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November 26, 2005

Naengmyun, Chilled Noodles by Ji Young Park

P1010010_2 discuss cuisines and cultures.

Naengmyun is a Northern Korean cold noodle dish from the Pyong-an-do and Hamgyong-do provinces. Traditionally naengmyun was enjoyed during the winter.

Pyong-an specializes in mul naengmyun made from buckwheat noodles and a pheasant and beef broth with radish kimchi juice added. Hamgyong specializes in bibim naengmyun made from starch noodles with Hong Hwe or seasoned flounder. Mul means "water" or "liquid" and bibim means to "mix". As the dishes traveled further away from their origins, Koreans from other regions began adding different ingredients soon naengmyun became a summer time favorite.

My mother learned this dish through an "adopted" relative from North Korea who opened a restaurant in South Korea shortly after the war. It's hard to imagine now, but 30 years ago the restaurant scene in Seoul was a fraction of what it was now. It wasn't really until the Olympics that Seoul began exploding into the dense, vibrant city it is now.

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November 25, 2005

Korean Mother Sauces and Stocks by Ji-Young Park discuss cuisines and cultures.

The three most important sauces in Korean cooking are kangjang*, toenjang** and koch'ujang***. All are made with meju, blocks of fermented soybean paste. Commercially packaged meju comes in different sizes and forms, from pellets to powder.

The basic stocks are white beef stock and sun dried anchovy stock. Chicken stock is NOT common at all. And there is no such thing as vegetable stock in authentic Korean cooking. Authenticity is a tricky word and I do not have a single benchmark for it. How is that for straddling the fence? I will try to place recipes within context. That is the best I can do in terms of what is authentic or not.

Beef stock is also more of a restaurant item in Korea. Korea is a soup loving country and bones are in high demand. The last time I was in Korea about 4 years ago the beef bones were just as expensive as the best cuts of meat. And the price of beef had just started to become more accessible. Beef stock as a home pantry item is more of a Korean-American thing. In the past in Korea it was more for the wealthy and it still is for the most part.

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November 19, 2005

Baechue Tong Kimchi (Whole Cabbage Kimchi) by Ji Young Park

discuss culture and cuisine.

Anyone who has ever read a Korean tourist brochure knows that kimchi connects the Korean people to our ancestors, our land, our children, our culture, our sense of identity and past struggles for survival during the bitter cold winter months.

To say that kimchi is a cultural icon to Koreans is a bit of an understatement. It might not be an exaggeration to say that kimchi is a part of The Korean cosmos.

I can't find the source of this quote, "As one eats kimchi, one eats the universe, and in so doing becomes part of the universe and the universe becomes a part of man."

Kimchi is also touted as a cure-all, mostly coming from Korean sources. Food writers have waxed poetic about the health benefits which sometimes include elaborate charts. Lots of energy and money are spent on scientific studies about kimchi. Most recently bird flu, before that SARS. I haven't read the papers, I'm not sure how the birds were fed kimchi*.

Thanks to Alan Alda's MASH** and Veterans from the Korean War, the most famous kimchi in America with the over 50 crowd seems to be "the buried in the ground" winter kimchi. This type of kimchi is still made, but mostly in rural areas. Anyone who has been to Seoul in the last 20 years or so will know that it's difficult to find a spot to dig a hole in the ground without a concrete drill. Even 30-35 years ago in Seoul my family never made this type of kimchi. I do remember some of our neighbors making it though.

The (in)famous "buried in the ground kimchi" is kimjang, the most prized version is from Northern areas. The seasoning tends to be milder with more refreshing kimchi "juice". Kimjang is a topic for a whole other post.

In reality the most ubiquitous kimchi is baechue kimchi or nappa cabbage kimchi.

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November 15, 2005

Korean Soy Sauce Marinated Raw Blue Crab, GaeJang by Ji Young Park

P1010020_2I invite Korean bloggers to join book of rai forum as well as the readers from the University of Hawaii who have been following this series. I'll be posting some different Korean recipes in the forum.

Gaejang is an intensely flavored dish. It's piquant with hot fresh peppers and red pepper flakes. The texture of the raw crab is a bit slimy and rich.

If you're concerned about eating raw crab then don't eat this. I've been eating gaejang since I was a child and have never had a problem. I've also made this with frozen blue crab many times.

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October 13, 2005

Korean Lunch at Mom's by Ji-Young Park

P1010001_1My parents eat lunch or dinner like this everyday. My mother has even more banchan in her pantry.

My mother cooks all day long when she is not working. If anyone is imagining that a quaint Korean halmuni (grandmother) is preparing all this food, think again. My mother is very stylish, attractive, even a bit imposing. She has her own business and travels quite a bit.

I'll explain what these dishes are individually in subsequent posts. I will provide recipes as well. In the "old" days it would have been impossible to prepare food like this for daily eating without domestic help or a large extended family living close together.

However, even the poor could feast on special occassions by preparing and sharing foods together. We did that alot too in Korea when I was little.

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October 10, 2005

Hoeng Hwe, Vinegared and Seasoned Skate by Ji-Young Park

P1010050_1Please join me on Book of Rai forum to discuss Korean food!

Hoeng Hweh can be described as a type of ceviche. Skate is marinated in vinegar for several hours. The typical vegetable components are mu (daikon radish), carrots, peppers, onions and minari (Korean watercress) stems. Some cooks add cucumbers and Korean pears.

I don't consider this dish to be commonly homemade. It's labor intensive and time consuming. Most people just buy it pre-made from Supermarkets, open air markets or a local banchan (side dishes) maker.

My mother's home cooking is not representative of typical Korean home cooking. She learned how to cook growing up on her family farm, where they had access to more ingredients than most Koreans did at the time and lots of domestic help to prepare the food. Back then in Korea there was a huge divide between the wealthy and the poor. The large middle-class that exists today is the result of Japanese occupation, civil war and rapid industrialization.

During the chaos of the Korean war my mother spent some time with relatives from North Korea. They were wealthy North (then it was simply Northern as the country was not officially divided) Koreans who fled to the South with every bit of gold, jewelry and money they could strap to their bodies and carry. They opened a now closed restaurant in South Korea. My mother learned how to make North(ern) Korean specialties while staying with them.

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September 02, 2005

Childhood Food Memories by Ji-Young Park

Farid was tagged by by Tana Butler to share five "Memories of Childhood Food" for a meme. He's teaching double shifts these days, so I'll respond.

I was born in Seoul in 1969 and immigrated to Los Angeles in 1975. My most vivid childhood memories of food are from the mid-seventies. My childhood memories are a glimpse into life in pre-industrialized Seoul. I have not dropped the ball on my Korean cuisine series. At the moment I'm over whelmed with other projects. I should be back in the game in about a week or so.

1) Dak Dori Tang  Spicy Chicken Stew 1974
Baby chicks were sold in the streets of Seoul for today's equivalent of 5 cents or less. Children bought them to play with like pets or they were purchased to be raised for food. One day my mother and father made a makeshift chicken coop and purchased a dozen or so baby chicks. I remember watching them grow fat and plump, each day they seemed more and more like pets in my four year old mind.

Then one day they were gone and we had dak dori tang for dinner. I asked my mother if they were made from our chickens. She lied and told me that our chickens had been adopted by a nice farmer and this evening's dinner was made with store bought chickens. I didn't believe her, didn't care one way or another after eating the delicious stew.

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August 04, 2005

Three generations of Korean Kitchens by Ji-Young Park

My parents were born towards the end of the Japanese occupation of Korea. The feudal system was coming to an end.

My father's family had moved onto a more modern style of living. My paternal grandfather gave up gentleman farming to open a very large, according to the standards of the times, department store in Taejon.

My mother's family in Jeolla-do Province still maintain the family farm. There are fragments of traditional structures that survived Japanese Occupation and the Korean war  next to modern rice processing equipment.

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