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Posted by on Jan 27, 2014 in Commentary, Korean Food | 0 comments

Kidney beans in Korean food?

Kidney beans in Korean food?

Nation’s Restaurant News Jan. 24 e-newsletter included a recipe for Korean Red Bean Lettuce Cups. I had visions of Adzuki beans dancing in my head, so I clicked on the link. Rather than the little sweet red beans common to Korean desserts, I found the “red beans” in question were dark red kidney beans — fitting for a Bush’s Baked Beans-sponsored recipe.

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Do you know beans about how Koreans use beans? (Bush’s Baked Beans photo)

The recipe calls for one No. 10-sized can (12 cups or 2.93 liters) of dark kidney beans, so the target audience of this recipe is not the home cook who needs something fun and Korean to make for dinner tonight. This is a restaurant-scaled recipe.

The marinade part of the recipe hits all of Korean flavors pretty well: garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, 고추장 gochujang (Korean red pepper paste), scallions, ginger and honey.

The kiwi component might seem at first glance a bit off for 한식 hanshik (Korean food). Yet kiwi is a common substitute in Korean American and Korean Australian cuisine for Korean (Asian) pears, since kiwis are less expensive yet are sweet and have excellent meat-tenderizing power.

Lettuce cup recipes usually feature ground beef or ground pork tucked in the lettuce wrap. But many restaurants do want to provide healthful, tasty vegetarian alternatives.

However, Koreans view beans more as dessert than a spicy and savory main course. Popular Mexican fast-food chains have had challenges getting a foothold in the country until recently for that reason.

Here’s my advice to restaurants wanting a Korean-style vegetarian item on their menu that Koreans would respect: Use the hanshik-hinting marinade described in this recipe, but consider a protein option with closer ties to the cuisine, such as diced firm tofu or mushrooms, rather than kidney beans.

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