Category: Korean

Kalbi (Korean BBQ Short Ribs)

My idea of the quintessential birthday party doesn’t necessarily mandate a towering 3-layer cake. Mainly because every time I try to bake one, all I seem to create is a very tasty mess of sorts. So, instead, I resort to marinating meat. Lots of it. Short ribs, the Korean way, to be exact.
Because my idea of the perfect birthday party consists of just 3 things: a family of friends, perfect weather, and a beach barbecue. All of which I happily had (and then some) at my birthday last week.
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Kimchi Chigae (김치찌개)

In the last few months, I felt (yet again) suspended in limbo. In so many ways, this year feels like a first. The first year I can’t use being a full-time student as an excuse to eschew finding a steady and stable full-time job. The first year I realize the true effort it takes to keep in touch with even the best of friends, whose lives also happen to be unfolding unexpectedly before them. The first year I see life the way I do now. It feels strange and surreal to remind myself that I am a college graduate, an adult.
Once in a while, I sift through old pictures and catch snapshots of my past, finding myself at a loss for words. I remember those blunt bangs and the plaid uniform I wore at my private school in California. I remember my strawberry-blonde best friend, her freckles an object of my greatest envy. I remember my sun-kissed skin from blackberry-picking with my Guatemalan nanny, Adela. I remember ferry rides to Granville Island and goose-chasing at Stanley Park with my sister in Canada. I could never forget the fluorescent lights of Seoul and the way my heart would beat in the city. I remember my first failed experiments with make-up and fashion, high school crushes and cliques. Flip forward a few pages and I vividly recall my high school graduation, all the flower leis, and my first official cap and gown. Then I remember Seattle and the courtyard of cherry blossoms on campus. It baffles me that now, I’m looking at freshly-printed photos of my friends and I in forest green caps and gowns against azure Hawaiian skies, proudly displaying our post-college diplomas – our tickets into the real world. To think, I’ve journeyed this far.

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Seoul

I’m sitting at my desk, trying to write this post, but I keep getting distracted.
First, there’s the restlessness I can’t seem to shake off. I’ve been graduated and out of school for about a month now and despite the ample time I may seem to have, in reality, there never seems to be enough time on any given day. Without the once perpetual schedule of deadlines and due dates ascribed to assignments, projects, and papers that used to govern my somewhat tighter itinerary, I seem to have unhinged myself and seamlessly fallen into a state of lazy confusion.

Then, there’s the noise. From my desk next to the window, I can hear everything beyond the rustling leaves and chirping birds. Cars are zooming past and repeatedly driving over what I presume to be is the same manhole, ending in the same reverberant clunk clunk. The occasional vehicle rambles along to the deep, rich bass tones of its subwoofer, only leaving a familiar but unwelcomed beat stuck in my restless head.

But most of all, there’s the longing. On my screen is a collection of images from my recent trip to Korea. Clicking through them, I see a string of blurry photos that inadequately try to capture the breathtaking city I grew up in, a city I once called home.
But now, I’m blogging from my home in Hawaii where a 15-minute car ride is deemed “far,” 2 a.m. is considered “time to go home,” and all of the island’s lights during Christmas combined could never come close to the way Seoul illuminates on any given evening, every single night of the year.
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Seafood SoonDuBu Chigae (해물순두부찌개)

Do you have a go-to soup, one that sparks your taste buds and enlivens your mood regardless of the time of hangover day or weather? I do.

I love Korean food, and I’m not just saying it because I’m Korean. There is just a myriad of complementing and contrasting flavors, making it impossible to get sick of or dislike and I have not yet encountered (nor do I have yet to encounter) a single person that does not like love SoonDuBu Chigae (순두부찌개), or soft tofu stew. It’s hearty, spicy, wholesome comfort food at its very finest. Plus, it reminds me of my childhood – like grilled cheese and tobasco-drenched ketchup and whaddayaknow – similarly, everybody loves a good grilled cheese.

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Kimchi Quesadillas & sesame-gochujang sour cream

Under the never-ending list of Things I Absolutely Have to Make (or have already made) and (need to) Blog About (including my favorite go-to Korean staple, kimchi jjigae/stew, which has been requested by several & is soon to come), there is the kimchi quesadilla, which I have finally gotten around to making. It may sound a little strange initially, but trust me, the pairing of kimchi with cheese is nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, growing up in Korea, this was a prevalent and beloved conjunction of contrasting flavors and textures: tart, spicy, briny, and crunchy with buttery, nutty, oozy, and melted; a serious match made in culinary heaven.
However, it wasn’t until last summer when I visited L.A. amidst the Kogi Truck craze, that I had the opportunity to try one of these insanely good, savory treats. I was immediately blown away at first bite. As I’ve experienced re-creating this quesadilla with my own artistic flare, I’ve consistently found myself wondering: why has this concept not been popularized sooner? I mean, everybody loves quick and easy finger-food, especially when it goes hand-in-hand with an ice-cold Corona and lime, right?
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Chilling Out & Cooling Off.

What?! Another summer-savoring recipe and reminder of summer’s end yet to come already here?! I know, I know. I’m clearly behaving as a sullen, whiny teen (which seems so ten, okay fine,  five years ago) constantly complaining about another end of the favorite season and consequently, another beginning of the dreaded semester, but I can’t seem to come to terms with the fact that I won’t have as much time to bake and cook anymore! Let me moan just a little. It’s not my intention in the slightest to be cumbersome to any readers with my incessant weeps and woes. Honestly, I keep thinking for some reason that the more I complain and vent about my troubles and worries, it will do one of two things. One, the problem at hand will *poof* magically disappear or disintegrate as the groans and grumbles appear and increase with every word typed and created by my almighty fingers (needless to say, the blatantly desired outcome). Or, two, as I blab on and on about my pathetic minion of a problem especially in comparison to other far more prominent and official worldly disasters and tragedies (although, quite frankly, I can’t really bring myself to say I don’t believe the situation I or any other stressed and exhausted college student is in isn’t a complete and total calamity in and of itself), I’ll be forced to accept (gracefully?) the hell that awaits me.

Or will I?
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The Everything SoonDuBu (모듬 순두부).

Although as I’ve mentioned, I didn’t grow up craving or eating meatloaf, there is a dish that I grew up with and immediately fell in love with at first bite and perhaps first sight as well. There isn’t a Korean I know that isn’t familiar with this dish. Actually, I have yet to meet one that doesn’t share the love for it. Fortunately and unfortunately for me, when it comes to Korean food, everything seems to be put together haphazardly and impromptu. This is the story of my life. Fortunately, this tends to work for me since second nature kicks in with perfect timing. Unfortunately, everything happens through trial and error. In regards to cooking, everything is usually made to taste and recipes aren’t always recorded perfectly – my sincere apologies in advance.

SoonDuBu Jjigae (순두부 찌개), otherwise known as Korean Soft Tofu Stew, is what I would deem as Korean comfort food. It is soft, smooth, hot, spicy, and delightfully filling. In times of affliction, my clouded thoughts seem to clear up ever so slightly at the idea of this steamy stew. It’s just about the best thing you can make out of tofu. No other dish that I have come across portrays tofu’s subtle sapor and endless versatility better. Continue reading

Mini-Dinner Party.

So, in a continued pursuit to rekindle my relationship with Korean cuisine, I invited a couple of my good girlfriends over for a mini-dinner party. We hadn’t had a get together in what seemed like ages and I figured, this would be a great time to have a girls’ night in. I mean, we all love going out and eating out, but it’s always nice to have the option and privilege of staying in to a hearty home-cooked meal. Nothing, and I mean nothing, beats that. Especially when it’s in good company. Alcohol, that is. I mean, friends. Well, when the meal includes Korean-braised short-ribs and spicy rice cake stir fry, any company is good company!

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Say Kimchee.


It makes your smile look just as nice as saying “cheese,” I promise.

Anyway, I’ve been getting homesick lately. Home is where the heart is, and I must say that mine’s with my family. I haven’t lived with them since I was 16 and I’m only just beginning to realize how much I’ve forgotten yet how much I’ve learned. It’s been a long journey thus far and I’m only moving forward. While there are so many positive aspects to this sense of independence and process of maturation, there is undoubtedly a feeling of emptiness.

These pangs of longing were only amplified when I noticed that the dishes I’ve been preparing or ordering were quite un-Korean. It hit me especially hard when I was finally able to see one of my best friends, Joanne, after nearly a year of distance between us. For the most part, she usually kept me in check with my Korean background, especially when it came to the kinds of food I ate. To be honest, my exposure to anything pertaining to the Korean culture has been sadly limited over the past year. It was not deliberate whatsoever, but I guess it led me now to deliberately rekindle my love for Korean food.

So, what’s a better way to do this than making kimchee? The absolute staple in Korean cuisine. It goes with just about everything. Come on, even my non-Asian roommate enjoys eating it. Although, I must add, it’s with tortilla chips and lemon powder (to add a more sour kick to it). She claims that kimchee is her new favorite dip.  I have not yet tried it in this manner, but …I’m telling you, kimchee is oh so versatile and wonderful. It should be in everybody’s fridge, Korean or not. It’s available at most grocery stores, especially in Asian-infested Hawaii, and it’s also very easy and cheap to make at home. You should try it!
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