Traditional Values

Dinner is important…

It’s not a buffet, just a good Korean dinner

As the only child to traditional Korean parents, I was influenced early by the great sustenance of Korean food and its creativity.  I like to tell friends who ask me where to get good Korean food that they should eat it at their Korean friends’ houses.  Not to say that you can’t find some good Korean restaurants in your neighborhood, just know that it can never be as good as Korean home cooking, but that can be said about food across the board.   Many years ago when I was a wee college student, one of my college professors cooked me a real Chinese meal in her faculty house  for my birthday.  She prepared a simple beef and carrot dish which opened my eyes to the idea of authenticity.  Prior to that experience, what did I really know of Chinese food and cooking?   General Tso’s chicken and egg rolls?  Great in their own way, but far from what many Chinese families would call home cooking.

I watched my parents cook at home and always saw them as great cooks from early on.  No measuring, fresh ingredients, and practiced skill in creating toothsome dishes––particularly essential for us as we did not have a lot of money to spend on anything beyond the basics.  Lest we forget, food justice is an issue for the poor and for everyone who cares about creating equitable practices for all.  We know there are different levels of food access depending on one’s economic status and the more we are aware of it, the better we can combat it.  Also, we cannot underestimate learning how to make a good meal with whatever you have on hand and no shame in utilizing the most humblest of ingredients.

My parents encouraged and expected me to know how to cook from early on.  They charged me with making breakfasts and dinners as soon as I was tall enough to reach the stove burners.  That  must have been when I turned eight.  One beloved dish I still love to whip up is kimchi fried rice:

Absolutely easy to do and yet so satisfying.  Find the recipe at this previous post and make a big batch for you and your loved ones.

And nothing beats a pot of Korean miso soup with tofu (and whatever veggie you want to throw in––mushroom or zucchini are good additions):

This is easy for a kid to learn and one that can take on layers and finesse as your palate and worldly outlook matures.  This is my go-to soup because it pairs so well with rice and kimchi––or kimchi fried rice!

For easy jigae (Korean miso soup), do this:

The ingredients

miso (Korean is a bit funkier but Japanese is quite nice )

tofu, cut into cubes

garlic, minced or pressed

sesame oil

sesame seeds

scallions, chopped

dried anchovies, 5-6 (optional)

water

salt & black pepper

The steps:

1. Heat a medium-sized soup pot.  Coat the bottom of the pot with sesame oil.  Add garlic and anchovies.  Add a heaping spoonful of miso. Cook for a minute or two.

2. Add about 2-3 cups of water. Bring to boil and then add tofu and scallions.  Lower heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a sprinkle or two of sesame seeds.

Isn’t it good to know you don’t need a bazillion dishes to have a decent dinner?  Just these two will do.

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8 thoughts on “Traditional Values

  1. 보글보글 끓고 있는 뚝배기 된장찌개 먹고싶어졌어요!! 따뜻한 밥에 두부랑 김치 같이 먹으면.. 한자리에서 밥그릇 비우긴 식은 죽 먹긴데..^^ 아무리 끓여도 왠지 엄마나 할머니가 만들어주시는 음식 못따라가는거 같아요! ^^

  2. We won’t get it exactly the way we remember it, but we have to keep trying! I think one of the reasons I don’t eat in Korean restaurants in NYC is that you can tell they cook their food without putting any love into it. A home-cooked meal tastes incredible because your mom or grandmom has put all their love and affection into making it.

  3. I knew it – under all the prickly parts you’re a softie, softie, softie. Love reading your posts. I keep forgetting that I’m not Korean.

    • I spent 13 months in South Korea thkans to Uncle Sam and LOVED their version of ramen. I honestly didn’t realize it was a Japanese dish until this past year when I first saw Naruto on tv. Granted, it’s not original but the Korean version is really good, in my opinion. I just would like to find a recipe for the cheesey, spicy ramen they made in the KATUSA snack bar. If anyone could help me in this, I would GREATLY appreciate it.

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