article about eating and making Kimchi.

Making the flowchart was not at all easy but it is truly wonderful to know that it is appreciated and deemed useful by people. Thank YOU Yakima magazine for including my chart in your article!

Check out their great article Try Something Kimchi.

A little blurb about their magazine: Yakima magazine is the popular bi-monthly lifestyle publication that’s 100 percent locally written by dedicated writers. Yakima magazine focuses on the people and places that make the Yakima Valley unique, featuring original stories about local homes and gardens, local entertainment, going out on the town, local food and wine, the outdoors, fun day trips and interesting places to spend a weekend that aren’t that far away.

Be sure to check them out – especially if you are going to visit the area of Yakima, Washington.

 

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