김밥 (Kimbap)

김밥 (Kimbap)

It seems like many cuisines have their own ‘package’ food. Mexican food has burritos, Indian food has samosas, Japanese food has onigiri, Korean food has kimbap. This is a really common food for lunches, for picnics, times when you just need something that can be eaten easily without having to re-heat it or cook anything. It’s really a whole meal in a roll. The name simply means “seaweed rice”, and that’s basically what it is.

This is one of those dishes that can be almost anything you want it to be – it would be simple to make it vegan, vegetarian, or with meat. This recipe uses fried fish cake, but is otherwise vegan. It would be a great way to use up scraps of vegetables you have just sitting in your kitchen, or you can buy things specifically for it and make it special. It’s a good idea to mix flavors, colors and textures so that you really get a great experience not only tasting it, but looking and it and even just chewing it as well.

Ingredients

  • Pickled korean radish (3 long chunks)
  • Pickled burdock root (3 long slices)
  • Fried fish cake (6 long strips)
  • 2 carrots, cut in matchsticks
  • 1 Korean pickled cucumber, cut in matchsticks
  • 1 bunch of spinach, mostly de-stemmed (it’s not necessary to be really careful about de-stemming it)
  • 1 can tuna or tuna salad made with 1 can tuna
  • 2 cups cooked rice (2 cups when measured dry, measured with the rice cup measurement, not the normal cooking cup)
  • 3 sheets seaweed (김)
  • Sesame oil
  • Salt

Directions

  1. First prepare your fillings. The pickled Korean radish can be purchased whole or already cut into long chunks (see the yellow vegetable in the above photo). Same with the burdock root. If you purchase them whole, cut them as seen above. Cut the fish cake into strips, and the cucumber and carrot into matchsticks.
  2. Cook your two cups of rice according to the directions on the package. This should be Korean or Japanese short to medium grain rice.
  3. Once the rice is cooked, drizzle in a small amount of sesame oil, and salt to taste, and mix it well with a fork, chopsticks or a rice paddle. Set the rice aside to cool.
  4. Fill a bowl with cold water, and then in a small pot, bring plain water to boil. Toss in the spinach and let it sit for just one minute, until it is soft.
  5. Remove the spinach from the hot water, and put it in the cold water to stop it from cooking further. Once it has cooled, remove it from the cold water, and squeeze it firmly to remove most of the water.
  6. Toss the spinach with a small amount of sesame oil and salt.
  7. Once the rice has mostly cooled (it can still be warm, but you don’t want it to be wet or steaming much), lay out a sheet of seaweed, and thinly cover it with rice. Try to get the rice as close to the edges as you can.
  8. Lay out the fillings you are putting in perpendicular to your line of sight (parallel with the counter), towards the side of the seaweed closest to you. Don’t put too much in, or it will be difficult to wrap the whole thing around it.
  9. Lift up the edge of the seaweed closest to you, and fold it over the fillings. Tuck in the edge of the seaweed around the fillings tightly so that they are not loose inside the roll. Make sure the whole edge of the seaweed is evenly tucked in.
  10. Finish rolling the seaweed until you get to the end and have a finished roll. Set the roll seam-side down and let sit for a few minutes to solidify.
  11. Either lightly wet your knife, or lightly coat it with sesame oil, and slice the rolls into bite-sized rounds.
  12. That’s it, you’re done! Enjoy!

김밥

김밥

김밥

김밥

김밥

김밥

순두부찌개 (Sundubu Jjigae)

순두부지개
We often say that the simple rustic food of a country is the very best, and this is another piece of evidence to support that argument. The ingredients and preparation for this stew are very simple, but the resulting soup is complex and delicious, spicy and rich.

I think people in western cultures often view tofu as something that you would only eat if you’re trying to avoid meat (that is, it’s a compromise if you need protein but don’t want meat – not something you would just eat because you enjoy it), but having it in a setting like this might completely change your mind, as the texture is perfect, and it soaks up all the flavor from the broth and becomes an integral part of the soup along with the ground pork.

As always, adjust amounts of things according to your taste and how you want the soup to be. The amounts we’re posting here are mostly approximate anyway, as we never measure anything.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 2 cups kimchi
  • 4-6 cups dashi or anchovy (like dashi but made with dried anchovies instead of katsuobushi) broth
  • 6-10 shiitake mushrooms, de-stemmed and halved (optional)
  • 1-2 tubes/blocks of the softest tofu you can find.
  • 1-2 eggs (optional)
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated or finely minced
  • 고추가루 (Dried red chili flakes)
  • 고추장 (Spicy red chili paste)
  • 된장 (Fermented bean paste) or miso paste.
  • Rice vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Sesame oil
  • Brown sugar

Directions

  1. In a medium to large pot, cook the ground pork in a little bit of sesame oil until nearly done, breaking it into crumbles as it cooks. Add some salt, pepper, and red chili flakes as it is cooking.
  2. Add in the garlic and ginger, and cook for about a minute until everything starts smelling really good.
  3. Add the kimchi, and cook just long enough to warm it up.
  4. Add the broth, some rice vinegar, brown sugar, and mushrooms and bring up to a simmer.
  5. Add some chili paste, chili flakes, bean paste, salt and black pepper to taste.
  6. Bring the broth to a boil, then reduce the heat slightly to a high simmer and let cook, covered, for about 15-20 minutes
  7. Finally, add the tofu in on top of the pot and break it apart into large pieces. If your tofu is really soft it should just naturally break apart in the broth. Let the tofu simmer in the broth for another 10 minutes or so.
  8. Optionally, bring the soup back up to a rolling boil and crack an egg or two right into the stew.
  9. Dish up in bowls, and garnish with a little drizzle of sesame oil and a light sprinkle of chili flakes.

잡채 (Japchae)

Japchae!

We generally love all forms of starch – potatoes, bread, rice, and in this case, noodles. We love noodle dishes from all kinds of cuisines – Italian to Chinese to Korean. This Korean dish is one that is often served at parties and special occasions, but is really nothing complicated or labor-intensive. It is a pretty basic stir-fry served over sweet-potato noodles. The noodles have a fantastic texture, and the combination of the simple seasonings of sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, salt and pepper with the lightly stir-fried ingredients makes for a simple, yet satisfying meal.

Ingredients

  • Carrots, cut into small sticks
  • Zucchini, cut into small sticks
  • Green onion, chopped
  • White or yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • Mushrooms, cut in small pieces
  • Thinly-sliced beef, cut into small pieces (optional)
  • Large handful of sweet-potato noodles (당면)
  • Sesame oil
  • Soy sauce
  • Sugar
  • Mirin or rice vinegar

Directions

  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil for the noodles. Once the water is boiling, follow the directions on the package for cooking the noodles, then drain, rinse with cold water, and remove to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Toss the noodles with a small amount of sesame oil and soy sauce, just to coat the noodles and keep them from sticking together.
  3. In a wok or frying pan over medium heat, heat up a small amount of sesame oil until it is quite hot, and stir-fry the onions until soft and/or lightly browned, seasoning lightly with salt. Remove to the mixing bowl.
  4. Add another small amount of sesame oil to the wok or pan, and stir-fry the carrots until they are as soft as you would like, seasoning lightly with salt – we prefer them to still have a little crunch. Remove to the mixing bowl.
  5. Repeat step 3 with the zucchini.
  6. Add another small amount of sesame oil to the wok or pan, and then add the mushrooms and beef and stir-fry until the beef is just cooked through, seasoning lightly with salt. Remove to the mixing bowl.
  7. Mix together about 2 tbsp of sesame oil, 2 tbsp of soy sauce, 1 tbsp of sugar, and 1 tbsp of mirin or rice vinegar (if you use vinegar, maybe add another 1/2 tbsp of sugar), stir until sugar dissolves, and the pour into the mixing bowl.
  8. Toss all the ingredients in the mixing bowl until all the ingredients are well-coated with the sauce, and then plate and serve!
Japchae!
Japchae!
Japchae!

Padrón Peppers

I could eat my weight in fried Padrón peppers.

We’re always up for new experiences, and having had friends in town from Spain recently, we’ve been thinking about trying more Spanish food – then suddenly at the farmers market, we started seeing these Padrón peppers showing up everywhere. I don’t remember seeing them in previous years, maybe just because we weren’t aware of them as much. These delicious peppers are mainly grown in the Northwest of Spain. They are picked when small, and have a mild flavor (mostly – apparently about 20% are quite spicy), and they are really delicious.

The traditional way of preparing them is simply to fry them at very high heat in olive oil until the skins blister and blacken, and then remove them from the pan and sprinkle them with sea salt. I could eat buckets of them this way. Spicy or not, the flavor is delicious. If you can find them wherever you are at, definitely give them a try!

お粥 (Okayu) – Rice Porridge

Okayu

Rice porridge is a staple food all across Asia, though probably China and Japan are most known for it. It is a great dish to know how to make for a couple of reasons: you can put anything you want in it, and it’s one of those warm, comforting foods that is great for rainy days and runny noses. It kind of fills the niche of both chicken soup and oatmeal.

Since the rice is cooked until very soft, it is often served to people who are sick, since it is easy to digest, but it is delicious regardless of your state of health. It is easy to make with some meat, or to make vegetarian or vegan, just depending on what you want.

When we cook dishes that are served with rice and we have leftover rice, we wrap it in plastic wrap and stick it in the freezer just for the purpose of making rice porridge. You can then just pull some out, unwrap it, stick it in the pot with liquid, and heat it up. It’s hard to judge ratios of rice to liquid this way, but in the end it doesn’t really matter that much. If you’re using pre-cooked rice, you want about twice as much liquid as rice to start with, but you can always adjust as it cooks and add more or cover the pot if you don’t have enough liquid, or remove the lid to let liquid cook off if you have too much.

This rendition just happens to use a number of things we had in our fridge that needed to be used, and it turned out really delicious. Try to find the same ingredients, or just use what you have at home and make up something new. The same basic principles we state below will give you a good starting point to experiment from.

Ingredients

  • Approximately 2 cups cooked rice
  • Approximately 4 cups chicken stock
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 large or several small carrots, sliced thinly
  • 4 Chinese-style sausages, sliced
  • 3 eringi (king oyster) mushrooms, diced
  • Handful of turnips and turnip greens, roughly chopped
  • Handful of komatsuna, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place the cooked rice in your pot, and add maybe 3/4 of the stock.
  2. Turn on the heat to medium-high. If you’re using frozen rice, let it defrost and break apart.
  3. Once the rice is all broken up and the stock is steaming, reduce the heat to low, and start adding other ingredients. Add the minced ginger and garlic first.
  4. Next, start adding ingredients that take longer to cook, like the carrots and sausage in this case. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Let those ingredients cook for a while with the rice and stock, adding a little more stock periodically if need be, to maintain the desired texture of the porridge. Be sure to stir regularly, so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
  6. Once those ingredients start to soften/cook, add other ingredients that don’t take as long to cook, like the mushrooms, turnips, and any sturdier greens you may have (the komatsuna in this case).
  7. Once everything is nearly finished, add anything you don’t want to cook very long – delicate greens (the turnip greens) and green onion in this case.
  8. Taste for seasoning, add anything you think it might need, and then serve it up in bowls, steaming hot!

Eggs in Spicy Minted Tomato Sauce

Eggs simmered in spicy mint tomato sauce with toast.

One of our favorite things to do on weekends is to sleep in late, then get up and cook something delicious, make a pot of coffee, and have a nice, relaxed mid-day before we do anything serious. This weekend we were looking through recipes we wanted to try, and this just happened to only include ingredients we had already in the apartment, so we decided to give it a try. That was a good choice.

This dish is bright and spicy, with some smokiness from the smoked paprika, richness from the eggs, and goes perfectly with dense, toasted bread. Pile it on the toast and eat it like an open-faced sandwich, or serve it beside and dip the bread in. We basically followed this recipe from Food52.com, with the addition of smoked paprika. Serves 2 people with a nice, hearty breakfast – and if you only like a moderate amount of the tomato sauce, you may have enough left over to cook another egg or two in the next day.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
  • One 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • Spicy pepper sauce such as sriracha or tobasco
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Smoked paprika to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • Bread for serving

Directions

  1. In a deep-sided skillet or frying pan with a lid, heat butter and olive oil together over medium heat until hot.
  2. Sauté onions for about 5 minutes until they turn translucent and start to brown and caramelize a bit.
  3.  Add garlic and jalapeño and sauté for about another minute.
  4. Add crushed tomatoes, hot sauce, bay leaf, and smoked paprika.
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a steady simmer and let simmer, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes until sauce thickens.
  6. Stir in the mint.
  7. Using a spoon or spatula, make four small depressions in the sauce, and crack your eggs right into those depressions.
  8. Season the eggs with salt and pepper and then cover the pan to cook the eggs until the whites are solid and the yolks are however you like them.
  9. Once the eggs are done, serve them up with sauce and bread, and dig in!

Spring Green Niçoise Salad

Niçoise salad with green beans, fresh peas, olives, tomatoes, boiled potatoes, boiled egg, capers and parsley. Mustard vinaigrette.

It’s not too often you find a meal as well balanced, or a salad so hearty and satisfying as a Niçoise Salad. It’s got leafy greens and beans, it’s got olives and tuna for some healthy fats, ascorbic acid (vitamin c) in the tomatoes, protein from the tuna and eggs, and a variety of good vitamins and minerals in the potatoes.

This is one hearty salad – we often eat salads as side-dishes in the U.S., but this one is easily a full meal by itself. Satisfying, with a variety of textures and flavors; some salty, some tangy, some savory, some fresh green – it is delicious and will fill you up.

You can vary the ingredients some – it often calls for anchovies, and sometimes just has a standard vinaigrette dressing, for instance. In this case, we used canned tuna, as our neighborhood fish market was out of tuna, but you could also get a small albacore tuna steak and pan-fry it until just done through. You can vary the dressing as well, adding more vinegar if you like it tart, less mustard if you want a lighter dressing, more sugar or even some honey if you want it a bit sweeter.

As always, play around with it and make it just how you like it.

Ingredients

  • Butter lettuce
  • Tuna
  • Eggs (1 per person)
  • Potatoes (2 small or 1 large per person)
  • Green beans
  • Fresh peas
  • Tomatoes
  • Olives (we used castelvetrano, traditional would be niçoise olives)
  • Capers
  • Parsley
  • Olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 big pinch dry dill
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar

Directions

  • Wash and dry your lettuce, and arrange on serving plates or in bowls.
  • Trim your green beans.
  • Put a shallow pot of water on to boil, and fill a bowl with cold water and (preferably) ice cubes.
  • Once the water boils, blanch your green beans and peas (separately) for just about 1 minute, until they brighten in color, but don’t soften.
  • Scoop them out and place them in the bowl of cold water to chill and stop the cooking.
  • Pit the olives if you need to, and also cook the tuna if you need to.
  • Slice the tomatoes in half if using cherry tomatoes, or in chunks if using large tomatoes.
  • Arrange all the ingredients on top of the lettuce.
  • In a small jar with a lid, combine the olive oil, vinegar (3 parts olive oil to 1 part vinegar), mustard, shallot, garlic, dill, salt, pepper and sugar. Put on the lid and shake well until all ingredients combine.
  • Taste the dressing and adjust ratios or seasoning as needed.
  • Pour dressing over the salads, and serve!

Pulled Pork Sandwich with Homemade Kimchi

In case you are wondering what kinds of things you could do with your home-made kimchi, other than just eat it straight out of the jar: we offer you this delicious, and perhaps slightly unexpected combination inspired by a local sandwich place, Lardo.

A friend of ours was in town recently, and left us with a bag of smoked pulled pork. What did we do with it? Lightly coated it in some BBQ sauce, put it in the oven at 350F (175 C) until the sauce started sizzling, then scooped it onto a fresh ciabatta roll, drizzled a little more BBQ sauce, and then heaped kimchi on top.

You definitely should try it.

Pulled pork sandwich with homemade kimchi.

きゅうり あさつけ (Cucumber Quick Pickle)

There is a rich tradition of pickling in Japanese cuisine, but much of it is not quite the same way we think of pickled items. Most western pickles are fermented or soaked in brine for at least a week. Many Japanese pickles (tsukemono) are fermented or soaked only for 30 minutes, up to several hours. They retain more of the flavor of the raw item, and just enhance the natural flavor rather than create something totally new. The following method is often used with vegetables you have around the house that are a little past their prime, and maybe wouldn’t be as good on their own anymore, but are still edible.

This is a quick cucumber pickle that we made this weekend. I used two small persian cucumbers, but you can use any type really. It does work the best with cucumbers with tender skin and small seeds, though. If you can find Japanese cucumbers, they are usually thinner and longer than the pickling cucumbers we typically use in the U.S., more like English cucumbers. I added some ginger for extra flavor, you could also add chili powder (togarashi) or sesame seeds – or really anything you think would taste good with them. If you have or can get kombu, adding it to the pickle adds some flavor, and also thickens the brine a bit.

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • Ginger
  • Cucumbers
  • Bowl(s)
  • Heavy Object(s)
  • Kombu (optional)

Directions

  1. Thinly slice the ginger, then julienne it, so it’s in small, thin pieces.
  2. Put the ginger in a bowl (or in multiple bowls depending on how much you’re making), and lightly salt it. Toss it to distribute the salt.
  3. Thinly slice the cucumbers.
  4. Put the cucumbers in your bowl(s).
  5. Sprinkle the cucumbers with salt, and then toss them lightly to distribute the salt.
  6. Let everything sit for about 10 minutes until the cucumbers start to glisten with moisture.
  7. Starting gently and increasing pressure, work the salt well into the cucumbers, and begin to use enough pressure to squeeze a fair amount of liquid out of the cucumbers.
  8. If you have kombu, cut about 1 inch square(s), and put it (them) in the bottom of the bowl(s).
  9. Find a heavy object or objects that are nearly the same diameter as your bowl(s). I used mason jars full of water.
  10. Put plastic wrap on the bottom of said heavy object, and then place it on top of the cucumbers, so that it’s pressing them down.
  11. Let sit at room temperature for about 2-3 hours.
  12. Remove the kombu and discard it.
  13. Eat!
Making tsukemono.Making tsukemono.Cucumber quick pickle with fresh ginger.

おにぎり (Onigiri)

Onigiri!

 

Continuing on our recent trend of cooking a lot of Japanese food, here is a classic. Onigiri are rice balls (or maybe more specifically, compressed rice with filling in it). They can be made in many shapes, and with many fillings (or just plain with salt). They can be shaped by hand, or using a mold. They are a convenient food to make ahead of time and then take with you somewhere, and they are pretty and pleasant to eat. Because you can fill them with almost anything, they are also very diverse, and can be made sweeter, more savory, or salty and pickled, depending on how you’re feeling. They are often wrapped with a piece of nori (seaweed) on the outside, both for aesthetic purposes, and to allow you to hold the onigiri without the rice sticking to your hand.

For ours, we were just using what we had on hand. We had used some katsuobushi recently to make a somen noodle dipping sauce, and that involved soaking the katsuobushi in soy sauce, mirin, and some other things, so we strained out the katsuobushi, squeezed it out, and kept it for filling. We didn’t have any nori on hand, though I do usually prefer wrapping a small piece around the onigiri. We did have some nanami togarashi (a ground spicy pepper and sesame seed mix), so I used that to decorate the onigiri, and provide a little extra zing when eating them.

Other fillings we have used in the past include miso paste and pickled vegetables, miso pork and pickled ginger, and ginger chicken, but really you can put anything in there that will fit. Soy-soaked shiitake mushrooms chopped finely would be delicious. Any other cooked and chopped vegetables would be nice. Other types of dried or cooked fish could also be good.

Directions

The process is very simple. You just need rice and filling. For six onigiri (using the mold we have), I made 2 cups of rice.

If using a mold, moisten the inside, and press enough rice in the bottom to fill it up about halfway, then press a divot into the center. If doing it by hand, moisten your hands, and take a large bunch of rice in your hand, and press a divot in the middle.

Onigiri! Onigiri!

Fill up the divot with filling.

Onigiri!

If you’re doing this by hand, roll the rice around the filling, and then form it into whatever shape you like. If using a mold, press more rice in on top of the filling.

Onigiri!

Then press the top of the mold in firmly but gently – not enough to smash the rice, but enough to press it together.

Onigiri!

Tip the mold upside-down, and squeeze the onigiri out.

Onigiri!

Now, no matter whether you’re doing it by hand or using a mold, decorate your onigiri using nori, togarashi, sesame… whatever you like.

Onigiri!

And that’s it. Let them cool so that the rice kind of congeals and sticks together well, then wrap them up and take them away, or eat them then and there.