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.