By: By: Ann Taylor Pittman, Photo: Iain Bagwell
Southern-born and –raised food editor Ann Taylor Pittman, had never been to the birth country of her mother. She came back from Korea with a bounty of scrumptious inspiration from street vendors, markets, restaurants, and her own family to develop these dishes.
Read Ann’s story here.
This first dish was modeled from a fantastic dumpling stand in the Insadong area of Seoul. The little shrimp tails poking out of the dumplings are an adorable cue to the filling within.
Korean doenjang (fermented soybean paste) adds the most authentic flavor, but it can be hard to find; white or yellow miso works well in its place. There is a definite method to cooking Asian short-grain rice that mothers teach to their daughters. It involves rinsing several times and cooking in less water than traditional ratios.
This is our version of a specialty of the Hapcheon area—a soup take on the popular Korean dish bulgogi (grilled marinated beef). In Hapcheon, the soup is cooked on the table, and you monitor the cooking. At home, you’ll need to watch closely so the broth doesn’t boil; you want it at a bare simmer, or else the meat will get tough and the broth cloudy.
These simple savory pancakes are often a part of meals enjoyed of Korea—one of many banchan (side dishes) scattered about the table. The secrets to crisp pancakes are icecold water, a hot pan, and enough oil. Look for small green onions; they work best.
In Korea, tteokbokki (tech-boke-ee) comes in many guises. The ubiquitous street-food version consists of rice cakes floating in a sweet-spicy sauce made with corn syrup and gochujang (Korean chile paste). This take, served in only one particular market in Seoul, was the simplest and most delicious we know of—crisp on the outside and chewy within. You’ll find rice cakes for tteokbokki at Korean markets; they’re about the size of a thumb.
This soup is pure, easy comfort. At many restaurants, it comes to the table boiling hot—literally bubbling in a stone pot for a few minutes. The broth is tangy and slightly spicy, flavored by the kimchi. Good, strong, very fermented kimchi makes for the best soup; if your kimchi seems mild, let it sit out of the fridge for a day to gain a little more fermenty funk.
Look for roasted ground sesame seeds at Korean markets. They’re not ground to a powder but crushed a bit. You can make your own by toasting sesame seeds until deeply golden, allowing them to cool, and crushing with a mortar and pestle. Serve this sauce with Scallion Pancakes and Shrimp Mandu.