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!

 

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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