Korean Cooking: My Second First Attempt at Korean Cooking: KimchiJeon (김치전)
Yes, I know the title doesn’t make sense since an attempt is an attempt whether it worked or not, but I don’t count my first go at Korean cooking because Jae-oo stepped in and basically finished the meal. This time, I carefully followed the recipe I had and my first kimchijeon turned out delicious and was a great boost to my Korean cooking confidence.
My first go at Korean cooking was a few months ago. Though I’ve lived in Korea for seven years, I’d never attempted to cook Korean food in my house, other than ramen of course. It’s cheap to go out and grab a meal, so why mess with a good thing? My husband is also very adept at cooking. Since he moved to Seoul some fifteen years ago and left his mother the in house chef, he had to learn how to take care of himself. My Korean female friends are always surprised and jealous when I tell them Jae-oo does all of the laundry, cleans the whole house with me on Sundays and cooks dinner when we feel like Korean fare. I suppose I’m lucky, though it’s made me lazy to learn Korean cooking myself. At the beginning of the year, I decided this year would be different, I’d try to start cooking more Korean food.
My first choice was seaweed soup. I thought it’d be easy enough, since it only has three ingredients: beef, seaweed and garlic, but I was sorely mistaken. First off, I’m from the States, when you go to the market in the States, unless it’s an Asian market, you have maybe two options for seaweed, the flat square kind for kimbob and maybe some regular dried seaweed. When I went to the market here to get some seaweed for the soup, I was overwhelmed by the options, which should have told me this was not a good first attempt dish, but Jae-oo helped me choose one and I barreled on. Back at home, the recipe I was using neglected to mention that you need to get the seaweed wet before you put it in the soup, and so my one cup of seaweed needed by the recipe turned into about four cups once it got wet, way too much. Anyway, it was a downward spiral and Jae-oo came in and took over and saved me from my muttering confused self.
This time was a completely different experience. Instead of using the book I’d used last time, which clearly assumes I know something about Korean cooking already, I opted for a website called Maangchi. With great step by step instructions, which were easy to follow and understand and Jae-oo standing nearby, it turned out delicious.
Kimchijeon is a popular dish here. It’s a good dish anytime, though most often, with my Korean friends at least, it seems to be eaten while drinking. It’s great with makkoli, or rice wine. There are loads of options for “jeon” as well: kimchijeon, seafoodjeon, squidjeon, or vegetablejeon, among others.
I’ll give a quick overview of the recipe, but head on over to Maangchi for more direction. Maangchi even has YouTube videos to follow along with!
1 cup kimchi
2 tbs. onion
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup flour
1. Chop up the kimchi, mine was shipped up from my mother-in-law down in Busan. Put it in a bowl along with 3tbs of the kimchi juice, the onions, salt, sugar, flour and a 1/4 cup of water. Mix well.
2. Heat up a skillet and pour the oil in. Maangchi suggests grape seed oil, but I didn’t have any of that and used canola oil, which was fine.
3. Add the batter to the skillet and cook for a couple of minutes on each side, the time depends on how thin you make it. Maangchi suggested 1 1/2 minutes on each side, but I think mine was thicker and took 2 1/2 minutes to cook thoroughly on each side.
4. Eat it confidently and happily.
I’m pretty excited that I completed this dish. I sent my mother-in-law and sister-in-law a message about it, I was so happy. I may be asking for trouble with that, since I may actually have to cook the next time I visit them, but it’ll be worth it to show them my skills. Jae-oo’s mother has asked more than once what I made for dinner when she calls and doesn’t seem so excited when I say pasta and salad, so I think she’ll appreciate my effort.
Jae-oo made a very complimentary cold cucumber soup while I was puttering along with this recipe and the two were a delicious and filling meal for our Sunday lunch.