January 8, 2008

Raw goodness

Well, first things first:

A Recipe for Eggbop
One bowl of steaming rice
One raw egg
Soy sauce to taste

Mix a few times until the rice is a broad swirl of white, yellow and black. Taste. Each creamy bite should be immediately followed by a rush of salty, soy goodness. Repeat. Add more soy sauce as needed.

I ate this meal happily throughout the seventies. Mom would serve it occasionally when things were busy, and it was sometimes presented at large gatherings for the kids. Nowadays my siblings and I are finding other Koreans our age don't know about this - was this particular to our family only? Was it a left-over Japanese thing?

I don't know why but I loved seeing the other kids' faces over their bowls - different heights, different sizes but all over the same bowl of steam and rice topped off by a giant yellow yolk.

January 9, 2008

Kalbi Tchim

One of the many reasons I wanted to start this blog was so I could make and keep in one collection, definitive recipes of Korean food. By this I mean one core recipe for each dish, with simple proportions to take the guesswork out of how to amend recipes for larger or smaller portions, and to describe the basic flavor combination so it'd be easy for people to make it sweeter if they'd prefer, or spicier, or saltier - you get the idea. Also, now that I have two kids, I find myself obsessed with one-pot dishes - anything with meat, vegetables and carbs altogether - and the simplest recipes possible without sacrificing taste or healthfulness. So, here goes: A recipe for kalbi chim that I made for a visiting cousin tonight.

The Quickest Tasty Kalbi Tchim

5 lbs short ribs
(the following vegetables are optional and are up to you, my only suggestion would be to do no more than three for the sake of seasoning it all)
(also, vegetables should be thickly cut so they don't fall apart in a lengthy simmer, I like a thumbs width at least)

one giant carrot or two normal sized ones
one med. potato, partially or totally peeled
6'ish large white mushrooms, shitake, crimini
one parsnip
one med. turnip

4 stalks scallion
1 asian pear, peeled and grated/minced.
4 tbs rice wine
12 tbs soy sauce
3 tbs sugar
5 tbs minced or coarsely chopped garlic
black pepper to taste

1. Score rib meat diagonally to the bone, several times.
2. (optional) Heat a few tbs of oil in a pan and when very hot, sear each rib piece for a minute or two. This is purely for looks but adds a nice finishing touch to the meal.
3. Make marinade and evenly coat the ribs and vegetables.
4. Probably using two wide pots/sauce pans, spread the ribs and vegetables in one layer if possible, no more than two.
5. Bring to a boil then simmer if possible for at least an hour. It can be ready in thirty to forty minutes as well but I prefer a low, low simmer up to ninety minutes for a falling off the bone tenderness.
6. Most of the meal should eventually be simmering in it's juices, there's quite a bit. If not, I'd recommend spooning juices over portions that are not covered occasionally and/or bringing the ingredients at the bottom to the top, etc.

This basic recipe is more soy sauce/salty than sweet. You can reduce by 1-3 tbs of soy sauce for a more balanced soy sauce to sweet flavor. You can add 1-2 tbs of red pepper for spiciness, and 1-2 tbs of sugar for a sweet saltiness.

This feeds five average sized adults with small second helpings.

January 14, 2008

The Tempting Trio

Off the main drag of Korea town in NYC which is 32nd St. (and in my opinion a little tired and overpriced) my favorite place to go is a few streets north to 35th St., between 5th & Broadway, where three upstart restaurants, all next to each other, torture me between choosing between them.

The first is Cho Dang Gol, a restaurant specializing in tofu dishes - the freshest, richest, homemade tofu turned into the most delicious biji's and soon-doobu's you've ever had. My favorite is the kimchee biji - mouthfuls of rich, almost velvety homemade doobu simmered in garlic, onion and pork, punctuated perfectly by chunks of braised kimchee that become almost silken as you spoon your way down the bowl into the milky tofu broth. Besides this, I've only ever had their bibimbop and though it was top-notch, it was very pricey when you can get more for less right next door at my all-time favorite KTown restaurant.

which is Han Bat. Their food is reliably and consistently fresh, delicious and authentic. It is by far the most reasonably priced, the portions generous, and the restaurant itself is warm and inviting, probably because of the great steaming vats of sullong-tang they have simmering at the rear of the restaurant. (The vats simmer around the clock in a "traditional" Korean cooking hearth, complete with a small thatched roof overhead so customers might feel as if they were sitting in the yard of a traditional home.) Try the deliciously hot and crispy seafood pajun or kimchee binde-dduk, bibimbop, any of the jigae's, gooks, and tangs - you will inevitably get a side of steaming fresh sollung-tang to boot.

And last but not least, the Korean Chinese Restaurant whose name I can never remember, sandwiched between the two above restaurants makes wonderful ja jang myun. The deep rich ja jang sauce is full of onion and pork bits and their homemade noodles are nicely chewy and doughy and all of it is only exponentially enhanced when accompanied by a platter of their excellent tang soo yuk. So tangy, so-sweet-and-yet-so-sour with just the right amount of pineapple to onion to green pepper ratio and a heaping family sized portion of fried pork (And the prices are good too which for a Korean is an important as anything!)

More favorites to come. In the meantime, check out Trifood.com where they try to compile a list of all the Korean restaurants in NY, NJ and CT.

January 19, 2008


In the early nineties, my mother owned a small grocery store in Philadelphia, in a small strip mall with a Dollar Store on one end. My younger brother, sister and I worked there regularly.

A classic scene:

Customer: How much for the Tylenol?

(Brother takes it off the shelf behind him, dusts off the cap.)
Brother: Eight ninety-nine. No tax.

Customer: EIGHT NINETY-NINE! Yo I can get that from the dollar store for ninety-nine cent! You crazy?

(Sensing trouble brewing)
Brother: NINETY-NINE CENT? Yo you better read the label —that's TYLE-NO not TYLENOL! That shit's TYLE-NO!

Customer cracks up. Pays. Leaves.

January 29, 2008

The Elephant of Kimchee


Among all the many loving discussions about the wonderful unique taste of kimchee, of it's health benefits, it's history, it's many forms, I've never heard discussed the one thing about kimchee that makes it truly fantastic. It's the one thing that differentiates your kimchee from my kimchee, no matter how equal our ingredients. That is, your Choom. SALIVA. Yours, your mom's, your siblings, your roommate's all add that truly unique ingredient, the actual stuff of fermentation that gives the kimchee it's flavor.

Now, of course, the little shrimp or oyster used in the kimchee begins the process but as anyone who finishes the smaller serving of kimchee kept in tupperware and goes back to original giant jar for more finds the original kimchee much less fermented, less ripened as we'd say. Now take that same kimchee and track it's distribution to different households and I daresay it tastes different in each home. (In my previous life without kids I'd love to try this experiment but will throw my hypothesis out there for anyone else to try!)

I guess it's the gross-out factor that prevents much talk about this say over dinner while you're actually eating it. (Yumm, your friend so-and-so really added something new to the kimchee..) But let me take a moment to parse out the gross bits and make an inquiry into the science of fermention...

The enzymes from your saliva act in the same way as the shrimp/oyster and foster the ripening of the kimchee from a stiff plain cabbage dressed with dried korean chiles and salt to a rich leafy cabbage, absorbed with the flavors of chile, salt and sugar. The salt forces the water out of the cabbage, the enzymes from the shrimp break down the cabbage cells, and the seasoning takes on the sharp piquant, almost vinegary flavor that defines korean kimchee. The enzymes from your saliva hasten this process in degrees, basically as much as you take the kimchee out of the fridge and eat some, and you get to experience the wonder of eating kimchee in many stages, culminating in hopefully a kick-ass stew, made best only with the most fermented, most enzyme-filled kimchee around. (Or as my sister says, leave that kimchee in the fridge until it becomes jigae all by itself!)

Enzymes, anyone?

January 29, 2008

Super Easy Oxtail Soup (Gori or Kori Tang)

Now maybe it's because my mom saves every piece of plastic take-out container and food jar, or always cleans her plate (and yours) and still manages to be about 95 pounds of trim, South Korean churchlady but I love recipes that use every bit of it's ingredients. Like Kori Tang.

Now for those of you who have yet to get over the TAIL portion of oxtail please know it is BEEF, tastes just like beef but manages to be both lean and tender at the same time. It is a delicacy because it is a small portion compared to other cuts, and there's something about the ample bits of beef wrapped snugly around a big marrow-filled bone that give it an essence of beef flavor. In a subtle but pure way versus the in-your-face big flavor of steaks and grilling meats.

This soup is full of protein, calcium and iron in addition to all the vegetable goodness you can add in. (Turnip is traditional, it absorbs the beef broth perfectly while marrying it to a just a hint of turnip flavor. The kids hardly notice it and it will also mash well into rice for the most finicky of eaters!)


Oxtail (found in the beef section of your grocery store)
5-8 garlic cloves
1-2 onions
Med. Korean betchoo or 2-3 American turnips
Salt and Pepper to taste
Scallion for garnish

The Recipe:
For a full stock pot, use about seven or as many pieces of oxtail as will fit comfortable on the bottom. (For 2/3 of a stock pot of soup, use about five big pieces.)

Fill with water as discussed above.

Add 5-8 garlic cloves, 1-2 sliced onions.

Bring to boil, then simmer on the lowest simmer setting for at least an hour.

Remove oxtail and when cool, nudge off the meat and add back to the soup. (My mom always set aside some of the meat and would urge us kids into the kitchen to eat it while it was still hot. Sprinkled with salt and sometimes soy sauce, the meat would disappear in minutes!)

Add peeled and cubed betchoo (turnip).

Salt and pepper liberally to taste.

Return to simmer for about twenty minutes or however soft you like your turnip.

Eat as much as you want or remove as much as you want for eating before the next step.

...Add bones (probably without the small knob bits that fall off each oxtail piece) back to the soup and simmer again for about two or so hours until the bones release their marrow.


Soup will be milky white.

Garnish with scallion if you prefer.

(For a non-fat version, simply place soup after initial simmer in the refrigerator overnight and skim off hardened fat in the morning.)

January 2008 | February 2008 »