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Cooking with "The Korean Table"

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#1 nakji

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Posted 21 February 2009 - 07:44 PM

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The Korean Table by Taekyung Chung and Debra Samuels

I learned to love Korean food at the source. Even while I was living in Korea, however, I struggled to find a useful English-language cookbook that could help me recreate the dishes I loved there. It wasn't a major crisis, however - I could always ask my Korean "family" for pointers, or at the worst - refer to the back of the packets for directions on using products.

Now I'm in Japan, I can't bear to pay the prices of Korean food in the restaurants (charging for panchan! Scandalous!) and I want to make it at home. My husband, who was initially cool to Korean food, now craves it. I like to make the few dishes I learned for my friends in Japan, because Korean food has such happy memories for me. In fact, when I was in Seoul over the holidays, seated, as ever, around a table in a galbi restaurant, I was talking with a friend about a mutual friend of ours, now living in Canada, and what he missed the most about living in Korea. "This," he said, "Sitting around a table with my friends, cooking dinner, eating, and drinking soju."

There is something about the Korean table, the way that everyone cooks, shares from the same dishes, and eats the same food, that brings you together. Some of my favourite memories from Korea include my friends and I, huddled outside a station exit, trying to negotiate what kind of food we would go for that evening.

So I was thrilled when I was listening The Splendid Table podcast to hear that there was a new English-language Korean cookbook out. This book covers a lot of the basics that I've been interested in making, along with some things that I've never seen, but am very eager to try out. It also contains a useful section on Korean ingredients, and the recipes contain suggestions for substitutions for an American audience.

I've been trying to change my diet to one based on vegetables and whole grains, and Korean food - as much or even more than Japanese food, I feel - focuses on healthy dishes. It's not all barbecue! And because there are so many vegetables involved, it's a naturally cheap cuisine. Even better in winter - Korean food makes use of a wide range of fermented and preserved vegetable side dishes, which last several days in the fridge. It's the perfect cuisine for people who don't have a lot of time to make dinner in the evening. You spend a little time getting the dishes together, but then you can feast on them all week, as long as you've got a bit of fresh rice to round out the meal!

I can't wait to start cooking from this book.

#2 nakji

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Posted 22 February 2009 - 09:31 AM

I put dinner together from some of the recipes that interested me.

This is the sort of book that has you prepare a few "mother sauces" for the recipes. Now, Korean food doesn't have a wide range of seasonings that go into it - at least not if you compare it to Thai food or other cuisines - but the proportion of these seasonings is key; especially if you consider how much chili goes into some dishes. I'd always thought that my ddalk galbi needed some tweaking, as it erred too much on the side of sweet and thick. So when I started to prepare the recipe for dak chim on page 108, I got excited, because I knew I was approximating the right proportions for its crack-like sauce with the gochujang yangnyeom p. 30.

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Basically a paste of Korean chili paste, chili powder, garlic, ginger, oyster sauce, and some other seasonings, this forms the base for many of the spicy recipes throughout the book. Kind of like a Thai curry paste. Making it, I had the brainwave to use my Japanese ginger grater on my garlic cloves as well, effortlessly turning them into garlic paste without even needing to peel the cloves. If any of y'all knew this trick beforehand, and didn't share - you've been holding out! I blew through the garlic cloves like nobody's business, and the peels helped protect my fingers.

This recipe calls for patty pan squash, but I substituted zucchini, as it was more readily available. It also called for carrot and potato, with which I substituted a lone sweet potato that was lurking at the bottom of my pantry, in the spirit of using up what I had on hand. Seriously delicious stuff, and the seasoning was spot-on. This recipe is tabbed, and I imagine will become a kitchen standard.

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On the side, I prepared seasoned spinach from page 73.

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The other side-dish that I remember fondly from Korea, but haven't been able to recreate using my own juju are delicious new potatoes with a sweet-salty sauce. Sure enough, this recipe is in the book on page 126. I couldn't find the small new potatoes that are so perfect for this recipe, so I settled instead for some smallish old potatoes that I cut down to size. Ironically enough, the hardest part of this dish for me was finding the corn syrup it called for - doesn't corn syrup go into everything these days? But it wasn't to be found at my local shops. I substituted something ominously titled "glutinous starch syrup", to no ill effect, I feel. I seem to recall the syrup used in Korea was clear as well. Another hit, I think these would go great with steak. I tried very hard not to go back to the fridge to snack on these later.

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I had some kakkdugi and some multi-grain rice to round out the meal.

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Great stuff, and I've just begun to scratch the surface.

#3 milgwimper

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Posted 23 February 2009 - 07:54 PM

This is not good to read at 3:50 am when I have not even a whiff of kimchi in the house. *sigh* I need to go shopping. I am excited to hear there is another korean cookbook in english. I tend to collect them, and compare them...Well okay I tend to read them and then compare which recipes they should have added. I just found the Korean cookbook my mother sent with me to Germany, but it is written only in Korean. Hmmm I think she is giving me a hint that I need to practice my Korean. :P

#4 nakji

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 07:52 AM

Sorry to torture you! The chicken was even better on the second day, too.

I think this book was written to serve as an introduction to Korean cooking, for those who have never tried cooking these sorts of dishes before. It's definitely not a cookbook for purists - several recipe call for cilantro, which is very difficult to find in a typical Korean grocery store. I suspect it's a stand-in for ga nip. It's quite accessible for people working from their local supermarket. I think Korean food is an easy cuisine to start cooking- you don't have to add a lot of different sauces to your pantry. If you already keep soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil on hand, you only really need to add gochujang and gochugaru to turn out most of the recipes in this book. And those things last forever in the fridge.

Those potatoes were so good, I ended up eating them cold out of the tupperware for breakfast the next morning. :raz:

#5 milgwimper

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 05:49 AM

Yeah most Korean cookbooks are geared for introduction to Korean food, but some people put interesting banchan that others tend not to place in their books. Like one may have soojaebi, and another might have raw marinated crabs etc. I tend to like learning about some of the really old traditional style stuff and the new interesting things they are doing now, but I think I will have to wait on that or write my own. I don't see me writing a cookbook though.

Now those potatoes sound really good. I haven't had them in a long while. I almost licked the screen! :wub:

#6 nakji

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Posted 04 March 2009 - 06:26 PM

Last week I made the bulgogi recipe on page 97 . I'd never made my own bulgogi marinade, so I was surprised to see it included a whole grated apple. The apple gave the marinade a lovely sweetness which made for really super browning when I cooked the meat. Unfortunately, I had to use a regular non-stick frypan rather than a proper bulgogi pan, but I don't think it affected the taste much.

Bulgogi is delicious enough on its own, but it's even better with side dishes for jazzing up your lettuce wraps (ssam).

I made seasoned daikon radish and seasoned bean sprouts from page 68.

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Both were excellent, and even though I made a whole daikon's worth of strings, it didn't matter - I had to hoard some for leftovers, because we ate everything I put out. Twice. I love them in my ssam:

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Although my husband prefers seasoned shredded leeks
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I also made the seasoned spinach again, and set aside extra of each side dish before putting everything on the table. The next day, we had bibimbap made from all the leftovers. It was brilliant - I just had to make some rice, then selectively microwave the leftovers. It all went into a bowl with some thinned gochujang, and I had dinner on the table in 15 minutes. It was a perfect weeknight meal.

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#7 v. gautam

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 01:43 AM

I looked at your picture of dalk jjim and then went to the Andong city web site to see their version of the eponymous Andong dalk jjim. Sadly, they don't offer a recipe but this tantalizing clue: "steamed" and a photo that displays a very dark, soy-rich broth in contrast to the red-tinged broth in your Seoul (?) version.

Other places seem also to suggest that dalk jjim should NOT contain any gojuchang type of thingie that might color it red but daktoritang is allowed to have such [Zenkimchi recipe]; DJ should only have this black soy base, but chunks of fresh peppers may/may not be added to the "stew vegetables", generally potatoes, carrots, onions(?), leeks (?) and....? Bean threads seem to be included in the Andong version.

I am quite ignorant but curious to learn more, including what is the original "steamed" Andong DJ. Thanks.

#8 Chris Amirault

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 08:49 AM

Following with great interest, Erin. That last post makes me wonder about the banchan variety in the book.

Oh, BTW, I lived with a guy from Korea for two years in college, and the apple for bulgogi was standard.
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#9 muichoi

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 03:31 PM

But is the apple not a substitute for Korean pear?

#10 nakji

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 06:48 PM

But is the apple not a substitute for Korean pear?


It could be. Hmm. I can get those pears here, too. I'll have to try that as a comparison.

Following with great interest, Erin. That last post makes me wonder about the banchan variety in the book.


Yes, there are quite a few side dish basics here. A sampler:

Geran chim (egg custard soup)
Cucumber soup (oi naeng-guk)
Seasoned spicy cucumbers (Oi muchim), carrots, and spinach
Seasoned daikon (Mu saengchae)
Seasoned shredded leeks (ppa muchim)
Bean sprouts (kong namul)

Pancakes:
Seafood (haemul)
Seafood and onion (haemul pa)
Zucchini and onion (Aehobak and Pa)
Potato (Gamja)
Kimchi
Asparagus

As well as a range of corn and vegetable fritters.

Kimchis:
White kimchi (baek kimchi)
Daikon kimchi (kkakdugi)
Cabbage kimchi (Yangbaechu)
Cucumber kimchi (oi)

Good stuff, all.


I looked at your picture of dalk jjim and then went to the Andong city web site to see their version of the eponymous Andong dalk jjim. Sadly, they don't offer a recipe but this tantalizing clue: "steamed" and a photo that displays a very dark, soy-rich broth in contrast to the red-tinged broth in your Seoul (?) version.

Other places seem also to suggest that dalk jjim should NOT contain any gojuchang type of thingie that might color it red but daktoritang is allowed to have such [Zenkimchi recipe]; DJ should only have this black soy base, but chunks of fresh peppers may/may not be added to the "stew vegetables", generally potatoes, carrots, onions(?), leeks (?) and....? Bean threads seem to be included in the Andong version.

I am quite ignorant but curious to learn more, including what is the original "steamed" Andong DJ. Thanks.


Well, the short answer is - I don't know. Andong jjim dalk is definitely served in a soy-based sauce. You can see my picture over here.

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But - and Korean native speakers, please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong - Jjim dalk (chim dak) simply means chicken stew. So while Andong chicken stew may be made with a soy-based sauce, not all chicken stews in Korea might be necessarily constructed. The recipe in this book is "Dak Chim", or chicken stew, which may mean that this is simply the author's personal recipe for chicken stew, and is not version of the Andong dish.

Dakdoritang, on the other hand, is usually made with gochujang, as I understand. But it's a tang and not a chim or jjim - the difference of which I'll have to leave to someone else to explain. But I think a tang is more of a soup. See: Galbi tang and Galbi jjim - two very different dishes.

#11 ZenKimchi

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Posted 15 April 2009 - 11:05 AM

Never heard of a Jjim Dalk in Korea that was not Andong style. And the rule is--the darker the sauce the better.

Jjim Dalk, like HaejangGuk, seems to be one of those mystery dishes here. It's something you get in a restaurant, so recipes aren't floating around much. Eun Jeong and I have experimented a bit, and I want to spend a good day or two getting a good recipe down.

I went to Andong this past February to try Andong Jjim Dalk at the source--known as "chicken alley." I know what the taste is, and it's very deep. And you know what? My guess for the secret ingredient is Coca Cola.

Eun Jeong later made a recipe she found online from a Korean site that braised chicken with a sauce based from Coca Cola, and it tasted almost dead on with Andong Jjim Dalk--just needed more garlic.
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#12 v. gautam

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 10:28 PM

ZenKimchi,

Thank you very much for your input. Great to see you back here. I enjoy your zany blog a lot, and miss FatMan ceasing his culinary adventures. Liked the write-up for the Daktorijang and hope you manage one on JD soon, including "why "steamed" is claimed to be the preferred mode of cooking.

All the cultural context and the history make the food exciting, because through that you enter into a sort of kinship with the culture. That, to me, is the most significant part of reading food writing, and the reason why I enjoy your blog so much.

#13 Joon

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Posted 29 April 2009 - 02:12 PM

But - and Korean native speakers, please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong - Jjim dalk (chim dak) simply means chicken stew. So while Andong chicken stew may be made with a soy-based sauce, not all chicken stews in Korea might be necessarily constructed. The recipe in this book is "Dak Chim", or chicken stew, which may mean that this is simply the author's personal recipe for chicken stew, and is not version of the Andong dish.

Dakdoritang, on the other hand, is usually made with gochujang, as I understand. But it's a tang and not a chim or jjim - the difference of which I'll have to leave to someone else to explain. But I think a tang is more of a soup. See: Galbi tang and Galbi jjim - two very different dishes.


Yes, Dak Jjim literally is stewed chicken. The Dori-tang is also a stew but somehow gets a tang. For some reason "tang" dishes span from stews like dak-dori all the way to brothy soups - like, say, galbi tang.

My mom's been making me dak dori with duck, and it's a delicious variation :)

#14 nakji

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Posted 29 April 2009 - 07:54 PM

My mom's been making me dak dori with duck, and it's a delicious variation :)


Ori-dori-tang? Yum. What's her method, if you can share? We need to do Korean mum outreach here, get all the mums on-line sharing their recipes. :biggrin:

#15 melonpan

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Posted 29 April 2009 - 11:28 PM

ha, thats right, it would be oridoritang. great name for any dish i should say
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#16 Joon

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Posted 01 May 2009 - 01:39 PM

ha, thats right, it would be oridoritang.  great name for any dish i should say

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Haha I asked her how to make Ori Dori Tang and she just says "It's the same as dak dori!" :D

She also throws in some not-korean herbs like rosemary or sage that she grows in her garden..

#17 jfrater

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Posted 19 September 2011 - 12:56 PM

If you are wanting a recipe for jjimdak here is a great one: http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/dakjjim
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#18 threestars

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 12:52 AM

Interesting photos! That made me try to dine in a Korean restaurant! :)





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