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.