Cooking Korean

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.


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.

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