Happy Chu Seok everyone!

Happy Chu Seok everyone!

Days like today makes you really miss your family.  A friend in Korea shared these photos of her family celebrating Chu Seok. They remind me of when I was living in Korea. When my grand parents were alive, the entire family (my dad has 5 brothers and 1 sister) got together to celebrate Chu seok.

For those who don’t know what Chu seok is, it’s Korean Thanksgiving. We buy the best season produce and serve it on a table like in below picture to show respects to our ancestors. Looks a bit like a ghost month, right?

 

 

 

We also serve Korean rice wine to the ancestors.

 

 

Then we bow on the floors to the ancestors. The two kids in the middle are wearing hangbok (Korean traditional costume). So cute!

 

Now time to eat…  I can see various kimchi, stir fried vegetables and Korean soy bean paste soup. The most important dish for Chu seok is Song pyun rice cake.

 

 

This table is an indication of the hard work by the Korean house wives. Grandmothers, Aunts, daughters and daughter-in-laws would have slaved away over the last few days to put all this food together. Hmmm, now I have a big craving for all this food…. ^_^

Happy Chu seok everyone!

 

**Photos provided by Erin Kim in Korea**

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time for a face lift

Time for a face lift

I am excited to announce that the Nicky’s Kitchen blog site has received a new face lift. It’s been two and half years since I started blogging and having my home page decorated with all the beautiful photos I have taken during that time makes me proud.

Lots has happened since my last blog.  The year has been filled with classes, corporate events and being asked to judge the first Korean cooking competition in Singapore sponsored by Korean Tourism Oraganisation.

There is also another big change coming up in the next few months and I will be making an announcement soon!

In the mean time, check out some photos from my latest event at  Annyeong Seoul Festival two weeks ago. I demonstrate cooking seafood pancakes, chilli rice cakes, japche and bulgogi over two day. At the end the food was shared with the entire audience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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? 🙂

 

Doongji Korean restaurant Singapore

Doongji Korean restaurant Singapore

A lot of people ask me which is my favorite and most authentic Korean restaurant in Singapore. Out of all the ones I have tried, there is one that I brag about to everyone but it’s actually a Korean Chinese Restaurant. I am usually too busy gobbling up their black bean noodle(짜장면) and spicy seafood noodle soup(짬봉), so I haven’t had a chance to do a review on the restaurant. I promise to soon!

Anyway, there is one restaurant near where I live and the dishes I have tried have been so disappointing I had decided not to add it in my blog in the past. Rice cake soup(dduk guk-떡국) tasted like it had too much msg, and so did dumpling soup (mandu guk-만두국).  Jja jang bap (rice with black bean sauce-짜장밥) had a fried egg on top which made me wonder just how authentic can it be?!

Out of desperation and convenience, I went back the other day with a girlfriend and tried their lunch special kimchi stew (kimchi jjige-김치 찌게) and this time they hit a home run!!  It was a perfect kimchi stew!

 

 

I am not a big fan of tofu so I have asked the restaurant not to add any. It’s served on a clay pot and very spicy. I usually make my kimchi stew at home with canned tuna but this restaurant makes it with pork. Also, they add my favourite dangmyun (Korean vermicelli noodles) so I was over the moon!

 

 

The kimchi stew is served with a bowl of rice and 4-5 side dishes and it’s only $8.90+ for lunch special. What a bargain!! My husband always order kimchi fried rice but I find it a bit too oily.

Here are the details of Doongji Korean restaurant. By the way, Doongji means “nest” in Korean and the restaurant owner are Koreans.

 

If you are nearby, drop by for my favourite Kimchi stew!  Kimchi power! 🙂

 

Food glorious Korean food!

Food glorious Korean food!

I have reached rock bottom this week.  It’s been a month since I came back from Korea and my craving for all the wonderful Korean food I had  in Seoul is uncontrollable. Maybe too much of a good thing in one week wasn’t such a good idea?

Here are some of the dishes that I enjoyed during my trip. I think I had about 4-5 meals a day so I could get through my wish list.

 

  • Seafood stew – literal translation is steamed seafood (hemul jjim-해물찜) but it seemed like everything is called steamed and followed by fried rice with the left overs. Looks spicy, right? Well, it was damn spicy!!  Believe it or not, I had this for lunch and a few shots of soju (Korean rice wine)… yes, drinking during lunch time.  Nap time!!

 

 

 

 

  • I had oyster omelets for supper… and more drinking! I caught up with my primary school teacher and had a feast of BBQ pork. That was followed by supper with my relatives at 11pm. Yet more soju… bring it on!!  This was the best oyster omelet I had in my life…. Lightly fried with egg batter and a soy sauce dip. Yummy!

 

 

 

 

  • The next two dishes were interesting. Pork belly and pork ribs on a hot plate. This was a tiny restaurant near my parents place and it was packed. It was a rainy and miserable evening and the BBQ was perfect for the night.  Check out the fat on this pork belly….

 

 

  • Yes we grill everything including kimchi!

 

  • These pork ribs were so lean and tender. Hardly any spice on them yet still a wonderful aroma.

 

 

 

  • The next dish was from a restaurant next door. My aunt loves this dish so much she always order it while eating the BBQ pork belly and ribs. Chicken feet in chilly sauce. All the bones are removed. They were very crunchy.

 

 

  • What I crave the most on a day like this (rainy and cool) is kal guk su (handmade noodle soup). This particular one was made with ox tail stock. Normally the stock is made with either anchovies or clams. I think what made this special was their homemade kimchi and the soy sauce they added to the noodle.

 

 

After looking at these photos again, I think I will have to do something about my cravings… What to cook, what to cook….??

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!

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! 🙂

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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. . .

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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!

 

 

 

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!!! 🙂