Friday, October 28, 2016

Grub at Home: Korean (Part I)

I.  Love.  Korean food.  One of the best decisions I made when I lived in Korea was to ask Bronte to teach me how to cook some things.  Not only did the time we spent in her kitchen make us great friends, it means that in the five years since I've left I've still been able to cook some of my favorite dishes.  And I have quite a few recipes from her, so there will be future Korean posts, when I find all the ingredients I need.
One thing that Korea was great for was helping me grow up and eat my damn vegetables.  Instead of steaming them or cooking the flavor out of them, Koreans often pickle them, packing even more flavor into them and making them spicy, salty, sweet, and/or sour.  An easy pancheon, or side dish, that you can make is cucumber kimchi.  Here's how you make it:
Chop up a cucumber.
Chop up some green onion.
Mince in a small clove of garlic.
Add about a teaspoon of salt.
Add about a teaspoon of sugar (Bronte called this Korean candy).
Add about 2 teaspoons of red chili flakes.
Throw in a dash of pepper.

Taste it and see what you think.  You may prefer it saltier, or with more garlic.  Let it chill a little before you serve it - that's why I put this part at the beginning of this post.

Now that you've got your pancheon ready, you'll want a main course.  Among the simplest, yet tastiest, of all the dishes she taught me was...err, this one.  I don't think it really has a name.  It's kind of like bulgogi, because you make a marinade for your meat and stir fry it with some vegetables, but it's spicy, like dalkgalbi, yet doesn't have so many vegetables in it, and to add to the confusion, although she taught me to make it with pork, I haven't managed to actually do so even once.  If you need to call it something, go with gochu seogogi.  Spicy stir-fried beef.
You start with the marinade.  Bronte taught me that there are several ingredients that make up the base flavor of most Korean food.  Red pepper paste (gochu-jjang) and sesame oil are among them.  I started with about 100 grams of red pepper paste (sorry, I'm not sure what that is in standard measure - I bought the smallest package of paste and used half of it), 1.5 tablespoons of sesame oil, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and a bunch of green onions.  It should have a thick, paste consistency.  Mix all that up, and then add a pound or so of beef, or pork.  Mine was cubed beef, because that was what I found in the freezer, but it's better if it's sliced a little more thin.
Now for the vegetables.  Slice up a bunch of mushrooms, a green pepper and a red one (capsicums - I told you I use them for just about everything, didn't I? - not the small, spicier ones), and a small onion.  I suppose you could add some cabbage, if you wanted more roughage or a dish more like dalkgalbi,
You're also going to need to throw in several minced cloves of garlic, about half as much minced ginger, a dash of salt and a couple of pepper, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.  After that, you just need to stir-fry until the meat is cooked.  The red of the pepper paste becomes more of an orange as it cooks.
Et voilà!  You have a reasonably healthy, incredibly delicious meal.  Regrettably, my presentation is not what it used to be.  During my final stint in Korea Bronte's influence resulted in my purchase of a really beautiful set of ceramic dishes.  Getting them home, however, was problematic, and the ones that made it there whole have stayed in my long-suffering parents' basement ever since.  I have not replaced them, buying only very cheap dishes if it was necessary.  Someday maybe I will be a real adult with a house and everything, and I'll crack out the good dishes.

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