All it takes is one smell, one taste, one ingredient to transport you somewhere miles away. Sometimes it’s a place you’ve already explored. Other times it’s a destination that’s still patiently waiting on your bucket list.
With the help of a few recipes inspired by traditional methods, we’re exploring Korea’s unique cuisine. Join us as we eat our way through some of Korea’s favorite dishes.
You might have already heard about this fermented vegetable dish. It has become somewhat of an international superstar in the past couple of years thanks to its unique sour-salty-sometimes-spicy taste and nutritional assets.
In ancient times, long before it became popular around the globe, kimchi was an important source of vitamins during the winter months when fresh produce wasn’t readily available. Recipes varied depending on the region, but ginger, garlic, red chili flakes and seafood sauces were widely used as seasonings. The vegetables would ferment for anywhere from 2 days to a week.
Hundreds of variations have been created since then, each one unique and often crafted according to local appetites. One such variation is our very own fresh kimchi slaw, which we used as a topper for these Korean Beef Sliders.
We tossed a handful of traditional vegetables - cabbage, radishes, green onions, carrots and cucumber - with a less traditional sweet brine made from fresh ginger, rice wine vinegar and olive oil. Then we placed it on our seasoned roast beef – laden sesame seed sliders. To keep the flavors delicate, we skipped the conventional fermentation step. For bolder flavors, allow the slaw to ferment for 48 hours.
Sometimes referred to as Korean pancakes, pajeon is a dish that’s relatively unknown in the U.S. Legend has it that people, especially those living along Korea’s lush coastlines, associate pajeon with rain because the sound of raindrops hitting the ground is reminiscent of the captivating sound the batter makes as it sizzles in the pan.
And it tastes even better than it sounds. We love how the batter and scallions crisp and brown in the pan to create its uniquely savory flavor. Plus, it’s incredibly easy to make. In 15 minutes you can whip up a few of these for a savory breakfast or brunch. They even work well as an appetizer. Just slice into bite-sized pieces and you’ve got a finger food that’ll surprise and delight guests.
Traditionally pajeon is made from a simple batter poured over scallions, seafood and seasonal veggies. It’s typically served with a dipping sauce. Using a few of these classic ingredients as well as a new one, we created this Cheese & Scallion Pajeon. Our mozzarella adds a delicate touch and creamy texture while scallions give it that signature onion-y flavor. We added ginger to our dipping sauce for a hint of sweetness.
Enjoyed throughout Korea’s largest cities like bustling Seol and Busan as well as its rural plains and mountain regions, japchae is a regular presence at special gatherings (like birthday parties and weddings). It’s a type of stir fry made by sautéing veggies and beef in sesame oil, and tossing with the dish’s signature - and undeniably beautiful - translucent noodles called dangmyeon.
Our Korean Glass Noodle Stir Fry doesn’t stray far from traditional recipes and keeps it quick. It takes just 15 minutes to make from start to finish. We used the customary white onions, carrots, spinach and shiitake mushrooms, and introduced red bell peppers. We added strips of our London broil roast beef for a hint of lemon and garlic.
Then we tossed it all with boiled dangmyeon noodles, drizzled it with a sweet and savory stir fry sauce, and topped it all off with toasted sesame seeds. At the grocery store you might see dangmyeon noodles called “sweet potato noodles” or “Korean glass noodles.” Rice or udon noodles make nice substitutes in a pinch.
Both pajeon and japchae are typically eaten with Korea’s iconic stainless steel chopsticks. Make sure to place them on the right-hand side of your dish as you’re setting the table. If you decide to use a fork, your secret is safe with us!
Thirsty for more? Give this Korean-style fruit punch a try. Simply add mixed fruit to your favorite carbonated beverage like ginger ale or sparkling water. Watermelon, strawberries and kiwi are popular. If you feel like taking it up a notch, top with edible flowers. We’ll be sipping this one well into the summer.
And with that, we’ve still only scratched the surface when it comes to Korean cuisine. From bibimbap to bulgogi, there’s still much to discover. So after you’ve dipped your chopsticks (or fork) into these recipes, keep exploring. You might just stumble upon a new favorite!