Cooking competition

Cooking competition

I was asked by Korean Tourism to be a judge for a Korean cooking competition earlier in the year. The first prize was two return tickets to Korea!!  I wish I could enter.. 😉

The two day event involved a lot of preparation. There were many terms and conditions we had to consider and lots of questions from contestants regarding ingredients they could use. The first preliminary round involved making Korean pancake(파전) and Korean BBQ beef (불고기).

Despite all the hard preparation, it was really fun event. It was great watching all the contestants working so hard to cook delicious dishes. The best part was having to taste all the dishes!!

 

 

The aim of this competition was not only to cook authentic Korean dishes but also to be creative. I was proud to see a few male participants who were showing off their culinary skills.  Another competency that was judged was the cleanliness of each participants’ workstation.  Here is a photo of the judges walking around and assessing each workstation.

 

 

Each dish had to be created in one hour. It sounds like a lot of time, but when you are cooking in an unfamiliar environment, this can be quite scary and stressful.

 

  • 1st round – pancakes (파전)

 

 

 

  • 2nd round: Korean BBQ beef (불고기)

This contestant was one of my favourites. He was a young University student who had the creativity as well as culinary skills.

 

This contestant made chilli bulgogi. Not quite what the judges were expecting but tasty nonetheless.

 

Bulgogi in  wraps – very original!!

 

Nicely decorated… Bulgogi in capsicum cups

 

This contestant definitely knew what she was doing.

 

And the four finalists were….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • The final round was any dish that included kimchi. And the winner is….

This winner went to a Korean restaurant the night before the final competition and tasted all the Korean kimchi dishes and came up with her own Korean pork dish.

Well done everyone!!

Korean traditional tea – Su Jung Gwa

Korean traditional tea – Su Jung Gwa

I had some friends over who had a major craving for Korean food. We had a lovely Korean BBQ pork and wagyu beef on my hot grill and to finish off the dinner, I served a traditional Korean tea called Su Jung Gwa (수정과).  I normally cook a western dessert when I have dinner parties but this time I decided to give this dish a go as I always thought this tea seemed hard to make. The good thing about this is you can make it in advance so you have more time to prepare other dishes on  the day of the party.

Su Jung Gwa is made with cinnamon and ginger and  served with dried persimmon (곶감). If you are lucky, some restaurants will serve this tea at the end of your meal only without the dried persimmon(too expensive).  Depending on the season it can be served hot or cold. My mum gave me a bag of dried persimmon when I was in Korea and it’s been sitting in the fridge for a month. It’s too dry to eat so it was perfect for my Su Jung Gwa.

 

 

 

Just a quick note on dried persimmon for those of you have never seen or tasted.  As you can see in the picture below, it’s not easily recognizable. I also always thought the fruit is just air dried but the skin of the fruit has actually been peeled before being air dried for a least a couple of weeks.  Persimmons are in season in Autumn in Korea. In order to enjoy the fruit for throughout winter we dry them in this manner. I also prefer the dried ones instead of fresh because they are sweeter.

I am tempted to dry the persimmon and make them myself but according to my research, it might be too humid in this Singapore weather.

 

 

Well, this is a dish I have never even tempted to make as the flavor seems so complex but believe it or not, this is  the easiest Korean dessert ever!

How to make Su Jung Gwa:

Ingredients – 12 cups of water, 50g cinnamon sticks, 50g fresh ginger, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup of honey, dried persimmon and some pine nuts

  • Wash and clean the cinnamon sticks and ginger.

 

  • Peel the skin of the ginger and slice them thinly.
  • Add 6 cups of water with the cinnamon sticks in a pot and boil on a high heat for 10 minutes and then reduce to low for another 20 minutes
  • Repeat for ginger
  • Strain both ginger and cinnamon separately

 

 

  • Mix the strained water in a pot. Add the sugar and honey and boil on a high heat for another 5 minutes before letting it cool down
  • While the tea is cooling down, cut the dried persimmon into bite sizes and soak them in the tea over night in the fridge

 

 

 

  • Serve the tea in a cup or bowl with the dried persimmon and garnish with a few pine nuts

 

How easy was that??   I LOOOVE dried persimmon so mine had a whole fruit while everyone else had a half the fruit. 🙂

 

 

Check out my persimmon! It’s glossy and soft…. It was so delicious.

 

One more dish I have conquered! Have a great week everyone!

Trip to Korea – Korean breakfast

Trip to Korea – Korean breakfast

While I was in Korea last week, I ate as if it was my last meal and my family fed me like I was never going to eat again. Here are some of the pictures of my breakfast prepared for me.

So you can see what real Koreans usually eat for breakfast. Rice, Korean miso soup, lotus root in soy sauce, stir fried oyster mushroom, stir fried eggplant, steamed broccoli and pickled green chillis. Some of the side dishes you will see in every Korean household. Yes, I forgot to mention the centre plate is chilli crab. Yes, chilli crab for breakfast!! I must admit I love crab a lot so I could eat it everyday for dinner but not for breakfast at 8am.  There is a dish missing in this picture. Can you guess?  KIMCHI!    I just couldn’t bring myself to eat kimchi for breakfast.

Yes, you are looking at blue swimmer crab cooked in chilli sauce. I had this for two days in a row for breakfast because there was so much of it. I thought I was going to get sick eating such heavy food but I was fine, just very uncomfortable….  I had sleepless nights from too much food in my stomach! Seriously…

Korean miso soup (den jang jji ge). Commonly served for  breakfast or lunch or dinner.

Lotus roots cooked in soy sauce

Stir fried eggplants

Stir fried oyster mushroom

You might wonder how these Korean family have this type of meals every day. Well, the trick is to make a lot on the weekend and eat during the week.  By cooking one or tw0 dishes only for the meal, it still feels like you have an amazing meal.

This breakfast table is not as heavy as previous one. After much complaining, my family started preparing smaller breakfasts. Check out the two fish – both of which I had to finish!! 🙁

Despite all my complaints about the breakfast, it was great to have a hot meal prepared by my mum. Thank you!!!  ❤

Dear readers, what do you usually have for breakfast? I know some readers in Singapore  eat noodles or pork buns for breakfast but still not as heavy a meal like Koreans.  Do you also have breakfast as interesting as this?  I would love to hear from you! 🙂

bellissimo!

bellissimo!

There’s been a good reason why I haven’t had the time to post recently. My husband’s friend was getting married in Italy and we decided to take the opportunity to travel around my favorite part of the world. We started from Florence, driving through different parts of Tuscany and flew out of Rome. It was just magnificent in every way!

 

 

 

 

 

The trip was amazing and revolved around one word – food!.  We drove from village to village tasting fresh Italian food everyday. I got a little obsessed with all the different delicatessens and fruit’n’vegie shops in each town to see what fresh produce were available.  Instead of buying souvenirs in each town, I bought different salamis. I think my husband was happy that I wasn’t buying shoes or handbags but our suitcase was slowly filling up with all the food.

Check out this big piece of prosciutto!  I almost bought this whole leg which weigh about 5kg.

 

My favorite Octopus served with fennel and fresh tomatoes. I was in heaven!! We found this amazing restaurant in Sienna where we ended up having 3 course lunch for 3 hours. They gave us a tasting of freshly made Spaghetti carbonara and I was speechless.

Grilled Osso Bucco(braised oxtail) for my main. Normally Osso Bucco is braised for several hours but this one was baked so I had to try. The black paste you see under the meat is a type of olive which gave this smoky flaour and it was a perfect match for the meat. I was looking for this olive all around Italy and finally find a bottle to bring back home.

My husband’s main dish was pigeon. You can see my husband impatiently waiting for me to take the photo so he can attack the dish.

 

And the dessert… Strawberries were in season so I decided to go with this dish. The strawberry puree was so sweet and fresh. My husband and I were fighting for the last drop.

Our new favourite dessert – you dunk the biscotti into the dessert wine for a few seconds and then bite off soggy part.

Have I mentioned that Italians are very similar to Koreans? They speak very passionately using both their hands in the air and they believe in close family relationships! By the way, we almost tried Korean food in Rome…

 

 

Enough about food, a few more shots around Cinque Terrra where we went for the wedding.

 

 

 

 

 

After suffering from a week of bad jetleg with sleepless nights, I am back and re-inspired to cook beautiful food and grow a  lot more tomatoes using all the seeds I bought in Italy. Watch this space!!! 🙂

Korean restaurant in Hong Kong

Korean restaurant in Hong Kong

It must be the close proximity to Korea. Every time I go to Hong Kong, I am amazed at how many great Korean restaurants  there are. I was staying at Tsim Sha Tsui for the first time and discovered Kimberly street – which looked more like  Seoul. It was full of  Korean restaurants and grocery stores all packed with fresh vegetables!

The owner of one store recommended a Korean restaurant nearby where the chef was  genuinely Korean. My husbands favorite dish, gamjatang (potato soup, 감자탕) was on the menu, so we decided to give it a go.

Gamjatang means potato soup but it also is packed with pork bones. It needs to be for a boiled for a long time until the meat just falls off the bones. I have found the best place in the world to eat this but it’s in Seoul so I often have cravings when I am travelling.

Like a real Korean restaurant, they had lots of side dishes served with the main meal. On top of that, their freshly made kimchi was to die for – something I don’t say about kimchi often.

They also served a Korean style pumpkim soup which was yummy! I have never made this soup before but will now have to ask my aunt for the recipe. She used to run a traditional Korean restaurant and this was always served at the beginning of the meal.

Here is the main star of the meal.  It looks huge but it was served in a shallow pot.  The green leaves you see in the soup are sesame leaves. I used to hate eating this because it had a very distinctive taste and smell but now I can’t get enough.

As expected, the meat simply fell off the bones.

We finished the whole pot by ourselves…

Here are the details of the restaurant if you are in Hong Kong.

Name: Gogoong (고궁)

Address: 2F, Toyo Mall, 94 Granville Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui. Hong Kong, Tel: 852-2311-0901

It was so good, I was inspired to have a go at making it myself. Watch out for my next blog!

My first sponsorship!

My first sponsorship!

A month ago, I visited Dubai for my best friend’s birthday.  During the party, I was introduced to her friend who works in a Kitchenware company. When I returned to Singapore, he introduced me to his Singapore office. I wasn’t sure which company I was being introduced to.  Well, guess where he works? Luminarc!!!

I was invited to their  showroom to check out the range of products and they decided to provide a range of kitchenware for my classes. I was over the moon! One of the products I was given, which I was very intrigued by, was their new casserole range.

To test drive them, I decided to cook Seafood silken tofu jji ge(해물 순두부 찌께). I knew I could put casserole dish in the oven but on the stove?  The casserole is made of vitro-ceramic and Luminarc claims that they cook just as good as pots made of stainless steel, cast iron or cast aluminum. Well, I will be the judge of that. 🙂

I must say it’s more appealing to the eyes using a pretty casserole dish than boring black stainless steel especially when you are taking photos for your blog.

How to cook Seafood silken tofu jji ge:

Ingredients

2 bags of silken tofu, different types of seafood (prawns, squid, clams), 1 tbsp minced garlic, 3 tbsp of chilli powder, 1 tsp of salt, 3 tbsp vegetable oil, 2 spring onions, 1 egg, 3 cups of seafood stock (boil prawn heads and shells in water to make the stock)

In a pot, add 3 spoonfuls of vegetable oil and 2 teaspoons of Korean chilli powder. Cook on a low heat to make chilli oil. Be careful not to burn the chilli oil – if you do, your soup will be bitter and you are better off starting a new batch. I made the chilli oil before when I cooked seafood jjambong. So for those who wanted to see the photos of chilli oil, here you go!

Once you make the chilli oil, add the stock and clams and let it boil for a while.


Add the silken tofu and salt to season.

Finally, add the rest of the seafood and spring onions and cook for a few more minutes. When it is boiling furiously, you crack in an egg and serve straight away.

I made enough to serve an army! It was not too spicy and the soup had a good seafood flavour. I served it with steaming hot rice. I also made acorn jelly salad (도토리 묵) which was plated on a Luminarc dinner plate, adding extra colour to my salad.

So what’s the verdict on the casserole dish? I boiled the soup for over 40mintues and it didn’t get too hot to handle. The soup was just as good as cooking in a stainless steel pot. The biggest advantage of using this for me was that I didn’t have to plate the soup in another bowl.  I just took the casserole dish straight out to the table to serve. This made for less washing up afterwards! I might try cooking ginseng chicken next time to see how it handles being on the stove for 2 hours! Watch this space!  😉

Where is Nicky??

Where is Nicky??

Apologies for the radio silence. It has been a very, very busy 7 weeks. My culinary course that I have been attending has been very interesting but also very exhausting. I promise I will share a lot more stories soon once I get my life back!

Last Friday, we learnt all about fruit and fruit carving…. Check it out.

  • Watermelon cut in a way so it is easy to eat
  • Slight twist to the design
  • My new cheeky watermelon shark for the fruit platter

Korean BBQ class

Korean BBQ class

Korean BBQ must be one of the most loved dishes of visitors going to Korea. Korean BBQ dishes were high on the list of  food to eat everytime I went to Korea with work colleagues. Those a little more daring tried the live octopus. I will leave this topic for next time. 🙂

Last Saturday was Korean BBQ class. We cooked bul go gi (불고기 -beef marinated in soy sauce), spring onion salad and fried anchovies. I thought spring onion salad would be a suitable dish to learn as most of Korean BBQ restaurants will serve it with the BBQ in Korea.

  • Fried anchovies were extra crispy and crunchy like biscuits. Koreans have this side dish with every meal as our parents always told us the anchovies are full of calcium.
  • Spring onion salad to accompany bul go gi

I prepared some steamed rice, lettuce to wrap the beef and the spring onion salad with,. I also brought out some kimchi I made a few weeks ago. I guess everyone enjoyed all the dishes as there were no leftovers to take away.

Next Korean BBQ class is on 30th October. Don’t forget to register early!

All time favourite – gol beng yi muchim!

All time favourite – gol beng yi muchim!

Has anyone tried gol beng yi muchim (골뱅이 무침)? It’s a dish Koreans love eating when we are out at a pub drinking beer or soju.  It’s very spicy and sour and quite a heavy dish when you are drinking but you soon get used to it.

Other dishes we like eating when are drinking at the pubs include seafood pancake, dried squid with roasted peanuts and fried spicy chicken.  I should do a blog on the drinking culture next time I am in Korea, but suffice to say Koreans love their alcohol!!.

Main ingredients are top shells, chilli sauce and vinegar:

As for vegetables, slice cucumbers diagonally and chop some spring onions. Usually, you also add sliced onions, but I am not a big fan of eating them raw so I skipped it. The additional ingredient I added was dried squid which I soaked in the top shell liquid for about 20minutes to soften it up.

Sauce:

  • Mixing the sauce : 2 tbsp of chili sauce, 2 tbsp of chilli powder, 3 tbsp of vinegar(I used concentrated apple vinegar), 1 tbsp of sugar, 1/2 tbsp of minced garlic, some minced ginger, sesame oil and sesame seeds.
  • Add the sauce mix to the vegetables, top shells and dried squid

 

You can add noodles (somyun that I used in my previous blog) to make it a complete meal, but this time I used it as a side dish for dinner. Give it a try and let me know!

Soy bean noodle soup (kong guk su) for another hot Singapore day!

Soy bean noodle soup (kong guk su) for another hot Singapore day!

Since my young radish kimchi neng myun (refer to 2 August blog) was such a success, I was determined to try other dishes that Koreans enjoy eating in summer to cool down. I spoke  to my best friend in Seoul today and she told me it’s over 30’c, sounds not that much different to Singapore (other than the humidity, of course). If you have experienced a Korean  summer, you know what I mean. It’s suffocating!

I tried out a noodle dish called kong guk su (cold soybeen noodle soup) today. I cheated a bit by using soybean powder instead of soaking some beans overnight and boiling them. Blame my stomach for the short cut!!  I promise I will  do the  whole nine yards next time. I came across the powder in the Korean grocery store when I was in Sydney.  There was no instruction on the package on how to use this powder so I had figure it out on my own.

I thought “how hard can this be?” so I just added the soybean powder to some cold water in a blender and mixed with lots of ice.  Success! – another cold noodle soup! I couldn’t believe how easy it was. It tasted like the real deal once I threw in a pinch of salt.  Then, I boiled the noodles called “Somyun”  (thin noodle made of flour) in hot water for 4 minutes and rinsed in cold water 3 times. I tried these Japanese noodles to see the difference to the Korean noodles. It was exactly the same!

For the final step, add the noodles to the soup, chop some cucumbers and it’s ready to eat! I must admit it was almost too easy to make with this soybean powder so I think I am going to have to force myself to use the proper way next time. Anyway, I would give this pre-made soybean noodle powder 8 out of 10 for the taste!