(Originally Posted 2/8/2015) This week, my friend David dropped off two buckets of kimchi, one vat of anchovy sauce, a supersized bag of Korean chili flakes (Gochugaru) and he sort of dropped off a tub of Korean chili sauce Gochujang (he forgot, his son actually brought it to the dinner party – we couldn’t start eating without it).
I haven’t tried Korean food at home before because I’m a kimchi snob. How is a Vermonter with zero connection to Korea a kimchi snob? First, my high school had a large international contingent of boarding students and stocked a good kimchi selection on the salad bar every lunch. Second, I wrote an article on kimchi several years ago for Local Banquet during which the woman I was interviewing convinced me that most Vermont “kimchi” is really sauerkraut with ginger and hot peppers added.
I realize I could deal with this situation by going to a city and buying tubs of kimchi. But I’m expending those urban shopping efforts on upping my Thai and Chinese cooking game (that’s another blog post). However, with David’s ingredients in hand I could make a Korea-themed dinner.
Here’s the thing about the recipes I found online – the flavors were mostly variations on soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey or brown sugar, sesame oil, ginger. Then you dump on Gochujang. It seemed like that would make a dull single note meal, but it didn’t. Someone pointed out that it’s like Chinese master sauces, and so Chinese master sauce became my project for the weekend (yet another future post). And perhaps my next project will be building up the image of ketchup, since isn’t that really like a master sauce? (Just try it in Mark Bittman’s stir fried chicken recipe and you’ll see the brilliance).
Here is the menu I tried. Also, I originally planned to serve Jingae but was in a pinch the day before to come up with dinner and I made it then instead, so I can’t actually speak to how it works in the menu.
Gochujang – If you don’t have a tub of this, here is a recipe.
Sweet & Spicy Noodles
Jigae – Kimchi Stew
Tteokbokki – Red Rice Cakes – I used calamari rings as the seafood and even though I had this perfectly nice recipe, I ended up inventing as I went along with liberal doses of anchovy sauce, soy sauce, and (of course) Gochujang.
Dubu Buchin – Pan Fried Tofu (with kimchi) – This is just what it sounds like, pan fry sliced tofu then serve it under kim chi.
Cucumber & Kimchi Salad – I used equal parts large dice (seeded) cucumber, roasted diced sweet potato with sesame oil on top, and chopped kimchi. If I were to do it again, I’d salt the cucumber. Also, I was using the sweet potato to extend the salad for a bunch of people, tossing diced cucumber with kimchi or other non-pickled veggies with kimchi would have tasted as good if not better.
Sesame candies (see below)
Sweet Potato & Rice Flour Donuts
Grease an 8×8 pan well
In a thick bottomed large saucepan over medium-high heat bring 1 cup of sugar and 3 Tb honey to hard crack stage (avoid stirring it, swirl it by tilting the pan instead).
Stir in 2 tsp of baking soda (careful! It foams up!) followed by 1 cup of sesame seeds.
Working very quickly dump into the pan and spread. Let cool.
I make these candies whenever I’m craving something sweet and there’s nothing in the house. They only take a few minutes.