Korean Temple food

Korean Temple food

I can’t believe this will be my last blog for 2011. It’s been a busy last few months and I finally managed to squeeze in some time to write a blog I have been meaning to write for a while…. This is long overdue!

I was invited to attend a Korean cooking demonstration conducted by a Korean Buddhist Seonjae nun a few months ago. Being reasonably ignorant of Buddism, it was a good opportunity to educate myself.  I noticed a lot of Temple food cooking books were very popular during my last trip to Korea.

The cooking demonstration was organised by the Singapore Korean Women’s Association and was held at the Korean International School. The turn out was fantastic. There must have been at least 200 people filling the school hall. I guess everyone was curious to see the difference in the Korean temple food. Seonjae nun was going to show us how to make a few different types of kimchi in the Buddhist way.

I learnt that Buddhists don’t eat garlic, spring onion/leek and onion. This was hard to believe when Koreans use so much of these ingredients. I was really looking forward to taste Kimchi which has no garlic!

 

Seonjae nun is a cancer survivor. When she found out that she had cancer, she decided to focus more on the Korean temple food and treat her illness with food that she cooked. All her vegetables were grown in the temple organically and she treated the vegetable like any precious lives. She explained that what you eat is what you are. So you need to eat good and healthy food or your body will get sick.  How true…

 

Check out the different variety of kimchi that she made and we tasted.

Lotus root white kimchi

 

Cabbage Kimchi

 

Eggplant kimchi

 

 

Cucumber kimchi

 

All the different variety of kimchi that I tried tasted much less salty but still very fresh. I still couldn’t believe she didn’t use any garlic in any of the cooking. One more thing to note is that she makes her own soy sauce and substituted that with fish sauce.

Well, thank you all for following my blog this year and I hope I can bring more instresting stories for you next year! Happy New Year everyone and all the best in 2012!

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! 🙂

 

Simply Her September issue

Simply Her September issue

I was very excited to be invited to contribute a recipe in the September issue of Simply Her magazine. My first magazine interview and photo session!  Now I know how the photo shoots are done in magazines.

 

Don’t move…

 

Let’s move this to here and then this over there….

>So now waiting begins….

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A month later, here are the photos and the recipe. They look fantastic, don’t they?

 

 

 

My recipe is in the Home and Kids Cooking class section (page 156).  5 minutes of fame!  ^_^

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….??

Waiter! there is a bug in my food…

Waiter! there is a bug in my food…

When I was walking around Gwang jang market (refer to my last post here), I came across some Korean food I haven’t seen for many many years. Beondegi (번데기)!

Believe it or not, this used to be my favorite street snack when I was young. Nowadays, you just don’t see street vendors selling it any more.

 

 

So what are beondegi….? I didn’t even know until I looked up the translation in English. I was in horror. I always thought they looked a little suspicious and in the back of my mind I knew they were some sort of little creatures but I refused to admit it because they tasted so good. Now I know what they are I don’t think I can ever eat them again….   🙁

 

According to my research, beondegi are  silkworm pupae.  Yes, Silkworm!!!   I always thought Koreans didn’t eat insects but I guess I am wrong.

So what do they taste like? It’s hard to describe in one word… It’s nutty and neither soft nor crunchy. I can’t compare with any other food. The ones in the pictures are not cooked so you can either steam or boil with some salt and eat them as a snack. They are known to be high in protein and a lot of people eat them when they are drinking alcohol.

 

You can also buy these little creatures in a can already cooked and seasoned.

  • Stew style canned beondegi for 1900 won (approx S$2)

 

 

  • Seasoned beondegi 760won (less than S$1)

 

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen these in Singapore supermarkets so you can’t rush out and buy them to try. If you are heading to Korea or know someone going to Korea, you can always ask them to get you a can if you are brave enough to try!

 

 

Jjim dak – Korean braised chicken

Jjim dak – Korean braised chicken

When one of my students asked me if I can teach  Jjim dak (찜닭), I had a sudden craving for the dish. I quickly called around my family to find a recipe. Jjim dak became very popular in Korea to a point where you can almost find a Jjim dak restaurant on every corner and each one insisted that they were the original. Apparently this dish originated from a city called Andong, Korea and was made with very spicy Korean green chillis. I always wondered why it was called Jjim dak as it translates to steamed chicken but it is actually braised in soy sauce.

How to make Jjim dak (serves 3-4 people)

  • Ingredients: 10 chicken drumsticks & 10 wings, 1 potato, 1/2 carrot, 1 onion, 6 dates soaked in water, 10 dried chillies, 1 birds eye chilli, 1 leek, 1 handful of dangmyun (sweet potato noodle), 5 cups of water
  • Sauce: 8 tbsp Korean soy sauce, 1 tbs oyster sauce, 2 tbsp brown sugar, 2 tbsp chopped garlic, 1/2 tbsp freshly grated ginger, 1/2 tbsp sesame oil, 3 tbsp soju (Korean rice wine), 1/4 sesame seeds, some salt & pepper

  • Soak the dang myun in hot water to soften

  • Marinate the chicken in 2 tbsp of soju, some salt and pepper for 30 minutes

 

  • Add the marinated chicken, 5 cups of water, dried chillies and red dates in a pot and boil on a high heat for about 15 minutes. This is to cook the chicken. Mix all the sauce ingredients listed above and add to the chicken while it’s boiling

 

  • Add all the vegetables except the leek in to the pot and boil for another 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked.

  • As a final step, add the dang myun, leeks, and sesame seeds. My original recipe required only dried chillies but they were not spicy enough so I added the bird eye chilli to give that extra spiciness.

  • Unfortunately, my camera was playing up and I lost most of the photos I took when I was plating the dish. I managed to save a few only…   🙁

  • It was so spicy that I drank about a jug water with the chicken but my husband and I still managed to eat most of it. Instead of calling this dish Jjim dak, I think they should call it firey chicken.

 

 

Try the recipe and let me me know how you like this dish. Enjoy! 🙂

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

I came across a hot cross bun recipe from the Sydney Morning Herald a few days ago and decided to give it ago.  I was rushing around to get myself ready for my cooking class and I foolishly didn’t let the dough rise enough. I should never bake in hurry! Anyway, my first attempt ended in disaster. 🙁

After researching a number of different magazines I bought in Sydney, I decided to use an Apricot & Almond Chelsea bun recipe and then modify it to make my own Hot Cross bun creations. You should have seen my husband’s face when he had his first mouthful. It was a Kodak moment… 🙂

Almost like the ones you buy from a bakery but better, don’t you think?

My version of Hot Cross Buns:

  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 14g dried yeast
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 150ml warm milk
  • 50 mil warm water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 50g unsalted butter softened, 1 extra tbsp of melted butter to brush
  • a handful of sultanas
  • 1 tsp mixed spice

For piping crosses over the dough balls:

  • 50ml water
  • 50ml milk
  • 90g self raising flour

Let’s get started!

  • I put plain flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and mixed well. (If you have a bread machine or electric mixer/food processor, you can almost let the machine do all the work.) I used my bread machine.
  • I added the flour mix into my bread machine bowl and poured in warm milk, water, egg and butter and pressed the dough function on the machine and let it mix for 30 minutes.
  • Once the mixing was done, I left the dough in the machine for one hour (or until it doubles in size).
  • I set my oven to 200’C (or 180’C fan). I used one of  baking trays lined with baking paper.
  • I knocked back the dough and cut into 8 pieces. I rolled them into balls and placed the balls so they just touched. I let it to rise for another 30 minutes.

 

  • Now the final touch! I brushed melted butter over the dough. Then I mixed the water, milk, self raising flour and piped over the dough balls to form crosses except two balls which I made heart shaped for my husband. ♥

 

  • I baked it for 10 minutes and then reduced the oven temperature to 180’C(or 160’c fan) and then cooked for another 10 minutes (or until golden brown).

 

  • It looked like I didn’t brush the butter evenly so I put another coating and put it back in the oven for a few more minutes.

 

Ready for steaming hot cross buns? My husband gave me an evil eye when I asked him to wait for a few more minutes while I was taking some photos. Sorry! 🙂

It was perfect for our Easter Friday afternoon snack. We cut the bun in half and spread a bit of butter while it was still hot and had it with our caffe latte! Happy Easter everyone!