Half a year ago Awhile back, I decided to cook all the recipes out of a Korean cookbook–a way for me to learn to cook my favorite Korean foods and a way for me to make use of all the Korean cookbooks on my shelf.
I collect Korean cookbooks (ones written in English). I remember the days, only fifteen years ago, when English language Korean cookbooks felt so rare and were impossibly hard to find. The first Korean cookbook I found was the one by Copeland Marks, the one despite its comprehensive list of dishes, was without any illustration and recipes that didn’t necessarily work…but I was so grateful for that cookbook. Years went by before I found another Korean cookbook. I bought that one. And whenever I saw a Korean cookbook, I’d buy that one too. I buy them in the U.S., I buy them when I go to the Seoul Selection bookstore in Korea, I buy them in London.
Even though cookbooks of cuisines from other parts of the world, such as India or Japan or Thai or Italy, well outnumber those detailing Korean cuisine…the number of Korean cookbooks is steadily on the rise (I should know this). But–they still feel rare to me. And I have amassed a healthy collection. And I have, shamefully, not actually utilized them. They’re just sitting like trophies on my shelf, only occasionally viewed (by me).
But that is about to change! After six months of procrastination, I’ve embarked on the “start cooking recipes out of my Korean cookbooks” journey! Sure, I’ve mastered a good handful of recipes already, but I want to learn as many as possible. It’s like a culinary “Roots” project. Learning to cook the foods of my ancestors and the foods of my childhood. I don’t want to rely on going to Korean restaurants to get all I need.
First off: Gosari Namul…aka fernbracken. I don’t know what fernbracken is. Okay, I sort of do know: they’re the fiddleheads of ferns. Haha…now what are fiddleheads?! (they’re the unfurled fern leaves).
It is SERIOUSLY like this when it comes to the Korean greens of my youth.
I don’t know what half the Korean greens that I’ve eaten in my mother’s kitchen are. And when I get the Korean words translated into English, all I get is a word so obscure (“fernbracken”) that well, what is the point of it being in English?
All I know is that fernbracken is tasty.
Other Korean greens include “go gu ma” (potato leaves) and “chui namul,” both enigmas to me. I have NO idea what the English word for chui namul is…only that I have chui namul seeds from my father’s garden and it’s TASTY. I’ve seen an English description for “chui-namul” and it is “edible green leaf.” Gee Thank You. So Helpful!
But really, do you need to know what it is in English in order to enjoy the thing? No.
And so I proceeded on my conquest to cook Korean foods. First up: gosari namul. I love all kinds of Korean “namul” (which roughly translated is sauteed greens–various greens–whether they be “fernbracken” or “edible green leaves”). A bowl of rice, some namul, and some kimchi–and I’m a happy camper.
Gosari namul is rarely found fresh. You’ll more likely find it in dried form–either in a factory packaged bag or maybe a little handwrapped package (as pictured above at the top of this post).
Rehydrating the fernbracken takes awhile. You’ll want to put them in water and then boil them for at least 40 minutes. And then boil them some MORE. Maybe another 30 minutes, until they’re pliable but not downright mushy (mushy is bad).
Rinse and rinse them until the water runs clear.
Oh? And guess what? After rehydrating them in the boiling water, soak them in cold water again! For another three hours (or as long as overnight). By this point, 3 ounces of dried fernbracken will weigh about a pound. And be at least three times their original size.
After the cold water soaking, you’ll want to cut them so the stems are generally about 4 inches long. Wrap them in a paper towel and squeeze dry.
Then heat up some oil, add some chopped garlic (don’t be chintzy! we’re talking at least 6 cloves of garlic here!) and saute. Add the fernbracken, some minced green onion, and about 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and saute some more about 7 minutes. Add a splash of sesame oil. Toss and either put in the fridge to eat later, or serve.
Gosari namul is a side dish, so you serve it at the table along with other side dishes. Orrr…you can mix it into rice with a fried egg and hot sauce and you’ve got bibimbap.