Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Carrot Kimchi

Someone asked me to translate it into English. I haven't tried it yet, but the recipe seems reasonable.

Carrot 3kg, daikon radish 0.5 kg (cut into same shape and length with green onions), green onion (cut in 4-5cm length both white and green parts) 2C, rice porridge 1 C (=1Tb rice flour + 1 C water boiled while stirred then cool down), sea salt (or cores grain kosher salt) 2-3Tb + 1/2C, fresh crushed garlic 2/3C, grated fresh ginger 1C, Korean Chili powder 1/2C + up to the taste)

  1. Clean the carrot, cut it into 5-7 cm length and mix it well with ½ C salt and let it sit for two to three hours. (If it is thin carrot, reduce the time. Let it cure till it bends little bit without breaking)
  2. Mix rice porridge, salt (2-3 Tbsp) , garlic, ginger, and remaining chili powder in big bowl. (where protective glove if you have sensitive skin)
  3. Wash carrots and drain very well (dry with paper towel if necessary). Mix it seasonings well.
  4. Put kimchi in glass or stainless still container and seal tightly (remember, garlic stinks!!!). Place container or deep plate underneath the kimchi container (just in case the broth spill over) and let it sit for a day in room temperature. After a day, keep it in around 40 degree (meaning in your refrigerator!)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bringing the Far East

After a tiring day in office in the mid-Summer of Bangladesh, I returned my humble room. The guard of my dormitory, whose wife worked as my chief, was unusually excited to present dinner. He burst into my room with the tray of goodies and proudly presented the meal that his wife labored over during the unbearably hot day in Dhaka.
He said,
and pointed one plate.
And there it was: a shredded potato, carrot, and onion, stir-fired and seasoned with turmeric. TURMERIC!!!!!
I was polite enough not to laugh at his face. I thanked him and managed to show my deep appreciation and pleasant surprise. After all, shredding vegetable with the tools his wife had was by all means NOT an easy task. But I have to confess, that day, I laughed till my stomach hurt.

I often wonder what makes dish Korean, Chinese, or Japanese. What is the difference between French cuisine and Italian dish? What is authentic German? What? What? What?

I have read few anthropology books regarding food, Revy-strauss and few others. But I am still looking for an answer. Some people ponder upon more grandeur things, but mine is food. But, let’s leave those for another time.

Here what I want to say is how to bring Far East without breaking ever so thin bankbook.

The base of the Far East cuisine is, as you guessed, soy sauce. Yes, I am over simplifying and also stereotyping which I have all things to say against it. But, I also can not deny that it gives certain characteristic we (the Far East Asia) share.

Thanks to Chinese and influence of Buddhism, fermented soy bean became essential thing in the Far East cooking. With expansion of Buddhism, which anything that involves life of animal was banned, the people got into thinking what could be the alternative of traditional fish sauce. And thank you again, you brilliant Chinese, we have been blessed with fermented soy bean! Even there are some historic record of bringing fermented soy bean sauce and pates as dowry of a Princess.

So, go out and grab a good bottle of soy sauce. It will add every food an Asian flare.
Buying good soy sauce takes little bit of effort, though. You MUST read ingredient list. If you found less than four ingredient (soy bean, salt, water, and unfortunate but somehow essential, some benzoate thingy used as preservative), chances are, it is good one. If it is naturally brewed, meaning fermented in traditional, time consuming manner, it is even batter. The reason why I insist on reading the ingredient list is that soy sauce often contains MSG. If you are not allergic to it, as I am, it wouldn’t be that much of problem. But MSG makes taste little too heavy and dull. So, if you can avoid it, please do. You can flavor soy sauce to your own liking. For instance, I often mix soy sauce with half amount of water, add little bit of sugar, bring it to boil and infuse whatever flavor that I wish to have in. I use shiitake mushroom, ginger, garlic, spicy green chili, cinnamon, Dasima (AKA Konbu), dried anchovy, cinnamon or wonderfully fragrant Sichuan pepper corns. Brew them in the soy sauce and take solids out, pour the liquid in a glass bottle and refrigerate. It makes excellent dressing, base, and seasoning.

For instance, I made zaru soba (the picture above). The deeping sauce is made with soy sauce seasoned with cinnamon. Traditionally it is seasoned with dashi (broath that made from mixture of sea weed and dried and smocked tuna). This is my quick fix when I have no time to make dashi.

There is striking difference in soy sauce depending on the country. Chinese and south east Asian countries like their soy sauce thick but mild in salt. Korean soy sauce is sharp and salty. Japanese one is little sweet and delicate. So choose soy sauce depending on the dish you going to make. However, if you want to have only one, I recommend Japanese one. One, because it is very easy to find and two, you can always add flavor such as mushroom, tamarind, and even salt to it, mimicking the soy sauce from other cuisine.

Sesame oil is another essential in Far East cooking. Look for a toasted one. It usually comes in brown colored glass bottle. Untoasted sesame is also good ingredient. Sesame is high in unsaturated fat- meaning it can and will go stale very fast. So keep them in the refrigerator. In case of sesame seed, freezer is better option.

Shiitake mushroom and Konbu are also good thing to keep, especially for Korean and Japanese cooking. Dried shiitake can be kept several years in freezer and same goes for Konbu. So if you buy them, it would be good investment even if you cook Asian food once in a blue moon. Just put them in air tight container preventing smelling. They can take freezer smell but they also can spread their smell into other food in your refrigerator.

Ginger is quite essential. Again, freezer is your money saver. Though it does not stay as long as the dried shiitake, you can keep them without loosing any flavor up to three to four month. I don’t know what happens after since ginger doesn’t last that long in my kitchen.
Garlic, spicy green chili and green onion are also another thing that can be kept in the freezer. But you can also avoid using them. They are rather optional, in my opinion.

So here they are. I hope this helps you when you try to cook what the other side of globe cooks. Don't be afraid. If you are not sure where to begin, begin with stir fried onion and bell pepper. Add ginger and little bit of soy sauce. And next time add shrimp or firm tofu. And the next next time add Thai basil or Chinese five spice. You will find, bit by bit, a whole new world.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The American Beauty - sweet corn and red quinoa soup

Corn, quinoa, and potato all things from in calm broth, truly beautiful, truly sweet, and truly American, I think.

I was blessed with few ears of beautiful sweet corn. I know in English writing, same word should not be used too often. But what can I say? They are glorious, gorgeous, and beautiful.

I felt always guilty whenever I threw away sweet corncobs. They are still sweet but does not make good compost. So, it went to waist bin. One day, I came up with an idea. It looked like bone of corn, so why didn't I treat them as chicken or any other bone?

So, I cut off all the lovely sweet yellow corn, and drop the corncobs into the sauce pan. Add cold water, and brew it for a while with bruised garlic. Water turned into broth with sweet and lovely milky hue. Took them out and threw them away, feeling less guilty but still apologizing that I couldn't give proper burial.

Added potato and corn and quinoa, and drop of good Spanish extra virgin olive oil on top. Mixed in little bit of dried chili and ground cumin seed. Green onion for its sharp but not over powering onionness. Lime and cilantro were dearly missed.

That day, I discovered all things America. (Not United states, but the continent of America)


1/2 cup of red quinoa, 3 medium size potato, 2 ears of sweet corn, 3 green onions, 1 garlic clove, fresh cilantro (up to your liking), 4 cups of water, dried oregano 1/2 t, crushed red chili, salt and pepper up to taste, zest and juice of half lime, good extra virgin Olive oil,

1. Cut off corn from the corncob, set a side corn. Do not milk the corncob.

2. Peel and dice potato into bite size pieces. Submerge them in cold water.

2. pour 4 cups of cold water in to good size sauce pan. drop corncob alone with tough part of cilantro, bruised garlic (whole) and put it on low heat. Brew about 30 min.

3. Take out corncob, garlic, and cilantro stems. Add potato, salt, chili, pepper, ground cumin, dried oregano and cook till potato is almost cooked.

4. Add lime zest, quinoa and sweet corn. cook till quinoa is fully cooked.

5. Take off from heat. Add lime juice, half of chopped cilantro and all of green onion. Put the lid back and let it sit for 5 min.

6. Serve with lime wage, olive oil and remaining chopped fresh cilantro.

This soup is good either cold, warm, or room temperature.

Adding chopped tomato is also a good option.

And of course, you can just grill sweet corn.

If you have good sweet corn in its beautiful husk, here is a suggestion.

Remove thread, and sock the corn in cold water for thirty miniut. tare off little bit of the corn husk and tie the end with it. Grill it as it is on the grill about 30-35 min, turning them once around 15 min point or so.

grilling corn in its husk enhances the corn taste, and of course, the corns are beautiful to look at.

Aren't they? :)

Garlic chive and cucumber, Hot and cool, rescue for the summer night

We have not been blessed with such delight, but it is often too hot to do anything in summer. So, here is one quick dish doesn't require any heating.

Few days ago, I got garlic chives and cool cucumber. Cucumber is so fresh, it is almost sweet. Chive is pungent, it has too precious to be heated. So, here it is.

This is quick form of kimchi called "Gutjulee". The word Gutjulee means salting before other seasonings as a part of preparation. It also means kimchi intended to be eaten fresh, like very spicy salad.

Garlic chive gutjulee is often served with meat dish such as Korean BBQ. Meat dish in Korea is rarely eaten by itself. It always have greens served with, often spicy, to cut the heavy taste of meat.

But I found this serves very well with many other things including tofu. Tofu has subtle taste so goes with anything that it gets. Heat up tofu in microwave for a min and eat it with Kimchi or Gutjuless to go with. Very fast, very good, not to mention, guilt free.


serves 4 as main dish

Two package of firm tofu,

one cup of garlic chive, chopped in two inch length

one cucumber, skinned and cut into strips

1T toasted sesame seed

1 1/2 T soy sauce

1t or up to taste, Korean chili pepper flak**

1/2 t sugar (optional)

1. Mix soy sauce, chili pepper flake, sesame seed and sugar. Let it sit for at least five minutes.

2. Mix cucumber and garlic chive. Let it sit in the refrigerator for thirty minutes. It would first look have too little moisture but cucumber will soon let its water out, making dish just enough.

3. Slice tofu block in half length wise and cut each halve into five to six pieces. Heat it for one minutes.

4. Serve together.

** if not available, use chipotle or cayenne pepper. Wasabi (Japanese horseradish) also works well. use about 1/4 t or add up to your liking. If you have none of these, add arugula. The point here is sharp spicy flavor.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Stereotyping ourselves? on garlic and chili peppers

candied lotus root and carrot, Korean tea food

It was pleasure to see someone with Korean Background competing for the spot in major TV: Debbie in the next food network star season 5. However, I can not help cringing whenever she says "because I am Korean" in the same sentence with chili peppers and garlic.

lotus root stewed in soy sauce

That is not always true. chili peppers and garlic do not represent entire Korean cuisine as they do not for the Mexican culinary culture. Yes, it has big influence and seemingly ubiquitous but it is just part of Story. Korean style BBQ and Kimchi was most popular. But that is not the whole story.

Korean food can be and it IS quite subtle. For the many spring greens, the seasoning kept minimum, in order to the taste of spring greens to shine. It is true for the root vegetables, too. There are countless food that does not involve either garlic or chili peppers or even heavy seasonings. Best example is found in various Buddhist temples in Korea.

chilled noodle in soybean broth

I wish, only wish, it is known to outside of Korea as much as BBQs and kimchi.
And my fellow Koreans, let's think about stereotype that we hold about ourselves. This is not the first time I encountered stereotyping of ourselves. Self-image is important. It is part of identity. However, the self-image should grow with the discovery of new side of 'self', both as a person or as an ethnic group. Let's don't judge ourselves too quick. It does not leave room for the new realization of culture that we built and adored for several thousands years.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A culinary case of mystery greens – greens with tofu & shiitake mushroom en papillote

Often we encounter mysterious looking greens unexpectedly. It is sweet but challenging surprise. Last summer, I encountered one of mystery greens that I haven't figure out what it is till now.

My dear friend got this green on her hand but had no time to cook.

So, she generously offered it to me. I accepted the greens along with lots of other goodies but exactly don’t know what to do with it. I bited into it. It has certainly taste of leafy green and quite tender: a good mixture of little bit of bitterness and hint of indescribable tastes.
It was too tough and grassy to eat as salad. So, it should be cooked.
Instinctively I went back to what I know best; sesame oil, soy sauce and ginger. I haven found any green that didn’t work in this mixture.
Next, I needed to decide what is best cooking method: steamed, blenched, or sautéed.
Since the leaf was tender, I didn’t want to cook it too much. Also it was too hot to boil water or tend sauté pan. I needed something that let me stay out of kitchen while it cooked. So, I steamed it in the parchment paper pouch: en papillote.

Ingredient (for two people): half package of tofu, one cup of sweet potato greens or others cut into two inch length, 3-4 dried shiitake mushroom, 1 green onion cut into two inch length, sesame oil 1/2 tea spoon, soy sauce 1 Table spoon, white wine 1/2 Table spoon, grated fresh ginger 1/2 Table spoon, pinch of freshly cracked pepper, parchment paper 2 feet in length

1. Preheat oven for 380 F.
2. Wash lightly dried shiitake mushroom and soak them in cold water for 30 min or till the stem part become tender. Cut off the stems and squeeze gently out the excess water.
3. Cut tofu into 6 pieces.
4. Fold parchment paper into 3.

5. Arrange hard part of greens (stems) and white part of green onion in the center. On top of it, arrange tofu and shiitake mushroom. Cover it with remaining greens and green part of green onion.
6. Fold the edge of parchment paper tightly in length first and fold one of wide end, forming an envelop (or pouch) with one-end opened.
7. Add mixture of ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper, and white wine through one open end and crest it tightly. 8. Place it on top of cookie pan and bake it for at 380F for about 20 min.

9. Wear oven mitts and open it with kitchen scissors right before serving (watch out for hot steam!!!)

10. Serve it with steamed rice.

So far I found this methods works for most of tender greens including spinach, yu choi (edible rape), dandelion greens, and sweet potato greens. Adding bean sprouts and sugar snap peas is also good variation. En papillote is also good method to impress your guest with minimum effort. Not to mention, it makes excellent vegan main dish.

Friday, May 22, 2009

garden fever - growing kkaennip 깻잎

Last year, I found one of my friends had kkaennip plant. The discovery brought me back to my childhood. Some food probably took some degree of convincing (or desperation) for those had attempted to eat it for the first time in human history. Kkaennip, on the other hand, I don't think it was that hard. The smell of it is quite alluring. For me it is fragrance of summer!

I am from Seoul. I was born in south part of Korea, but raised in Seoul. It is a big city; a city with population of 24 million; one of the most crowded city in the world; city with skyscrapers and high technology. Most of people from Seoul would not remember any greenery or patch of garden outside of national parks located here and there. BUT I was lucky few who have lived in the area of Seoul without crowd and with lots green fields. I was running around fishing and foraging wild fruits with my friends. My neighborhood was about to be 'developed', so there was lots of empty fields and hills and ponds.

One day, I decided to be lady. Don't ask why. At the age of nine, I just decided that it would be cool to learn playing piano, drawing, and traditional calligraphy. Looking back, I still don't understand what inspired me.

During that summer, I was going back and forth between activities of my liking. It was short walk from my house to the piano and art class. My mother, as any other parents in Korea did, let me walk by myself. Around my neighborhood, every one knew everyone back then. So it was quite natural for us (me and my friends) to run around by ourselves.
I dropped by one house to greet the little puppy liked me and always was excited to see me. I wondered around little bit chasing white little butterflies in the open garden. Among this, I liked one patch of land most.
It was big (for my eyes, at least) fragrant green sea. Endless rows of kkaennip with their gorgeous thick fragrance and yellow Korean pumpkin blossoms picking out around the edge of garden.
With sweltering summer heat, the air was thicken with the smell of refreshing kkaennip. It was like opening hot pot of stew, which fresh kkaennip was just added. It was clean and refreshing smell. There was always an old lady, sitting under the parasol, chatting with her friends where the edge of the garden met the pedestrian side of street, . Occasionally a customer would show up asking her to get some of kkaennip or other vegetable she grew. She did not have anything on display. Whenever asked, the old lady with cheerful smile would get up, walked into her garden, harvested whatever the customer asked and some more, and sold them with a exchange of small money. I was fascinated the smell of it. After all, it was my favorite vegetable. The kkaennip and other small vegetable gardens and the ponds were there till my senior high school years. One day, coming back from school, I discovered to my horror all were gone replaced by big construction site. Irony is, my home in Korea is now one of the big condominium complex built during that time, facing directly where my favorite garden was.

After I came US for study, there were so many greens I miss including kkaennip. It is not so hard to get but too expensive for poor graduate student budget. I couldn't believe the price tag!!! So discovery of my friend with kkaennip garden was like ten Christmas combined all together! She was more than happy to let me have some of plants, for seed. And this year I am having garden fever. Like all other proud parent (of child, pat, and plants), I photograph them every day.
Here, they were just peeking out in cold April Boston morning!

Look! Now they are looking like kkaetnnip!

Every day, I picture various things I can do later with the harvest! I become the owner of perillar garden, like the old lady in my memory (though I am way younger then she was). I can not wait to make kimchi with it. Or simply roll steamed rice mixed with other grains, specially barley with Korean bean paste!!!

Fresh kkaennip has after taste of mint. well, after all, kkaennip is a member of Perilla frutescens which belongs mint family.
Almost all northeast and southeast Asian country have their own perilla. Japan has Shiso which used widely from in soups to coloring umeboshi, pickled plum dish. In China, it is 紫蘇 which used as medicine and in Vietnam tía tô used in various dish. Each has very different taste, even though they are in same family.

Like Italian parsley, kkaennip is used here and there to add fresh taste in otherwise heavy tasting dish. The seed is used as condiment or for oil. The cake after extracting oil made excellent animal feed and compost.

Some Korean cookbooks and recipes (including mine) refer kkaennip as sesame leaf, despite it has nothing to do with sesame plant. The reason, I guess, is that the seed of perilla is called deulkkae which literal translation would be 'wild sesame' even though botanically sesame and perilla is not related.

Speaking of garden fever, I was so inspired by kkaennip, I decided to let them have some company. So here it (or they) goes!

I now grow snowpea, basil, mint, mustard green, lettuce, Korean cucumber, kkwari chili pepper and still debating, yes you guessed, growing tomatos.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Beachu Kimchi - Korean Buddhist temple style

Korean Buddhist temple food is recent discovery even for many Koreans. The food from Buddhist temple has distinctively clean taste without punch of garlic.

Here is one of recipe I used to make Temple style kimchi for my vegan friend.

2 Napa cabbage(about 5-6 lb), Daikan radish 2lb, 3 dried shiitake mushroom, 1 piece of konbu 2 inch by 2 inch, 1/4 apple, 1 small Korean pear, 2 inch piece fresh ginger, 1 cup of cold water, 1 Tb of sweet rice powder, 1/2 C Kosher salt + 2T salt, 5-6 Green onion, 1/4 C Korean chili flake

1. Wash and quarter in length the Napa cabbage
2. Pickle Napa cabbage by sprinkling 1/2 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 Konbu and lightly washed shiitake mushrooms. Let it sit for 30 min-1 hour. Take out mushroom and squeeze and slice it very thin. Discard the konbu (or dry and reuse it for other dish). Add sweet rice powder 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 ginger; chop them by pulse it in food processor. Same goes for apple and Korean pear.
6. Add apple, pear and ginger in rice porridge (from 3) along with chili flake and 1-2 Table spoon of Salt; set it aside
7. Cut 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 gloves and mix chilli, apple, pear and ginger paste (from 6), green onion, mushroom 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 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. When you put cabbage in, make it sure the container had at least 1-1.5 inch room between the top ob cabbage and the container cover since remaining water from napa cabbage will come out as kimchi sits.
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.

** The container you use, now on, must be Kimchi container. Even though garlic is not added, still the container can hold on to the smell. So, choose your container accordingly.
** I found the napa cabbage in US has more watter than Korean one. So put a tray under the container for 3-4 days just in case water developes and ...you know, leak out. :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hobak Kimchi GhukBahp - pumpkin kimchi broth with rice

Ghukbahp is quite uniquely Korean: it is not exactly soup or steamed rice. This is dish usually have very deep and intensely flavored broth and is served piping hot. I suspect the reason why we have it is due to our winter. It is chill-to-the-bone cold. Sub zero gust runs down from Siberia, freezing everything in its path.
Since it has such a impact on mind, it is not so surprising that in Korea many people have special memory around this dish.

Kimchi ghukbahp is usually made with napa cabbage kimchi. The broth is made out of dried anchovy, sea weed, and head of dried Pollock. This was one of my late father's favorites. He did not have perfect table manner, but did have ability to make everyone to want to eat what he was eating. Even just simple one scoop of steamed rice seems the best dish in the world when he was the one eating it. He really enjoyed eating.

That day, my father drove us around and around Seoul that night. My brother and I was too young to have patience to wait for the good things to come. It was way pass our usual bed time and we were tired and hungry. My father and mother seemed to be very excited about the food we were going to eat. It was food from their home town. Something they ate when they secretly become boy friend and girl friend. It was one of the food that my father ordered to hush-off my mother's younger sister, so she would not tell my Grandma about the boy next door holding hands with the eldest daughter of the house.

Finally we arrived at small crowded restaurant, where the only menu was Kimchighukbahp. I didn't enjoyed the food at all. It was too fishy and too hot. But probably my parents fully enjoyed it. They said ghukbahp was very good. Exactly what they wanted. Since in my family who proud of our hometown, my parents rarely complimented food in Seoul. In our opinion, restaurant food in Seoul was too sweet or too salty, too much or lack of this and that, etc, etc.

This is not the exactly same recipe. I used Hobakkimchi instead of Beachukimchi. I did not use fermented shrimp sauce (which I missed dearly!!) because I don't like the things they sell in US. (Yes, you can see I am my parents' daughter) I am spoiled with my Grandma's specially ordered shrimp sauce. All the things I don't have was not matter. I enjoyed it after all this years. I enjoyed the memory of it, as my parents did some years ago.

Hobak Kimchi GhukBahp

Hobak kimchi (or beachu kimchi) about 1 cup + 1/4 cup of water from kimchi, 1/2 cup of soybean sprout, 1/3 dried pollack flake, 1T soy sauce, pinch of black pepper, green onion, 1 cup of steamed rice, 1/4 cup of Bracken namool (for recipe, see here )

broth: 3 cup water, 3 dried anchovy, 2 inch by 2 inch piece of dried konbu, I want to add one more thing to the posting below.

1. Place konbu in the cold water and let it sit for 30 min. Take Konbu out and put dried anchovy. Boil the water on medium heat for 30 hour. Take anchovy out.

2. Add dried pollack, soy sauce, pepper, water from kimchi and boil till pollack is tender.

3. Add hobak kimchi and bean sprout and cover. Boil for 15 min.

4. Place hot steamed rice and arrange kimchi, pollack, Bracken namool on top. Pour broth over carefully. add greeb onion on top.

When kimchi ferments, it develops unique texture and flavor. It is also a proof of good kimchi. Any minor mistake in selecting and handling the ingredient, cooking, and fermenting will make Kimchi something not so pleasant after few month. Well made kimchi is like good cheese: it can go up to three years (which is often the case in my family) and used in various cooking. That is also reason why you SHOULD NEVER EVER HURRY the fermentation. Kimchi needs its time to mature.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Why Vinegar???????

I don't understand the concept of 'quick' Kimchi. It was NOT supposed to be quick.

Every time I found these so called 'quick kimchi' recipe, I can not help getting little bit offended.

Using vinegar to mimic the sour taste is like mixing gelatin into milk to make it coagulate and claiming it as cheese.
I don't think any body would call it cheese? Than why is it OK for other culture's food to take such 'short-cut'? Ignorance is NOT a blessing nor the excuse.

Of course, you will see lots of vinegar in Korean food. It is just NOT a kimchi.

On Gourmet magazine's 'Mind, Body, and Seoul'

This was the email I sent to the editor of Gourmet magazine as a response to their article on Korean food.

'Mind, Body, and Seoul', or … Shanghai?

Congratulations, Gourmet magazine! Your article "Mind, Body, and Seoul" in the
March issue was full of fresh takes on Korean recipes. Although I would not use
vinegar in my Kimchi, your presentation was impressive, even to me as a Korean who is passionate (and opinionated!) about her country's cuisine. An authentic, yet
creative, depiction of Korean food (outside of Korea) is a really rare offering.

But I cannot help but ask where the Seoul is in the accompanying photographic spread? To my surprise, it was not Korea in the photos, it was...Shanghai?? The red lanterns, wall décor, table cloths, etc. are all iconic Chinese images. You would not put a cowboy and his chuck wagon in the background of a story about French Provencal cuisine, would you? The level of misrepresentation in the photos is egregious, since the recipes themselves were so incredibly Korean.

I should not complain too much since they got food part almost right. (I WOULD NOT use vinegar in my Kimchi!!!!) But the pictures...... Yes, they were beautiful. But the photos do not show Korea. It was like using a cowboy and his chuck wagon for traditional French Provencal cuisine. Nothing wrong with a cowboy himself but it does not represent French food. Same goes to the photo spread of Gourmet. It does not matter how good the photos are. They are just wrong.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Day of Five grains and nine herbes, Deaboreum

Moon dictates agricultural cycle. Lunar calendar, therefore, was very important one in the past. Koreans still follow lunar calendar closely for celebration of the year. Ancestral ceremonies and birthdays in traditional family is celebrated according to Lunar calendar. New years day is not the new years day of western calendar. The real celebration begins with January of Korean lunar calendar, which usually falls around February in western calendar. In the past, the new year's day continued till the first full moon of the year.

This year, the first full moon of the New year, called Daeboreum (the word means great full moon) was yesterday. This is the official end of New Year’s celebration.
In the night, while you are greeting the new moon, fire is lit on the dried bank of rice field to prepare for the new rice season.
Food, like all other traditional Holiday, takes important place in this day.
‘Ogokbahp’ (Ogok: five types of grains and beans, bahp: steamed rice) and nine types of special ‘namool’ made from dried herbs and vegetables is made for the day. Depending on region, the rice and namools are rolled in kim, (dried seaweed, AKA nori) and offered as offering to the ancestors wishing for good harvest and good year.

I made it for the day, too. (It was one day after, to be exact, due to the dissertation committee meeting this morning.) Even though I only used three ingredients for rice and made only three ‘namool’s to go with, the effort and taste counts.
I showed off my skill to my Mother, Grandma, and aunties who all see me as a child even though I am adult. Their praise and sweet happy surprises gave me childlike pleasure: the kind of pleasure that a young child would feel when her parents clap and praise for the first drawing she did. I was proud and happy.

One warning! If you have Korean friend, don’t answer their call Daeboreum. They may sell you their Duwi (meaning heat of Summer, symbolizing misfortunes or illness for this year due to the heat of Summer), which you don’t clearly want. The line, “Nea Duwi Sala!” means you just bought my Duwi for the year. I got tricked several times, and resell my misfortune to the other. If you happen to be the last person to ‘buy’ all the heat of the summer, then your salvation is kite. My father told me to write down my name and let it float away with my misfortune.


my version is short, uses ingredients easy to get. :)
for two people,
small red beans (known as pat or azuki) 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup of short sushi rice, 1/3 cup of brown sweet rice, water
1. soak red beans over night in one cup of water. Drain and rinse, add a cup of water and boil till it gets half tender.
2. soak brown sweet rice for one hour.
3. mix red beans, sushi rice, and brown rice. Add 1 and 1/4 cup of water. Boil it over high heat with cover. Uncover when it is about boil over. boil till there is no visible water. (DOES NOT mean DRY, though) Put the lid back on, reduce the heat as low as possible, and let it steam for 25 min.


From the top, Kong namool (soy bean sprouts namool), Moo namool (white radish namool), and Kosari namool (bracken namool)
If you go Korean market, you can get namool. Namool means simple vegetable dish sometimes it is a bit time consuming. Many poeple are more than happy to buy it. But here is recipe, just in case.

Kong Namool or Moo Namool

1 lb of soybean sprout or white Daikan radish, one teaspoon of sesame oil, half clove of minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste

option: finely chopped green onions, toasted crushed sesame seeds, Korean chili flake
1. Rinse soybean sprout. If you are using moo(white Daikan radish) cut it into very thin strips as you can see above.
2. In the sauce pan with lid, heat one teaspoon of toasted sesame oil over high heat with garlic. when the garlic begins to bubble (which is usually right away), add main ingredient, stir well, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 10 min. When you use soybean sprout, you should NOT lift lid before soybean sprout is fully cooked.
3. Turn off the heat,
4. If you can get, season it with pepper and Korean fermented fish sauce. If you can't, just use salt and pepper. You can add green onion, sesame seed or Korean chili flake.

Kosari namool (dried Bracken namool)

This is a typical example of labor and time consuming Korean food. But it is not that complicated.
2oz of dried bracken, water, one teaspoon of toasted sesame oil (Perilla oil is preferred choice but it can be little hard to get), 1 tablespoon of say sauce, half clove of minced garlic, pinch of pepper
1. Soak bracken for thirty min. Rinse and put it into the pot with plenty of water.
2. boil it over medium low heat for 40 min.
3. Leave it till it is cooled.
4. squeeze all the excess water out. Chop it into desirable length.
5. heat oil and garlic, add chopped bracken, stir in say sauce and pepper.
6. Cook it for five min. Cover and let it sit for 10 min.
Add toasted broken sesame seed if you want.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Breakfast in my youth, Kong-juk

My mother used to make it fresh for breakfast for the rest of family, even though it usually was not the first thing in my mind. During the high school years, I studied to death to enter good university. I went bed late and school hours were very early. By the time I got up, I was not a happy child. I took it out -as often the teenagers do, if that could be an excuse- to my mother, who also stressed out about her work and many other things but never took it out on me.
My mother never skipped to make breakfast even though she also had to run to her work. I was never allowed to go school without eating breakfast. At least, I had to drink freshly boiled and ground soybean porridge. I didn't appreciate it back then, but now I admire my mother with full heart. Soybean is not something fast to cook. She soaked beans overnight, boiled it tender from early in the morning, and ground it smooth for her lazy daughter.

Same broth is used to make summer treat, Kong-Guksu. These days, you can take shortcut by ground tofu instead.

But I did it very old fashioned way. I was missing my Mom. I need the little texture that only the ground soybean. So I soaked, boiled, and ground it with little bit of rice. Seasoned the mixture with doenjang, pepper and dried anchovy powder.
Two different status of soybean (boiled soybean and fermented soybean paste) make very unique taste.

I ate it with spacey green chili pickle I made earlier in late October. The snow covered outside makes me appreciate what I ate and what I had eaten.

for soaking
1/4 cup of dried soybean, 1cup of water, 1/4cup of short grain rice, 1cup of water

for porridge
3 cup of water, one table spoon of Korean soybean paste, 1/2 teaspoon dried anchovy power (if you don't have it, you can use bonito flake, even though it will give totally different taste), 1/2 teaspoon of pepper

1. wash soybean and rice and soak separately, in one cup of cold water overnight in the refrigerator.
2. Boil soybeans till it is tender. Grind it with soaked rice.
3. return to the pan and add three cups of water
4. boil the mixture till rice is cooked. Stir in order to prevent the bottom from burning.
5. Mix soybean paste with one table spoon of water very well. add it to the pan and stir.
6. mix anchovy powder and round black pepper. adjust seasonings with salt if necessary.

Kimch & Korea, shame and fame

As I wrote in previous article, I choose the days I eat Pakimchi even though I adore it. It smells even after eating scallions. The compound in scallion family is absolved into blood and circulates around the body. The compound then comes out through lungs when we breathe out or leeks out when we sweat. So whatever you do -brushing teeth about million times and gargling with gallon of mouthwash after eating row lots of scallions or garlic- IT DOES NOT WORK!! The problem is in your blood!

This was one other reason why Kimchi, the national dish of Korea, was notorious. It has a ton of garlic. When it doesn’t have garlic, such as Pakimchi, it has Pa(scallion), vegetable which is equally strong and smelly.

Kimchi itself has quite a smell like many other good things just from its fermentation process; good cheese stings, if you ever notice it. Even many Koreans do not like the smell of fully ripen Kimchi.

Kimchi is one food that has been shamed and famed with Korea.
During the Japanese occupation, Japanese looked down upon Kimchi like all other Korean culture. Now Kimchi and many other Korean foods become very popular even in Japan. Japanese come up with many items using Kimchi and other food with fresh ideas which they are very good at. This adapting for desirable foreign goods and customs and creating new things out of it is called –iitokotori (良いとこ取り).

Looking how the perception of this food changed around the world gives me bitter sweet feeling. I am happy that finally my favorite food gets the acknowledgement it deserves. I am a bit sad that it may loose its origin 'Korea' since Koreans are not necessarily quick to think to commercialize and to develop products out of things what we own.

Kimchi is pungent and strong. It is expressive and explosive like Koreans. Even though it is often considered not polite, in Korean culture, it is totally fine to express your overwhelming joy and sorrow in public. The big loud laugh, the tears running like river, screams of joy from your inner little child and moaning coming out of the tattered soul, all in public, are acceptable. It just says you are human, after all.

Back to the issue of smell, the best way avoid it is not to use garlic or scallions. If you want to avoid using garlic and/or scallions, feel free to go ahead and do so. Kimchi can be fermented without any of them. It just add flavor. How do I know? I make Kimchi without garlic using Korean Buddhist recipe. Buddhist monk does not consume any vegetable that has strong taste since it stir up passion. They want to remain calm and focused. I will translate (hopefully soon enough) few of my favorite Korean Buddhist recipe into English.

Pakimchi - I am pakimchi! :)

'Pa' means scallion in Korean. Like all other vegetable, Koreans make Kimchi out of it. I guess this is the most difficult Kimchi to appreciate for non-Koreans. Scallion can be used as alternative for its milder cousin, chives. Koreans treat chives as vegetable. Chives are cheap, little bit more tedious to clean, and milder. Whenever you see chives in Korean recipe, it can be almost always substituted with scallion.

Few days ago, I bumped into bunch of fresh tender delicate scallions which is rare finding. This is the perfect size of one of my favorite Kimchi. Kimchi is usually named after its main ingredient. Pakimchi mean Kimchi made with scallions.
It is so simple to make. I don’t need even cure the vegetable or make starch to make base for the seasoning. I simply mix Korean red chilli flake with little bit of sugar and Korean fish sauce.
The taste is as you imagined: scallion is very pungent. Imagine adding ton of spicy red chilli flake. Even though the pungent taste of scallion will reduce little with time, but it remains as scallion. This burn-your-mouth-spicy Kimchi over well-made hot boiled rice is my soul food.
Koreans often say “I become Pakimchi” meaning “I am so worn out, so I can not even sit strait.” You can easily understand the status by imagining the cooked whole scallion: it become very soft and has no strength to hold its shape. I was that shape when I found perfect scallions for Pakimchi. Just thinking about it gave strength!
I happily made Pakimchi and waited few days for it to be soak up and mingle with the simple seasonings. I consumed it, felt its full powered punch to my nose and tongue, and came out of ‘being Pakimchi’.

25~30 Scallions, three table spoon of Korean chilli flake, one table spoon of salt, two table spoon of Korean fish sauce (if you don’t have it, use one table spoon of salt + one table spoon of water), one teaspoon of sugar
1. Get scallions as thin as possible. Soak it in cold water for
2. Meanwhile Mix chilli flake, fish sauce and sugar and let it sit.
3. Remove scallions from the water and drain very well. Trim off the root.
4. Mix scallions with seasoning well in a big bowl (please use protection such as gloves!) and put it in a air tight container.
5. You can eat it right away with grilled meat or let it sit for three days.