Monday, November 18, 2013
Agujjim (아구찜), also called agwijjim (아귀찜), is a spicy fish dish made with agu (monkfish) and kongnamul (soybean sprouts). Jjim (찜) is the noun form of the word jjida (찌다) which means "to steam". Over time, jjim dishes have evolved into dishes that encompass various different cooking techniques, including long braising used for dishes like galbijjim (braised short ribs) and short braising used to cook vegetables and seafood. Agujjim is made by short braising in a small amount of liquid (water or anchovy/dashima broth) and a spicy sauce.
Agujjim originated from the southern coastal city of Masan. In the past, this not so good-looking fish wasn't consumed as a food item in Korea due to its appearance. The story behind the birth of this dish is that some fishermen didn't want to waste their catches, so they brought them to an eatery and ask the cook to make a tasty dish. That was in the 1960's. The dish is now enormously popular all over the country in Korea. At restaurants, agujjim is usually sold as a large dish that's meant to be shared. It's also pretty pricey. I remember my first time ordering this dish, at a restaurant around here, many years ago. The expensive, large dish we ordered to share was just full of soybean sprouts and not enough fish to go around. My family was disappointed, and I started to make the dish at home.
Monkfish is a firm, white fish with a texture similar to lobster meat. Here in America, it's known as "poor man's lobster". Korean markets around here sell trimmed monkfish so I don't have to deal with the huge, ugly head. The fishmonger will cut it into small pieces for you if you ask. They are usually bone-in and skin-on, which is fine for us Koreans because we usually cook fish with bones and skins intact. But, you can also use fillets for this dish. Agujjim usually includes minari (Korean watercress) and mideodeok (sea squirts) as well. Sea squirts are hard to find and expensive, so I usually substitute it with shrimp or clams. The soybean sprouts play an important supporting role in this dish. Be sure to cook the sprouts briefly, and plunge them into an ice bath immediately after. The crunchy bean sprouts nicely complement the tender, moist fish with a burst of spicy flavor!
2 to 3 servings
1.5 pounds monkfish (agu)
2 tablespoons rice wine (or use dry white wine)
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (less if using fine table salt)
6 large shrimp, unpeeled (or a few little neck clams) - optional
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
3 tablespoons Korean red chili pepper flakes (gochugaru)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
pepper to taste
2 tablespoons water
8 ounces soybean sprouts
2 ounces minari or watercress, cut into about 3 to 4 inch lengths
2 scallions, cut into about 2 inch lengths
starch slurry (1 tablespoon corn or potato starch in 2 tablespoons of water)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
Sunday, November 3, 2013
Bossam (보쌈) is a boiled pork dish. The meat is boiled in a flavorful brine until tender and served thinly sliced. At the table, each person wraps the meat in salted napa cabbage leaves along with radish salad (musaengchae/muchae) and salted shrimp. Salted napa cabbage is traditional, but you can also use lettuce and/or perilla leaves to make wraps.
Every time I make or eat this dish, I think of my father. He loves it! My father was born and raised in Jeju Island, where Korea's most flavorful pork (meat from black pig) comes from. So, he knows his pork! When it was time to make kimchi, my mother would boil big chunks of pork. Because there was plenty of salted cabbage and radish stuffing, all we needed was boiled pork to have a delicious feast. Uncommon for his generation of Korean men, my father spent (still does) a lot of time in the kitchen helping my mother, especially on kimchi making days. He was always the one who cut the meat into thin slices. Then, with his hands wet from pork fat, he would pick a cabbage leaf, place a slice of meat on it, top it with a dollop of the radish mix and a pinch of salted shrimp, and roll it up and enjoy the much deserved bossam. Sometimes, he would add fresh garlic slices, chili pepper slices, and/or fresh oysters. My father also loves it simply wrapped in a piece of well fermented kimchi with some saewujeot. Delicious!
Pork belly (samgyupsal, 삼겹살) and Boston butt (moksal, 목살) are the most commonly used cuts for this dish. Some people also use picnic shoulder (apdarisal, 앞다리살). Korean cooks add a variety of ingredients to the boiling liquid to eliminate the unique smell of pork and flavor the meat. The addition of doenjang is not surprising because pork and doenjang go very well together in dishes like doenjang jjigae. Many years ago, word got around, among us Korean home cooks, that coffee was the secret ingredient. Well not so secret anymore. We all use it. You will hardly taste doenjang or coffee from the boiled meat. They simply enhance the natural flavor of the pork. The result is rich, but subtly flavored, deliciously moist meat!
Now, can you imagine the textural contrasts and the burst of flavors when you bite into this pork wrap?
For the wraps:
tender inner parts of 1 napa cabbage, salted* (or red or green leaf lettuce)
(* Dissolve 1/2 cup coarse salt in 4 cups of water, and soak the cabbage leaves until softened, 2 to 4 hours. Rinse and drain well.)Radish salad (musaengchae) - See recipe.
saewujeot (salted shrimp)
For the meat:
2 whole fresh pork belly about 3-inch wide cut (about 2.5 pounds)
1/2 medium onion
2 - 3 white parts of large scallions
7 - 8 plump garlic cloves
1 inch ginger piece, sliced
1 teaspoon whole black peppers
1-1/2 tablespoons doenjang (fermented soybean paste)
1 teaspoon instant coffee (or a cup of brewed coffee)
1 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
10 cups water
Thinly slice the meat and serve with the salted cabbage (or lettuce), saewujeot, and musaengchae.
Keep any leftover meat in the cooking liquid. Boil the meat in the liquid to reheat. This prevents the meat from drying out.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Without a doubt, my slow cooker (aka Crock-pot) has become one of the most used appliances in my kitchen. It’s such a helper when I need to multi-task. I wish I had discovered the magic of a slow cooker back when I was raising my children. Make a note, young busy moms and dads!
I often use it to make traditional Korean dishes for my elderly parents and parents-in-law who are living nearby. On weekends, I just throw a few things in the slow cooker early in the morning, and this frees up time to do other things I need to do, such as testing and photographing recipes for the blog. By the time I’m done with my busy schedule, a succulent, fork-tender meat dish is ready to be delivered. They all love it, especially my mother-in-law who’s never been a meat lover before. She’s been recovering from some major health issues and trying hard to eat well to regain strength. I’m glad to be helpful in a small way.
This recipe is the slow-cooker adaptation of my recipe for traditional galbijjim, hence the same great authentic flavor. When I use my slow cooker, I like to minimize the prep work as much as possible. So, there’s no grating, mincing, par-boiling or browning in this recipe. You can do the prep work the night before. Start the slow cooker in the morning before heading out, and come home to a delicious meal waiting for you.
As I mentioned in my previous galbijjim post, traditional galbijjim does not involve initial browning of the ribs. But, it’s totally up to you if you want to take the time to sear the ribs to add that rich browned meat flavor. I've tried both ways with the slow cooker, and the results are equally delicious in slightly different ways.
This recipe is also excellent for other cuts of beef (chuck roast, brisket, flank steak, etc.), pork ribs or roast, and chicken. Simply cut the meat into a few large pieces. The ingredients in this recipe generate a lot of liquid, so no additional broth or water is necessary. The result is fall off the bone tender meat in a rich, slightly sweet and savory sauce!
3 to 4 pounds beef short ribs
1/2 medium onion
1 to 2 carrots
1/2 medium Korean/Asian pear (or 1 bosc pear or apple)
7 to 8 plump garlic cloves
7 to 8 plump garlic cloves
3 to 4 thin ginger slices (about 1-inch round)
6 ounces Korean radish (omit if unavailable)
3 to 4 dried shiitake mushrooms, briefly soaked and quartered (omit if unavailable)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine (or dry white wine)
4 tablespoons honey (or sugar) - adjust to taste
pepper to taste
2 to 3 scallions, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Place the ribs and vegetables and pear in the slow cooker. Mix together the soy sauce, rice wine, honey (or sugar) and pepper, and pour over the ribs. Toss everything to coat with the sauce. Cover, and cook for 6 to 7 hours on high or 9 to 10 hours on low. Flip the ribs over midway through the process if you’re home. (Adjust the cooking time, depending on how tender you want your ribs to be.) Stir in the scallions and sesame oil.
Remove the ribs and vegetables from the slow cooker. Strain the cooking liquid into a bowl to skim off the fat. I use a fat separator. Pour the sauce over the ribs to serve. (You can also cool it in the fridge or freezer until the fat solidifies to spoon off. Reheat the sauce.)
Serve with rice.