Friday, March 30, 2012

Recipe: Korean carrot salad (Koreyscha Sabzili Salat)

Korean carrot salad, pronounced Koreyscha Sabzili Salat in the Uzbek language, is ubiquitous throughout the former Soviet Union. The dish was invented by Korean immigrants to Russia's Far East and the recipe would have stayed there if Stalin hadn't forcibly deported the Soviet Koreans further west to the Central Asian republics of Uzbekistan and Kazakstan. Stalin's fear that Japanese spies were infiltrating the USSR via these Korean immigrants spread Korean cuisine into the Soviet Union's interior.

This is a recipe that begs to be made a day in advance so the ingredients have a chance to get to know each other better.

Korean Carrots (Koreyscha Sabzili Salat)


1 lb carrots, peeled, finely julienne
1 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 teaspoons ground red pepper
5 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
3 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar (or white vinegar)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used grapeseed oil, but sunflower seed oil would work)


  1. Julienne carrots with a vegetable shredder and put into a large bowl.
  2. Mix carrots and salt together. Set aside for 20-30 minutes. Press mixture firmly and drain the liquid.
  3. Add the other ingredients (except the oil) and mix them well.
  4. Put 1/2 cup oil in a saucepan and heat it up on medium low heat for a few minutes. Pour the warmed oil onto the carrots and mix completely.
  5. Cover the bowl and put it in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours or overnight to marinade.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Secret Recipe Club: Chicken and Mushroom Millet Skillet

Rice hogs the spotlight as Asia's premier starchy grain. Most people have no idea millet is an ancient ingredient in Korean cuisine. For thousands of years, Koreans who lived in areas of the peninsula unsuited for rice cultivation were able to sustain themselves and their families with millet.

It wasn't that long ago when plain white rice was a rich man's food. The poor could only afford to eat it on special occasions such as Chuseok, New Year's or ancestral days. During the rest of the year, millet fortified the poor, giving them the quick carbs to perform a hard day's work out in the fields.

In America, millet is bird food, literally. Although many people assume millet is a grain, it's actually a seed and as such is gluten-free and full of vitamins and minerals that are unlocked after a good soak.

This month's Secret Recipe Club recipe comes from the blog Loving Life. After an hour or so of indecision on the perfect recipe to replicate for my blog, I finally settled on this recipe for several reasons (in no particular order):
  • Millet aka 메조 mejo. This recipe an opportunity to introduce one of Korea's "alternative grains." I call millet that only because many people just learning about Korean cuisine have no idea of how fundamental millet was to its foundations. Millet also is an easy swap in recipes that call for a grain product such as couscous or rice.

    In Korea, there are two types of millet,메조 mejo, or basic millet, and 차조 chajo, or "glutinous millet." I'm using 메조 in this recipe.
    The kind of millet you want for this recipe is on the left. Forgive the blur ... darn iPhone camera. (Tammy Quackenbush photo)
  • Cast iron. I love my cast iron skillet and any excuse to whip it out for a recipe, especially in cooking for a crowd.
  • Thyme. I planted some thyme last year, and it's still growing very well in my front yard. I harvested a good portion of it last fall, dried it out and stored it indoors. But there's still fresh stuff holding up to our cold Northern California winter.

Chicken and Mushroom Millet (닭 버섯 과 메조)

Inspired by the recipe from Kirsten of Loving Life via Whole Foods Market
(Serves four as a main course; I divided the dish in half to serve two)


1 tablespoon canola or EVOO, divided
4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, diced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
1/4 pound cremini or button mushrooms, sliced (I replaced it with rehydrated shiitake aka pyogo mushrooms.)
1/2 cup uncooked millet
11/2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 cup mushroom broth (from rehydrated shiitake mushrooms)
11/2 cup shredded Swiss chard (without stems), kale or spinach (I used spinach.)


  1. Soak the millet in warm water for eight-24 hours before cooking. This will remove  phytic acid from the millet and improve digestion.
  2. Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then arrange half the diced thighs in the skillet.
  4. Cook the chicken, flipping the pieces over until deep golden brown all over, about 10 minutes total.
  5. Transfer chicken to a large plate; repeat step 4 with the remaining chicken.
  6. Once all of the thighs are browned and transferred to a plate, add onions, mushrooms and millet to the same skillet and cook, stirring often, for five minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute more.
  7. Stir in broth, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Nestle chicken into skillet, submerging it in the millet and vegetables; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until chicken is almost cooked through, or about 30 minutes.
  8. Uncover skillet and gently stir in the leafy vegetable, spinach in my case. Cover skillet and cook until the millet and spinach are tender and chicken is cooked through, about five minutes more.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Vinegar Gochujang Sauce (식초 고추장) for National Corndog Day

America has too many made-up food holidays and nothing proves my point like National Corndog Day, which is celebrated yearly on March 19.

Corndogs have to be dipped in something. What better dip than a spicy, gochujang based sauce? (Tammy Quackenbush photo)
In Korea, they simply call them "hotdogs" and can be found in many of the street stalls that also sell street food delights like odeng (fish cake), tteokbokki and various twigum (tempura). If you don't believe me, watch the video below as QiRanger takes you along on one of his quick dinner breaks.

Hosting your own National Corndog Day party at home can be a fun, kid-friendly party.  Offer your guests a range of dipping sauces such as garlic habanero mustard, ranch dressing, ketchup and marinara sauce. I'll introduce you to a Korean option.

Vinegar Gochujang Sauce (식초 고추장)

2 tablespoons gochujang
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I used gukganjang)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (apple cider vinegar is also a good choice)
2 tablespoons yuja/yuzu or lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of black pepper
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Pour the gochujang, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, yuja, sugar and pepper in a small bowl. Mix completely until the gochujang and sugar are dissolved. Spread sesame seeds on top and mix gently. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Five seemingly ancient yet modern Korean dishes

Some popular Korean dishes today have the aura of age due to their rustic, simple appearance but are actually quite new and innovative, compared with Korea's long history.

Humans have occupied the peninsula for more than 5,000 years, according to archaeological and historical research. But Korea's earliest culinary roots have been established more by archaeology than history.

Written records of Korea's culinary history are few and far between. Two of Korea's earliest history books are the 삼국 사기 Samguk Sagi (History of the Three Kingdoms), completed in A.D. 1145 and the 삼국 유사 Samguk Yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms), complied circa A.D. 1280.

Neither book is solely on Korean food, but they do offer small glimpses of culinary culture in their narratives on Korean history and myth from the 고조선 Gojoseon period (about 2333–108 B.C.) to the middle of the 고려국 Goryeo dynasty (A.D. 918–1392).

Over such a long period of time, culinary trends are bound to come and go, influenced by periods of tumult and war as well as periods of peaceful co-existence and free trade with neighbors. Korea's earliest cookbook found to date is 산가 요록 Sanga Yorok, written in A.D. 1459 during the 조선국 Joseon dynasty (A.D. 1382–1910). From that time forward, Koreans seemed to have been more dedicated to recording and preserving their culinary heritage.

It's a good thing that modern food experts have traced the origins of the following five popular dishes, because they're younger than they seem.

Kimchi jjigae with tuna, one of my happiest culinary memories from Chuncheon.  (TQ photo)

김치찌개 Kimchi jjigae

Kimchi stew, usually made with either pork or tuna mixed with 두부 dubu (tofu) appears so rustic and filling that it should be a very old recipe, but it likely was crafted four decades ago. Kim Su-jin, Director of Association for Research on Taste of Korea, told KBS World:
Since records about the dish are not found in ancient documents, it’s speculated that the stew originated from regular households in the 1970s, when housewives started making kimchi at home thanks to cheaper napa cabbage prices.


 낙지볶음 Nakji-bokkeum

The hot and spicy stir-fried small octopus dish is probably the spiciest dish in Korea's culinary repertoire. It has been traced back to the Mugyo-dong district of Seoul, when a restaurant served the new dish to customers in 1961.

닭볶음탕 Dakbokkeumtang aka dakdoritang

As tastes shifted from pheasant to chicken in the early 20th century, Koreans invented dishes putting chicken front and center. Because Korea was under Japanese occupation at the time, the term dakdoritang (dori is the Japanese word for chicken) became the standard name of the spicy braised chicken dish.

Gungjung tteokbokki, Korean royal cuisine at its finest (TQ photo)

떡볶이 Tteokbokki

This steamy, spicy hot dish is a stripped down, spiced up verson of 궁중떡볶이 gungjung tteokbokki was born in the aftermath of the Korean war and is now one of Korea's most popular street foods.

Chuncheon dakkalbi, one of modern Korea's most popular pub grub dishes (TQ photo)

춘천 닭갈비 Chuncheon dakgalbi

This local adaptation of a spicy marinaded chicken dish was developed in the 1970s as an inexpensive way to serve one of Chuncheon's signature food products — chicken — to the lakeside mountain city's large population of college students and military personnel. Chuncheon has three colleges — Kangwon National University, Hallym University and Chuncheon National University of Education — and had U.S. Army Camp Page until it closed in 2005.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Korea's new fruit diet craze: The Master Cleanse aka Lemon Detox

The Chosun Ilbo reports that the lemon detox diet, aka the Master Cleanse, has become such a craze in Korea, the government believes it is the main reason that lemon imports into Korea heave increased by 31 percent between 2010 and 2011.

Spicy lemonade does not a diet make. (Photo by Steve Woods via

The Master Cleanse is basically a modified juice fast. A lot of people don't know that the regimen was invented in the 1940s by Stanley Burroughs. The diet didn't become a fad in the United States until the 1970s, and it has popped up off and on in Hollywood circles ever since.

Here is the basic recipe from the Master Cleanse website:
Mix each of the following lemonade diet ingredients into a large glass:
2 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Rich Maple Syrup
1/10 teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper Powder – or to taste (as much as you can stand)
8 ounces (250 milliliters of Pure Water)
Notice that the only source of calories is maple syrup, which is a simple carbohydrate. I'm not exaggerating this is a starvation diet and not recommended at all.

Ed Zimney, M.D., posted a very harsh commentary on the Master Cleanse about five years ago:
So let’s take a look at the components of this diet. Nearly all of it consists of water, which is essential for life, but is of no nutritional value.

Next comes the maple syrup. This is the sole source of calories in the diet and prevents you from starving at a faster rate than if it were not included. The calories come from the sugar in the maple syrup. Why maple syrup? No reason except to make it sound esoteric and magical. As far as your body is concerned, sugar is sugar.

Next, we add some lemon juice. Essentially, this drink is a form of lemonade using maple syrup instead of plain sugar. What does a lemon contain that makes it so important? Nothing! Lemon juice is a weak acid as is vinegar. The amount of acid already in your stomach is orders of magnitude higher than the little bit of added acid from the lemon juice, so it is essentially like spitting in the ocean. Does lemon have any other magical properties that might help “detoxify” the body or otherwise aid in weight loss? Absolutely not!

Last is the cayenne pepper. The only possible effect of this substance is to irritate the lining of the GI tract and to potentially cause diarrhea.
There's more to the Master Cleanse than drinking a special lemonade recipe for a week. It includes the use of herbal laxatives and a salt water flush to clean out the bowels.

If Koreans are using this as a weight-loss tool, they are setting up their bodies for disaster. As Dr. Zimney noted, it is a starvation diet. Although you will lose weight, you will also gain it all back once you return to a solid-food diet, which one must inevitably do. No one can live in good health for a long period of time on a diet in which maple syrup is your only source of calories.

I can't imagine taking dietary advice from a man such as the late Stanley Burroughs. In the 1980's, he was convicted in California of felony practicing medicine without a license, and unlawful sale of cancer treatments because he treated a terminally ill cancer patient with his Master Cleans diet instead of encouraging him to seek legitimate medical treatment. This is not the resume of a person I would consult with dietary, or any medically related questions.

It was only a few years ago that the Japanese banana diet was one of Korea's hottest diet trends, which in my estimation is a much more healthful than the Master Cleanse. You don't have to starve yourself, take lots of laxatives or cause a nationwide spike in lemon imports (and prices) in the process. And even more importantly, you don't have to pack a spare change of underwear and slacks or wear adult diapers to work in case of a random attack of diarrhea.

The above opinionated views and information educates and informs the consumer. Information provided here should not be used during any medical emergency or for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. It should not replace professional advice from and consultation with a licensed physician. 

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