Sunday, November 29, 2009

South Korea releases guide standarizing Korean menu items

South Korea's Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries released its guide for the standard Romanization of the 124 top Korean dishes, including English language descriptions of these items.

Korean restaurateurs and intrigued foodies have been awaiting publication of this book since August 2009. The booklet, which can be downloaded in ebook format, includes explanations of favorite Korean foods, such as kimchi, kimbap, bulgogi, and kimchi jjigae. This booklet was written for Korean restaurants on both sides of the Pacific to encourage the popularization of hansik (Korean cuisine).

If Korean restaurants take this guide seriously, Korean menus will be more accurate but less amusing. 

For more information, go to Korea's food blog at

Bae Yong Joon-ssi, do you still want to be a farmer?

How to plant an organic vegetable garden in 30 minutes using Gardensoxx.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bulgogi: a meal fit for an American President

South Korean media outlets reported that South Korean First Lady Kim Yoon-ok agonized so much over what Korean foods to serve US President Barack Obama that she asked Korean drama star and restaurateur Bae Yong Joon for advise on how to impress the President with the beauty of Korea's cuisine.

The JoongAng Daily revealed the menu that First Lady Kim served to Pres. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama during their recent state visit to South Korea.
The main courses were: fresh seafood and ginseng served in mustard sauce; sinseollo (a hot pot with seafood and vegetables); bulgogi (marinated beef) made with hanwoo (Korean beef from Andong, North Gyeongsang); barbecued beef made with U.S. beef; bibimbap (mixed rice and vegetables) and bukeo dubu tang (dried pollack and tofu soup).

These were accompanied by six side dishes: kimchi, mulkimchi (water kimchi); spinach; tangpyungchae (seasoned herb with mung bean starch jelly); beef jangjorim (beef brisket marinated and pickled in sweet soy sauce and ginger); and fried kelp.

Dessert included pears, soft persimmons, peanut ice cream and green tea from Boseong, South Jeolla.
Apparently the bulgogi, spinach salad and peanut ice cream were quite popular with the US entourage. So popular, the JoongAng Daily published the presidential bulgogi recipe, which I posted here.
Lest Michelle Obama feel left out, First Lady Kim sent her counterpart a cookbook titled “A Book of Korean Recipes” compiled by the Institute of Traditional Korean Food.

For more information about the prep work that went into Pres. Obama's Korean meal, go to: A Korean meal for two world leaders - INSIDE JoongAng Daily

Posted using ShareThis

Bulgogi on Foodista

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Tammy did not pay $67 for the 20lb turkey she's carving. Photo taken by Jeff Quackenbush, 2008.
As people all across the United States sit down to their Thanksgiving meals of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, vegetables and pumpkin pie, be thankful you didn't have to pay Korean prices for the perfectly baked, large-breasted turkey sitting on your dinner table.

According to Brian Dye of Kiss My Kimchi and Dan Gray of Seoul Eats, ex-pats in Korea pay $67 at Costco for a 17 lb turkey. In the States, you can get turkeys that size on sale for about $10 and full price for about $25.

At least ex-pats in Seoul don't have to go to the "black market" anymore for their annual turkey fix. Hope all of you are having a wonderful Thanksgiving, where ever you are.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Recession hasn’t increased home cooking, claims report

The report’s author and chief industry analyst at NPD Harry Balzer said: “Microwaving has been flat for two decades, but it increased last year as Americans found a way to eat at home and not cook. We’re using our microwaves to warm and heat more, but not prepare more dishes from scratch.”
How disappointing. Americans are reverting to cheap pre-packaged microwave meals rather than cooking fresh foods at home. These pre-package foods are loaded with sodium and unpronounceable preservatives and other chemicals as well as unhealthy amounts of soy and sugar.

In my opinion, this trend is penny wise and pound foolish. People who subsist on this kind of food will end up spending more money on medical expenses due to weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic, diet-related conditions. Besides, making your own food is actually cheaper, tastes better and you have control over how much sugar and salt are in your meal. 

For more information, go to Recession hasn’t increased home cooking, claims report

Monday, November 23, 2009

Another reason Americans are fat!

About a year ago, someone on posted some very disgusting food photos on a thread in their food forum. The photos came from a website called This is why you're fat. When I saw this ice cream vending machine near the restrooms at the Napa Premium Outlet Mall in Napa, Calif., the first thought that came to mind was "This is why Americans are fat!"

These bars have 250-350 per bar with very little nutritional value. They are "empty calories" which give you fleeting energy from the sugar and waist-expanding fat but nothing else.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Eat your kimchi for fewer wrinkles

A study published in the October 2007 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that "bowl of kimchi a day may keep wrinkles away."

People who have diets rich in Vitamin C have fewer lines than those who graze mostly on carbs and fats.

Kimchi is an excellent source of Vitamin C, packing about 80 percent of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA) in one serving.

External application of Vitamin C in the form of masks and serums can help fight the inevitable signs of aging as well. However, I do not recommend massaging one's face with kimchi juice. Kimchi is for internal use only.

Kimchi on Foodista

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sonoma County wheat?!

I was walking through Raley's bread aisle (a rare visit for me) and found their Sonoma 100% Stone Ground Wheat Bread staring back at me on the shelf.

I know advertisers and marketers are given a lot of leeway in terms of "truth in advertising" but this takes the cake.

Sonoma County produces less than a million bushels of wheat per season, according to Office of the Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner yet this store label boldly reads Sonoma 100% ground wheat bread? It this a limited production, boutique bread? No.

However, thanks to books like The Sonoma Diet, which emphasizes the Mediterranean and Asian influenced  food culture of this region, people are starting to think Sonoma County is synonymous with healthy eating, but we have just as many Carl's Jr, Burger King's and McDonald's restaurants as any other region of the United States.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bae Yong Joon-ssi, do you really want to be a farmer?

During his press conference on September 22, 2009, launching the debut of his book Search for the Beauty of Korea, Hallyu star Bae Yong Joon told the media, "For me, farming. I want to be a farmer. You know how to do farming, don't you? I want to step on ground. I want to touch soil. Planting something and making it to bear fruits seems like a tremendously happy thing.

"If I would like to add one more in my occupation column, I like to add the 'farmer'. I wonder if the topic of today's article would be 'Becoming a farmer', It is not, is it? (laugh) I will never become a singer. When I become a farmer later on, I will sing for you."

He reiterated this desire in his conversation with South Korea's First Lady Kim Yoon Ok on November 10, 2009 when he told the First Lady that he wanted to be an organic farmer. Since he has said this on two different occasions, I presume this is not a off-handed comment but an idea he is truly pondering.

Watch this video out first to see if the urban farmer life is a good fit for a native of Mapo-gu, Seoul. Seoul is a lot more urbanized than Oakland, Calif. Even if you can't retire to some remote field tucked away in the hills and mountains of Gangwon-do, anyone feeling trapped in a big city can test out their green thumb.

This video has practical tips such as having the soil tested for lead (a tip the White House didn't heed before planting their so-called organic garden) building raised beds for the plants, how to protect your food from predators, and how to share the fruits of your labor with grateful friends and less fortunate neighbors.

Novella Carpenter started small, with some plants in an empty lot next to her house in Oakland. A couple of years later, she was tending to a full-blown farm, with goats, turkeys, ducks, pigs, and a robust garden. This video tackles questions of neighborliness (which is more offensive: police sirens or roosters crowing?), environmental poisons (raised beds are key), and the all-important slaughter question. The answer: Yes, she does (and yes, there is some bloody footage).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Kimchi Chocolate?

For those of you who didn't believe me when I told you people actually buy and eat this stuff, here's a video by an ex-pat singing its praises.

It stings your lips and burns your mouth, and your fresh breath will then go south...What does it taste like? Tastes like snorting tabasco straight up your nose...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Korea, please show President Obama the Beauty of Korea!

Photo courtesy of (
The Chosun Ilbo reports that the Blue House staff are conflicted over what kind of booze to serve President Obama when he shows up in the Republic of Korea later this week as part of his pan-Asian tour.

Meanwhile, the government has yet to choose whether to serve the traditional Korean rice wine makgeolli or a Californian wine during the welcome luncheon on Thursday.

Why would Korea serve the US President an American wine? He can buy and drink California wine anytime he wants. Pres. Obama's visit to Korea is an opportunity to showcase some of the best that Korea has to offer the world in terms of its culinary tradition. I can't think of a better beverage to impress the "President of the Free World" than a cup of makgeolli.

Makkoli on Foodista

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Korean fusion cooking in Napa County

This was the first interview I've ever done for YouTube. Usually, in my videos I talk, you listen and then you can respond in the comments section below the video. That's the way cooking videos usually work. The give and take communication is indirect.

We had scaled back our normal production as well. We didn't bring our heavy duty lighting system, which usually makes my father in law's kitchen look even whiter than it is in real life. Also we did not use the wireless lapel mic set up that we have used in every single one of our cooking videos up to this point. This was filmed by my husband with the video camera and me holding a wireless microphone. That's it.

I walked into this shoot knowing that I wanted certain still shots and my husband took some B-roll of other parts as well just in case. This video was totally unscripted, the general idea for the flow of the video was in my head. I just asked the questions and Chef Marroquin answered. There was no practice run of the question and answers either. We just did it in one take.

Usually our cooking videos are methodically planned. The dialogue and every video and photo shot is scripted. Not this time.

We actually filmed and had nearly completed editing this video before I made the Soju Cream Sauce video (notice the shorter hair) but we posted this video later because of my vow to KBS to get my pasta video with my review of the Noodle Road documentary out the door first. Both of these videos would have been posted sooner if hubby and I hadn't come down with the flu in October.

Tamar interviews Hector Marroquin of Napa Valley Chef Catering Co. Chef Marroquin added kimchi and kalbi (with a twist) to his 2009 menu at the St. Helena's Farmer's Market in St. Helena, Calif., the heart of Napa Valley. The nearby Culinary Institute of America has taken notice of his innovation and introduced pupusas to their menu as well. Can kimchi be the next CIA star?

The kalbi and kimchi with pupusas were a success, even though they wasn't Chef Marroquin's #1 seller. He plans to serve this dish during next year's St. Helena's Farmers Market as well, God willing.

As we mentioned in the video, Chef Marroquin went online to YouTube to find inspiration for his kimchi. If you want to see his original inspiration, check out this video.

If you like the t-shirt I'm wearing during the interview, this is also a creation.  I wore one of their t-shirts in my Korean Potato Salad video, too.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

American Coffee Survival: A response to Korea Coffee Survival

I don't post too many recipes on this blog because I share most of my recipes on my YouTube page but sometimes an idea comes along that is so off the wall, or off-topic that I have to share it in a forum other than YouTube.

This is one of those "recipes". I put the word recipes in quotes because this is not a recipe so much as it is a survival tool, a way to make coffee taste tolerable for my super-taster husband who drinks coffee because he has to, not because he wants to.

The inspiration for posting my tips for making instant coffee drinkable came when I read ZenKimchi's version of doctored up instant coffee, which he titled Korea Coffee Survival.

Here are the ingredients for American Coffee Survival:

  • 2 tsp instant coffee (Raley's Brand instant coffee is better than Folgers, Taster's Choice or any named brand in hubby's opinion.)
  • 4 tsp hot chocolate
  • 1 1/2 tsp of Stevia
  • 12 oz boiling hot filtered water
  • 4 oz of room temperature filtered water
The steps in order:

  1. Put all the above dry ingredients into a 16 oz. travel mug. 
  2. Heat approx. 12 oz of water in microwave.
  3. Pour hot water into the mug, which a friend affectionately nicknamed "Mr. Crusty".
  4. Stir until coffee, hot chocolate and Stevia are dissolved.
  5. Top off with room temperature filtered water.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nov. 11 is Pepero Day

QiRanger explains Pepero Day.

Sunil passes along a few Pepero Day legends.

Nov. 11 is called Pepero (빼빼로) Day in South Korea, where the day has become an annual tradition. Pepero Day has become a "second Valentine's Day," when people give each other packages of the chocolate-covered pretzel-like sticks as well as other sweets.

Koreans believe in the power of numbers — as many cultures do. Yet I've never found an ancient Korean connection with the number 11, except the general rule that odd numbers represent the "yang" principle. Nov. 11 become connected with Pepero supposedly because the date, when written as "11/11," resembles five sticks of Pepero.

Since this "holiday" took off in the mid-to-late '90s, Pepero maker Lotte Corp. has made billions of won selling gift baskets especially made for this day.

All of this is quite interesting, because Pepero are basically a knockoff of the original Japanese candy brand Pocky. I'll be noshing on that for Pepero Day, because our local Korean grocer didn't have Pepero in stock.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Kimchi in the News: Kimchi for charity in Yongsan

Weygooks make kimchi for charity. Photo courtesy of Newsis
The JoongAng Daily reports over 2500 volunteers arrived at the former Sudo Girls’ High School playground in Yongsan, Seoul to make 50,000 kimchi cabbage heads worth of kimchi to be dispersed to the underprivileged as well as those who operate facilities for the disabled in Yongsan.

The event was hosted by the Yongsan District Office in collaboration with The Itaewon-Hannam Global Village Center.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

1,000 subscribers on YouTube

Today is a milestone for me on my YouTube channel. I had my 1,000th subscriber today. Not bad for a hobby channel with only 14 videos made over a two-year period.

Most people start with a blog and use videos to augment the blog.  I did the reverse, I was on YouTube for almost two years before I started this blog.

These are the awards I currently hold on my YouTube channel:
#6 - Most Subscribed (All Time) - Gurus - South Korea
#8 - Most Viewed (This Week) - Gurus - South Korea
#30 - Most Viewed (This Month) - Gurus - South Korea
#6 - Most Subscribed (All Time) - Gurus - South Korea
#8 - Most Viewed (This Week) - Gurus - South Korea
#30 - Most Viewed (This Month) - Gurus - South Korea
#27 - Most Viewed (All Time) - Gurus - South Korea

Now that we have a better video camera, my subscribers and viewers can look forward to more videos more often.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Behind the scenes: Soju Cream Sauce video

Every video is a challenge, a learning experience. This video was no exception. Here are some tips we picked up during the creation of this video that might help you when making your own.
  • Do a few audio tests before you start filming "for real." The wireless microphone channel we usually use to record was not working properly. It sounded like a cell phone call dropping every several words. If you have a similar issue while recording, first check the batteries, they might be low. If that's not the issue, skip a few channels and make test recordings. Once we changed the channel,  we were able to proceed into the actual recording.
  • Our video camera has an automatic white-balance feature, which limits a green cast under fluorescent light and yellow cast under incandescent light. The automatic adjustment worked fine when we taped the introduction, but the automation faltered when we filmed the cooking segment under a low wattage incandescent bulb. Getting the color issues taken care of up front makes post-production proceed more quickly.
I originally wasn't planning to make another pasta video. I prefer to eat a low-carbohydrate diet, but the testing, tasting and filming the videos for Korean Latkes, Korean Potato Salad and Kkaenip Pesto videos wreaked havoc on my diet. However, a Korean television documentary changed my mind, encouraging me to eat pasta again.

The Korean Broadcasting System sent me a review DVD copy of its award-winning documentary Noodle Road in early September. I had been waiting to see this documentary in its entirety since I saw the previews on KBS's YouTube channel in December 2008. I waited almost a year for the network to publish it on DVD with English subtitles.

After watching the documentary a couple of times, I got excited. I "dusted off" my penne with soju sauce recipe that I had set on the proverbial shelf and decided to fast-track it onto YouTube.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Treating myself to kimchi-making in San Francisco

I took a day off work on Oct. 27 to travel to San Francisco to take a kimchi- and sauerkraut-making class. Urban Kitchen San Francisco (UKSF) and the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA) sponsored the workshop hosted by Happy Girl Kitchen's Chef Todd Champagne at San Francisco's landmark Ferry Building.

Here was the advertising hook to get people interested in the class.
Worried about flu season? Boost your immunity and get your probiotic fix with fermented foods.

They had a limit of 30 students, and the class sold out quickly. I'm glad I got in as quickly as I did. I invited several of my Bae-friends to come along with me, Lin was available to take me up on it (since she works in the city). I didn't have to attend the class by myself. We were the last two who made it into the class.

I started my trip by driving from California North Coast wine country to the ferry terminal in Larkspur. I could have just driven all the way into San Francisco. However, it is difficult to find parking in San Francisco, and what is available is expensive. Beside, taking the ferry is convenient, because the kimchi class was held at the Ferry Building. Also, parking at the Larkspur terminal is included in the ticket price.

When I arrived at the Ferry Building, I met up with my friend Lin, and we took the Muni transit to Westfield Mall on Market Street. We had an early supper at Sorabol, a Korean fast-food restaurant in the food court. After we filled up on japchae and other yummy Korean food, we rode Muni back to the Ferry Building just in time for the class. 

Most of the students were from the San Francisco area. I had traveled the greatest distance to take the class (more than 50 miles each way).

During the two-hour class, we were given plenty of hands-on learning in chopping the various vegetables (and apples). The kimchi we were making featured the following:
  • nappa cabbage
  • carrots
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • green onions
  • finely chopped dried chile de arbol.

We added just enough chile de arbol for flavor and a kick but not enough to color the kimchi. These chilies are a bit milder than Thai chilies, but they added a decent amount of heat. These are not for people who think jalapenos or chipotles are hot stuff.

We made sauerkraut next with the following:
  • regular cabbage
  • apples
  • beets
  • carraway seeds
  • black pepper
  • juniper berries

The funny part is, the sauerkraut ended up with a fuchsia hue because of the beets. I have never seen pinkish sauerkraut before. This was a first. But the kimchi — with the chile de arbol — looked like a water kimchi. 

Anyone who has taught a class — ESL, Bible study or a cooking — will tell you every session has its own dynamic. First, I noticed that most of attendees were far more interested in learning about kimchi than sauerkraut.

Second, I noticed most of the questions revolved around what to do if the kimchi gets too sour or too old. Our teacher assured us that regardless of how sour the kimchi develops, it will not go "bad" in the sense of making one sick. However, every person has a different tolerance for sour food.

However, I wish I would have taken the opportunity to tell the class about what Koreans do when their kimchi goes "bad." That's the kind of kimchi that goes into kimchi chigae.

Chef Champagne told us to encourage natural fermentation by leaving the kimchi and sauerkraut unrefrigerated and open. The kimchi would need only a few days, but the sauerkraut required about one to two weeks, depending tolerance of sourness. He also gave us jars of salted water to make sure the sauerkraut remained submerged in salt water to encourage the proper bacterial growth.

All kimchi photos courtesy of Lin, 2009. 

Kimchi on Foodista

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chuncheon-style Kimchi Pizza 2nd Anniversary

Today is the second anniversary of posting my Chuncheon-style Kimchi Pizza video, which started my public culinary journey.

I'm still curious what the city fathers of Chuncheon think about a Google search for "Chuncheon" bringing up this video on the first page. That might explain why the video has over 43,000 hits, which is 10,000-plus more than my second most popular video.

I'm looking forward to another year of making more YouTube cooking videos, as well as posting blogs about the increasing popularity of Korean food and culture on America's culinary scene.

Pizza on Foodista

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

New England doesn't have leaves as beautiful as these

Many tourist websites tout the beautiful fall splendor of the American Northeast, with their fall leaves turning beautiful shades of red, orange and yellow. Many believe you can't find such rich and varied colors in California.

They are wrong.

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. ~Albert Camus

One can't help but admire these beautiful Old Vine Zinfindel vines growing along Riebli Road near Santa Rosa, Calif.

These beautiful "flowers" are blooming right now in Sonoma County, Calif.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sign of the times: Recession in wine country

I was driving on Riebli Road near Santa Rosa, Calif. on Nov. 1 and noticed this sign by some vines of New Vine Zinfindel(Zin). It is owned by Bastoni Vineyards, according to WineMap. The US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) reported that the 2008 average price for Sonoma County Zin, which is the basis for determining the grape sale contracts of the 2009 harvest,  was $2,485.66 per ton. That's about $1.25 per pound. This is less than half that price.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Recollections of NK's famine

Blogger Grace Meng posted a blog on Oct. 30 2009 about two different articles she read recently contrasting the abundance of food in South Korea as evidenced by the annual ritual of kimjang versus the misery and starvation in North Korea, which reached its zenith in the mid to late 90's when an estimated 2 million North Koreans died of starvation.

Barbara Demick in the New Yorker is writing less about Korean food than the lack of it, as she describes the life of Song Hee-Suk, a North Korean refugee now living in South Korea, and how she tried and failed to keep her family fed during the famines. ...The story’s written sparely, which makes it all the more heartbreaking: “Once, while visiting a relative for lunch, Mrs. Song was served a porridge made of bean stalks and corncobs. As hungry as she was, she couldn’t swallow it. The bitter, dry stalks stuck in her throat like the twigs of a bird’s nest.”

Here is my public response to Ms. Meng's article.

Thanks for posting the info about the article on the suffering of North Korea's famine in the mid-90's. I was living in Chuncheon, South Korea, at the time. Chuncheon is less than 50 miles south of the DMZ, uncomfortably close for some people. Many in Chuncheon remember that the North Koreans leveled the town more than once during the Korean war.

I went to a department store food court one day to grab a slice of pizza for lunch. I made my choice and thought the young man behind the counter would simply give me the slice I had chosen. Instead he threw the sitting pizza away and told me I had to wait for the fresh pizza to finish baking. He told me it's due to health dept. regulations, etc.

At that point, the stark disparity between North and South hit me right in the face and I started arguing with the guy at the pizza counter demanding he give me the old slice. It was an argument I didn't win that day. However, I never forgot the fact that South Koreans have the luxury of health dept regulations to protect them and forcing restaurants to throw away decent (even if not perfect food) while in the North, people were trying to eat corn cobs and tree bark.

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