Category Archives: Korean

Quick and Easy Kimchi Fried Rice for New Moms

"New mom kimchi fried rice." Using precut frozen peas + carrots as veg. Also has some finely chopped onion (optional) as well as cabbage kimchi (not as optional). Less than 15 min to make if u have the rice ready in a rice cooker.

This kimchi fried rice is in no way “authentic.” I’m Korean, but I’m going to bet that there are non-Koreans who can cook more “authentic” fried rice than this particular recipe. But it’s just the way I make kimchi fried rice, especially now that I’ve a newborn. Also, it’s got vegetables in it. Pre-chopped frozen vegetables, so you don’t have to chop stuff up. Vegetables are important. If you can only get one meal a day together, it might as well have vegetables.

Before you start–spoon out some rice from rice cooker. It’s best if you use some cold cooked rice from the day previous, but if you can’t have that, take the rice out of the rice cooker and put it in a large bowl to let off some steam and cool off before you fire up the wok/frying pan. Take out quite a big spoonfuls–like, as much cooked rice you could hold in your hands and then some.

And then…here’s the recipe

INGREDIENTS (you will need a big wok or the biggest nonstick frying pan you’ve got–if it’s a deep frying pan, all the better):

  • Big heaping pile of cooled, cooked rice. 5-6 cups, cooked.
  • 2-4 tablespoons cooking oil (corn/canola is fine)
  • handful of chopped pancetta (optional)
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 1 onion finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 package (about 1 lb) of frozen pre-chopped vegetables like peas + carrots. Or peas + carrots + corn. Whatever you like.
  • 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • about a cup of cabbage kimchi + juice

DIRECTIONS:
Mix eggs. You don’t have to whip it up a lot. Just make sure the eggs are mixed.

Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in the frying pan/wok.

(If you want to get fancy, you can saute pre-chopped pancetta and use the oil from the pancetta to scramble the eggs and fry the rice–if so: fry pancetta, then set pancetta aside and use the pancetta fat to cook things. then add pancetta back at the end).

Scramble the eggs lightly (not all the way cooked, but mostly cooked). Put the mostly-cooked eggs in a small bowl (can be the same bowl in which you whisked them), set aside.

In the frying pan/wok, heat up the remaining oil. Put heat on high. Add onions (optional). Sauté until onions are softened and golden. Add package of frozen veg. Sauté until vegetables are softened.

Add rice to mixture in pan. Mix + Saute for about 5-10 minutes until rice is coated in oil and “sizzling.”

Add the lightly scrambled eggs. (If you’ve cooked pancetta, add the pancetta now). Make sure they get a bit “chopped up” with your wooden spoon or spoonula, or whatever you are using to move stuff around in the pan.

With the heat still up on high, add a splash of soy sauce. Drizzle some sesame oil for flavor.

Add the chopped kimchi + kimchi juice.

Enjoy.

(you an also serve with a lightly fried egg on top).

Miyuk Gook aka Seaweed Soup aka Korean Postpartum Soup aka Birthday Soup

Miyuk gook/seaweed soup!

I like to imagine the first time someone looked at a bunch of kelp on a beach and decided to boil a big pot of soup with said clump of seaweed. Maybe someone really hungry. Or someone really creative. Or totally broke. Or all of the above. And rejoicing in its deliciousness and reveling in its health benefits, converting all others to do the same.

Over the years, this soup has taken on different variations (made with fish stock, beef stock, chicken stock, anchovies, with tofu or not, etc), but it’s had a central role in celebrating milestones in Korean lives. And over the years, I’ve often been found eyeing a clump of seaweed on a California beach and thinking about taking it home to eat. Ha.

High in vitamin A, C, iron, and calcium, miyuk gook is served to women after giving birth. It is *the* Korean postpartum food, and you’re supposed to eat it, and only it, for 3-4 straight weeks. So it’s basically your first birthday food, because your birth mom has  theoretically had some on your birthday. My mom has always served me noodles for long life on my birthdays, but many other Korean kids eat miyuk gook on their birthday, too.

I’ve always loved this soup; I’ve never needed the excuse of pregnancy or a birthday to down a nice bowl of seaweed and broth. But here I am–cooking up large batches of the stuff now that I’m due anyday.

You can buy the kelp in either dried or fresh format. I usually buy the dried kind (if you buy the wet kind in the refrigerated section, you’ll want to wash and drain it so that it’s not so salty). Pictured here is a bag of dried kelp:

Dried seaweed

A little seaweed goes a long way. You’ll want to grab a handful and reconstitute it in water, where it will expand and rehydrate into a large mass of seaweed. You’ll also want to cut it up with scissors or chop it with a knife into more wieldy pieces so that when you go to eat the seaweed soup, you won’t have to chew on a seaweed piece the size of your face.

See the bowl of seaweed below? That was about a handful of dried seaweed before soaking in water for about 10-15 minutes. I’m not kidding about how much it expands.

Prepped

Like I said, there are various meats and stocks you can use. In the past, I’ve used dried anchovies, but my favorite is to use a few short ribs. Because uh, I love short ribs. You’ll see that I’ve scored the short ribs. Better to eat with, my dear!

Also good to add are garlic and green onions. And if you’re so inclined, some sliced tofu.

For the record, my favorite tofu is Pulmuone brand, which I’ve only been able to find in Korean stores. If I can’t find Pulmuone, I tend to pass on the tofu as an ingredient in this soup.

My Fave tofu

After prepping your ingredients, heat up a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil in a dutch oven or soup pot. And add the garlic and green onions until they soften. Then add your meat until it browns (if you’re using dried anchovies, no need to brown the anchovies).

Sauté

Then add water. About 6-9 cups. Or whatever your soup pot’s capacity might be. Add the rehydrated seaweed and optional tofu.

Bring to a boil and then simmer.

Add a teaspoon of sesame oil (if you don’t have it, it’s not a dealbreaker, but it’s a nice flavor). Add a tablespoon of soy sauce (if you don’t have soy sauce, you can add some salt–but be careful not to over salt the soup).

This is what the soup looks like after about half an hour of simmering:

Miyuk gook after 30 min of simmering.

Add some black pepper. Serve with rice. Live long and prosper.

Recipe after the jump…

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KCCEB’s kimchi making class/series: kimchi, de-mystified.

montage of kimchi-making class

(pictures from our kimchi making class, from left to right…top row: quartered napa cabbage, and brined, quartered napa cabbage ready for pogi kimchi assembly…red hot pepper…shrimp and anchovy sauce for kimchi.  middle row: brined quartered napa cabbage…pogi kimchi filling…pogi kimchi filling.  bottom row: pogi kimchi assembly…pogi kimchi assembly line….bottled pogi kimchi ready to ferment!)

My mom would, upon sitting down at a Korean restaurant, immediately gravitate towards the kimchi. “You can tell if they cook well by how their kimchi tastes,” meaning that if their kimchi sucked, their food wasn’t going to be good. Inevitably, that was true.

Despite the fact that my mom makes miserable Western food (e.g., raw celery in barely simmered tomatoes making for what she unveiled as “spaghetti sauce”), she is a terrific Korean cook. Even when I look up a Korean recipe in a cookbook, I will adapt the recipe inevitably, to match the tastes of my mom’s cooking.  Her food is my gold standard for Korean food.

You’ll hear “my mom’s kimchi is the best” echoed all around the community: people get really picky/emotional about their favorite kimchi (we Koreans have deep emotional ties to our favorite kimchi–a certain balance of tang, heat, salt, and sweet can feel like a mother’s embrace in childhood, and if your mother has long passed on, that very taste can bring her back to you even for that one split second), and I’ve found that there is never one exact standard recipe for kimchi…only guidelines. These guidelines exist because the size of the ingredients (cabbage, radish, cucumber, what have you) are inexact, and because people hold on very dearly to their family’s secret kimchi recipes.

There are “secret ingredients” ranging from salted shrimp to a rice flour paste to anchovies to oysters…but they exist. Yes, kimchi often contains shellfish: my orthodox rabbi once reassured me, “kimchi is kosher.” Whoops. At the time, I didn’t realize kimchi contained shellfish. Whoops.

So anyway, this is all to say that despite my knowing how to cook various Korean dishes, and despite all my years of cooking…I don’t know how to make a decent kimchi.  And until I can make a good kimchi, I’ll never consider myself a good Korean cook.  Because I believe my mom’s measure of a Korean cook.

So when a friend of mine forwarded me an email about the Korean Community Center of the East Bay’s kimchi making class, asking me if I was interested…I immediately said yes. (well to be exact: YES!)

It’s a grassroots organized class, held in a private home, taught by a volunteer. You pay $50 for a 3 hour class.  But in return you get to learn how to make kimchi, get some hands on experience with kimchi making, you get a free lunch…annnnd you get to take home a small container of kimchi made in that very class.

You don’t have to speak Korean to take the class, because it is conducted in English, but you may want some familiarity with Korean food ingredients because ingredient names are thrown about very casually: the class today was comprised of all Korean American women, all of us who, for one reason or another, never learned to make kimchi, but had grown up eating the stuff and oftentimes watching our moms make the stuff.

Even if you don’t have that intrinsic experience, you’ll still be okay.

It was tremendous fun to be shown how to make kimchi (today we made “pogi kimchi,” a kimchi that involves pickling entire quartered portions of napa cabbage, one of the more challenging kimchi to make…but it wasn’t overly challenging at all). It was a tremendous relief to have kimchi de-mystified.

The next KCCEB Kimchi-Making Class will be held on Saturday, October 3, 2009…from 11am-2pm.  Cost is again $50, and the venue TBD.   Cost includes ingredients for kimchi and…lunch (this is a very good deal).  If you’re interested, you can leave a comment here…or contact annrmenzie AT kcceb DOT org  (remember the “r” in ann r menzie’s email address).  The class FILLS UP FAST (within a day or two–and this class was announced earlier this week), so don’t delay, if you’re interested.

The next class will tackle a different kind of kimchi, and I’m probably going to attend (every kimchi is different).  I look forward to seeing you there!

Gosari Namul

Dried gosari namul (fernbracken)

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).

dried gosari namul

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).

Gosari namul, rehydrating

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.

Gosari namul, rehydrated

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. 🙂

Gosari Namul

Dduk bok gi (or the ever boring sounding “stir-fried rice cake with vegetables”)

dduk-bok-gi

I loooove dduk bok gi–whether it’s the spicy kind or the mild kind with bulgogi.  The chewy cylindrical rice cakes nestled amidst savory soy sauce seasoning, or hot sauce–both are wonderful and fun to eat.

My fondest food memories are comprised of walking through the streets of Seoul with my cousins or aunt and eating red hot dduk bok gi from food stands, bursting out with tortured laughter between bites and gulps of water.  The stuff can get REALLY hot!  And we love it that way.   We love it so much that one of my cousins theoretically gave herself digestive problems from eating dduk bok gi so often.  (She claimed she had an ulcer from dduk bok gi consumption).

for dduk-bok-gi

Of course there is the mild kind, too–with soy sauce marinade and bulgogi.   So delicious as well, but oh so different.  I first ate the mild ddukbokgi variant at my cousin’s house–I was surprised to see the rice cakes swimming in a sauce that was NOT red and bubbling, but I ate them ravenously, just the same.  Maybe I just love rice cakes.

Still, nothing tops the fiery red spicy dduk bok gi, the stuff that sets your mouth on fire, the stuff with just a hint of sweetness, the stuff that is reminiscent of the foodstands on the streets of Seoul.

Even today, I seek out spicy dduk-bok-gi, such a comfort food.  I’ll go to the Korean market and buy myself some, quickly down it for lunch (with a glass of water).  But you can make your own, too.

Recipe follows after the jump…

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Daddy’s snack: tamago kake gohan

Comfort food

This is a dish I learned to make from my father.

There aren’t many foods I’ve inherited from my father, mostly because he rarely ever cooks anything, being the macho guy he is. He can make a good ramen, and he can make a good “dahl-gyahl bap” (egg with rice) or “tamago kake gohan.” Growing up with this dish, I always thought it was my dad’s idiosyncratic concoction (maybe he learned it in the army?  or some desperate night as a bachelor with only rice and eggs on hand?)–only recently did I learn that it is a common dish in Japan, often eaten for breakfast.

My dad taught me that a good meal was just a bowl of rice, a raw egg, and a dash of soy sauce away.

We would eat it with a side of kimchi, the spicy pickled cabbage acting as a lively foil to the mellow, creamy rice mixture. Each grain of rice would glisten with the egg, and the soy sauce would add a caramel color. It might seem odd to you (particularly the raw egg), but this is such a wholly comforting dish–and it’s still something I eat when I’m eating alone at home and need a quick bite.

And if you keep rice on hand at all times, such as in a rice cooker–you needn’t turn the stove on at all for a warm and hearty meal.

Perilla Pesto

Kkaennip Pesto (aka Korean Perilla pesto)

I have a ton of Korean perilla in my vegetable garden. A downright surplus.

Korean perilla is one of the plants that the gopher did not touch, and with each passing week, the patch of perilla plants has loomed taller, leafed green, and cast its peculiar minty scent. Delighted with their initial growth, I’d refused to thin them early in their germination…and then, when they grew taller, I found it wasteful (there’s even a particular Korean word for this–“ahk goh wah”) to thin them further. And so, in the last few months, they have grown, a clump of crowded forest in the gopher-ravaged garden.

And thus, the surplus of Korean perilla leaves (or “ggaenip or kkaenip”).

Perilla Leaves

What to do with all of the leaves? If you’re Korean or Korean American, you’ll recognize these leaves–they’re used to wrap rice, and pickled/marinated as a side dish (ban chan), a common ingredient in Korean cooking. But it’s not like I have a family of fifteen to feed–and I just could not keep up with the plants’ production.

No matter how much I picked more leaves would sprout from the dense Perilla Forest. I used them to wrap around rice and bulgogi in a “ssam,” and I investigated ways to marinate and pickle them. My favorite method of cooking perilla leaves was tempura frying, by far.

Tempura frying them is a delicious idea, one that results in crispy, almost translucent leaves that remind me of stained glass windows, the green between the veins of the leaves were so clear and beautiful. Oh, and the crunch! Oh, and the taste. They taste marvelous, just the right balance between the minty/licorice flavor of the leaves and the savory tempura coating.

tempura perilla leaves

But tempura frying then and marinating/pickling them can only get you so far. For one, frying is not something to do in volume.

So, what to do? What to do with these beautiful, heart shaped leaves? Their edges are serrated and look as if they were cut out of craft paper with one of those special craft scissors with the peculiar serration.

Korean perilla is similar to Japanese shiso, but from what I’ve read, are not the same thing, despite their similar appearance. My experience is that Korean perilla is much more pungent, while Japanese shiso is milder–enough so that I agree that they are not good substitutes for each other in cooking.

Observe. Aren’t they beautiful?

Korean perilla leaves

The other week, I gave a bunch of perilla leaves to a friend–and was again, at a lack for recipes. I wanted to at least provide her with suggestions on how to eat them!

But then I came across the idea of Korean Perilla pesto on Evil Jungle Prince’s flickr photostream while browsing Korean perilla pictures on flickr. Of COURSE. It made total sense–just the other day, I was explaining to a friend that they were a blend of mint and basil, and one could possibly do some fusion style cooking by substituting the perilla for basil in recipes. Duh. Pesto!

And so I forged on, using my basil pesto recipe…using olive oil, salt, roasted pine nuts, and garlic. To remarkable, tasty results. The garlic and pine nuts almost overpowered the flavor of the perilla so that it was very similar to basil pesto. But the undercurrent of perilla’s licorice/mint flavor was still there, enough to make it clear that this was something different, something new…something fusion.

I’m delighted by this fusion factor–and am now eyeing other traditional Korean ingredients to see what can be done with them. It’s a whole new world out there.

Recipe follows after the jump…

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