Thursday, March 20, 2008

More on Korean Food

Today is day 8 (of 28) for our Korean food experiment. So how are things going? There have been some successes, some disasters, and some unexpected consequences of this diet.

The largest disaster to date was the ("mook", usually translated as jelly, but really a tasteless Jello-type food made out of acorns, mung beans, or lentils). I bought two small containers of mook (similar to the pre-made Jello you can get for kids to take to school), thinking that since the date on them was far enough down the line that they would still be good. Have you ever had Jello with a tough outer skin? It's not very good is it? That's how the mook tasted, except the skin was much too thick and even the inside was a bit too chewy as well. We ended up throwing it out. *sigh* That's what I get for buying pre-made convenience food. Some Korean cooks make mook like we make Jello: by boiling a powder until it forms a gel and then letting it set in the refrigerator. Perhaps I'll have to go that route next time.

A smaller disaster that was still edible was 순두부찌개 ("soon doo boo jjee gae", soft tofu stew). In most aspects, it turned out perfect. Only slightly too spicy, not quite salty enough (probably because I used salt instead of a msg base the recipe called for). The biggest problem by far was that it tasted too fishy. The recipe I used called for anchovy broth. But I seem to remember that my mother-in-law used water instead of broth. That's a huge difference in flavor apparently. Both JunkMale and I found the broth to be too much fish flavor. Next time a bit less hot pepper, a bit more salt, and water for the broth.

One thing I didn't expect from this diet was the craving for fat, dairy, and protein I would have. I broke down a few days ago and had to have some ice cream, potato chips, cheese, etc. We spent an extra $16 on the junk food. That doesn't bode well for our frugality experiment initially, but we are only 1/5 of the way through the Korean dishes I had planned. I guess it all evens out eventually. :-)

I've also been sick. When my husband is sick, I typically have the energy to make him something fresh and good for what ails him. When I'm sick, all I can manage to do is take one of the 1-cup portions of frozen chicken stock, dump it in a saucepan, and crack an egg in it. Five or ten minutes later it's time for a feast of egg drop soup à la sick Harmony. It is surprisingly refreshing and filling. And again I remind myself that there is a great reason why I always keep chicken stock in the freezer in small portions.

The largest success so far was 닭찜 ("dak jjim", literally 'smothered chicken'). JunkMale said, and I quote, "This recipe is definitely blog-worthy". So. Get out your pens and notecards. I would imagine that even unadventurous American families will like this one. The flavor of the dish is similar to maybe teriyaki chicken, but with a stew or soup feeling. The recipe is from my one Korean cookbook (btw, there's actually a really good picture of mook in the sample material available on Amazon).

Dak Jjim:

1 whole chicken, chopped into small pieces, about 2" long
1 large carrot, chopped into 1" pieces
1 large potato, chopped into 1" cubes
3 small onions, each cut into 8 wedges
The green part only of 1 green onion, cut into 2" pieces

3 Tbs minced garlic
3 Tbs finely chopped green onion
2 Tbs grated fresh ginger
3/4 cup soy sauce (my in-laws say that Kikkoman soy sauce is the most authentic brand sold in American grocery stores)
1/4 cup brown sugar (or molasses, for a less-sweet version)
3 Tbs rice wine (the alcohol cooks out, but you could use orange or lemon juice if you wanted)
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 Tbs sesame oil

1. Mix seasoning ingredients together, leave them out so that the flavors will meld.

2. Clean chicken, place in stock pot or Dutch oven, and just cover with water. Bring to a boil and add half the seasoning mixture. Continue boiling for 15 minutes.

3. Add vegetables and remaining seasoning mixture, boil for 15 to 20 minutes more (until chicken is fully cooked).

4. Serve in a bowl with brown rice to soak up the broth.

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  • Ginny

    Well, it sounds interesting, so far. The recipe sounds really good. I will have to give it a try one of these days. :-D

  • Ewokgirl

    When you say a whole chicken, does that mean that you leave the bones in? Or is it boneless once you've cut it up? Your recipe sounds great.

    Sorry you've been sick, but I thank you for the egg-drop soup idea! I've been sick for the last week-and-a-half, and after we went through our ready-made frozen food supply, we ate a lot of takeout. But I could easily have made that soup since I always have chicken stock and eggs!

  • Harmony

    With the bones. It is a bit of a pain to pick the bones out when you're eating, but it does give the broth a nice flavor.