We go through A LOT of kimchi at our house. Did you know that you can buy kimchi by the bucket at H Mart? We had to downgrade to jars when we moved to our current house thanks to smaller fridge space.
Kimchi gets used as a side dish, but more often than not, we usually end up frying it for kimchi jjigae, bibimbap, grilled kim-cheese sandwiches, kimchi fried rice, kimchi omurice, etc. I try to be careful about how much oil I use when cooking. If I can’t get by with using cooking spray, I’ll use the most minuscule amount of olive oil or coconut oil possible. Y’know.. the type of drizzle that doesn’t cover the entire pan and you swear you’re going to get tendinitis trying to roll the oil around so you give up and cover the rest of the pan in Pam instead? Or maybe that’s just me. So to sum up.. I don’t like to cook with oil.
What about when you cook kimchi?
Really. Don’t do that to kimchi. Just don’t. Especially not sesame oil.. no matter what “but it’s Asian food!” sort of knee-jerk reaction you have.
But what you NEED to do..
USE BUTTER.Trust me, this is the best thing you can do for kimchi (unless you’re a bacon freak then bacon grease comes pretty close.. but I still vote butter). Oh, and if you’re vegan.. Earth Balance works just as well (as long as you don’t tell your husband you used a substitute and remember to hide the Earth Balance back in the far corners of the fridge). I know what I said about “No oil,” but Earth Balance has the buttery flavor that makes it the exception.And then you just add that to your bulgogi tacos..kimchi fried rice..bibimbap…and grilled kim-cheese..Seriously.. some bonus advice.. whenever you’re frying up kimchi.. throw cheese on top.. pizza is ideal for kimchi.. no? It’s ok.. baby steps..
There’s definitely no shortage of chilis, beef stews, meatloaf, root veggies, and all the other typical winter comfort foods at our house when the temperature drops, but more than anything else, there tends to be an increase in Korean dishes simmering on the stove. Usually, it’s all about the kimchi or miso-based stews, but lately, I’d found myself wanting Korean seaweed soup (miyeok guk).
I’d always left the making of this soup from scratch to the expert (aka Mom), or, if I had a sudden craving, normally, the instant packets of wakame soup from Kikkoman would usually do in a pinch. Last week though, those packets weren’t going to cut it, and with my mom 3 states away, I figured I’d try tackle the challenge of furthering my Korean domestication.Nowadays, you can find freeze dried seaweed at your neighborhood Whole Foods, which is surreal for me. I remember my family having to drive an hour away from home in our grey Winnebago a few times a month to pick up ingredients at the nearest Korean market in Kansas. It’s great to have easy access, but there’s limitations on varieties and brands. Now, Graham and I look for any excuse to make the quick trip to H-Mart located in the Korean strip mall in Elkins Park. It’s just easier for me to know exactly what I’m buying when I can read Korean labels on the products. There’s less chance that I’ll inadvertently pick up the “wrong” kind of seaweed by mistake (for this soup, koreans use “sea mustard”). Straight out of the package, not the prettiest ingredient.. the texture’s similar to kale chips… but, let it soak in water for about 20 minutes and…it unfurls into some really beautiful, pillowy greens. I love the sheen!
As far as the recipe goes, I started off using one from Korean Bapsang, but as the soup was finishing up on the stove, a quick taste test determined that, although good, it didn’t quite taste like the kind my mother makes. I did a little comparison googling and deferred to Maangchi’s recipe, since I’d often used her site for deciphering the flavors in korean dishes in the past and gotten some luck. I added a bit of fish sauce… it was perfect =)I definitely felt like i earned my “Korean cred” when I texted a photo to both my parents and they both messaged back that it made them hungry.. ok.. so it helped that I’d sent them the photo around lunchtime and neither of them had eaten yet.
It was a simple once I had the right ingredients, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to give up those Kikkoman instant wakame soup packages in the pantry anytime soon =) Hooray for laziness!