Sunday, August 31, 2014

A brief map of Korean regional food



Korea is a tiny country: North and South Korea combined is the same size as Minnesota. But South Korea alone has 50 million people and 1/5 of them are living in Seoul.  While doing some research on more traditional Korean recipes, I thought it would be good to make a brief map of Korea and its regional produce and cuisines. Most people think Korean BBQ as the prominent food in Korea but vegetable and seafood have had more impact in Korean traditional food. Long time ago, before we started importing food from other countries in the modern era, the meat was very scarce because Korea is full of rough mountains which are not good for farming or ranching. But we are surrounded by three seas which produce different types of abundant fresh seafood that we ate raw, braised, grilled, pickled and made jerkies with. The rich, meat orientated dishes developed in Seoul and other big cities that used to be the capital at some point in Korean history. But rest of Korea were eating rustic meals made out of wild earthy plants and preserved veggies and seafood to last the harsh winters. Wasting food is like the biggest sin in Korea. When we butcher an animal, we use every part of it including their organs, bones, blood and odd parts like the heads, tails and the feet. Actually, the weirder the part is, the better it tastes! And it’s interesting to see that cold food developed way up in the north, which has brutal long winters. You would expect more hearty, thick, warm meals from there, but no, Koreans from the north rather enjoyed the effect to refreshing cold meals, which are served with a chunks of ice floating in the bowl to make it extra cold. These cold noodles and soups from northern regions are now popular everywhere in Korea. Some of these recipes goes back hundreds of years and I wish to learn them all some day. 

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Banchan recipe: Tangy Sea Kelp Salad





I’m like a vacuum cleaner when it comes to this dish, I can’t stop eating it! Mi-Yuk (Sea kelp) could be one of those weird, never-before-seen ingredient to the westerners but it’s been part of asian cuisine for centuries. It is silky, flexible yet crunch and somewhat meaty at the same time which is very different from land leaf greens. It’s hard to describe how good this is, so just try it and you won’t regret it! 
Hmm... you can see that I really have to work on my julienne cut skill! it's too chunky for this dish, but it was still delicious!
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New Banchan recipe: Spicy Bokchoy!





I don’t remember seeing bokchoy in Korea when I was growing up there in the 1980s and 90s but now it is getting popular as more and more people around the world begun to know about it and cook with it. It’s not uncommon to see this veggie in even american and european restaurants these days and I think it’s because it is such a versatile vegetable. It has two opposing qualities: delicate and tough at the same time, sorta like cross between napa cabbage and spinach, with a slight bitter after taste. It’s important to blanch this veggie enough for the bitterness to come out yet maintaining a firm texture. I use it for all kinds of cooking including stir fry, steaming, blanching and also a great addition to noodle soups. 

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

New banchan recipe: Seafood scallion pancake




Seafood scallion pancake seems to be everyone’s favorite appetizer when I bring my friends to Korean restaurants. It’s easy to share and c’mon, who doesn’t like fried pancakes? This pancake batter can be used to make variety of other “Jeon” (Korean word for pancake), including kimchi pancake, chive pancake, fish pancake, squash pancake which I’m going to show you how to make in the near future. By the way, flipping a big pancake can be hard not to mess up first time. So don’t be disappointed if it breaks apart when you flip them, it’s still going to taste good! And you can always divide the batter and make couple of smaller pancakes for easier flipping too.

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

New Korean Recipe: Steamed Egg in a Bowl!






In case you are wondering what the Korean traditional earthenware pot (Ttuk-Bae-Gi) looks like, I’ve put some pictures of it above. This egg dish comes out freshly made in a korean earthenware pot if you go to traditional Korean restaurants and it is one of the most savory, comforting food ever. It’s piping hot, the egg soft, airy and salty. The whole pot is gone into my belly in a blink of an eye. There are many different ways to make this dish and you can even microwave it for 3-4 minutes instead of steaming it and get a similar result but I think steaming makes it have better texture. Some people put it in a rice cooker when they are making rice, too. When you make a bigger portion of this recipe, remember to increase the cooking time accordingly. You can easily buy regular earthenware bowls at any kitchenware stores like Crate and barrel, Pier 1 import…etc.
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Friday, August 1, 2014

New Recipe on my Banchan Tumblr: it's Pan-Fried Tofu!





Tofu is one of my go-to food when I don’t have much time to cook but still want to eat yummy, healthy food. You can eat the soft (silken) tofu straight out of the package with the same sauce from this recipe which would be even healthier and quicker meal. But traditionally, Koreans usually cook the tofu, by either pan frying it like this recipe, putting them in casseroles, or steaming them. There are so many yummy recipes using different type of tofu in Korea that I could even make a recipe book just devoted to tofu! Follow BanChan In 2 Pages for a new recipe every week!