Sunday, March 11, 2007

a most colorful foodblogging post

Here, with explanations, are the pictures I took of my first-ever attempt at ch'amch'i dwaenjang jjigae, a stew made with a salty bean paste (dwaenjang, with the "w" barely pronounced; it sounds more like "den-jang"), a load of different vegetables, and tuna (ch'amch'i).

As I mentioned before, I'm looking for advice on how to improve the stew, which was good, but seemed to be missing something. Feel free to leave comments or write me an email.

And now-- forward!

In this first picture, we see the cast of characters strewn about orgy-style on my bed. From the left: we've got rice (not needed this time around), a plastic bag of goguma (sweet potatoes-- an unconventional choice), a cylinder of red chili pepper flakes, cans of tuna (one of which I had dropped at the store, which is why it's dented; I don't normally buy dented cans, but that one was my fault), onions, several varieties of mushroom, a plastic container of the previous freakish soup I had made (more on this later), a rectangular container of dwaenjang (from a former coworker), garlic (small, round container), more mushrooms, and green peppers.

A comment about that garlic: that particular brand is like nothing I've ever smelled before. I want to try that brand again. When you sniff the garlic, you smell something sweet and almost buttery; it was unusual, and I immediately liked it.

Next pic (below)-- the washing begins! I didn't really need to wash the onion, but it said it wanted to hang with the other veggies before they all got slaughtered (probably trying to convert them all to Christianity or something).

In this pic you see, along with the onion, two types of mushroom, a lone green pepper (I'm saving the other two for something else), an eggplant (others to be kept in reserve), and two goguma. Those goguma are tough little bastards when you cut them-- not at all like cutting into regular Idaho potatoes. I knew right away that they'd need some softening-up time before I could stew them with everything else.

In the picture below, it appears as though I've either vomited or shat into the pan. While that's a good guess, it's also wrong. What you see in the pan is the remains of the freakish soup I had made the other night when I had an empty fridge and few leftovers: I had some very chunky multigrain rice, some tuna, and some dwaenjang. I mixed it all together and made a soup, which was lame as hell. But the soup gave me the idea to go all-out and do the thing right, hence the present effort to make a legitimate jjigae (Korean-style stew).

Korean stews and Western stews have certain things in common: they're fairly forgiving in terms of proportions, and it's often just a matter of "chop n' toss"-- throw the ingredients together in the pot and fire that thang up.

But Korean stews are usually such that they don't need hours of cooking time. Budae jjigae ("boot camp stew," i.e., stew with hotdog and other mystery meats), for example, requires only a few minutes until it's ready. While I don't know for sure whether dwaenjang jjigae is the same as budae, it seems to come out pretty quickly when you order it at a restaurant. On the one hand, the price you pay for a quick stew is that the ingredients don't really have a chance to blend together. On the other hand, you experience the freshness of each ingredient right away, which is a pleasure in its own right. Ultimately, neither type of stew is better than the other; it's a matter of preference. I happen to like both.

I put the leftover soup in the pot as a sort of "base" on which to build the current stew.

In the following pic, we see chopping in progress. The veggies have all had time to pray, and are now being done away with. The eggplant was surprisingly springy and had no seeds-- odd. This is a far cry from the enormous, bloated aubergines I remember enjoying in France. My French mom made us some incredible stuffed eggplant once. I wish I had pictures.

Chop, chop, chop. All in the name of healthier eating.

Below, we offer a plateful of chopped veggies to Dalma Daesa, but you can see he's turned up his nose at what I'm sure he perceives as shameful excess. Damn monks.

Below are two varieties of mushroom that needed little cleaning; I simply chopped the dirty bottoms off the shrooms on the right. The mushrooms on the left are called neut'ari in Korean; they're apparently called "agaric" in English, but a Google search of "agaric" brings up many different mushroom images, so "agaric" might be too generic a name for these particular shrooms. I admit I like these neut'ari a lot; they're quite meaty. The shrooms on the right are called p'aengi beoseot in Korean; a "p'aengi" is a spinning top. In English, we apparently use the Japanese term "enoki" to describe these little guys. I often place these shrooms in my ramyeon to spruce the soup up. Ramyeon by itself is pretty boring, so I'll add enoki, squash, egg, and whatever else might be handy.

I ended up using only about half of the p'aengi beoseot in my stew. That's fine; I plan on making the stew again when I've run out of the first batch.

In the following pic, we see that I'm boiling the goguma into submission, softening it up separately to reduce cooking time in the main stew. We also get a glimpse of the barf in the pot, which now has some goch'u (chili peppers) atop it.

Ah yes-- I dumped tuna onto the vomit as well, along with the tuna water for flavor.

In case you're wondering why the hell I'm using tuna and not some other meat, it's because one of the popular stews here-- at least in our teachers' office at Smoo-- is ch'amch'i kimchi jjigae, or tuna kimchi stew. Smells good, and is more delicious than the concept might lead you to believe. My Korean colleagues rarely order anything other than Korean food, and tuna stew is frequently slaughtered and eaten by the ladies.

My thought, then, was to try the same thing, but with dwaenjang stew.

I thought this next pic was pretty colorful. I'm showing you the platter one more time because the composition has changed. Compare this pic with the previous one showing Dalma Daesa-- what's different?

Below: we've added more water and are ready to start the real cooking.

The ingredients are about to meet their tasty fate:

In the following pic, you see I've added a glop of garlic, some red pepper, and the all-important dwaenjang, the bean paste. Time to fire up the camp stove...

Below: this is pretty much what the stew turns into as it cooks. The main goal, now, is to keep it moving and not allow the bottom to burn. No one likes a burned bottom. (By the way, this smells fantastic.)

And that's pretty much it for prep. Cook the nasssty little veggies, Precioussss.

Et voilà-- the final result:

The happy brown color is about what you'd expect for dwaenjang jjigae.

The stew was good, but not great. So the question is... what's missing? One thing dwaenjang jjigae usually has is beans. I don't know their name in English or Korean, but these beans, which are light-brown in color, are a common sight in such stews. I did have such beans in this stew, thanks to that chunky, multigrain rice I had added in at the beginning. Another thing, now that I think of it, is green onions.

But the soup was missing something else, some oomph. What was it? What did I miss? I know that, as I was eating, I felt as though I could have added more seafood without harm. Clams came to mind, as did squid. They would have given the soup some salty, burly character, I think. Did the soup need minari or ssukgat, either of which might go into budae jjigae?

Anyway, there you have it-- my stew. Not too starchy (except for the little goguma I put in; usually, such stews use normal potatoes), not too salty (no extra salt added), and just spicy enough.

OK-- fire away with your thoughts.

UPDATE: Aha! Could it be that we're missing dubu (tofu) and squash? I had intended to buy squash, but somehow forgot it on my shopping run.

UPDATE 2: Instead of fumbling about, I should have just followed this fine-looking recipe.



Anonymous said...

For the record, those beans are soybeans, and they often come with the 된장 (I disagree that this word sound like "denjang," by the way--I think you might just be reacting to the fact that non-Korean speakers have a tendency to overpronounce everything).

And yes, you were missing tofu, but what I think you were really missing was something to make the broth. The 된장 in itself isn't enough. Buy some 멸치액 or just toss in a few large 멸치 and it will taste a lot better. I think you could also probably have used more 된장, but maybe that's just me. Oh, and don't be afraid to cook it as long as you feel you need to to get the flavors out. I think the reason it comes out so quickly in restaurants is because they start prep and cooking in advance.

Tuna goes well with kimchi, but when I heard you were doing 된장 and tuna I had my doubts. Looks like you managed just fine, though.

Nice photos, too. I see you're getting the hang of your new camera.

Kevin Kim said...

re: pronunciation of "dwaenjang"

Well, for me, it seems to depend on which Korean I'm listening to. Most seem to say "den-jang," unless you ask them to say it slowly. Same goes for words like "됐어요," which is often indistinguishable from "...댔어요." Same with "pig" ("dwaeji," often sounding like "daeji"), and words whose spelling indicates a "y" sound that doesn't appear, such as when a woman is named 지혜, which is indistinguishable from another woman's name, 지해. Koreans themselves often insist there's a difference, but I've informally tested them on things like the "ji-hyae" versus "ji-hae" issue, and they can't hear the difference, either. Now I'm dying to do a more formal test.

What frustrates me, when Koreans insist that an absent sound is being pronounced, is that I'll usually pronounce Korean words as I hear them, and there won't be a problem. While I know I have an accent when I talk, I also know that most Koreans find what I say to be clearly said. If I pronounce "dwaeji" as "daeji," then, Koreans will know I'm saying "dwaeji," and won't go, "Huh?"

I think much the same thing happens in other languages, too: you learn where to drop or gloss certain "unnecessary" sounds when speaking.

re: the stew

Indeed, the myeolch'i seems to be key, and when I was reading the recipe I had linked to in my update, I kicked myself for having missed that. Live and learn. As for putting in more paste-- yes, I failed to note in my post that I did, in fact, put in more paste after an initial tasting.

I think what I ended up making wasn't anything Korean; it was just Kevin-style stew with Korean overtones. I'm going to try for the real thing next round.

re: camera

It rocks. I'm enjoying learning all about it. It's starting to spoil me, actually.


Sperwer said...

Kevin's Weight Loss Protocols:

1. No more food (strike) blogging (strike) porn

2. No more meals of food porn (except once a week, when you really deserve it, determined by the intensity (i.e., did you puke?) of the previous 6 days' exercise).

More to come; your supracomito - that's galley (not the kind you'd like, though) taskmaster to you squiddie - is working up your very own personal order of battle.

Kevin Kim said...


I'll need to nip this in the bud lest we get too carried away.

What worked for me in Switzerland is what will work for me here: a daily, arduous walk accompanied by healthy, reduced eating-- certainly not exercising until I puke. Heh.

Along with this: stretching and strength exercises including crunches, pushups, hyperextensions, and-- though I hate to say it-- pullups.

I see this regimen as taking many, many months, but as more suited to my psychology than attempting the Seoul version of boot camp, which will simply prompt me to give up. I tried that once, at the behest of a friend in college, and ended up a mass of aches requiring hot showers on a thrice-daily basis to relieve the pain, especially the pain in my shins (stair training-- rough stuff). Yeah, yeah-- I'm a pussy. But there we are.


Sperwer said...

I was just kidding about driving the porcelein bus.

Glad to hear that you're investing in this for the long haul.

On the exercise side, the key is intensity, though - within the moderation of a long-term gradual program, if you like.

Maven said...

I've never attempted to cook Korean food myself. Though I'd love go learn how to make a simple Gol bogi (sp?)Plenty of broth, beef, and sprouts:)

Your foodporn, did, however, get my mouth watering, dalma desa notwithstanding:) His countenance was as if to command one to salivate, almost pavlovian!

Anonymous said...

Mind if I take the discussion of pronunciation and run with it? I hope not, because that is what I is gonna do.

I'll agree with you on the 지혜 versus 지해 thing. This goes for any 애 versus 에 as well. The thing is, though, is that this is a relatively modern phenomenon. Hyunjin and the other teachers her age teach students that there is no real discernable difference between 애 and 에 (which makes spelling tricky--you can't spell these words just from the sound). Yet the teachers from the previous generation teach these vowels sounds as distinct (unfortunately there is no way to convey the difference in Romanization, although I guess it would be something along the lines of "ay" and "eh," just not nearly as severe). So it would appear that Korean as it is spoken is losing the distinction between these two sounds.

I wonder if something similar may be happening with the 외 and 왜 sounds when proceeded by consonants (but not when pronounced as pure vowels, cf. 외국 or 왜?). Historical data would be needed to prove this, but even if there is a change occurring, it is not yet complete. It may just be a difference in our ears, but to me 댄장 and 된장 are still quite distinct. No, the "w" sound is not belabored, but that's typical for Korean (which is why I wonder if it is actually a change toward disappearance or just a characteristic of Korean as it is spoken).

Take my wife's name. Foreigners who don't speak Korean have a hard time pronouncing it, mainly because the consonant + y combination generally isn't followed by a vowel in English (I would say that it doesn't exist, but who knows what weird words are out there that no one ever uses). "Tokyo" is a prime example. I'm not sure what practice is today, but it used to be official broadcasting policy that "Tokyo" was to be pronounced as "To-kee-yo" and not "To-kyo."

In Korean this combination is very common, but it's often spoken quickly and thus not emphasized. And you're right that certain "unnecessary" sounds are dropped when speaking. Ask any Korean to say 광화문 quickly--I can almost guarantee that they will say 광하문 or 광아문. The initial 와 sound will remain intact, though (in other words, they won't say 강하문).

So your claim is valid in principle. I can only say that when I hear 된장, it sounds very different from 댄장. Maybe I'm being Korean in this case. But I don't think so. I still think there is a slight difference. The initial vowel sound in 된장 is more forward in the mouth than the initial vowel sound in 댄장. In the former the lips are pursed (even if only slightly), whereas in the latter there is no pursing of lips.

It comes down to context, I think. The difference may be subtle enough that if you walked into a supermarket and asked for 댄장 they would know what you are talking about--especially since there is no such thing as 댄장. But if you were to take two similar sounding words that could fit into the same semantic slot, you would find that Koreans make a distinction. 되다 and 대다, for example, are both valid verbs... although I am struggling to think of an example where they could both fit into the same semantic slot. Their grammatical functions are different, so I don't think it will work.

OK, take these two words: 위염 and 위암. The former means "stomach infection" while the latter means "stomach cancer." These most certainly fit into the same semantic slot, as they are both ailments of the stomach. It might seem a stretch to compare 여 with 아, but when you proceed them with 위 the "y" sound is taken out of the picture. And "lazy" pronunciation can make 아 sound like 어 (as odd as that may seem). I once told a Korean that I had a stomach infection. His eyes grew wide and he said, "You have stomach cancer?!" I had to repeat the word, emphasizing the separate syllables, and then he got it. Poor pronunciation on my part or poor hearing on his part? Who knows? Maybe a little of both. But there was no contextual way of resolving the difference, so we had a communication breakdown.

What this illustrates, I think, is that when it comes to subtle sounds, what the listener hears may be slightly different from what the speaker says, and we are generally able to make the necessary distinction based on context. But just because context allows the foolproof distinction of certain pronunciation pairs, it does not mean that you can remove the distinction between the two sounds.

So I maintain that there is a discernable, if subtle, difference between 된 and 댄. I will understand if you are not convinced, though--people hear different things. I apologize for the continuing pedantry. See? Weren't things so much better when I just ranted at you in email?

Oh, I almost forgot: I believe 느타리 are "oyster mushrooms" in English. At least this is how they translate it on the food channel here (or, should I say, they translate "oyster mushrooms" as "느타리 버섯"). "Agaric," by the way, is just a general type of mushroom (I think it's actually a genus).

Anonymous said...

Oh, I just remembered something funny (your remark on 돼지 prompted this). Have you ever seen the commercial... oh, wait, without a TV you probably haven't. Well, anyway, there was this commericial where a grandson was showing his grandmother how they could keep in touch via cellphone (I think; my memory is fuzzy). Anyway, the punchline was when he told her that they were now in the digital age or something to that effect, and the grandmother turns to him wide-eyed and says "돼지털?"

It's hysterical, really. I guess you have to see it for full effect. Anyway, it shows that listeners can hear something completely different from what is said depending on their own cognitive filters.