Korean Thanksgiving – Chuseok food

Korean Thanksgiving – Chuseok food

When a friend mentioned how much she missed a Korean dessert drink called Sikhe (식혜), it took me back to childhood. I remember my mum making this drink when I was growing up and she seemed to take forever making it.  It was Chuseok(Thanksgiving) in Korea recently so I thought I would make it to celebrate the occasion.

Sikhe is served mostly during Korean celebrations(Chinese New Year, Thanksgiving,etc). Apparently, Sikhe helps to clean your palate after all the rich and greasy food you have been pigging out on during the celebration.

 

After a bit of research and consulting my mum, I started the two days sikhe making journey. You can buy pre-made ones in a can but you can’t beat the home made ones!! Aynway, that would be cheating, right?

How to make Sikhe (식혜)

Ingredients: Korean powdered malt (400g), 3/4 cup brown sugar,  5L of water, 1 cup cooked short grain rice

  • The good thing about making this dish is that there are only a few ingredients. The Korean powdered malt was around S$5 at a Korean supermarket and you can use any left over rice!

 

  • Soak the powered malt in 2L water in a bowl for one hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Using your hand, rub the malt to squeeze all the goodness out for about 10 minutes.

 

 

  • Strain the malt using a fine cheesecloth. Squeeze the cheesecloth until the malt is almost dry.

 

  • Leave the liquid from the malt in a bowl for another two hours. This is to separate the starch from the liquid.  Carefully pour the liquid without the starch into a rice cooker. Then add 3 L of water and a bowl of cooked rice.

 

 

  • Press the warming function of the rice cooker and leave it for 4-8 hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Once there are a few grains of rice floating on top, it’s ready for the next step. Almost there!!

 

 

 

  • Transfer the liquid into a pot and add 3/4 cup of brown sugar and boil for 10 minutes.

 

 

  • Scoop off all the brown bubbles on top.

 

  • Remove the pot from the stove and let it cool down. Put it in a container in the fridge to be chilled. It’s best to be served cold.

 

 

Well, it took two days to make and I ran out patient waiting to try it so I added a few ice cubes to cool it down.  It was almost as good as my mum’s but it needed to be a lot colder. Back to the fridge!

 

 

 

Once it was ready, I couldn’t wait for my girlfriend to try. She said it was as good as her mum’s. What a relief!!

 

 

My husband and I have been enjoying this drink all last week and it really took me back to my childhood. How funny that some food brings out stronger memory than others. What dish reminds you of your childhood? 🙂

 

Tour of Gwangjang market

Tour of Gwangjang market

My trip to Korea a few weeks ago was a little dampened by an unexpected typhoon and the early arrival of monsoon season. The weather was great on the first two days and then rained day and night from day three. At one stage, the rain and wind was so strong I didn’t think I was going to make it back to Singapore.

I usually go to Nam-de-mun market when I go to Korea but this trip I decided to visit somewhere less known(by tourists) called Gwangjang market. It’s located in between Jongno 3ga and jongno 5ga subway station. I didn’t realise how big this market was until I had a look at the map. It is more known to the locals as a wholesale shops and food.

Gwangjang market was opened in 1904. You can find many wholesale shops selling Korean traditional costumes (hanbok -한복) and fabrics. This is where I usually by my bath towels. Only ₩10,000(U$10) each and the quality is exceptional. I used to visit this market to either buy towels or have lunch so I never really took the opportunity to look around.

It also has an old fashion market selling fresh vegetables and seafood.

This is one of the most popular fish that Koreans use. You can’t find it in a western supermarket. It’s called hairtail or belt fish. We love to grill or steam them in chilli powder and soy sauce. I have seen this fish in the Malay market in Singapore a few times but it’s usually really hard to find.

This was the most interesting shop I found. This lady sells homemade soy sauce, chilli sauce and miso paste. It was pity that I couldn’t buy some. I am always given some by mum so It would have been an insult if I brought some home. Next time…

Besides the shopping, Gwangjang market is famous for muk ja golmok (street food-먹자골목). I had a little walk around the street and had lunch afterwards. It’s a little bit like being in a Singapore hawker centre but much bigger. There are lots of little stalls. Some stalls were still closed as some only cater for night crowds.

This stall sells chilli rice cake (dduk bok yi – 떡뽁이), japche, fishcake soup, pig trotters, gimbap. Pretty much everything!!

 

One of the most famous food in this market is mung bean pancake made the old fashion way. Mung beans are ground by the old stone mills.

 

 

 

The second most popular food in this market is handmade noodle soup. I really wanted to eat this soup as the weather was a bit grey but obviously everyone thought the same as it was a full house!

 

My lunch stop at the market!

 

We ordered so much food. As usual, my eyes were bigger than my stomach! The first dish is a very simple noodle called party noodle(janchi guksu-잔치국수).

 

Mini gimbap with soon de also known as Korean blood sausage. Some people just love this.

 

Next is one of my favourites to have in summer. You can see ice floating in the soup. It’s soybean soup with rice noodle. Very refreshing…

 

After all this food, I had to make a quick stop by a dessert place. This lady has been here with her mother making rice cake for the past 10 years. When I visited she was making rice cake which is made with glutinous rice powder and red bean. Her hands were so fast, I could barely see what she was doing.

If you are visiting Seoul, check this market out. I think it’s an authentic way to experience Korean food and cheap shopping!

Korean cooking class – teaching 45 ladies!

Korean cooking class – teaching 45 ladies!

For the second year in a row, I shared a joy of Korean cooking with 45 Singaporean ladies. Due to the size of the class, there was lots and lots of preparation required beforehand. Trying to buy ingredients for 45 students is not easy!

I taught two dishes – Seafood pancake (해물 파전) and Japche (잡채). Seafood pancake is an all time favorite for any Korean food lover. Jap che is considered a special dish in Korea as it is mostly served only on a special occasion, eg: birthday parties, house warming, etc.

I’m not sure what I would have done without my staff who organised everything behind the scenes. Special thanks to Christina!

Registration for the class starting…

 

Waiting for the class to start.

I always share how I became a teacher of Korean cooking with my students. Also, it’s all about having fun!

Today’s menu- Seafood pancake(해물 파전) & Jap che (잡채). I am holding  a bottle of Korean sesame seeds by CJ Korea. It’s really top quality. Luckily these are all available throughout Singapore Fairprice supermarkets and it’s really good stuff!

Time to show everyone how it is done. With a big class like this, I always start with a demo first then assist everyone with the hands on.

One of the most exciting section for the students – lucky door prize. Thanks to my sponsors, Luminarc and CJ Korea!

First, Korean ingredients as lucky door prizes by CK Korea.

Winners are….

. . . .

. . .

. .

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Then, glassware and dinner sets by Luminarc. Second lot of winners are….

Time for the real fun – first dish, seafood pancake!

To make a nice thin and round pancake – you have to press it down!

How beautiful is this pancake!!

Next dish is japche – Korean sweet potato noodles with various vegetables.

Finally….

It was a big day for me but seeing all the students smiling and enjoying their food they cooked make me forget how tired I was!

Thank you everyone for having a great time!  As my staff described the day, it wasn’t working, it was pure fun!

Check out the July schedule for regular classes and if you are interested in a team building or cooking party, drop me an email!

Korean cooking class – bibimbap

Korean cooking class – bibimbap

I really enjoy cooking and eating like all food bloggers but most of all  I really enjoy teaching cooking. Every time I see my students enjoying their creation at the end of the class, it makes me even happier.

Here is short clip of  my Korean cooking class at Korean Tourism Singapore yesterday teaching bibimbap (비빔밥). Enjoy!

 

 

 

family tree of Gold fish bun

family tree of Gold fish bun

For my birthday present, I received an interesting book which illustrates how some Korean and western food originated. Translated, the tittle of the book is: “Even the golf fish bun has a family tree”. It basically means, there is a story behind all types of food and dishes.

I’ll translate and share some of the stories on Korean dishes with you over next few months beginning with a Korean dessert called ho dduk (호떡-胡餠).  It’s a round, flat pancake filled with sugar and peanut. You can find ho dduk being sold by street vendors in Korea during autumn and winter.

Apparently, ho dduk originated from countries like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Pakistan. Traders brought the snack via the Silk Road through China before finally reaching Korea. Back in  those days, ho dduk was only for the rich or king’s family as wheat flour was rare and the technique of using yeast was new to Koreans.

There is a proverb in Korea: “There is a fire at the ho dduk store” which is used to describe when something is very noisy. According  to 1920’s newspapers articles there were lots of reports of fires starting in the ho dduk shops. Back then ho dduck was fried on an open fire. In addition, many of the owners were Chinese. So the saying came about because no-one knew what the Chinese were saying (perhaps “fire fire!”). To the Koreans it was just a lot of noise. Funny, huh?

My aunt sells both gold fish bun and ho dduk in LA so I asked her for the recipe. Its usually a 3 hour process as you have to wait for the flour to rise but I will show you a short cut version. By the way, the recipe my aunt gave me has a cup of Korean rice wine (so ju).

All you need is a packet of ho dduk pre-mix from a Korean grocery shop. The best thing about this is you don’t need wait for the flour to rise.

Inside the box, there is one packet of yeast(red packet), flour mix(orange packet) and sugar mix(brown).  All you need to add is 250ml of water and some vegetable oil.

How to make it ho dduk:

  • Take the yeast from the ho dduk pre-mix packet and place in a medium size bowl. Add 250ml of warm water and mix well.

  • Pour the ho dduk flour mix into the bowl and kneed for 5-10 minutes.
  • Prepare the sugar mix in a bowl.

  • Grease your hand with the vegetable oil and divide the dough into 10-12 small balls.
  • Flatten the ball and make a dimple in the middle. Then add 1-2 teaspoons of the sugar mix. Seal the sugar mix in the dough by folding the dough over the dimple.
  • Add 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable of oil on medium heat to a frypan, then place the ball into the frypan and let it cook for about 30 seconds.

  • Flip the ball and flatten it with a spatula until it’s round and flat.

  • Allow it to cook for a minute on one side and then flip to the other side to cook another minute.

  • Remove from the frypan and let it cool on a paper towel.

Here are some pictures from my ho dduk class I conducted last week. Happy cooking!

PS: Thank you for all your emails and comments. If you post questions/comments on my blog, everyone can join in and share their experiences.  For the next two weeks, I am giving away a mystery Korean ingredient for the two most interesting questions/comments on each blog. This applies to replies from Singapore and Malaysia. I look forward to reading your questions and comments! 🙂

Gam ja ttang mystery solved!

Gam ja ttang mystery solved!

As  promised in my last blog, I had a go at making gam ja ttang(감자탕) which means potato stew. Its main ingredients are potatoes and pork back bones. I was so nervous for some reason and kept thinking “what if things go wrong” and “am I going to waste all these ingredients”. I eat gam ja ttang regularly whenever I go to Seoul so I’m not really sure why but I always thought this dish would be impossible to make. I’d never even contemplated making it before in my life. On my last trip to Sydney, I brought back some pork back bone with the intention of cooking it one day.

How to make gamjattang:

Ingredient list 1 (used to boil the pork and remove the meaty smell): 20 whole black peppers, 2 bay leaves, 1 leek (only white part), 3 tbsp soju(Korean rice wine), 1 tbsp Korean soybean paste(denjang), 3 cloves garlic, 4 slices fresh ginger.

Ingredient list 2 (main ingredients): 1kg of pork back bones, 3 L water, 300g sesame leaves, 4 potatoes(half boiled and cut into halves), 5 Chinese cabbage leaves(I replaced this with kimchi), 1 pack enoki mushrooms, 2 red chillis, 2 green chillis, 4 tbsp  Korean soybean paste(denjang), 3 tbsp chilli powder, 2 tbsp fish sauce, 2 tbsp minced garlic, and salt.

For those of you who do not know what sesame leaves look like, here is the picture below. This was mainly served as a side dish until I realised a lot of BBQ restaurants in Korea were serving it to wrap the meat in.  Sesame leaves are  essential for gam ja ttang as it brings a very aromatic smell to the dish.  I was hoping one of the Korean grocery stores in Singapore would stock them, but after three months of searching, I gave up. I ended up finding them in Hong Kong. A fine example of  global food shopping!

Let’s start cooking! Firstly, the pork bones must be soaked in water for 2-3 hours to remove all the blood from the bones. Once this is completed, add the pork with ingredients list 1  above and 2 L of water and boil for about one hour. This is to reduce the smell of pork. I removed the black peppers and bay leaves from the pot after one hour.

While the pork is boiling in the pot,  I made a sauce using the soybean paste, chilli powder, fish sauce, garlic and salt. Pour  an additional 1L of water into pot and add  two spoonful of them. You can add more to make it spicier.

Then add kimchi, sesame seeds leaves and potatoes and continue to boil until the meat is about to fall off the bones. Mine took another 30mintues or so. As a final touch, add mushroom, red and green chillies and some more shredded sesame leaves and  boil it for 5mintues more.

Gam ja ttang is best served with radish kimchi(kkak du gi)!


You dip the pork bone meat into the wasabi sauce (wasabi paste and some water) to bring the zing!

On top of this great meal, I used the left over sauce in the pot to make some fried rice and it was amazing! All you have to do is add plain white rice into to the pot, some shredded sesame leaves, dry seed weed (gim), and sesame oil. Mix on  the stove for 5minutes!

What a great meal this was!!

I am hoping I will get hold of more of the pork back bones and sesame seed leaves soon so I can make it again.

PS: sorry for the radio silence, December was a busy month with lots of activities and I was hoping to start 2011 with a bang but I have been suffering with a cold. I promise I will write more frequently. I have so much more I want to share with you all!! 🙂

Tonight’s menu is Seafood Jjam bbong(해물 짬뽕)!

Tonight’s menu is Seafood Jjam bbong(해물 짬뽕)!

I think the last time I made this dish was when I was at high school in Sydney. This was one of my regular dishes for the family. Back then I used to crave it, especially during winter, but it was hard to find a good Korean Chinese restaurant that had it on the menu. So I took to making it myself.

Jjambbong(짬뽕) is a noodle soup that was modified by the Chinese population who were living in Korea. The Koreans have adopted it as one of their national dishes. It is as well known amongst locals as jja jang myun (black bean noodles – 짜장면). Koreans love both jjambbong and jja jang myun and always find it hard to choose between the two, so restaurants now have a bowl that is divided into half so you can enjoy both dishes. What a brilliant idea!

I haven’t cooked many Korean dishes since I finished my culinary school and when I feel lazy I usually go to Dong bang hong Korean Chinese restaurant to get my jjam bong fix. Tonight it’s time to see what my husband thinks of my homemade reciepe.


Seafood Jjambbong:

Ingredients: (Serves 4 people)

Vegetables: 1/2 carrot, 1/4 cabbage, 1/2 zucchini, 1/2 onion, 1/4 green capsicum, 1/4 red capsicum, 1 long red chilli, 2 cloves of garlic minced, some spring onions for garnish. (The cabbage brings out the sweetness to the soup so it’s essential ingredient.)

Seafood: 1 squid, 20 clams, 10 prawns peeled and de-veined, 8 mussels.

Chilli oil: 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil & 2 tablespoon of Korean chilli powder

Stock: 15 dried anchovies, a handful of dried prawns, 5 dried kelps, a handful of dried fish and prawn heads and shells, 2L of water

Seasoning: 1 tbsp of light soy sauce, 1 tbsp of oyster sauce, 1 tbsp of Korean chilli powder, some salt and white peppers

One of the most important steps is making the stock. I added dried anchovies, prawns, kelps, and  the fish to a pot with cold water and brought it to boil for about 10minutes.

I read it somewhere that if you boil kelp too long, the stock becomes slightly bitter, so make sure to remove the kelp after 10 minutes. Then boil the stock minus the kelp for another 10 minutes.

I also added prawn heads and shells to improve the seafood flavour.  Now time to strain the stock.

While the stock is boiling, I prepared the seafood

Apologies for not having any photos for this next step. I was concentrating so hard that I forgot to take any pictures. Cooking and taking pictures at the same time is not easy!  In a pot, add 3 spoonfuls of vegetable oil and add 2 teaspoon 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.

Once you make the chilli oil,  add the vegetables and stir fry for about 5 minutes. Then add the light soy sauce, minced garlic, and oyster sauce. I added one more teaspoonful of Korean chilli powder because I like some zing!. If you want it even more spicy, I recommend to add those very small chillies that have extra heat. It will be deadly!  Now stir fry a little more and add all the seafood except the prawns. (If you cook prawns too long, they become chewy!) Add the stock and boil on high heat for about 10minutes to get a nice seafood flavour.

While the soup is boiling, I cooked some fresh handmade noodles that I buy at Fairprice supermarket. Finally, add the prawns and spring onions to the soup, keep boiling for a few minutes more and it’s ready.

Looking good!!

Season with salt and white pepper and finally add the noodles to the soup.

Mine could have been a little more spicy but it turned out fantastic for a dish that I haven’t cooked for such a long long time. If you have any left over, you can eat it again with a nice bowl of rice. I can’t wait to have some more for lunch.  Thumbs up from my husband!  🙂

15 minutes of fame

15 minutes of fame

I thought I had already had my 15 minutes of fame with an article published in U-Weekly(优1周) this week, so I was surprised to be contacted by another journalist interested in interviewing me. She was writing an article for a magazine which is distributed to high school students across Singapore.

To my surprise, when the journalist turned up, she brought along a 14 year old student to enjoy the experience of learning to cook with me. Since Korean movies and pop stars are very popular among students thesedays, it stands to reason that Korean food  has been riding a wave of popularity as well. We chose to make bibimbap which requires quite a bit of chopping and stir frying. My student confessed that he doesn’t normally cook at home but once I showed him some simple techniques he picked it up really quickly.

  • Ingredients for bibimbap prepared for the interview
  • Teaching how to cut a carrot in fine julienne style
  • Now showing off his mushroom cutting skill…
  • Tasting time!
  • I think he really liked it….
  • A photo with my new junior chef! What a star!

What was especially nice was he emailed me next day to find out where he can buy all the Korean sauces as he wanted to try out his new culinary skills on his family. That really put a big smile on my face!  🙂

Chu seok (추석) – Korean Thanksgiving Day!

Chu seok (추석) – Korean Thanksgiving Day!

Chu seok is the second biggest festival after Chinese New Year in Korea. It is celebrated on the 15th day of  August by the Chinese calendar which means it falls on the 22nd of September this year. In days gone by, it was to celebrate the great autumn harvest and thank the ancestors by offering newly harvested rice and fruits. Nowadays, as most people are living in the big cities, the tradition is to visit your family where ever they may be.

As Chu seok is approaching, I thought it would be appropriate to conduct a class based on the food that we cook and eat during this festival. Rice cakes called song pyeon (송편) are essential for the celebrations. It is a half moon shaped rice cake made from either bean paste or sesame seeds with honey.

Another type of food also we enjoy eating is mung bean pancake (녹두 빈대떡). First you need to soak the organic mung beans  over night  and then peel the shells by rubbing them between your hands. Boy, I must have spent at least half an hour peeling the mung bean shells and my hands were tired at the end of it. There must be a better way. I wonder if they sell pre-made mung bean pancake powder? 🙂

I put the mung beans through the blender with a bit of water until they were liquefied. Then I added some cooked bean sprouts and chopped kimchi mixed together with a few scoops of glutinous flour.

Finally I pan fried them in in medium heat with vegetable oil cooking for a few minutes on each side.

There is even a comedy song about mung bean pancakes. It’s about a gentlemen who went to  a fine dining restaurant and had his meal but didn’t have any money so he gets beaten up by the restaurant.  The moral of the song is to go and  buy mung bean pancakes at a pub rather than an up-scale restaurant.  Check out the song by clicking here!

If you want to learn about Korean Thanksgiving and cook some traditional Korean dishes, I have devised a special Thanksgiving class scheduled on the 18th September. Don’t forget to register early, seats are filling up already!