Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Simple Summer Fare: Vegan Korean Banchan Dinner

We had hot weather last weekend, AGAIN! Aargh! Fall, please come quickly, I am ready for you! I decided to make a simple Korean meal so I don’t have to turn on the oven. I just boiled a few fresh vegetables and seasoned them. I also pan fried marinated Soycurls™. I served these with kim chee that I made a week before. BTW, these dishes can be served slightly warm or at a room temperature so they are great for a picnic or traveling. This kind of style where the dishes are served on small plates or amounts with rice are called Banchan.

The Koreans use a lot of sesame oil and sesame seeds in their seasonings. There is a Korean market within a walking distance from our house that sells lots of toasted sesame seeds and gallons of sesame oil. Sesame seeds and oil are healthy. If olive oil is heavily used in Italy and Mediterranean, sesame oil is the equivalent in Korea. Sesame seeds are a good source of calcium, copper, and full of Omega 6. Here is an article that describes all about it: Open Sesame!

Sesame seeds and oil are delicious! For those who have cooked with sesame oil, don’t you think so? I used brown and black sesame seeds on top of the steamed brown rice.
From the top (clockwise) I made Pea sprouts and Carrots salad, Seasoned Boiled Spinach, Seasoned Soybeans Sprouts, Spicy Gochujang Soycurls™ , Steamed Short Grain Brown Rice, and Homemade Kim Chee. DH loves the Seasoned Soybeans Sprouts very much. It is best to use fresh vegetables for this meal. We are lucky enough to live close to Asian markets that provide lots of fresh pea sprouts, beansprouts, spinach, and napa cabbage.

Gochujang is Korean Red Pepper and Bean Paste. I bought this at the Korean market and as far as I know only Korean market sells it. This paste is a condiment and a seasoning for cooking. The use of it is just like American ketchup but it is spicy and hot. Here is a picture of a tub of Gochujang that is commonly sold in the Korean market. I love the fermented taste (it is miso like), the spicy, and a bit sweet taste. I used Soycurls™ which seem to absorb gochujang and other the spices very well.

Now, about kim chee, for those who do not know what kim chee is, here is an info about kim chee. It is considered a national dish of Korea. It is a spicy, sour, and fermented napa cabbage spiced with Korean red pepper, salt, garlic, and ginger. Other kind of vegetables can be used also such as cucumber, green onions, Chinese mustard green, daikon, etc. The Korean market near our house is like a 'house of kim chee'. They sell all kinds of kim chee. However, I was told many times that there is shrimp paste or fish flavoring in store-bought kim chee that usually is not listed on the product label. I don’t know for sure whether this is true but I haven’t bought kim chee from a store for a long time. Julie Hasson provided me with her husband’s recipe of kim chee and I have made it several times at home. It is really good.

Printable Recipes

Pea Sprouts and Carrot Salad
Serve 4

2-3 cups fresh pea sprouts
1 cup grated and peeled carrots

Salad dressing:
½ cup seasoned rice vinegar
½ cup aji-mirin
1 tsp roasted sesame oil
1 tsp organic sugar

Mix pea sprouts, carrots, and ¼ cup salad dressing or more, just before serving. Save the rest of the salad dressing for next meals.

Seasoned Boiled Spinach
Serve 4

3 bundles fresh spinach, clean leaves and break off the roots
2-3 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp roasted sesame seeds
¾ tsp sea salt

Boil about 6-8 cups of water. Put fresh spinach leaves into the boiling water. Push them down until all covered and submerged in the water. Let it simmer for 2 minutes. Drain in a large colander and immediately rinse with cold water until the spinach is cool. This is to stop the cooking process and to sustain the fresh green color. Squeeze all the water out from the spinach. Combine spinach, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and salt in a bowl. Use a fork to break the spinach apart while pouring sesame oil and other ingredients.

Seasoned Soybean Sprouts
Serve 4

1 lb fresh soybean sprouts
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions/green onions
2-3 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp Korean red pepper flakes
½ tsp sea salt

Boil 3-4 cups of water. Put fresh beansprouts into the boiling water. Push them down until all covered and submerged in the water. Let it simmer for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately rinse with cold water until the sprouts are cool. This is to stop the cooking process. Squeeze all the water out from the sprouts. Combine sprouts, scallions, sesame oil, Korean red pepper, and salt in a bowl.

Note about Korean red pepper or Kochu Garu: This kind of pepper can only be found in Korean market. This is different than the red pepper we put on pizzas or other dishes. I really don’t know the difference (maybe a different kind of chili pepper that grows in Korea?) but it is different. Those of you who knows about it please let me know.

Cucumber Pickles
Serve 4
On the side, I also served this cucumber pickles. It is refreshing.
2 Japanese/Korean cucumbers, sliced horizontally
2 Tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
2 tsp organic sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Korean red pepper flakes
Mix cucumber and all the ingredients together. Let it sit in the refrigerator until ready to be served.

Spicy Gochujang Soycurls™
Serve 4

6 cloves garlic
1 inch fresh ginger or about 2 tsp grated ginger
3 tbsp dark mushroom soy sauce (you can use light soy sauce)
3 tbsp gochujang
1 tbsp aji-mirin
2 tbsp organic sugar
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp ground sesame seeds (grind them in a small blender or coffee grinder)
2 tsp sesame oil

3 cups dry Soycurls™, reconstitute them in warm water as instructed on the package, then squeeze the water out

Put all the marinade ingredients in a small blender. Blend until smooth. Alternatively, you don’t have to use a blender, but you have to mince the garlic and ginger very fine. Mix all the marinade ingredients well. Marinade reconstituted Soycurls™ with the sauce for about 15 minutes.

Just before serving, pan fry marinated Soycurls™ on a non-stick griddle or a cast iron frying pan until hot and a bit blackened. You can use canola oil spray from a can or 2 tsp or more of sesame oil to pan fry them.

Jay’s Kim Chee
Makes a lot, about 1 gallon I think

This is a great and quick kim chee recipe I received from Julie. You need to wait a while before you can enjoy it because you have to wait for the fermentation to take place. However, once it is done, you can enjoy it for weeks to come. Summer time is the best time to make kimchee because the weather is warm and the kim chee ferments quickly.

2 cups water
2 tbsp sweet rice flour *
2 medium heads napa cabbage, sliced into 1-inch or larger pieces
2 ½ tbsp kosher salt (see my note about Korean salt below) *
4 to 5 tbsp Korean hot red pepper flake (see my note about about Korean red pepper)*
¼ cup minced ginger
¼ cup minced garlic
½ cup thinly sliced scallions or green onions

In a saucepan, whisk together water and rice flour until smooth. Heat over medium heat, whisking continuously, until mixture thickens and starts to simmer. Remove from heat and let cool off a bit. Add pepper, whisking well.
In a very large bowl, add cabbage and sprinkle with salt, scallions, ginger and garlic, tossing to mix. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Pour cooled sauce over cabbage, tossing well.
Let cabbage sit at a room temperature for a couple hours (you can refrigerate it right away, but the flavor is better if you let it sit out for a few hours first). Toss well and place in a large glass container and refrigerate.

* All of the ingredients are available at the Korean market

I usually let it sit in a room temperature overnight in summer and 2 nights in winter. However, be prepared of the stinky fermentation smell, so put them in your garage or outside in the patio. I also have a refrigerator in my garage where I store my jars of kim chee.

Note about salt: Do not use iodized salt or table salt to make kim chee. The best kind is sea salt or kosher salt. I buy this kind of salt in Korean market. The fermentation of the cabbage is derived from the salt and its combination with garlic, ginger, and red pepper.
Here is an article about how it all work in cabbage fermentation: Cabbage Patch Chemistry
Here is an artilce about kim chee and more tips how to make it: Got the Hots for Kim Chee


Just call me Orangie said...

Everything (especially the carrots and peas) looks absolutely delicious!

Stephanie of Summerloco
Healthy Vegan & Gluten-free Food Blog

Jackie said...

I didn't realize how wonderful Korean food is, thanks for the recipes.

I have most of the ingredients or something similar anyway so I shall try them out.

primaryconsumer said...

Wow, your food always has the most amazing presentations! I've never heard of soycurls, I'll have to look them up. I tagged you on my blog (for the food meme going around) Have a good holiday!

madeinalaska said...

Awesome looking food you got going on here! I just bought flavors of korea a veggie cookbook.. but, i can not find any of the korean spices here in my neck of the woods.. boo hoo.. I was really looking forward to trying it.
love your blog.. I stop by often.

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Amazingly gorgeous, inspiring, and delicious, as always!

mipmup. said...

oh my gosh - this looks amazing! we have a korean friend who was telling me i was "out of luck" vegan-wise with finding food at korean establishments. now i can make my own! i'm also glad to see how you've used the soycurls; they're on my "to buy" list. thanks for another amazing post.

Tofu Mom (AKA Tofu-n-Sprouts) said...

Oh my gosh - I realize this is an older post, but I just found pea sprouts at my Asian market and have been LOVING everything I make with them...
Also, I bought Gochujang sauce some time bck and was never sure what it would best go with. I tried tempeh but it just wasn't right. I LOVE 'Soycurls' so I'm rushing out to get some and try this IMMEDIATELY!!

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