Showing posts with label Korean. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Korean. Show all posts

May 19, 2018

Jjajangmyeon: Korean Black Sauce Noodles

Jjajangmyeon (짜장면) or Jajangmyeon (자장면) is a Korean noodle dish whose name translates roughly to "Fried Sauce Noodles." Sound familiar? Perhaps you recall Zhajiangmian, the Chinese dish with the same translation. This dish is generally considered to have evolved from the Chinese recipe, but however similar the names are, the Korean version took a few detours along the way and the results are significantly different.

The very first important thing to understand, is that Korean-style fermented black bean paste must be used in order to get the correct flavour and texture. Don't try to use a Chinese black bean sauce or paste - it will not be the same. What you want is a smooth fermented black bean paste called chunjang (춘장).

There's a bit of chopping involved, but once your mise en place is, well, en place, the recipe comes together very quickly. You have some leeway with the vegetables used in the sauce: onion is essential, white radish (Korean joseon radish or daikon) is an almost universal choice, and cabbage, zucchini, - even potato! - are also frequent choices. You can add celery, mushroom, carrot - really, the choice is pretty much up to you. It's all going to get coated with a thick, black sauce in the end, so use whichever firm vegetables you like.

Like its precursor, Jjajangmyeon is usually based on pork, and in this case I'm using pork belly, although any marbled cut could suffice. However, the beauty of Jjajangmyeon's versatility is that you don't actually need meat at all. I've included portobello mushroom in my vegetable mixture, and you could easily replace all of the pork in this recipe with the mushroom. It's really up to you. (Because the pork belly is the only animal-derived product in this dish, if you opt to switch it out for the mushroom, your resulting dish will actually be vegan.)

What kind of noodles? If you can get Korean noodles specifically for Jjajangmyeon, go for those, obviously, but you can also use fresh ramen, udon, or even instant ramen, in a pinch. Wheat-based noodles are standard, but if you need to use rice noodles instead, I won't tell.


Adapted from The Woks of Life

Serves 4

3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1/2 pound pork belly, diced small
1 1/2 cups small diced daikon or Korean radish
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
2 tablespoons finely diced fresh ginger
1 1/2 cups small diced zucchini
1 portobello mushroom, stem and gills removed, diced small
1/2 cup of chunjang, Korean black bean paste
2 1/2 cups water, divided
Cornstarch slurry (2 tablespoons of potato starch or cornstarch, stirred into 1/2 cup cold water)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1-2 teaspoons rice vinegar (optional)

4 servings freshly cooked noodles

julienned cucumber
sliced danmuji (yellow pickled daikon radish)
raw sliced onion

For goodness sake, make sure your prep is done. You won't have time to chop-and-drop this one. Set a pot of water on to boil for the noodles, too.

In a wok or large skillet (I used my 30cm/12" nonstick skillet), heat a tablespoon of the canola oil over medium-high heat, and add the pork (if doing a vegan version, add all the mushroom at this point). Stir it into a single layer, and fry it for a few minutes, until it gets golden and renders some of the fat away. Add the radish and ginger and stir it through, and let it fry for about a minute before adding the rest of the vegetables. Give them a quick stir, and then cook for another two minutes, stirring occasionally. The vegetables will give off some liquid that will help keep them from sticking to the pan, but if they are sticking anyway, lower the heat a bit. When the onion is translucent, clear a space in the middle of your pan/wok, and add the remaining two tablespoons of canola oil. Let the oil heat up (about 10-15 seconds) and then add the chunjang. Use a wooden wok tool or spatula to fry the chunjang in the pool of oil in the centre of your pan for about two minutes (it might start to stick a bit, which is fine, just scrape it free with your spatula). This stage cooks the bitterness out of the black bean paste, so take your time - and lower the heat if necessary to keep it from burning.

After the two minutes of frying the black bean paste, stir it into the surrounding vegetables until they are all evenly coated, and then add 2 cups of water (room temperature is fine). Stir through again, scraping up any stuck bits, and then bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium and put a lid on. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pork and the vegetables are tender. You can use the cooking time to cook the noodles, so that they're ready when the sauce is.

After the 10 minutes, mix up the cornstarch slurry, and add it to the skillet, stirring constantly as you add it. It will thicken the sauce almost instantly, but stir and cook it for a couple of minutes longer, to make sure there's no raw flavour from the starch. Taste, and if there is still a bit of bitterness, you can add the 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. You can also add a splash of rice vinegar, if you want it tangy. If it has thickened too much, you can add a few tablespoons of room temperature water to loosen it back up.

Stir in the sesame oil, and divide the sauce between four bowls of freshly cooked, hot noodles. Garnish with the raw and pickled vegetables, and tuck in immediately.

September 03, 2017

Pajeon: Korean Scallion Pancake

Pajeon (파전) is the green onion version of the Korean pancake family -- a rich family indeed, with many variations from kimchi to seafood, to combinations thereof. There are quite a few different techniques, as well - some mix the egg into the batter, some mix an assortment of vegetables right into the batter, and some use more advanced layering techniques than the one below. This is a somewhat plain version, but it is no less delicious for its simplicity.

Pajeon can be eaten all by itself --it makes a great lunch-- or as a side dish (banchan) for a more elaborate meal. Apparently enjoying pajeon is particularly associated with rainy days in Korea.

If you have access to a Korean grocery store, you can buy the pancake mix ready to go - just follow the instructions on the package to make the batter. If you can get Korean scallions, they are much less thick than the western type, and do not need to be sliced vertically in the recipe below.

Pajeon (Korean Scallion Pancake: 파전)

Makes 1 large pancake
Serves 1-2 (more if served as banchan)

2-3 whole scallions (or other green onions)
50 grams cake flour (low-protein flour)
20 grams rice flour (or rice dumpling flour blend)
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
125 mL (1/2 cup) water
1/2 to 1 tablespoon peanut oil (1 tablespoon = crispier)
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 egg, beaten

Dipping sauce

Stir together:

1 tablespoon less sodium soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
pinch of sugar (optional)
pinch of pepper flakes (Korean ideally, but Turkish are also good)
toasted sesame seeds
1 small clove garlic, minced or pressed (optional)

Prepare your green onions by cutting them into 6cm lengths, and then slicing them vertically to make medium-fine strips.

Combine the flours, salt, and water in a mixing bowl, and whisk lightly until smooth. You don't want to whisk it more than that, or you might toughen the batter. You could also use a food processor with a cutting blade, which reduces gluten-strand formation. The batter should be a bit thinner than regular pancake batter, but a bit thicker than crêpe batter. It should pour easily.

In a 28cm nonstick skillet (or equivalent), heat the peanut oil over moderately high heat until very hot. Add the green onion, and stir fry lightly for about 30 seconds or so. Use the spatula to spread the onion out evenly in the pan - there needs to be lots of gaps for the batter to flow into, to hold it all together.

Pour the batter evenly over the onions, and let the pancake cook for a few minutes. Then, when the edges are starting to get a bit dry-looking, gently pour the egg over the top of the pancake. It doesn't have to cover it completely, just pour it around and it will be fine. Let the pancake continue to cook (if you can smell it browning too fast, turn your heat down to medium, but it should be fine) until the egg mixture is thickened a bit, and not as runny, and the edges are looking dry and a bit golden. While it cooks, you can easily stir together the dipping sauce ingredients.

Use a large spatula to slide under the pancake to flip it over, as quickly and smoothly as you can. If you can do the one-handed pancake flip, bless you and go right ahead. Let the pancake cook for a few more minutes, letting the egg start to turn golden. While it cooks, brush the sesame oil over the pancake, and then just before serving, flip it again to give it a final quick blast on the other side, because you want the edges to be a little crispy. Slide the finished pancake onto a cutting board (egg-side up), and use a knife or pizza wheel to cut it into squares. Serve with dipping sauce.

While I like the stark simplicity of scallions alone in this dish, I think next time I might sneak a few slices of hot chile pepper in, too, just for fun. And I'm definitely looking forward to making Haemul Pajeon, which adds a layer of seafood, too.

June 24, 2017

Hobak Bokkeum: Korean Stir-fried Zucchini (Zucchini Banchan)

Those of you who saw last week's post of Korean-Mexican Braised Short Ribs are (hopefully) already looking forward to this recipe, which was the highlight banchan (반찬, side dish) of the meal, and quickly earned itself a repeat performance and a permanent spot on The List. It's very quick to prepare and delicious both hot and cold, so even if you don't have time or space to do it right before serving, you can happily make it in advance. I...may have eaten some straight from the refrigerator at some point during the night. Yeah. So.

Hobak Bokkeum (호박 볶음, Korean Stir-fried Zucchini)

Adapted from Herbivoracious

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 small zucchini (about 300 grams), diced small
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon chipotle gochujang (or regular gochujang)
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated or very finely minced
1 teaspoon toasted black sesame seeds

Heat the sesame oil in a small skillet over high heat. When it shimmers, add everything but the black sesame seeds. Stir fry until tender-crisp with lightly browned bits, which only takes a minute or two. Scrape into a small bowl and sprinkle liberally with black sesame seeds (you could, of course, substitute well-toasted white sesame seeds). Serve warm or chilled.

The second time I made this dish it was for our follow-up dinner with the braised short rib meat. Still playing with the Korean-Mexican fusion theme, we had tacos.

Verdict? Delicious!

Freshly made corn tortillas (I can't buy them ready-made in this town), shredded short rib meat (mixed with the thinly sliced braised mushrooms), zucchini banchan, sliced fresh jalapeños, and freshly made Yucatecan-style quick pickled red onions. And, of course, a little extra chipotle gochujang to top each taco.

For an all-veggie version of these tacos, you could swap out the braised short rib for braised tofu, or maybe all shiitake (braised without meat stock, of course) and/or Mexican (or Cuban) thick seasoned black beans.

June 17, 2017

Korean-Mexican Braised Short Ribs (and Bibimbap)

My first experience of Korean-Mexican fusion was a Korean Taco Truck in Vancouver a few years back. Almost immediately, curiosity overwhelmed confusion and I decided that this was something I really needed to try. So, I bellied up to the window and got myself an order of mixed tacos - Galbi (short rib) and Bulgogi (shredded beef). On the plate, it's easy to see why these two amazing cuisines can come together so deliciously, despite the huge geographical distance and cultural differences.

Since that first unexpected demonstration of fusion that really works, the combination of Korean and Mexican has shown up again and again, and it seems to get tastier each time. And then I received a package from some friends in Australia, which included a bottle of Chipotle Gochujang sauce from their local restaurant, Hispanic Mechanic.

Gochujang is an essential ingredient in Korean cuisine; a spicy, fermented chilli paste that is used either on its own and as a base for other sauces. The spiciness of this condiment predates New World peppers, with the heat in those earlier versions being likely provided by sancho (Zanthoxylum piperitum) and black pepper, although chillies have been used since at least the early 1600s. This particular fusion iteration relied on chipotle, a smoked, dried jalapeño pepper, and is more the texture of a thick Mexican-style hot sauce.

Now, I'm not gonna lie, the first date the sauce had in our house was with some pork neck steaks in a presentation that skewed neither east nor west (but was delicious), but after gawking at the Hispanic Mechanic menu, I was determined to hunt down some beef spare ribs. I wasn't able to find the thin, flanken cut that would be closer to what is used in a traditional Korean Galbi recipe, so I opted for braising rather than grilling - Galbijjim (갈비찜, Galbi Jjim, or Kalbi Jjim), more or less, rather than grilled Galbi. I'm looking forward to trying this sauce with pulled chicken, too.

Korean-Mexican Braised Short Ribs

1 kg Short ribs, browned in 1 Tablespoon peanut oil
5 fresh large shiitake, sliced in half (stems removed)
1/4 cup less sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup sake
2 Tablespoons chipotle gochujang
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon honey
3 scallions
4 cloves garlic
2 cups beef or veal broth
1 inch ginger, chopped
3 red chiles, deseeded

Braise 3 hours in an oven preheated to 170°C (340°F), remove the meat from bone, shred, mix with some braising liquid. There may be some fatty bits, and you don't want to wholly discard those. Chop up some of it and mix it in with the meat and braising liquid. If you have a lot of fat, you won't want to use it all or it will be too rich. Thinly slice the shiitake mushrooms and set aside as a separate item.

And what did we do with this marvellous, meltingly tender and unctuous short rib meat? We made Bibimbap, of course.

Bibimbap (비빔밥) is Korean for "mixed rice" and is generally made by adding various toppings to a base of one of a number of different rice varieties. It is often served in a (very hot) heated stone bowl, but not always. There is a tremendous variation from one bibimbap to the next, as it is infinitely customizable depending on what toppings are available and/or selected, from all vegetarian, to a mixture of meat and vegetables, to raw egg (or egg yolk) added at the last minute (usually in the hot stone bowl versions). There is a wonderful array of different flavours and textures to enjoy.

For our Bibimbap, I went with plain, white, medium-grain rice, the shredded short rib meat and braised shiitake mushrooms, ginger-soy braised cabbage, sesame carrot, and an absolutely fantastic zucchini bokkeum (볶음, stir fry) that is good hot or cold and makes a terrific banchan (반찬, side dish). It will get its own post very soon (I note that banchan are normally served in the middle of the table, for diners to help themselves, but I couldn't resist putting it right in the bowl for the picture). Final garnish was shredded green onion, although if I'd had them at the time, I would have added Mexican pickled red onion. In fact, we made tacos from the remaining short rib meat a couple of days later, for which I whipped up a batch of the pickled onions expressly.

While there are an assortment of different sauces used as the finishing touch on a bowl of bibimbap (including, for example ssamjang, sesame sauce, citrus-soy, and a variety of spicy options, often based on gochujang) we went with more of the chipotle gochujang, which amplified the flavours used in the braising liquid.