Visit to Korea 2017 

Oh boy, where do I even begin? 

We get to visit Korea (yes, South Korea) only once every 2-3 years. I’m from Busan, the second largest city in Korea. This time, we were there for my sister’s wedding so we stayed around Busan the whole time. Seoul is fun but I think I’ve come to like Busan more. I definitely enjoyed every single moment, every bite. 

Well, right after we got off the airplane, we went to Geoje Island for a family trip. We lucked out with this beautiful resort, Hiclass Geoje
Playing in the pool means HANGRY people!
There’s nothing like stuffing your face with BBQ meat and soju on a vacay!
On our way back from Geoje Island, we dropped by this restaurant for some FRESH seafood. In addition to sashimi, they also give you so many side dishes, aka banchan. The things in the above picture are: sea pineapple (sea squirt), conch, “live” octopus in sesame oil and sea cucumbers. They sound kinda horrifying but aren’t that bad😉 

So, now, I’m just gonna list all the things we ate in Korea😂 

Dwaejigukbap: pork and rice in pork-base broth. Busan is well-known for having awesome DJGB!
Guksu: Korean style noodle soup. It’s quite easy to make it at home but I have a go-to place in Busan. Never disappoints. 

Fruit cakes are a thing in Korea I’d say. Cakes are so pretty that I sometimes don’t even wanna eat them😂 Do they taste as good as they look? Heck yeah. 
앙꼬절편, some super famous rice cake! In Korea, things change very fast. There are a few VERY trendy items whenever I visit Korea. This time, at least in Busan, this thin rice cake filled with sweet red bean paste was a hit!
Mommy’s hangover soup! This dried pollock soup, aka bugeoguk (‘guk’ means soup), is the ultimate remedy for bad hangovers. My mom loves to add ground black pepper at the end. 

Kimchi pancake and makgeolli! The salty, crispy kimchi pancake goes perfectly well with the sweet rice (alcoholic) beverage. It’s pretty easy to get korean style pancakes in the States now. I definitely recommend you order one of these next time you are at a Korean restaurant. 

Handmade dumplings. You easily run into these big batches at any market places. 

Speaking of markets, I just LOVE walking around them and looking at all these delicious snacks, sauces, etc. 

Tempura style snacks: battered and deep-dried. Everything tastes great when fried!

Tteokbokki, rice cake and fish cake in spicy gochujang (red chili paste)! If you dip that deep-fried stuffed pepper in the red sauce and have a big bite, I guarantee you that there will be a party in your mouth. One of my favorite street food dishes!

Korean beef BBQ….! We went to this butcher’s/restaurant, where you pick your own meat. You take what you have picked upstairs and they give you this tableside grill along with a variety of side dishes. Locally grown Korean beef just melts in your mouth. 

Duck BBQ! No marinating, no seasoning. Just some fresh duck meat and lots of garlic!
Bar food aka anju. One great thing about drinking in Korea is that you keep eating while drinking. Your bar food selections are amazing too. This seafood noodle soup was perfect with our sake! Also, you can drink pretty much all day/night in Korea. A great place for party animals. 

Just another typical breakfast scene at my parents’. You get a bowl of rice and several side dishes. I think I ate so many veggies even without trying. I already miss her food😭

Sashimi bibimbap and gukbap (‘bap’ means rice). We went to this old, quaint village by called Huinyeoul Cultural Village by the ocean. Right before we walked around the hilly alleys, we went to this restaurant and had an amazing lunch. Not too heavy or light. Fresh fish and lots of vegetables. 

Then, more street food! Hotteok is like a mini pancake filled with brown sugar and nuts. My brother-in-law’s favorite snack it is. Dakgangjeong is Korean fried chicken covered in spicy sauce. They are usually in a bite size so it’s easy to eat them while exploring busy streets of Korea. 

S. O. J. U! This liquor is found everywhere in Korea. Super cheap. Each city has its own so it’s another fun to try different kinds.

Rice gelato! Yes, I said rice. Centum City is a huge mall located near Haeundae beach. There, I found this mysterious flavor and I fell in love right away. The combination of tiramisu and rice flavor was oddly satisfying!

Cakes, cakes and cakes! Too pretty. 

All-you-can-eat korean buffet! You pay $25 and just go to town. Amazinglicious!

Mom’s bulgogi lunch! 

My aunt’s scrumptious gimbap…! This is one of the things that I definitely miss a lot. I don’t know what she does to it but we all love her rolls. Very addicting!

Lastly, meals served on Korean Air! In-flight meals are usually awful but I actually do enjoy eating what Korean Air serves. On the way to Korea, the lunch was bibimbap with seaweed soup. On our way back, it was rice served with doenjang (korean miso, if you will) and veggies. 

Our trip to Korea this time was a bit too crazy between the wedding and some personal issues. I am not complexly confident that I ate everything I wanted to. However, it’s always so much fun to go out there and spoil myself with endless eating and drinking. What’s surprising is that I somehow lose weight despite all of that..! I guess it’s the lifestyle. 

I did have a great time in Korea, but it’s good to be back home with my kitties. So, Korea, till next time!

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Bulgogi (beef) – Scrumptious but simple enough to make!

The picture is from the website of a famous Korean franchise restaurant called “Bulgogi Brothers.” They haven’t opened one in the States yet unfortunately. 😦 What you see up there is Bulgogi Bibimbap. “Bul” literally means fire, “gogi” meat, “bibim” mix and “bap “rice. It’s self explanatory except for the ‘fire’ part. That came from how it’s cooked and for more information, click the link above. 🙂 Because I am too excited to reveal the recipe that’s so easy! There are more than a few different kinds of Bulgogi’s but this one is the most common and easiest one that you can make. The key is to get all the right ingredients. After that, it’s a piece of cake!

*** Recipe (2 servings) ***

<Meat>

You need thin slices of (usually) sirloin. I do have hard time finding this cut of beef at regular supermarkets. If that’s the case, go to H-Mart or an Asian grocery store nearby. They should have it and it doesn’t matter if it’s frozen. Get 1lb of the meat.

<Marinade – unit:tablespoon> FYI, everyone has a different recipe and this is my mom’s.

soy sauce (4-5), water (2), Coke or Pepsi (3), minced garlic (0.5-1), sugar or honey (1), sesame oil (0.5-1)

<Secret Ingredient>

Meat can be really chewy and here’s the ultimate meat tenderizer! Pureed KIWI! Use only half of the whole kiwi, though. Your bulgogi won’t even have big chunks if you put the whole thing – half joking. 😉 If you don’t have a kiwi, you can use half of a pear. This will add a nice tone to your marinade as well.

Now, you can mix everything together. You can put a little ground pepper as well. When you marinate the meat, you can also add onions as in the picture above. Let it sit for a couple of hours. You can even wait a day to cook it. Once you are ready to stuff your face with this deliciousness, cook it on a pan. No oil is needed. Add mushrooms (button mushrooms or shiitake mushrooms are usually good), which go perfectly well with bulgogi. Cook it until it’s ready, which doesn’t take too long.

One thing about my mom’s recipe is that “Coke” part. You can add a little more water instead of that but her bulgogi does taste gooooooooooood. 🙂 Like I said, everyone seems to have his/her own bulgogi recipe so do some experiment and find your own recipe! It’s another fun part of cooking, right? 😉 Serve it over white sticky rice maybe with some kimchi. That’s one complete meal! Enjoy!

Kimchi Stuffed Chicken Thighs

How does this dish look? Whatever you think, it’s beyond that! 🙂

Here’s a little behind-story of how this dish was born! Main ingredients are kimchi and chicken. Kimchi is a traditional Korean food but this dish is not traditionally “Korean”. Actually, I gotta thank my husband – ex hotel chef- who created this awesome dish for the Korean Food Cooking Contest held in Seoul, Korea in 2011. There were a lot of “foreigners” who cooked great dishes but his kimchi stuffed chicken thighs were the most loved dish by the audience, who were mostly culinary students. Since then, it’s been HIS dish and I am totally stealing it this time because I did it on my own with a little personal touch!  :p

*** Recipe ***

1. Get a couple of chicken thighs and debone them.

2. Pound them flat, if necessary.

3. Sautee some chopped kimchi. Depending on your preference, add veggies and/or cooked rice. I put some zucchini (to add more color) and rice.

4. Spread the cooked kimchi onto the flat chicken thighs and roll them.

5. Season the outer part of the chicken thighs – the hubby used sweet Thai chili sauce but this time I used bacon, which turned out to be really good.

6. Put them in the oven for 25-30 minutes (380°F) COVERED.

7. Get rid of the cover and broil them for about 5-10 minutes (both sides) so they get that sexy color!

Tada~ You see what I am saying about that sexiness here??!! Let them sit for a couple of minutes before you slice and plate them.

You can do so much with this dish in terms of presentation. I cooked some cauliflower to go with it. The hubby made some tangy salad last time (first picture above). Get creative and amuse your senses! Enjoy!

 

 

Radish Kimchi – Novice Recipe!

It’s about time. It’s Kimchi time! Kimchi is a staple dish in Korean people’s everyday lives. I should say every meal, actually. Not only do Korean people eat this spicy, fermented vegetable side dish with every single meal, but they also cook other dishes with it and it’s a whole new level. The most common kimchi is made with napa cabbage. However, when we went to Hollins Farm in Delaplace, VA this weekend to look at their pumpkin patch, we ended up getting more things than we needed (of course), among which were radishes!

To be honest, I’d never made kimchi myself before. Looking at the fresh radishes, however, I just couldn’t let them go. I had to make kimchi with them! Plus, radish kimchi is one of the easiest to make. 🙂 With a little help of the Internet and from my mom, I managed to do it and it’s gonna taste YUMMY!! You can eat kimchi as soon as you make it but it’s supposed to be “fermented”, meaning you gotta wait!

So here’s what I did!

※ What you need: 1 big daikon radish (or the same amount of a bunch of smaller ones), 3 Tbsp of red pepper flakes, 4 Tbsp of fish sauce (Korean anchovy sauce), 1 Tbsp of minced garlic, 1/2 Tbsp of minced ginger, rice flour paste, 1 tbsp of sugar, scallions, onions, and 4-5 Tbsp of sea salt

1. Cut the stems off the roots. Clean the roots thoroughly and peel the skin if necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Dice the radishes. Sprinkle sea salt over the diced radishes and let them sit for 3 hours. Give them a little toss here and there in the meantime. The point of salting the radish is to get the moisture out of the radish so the taste doesn’t get affected by the moisture. You will be AMAZED to see how much “water” the radishes let out for three hours. Even after this step, you will see a lot of “liquid” you didn’t expect later on when your kimchi is sitting in the refrigerator. In 3 hours, rinse them and put them in a colander.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Rice flour paste! Sweet rice, aka chapssal, is usually used when making rice cakes. This flour is easily found in any Asian grocery stores. However, according to my mom, just regular flour should work as well. Mix 3 Tbsp of rice flour with the same amount of water. Turn the stove on. Mild heat. You have to keep stirring. Otherwise, it’s going to burn really fast. When the paste get to the consistency in the picture. Turn it off. Let it cool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Don’t forget about the stems! Some people don’t even bother to use them. Others cook them and dry them to make another dish. But I just put them in my kimchi. Wash them thoroughly and cut them so they are about 2-3 inches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 5. Let’s mix them! As you can see, the radishes, stems, thin strips of onions, minced garlic, minced ginger, red pepper flakes, a little bit of sugar, and the rice flour paste are all getting mixed in a bowl. Of course, this is when the fish sauce goes in! I wouldn’t really try to smell the fish sauce itself. It’s pretty strong! 😉 And use your hand to mix them! Kimchi tastes so much better that way. As you can imagine, it’s got a strong flavor so I always use the plastic gloves.

 

 

 

 

 

6. Kimchi is almost ready! Get a glass jar or any glass container and put your kimchi in it. I say a glass jar because (I’m gonna be honest) once plastic containers  have kimchi in them, they are done. lol Korean people have a Gimjang day and that’s when they make all their kimchi for the year. And they use cool looking jars and bury them under ground so the kimchi get properly fermented. We don’t need to get all that fancy though. 😉 All we need is a couple of days. Afterwards, keep it refrigerated and you should be able to enjoy it within a week! Kimchi is one of those things that taste different every time. Enjoy!

Samgyeopsal, Ultimate Meatlovers’ Dish

Samgyeopsal!

The picture up there said it all. Pure delight in your mouth. Every single person in Korea has had this and vegan population in Korea is pretty insignificant probably because samgyeopsal is so irresistible!! You can’t go vegan with this meat cooking right in front of you!

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What’s cooking on the pan:

– Meat: Go to any Asian grocery store (in my case, I go to H-Mart) and look for “sliced pork belly”. It is basically thicker bacon meat that’s not cured or smoked. Frozen samgyeopsal works just fine too.

– Garlic: Slice garlic cloves and just throw them in the pan with the meat. No rules.

Kimchi: Yup. Kimchi it is. Even if you might like the strong taste of kimchi normally, you will be pleasantly surprised with the amazing taste of cooked kimchi. Trust me and try this.

– Pan? Your regular non-stick frying pan works fine but if you want to get a little fancy, try your breakfast griddle! It seems that someone made it just for samgyeopsal without telling anyone this secret! *Warning: lots of grease!

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“Triple-S” Salad – Spicy, Sweet and Sour!

It’s got all the flavors that you can imagine. Just grab a bag of any lettuce at the supermarket. I usually get red leaf and a mix of other greens. All you have to do is to toss it with this mind-blowing dressing!

Pepper flakes (2) + Soy sauce (2) + Fish sauce (1, optional) + Honey(1) + Vinegar (2) + Sugar (2) + Minced Garlic (1) + A hint of sesame oil

After tossing it nicely in a big bowl, if you are into a nice presentation, sprinkle some sesame seeds! ALL DONE!

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SoMac! = Soju + Maekju (Beer, in Korean)

A complete Samgyeopsal meal is finally served with some SoMac! Soju can be purchased pretty much at any ABC store in Virginia for $4-$6 a bottle (it’s kinda sad because it’s less than a dollar in Korea). 😦 Anyway, watch these people make SoMac. ->; So Cool! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JL6oWNgAZNs

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No exaggeration. Not a month goes by without Samgyeopsal in Korea. If you have a regular job, not a week goes by without it. This is meat lovers’ ultimate pilgrimage so you should try it some time. If it’s too much headache for you to do it at home, go find any Korean style BBQ restaurant. It is one of those things that you can’t really mess up! Enjoy!

Korean (Asian) Supermarket – Great Seafood Selections!

It’s not easy to get fresh fish in the neighborhood. That means it’s time to go to H-Mart in Falls Church. It’s the closest one but there are actually two other ones around that I can go to. H-Mart has been around since 1982. It is run by Korean people and there’s a small food court in the supermarket as well. I’ve tried their food once. It wasn’t anything crazy but to some people it might be an interesting experience, especially if you don’t cook Korean food at home. Just so you know, right in front of the H-Mart in Falls Church is this Chinese supermarket called “Great Wall” – go figure.

Today’s Shopping List: Kimchi, soy sauce, oyster sauce, soba noodles (my favorite summer food, which I eat in winter too…?!), pork belly (the legendary “samgyeopsal” to be posted some time soon), a huge bag of sticky rice, clams and two mackerel.

I cannot help talking about their seafood selections there. They have quite a variety from  dried anchovies (in multiple sizes) to whole monkfish. They are fresh. They are very affordable. Two mackerel, which could feed three people, were 7 dollars. They clean the fish for you too without any extra charge. You might not be familiar with dealing with the whole fish but I love it! The best flavor is where the bones are – meat, poultry or fish! I also bought some clams so I can use them in my doenjang soup later. Remember doenjang? 😉

I am not gonnna lie. If you like a slow-paced, peaceful shopping experience, H-Mart is not for you. You gotta hustle and bustle walking through tiny aisles trying to figure out what all the things say in multiple foreign languages when other people are pushing you around. But it’s definitely FUN! Try the free tasting samples. Maybe buy their best-selling ramen noodles for your late night snack. Be adventurous and get some kimchi to cook with! You will see so many things that Giant or Harris Teeter doesn’t have.

Next time you go to H-Mart, if you don’t know what the heck you are holding in your hand, take a picture of that and tweet it to me! I will be pleased to help you!