호떡 (Hotteok, Sweet Filled Pancake)

Image by 최광모

호떡 (Hotteok) is a quintessential street food. It is rare that Koreans make this at home with so many street vendors selling this treat. Although yes, if you grew up in my household, you might be making this on your own. My parents were TAD protective and didn’t trust street vendors very much. During my childhood, the quality of street food vendors were not like it is right now.

Regardless, whichever vendor you go to, they have their own special little something added to it. It might be a little bit of green tea powder, a little bit more cinnamon, a softer dough…whatever the case, if you ever find yourself on a busy street of Korea, it’s not good enough to just sample one. If you are making this at home, please make sure to eat it right away. Once it cools down, it really doesn’t taste the same. As you know, rice flour tends to get “rigid” when cold. You want crispiness on the sides you fried and soft and gooey on the inside with the melted filling oozing out.

Serves 6 to 8
Prep time: 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on dough rising time
Cook time: 40 minutes

2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons raw sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups white rice flour
2 cups unbleached flour

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Oil, for shaping and cooking

Put the warm water into a large mixing bowl and add the yeast, sugar and salt. Stir until the dry ingredients are dissolved, then add rice and wheat flours. Mix with a mixing spoon then knead for 3 to 6 minutes until evenly distributed. Dough should hold its shape and be slightly damp to the touch. Moisten a kitchen towel and drape over the dough and allow to rise for at least 30 minutes.

To prepare the filling, mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl until evenly blended.

Once dough is ready, lightly coat hands with oil, tear off about a 1/4-cup chunk of dough and fashion into a 4- or 5-inch disc. Place 1 tablespoon of filling into the center of each disc, bringing the edges of the disc up around the filling; pinch closed. Each pancake should now be a roughly spherical dumpling.

Place a frying pan over medium heat, and coat the bottom with a small amount of cooking oil. Place one of the enclosed dumplings into the fry pan with the pinched seam at the bottom for a few seconds to seal the joint. Then flip it over with a spatula and squish it flat. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, until the bottom is light brown and crispy. Flip over and cook the other side. Remove from the heat after both sides are cooked and place on a rack to cool (a cookie sheet or newspaper will also work well). Replenish the oil in the pan as needed to keep the dough from sticking.

Eat them by hand while they are still warm and gooey, but be sure to have a napkin handy!

수제비 (Soojebi, Hand-Tossed Dough Soup)

Due to the simplicity of this soup, you might think this is a soup of common people of Korea. If you thought that, you’d be wrong. Korea for many generations has been a rice cultivating culture. This means the primary and most available crop is rice, not wheat for making flour. Also, Korea had a highly hierarchical class system. This means, like the nobility of Europe, the nobility in Korea owned most of the land. The farmers who farmed usually had to give portions of their harvest to the landowners.

If you think from that perspective, you will realize that this soup was not for an average person, but for people who had enough means to be in possession of something other than just simple rice and vegetables. Actually, most of the dishes I introduce would probably grace the tables of nobility. If you happened to be a commoner, you would only encounter them during harvest celebrations or other special occasions when noble houses would open up their home to commoners to treat them.

Serves 6 to 8
Prep time: 15 to 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

10 cups water
6 pieces of Pacific Kombu (1 piece is about 2- by 3-inches) (see note)
1 medium yellow potato, peeled
1 small zucchini
1 small onion
2 green onions
1 tablespoon sea salt.
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Dough Flakes:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten (optional)
7 tablespoons water

Put 10 cups of water into a stockpot or a large saucepan. Add the kombu and bring to a boil. While waiting, prepare the vegetables: Slice potato and zucchini into 1-inch by 1-inch by 1/4-inch pieces. Remove the skin from onion and cut into small pieces. Cut green onion into 1-inch long pieces.

Once the water reaches a boil, remove the kombu, if desired (it can be cut into smaller pieces and eaten with the soup). Add the potatoes, salt, sesame oil and red pepper and continue to boil.

Prepare the dough: Add flour, salt, egg and 7 tablespoons water into large mixing bowl (if preparing a vegan version, leave out the egg and add more water as needed). Knead for approximately 5 minutes or until the mixture is smooth and evenly distributed.

After about 10 minutes of boiling the soup, add the dough flakes. “Tear off” flat chucks of dough about the size of a half-dollar coin and add to the boiling stock. Boil the dough for 10 to 15 minutes or until the dough is fully cooked – usually they will start floating and change color – stirring occasionally to keep the flakes from sticking to each other. When the dough starts rising, add the remaining vegetables. Keep the soup at a medium boil for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Note: Optionally, you can use other seafood or meat broth.

김치전 (Gimchee-jeon, Kimchi Pancakes)

This recipe is a pescaterian version of the pancake. Most often, you will want to put some small pieces of pork meat (especially the natural version of bacon, not those strangely colored American bacon). Gimchee and pork pair really well!

I have been asked about vegetarian or gluten-free version of this pancake. Yes, by all means, please do try. I am not the one to stop anyone from experimenting with food since I cannot follow any recipe. Just to create these recipes, my husband had to follow me around while I was cooking, measuring before I randomly put things into a pot. All I can say is that pancake without flour is not going to taste the same. Also, there is a reason why Gimchee is made with a little bit of fish sauce…something to do with the fermentation process. There are vegan Gimchee recipes, but it’s just not quite the same.

Serves 6 to 8
Prep time: 20 to 25 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

2 cups sliced Gimchi
1 onion
1 3/4 cups unbleached flour
3 eggs
About 1/2 cup water
High-heat oil for cooking

Place the Gimchi in a large mixing bowl. Use kitchen shears to slice Gimchi into pieces no larger than 1-inch. Dice the onion into small pieces and add to the mixing bowl. Add flour and eggs, stirring with a mixing spoon until evenly mixed. Add water or Gimchi juice (for added tangy flavor!) until mixture is the proper consistency: it should be just thick enough to hold its shape.

Coat the bottom of a frying pan with oil and bring to medium heat. When hot, place a large spoonful (approximately 1/8 to 1/4 cup) of the mixture into the pan. Use the spoon to flatten it out into a pancake about 1/4-inch thick. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side, flipping with a spatula when needed. The final product should be mottled brown and slightly crispy on the outside.

미역 무침 (Miyeok-naengchae, Seaweed Salad)

미역 무침 or 미역 냉채 (Miyeok-naengchae) is a fairly common side dish in the summer. Korean meals usually involve multiple side dishes and at least one kind of soup accompanying rice. This dish could just be eaten on its own, but I’ve seen it mostly served as a accompaniment. When I was young, I much preferred 미역국 (seaweed soup) so that’s partly the reason why I don’t have a nice cute childhood memories of this dish, but as I was teaching a summer cooking class, this dish was one of few I could think of to serve that many Americans would think as a summer dish. Honestly speaking, there’s a proverb of sorts in Korea 이열치열, loosely meant hot food summer or winter is better for you.

Serves 6 to 8
Prep time: 20 to 24 minutes
Cook time: 30 to 35 minutes

1 package wakame (1.76 ounces / 50 grams)
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 onion
1 medium cucumber, peeled

Place a package of wakame (about 50 grams) into a medium saucepan and fill with water 1 to 2 inches above the seaweed. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes or until seaweed is loose and chewy but not sticky. Over boiling will cause seaweed to be sticky and not chewy. Drain the water from the wakame, rinse with cold water and place into a large mixing bowl.

While prepping the seaweed, prepare the dressing for the salad: In a small mixing bowl combine the soy sauce, sugar, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, sea salt and red pepper until the solids are dissolved.

Slice the onion and cucumber into long narrow pieces and add to the dressing. Ensure the onions are separated into individual pieces and marinate for at least 5 to 10 minutes (marinating longer will result in a more flavorful salad).

Pour the dressing over the drained wakame and mix thoroughly. Cover and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Serve chilled.

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