I don’t know about you, and maybe this is silly of me, but every time I go to an East Asian Restaurant, I always feel like their food is worlds away from my ability level. Especially since I’d never even tried Korean before coming to New York, I felt like that was just something I was going to have to splurge on every once in a while, or else rely on my Korean friends to make it for me. It just tastes like a cleverly guarded secret – the kind that you couldn’t figure out, even if you were lucky enough to find a recipe for it. But luckily enough, I happen to be living with one of those Korean friends, and using my expert espionage skills (asking for her recipe) I’ve discovered, much to my embarrassment, that I just wasn’t asking the right people.
Like most cuisines, Korean food is based mainly on a few different base flavors. Most of these you can find at your average supermarket – soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, garlic. And if you can only find these, and you use them in the right proportions, your food will still taste pretty Korean, and very delicious. But my favorite ingredient is this stuff called gochujang. This spicy red pepper paste, which you can buy at Asian supermarkets, is like a powerhouse of concentrated flavor, and this is what really makes Korean food taste Korean. When I give a recipe here that calls for it, that’s just an approximation of what a person with decent spicy tolerance can take. But if your spicy tolerance is better than mine (or if you don’t mind suffering for the sake of taste) feel free to go above and beyond. It’s so good.
Julia’s given me a couple of different recipes, but I’m going to start with this addictive comfort stew called Tak Toritang, which is the first meal she made for us. It’s a classic meat and potatoes dish, that’s boiled in a highly flavored broth so that the chicken gets addictively fall-off-the-bone tender. The flavor profile of this dish really transcends nationality. It reminds me so much of the all-appealing dishes mommy used to make when I was younger – and this, too, is really a perfect winter weeknight dinner food as long as everybody involved enjoys spicy (tone down the pepper paste if they don’t). It all cooks in one pot, it’s super flavorful, it warms you up, and it has that inexplicable “home” taste that you can’t describe… but you know it when you taste it. It’s basically the Asian equivalent of soul food (hence the unbearable title of this post).
More addictive Korean recipes, including some awesome sides, are forthcoming. But make this one-dish dinner sometime very, very soon. If you’ve got the winter blues (or if you don’t) it will make your week, I promise.
(adapted from allrecipes.com )