Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Black and White Wednesday: Korean radishes

Black and White Wednesday has resurrected my love of food photography and allowed me to show you some of the photos I've taken that didn't make the final cut in other posts but deserve their own little spotlight.

These Korean radishes were found laying around in front of the Korean Central Market in Anchorage, Alaska, just waiting to be taken home by a Korean home cook and make into kimchi.

The leaves as well as the roots are used in Korean kimchi recipes. These small radishes with the overflowing green foilage are probably destined for a recipe called "ponytail kimchi" or "bachelor kimchi." Both nicknames are euphemisms for a dish called Chonggak kimchi (총각 김치). The kimchi's unusual name hearkens back to the old days, when Korea was rule by monarchs,  and men wore long hair up in a ponytail high on top of their heads.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Black and White Wednesday: Cafe Gratitude Vegan Bibimbap

Cafe Gratitude's dish called "I AM WHOLE." A more accurate name would be Vegan bibimbap. (Tammy Quackenbush photo)
I have a love-hate relationship with food photography. Blogs are such a visual medium that readers expect at least one photo in each post. I don't mind taking pictures, really. What annoys me is that the current style (or fad) of food photography renders most food very sterile, cold and antiseptic, deprived of any vibrancy.

So when I found Black and White Wednesday, a culinary photo event, I found that the curator of this event put a name to a malaise I've felt about food photography for some time.

As Susan said:
"Black and white food photos just don't get any respect in my opinion. Everyone is so gung-ho about color, and while I cannot argue against the naturally sensuous and appetizing default qualities of color (after all, food is in color), there is something to be said about the unique tonality of monochrome photography, the sublime textures which can pop when a color-to-B/W conversion is finessed in your processing software. I'll bet you have more than one photo that you growl about because its cast is too yellow, green, or blue regardless of whether you shoot under natural or artificial light. Black and white can dramatically impact your images and train your eye to view highlights, shadows, and midtones in a whole new light, if you'll pardon the photog pun."
The dish in the photo was taken on Oct. 11 at Cafe Gratitude in Healdsburg, Calif. The dish is called "I am whole." The menu describes the dish this way:

I AM WHOLE. Sea vegetables and kale, steamed quinoa or local
brown rice, house-made kim chee, carrots and sprouts with tahini-garlic sauce and teriyaki almonds    12.50
I describe it as a California Vegan Bibimbap. It has many of the veggies that one would find in a bowl of bibimbap at your local Korean restaurant: steamed rice, seaweed, carrots and sprouts. The tahini-garlic sauce and teriakyi almonds are obviously inspired by California sensibilities. Once everything was all mixed up and spooned into my mouth, it was really good.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Acorn Squash Soup with Asian Pear and Ginger

Korean pears, which are commonly grown throughout Northern Asia in slightly different variations, are a delicious autumn fruit and they are in season again. Korean pears are so large that one pear can easily weigh over a pound. That's a lot of fruit in one package.
"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." —George Eliot
Acorn squash (photo courtesy of Farmanac, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Acorn squash are native to North and Central America. They're dark green with ridges and do bear a slight resemblance to acorns. I can't think of a better fall soup than this one. Warm, hearty and touched with Korean pear sweetness.

I made the following soup in my crock pot, and it turned out wonderfully. The initial step of baking the squash and then having to wait for them to cool down before scooping out the flesh is a little tedious but the rest of the recipe moves quickly enough so that once it goes into the crock pot, you have time to do other things. This soup is perfect complement for a fall potluck or Thanksgiving meal.

Acorn Squash Soup with Asian Pear and Ginger

Linked to Your Recipe My Kitchen.

3 acorn squash, halved, seeds removed
2 carrots, chopped
1 Korean pear, peeled, cored and chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
4 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut the acorn squash in half, scoop out as much of the seeds and stringy insides as possible.
  3. Lay the cut halves on a baking sheet with the cut side down and bake for approximately 45 minutes.
  4. Scoop out any stringy flesh you didn't scoop out before baking and throw it out. Then continue cleaning out the rest of the the flesh out of the skins and set aside.
  5. Put all the ingredients into a crock pot and set on high for four to five hours.
  6. Use your immersion blender to completely puree the soup.
  7. Turn the crock pot down to low and continue to cook for another hour
  8. Ladle into bowls and serve.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Review: New Bibigo retail sauces in Korean tacos

ZenKimchi Food Journal was approached some time ago by publicists for CJ Foods, the owners of the Bibigo restaurant franchise. CJ Foods is also a subsidiary of CJ Corp., one of South Korea's largest food manufacturers. They offered free samples of their new line of grocery products. Note: I have not received any compensation for this review by CJ Foods (or anyone else) other than the samples to try out for this review.

Bibigo began its corporate life last year as a small chain of Korean restaurants fervently trying to reinvent 비빔밥 bibimbap as fast-casual cuisine. The restaurant chain has now spread to Singapore, Beijing and Los Angeles.

Less than a year later, the Bibigo name is branching out into the retail market with sauces, marinades and pre-made Korean foods for grocery stores across the US. A CJ Foods rep told me consumers will start seeing Bibigo on US store shelves in January 2012. 

I admit I'm biased toward made-from-scratch Korean foods. My writing and cooking talents — meager as they are — are supposed to inspire people to start their own small gardens and cook their own food from scratch.

Yet even the most eager home cook can't be on his or her game 24/7. And not all have the time to make every marinade, 반찬 banchan (side dish) and dipping sauce from scratch every day. That's why I'm trying out these sauces and marinades for myself.

When I cracked open the bottle of Bibigo's  Original 불고기 bulgogi sauce ($4.99 suggested retail price), the Northern California wine connoisseur wannabe in me noticed a combination of soy, sesame, ginger and black pepper on the nose. I found all those ingredients on the label, with black pepper towards the bottom. That was encouraging.

The label on the side of the glass jar has marking suggesting how much marinade to use based on how the amount of meat. One bottle will marinade 5 pounds of meat. 

Later, I opened up the Bibigo 쌈장 ssamjang ($4.99 suggested retail price) container. The paste was bright red like 고추장 gochujang yet had a texture more closely resembling 된장 doenjang, which is a Korean fermented soybean paste somewhat similar to miso.

The miso-like texture would certainly be a plus for American audiences who may find the presence of whole soybean chunks in a ssamjang a little unsettling. The Bibigo ssamjang was spicy and salty — but not too salty.

When I combined them in the recipe below, the sweet bulgogi marinade matched well with the spicy, salty ssamjang. Fresh from my garden, the perilla leaves' mint-like flavor played interference nicely.

This recipe is pretty minimal on purpose. I really wanted to taste the sauces. Beside shallots, consider adding diced bell peppers, black beans or any other vegetable.

I used ground beef because it's the most common taco filling in the U.S. Yet this marinade should also work well with other cuts of beef as well as lamb, goat or buffalo.

Korean tacos

Serves four

4 small flour tortillas
1 pound lean ground beef
2 shallots, diced
2 tablespoons sesame oil
500 milliliters Bibigo bulgogi sauce
4 teaspoons Bibigo ssamjang
12-20 깻잎 kkaenip (perilla) leaves
  1. Saute diced shallots in sesame oil on medium-high heat.
  2. As the shallots become translucent, add the ground beef and continue to saute until the redness in the ground beef is nearly gone.
  3. At that point, pour in the bulgogi marinade and continue on medium-high heat for about five minutes, until most of the liquid is reduced.
  4. Using about a teaspoon of ssamjang, rub a thin layer all across each tortilla.
  5. Cover each tortilla with kkaenip and top with the bulgogi ground beef.
  6. Roll the tortilla or fold it for serving.

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