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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!

Nov. 24th is Kimjang Day!

Yes.. I know.. Nov. 24th is Thanksgiving weekend but in Korea I will be making kimchi all day at my in-laws for Kimjang/Gimang. Kimjang is a longtime Korean tradition where families get together and make enough kimchi to last them through the freezing winter. It used to take 2- 3 days but now it’s usually done in one day (Read my No Crazy Kimchi post for more). I hope to take pictures and learn as much as I can from my mother-in-law and will be posting soon! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Spring time is for…

sugar snap peas

sugar snap peas from my garden

Fresh sugar snap peas! Right from my vegetable garden. Last winter, I planted strawberries, sugar snap peas, spinach and romaine lettuces. None of them died but except for the sugar snap peas, all the other vegetables didn’t really grow…I didn’t consider the change of sun exposure in the winter and they are just not getting enough sun. The lettuce is now finally growing with the weather getting warmer…

But I am certainly enjoying a bountiful harvest of snap peas. I have stir fried them with some beef, added to my fried rice and just ate them raw with some sour cream dip. So crunchy and sweet!

And… spring time is also for spring cleaning, right? Well, I have been doing that in my house but I have also started some redesigning and reorganizing of my Korean Food at Home blog. I’m sure you noticed my new theme. Do you like?

I will be going through my recipes and adding a Print Recipe feature (some have been asking for it) too. Hope that’s helpful to some of you.

Happy Spring Everyone!

Salad dressings make a wonderful gift!

raspberry spinach and pomegranate salad

raspberry spinach and pomegranate salad

Check out my post about salads in my What’s for dinner, mom?blog! There are recipes for tofu salad and raspberry spinach salad (they go really well with Korean food) and their dressings which you can make as wonderful gifts! Happy December!!

lemon, sesame onion, soy mustard dressing (left to right)

lemon, sesame onion, soy mustard dressing (left to right)

My blog is in Chosun.com (a Korean news site)!

I can’t believe that this has actually happened! I am now a contributor to Chosun.com (a major Korean news site). Thank you for all your support (especially my loyal subscribers) and encouraging comments – they always help me going.

Korean food at home in chosun.com

Korean food at home in chosun.com

Go to http://english.chosun.com and then you will see an image in the home page that links to some of the recipes in my blog.

No Crazy Kimchi (How to ripen Kimchi)

cabbage kimchi (배추김치 baechu kimchi)

cabbage kimchi (배추김치 baechu kimchi)- source (http://blog.naver.com/wefhpop/60143368957)

Everyone has a different preference as to when Kimchi(김치) tastes the best – some love eating freshly made, raw kimchi (kind of tastes like a salad); some love eating it when it is just perfectly ripe and then there are those who love sour kimchi (신김치 shin kimchi) which has basically over fermented and obviously tastes quite sour. But one thing is for sure – no one likes the stage when it is in the in-between stages of being raw and ripe. Kimchi really does not taste good at all when it is in the process of getting ripe – I had an aunt who used to call this the time when kimchi has gone CRAZY! And you certainly don’t want to eat the kimchi when it’s crazy! :) So here’s how to avoid CRAZY kimchi.

Since most of us now buy kimchi from the store, let me first write about the best way to eat a store bought kimchi. Too often, I hear people say that the kimchi served at our house tastes great, but when they try the same brand themselves, they think it doesn’t  taste nearly as good. I realized it was because they don’t take the time to ripen it properly and then also forget to serve it cold (right out of the fridge).  I found that most kimchi (even the poorly made ones) will taste quite palatable when they have had time to ripen properly.
Now, the hard part about buying kimchi from a store is that it is hard to tell at what stage of the fermentation process they are in. One clue is the appearance of the vegetables. They will look more shriveled up if they are further along in the fermentation process. The chances are it will also have lost a bit of the juice because the content will start to bubble and balloon up when it ferments which ends up usually overflowing out of the jar. This is actually too bad because kimchi should always be immersed in its own juices for it to taste the best. The best way is to buy the freshest kimchi possible and bring it home and ripen it from the beginning. But this is usually not possible…So far, I have found the best tasting kimchi that you can buy are actually the ones that are directly imported from Korea (종가집Jongajip is my favorite). It is expensive but worth it in my opinion as long as it hasn’t traveled too far or stayed on the shelf too long at your store. Other than that, the next best thing is to try to buy kimchi that is made locally if it’s available (less chance of it over ripening) and when you bring it home, open it, smell it or better yet, taste it. If your store has a fast turnaround, it is probably in the “crazy” stage. If it’s already fully ripe, put it in the fridge in the coldest possible setting. If it’s not yet fully ripened and you can wait, let it ripen in your fridge. This will take about 2 weeks in your fridge. Also note that the juice may overflow so either move the kimchi into a bigger container or take some out (1/5th) and leave some room for the kimchi to expand. If your kimchi is still very fresh, not at all ripe and you need to eat it quickly, you can ferment it at room temperature. In the summer, it will ripen in 12 ~ 18 hrs and in cooler weather it can take about 24 – 48 hrs. Just check every 4-6 hrs. If this is all too much info for you to digest, I have a chart at the bottom of this post that can help you with the process. (Boy, it’s been ages since I drew up a flowchart…brings back memories from my college days of hand drawing the charts using graphic rulers..)

So.. what is the ultimate best way to ripen or ferment kimchi? The most delicious and fantastic kimchi is made when it is fermented the old fashioned way…In a traditional Korean clay jar, buried in the ground in winter time. Even though the ground freezes in the winter, the jar and the saltiness of the kimchi keep it from freezing completely. This is called 김장김치 (kimjang kimchi). Kimjang kimchi is usually made around the ‘start of winter’ (입동 ipdong) in the lunar calendar which is just about now (Nov 7-8th in Gregorian calendar).

row of kimchi jars in the ground

row of kimchi jars in the ground – source (http://cafe.naver.com/ovenwon/30851)

I remember when I was a kid, we spent days preparing and making kimjang kimchi so that it could last us through the winter and into spring. We first dug big holes in the ground big enough to hold our huge clay jars (so big that a child can fall in). In the meantime, we spent the day washing and brining 100+  napa cabbages and also preparing the ingredients for the stuffing. The next day we took these salted napa cabbages and inserted the stuffing in between each cabbage leaf. It was an enormous amount of work but boy…was it worth it. All winter long, we got to eat these amazingly crunchy and zingy and sometimes even ever so slightly frozen kimchi that came out of these jars in the ground. So why was it so tasty? According to research, when it is buried in the ground, the temperature remains quite constant – at 32 – 35 F all winter long. At this temperature it takes about 20 days for the kimchi to fully ripen but it is definitely worth the wait.

The clay jars are glazed to hold the moisture in but it can still breathe which allows just the right amount of air circulation to take away any heat produced from the fermentation (keeping the temperature stable).   It also keeps the air tight enough for the bacteria to not grow too fast which helps the kimchi maintain its peak flavor for a longer period. The history of kimchi can be dated back almost 2000 years to the Goguryo Dynasty according to some historians, so you can see how long Koreans had time to refine the technique of kimchi making.

Since most Koreans now live in apartments and have no backyards to bury the jars, they have invented what is called a kimchi refrigerator. This fridge is different from the conventional refrigerator because the interior walls of the fridge are cooled instead of the air which helps to keep the interior at a more constant temperature. I own one and I have to say it is the next best thing to having your own kimchi jar in the ground. It even has temperature options for fermenting and then just storing it to prolong its freshness.

How to tell if Kimchi is ripe and ready to eat?

When a kimchi is not fully ripe, you are able to smell and kind of taste the individual ingredients – garlic, cabbage, radish, green onion, fish sauce, etc – as they have yet to fully integrate with each other. When it is fully ripened, the tastes of all the ingredients are well blended together and there is full flavor embedded in each cabbage leaf or vegetable pieces. There is also a slight sour taste with an added zing at the end. You can also no longer smell the raw ingredients individually but rather have a combined, wonderful slightly stinky smell that is unique to kimchi. Below is the chart that I promised earlier -

How To Ripen Kimchi Properly

How To Ripen Kimchi Properly

*** CORRECTION : When slow fermenting your home made kimchi in the fridge, please leave your very freshly made kimchi outside at room temp for 1/2 day to overnight BEFORE putting it in and letting it ripen for 4-7 days.  A reader pointed it out to me – thank you MOMO!

So how long will Kimchi keep?

When stored at the ideal temperature that’s close to the freezing point of 32 F, kimchi will keep for 3 months or more. If the temperature of your fridge is higher (which is normally the case), it will probably keep for at least a month or more. Kimchi will start to taste just too sour when it starts to go bad at which point, the best way to eat them is by cooking them. Kimchi will go bad – it will have this whitish kind of film when it has been really too long and will also smell very pungently sour. You don’t want to eat it at this stage.

Kimchi Soondubu Jjigae (Spicy Soft Tofu Stew with Kimchi)

kimchi soondubu jjigae (kimchi soft tofu stew)

kimchi soondubu jjigae (kimchi soft tofu stew)

Kimchi Soondubu Jjigae is one of the variations of the spicy soft tofu stew  (순두부 찌게 Soondubu Jjigae) that I wrote about some time ago. I know that my original recipe may taste a bit bland to some people and if that’s the case for you, you really have to try this version with kimchi and beef. As with many things, adding kimchi makes the jjigae explode with flavors that are just beyond words. How anyone can live without kimchi, I’ll never know… :)

However, if you cannot get kimchi or feel that it is too strong, sauerkraut is a good substitute for kimchi. It does not have all the full complex flavors of the garlic and the fermented fish sauces but it does provide the sourness similar to that of kimchi. At one of our family reunions several years ago–we did not have access to a Korean grocery store– and my sis #3 made a pseudo kimchi jjigae by using sauerkraut, pork, garlic and tons of red chili pepper and it was actually really good.

I used the gochu yangnyum (chili sauce) that I already made before so it was really simple.  I have to confess that I still had the leftover yangnyum from the time I made it for my post in MAY! I thought it would have spoiled by now but surprisingly it was still good! Oh, how I love my sub-zero fridge…if it wasn’t for my sub-zero fridge, I’m quite sure the yangnyum would not be useable by now. A Sub-zero fridge really keeps everything fresh for a much longer period. Fruits and vegetables also don’t get shriveled up for at least a couple weeks -which I love.

Ingredients

  • 1 pack (11 oz) of extra soft tofu (순두부 Soondubu)
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1 T gochu yangnyum (chili sauce – see original soondubu jjigae post for recipe)
  • 2- 3 oz beef (stew meat) or pork(belly), cubed – optional
  • 4 oz kimchi (about 1/2 C), roughly chopped
  • 1 egg (optional)

Directions

Once you have the gochu yangnyum (chili sauce) already made, it really is very simple to make.

1. Measure about 1/2 C of well fermented kimchi (a handful) and chop it roughly into small pieces or slice into thin strips. It’s always best to use fully fermented, ripe kimchi when it’s used for cooking. When the kimchi is fully fermented, the smell is more pungent but the taste is smoother than when it’s freshly made. A ripe kimchi is slightly sour but has a zing to it that you just cannot taste in any other dish.  The sourness will increase as the fermentation process continues and it’s just a matter of personal taste how sour you want your kimchi to be.

2. Cut up beef or pork into small cubes. The amount of meat doesn’t have to be exact. Use either a similar amount or less of meat when compared to the amount of kimchi. In my opinion, pork goes better with kimchi. There is just something about pork that makes kimchi taste 10 times better. And so if you like pork, by all means use pork! I used beef here  because my hubby is allergic to pork…sigh..

3. Add the kimchi and the meat to your hot pot and cook over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes until meat is slightly cooked.

kimchi and beef cooking in hot pot

kimchi and beef cooking in hot pot

4. Add 1/2 C water and tofu. Break up the tofu into smaller pieces so the tofu gets seasoned evenly. Add 1 T gochu yangnyum and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary. When kimchi is added, you will most likely not need any additional soy sauce or salt or saewoojeot because kimchi is already quite salty.

If you like eggs, crack an egg and add it to the pot when you are ready to eat. You can break up the egg if you like or leave it whole. If you like it fully cooked, let it cook fully on the stove. If you like your eggs to be soft in the middle, take the jjigae off the heat as soon as you add the egg and let it cook slowly in the residual heat.

So that’s how you make kimchi soondubu jjigae! Serve it with some rice, some less spicy, savory jeons or meat dishes like bulgogi. Add a refreshing salad or fresh vegetable dish and it should be a very healthy and tummy warming meal.

spicy soft tofu stew with kimchi and beef

spicy soft tofu stew with kimchi and beef

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.

Mini beef patties and beef stuffed perilla leaves – Wanja Jeon (완자전) and Kkaetnip Jeon(깻잎전)

Korean beef patties (Wanja Jeon) and beef wrapped in kkaetnip (Kkaetnip Jeon)

Korean beef patties (Wanja Jeon) and beef wrapped in kkaetnip (Kkaetnip Jeon)

These jeons serve as a great side dish to any Korean meal with spicy soups or jjigaes. They are also great for lunchboxes because they keep well and taste good even when they are not warm. The only thing is that it takes a bit of effort and time to make it, and that’s why I don’t get to make it as often as I would like. But when you have children or friends to help you, it is an excellent way to get them involved and have a nice conversation as you make them.

“Jeon” is also sometimes called “Jeonyueo” and it refers to the technique of coating an ingredient (be it a meat or vegetable) with flour and egg and then pan frying it in oil. The most wonderful thing about a jeon is that you can make a jeon out of so many different ingredients. Because this method of cooking really helps to keep the ingredients moist and tender, and allows the flavor of the ingredients to speak for themselves since salt and pepper are usually the only seasonings added. I’ve already posted on how to make Hobahk(Zucchini) Jeon and you can use the same method but use other ingredients as listed below:

  • shrimp (Saewoo Jeon 새우전)
  • oyster (Gul Jeon 굴전)
  • cod (Daegoo Jeon 대구전)
  • frozen alaska pollock (Dongtae Jeon 동태전)
  • liver (Kan Jeon 간전) – calf liver or pig liver
  • scallop (Paejoo Jeon 패주전)
  • pork belly (Samgyupsal Jeon 삽겹살전)
  • eggplant (Gaji Jeon 가지전)
  • kimchi (Kimchi Jeon 김치전) – rinse the kimchi in water before coating with flour and egg
  • ground beef (Wanja Jeon 완자전) – need to season the ground beef mixture – shown in this post

And then there are other kinds of jeon that involve stuffing the ingredient with the ground beef mixture:

  • green chili pepper (Gochu Jeon 고추전) – all varieties of green chili can be used here
  • shitake mushroom (Beoseot Jeon 버섯전)

In this post, I will show how you can make the ground beef mixture for the beef patty jeon(wanja jeon) and also use the same mixture inside a perilla leaf wrap jeon (Kkaetnip Jeon).

 

Beef Wanja Jeon

Servings: 4                                      Cooking time: 20 min                               Prep Time:  20 min

Ingredients for beef patty or beef stuffing:

  1. 1/2 lb ground beef ( you can also use 1/4 lb ground beef + 1/4 lb ground pork)
  2. 4 oz extra firm tofu (this is about 1/4 of a standard 14 to 15 oz tofu package or 1/2 of the package shown below)trader joe's sroupted extra firm tofu
  3. 1/4 C onion, finely chopped
  4. 1 T green onion, finely chopped
  5. 1/2 tsp garlic, chopped
  6. 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  7. 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  8. 1 tsp cooking rice wine or mirin
  9. 1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  10. 2-3 tsp sesame oil
  11. 1/4 tsp salt
  12. 1/8 tsp black pepper
  13. 1/4 tsp sesame seeds, crushed

Directions

For making the beef wanja jeon, you will need the following to cook in the pan:

  • 1/4 C flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • dash of salt
  • oil for pan frying

1. Prepare the tofu by putting it in a cheese cloth and removing the excess water by wringing the liquid out of the tofu. This also breaks up the tofu into crumbles which will mix evenly with the ground meat.

extra firm tofu

extra firm tofu

tofu wrung in cheese cloth

tofu wrung in cheese cloth

2. Chop up the onions, green onions and garlic. Garlic shown in picture is frozen garlic made in advance.

chopped onions, green onions and garlic

chopped onions, green onions and garlic

3. Get all the beef stuffing ingredients and the seasonings into a bowl. This is all the 13 ingredients listed above!

Ground meat and seasonings

Ground meat and seasonings

Mix all the ingredients well with your hands until it looks something like this:

beef patty mixture

beef patty mixture

4. Make the patties by first taking some in your hand and rolling it into a ball. This is a good time to have a friend or your family help you make the patties while you get other things ready. It will make things go a lot faster!

beef rolled into a ball for wanjan jeon

beef rolled into a ball for wanjan jeon

Once they are rolled into balls, you can then squash them down between your hands to make into little mini patties as shown below:

beef patties ready for wanja jeon

beef patties ready for wanja jeon

5. Prepare a jeon station next to your stove by filling two shallow bowls – one with flour and the other with beaten eggs. Coat the beef patties in flour first. It is good to coat several patties at a time so that you can put the patties in the pan right after another. Otherwise, it just gets too crazy – coating, dunking and turning over – to do all at the same time.

beef patties in flour

beef patties in flour

beef patty in beaten egg

beef patty in beaten egg

Heat the pan on medium heat with about 2 T of oil. When the oil is hot, lower the heat to medium. Add the flour and egg coated patties into the pan. Cook until the patties are firm or springy when pressed – this means they are fully cooked.

Wanja jeon in frying pan

Wanja jeon in frying pan

Kkaetnip Jeon

To make Kkaetnip Jeon, make the beef mixture as above and then fill half of the perilla leaf with it and fold it over to make a folded sandwich.

filling kkaetnip with meat tofu mixture

filling kkaetnip with meat tofu mixture

Stuffed kkaetnip jeon

Stuffed kkaetnip jeon

The rest is the same as above. Coat with flour and egg and then pan fry it!

kkaetnip jeon in flour

kkaetnip jeon in flour

More about jeon…

Jeon was an indispensable part of the traditional Korean party(Janchi 잔치) menu (for birthdays, weddings and New Years) and also a part of food offerings in the ancestral ceremonies (Jesa 제사) performed on New Years, Thanksgiving and the ancestor’s birthday. As a child, I remember helping making jeon all day (sometimes even a day or two in advance) before a big party. Jeon is great for big parties because you can make it well in advance and it keeps well (especially in cool weather) and when the guests arrive, all you need to do is reheat it in a pan with a little oil and serve. I do have this thing about serving jeon as part of a big party menu though – because the jeons are usually pretty mild tasting, they are easily drowned out by other more stronger tasting dishes. I basically feel that the return on the investment of time is really not that great in these cases. I do love making and serving jeon as the main side dish of a simpler dinner menu with perhaps just a spicy soup or jjigae. In my opinion, you get to really appreciate the jeon much more this way which then makes all the extra work worthwhile.

  • You can also add finely chopped carrots to the beef mixture which is a great way to get kids to eat more vegetables.
  • Jeon is a great doshirak banchan (lunchbox side dish) since it still taste good at room temperature.

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Dried Pollock Soup – Bugeo Gook (북어국)

Bugeo Gook

Bugeo Gook

My daughter called me the other day and asked me to post my Bugeo (dried pollock) Gook recipe because she wanted to make some for herself in her dorm. This is always one of the first things she asks me to make when she comes home from college. This soup is also one of the easiest and quickest Korean soups to make and is very popular because of its soothing and tummy warming taste. When I write these posts, sometimes I really wish there were more English words that can accurately describe the various ways Koreans express taste and texture. Koreans often describe the taste of this soup as 시원하다 (she-won-hada) which, when literally translated, means “cool” or “refreshing”. How can a soup that is piping hot be “cooling?” But when Koreans eat a soup that somehow feels like it reaches all the way down to your stomach, leaving you a clearing feeling, we say it tastes 시원하다. I looked up the word in the dictionary and it listed the following words – cool, refreshing, reviving, invigorating, clean, clear.  And I would say it is the combination of all these words and more that expresses the true taste of the soup.

The quality of the bugeo makes a huge difference in the taste of this soup. We get our bugeo usually from Korea so I can’t tell you about any specific brand I buy here but my advice is to buy the ones that are not too dry and not too hard (when they are too dry, they become hard like rocks and taste like paper) Buy those that are still a little soft and moist. If you can taste one before you buy, that is the best. It should taste good just by itself. If it tastes kind of like nothing, then it is too old and too dry and lost its taste. The color is not all that important because it is hard to say which ones are better with just the color. Because HwangTae (yellow dried pollock) is popular and is also more expensive, some sellers actually color their dried pollock with food coloring.

OK, let’s get cooking…

 

Cooking Time: 20 min.                          Prep Time:   10 min.                               Servings:  2-3

Ingredients

  • 2 handfuls of Bugeo (dried pollock) strips or 1 whole Bugeo
  • 5 C anchovy stock
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 C sliced Korean radish (daikon radish is also OK) – optional
  • 1/4 onion, sliced
  • 2-3 green onions
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 T chopped garlic
  • salt and pepper

Directions

1. You can either use a whole Bugeo and cut it into 1 1/2 inch pieces or tear them into strips like the picture on the right.

whole bugeo (dried pollock)

whole bugeo (dried pollock)

dried pollock (bugeo) strips

dried pollock (bugeo) strips

Strips are easier to eat when cooked so I like using strips. You can sometimes buy bugeo strips in packages so you may want to buy them instead of going through the trouble of tearing them into pieces.

2. Prepare anchovy stock. See my tips page on how to make stock in advance.

anchovy stock

anchovy stock

3. Prepare the vegetables. Cut radish by first slicing a 1 inch thick round piece. Then cut it into halves and then into square pieces. Cut onions and green onions as shown below:

onion, radish and green onions for Bugeo Gook

onion, radish and green onions for Bugeo Gook

sliced onions, radish, green onions

sliced onions, radish, green onions

4. We are ready to start the soup! Turn the heat to medium high and add about 2 handfuls of bugeo strips (shown below):

bugeo (dried pollock) strips

bugeo (dried pollock) strips

5. When the soup starts to boil, lower the heat and add onions, radish and garlic. Stir and let it simmer for 15 minutes or so until the radish and onions are fully soft.

bugeo gook with radish and onions

bugeo gook with radish and onions

6. Add the green onions. After they have cooked for a couple minutes,  add the beaten egg to the soup. Season with about 1 tsp of salt, taste it and adjust to taste. Because the pollock is salty, you will not need a lot of salt. Sprinkle some black pepper.

7. Add the sesame oil and turn off the heat. Sesame oil loses a lot of the flavor and aroma when it’s cooked so remember to add it at the very end right before or after you turn off the heat.

bugeo gook with sesame oil

bugeo gook with sesame oil added

And there you go! Serve with some rice, kimchi and maybe some other side dishes and enjoy!

Some variations and tips -

  • add a dried red chili pepper or some red chili powder to spice things up
  • some people like to add tofu (1/2 C or so)  and/or soy bean sprouts (kongnamul 콩나물) to the soup to add extra flavor and texture
  • you can use water instead of stock if you don’t have anchovies
  • if you find that the soup doesn’t taste as good, chances are you haven’t put enough bugeo or garlic. Increase these amounts and most likely your soup will taste much better.
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