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.