Tag Archives: korean home

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)

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!


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!

Korean Sauces I (For Dipping)

Soy Sauce w/ Vinegar (Chokanjang 초간장)

Soy Sauce w/ Vinegar (Chokanjang 초간장)

Just like many other cuisines, sauces play an important role in Korean cooking. The same kind of sauce is used in many different dishes so many Koreans can make these sauces with their eyes closed. When I was preparing to write about sauces I was hoping that there would be some well organized categorization of the Korean sauces much like the 5 mother sauces in French cooking. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any (or I simply may not have found it) so using my engineering sense, I am going to group the sauces into 5 groups. There are sauces for 1. Dipping and Mixing (Bibim), 2. Braising(Jorim) or Glazing (Jjim), 3. Tossing and Coating (Moochim or Namool), 4.Stir Frying (Bokkeum) and 5. Marinades for Grilling (Gui).

Let’s first start with Korean dipping sauces as shown below. These 3 sauces are probably the most used and also the most basic of all sauces. When foods are dipped into these sauces, the flavor really comes alive. And the great thing is that the seasoning level can be controlled by individuals who dip the food. Some people like to make a batch of these sauces and keep them in the fridge for easy use. But unless you are eating these all the time and/or have a big family, I don’t think you really need to.

Sauce #1 – Soy Sauce with Vinegar (Chokanjang 초간장)

  • 2 Tbs Soy Sauce (Jinkanjang 진간장)
  • 1 Tbs Vinegar (brown rice, rice wine are best or just use white)

Optional Extras

  • 1 Tbs water or anchovy stock (for a milder tasting sauce)
  • 1/8 tsp chopped pine nuts (for a richer tasting sauce)
  • dash of dried red pepper powder (gochookaroo 고추가루 for more zing)
  • dash of crushed roasted sesame seeds
  • 1/8 tsp sugar

*  When adding pine nuts, it is best to not add other extra ingredients because the other extras (except for sugar) will overpower the taste of the pine nuts.

Use as dipping sauce for: all kinds of Jeon (hobahkjeon,zucchini fritters, fish jeon, beef jeon..), Mandoo(dumplings), and Twigim (Yache Twigim)

gyeojakanjang (soy sauce with yellow mustard)

spicy soy sauce with yellow mustard(Gyeojakanjang 겨자간장)

#2 Sauce – Spicy Soy Sauce with Yellow Mustard(Gyeojakanjang 겨자간장)

  • 2 Tbs Soy Sauce (Jinkanjang 진간장)
  • 1 Tbs Vinegar (rice or white)
  • 1 Tbs Oriental Yellow Mustard (Gyeoja 겨자)

Optional Extras

  • 1 Tbs water or anchovy stock
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 green onion (chopped)

*  Making yellow mustard from powder : mix equal amount of yellow mustard powder and warm water. Cover the mustard mix with plastic wrap and keep it warm (in rice cooker or on top of a warm pot) for 15 min. You will notice that the hot spicy flavor and smell intensifies over time. Sometimes the yellow mustard can taste bitter – this is because the flavor has not developed properly (probably not the right temp or time). In this case, it’s just best to discard and make it again.

Use as dipping sauce for: Korean style sashimi (Hwe 회),  grilled fish or meats – the mustard is great in getting rid of any fishy or oily taste.

chogochoojang (sweet and sour red pepper paste)

sweet and sour red pepper paste (Chogochoojang 초고추장)

Sauce #3- Red pepper paste with Vinegar (Chogochoojang 초고추장)

  • 1 Tbs Korean red pepper paste
  • 1 Tbs vinegar (rice wine or white) or 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar

Optional extras:

  • 1 1/2 tsp honey/yuzu syrup/plum syrup(maesilchung)
  • dash of ginger powder or garlic powder
  • dash of black pepper
  • sesame seeds (1/4 tsp)
  • 1 tsp of cider or coke (to add extra zing right before serving)

Chogochoojang can be made in larger batches and stored in the refrigerator for several weeks or even longer. When making larger amounts, use a bit more vinegar or lemon juice to increase the storage life. Using lemon juice instead of vinegar will work better with fish dishes.

Use as dipping sauce for: boiled squid, raw seafood (oyster, abalone, sashimi, squid), boiled vegetables(green onions, broccoli)

With some modifications, it can also serve as the base for mixing sauce for Bibim Kooksoo (비빔국수) or Sashimi Rice (Hwe Deopbap 회덮밥).

Happy Dipping!

Soy maple glazed anchovies (멸치 볶음 Myulchi Bokkeum)

soy glazed anchovies with peppers

soy glazed anchovies with peppers

I am actually best known for my Myulchi Bokkeum among my friends and family. And it’s probably one of the dish I make the most. So I’m not sure why I haven’t posted this before…I guess I really didn’t think that it was anything special..but then recently eating at a restaurant, I realized how the taste can vary from the ones that are really bland,  to the ones that have the perfect balance of salty and sweet and then the ones that are just overloaded with spice and garlic – making it hard for you to really taste the anchovy at all.  Also in terms of texture,  it can be too wet and mushy or too hard and gummy – missing the perfectly chewy and crispy range in the middle. Of course, there is the wet version (Jorim)  which is supposed to be very soft but we are talking about the dry version here which is called bokkeum (볶음) and that is all about having the right amount of crispness without it being too hard.

Nutrition: Because you eat these anchovies whole including the bones, they are loaded in calcium. My husband says that this is how he was able to grow tall even though he hardly drank any milk while growing up. Myulchi is also a good source of DHA which is an important nutrient for the brain. So you can see that myulchi bokkeum is really one of the most nutritious lunchbox (doshirak) banchan you can make for your child. And most likely, your child will love the taste of it, so give this a try!

Print Recipe


Servings: 3-4                                       Cooking Time: 15 min                                     Difficulty: Easy


  • 1 C small dried anchovies for stir fry (볶음 bokkeum)
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1 pc of ginger slice (1/4 in thick)
  • 2 shishito/green chili peppers (optional)
  • for the glaze
    • 1 T soy sauce
    • 1 T sugar
    • 1 T sake or rice wine
    • 1 tsp water
    • sesame seeds
    • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp maple syrup or rice syrup or malt syrup
    • 1/4 tsp sesame oil


1. Try to buy good quality dried anchovies (마른 멸치 mareun myulchi). They should not be too dry (it should still be somewhat soft and not hard). If the anchovies are really dry it means it’s too old. The best way to judge the quality is to taste them – they should be still soft, chewy and taste not too salty but meaty and even a bit sweet. Here’s a pic of some good quality myulchi and their varying sizes. All these three sizes are good for making myulchi bokkeum.

different sizes of dried anchovies

different sizes of dried anchovies

Anything bigger, it is really not fit to be eaten whole since the innards taste quite bitter. Some people may even say that the bigger size at top left is too big. But if you take off the head along with the gut from the anchovy, you can enjoy a more meaty mulychi bokkeum. Below is a photo that shows how you can take out the gut and the head – hold the head with one hand and twist it off gently and most likely the gut will come off with the head.

gutted anchovies

gutted anchovy (top right)

2. Prepare the glaze –  in a bowl, add soy sauce, sugar, sake, water, and sesame seeds. Set aside. Cut shishito peppers into bite size pieces.

ingredients for myulchi bokkeum

ingredients for myulchi bokkeum

3. On medium high heat and brown ginger in oil (2 min or so) until brown. The essence of ginger will get infused into the oil which will take away any fishy smell from the anchovies.

ginger in oil

ginger in oil

myulchi saute

myulchi saute









4. Add dried anchovies and sliced peppers to the hot ginger oil and saute for 3-4 minutes until they are slightly browned. This step is very important. Make sure you saute enough until the anchovies are well browned before going to the next step.

5. Lower the heat and add the soy sauce glaze to the pan. Stir for about 2 min. until the anchovies are evenly glazed with the sauce.  Drizzle the maple syrup and stir for another 1 – 2 min until the anchovies are well coated and has a sheen to them. Turn off the heat. Finish the dish by drizzling some sesame oil.

myulchi bokkeum

myulchi bokkeum

Serving Suggestions

Myulchi Bokkeum is really one of the most basic banchan in a classic Korean meal. It is a great item in children’s lunchboxes and also in ssam (try this instead of pike mackerel or bulgogi in a ssam). Also great with various soups – both spicy and savory/mild flavors.


Most markets will store these in the fridge but it tastes best when it is kept at room temperature. It will stay fresh for days to even a week at room temperature due to its salt and sugar content.


Make a spicier version by reducing soy sauce to 1/2 T and adding 1/2 ~ 1 T gochujang. The recent trend is to add nuts such as walnuts, sliced almonds and peanuts when making myulchi bokkeum so it’s something worth trying if you like nuts.

Sweet and Spicy Pork BBQ (돼지 불고기 Dweji Bulgogi)

pork bulgogi

pork bulgogi

Spicy, savory, sweet, gingery and mouthwatering…That is the best way I can describe the taste of Pork Bulgogi. For some reason, we did not have this very often at home when I was growing up. The first time I tasted Dweji Bulgogi (돼지 불고기) was at my friend’s house when I was in 4th or 5th grade and I thought it was absolutely delicious. But it was also very very spicy! My friend’s mom cooked it right at the table on an electric grill for a group of us. It was really yummy but so spicy hot that I thought my lips and mouth were on fire! And yet, I simply could not stop eating it…The recipe here is the closest I could get to that taste except it is probably not as spicy – or maybe I am just better at eating spicy foods now. You are welcome to increase the amount of red chili powder or gochujang if you want to add more kick to it. I will leave that up to you.

You may notice that ginger is often used when Koreans cook pork. Ginger not only adds great flavor and gets rid of any “porky taste and smell” but is also known to neutralize the coldness of pork. In traditional Korean medicine, foods are divided into cold and warm foods. Pork is a cold food and ginger is a warm food. When used together ginger is said to help neutralize the coldness of the pork. I also know from experience that having a freshly brewed ginger tea really helps to calm my stomach down when I have a bad stomachache. I’m sure you have also heard about drinking ginger tea to help heal the common cold.  I have also read that Japanese serve ginger with sashimi to aid digestion and kill any bacteria that can be in the fish. There’s definitely something to ginger..

Print Recipe


Servings: 2-3                Time: prep 15 min+ cooking 10 min + marinating time                Difficulty: Easy


  • 1 lb thinly sliced pork neck butt/leg/shoulder
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 2 T Korean red pepper bean paste (고추장 gochujang)
  • 2 T cooking rice wine or mirin
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1 T sesame seeds
  • 1 T chopped garlic
  • 1 T grated or chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 T chopped green onions
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1~2 tsp Korean red chili powder (고추가루 gochukaroo)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper


1. Traditionally, thinly sliced pieces from the neck, shoulder or hind leg (ham area) are used for pork bulgogi. The cut I bought from my local market is from the neck (collar butt) and it’s called moksal (목살) in Korean.

pork neck butt slices for bulgogi

pork neck butt slices for bulgogi

pork bulgogi meat

pork bulgogi meat






2. Make the marinade by mixing all of the ingredients above.

marinage for pork bulgogi

marinade for pork bulgogi

3. Mix the pork slices and the sauce together and marinate for at least 15 min. or more the better. You can let it marinate in the fridge for up to a day.

pork marinade for bulgogi

pork marinating in spicy bulgogi sauce

4. The best way to cook pork bulgogi is to BBQ it over a grill. But it’s not easy to just directly cook them over the conventional American BBQ grill because the pieces can fall through. Koreans usually use a grill that have smaller openings like the one below:

korean grill over charcoal

korean grill over charcoal

If using a standard American style grill, you can put a piece of tin foil and poke holes into it with a fork so some direct heat can come through. Like so..

tin foil with holes for Korean BBQ

tin foil with holes for Korean BBQ

You can also use grill baskets made for grilling vegetables or fish instead.

The other method is to buy a portable gas stove and a grill pan similar to shown here.

Portable gas stove and Korean grill pan

Portable gas stove and Korean grill pan

There are also other types of grill pans that have holes in them for the meat to get direct heat and these work great for bulgogi.

For everyday easy cooking, just heat a frying pan on medium high heat. The pan should be hot enough for the pork to sizzle as soon as it touches it. Cook the pork in the pan turning them over when it starts to brown. The pan should be really hot. Do not cook too much pork at once because that can lower the temperature. You want to cook the pork quickly and have a nice sear to them. If you end up with too much juice, the heat is probably not high enough or you added too much meat into the pan.

As a garnish, sprinkle some sesame seeds and sliced green onions. (optional)

Serve pork bulgogi with some rice, fresh vegetable side dishes or with some ssam and ssamjang and you can have a really deliciously hearty, quick and easy meal. It’s also a great dish to have with any jjigae or soup.

pork bulgogi and rice

pork bulgogi and rice


  • storage –  freeze either cooked or uncooked pork bulgogi. cooked bulgogi actually keeps the flavor longer.
  • variations – add sliced onions, carrots and/or mushrooms for added flavor

Korean Glass Noodles (잡채 Japchae/Chopchae)

chop chae/jap chae(잡채) - Korean Glass Noodles

chopchae/japchae(잡채) – Korean Glass Noodles

If you have ever been to a Korean restaurant, chances are you probably have had chopchae/japchae(잡채), either as a menu item or as a side dish. And if side dish was the only way you had it – then I’m afraid you probably had a very poorly made chopchae. It sometimes makes me mad when I see restaurants serve this most delicious noodle dish as a side dish that’s missing most of its ingredients (98% noodles and then maybe some little specks of vegetables once in a blue moon and no evidence of beef anywhere). Either that or it’s been reheated so many times that it has just morphed into something else.

There’s also a phrase that always comes to mind when I think about chopchae: the ‘Execute Mr. Chae’ dish… So here’s the story. My father was a diplomat and he had a very good friend who was the US Ambassador to Korea in the early 80s. We had dinner together at a Korean restaurant in DC one time, and the ambassador said that he loved chopchae and wanted to order it. And then he said “Do you know how I memorized the name of this dish? It’s the “execute” = “chop” Mr. Chae dish!” I thought it was a bit bizarre but also hilarious and very ingenious of him…and so this phrase has always stuck with me ever since.

The recipe I introduce here is the way my mom used to make at home for the holidays and big parties. I believe it’s the way many moms of the past generation used to make it — in the old days when mothers spent many hours if not days cooking for big families and guests.  All the ingredients are sauteed separately and then mixed together at the end. Because this can be quite time-consuming, many recipes you see today may tell you to saute the ingredients altogether at the same time. This may be easier to make but it’s not the authentic way of making it. And in my opinion, it produces almost a different kind of dish-one that is more wet and with the vegetables that are kind of mushy.  The authentic recipe below takes a bit of work and that’s probably why it’s known to be a janchi eumshik(잔치음식) = party food. But I think it’s well worth the effort. One simply could not have a true janchi (party) without chopchae.



Servings: 6                     Prep Time: 30 min         Cooking Time: 30 min                  Difficulty: Medium


  • 4 T canola oil or vegetable oil
  • 5-6 oz beef stew meat, cut into thin strips
  • 1 large or 2 small carrot, julienned (approx 1 C)
  • 1 onion, sliced thin
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 10 oz Korean glass noodles/cellophane noodles (당면 Dangmyeon)
    • about 2/3 of a 500 g/17 oz package
  • 1 C fresh or 1/2 dried wood ear mushroom (목이버섯 mokibeoseot)
    • substitution/addition – dried shitake or oyster mushrooms

Beef marinade

  • 2 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 ~ 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp rice cooking wine
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (or 1/4 tsp fresh chopped garlic)

Seasoning for the Dangmyeon  (Glass Noodles) – for 8 C cooked

  • 4 T soy sauce
  • 2 T sugar
  • 3 T sesame oil


beef cut into strips for chop chae

beef cut into strips for chop chae

1. Cut beef into thin strips, against the grain. If you want an easy way out, you can also use bulgogi meat cut into smaller pieces.

2. Mix the beef marinade in a bowl big enough to hold the beef. Add the beef, massage it with your hands and let it sit for a few minutes while you prepare the vegetables. I used garlic powder here because the garlic flavor doesn’t need to be very strong in this dish but you can certainly use fresh garlic if you prefer.

3. Boil 8-10 C of water in a pot and cook the dangmyeon according to package instructions(e.g.6 min) or until the noodles become clear and is soft all the way to the center of the noodle. More water is better than too little since the glass noodles soak quite a bit of water.

4. Once the noodles are cooked, rinse in cold water and drain. While noodles are still warm, season them with soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil. Cut the noodles with scissors a few times so they are easier to eat. Coating the noodles with oil will keep the noodles from sticking together.

cooked glass noodles (dangmyeon)

cooked glass noodles (dangmyeon)

5.Wash the spinach. Boil another pot of salted water (6 C or so + 1 tsp salt) and quickly blanch them. Do not cook the spinach more than 1 minute. Spinach should be still a bit chewy and not too mushy. Shock the cooked spinach in cold or ice water to stop the cooking process.

Drain the water and squeeze out any excess water from the spinach by squeezing them gently in your hand.

washed spinach for chop chae

washed spinach for chop chae

Blanched spinach with water squeezed out

blanched spinach with water squeezed out








6.Season the blanched spinach with some salt (1 tsp) and sesame oil (1 tsp). Set aside.

7. If using dried mushrooms: soak them in some warm water for 10 min or so until they are fully hydrated.

8. Clean the fresh or rehydrated mushrooms by rubbing each mushroom under cold running water. Sometimes dirt/sand are buried in the mushroom (especially the part that’s a bit bumpy like a towel) so make sure all the dirt is washed off. You can also cut off the ends that has the dirt.

fresh wood ear mushrooms (목이버섯 mokibeoseot)

fresh wood ear mushrooms (목이버섯 mokibeoseot) – the white/yellowish part is the area that sometimes have dirt

Cut mushrooms into 1/3 to 1/2 in wide strips. If using shitake mushrooms, slice them into 1/4 in thick slices. Set aside.

9. Julienne carrots and onions and set aside.

raw onion and carrot slices for chop chae

raw onion and carrot slices for chopchae

10. Saute each of the ingredients separately and let them cool. You can save yourself the trouble of washing more pans by using one frying pan and sauteing ingredients one by one in the following order: onions -> carrots -> mushrooms -> beef. Just wipe off any excess oil and crumbs with a paper towel after cooking each ingredient and you should be good to go!

10.1  Add 1 T oil in frying pan on medium heat. Add onions and sprinkle a pinch of salt. Saute until onions become transparent but not brown.

10.2 Add 1 T oil in frying pan on medium heat. Add carrots and a pinch of salt. Saute carrots until they are soft and tender.

10.3 Add 1 T oil in frying pan on medium heat. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Saute for 3 mins or so and the mushrooms should be done.

10.4 Add 1/2 T oil in frying pan on medium-high heat. Saute the beef until they are fully cooked. If there are any extra juices in the pan, cook a little more until it’s evaporated.

11. Transfer each of the onions, carrots, mushrooms and beef to a plate and let them cool.

cooked mushrooms, carrots, onions, spinach and beef for chop chae

cooked mushrooms, carrots, onions, spinach and beef for chopchae

12. It’s time to put everything together! Add all the cooked vegetables and beef to the noodles and mix them altogether. Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds. Taste some noodles with the vegetables and the beef. Adjust the seasoning with more soy sauce and sugar as needed. Unless you like things less salty and sweet, it will taste better if you add more soy sauce, (2 tsp ~ 1 T),  sugar (2 tsp ~ 1 T)  and a dash of sesame oil and black pepper as the final finishing touch.

chop chae

chopchae is now done!

That’s it! Enjoy it with some rice and other main dishes. Because chopchae is very mildly flavored, it goes well with a lot of things but it goes particularly well with other party dishes like kalbijjim, ddukguk and mandoo (dumplings). Because this is a lot of work, when we make it for ourselves, we usually have this as our main dish with some rice and maybe some soup or jjigae.


  • What is Dangmyeon and what brand should I buy? Dangmyeon is a dried noodle made from 100% sweet potato so it’s a great gluten free food. It is quite chewy and is also low in calories (90 calories per 1 oz). I have not found a lot of difference between the brands so just buy a reputable brand and that should be fine.
  • How to serve, store and reheat chopchae- Chopchae is mostly served at room temperature. It can be served warm too.  Chopchae can be stored at cool room temperature for up to a day. But chopchae will spoil if left out longer than half a day in the summer. It can be stored in the fridge up to a few days. Best way to reheat is to heat in a non-stick frying pan over medium-low heat, stirring often.
  • Variations –  Pork or imitation crab meat can be used instead of beef. In addition, you can add sauteed green bell peppers (julienned), Chinese chives or even some green chili peppers. Eggs are also sometimes added on top as a garnish. If cooking all the ingredients separately is just too much work for you, you can choose to sautee all of the vegetables together and then the beef. And then mix with the noodles. You will just end up with a more soggy chopchae. Some people actually like it this way and this version works well when served on top of a bowl of rice which is called chap chae bap (잡채밥).

Know your beef cut!

I recently bought some brisket from an American grocery store. But when I brought it home and cooked it, it looked and tasted different from the Yangjimeori (양지머리 – also labeled “brisket”) that I usually buy from the Korean supermarket. And this is not the first time– it has happened to me many times before and always wondered why. I had a feeling that maybe the two cuts were not from the same part of the brisket. And so I started my quest for the truth..

I have researched for hours on end trying to figure out how Korean beef cuts and US beef cuts correspond to each other. OK, yes, they use quite different primal cuts (primal cuts are largest units of cuts that is further divided into individual retail cuts that are sold at stores) – and that’s fine. But what confused me terribly were the English cut terms used in Korean documents (I figured out eventually – after much frustration- that the terms used in Korea are mostly Australian and Canadian terms. Probably because US beef import was banned from 2003-2008 ). What was also frustrating was even within the US, the cut diagrams and names were not always the same.

Anyway, here is the diagram that I used for the US retail cuts:

retail beef chart

retail cuts 0f beef  (www.askthemeatman.com)

Did you know that the US cuts are usually around 22, French and English cuts are 35 and the Koreans cuts are a staggering 120? It’s partly because Koreans use just about every part of the cow – from head to tail – including almost every organ meat along with the brain. Before it was imported into Korea, beef was always very expensive and this is probably why every part of the cow was utilized in Korean cooking.

Americans love steak, therefore, many primal cuts of beef are cut into cross sectional thick pieces to produce all different tender cuts of the steak. After that, bigger chunks used whole as roasts (for BBQ) or cut into cubes for stews or kabobs. Finally, any miscellaneous, not-so-tender meats are usually gathered together to make ground beef.

Koreans love soups and grilled meats. So any tough meat–including tendons and bones–are boiled in soups (탕 tang) or cut into very thin slices against the grain (sometimes paper thin as in chadolbaeki/chadolbaegi (차돌백이) and grilled (usually unseasoned). More tender meats are sliced a little thicker and marinated to make bulgogi. The very tender meats are cut even thicker and grilled, unseasoned. Ribs are cut thin (as in LA Kalbi) or fanned out, marinated and grilled as Korean BBQ Kalbi or braised/boiled.

The table below lists the most widely used Korean cuts grouped under US primal cuts along with their corresponding US cuts. Chances are, you probably won’t need half of the cuts I listed here but I wanted to make the table somewhat complete – yeah, it’s an obsession I have…This list will definitely come in handy if you ever visit a legitimate Korean BBQ restaurant that serves a whole slew of different cuts of meat for grilling – each with a different texture and flavor.

In addition, I also discuss which beef cuts work best for of each method of Korean cooking.

Soups(국 Guk or 탕 Tang)

  • chuck meat (kkurisal 꾸리살, jaebichuri 재비추리) for stock, plain meat soup
  • ribs (kalbi 갈비) for Kalbitang(갈비탕)
  • brisket(yangjimeori 양지머리) for Yukejang(육계장), Jangjorim (장조림), Dduk Guk(떡국)
  • shank (sahtae 사태)
  • knuckle (doekanisal 도가니살) for Doekanitang (도가니탕)

Tip : start with cold water and meat, bring to boil and simmer until meat is very tender. Add onions, green onions for additional flavor.

Stew/Hotpot (찌게 Jjigae/전골 Jeongol)

  • neck meat(mokshim 목심)
  • brisket(yangjimeori 양지머리)
  • foreshank(apsahtae 앞사태)

Tip: Usually cut into small thin bite size pieces. Always cut against the grain.

Grilling (구이 Gui)

grill recommended:

  • tenderloin(ahnshim 안심)
  • rib eye(deungshim등심)
  • strip loin(chaekkeut 채끝)
  • outside skirt(ahnchangsal 안창살)
  • under blade steak/roast(salchisal 살치살)
  • brisket(chadobaekgi 차돌백이)

grill and marinated bulgogi recommended:

  • neck meat (mokshim 목심)
  • boneless top, bottom round(wudun 우둔, seolkisal 설기살)
  • chuck tender (kurisal 꾸리살)
  • blade steak (buchaesal 부채살)

Tip: The more tender meats are sliced and then grilled, unseasoned. The more tougher meats are best marinated and grilled as bulgogi.

Braised (Jjim 찜, Jorim 조림)

  • short ribs (kalbi 갈비)
  • shank (sahtae 사태)
  • boneless top, bottom round(wudun 우둔, seolkisal 설기살)

Tip: Meats are  first cooked slightly and then well seasoned, simmered in sauce until reduced, for a long time making the meat fully tender.

Boiled Meat (Suyuk 수육, Pyeonyuk 편육)

  • brisket (yangjimeori 양지머리)
  • shank (sahtae 사태)

Tip: To keep the flavor within the meat, cook in boiling water. Use any or all of green onion roots, peppercorns, garlic, onion and rice wine for smoother taste. Slice against grain – see my Gogiguk post. BTW,  suyuk is meat that is simply boiled and served in slices and Pyeonyuk is suyuk with fat and water squeezed out by further pressing with heavy weights to wring out any fat or water from the cooked meat.

Steak tartar (Yukhwe 육회)

  • shank (sahtae 사태)
  • flank steak (chimasal 치마살)
  • chuck tender (kkurisal 꾸리살)
  • boneless top, bottom round(wudun 우둔)

Jerkey (Yukpo 육포)

  • boneless top, bottom round(wudun 우둔)
  • eye of round (hongdukkaesal 홍두깨살)
Chuck Deungshim (등심) Chuck+rib eye roll
  Mokshim (목심) Neck meat
  Jaebichuri (제비추리) Neck chain
  Kkurisal (꾸리살) Chuck tender/mock tender
  Buchaesal (부채살) Blade roast/steak or Flat Iron Steak
  Salchisal (살치살) Under blade pot roast/chuck flap
  Kalbi (갈비) Short ribs: #1-#5
Rib Kkotdeunshim (꽃등심) Rib eye roast/steak
  Kkotkalbi (꽃갈비) Ribs: #6-#8
  Deung(cham)kalbi (등(참) 갈비) Back ribs: #9-#13
Short Loin  Chaekkeut (채끝) Top loin, strip loin
   Ahnshim (안심) Tenderloin
Sirloin  Boseopsal (보섭살) Top sirloin (rump/butt)
   Samgaksal (삼각살) Tri tip
Brisket  Yangjimeori (양지머리) Brisket (flat cut/flat half/first cut)
   Chadolbaegi (차돌박이) Brisket (point cut/point half/second cut)
Plate  Upjinsal (업진살) Short plate/skirt  steak
   Upjinahnsal (업진안살) Inside skirt
   Ahnchangsal (안창살) Outside skirt
Flank  Chimahsal (치마살) Flank steak
Shank  Sahtae (사태) Shank
   Apsahtae (앞사태) Foreshank
   Dwitsahtae (뒷사태) Hindshank
   Ahrongsaetae (아롱사태) Digital muscle
Round  Wudun (우둔) Boneless rump roast, top round
   Hongdukkaesal (홍두깨살) Eye of round
   Seolkisal (설기살) Bottom round
 Doekanisal(도가니살) Meat that surrounds the upper hind leg bone AKA knuckle




Whew..I almost gave up on this one…Writing this post was even more exhausting than my kimchi post. Hopefully, it’s helpful. Also, the list does not include any of the misc parts such as head, tongue, feet, tail, stomach and other organs because that’s a whole different post.

Well.. now you know!

Hearty Beef Soup (고깃국 Gogiguk/Kokiguk)

Hearty Beef Soup (고기국 Gogiguk/Kokikuk)

Hearty Beef Soup (고깃국 Gogiguk/Kokikuk)

This Korean Gogiguk (고깃국) or Beef Soup/Broth is probably one of the simplest soups to make ever. It is also one of the most important to learn because it can be the foundatio for many other Korean soups such as Mandooguk (만두국), Yukgyejang(육계장), Mooguk (무우국)…etc.  But you may be surprised how wonderful it tastes- just by itself. I have previously mentioned making beef stock in my Dduk Guk w/ beef and dumplings post, but this deliciously clean yet hearty beef soup deserved a post all on its own. Also, the way how you finish the soup is different when you are serving it as a soup so here we go!

A little background on how this soup became my go-to soup to make when you don’t really feel like cooking a lot but do have some time to spare.

Korean food can be divided into Northern style and Southern style much like most cuisines based on the regions. After Korea was divided into North and South Korea in 1945, many North Koreans fled to Seoul and further south to escape the communist rule of North Korea. Because my parents are originally from North Korea (they fled to South during the Korean war too), the style of Korean food I grew up with was Northern. This style has been and still is my favorite, of course. North Korean foods are usually less spicy, less salty and more hearty than the Southern style, usually cooking with a lot of meat and their fat. Naturally, North Koreans needed more fat and less salt to survive their very cold winters. One can divide South Korean food  even further into different regions within South Korea but for now I’ll just group them altogether. South Korean food is spicier, saltier and usually lighter in taste. The saltiness and spiciness get stronger as you go down further south.

My husband’s family is originally from the South (my mother-in-law is from Seoul, so I got to taste the best of both worlds. This type of beef soup made from a leaner meat like brisket or shank must be more of a Southern style cause I just don’t remember eating this soup while growing up. Our family’s favorite soup was Kalbitang (갈비탕) which is essentially soup made from boiling short ribs – a lot richer soup even after skimming off the extra fat from the top. When I got married, my husband kept asking me to make this Gogiguk which I really did not know about and had to learn from my mother-in-law. This soup may not be as rich as Kalbitang but it is certainly flavorful enough and easy enough to make.

Once you learn how to make this Gogiguk, it’s quite simple but there are few tips that can make all the difference in the flavor. Here are some of them-

1. WATER: Using the right amount of water is important. Too much water and the soup will taste watery. Err on the side of using more meat and/or less water, you can always dilute it if it becomes too concentrated.

2. MEAT: Korean cuts of beef and US cuts are different so it’s hard to match up exactly but the best cuts for this soup are brisket, flank or shank. Find one that has some amount of marbling because if you use cuts that are too lean, they stay tough longer and is not as tasty when you eat it.

3. Do not add salt until the meat is fully cooked. Adding salt earlier will not allow all the flavors from the meat to be drawn out into the broth.

4. Do not add cold water to a hot soup/stock. If you need to add additional water to your soup during the cooking process, add hot water. Adding cold water will clear up the soup and will decrease the flavor.


Servings: 3-4                                    Cooking Time: 1 hr 15 min                               Difficulty: Easy


  • 1 lb beef brisket
  • 10 C water
  • 1 onion
  • 3 green onions (2 whole, 1 sliced)
  • Sea Salt
  • Fresh Cracked Pepper


1. Trim off any fat off the brisket. Soak it in cold water for 10-15 min. to draw out any blood in the meat.

2. Peel the onion and clean the green onion and cut off the root ends.

3. Bring a pot of cold water + meat+onions to a boil on medium high heat. Do not cover.

Pot with water, brisket, onion, green onions

Pot with water, brisket, onion, green onions

brisket boiling in water for Gogiguk

brisket boiling in water for Gogiguk

When it starts to boil, you will see some brownish foam appear on the surface. Skim off the foam as they are just impurities from the meat and will cloud up the soup.

4. Reduce the heat to low and let the soup simmer for 1 hour.

Fully cooked Gogiguk (Korean beef soup)

Fully cooked Gogiguk (Korean beef soup)

This is how the soup should look like when it is fully done. Season with some salt but allow each person to finish the seasoning on their own with additional salt and fresh cracked pepper.

Test the tenderness of the meat by piercing it with a fork or a sharp point of a knife. If it goes in easily without much resistance and also if there’s no blood coming out, the meat is ready to be taken out. Let the meat rest on the cutting board for couple minutes before slicing.

Fully cooked brisket

Fully cooked brisket

Cut the meat against the grain, cover and set it aside.

Cooked brisket slices for Korean Beef Soup(gogiguk)

Cooked brisket slices for Korean Beef Soup(gogiguk)

Serve some of the meat slices by itself with some soy sauce and vinegar. This is called Sogoki Sooyuk (소고기 수육) and is often served separately with the soup.

5. Lightly season the soup by adding some good quality sea salt. Start with 1-2 tsp, stir it well then taste and adjust. It is best to let each person finish the seasoning with some salt and pepper to their taste.

Serve the soup by adding few pieces of the sooyuk and some freshly cut green onions. I love just adding rice into the soup and eating it together with some kimchi or other side dishes. This rice and soup really enhances the taste of kimchi or any other Korean side dishes (especially more salty, spicy or sweet ones) because it serves as a great backdrop for them. Bon Appetit!

Sweet and salty lotus roots (연근조림 Yeonkeun Jorim)

sweet and salty braised lotus roots

sweet and salty braised lotus roots

So what do these braised lotus roots (연근조림 Yeongeun/Yeongn/Yeonkeun Jorim) remind me of? It totally brings back fond memories from my high school days, eating lunch boxes with my friends, sharing our banchan (반찬 – side dish) together. And this was certainly one of my top favorites to have in the lunch box. It is also a commonly served side dish at many Korean restaurants. But most often than not, the  lotus roots jorim at restaurants are either too salty, not sweet enough or too sweet and the texture is usually very gummy. They taste best when they are slightly crunchy, salty and sweet, all at the same time.

Lotus roots are also well known for its health benefits. First of all, it’s very low calorie (3.5 oz is only 70 calories). It is a great source of fiber and vitamin C. It also has good amounts of vitamin B complex and even minerals like copper, zinc, magnesium and manganese.

This recipe was requested by my niece MJ – to whom I owe many thanks for all her wonderful feedback on my blog throughout this year.


Servings: 6                                  Cooking Time: 30 min                                            Difficulty: Easy


1 package of lotus roots is about 4 C in volume

1 package of lotus roots is about 4 C in volume

  • one 16 oz pkg
  • blanched lotus roots (about 4 C)
  • 1 T + 1tsp vegetable oil
  • 4 T + 2tsp soy sauce
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1 T + 1tsp cooking rice wine (sake is good)
  • 1 T rice malt syrup
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 3/4 C + 1 tsp water
  • pinch of sesame seeds as garnish


1. I could not find any fresh lotus roots at my store so I bought this packaged lotus root that comes already blanched. If you can buy fresh lotus roots, that’s probably better but I think this is just as good. For fresh lotus roots, just wash, peel, slice them into 1/4 inch thickness and then blanch them in boiling vinegar water (1 T vinegar to 4-5 C water).

package of blanched lotus roots

16 0z package of blanched lotus roots














The packaged lotus roots already come in vinegar water so make sure you drain it, rinse it a couple times and then dry off any excess water by placing them on sheets of paper towel.


rinsed lotus roots

rinsed lotus roots (yes, that’s my dog on the right) – I put my bowl on the floor for better lighting and when I took the picture, she was already in it!


wipe water off of lotus roots on paper towel

2. On medium high heat, add the 1 T+ 1tsp of oil in a pot and lightly saute the lotus roots for 5 min.

3. Make the sauce by mixing the soy sauce, sugar, cooking wine, water and malt syrup. Add the sauce to the pot and bring to a boil on medium high heat.

Add sauce to lotus roots

Add sauce to lotus roots

4. Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat, cover with a lid and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Stir the lotus root slices every few minutes to make sure they get evenly coated with the sauce. It should look something like this..

lotus roots simmering in sauce

lotus roots simmering in sauce

5. For the final step, take off the lid and add 2 T maple syrup. Let the sauce reduce further (so that it barely covers the bottom of the pot) in low heat for 5-7 minutes. This will add a nice glaze to the jorim. Stir the lotus roots often to glaze them evenly.

yeongeun (lotus roots) jorim is now done

yeongeun (lotus roots) jorim is now done

And there it is! Sprinkle some roasted sesame seeds on top. These lotus roots will be just sweet and salty enough to make a great side dish to any Korean meal. If the lotus roots comes out chewy or gummy, you probably cooked it too long.


You can keep yeonkeun jorim in the fridge for several days up to a week. Reheating is not necessary. They taste great at room temperature.


Having made this dish, I was inspired to make a lunchbox from the yeonkeun jorim and other leftover banchan I had in the fridge. On the right half – I found some leftover egg garnishes from a dduk gook we had couple days ago, some sauteed aster caber (취나물 chwinamul) and dried radish (무우말랭이 moo malengi). Because this lunchbox has only one partition, I created my own partitions by molding some tin foil into little square boxes. This is how moms used to separate banchan in their children’s lunchboxes in Korea. Otherwise, it can become one big bibimbab by the time you get to school! On the left half – I put some rice with wild grains and some leftover chicken cutlet w/ tonaktsu sauce on top. All of these can be eaten at room temperature so no need to heat anything. The combination of the savory, salty, sweet and a touch of spiciness really made this lunchbox simply divine!

Korean lunchbox (rice, chicken cutlet, chwinamul, lotus roots, egg, moo malengi)

Korean lunchbox (rice, chicken cutlet, chwinamul, lotus roots, egg, moo malengi)

perfectly glazed yeongeun jorim

perfectly glazed yeonkeun jorim

Spicy soy braised pork ribs (돼지갈비 조림 Dweji Kalbi Jorim)

Spicy braised pork ribs (돼지갈비 조림 Dweji Kalbi Jorim)

Spicy braised pork ribs (돼지갈비 조림 Dweji Kalbi Jorim)

This is Korean braised pork ribs cooked my family style – quite salty and spicy and not at all sweet. Eating this dish always brings back my childhood memories – my absolute favorite but it also was a bit of a torture eating these because they were so spicy. It could be that I simply couldn’t handle the heat but I really think the Korean chili peppers were a lot spicier than the ones I get today in California. After eating about two ribs, my lips would start to hurt and then would start throbbing because it was so spicy and salty. Towards the end of the meal, my lips were basically numb. But I couldn’t stop eating…it was just too good…. my mouth is watering now just thinking about it! Unfortunately, I never learned how to make this dish before I left home. But kudos to my sis #2 for making this for me and giving me the recipe.

I don’t think I ever saw this dish served at a restaurant anywhere and I thought it was just one of those Korean foods that are made at home and not at restaurants. But when I searched on the Korean internet for Dweji Kalbi Jorim (braised pork ribs) recipes, I was surprised to find that there were no recipes similar to ours. Our ribs have no sweetness at all whereas all of the recipes I saw had some sugar and cooking wine which means there is added sweetness. They also usually have garlic which I don’t find necessary. In terms of ingredients, this recipe has very few – only 5 not including water. So this would be a great recipe for students or singles who really don’t (or even want to) have an extensive pantry of seasonings and ingredients.


Servings: 4                        Time: prep 5-10 min + cooking 1 hr 15 min                       Difficulty: Easy


  1. 2 lb pork spare ribs
  2. 3/4 C + 2 T regular soy sauce (Kikkoman)
  3. 1 oz ginger (about 4 slices, each 1/4 in thick)
  4. 8 Korean green chili peppers (풋고추 putgochu) – use less if using spicier pepper
  5. 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  6. 2 3/4 C water
  7. 1/8 ~ 1/4 tsp ginger powder (optional)


The pork ribs I used in this post was bought at Whole Foods Market (because they had a great sale!) but you can use your favorite ribs from your local store.

pork ribs on sale

Whole Food’s pork spare ribs, St Louis style 

These St Louis style (breast bone removed) spare ribs didn’t have too much fat and was not too big – perfect for our jorim.

sliced into individual ribs

sliced into individual ribs

1. Slice the ribs into individual pieces and soak them in cold water for 5-10 minutes to draw out the blood.

2. Prepare the ginger by peeling and cutting 4 to 5 of 1/4 inch thick slices.

3. Cut the Korean green chili peppers into half or thirds (approx 1 1/2 inch long pieces).

cut Korean green chili peppers (풋고추 putgochu)

cut Korean green chili peppers (풋고추 putgochu)

I like to use Korean peppers because of their sweetness and milder taste. If these are not available to you, you can substitute Jalapeno peppers. Since Jalapeno peppers are considerably hotter than the Korean peppers, the amount should be reduced to 3-4 peppers depending on how spicy you want it.

3. In a pot, add the pork, water, soy sauce, ginger and black pepper. And optionally add the ginger powder.

ribs with soy sauce, ginger, water and pepper

ribs with soy sauce, ginger, water and pepper

  • Bring it to a boil on medium high heat.
  • Lower heat to medium, cook for 10 min.

4. Add about half of the chili peppers.

  • Lower heat to medium low and simmer for 25 min.
  • Taste a little of the sauce to make sure it’s not too spicy for you. If it’s ok, add the remaining chili peppers and simmer for another 20 min. The sauce should taste really salty – the meat will taste much less saltier so don’t worry.
pork ribs braised in soy sauce and green chili pepers

pork ribs braised in soy sauce and green chili peppers

This picture was taken when it was about half way done. Right after I added the rest of the peppers. And now you are ready to enjoy this wonderfully spicy, salty but the most mouth watering pork ribs you will ever have! Sprinkle some fresh green peppers on top to add some color.

Some tips

  • Because pork ribs have a lot of fat, you will see a lot of fat on top of the pot when it’s fully cooked. You can skim off the fat with a spoon if you are going to eat it right away. If you have some time, let it cool in a pot overnight or in the fridge and you will see the fat solids form on top. This is much easier to take out. But don’t take out all the fat – you need some for it to taste good.

    cooled pork ribs with fat solids on top

    cooled pork ribs with fat solids on top

  • This dish is quite salty so you definitely need some rice to help you out. Serve a sweet and tangy salad or a creamy potato salad with this dish (and of course, kimchi) and you will be in heaven!
  • The ribs will actually taste better when you reheat them the next day or the day after. Remember to add a bit more water every time you reheat.
Spicy braised pork ribs (돼지갈비 조림 Dweji Kalbi Jorim)

Spicy braised pork ribs (돼지갈비 조림 Dweji Kalbi Jorim) with green chili peppers


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