Dinnertime in Korea can be a maddening, befuddling time.If you’re fresh off the boat from the Western world and you’re anything like me it’s hard to make hide or hair of the 196 varieties of kimchi, 32 cuts of galbi and umpteen gelatinous balls of sugary ddeok that bombard your palate at every turn.This is to say nothing of that age-old battle between metal and wooden chopsticks or the choice between 13 blends of soju (all mysteriously labeled fresh!) that inhabit eateries from Yongpyeong to Yeosu.Yet,once you work your way through a 30-page menu and entrees encased in two inches of furniture varnish for the first time you’re bound to discover a cuisine as delightful as any other on earth. But if you find yourself stumbling through the streets of Seoul like a soju-zombie in search of something other than a bulgogi burger, we can help.
Can’t miss korean treats:
- pyeonyuk, head cheese
- baek kimchi, white kimchi
- soojeonggwa, Cinnamon Ginger Tea
You’ve been warned:
- hongeo, fermented skate
- ojingeo sundae, boiled squid stuffed with blood sausage
- jokbal, spicy pig’s feet
As expatriates calling the Land of the Morning Calm home, Iron Chef Megan Ahrens and I have a unique perspective on the foods and customs of this beguiling,insular and ultimately charming nation. Our new cookbook,The Ubiquitous Kimchi, is not an effort to shock you with haute cuisine (though the sundae will certainly test your gastronomical fortitude), but is an effort to share with you something of the Korean “everyday,” a little slice of home as it has become.We’ve cooked up the foods that friends share on a Saturday night, the meals a family sits down to after a long week, the snacks boys and girls delight in after a 22-hour school day. This is Korea, and this is the food that we love.
We’ve gone to great lengths to present more than 50 original Korean recipes and a half-dozen other homespun favorites. The paint is still peeling from my bedroom walls as a result of fermentation experiments gone wrong, the tandoor we borrowed from our favorite Indian restaurant is still on fire and I’m not sure if I’ll ever scrub the smell of weeks-old brine shrimp from my skin, but the adventure has been worth the effort.
We’ve learned that there’s absolutely nothing you can add to buddae jjigae to diminish its militant taste, you won’t blow up your own house fermenting rice wine, and indeed one man’s kimbap is not another man’s sushi roll.
Now we’re sharing all this knowledge with the rest of the world.We’ve come away from the first cookbook experience of our lives ardent fans of raw fish in 100 different iterations and firm believers that the only good stingray is a dead stingray and, sinking or swimming, it belongs on Poseidon’s plate, not ours.
If you really want to impress your Korean coworkers and your friends back home with what you’ve learned during your time abroad, brew them up a batch of everyone’s favorite traditional rice wine, makgeolli. We promise that it’s fresher than that stuff you buy from the Makgeolli Man for a buck and we’re fairly certain it won’t make you blind.Serve it up with a Korean pancake duo of pajeon and bindaetteok and let your mind wander back to the time of your ancestral rites. Once you’ve brewed your very own Hongdae Hangover, make sure you sort yourself out with our gamjatang recipe.
makgeolli. 막걸리 / korean traditional rice wine
- Cheese cloth bag
- Large gallon-sized jar, cleaned and sanitized
- 2 pounds short grain rice
- 7 cups water
- 1/4 cup nuruk ( 누룩, enzyme)
- 1 packet wine or beer yeast
Note: Nuruk is a fungus compound, a fermentation starter, and used in the preparation of many Korean beverages. In Makgeolli manufacture it is used to convert rice to sugar, enabling fermentation by the yeast.
Directions: Rinse the rice with cool water until the water runs clear / Soak the rice in cool water for two hours. The rice should be brittle at this point. Allow the rice to drain at least 2 hours before steaming / Steam the rice in a rice steamer for 1 hour.This will soften the rice and help convert the starches / After the rice is well-cooked, spread it onto a tray to cool to room temperature / Boil 1 cup of water and add the nuruk, stirring until dissolved. Set aside to cool to room temperature / In the large jar, add the cooled rice, 6 cups of cold water and the nuruk water. After stirring well, add the packet of yeast and stir again / Cover the jar and let it sit for 5 days at room temperature (7880 degrees Fahrenheit) / Stir the mixture twice a day during the 5-day period / After five days, let the mixture sit with an air lock for two weeks, or until the air lock stops bubbling / After the rice is done fermenting, use a cheese cloth bag to strain the liquor from the rice.The strained liquor should have a 12-17 percent alcohol content / Mix the strained rice with 6 cups of water, and then strain it through the cheese cloth again / This will produce a weaker beverage with an alcohol percentage of around 5-8 percent.
To order a copy of The ubiquitous Kimchi visit: www.flashparker.wordpress.com
By Flash Parker