Korean Wife Camp: Kkakdugi – Cubed Radish Kimchi

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kkakdugi cubed radish kimchi recipe

Kkakdugi, or Korean radish kimchi, is a common banchan (side dish) served with meals such as galbijjim (korean braised short ribs), gomtang (oxtail soup), or tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet). But it’s delicious with any meal, any day of the week, in my humble opinion! (And it has a delightfully scatalogical-sounding name, which pleases my inner 12-year old endlessly. Pronunciation: cock-dooki. LOL.)

Being a kimchi, it is a salted, fermented, (aka pickled) vegetable – and the result is a tangy, spicy, crispy, salty and a tiny bit sweet, refreshing bite that’s chock full of health benefits such as probiotics, vitamins and fiber. It’s got the umami factor in spades, and it’s easier than easy (and super affordable) to make!

Impress your friends, family, and your own mouth with a scrumptious batch of homemade Kkakdugi!

kkakdugi steps

What you’ll need:
1 lb Korean Radish (aka Mu) – cut into 1″ cubes (choose a heavy radish with smooth skin. the higher the ratio of white skin to green skin, the sweeter the radish will taste.) NOTE: if you can’t find Mu, you can substitute Daikon, which is widely available. But if you can get proper Mu, it’s a bit sweeter and more nuanced in flavor. 
1 Tbs Kosher Salt
1 Tbs Honey (or sweetener of your choice)
3-4 Cloves Garlic – finely chopped
1 tsp Ginger – finely chopped
1/3 cup Gochugaru powder (korean red chili flakes.) There is no substitution for this, but if you can’t find them in your local asian grocery, you can order them on amazon.
2 Tbs Fish Sauce (I love this brand, because it’s just fish, salt, and water – wayyy less additives than others. If you can’t find (or stand) fish sauce, you can use soup soy sauce, or simply plain soy sauce.)


kkakdugi ingredients breakdown

What you do:
1. Toss the cubed radish with the salt and honey, until well coated. Set aside for 45-60 minutes.
2. In a separate container, mix together the garlic, ginger, gochugaru, and fish sauce.
3. Drain the radish, reserving 1/3 cup of the liquid and add both to the spice mix. Toss well to coat.
4. Pack the radish into a lidded container, trying to eliminate any air pockets. Loosely place lid on top. ***Don’t put it on tightly, or the container could explode!
5. Leave the kimchi out at room temperature for 1-3 days, depending on your preference. Taste the kimchi once every 1/2 day, and when you feel it’s done, you can transfer it to the refrigerator for storage. We personally prefer ours best when it’s gently fermented, after about 1 full day, but your mileage may vary.

The kimchi will last in your fridge until, basically, the end of time. It will just get more sour, unctuous, and carbonated as it continues to slowly ferment with time. But honestly, this stuff is so damn tasty it won’t last long at all.

PS: my kkakdugi is much more of a brownish-red color than yours will be, so don’t fret. The gochugaru powder I used is from our family estate in Yeoju, and is much less vibrantly fire-engine red than most commercial brands. So expect your finished product to look like cubes of delicious hellfire, friends! cubed radish kimchi kkakdugi


Korean Wife Camp: Radish Water Kimchi – Dongchimi

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korean radish water kimchi dongchimi
Paul’s stepfather, Edgar, loves Korean food almost as much as I do. Together, he and I definitely have the true Koreans in our family beat in terms of our obsession with their own cuisine. So for Father’s Day, we took him to a fun Korean BBQ restaurant called Kang Hodong Baekjong – one of the few in town where the meat is cooked over coals, rather than just a gas burner. It’s delicious.

But the part of the meal that really caught my attention was a delicious banchan dish called Dongchimi, or radish water kimchi. (Banchan is a blanket term for the fantastic array of free side dishes famously served alongside Korean barbeque.) It was deceptively simple seeming: just thin slices of “moo” or korean radish served in a salty, tangy, frosty broth – an utterly refreshing and fabulous palate cleanser. I couldn’t get enough! And while Dongchimi literally translates to “winter kimchi,” the fact that it’s served cold makes it especially delightful in the heat of summertime.

But when I asked my future mother-in-law how it is prepared, she told me it takes too long to make, so she just buys it pre-packaged at the store. What more tantalizing bait for an aspiring cook/wife/mother could there be, I ask you? A challenge! This presented the perfect opportunity for me to learn it, make it, perfect it, and dazzle the shit out of my Korean mother-in-law with the results!

dongchimi radish water kimchi

 

And while my mother-in-law was right, it does take rather a while to make (thanks to the fermentation process), the actual “hands-on” prep time and effort involved is quite minimal. The trick of this dish, really, is patience while it does it’s pickly thing and makes fermentation magic on your countertop. So, to make it simple, I’ll break up the recipe by days.

What you’ll need:

Day 1:
5 lbs Korean Radishes, cut into pieces about the size of your palm. (If you can’t source korean radishes, you can substitute daikon, which is available in most supermarkets.)
1/2 cup kosher salt (I use this brand exclusively, because it’s free of the caking agents found in other brands)

Day 5:
3 green korean chiles
3 red korean chiles, each pierced with a fork a few times
1 cup asian pear, cubed
3 green onions, roots and all
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, minced
10 cups water

Grab a large glass jar. I used this one, which has a gallon and a half capacity and worked perfectly. Place your salt into a bowl, and give the radishe slices a good rinse. While they’re still wet, roll them each in the salt until well-coated, and place them into the jar. If you have any leftover salt in the bowl, sprinkle it on top of the radish slices in the jar. Cover and refrigerate it for 4-5 days, during which time the salt will pull moisture from the radishes, softening them and preparing them to absorb all the flavors in the delicious, briney broth you’ll be creating later.

After a few days have passed, you’ll notice about an inch or two of water has collected at the bottom of the jar, which will serve as the base of your brine. Grab the rest of your ingredients, it’s go time!

Toss the chiles, cubed asian pear, and green onions into the jar. Place your minced ginger and garlic into a cheesecloth bundle and drop that in, too.

korean pickled radish recipe - dongchimi

Add your 10 cups of water, give it a good stir, and cover it up again. Then put your patient pants on and leave it to ferment at room temperature on your counter.

korean radish water kimchi

Within a day or less, you’ll notice the formerly clear brine has begun to take on a milky, cloudier hue. That’s when you know the magic is happening! After a day, give the broth a taste, and see if you’re happy with the balance of mild spiciness, tangy tartness, and salty savoriness. Try a bit of radish, too. If it’s too crunchy, you might want to cut your chunks in half to speed up their softening. You want them to still have a bit of crisp to them, but they shouldn’t feel “raw” to the tooth, either. But it’s all a matter of preference. In our case, we left it out for two full days before it achieved perfection. Then just transfer it to the fridge, and take bits of radish and broth to enjoy at your leisure!

I was quite nervous that after all the time that went into making this, it wouldn’t match up the quality of Kang Hodong Baekjong’s delicious dish. But when we had our first bowlful with dinner, I was delighted to find that I loved it and even preferred it to the original! And when Paul declared it “restaurant quality,” I knew we had a hit on our hands. I’ll be taking a batch to my mother-in-law’s house next weekend, and can’t wait to hear what she thinks!

dongchimi radish water kimchi recipe

To serve, slice the radish very thinly, and place in a bowl with a ladle or two of the chilled brine and a few chunks of asian pear. If you have company, toss in a chile or bit of green onion for color. Dongchimi pairs fantastically with a hearty steak from the grill, or burgers… but I enjoy it with pretty much everything! And because it’s fermented, it’s chock full of nutritious probiotics which support healthy digestive function (among other great benefits), and high in oxygen saturation, so it’s a wonderful elixir for when you’ve overindulged and find your belly in a bit of gluttonous distress.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Stay tuned, because next up will be my tried and true traditional napa cabbage kimchi recipe! It took me 5 attemps to perfect it, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

Until next time…. 안녕히계세요! (Goodbye!)

 


Korean Wife Camp: Korean-Style Chicken Soup

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korean wife camp recipes

My usual staple chicken stock recipe is courtesy of the domestic goddess to end all goddesses, lady Ina Garten herself. (Bow down, people, and hail your queen.) But her method, while delicious and consistent, requires a whole day and night of time and energy. Which I can spare maybe once every three or four months in pursuit of a ginormous bulk batch of her nectar. It’s kind of a lot of work.

In between those times, this Korean-style chicken soup, or dak guk (닭 국), adapted from Maangchi.com) takes but a laid-back hour to make, and is incredibly soothing and delicious given how dead easy it is to make. I mean, who ever heard of one-hour chicken stock that was full-bodied and tasty as hell?! It’s almost good enough to completely supplant my beloved Barefoot Contessa stock. Almost. 

What I also love about this recipe, is that it makes better use of the ingredients, and produces less food waste. It always chaps my ass to fish out, strain, and throw out (or even compost) the stewed-past-death chicken carcasses, dried out meat, and baby-food mush veggies when making Ina’s recipe… but this one avoids that, giving second life to the ingredients that make it so flavorful and hearty in the first place.

dak guk korean chicken soup recipe

What you’ll need:
(serves 4)

For the broth:
2 chicken breasts (I’ve made this with boneless, skinless breasts and, as pictured, a spatchcocked double breast on the bone. Both were totally delicious, so it’s up to you! I use breasts because they’re healthier, and easy to shredm… but you could use legs, if you’re more of a dark meat connoisseur.)
16 whole cloves of garlic – skinned. (Do you know about this method of peeling large quantities of garlic? You’re welcome!)
1 medium/large onion – halved and quartered, skin on
2-3 Tbs ginger – sliced roughly
16 cups water
2 Tbs fish sauce (I love this brand, because it’s just fish, salt, and water – wayyy less additives than others. If you can’t find (or stand) fish sauce, you can use soup soy sauce, or simply plain soy sauce.)
1 Tbs salt

For the chicken topping:
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper – ground
2 Tbs sesame oil

For optional spice:
2 Tbs gochugaru powder
2 tsp sesame oil
cayenne pepper (to taste)

dak guk dalk kug korean chicken soup recipe

Brace yourselves for how easy this is, because at first blush, it appears too good to be true.

Put the first four ingredients into a stock pot and add the water. Bring to a boil and simmer for one hour, uncovered.

After an hour, remove the solids, reserving the chicken and garlic. The ginger and onion can enjoy a trip to the compost or trash.

Add the fish sauce and Tablespoon of salt to the stock, and stir. It will have reduced to about 12 cups at this point. Now taste that shit. Can you believe that only took one hour?! The stock is now DONE.

Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, use your hands to pull it into shreds. Don’t snack on it just yet.

Place the garlic cloves into a small bowl, and mash them into a paste with a fork. Mix in the sesame oil, salt and pepper, and then massage the garlic oil paste into the chicken meat. This gives the chicken an incredibly moist consistency, perfumed with so much aromatic flavor… it’s addictive. Snack on some now. Marvel at what you have created. Then, stop snacking. You want there to be plenty for your assembled soup!

dak gook korean chicken soupI personally like to gently sauté sliced carrots and celery and add them to the broth for a bit more veggie bite and fiber – but carrots and celery are my chicken soup favorites. You could do this with any vegetables of your preference, or give veggies the middle finger and let the chicken and stock speak for themselves. If you do add veg, once they’ve reached your desired level of doneness, hit them with a splash of soy sauce for a bit of extra umami caramelization. Then just layer them into your serving bowl with some chicken, ladle on some stock, and enjoy the simple, rich, soul-soothing properties!

This recipe is extra brilliant, because you can make it in advance, which makes it great for entertaining or daily lunches! Just keep the chicken, broth, and veggies (if you use them) in separate containers in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve, reheat the stock to a simmer, and pour it over the chicken as you serve. Easy peasy. And oh, so good.

For those of you who enjoy a bit more spice in life, here are two ways to heat things up a bit:
1. sprinkle whatever veggies you sauté with cayenne while they’re cooking.
2. make a paste using 2 Tablespoons Gochugaru (korean red chili flakes) and 2 teaspoons sesame oil in a bowl. You can add some to the chicken when mixing in the garlic, or just spoon it directly into your soup. Or both! Which is what I do. Mmmmm.

I hope you try this. It might just change your life forever.

If you do, come back and let me know how it went! Until next time…. 안녕히계세요! (Goodbye!)


Korean Wife Camp: Bori Cha – roasted barley tea

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korean wife camp: bori cha (roasted barley tea)

I’m straight up addicted to this tea. It’s traditionally served in Korean homes and restaurants, either hot or cold, in lieu of plain drinking water – and has a delicious, nutty, clean, refreshing taste that compliments whatever it accompanies. I am head over heels in love with it, drinking gallons each week like I’m some weird herbal vampire and this barley tea is my life blood. It’s dead easy to make, and even easier to drink.

And it’s good for you! Roasted barley tea has been found to inhibit bacterial colonization and adhesion, specific to the major cause of tooth decay and implicated in cardiovascular diseases. It’s also known to assist in digestion, improve blood health, and (according to eastern medicine) control damp heat in your system. Which is something I struggle with a lot. I’m super damp guys. No joke.

But even if for no other reason than general thirst, this shit is the yum.

You can find roasted barley in packages at most Asian supermarkets, as this tea is also widely consumed in Japan (as mugicha) and China (as dàmàichá). Or you can find it on Amazon. It looks roughly thusly, depending on the brand:
bori cha roasted barley tea
It takes about 1 Tablespoon in about 2.5 cups of water for a small batch.
But I say, fuck small batches. This stuff is meant to be consumed with gusto, not merely sipped!

So, I fill up my giant 16 quart Le Creuset stockpot to the handles, and scoop in about 15-20 Tablespoons (or basically just enough to cover the surface of the water).

bori cha roasted barley korean tea

It’s really not an exact science, which I love. Depending on how weak or strong you like your tea, adjust the amount of barley and brew time accordingly. We like a hearty brew around these parts, so I set it up to boil rapidly for about 15 minutes, but have been known to get distracted and let it boil as long as 30. It was delicious and no one died.

But most people get it to a boil and go 5-15 minutes. Depending on the strength, the color will fall somewhere between weak tea and strong tea.

Then, because I make such giant batches, and prefer to drink it iced, I usually just take it off the heat, pop the lid on, and let it sit overnight to cool before I bottle it. But you can drink it hot, immediately, if that’s your bag. A bonus to letting it sit until it cools is that the barley sinks to the bottom and I can just ladle it out into jars, or dunk jars in to fill them quickly without hassling with a strainer. I always advocate for less dishes to dirty.

Then I throw the leftover barley into my composter, or feed it to the dogs. I suppose you could toss it into a salad, if you felt like it.

Here’s my haul from the pot above:

korean roasted barley tea bori cha

So, the large mason jars are half-gallons, and the milk jugs are 4 cuppers. And the glass on the right was the little bit that didn’t fit anywhere except my very thirsty mouth. It will last me maybe a week. Probably less.

As you can see, I was practicing my Hangeul on the labels, and have quite a ways to go until my block lettering skills are better than a 3 year old.

….And I just finished off another batch while writing this. Try it yourself! It’s a real summertime, or anytime, treat!


Korean Wife Camp: Learning Hangeul & the Korean Language

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Learning Korean

In school, I studied French and Italian, and did well. Knowing some Italian made it easy to get around Mexico. I have a good ear. And I’ve always been curious about the challenge of learning a non-romanic language, and wanted badly to learn one… but learning a language without a readily available practical application for it seemed like a waste of time and energy. It would be too hard to keep up, and it wasn’t like I was going to change careers to make that language a new path for myself. Basically, learning a more exotic language, just to be able to say I did so, seemed like a fruitless exercise in ego. Can you imagine?

“I speak Aramaic, you know.”

“Oh cool, what do you use it for?”

“Um…” *crickets*

Then I met Paul. And BOOM. A reason to learn Korean came crashing into my life. As I mentioned in my first KWC post, Paul and his mother speak almost exclusively Korean when they’re together. We’re spending about 2 weeks in Seoul during our Honeymoon. And we definitely plan to raise our daughters to be bilingual from birth. I’ve picked up a few conversational words here and there… mostly from Paul and his mother, going out to eat at Korean restaurants, and watching K-dramas on DramaFever. But in order to get to a point of fluency, which is my end-goal, I had to get into a class. So I’ve plunged headfirst into the wild and wacky world of Hangeul: the Korean alphabet.

I started by enrolling in a class at the King Sejong Language Institute at the Korean Cultural Center of LA. Korean Cultural Centers all over the world offer language and culture classes at extremely affordable rates because they’re subsidized by the Korean government. So for a 12-week class, the cost was only $80, which is unheard of! But, the class pace was too slow for me, and the drive to Koreatown during rush hour was brutal. So, I looked for a more privatized option, and Tabitha from Winston and Main recommended I check out iTalki.com, which she was using to brush up her Japanese.

iTalki allows you to search for teachers based on the language you’d like to learn, and has detailed profiles for them including photos, credentials, student reviews, and even videos. You can buy trial lessons to sample up to 3 different teachers before settling on one, and take your lessons via skype or G+, allowing you to tap into teachers anywhere in the world. You can also find conversation buddies if you’re just looking to practice your language skills, or meet other people who speak the languages you fluently speak. The rates are extremely affordable for private lessons (usually $15-$25/hour, depending), and you can schedule as many or as few as you like per week, or sign up for a package deal.

I found my teacher, Zeanie Yoon, on iTalki, and she has been a total game-changer in my learning. Her ability to teach Korean with mnemonic devices, analogies, humor, and common sense really appeals to the ways I learn best; and having her full attention, rather than sharing it among a group, allows us to move much more quickly and focus on what will help me most practically, the fastest. I feel so lucky to have found her.

If you’re interested in learning a new language, or brushing up an old one, iTalki is running a special in the month of July – so if you use this link to go find a teacher, you get $10 in free credits to use on the site.

And if you’re curious about the basics of Hangeul…. here you go!

To break it down: Hangeul was developed by Sejong the Great, 4th King of the Joseon Dynasty. Han (한) meant “great” in archaic Korean, while geul (글) is the native Korean word for “script.” Unlike general phonemic writing systems such as the Roman Alphabet, it was uniquely designed to combine consonant letters and vowel letters into syllabic units. Hangeul is a very logical approach to the alphabet, because the consonant letters are based on the shape of the speech organ used to create the appropriate sound for it, such as the tongue, teeth, throat, lips, etc. It’s not an exact science, but knowing those correlations has helped me. The vowel shapes are said to be based on the 3 “elements” of fire, earth, and human. I find this to be far less helpful in learning their letters.

Consonant letters:
ㄱ ㄴ ㄷ ㄹ ㅁ ㅂ ㅅ ㅇ ㅈ ㅊ ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅎ ㄲ ㄸ ㅃ ㅆ ㅉ
Vowel letters, dipthongs and thiphongs.
ㅏ ㅑ ㅓ ㅕ ㅗ ㅛ ㅜ ㅠ ㅣ ㅐ ㅒ ㅔ ㅖ ㅘ ㅙ ㅚ ㅜ ㅝ ㅞ ㅟ ㅢ

Until next time, 안녕히 가세요 (goodbye!)


Korean Wife Camp: Welcome!

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Welcome to a new column that I’m very excited about: Korean Wife Camp!

marrying into korean family

I’ve never had much of a culture of my own. I come from a Greek/Euro-mutt background, if you trace my blood lineage. I don’t belong to any one religion. And I’d say that culturally, I relate most to having been a born-and-bred Chicagoan. And believe you me, I had a thrilling time indoctrinating Paul into my world via Italian Beef sandwiches, Chicago-style hot dogs, deep dish pizza, and a city/skyline tour when we spent 2 weeks in the ole windy city last summer. (and gained about 10 pounds each! So. Worth. It.)

But Paul is first generation Korean-American. His parents immigrated here just before he was born, with no family or friends in Los Angeles to rely on. And after his father abandoned them both when Paul was just a baby, his mother Michelle had to work multiple jobs, while trying to learn English, to support her in raising Paul all by herself. And she did a BOSS job of raising him, by the way. She is a true hero of a woman and mother.

As a result, Paul’s primary language growing up was Korean. And to this day, when he and his mom get together, they speak Korean to each other. Michelle does speak English quite well, but it’s clear that she’s much more comfortable speaking in her native tongue, and spends most of her free time with Korean friends (when not spending time with her Argentina-native husband, Edgar). Fun fact: Michelle is an amazing ballroom dancer and scratch golfer – both skills she took up after Paul left home for college, to distract her from her sadness that he had moved out. She often stays out dancing until the wee hours, partying it up with her girlfriends in Koreatown. So cute, you guys.

Koreans have a huge amount of pride in their culture and it’s preservation and legacy, after having defended against many years of Japanese occupation and attempted assimilation. As well they should!

I have great respect for the Korean culture, so it’s very important to me that I learn as much as I can about it, to support the cultural legacy through our growing family by learning the language, preparing their foods (oh my god, the yummy foods!), teaching our future children about it, and taking them on trips to get to know their extended family there. My first trip is coming up this October, when we spend 16 nights in Seoul as part of our honeymoon! I can’t wait!

Over the past year, I’ve been learning, researching, practicing, exploring and trying as much as I can to become more schooled and comfortable in my position as the wife and daughter-in-law in a Korean family. And as the future matriarch of 1/2 korean children. And I figure, I’m not alone in this world… so I’ll share my journey, resources, and (best of all), recipes here. Thus: Korean Wife Camp was born!

Stay tuned… the first installment is coming up shortly!