As planned I consumed a lot of noodles over the summer. I also discovered another easy treat that goes perfectly with the noodles. It’s called 부침게 (buchimgae), or the Korean pan cake. I like the images above, because it’s so typical of my summer days- sesame leaves picked from my garden, Lucy slaving away in my kitchen and us eating together.
So the reason I figured this is the perfect time to talk about my summer domestic activities is because I think the best way to start a new season is to reflect on the past.
I am kidding, of course. I just can’t bring myself to think about my shameless gluttony over the Thanksgiving weekend, and I’m actually quite stressed about this upcoming few days, so this I figured, would be the perfect time for summer recap!
Like I said, I ate a lot of noodles.
This is soba with some veggies, and maybe pepper/sesame sauce?
Another soba with different stuff and a different buchimgae- really minimal effort with easy goodness. I really do prefer this self assembling method because everyone can adjust to their own liking.
Yet another one from another time that looks pretty much the same as the one before.
This time with sea weed and different noodles, and with different buchimgae!
Back to soba with fresh made kimchi. And at last, the result of Lucy’s chopping and my mixing on the very top images yielded-
Tada~ Oh wait..
Maybe it was this one.
I don’t think it was this one because it looks like this one is kimchi pancake. But who knows.
Since the days of the noodles and the Korean pancakes, I have discovered that I have a hypersensitivity to gluten. In a way, this is my postmortem tribute to a certain method of lazy cooking that I have exploited to the maximum. As my sensitivity is not as severe as it is for some people, I’m sure I will come back to this at some point, but for now, I have my memories. And for now, I am happily sending my summer staples to the realm in my heart where 12 or so year ago I have sent Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Korean Barbecue- I’ve had enough, I know it’s good, I don’t need it.
떡볶이 (tukbokgi). Or ddukbokki. (Or whatever. I really hate writing out Korean words in Roman alphabet.. sorry. But it’s so easy for you to learn.) The yellow pancake looking thing is my new favorite dish: butternut squash pancakes. I learned in from Maangchi’s video, and added some scallions, garlic, and ground black pepper to adjust to my taste.
The initial reaction I received from the ladies in the picture can be roughly translated to something in between , “I’ve never had 떡볶이 like this before.” and, “what the hell kind of a 떡볶이 is this?!”
For those unfamiliar, it’s not normally that colorful of a dish. It’s just orange-ish red, with way less veggies. It should look more like this:
This is the more proper version we made on our previous full-moon 떡볶이 get together, with the ramen, oden, and the whole thing. I get the relaxed, warm feeling just looking at the pictures from that night. In fact, I am convinced that one will find very few Korean people who cannot feel that warm, nostalgic sentiment when talking about this dish. It’s the ultimate after school snack, and it’s probably the meal that many people had during their first time ever dining out “only with friends” experience. Thinking back, I feel a little guilty for perhaps ruining the essence of 떡볶이 by making massive changes for my fellow aficionadas. But I think the real spirit of it is being chatty and overeating together, and we got that part down for sure.
But I had my own reasons for hippifying the street fast food supreme. The night before, I had went to the Lubalin exhibition opening at the Cooper Union, and afterward, conveniently ended up at Song 7.2, the soju bar/ Korean fast food place in the East Village where 75% of the food menu consists of empty carbohydrates, and the other 25%, deep-fried empty carbs. We had already planned our tukboki gathering days in advance. So that night, after devouring my plate of fried sea weed wrapped glass noodles drenched in more traditional tukboki sauce with my pumpkin soju, I realized that should respect the message from my body urging me to not repeat this two days in a row. That is how the tukboki turned out purple and orange.
The main adjustments that took place in this version is the amount of rice cake vs. vegetables (red cabbage, carrots, onions, garlic, butternut squash, and mushrooms), the sea weed broth, and the substitution of tofu shirataki noodles in place of ramyun noodles. Ramyun is generally my favorite part about home made tukboki, so this was a bit of a risky experiment. My verdict: Ramyun can never really be replaced, but shirataki noodles are acceptable, especially counting in the lack of bloated feeling afterward. But the dashima, and the 3 different kinds of mushrooms I used really made the dish.
And this made me feel a bit like a real adult. There was a time when I didn’t care what the hell was in the red sauce. I just wanted it to be spicy with just the right amount of sweet. The biggest worry I had was to not get the sauce all over my shirt. I still worry about that, but I am worried more about the consequences of my intake. I considered Coca Cola to be ultimate accompaniment, but now I opt for Chianti.
It turned it into something completely different than what tukboki should have been, but I liked it regardless. I am growing up, slowly, and it’s just fine with me.
Strangely, I haven’t thought about bulgogi since I stopped eating meat 12+ years ago. It’s probably largely due to the fact that this is so much about the quality and the texture of the meat unlike something that still tempts me after all these years like KFC chicken which is all about the crust which is not even really the part of the chicken.
I recently decided to treat bulgogi like KFC- away from the meat. (But of course, with a bit more respect. Please don’t get mad Korean people) Because bulgogi sauce is too good to be forgotten. I had it with kimchi stew, and packed the rest for lunch the next day with leftover rice.
One big misconception about bulgogi is that it’s a type of barbecue dish. While I am sure it’s great grilled, traditionally, it should be more like a stew, with a lot of simmering. I made mine a little more dry than it should be which might explain whey it looks a bit dry. I didn’t know any better.
Aside from the whole no beef part, this recipe below is pretty authentic/ basic. Nothing crazy here.
Mushroom Bul-Seitan (a.k.a. Vegetarian Bulgogi)
1 pack (about 1 lb) of seitan- sliced
For the sauce
1/2 yellow onion-blended- blended
1/2 pear (preferably Korean)- blended
1 1/2 cup filtered water
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp chungju, soju, white wine, or mirin
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp crushed/chopped garlic
ground black pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients for the sauce, and marinate seitan for up to 6 hours in the fridge.
When it’s ready to cook, prepare the following vegetables:
1 lb mix of different kinds of mushrooms
2 scallions- julienned thin
1 onion- julienned thin
1 or less carrot- julienned thin
In a heated pan, start cooking the marinated seitan in medium-high heat. When about 1/2 of the liquid have simmer away, add the vegetables, and cook in high heat, for about 5 more minutes.
There’s a pretty big culinary event that I left out in October. That is, my very first hosting of Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving celebration. I tried my best to quickly come up with something comparable to the traditional menu, but of course it deviated to match my need, ability, and resources.
One of the biggest rituals for Chuseok is Charye. Of course, we’re not sprung from the same ancestors, so we decided instead, to pay respects to the luminous beings who we have recently lost, as they have profoundly touched our lives: MJ and Swayze. I wish that we had something nicer than Jim Beam to offer, but we had that, and cachaça. And would ever I expect to find Dalton sippin’ on a little glass of capirinha with a dainty lime wedge in Road House? I don’t think so. Although Bodhi, maybe.. and MJ, definitely. Anyway..
I documented some of our process, partially because I think that my mom would get a kick out of them. Fortunately, I think that now I am ready to take it to a more serious level next time. This month is the American Thanksgiving, which is a bit more simple than the Korean one, and I’m quite excited for it, not only for the food and an excuse to get together with everyone, but also because of the leftovers. Which is why I have decided to dedicate this entire week to talking about leftovers! (Something needs to happen with all the food portraits in the hard drive…)
And below is the recipe for my favorite dish of Chuseok.
Vegetarian Taro Soup
*경고- 전통적인 토란국을 찾는다면 이 조리법을 절대 따라하지 말것.
300g medium sized toran/taro (@ Korean market, ask for ‘toran’. @ Japanese marker, ask for ‘araimo’ or ‘eddo’)
200g of a Korean/daikon radish (@ Korean market, ask for ‘mu’. @ Japanese marker, ask for ‘daikon’)
1 yellow onion
3 large sheets of dashima/kombu (@ Korean market, ask for ‘dashima’. @ Japanese marker, ask for ‘kombu’)
5 large shiitake mushrooms
1 or more medium size scallions
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 or more cloves of garlic, 1 sliced, and 1 chopped
a pinch or ground sesame seeds
sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
Peel the skin of taro using a knife or a potato peeler, and wash thoroughly. Taro skin can make your hands itchy, so wear plastic gloves if your hands are sensitive. (My hands were fine w/o gloves.) Bigger taro should be cut in half, so that all taro pieces are the similar size. If desired, cut each pieces in to round ball shapes.
Like all Korean soups, taro soup will be eaten with rice, which should be cooking in the cooker before starting the soup. Save the water that was used to wash the rice before going to the cooker, and use this water to boil the taro. This will get rid of the sliminess of the taro. When the taro is soft but still on the firm side (not mushy) discard the water and wash taro in cold water. Set aside.
Wash the radish, cut into quarters length wise, and slice in to 1/3 inch slices.
Put dashima/kombu, half of the scallions, onion, mushrooms, garlic, and radish slices in about 8 cups of water and bring to boil and then bring to simmer. When the radishes are as soft as the taro, take out all solid ingredients using a strainer or a cheese cloth to filter, and keep the water simmering.
Discard the scallions and onions. Wash the radish slices, onions, dashima/kombu, and the mushrooms in cold water. Season the radishes with chopped garlic, ground sesame seeds, and 1 tbsp of soy sauce.
Cut the boiled dashima/kombu into 1.5 inch squares, and slice the mushrooms. Julienne the remaining 1/2 of an onion. Put all ingredients including the cooled taro back in the broth, and bring to boil one more time. Season with salt and ground black pepper. Serve with chopped scallions sprinkled on top.
I am not a huge fan of fake meats. Part of the reason why I use mushrooms or other soy products like tofu or tempeh in almost everything I make has a lot to do with that reason. Of course, I love mushrooms, tofu, and tempeh for their unique flavor and texture too, but they’re also such great sources for protein.
In recent years, there has been some improvements in the fake meat options. They are now much more natural, emphasizing more on the flavors of veggies and grains, and no longer taste like a sad attempt at mimicking the taste of animal flesh. My favorite by far are Field Roast Grain Meats. They are great for putting together quick dishes and don’t need much instruction. But today I am here to talk about a staple item in late 90’s vegan punk rock brunch: LightLife Gimme Lean’s.
It’s an inoffensive option. It’s chewy, with a mild salty flavor and that distinctive processed soy taste. I consumed with some what of a reluctance for years because it’s so widely available that it’s hard to avoid. Only recently I started to give it a proper chance, and came up with a solution that satisfied me.
First step is to mix it with more natural flavors that appeal to me, like chopped mushrooms, garlic, herbs, or crushed nuts, and roll it in to little balls or patties. I have yet to try, but I think certain fruit preserves would also go well with it. Secondly, coat it with panko, or corn starch (preferably Korean or Japanese), and then lightly pan fry.
I served it at brunch with hoe cakes, spinach salad, and roasted home fries recently and they disappeared like hot cakes within moments. Of course, I had put some aside before hand for later. I put some in ramyun along with some frozen spinach, Korean leeks, white miso, and zucchini the next day for a quick lunch, and it could have been my favorite experience with Gimme Lean ever.
On a sort of related note, my high-spirited friends have been filling my inbox with all kinds of gross Halloween images. I guess this year’s big thing is (are?) meat babies. See example one here, and example two. And let’s not limit our meat- human body part creations to the forms of mere infants. I don’t think I can bring myself to experiment with that, having watched Martyrs, but if you are so inclined to try making gross looking veggie Halloween dish, I guess Gimme Lean would be your best substitute.
Or, if you really want to gross people out, make something like that with just plain ground vegetables, tofu, all kinds of liquid, esp. beer or malt liquor. Dump it all in a food processor. Not only it will look disgusting, it will also stink. Much like vomit.
……Okay, I am stopping here.
I wish you a fun Halloween!
This year had a lot of first’s for me so far. On Saturday was my first ever bachelorette party for my dear friend Ari, which was crazy fun. I think this picture sums up the events pretty well.
They don’t usually dress in all tights and leggings, just so you know. I don’t know if this conveys the stripper poles, pretty insane UES dinner, and bottles of Grey Goose and Johnny Walker involved… but now it’s all out. In the midst of the grinding and air humping, I get a text from Lucy “can’t help making kimchi stew, come over in the morning, bring laver (sea weed).”
Sunday morning, I reluctantly digged myself out of the comforter cave. Like a small animal leaving its nest after a hibernation, I rubbed by face with no soap or water and dragged myself out in search of nourishment 2 1/2 blocks, to Lucy’s house where my all time favorite comfort food was waiting.
Our breakfast only consisted of the soup, rice, and laver, and it’s just what I needed. I provided a link to a video instruction on making kimchi stew when I talked about making our own kimchi. But this one was drastically different than any kimchi stew that I am used to. It was made with well-fermented kimchi that she washed, and stir fried in "butter" before adding broth, which was rich with flavors from mushroom. She also added carrots to add sweetness without using sugar as it is normally.* It tasted a lot like vegetable soup, which I liked a lot.
Anyway, it’s really true that you’re in a constant self realization. Who knew I would have so much fun at a bachelorette party? And who knew that I would be so happy to be devouring vegetable soup tasting kimchi stew? I wish every weekend was a bachelorette weekend. Sort of.
*If you are new to this crazy world of Korean food, and want to try making your own kimchi stew, I suggest starting out with the most traditional way, so that you get an idea of how it’s supposed to be. Use this recipe, and substitute the meat portion to mushrooms.
I MADE MY OWN KIMCHI!!!!!
This is a big deal, people. Even though I can’t claim to have made it myself. A more accurate story would be that I kept company of my friends while they did all the work and research. I asked questions, and chopped the vegetables and fruits, as per their direction. But kimchi is never made by one person. My mother always had at least 3 other people to collaborate with, and it could be the most communal food item to prepare, which I think is really cool. It’s also probably the most economical and nutritious thing I know about. A huge batch is made a few times a year, and then it lasts forever in its continuously fermenting process. I heard some kimchi can last for more than 3 years, but I am guessing that that is when is stored in a quality clay pot, and buried in the right spot in the ground. I would say the kimchi we made should be consumed within a month, since we’ll be keeping it in a regular fridge. When it gets too sour, it can be made in to kimchi stew*!
I noticed that as I am writing about this, there’s already a seemingly gratuitous amount of exclamation points. And by that, I am also realizing how deeply I am fond of kimchi. All nostalgic sentiments as a Korean person living abroad aside, it has so many dynamic layers. I first love that its flavor is just completely bizarre and powerful, and that it is the definition of ‘acquired taste’. I think I can safely assume that every Korean child started eating kimchi by force. Flavors that naturally appeal to people are sweet, and mildly savory. Kimchi is neither. It’s spicy, salty, and totally weird. Maybe the relationship of Korean people and kimchi is like the culinary Stockholm Syndrome. Anyway, there are plenty of information about kimchi if you’re curious, so I’ll leave the informative part to the experts.
Getting back to the ‘big deal’ part about this, making kimchi is sort of a rite of passage. It means I am a ripe young woman ready for marriage, and that my flower is ready to be picked. Uhh.. okay that’s kind of gross. Sorry. But it is really the last step toward becoming a domestic matron. (When I told my mother that I made kimchi, she was really impressed, so I hope that gives my claim some credibility.) So, this description applies to the ladies in the pictures above, more so than me, who in reality, was more of a spectator. The kimchi we made was fantastic beyond belief, and Gia was kind enough to send me the instructions she followed: Napa Cabbage Kimchi (in Korean)
Ladies are putting their gunz to work
And.. here’s the translation:
Napa Cabbage Kimchi
1 head napa cabbage cut into quarters or 2-inch wedges, depending on size of cabbage
1/3 of a large mino early radish (Korean raddish)
1 1/2 cup coarse sea salt
For seasoning (This will yield more than the kimchi needs. The leftover sauce can be saved and added to stir fry or soup, or more kimchi!)
3/4 cup or less Korean chili powder (gochutgaru)**
4 ounces scallions and Korean leeks
1/2 of a medium sized yellow onion
1/2 of a Korean apple, or fuji, pink lady***
1/2 of a Korean pear
1.5 tbsp finely minced garlic
1 tbsp finely minced ginger
1/2 tbsp sugar
- bring to boil some water to 1 1/2 cup with dashima/kelp, and mushrooms (wild mushroom or shiitake) and simmer until the broth is flavorful, discard the sea weed
- take the water off the stove, and stir in 5 tbsp of sticky rice flour (chapsal-garu) or all purpose flour
Dissolve 1 1/2 cup sea salt in 7 cups of water. Soak chopped cabbage in the salt water for at least 1 hour. Mix it up after the first 30 minutes.
In a large bowl, pour the hot broth and stir in the chili powder. Let it sit in room temperature.
Remove cabbage from water and and drain in colander for 2 hours. Mean while, cut the radish in quarters lengthwise, then slice. Be sure not to slice too thin. Mix the radish slices in a handful of sea salt, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Wash and cut the scallions and leeks into 1 inch lengths and slice in halves
Put the fruits and onions into food processor or blender and liquify. When the chili powder mixture cools down to room temperature, stir in the mixture into the chili powder, and the rest of the ingredients for the seasoning.****
When the cabbage is drained, place it in a large bowl along with radish slices, leeks, and scallions. Mix in thoroughly with the seasoning, and blend using your hands.
Tightly pack the cabbage in a gallon-size jar. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and press down to get rid of air pockets. Leave it out at room temperature for half of a day to ferment. During that time, do not move, or open the container! Chill before serving.
*This video linked is not veg friendly at all, but don’t worry. I just substitute all meat ingredients with mushrooms and I happen to love the results.
**You can make your own by drying Korean chili peppers, and crushing into powders, or get some from here
***The fruits are optional, but to me, essential. We also put in some dried jujube in it!
****Traditionally, this is where you would put in fresh oysters or salted shrimp. Some people think that it’s sacrilegious to do without them, but personally, I find the flavors much cleaner and more refreshing without.
About 15 minutes ago, I started cooking some carrots and parsnips. Immediately, I got bored, and now they’re just sitting in the pot, overcooked and getting mushier by the minute. It’s one of those days where I can’t find a hint of excitement and desire for anything, and I’m wishing that I had some left overs to remind my senses of something pleasant from the previous day with minimal effort. But there’s not even some cold rice in the fridge. And I’m just going to assume that you don’t know what cold rice can do, which most likely is true, and show you the way:
After a very late night dinner over the weekend, this is what I made the next morning with the left over rice. It’s 김치볶음밥 (kimchi bokkem bop). It’s the easiest thing in the world to make. All you need is some kimchi, left over rice, and whatever else you want. In my case, a lot of carrots and onions.
Bokkem-bop means “stir-fried rice”, roughly translated, but I kind of hate saying fried rice. It’s not really fried! It’s more like, stir-cooked with minimal oil. That kind of goes against the definition of the description. Let’s just say there’s no direct translation in English for it, and digress.
This is one of the first things I started cooking for myself, and I never get sick of it. And it’s only just one of many things that can come out of the neglected leftover rice, but this one is my favorite. By the way, in Korean idiom, cold rice (찬밥) often describes a neglected person. In my ideal, I don’t want to neglect anyone, or anything. Not even cold rice itself. And certainly not my grumpy, hungry self. So. I think it’s time for me to pay some attention to the carrots and parsnips. But first, I’ll leave you with this to try when you’re feeling famished and wretched, or happy and adventurous.
Although I’m generally too lazy to make efforts to stand out above others, I still like to believe that my thoughts and experiences are unique. But I also believe in the collective consciousness. This is the only explanation I can resort to justify this feeling of need to be surrounded by my loved ones and consume something warm during the winter holidays. I wasn’t raised with traditions of Western religion. And another year passing doesn’t mean as much when you don’t have a number of vacation days to spend every year and it’s been years since you’ve been out of school. But every year of my life, on New Year’s day, I’ve had the traditional rice cake soup, and it just doesn’t feel right without it.
So began my search for 떡국 (dukgook). Our New Year’s festivities were very low key, and we greeted our first morning of the new year late in the early afternoon. Our brunch followed M’s American Southern tradition of black eyed peas and collard greens with my favorite, hoecakes. Later in the evening, we head to Hanareum in K-town to get the essential ingredient for the rice cake soup- rice cake, only to find out that they were completely sold out. Dukgook is a widely popular dish that can easily be found at any Korean restaurants around 32nd Street, but unfortunately, it’s traditionally a meat heavy fare. First of all, the broth depends almost entirely on the quality of beef brisket (although originally it was made with quail, and then chicken). And what some people consider the highlight of this dish is the topping (gomyung), which is usually thinly sliced sheet of pan fried scrambled eggs, marinated beef, and sea weed.
We had no choice but to post-pone our new year’s meal to the next day, which turned out to be fantastic, because it ended up being more convenient for everyone. I was a little nervous because most of our friends are meat eaters, but it turned out to be a success.
Lucy chopped the eggs (for those without restrictions), seaweed (laver), and the scallions all prettily, and dressed up the kimchee with sesame garnish.
I made the broth using Kelp (dashima), oyster and shiitake mushrooms, garlic, onions, and scallions. They boiled and simmered for a couple of hours, and at the end, I took out all the ingredients with a strainer. To the broth I added some frozen leek dumplings, rice cake, sliced shiitake and let it boil for about 3-5 minutes. Season with s&p, and add the toppings.
I think the rice cake:liquid ratio should be about 1:2. It’s not a porridge. The rice cake should be able to float/sink freely. More info on dukgook:
If this is the time that I am supposed to reflect and remember the good, I don’t have to try hard, and I’m thankful. Thankful to Lucy for hosting, and cooking with me, and all of my friends for everything. Happy New Year to all!