Friday, October 30, 2009

Germane wine for spicy Korean food

I am asked frequently what wines go best with Korean food. The answer is more complex than one might imagine. To match a wine with a spicy meal such as dakkalbi or kimchi chigae (kimchi stew), a sweeter white wine such as riesling, sauvignon blanc or gewürztraminer usually is recommended.

Spicy food + red wine = spicy food PWN'ed! (photo courtesy of Stock.Xchng)
Notice that two out of those three varieties are German. Thus it's germane to ask, "How in the world can I decipher the German wine labels? Do I need a German oma (grandmother) to translate the wine labels?" One planning to serve fine German wine with dakkalbi or bibimbap should read The German Wine Dictionary at the Wine Doctor site.

Another tip is avoid any wine that prides itself on being "bold" or "tannic." Korean food and "bold" wine literally will fight each other to the death in your mouth. Your palate will be the biggest loser in that contest.

Editor's note (March 26, 2011): The Snooth article which I had originally linked here is no longer available. I found an alternative site with the same information for your German wine research.  

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White Wine on Foodista

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Celebrating my 100th post

In the blogsphere, writing your 100th blog post is considered a milestone. Whether it takes you 3 months or 3 years to reach 100 posts, it's considered an accomplishment.
Readers start to believe you're in this for the longer term and take you (and what you have to say) a little more seriously.

I started writing a list of 100 random Korean food facts, but I got tired after reaching 56 or so and unceremoniously deleted the entire post. Since most of the blog postings here are about Korean food, I felt most of it would be repeats of information I have already written. I didn't want to simply re-tread something I had already written before.

I am happy that I have reached this milestone and I hope to reach many more with my readers. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mushrooms in my yard, not on my plate

I found these growing in one of the common areas of my housing development last week after a few days of intense rain. The recent rains had given them something to drink, and they had quite the growth spurt.

I don't know what kind of mushrooms they are. I didn't pick them and I certainly won't eat them. I left them where I found them.

My motto is, "If you don't know what it is, don't put it into your mouth." Eating a poisonous mushroom by mistake can either be very uncomfortable or very deadly. Some mushroom toxins have no antidote.  From the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's Bad Bug Book:
Mushroom poisonings are almost always caused by ingestion of wild mushrooms that have been collected by nonspecialists (although specialists have also been poisoned). Most cases occur when toxic species are confused with edible species, and a useful question to ask of the victims or their mushroom-picking benefactors is the identity of the mushroom they thought they were picking. In the absence of a well-preserved specimen, the answer to this question could narrow the possible suspects considerably. Intoxication has also occurred when reliance was placed on some folk method of distinguishing poisonous and safe species. Outbreaks have occurred after ingestion of fresh, raw mushrooms, stir-fried mushrooms, home-canned mushrooms, mushrooms cooked in tomato sauce (which rendered the sauce itself toxic, even when no mushrooms were consumed), and mushrooms that were blanched and frozen at home. [emphasis added]
The most common mushroom poisonings come from confusion of edible and poisonous varieties, particularly by novices, recent immigrants who mistake toadstools in their new country for safe lookalikes in their home countries and those seeking psychotropic varieties, according to the Bad Bug Book.

My advice? Look but don't pick. If you touch them, wash your hands thoroughly and completely afterward to avoid even a hint of toxin. Four categories of those toxins and human havoc they wreak are, according to the Bad Bug Book:
  1. protoplasmic poisons — generalized destruction of cells, followed by organ failure
  2. neurotoxins — cause neurological symptoms such as profuse sweating, coma, convulsions, hallucinations, excitement, depression, spastic colon
  3. gastrointestinal irritants — produce rapid, transient nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping and diarrhea
  4. disulfiram-like toxins — generally nontoxic and produce no symptoms unless alcohol is consumed within 72 hours. In the latter case, a short-lived acute toxic syndrome is produced.

It should be clear by now that wild mushroom picking — and eating — is not for novices. However, for those of you living in North America, if your curiosity is getting a hold of you and you want some help discovering what's growing in your backyard, here are a few sites to check out.
  • has a list with lots of good photos to help give you some clue about what's growing on that dead tree stump you found on your recent nature hike.
  • Gourmet Mushrooms Inc. sells commercially grown exotic mushrooms. They even sell spawn stock if you want to try to grow your own safe mushrooms.
  • Simply Fungi has information about the lifecycle of mushrooms and fungi.

Koreans and Japanese are famous for their mushroom-picking cultures. For more information about their mushrooms, check out these sites.

Mushrooms on Foodista

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Recipe: Dakkalbi curry soju spaghetti sauce

Last Thursday (Oct. 22, 2009), I enticed my dear husband into the kitchen by his nose with the smell of dakkalbi sauce (used in Korean barbecued chicken; see also this post on the Chuncheon wings video). It's a characteristic smell of Chuncheon, our Korean “hometown.”

But when he looked down at the skillet, instead of seeing chicken, garae ddeok (round rice cake), green onions and sweet potato fries cooking in a thick barbecue-type sauce, he saw diced chicken thighs cooking in a thin sort-of curry-colored sauce.

My dear husband asked me where I found the recipe for this dish.

“I just made it up off the top of my head.”

At that moment, he knew I was conscripting him for another one of my experiments and had the concerned expression on his face. He even took photos just before I served it just to make sure we had a record of the experiment — for good or bad.

As we sat down to the table, I was more anxious than usual for his response to my new spicy pasta dish. After he took a few bites, he realized he really liked the dish and commanded me to write down the basic recipe ASAP before I forgot it.

The measurements are approximations, as I created this quickly on a whim to use up some chicken thighs that was not going to wait much longer before flying the coop.

The second inspiration was I  truly was in a hurry. I didn’t leave work until nearly 8 p.m. that day. I needed a make a quick dish for my very hungry husband. (He was chanting, a la the commercial, "I'm here, and I'm hungry! I'm here….")

I didn’t want to wait for rice to cook, so I made this a pasta dish rather than a rice dish. This hasty recipe seemed to have ended up rather tasty.

The inspiration for this sauce is the same dakkalbi sauce I have used in a few of my recipes. However, I tweaked the sauce a bit with curry powder for an added kick as well as water and a splash of soju (Korean distilled alcohol beverage) to get a suitably thin pasta sauce.
1–2 tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 lb. chicken thigh, diced into 1-inch square
3 tbsp. gochujang (Korean spicy red pepper paste)
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. curry powder (salt free)
1 tbsp. Korean gochugaru (Korean spicy red pepper powder)
¼ cup soju
¼ cup water
1 tbsp. onion flakes
½ tsp. black pepper
1–2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. sesame seed oil to finish
1 lb. pasta, cooked al dente (firm when bitten)
optional: garnish with toasted sesame seeds

If you use Ottogi or other brand of packaged curry sauce mix, consider omitting the soy sauce to reduce the saltiness and adding a little more soju.
  1. Dice 1 lb. of chicken thigh, fry in a little grapeseed or high-temperature oil until it’s about half-cooked. 
  2. Add the garlic, gochujang, soju, soy sauce and water. 
  3. Once bubbles start to form, add the rest of the seasonings, including onion flakes, black pepper and curry powder. 
  4. Once the chicken is completely cooked, add the sesame oil, quickly stir the pasta into the sauce and serve.

Monday, October 26, 2009

World Pasta Day

Warning: Eating too much of the wrong pasta can make your butt this wide!
People all over the world enjoy a good celebration. If there's no legitimate historical or religious event to celebrate, we just make up holidays for anything and everything. Here's an example: October 26th is World Pasta Day, which is supposed to be international celebration of pasta as a global food, consumed all over the world in varying cuisines. World Pasta Day 2009’s focus will be "Pasta Meals on Every Family Table."

Most historians now believe that Caucasian traders in Western China invented pasta over 3000 years ago. From these Caucasian settlements in Western China, the noodle spread all along what many historians call "The Silk Road". The Italians, who are known the world over for their 300+ shapes of pasta, inherited the know-how for pasta from the Arabs who conquered Sicily in 965 A.D.

According to the National Pasta Association, America manufactures more pasta than any other country in the world—more than five billion pounds a year. Most Americans don't need an excuse to eat pasta since the average American eats 20 pounds of pasta a year (the Italians eat 3 times that amount annually). Pasta is not an ingredient starving for attention in American pantries (or our ever expanding waistlines).

However, if you are going to eat pasta today (or any day), I recommend Dreamfields pasta. It has a much lower glycemic index than traditional pasta (Dreamfields GI=13; traditional pasta GI=38) and more fiber as well. This means that it releases its glucose into a person's system at slower rate so the body does not suffer from a spike in insulin production and then a crash afterward. Moderating proper insulin levels is an important part of maintaining one's weight or losing weight.

This is the only pasta in my pantry. I used it in my Chuncheon Alfredo and Kkaenip Pesto videos. You will see it in any pasta videos I made create in the future as well.

Pasta on Foodista

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bibimblooper: Beware of broadcasting your culinary ignorance

I was reading a review in the Boston Globe about a new Thai restaurant ("In Norwood, Mint Cafe’s tried-and-true Thai dishes shine"). Google's Korean food news search pointed this Korean food fanatic to the review.

The Thai restaurant offered some Korean dishes. The reporter and I wanted to know why.
“The customers want a variety, they want a little bit of everything,’’ says Ohm Songtachalert, who runs the restaurants with a brother and sister.

Korean food certainly is becoming more popular in the U.S., so I'm not surprised that many restaurants are trying to find ways to add some Korean flavor to their menus to "catch the Hallyu" (Korean wave).

The Globe reporter reviewed the bibimbap dish on the menu:
Out of curiosity we order the famous Korean bibimbap ($13.95). The rice bowl is scattered with bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, and shiitake mushrooms, with chunks of chicken. But the dish is a bit bland and dry.

Here I am stirring gochujang into my dolsot (hot rock bowl) bibimbap.
If the reporter had done her research, she would have discovered that bibimbap by itself is supposed to be a bit bland. Customarily, there is gochujang (Korean red pepper paste) with the dish or on the table, so the diner can add spice to suffice.

Yet I can't imagine a Thai restaurant omitting some type of optional spicy sauce, but maybe it's the Thai restaurateur who should have researched bibimbap before putting it on the menu.

Regardless of who commited the faux pas, it provided me with a "teachable moment" on a beloved Korean dish.

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Bi Bim Bap on Foodista

Friday, October 23, 2009

Green tea extracts may slow smokers’ lung damage

A new study suggests that daily consumption of a green tea extract from Lung Chen tea may slow the damage of cigarette smoke in the lungs. The animal-based study, led by Judith Mak from The University of Hong Kong, was just published in the journal Respiratory Medicine.

What was the cause of the tea's success?
“The precise mechanisms of the protective role of green tea against cigarette smoking-induced lung injury are currently unclear,” explained the researchers. “Lung Chen tea contains the largest amount of EGCG when compared with other Chinese teas and EGCG has the highest antioxidant capacity among different catechins and dietary compounds such as vitamins C, E and black tea.”
Lung Chen tea, also called Long Jing or dragonwell, is grown in Hangzhou along the Yantze river in Zhejiang province of southern China. It's pan-fried instead of steamed and expensive.

It appears unlikely black or Oolong tea perform as well.
Green tea contains between 30 and 40 per cent of water-extractable polyphenols, while black tea (green tea that has been oxidized by fermentation) contains between 3 and 10 per cent. Oolong tea is semi-fermented tea and is somewhere between green and black tea.
Is this a license to smoke like a chimney and expect to prevent cancer or COPD? No. However, this information may come in handy for those who are exposed to a lot of second-hand smoke, such as restaurant and bar staff members. Most people want to live long enough to see their children and grandchildren grow up and succeed in life.

For more information on the parameters of the study and it's possible implications, go to "Green tea extracts may slow smokers’ lung damage."

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Green Tea on Foodista

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Biology of bouquet: Why do some wines smell like latex, grass or limes?

How does your nose know the difference? (photo courtesy of Stock.Xchng)
I will state for the record that I am not a wine connoisseur, even though I write occasional posts about wine and food pairings. My interest in wine is superficial and purely amateur.

However, I enjoy reading wine reviews and watching some of the wine commentators on YouTube, such as Gary Vaynerchuk, of

Why do I like reading these reviews? Well, the wine critics unending search to find more superlative as well as derisive food-based adjectives to describe the taste of the particular vintage of grape wine can be quite entertaining to anyone who loves the English language and has training in wielding the written word.

Watch Vaynerchuk's Sept. 24, 2008, review of three sauvignon blanc and semillon varietals, starting at about the 8:00 mark. Listen as he describes a Napa Valley "organic" wine with the following very colorful adjectives: "Tire on fire … smoky, rubbery, junkyard dog, rusted old car, motorshop … burnt rubber component with shallow fig and hint of peach fuzz." The respected critics at Wine Enthusiast gave the same wine a score of 93 out of 100, while Vaynerchuk scored it 82.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A send off to Korea

We had a going away party for a friend who's leaving for Korea today to start his English teaching adventure. Of course, we had food: pizza, chips, salsa, and kimchi. I sliced up a Korean pear for an appetizer as well.

But the most important food to have at a going-away party is dessert and lots of it. One of our group brought a chocolate cake with chocolate icing. She asked my dear husband to write something in Korean on the cake in honor of the occasion. Hubby decided to write 안녕히 가세요 (annyong-hi gaseyo) on the cake. He practiced on paper a few times to make sure his penmanship was crisp and exact and then started on the cake.

He barely got the 안 out when the icing starting squirting out of the wrong side of the icing bag. He had little choice but improvise and he "carved" the rest of the greeting on the cake with a knife. He was bound and determined that there would be something to show for his efforts. He simply wrote 안녕 in Korean "cuneiform" instead.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Kimchi in the news: Kimchi Love Festival

Notice the dancing daikon radish and Nappa cabbage greeting visitors at the Love Kimchi Festival 2008.
The Seoul Museum of History is hosting the Love Kimchi Festival on Oct. 24-25, 2009. This year's theme is "Design With Luxury Kimchi." I'm guessing the emphasis will be on the kind of kimchi common during the Joseon (Chosun) dynasty period (1392–1910), which were usually flavorful but not spicy. I also noticed that the itinerary showed a seminar creating forms of kimchi using more expensive items, such as abalone and mushrooms.
The work kimchi in Korean means "pickle" and there are over 200 different varieties of kimchi made from many different kinds of vegetables, including nappa cabbage, daikon radish, as well as turnips, scallions, cucumbers, kkaenip (sesame leaves) . 

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wine tasting with friends in Sonoma County

My friends and I got together last week for an informal wine tasting party. It was a blind tasting — the bottles were wrapped in paper bags — with a couple of basic rules:
  1. This was a red wine party; no white wines allowed. 
  2. There was no limit on price.

With these very basic rules, I went wine hunting at Bottle Barn in Santa Rosa, Calif. Since I don't drink much wine, I didn't have an emotional attachment to a particular variety or winemaker. My goal was to find a wine I knew no one in my group would copy.

I went to the "South American" section and found myself studying a bottle of 2007 Bodega Colomé Malbec Estate from Argentina. This wine was awarded 92 points by Wine Spectator magazine, so I was willing to risk my reputation on this wine. Its price of only $20 added to the allure.

My hunt was rewarded; I was the only person who brought a South American wine. Virtually all the other wines were either Californian or Australian. (A lone French label didn't perform well). 

That evening we tasted 17 different wines with copious amounts of food as well as memorable commentary and conversation. How did "my" malbec stand out? It won second place, which made me very proud.

It also surprised my friends. "Malbec? What's that?!" Well, they have an idea of its merits now.

Following are the top three wines that pleased my friends' palates and made memories from our party. (Click on the wine name for details from Snooth.)
  1. 2007 Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon. Tasters tossed two-centers such as "smooth," "really good" and "The finish is capital."
  2. 2007 Bodega Colomé Malbec Estate. Some samplers said, "a little bite" and "very dry finish."
  3. 2004 Sterling Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. Aspiring oenophiles opined, "a stand-alone wine" and "dark, oaky, complex and smooth."

Red Wine on Foodista

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Green tea may ease mental distress

Atsushi Hozawa from the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine published a study online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which stated, 

Drinking five cups of green tea per day may reduce the incidence of psychological distress by 20 per cent, says a new study from Japan.

In a study with 42,093 Japanese individuals 2,774 people, or 6.6 per cent of the study population, suffered from psychological stress, and green tea consumption was said to improve psychological well-being.

Buddhist monks between India and Japan have known this for thousands of years. These Buddhist monks brought the knowledge of tea cultivation wherever they traveled to spread Buddha's message. The Buddhist monks valued green tea highly because it aided them in their meditations by keeping one awake and focused.

A Korean Buddhist scholar and monk from the late Joseon Dynasty, Seon Master Choui Uisun wrote a popular treatise in 1836 on Korean tea called the Dongdasong. Master Choui became known as the “Korean Tea Sage” for reviving Korea's traditional tea ceremony by simplifying and demystifying it for the common person.

Green Tea on Foodista

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bokbunjajoo Korean wild raspberry wine tutorial

This is the review of Bokbunjajoo I wrote for Snooth, which is a simple tutorial of what bokbunjajoo is, rather than a tasting of a specific wine.

Bokbunjajoo Korean Raspberry Wine (SnoothRank: 3.5/5 Tamar's Rank: 4/5)
(October 2009)
According Korean tradition Bokbunja gets its name thanks to a monk who found his chamber pot turned over after eating the wild raspberries. Bok(覆) means turning over, Bun(盆) means chamber pot and Ja(子) means man. Bokbunjajoo is the wine made from the bokbunja berry.
The wine produced by these berries is a very deep red with an average of 15-19% alcohol There are two main producers of bokbunja in Korea that I am acquainted with.

Bohae, which is based in Jansung, Cholla Province, South Korea, which is at the southwest end of the peninsula. Bohae's award winning Bokbunjajoo was the featured liqueur at the APEC 2005's official dinner party and the 2006 Gwangju Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates.

The other is Jeju Bokbunjajoo, which is made by Hanbackdang Company. Jeju Island, which is off the southwest coast of the Korean peninsula has a "terrior" similar to Hawaii since it is a volcanic island. It is perfectly suited for mixing in cocktails as well as "on the rocks".

Raspberry on Foodista

Thursday, October 15, 2009

INSIDE JoongAng Daily: Food producers use more Korean-grown produce

Korean food manufactors are looking closer to home for ingredients to make their signature dishes for the Korean market. The JoongAng Daily article focuses on CJ Cheiljedang, the nation’s biggest food processor, which is switching from using Australian beef to flavor their Dashida to Korean hanwoo.

Worldwide consumer confidence in Chinese food products caused people to look much more closely at the country of origin labels then they may have in times past. When I read in the JoongAng Daily on February 16, 2008 that Koreans were importing kimchi from China, I suspected there would eventually be a backlash by Korean consumers. Although the article tries to paint this as a purely economic or patriotic move, I suspect that this is an example of the long term ramifications of the Chinese melamine scare back in 2008. Koreans want Korean food to come from Korea.

For more information, to go Food producers use more Korean-grown produce - INSIDE JoongAng Daily

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Shin ramyun socks!

I was watching the latest installment of Simon and Martina in Bucheon on YouTube. They were exploring Bucheon's Sang Dong market. As a foodie, I appreciated the copious footage of seafood, vegetables, banchan (appetizers) and fruits.

But what really caught my eye was a brief scene towards the end showing a sock shop featuring Shin ramyun (ramen) socks. The scene starts at 4:38.

Koreans have this penchant for wearing cartoon-ish socks. They express their sense of humor and fandom for the latest K-pop star on their feet. (Don't believe me? I've seen Bae Yong Joon's, DBSK's, SNSD's and Rain's cartoon-ized faces on socks.)

After all, since Koreans remove their shoes every time they enter a home or sacred place — a temple or church — other people can see the creative and silly designs on these socks. Wearing monotone socks in public singles one out as a tourist (weygook).

Here's a photo I found online of someone actually wearing the Shin ramyun socks. I want a pair so bad, even though since I work from home, only my husband and cats would be able to see them.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fox News: Taking the Confusion Out of Fusion Cusine

The Sept. 22 edition of had this article Taking the Confusion Out of Fusion Cusine - Food & Drink -

Often, when you eat fusion, you’re eating an experiment. Hopefully it’s one that the chef has perfected on other unsuspecting diners. But even if he or she hasn’t, a chef with a true culinary education, who’s naturally talented and knows which ingredients work together and which don’t, will often yield an experiment that doesn’t go awry.
Is Korean fusion an experiment waiting to run amok? It can be, but my goal with every Koreafornian recipe I create is to introduce Korean flavors in ways that will tempt Western audiences into jumping headfirst into Korean cuisine in the future.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mi-sook recommends: 'I [Love] Korean Dramas' apron

How can you keep your regular clothes clean and make a statement at the same time? Well, unless your fur coat is self-cleaning (like mine), the best thing to do is wear an apron. But if you're making food for a public event, you can't be seen in a boring, plain apron, can you?

Any self-respecting cook, especially cooks who make cooking videos or TV shows, has to have an apron that makes a bold statement.The boldest statement is simple yet truly expressive of the heart.

Anthony Storr said,
Originality implies being bold enough to go beyond accepted norms.

One of the best places to find bold statement aprons is on My guardian wore her "I [Love] Korean Dramas" apron in two different videos. (I thought humans didn't like to be seen in the same outfit twice. Doesn't stop me though. I'm always fashionable in my black and white natural fur coat.) It tells you something about her, doesn't it?

Check out the aprons here:

Until next time,

Sook Can Cook

Friday, October 9, 2009

Mi-sook recommends: Food Buzz

Are you the only cook/chef/foodie in your group of friends? Do you need a place to share food advice, ideas, recipes? FoodBuzz is that place.

Foodbuzz is the first and only community to combine a social network for foodies with search and discovery for everyone.

It's Facebook for foodies. People create profiles and post recipes, cooking videos, food photos and blog posts. The database has a search function so if you're looking for a killer recipe for pesto or want to know if anyone has ever posted a recipe for kimchi chigae, you can search the site and find it.

However, FoodBuzz doesn't have cat food recipes — I looked. I guess it's just Nutro for me. Sigh!

Until next time,

Sook Can Cook

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mi-sook recommends: Scoville Scale

How how is hot? The scientific definition is called the scoville scale. The scoville scale measures the hotness of a chili pepper based the amount of capsaicin it contains.

The scale goes from 0 (bell pepper) to 16 million (pure capscasin) scoville units.  So, how do the most well know pepper varieties stack up to each other?

One of the most comprehensive lists can be found at It has a comprehensive list of the most frequently used peppers in the culinary world as well as the most popular salsas and hot sauces so you can find just the right pepper, salsa or sauce for your favorite recipes.

Until next time,

Sook Can Cook

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mi-sook recommends: Calorie Gallery

Substitute blogger Mi-sook is too cute to compute.
Ever wanted to know how 200 calories of your favorite fruit, vegetable or snack looks? will tell you.

Would you also like to know how you can burn off those inconvenient calories? Calorie Gallery can show you that, too.

I weigh 10 pounds. According to Calorie Gallery, it would take me 6,000 minutes to sleep off 200 calories. I'll start that project right after I finish this post.
Calorie Gallery provides a visual representation of how many Calories are in the different foods we eat. We have pictures of hundreds of foods in 200-calorie portions. By getting a sense of what 200 calories looks like in a variety of foods, you'll be better at judging how many calories are in the foods you eat every day.
How much kimchi does it take to reach 200 calories? According to Calorie Gallery, it takes 760 grams, which is the equivalent of 1 pound, 10 ounces. You also would eat no fat or cholesterol and get 133 percent of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA) of vitamins A and C.

But even the best foods can have a downside. That same pound of kimchi also would give you 4,533.33 milligrams (4.533 grams) of sodium. That's 188.9 percent of the USRDA of sodium. This is why Koreans have a higher average sodium intake than Americans (13.4 grams for Koreans vs. 5 grams for Americans).

Another popular Korean food to calorie-calculate is the Korean pear. How much Korean pear does one have to eat to consume 200 calories? Get ready to eat 476 grams (1 pound, 8 ounces) of Korean pears to reach the 200 threshold. You'll probably fill your stomach long before you eat that much Korean pear. I can't imagine a human eating that much food at one time. (I know cats don't eat that much.)

Until next time,

Sook Can Cook

Monday, October 5, 2009

Meet Mi-sook: Substitute blogger

I'm on vacation Oct. 5–12. So, while I'm away, I had to find a suitable substitute blogger to keep you entertained and educated.

Meet Mi-sook ("pretty girl" in Korean). She is 9 years old, and her favorite hobbies are sleeping, jumping on top of bookcases and howling at the neighbor's dogs when they get overly vocal.

She weighs 10.6 lbs and had a benign basal cell tumor removed from her back on Aug. 18. She was so brave and handled the surgery very well, and her recovery was flawless.

What is her food expertise? It's limited to Nutro Senior cat food and occasional bonito flakes and catnip. The only "real food" she enjoys is an occasional piece of string cheese.

She'll be home, and family members will be checking in on her every day — maybe twice a day — to make sure she's happy, well-fed and has a clean litter box.

What she lacks in culinary expertise, she can make up in cuteness and a desire to please (so her guardians don't put her in a kennel the next time they take a vacation).

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Don't apologize for Korean food

The New York Times Style Magazine published an article on Sept. 28, 2009 about a Korean restaurant in Berlin, Germany, called Yam Yam, run by proprietor, Sumi Ha.

The article talks about the history of the restaurant but the paragraphs that caught my attention the most were Ms. Ha's comments about her culinary philosophy.

Yam Yam’s authentic Korean cuisine is unmodified for the German palate. Ha sources vegetables from a Korean-born organic farmer who grows the bean sprouts and other native vegetables outside Berlin. More generic ingredients are also organic, so “they all taste awake,” she said. To this end, Ha might serve a drink of crushed watermelon and honeydew. The kitchen serves only halal meats (with the exception of organic pork). And even though a few customers find the spices too intense, Ha refuses to modify the food.

“I tell people that it’s just not possible to tone it down,” she explained. “The hotness of paprika is mild compared to the fire in other cuisines that use chili. Anyone who can’t handle Korean food is too sensitive. A lot of Koreans warned me that I needed to lighten up the spices, but I hope my success gives them the confidence to start cooking the food as it is intended.”
This is my philosophy when it comes to authentic Korean cuisine. Don't water it down, don't tone it down and don't apologize to anyone for making authentic Korean food.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Wine wanes for Chuseok gifts - The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition)

This years Chuseok baskets are more likely to overflow with sake rather than wine. Photo courtesy of Arnaldo Bassini.
Chuseok is one of the busiest retail seasons of the year with friends and family sending one another impressive gift baskets to mark the end of the harvest season.

This year the trend is moving away from wine baskets and towards Japanese sake. Lotte Department store told the Chosun Ilbo that sake sales have increased 200 percent over last Chuseok. This is bad news for California's wine industry, which is especially struggling during this recession.

The most remarkable change this year is the falling popularity of wine. Just three or four years ago wine was one of the most welcome presents, widely loved for its refined packaging and convenient shelf-life. But things are different this year.

For more information, go to The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition): Daily News from Korea - Wine Wanes for Chuseok Gifts

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A lot to be thankful for at Chusok- INSIDE JoongAng Daily

The Osan, Gyeonggi warehouse of retailer Lotte Mart is stuffed with holiday gifts ready to be shipped out to ensure arrival by the Chusok holiday. Photo courtesy of YONHAP.
Chusok is a major Korean holiday which lasts for three days. The holiday is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Korean lunar calendar.

Koreans gather together with extended family to eat traditional foods, annual ancestor ceremonies and to go to the family burial ground to tidy up the grave-sites of recently deceased family members, which is somewhat similar to American Memorial Day. 

It's also called Korean Thanksgiving because it is a harvest festival when Koreans express gratitude to God (or their ancestors) for granting another successful harvest. It's also one of the main gift-giving holidays of the year with family and friends shipping gifts to each other.

Just like Americans have special foods to eat during Thanksgiving, Chusok has its own special foods as well, including Song-pyon, which is a steamed rice cake stuffed with sweetened bean past. 

Another similarity between Chusok and Thanksgiving is the day-after-Thanksgiving diet.  They say the average Korean gains 5 lbs during Chusok. After all, Chusok lasts for 3 days, Thanksgiving is only for one day. However, anyone can tell you that it's a lot easier to put the weight on than to take it off. 

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Friday, October 2, 2009

The Korea Herald : Festival to showcase Korean temple food

The Korea Herald reports that the Bongnyeongsa in Suwon is hosting the 2009 Korean Temple Food Festival from Oct. 8-10.

Most of the Korea Herald article highlights some of the more popular Korean temple foods, which are exclusively vegetarian.

The part of the article that struck me the most was this comment.

Ven. Sun-jae said the act of growing, harvesting and milling the rice involves many lives. Hence, under the precepts of "balwoo-gongyang," the act of eating rice, for example, requires an awareness of the value of life.

"A honey bee does not hurt a flower when it gets honey," she said. "It helps it."

Since humans do not possess the honey bee's ability to organically help what they eat, humans should express gratitude for food through "balwoo-gongyang," Ven. Sun-jae said.
I can agree that we need to appreciate the source of our food. However, the science of horticulture does not support the Ven. Sun-jae's position that humans only take from the earth and give nothing back in return. Most horticulture experts recognize that most fruit trees, for example, can only thrive and produce fruit when they are properly pruned. Hence, humans can and do "organically help what they eat".

Genesis 2:15 says,"The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." As a Messianic, I believe that God created the fruit trees from the very beginning to have a symbiotic relationship with humans. We prune, fertilize and make sure they have good water and they produce fruit that we eat.

For more information about the Temple Food Festival in Suwon, go to: Festival to showcase Korean temple food.

For articles about the benefits of pruning for both fruit bearing trees and plants, go to: How Stuff Works: Pruning.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Korean food comes to Costco

Korean food is becoming trendy in North America. Whether it's Debbie Lee, from last season's The Next Food Network Star, or Guy Fieri's strange version of kimchi — it features honey, tamari and apple cider vinegar — if you put the word Korean in front of your dish or call your cabbage pickle-type salad "kimchi," Americans seem to be willing to try it.

Another sign that a particular cuisine is gaining popularity in America is when you can find Americanized versions in large grocery stores, such as King's Asian Gourmet kimchi at Wal-Mart.

I found another large American grocery chain offering packaged Korean food. I've known for some time that warehouse club store Costco Wholesale has been selling a line of pre-made Korean meals, featuring galbi, bulgogi and a dish called "spicy bulgogi." (The latter actually is dwejikalbi, which is made from pork.)

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