Seoul Food

There’s nothing that lights my fire quite like smoky, charred fresh corn still hot off the grill. Juicy kernels bursting with sweetness, still golden and tender-crisp, it’s a bite of pure summer brilliance. You can practically taste the sunshine infused right down to the cob. Not a week passes without some form of corn gracing my dinner table during prime harvest season for all the ways it can be dressed up or down. My very favorite serving suggestion, without a doubt, is elote. Add in a creamy, cheesy coating that’s at once cool and refreshing yet lusciously rich, and I could very well make a meal of that alone.

That doesn’t mean I’ll always stick with conventional methods, of course. A bit of spice is always nice, but rather than the predictable bite of cayenne or chipotle, it’s even more compelling when we cross cultural boundaries for a Korean flavor infusion. Kimchi is the greatest form of spicy pickle I can think of, so when it’s blended right into a vegan mayonnaise dipping sauce, the results are more spectacular than fireworks on the 4th of July. Lucky Foods has done just that with their game-changing eggless offering here, introducing the added smoldering heat of gochugaru, the essential chili pepper that gives kimchi its distinctive punch.

If you happen to like it really hot, they’ve got you covered with potent gochujang paste, too. Beyond pure fire power, the paste offers a warm sensation with lingering heat while introducing a subtle sweetness and umami flavor from fermented soybeans. Use in moderation to really elevate your elote game.

I’m entering my K-Elote (that’s Korean Elote, of course) into the Lucky Foods Blogger Recipe Challenge! You can find more spicy ideas by visiting out Lucky Foods on Facebook and Instagram. Look their products at Whole Foods, Target, HEB, and many more stores. Wish me luck in the contest!

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Cold Noodles For Hot Days

Call it ramen 2.0, or perhaps a limited summer edition of everyone’s favorite noodle. Chilled ramen dishes are nearly as abundant and diverse as hot renditions, but are overwhelmingly underrated, uncelebrated and overlooked, in favor of more familiar preparations. Not all soups must emerge from the kitchen with a plume of steam, nor gently charred and still radiating heat. When it already feels like you’re standing in an oven just by opening up the front door, nothing hits the spot better than a refreshing bowl of ramen on ice, no matter the flavor.

They start out just as before, made of the very same stuff as their hot brethren and cooked in the same fashion. The difference is that after reaching the perfect state of toothsome tenderness, the spry young strands are immediately plunged into a shock of ice-cold water, simultaneously arresting the cooking process and dropping the temperature down quite a few degrees. Expertly guided once again by acclaimed chef and noodle master Philip Gelb, the results were practically instant- But clearly far superior.

Confronted with a bowlful of fresh, naked noodles, the options of embellishment are simply overwhelming. Every Asian culture has their own unique summertime staples that color the humble alkaline noodles with a rainbow of different flavors. Starting simple, the Japanese tsukemen truly allows the delicate nature of this handmade pasta to shine. Plunging mouthfuls into a bowl of deeply savory chilled broth, topped with a light smattering of scallions and a touch of wasabi for a bright finish, each mouthful is an essential experience of cold noodle elegance.

Kongguksu, hailing from Korea, might be the least known ramen preparation in the western world. It is a great shame that its popularity is not more widespread across the states, as it has no equal when it comes to both refreshment and satisfaction. Floating in a sea of homemade soymilk, enriched with sesame and almonds, ramen noodles are treated to a bath of rich, creamy soup. Ice cubes are tossed right into the bowl to keep things cool, through and through, ensuring that the first taste will be just as brilliant as the last. The secret is all in the soy beans, of course. Taking the extra step of removing the hulls creates the most silky texture imaginable. Though tempting, don’t even dream of taking a shortcut and buying prepared soymilk; once you’ve gone through the trouble of making your own ramen, soaking a few beans should be no big deal.

Finally, bringing the heat through bold spices but no actual fire, Szechuan Sesame Noodles are the most intense yet crowd-pleasing way to cool your noodles. Infused with lip-tingling, mouth-numbing Szechuan peppercorns, there is nothing subtle about this dish. It’s an in-your-face, action-packed thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. That intense flavor can be adjusted according to preference, but the whole point of this dish is to make you sweat to maximize the cooling effect. It’s scientifically proven that sweating is actually one of the most effective ways to beat the heat, and this Chinese staple will definitely yield delicious results.

It would be impossible to pick one favorite from these three completely unique takes on the cold ramen noodle. Luckily, Chef Philip was generous enough to offer his recipes for all of them, so you don’t have to choose. Bear in mind that each preparation will need a new batch of ramen noodles and serve about four hungry eaters.

Now there’s no reason you can’t keep your cool this summer, and still do it in good taste.

Yield: Makes 4 Servings

Japanese Cold Noodles with Dipping Sauce

Japanese Cold Noodles with Dipping Sauce

Japanese tsukemen truly allows the delicate nature of this handmade pasta to shine. Plunging mouthfuls into a bowl of deeply savory chilled broth, topped with a light smattering of scallions and a touch of wasabi for a bright finish, each mouthful is an essential experience of cold noodle elegance.

Cook Time 5 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 5 minutes

Ingredients

Dipping Sauce:

  • 1 2/3 Cup Kombu Dashi (Seaweed Stock)
  • 1/2 Cup Sake
  • 4 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Palm Sugar

Optional Additions:

Instructions

  1. Place all the ingredients for the sauce in a medium saucepan. Set over medium heat, bring to a boil, and simmer for 3 minutes. Let cool and chill completely before serving.
  2. For the noodles, bring 2 quarts of water to a rapid boil. Drop in noodles and cook for about 60 seconds. Once the noodles are al dente, rinse in cold water to immediately stop the cooking process.
  3. Add in as many of the optional ingredients into the sauce as desired, to taste, or set them out in small bowls for diners to mix into the sauce at will.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 87Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 1322mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 4g
Yield: Makes 4 Servings

Kon Gook Soo / Kongguksu (Korean Cold Soybean Noodle Soup)

Kon Gook Soo / Kongguksu (Korean Cold Soybean Noodle Soup)

Kongguksu, hailing from Korea, might be the least known ramen preparation in the western world. It is a great shame that its popularity is not more widespread across the states, as it has no equal when it comes to both refreshment and satisfaction. Floating in a sea of homemade soymilk, enriched with sesame and almonds, ramen noodles are treated to a bath of rich, creamy soup. Ice cubes are tossed right into the bowl to keep things cool, through and through, ensuring that the first taste will be just as brilliant as the last. The secret is all in the soy beans, of course. Taking the extra step of removing the hulls creates the most silky texture imaginable.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Additional Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients

Kon Gook Soo / Kongguksu (Cold Soybean Noodle Soup)

  • 1 Cup Dried Soybeans, Soaked Overnight, Rinsed and Drained
  • 2 Tablespoons Raw Sesame Seeds, Soaked Overnight, Rinsed and Drained
  • 1/4 Cup Raw Almonds, Soaked Overnight, Rinsed and Drained
  • 6 Cups Cold Water
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon White Pepper
  • 1 English Cucumber, Julienned
  • Crushed Ice, as Needed

Instructions

  1. Cook soybeans in 1 quart of boiling water for 15 minutes. Rinse and drain. Place soybeans in a bowl, fill with water, and gently rub the beans until they split and the hulls come off. The hulls will float to the top and can be easily discarded while draining the water. Remove at least 90% of the hulls.
  2. Add the hulled and drained soybeans to a blender along with the sesame seeds, almonds, and cold water. Puree on high speed for 2 minutes and chill this mixture until very cold. Add salt and pepper, stirring well and adjusting seasonings to taste, as needed.
  3. For the ramen noodles, bring 2 quarts of water to a rapid boil. Drop in noodles and cook for about 60 seconds. Once the noodles are al dente, rinse in cold water to immediately stop the cooking process.
  4. Divide the cooked noodles between four bowls. Place a handful of ice in each, and top the noodles with sliced cucumber. Pour the soymilk on top and serve immediately.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 145Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 545mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 4gSugar: 2gProtein: 10g
Yield: Makes 4 Servings

Cold Szechuan Sesame Noodles

Cold Szechuan Sesame Noodles

Infused with lip-tingling, mouth-numbing Szechuan peppercorns, there is nothing subtle about this dish. It’s an in-your-face, action-packed thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. That intense flavor can be adjusted according to preference, but the whole point of this dish is to make you sweat to maximize the cooling effect. It’s scientifically proven that sweating is actually one of the most effective ways to beat the heat, and this Chinese staple will definitely yield delicious results.

Prep Time 4 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Total Time 5 minutes

Ingredients

Sesame Sauce:

Garnish:

  • English Cucumber, Slivered
  • Scallion, Chopped
  • Beansprouts

Instructions

  1. In a blender, add all the sauce ingredients and puree until completely smooth. Chill thoroughly.
  2. To cook the noodles, bring 2 quarts of water to a rapid boil. Drop in noodles and cook for about 60 seconds. Once the noodles are al dente, rinse in cold water to immediately stop the cooking process.
  3. When ready to serve, toss together the noodles, sauce, and all of the garnishes desired. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 147Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 822mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 3gSugar: 3gProtein: 7g

A Meditative Meal

Not so far from the maddening crowds of Manhattan midtown, there sits an oasis of tranquility, hidden in plain sight. Prompted to remove your shoes before entering the dining room itself, this simple gesture simultaneously suggests that all other extraneous distractions be left at the door before proceeding. Adhering as closely to tradition as an entirely vegan Korean restaurant can, the experience of dining at Hangawi is almost as noteworthy as the food itself.

Presented as a modern temple of cuisine, it may be understandably intimidating at first glance, but waiters will kindly guide the curious, the clueless, and the seasoned eater all with equal grace. Even if you’ve never tasted kimchi before or couldn’t tell bibimbap from bulgogi, you’ll be able to find a meal that satisfies. Entering into this serene cocoon within the city, my most memorable prior experiences led me to believe that Korean food would taste somewhat like spicier Chinese takeout, which is to say homogenized, Americanized fast food. It was about time I got a new perspective on this previously foreign food culture.

Lightening the serious mood with a splash of iced tea, beverages are poured right at the table into purposefully imperfect ceramic tea cups, spacious enough to rival the pedestrian venti latte. Pomegranate Iced Tea, with its clear ice cubes sparkling within luscious crimson liquid, is a study in restraint. Tart without being aggressive, gently sweetened to take the edge off, and bearing a well-rounded fruity flavor, even such a generous pour goes down easily. Awareness of the sweltering heat and humidity just beyond those insulated walls vanished after a few restorative sips.

Diving head-first into the unknown, I was clamoring to try Todok Salad above all other dishes. Never before had this unusual root crossed my path, despite how common it seems to be in Asian cultures. Frequently described as “poor man’s ginseng,” todok has similar purported health benefits, but what I was more interested in was the taste. Fibrous yet still tender, the pale white shreds were very subtle in flavor- Mild, slightly nutty, and perhaps bearing an earthy sweetness, they proved to be an easy introduction for a meal outside my comfort zone. Paired with watercress, carrots, and dried cranberries, it would have been a pleasant enough start if not for the tide of dressing that washed away distinction between the vegetables. Already soggy by the time it hit the table, in hindsight, it might have been wise to request dressing on the side.

Picking up the slack for that underwhelming salad, an appetizer plate of Combination Rolls brought together a wide variety of savory samples, each one wrapped up in its own discrete nori or rice paper package. Trios of buckwheat noodle rolls, seaweed rolls, mushroom rolls and kimchi vermicelli rolls artfully adorned the plate, ideal for sharing with an equally hungry date. Easily eating more than my fair share of both the mushroom and buckwheat assortments, they both shared an unexpected depth and richness, enhanced by a lightly battered and fried exterior.

Silky Tofu in Clay Pot brings the heat, arriving in a bubbling hot broth and sizzling metal bowls we’re advised not to touch. Served with sticky white rice on the side to soak up every last drop of flavorful soup, this dish alone would have been enough for a solo diner’s lunch. So soft it practically melts in your mouth, the tofu is just as tender as promised. Stewing away in the boldly astringent, tangy, and spicy liquid, this pillowy bean curd is anything but bland.

Arriving with a plume of aromatic steam, each order of Kimchi Stone Bowl Rice comes with plenty of bean sprouts, shredded nori, and of course kimchi, with a bit of performance art on the side. After allowing us to admire the kitchen’s handiwork on the carefully composed grains and vegetables, our waiter snapped to attention and began vigorously mixing, scraping, and stirring, until every last morsel in that bowl begged for mercy. Dramatics aside, it’s easy to see why this signature dish has taken off with such ease. Well balanced, as I had come to expect from Hangawi‘s offerings, the crispy rice is truly the best part. Perfectly crunchy in a way that standard skillets can only dream of achieving, it’s the sort of dish that I could never fully replicate at home. There’s such finesse that goes into the technique, transforming plain white rice into something extraordinary, which demonstrates the mastery of the chefs here.

The spice level in the funky, fermented Kimchi isn’t hot enough bowl you over, but the burn certainly grows with each successive bite. Crazy though it may sound, the thin sheets of delicately rolled cabbage struck me as ideal palate cleansers between bites of so many wildly different dishes.

Unrivaled even in this city of unparalleled choice, there is no better place to experience a wholly plant-based Korean meal. Fine dining does come at a price, but lunch specials are much more budget-friendly, and I’ve heard that Hangawi‘s sister restaurant, Franchia, also serves similar dishes in a more casual, low-key setting. Clearly, my adventures into Korean cuisine are far from over… I can see a trip out to this second outpost in my near future, purely for the sake of research, of course.

Noodle of the Sea

A curious craze if there ever was one, kelp noodles have gained popularity in leaps and bounds, going from unheard oddity to pantry staple for many overnight. Though still a more difficult ingredient to procure, ever since I discovered one fateful package at a local international market, rather than an expensive specialty shop, they’ve been showing up on my plate more often.

Finding them mixed amongst the bottles of soy sauce and bean paste was inspiring, not only due to the substantially lower price. Despite their typically raw preparations, these chewy, translucent seaweed strands are a perfectly tasty ingredient for cooked dishes, and in fact, may be more palatable warm. A brief sauté seems to relax the tightly wound noodles, making them more like starch-based cellophane noodles or sweet potato dangmyeon. With this realization, it became crystal clear that these particular kelp we destined to become japchae.

Switching out the traditional beef for thinly sliced seitan, the dish came together in a snap. Packing in the fresh vegetables for a lighter rendition, this is the perfect dish for bridging the gap between winter and spring. Bright and colorful, the sheer variety of flavors and textures makes for a highly satisfying eating experience. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to japchae, so consider my instructions more as guidelines. The best additions are what’s in season and what’s on hand. Consider switching in some sliced asparagus and fresh snow peas to really celebrate spring, or give chopped kale a shot rather than the standard spinach. Of course, if kelp noodles still elude you, the traditional dried and cooked cellophane noodles are always a welcome swap.

Yield: Makes About 4 Servings

Kelp Noodle Japchae

Kelp Noodle Japchae

Packing in the fresh vegetables for a lighter rendition, this is the perfect dish for bridging the gap between winter and spring. Bright and colorful, the sheer variety of flavors and textures makes for a highly satisfying eating experience. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to japchae, so consider my instructions more as guidelines.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Additional Time 15 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 12-Ounce Package Kelp Noodles, Drained and Soaked Water with a Splash of Vinegar for 15 Minutes
  • 2 Tablespoons Toasted Sesame Oil, Divided
  • 8 Ounces Seitan, Thinly Sliced
  • 1/2 Medium Yellow Onion, Thinly Sliced
  • 1 Teaspoon Finely Minced Fresh Ginger
  • 1 Clove Garlic, Finely Minced
  • 6 – 8 Rehydrated Dried Shiitake Mushrooms, Stems Removed, and Thinly Sliced (Soaking Liquid Reserved)
  • 1/2 Cup Sliced Fresh Cremini or Button Mushrooms
  • 1 – 2 Small Carrots, Julienned
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, Julienned
  • 3 Tablespoons Tamari or Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Light Agave Nectar
  • 1 Tablespoon Mirin
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 6 Ounces Fresh Spinach
  • 1 Scallion, Thinly Sliced
  • 2 – 3 Persian Cucumbers, Julienned
  • Toasted Black or White Sesame Seeds (Optional)

Instructions

  1. While the kelp noodles are soaking (which helps to soften them up a bit,) heat 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil in a large skillet. Once hot, toss in the seitan, and sauté for about 5 – 8 minutes until the pieces are all nicely browned. Move the seitan onto a plate, and let rest while you move on to the remainder of the stir-fry. Start draining the kelp
    noodles at this point so that they’re not sopping wet when you need them.
  2. Add the remaining sesame oil to the pan, and start by adding in the onion, ginger, and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent and highly aromatic. Toss in the mushrooms, carrots, and pepper, along with about 1/4 cup of the reserved shiitake soaking liquid, and cook for another 8 – 10 minutes, until all the veggies are softened but still crisp.
  3. Mix together the tamari, agave, mirin, and pepper, and pour the mixture into the skillet, stirring to incorporate. Add in the kelp noodles and cook for 3 – 4 minutes, to allow the flavorful liquids to become assimilated. Finally, toss in the spinach, and cook for only 30
    seconds or so to lightly wilt the greens. If using kale or any heartier greens, give it another minute or so to become tender.
  4. Turn off the heat and stir in the scallion and cucumber. Top with sesame seeds if desired. Enjoy hot or let cool and eat as a salad.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 298Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1065mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 6gSugar: 11gProtein: 22g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.