Korean

Gimbap 김밥 (Korean Seaweed Rice Rolls)

Gimbap 김밥 (Korean Seaweed Rice Rolls)Food is so often about memory and for me gimbap will forever remind me of one thing: icebergs.

It may seem like an unlikely association to have with this Korean staple, but it’s hardly surprising given that first time I had gimbap I was sailing across an impossibly blue glacial lake in the heart of Patagonia. I watched with awe as an iceberg the size of a double-decker bus floated by like a feather on water, all the while merrily munching on my gimbap packlunch. It was certainly a surreal experience and one I’ll never forget, both visually and culinarily speaking.

Admittedly Argentina might seem like the least likely place to find gimbap (or kimbap), but our hotel in El Calafate was run by a delightfully un-Argentinian Korean family and they happened to offer gimbap as a packed lunch option. Of course I couldn’t resist ordering it for our planned boat tour on Lago Argentino! At this stage of our trip I was understandably sick of empanadas so I jumped at the chance to try something different. More than that, however, I was intrigued that these Korean expats had deemed gimbap worthy of re-creating in this one-horse town in the depths of Patagonia. It couldn’t be an easy (or cheap) undertaking, so to my mind it most definitely had to be worth ordering!

So yes, Koreans sure do love their gimbap.

With its origins found in the Japanese occupation of Korea, gimbap literally translates to seaweed (gim) rice (bap) and is Korea’s answer to sushi (specifically norimaki), but with a few key differences.

The first major departure is the rice. Whilst short-grained rice is used in both, the difference lies in the dressing. Instead of the rice vinegar dressing that is used in Japanese sushi, gimbap rice is seasoned with sesame oil and salt.

Secondly, the gimbap fillings are all pre-cooked which means that gimbap keeps for far longer than sushi does – making it a popular option for picnics and takeaway lunches. Although typically eaten alone, mini-gimbaps are also served as a side dish to the pre-eminent and spicy manifestation of Korean street food  that is ttoekbokki (떡볶이).

Another key difference is the texture of the seaweed wrapping. Although similar seaweed sheets are used in both gimbap and norimaki, the seaweed used for gimbap becomes much chewier as it is typically eaten long after it has been rolled and as such, absorbs the moisture from the rice.

There are really no limits to the variations of gimbap fillings, but generally speaking the most commonly found are sogogi (beef) gimbap (소고기 김밥) and chamchi (tuna) gimbap  (참치김밥). I have included the ingredient lists for both beef and tuna gimbap below. Once the ingredients have been prepared the process for making the rice and assembling the gimbap remains the same regardless of the fillings.

For more Korean recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

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Japchae 잡채 (Sweet Potato Noodles with Beef & Vegetables)

One of Korea’s most loved dishes, japchae seems to be one of those dishes that can be found almost everywhere and at any time. Be it at breakfast, dinner or at a party, japchae is almost sure to be a feature. Like so many national dishes in Asia, food can represent so much more than just a tasty meal; in the case of japchae it is all about colour and harmony. Translating as “many kinds of various vegetables” japchae is made with the five colours that the Koreans believe reflect obang saek or world harmony to you and me. Each colour symbolises one of the five universal directions – North (black: beef/mushrooms), East (green: courgette/cucumber), South: (red: carrot), West (white: onion) and, most profoundly, the Middle (yellow: egg).

World harmony aside, the best news about japchae is that it is banting and LCHF friendly! Okay, so there is a bit of sugar in the recipe, but at its core japchae’s sweet potato starch noodles are a great low carb alternative to the regular wheat variety and taste infinitely better than courgette noodles.

Noodles without the carb-induced guilt; now what could possibly be better than that?

To be honest I was a bit hesitant about trying japchae when I first encountered it at a breakfast buffet in Seoul. I had tried cooking with Korean sweet potato noodles previously and it was a bit of a disaster, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it another go. I’m so pleased that I did! Chewy, beefy and incredibly satisfying; from the first bite I knew japchae was going to be one of the first Korean dishes I would attempt to recreate when I got back to my kitchen in Cape Town.

As it turned out, making japchae at home is relatively easy and aside from the sweet potato noodles themselves, all the ingredients are Asian store-cupboard staples. The only real difficulty is that the numerous components of the dish need to be individually prepared and cooked before being assembled, but other than that it is actually pretty straight-forward. Just don’t be tempted to soak the sweet potato noodles for longer than 30 minutes or overcook them as this will affect their texture.

Most of the japchae I had whilst in Korea actually didn’t contain any meat so if you would like to make a vegetarian version of the dish simply omit the beef. If you do, however, want to make a meat version then you can also substitute the beef steak with some mince instead.

For more Korean recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

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Asian Coleslaw

Lets be honest, coleslaw has been called many things over the years but trendy has never been one of them – at least until now, that is.

A salad stalwart of 80s potluck dinners, coleslaw has since been pretty much relegated to being nothing more than a questionable side-order to a greasy bucket of chicken – a lazy attempt to elevate our deep-fried indulges into something that resembles a balanced meal! Thankfully, however, these days coleslaw has made something of a comeback and is looking (and tasting) better than ever! Personally I think coleslaw owes its unexpected revival to the recent trendy-burger movement: after all what is a gourmet burger without a helping of gourmet sides?

Truffled skinny fries, tempura onion rings and umami ketchup, it was only a matter of time before coleslaw got in on the action and got a much needed makeover. Whilst the Western incarnation of coleslaw has undergone somewhat of a reinvention, the greatest evolution of the dish is, however, truly manifest in Asian Coleslaw. An ubiquitous name at best, Asian coleslaw is really just regular coleslaw but with a fusion twist.  Don’t get me wrong, regular ‘slaw is awesome, but Asian ‘slaw is simply next-level awesome! Whilst no single ingredient turns regular coleslaw Asian, the star of this particular version of Asian coleslaw is undoubtedly the sesame seeds, which add a wonderful toasted flavour that suits the rich creamy tang of the mayonnaise.

Perhaps one of the best things about coleslaw is its versatility. Traditionally the only two mainstays of the dish are white cabbage and mayonnaise, other than that you can add or omit just about anything. Try making it with some shaved fennel or replace the spring onion with thinly sliced regular onion. Leaving out the sultanas and  doenjang (Korean soy bean paste) would instantly make for the perfect LCHF side dish. Of course if you really wanted to push the boat out you could always substitute the sesame seeds with toasted pine nuts, but given the exorbitant price of pine nuts it does rather feel like an extravagance too far for something as humble as coleslaw.

To call this a “recipe” is somewhat of a stretch as making coleslaw is really just an assemblage of ingredients rather than an actual recipe per se. Okay so there is a fair amount of chopping involved when making any coleslaw, but if you have a decent mandolin handy then there really isn’t anything to it. It seems almost criminal that something so good can require so little effort, but it does and I don’t mind admitting that I’m a little obsessed. I’ve been eating coleslaw with just about everything recently, but that’s because it goes with just about everything! Burgers, sausages, grilled chicken and tonkatsu / chikenkatsu (Japanese Pork / chicken schnitzels) – all make the perfect companion to a healthy dollop of ‘slaw!

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Kimchijjigae 김치찌개 (Pork & Kimchi Stew)

Congratulations, so you’ve finally realised that you simply can’t live without kimchi. Fantastic! As my partner would say, you are now officially a bona fide “stinky kimchi-freak” just like me. Charming I know, but he’s most definitely not a fellow fan. Nevertheless, welcome to the Club.

So now that you’ve confessed your insatiable appetite for kimchi, you may be asking yourself the inevitable question, “What exactly does one do with a massive vat of homemade fermented cabbage?”

Kimchijjigae 김치찌개 (Pork & Kimchi Stew)Whilst delicious just eaten as a side dish (known as banchan in Korea), the truth is that plain mak kimchi can get a little monotonous after a while. Thankfully, however, there’s no shortage of ways in which to enjoy your kimchi-fix. Such is their love of kimchi, the Koreans seem to have based much of their cuisine around its consumption, resulting in a seemingly endless array of dishes that can be made using this spicy Korean staple. Kimchi fried rice, kimchi pancakeskimchi risotto and even kimchi ice cream, there are no limits to the wacky ways in which kimchi can be eaten. However, one of the more traditional dishes remains one of the most popular – Pork & Kimchi Stew.

Known in Korea as kimchijjigae 김치찌개, the first time I tried the dish was as part of a Korean BBQ at Galbi in Cape Town, where it was served at the end of the meal with a bowl of rice. To be honest it was the low-point of an otherwise great meal (their sweet potato fries are to die for!), as it was a tad insipid and tasted more like watered down tomato soup than the amazing spicy stew I had been eagerly anticipating. It was not a good start to my budding love affair with kimchijjigae, but considering the restaurant’s actual kimchi was also rather tasteless, it shouldn’t have been a complete surprise that their kimchi stew would also be somewhat lacklustre. Disappointed, but undeterred, I did what I typically do when I feel let down by a dish – I set about making it myself

Mercifully, kimchijjigae is actually very easy to make and only requires a few of the more basic Korean pantry staples. It was only after tasting my first attempt at making it, that I appreciated what a great dish this should be and why it warrants its enduring popularity. Simple and relatively economical to make, kimchijjigae is both deeply satisfying and is the perfect way to showcase kimchi’s hidden depths. Much like kimchi risotto, this stew actually serves to bring out kimchi’s complexity of flavour, something that is typically masked by the spiciness of the kimchi.

Any dish that makes kimchi taste even better is, in my mind, a dish worth making…but then again, if I’m to be perfectly honest, you already had me at kimchi. 

For more Korean recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here. For tips on stocking a Korean Pantry, please click here

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Sticky Beef Short Ribs

If I had to pick a favourite cut of beef, it would simply have to be short ribs; cheap, tasty and meltingly tender, I just can’t get enough of them.

Sticky Beef Short RibsThe perfect marriage between meat, bone and fat, short rib is my go-to cut of beef for whenever I am doing a long braise, as it is perfectly suited to being cooked for extended periods. Whether it’s for a spicy Mussaman Curry, a comforting bowl of Beef Phở or a simple cider braise beef, short ribs works a treat with just about any style of cooking, so long as it is afforded enough time to work its magic.

Which brings me to this delectable dish! Robustly flavoured and so tender you can literally suck the meat off the bone, Sticky Beef Short Ribs is a great way to prepare this special cut. Although the dish has all the hallmarks of a classic Chinese style braise, the addition of Korean Soybean Paste (doenjang) does muddle the waters somewhat, resulting in a dish that is equally suited to both a Chinese or Korean spread. If you can’t source any doenjang, regular Chinese Bean Sauce would suffice, or, if you wanted to add a Japanese twist to the dish, you can always try some miso. Personally, if you can, I would stick with the doenjang as it adds a distinctly earthy depth to the dish that neither miso nor Chinese Bean Sauce does.  

Note: As with most other Asian braises, this dish is always best if made the day before, but is still delicious if eaten immediately. If you are making the dish in advance then it is best not to reduce the sauce immediately, but rather wait until you are going to eat it to do so.

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Kkakdugi 깍두기 (Cubed Daikon Kimchi)

I have an unholy passion for kimchi and I’m not ashamed to admit it! I simply can’t get enough of this spicy Korean delight and it seems I am not alone. Some of my most popular posts to date have been kimchi related, so I thought it was about time I fed our collective obsession and posted another kimchi recipe. So this time around, I’m making one of my favourite types of kimchikkakdugi or cubed daikon kimchi.

Kkakdugi 깍두기 (Cubed Daikon Kimchi)Perhaps second only in popluarity to the almighty mak kimchi, kkakdugi is a great addition to any Korean dining experience. As you would expect with any type of kimchi, this version of the Korean staple is wonderfully piquant and highly addictive; though unlike most others, daikon kimchi has a delightful crunch and crispness to it which helps temper the spiciness of the chilli powder.

Personally, I find the process of making kkakdugi marginally less involved than mak kimchi and the fermenting period is also a little bit shorter, meaning you don’t have to wait quite as along to tuck into your kimchi! On the downside, kkakdugi doesn’t seem to fair as well as other kimchis in terms of its shelf-life, however, this may have more to do with my lack of technique and experience than a shortcoming of the dish!

With regard to technique, making any sort of kimchi is a matter of trial and error. Whilst the core process for making kimchi remains similar for each variety, each version has its own quirks and it may take a few attempts before you end up with a kimchi that suits your own tastes and preferences. Making the perfect kkakdugi has, up to now, been particularly vexing for me as I often find the kimchi comes out too watery and the daikon too limp. I have now taken to draining off the excess water as the kimchi ferments and I have also stopped peeling my daikon – both these seemingly minor tweaks to the process has resulted in a far superior end result (at least in my opinion).

For more Korean recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

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Korean Grilled Chicken 매운닭구이

Korean Spicy Grilled Chicken 매운닭구이As I’ve mentioned previously, Koreans love to braai and they do so quite brilliantly. Whilst galbi is the undisputed star of any Korean Barbecue, there are plenty of other yummy options vying for space on your grill – this tasty recipe being chief among them.

This simple recipe is an absolute barbecue wonder and, as with most Korean marinates, has a transformative effect on the chicken, especially if left overnight. Whilst you can get away with marinating your meat for less time, ideally this marinate needs at least 12 to 18 hours to work its magic.

This marinate also works perfectly well with other cuts of chicken, particularly spatchcocked chicken, but obviously you will have to adjust the cooking time accordingly (35 to 40 minutes on a low-medium barbecue)

For more Korean recipes, please click HERE or to find out more about how to stock a Korean Pantry, please click HERE

For more braai/barbecue recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click HERE

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Ssamjang (Spicy Korean Dipping Sauce)

Ssamjang Dipping SauceA classic Korean dipping sauce.

Typically eaten with galbi, ssamjang is usually smeared onto a lettuce leaf, along with a morsel of barbequed meat and raw vegetables. Ssamjang’s appeal is not just confined to being a condiment for Korean food; it is also great on burgers and is insanely good in grilled/toasted cheese sandwiches! The soya bean paste gives the sauce a wonderful smoky depth which, in truth, goes with just about any kind of barbequed meat – Korean or not!

For years I have always thought of ssamjang as being a hot, spicy sauce, and why would I think otherwise? Ssamjang is, after all, a Korean condiment. And then, quite by chance, I recently re-read the recipe and realised that I had, in fact, been confusing the quantities of the soya bean and chilli pastes! I was mortified. My beloved spicy ssamjang was, in fact, nothing more than a fiery aberration! At any rate, it turned out to be a happy mistake, as both versions are equally tasty. I have just come to think of my spicy ssamjang as being my personal contribution to Korean cuisine.

The following recipe is actually for the traditional version of the sauce, but if you would like to try my mutant ssamjang, simply reverse the quantities of the chilli and soya bean pastes (i.e. 1/4 cup gochujang and 1 tbsp. doenjang).

For more Korean recipes, please click HERE or to find out more about how to stock a Korean Pantry, please click HERE

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Beef Galbi (Korean Barbequed Beef Ribs) 소갈비

Beef Galbi (Korean Barbequed Beef Ribs) 소갈비A friend of mine once suggested that Koreans have contributed nothing laudable to the modern cultural collective. A tad harsh perhaps, though given the culturally devoid trite that is k-drama and k-pop, she may have had a point. In my opinion though (Psy aside), Koreans get a bad rap and deserve a little bit more credit then they are typically afforded; Korean cuisine is a case in point.

Along with the ubiquitous kimchi, Koreans could also teach the world a thing or two about how to barbeque. Whilst not to everybody’s taste, Korean cuisine has only recently made its mark on the international food scene. Its spicy flavours are gaining popularity at an astounding pace and is the current darling of Asian-fusion cuisine (did somebody say kimchi taco?).

Typically considered the preserve of Antipodean, South African and American cultures, the Koreans are in fact prolific barbequers. Koreans will barbeque virtually anything, but they especially love their beef. Be it sliced steak (bulgogi) or strips of beef short ribs (galbi), the Koreans take great pride in their barbequing traditions, and with good reason – it tastes incredible!

Beef Galbi (Korean Barbequed Beef Ribs) 소갈비So what makes a Korean Barbeque Korean? As with any barbeque, the secret is in the marinate. Sweet and salty, the marinate for galbi is a triumph of flavour, both familiar and exotic. The addition of puréed pear not only adds sweetness, but also helps tenderize the meat.

Whilst the marinate works well with any cut of meat, galbi is specifically made with beef short rib. The way the meat is cut is also slightly unusual, in that it is thinly cut across the grain and along the bone. Each slice of meat should include 3 pieces of bone and can be grilled whole or divided into three pieces and cooked individually. If you can’t source this particular cut of meat, the marinate will also work a treat on pork or any beef cut.

Another thing that sets Korean Barbeque apart is how it is typically served. Apart from the traditional Korean side dishes (banchan) stalwarts of rice and napa kimchi, galbi is normally cut into bite sized pieces, wrapped in a lettuce leaf along with some carrot, cucumber and chilli. It is then smeared with a spicy Korean sauce called ssamjang. Rice aside, this is Banting/LCHF Bliss personified (just leave out the honey/sugar)!

Note: Whilst you can get away with marinating your meat for less time, ideally this marinate needs at least 18 to 24 hours to work its magic.

For more Korean recipes, please click HERE or to find out more about how to stock a Korean Pantry, please click HERE

For more braai/barbecue recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click HERE

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Kimchi Risotto

If you follow this blog you’d know that I’m a tad obsessed with two things: kimchi and risotto! As much as I love both, I must admit I had my reservations about combining these two distinct flavour elements into a single dish. Kimchi and rice; that was a no-brainer, but kimchi and cheese? I just couldn’t get my head around how that would actually taste, frankly it sounded like fusion-cooking gone mad!

For a long while I just dismissed the notion of a kimchi risotto as a misguided attempt to make spicy fermented cabbage palatable to the uninitiated, by giving it a conventional context; but like cream-cheese sushi, it risks becoming a cultural and culinary aberration, an oxymoron that contradicts the very essence of what it purports to be. If you like that sort of thing, great, but it’s simply not for me. Generally speaking, fusion for fusion-sake leaves me cold.

Then one day I found myself in a serious food-rut; we’ve all be there before, we all know what grim times ruts can be. As I stared blankly at the contents of my refrigerator, I desperately hoped for a spark of inspiration. Nothing, we were mere minutes away from ordering pizzas for dinner, again. Then my eyes eventually rested upon that omnipresent fridge staple – kimchi. So strong was my desire not to have pizza, I thought: “Oh, sod it”. I figured making kimchi risotto was a win/win situation; either it would be amazing and I would love it, or it would be deplorable and I’d feel justified in my initial scepticism. I don’t mind admitting that I hoped for the latter, I don’t like being wrong.

As hungry as I was, I tried my best to dislike it, but I couldn’t. It was fantastic! My initial concerns about the combination of kimchi and cheese were unfounded. In reality the richness of the cheese muted the bite of the kimchi; mellowing it just enough to allow for an appreciation of the subtle flavours that normally hide behind the spicy, sharp bravado of kimchi. To my surprise, fusion cuisine had done the unthinkable – it had made kimchi taste better.

Does this fusion revelation mean I’ll be tucking into a portion of cream-cheese & biltong maki any time soon? Don’t count on it, but there are plenty of fusion temptations out there; bacon ice-cream, anyone? Perhaps not.

RECIPE NOTE: The rice quantities for these recipes vary depending on the number of people you are feeding and whether you intend making the risotto as a main meal or an accompaniment. As a general rule of thumb, I use approx. 70-80ml of rice per person for a main meal and 50-60ml as an side dish. Generally, risotto recipes on my blog are based on 2 people eating a full portion.

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