Tofu Buchim (Simple Korean Fried Tofu)

In a highly scientific survey conducted by this blog on foreigners checking out of Korea, I asked what people would most miss about the ROK. Obvious answers like cheap transportation, liberal drinking laws, and the ability to easily save half a paycheque were abound, but the answer people are most certain, and certainly passionate about? The food. The set of sides accompanying each meal, spilling off the edge of the table. The incredibly cheap prices, where cooking Korean at home usually saves a negligible amount. The spiciness, the sauces, the DIY meals—we’re all really gonna miss this cuisine.  And since we’ve now entered our last month in Korea (cue a wave of mixed emotions), I want to squeeze in as much gochujang, red pepper powder, kimchi, and kimbap as possible into my next month—including the meals I prepare for myself.

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After my article for Colorful Daegu on Kimchi Jeon, they’ve requested I put my kitchen to work again. This time I made a simple fried tofu dish, mostly as a host for a spicy, savory, salty sauce—one that I’ll be stocking regularly in my fridge from now on. While I’m not a huge fan of tofu as a main protein source (nobody likes OD-ing on estrogen), I do believe in moderation. Where beans and lentils are not actually plentiful here in Korea, tofu—so long as it’s organic and not jam-packed with GMOs—can make a nice occasional vegetarian protein source, a pretty side dish with a kick, or as I used it, a salad booster for my lunch.

Head on over to Colorful Daegu for my post on Tofu Buchim!

 

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Brown Rice Kimchijeon (+ Brown Rice Flour!)

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One of the first dishes I tried in Korea was jeon—a savoury stuffed pancake dish native to the peninsula. Though deemed “pancake” by Western eyes, jeon often focuses more on the filling than its glutinous vehicle, with its tasty innards often spilling out the sides. Usually served as banchan, or “side dish”, jeon comes in many forms and flavors—as pajeon, or green onion pancake, saengseonjeon, a variety stuffed with seafood, bindaetteok, made with mung beans and veggies, and many more—but according to my tastebuds (and fervor for anything kimchi), the ace of cakes here is clearly kimchijeon (김치전)—which is, of course, kimchi pancake. Tinted with that familiar crimson hue so pleasantly ubiquitous in Korean cuisine, kimchijeon takes both the flavor and texture from Korea’s favorite fermented cabbage dish, mellowing its spicy and sour tones with wheat flour and salty dipping sauce.

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Personally, I like to work wheat-free as often as possible, so it’s only natural I took this traditional recipe and gave it a more tummy-friendly take. In keeping with the Korean theme, this recipe uses homemade brown rice flour (which is faster to make at home than pick up from the shelf at the store, though its easy to find in-store or online) instead of wheat flour, and word from my wonderful taste testers’ mouths is that the gluten was not missed. I added some chopped green onion for a little extra kick and also for that familiar pajeon flavour (does anyone else live off of Chinese green onion cakes during Heritage Days?).

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Rice and kimchi are the ultimate Korean staple—and here, they are reimagined as a tasty break from routine. And this recipe ummm, really takes the cake.

To make the rice flour, you need a food processor or high speed blender (or flour mill, if you have one!). Make sure your equipment is bone-dry. Measure out your rice (do it in small-ish batches, no more than 2 cups at a time) and grind it in your food processor, switching between the “high” and “pulse” setting until you have a very fine grain. According to the very reliable internet, in most food processors or high speed blenders this should take about five minutes, in my crazy jet-engine food processor it took about one. Huzzah!

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If you don’t use it immediately, store the flour in a tightly-sealed container and keep refrigerated.

And now for the main event:

Brown Rice Kimchijeon (gluten-free, vegetarian or can be made vegan, soy-free, nut-free)

Makes about 12 3-inch wide pancakes

Adapted from Girl Cooks World

Ingredients:

2 cups rice flour

1/2 cup potato starch

2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs (or equivalent egg alternative for binding)

1 cup water

1 small head of cabbage’s worth of kimchi cut into 1 or 2 inch pieces, plus the kimchi “juice” from the container

10 green onions, cut into 1 or 2 inch pieces

1-2 tbsp Korean red pepper powder (optional, to taste)

Coconut oil for frying (or oil of choice)


Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the flour, starch, and salt. Beat in the eggs and water until combined (note: the batter should be quite thick). Mix in the chopped kimchi, kimchi “juice”, green onions, and red pepper powder, if desired.

In a frying pan over medium heat, heat up the coconut oil. Use a ladle to make round, 3-inch wide pancakes. Flip when golden brown.

Serve immediately, with the following dipping sauce:

Two parts soy sauce, tamari, or coconut aminos

Two parts water

One part vinegar (I used brown rice vinegar)

Chopped green onions and/or sesame seeds, for garnish

**Note: Most Korean restaurants will serve a giant, full frying-pan size jeon with scissors for the table to cut and share. If your frying and flipping skills are apt for that, go for it. Otherwise scissors, a pizza cutter, or a plain old kitchen knife will help you cut the jeon into easily-servable strips.

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Big Friendly Green Giant Juice

 

 

 

Seems we skipped a beat with spring here in Daegu—with temperatures already in the mid-to-high twenties, it’s practically summer and I’m not complaining. The closet’s been spring-cleaned, the body’s getting all it’s winter waste out, and I’m getting in all the greens I can. And with a little encouragement, I’m kicking coffee and sugar for the near future. Out with the gunk, in with the greens. I like it.

Usually I add half an apple or some orange segments to my juice so I’m not choking down full-frontal army-assault-green swill first thing in the morning, but I’m not having fruit for a little while. Problem solving mode: Engage. Carrots and beets are some sweeter vegetables, both ideal for juicing, but unfortunately the latter is a bit tough to track down in Korea—so no Beety Bliss juice for me here. A carrot, on the other hand, does the job quite nicely! Enough natural sugar to make the juice palatable without making it feel like you’re drinking Kool-Aid for breakfast.

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I love parsley in my green juices for its cleansing, purifying effect. It’s more than just a garnish, it’s actually an antioxidant and great source of vitamins—plus it kinda just smells like spring. Lemon is another excellent cleanser and detoxifier, helping to stimulate the digestive system and kick the bowels into gear. I’ve added ginger here for helping with digestion and its anti-inflammatory effects, but if you’re down with some garlic in your juices, go for it! It’s anti-fungal and great for your immune system. For more of my juicing tips, including thoughts on organics vs. conventional produce, when to juice, what order to put your veggies through the chute, and how to get your mix right, check out my post here.

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If you’re wanting to avoid sugars, this juice is blood-balancing, detoxifying, and sure to keep sugar cravings calm. It’s not bitter, not overly sweet, but pleasant, fresh, clean. If you really need something a little more saccharin, you can always add one or two drops of stevia, but be careful! Add them one at a time—even a few can make your juice taste artificial.

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Big Friendly Green Giant Juice (sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free)

Try to buy everything organic, especially for juices: A glass of pesticides isn’t too appealing, is it?

1 or 2 sprigs of parsley

handful dark leafy greens (spinach, a stalk of kale, or swiss chard are great—I think I used bok choy here?)

1/2 lemon, peeled

thumbnail-sized knob of ginger

1 cucumber

3-4 stalks of celery

1 medium-sized carrot (I used 1/2 a large)

Directions:

Juice all ingredients in the order listed. If you have a centrifugal juicer, drink within fifteen minutes so that your greens don’t oxidize and lose nutrient value. If you have a masticating juicer, you’re okay for a day or two. Drink your juice slowly, and try to “chew” if you can—it may sound and even look funny, but it helps get your digestive juices going, signalling your body that it’s got some incredibly nutrients coming its way and it might as well prepare itself for full absorption!

You can use your leftover juice pulp to make an omelette, separate out the carrot pulp to make raw cupcakes (!), or make veggie pulp crackers. Feel like a superhero, and enjoy the rest of you day. ❤