Friday, January 25, 2008

D, Desperation & Delicary - Poygobusut Kongnamool Bhab

I often think that the first person who ate many of the delicacy today was the most desperate one; the one at the blink of death by starvation. That person bumped into the strange creatures and vegetation after long and desperate walk to find something to eat. Now he faces new question; he would die if he doesn't try or he will die trying it. Being the first always has risk. For instance, Shennong, the mythical emperor of China, turn blue after trying all the plants to find out what effect it has -good or poisonous- on human. But, who knows? He may live if the creature or the vegetation which nobody had tried it is indeed good to eat despite their scary and strange look. The leap of the faith had been made. And now we have delicacy as result of ancestors' desperation and their spirit of never giving up.

Many good foods come from resilience of people facing the hardship. The ones who had never given up the desire for good life no mater what kind of hardship they are under. The poor farmers wife in Korea had stretched the rice to feed all of her hungry children by mixing other grains and vegetables. Now it is transformed into special rice dish Koreans enjoy: food of desperation transformed as food of delight.
The dish itself remains same. The place and situation has changed. And it makes huge difference.

The rice is cooked in Poygobusut (Shiitake) broth and Kongnamool (soybean sprout). Simple dressing made with soy sauce and sesame oil goes great with the taste if mushroom and crunch soybean sprout.

When I was undergraduate, my uncle visited the school. He had known one place that hidden in the campus served good simple food: a little hut made out of tin just behind the campus in the wood. This was the place the non-students go for cheap good meal while the university campus is bustled with students. They only serves two menu; Kongnamool bhab and noodle. It wasn't hip cool place by any means. The tin hut was small and the tables told the time of their prime had far gone. But the ambiance was calm and mature. The adults who actually made their living with their hands will come alone and eat reading the news paper. No fuss, no nonsense, no ism, no anything- just one quite calm spot the one who actually faces all the bitterness of the society would fuel their energy to face the world with optimism from the good food.
My uncle and I ate with small talk. We talked about many things which I have remembered none. One thing I surely remember is how good the early summer breeze from woods nearby was, how tasty the simple meal was, and how happy I and my uncle were.


4 Dried shiitake, 1 Cup of sushi rice, about 4 once of soybean sprout, 1 T green onion finely chopped, 1 Cup of water

Dressing: Toasted Sesame oil 1/4 t and Soy sauce 1 T

1. wash lightly and rehydrate shiitake in 1 cup of cold water for 30 minute.
2. Add water, shiitake and rice in the saucepan and put on high heat till the most of water evaporates.
3. Add soybean sprout and put lid, lower the heat as low as possible. Cook for 10 minutes.
4. Turn off the heat and take out shiitake. Put the lid back on.
5. Slice shiitake into small pieces and put it into the dressing.
6. Add green onion to the rice and gently mix.
7. Place it into the bowl and put the shiitake peices on top. Serve hot with dressing.

** make this rice right before serving. It does not do well for long term storage unlike steamed plane white rice.

Monday, January 14, 2008

H, Hope & Home - Miyeokghuk (Wakame soup)

My mother used to light a candle in the morning of my birthday. A scoop of rice was placed in white bowl as the offering for the ancestors and spirits, wishing me a year of happiness and health like my mother's mother did for my mother. For the breakfast, she made special soup with Miyeok (a type of sea weed, AKA wakame) and beef. This is the soup served for the first meal to the new mothers after they give birth. It stands for celebration for the new life and wish for the new happy life. Every birthday, many Koreans have a bowl of Miyeokghuk in the morning as their mother had it when they gave birth.

Miyeok ghuk has taste of sea - the sea that gave birth to many lives. The soup is murky and warm. It is salty but has hint of sweetness to it.

The soup, like Kimchi, varies family to family. Some add fresh fish in the place of beef, while some use baby clam. Garlic is used in my family but not in other family. The one thing consistent in the most of Korean families, no matter how much the recipe varies, is the question from the parents to children who lives far away from their parents' house in their birthday.
"Did you have bowl of Miyeok ghuk?"


15 g of dried Miyeok (cut it to one or two inch in length), 5 cups of water, two table spoons of soy sauce, Half table spoon of minced garlic, quarter pound of minced beef, half table spoon of toasted sesame oil

1. Rehydrate Miyeok follwing the provider's instruction - usually about 10 - 15 min. Wash it if necessary.
2. Heat sesame oil on medium heat, add beef, garlic, and soy sauce. Stirr till beef is browned.
3. Add Miyeok and stirr.
4. Add water and boil for 30 minut or till Miyeok is softened