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!

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.

Šaltibarščiai (Cold Borscht)

When we went to make this for dinner the other night, I was flabbergasted that we hadn’t posted it here yet. This is one of our very favorite summer meals, a Lithuanian cold beet soup, usually served with boiled potatoes and/or pickled herring. It’s a pretty simple recipe, and very tasty, though the color is a bit shocking to people who aren’t used to it :) This recipe probably serves about 4-6 people.

Ingredients

  • 1 32oz bottle plain kefir (you can use buttermilk if necessary, but kefir is much better)
  • Beets (you can use raw or canned, this recipe uses raw)
  • Green Onion
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 large cucumber
  • Dill (fresh if possible, but dried is fine, too)
  • Salt

Directions

  1. If you’re using canned beets, skip the steps about cooking them and just chop them up in either a dice or a julienne – otherwise, continue as written :)
  2. Peel the beets, and chop them into small-ish pieces. Boil them in water until soft all the way through.
  3. While beets are boiling, hard-boil your eggs.
  4. Chop your green onion, cucumber and dill and set aside.
  5. Once beets are soft, drain them, but keep the cooking liquid as you will add some of it to the soup later. Let beets cool.
  6. Once the beets have cooled, cut them up. You can either dice them or julienne them.
  7. Add the beets to a large mixing bowl (over 32 oz).
  8. Add cucumber, dill and green onion to bowl.
  9. Peel and chop your eggs, and add to the bowl.
  10. Pour in full bottle of kefir.
  11. Pour some of the cooking liquid from the beets into the kefir bottle and shake it around to make sure you get all the kefir out, then pour into soup.
  12. Mix everything together well, and add more cooking liquid from the beets to taste.
  13. Salt to taste.
  14. Serve with boiled potatoes sprinkled with dill, or pickled herring and onions (or both).

Šaltibarščiai Šaltibarščiai Šaltibarščiai Šaltibarščiai Šaltibarščiai Šaltibarščiai Šaltibarščiai Šaltibarščiai Šaltibarščiai Šaltibarščiai Šaltibarščiai Šaltibarščiai Šaltibarščiai Šaltibarščiai

Enjoyment of Food

One of the biggest reasons that we cook is for enjoyment. Not only enjoyment of eating the end result, but enjoyment of the process, the smells, the interaction with each other, and the anticipation. One of the best ways to enjoy food is as a social event, and we had a chance to remind ourselves of that last night, making Kimuchi Nabe with our friend Rosalind. We just got this beautiful clay donabe this week, for making Japanese Hot Pot (or nabe), Shabu Shabu and Sukiyaki.

Donabe

In honor of the event, we also got a little gas burner, and decided to have Rosalind over, as we knew she was a big fan of hot pot. We’ve made this basic recipe a number of times in our large Le Creuset cast iron pot, but this was our first time trying it in the donabe. We prepared all the food in the kitchen, grouped it all on plates, and then headed out to the table with it.

Kimuchi Nabe Kimuchi Nabe

We used fried tofu, oyster, enoki and shiitake mushrooms, green onion, our homemade kimchi, and thin sliced pork. The broth was 4 cups of dashi stock, 1 cup sake, 2 tablespoons shiro miso paste, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil.

The hot pot turned out deliciously cooked in the donabe, probably the best one we’ve made yet. But the real best part about doing it this way was the process. Prepare to just relax and enjoy.

First, just put the broth in the pot, and let it get nice and hot, so it is just barely simmering, not really bubbling. Sit and chat, drink some beer, and notice the broth becoming fragrant.

Kimuchi Nabe

Toss in the green onion and the kimchi, let it sit for a few minutes, and then taste it to make sure there is the right amount of spice.

Kimuchi Nabe

We ended up adding probably 1/2 lb or so of our own kimchi. Results will vary depending on how spicy the kimchi you have is, and how spicy you like things.

Kimuchi Nabe

Let that simmer for a little bit, drink some more beer, and note how the smell changes. By the time you are done with this dish, your whole house will smell like delicious food. Next, stick some of the thinly sliced pork into the hot broth – if it is thin enough, it will cook almost immediately. Pile tofu and mushrooms on top, and then put the lid on and let it steam for a while.

Kimuchi Nabe Kimuchi Nabe

Once the mushrooms are soft, everyone dishes up into their bowl – mostly the solid items, leaving most of the broth in the pot.

Kimuchi Nabe

Add the rest of the pork, mushrooms and tofu on top of the pot, put the lid on, and again let it simmer while you’re eating what you just removed from the pot.

Kimuchi Nabe 

You will notice the smells continue to change, and we noticed that the second batch of things we pulled out of the pot tasted notably different than the first – the flavors continue to develop, to deepen, and to even get better than they were the first time.

Finally, finish the broth with some delicious noodles, or dried, baked mochi squares, which puff up and get crunchy in the oven. All that delicious, rich broth gives so much flavor to the noodles or mochi, and it’s the perfect way to finish off the meal.

Japanese Hot Pot

So, give it a try. Make your meals a chance to spend time with people you enjoy. Cook with them, chat with them, and enjoy the entire process. Share the whole experience of preparing, cooking, and eating something really delicious. I can hardly imagine that you will regret it.

Koresht Fesenjan

We recently went to a cooking class on Persian food, given by Hip Cooks, and this was one of the dishes that we made in the class. It was delicious, and pretty simple to make, so when we finally found the pomegranate molasses, we decided we would have to try it out on our own. It turned out brilliantly, so well that we plan to keep the pomegranate molasses and some walnuts in our standard pantry stock, so that we can make this on a regular rotation. This is one of those dishes where almost the best part of it is smelling it cooking, so please try it out for yourselves, you won’t regret it.

If you can’t find the pomegranate molasses, you can make it by cooking down 100% pomegranate juice with sugar until it is a thick syrup. It’s expensive to do it that way, but if you have no other option, it works. Recipes for that can be found online.

edit: The last time we made this, I did the walnuts with a manual nut chopper instead of the small food processor, and it was actually quicker and worked better. With the food processor, you have to pulse it so that you don’t burn the nuts, but with the manual chopper, you can just keep going, and it actually chops the walnuts at least as finely.

This recipe would be a good lunch or dinner for about 4 people.


Ingredients

  • 12 chicken thighs
  • 1 1/2 cups whole, raw, walnuts
  • 2 onions
  • About 3/4 cup pomegranate molasses
  • 2-3 tsp sugar
  • A couple handfuls of chopped mint, parsley, and cilantro
  • Greek yogurt

Directions

  1. Using a small food processor or nut chopper, chop the walnuts until they are a coarse meal. If using the food processor, pulse it, so that you don’t heat up and burn the nuts.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, lightly toast the walnuts, just until they become nice and fragrant.
  3. Add the 3/4 cup pomegranate molasses and about 1/2 cup of water to the pan, and mix well. This will cook down for basically the rest of the preparation time, but you may need to add a bit more water periodically if it gets too dry. Stir periodically to keep it from burning.
  4. While that is cooking down, finely chop your onions, and cut the chicken thighs into small pieces.
  5. In another skillet over medium heat, add a few tablespoons of oil, and saute the onions until they become translucent, then add the chicken and saute it until it just turns color on the outside.
  6. Add about 3 glasses of water to the chicken and onions, bring to a boil, and let boil for 20-30 minutes.
  7. In a rice cooker or pot, start 2 cups of jasmine or basmati rice cooking.
  8. Once the chicken and onions are done boiling, and the pomegranate/walnut sauce is nice and thick and rich, strain the liquid out of the chicken and onions, and add the chicken and onions to the pomegranate/walnut sauce.
  9. Mix the chicken and onions into the sauce, and then add a bit of the cooking liquid from the chicken and onions. Mix everything together well, and let it all simmer down for another 10 minutes or so.
  10. Meanwhile, chop up your mint, parsley and cilantro.
  11. In the skillet you used for the chicken, add some oil, and once the oil is hot, toss in the herbs, and saute briefly until bright green and fragrant.
  12. Stir the herbs and some greek yogurt into the pomegranate/walnut sauce, remove from heat, and serve over the jasmine or basmati rice.
Koresht Fesenjan Koresht Fesenjan Koresht Fesenjan Koresht Fesenjan Koresht Fesenjan Koresht Fesenjan Koresht Fesenjan Koresht Fesenjan Koresht Fesenjan