1.176 Dubu Kimchi

-Cycle 1, Item 176-
30 June 2010

Dubu Kimchi


by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

Dubu kimchi (두부김치) is a Korean dish of tofu and kimchi.  Consists of tofu--pronounced "dubu" in Korean--either boiled or pan-fried, plus sauteed kimchi, often with pork, typically pork belly.  More of a pub thing than a dish in a restaurant.

Frankly, I prefer it without meat, and so it is when I make it at home.

Not a difficult dish to make, and so the results are usually consistent, but something was off tonight. Maybe it was the last-minute addition of celery.

1.175 Zaru Soba

-Cycle 1, Item 175-
29 (Tue) June 2010

Zaru Soba

* * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

Zaru soba is a Japanese noodle dish.   It consists of chilled buckwheat noodles dipped in a cold sweet soy-based sauce along with additional toppings and condiments, including shredded laver, prepared wasabi, grated daikon radish, and minced scallions.  The term "soba" refers to noodles made with buckwheat, while "zaru" refers to a bamboo basket used like a colander to drain liquid from food.  For this dish, the soba are boiled, rinsed, and served on a zaru (or a plastic representation thereof) both for functional and aesthetic purposes.  In Korea, the dish is so commonplace that it can be found in mainstream Korean restaurants.  Its popularity also means that ingredients can be purchased at the supermarket for home preparation, which is a snap.

Here, unfortunately, the noodles themselves weren't that great--mushy and flavorless. 

1.174 Doenjang Jjigae

-Cycle 1, Item 174-
28 (Mon) June 2010

Doenjang Jjigae


by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

Doenjang jjigae (된장찌개) is a Korean stew. Consists of doenjang, a fermented Korean bean paste similar to Japanese miso but denser and chunkier and saltier and richer.  The can contain any combination of additional ingredients: typically garlic and onion and leeks as aromatics, along with mushrooms, squash, cabbage, potatoes, and/or tofu, and sometimes bits of meat and/or seafood.  Eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, at home and in restaurants, either as a central item in this thicker stew form or as an accompaniment to others in a lighter soup form--jjigae vs guk (see generally 1.027 Kimchi Jjigae and Pan-Fried Hairtail)--this is arguably the most popular and most commonly eaten broth dish in Korea.  

1.173 Baeksuk

-Cycle 1, Dinner 173-
27 June 2010


* * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

On the two prior occasions of making this dish (see 1.022 Baeksuk, 1.033 Baeksuk), I kept things at a bare minimum by simply boiling the whole chicken and dipping each piece in salt-pepper just before eating it. On my recent camping trip to Peace Dam, a member of the Backcountry Camping group named Yeonhee (YH aka 마늘꽁꽁님) made baeksuk and later used the broth as the basis of an excellent chicken porridge that was featured on this blog as the meal for that day (see 1.165 Chicken Porridge). Inspired by her example, I seasoned the chicken this time prior to serving in a bit of soy sauce, sesame oil, black pepper, garlic, and scallions. The seasonings make it feel more like an actual "dish" than just a boiled chicken. I can't seem to resist adding broccoli.

1.172 Jjajang-Myeon

-Cycle 1, Dinner 172-
26 June 2010


* * *

from Hyeon-Gyeong

at Hangang Riverside Park

-Apkujeong, Seoul-

I've described various aspects of this dish in many prior posts (see most recently Samseon Gan Jjajang-Myeon).

Arguably, one of the greatest achievements in making Seoul a better place to live is the development of the extended park that follows the Han River on both the northern and southern banks. At various intervals, the park features playgrounds, swimming pools, exercise equipment, convenience stores, and other amenities, as well as large swaths of grass fields for people to just sit around. Nearby restaurants--mostly Chinese, fried chicken, and pizza--scatter menus in the more populated areas and deliver to the customers exact location. Along with a cold beer from the convenience store, it's a great way to spend a lazy afternoon.

1.171 Woo Samgyeop

-Cycle 1, Item 171-
25 (Fri) June 2010

Woo Samgyeop


at Bon-Ga

-Oksu, Seoul-

Woo samgyeop is a Korean beef dish.  Consists of brisket, frozen, sliced razor thin, lightly marinated in a sweet soy dressing, and grilled over coals on a slotted plate.  13,000 won per 200 g, not including the marinade.  Typically, the term "samgyeopsal" refers to pork belly.  Whereas beef ("woo") doesn't have a belly cut, the brisket would come closest both in anatomical proximity (being the chest flap, just above the abdomen) and physical appearance (having a triple ("sam") layer ("gyeop") of fat/flesh/fat when sliced cross-sectionally).  While I'm sure that someone somewhere has done something similar, I've only seen/heard of it here.  I'm not even sure why they do it, notwithstanding samgyeopsal's immense popularity, as brisket is popular in its own right for barbecue, referred to as "chadolbagi (차돌박이)," and for soup/stew, referred to as "yangji (양지)."

We order it whenever we're dining with my father because he prefers beef to pork (maybe that's why they do it).

1.170 Casarecce alle Vongole

-Cycle 1, Dinner 170-
24 June 2010

Casarecce alle Vongole

* * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

In my on-going campaign to perfect my favorite pasta dish (see 1.069 Spaghetti alle Vongole, 1.130 Creamy Fettucini alle Vongole), I tried out a different form of pasta this evening. I prefer linguine, perhaps because many restaurants in the States that offer alle vongole seem to use linguine, a pairing that I've never bothered to question. In any event, the shorter casarecce pasta, which is excellent for thick meat sauces, failed here to carry the light clam sauce in any given bite, a task better accomplished by longer noodles, such as linguine or spaghetti.

1.168 Pan-Fried LA Galbi

-Cycle 1, Dinner 168-
22 June 2010

Pan-Fried LA Galbi

* * *

by my mother

at my parents' home

-Geumgok, Bundang-

Having discussed a simplified form of beef galbi in a prior post (see 1.144 Barbecued Yang-Nyeom Galbi-Sal), I now get an opportunity to discuss another alternative version called "LA galbi." The name, supposedly, refers to its origins in Los Angeles, where, for some unknown reason, the ribs were first cut into thin cross sections, as opposed to the standard process of butterflying the meat from short ribs. Although it's the same rib meat seasoned in the same marinade, LA galbi has a completely different texture due to the aforementioned cutting method, more dense and chewy.

Growing up in California, particularly at church picnics and home gatherings of Korean expats, the "LA" style did seem to be the most common form. Here in Korea, it remains something of a curiosity.

1.167 Bindae Ddeok

-Cycle 1, Item 167-
21 (Mon) June 2010

Bindae Ddeok

* * *

at Bom-Eh Pin Garden (봄에 핀 가든)

-Oksu, Seoul-

With a few cosmetic alterations to an expansive basement space that once served as a bathhouse/spa, this restaurant was born.  What were previously steam rooms have been converted into private dining rooms, which seems somewhat disgusting, now that I think about it.  The food being consistently blah on two visits (see most recently 1.157 Bossam with Garlic Chives), including this evening, I don't think that we'll be coming back for thirds.

Having described the basics of bindae ddeok before (see generally 1.122 Bindae Ddeok), the one here doesn't merit any further discussion. 

1.166 Curry Rice with Mushrooms

-Cycle 1, Item 166-
20 (Sun) June 2010

Curry Rice with Mushrooms


by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

Curry rice is a Japanese dish.  Inspired by South Asian-style curry, as opposed to Southeast Asian-style curry.  Lighter on the spices and sweeter.  Typically, at a minimum, the curry sauce is made by sauteeing cubes of beef/onion/carrot/potato in oil/butter for a few minutes, adding water, and then mixing in the curry, which comes in either a powder or roux blocks. Simple, reliable.  It is to Koreans what marinara spaghetti is to Americans: both foreign in origin though totally bastardized by this point, semi-instant, favored by college students and newlyweds trying to cook for the first time.

I've done it a hundred times.  But for some reason, I can't explain why, it just doesn't work out this time.

1.165 Dak Juk

-Cycle 1, Dinner 165-
19 June 2010

Dak Juk (닭죽)

* * * *

by Yun YH

at Peace Dam


It's chicken porridge. In Korean, "dak" (닭) means "chicken," and "juk" means "porridge" (죽). Depending on the chef, it comes in a variety of styles: some thicker with rice, others brothier, some extravagant with vegetables, others more spartan, with or without egg, more or less or no sesame oil. While it can be made in and of itself as a stand-alone dish, chicken porridge often comes a part of another dish called "baeksuk" (백숙), which consists of boiling a whole chicken in water, the resulting stock and trimmings used for porridge at the end (see 1.022 Baeksuk with Parboiled Broccoli).

Despite the group's name, Backcountry Camping trips typically involve setting up base camp at an established campsite, where a lot of food and drink is consumed well into the night, followed the next morning by a half-day trek somewhere in the area. On this outing, for example, one couple brought a huge cauldron in which they boiled a gigantic chicken for baeksuk and then made this dak juk. It was the same couple, incidentally, who had impressed me with their array of dishes during our previous meeting last month (see 1.144 Barbecued Yang-Nyeom Galbi-Sal). I'm not complaining about the food, or drink, far from it, but the feasting just doesn't feel very backcountry.

1.163 Golbangi Sari

-Cycle 1, Item 163-
17 (Thu) June 2010

Golbangi Sari


at BHC

-Oksu, Seoul-

Golbangi (골뱅이) is a Korean sea snail dish.  It consists of the snails, which come shelled/cooked/canned in a sweetish briny solution, mixed as a salad with onions/scallions/garlic, sometimes cucumbers/carrots, seasoned with gochujang/chili powder/sesame oil/sugar.   Often, the salad is served with boiled so myeon noodles ("sari") on the side, as here.  Technically, "golobangi" refers to the snails themselves, usually translated as "bai-top shells" in English.  But the snails are always prepared in the same way, so the term also refers to the dish.  

1.162 Roast Chicken

-Cycle 1, Item 162-
16 (Wed) June 2010

Roast Chicken


at Costco

-Yangjae, Seoul-

To this day, because of something that I saw on TV 25 years ago, I always eat before grocery shopping, or during if necessary.  While I was in high school here in Korea during the late 80s, the only source of English TV was AFKN (American Forces Korea Network).  The programming included popular shows from networks in the States.  But because it was a military-sponsored station, the breaks didn't show commercials but various types of PSAs.  My favorite one, for example, was a message about OPSEC (operation security) in which a group of servicemen are having a farewell party for one of the members and talking loudly over drinks in a restaurant, saying seemingly innocuous things like, "You ready to ship out this weekend?" and "It's hot and dry there, so don't forget to pack a lot of sun screen..."--meanwhile, a shady character at the next table is pretending to do a crossword but writing in things like, "DEPLOYSATURDAY" and "DESERTDESTINATION."  But the one that's left a lasting impression was a warning about grocery shopping on an empty stomach, which could lead to buying more than necessary and resulting in waste of valuable commissary resources.  So, whenever I'm about to do some major shopping, say at Costco, I make sure that I don't do it hungry.

At the Costcos that I went to in the States, the food court was situated at the entrance to the store, allowing me to get a slice of pizza on the way in.  

At the Costco in Yangjae, however, the food court is inside the building on the other side of the cash registers, making it rather inconvenient to worm my way through the lines of customers waiting to pay, get a slice, and then go back against the flow.  So, I'm forced to choose from the ready-to-go items available within the store, like roast chicken.  I realize that it makes me look uncouth, but better that than being wasteful. 

1.161 Sundae in Ddeokbokki Sauce

-Cycle 1, Item 161-
15 (Tue) June 2010

Sundae in Ddeokbokki Sauce


at an unnamed food cart

-Sinsa, Seoul-

Ddeokbokki (떡볶기) is a Korean rice cake dish.  It consists of cylindrical rice cakes in a thick, sweetly spicy red chili sauce ("gochujang").  The name of the dish literally means "rice cake (ddeok) sauté/stirfry (bokki)."  Some of the cheaper establishments will use cakes mixed with or wholly consisting of flour, which I actually prefer for the chewier texture.  They're the quintessential Korean street food, representing Seoul the way that hot dogs do for New York.

I rarely order ddeokbokki on its own, just as an accompaniment to sundae, my street food of choice.  Any food cart worth its salt will throw in a few complimentary cylinders if asked for ddeokbokki sauce.

Riding bikes with MtG, looking for a place to eat dinner, knowing both of us could afford to skip a meal, we passed by a pickup truck selling sundae and ddeokbokki--and beer.  Couldn't resist.

1.160 Manty

-Cycle 1, Item 160-
14 (Mon) June 2010



at Cafe Uzbekistan

-Dongdaemun, Seoul-

This post isn't so much a review as it is a warning. 

A few weeks ago, I posted about my first visit (see 1.142 Goluptsy).  On my second visit this evening, the food was okay--about as "good, if unremarkably so" as before.  

But when it came to paying for the meal, which I attempted to do by credit card, the owner said that the machine was broken and demanded cash instead.  Bullshit.  I'd seen him pull the same routine during our last visit on other customers.  On that occasion, seeing the initial refusal of plastic just after we'd put in our order, we told the owner to cancel everything because we had no cash.  Thinking it over for a moment, he replied that a card would be okay from us, adding with a wink that he did so for "good" customers.  Incidentally, the owner looked Central Asian, presumably Uzbek, and spoke little English and less Korean, both in a comically Russian accent.  Later, we had to show him how to use the machine, which was hidden behind the counter under a pile of junk.  This time, I said, incredulously, "Do you not remember me from a couple weeks ago?!?!  One of your 'good' customers?!?!"  He didn't budge.  I asked, "Are you willing to lose our long term business just to save a bit on the credit card fees this one time?" He then changed tack and claimed that the machine was in the shop for repair.  So then I changed tack and claimed that, under Korean business law, all restaurants are required to accept payment by credit card if offered by the customer and that failure to maintain a functioning card machine constitutes a forfeiture of the entitlement to payment.  Some of that may be true.  But before he could call my bluff, to the extent that it was a bluff, and to the extent that he understood what I was talking about, I placed 100,000 won on the counter in accord and satisfaction of the bill, which was somewhere around 150,000 won.  He was silent as we walked out the door.

About the food, these manty were dumplings containing ground beef and seasonings, served in a light broth and cream.  Both in name and form, they obviously share some common ancestor with Korean mandu (see most recently 1.135 Steamed Mandu).  

1.159 Samseon Gan Jjajang-Myeon

-Cycle 1, Item 159-
13 June 2010

Samseon Gan-Jjajang-Myeon


at Song-Juk-Gak (송죽각)

-Yeongdeungpo, Seoul-

Inspired by the 4.0 jjajang-myeon (짜장면) that I had last month (see 1.117 Samseon Jjajang-Myeon), I initiated another food-related project, one with the potential for occasional overlap here: sampling and evaluating jjajang-myeon at 52 different restaurants across the country in 52 weeks. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, once a week, no problem. Since I started 5 weeks ago, this was the first that happened to come up for dinner.

I'd never heard of this restaurant, which is located across the street from the newly built Times Square Mall, but my curiosity was piqued by the long lines coming out the door. Not bad, but certainly not worth the wait.

The gan (간) variation, "gan" = "dry," comes with less sauce, chunks of onion. 

1.156 Leberwurst Sandwich

-Cycle 1, Item 156-
10 June 2010

Leberwurst Sandwich

* * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

Though I'd ordinarily refer to this meat product in English as "liverwurst," I'm going with "leberwurst" here as a nod to the store where I purchased it: Hansel & Gretel, a European-style deli whose Korean owner makes much of his own cold cuts and refers to them in German.     

Whatever the name, I found the liver/leberwurst to be milder, less livery, than what I had back in the States. The difference may reflect the charcuterist's personal style, or a more authentic German style, or a dumbed-down style in deference to local tastes--with very little experience on the subject, I have no way of knowing.  In any case, it was okay, good enough for a simple white bread sandwich.

1.157 Bossam with Garlic Chives

-Cycle 1, Item 157-
11 (Fri) June 2010

Bossam with Garlic Chives


at Bom-Eh Pin Garden (봄에 핀 가든)

-Oksu, Seoul-

Bossam (보쌈) is a classic Korean pork dish.  It can be as simple as boiling a chunk of pork, slicing the into thin pieces, then serving them with kimchi.  Pork belly is the most popular cut, but anything will do, preferably something with fat.  The meat may be steamed instead of boiled, sometimes even pan-fried just prior to serving to give it a slight crisp, as here.  Sauces may be involved, such as shrimp paste or soy sauce or chili paste.  Veggies for wrapping may be involved, such as parboiled cabbage or perilla leaves or sliced garlic.  At this restaurant near home, their twist is the addition of fresh garlic chives, which are presented, along with the meat, on a nifty steamer that keeps the meat warm but also wilts the chives after a couple minutes.  Both at home or out, it's one of the most common methods for eating pork where barbecue isn't involved (see for example 1.021 Jesa Spread).

1.153 Mapo Tofu with Minced Pork

-Cycle 1, Item 153-
7 (Mon) June 2010

Mapo Tofu with Minced Pork


by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

Better with the pork (see for comparison 1.140 Mapo Tofu with Chicken Breast).

But I didn't make enough sauce.

1.152 Smoked Salmon with Tomatoes & Mixed Greens in Balsamic Vinaigrette

-Cycle 1, Item 152-
6 (Sun) June 2010

Smoked Salmon with Tomatoes & Mixed Greens in Balsamic Vinaigrette

at Ebishura
(Lotte Mart)

-Garak, Seoul-

Recently, having overstuffed myself throughout the years on the mediocre offerings of buffets, I've adopted a minimalist approach to avoid future transgressions. Instead of taking little bits and pieces of everything down the line, which results in a rather unpleasant looking mess of a plate, a pile of not-so-good food rendered even worse by indiscriminate combinations of flavors (e.g., frozen tuna sushi + pork meat sauce spaghetti + kimchi), I select just a few items that are likely to work together and create my own dish. 1 plate only. Here, I took smoked salmon slices, mixed greens, and tomato wedges from an otherwise unappealing caprese to make this salad. Not so bad.

The occasion was my cousin's daughter's 1st birthday.  

1.151 Box-Roasted Pork Cutlets with Garlic Slices

-Cycle 1, Item 151-
5 (Sat) June 2010

Box-Roasted Pork Cutlets with Garlic Slices

* * * *

by Kim JA

at Palhyeon Camp [campsite]

-Namyangju, Gyeonggi-

Dinner was a pleasant experience.

First, it felt relaxed.  Having camped out yesterday (Friday), intending to leave later in the evening today (Saturday), we knew that we wouldn't be hitting any traffic on the way home.  Also, we'd have a whole day tomorrow (Sunday) to decompress.  Further, we had already packed up most of the gear, piece by piece throughout the afternoon, leaving out just the barbecue grill, table, chairs, and some eating implements, so no last-minute scramble to fold/stuff/stow.  It was like chilling out at a casual barbecue party in the forest.  

The food itself was also good.  After yesterday's epic fail, I was happy to allow someone else to do most of the work.  Kim JA, a friend of the wife, employed an interesting technique that involved making small slits in pork cutlets, inserting garlic slices, enclosing everything in aluminum foil boxes, then placing the boxes over the fire for about 10 minutes.  While the boxes prevented burning, the enclosure roasted the pork and garlic, sealing in the moisture during the process.  The only problem was efficiency, the initial prep being quite labor-intensive, each box holding just a couple cutlets, and the grilling surface wide enough to accommodate a few boxes at a time.  Nice though.

1.150 Haemul Jjigae

-Cycle 1, Item 150-
4 (Fri) June 2010

Haemul Jjigae (해물찌개)


by me

at Palhyeon Camp (팔현캠프) [campsite]

-Namyangju, Gyeonggi-

I'm torn whether I should classify the source of this meal as "by me."  Certainly, I was responsible for the preparation of the dish, which means that I put all the ingredients in the pot, measured out the water, and monitored the cooking process until everything was ready.  However, all the ingredients were pre-made by E-Mart and simply dumped in as provided. The problem was that the seafood--"haemul" (해물) = "seafood"--was a bit off, so the resulting stew--"jjigae" (찌개) = more or less, "stew"--was practically inedible.  As I should've known better than to buy shellfish on sale, and then to leave it out in the summer air for several hours before getting around to cooking it, I'll take responsibility.

Fortunately, we had other things to eat, as we always do when camping.

This trip was with my wife's friends.

1.149 Chicken Kal Guksu

-Cycle 1, Item 149-
3 (Thu) June 2010

Chicken Kal Guksu

* * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

Arguably the most common of all Korean noodle soup dishes, kal guksu (칼국수) consists of flour noodles and often sliced potatoes and zucchini in a broth of some sort, typically chicken (as here) or anchovies or clams, all of which are equally popular. While "guksu" = "noodles (specifically in broth)," the "kal" = "knife" and refers to the traditional method of making the noodles by cutting the flattened/rolled dough into long/thin strips.

The chicken variation finds its way onto our table for reasons of convenience.   It usually starts with a whole chicken, which is simply boiled in water along with a few aromatics and seasonings (e.g., daepa, garlic, salt, pepper), removed from the water and torn into strips after it's done, dipped in soy sauce and eaten--a not-so-creative and not-even-really-a-dish dish called baeksuk (see 1.022 Baeksuk, 1.033 Baeksuk). The remaining liquid, strained of random bits and pieces, becomes a stock that can be used for porridge or kal guksu, either immediately following the baeksuk or later as a stand-alone meal. Chicken broth, which some people consider more along the lines of comfort food and thus prefer as such, will tend to be heavier, with more fat, than one from a seafood source. I prefer the latter, particularly with clams, but chicken is always available.

1.148 Bindae Ddeok

-Cycle 1, Item 148-
2 (Wed) June 2010

Bindae Ddeok

* * *

at Rodem

-Yongin, Gyeonggi-

These were a bit smaller than typical bindae ddeok but essentially the same thing (see generally 1.122 Bindae Ddeok).

1.147 Gyeran Mari with Flying Fish Roe

-Cycle 1, Dinner 147-
1 June 2010

Gyeran Mari with Flying Fish Roe

* *

at Darak (다락)

-Suwon, GyeongGi-

Gyeran mari (계란말이) is simply an egg omelet that's been rolled several times over. The name literally means "rolled" (mari) "egg" (gyeran). In addition to eggs, it usually contains minced onions and carrots and scallions and other aromatics, and sometimes cheese and ham and other specialty items (e.g., flying fish roe, as here). It's often served with ketchup as a dipping sauce, especially in bars where the dish is a very popular anju (안주) (a food served for the express purpose of accompanying alcohol). At home or in restaurants, the dish is also popular as a banchan (반찬) (a side dish), though typically without dipping sauce.

Having just learned about the marvels of squeeze bottles a few years ago, Korean cooks are still having a lot so much fun with them. Zigzag de rigueur.