Eating my way through the streets of Seoul.

Eating my way through the streets of Seoul.

I just spent 6 days in Seoul with one objective in mind. Eat my way through the city! The dreadful sticky hot summer is gone and I was welcomed by a beautiful autumn breeze when I landed. What a difference…. It was so pleasant to walk around and enjoy the change of the season.

I must have taken at least 500 photos of all the food but I will start with my favorite street food that you can too enjoy when you visit Korea next time.

 

  • Top left hand box: An old time favourite – chilli rice cakes (dduk bok yi -떡복이)  was on every street corner. You can buy USD$1 worth and eat as you stand right in front of the stall.  There were a few other sticks in chilli sauce but everyone seemed to enjoying the chilli rice cakes.
  • Top right hand box: you can only find these in autumn and winter – roasted chestnuts! The silver device you see in the background is the roasting machine. Personally, I prefer the old fashion style using a roasting pan over hot charcoal.
  • Bottom box: these sticks were new and were everywhere in Myungdong(명동). There were ladies on the side of the stall just peeling potato skins and putting potatoes through an unusual device that turned them into long spiral potatoes. Inside the potato, there is a sausage. These get dunked into hot oil and deep fried.  Nice and crunchy potatoes with a bit of protein!

 

 

 

 

  • For those of you who have attended some of my cooking classes you will recognise one of the photos above. Hodduck (호떡) is a great snack while you are wondering the streets of busy Seoul. Even better when the weather is nice and cool…
  • The white fluffy buns above are the best thing I have found in Seoul. I will write more on these buns in a later blog but for now all you need to know is that these buns are called hobbang (호빵). They are  filled with either red bean paste or sweet potato or a mixture of minced pork with vegetables.  The buns with two green chives on top are the meat/vegetable filling ones. Each bun was as big as my face. Seriously…..

 

 

You didn’t believe me, did you??

 

If you are visiting Korea soon, pack warm clothes. It dropped to 6 degrees one evening and it was so cold I thought my ears and nose were going to fall off.

Have a great week 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!

Korean celebrity chef-Edward Kwon

Korean celebrity chef-Edward Kwon

I have a confession to make. At home we don’t have a TV. Sometimes, I feel like I am living in isolation without it but then we manage by watching various programs and  the news online. I overload on TV programs when I am traveling as its the only time I get to watch it. I am just like a child in a candy store. 🙂

Last year I came across a Korean program(on Singapore airlines) called “Yes Chef!” and I got hooked on it. It’s Korean version of Master chef. The main chef is Edward Kwon and he has an extensive culinary experience all over the world including Burj Al Arab Hotel.

Watching him was very inspirational. He brings Korean food to a whole new level. When I stumbled across him conducting a cooking event in Singapore, I was over the moon!

The three dishes taught were:

  • Chilled sam ge tang (aka ginseng chicken)- Chicken balootine, white cabbage kimchi & apple, cripsy garlic sesame oil
  • Gal bi jjim (Korean short ribs)- soy braised wayu short rib, potato gnocchi, puffed rice, kimchi bacon ragout
  • Su jung gwa shooter – cinamon & ginger drink shooter

A Singapore culinary celebrity, Christopher Tan was our Master of Ceremonies.

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I was very impressed as well as a bit shocked by the first dish. Instead of boiling the whole chicken for 1 hour, he rolled the chicken and wrapped it in cling wrap. Then he boiled it for 10 minutes. Due to the limited time frame, we didn’t get to see the whole process but after boiling the chicken he was supposed to plunge it in an ice water bath for 30 minutes.

Now Edward is making ginseng foam to add a Korean kick to the dish. As ginseng could overpower the dish, he told us to use sparingly. Also, if you can’t find fresh ginseng, he advised us to use ginseng tea powder. What a great idea!!

The first dish was ready and it didn’t resemble the traditional ginseng chicken whatsoever! I really liked how Edward used different micro greens (baby vegetables) and red dates to style the dish.

The next dish is called “gal bi jjim” in Korean. It is usually cooked in soy sauce and braised short ribs for 3 hours. As you can see in the picture below, he used wagyu beef which didn’t require braising.

He cut carrots and onions in chunks and added a slice of Korean pear to soften the meat. A lot of people in the audience haven’t even tasted Korean pear before and didn’t realise Koreans use various fruits to soften meat before cooking it.

 

The second dish was ready! It is served with gnocchi and puffed rice. What you see on top of the beef is kimchi!

We ran out of time so he didn’t manage to demonstrate the third dish, su jung gwa. Normally su jung gwa is made of cinamon, ginger and sugar and is served as a dessert tea to finsh your meal.

Out of the three dishes, I loved the beef the best. It was so tender, it just melted in my mouth. The sujugwa shooter was great except it was hard to drink out of the glass. The least I liked was the chicken as I didn’t taste enough ginseng and it wasn’t Korean enough. As for the presentation though, the chicken dish was the prettiest.

Su jung gwa shooter


 

After the tasting, I waited around to meet Edward Kwon. When I explained about Nicky’s Kitchen and how I admire how he is changing Korean food, his advice was “to think simple”. The autograph says “be happy” in Korean.

I might frame this program booklet. 🙂

Say kimchi!

If you are ever in Seoul,  check out Edward Kwon’s restaurant, “Spice“.

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! 🙂

Yummy spicy fried chicken!!

Yummy spicy fried chicken!!

Today’s dishes brought back childhood memories. When I was young, I used to eat a lot of spicy fried chicken (양념닭)and red bean ice (팥빙수) in Seoul.

It’s been a while since I last had spicy fried chicken so when a friend suggested this dish for my class, it took me on a trip down memory lane. I used to make this dish quite regularly when I was living in Sydney and  it goes great with a cold beer! Usually this chicken dish is sold by franchise delivery shops in Korea and  I’ve even seen it in Sydney. My favorite one is called Pelicana. Anyway, I thought I would have a crack at replicating it….

Result:  I played with the original recipe a little here and there to experiment and put my mark on it. I fried the chicken twice so it was nice and crunchy. I also added some cajun spices in the batter to add more zing. With an extra dash of chilli sauce it was just perfect!

The next dish was red bean ice. It’s similar to the ice kaching sold here in Singapore however I still prefer the simple Korean red ice bean. My parents brought me an electric ice shaver so that came in handy today. It’s a Hello Kitty brand though because my parents think that I have not grown up yet – but hey it works!

I cut some fruit, made some glutinous balls to add chewy texture and  added milk and redbean.

It was a perfect dish after the spicy fried chicken and an excellent way to cool you down from the hot Singapore weather! Anyone want some?  🙂

Welcome to Nicky’s Kitchen!

Welcome to Nicky’s Kitchen!

There are a few dishes that I could eat everyday and one of them is sweet potato. I had a craving over the weekend for some Korean street food so I whipped up a dish called “Mat-tang”. It’s basically deep fried sweet potatoes coated in toffee and only takes 15 minutes to make. Crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle…. Yum….

You can use either sweet potatoes or normal potatoes but I think sweet potato adds more flavour. I have seen some people making it with apples as well… Fried apples??  hmm, not sure…

I wonder who thought of this amazing dish. In Korea, they even have sweet potato cakes!! There is a store in the middle of Myung-dong in Seoul that has the best Mat-tang ever!! I must remember to take a picture of the store next time I am in Korea to share with everyone. I don’t think there is any store selling Mat-tang in Singapore… What’s  your favourite Korean street food?

I’ve just planted  two sweet potatoes in my little veggie patch a few days ago, hopefully they will produce enough sweet potatoes to feed my cravings! Any tips on growing sweet potatoes in Singapore? I heard that they grow like weeds…