Posts Tagged ‘korean cuisine’

 

jangan-dakgalbi

Dakgalbi is often a foreigner favourite in Korea. It’s not so much a type of food but rather a ‘food event’. There are often several stages as shown in the photos, and many modern places also throw in whatever extras are on the menu. One of the best extras is probably cheese because you watch it melt before your eyes and you might get to witness a kind of mini parting of the Red Sea – but with cheese instead of saltwater, also  chicken instead of a population of Jews fleeing the persecution of that Pharaoh in Ancient Egypt. As analogies go, that last one might be one of the worst, but I don’t care because I’m biblical.

 So, what the hell is it?  I would classify it as spicy stirred-fried chicken  where the ingredients are stirred fried in a large pan placed in the center of the table. Like many Korean foods it’s great for sharing. The best varieties (included below) contain tender chicken pieces in a spicy marinade, but the real seller for me is the texture. After frying the chicken they add  cabbage and some other vegetables:sesame leaves, leeks, sweet potatoes. They also add  rice cakes in case you need some carbs. After the various stages you are left with an excellent balance of sweet, spicy chicken with crunchy vegetables.

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The base of the sauce is gochujang – which is a Korean chili paste. Most places will serve about three levels of spice. If it’s too spicy for the foreigner you can balance it out a bit with your ‘ssam’ wrap which consists of lettuce and a few other veggies. If you want it spicy you can add some more chili or garlic in your lettuce wrap.

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Every place I have been for this meal has a server or chef who makes it round the tables to stir fry it for about 10 minutes. I think the key point is probably the crunchiness of the cabbage. If this gets soggy you’ve lost it! My favourite part of the ending when they may offer you some stir fried rice to soak up the remaining sauce. This sometimes comes with some lava or kim and gets smashed around the pan. It’s pretty heavy on the carbs so go to Dakgalbi place when you’re really hungry.

jangin

The pictures comprise three of my Dakgalbi highlights. One of theme is in my neighbourghood – Jangan Dakgalbi. One is in Gangnam –  Jangin Dakgalbi. Finally, the outdoor pictures are from the home of Dakgalbi – Chuncheon.

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https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jangin-Dakgalbi/1694323930819687 – I visited Jangin in Gangnam

http://blog.naver.com/lovelyssing/220931626086 – Pictures and map for Jangan Dakgalbi (Korean Blog)

http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_2_1.jsp?cid=1373574  – Chuncheon Dakgalbi festival. If you are at a different time of year it’s still worth a visit.

 

When people ask me, and they often do, ‘what’s your favourite food?’ I usually make up a quick answer to avoid unnecessary complications. Korean cuisine is infinitely complex and I have several ‘favourite’ foods. What I can say with some degree of certainty is that for my favourite meal or meals there should be several key elements. These elements are instantly Korean and instantly delicious. I sometimes get nervous when there is a table missing these key dishes or side dishes. They are of course: rice, kimchi, ssamjang, and some kind of meat. Other elements make these taste better, but these are the foundations of flavour. My favourite way to eat these foods is in a ssam.

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A ssam is basically a wrap. The wraps can differ, but the most common is just some green lettuce. You can wrap meat and vegetables in seaweed (or lava) and different kinds of leaves. Once you start free-styling you can even use two different kinds of leaves e.g a sesame leaf and a plain lettuce leaf. The most common places to eat ssam are at any typical Korean BBQ place or at a Bossam/Possam(보쌈) restaurant (the clue is in the name). The reason I love ssam so much is that you make them yourself to match your own palette. You can also develop them over time to include other key elements, garlic and beansprouts often find their way into my own ssams. I think ultimately, there is no taste better than one’s own taste. The ssam, like the humble sandwich in Western Cuisine, is completely subjective. My own ssams rely on a good dollop of ssamjang – the suffix jang can be added to foods to imply a kind of condiment or paste. I also like cooked kimchi if possible, especially for samgyeopsal (삼겹살) which is bbq pork belly. Obviously the most important thing is the actual meat. This combination of textures and flavours makes for a perfect meal. You don’t need to eat lots of meat and rice for ssam, in fact they can be very healthy relying on fresh seasonal vegetables and leafy greens.

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Here is a DIY guide to making a decent ssam. I think the order in which the food goes on doesn’t matter too much, but I usually put the meat on towards the end. The most important thing, and a common error, is the size of the ssam. A good ssam should be bite sized; it should fit whole into your mouth without spillage. It’s also great to drink soju with ssam, usually a shot goes together with each saam. If you don’t like soju I recommend trying it with ssam before you give up on it. There is something amazing about the ritual of nailing a shot after each ssam, or before each ssam.

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