No doubt about it, I really like Korean food. It is one thing I surely will miss when I get back to the states. I usually eat out because the food is so good and it's inexpensive, so why not eat out. I'm sure the Korean women here can do Korean food much better than me, so why try right? With that said, I won't be staying in Korea, or so I think, so what happens when I'm back in the states. Where will the Korean women be to make my favorite dishes? They won't be there, so I've decided to take it upon myself to do it myself.
My first attempt with Korean cuisine is going to be doenjang jjigae, or soybean paste stew. Think of it like a Korean version of Miso soup but with lots of goodness inside. It's very a common dish and is also commonly served with rice after eating barbecue. I chose doenjang jjigae because it's supposedly easy to make, although I wouldn't put it past me to mess it up. It's also pretty healthy, like a lot of Korean foods. One thing I like about it, and a lot of other foods here, is that it varies quite a bit from one restaurant to the other. Some places put shrimp in it, some clams, some both. I remember for my trip to Namhae with Carmen, they put clams, crab, shrimp, and all sorts of stuff in it.
With my first attempt at Doenjang jjigae, I thought it would be cool to do a running diary of the experience as I expect it to be hilarious and much calamity to ensue (cue the Benny Hill music now. As a matter of fact, I just started it up). Here it goes, my attempt at doenjang jjigae:
Ok, so some 3 months after Gyun Tak (see previous post) gave me the recipe for Doenjang Jjigae, I'm getting ready to make it. I went out to the store and most the supplies I needed, including red and green chili peppers, tofu, doenjang (soybean paste), one zucchini, and mushrooms. I held off on buying this small fish called myeol chi (similar to anchovies maybe) cause I wasn't sure which ones to buy. I consulted Gyun Tak this morning and he gave me some advice. One piece of advice he gave, remove the black stuff (aka fish poo) from the fish or it will taste a little strange. Awesome!
All right so it is now 10:35 and I'm in the process of de-pooping the fish. I must say that it has become a bit time consuming very fruitless. The fish are small and about half of the fish is shit. It's like I spend so much time and only end up with half the product. quite frustrating. If I only had the dexterity of a Korean old woman........
10:52: some 17 minutes have passed and I may have a few 3 fish in my ready pile from before. It's looking more and more likely that I will either scrap the fish and go with the 10 I have, or go with the soybean paste/fish poop stew. Probability of failure is at an all time high, along with the probability that I end up eating out or making a pb and j sandwich for dinner. Morale is low but not broken.
some 10 minutes or so just past, looking at 11:06 right now. I drifted here and there and then came back to the de-pooping station. With that said, I have now decided to move on and stick with the small amount. Maybe will throw in a dash of salt to flavor along with the fish. Onto the vegetables.
11:15: Onion and zucchini cut up, mushrooms washed and separated. Whenever I cut up onions, I often find myself eating some of the onion. Apart from my sister-in-law, Kate, I don't think I know of anyone else that does this. And in unrelated news, I think we find one of the reasons why I'm single......
11:36: Tofu is cut into reasonable pieces and really about to get things started. About tofu, I have to say this is my first time cooking with tofu, which isn't saying much considering the little i cook, but is cool none the less. I think I ate tofu once before I came to Korea and now I have it probably a couple of times of a week it. It was quite good, goes well with soups and is quite healthy. This message has been brought to you by the soy farmers association of America.
11:40: Ok ready to approach the fun stuff. Comments from here on out posts might be scarce because my ability to multitask, well, is nonexistent. Comments would be probably more abundant if I didn't have my facebook page up. Ah, sucking at life.....
11:52: So after a brief emergency scare there, I've got my only two burners going. One has got the stew, the other with a pot of rice. What was the emergency you ask? Well the pot I use for cooking the rice has some plastic handles so that it won't be incredibly hot to hold. Well the flames must have come up and lit the plastic part on fire. Nothing like that has ever happened to me before, but the time I decide to do a running diary......
11:59: everything is going ok, or so it smells. The jjigae (stew) smells like it should but looks like it could thicken up a bit. Hopefully the next few minutes of boiling will do the trick. that or maybe some tofu?
12:08: It's getting hot in here!!! No I don't like that stupid song by Nelly, it's crap, but have you ever been in a tiny, studio apartment with the gas stove on medium high- high for a good 10 minutes? It gets hot really quickly. Almost done.
12:16: Food has been transported to food vessels (aka bowl and smaller rice bowl) to be transported to mouth. First tastes, not too bad if I do say so myself. I must say the end product is a lot better than what the beginning may have indicated.
12:33: Bowl licked clean. Overall verdict, I don't think it came out too bad so that's a good note. Probably not the best I've had since being here, but I think Korean women that have years of experience of making this would be better than me, random white dude who has never made it before and rarely cooks. I hope to improve on it and then maybe make some changes to it (shrimp? clams? potatoes? bell peppers?)