Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sunday lunch, family style

This was my Sunday lunch; rice with sweet peas, Doenjang ghuk, and a mackerel with pumpkin kimchi: a fish, kimchi, rice and ghuk which is very basic meal in my family. My family came from coastal area of Korea. Fish is preferred than meat or poultry.

Mackerel and Pacific saury (kongchi, in Korean) was cheap every day fish. People say that the fried skin of Mackerel is very addictive, which I do agree; the salty, greasy and some what fish taste may not for every body, but certainly for me.

I found this fish at the market in Boston. The joy of finding was indescribable. This blue-backed fish is very popular. It can be grilled and stewed in various seasonings. Most popular form is simply grilling it with salt which I did.

Pumpkin Kimchi is something not so well known, since it is dish from North Korea. I found it had very pleasant and clean taste. Usually pumpkin kimchi is eaten after cooking. Every time I made this dish, I felt strangely sad. I went Senegal and Bangladesh. I lived in Italy and am studying in U.S. Even though it would take less than three hour drive to North Korea from Seoul, that is the land which I can not go freely.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Kimchi- a poor man's dinner which makes me feel rich

In Korea, Kimchi and steamed barley (without anything else) was considered a poor man's dinner. Depending area and season, staple can vary from rice to potato. But as far as I know, kimchi is something must have. Even for those ones who beg food, Kimchi was given with leftover steamed barley or boiled potato.
Kimchi and staple stands for simplest composition of Korean meal. My friends often say they feel rich because their mother send them big batch of kimchi from home which make meal preparation so easy for at least for a month.

This is how my dinner few days ago looked like. Of course, I had bowl of steamed mixed rice (white and brown sweet rice).
Except for the egg with enoki mushroom, the others were three different types of kimchi, all I made.

I have pride on my kimchis, even though they are no way nearly as good as my mothers. Mine is much simpler -which is an euphemism of 'one note'. The important point is I MADE IT!
Like as all other old foods in urban area, Kimchi in current days is usually bought from shop than made at home. Even in my family, one of our distant relative makes huge batch of kimch, and all of us buy from her. So, usually people give a look of great sincere admiration when you say you can make kimchi. As a student who is alone in foreign country, the one single most missed food can be kimchi if one doesn't buy it from Korean grocery stores. Unfortunately, still kimchi sold in US is not as good as those in Korea.
Making kimchi is something that gives me great pleasure and connection to home. Even though the recipe can not be exactly my mothers, I can taste and smell all pleasant memories of childhood while I make kimchi. The smell of fresh napa cabbage is sweet in a way only fresh vegetable can be. The fiery white radish burns mouth but promises the kimchi will be good. Red chili flake, pungent garlic and ginger is mixed with shredded Asian pear, white radish and chives.

Whenever I make fresh batch of kimchi, it is instant trip to home. The end result is also rewarding - a full container of kimchi! I guess I have been over indulging my pleasure since I now have five different types of Kimchi in my refrigerator. :)