Monday, November 16, 2009

Delicious Korean Hot Pot

(asian grocery sources at the end of this post)
Child, don't look so skeptical now... This is gonna be a winner!  Nothing beats a nice hot bowl of broth, veggies, and noodles on a cold day.  We have noodles similar to this at least twice a month or more often.  I buy the broth in those resealable cartons and keep it in the fridge so the Pyrate can make himself a bowl of this instead of those disgusting instant ramen soups he loves so much.  He'll sometimes just have the broth with the staple items, sometimes just the noodles, onions, and a bit of chinese or thai chili paste.  He actually doesn't mind making this either because it's so much more satisfying and easy to make.  This version is like the royal version, with lots of delicious goodies to enjoy... 

A bowl of goodies from our Korean Hot Pot

This is sooooo easy you can do it in a flash.  There's almost nothing to cook.  The hardest work will be finding yourself a local asian grocery to adopt as your official source for ingredients we'll be using for this week's recipes.  But that's a good thing!  Venture out a bit!  Explore!  Broaden your horizons!
I'm being silly, but seriously, I picked up the pyrate from school today, stopped by our local asian grocer and grabbed up some ingredients for this Korean version of comfort food.   Why Korean?
Well, first of all, I was watching a show on the cooking network where they were using an ingredient called Gochujang in a competition.  3 chefs had to use it in their appetizer, main course, and dessert.  I missed the beginning so I was left frustratedly asking the tv screen over and over again, "What the heck is this ko-joo-ching???"  (there was no visible text so all I could do was assume based on the phonetics I could hear...) Would you believe I went online and, thanks to Google's intelligent search engine's spell correct feature which promptly replied to my search, "did you mean gochujang?" and within a matter of less than 2 minutes I was schooled.

Gochujang is a smokey, sweet, spicy red pepper paste used quite commonly in Korean cooking.   It is a must have in your arsenal if you do any kind of Korean cooking.
So we'll be doing a couple of recipes this week that call for this yummy chili paste and I can't wait to share!
The Austrian's been fighting off a sore throat the last two days.  He could really use some fresh, nutrient packed vegetables to fortify his system for the fight. 
What I like about asian foods, is they are usually super-fresh cooked, super-fast, therefore they retain much of their nutrients.    This hot pot, for example could not be any simpler or quicker.  Broth is basically heated up to a boil then ingredients are added in order of length of time it takes to cook them and the ingredients are cut in a way that they cook in a few seconds so once everything is in the broth the fire is turned off and voila!  Dinner is served.  Hot pots are crazy versatile as well.   You can add or subtract ingredients to your heart's desire. 
If you really like this recipe, you might want to consider investing in a Korean cookbook.  I recommend these books that can be found at most booksellers:

The first book, has a photo of a version of this hot pot dish we're making right there on the cover!  They both have excellent ingredient glossaries.  Ingredient glossaries are the thing you really will rely on when learning to cook foods from cultures other than your own.  Ingredient glossaries in cookbooks will save you time, money, and in some cases, your life!  lol.    I may have said it before, but I'll say it again, knowing your ingredients will help you to put them together in ways that actually work!

Here are ingredients that can be used in this dish.  I have divided them into to categories.  Staples (what should always go in) and Options (what you can add to it)

Korean Rice Cakes
THE PLAYERS: (Your Grocery List)
STAPLES:  Broth  (You can use Vegetable, Chicken, or Beef Broth.  Get organic, low-sodium if you can find it.  Or you can also make a dashi type broth by taking a sheet of Laver Seaweed and dropping it into your boiling water a few minutes before adding your soup ingredients.) Gochujang  (Korean red chili pepper paste.  Gotta get this at the asian grocer.  You won't find it anywhere else, and nothing else will do.  If you live in a big city, and can't find an asian grocer you're not looking hard enough.  If you're not in a big city, or you live somewhere where there isn't much of an asian community, then try online for the asian ingredients.  I'll add some links after the recipe for shopping for asian ingredients online. If you're looking online, sometimes gochujang will simply be called hot pepper paste.  It comes in rectangular plastic tubs....pretty much always, and a popular brand is Sempio. Don't buy the stuff in the jars.  Get the stuff in the tubs...) Korean Noodles (these can be substituted with udon or ramen noodles as a last resort...but try to get the real deal, dried noodles from the asian grocer. they'll have two kinds: Korean vermicelli and Korean Noodles.  I like the noodles better than the vermicelli.)Carrots  (Those long orange things that grow underground.) Green Onions (also self explanatory... can be substituted with leaks)  Leafy Greens (I used Bok Choy, but spinach, savoy cabbage, napa cabbage, or regular cabbage are also very good.) Bean Sprouts (These can be found in most grocery store produce sections.  They are the sprouts from soy beans...full of nutrients!)

OPTIONS: Mushrooms (I used ordinary brown mushrooms, but you can get as exotic as you like.  But if you use dried ones keep in mind that you'll need to reconstitute them in hot water before you can use them.) Dumplings (Oh boy! For me, this would be in the "staples" set of ingredients, but that's just me... lol... In the version I made tonight they were included.  You can find these in stores like Trader Joes in the frozen section, but the best ones you'll find in the freezer of the asian grocer.   Get Korean ones, but in a pinch, japanese or chinese will also work quite nicely.  They come filled with chicken, pork and beef, or veggies.  Take your pick!) Korean Sliced Rice Cakes (These chewy, doughy bits of yumminess also went into the hot pot we made tonight.  They are slices of Korean rice cake sticks... which can only be explained as doughy pasta type things that maybe akin to gnocchi... I don't know.  But all I can tell you is that the texture and the flavor is delicious.  And yes, we had these in our soup tonight as well.  They can be found in the freezer section of the asian grocery store near the dumplings.)  Meats(You MUST use thinly cut quality meats should you decide to include them in your hotpot.  If they are not cut thin enough they won't cook fast enough.  In asian groceries, the butcher section will usually sell meats already cut like this... They flash freeze the meats, then slice them on a mechanical slicer, wafer thin so they literally cook in seconds when in contact with heat.  If you have trouble finding pre-sliced meats, you can slice your own, but guess what?  any supermarket butcher department will do it for you as well.  They just don't advertise it.  You'll want to use chicken breasts, rib eye, filet mignon, or pork loin, sliced across the grain.  This is very important... You can also do this with fish, but I don't recommend it because it's tricky to get the right consistancy.  However shrimp works very well. ) Snow Peas (known in some places as chinese peas.  They sort of look like sweet peas, but they are very flat)  Bell Peppers (red are best for their sweetness) Sweet Asian Yam (These are also found in asian grocers. they are not sweet potatoes.  they are more purple than sweet potatoes, and they are not orange inside.  they are cream colored inside.) Broccoli




Here's the fun part!   This is an eyeball kinda meal so use your discretion with amounts.  Things are quick cooked so you won't be deceived by quantity and size, what you see is what you'll get when it's done.  A handful of this and a handful of that will do just fine, and if you're adding meat, use just enough to flavor your pot.  One chicken breast half worth of slices, one steak's worth of slices is more than enough for a hot pot to feed 4.   If you buy a lot, just plan to have hot pots a few times during the week, and switch up the participating players to make variety.  Tonight, we put everything in our hot pot except for the broccoli.  

Put a large pot of broth (or water with a sheet of dried smoked laver/seaweed)on the stove to boil.  (Depending on how many you will feed.)
While your broth's heating up,  you want to prep all of your ingredients.
As you cut these items, place them in separate prep bowls. 
Cut carrot in this manner, on the diagonal, cut one 1/2 inch slice off the end of the carrot.  Turn it 1/4 turn and repeat with a diagonal 1/2 inch cut.  Turn again 1/4 turn and so on...
Cut 2 green onions Remove the root end and the soft parts of the green end, and then cut green onions into thirds.  Then lengthwise cut these thirds into thin slivers.
Roll Bok Choy or other greens and cut into inch wide course shreds.
Slice mushrooms then cut in the opposite direction to make little strips.
Cut Snow Peas into thin slivers similar to the green onions.
Cut the Bell Pepper into thin strips.
Peel the yam then with the peeler, slice the yam into thin sliver strips. 
Cut broccoli into thin slices (about 1/4 inch thick)

If you're using meat, stack the thinly sliced meat and cut into strips 1/2 inch wide.

Now your pot of water should be boiling.
Add carrots to your boiling pot.
Wait 2 minutes.
Add broccoli if you're using it.
Add mushrooms.
Add yams.
Add shrimp if you're using it.
Add bell pepper.
Add bok choy.
Add noodles.
Add meat if you're using it.
Add dumplings, soy bean sprouts, rice cake slices, and snow peas.
Boil 1 minute ONLY and remove from heat and put a lid on for at least 2 minutes before serving.

To serve,
Put some noodles from your pot in the bottom of a soup bowl.
Ladle broth, and veggies over the noodles.
Pile a couple of dumplings, rice cake slices and meat on top of that.
Take a pinch of raw green onion slivers and pile on top of that.
Add a small dollop (size of a dime for the faint of heart, a bit more for heat lovers) of Gochujang like a cherry on top.

And dinner is served!!!!  Your grateful eaters will need both chopsticks and a tablespoon if they are to get every last drop.  Right before they eat this they swish it around to mix in the fresh green onions, and the gochujang so that it colors the broth. 
You'll need nothing more than a tall glass of iced green tea and a napkin for slurping noodles!!!

a list of korean grocers in the US


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  1. i was doing a google image search for korean rice cakes--tteok--and i found your blog. a happy accident, and your food looks soo good!


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