World Cooking – South Korea

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: South Korea
Progress: 3/193

In recent years, Korean food has become one of my absolute favourites. It’s where I went for my recent leaving meal at work, it’s what I ate for New Year’s when I was up in London and it is something I eat for lunch with some degree of regularity. Thanks to it’s rich history there is a huge amount of dishes to pick from, but for this post I decided to cook things that would be considered recent additions to the cuisine.

With both North and South Korea to cook for I was presented with an opportunity to do the same cuisine twice. So, rather than just make japchae or kimbap for both countries I thought I would look at pre-Korean war dishes for the North and post-Korean dishes for the south. This doesn’t help round down things too much, but at least both countries will be distinctive (which is more than I can say for my fruitless attempts to find recipes for Swaziland).

Main: Budae Jjigae

Budae-jjgae (or Army Stew) is an interesting example of Korean fusion cuisine that has become widely adopted within South Korea. It came about just after the Korean war where, due to local food supplies being scarce because of war, supplies from the American army bases were used alongside regular Korean food.

In this version from the MyKoreanKitchen website (made using a brand now shallow pot) contains Spam, frankfurters and cheese slices alongside Korean rice cakes, instant noodles, kimchi, tofu and three types of East Asian mushrooms. Other versions can also include baked beans, however this felt like a bit of overkill considering that there was an entire tin of Spam in the pot.

This dish feels and looks a bit like a weird mish-mash, probably because it is, but it feels like the ultimate warming one pot dish for the autumn or winter months. I halved the chilli flakes in my version (as I could only get local ones), which I am relieved to have done as this could otherwise have been a bit too spicy. For me, the stars of this dish were the shiitake mushrooms, the frankfurters and the broth – although we were fighting over the slices of spam.

Considering the caloric content of this dish, it really isn’t something to be made too often. However, it is definitely something to make when I have company round… or at least some variation of it as I have 900g of frozen Korean rice cakes to use up.

Dessert: Matdongsan 

I really wanted to make something from the Maangchi website and her recipe for Matdongsan caught my eye. This is more like a homemade version of a popular sweet snack than a proper dessert, but they looked so crunchy and inviting that I just had to make them. Also, their name means something along the lines of ‘small mountain taste’, which sounds like a powerful boast for a cookie that resembles a honey-glazed cocktail sausage.

Despite this weeks misadventure whilst making them (whereby the front of the cutlery drawer fell off) these were a delicious cookie. In the recipe you both fry and bake them, which results in a pleasingly crunchy texture with an audible snap as you take that first bite. You also have the crunch from the peanuts and some sweet stickiness from the rice syrup coating; both of which made these incredibly moreish.

Although we were full to the brim with budae-jjgae that did not stop us from polishing all the cookies that I hadn’t previously eaten in the name of ‘taste testing’. I have it on my husband’s authority that they were good with coffee, although I didn’t need a beverage to enjoy fist after fist of them. Neither of these dishes are particularly diet friendly… but I think there are plenty of opportunities for that in the next 190 countries.

I have yet to decide on my next country, but I want to make sure I cover all five continents in the first five posts – so it’ll have to be either African or Oceanian. At the moment I haven’t thought far enough ahead as to the identity of the next country so, until I make my decision, masitkke deuseyo!

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