Another late posting as this happened back in November. One Saturday morning I invited over a few friends and we made kimchi from scratch – yes, we have officially done gimjang. Gimjang is an annual tradition for typical Korean family that seems to be dying these days like many other traditions. Back in the days, as the air began to chill, families and neighbours would set a date to gather around and make huge batches of kimchi that would last well over winter. These days, with smaller, independent families and the convenience of store-bought kimchi, gimjang slowly becomes a thing of the past especially in urban lifestyle.
I often make gimbap (김밥: rolled sushi) or jumeokbap (주먹밥: Korean onigiri) for lunch. It is simply easy to make and convenient for those who are eating it. I recently made a simple gimbap with chopped kimchi and dallae (wild chives) for my dad’s lunch which turned out to be a great spring-themed dosirak.
Living as an ajumma in Korea makes you an expert at utilizing leftovers to make delicious creations. I am technically no ajumma but practically in charge of the housekeeping of my parents’ place for the time being so it is always my concern to clear out the fridge and minimize leftovers. So indeed it was like a homework when one night my mother brought home leftover soondae from her dine-out with friends.
Another dish that I made on my mother’s birthday was daeji bulgogi(돼지불고기: stir-fried spicy pork). I had my own recipe for this classic Korean comfort food but today I decided to follow a new recipe presented on a TV show called o-neul-mwo-meok-ji (오늘뭐먹지?). A cooking show on Olive TV is one of my favorite shows nowadays. It is hosted by Sung Si-kyung and Shin Dong-yeop, two of the hottest TV personnels in Korea.
The one that I recently watched showed Sung making spicy daeji bulgogi for Shin on his birthday. I realized that his recipe called for a broth as he attempted to make juicy bulgogi with a bit of “soup”. My version is not soupy at all as I simply marinate the pork and then stir-fry it. I found that the problem with my recipe is that sometimes the sauce will burn due to lack of liquid. Sung’s recipe easily solves this problem by adding ladles of broth while stir-frying.
February 23rd was my mother’s birthday. Like a surprise gift, my sister flew in from Toronto just in time for celebration and for the first time in many years all four of our family members have gathered at our childhood home in Daejeon. It felt nice and a little sad at the same time as I was reminded that as we grow up it is difficult for us to spend time with our family like we used to.
I have decided to make a nice saengil-sang (생일상: a birthday meal) for my mom this year. The first and the most important thing for a birthday meal is indeed a bowl of miyeok-guk(미역국: seaweed soup). In Korea, birthday boys and girls are served with seaweed soup as to celebrate their entrance to the world. It is known that seaweed is beneficial to mothers who have just given birth because it helps with breast feeding. The old traditions of serving seaweed soup to new mothers have lived on and nowadays many people consider seaweed soup as a must-have on a birthday.
Living in Korea, you might have not yet tried cheonggukjang but I am sure you have smelled it. Cheong-guk-jang(청국장: fast-fermented bean paste) looks similar to dwenjang (된장: fermented bean paste) but we all admit that it smells hell of a lot stronger. Even some native Koreans do not enjoy cheonggukjang due to its strong, distinctive odor. Of course, I am not one of them and in fact cheongukjang jjigae (청국장찌개: soup made with cheonggukjang) is one of my favorite recipes to make at home.
Unlike dwenjang that takes months of fermentation, the advantage of cheonggukjang is that it can be consumed within few days. Because cheonggukjang is made by fermenting whole beans it also contains more nutritions. So it’s true that the smell of cheonggukjang could be unbearable for foreigners but I can assure you that the taste and the nutritional value will be worthy.
After the harsh labor on Lunar New Year’s Day I passed out and slept through most of the day on February 20th. Now I understand why there is such thing called myoung-jeol who-yoo-jeung (명절후유증: holiday aftereffects) in Korea. In the past, holiday celebrations were held in much larger scale and women who were in charge from prep to cleanup must have suffered physically and emotionally throughout the holidays. Well, lucky me that nowadays at our family the traditions are kept minimal.
I would like to share one of the holiday foods that I made from scratch (for the first time!). Sanjeok Kochi(산적꼬치: skewered & pan-fried marinated beef and vegetables) found a place on my menu as the recipe looked easy at first. I soon realized that skewering takes time and skills but in the end I was glad that I chose to make this for my first charae-sang. The mini skewers looked nice and tasted great as well making a wonderful holiday addition.