Posted in Notable Nosh

Notable Nosh: Alirang’s Tteokbokki

topokki 1

I ate Tteokbokki for the very first time at Alirang (my favorite Korean Restaurant in Ottawa) just a little bit before Christmas. For some reason, I had never heard of these before even though I eat in Korean restaurants fairly often, and have a pretty decent collection of Korean cookbooks at home. Thankfully, Alirang provided a phonetic rendering for the dish right on the menu and it appears, as they have it, to be pronounced ‘Topokki’.

I any event, Tteokbokki consists of a particular type of rice noodle, which can be served in many different ways. In the Chinese character name for the selection given on the menu (in the inset on the above photograph), it is described as ‘Hán shì chǎo niángāo’, which translates as ‘Korean Style spicy stir-fried steamed-rice cake’. The actual noodle, as it turns out, is a thick, very dense, cylindrical rice flour noodle cut, in this case, into 3cm sections.

Now, the dish I was served at Alirang did not just consist of the noodles in sauce, but also contained a little cabbage (not quite apparent in the picture) but also some triangular pieces of something with an almost omelet like texture that I could not identify. I had to ask what they were and discovered that it was slices of fish cake. When I discovered what it was, the taste suddenly made sense and I have to say that I really liked this addition very much.

Now, the noodles were probably the densest, chewiest noodles I have ever had and I can see how they could become addictive, and probably a comfort food for those who grow up with them. I would like to see if I can buy them separately for home use sometime so I can experiment with them a little.

Oh… as for the sauce, this was pretty much nothing more than a slightly diluted Gochujang, or Korean Fermented Chili-Soybean Paste. It was extremely fiery and, I have to admit, nearly did me in. Still, on the whole, I really liked this offering and would like to try some other versions in the future.

Posted in Notable Nosh

Notable Nosh: ‘Mandoo’ (Korean Dumplings)

Mandoo

I eat at Korean restaurants about once or maybe twice a year. I have rarely had dumplings during a Korean meal and, quite honestly, don’t particularly associate dumplings with Koran cuisine at all; Mostly, I think, because they most often appear on the menu under the name ‘pot-stickers’ or the Japanese name ‘Gyoza’. A lot of Korean restaurants will include Chinese, Japanese, or Thai items on the menu, and the dumplings I have seen in these places are generally the fried ‘Guo Tie’ or ‘Wor Tip’ variety that are commonly called pot-stickers, and it is never suggested that they are a Korean ‘thing’ at all…

At Alirang, a tiny, but excellent Korean restaurant in downtown Ottawa, they had dumplings described on the menu as ‘Mandoo’  (Korean Dumplings) … I have seen the name Mandoo in cookery books before, or in its more common variant ‘Mandu’, and the Wikipedia entry for the term suggests that the word refers to a wide variety of native Korean dumplings. In truth, I don’t think this is the case as the word clearly descends from the same root as ‘Manti’ (central Asian dumplings) and ‘Mantou’ (Chinese steamed buns) … In the inset in the above picture, I have shown the menu entry, which includes Chinese characters for the name. These solve the issue a little as they translate as ‘Korean style fried dumplings’ and suggest more a Korean twist on a standard Chinese classic rather than a purely Korean delicacy.

Anyway, whatever the origin, these were pretty decent , except that the wrapper dough was a bit thick for this type of dumpling and would be more appropriate for boiled or even steamed. The Chinese characters specify ‘jiānjiǎo’ which actually means ‘pan-fried’, but these ones were clearly deep-fried and quite oily, although I don’t mean this as a criticism as these were, as I say, pretty darned decent. The filling was ground pork and cabbage that didn’t seem to be seasoned with anything except a little salt, but the simplicity of this worked very well and the overall effect was very flavorful. They may not be truly a traditional Korean delicacy … but who cares 😊

Posted in Recipes

Octopus Banchan

Octopus Banchan 1

Today, I have used the tentacle tips and other scraps from a recent Octopus Purchase to make a little Korean style Banchan, or side-dish. This style of Banchan involves cooking the main ingredient with the Korean Chili Paste known as Gochujang, and a sweetener, usually a syrup such corn, or rice syrup, or even honey. The presence of the latter allows for such dishes to keep a long time in the fridge.

There is a very similar dish to the one that I am making called Nakji bokkeum in which additional vegetable are added during stir-frying. Typically, the result is served hot, often over rice, but the simple, banchan-style type is served cold… Continue reading “Octopus Banchan”

Posted in Foodstuffs

Foodstuff: Korean Red Pepper Powder

Korean Red Pepper Powder 1

Korean Red Pepper Powder is a very versatile food product but its primary uses are in the making of Kimchi and also in the preparation of the Korean fermented red pepper paste known as Gochujang. Most of the ground chili available to me locally is quite coarse, with the exception of Cayenne Pepper, which is pretty fiery. The typical Korean Red Pepper Powder can be quite mild, is very finely milled, and also has a very pretty bright red color that makes for a very attractive pickle… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Korean Red Pepper Powder”

Posted in General, Recipes

Salted Radish Banchan

Salted Radish Banchan 1

If you have eaten at a Korean restaurant you will recognize ‘Banchans’ as being the small (usually free) side dishes that accompany the main meal. Cabbage Kimchi is a standard offering but there are many others and I tend to rate a restaurant on the number and variety of selections provided.

Today’s offering is not an actual Korean recipe (to the best of my knowledge) but the combination of Preserved Salted Radish along with Gochujang chilli paste makes it a pretty good fit to the basic theme… Continue reading “Salted Radish Banchan”

Posted in General, Recipes

Kimchi with Shrimp and Scallop

Kimchi with Shrimp and Scallop 1

Recently, I posted a recipe for a Simple Kimchi, and I mentioned that, in more complex varieties, Korean often boost the umami quotient of the pickle by include things like oysters, brined shrimp, or even fish guts. Today’s recipe does just that using shrimp and scallop except that, in this case, I am using Chinese style dried shrimp and scallops (the latter known as ‘conpoy’. I am also departing from the method I used in the Simple Kimchi recipe by using the slightly more traditional method of making chilli paste from scratch rather than using the pre-made Korean ‘Gochujang’ … Continue reading “Kimchi with Shrimp and Scallop”

Posted in General, Recipes

Kimchi Soup (Kimchi-guk)

Kimchi Soup 1

Today, I am using some of my homemade Simple Kimchi to make a simple, but very tasty, soup. Many people may think of Kimchi as a simply a cold side-dish, or a Banchan (when included as part of a Korean meal). However, it is often used as a cooking ingredient as well. Most notably, it can be added to fried rice, it is used as a primary ingredient in particular types of Korean stews known as Kimchi-jjigae, and  is also used  in a class of soups collectively called Kimchi-guk.

As with any ‘traditional’ soup, there are as many recipes as there are cooks and, today, I didn’t have in mind any particular Korean recipe, rather, I have simply created a fairly straightforward Pork and onion soup to which I add a good, healthy dollop of Kimchi to give it a sour and spicy finish… Continue reading “Kimchi Soup (Kimchi-guk)”

Posted in General, Recipes

Simple Kimchi

simple-kimchi-1

When most people hear ‘Kimchi’, they tend to think of the most common variety made with Napa Cabbage. In truth, though, many things are pickled to make Kimchi and, even with the cabbage variety, there are thousands of versions, from the simple to highly complex. Beyond the cabbage, and, of course, chilli, there can be other vegetables added (scallions, for example), and the umami quotient is often enhanced with some sort of sea product. This can be in the form of Korean Salted Shrimp, oysters, anchovy essence, whole dried anchovies, or even fish guts.

Today, I am preparing a very simple cabbage version using just chilli and scallion. I am departing from the most common method of adding chilli, which is usually done by making a paste from powdered chilli, water, and generally rice powder, or even, in some cases, wheat flour. Instead, I am doing what some recipes do, and using Gochujang, or Korean Chili paste, which carries its own umami punch. I will be adding this to my cabbage a bit later than is common for a couple of reasons. First, while I am fairly confident, having regard to the ingredients list, that there are no preservatives in my commercially made paste that will inhibit fermentation, I am not taking chances. Also, the paste is already fermented and the chilli and rice flour don’t need further fermentation to develop their flavors…. Continue reading “Simple Kimchi”

Posted in Recipes

Sesame Miso Beef Ribs

Sesame Miso RIbs 01

I really love the Korean-style ‘Flanken-cut’ beef-ribs, especially for grilling. Usually, they are cut quite thinly (at least by my butcher) but lately, I have been buying some that are a good inch or so thick. For today’s post, I marinated some using a little Miso. This is a popular Japanese grilling technique that works especially well for fish but is also terrific with beef or pork. In this case, I have also included a good shot of sesame oil in the blend for a bit of a Korean touch as well…  Continue reading “Sesame Miso Beef Ribs”