Ramen at Koko Kitchen

koko ramen

What a dreary day I was having. Just one of those what-is-the-point-of-getting-out-of-bed days full of mopes and sighs. And then one of the blogs I was reading through talked about homemade ramen. I thought, what a brilliant idea? Is there any better food for lifting one’s spirits than hot Asian soup? I think not.

So I did a quick google search, and praise the gods that be, there was a ramen shop right down the street from me.

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Kongnamulguk and Gamja Jorin (AKA Soybean sprout soup and potato side dish)

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And thus begins my adventures in Korean cooking. I will master this delicious cuisine. This post is dedicated to my attempt at recreating a delicious soup and one of my favorite banchans.

The recipes for both of these come from maangchi – a great and plentiful source for Korean recipes!

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I didn’t do much modifying, if anything I just left out the kelp (seaweed) from the soup and forgot to buy the sesame seeds for the potatoes. So here are the recipes if you’d like to try it for yourself: Potatoes and Soup.

These were both relatively simple, though the potatoes took much longer than the stated 10 minutes. Though that could be attributed to me getting used to my new stove. And they turned out well!

The soup was hearty but light. Not quite as rich as I remember my friend’s mom’s soup being. I definitely will add the seaweed for the next batch. The potatoes could have had a little more sugar, but I did eyeball the measurements. But we still ate them all. No leftovers for either dish.

In other ethnic cooking adventures, I made jjajjangmyeon again. This time it turned out SPLENDID. The exact perfect consistency and flavor. I mixed the techniques and ingredients from three different recipes just by feel. The next time I make it I will take notes of what I do so you can recreate this.

Overall I believe this is an excellent start to my mastering of Korean dishes. Healthy and delicious meals, here I come!

Jang Soo Jang

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I am so lucky to be living with someone who loves Korean food (and dramas) as much as I do. And maybe a little bit more!

That means that, after having a delicious meal at one of the local Korean restaurants she is more than happy to encourage my exploring the art of home-cooked Korean cuisine. *Hint Hint* There is going to be a series of Korean recipe posts starting soon!

In our immediate area there are 3 Korean places. We picked the one that happened to be open during the apparently odd eating hour of 3pm. It is called Jang Soo Jang. We knew we were in for a treat when we drove into the parking lot and had to navigate through a crowd of Korean college students streaming out the doors. We parked as we surreptitiously spied on the natives of our cultural obsession.

The inside of the restaurant was very minimal and clean. A few Asian decorations here and there, nothing very Korean or distinct. But the menu offered all the variety that the décor lacked. From soups (guk) to noodle dishes to hotstone bibimbap and several Korean beverages I’ve never heard of before, but that Cortney said were delicious.

After much deliberation I ordered the ManduDdeokGuk (dumpling and rice cake soup) over the Jjajjangmyeon which handwritten printer paper signs declared they “Now Served”. Cortney ordered the Dolsot Bibimbap (Hot stone bowl beef and veggies over rice).

Our food came out quickly and the banchan were diverse and plentiful (with one free refill each. Booyah!) My soup was subtly rich and had a slow growing heat in the broth. The mandu were stuffed nicely with ground pork and went with the rice cakes ohsonicely (though I am saddened to report there were only 3 or 4 dumplings in the huge bowl.) The huge portion served to me filled me up to the overflow level and there was still some broth and ddeok leftover.

Cortney JUST managed to stuff all of her bibimbap into her mouth before calling it quits. That didn’t leave us much room for the banchan, unfortunately. Though during our gorgings we managed to spare room for the gamja jorim (potatoes in soy sauce and sugar), the soybean side dish, and the marinated broccoli. Of course there was also the kimchi banchan, but that hardly counts as extra food, now does it? XD The only banchan we weren’t a fan of was what I could only assume was fish cakes or perhaps tofu in fish sauce. Either way it was too fishy for me to enjoy much, though overall it wasn’t unpleasant. That would be a banchan to get accustomed to slowly.

Overall, the service was quick, the restaurant was pleasant, and the food was delicious. While we still want to check out the others in our area, we will be coming back to Jang Soo Jang.

Red Neck BBQ

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I know, I know. You can’t get much more middle of the country-farmland-upstate New York than eating at a place called Red Neck BBQ. But it was surprisingly varied with it’s food choices.

But I was driving around the county with my uncles and dad for a wine and beer tour. You can only get so much sophistication from three farm-bred boys. XD  And it turned out to be a pleasant time.

To start with, that hamburger you see above is a KIMCHI BURGER WITH PONZU SAUCE. Granted, ponzu sauce is Japanese and the kimchi was mostly cabbage soaked in vinegar. BUT. Nowhere else have I seen an attempt at Korean food outside of an Asian restaurant. Much less on a burger. Much less in upstate New York.

And all in all, it was a pretty good burger. I’m betting not many people have eaten much Asian food in those parts, much less Korean food. So I give this burger an A for effort! 

 

But having had some rather delicious (and fairly authentic) Korean and Japanese food, here is my honest opinon. The Ponzu sauce was too sweet and overpowered the burger. The kimchi, as I said before, was just VINEGARY, no hint of chili or other subtle flavors. But the meat was good and tasty, cooked well and the bun was actually really good. Probably my favorite part. It was more of a homemade bun, not the stuff bought from the store and held up very well with all the sauces and juices.

The fries I got with my burger were alright. Homecut fries, thick, potatoey. A bit cold and not very crispy. So they made do.

My uncles both got different burgers and my dad got the chicken buffalo sandwich. The end opinion was the same. Decent food for a decent price. Not outstanding, not terrible. Their sweet potato fries were actually pretty good though. And I don’t normally care for sweet potato fries.

The Red Neck BBQ is a quirky place with interesting menu items. Since it is in Cooperstown there are slightly more options than in Oneonta. But it was an experience that made the eating worth it. 

Korea House

Guess what guys! ANOTHER KOREAN RESTAURANT REVIEW!!!!

YAAAAY! Now you know MORE places to try (or avoid) when in the search for a most delicious Korean style meal.

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Korea House has consistently been one of the top rated Korean restaurants in the Tucson area and has been on my list for several years now. Somehow I was always able to make it to Seoul Kitchen, but not just a few blocks over to Korea House. Until the other day.

Very last minute plans worked in my favor and my friend joined me for a delicious Korean lunch! Just off of Speedway and Alvernon, the building hides between a coffee shop and a music shop. And by hide I mean it seems more inconspicuous and generic than the colorful building to its left and the quaint peaked roof café to its right.

The inside was rather generic Asian restaurant themed, but it does have a very neat booth section – each table is partitioned into privacy along the left side of the restaurant with wallpaper that features a mixture of Chinese, Japanese and Korean characters on it. Don’t ask me why, I didn’t study Asian linguistics, but it was neat to look at!

My friend and I had actually just arrived after a VERY large party had vacated the premises. There were dirty tables all around and, though we were the only two customers in the restaurant, the poor sole server had to bus us a table for us to sit at. But he was really affable and sweet, joking around with us and recommending we choose the more flavorful-y marinated pork to the quickly sauced beef or chicken. He was also super quick and efficient, without us feeling rushed.

Service: A+

The food was good too! Just very different from what I’ve had before.

Firstly, the menu had all of the traditional items I expect to see at a Korean place. But everything was spelled slightly different. Bibimbap was spelled Beebumbap, most of the words I usually see spelled with a ‘b’ were instead spelled with a ‘p’ and the separation of words/syllables was different as well. Not a bad thing at all, just… different and I am intensely curious as to why they are spelled so different!

I ended up ordering the Kimpo II – the combo plate with beef, chicken or pork bool gogi (bulgogi, as I’ve more often seen it), a bowl of soup, rice, two mandu and chap jae!

Plus unlimited refills of banchan. ❤ ❤ ❤

The soup was similar to kinds I’ve had before – a clear broth with a few vegetables and potatoes cooked in it. I wasn’t terribly thrilled with the flavor balance in this broth, though. It was too peppery, and though I enjoyed the potatoes and onions, it was simply frustrating to have to fish for a measly 3 peas in my soup cup.

Then my main dish and the banchan came out. The plate was full of what it said it was but, like the menu, it was all slightly different from what I had grown accustomed to.

Firstly, the mandu were fried. Every other time I’ve had dumplings they’ve been steamed. It was nice having a crunchy dumpling, and the beef or pork (not sure which) was a slightly spicy and finely ground mixture.  Though I thought it was too salty, but my friend thoroughly enjoyed hers, so perhaps I added too much dipping sauce?

The bulgogi was different too. The waiter had convinced my friend and I to order the pork, instead of the beef, because it sits in the marinade full of flavor. I also tried it medium spicy. It was very good! But even from the picture above you can notice that they are prepared differently from what I’ve blogged before. The marinade is reddish and thick. There was a definitive coating of spices and seasonings on each slice of tender pork. It was a very different bulgogi experience than ever before, though I did immensely enjoy it. Bulgogi meat is always so tender and flavorful!

There was so much slight variation in my dish that it was nice to notice the chap jae was the same. As were the banchan. We were served three dishes – one of cucumbers dressed in vinegar, kimchi, and bean sprouts. Both the chap jae and banchan were very good and EXACTLY how I’ve had them before. It gave a nice point of reference to this off-kilter meal.

Though it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, I did really enjoy the meal and the atmosphere of the place. I’d love to come back when there are other customers, some weekend evening, perhaps, to see how the ambiance truly shines. Also, I just discovered they serve Jjajangmyeon (I really need to just start asking if they serve it because I never find it on the menu!) so I am REQUIRED to go back and try that dish.

Try Korea House! It is good, the portions are filling, and the price is just right!

 

Jjajangmyeon!

IMG_1960 (2)This is an Asian noodle dish that I learned about from my fascination with Korean culture and kdramas.

This is a Korean dish. It is also a Chinese dish. It is, in fact, a Korean Chinese-fast food dish. Very popular in Korea. Also one of the traditional dishes for those who spend Valentine’s Day alone! (I mean it’s just too messy for date food. And I would eat spaghetti on a date.)

Now time for a confession. I have not tried any “authentic” jjajangmyeon. I’ve never bought it at a restaurant or had a Korean friend make it for me. I just thought it looked so delicious that I had to try it. So I looked up this recipe and made it. Twice. To make sure it tasted the same, of course. XD

After finding the proper ingredients, it actually wasn’t that difficult. The recipe itself was a bit confusingly written, so I’m going to re-write it below. The original however comes from the ever-entertaining Nasties Simon and Martina. Watch EatYourKimchi, you won’t regret it!

This is a very unusual dish – very salty, slightly sweet, very savoury and thick. The noodles are slightly dense and chewy and the sauce is very unique and I love it. I made half of the original recipe (my half recipe measurements are listed below) and still had enough for two more servings.

Make sure you add NO additional salt. Because this sauce can get quite close to briny.

The modified recipe!

Ingredients:

– 3 Tbsp oil
– 2.5 TBSP Black Bean Paste AKA Chunjang 춘장
– 1 medium sized onion (or however much chopped onion you desire)
– 1/4 Lb ground pork
– 1/8 TSP ground black pepper (or add more to taste)

– 3/4 Tsp sugar
– 1/2 TBSP Oyster Sauce
– 1 Cups of water or broth
-Fresh noodles, preferably kalguksu 칼국수 noodles (4 servings)

For The Thickener:
– 1/2 Tbsp potato starch (or corn starch)
– 1 Tbsp cold water

Garnish:
Thinly sliced cucumbers, or carrots or any thinly sliced crisp and light flavoured veggie.

Cooking Instructions:

1. In a small sauce pan heat the oil over low heat. Add the black bean paste and stirring constantly for 6-8 minutes.

**If you stir well enough and constantly it will be smooth and sauce like. If you do not it will look like this=> (this isn’t a bad thing, but it looks the opposite of appetizing.)

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2. When the mixture starts to release a strong smell (like chocolate or freshly baked bread) or once the time is up, strain/pour off the excess oil. Set the black bean paste aside off the heat.

3. Add more oil if you need to, then toss in the onions. Sauté on medium heat until softened but not totally cooked.

4. Add the pork, grind on some black pepper while yelling BAM and let it cook.

5. As the pork cooks, start boiling hot water for the noodles.

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6. Once the pork is lightly browned (don’t dump off the pork oil) add the black bean sauce and stir furiously! You should coat the pork well.

7. Add the 2 cups of liquid and simmer for about 5 minutes. If you’re adding more veggies, add them now but reduce the liquid to 1.5 cups since the veggies will create more liquid.

8. While the pork mixture simmers, cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Most kalguksu noodles require you to rinse them in cold water after you drain them until they are almost cool or else they will form a death ball of noodles that cannot be separated. Unless you’re into that kind of thing.

9. Combine the starch and water thoroughly. This is your thickener, aka slurry.

10. Add the sugar and oyster sauce. Mix thoroughly and adjust seasonings to taste!

** The more your reduce the pork and black bean sauce, the saltier and more intense the black bean mixture will be, so you can test the flavour as you simmer it and decide when you want to stop.

11. Once you like the flavour, add the potato starch slurry to thicken it. Stir well and it should thicken almost instantly. Sauce is finished!

12. Add the noodles to a bowl and scoop on a hearty serving of sauce. Garnish with thinly sliced cucumber and eat before it gets cold!

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Chodang

Bulgogi and banchan

Look at that glorious spread of my most favorite ethnic cuisine!

Chodang is a tiny hole-in-the-wall Korean restaurant on the East side of Chandler. Parking in the lot is limited and spreads out into the neighborhood streets and it really doesn’t look like much on the outside. Or the inside, for that matter. But you can tell it’s really authentic because of the small scale, the amount of Koreans (and other Asians) in the restaurant and the amount of English in the menu (just enough to get the idea of each food across.)

My dear friend and I set out on this lunch excursion because we are both huge fans of Korean food. We decided to split the Bulgogi platter. It came with the above pictured banchans — dried seaweed strips, a dish of spiced sliced radishes, soybean sprouts, house kimchi, what I can only assume is potatoes cooked in sugar and soy sauce (the taste is similar to kongjang) if anyone knows what this dish is called please let me know!, and what tasted like sliced apples and mayo.

All the banchan were delicious (even the apple salad was surprisingly addictive) and the bulgogi was as tender and flavourful as I could hope for! It was served on top of caramelized onions and left steeping in its natural juices. Which I naturally mopped up with my leftover rice. It was a filling meal and at a really affordable price.

While the staff wasn’t overly friendly, neither were they neglectful. They took our order, served us food and let us be. And sometimes that is all one desires out of a restaurant experience. Much less annoying than the owner or waiter who visits your table every ten minutes (until you finish your meal, then you are left waiting and waiting for the check!)

All-in-all I recommend Chodang for an inexpensive and utterly delicious Korean meal!!