Cooking Korean

An adventure of Korean Pasta:Rice cake in spicy red sauce[ddeok-boggi]

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I met Marcel Carreiro at a Korean language school down in Sanjose last month. When everybody was about to leave, Marcel came up to me and asked if I had a recipe for “Ddeok-boggi”. “Of course I have…I have been cooking “Ddeok-boggi” all my life ever since I was a little girl…”..but wait!!!..let me think…. I DO know how to make this dish…but do I have a recipe for it? The answer was an embasassing “no”. We grow up with this food in Korea. Everybody has a special memory associated with this dish and boasts about how they cook it better than others. Most people know how to make it by heart but not many people have recipes for this dish because it’s a part of our life.

When Koreans are old enough to eat spicy Korean food (let’s say elementary school), this is what we start with for a life-long journey of spicy Korean food. Some say that Kimchi is the first spicy food to them and gradually they move on to other spicy foods. To me, it was “Ddeok-boggi” that got me into spicy food for the first time. I was sitting on a small wooden chair at a snack bar in front of my elementary school. There were a few of my friends and all of us had a handkerchief pinned to our left side. We were only 8 years old and those hankerchiefs were a requirement of the school so that we could always clean our runny noses. I still remember how spicy it was to me. We all had our hands close to our mouths and tried to create a breeze by shaking them hoping that the small wind would cool down our tongues that were on fire. I have many fond memories of sharing gossip, secrets, and even math problems over a nice bowl of this dish.


Is it rainning outside? Make this dish.
Are you getting together with friends? Everybody will ask for the recipe.
Are you watching football? It’s a great snack.
Don’t know what to make for dinner? One bowl will make your family happy and full. Did you get dumped? What do you think I’m going to say?

Speaking of occassions associated with “Ddeok-boggi” I remember a time when my husband John came to visit Korea 5 years ago(We were not married then). It was about 2:00am in downtown Seoul and after a night of bar hopping we were quite hungry. No restaurants were open at that time but the street was full of food vendors selling street food in wagons. Every vendor was selling this dish and John really wanted to try it. Do you know what he said after having a bite of the rice cake? “Hmmmm, this is like Korean pasta, isn’t it?” What an interesting concetpt? I have never thought about comparing “Ddeok-boggi” to Italian pasta. I would have never thought about calling Italian pasta “Italian Ddeok-boggi”. Well, once you make this dish and taste it, you will understand what I mean…

It took longer than I thought to scale down every ingredient I use to make “Ddeok-boggi”. After struggling with measuring spoons, measuring cups, and scales and going through several kitchen tests, I proudly present you with a fail-proof recipe for this Korean Mac and Cheese!!!

*Ingredients (4 portions)
Rice Cake: 1.3 Lb (600gm)
Low Sodium chicken stock: 4 cups (32oz)
Fish cake[Eo-mook]: 4 sheets (about 3.5 by 5.5 inch)
Green Cabbage: 1/4 head
Green Onion: 4

Red pepper paste[Gochu-jang] : 2 Tbsp
Red pepper powder[Gochu-garu]: 1 Tbsp
Soybean paste(doen-jang): 1 Tbsp
Garlic: 2 Cloves
Corn Syrup: 3 Tbsp
Sugar: 1 Tbsp
Sesame Oil: 1 tsp
Roasted sesame seeds: 1 tsp



 want to show you what kind of rice cake and fish cake you should get. For rice cakes, chose the ones about 2inchs in length and thickness of a finger. For fish cake, you can find flat ones as shown in photos.



Submerge the rice cakes in water for about an hour and drain. You can also blanch them in a pot of boiling water very briefly for about 10 seconds and drain



Cut the fish cakes in squares of 1.5 inch length. Cut cabbage into a similar size as the fish cakes. Cut Green Onions in 2 inch length.


Prepare all 8 different seasonings. Garlic needs to be minced.



In a pan, boil chicken stock at very high heat.



When chicken stock boils, add red pepper paste, red pepper powder, garlic, corn syrup, sugar, and soy bean paste. Stir well until everything dissolves.



Occasionally, skim the foam. Don’t reduce the heat.



Add rice cake and fish cake.



Once it starts boiling again stir with a spoon occasionally to prevent rice cakes from sticking to the bottom of the pan



You can see the rice cakes are getting softer, fluffy, and chubby from absorbing the liquid. Continue stiring.



The liquid has reduced by 1/3 and looks thicker due to the starch from rice cakes. Total cooking time of rice cake and fish cake till this point is about 5 minutes.



Add cabbage and stir for 1 minute. From now on, stir continuously. Be careful not to burn the rice cake on the bottom of the pan.



Turn off the heat and add green onions. Mix it all together.



Give it a last touch by adding sesame oil and sesame seeds. Mix well.

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  • Published: Mar 10th, 2009
  • Category: Recipe
  • Comments: 3

Soybean sprout soup [Kongnamool-Gook]

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The most time consuming part of this recipe is cleaning the soybean sprout , but you can do it while watching “American Idol” or “Desperate housewives”.
Other than that,it is so easy and quick to make.
Actually,you don’t even have to trim the bean sprouts. The hairy end of it is perfectly edible, but will leave a stringy texture in your mouth and your soup is going to look like Courtney Love’s hair.
This is a very common Korean soup and is especially popular among heavy drinkers. Are you suffering from a hangover this morning? Make this soup and take a slurp from it. It will put your stomach right back in to the mood for another shot of Soju….

*Ingredients (4 portions)
Soybean Sprout : 1/2 lb
Korean radish(or Daikon): size of one apricot
Yellow onion: 1/2
Brown Seaweed: 4 x 4 inches
Green onion: 3
Garlic: 2 cloves
Water: 6 cups
Pickled shrimp juice

1.Trim off hairy end of bean sprouts, rinse them in water, and drain

2.Peel skin off the yellow onion and leave it whole.
Using a kitchen towel, brush off the white powder on the surface of the brown seaweed.
Rinse green onions in water and leave them whole also.

3.Put bean sprouts, yellow onion, brown seaweed, garlic, and green onions in a pot and pour in water. Boil it with the lid on (Make sure lid is on…otherwise the soup will taste and smell like raw beans)

4.Once the soup starts boiling and a nutty aroma is coming out of the steaming pot, lower the heat to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes.

5.Turn off heat and take out everything except for bean sprouts from the pot.

6.Season with salt and pickled shrimp juice.

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  • Published: Mar 10th, 2009
  • Category: Recipe
  • Comments: 3

Soybean sprout rice [Kongnamool-Bab]

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A few days ago, I cooked this dish for the first time since I got married and was pleasantly surprised that my American husband liked it so much. I used to make this dish in Korea whenever there was nothing else to eat in the refrigerator. You can easily get this sprout at the corner grocery store of any neighborhood in Korea. All I did was put rice, water, and soybean sprouts in the rice cooker and push the button. When I came home from a 40 minute jog, my dinner was ready to be mixed with the sauce. I like adding ground beef because it gives a nice meaty texture and flavor but if you are a vegetarian, it is still tasty only with the soybean sprouts.

*Ingredients (4 portions)
White rice: 2 cups
Water: 2cups
Soybean sprout : 7oz/200g
Ground beef: 1 cup/7oz/200g

Soy sauce: 2 Tbsp
Green onion – minced: 2 Tbsp
Garlic – minced: 1 Tbsp
Sesame Oil: 2 tsp
Black pepper: 1/2 tsp

Soy sauce: 1/3 cup
Green onion – chopped: 2 Tbsp
Garlic – minced: 1 tsp
Sugar: 2 tsp
Sesame oil: 2 tsp
Sesame seed – roasted and crushed: 1/2 Tbsp
Red pepper powder: 1 tsp


1.Wash rice several times (at least 3 times) by changing water and drain. Ratio of water and rice is 1:1 but conventionally, Koreans measure the amount of water with a finger. Put your index finger right on the surface of rice and fill the water until the water reaches the first segment of your finger.
Set it aside.

2.Mix ground beef with marinade ingredients and set it aside.

3.Trim off hairy end of bean sprouts, rinse them in the water, and drain.

4.Now it’s time to put bean sprouts into the rice. Take a look at the rice. Do you see the water has been reduced?. Don’t worry. It’s because the rice soaked up the water and you must not add more water. Spread bean sprouts on the rice.

5.Spread marinated ground beef on top of the bean sprouts. Try to make as small a lump as possible.

6.If you have an electronic rice cooker, all you need to do now is cover it and press the “Cook” button. However, if you are cooking in a pot, start with high heat (lid on) and when it comes to a rolling boil, reduce heat to low to medium. After about 5 minutes, open the lid a little and check the taste of the rice. Do you see that most of the water has disappeared and the very center of the rice tastes slightly firm? If so, then it’s time to reduce the heat one more time to VERY VERY low (Again lid on)

7.Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients for the sauce and keep it in the refrigerator.

8.Taste the rice one more time after about 10 minutes. It’s done when rice feels fully bloomed and soft on your tongue.

9.Mix rice gently with a wooden or plastic spatula and serve in a bowl with sauce on the side.

How to cook white rice perfectly [Hin-ssal-bab]

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Look at this beautiful snow white rice….doesn’t it look so yummy?
When I was a little girl in 1970s, there was a shortage of rice nationwide. The rice was expensive to many Koreans and not many people could afford it. Korean government even did the campaign nationwide encouraging people to cook rice together with other grains or legumes like Barley,beans,..etc
Every lunch time in my school, teachers went through students’ lunch boxes and anyone with white rice lunch box had to clean school restrooms or classrooms as punishment.
Every meal time at home, I was very careful to finish every single grain of rice in my bowl. Otherwise,my grandmother would yell at me “this is the rice your grandfather harvested only with one hand”.(My grandfather lost one arm by an accident) Nowadays,there is more than enough rice in Korea and everybody can afford it but many people try to cook rice with other grains not for economical reason but for health reason.
Still,white rice is a main starch in Korean diet and I would like to share a tip on how to cook white rice with velvety texture interior and shiny exterior.

*Ingredients (4 portions)
White rice: 2 1/2 cups
Water: 3 cups



1.Washing rice
Pour water in the rice and using your hand gently make circls around. Becareful not to rub rice grain so hard. Drain the water, get new water,and wash rice with a hand again. Repeat this process several times (at least 4-5times)until the water gets clear.
Many Koreans try not to wash rice too much for they believe that rice nutritions get diluted into the water. But thoroughly washed rice tastes much better and looks shiner. Save rice rinsed water and use it as a stock for stew.
You can rinse your face with rice water. It makes your face very moist.

2.Measuring water
The ratio of rice and water is 1:1.2.
After washing the rice, you can totally drain the water,put rice in a pot, and pour right amount of water on it.
However,it can be too much labor and wet rice can be stucked on your corander making it very difficult to get it off. What I do is, and many Koreans do this way, I simply wash rice in a pot I am going to cook rice in and measure water with my hand.,br> Put your hand on top of rice and fill the water until it reached border line of your finger and back side of hand. You can also use your index finger and fill the water up to first segment of the finger.
Leave it for 30minutes (You will see water has reduced because rice has soaked up water. Don’t add more water!)

3.Cooking rice [5-5-5 minute tactic]
If you have a electronic rice cooker, all you have to do now is to cover the lid and press the button “Cooking”.
If you cook rice in a pot,start with very high heat until boiling with lid on. Reduce the heat to medium and leave it for about 5minutes.
Open the lid a bit and take a look inside…has water almost gone?
Then,reduce the heat one more time to very very low and leave it for 5-7minutes
Turn the heat off and leave the rice on the stove for additional 5 minutes.
Open the lid and ,using plastic or wooden spoon, gently mix it upside down trying not to crush the rice.

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  • Published: Mar 10th, 2009
  • Category: Recipe
  • Comments: 6

Squash Pancake [Hobak-Jeon]

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I am experiencing first fall season in San Francisco. People say the summer has ended here… but when? The weather is pretty much the same…(windy and sunny) I know that I have to be very careful not to be spoiled with this unbelievable California weather.

Because it is my first year in San Francisco,I still have not figured out agricultural life cycle in California. Are blueberries still available??? How much longer can we enjoy the wonderfully juicy tomatoes? I went to a farmers’ market a few days ago and what a surprise. I found this charming looking squash still around. I had to grab it without hesitation because who knows when they will be out of season.

And what did I make out of this vegetable?



Koreans make pancakes[Jeon] out of everything such as meat, poultry, seafood, vegetables..etc. It is so versatile and widely enjoyed that I dedicated one recipe category only to pancakes[Jeon]

This squash pancake is one of my favorite. It is very easy to make yet tastes so sweet and delicate that sometimes I refuse to dip it in sauce in order to fully enjoy the flavor of the squash. Make it as weekend afternoon snack or enjoy it with a bowl of rice.

*Ingredients (makes about 2 pancakes,7 inch diameter)
Squash: 2
Oil:About 2 Tbsp
Unbleached white flour : 1/2 Cup
Large egg: 1
Water: 2/3 Cup
Salt:1 tsp



In a bowl, combine flour, egg, salt, and water. Whisk well.



Peel the skin off squash and cut into strips about 2 inches by 1/4 inch.



Mix batter and squash.



Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a non-stick pan and put in half of the batter mix. Spread well.




When the edge of pancake gets white, flip it over (Flip only once)




Wait until bottom is cooked about 1 minute.

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  • Published: Mar 10th, 2009
  • Category: Recipe
  • Comments: 2

Pyunsoo [Pyun-soo]

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Pyun means “Thin”,”Low”,or”Flat” and Soo means “Water”. I assume Pyun refers to the shape of dumpling which is squre and kind of flat and Soo refers to the way of serving this dish. Pyunsoo was originated from “Gae-sung”, one of main cities in North Korea. During the summer time, we use perishable vegetables like cucumber or squash to make this dumplings and serve them in either ice cold beef broth or just cold dumpling itself with soy sauce.
It is considered somewhat fancy and traditionally this dumpling used to be enjoyed by king during the summer time. I serve my guests this dish as an appetizer exactly the same way as above picture. I fill ice cubes in bamboo steamer and arrange dumplings on top and garnish with bamboo leaves. It never fails to Wow my guests.

*Ingredients (makes about 25 dumplings)
Dumpling Wraps(square): 25

Ground Beef: 1 cup
Soy sauce: 1 Tbsp
Sugar: 1 tsp
Green onion minced:1 Tbsp
Garlic minced: 1 tsp
Roasted Sesame seed crushed: 1 Tbsp
Sesame Oil: 2 tsp
Black pepper: 1/2 tsp

Dried Shitake mushroom: 3
Soy sauce: 1 tsp
Sugar: 1/2 tsp
Black pepper: pinch
Sesame oil: A drop

Squash: 1
Cucumber: 1
Egg white: 1
Pine nuts: 50
Flour: About 1/2 cup
Sesame oil



1.Gather all the ingredients together

2.Sumberger dried Shitake mushrooms in a bowl of hotwater until soft.
Drain water out of mushrooms by squeezing them with hands.
Take stems off and cut thin julienne. Mix mushrooms with seasoning and stir fry it in hot oiled pan. Cool it down.

3.In a bowl, add ground beef and beef seasoning ingredients and mix well.,br> Stir fry it in a hot oiled pan and cool it down.

4.Cut squash in about 1inch/2cm length,slick skin off, and julienne as shown in picture.
Sprinkle 1 Tbsp of salt on julienned squash skin and when it is slightly wilted, rinse it under cold running water,squeeze it gently with hands.
Sit fry it in a hot pan very quickly about 10 seconds and season it with salt and sesame oil. Cool it down.

5.Prepare cucumber exactly same was as squash.

6.Mix beef,mushroom,squash,and cucumber. You are done with stuffing part. (Was’n it easy and fun?)



1.Now the fun process begins…time for forming dumpling!!!! Gather wraps,egg white,pine nuts,stuffing,and floured sheetpan.

2.Take one wrap out of package and put it in front of you.

3.Take a spoonful of stuffing,put it right in the middle of wraps,and top it with 2 pine nuts.

4.Wet aournd all edges of wrap with egg white.

5.Bring opposite corners together and pinch close as shown in step by step picture above

6.Line them up in a lightly floured sheet pan

7.Cook dumplings in a pot of boiling water. Stuffing is precooked so it doesn’t take a longtime,about 1 minute .
When the wrap looks translucent, take dumplings out and cool them down.

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  • Published: Mar 10th, 2009
  • Category: Recipe
  • Comments: 3

Spicy Pork Bulgogi [Doeji-Bulgogi]

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I met Teresa at a Korean cooking demonstration organized by KAPWASV(Korean/American Professional Woman’s Association in Silicon Valley) a few weeks ago. She’s from Hong Kong and loves Korean food. She pulled me aside and asked if I had a recipe for spicy Korean pork barbecue. She said that she wants to make a big batch of it and keep it in a freezer. I was quite impressed with her idea because that is exactly what many Koreans, including me, do with this dish.

The dish is everyday food in Korea because it is very easy to make and pork is a lot cheaper than beef. I usually marinate pork meat and then divide into 2 portions each in zipper bags. When there is nothing else to eat or my schedule gets too busy to cook, I pull it out of the freezer. All you need with this pork barbecue is steamed rice and some lettuce leaves to wrap the meat and rice in.

If you go to the meat section of a Korean market, you will find pre-packed pork butt already sliced with a label saying “Pork Bulgogi”. If not, you can buy a chunk of pork butt and slice it as thin as possible at home. Freeze the meat slightly first. Frozen meat is easier to slice thin.

Pork butt: 1 Lb

For first marinade
Sugar:1 Tbsp
Mirin or White wine:1 Tbsp
Ground Black Peper: 1/2 tsp

For second marinade
Red pepper paste[Gochu-jang] :1 1/2 Tbsp
Soybean paste(doen-jang):1 tsp
Soy sauce:4 Tbsp
Mirin, white wine, or Soju: 4 Tbsp
Minced Garlic:1 Tbsp
Minced Ginger: 1 tsp
Ground black pepper: 1/2 tsp
Ground Yellow Onion: 2 Tbsp

Yello Onion: 1/2
Green Onion: 5



If you bought a chunk of pork butt, freeze it about half way and slice it 1/16 inch thin. In a bowl, combine pork and first marinade ingredients. Marinate it for about 10 minutes



Grind onion and mix second marinade ingredients in a bowl




The second marinade looks very red…yummy!!!




Cut green onions in about 2 inch length.




Slice onion in about 1/4 inch wide wedges.




Add green onion and yellow onion to pork.





Add the second marinade mixture(Red one)to the pork and mix well. Cover it with plastic and marinate in a refregirator for 3-4 hours





When the grill is hot, spread marinated meat over grill surface. Don’t flip the meat over too often. When the meat looks 2/3 cooked, flip it over only once.

If you don’t have a grill, you can also saute in a frying pan with a bit of oil.




You can eat this dish like other Korean side dishes or wrap it with lettuce.
(Tip) Depending on how much sweetness you want, adjust the amount of sugar or corn syrup.

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.

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