Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chuncheon Wings: A Korean spin for your Super Bowl Party

This year's Super Bowl will start on February 7, 2010 at 6 P.M. Eastern Standard Time. The Indiana Colts will go up against the New Orleans Saints in sports combat. To celebrate the hottest day of the football season, consider serving up these wings. You have a week to get the ingredients, make a practice batch or two and get ready to serve up some wonderful Korean style spiciness. Make this Super Bowl a memorable one.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Review: Sorabol Korean food court restaurant

My husband, in-laws and I recently drove into San Francisco for a jaunt to the Asian Art Museum. After a docent-led tour of the Korean collection and walk-through of the remainder, we were very hungry. A Sorabol Korean restaurant was just down the road.

This Sorabol location is in a below-ground food court in the Westfield Mall  at 101 Spear St. near Union Square. There are six other locations around the San Francisco Bay.

The restaurant serves Korean barbecued meat, including bulgogi (beef), dakgui (chicken) and dwejigui (pork). They also serve fried rice, japchae (clear noodles with garlicy sesame-soy sauce) and steamed vegetables. There's also a vegetarian bibimbap (mixed ingredients over rice, often with a lot of gochujang (spicy red pepper paste) on the menu as well. At the end of the line, you can pick a complementary cup of mildly spicy traditional cabbage kimchi.

Sorabol's optional "salad plate," with (clockwise from top left) sliced kimchi radish, dry spicy kimchi radish, marinated spinach and fresh carrots. The well-known cabbage kimchi in the middle. (Tamar1973 photo)
There are a few reasons you should not mistake this for home-style Korean food:
  1. The well-known cabbage kimchi is optional. For many Koreans, it's not an optional for a meal. Rather, it's a ubiquitous part of the banchan (side dishes) traditionally eaten along with the meals. However, Sorabol doesn't charge for this kimchi, unlike the other banchan we ordered.
  2. Banchan items are sold separately as part of what's called a "salad plate." Imagine being charged for your utensils at a restaurant, and you'll understand how odd a la carte banchan is in Korean cuisine.
  3. The portions are huge, much larger than are commonly served or eaten in South Korea. This is Korean food made for non-Korean appetites.
I ordered bulgogi (called "sliced beef") and dakbulgogi ("spicy BBQ chicken"). My husband ordered kalbi and grilled mackerel.

Sorabol two-item plate with kalbi (beef short ribs) and grilled mackrel, served with fried rice and lightly steamed broccoli. (Tamar1973 photo)
He and I agreed that guardian of the grill at this location did a good job with the kalbi. It had the right balance of the sweet, salty, umami goodness people have come to expect from Korean barbecue.

The bulgogi, however, lacked the dish's renowned subtle sweetness, which usually comes from the "secret ingredient," the Korean pear, a.k.a. Asian pear or apple-pear. The marinade tasted heavy on the soy sauce and light on even another common Korean ingredient, sesame oil.

That said, both dishes did pay good respect for the cow that gave its life for the food.

The grilled mackerel retained the nice fishy flavor common for the dish when served in Korea. Yet unlike the common preparation in the Land of the Morning Calm, Sorabol cooks the fish as a fillet and not as a whole fish — internal organs, skin, fins, eyes, bones. The dish was seasoned well and thoroughly cooked but still moist.

My one disappointment was the "spicy chicken BBQ." It was a little spicy, but there was way too much sauce — it was a bit goopey. The sauce had the vinegar-heavy tang of Buffalo wing sauce, rather than the sesame, garlic flavor that's the trademark of Chuncheon dakgalbi sauce. (With Super Bowl fast approaching, check out my recipe for Chuncheon wings, the more savory, zippier alternative to Buffalo wings.)

And unlike the Chuncheon dakgalbi experience, the pieces of chicken were not chopped — or snipped to bits with shears, Korean style — small enough to eat comfortably with chokarak (chopsticks). It was enough to consider kimchi and the rest of the banchan as optional, but the thought of a knife and fork as required for Korean cuisine was baffling.

Granted, many Americans aren't comfortable using chokarak. While in the Land of the Morning Calm, I knew one adult Korean who wasn't adept with them either. But consider an analogous situation: Some people don't like to grab slices of pizza with their hands, so should the many who do eat pizza hand to mouth be forced to eat with fork and knife?

I'm not going to argue too much with this Sorabol food stall though. It had the longest line in the food court, competing against Mexican, Italian, Thai, Chinese and Japanese menus.

Next time you're in San Francisco and need a refill after hard-core shopping or museum hopping, check out Sorabol for "hot and a lot" Korean food.

On the Web:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bae Yong Joon-ssi, do you still want to be a farmer? Part 3

To save the earth (and a few dollars), you can make your own seedling pots from newspapers rather than buying them at the store. Once the seedlings are ready for planting, you can plant them with the newspaper pot right into the garden.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bokbunjajoo Korean raspberry wine food pairing

Korean raspberry wine, or bokbunjajoo in Korean, has a very "fruit-forward" tone to it that tannin-philes might dismiss as inferior to grape wines.

Let the wine snobs debate terroir (a French term connecting the physical environment where grapes are grown to quality characteristics in the resulting wine) and let the rest of us simply enjoy our food.

Bokbunja tastes wonderful with some fine chocolate. I've also made myself shots with 50 percent bokbunja and 50 percent chocolate vodka. Yum!

Snooth recommends matching bokbunjajoo with Vietnamese and Thai vegetarian meals (such as this recipe for Jasmine Rice with Green Onions, Peas and Lemon) or bi-valve seafoods such as clams and oysters (like this recipe for Vietnamese-style Clam Chowder).

I think it's a little odd that Snooth doesn't match up Korean raspberry wine with Korean food though.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tea compounds may boost attention span

Stock photo courtesy of
According to a study released by Unilever and published in the journal Appetite, researchers found that tea compounds L-theanine and caffeine (at levels obtained in a single cup of tea) may improve one's attention span.

Buddhist monks have known this for thousands of years. As Buddhist missionaries fanned out all over Asia, they didn't just bring the knowledge of Buddha's wisdom with them. They also carried their tea seeds and planted tea wherever their message found a home.

The Buddhist missionaries brought their tea with them on their journeys because they knew over 2000 years ago that drinking tea was a powerful tool to aid their long sessions of meditation.

For more information about this study, go to Tea compounds may boost attention span: Unilever

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Korean-style Spicy Tofu Soup with Scallops is No. 1 on

For those of you who might be skeptical of American interest in Korean cuisine, keep reading.

Every day, Foodbuzz posts its top nine blog and recipes posts of the day. The Top 9 list is:
The best of 3,224 posts from the Foodbuzz Community, as chosen by our editors and users.
Foodbuzz is one of the largest food blog and social networking sites in the U.S., providing over 2 million pages of real-time food content. It has more than 10,000 subscribers and 3,000 "Featured Publishers," including this blog.

Yesterday, a Korean-style recipe made in Hong Kong took the top spot. The food blog that attained the No. 1 spot today was TasteHongKong for a Korean-stye jjigae recipe she posted called Spicy Tofu Soup with Scallops – Korean Style. It remained No. 1 today.

Although the blogger resides in Hong Kong,  Foodbuzz (and the majority of Foodbuzz readers and staff) are Americans. The site editors took notice of this Korean fusion recipe and put it at the top of their list of "must-see" recipes today.

I believe this might be a small sign of things to come. I hope so. The more the better.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ethnic cuisine trend growing in the USA

Photo courtesy of
The Emerging Global Cuisines: Culinary Trend Mapping Report published by Packaged Facts and the Center for Culinary Development found ethnic cuisines are gaining popularity in the US.

The inter-generational study found that Gen-X and Gen-Y consumers are willing to reach out for Korean and Korean-stye foods in their grocery store shelves and refrigerated sections.

“Everything from Peruvian causas to frozen Korean fried chicken and bulgogi BBQ wrap kits could cater to Gen Y’s varied culinary pursuits,” it says while Gen-X families would enjoy "modified Korean bibimbap made with brown rice, vegetables and lean chicken."

For more information, go to Ethnic food tastes gain US following

Monday, January 18, 2010

Soju pasta sauce wine matching recommendations

Eric Guido of posted an article about Penne ala Vodka, matching it with several Italian wines. Since my Soju pasta sauce recipe is a very close adaptation of this same sauce, I believe his recommendations will match well with my dish as well.

Here are Mr. Guido's recommendations:

1. Feudo di San Nicola Negro Amaro ' 2004.

"Black and bitter" in Italian, not surprisingly Negroamaro has origins in the Southern Italy's Puglia region and is an important grape both on its own and as a blending grape. It contributes a rich, slightly rustic mouthfeel to a finished wine imbued with a slightly burnt, earthy quality that accentuates deep, roasted plum and mocha toned fruit.
I would not consider this the #1 choice for my Penne ala Soju recipe simply because Mr. Guido's version featured pancetta. I think the boldness of this wine might clash a little with my more delicate, vegetarian version.

2. Cataldi Madonna, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2007.

The nose is certainly Montepulciano with big blackberry fruit, ripe cherry, christmas spice and a hint of funk. The palate is soft with red fruits, sour apple and clove which is carried by a brisk acidity to the long and staying finish. It's simple but in a beautiful way.
If this wine can go head-to-head with pancetta, this wine may also be a bit overpowering for my recipe unless you decide to throw in some protein (such as ground beef) into your dish.

3. Andrea Oberto Barbera d'Alba ' 2008.

This wine showed aromas of cherry and new leather on the nose. Leading to a palate full of cranberry, sour cherry, cedar and bitters. A medium bodied and easy drinking Barbera, made in a light style with crisp acidity, which gives it a very refreshing finish. It paired well with the vodka sauce, as its streamlined acidity cut through the rich sauce and left you with a cleansed palate for the next bite.

Out of the three wine varieties recommended by Snooth for pairing with Penne ala Vodka, I believe the Andrea Oberto Barbera d'Alba ' 2008 would be the best match for my Koreanfornian adaptation.

All these wines can be purchased in the USA either in your local wine store or from

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Japanese study finds salty foods may increase cancer risk

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports, 

Increased intake of salt may boost the risk of heart disease, while increased consumption of salted foods may increase the risk of cancer, says a new study from Japan. ... Statistical analysis showed that people with the highest intakes of sodium – 6,844 milligrams, equivalent to about 17 grams of salt – had a 19 per cent higher risk of cardiovascular disease, compared to people with the lowest average intakes – 3,084 milligrams of sodium, equivalent to about 7 grams of salt.
The Chosun Ilbo quoted the World Health Organization stating that Koreans eat an average of 13.4 grams of salt per day. Korean researchers are looking into this important health issue since Korea's top three killer diseases -- cancer, stroke and heart disease--are all linked to the over-consumption of salt. The government is calling upon Koreans to reduce their consumption of staple foods like kimchi and ramen.

To me, that's like asking a Brit to stop eating fish and chips or asking a Texan to give up their brisket BBQ. However, with the advent of refrigeration, Koreans could do a lot to reduce their salt intake by reducing the amount of salt in their traditional homemade kimchi recipes since you only need enough salt for flavor rather than preservation.

For more information, read Salted foods may increase cancer risk: Japanese study

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bojagi in the USA

For centuries,  Korean women have been using ornate pieces of cloth (which Koreans call pojagi or bojagi) to carry around personal items, clothes, bento boxes, valuables and gifts.  In years past, these techniques had fallen out of favor as the 20th century brought a preference of using plastic bags to carry personal items, groceries, etc. and traditional cloth wrappings were dismissed as old-fashioned, stodgy and unsophisticated.

The Korean word bojagi has a dual meaning for both a wrapping cloth and as well as the traditional quilting technique used to make them. Bojagi were made from small salvaged scraps of cloth, which is more in tune with Korea's frugal culture.

There's a section in Bae Yong Joon's book, Discovering the Beauty of Korea featuring and preserving this nearly lost art. He also devoted a segment of his fan trip to Japan in October 2009 to promoting bojagi's unique place in Korean culture. He even walked down the catwalk showing off a bojagi purse, made by Korean designer Lee Hyo Jae.

The Chosun Ilbo wrote an article featuring the work of Patricia Lee, the CEO of Bobo Wrapping Scarf. Good Morning America, HGTV, and The Globe and Mail have all sang the praises of her "Made In The USA" bojagi. Ms. Lee, in the frugal "waste not, want not" spirit of bojagi, doesn't use "virgin" material for her creations.

Instead, we scour the secondary markets in the United States for the best fabrics that already exist in the world, most of which are left over from huge designer manufacturing runs.

You don't need to import fancy Japanese or Korean bojagi wraps to incorporate this wrapping technique into your gift-giving routine. Just find a square scarf in your closet, at least 21 inches square. For Muslim, Jewish or Christian women, old square head scarves will work well. If it was pretty enough to wrap around your head, it's certainly pretty enough to wrap a nice gift (like a bottle or two of wine or olive oil), carry a packed lunch or a bring a new purchase home from the store.

There are websites and online videos showing numerous techniques to using furoshiki (the Japanese term for bojagi) folding techniques to carry wine bottles, boxes and other items in style. Patricia Lee's book, The Wrapping Scarf Revolution, features over 24 different wrapping and bag ideas.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Keep it Simple Wednesday: Seoul Subway Map Linen Pillow Case

The Seoul Subway Map pillow, designed by Jamie Choi of Suwon, South Korea, is printed on white linen cloth on side of the pillowcase. The ground color is white ivory. The other side is a solid jade color linen.

This item is available for purchase at Vintage Jamie's page on

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hey, watch where you're pointing that thing!

It's difficult to be an amateur photographer. Unless you're Bae Yong Joon with a $2,000 Hasselblad medium-format camera, most of us "make do" with our prosumer point-and-shooters, digicams or SLR cameras.

An expensive camera can't take all the credit for a good photo, especially when many people have editing software to rescue photos from problems beyond the photographer's control, such as poor lighting in a restaurant. It still takes a talented eye to capture a good photograph.

Some of us have digital SLRs for those "serious" shoots, but there's nothing inconspicuous about getting out your SLR to take a photo of a favorite restaurant meal or a weird food display at the local grocery store.

I use both. I have a pocket-sized point-and-shoot for on-the-go shots and a digicam with fully manual focusing and exposure settings for stills taken during photo shoots. Important features to look for are color reproduction, accurate white balance (white looks white under light-bulb and fluorescent lights and on cloudy days), macro mode or the ability to change depth-of-field settings ("shallow" focus is a common element of professional photography), manual focus or the ability to lock focus on specific parts of an image, and low image "noise" (random multicolored dots in shadows of the image, often when taken in low light). (Digital Photography Review provides in-depth analysis of these features for many cameras on the market.)

Taking pictures of people is an even more arduous chore. I am the worst "model" in the world. I am so picky about what pictures of myself I like. Mid- and high-end modeling shoots often can take all day to get maybe a few photos that make the final cut for an advertising campaign. I don't have the patience to stand there for three to four hours posing until the photographer and I are happy with the results.

Also most of us don't have access to photographers who have the patience — or get paid good money to have the patience — to take 50 to 60 photos to get the perfect shot either.

That's why many of us prefer to take pictures of food: the food doesn't talk back, complain that the photo makes them look "fat" or "washed out," or sneak in behind your back and delete the offending photos. (I do all three of these to my husband, so I speak from experience.)

However, even though food doesn't verbally "talk back," food photography is not easy, either, and I certainly am not a pro at it. But practice makes perfect, they say.

To take your food photos further, check out these sites:

Friday, January 8, 2010

Kkaenip Pesto gets a little attention

Five-Star Foodie listed my Kkaenip Pesto recipe in "5 Star Makeover Roundup: 2009 Favorites."

Her intro is simple and to the point:
A Korean spin on an Italian staple where the basil is replaced with kkaenip. This is a must see video recipe that you can watch here!
My recipe is amongst some of the most eclectic, mouthwatering, tasty "food porn" on the 'Net. Many of the recipes on this list would qualify as Asian fusion.

I love reading lists like this — whether I'm listed or not — because it's an opportunity to discover other cooks and chef blogs from all over the world doing fun, tasty and sometimes crazy things with food.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Recipe: Korean black garlic linguini

Korean black garlic
(photo by Tammy)
Korean black garlic does appear to be one of the big trends coming into 2010. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and the Philadelphia Inquirer have written articles this week buzzing over Korean black garlic. (The PI article also has several recipes to go along with it — score!)

Black foods are quite exotic to me, because they're so rare in nature. I was equal parts scared and excited about buying some Korean black garlic online to play with it in my kitchen.

However, it's not cheap, averaging $28 a pound.

What does black garlic taste like? Well, it has a flavor similar to balsamic vinegar, with the combination of sweet and tangy. That might explain why it blends so well with the olive oil. Like mushrooms, they have a lot of umami.

Korean black garlic linguini
(photo by Tammy)
Here’s a simple pasta sauce recipe — maybe too simple — so the umami-heavy, wonderfully colored Korean black garlic is not obscured. This is not a spicy recipe. Feel free to add more black garlic if you like.
16 ounces linguini noodles
1/4 to 1⁄2 cup extra virgin olive oil (use the best you can afford)
3 cloves Korean black garlic, minced
toasted sesame seeds for garnish
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions.
  2. Saute garlic in a dab of olive oil just until you start to smell the hint of garlic in the kitchen. (Do not fully brown the garlic, or it may taste bitter.)
  3. Drain and rinse pasta. Toss with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.
  4. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds
  5. Serve warm.
Black Garlic on Foodista

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Keep it Simple Wednesday: Korean Candy Cuteness print

Here's some eye candy for your Wednesday blog browsing, courtesy of Etsy.
Lovely to meet you, Korean Candy Cuteness! This photo is of a small chocolate truffle with the Hangul (Korean) word habgyeok, which means "passing." Whether you love Asian culture or just want something unique and cute to hang in your home, this print is perfect for you!
If you would like to have some "Korean Candy Cuteness" for yourself, check out ZebrasAndBubblegum's post. It's US$14 for a 5-inch-by-7-inch print.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

World Tea News: Korean study shows shade does matter

Kon-Kuk University in Seoul, the Food Research Institute in Gyeonggi-do and Korea University in Seoul co-released a study that found shading green tea plants during cultivation makes a significant difference in the chemical composition of the tea. The study was released in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

The researchers compared green tea and shade-grown green tea (called tencha) and found:

Green teas have more catechins and sugars than tencha
Tencha samples have more flavonoid derivatives than green teas
Using more shading could give green tea have high umami and less astringency than regular green tea

For more information, go to:

Monday, January 4, 2010

Food Buzz Daily Special: Korean Gingered Pear Sauce

Today's daily special on Foodbuzz features the best, most interesting use of a microplaner, otherwise known as a grater.

My Korean Gingered Pear Sauce recipe is one of the featured recipes today. If you haven't seen it before, check it out and add it to your recipe box.

Listen to your inner Korean grandmother's small piece of advice: save electricity and use your grater instead of the food processor.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Tteokbokki, topokki: Whatever you call it, it's good!

In March 2009, JoongAng Daily wrote an article about the South Korean government's international research and development campaign to promote tteokbokki (떡볶이) as the next international fusion sensation. The annual Tteok Fair, which was held in May, was part of this orchestrated effort as well.

Yet with all the confusion over romanization methods for Korean, the campaign has come up with an alternate spelling for the spicy dish: topokki. It's supposedly easier for foreigners to pronounce without sounding like they're stuttering.

The Korean government wants to encourage more rice consumption and to help Korean rice farmers create an international market. One the face of it, this sounds strange in a country that imports rice because it doesn't grow enough to keep up with demand. It sounds like the Korean equivalent of the "Got Milk" campaign

Many in the Korean and Korean ex-pat blogosphere reacted with skepticism to the tteokbokki push. However, within a few days of JoongAng Daily's article about this effort, an ex-pat from Yeongcheon, South Korea, who goes by the name Bigbear Ron, posted his own Korean fusion recipe mixing garae tteok (가래떡), which are the fat cylindrical rice noodles needed for tteokbokki, with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

Because tteok (떡) is relatively bland (like pasta), these thick rice noodles can be used as a substitute in many pasta recipes. 

If you do a blog search on Google, you will find other creative mixes as well. Even the New York Times published a recipe for tteokbokki this year. Here are some other variations out in the blogosphere.
Maybe the Korean government was onto something.

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