Sunday, December 30, 2007

Entertaining Friends, Korean Style

I remember my mother and aunties laboring over food preparation whenever we have family gathering. It was fun for me. They made it something enjoyable, a lot of laughter, greetings, and many other fun. But now I know enough it was not always the case; it is hard, bone-braking work, which they themselves seldom present at the table. I don’t like this. Who would?
Even though I enjoy challenges in cooking, I also love very easy recipes. At the end, it is all about seeing the faces of loved ones brighten up and their eyes widen with joy and excitement.

I prepared vegetarian dinner for my friends. Small dinner gathering is something I really enjoys. It was quite cold winter night, so I try to come up with something that worms up. Being said that, what is better than soup?

First course was Hobakjuk, traditional pumpkin porridge, served as the soup course. It is very simple and straight forward. There is nothing complicated about it. Kidney bean is boiled in water with little bit of brown sugar. Pumpkin is pureed smoothly. Sweet rice powder gives silky texture. Hobak means pumpkin. It is also slang for not-so-nice looking face. If you call a Korean girl Hobak, you may make a enemy of life. I have often called and been called at this when I was young.
But I like this vegetable. Bright orange color and delicious both in savory and in sweet, it has such a wide range of usage.
I used to play with big orange colored blossom of Korean pumpkin and dark green leaf from the garden. It made excellent cup and plate for child’s play. I used to eat the leaves of this plant. Steamed and wrapped the cooked rice, it makes nice summer dish. It was nice surprise when I discovered that the flower also makes nice dish.

Second course was Savoy cabbage roll with spicy relish. I put barley and mung bean sprout inside of cabbage. Cooked barley is summer dish. Barley grows during the bitter winter of Korea and is harvested early summer. It was the staple for the poor people otherwise starved till the new rice harvest after they run out of the rice. Now, it is eaten as cool summer treat. Steamed barley wrapped in various leafy vegetables such as red lettuce or pumpkin leaves and put spicy bean paste and a bite of fresh green chili is the taste of summer for me. Here I served it with spicy relish which I also use to season Kimchi with. The relish is made with Korean pear, green apple, daikan radish, garlic and ginger seasoned with Korean chili powder.

Main course was steamed rice with green peas served with Korean eggplant and wild mushroom with soy sauce. Korean main course usually involves steamed rice and some side dishes, which usually served all together. Meal served in course is something new concept in Korean meal.
I adopted this recipe from one of my favorite cookbook from Korea. The author used beef and daikan sprout, but I substitute it with Poy-go (Shiitake) and Pang-ee (enoki).

Preparing this meal was quite nice for me. Many thing can be done ahead of time which helpd you to be calm during the day of the dinner: cabbage role and the porridge can be prepared in advance. Cooking always gives me Gen-like experience. It is also an aroma therapy: when onion, garlic and ginger hits hot sesame oil, the aroma is incredible. When my friend arrived, they found my house filed with welcoming smell of food. At the end, the plates were emptied, stomachs were full and smiles were on the faces. What makes the dinner truly wonderful is having a good time.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Wrong in so many ways - so called 'international' cookbook

Today, I was fed up with my dissertation work and in need of distraction. Food being one of my favorites which haven't made me board yet -thank God-, I went down to book store and looked into few cookbooks.

Few hours later, I am absolutely convinced that I will never ever trust the cookbooks bare name 'international' in terms of authenticity. Recipe may be good. But the explanation is often wrong. It may be better with other foods. But sadly, Korea being the least known country among Asian, it is often insufficient and incorrect.

One author said one radish from Korea can be substituted by daikan, the skinny long white radish widely used in Korea, China, and Japan. It is often true since the small white Korea radish is very hard to find in U.S. However, the recipe the author was describing becomes completely different dish if the kind of radish is substitute. It even has own name which I guess the author has never known or -even worse- couldn’t care less.

I am not expecting every body would have same enthusiasm about food like I do. However, at least you write a cookbook, it is fair to say the author should –or would be better to -pay attention what he or she is talking about.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving, Korean style - "Han-ga-wi"

Like as many other agrarian culture, Koreans celebrates the new harvest. Hangawi, Korean Thanksgiving -AKA Chuseok - is on Aug 15th by Korean lunar calendar. This is few days in Korea that pople make massive exodus to their hometown. This year I went back to Korea, and cook with my mother for the table of ancestry ceremony called 'Cha-rye'.

Chuseok is the day we remember the dead. Cha-rye is a big feast for ancestors. This is the opening of the holiday. It calls for some unusual way of cooking and display of the food. For instance, red colored food is located on east while the white is located on the west. Few very ceremonial foods such as dried whole cod also appear. Steamed rice on the table is made out of new grain to celebrate the season. As my grandmother used to do it, my mother prepared extra bowl of rice for those one who have no one to remember them.

After the ceremony at home, we also visit the grave of ancestors. Christians usually attend service instead of Charye or after the Charye. I went to mass with my mother.

The best known food of Hangawi is Songpyeon; a crescent-shaped rice dumpling stuffed with toasted sesame or sweetened beans and steamed on the pine needles. Gotgam -a dried persimmon- and Sikhye - a sweet fermented rice and ginger drink - is also special treat for this season.

Sikhye & Songpyeon cooked and photographed by Namoole,

During the evening, people gather nearby hill tops to greet the full moon and make a wish upon it. I did it with my friend this year back in Korea. Full bright moon lights up the town with such a joy was really good thing to see, in deed!

Friday, August 10, 2007

My kind of fast food - Dubukimchi (Tofu & Kimchi)

Hot long summer day does not just drag its legs, it drains my energy, too.
And there goes my desire to eat leaving screaming stomach behind.

I crave something quick and easy; this is good time to have somebody cooking for you but I am alone. Besides, that someone would have gone through same day with me.

Heat up sliced firm-tofu in microwave for 1 or 2 min. Add cut kimchi. Now you have my kind of fast food, Dobukimchi.

Dobu is comforting temperture and crisp cool Kimchi gives salty spicy bite. All the desire of life comes back.
Also it is guilty free since the half package of firm dobu and kimchi would not exceed 400Kcal.

...Well, it will be different story if you stir-fry Kimchi with pork and eat it with a cold beer. Almost all beer place in Korea have this manu.

Even forget about guilt-free part, it tastes so simple and good.

Speaking of guilt, have you watched Korean movie, Lady Vengence? There are two scens that features dubu; one with real dubu, and the other with dubu-shaped cake.
I don't know when it has begun, but in Korea, after realising from the prison, one eat plan dubu. Friends and family (if any one left to wait the prisoner outside) will bring a hunk of dubu. The white color of dubu simbolize furification, forgiveness, and new begining.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Do not let your eyes deceive you; the art of green chili

As Korean, my color conception tells me any red food would be hot. It is mostly true for Korean food. Tomato is not introduced till very recently and the only red seasoning in traditional Korean food was red chili. Red food, therefore, is usually hot unless it is dessert.

But, not all spicy food is red.

One day, I have overheard one very misleading advice how to avoid spicy food in Korea.

“Avoid color red, and you will be safe.”

Sorry, that is absolutely not true.
Despite its relatively short history in Korea – chili is introduced about 300 years ago – I don't think any Korean can imagine Korean food without chili.

Koreans love chili in general even though I know many Koreans who do not care much for spicy food including myself. But, now and then, I crave for clean sharp taste of green chili to wake up my sense. We even eat one of the most spicy chili with chili paste on top.
We put chili in our Kimchi, Ghuk, Jjigea, and every food imaginable; powdered, fermented in paste, mix with oil, pickled, stuffed or even row, chili has very important role in Korean cuisine.

Unfortunately for many people who don’t like spicy food, Koreans even invented ways to snick fiery taste into food without the color or appearance.

We just have to have it.

Adding one or two spited green chili into the broth add taste of chili. By doing this, the sharp but not over-dominating taste of chili is added. By no means will it be subtle, however.

Look at this Kongnamool Ghuk (Soybean sprout soup), for instance.

Doesn't it look benign? Clean broth and gentle soy bean sprout soup, huh? Can you sense the danger? The broth is little bit spicy -for me, and probably spicy enough to kill few of my friends- since I put green chili and take out before serving.

This is one more example; Doenjangjjigea (Korean bean paste pot stew) . In the name, you don't see any thing about chili. I put chili on top of tofu as garnish here, but often the chili is removed before serving. So, don’t let your eyes deceive you. You will get much more than you see.

The best way to avoid spicy food in Korea is asking one who prepares food to cook without green chili or chili powder. Emphasise "zero" chili; as you might have guessed, unless you are from Latin America or India, Koreans probably have higher threshold for what is 'hot'.

Even though I scare you to death, Korean food is NOT all about spiciness.

The most misleading perception (but most popular impression) of Korean food is all of it is spicy and hot, bombarded with garlic.

Simply omitting green chili from recipe, you can enjoy not so spicy Korean food which is often done in many homes in Korea. You can avoid garlic, too. A lot of restaurant which specialise in Buddhist temple cuisine in Korea serves mild but full flavored food without the bite of garlic.


I have told you stories about this flat fried pancakes called joen. Here is my favorite.

It can not be simpler than this; the tased of soft dobu, egg, and green onion.

Good comfort food it is.

I don't like to use flour in this recipe, even though you certainly can. In my opinion, flour add tough texture which ruins the delicate taste this joen can offer. So, please do resist the temptation of flour.
It may be harder to make without flour, but your patience and anticipation will be fully rewarded when you feel the light fluffy texture!


Firm tofu 1/2 package, one large egg, green onion finely chopped 1 T, pinch of salt & black pepper, vegetable oil 1 T

Sauce: soy sauce 1 T, rice vinegar 1 T, spicy green chili finely chopped 1/2 t (optional)

1. Crush tofu as well as you can.
2. Beat egg, and add it to crushed tofu. Add green onion, salt and pepper, mix well.
3. On skillet heat oil on medium heat. Add one table spoonful of tofu mixture and flatten it little bit. Leave enough space in between them. Wait for 3-4 minutes or till the bottom is harden enough to flip before flipping.
4. Drain the excess oil well on the paper towel and serve hot with deeping sauce

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Cool & Hot, balance of yin and yang - Oisobaghi

As a cook either home cook or a professional, one probably has food trauma (or even karma); one, two or even few more dishes that never come out well. One of my food trauma is this one; Oisobaghi, stuffed cucumber kimchi. Cucumber look very different depending on where you are. On top of your head-if you are food lover- you can come up with at least three different types of cucumber. Each has unique texture and usage. Some have very thick waxy skin while others have very thin. One type develops a lot of seeds while the other type doesn’t have seed in them.

I just can not find the right cucumber to make this dish till very recently.
I could have used Korean cucumber (AKA Japanese or Chinese cucumber, as many of the common food items are known in U.S.). But it is very hard to find and very expensive. Hey, I am very poor graduate student who lives on tight budget. I have looked around and tried each cucumber I come across. Ordinary cucumber is out of question, first. The crunch texture of thin cucumber skin is essential; the cucumber must hold shape after curing. Skinless cucumber just doew not work for this. English cucumber has too much water and it doesn’t ferment very well. Finally, I come across little baby cucumbers as summer seasonal food in the market. It look exactly same with the cucumber I know from Korea but just in smaller size.
I bought them with a beating heart; my expectation was getting high each minute. I couldn’t wait to get home and to get into cooking. And, as I expected, it was success at last!!!

Cucumber is cool. Seasoning of Korean red chillie powder, ginger and garlic add fire. First the tung feels burns but the cooling taste of cucumber comes.
Perfect balance of yin and yang; you may find the true delight of summer in it.

I’ve heard the pickling cucumber works great. I guess it may be easier to handle since it is thicker than the cucumber I used.

Pickling cucumber (or baby seedless cucumbers) 2 lb, Salt 1/2 cup + 1 T, boiling water, green onions (julienned) 2 cup, grounded fresh ginger 1/2 T, grounded garlic 1 T, Korean chillie powder 3 T, grounded fresh red chillie peppers 1 T (optional, if you can’t get red chillie pepper then substitute it with 1/2T Korean chillie powder), sugar 1/2 T, sweet rice porridge 1/2 cup

1. Sprinkle salt well on all of the cucumber, and coat them with salt very well. Let it sit till you can bend the cucumber without breaking.
2. Wash the excess salt well, transfer the cucumbers on the drainer and pure hot boiling water over. This keeps cucumber crispy.
3. Cut cucumber into 3 inch length and make a slit in length (or crossed depending on the thickness of your cucumber) way into without cutting it half.
4. In a big mixing bowl, mix well sweet rice porridge, sugar, 1 T salt, chilie pepper and chilie powder, ginger, garlic, and green onions.
5. Rub outside of cucumber well with seasonings and open the slit and stuff green onions into it. (It would be better if you use flat leafy chives AKA Chinese chives since jullienning the green onion is not so easy.)
6. Place the cucumber in the tight sealing container and refrigerate it.

You can eat this kimchi right away. Actually many of my friends prefer to eat it without fermenting it. However, if you have patience to way, do so. It develops very unique sour flavor which I love.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The most important meal

is every meal.
Even though I leave and eat alone most of time, I try to best out of each meal. This effort helps me slow down and appreciate the food I am eating. It satisfies my body and mind; I don't need to eat a lot. Each bite is full of delights. Each meal should be beautiful.

That is reason why I never eat even the take-outs from containers. Facing proper plate and sit down in proper posture, I come to appreciate the meal I am having.
Treating oneself is not that hard.

Cool summer noodles

Summer is the season of noodle for me.
Just after coming back from long day with hot, sticky, humid weather there is not a single drop of energy left me with any desire of firing up the kitchen. But my stomach screams hunger!!
What can I do?

This is the moment that tasty Kimchi comes as my rescuer.

Other than making a hard boiled egg and boiling the noodles, I have nothing to do. I can enjoy cold noodles with spiciness of Kimchi. The yolk of egg cools down the tong, my hunger is satisfied, spicy chillie fires up the energy and I love my Kimchi; all makes me the happiest person in the world.

The recipe can not get simpler than this; cook the noodles (either Asian white wheat noodle or even angel hair pasta), cut a hard boiled egg in half, and dices Kimchi, pure everything over the noodle with a drop of toasted sesame oil if it desired. Mix and enjoy!

Here is little bit more elaborate, is Bibimmyoen, a seasoned noodle with finely julienned vegetables. If you have been in Korean Restaurant, you probably have seen the word ‘Bibim’ as ‘Bibimbob’. Bibim means mixed well with seasonings and other ingredients in Korean.

Like its name suggested, the noodle (myoen) is well mixed with mixture of Ghochujang, rice vinegar, little bit of sugar, and either chopped garlic or onion. Sometimes sesame oil is added for flavor. It is good fun to provide the guest with bunch of toppings and let them choose to make own combination. Who wouldn’t like to play with food?

Recipe – Bibimmyoun (for one person)
One serving of noodle of your choice, also vegetables of your choice (I chose zucchini, carrot, shitake mushroom, and Romaine lettuce)
Seasoning; 1 T Ghochujang, 1 T rice vinegar, pinch of sugar, 1T either apple or Asian pear, finely grounded, 1/2 t of finely chopped garlic (optional) mixed well together (If you have time, make this two or three days ahead and let it sit in the refrigerator.) Add 1 t of toasted sesame oil if desired.

1. Julienne all the vegetables in same length and thickness
2. Cook noodle according to the package instruction and wash in the ice cold water to cool right before serving.
3. Drain the noodle very well and season it with the desired amount of seasonings. (Remember, this is quite spicy)
4. Put little bit of shredded lettuce at the bottom of the bowl, arrange noodle and add vegetables on top.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

kkakdugi - Kimchi 101

When I have Korean soup, I like to have it with Kkakdugi, crunch simple delightful white radish Kimchi.

It is the easiest of all Kimchis to make. You doesn’t need to do long curing or fine dicing as Beachu kimchi and other Kimchis requires. My mother used to make several kinds of kimchi in one day, and always the first to finish was Kkakdugi.

It goes great with any kind of soups. If you go to any Korean restaurant in Korea whose specialty is soup (Tang, usually it called) you will see this kimchi all the time. It is something very universal and ubiquitous. I like it with Kongnamool Ghuk (soybean sprout soup).

When I was young, during the children’s play, if there were odds number of children, then one left was called ‘kkakdugi’. Perhaps the name came from the nature of this kimchi; going great with everything.
Dicing is called “kkakdug Ssulghi” in Korean due to its shape. This shape gave birth to new slang; If you call an adult male as Kkakdugi, it means he is a gang member.
A children’s play and a gang member—Yes, it goes with every thing.


1 ½ pound White Asian radish, 3 table spoonful of 1:1:1 mixture of ground garlic, ground fresh ginger, and ground Korean pear, ¼ cup Kosher salt quarter cup (for curing)+ 1 tablespoon for seasoning, 3 tablespoon ground Korean red chillie powder, 2 tablespoon of sweet rice porridge (Look Beacho Kimchi)

1. Wipe radish well and cube it in 1 inch length. Transfer it into big stainless bowl and sprinkle ¼ cup of salt. Mix well and let it sit for 30 minutes.

2. Cut green onions at 1.5 inch length both white and green part.

3. Wash the radish with clean cold water and drain. Put it into the bowl, sprinkle chillie powder, and mix well.

4. Add the green onion, the garlic, ginger and pear mixture, sweet rice porridge, and salt, mix very well.

5. Put in tight-sealed container and let it sit for a day in room temperature. Keep it in the refrigerator.

** When you buy white radish, select one with very smooth surface that doesn’t have scars and very firm to touch.

** If you cannot find Korean pear, you can use very small amount of sugar. Use about 1 teaspoon.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Uh-ung Jo-Rim or Burdock

Jorim is a kind of dish which is cooked in seasonings till seasoning is condensed, which usually soy sauce based. It is quite popular method of cooking in Japan also. Oil was very expensive commodity and also it was not for everyday cooking method since it is heavy. Most of food in Korea uses oil as seasoning rather than way of cooking.
Various hard vegetables, fish or meat are cooked in low heat with soy sauce base seasoning. It is good method to develop new flavor and to tenderize the food items otherwise to tough to eat. Not to mention, good method to stretch the ingredient and also to preserve them. By using simple, plane taste steamed grain as main dish, the meal can be –and should be- built up with various side dishes.
Making side dish in every single meal was something next to impossible for house wives with a ton of household and agricultural chores. Jorim is salty and many of them is preserved well without refrigeration.
Jorim Ghanjang – the soy sauce used in Jorim - is also attractive benefit of making jorim. It is now totally new sauce. Soy sauce has complicated taste to begin with but sweetness of cooked garlic, taste of various main Jorim ingredients such as meat or burdock, mild kick of chillie are added. Using this sauce in other dishes give you new flavor experience than just using Soy sauce.

Burdock looks like a mudded tree trunk or root. When it is not cooked, the texture doesn’t betray its looks; a tree pulp with bitter taste! When it is cooked as Jorim, however, it turns into something delightful to eat. The texture is soft but still crunch. It takes the flavor of ginger and shines with sugar used in cooking.
Either used in Kim-Bab (Korean style seaweed roll) or served with hot steamed rice, this humble vegetable works quite well.
Burdock has anticancer effect and lots of fiber. It looks scary but it is certainly good for you.

Uh-ung Jo-Rim (Ginger and soy sauce glazed burdock)
1/4 pound Burdock, half cup of water (for sauce), 1 or 1/2 T grated ginger, 1T soy sauce, 1 1/2 T honey, 3 T white vinegar

1. Peel burdock and cut into thin strips and soak it in water with vinegar or lemon juice
2. Mix water, ginger, soy sauce, and honey well
3. Drain burdock and put it in the sauce pan add mixture from 2.
4. Put it on high till boil and reduce it into medium.
5. Cover it and cook for 20 minute.
6. Check the texture; cook till it is soften (but even when it is fully cooked, it will be harder than cooked potatoes )
7. Serve with steamed rice or use in Nori-roll.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

a thing or two about Rice

When I heard about Atkins diet, I was surprised and felt a little bit insulted. Many Asians have had rice as staple for a long time. Rice is something beyond a grain. It symbolizes the life, the blessing from the land. It was even said that if one waists a grain of rice, that person will be condemned to go hell for it. A farmer will pour his sweat and blood for a year to produce a grain of rice. Waisting even a single grain of rice is considred as sin. Rice filed is the life line for entire country.

The basic Korean meal consists with Bab(steamed rice), Ghuk (soup), Kimchi, a small bowl of soy sauce and three types of side dish. It called as Samchup Bhansang, meaning tree-plate. Koreans only count the number of side dish. Three, five, seven, or nine plated table is served in ordinary household. King and his family will enjoy twelve plated table, called Surasang. You might have seen it in the famous Korean TV series, DeaJangKum.

Having entire Bab just made with white rice was only for the rich. The commoners had to mix rice with other grains such as barley, beans, grains or other vegetables. Nowdays, peole often mix other whole grains for health and tastes. In the summer, sweet tender peas mixed with rice is my favorite. It goes very well with Doenjangghuk. Bean sprouts, white radish, or mushroom rice is also tasty. I make these rice dishes when I have no time to cook side dish. Ginkgo berries (EunHeang) and other nuts cooked with rice made excellent treat for cool crisp Autumn day. The pot made out of clay or even stone holds the heat and the rice is still sizzling when it served. During the winter, oysters are used to flavor the rice. It is salty and sweet. It tastes like fresh sea breeze.

So, what kind of rice you will use in Korean style meal?
It is commonly known as Sushi rice in U.S; medium grain rice with ideal texture and stickiness

Most of Asian grocery stores and mega marts carry rice.
The picture shows brown rice, sweet brown rice, rice, and Jasmine rice from left to right.
Compare the size and shape of Sushi rice to Jasmine rice.
The sweet rice which called Chap ssal in Korean is stockier and less transparent than rice (Ssal) in uncooked stage. But when it cooked, it is more transparent than ordinary rice. Sweet rice is widely used in dissert and special rice dish in Korea.
Can you tell which one is sweet rice in the picture? Yes, it is one on the left.

In order to cook ideal Bab(steamed rice) with brown rice, soaking in the water for 30 minutes before cooking is recommended. Well cooked rice must have the texture little bit softer than al dente. You can tell by looking into the rice grain turning semi-transparent. Rice cooker works fine, but if you really want to enjoy good rice, try to cook it on stove top.
Remember. It is called steamed not boiled for a reason. First put rice and water on high heat till most of water evaporates. Then put the rid on and go way down to low heat. The rice is steamed with the vapors in the pot. Leave it to be steamed at least 10 minutes.

If you are preparing Korean style meal, DO NOT mix salt when you cook your rice. The beauty of rice is in its blandness. Side dish in Korea is often salty. To balance it, rice should be prepared without salt. But it does not mean it is tastless. The smell of well cooked rice is an invitation of heaven; a good sign of heavenly meal!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Kheer, a creamy delight

It was Rumi's house in Dhaka where I first tasted “kheer”. She made it for my farewell dinner. An excellent cook and joyful friend, she took care of me like her own little sister.

Food is a scrapbook with scent and delight for me.
The days were really hot and humid. After Bangladesh summer, I stopped complaining any heat. The heat and humidity intensifies everything. The days were as vivid as it could be in one’s mind.
The thick walls of old buildings could protect me from the heat but not from the humidity. And finally, the air never cool down through out the day. The cool dairy offered me only refuge. It was like afternoon shower. Yogurts were thick sour and sweet. Adding jaggery or rock salt, the flavor changes dramatically. I wasn’t so impressed about milk since it has been boiled too thick for my taste. And there was kheer.
I watched Rumi cook it. Like many good home chiefs, she hasn’t written down any of her recipes. So the only way –which is the best way for me – was watching her cooking and tasting the food.

The fragrance of cardamom works both cool and warm. The hint of rose water works as je ne sai quoi, making the cardamom’s strong taste into something subtle and sweet. Raisin plums up with milk and bright green pistachios add texture and color. It becomes a perfect summer refreshment.

I made this for Jim’s farewell party. Rumi is professor Karim’s wife, and both are very good friends of Jim. Since he was the one who sent me to Bangladesh, I thought there were no better dish I could make for him.


1/3 gal whole Milk, 1/4 cup of light cream, 1/4 cup of sugar, 3 cardamom pod, bruised, angel hair pasta 1/5 pound, 1/2 cup of raisin, 1/2 cup of shelled pistachio, 1/2 teaspoon of rose water, pinch of salt

1. Gently scald milk and cream with cardamom, sugar, and salt for an hour. Stir now and then to prevent the bottom from burning.
2. Break pasta into an inch length.
3. Crank up the heat to medium. When the mixture is about to boil, add pasta and raisin, and stir about 10 to 15 minutes till pasta is fully cooked. This is no place for al dente!
4. Remove from heat and let it completely cool down.
5. Add rosewater and pistachio and refrigerate for at least one hour. Overnight will be better.

** Before serving, if it is too thick, then add milk little bit.

Kimchi(or Gimchi) basics

This is staple food in Korea. I have no better way to describe its importance in Korean cuisine. Koreans have pickled vegetables for a long long time. There are various records left by ancient Korean dishes called ‘Gee’ which means vegetable pickled with salt. If the vegetable can take salt, it can be made into Kimchi ; pumpkin, cucumber, white radish and many other greens, roots, and vegetables. Many Korean homes even have special refrigerator for Kimchi.
I can not even list how many stories I have about Kimchi.
When I was young, Kimchi should be made at home. It was big family gathering. Every year in late autumn day, aunts gathered in our house and spent a day making huge quantity of Kimchi . Court yard and entire house smelled like fresh Napa cabbage and spicy mixture of ginger and garlic. I hang around them and begged for seasonings wrapped in the tender inner leaf of Napa cabbage or bits of radish. It was spicy but also sweet because of chestnut and Korean pear in it. There were big pots in the kitchen steaming Dubu and boiling pork belly for the dinner and snacking. Father came home for rustic feast of freshly made Kimchi, oyster seasoned in left over Kimchi seasoning, warm Dubu and pork.
The next day, he dug big holes in the back yard to bury special clay pots to ferment Kimchi. Many things have changed since. We don’t make such a huge quantity of Kimchi for the winter or bury the pots. It has replaced with grocery stores and Kimchi refrigerators. But I find Kimchi making with my friend here special. It brings out my childhood memories. Besides, mine tastes way better!

The most important ingredient-other than vegetables itself- in Kimchi is salt. The bacteria which ferment Kimchi and give its characteristic flavor are resistant to high salt and low temperature. Many of them produce lactose during the process. The optimal temperature of fermentation is around 4 degree Celsius (about 40 degree).

Here are lists of facts about Kimchi.
1. It doesn’t require vinegar. The sour taste comes from natural fermentation. DO NOT add vinegar!!!
2. No iodized salt, please. I learned this in very hard way. Somehow when I made Kimchi with iodized salt, it ruined fermentation.
3. It may not be vegetarian. Please check the label when you buy Kimchi . Small amount of fish sauce or oyster may be used to flavor of it.

You can make Kimchi at home as it has been done for a long time. Here is my simplest recipe for Beachu Kimchi, the most popular kind.


Napa cabbage 5 lb, 1 cup Kosher salt, 1 big Korean pear (also known as Asian pear, optional), 2 lb White radish (AKA Daikang radish), 12 Green onions, One head of Garlic and equal amount of Ginger, 1 cup water, 1 1/2 T Rice flour, 3 T or more Korean chillie powder (up to the taste)

Big mixing bowl
Surgical gloves; we are dealing with very very hot pepper powder hear. So, be careful and use gloves when you massaging it in between layers of leaves!
Tight-sealing glass Jar or stainless steel container; we are talking about a ton of garlic here, and as you know it DOES smell! To avoid making your entire refrigerator smell like Kim-Chi, pleas use containers made out of glass or stainless steel with tight-seal. If you use plastic containers please use them only for Kim-Chi since the smell of garlic will not leave the container.

1. Wash and quarter in length the Napa cabbage
2. Pickle Napa cabbage by sprinkling 3/4 cup of salt; make it sure that the salt is sprinkled in between layers of leaves. Let it sit for at least 6 hours.
3. Wash off excess salt and squeeze the cabbage well
4. Pour 1 cup of water in sauce pan with rice flour and mix well. Put it on medium heat and keep stirring until it thickens and slightly transparent. Remove from heat and let it cool down
5. Skin garlic and ginger; chop them by pulse it in food processor
6. Add garlic and ginger in rice porridge (from 3) along with chilli powder and 1 Table spoon of Salt; set it aside
7. Cut Korean pear and white radish in thin strips (about 2mm thick and 5mm wide); cut green onion in same length (halve the white part if it is thicker than quarter inch)
8. Wear surgical gloves and mix chilli/garlic/ginger paste (from 6), green onion, Korean pear and white radish in big mixing bowl
9. Take one quarter of Napa cabbage and rub the seasonings around it. Take small amount of mixture, rub and put in between every 4-5 leaves. At the end, gently band the cabbage into half. Repeat till all the cabbages are seasoned
10. Put little bit of seasoning on the bottom, tightly fit the cabbage quarters and seal the container tight.
11. Let it sit on counter top for a day and put it in the refrigerator.
12. Give it at least week to develop the flavor.

** Do NOT use Iodized salt!
** Do NOT substitute Korean pear with ordinary pear.

Saturday, June 2, 2007


For me, “taste like chicken” is an expression for something very bland; not so special, every body-has-it kind of thing, you know. Is it all for the chicken? Really?

Korean spicy stewed chicken with spicy seasoning is ultimate comfort food. Imagine this.
Chicken is tender, juicy and perfectly seasoned with sweet spicy red pepper paste, ginger, sesame oil and garlic. Clear starch noodle is shining and delicious.
And the potato!
Cooked in the gorgeous chicken fat (yes, I said f word!) with all that glorious spices, that is the best part of this stew.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Dubu or Tofu?

They are same thing. It is the name of our humble yet glorious food.
Dubu is how tofu is called in Korea. Firm or silken, it is essential part of Korean diet.

It is very versatile food. It can take whatever you though at it. It is up to you.
You can be bad (fried dubu cake)


you can be very good (Soondubu Jjigea silken dubu pot stew).

Either way, dubu never fails you. At least, it has never failed me.

Firm dubu that stewed with small bits of meat or dried anchovy is my comfort food.

Noodles, a celebration of life

In Korea, noodle has been served on weddings and birthdays. The hope for the longevity and many days of happiness is symbolized in uncut lengthy noodle.
Broth is usually seafood based. Dried anchovy or clam lightly flavors the transparent broth.

Ramen which called ramyoun in Korea is relatively new -Korea is abour five thousand year old country. Only few decades old, I consider this noodle 'new' - but very popular food in Korea. It is invented in Japan. Since its intorduction, this small package of instant noodle has kept a lot of Korean students alive and saved them even from depression. Many have good and bad memories about this noodle in school, busy life, or with your friends and siblings.

Many people including me have their own recipe about how to prepare instant ramyoun. From simply adding chopped green onion to using only the noodle part, there are many ways to express the creativity. If you have a Korean friend or two, ask them what is their favorite ramyoun. They usually have planty to talk about.

Tang and Ghuk, the cure for all hearts

Ryu Murakami once wrote a story about Goulash. A young Hungarian woman describes her memory about mother’s hot goulash which made her forget every thing, even her friend in trouble.

The feeling that I have for good Ghuk and Tang is same. Ghuk and Tang is served hot, even in the middle of summer. Tang is type of Ghuk. It is usually simmered over low heat for a long time.

In crisp winter days in Korea, Ghuk or Tang makes the body warm up. All the peripheries gets heart bit. Like my mother’s love, it is very comforting. During summer, hot spicy bowl of Ghuk makes me forget about humid hot weather of Korean summer.

The picture above is Youkgheajang. It is stewed beef with Mung bean sprout and Asian radish in hot chilie broth.

This soup requires a lot of work to make. First the beef and radish is stewed. In seperate pot, vegetables are gently cooked. Then the seasoning is added. The traditional process is time consuming. Thanks to slow cooker, I could save a lot of hard work and enjoy the soup.

Ghamja Joen and Kimchi Joen, lovely rainy day snack

Jeon is well-loved Korean food. No feast is complete without it. There are two types of Jeon. First type uses wheat flour or various grain flours better. Meat, seafood, or vegetables are added in the batter and the better is fried in pancake shape. It is also called as Buchimghea.

Red one is Kimchi Joen and white one is potato (Ghamja) Joen. It is served with soy sauce thinned out with rice vinegar.

Buchimgheas make lovely rainy day snack.
There must be something in the rain that makes us crave for hot, greasy, aromatic fritters. I have talked about it with my one of Indian friends over hot pakora she cooked for me in one rainy spring day. I have spent in U.S. just few weeks at that time. Rain came into mind with wispers of homesikness. I spent some time wondering around the campus with my-later famous- pink umbrella. She gently knocked on my umbrella from behind and invited me over her place for hot pakora, the first authentic Indian food. The place was packed with her other friends, smell of onion and chillie fired in hot oil, smiling faces and conversation in several languages.

I should mention what is the other type of Joen. This kind focused more on meat or vegetables. Sliced vegetable or meat is coated with flour and egg and gently pan-fried. These are more labor intensive. Think about flipping over very small pieces of food on hot griddle. Now days, making Joen is the chore for the young ones or even man depending on family because it doesn't need special skills but time and patience. I remember sitting on the corner of kitchen flipping the fancy Joens for the feasts over the electric griddle, and munching hot Joen with a excuse of getting rid of imperfection. My aunts used to praised me by saying I would have beautiful girl when I get married since all of my Joens looked nice, without knowing -or turning their blind eyes on - how many 'imperfections' were there.

Korean cuisine 101

“It is simple.”
The teacher said.
“Cut every thing in same length and shape!”

As you might notice, it is easier said than done. But don’t worry. These days, we have food processor and mandolins.

But if you are a show-off like me, then you can do it with knife and impress your friends.

Here are two examples.

First one is TangPyoungChae, a mixed vegetable and beef salad with Mung-bean jelly cake.

This is a type of Namul at its finest. The legend has it that the recipe of Tangpyoungchae was originally invented by a King in ChoSun dynasty to show his will to solve conflicts between various parties among his court man.
As you can see this dish has various food items; it has vegetables, beef, egg, and even bean jelly for carbohydrate. A complete meal in one dish!

Namul means cooking method or vegetable itself. Cooked or fresh vegetables are seasoned with various seasonings.

Second is called Gujeolpan. The name means Nine ('Gu' in Korean means nine.) dish platters

This dish shows the basic rule of Korean cooking; cut everything in same shape and length. You mix and match from eight different food items (usually in eight different colored) and roll it with wheat flour pan cake in the middle.

Koreans love to play with food. DIY on table. It is fun way of enjoying various food items.

Doenjang Ghuk and Misosiru

Fermented soybean paste takes important place in East Asian cuisine.

Here are two of my favorites.

Doenjang is Korean fermented bean paste which has very sharp and salty taste.

It has many uses. Here it is used in soup with spinach. (Ghuk)
Doenjang Ghuk is a ghuk which Doenjang is used to flavor the soup. The base and main ingredients of this soup varies depending on the season and preference. Doenjang Ghuk with various bitter-tasting leafy greens is a rustic but welcomed delicacy of spring. I love to have small clam based Doenjang ghuk during the winter.

I remember my grandmother used to make Doenjang at home. My grandmother steamed soybeans and pounded it into paste. I loved to munch on steamed beans and to play with the paste while she formed block called mea-joo, the pre-from of Doenjang. I was quite happy to see my small mea-joo next to my granma’s well-formed big ones.

Miso is Japanese bean paste which has milder and sweeter taste compare to Doenjang.

Good miso soup makes great light supper. I flavored broth with ginger, shitaki, and sea weed.
It is a great disappointment to taste tasteless miso soup in the restaurant. It means to me that the restaurant doesn’t care about the basics.

This is KJ's ENGLISH FOOD blog

To my dear Non-Korean speaking friends

Even though I have been enjoying the guilty pleasure of turning-the-table-for Non-Korean-speakers, I don't have any intension of torturing anyone with such a delightful topic of life -Food!So here it comes. My ENGLISH FOOD blog!
To those visitors who don’t know me

My name is KJ, a Korean who lives in US. Food is something I love to share with others. I hope you enjoy your time here in my blog.

Sorry those non-Korean and non-English speakers. You have to wait till I learn your language enough to write in it. Or, you can teach me how.