Thursday, February 22, 2018

Olympic Bites: PyeongChang 2018

It's Olympics time again! Memories of myself pretending to figure skate in my socks on the kitchen floor are coming back as my daughter shows me her own jumps and spins trying to copy the graceful and powerful skaters on the television. My son is setting up his own curling games in the living room and looks on in awe at the ski jumpers. I love it!

My idea of cooking foods native to the host country back during the Rio games became a tradition this year as I scoured the internet for information on Korean cuisine. This one felt a little more intimidating though as Korean food is not something I'm very familiar with, and many ingredients seemed to be something I'd have to get at a specialty market. Not to mention that my distaste for kimchi put me at a serious disadvantage. According to my dad who spent some time in Korea with the Army, Koreans serve kimchi with absolutely everything; breakfast, lunch, and dinner - even on the army base! In the end I did find some recipes that I thought would please my picky bunch and use easily found ingredients.

The first dish I decided on was dessert. Dessert isn't a huge thing in Korea, but I found a few videos about ppopgi, a candy kids would buy from street vendors that only uses two ingredients - sugar and baking soda. Making it is pretty easy, though it can be a little time consuming since you have to make them one at a time. The videos showed them being made by holding a metal ladle over a flame.  I don't have any metal ladles, so I used a metal measuring cup. My family described the flavor as tasting like a toasted marshmallow and the texture as cracker-like.  Traditionally vendors press a design into the candy like a flower or a heart. I used the wide end of a piping tip to make the Olympic rings.

Ppopgi (Korean Sugar Candy)

Brown or white sugar
baking soda


Over medium heat, melt  about a 1/4 cup of sugar in a metal ladle or measuring cup, stirring so the sugar doesn't burn.

Once the sugar is completely melted, add a pinch of baking soda and stir until the sugar is foamy and light in color.

Pour the candy onto a non-stick surface. I used a sil-pat dusted with baking soda. Press the candy down with the bottom of a metal measuring cup or flat side of a chef's knife.

After the candy cools a bit, but before it hardens, (about a minute or so), use a cookie cutter or other tool to press a design into the candy. Let it cool completely and enjoy!

Here's a link to the videos I looked at if you want a live demonstration:

I also decided to bring back my St. Andrew Kim day triumph - Crockpot Bulgogi. Using the slow cooker was great since the opening ceremonies were on a Friday and I had to work the whole day before cooking.

 Click the link for the recipe - Crockpot Bulgogi

Next I decided to try my hand at kimbap - basically a sushi roll filled with any variety of ingredients like meat, eggs, and vegetables. I was little more nervous for this one as homemade sushi skills are something I hadn't really tried before, but it proved to be much easier than I anticipated! A bag of short grain rice and nori sheets are also easily available in your regular grocery store and aren't that expensive.  For this dish I used the cookbook Quick & Easy Korean Cooking by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee as my guide. I've always loved checking cookbooks out from the library since I was little!

Kimbap (Korean Seaweed Rice Rolls) 

1 cup short grain rice
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
seaweed sheets (nori)
sesame oil

your choice of fillings. I used:
sauteed spinach
bulgogi (click the link above for the recipe!)

Prepare your fillings so they are ready to go when it's time to roll.

Cook the rice according to the directions on the package. While it cooks mix the vinegar, sugar, and salt together.

After the rice cools slightly, stir in the vinegar mixture.

Place a nori sheet down and spread a layer of rice on it using a rubber spatula. Place your fillings in a line horizontally at the end nearest to you. Roll it up as tightly as you can, tucking as you go. Brush a little sesame oil onto the seam.

Using a knife dipped in cold water, (don't use a serrated knife), cut the roll into bite sized pieces.

Lastly, I also used Quick and Easy Korean Cooking to make pajeon, or green onion pancakes. According to my friends putting stuff into pancake form is quite popular in Korea. Now, this isn't a light and fluffy sweet American pancake. It's flatter, chewy with crispy edges, and savory. The cookbook suggested using a combination of rice flour and all purpose flour for the best texture, but even with all the alternative flours that are out there these days I couldn't find any. I did find banana flour though, weird. Just like the other recipes I decided on the ingredients were simple and the dish was easy to make. My husband doesn't really like green onions, but he really enjoyed these!

Pajeon (Korean Green Onion Pankcakes)


2 cups all purpose flour (or replace a 1/2 cup with rice flour)
1 teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper
3 cups cold water
6 green onions, chopped
2 grated zuchhini
1 grated carrot
Vegetable oil for frying

Mix together the flour, salt, pepper and water. The consistency should be like a think pancake batter.

Add in the vegetables.

Heat vegetable oil in an 8 inch skillet on medium high. Spoon in enough batter to make a flat pancake the covers the bottom of the pan.

Cook on one side until golden brown, and then flip and cook on the other side. Serve them fresh with seasoned soy sauce for dipping.

Seasoned Soy Sauce

1/3 cup soy sauce
1 green onion, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon chili powder + a pinch of cayenne (that's what I used to replace the Korean chile powder)

Let me know what your favorite Winter Olympics event is in the comments!

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