Posts Tagged ‘Korean’

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We all want to be useful. (FISH SAUCE)

April 12, 2011

During a recent class at the Astor Center, I was asked a question that I thought deserved public answering. One of the recipes we prepared included fish sauce. As an ingredient that is often used sparingly, my student wondered how to make a dent in the bottle that sits around after being used only once in an experimental while. In other words –allow me to paraphrase– ‘what the hell do I do with this stuff?’

A little background on fish sauce; it is the liquid extracted from salted and fermented fish or shrimp. Lending an aquatic (as in the bottom of an aquarium) and briny note, it is a major ingredient in many Asian cuisines. Each country has its own process by which they produce the stuff but Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, Laos, Korea, Southern China, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Japan all use a variation of fish sauce in alot or at least a little of their cooking. In my experience with Vietnamese food, it is a ubiquitous and staple item, sort of like the t-shirts they sell in tourist shops that say ‘Good Morning Vietnam!’.

The truth is, it stinks like no one’s business only to be intensified when heated. This should stop aforementioned no one from using this product. Once mixed with other ingredients it turns on its magic, amplifying the existing flavors, doing that umami thing that I can’t describe. It does something to make a dish taste as delicious as it did sitting on a small plastic chair, overlooking the beach at Nha Trang.

Wikipedia does a great job of providing mostly the truth and lots more fish sauce details. My mission is to list a few ways to help get through that bottle a little quicker.

TOP 15 USES FOR FISH SAUCE

  • in a curry
  • in salad dressing
  • as a marinade
  • as a dipping sauce
  • in a peanut sauce
  • in a crab cake or fish croquette
  • in a vegetable soup/stew (fish sauce loves kale!)
  • in beef stew
  • in (Asian style) chicken soup
  • in fried rice
  • sprinkle on fish before roasting/grilling
  • in a dumpling filling
  • tossed with noodles
  • in kimchi
  • in a stirfry

(‘in a stirfry’ is such a cop-out.) Enjoy!

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Leftovers 1. (DRAWING)

August 10, 2010

Leftovers is a still life series of drawings based on, well, leftovers. They are made with a mix of watercolors, ink, acrylic and pencil on leftover brown paper. This one is a bowl of Korean food and I enjoyed it twice.

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Maangchi + me. (KIMCHI CONTEST/BBQ)

July 9, 2010

It was a balmy day in June that Maangchi (of wildly popular Korean foodblog maangchi.com) held her annual meet-up in Prospect Park. As always, fans of the beautiful video-blogger came from near and far to celebrate with her. This year for the first time in meet-up history, she held a Kimchi Contest. Participants were encouraged to use recipes from her site, especially the popular Easy Kimchi, but were also welcome to submit their finest.

I was one of three judges in the contest and there were plenty of excellent submissions. From mild to fiery, young and crisp to highly fermented and hardcore! Here is a link to her extensive coverage of the event: http://www.maangchi.com/blog/new-york-kimchi-contest-report. The day was sponsored by Hanyang Supermarkets, who provided a classic and impressive K-BBQ buffet as well as Korean foods company, Sempio, who generously gave away lots of products like sesame oil, soy sauce and hot pepper paste to the picnic-ers.

I was happy to be a guest at Maangchi’s day but I am even more happy to be her friend. Great job, Maangchi! It was a great/delicious day in the park.

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Dear WOORIJIP, (KIMCHI PANCAKES)

April 9, 2010

Woorijip • 12 West 32nd Street, NYC • 212-244-1115

Though this sign says it all, I will continue with the post anyhow… You are the gem of 32nd Street (a.k.a Korea Way). Sure the block is jammed with restaurants but your cheerful, efficient food is absolutely perfect when one has limited time, (limited funds) and needs to get back to their regular stomping grounds in a hurry. It is also very accessible to people unfamiliar with K-way and the restaurants there, as it is very approachable and the casual DIY spirit makes it kind of fun.

In my latest midtown trek, you managed to get another gold star in my non-existent book of great restaurants. The first star was for the best to-go lunchboxes around, the second was for being open until 3am. The newest star is for the lunch buffet I can’t believe it took me this long to discover. For $6.50 per pound one can load up on all sorts of salads, pickles (sort of like getting the traditional banchan with your meal), and put together a plate from two long steam tables full of stews, noodles, rice dishes, seafood, veggies, and little side treats like kimchi pancakes, pork rolled in cabbage, rice cakes two ways and lots more!

I was beside myself with joy, sampling all of my Korean faves like chap chae noodles and ddukboki, as well as some new stuff I had never tried before in all of my Korean food adventures. More stars were generously bestowed upon ground tofu stew with kimchi, fried pork belly and kimbap.

I was so inspired by lunch that later on at work I made some kimchi pancakes. They were easy and delicious. Masitsseoyo! And so this post is not only an idolizing, love letter review, but also a recipe post.

A trip to Midtown is nothing without you.

Loyally yours,

Ori

EASY KIMCHI PANCAKES

1 cup of your favorite kimchi, chopped

3/4 cup juice from kimchi or water*

1 tablespoon soy sauce (plus extra for dipping)

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup flour

2 tablespoons oil (plus extra for cooking)

  • Mix kimchi, kimchi liquid or water*, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, eggs, flour and 2 tablespoons of oil together in a bowl. Should be a thick-ish pancake batter consistency. Add a bit of water if necessary.
  • Lightly coat the skillet with additional oil and heat over medium flame.
  • Drop desired amount of batter into hot pan and smooth it out to form pancake shape.
  • Cook until lightly brown, 2-3 minutes and flip. Cook on second side until brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes.
  • Continue until batter is finished. Yields 8 (5-inch) pancakes. Serve with a little bowl of soy sauce for dipping.
  • * if using water instead of kimchi juice, add a pinch of salt to the batter.

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Dear Dokebi,

May 12, 2009

 

dokebi

199 Grand St • Williamsburg, Brooklyn (front door/restaurant + back door/bar)

One can say I’m on the rebound after leaving my last steady Korean restaurant back in Queens. Now that I am a Brooklyn resident, all is well! Yet I search for a meal to fill the void where Tofu and Noodles once was, a cozy neighborhood place I can turn to when the need to eat Korean food arises, which is often. I am always saying that if I feel a little ‘off’ or sort of run down spicy, effervescing Korean food without fail cures what ails. And anyway I crave it voraciously every couple of weeks. That is why I keep coming back, that is why I can’t stay away.

I feel lucky just having you close by! You too have excellent banchan, some items very reminiscent of the ex- and some brand new ones to enjoy. Those little blocks of egg you serve, more like a custard than the usual omelette-like manifestation, are so light and silky they almost disappear upon the palate. And what was in that spinach? Garlic and miso? Also delicious. Yes, and thank you for your fabulous kimchi, fish cake and sprouts, too. They help me long for my former go-to place a little less with every bite.

Since your menu is much bigger, it is difficult to know you intimately (as of yet), but I plan on getting to know you better. It seems that one of your specialties is Korean BBQ, which I have not tried, but I do spy on others boisterously digging in on any given visit. So far, I concentrate on the stews and I am a big fan of the whole grain rice you offer alongside. The tiny cubes of sweet potato hidden in there are a nice textural change to all that bitey rice. I am also really into the bibimbap. I don’t mind paying the extra $2 for the stone bowl, though I don’t see how it could be eaten from any other vessel. But I know that I have had to accept the higher price point of the neighborhood in general and especially in my frequent Korean food fests. I do appreciate the saving grace… with $8 lunch specials I make my way through the menu without feeling too jaded.

Dear sweet Dokebi, you are a great bar + grill with a great happy hour and alot of heartfelt food to give. After a 5-year relationship with the last place, please forgive me, it is a little hard to get over the super-low prices, the strictly authentic, hearty fare, the unassuming atmosphere I found there… But our relationship is new and exiting and I trust that it will grow.
Yours truly,
Ori

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Dear Tofu and Noodles,

February 4, 2009

tofu+noodles

40-06 Queens Blvd • Sunnyside, Queens

I know that’s not your real name, but can I call you that? Book Chang Dong sounds so formal. To me you are ‘Tofu and Noodles’, my special friend and neighbor, and that is how I have come to love you. There, I’ve said it finally. I love you! And now I am going to take my sweet time telling you all of the reasons why.

You have the best banchan in the whole city and you hand it over quickly and generously. I usually show up ravenous. As soon as the order is placed (which I sometimes do before even taking my jacket off), the banchan arrives without a moment’s delay. Little round bowls are heaped with hot, sweet, salty, briny bites of seaweed salad, fish cake, marinated cucumbers or bean sprouts, potato salad, shredded daikon, those little crunchy fish with the heads on and/or, of course, the housemade kimchi, which is one of the best I’ve ever tasted. All of these things are ingeniously designed to make you want more food as you eat them and they are always fresh and super-delicious. I usually clear my little plates systematically, leaving the chilled spicy garlic soup banchan for last. That one gets eaten when the main course is served in a feeble attempt buy some valuable cooling time, since most dishes arrive on sizzling platters or in hot stone bowls. I have suffered many burned tongues and would suffer many more.

You take good care of me! I don’t think I’ve had a single cold or flu since making your acquaintance! If ever I feel a little vulnerable to catching something, I march immediately to your door to have a meal that arms me to fight it off. I think Korean cuisine in general has these special powers but you are like a secret weapon. It is the perfect combination of intense spice which is very cleansing, the fermented items (like kimchi) which help balance out the system and fresh veggies, sprouts and seaweed that are packed with nutrients. It seems to kick start the immune system and knocks out any trace of a bug. Every dish comes with soft, shiny rice which is soothing to the insides and the hearty warmth of the meal certainly helps to restore a person back to optimum health.

And while I am here counting the ways, I have to praise your soon dubu chigae*, a dish that you make so well, I crave it in my sleep. I will not eat it in Flushing and have no use for it in K-town. It is the specialty which takes up one-half of your menu with its varieties (most of which I have sampled) and it always impresses Korean friends I have brought in who grew up eating the stuff. It also turns people who have never even thought of eating bubbling, boiling soft tofu stew into chigae-junkies. It is mandatory to eat it slowly. It makes a person sweat and sniffle with joy. I have noticed that as it cools, its flavor gets better and better and by the end of the bowl I am completely stuffed and completely happy, which is not only good for the body but also the soul.

I just thought you should know how wonderful you are.
Sincerely,
Ori

tofu+dubu

*Soon dubu chigae = Soft tofu stew.

tofu+banchan

Banchan are like snowflakes, no two are alike.