Cooking Korean

Squash [Ho-bak]

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I have a confession to make. The Korean squash that I actually wanted to introduce is Ae-Hobak(Baby Squash). The Ae-Hobak is cylinder shape with solid light green colored skin. I have not been able to find this squash in US so,instead, I want to show you the squash you can substitute with. I was very surprised to find this squash is very similar to Korean squash in taste and texture. Even their blossom and leaves look exactly the same and I wonder if they are from the same family.
In Korea, squash is summer vegetable and used in many summer dishes.

When cooked,it tastes slightly sweet and has very delicate soft texture.
Fresh squash has very shiny outer skin with no scar. When cut,inside meat is very dense and there is no empty pocket around the seeds.

Koreans cook this squash in many different ways. We saute,stir fry,steam,stew..,etc. This vegetable is very popular for pan cake ingredient and it is also used as stuffing for dumpling.

Soybean sprout [Kong-Namool]

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In US, I see a lot of other Asian restaurants serving mungbean sprouts but don’t see any of them serving dish cooked with soybean sprouts. I wonder if Koreans are only people having traditionally eaten soybean sprouts. Please let me know if any of you knows about this.

Although they are not as popular as mungbean or alfalfa sprouts, of all the beansprouts, soybean sprouts contains the most nutritional values. That’s why soybean, in traditional Chinese medicine, is called the king of all beans. The sprouting process produces more selenium, iron, calcium, zinc, and numerous other nutrients than soy bean. The soy bean sprout has the highest protein to calorie ratio of any vegetable.

Compared to mungbean sprouts, they are quite large, about 4-5inch (10 – 12cm) in length and have a pale ivory color. The yellowish colored soybean attached at the end is about the size of a peanut. These sprouts are almost always cooked, even for raw dishes. This is not only because of their relatively denser texture, but also because raw soybean sprout is difficult to digest.

This sprout has fantastic crunchy texture and it is not so much used as a source of flavor, but for the textural interest they can bring to noodle, soup or stir fried dishes. The end of soybean sprouts has a small brown stingy protrusion. Most Korean cooking books say these stingy end must be removed before cooking but I will leave it to you whether to do this or not. This string has a habit of getting between the teeth and doesn’t look very good, but it is a very labor intensive procedure to pinch them off. So, I personally do or don’t depending on preparation time available and who I serve to.

In Korean market, you will find soybean sprouts in bag, packs, and boxes of different brands and producers. Choose the ones that are bright in color and short and chubby in shape. Old soybean sprouts have brown marks on surface and look exhausted so try to avoid them.


White rice [Baek-mi]

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Have you ever seen standing comedy show of Comedian Margaret Cho?
She talked about her Korean mother who told her to glue school art project with cooked rice. Yep,this is it. the picture above is the rice her mom was talking about.
She was not just joking. I,too, used this rice many times as a glue at school or home.

When I was in culinary school, I had a chance to cook Korean rice and many of my American classmates asked me what I do to make rice so sticky. Korean rice is short grain rice like what people call “sushi rice” and it’s sticky when cooked because of the starch content. Unlike rice from Southeast Asia or North America, Korean rice is moist and sticks together rather than falling apart. Korean rice is short grain rice and has a lot more starch than long grain rice. Because it is highly glutinous,It makes it rather easy to eat with chopsticks.

Because of cold winter temperature in Korea,rice can be planted only once a year. The planting season is in May-June, and harvesting takes place in October-November. The rice is country’s most important agricultural commodity and is also the main source of carbohydrate in people’s diet. Rice is the central element of the main course in any Korean meal. Rice along with Kimchi, soup and some other vegetable side dishes is the typical meal eaten in most Korean homes.

If you want to buy this rice and don’t have Korean grocery store near you, try to find a rice with label “Sushi rice”in your local grocery store.

Salt Pickled Shrimp [Sae-U-Jeot]

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“Jeotgal” or “Jeot” is a very salty fish sauce made of naturally fermented fish, shellfish, shrimp, oysters, fish roe,intestines and other ingredients.  These are tiny little shrimp (less than an inch) salted and fermented with20% of salt for at least 2-3 months in temperature between 15-20 Celsius. With a clean and mild taste,salted shrimp is mainly used to make Kimchi. Sae-u-Jeot is often used as a dipping sauce or condiment for meats, especially pork. Its meat and juice are also used as a replacement for salt in a recipe.
Skins of shrimp are softened to eat as a source of calcium.

Many of my American and European friends (don’t forget my husband) can not stand with the smell
and have made somewhat disrespectful comments even without trying it. But, hey, many foods in this world need to be stinky in order to be tasty.  Take blue cheese for example��when I tried that thing for the first time��..oh men!!!!  It smelled like socks worn 100 times not washed for 365 days!!!  Now? I dream about those blue bacteria crumbles and can not live without it. It is all matter of getting used to it and developing palette for it

Due to its reputation for unique(?) smell, the usefulness of Sae-U-Jeot goes beyond culinary boundary. It is sometimes used in unexpected way by people who try to make their voice heard in public places. They spread this stinky shrimp around during the demonstration to suffocate police officer trying to get them. Would you like to cry out your political messages in public places and don’t want to be bothered by those big brothers trying to drag you out of the street? Carry this Sae-U-Jeot with you. Its smell will surely chase them away.

They are usually packed in jars and you should try to find ones with bigger, brighter, and chubby shrimp.

Red Pepper paste [Gochu-Jang]

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It is one of the main condiments that makes many Korean foods bright red and very spicy.
Chilis were first introduced in Korea in the 16th century and this Gochu-jang made from
dried red-chilli powder has been in the pantry of every single Korean household ever since.

The red pepper paste is made from starch, powdered fermented soybeans, red chili powder,
salt, water and is traditionally fermented in the sun.
Different starches are used including sweet rice powder, barley powder, or wheat flour.

The condiment has a dark red color with a pasty consistency.
It has a spicy, salty, and slightly sweet flavor.
Koreans use this red pepper paste to flavor dishes, marinate meats, and also use it as a condiment.



You will have no problems finding red pepper pastes in any Korean market.
They are usually packed either in jars or square shaped plastic containers.
Go to the refregirated section and you will spot red pepper paste in many different brands and packages.
One thing most of them seem to have in common is that they are all bright red in color.

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