Sunday, 26 August 2012

Korean Seafood spring onion pancake ‘ Buchingae’

Korean pancake is called ‘Buchingae’ or ‘ Gigim-yee’ in Korean. Basically, it is pan-fried savoury pancakes using all different kind of vegetable, seafood and meat in light flour batter. 

When I was a little girl, my mum and my aunties prepared 5~7 different Buchingae for ‘Jesa’ which is a ceremony of the memorial event to the ancestors of the family. To start the event, all family of my grandfather side gathered in my father's house ( he was the first son) and a lot of traditional style Korean food was prepared from the day before. Following the day,  we set a large well presented food table in front of the grandfather’s photo frame and we were dressing up traditional Korean custom, 'Hanbuk’ and we gave big bows to the grandfather's photo. It was a kind of preparing breakfast for my grandfather but after all,  we were remembering him. After the ceremony, we set around the table and shared all the food that we prepared. It ended the ceremony. 

It was hard work for my mum and aunties to prepare such amount of food but it was such nice to thing to do with all family. I never met my grandfather personally but only remember his face in the black and white photo at this ceremony, Jesa every year. This ceremony is nice to remember where we came from. It was very Korean cultural experience as a child.  
Since my father's family moved to the New Zealand and my father’s two brothers stopped the Jesa. Shame.

In that reason, ‘Buchingae’ is quite a meaningful dish to me. It reminded me of my childhood extended family gathering. Even I can remember the smell of cooking Buchingae in my parent’s house. My mum and aunties spent a whole day to cook Buchingae and they were served as cold on the next day. But I like them when it is warm and freshly cooked. So I was usually sticking around my mum, while she was cooking Buchingae, and I ate them.  

I started to cook Buchingae when I‘ve got my own flat 5 years ago to impress Korean culture to my Kiwi visitors in New Zealand.  And I developed my own skill of cooking Buchingae learning from the western approach, presentation and texture. Cut them in reasonable good strip size and prepare the flour batter and other vegetable separately. (Typical Korean Buchingae is mixing them all together). First put the batter in hot frying pan and spread evenly all prepared ingredients on top with my own artistic way. Even eggs should not be mixed in batter. Just spread them on the top with a spoon at the last. The eggs bring yellow colour to it. As a result, all ingredients appear as what they are and very colourful.  It is looks much appetizing and nice bite to eat.

A simple spring onion & red onion pancake is my favourite and great starter. Kimchi pancake is spicy intensive taste but it is great for snacks. Seafood spring onion pancake can be labour intensive because of preparing fresh seafood but it is a perfect light meal with rocket salad. Don’t compromise fresh seafood ingredients.  I clean the fresh squid and peel the fresh prawn by myself. I will guarantee you get all fresh sea taste.

Here is the seafood spring pancake recipe.

Prep time            30 mins
Cook time           30 mins
Serves                  4

Ingredients :

90g fresh squid, gutted and cleaned
3 oysters or mascle, shelled (optional)
5 prawn, peeled and deveined
5 spring onion, sliced into thin strips
½ red onion, sliced
½ red chilli or red capsicum, cut into strips
50g Enoki mushrooms
2 free range eggs
Vegetable oils for fry
Salt & cracked black pepper

For the batter,
1 cup plain flour
1/3 cup corn starch
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

For dipping sauce,
6 tbsp light soy sauce
4 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

1. To prepare squid, wash the squid carefully, rinsing off any ink that remains on the body. Holding the body of the squid firmly, pull away the head and tentacles. If the ink sac is still intact, remove it and discard. Pull out all the innards including the long transparent pen. Peel off and discard the thin purple skin on the body. But keep the two small side fins. Slice the head across just under the eyes, severing the tentacles. Discard the rest of the head. Squeeze the tentacles at the head end to push out the round beak in the centre and discard. Rinse the pouch and tentacles well. ( your fishmonger will prepare squid for you. If you want).  Slice squid to ½ cm thick strip size and slice peeled prawn to half. Place in a bowl.

2. Slice spring onion to thin strip as well as red onion, capsicum or chilli. Try to cut them similar shape. Then they will be combined well together. Set aside in a plate.

3. To make batter, place a medium mixing bowl, add flour, corn starch and season with salt and sugar. Pour cold water slowly and mix with whisker until lightly runny and smooth.

4. Crack the eggs in a bowl and season with a pinch of salt. Whisk with a fork lightly.
Make the dipping sauce by combing all the ingredients in a small bowl.

5. Place a frying pan in the medium heat and drop good lump of vegetable oil. Pour the batter in one scoop of ladle into the pan, ensure that it is even thickness across the base. 

6. Place the spring onions, red onion, chilies, red capsicum and mushrooms. Add sea food, distributing the ingredients evenly. Spread lightly whisked eggs by a spoon. Press down with spatula and cook until the underneath of the pancake is brown and set. Turn it over carefully and press down with spatula again.

7. When the top is cooked briefly, take it to the pizza board or timber board to rest for 3 minutes. Slice the pancake into 6 pieces or bite size and serve it with dipping sauce.


Monday, 11 June 2012

A social magnet, Bulgogi - Korean BBQ at home

A social magnet, Bulgogi

What is the first thing that comes to mind, when I think Korean food? Probably Korean BBQ. Korean BBQ is called ‘Gogigui’ in Korean. It means ‘grilled meat’.  Bulgogi is a delicious Korean BBQ that comes with a marinated sauce and is cooked with healthy vegetables. According to Wikipedia, it is listed at number 23 on the World's 50 most delicious foods readers' poll compiled by CNN Go in 2011. Surprisingly, it is considered as one of the most popular foods in the world, although you might not have heard of it.

Recently friends asked me about some newly opened Korean BBQ restaurants in Melbourne. And also there are articles about it in Broadsheet and Epicure in The Age. So I thought I would find out what it is all about.

I can tell you why I like it. Korean BBQ is very social food, freshly cooked and served direct to the table. Eating is a performance. There is a grill in the centre of the table with a circle or rectangular air extract suspended above it. Hanging pipes are tangled on the ceiling and secret cooking gargets are installed under the table. As Broadsheet said, one of the new Korean restaurants is like ‘the set of a Stanley Kubrick film’.

Friends or family sit around the table. Cooking, eating and drinking are a form of abundance. Eating and drinking mean a sense of relaxing, gathering and sharing from pre historic times. It is a delicious reward after a long hard working day. Other cultures would have similar things: people socialize with wonderful food and wine on the table.

However, Bulgogi is different from the other ordinary dinner parties or typical western BBQs. Korean people enjoy freshly cooked food. One thing I know is they love cooking almost everything on their table while eating.  You can find easily people cooking food in a large pot or pan in some Korean restaurants. On the other hand, most western BBQs can be served after finishing cooking. My Korean mum wouldn’t like it because it gets cold.

Here, I cook Bulgogi in my favourite way. This is my menu for people who visit my house for the first time. They finally understand what Korean food is about and it gives them a great Korean social experience.

Prep time                            60 mins
Cooking time                     30 mins +
Serves                                  4

800g of scotch fillet beef
2 spring onions, chopped
1 red onion, sliced
1 red capsicum, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
12 ~15 loose-leaf lettuce for wrap
2 tbsp Korean Samjang ( Korean bean sauce for wrap, you can find it in Korean grocery shop)
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds for garnish
1 cup of rice to cook

4 spring onions, finely sliced
½ onion, grated
1 Asian pear or 2 kiwi fruit, grated
¼ cup/4 tbsp, soy sauce
¼ cup/4 tbsp, sugar
2 tbsp, sesame oil
2 tsp ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp grated fresh ginger

1.       To make the marinade, place all ingredients of the marinade in a large bowl. Mix together thoroughly.

2.       Discard any excess fat from the scotch fillet and slice as thin as possible. If the beef is left in the freezer for 15 mins, it makes it easy to slice them thin. But it is up to you how thin you want. Add all beef to marinade and stir to coat. Leave in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight to allow the flavours to permeate and the meat to soften.

3.       To cook steamed rice, wash the rice well, add double water of rice quantity. For example, two cups of water is for one cup of rice.

4.       Cut all vegetable into long thin strips. Similar shape of vegetable makes evenly mixed all when eating.

5.       Set portable gas stove on the table. Heat a frying pan with a bit of vegetable oil and add the marinated beef, sliced onion, capsicum, carrot and spring onion. If you don’t have a portable gas stove, cook food in your stove, bring them to the table.

6.       Eat and cook until all food is finished

How to eat:
Take one lettuce leaf on your plate and place a bit of cooked beef, vegetable, steam rice and Samjang. Wrap food up tightly in leaf and take it in one or two bites.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Perfect snacks for Saturday afternoons

Home-made frozen dumplings, some cheese and dry meat are very handy for quick snacks on lazy weekends. It is delightful emergency food. We should do have them in our fridge all the time.

One Saturday afternoon at 3pm, Sean’s friend came over to our house to catch up. We got a bit hungry after a while but dinner time is quite not yet. I looked for something that I can make as a quick bite for three hungry people. I found some salami, chorizo and some half blocks of haloumi cheese in the fridge and also fully ripe pear in the fruit basket. I peeled the pear, cut the cheese, grilled salami, chorizo and haloumi cheese and place them all on the board. It didn’t take long to get food on the table and they become delightful snacks!

I found more. I cooked my home-made frozen dumplings. Nowadays I am so enthusiastic about making them. Not only 30 dumplings, last time I made 120 dumplings of three different flavours: vegetable, kimchi and pork. It took a day to make them. But when it come lazy day like this, they are super handy food. I normally fry them one side for 2 minutes and steam with chicken stock, covered by lid until all liquid is evaporated. I serve with soy sauce, lemon juice and toasted sesame seeds dipping sauce.

I wonder what other emergency food there are. Korean style spring onion pancakes and kimchi pancakes are other possibilities. All ingredients are always available in my pantry and fridge. Spring rolls and a quick pizza could be other ones as well.

This is my next task, making those quick emergency foods. And I will put them on my emergency food list.

Bye for now.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Vietnamese Inspired Chicken Soup

Queen Victoria market in Melbourne is my regular market. I bought chicken carcass for the first time. It was $2 dollars for 2 chickens carcass. I was so surprised by how cheap it is. I wanted to try to make my own chicken stock from scratch. I wouldn’t think about what should I do with chicken stocks but I wanted to make very simple and healthy chicken soup.
I was inspired by Vietnamese rice noodle soup ' Pho'. Fresh bean sprout and fragrant coriander would lift up the chicken soup. And rather than having noodles, add heaps of my favourite seasonal vegetable. I think it is much healthier and interesting texture.
So here it goes. Surprisingly there were a lot of chicken meat came out from the chicken carcass. It became a quite sustainable dinner after a long day.

Ingredients (2 Serves)
1 Chicken carcass
A hand full of Bean spout
1 small Zucchini
2 star anises
4 shitake Mushroom ( any seasonal mushroom )
2~3 Spring Onions
1 Fresh Red chilli
A small much of fresh Coriander
Salt and cracked Black pepper
2 tsp of Fish sauce (option)

For stocks
2 clove of garlic
1 brown onion
2 sticks of celery

1.       Clean chicken carcass in cold water and place it in a large stock pot. Pour 8 cups (2L) of water and add roughly chopped brown onion, garlic and celery.
2.        bring it up to boil and cook for about 1 hours in medium heat.
3.       Cool it down and put them in fridge for a couple of hours. When it become cold enough, fat become white solid. Remove the fat from the pot using a spoon and then collect chicken meat from out of the bone using a fork and fingers. Remove all bone and vegetable except meat and stock.
4.        Slice zucchini and mushroom to 4~5cm length & 0.5cm thick. Slice spring onion to similar 5cm length. Slice fresh red chilli to thin.
5.       Heat up chicken stock in a pot. when it is boiled, add sliced vegetable, chilli and star anise and cook for 15 minutes.
6.       Season with salt and black pepper. If you want, add fish sauce.
7.       Add fresh bean spout and fresh coriander in the pot and leave them for about 2~3 minutes.
8.       Serve in bowls.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Salmon asparagus cold buckwheat noodle soup

Have you tried  icy cold noodle soup? It sounds weird to you but this is one of popular dishes in Summer Korea and one of my favorite Korean dishes. It is called 'naengmyeon ' which means Cold noodle in Korean. One day, after my regular seafood shopping in Queens Victoria Market, this recipe came up with ideas of my desire of cold drink and fresh salmon. I was so thirsty and sweating after cycling to the market. Cold noodle soup was perfect for satisfying my urgency. I added blanched asparagus and fresh pea shoots which create crunch texture. The dish almost looks like cold noodle soup salad(?). I love that it is so light and refreshing taste.  Taste ? It is clean beef soup with nutty asparagus. In fact, it is totally different from original Korean Cold noodle soup(naengmyeon) except cold noodle concept but I think it is very simple and nice combination. You will be surprised.
If you have one of hot day, try this. You can satisfy your thirsty by icy cold soup and hunger by fresh crunch salmon salad.

Prep time            20 mins
Cook time           15 mins
Serves                 2

100g of fresh salmon fillet (or soft boiled eggs)
1 bunch of asparagus
1 small handful of pea shoots
2 cups of beef stock
Buckwheat noodle
Korean mustard sauce for spicy

1. Blanch asparagus and wash in cold water. set a side
2. Cook buckwheat noodle for 3 mins in boiling water.  quickly wash in cold water and drain it out.
3. slice fresh salmon fillet into cube ( alternatively, you can use soft boiled eggs and cut it half)
4. place buckwheat noodle in a bowl and place asparagus, pea shoots & fresh salmon nicely. Pour naengmyeon beef stock in the bowl. ( you can get naegmyeon beef stock or vegetable stock in Korean grocery store or you can use own your own)
5. Serve with Korean mustard or wasabi if you like spicy

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Tempura Snapper, Prawns and Vegetables

Tempura is Japanese style deep fried dish. It tends to be lighter batter than fish & chip's batter and having with light dipping sauce. I like to cook tempura at home, because it is much healthier and I can choose my favorite vegetable and seafood.
If you find out how often most restaurants change the oil, you wouldn't eat deep fried food in the restaurant. Some restaurants use oil for a week. Heavily used oil can create harmful substance to cause cancer, according to my research. I think we should know it before eat.

Tonight I made healthy home made tempura using prawn, red snapper, asparagus, carrot, Kumera (sweet potato) & Potato chips. Deep frying process can be hard because hot oil need to deal with additional care. My tempura ended up too light batter. I think too much ice cubes added up water when it became melt it down over the time and It is important to separate two batch of batter to keep consistence.

Basically you can feed a whole family with mixed veggie and seafood tempura platter. Just keep deep fried until everyone is happy. You can choose any vegetable or seafood you like.

One of things I was concerning deep frying was how to re-used oil. According to my research, the used oil can be kept in an empty wine bottle or plastic bottle and then store it tightly capped and away from light. It can be re-used for 2~3 times but it is important to Filter used cold oil with a tea strainer, kitchen paper, muslin or coarse coffee machine filter paper.

Try your own tempura. They are so yummy.

Prep time            15 mins
Cook time           20 mins
Serves                 2

1 fillet of red snapper (300g)
300g raw large prawn, peeled and deveined, tails intact
5 asparagus spears, trimmed and sliced in half on the diagonal
1/2 golded kumera ( sweet potato)
1/2 Red Capsicum ( pepper)
2 large shitake mushrooms, cut in half
2~3 potato, peeled and cut into chips
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
ready-made tempura dipping sauce, to serve

Tempura batter
1/2 cup of plain flour
1/2 cup of corn flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cold water
mixed with 4 ice cubes

1. Prepare all ingredient to clean and to cut into nice bite size.

2. Divide the flour, cornflour, baking powder and salt between two bowls and mix well. to one bowl add enough water, with half the ice cubes, to make up a thin batter. mix lightly with chopsticks for about 30 seconds. the mixture should still be very lumpy with the flour not quite mixed through. The reason of making two separate quantities of batter is keeping thickness on use.

3. Fill a wok one-third full of oil and heat to 180 degree, or until cube of bread dripped in the oil browns in 15 seconds. working in batches, dip the prawns and vegetables lightly into the batter and cook until lacy, crisp and golden. Remove from the wok with spider and drain on crumpled paper towels. When the batter becomes too thick, make up the second batch and use it straight away. Continue cooking the remaining ingredients, making sure the oil stays at 180 degree to ensure a crisp batter.

4. Serve on a large platter with some tempura dipping sauce.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Tofu Chive Dumpling

Dumplings are becoming more popular in Melbourne with Chinese dumplings restaurants  popping around the city over the past few years. Recently, I started making my own dumplings, get inspiration from friends.  What I realized is that there are many different fillings, but also many ways to prepare and cook. I investigated the differences among the Korean, Chinese and Japanese dumplings.

However I am not going to explain all the difference at this point. I will show you one of my Korean dumpling recipes. It is very clean taste compared with other pork dumplings and can be vegetarian if you exclude beef mince. Because main ingredients used are tofu and chives, excluding meat is not big deal.

Prep time            60 mins
Cook time           15 mins
Serves                 30 dumplings

Ingredients for filling:
200g minced beef (Vegetarian option : add 200g of firm tofu instead of beef )
100g firm tofu
1 egg
3~4 spring onion, finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
100g/ Garlic chives, finely Chopped
3 Garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ginger, finely grated
1 tsp Mirin or rice wine
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
30 Dumpling skin

For steam cooking:
Bamboo steam or stainless steamer
Baking paper

For dipping sauce:
4tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp lemon vinegar(Lemon juice) or rice vinegar
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp Korean chilli powder (Optional)

1. Combine the chopped spring onions, garlic, grated ginger, mirin and minced beef into a bowl. Leave to marinate for 15 minutes in the fridge.

2. Drain off any excess liquid (* see below) from the tofu then crumble it into a bowl. Add the chopped chives to the seasoned beef, with the tofu and remaining filling ingredients. Mix together thoroughly.

3. Take a dumpling skin and brush with a little water. Place a spoonful of the stuffing in the middle.
Fold into a half-moon shape, crimping the edges firmly to seal. Repeat with the other dumpling skins

4. Boiling/Seaming: Cook over a pan of boiling water in a steamer lined with baking paper for 6~8 minutes. Alternatively, cook them in boiling water for 3 minutes. Arrange on a serving dish and serve with soy dipping sauce.

5. To make the dipping sauce, mix the soy sauce, lemon vinegar, chilli powder(option) and toasted sesame seeds in a small serving bowl

*Remove excess water from Tofu : Crumble firm tofu  and wrap them on a couple of layer of Kitchen paper towel . Leave them on pressing heavy chopping board for 20 minutes.

I will show how to make own dumpling dough next time. It takes some time but the taste is much better. Also other popular Chinese dumplings, such as, Pork dumpling ( Gyoza ) & Prawn Dumpling ( Har gow ).