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Korea Is Hot (April 27, 2012)

Quick Kimchi
Sautéed Eggplant
Korean Fried Chicken with Sweet-and-Spicy Sauce
Poached Asian Pear

Korean cuisine is hot, hot, hot, and it's not just the Kimchi! Good reason, too. Korean communities can be found in most major cities; our taste buds have ramped up to craving hot and spicy, and more Korean restaurants are popping up to fill the need at last! For years Korean cooking used to be one of the best-kept culinary secrets, enjoyed by the adventuresome few who sought out barbecue houses and noodle joints famous for the deliciously complex and fresh flavour of the dishes.

Even better, you can now do your favourite Korean dishes at home! Some new cookbooks have just come in, and the recipes are super. Plus, these days the ingredients can be found at Asian markets as well as many good supermarkets. Start cooking tonight!

Begin with Quick and Easy Korean Cooking, containing more than 70 everyday recipes, by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee. It's a Gourmet Cook Book club selection, and for good reason. Lee guides you through with readily available ingredients and familiar techniques; imagine sitting down to a sumptuous and fragrant supper of dumpling soup with rice cakes, or stewed spicy mussels, red bean rice and garlicky sautéed eggplant. We were thrilled to find all the luscious, finger-licking BBQ recipes which really put Korean cuisine on the gourmet map! Lee's book, ranging from appetizers and snacks, soups and hot pots, side dishes, entrées and noodles and more, bring new flavours and new favourites to your everyday dinner table. Whee, move over Hamburger Helper!

A favourite cookbook we keep handy in the kitchen is Asian Sauces and Marinades by Wendy Sweetser. All Asian cooking is based on the use of sauces, whether for marinating, cooking or garnishing. The ingredients blend and interact to infuse meat, seafood and vegetables with magic, and understanding the sauces and marinades give to the secret to fabulous Asian cuisine. Sweetser gives us recipes for all the major sauces used in Asian cooking, plus the dish in which it is used. A must-have general reference/cookbook on the "A" shelf!

Korean fried chicken has an almost cult following around the world, so where better to find a recipe than Poulet: More than 50 Remarkable Meals that Exalt the Honest Chicken? What a great title from food writer Cree LeFavour, who grew up on a ranch in Idaho and knows chickens! She points out that chicken is one of the world's main sources of protein, enjoyed in almost every country. Each ethnic community has a favourite version of chicken; there must be thousands (or more) recipes in existence! Poulet covers American, Bistro, Latin East Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern and African chicken stories and recipes. Of course we went for the Korean version, but there are 50 others waiting for you to try! We'll be giving you more in the next few months!

We love television food shows and cruising the net for recipes, and particularly enjoy The Food Network. It's a great combination of professional food writers and chefs plus submissions and comments from talented cooks who simply love food! Looking for Korean recipes produced a gorgeous version of Bibimbap, a staple Korean recipe. Found in every restaurant, served on every table, this is the "meat and potatoes" dish of the country! This recipe comes courtesy Jen Lee from the Food network show Boy Meets Grill, episode "Korean." Many thanks, Food Network!

On today's menu:

Download this article in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (113 KB)



Quick Kimchi

Quick Kimchi

The quintessential Korean condiment! We had to include a recipe...

In Quick and Easy Korean Cooking, author Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee says, "Although a bit of prep work is required, you can have your very own homemade kimchi with minimal effort. This is a variation of the most popular variety, the traditional bacchu (Napa cabbage) kimchi. You might think that a gallon is a lot of kimchi, but can use leftovers to make Kimchi Pancakes or Kimchi Fried Rice or even put it into your Thanksgiving stuffing! You'll need a 1-gallon glass jar with a tight-fitting lid."

Makes about 1 gallon

  • 2 Napa cabbages
  • 1 medium daikon radish
  • 1/4 cup coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 green onions, cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp minced or grated ginger
  • 2 Tbsp Korean chile powder
  • 2 Tbsp Asian fish sauce

Rinse the cabbages and cut them crosswise into about 2-inch lengths. Peel the daikon, cut lengthwise into quarters, then into pieces about 1/2 inch thick.

Dissolve the salt in 1 cup water. Put the cabbages and daikon in a large bowl and pour the salt water over them. Let sit for a least 6 hours or overnight.

The next day, drain the vegetables but reserve the water. Return the cabbages and daikon to the same bowl. Add the green onions, garlic, ginger, chile powder and dish sauce and mix well. Pack the mixture into a 1-gallon glass jar. Slowly pour the reserved salty water over the vegtables to cover, leaving about 1 inch space on top. Tightly close the jar.

Let the jar sit in a cool, dark place for 2 to 3 days, depending on the whether and how ripe (pickled) you like your kimchi. Refrigerate after opening. It will keep for a couple of weeks, after which you'll want to make fried rice, kimchi pancakes or a hot pot with it.

Note: Traditional, baechu kimchi was made with tiny salted shrimp (available in small jars in the refrigerated section of Korean markets), which you can use in place of the fish sauce. I've discovered that fish sauce is more versiatile and easier to find than salted shrimp. Any brand of the Asian fish sauce will do.



Sautéed Eggplant

Sautéed Eggplant

In Quick and Easy Korean Cooking, Author Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee tells us that outdoor markets in Seoul are filled with beautiful purple eggplants when they are in season in late summer. Much smaller than the European varieties, Korean eggplants are similar to their Japanese cousins. The traditional way to make this banchan (side dish) is to boil the eggplants first then shred or cut them; I've found a method that is much simpler. If you don't like spicy food, you may omit the chile powder, but compared to some other Korean dishes, the heat is barely noticeable.

Makes 5 or 6 servings

  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 medium eggplants cut into 1/2-inch-thick strips, 2 to 3 inches long
  • 1 Tbsp Asian sesame oil
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Korean chile powder
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds, crushed

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and eggplants and stir-fry until the eggplants are limp and starting to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the sesame oil, green onion, soy sauce, and chile powder and stir fry for another minute or so. Remove from the heat.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve either warm or at room temperature.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or California



Korean Fried Chicken with Sweet-and-Spicy Sauce

Korean Fried Chicken with Sweet-and-Spicy Sauce

Cree LaFavour in Poulet says Korean fried chicken has a cult following these days. It's anyone's guess what gives it the kind of audience it has. Maybe it's as simple as this: you transform something as primally delicious as fried chicken into super-spicy, fried chicken. Warning: this version is as fiery, crispy and obsession-worthy as possible! Bring it on!

Serves 4

  • 1/4 cup sambal oelek
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 8 to 10 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1½ cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Peanut oil for deep frying
  • 3 green onions sliced
  • Sweet-and spicy sauce (recipe below)

Combine the sambal oelek and 1 tsp of the salt in a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Marinate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour, or cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours. (If refrigerating, return the chicken to room temperature for 30 minutes or so to take the chill off before cooking.)

When you're ready to cook, combine the flour, cornstarch, remaining 1 tsp salt, and cayenne in a large bowl and set aside.

Set the temperature on a deep-fryer for 365°F. Fill it one-third full of peanut oil, or enough so that the chicken thighs will be fully covered but not so deep that there's any danger of the oil overflowing. (If you prefer, use a heavy stockpot or large Dutch oven.) Put the pot over medium-high heat and clip a deep-frying thermometer to the side of the pot or use your instant-read thermometer. You want the oil at a steady 365°F.

When the oil is hot, remove a thigh from the marinade and dredge it in the flour mixture to coat on both sides. Repeat with a few more thighs; work in manageable batches of three or four thighs at a time. Lower them into the hot oil. Adjust the heat as needed to return the oil to 365°F, but keep it low enough so that the chicken doesn't burn. The oil should not smoke. Cook for 6 minutes, turning the thighs halfway through. Using a wire mesh strainer or a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate. Shake off any excess oil or bits that may be clinging to the chicken. Repeat to fry the rest of the thighs.

Let all the thighs cool for at least 10 minutes before the second round of frying. Return the oil to 365°F. Dredge the partially cooked chicken pieces in the flour mixture again before lowering them into the oil. Turn the chicken frequently, as often as every 3 minutes. This will prevent one side from burning. To cook through, the chicken may take as long as 15 to 20 minutes total. It should not blacken, but will get very dark. The cooking time will depend on how big the thighs are and on how many you cook at one time.

Either insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of a thigh or cut into a thigh with a paring knife. The thermometer should register 175°F. If using a knife, look for clear, not red or pink juices running from the spot where you pierced the meat and opaque, barely pink meat the bone.

When the chicken is done, transfer it to a wire rack and sprinkle with the green onions. Serve hot, drizzled with the Sweet-and-Spicy Sauce.

Sweet-and-Spicy Sauce

LaFavour says "If you are unable to find Tien Tsin chiles, you can substitute habanero or Serrano chiles."

Makes enough for the chicken!

  • 5 Tien Tsin chiles, fresh or dried
  • 1 ripe tomato, cut into chunks
  • 1 Tbsp raw sugar
  • 1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes. Transfer the contents of the pan to a blender and process until smooth.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Off-Dry Riesling or Viognier





Food Network presenter Jen Lee tells us that Bibimbap, one of the most popular dishes in Korean cuisine, is a nutritious rice dish of steamed rice and pre-cooked vegetables (usually spinach, bean sprouts, carrots, mushrooms, egg and lettuce). It can also contain ground beef but can be ordered without meat. Dolsot bibimbap is the same dish served in a hot stone pot (the pot is pre-heated in oven) to make the rice on the bottom crunchy and to keep the dish hot for a longer time.

Literally meaning "fire meat," bulgogi is thin-sliced marinated grilled meat, usually rib-eye or sirloin. Gochuchang paste is a spicy red pepper paste sold in glass jars or plastic containers that can be purchased at any Korean or Asian food market.

Wow. We can't wait to get started here! Thank you, Food Network!

Serves 4

  • Steamed white rice
  • Bulgogi (recipe follows)
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • Cooked bean sprouts, sautéed in a little sesame oil or peanut oil and seasoned with salt
  • Cooked spinach, sautéed in a little sesame or peanut oil and seasoned with salt
  • 4 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced and sauteed in peanut oil and seasoned with salt
  • 1 egg, cooked over easy
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
  • Soy sauce, to taste
  • Gochuchang Paste (recipe follows)

*Cook's Note: This can be done in a regular bowl or a hot stone bowl. If it's in a hot stone bowl, the rice becomes crunchy because it's still cooking.

Put cooked rice in large slightly shallow bowl. Place bulgogi (with juices from cooked meat) and veggies on top of rice but place separately so you can see each ingredient beautifully placed on rice. Put egg on top. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and drizzle with sesame oil and soy sauce.

When ready to eat, mix all ingredients together with some gochuchang paste, to taste. The bibimbap should be moist and not dry. Add more sesame oil and gochuchang paste, to taste.


  • 1 pound rib-eye
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Korean pear or Asian pear, grated with juices
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 small white onion, grated or sliced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 (20-ounce) bottle lemon-lime soda, optional (recommended: Sprite or 7-Up)

Place rib-eye in freezer for about 30 minutes so that it is easier to thinly slice. When partially frozen, remove from freezer and thinly slice. Set aside.

Whisk together all the marinade ingredients in a large baking dish. Add the thinly sliced beef and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight; it is best if marinated overnight.

Heat grill to high. Remove beef from marinade and grill for 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to compile bibimbap.

Gochuchang Paste (seasoned red pepper paste)

  • 4 tablespoons gochuchang (available at Korean grocers)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Recioto della Valpolicella or Riesling Spätlese or Alsace Gewurztraminer



Poached Asian Pear

Poached Asian Pear

An updated version of a traditional Korean sweet, this is one of Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee's favourite ways to top off a meal. She says if you want, you can serve the slices of pear with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream and a lovely cup of ginger tea or green tea. Asian pears are in season in late autumn, but are generally available in Chinatowns year round. From Quick and Easy Korean Cooking.

Makes 4 servings

  • 10 cups water
  • One 1-inch piece ginger, thinly sliced
  • 2 or 3 strips lemon zest
  • 1 large Asian pear, or 2 two smaller ones
  • 1 Tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 5 or 6 whole cloves
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar

Pour the water into a large saucepan and add the ginger. Twist the strips of lemon zest and drop them in the water. Simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes, then strain, discarding the ginger and lemon zest.

In the meantime, peel and core the pear, then cut it into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Add the pear, peppercorns, cloves and sugar to the liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the pear turns soft, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Spoon out the pear slices and serve warm at room temperature, or chilled arranged in individual dessert bowls.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Ontario Vidal Icewine, Sauternes, Beaumes-de-Venise



We wish to thank the following for permission to publish material and photographs:
Recipes © The Food Network. Photographs © The Food Network.


Chronicle Books, San Francisco, and Raincoast Publishing, Vancouver, for Quick and Easty Korean Cooking, by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee. Texp © 2009 Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee. Photographs © Julie Toy and Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee.


Raincoast Publishing, Vancouver, and Chronicle Books, San Francisco, for Sunday Soup: A Year's Worth of Mouthwatering, Easy-to-Make Recipes by Betty Rosbottom. Text © 2008 Betty Rosbottom. Photographs © Charles Schiller.


Saveur, The New Comfort Food, Home cooking from Around the World edited by James Oseland. © 2011 Weldon Owen Inc.


Firefly Books Ltd. for Asian Sauces and Marinades by Wendy Sweetser. © 2002 Quintet Publishing Limited. Photography by Iain Bagwell.


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Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Helen Hatton and Ron Morris at Le Caveau des Gourmets in Gigondas




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