Korean Food : Red bean Noodle Soup, Pat Kalguksu : Azuki bean Noodle Soup



red bean noodle soup
It was drizzling outside, my b-friend was driving my home to pick me up for dinner. I was choosing dinner menu. It is the most difficult topic, what to eat, for us. The reason is that I want all food. Last time, he chose one, so it was my turn to select our delights.

It was dark, dim, damp, drooping, depressing outside. On the day like this, I feel cold and craving for hot soup. I fell into deep thought to find the novel menu among soup category.

A hundred menus floated on my mind, but I wanted adjacency to sooth my starvation as soon as possible. I drew a virtual village map and browse all restaurants. And suddenly red bean noodle soup restaurant, that I had been nearly 5 years ago, just hit my head. It locates 10 minute far from my home. It is yummy and hot. Finally, I made my decision.

My b-friends and I hurried on to the place. We took a seat on the corner table and ordered two bowls of noodle soup, called Pat Kalguksu, and one plate of dumpling. Soon they arrived.



red bean noodle soupAt first, it seemed not to have any noodle.
But the nuttiness swirling from soup did not at all dishearten me.




red bean noodle soupStirring, I could see green tea mixed noodle submerged in the red bean soup.
More nourishing with anti-aging ingredients.




red bean noodle soupIt tastes best with newly-made fresh kimchi.




red bean noodle soup
I wanted it Sweeter and Sweeter

Red bean noodle soup served here was stuffed with red bean. It was a bit under-seasoned, and I assumed that owner intendedly add less salt for health reason, compared to unconscient owners pour an enormous amount of seasonings.
I feel thankful for her considerate thought.

But, apart from her intent, my taste was a lot different. When I was young, grandma made red bean porridge on winter solstice, but I disliked its blandness without any stimulative sweetness. I refused to eat it, so grandma added sugar in it so that I could eat blithely. Since then, I got accustomed to sugary red bean soup. So I wanted this red bean noodle soup sweeter and sweeter.

After finishing half bowl, I asked the owner a bit of sugar. She immediately brought me a small bowl of it. I didn’t seem the only one who required it. I put a small spoon of sugar on it and gently stir it. When it melts underneath the soup, I ate soup again. This was it, that my grandma used to give me.
Red bean in Korea

In the past

Red beans, also known as azuki beans, are used frequently in Korean dishes. The red color is traditionally considered to repel evil spirits. Red bean rice cake is placed on the tables of babies' first birthday parties, house warming parties and other ceremonies like that.

On winter solstice, the shortest day with the longest night of the year, Koreans eat red bean porridge in Korea. They believed that red color of porridge will block the devils from their family.



Nowadays
 
The traditional role of defeating evils disappeared and just habitual customs remained, while the red bean’s health effects had more highlighted. It is known as a super-concentrated store of nutritions such as protein, iron, fiber and antioxidant.

It is famed as a diuretic food, that means it’s an effective diet food. Koreans drink red bean boiled water daily, and even eat in place of rice. Red bean also helps blood circulation, so it lowers cholesterol level and treat hypertension, diabetes, and blood related diseases.
Based on these popularity, red bean have been applied to various product categories including snacks, doughnut, pastries, drinks, and even cosmetics. 


The perspective and usage of red bean have been changing as time.
But it is obvious that it is always lovable food for Korean.





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Korean Food : Korea Military Army Food, Hardtack. Geonbbang.




I wanted to eat these tiny star candies.



When I was a elementary school student, I used to buy a pack of geonbbang at the store. I liked that small embossing cracker with two holes. I sometimes kept it inside my mouth for a longer time, so it was soaked with water and got melted. Or I just cracked it with my teeth enjoying its rough texture inner side.    


hardtack geonbbang
It is how it looks. a cute hexahedron with two holes.


Geonbbang was cheap with its good quantity and I could share it with my elder sister. But it sometimes put us in the competition. We didn't compete for getting more pieces, we did it for having a small plastic pack inside, that includes tiny star candies. It’s a little thing to give a bit of taste to the cracker.

But when we governed one package by two of us, we transformed to a gladiator who was poised to fight for those tiny stars. The moment one grabbed the plastic pack, the war began. If it is my sister, she often ran away from me to have treasure all by herself. Then, I was the one who angrily chased her to get my portion.

Finally, she got caught. I am not sure whether she just let me catch or I was fast enough to get her. Anyway, then we decided how to divide those star shaped jewels. We mostly portion it half to each fairly. The war ended, and it was time to enjoy our feast with those twinkle stars

I was so greedy about those somewhat trifling candies. I was so angry at her when I couldn't obtain a half of it. Without them, I felt like I ate something soulless. I think at that time those candies might’ve had magical power that makes me fight for it as Helene has had done at troy.



hardtack geonbbang




hardtack geonbbang

What is Geonbbang exactly?

To Briefly Explain, it is a korean version of hardtack. A simple type of cracker or biscuit made from flour, water and salt. A sort of military ration that is cheap and long lasting.
Hardtack is normally infamous for its extreme hardness with scarce moisture so that it can last long without going bad. Sometimes it was too hard that soldiers cannot break it with their teeth, so they usually softened it dunked into coffee or tea.

 

Korean hardtack called ‘Geonbbang’ is different in texture. Historically dating back,  Geonbbang was invented by Japanese army. Japan wanted to secure their food supply with long-lasting food during long sea voyages and military journey at Pacific war. Through years, they developed this shape of hardtack having imitated portugal biscuit. Japanese uniquely added star candies into hardtack. Later, it was spreaded to Korean army and became a vital military food in Korea.



Korean Snack For Citizen?

Interestingly, hardtack is highly sold in Korean supermarket. In the past, there were just few snack to eat, so they had no choice but to eat flour based cracker to fill their empty stomach.

Now, with abundance of food, people eat them to recall their memories at army. Almost Korean males are forced to do the military service in Korea, it means most men ate hardtack(geonbbang) at least once at their hardest time of the life. That is unforgettable for them and they continue to buy packs of it.


hardtack geonbbang


I was never a soldier, not even nearing the troop. Why did I indulge in those stars? As I said above, star candies might have had magic power.

And it is still my Helene.

 

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Korean Food : Street Food Calories in Winter (tteokbokki/hotteok)

 

 

When you walk through the street in winter, you can see many vendors selling hot food with steam swirling on. Spicy tteokbokki, hot hot soup with glamorous oden and deep-fries just out from oil. All of them fascinate you to come. No body would possibly pass by this food temptation.

It’s great to experience local street foods in winter. They must meet your starving experimental spirit in new world. But you need to know the side effect of it before exploring. 



Street food = Obese food?

Frying with oil or seasoning with thick sauce are common cooking way of street food. Deep fries(twigim) and hotteok are deep fried. Bungeoppang, gyeranppang are fried with oil. Ddeokbokki and oden are seasoned with very spicy or salty sauce. That is because these foods must warm itself and warm customers body when being served.

Street food mostly consists of carbohydrates and fats. It means it contains significant amount of calories, that cause obesity and diabetes. Also, it is high in sugar and sodium, so it increases blood sugar levels rapidly. Furthermore, people usually eat them standing and it also accelerates speed of level up.

 Name  Calories
 Hobbang  200kcal
 Hobbang with vegetables  250kcal
 Chinese Hotteok  160kcal
 Bungeoppang  100~120kcal
 Hotteok   260kcal
 Gyeranppang(egg bread)  130kcal
 Kukhwappang  40kcal
 Oden(50g)  70kcal
 Oden(70~80g)  100~150kcal
 Hodogwaja(walnut bread)  50kal
 Baked sweet potato(200g)  256kcal
 Tteokbokki  225kcal

 
   Seeing this, your rationality just blows away. Doesn't it?


To Eat a Best Diet with Street Food

Vendors attract people through stimulative and impressing taste. Those stimuli usually include unhealthy factors such as deep frying and high carb and fat content. The use of those definitely makes sales easy and cheap, and it’s profitable. 

Interestingly, customers indulge in those seductive tastes apart from nutrition facts. They enjoy eating them although they are aware of negative results of overindulge of it. And I do, too. We seem to have fallen into temptation of street food. Kind of ‘What the heck.’

 

I think, to eat a best diet with street food, it’s crucial to balance those greedy wants and nutritional aspects. Nothing must be neglected to better life. Vendors must reduce the quantity of unhealthy ingredients and consumers also learn to adjust its intake considering their health condition.


  It's Chinese Hotteok sold in Korea. Must be more health friendly than Korean one.

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Korean Food : Tongue Burning Pancake, Hotteok (Hoddeok) in Winter




15years ago.

Every winter,
Near my elementary school,
There was a Hotteok vendor with small students around.
I always stopped by there But not to buy one.
Just to look at it. To look at the hotteok making process.

I liked the sizzling sound when round dough met oil.
I liked the vendor’s hand technique to press it flat.
I liked the oil moving in waves when puffed dough turned over.
I liked the smell that notify me of cooking done.



Sometimes I had money to buy one, it was about 300won at those days as I remember, and then I straightly scurried to the vendor. I pay for one hoddoek. I started to observe the intriguing procedure in front of me.

When hotteok study was done, I was able to grab a cup of hotteok. (Why a cup? Hotteok is served being embedded in cardboards. But often served in a paper cup preventing sugar drops to clothes. Cups are more costly than cardboards. I assumed that the vendor near my school was thoughtful worrying us for being scolded about filthy clothes.)

I hurriedly ate a bite of hotteok with feeling of excitement. Ouch. Inside was too hot and I almost burned my tongue. I resolved not to hasten to eat it next time. I must do first bite after cooling it edible enough. But interestingly, I repeatedly burned my tongues having forgot previous learning.  

I think I had to pay more for vendor’s hotteok making performance, since I really appreciate the whole play. I owe some to him for that, but he also owes me for product liability law. He’s never warned me to be attentive of hot filling. I’ve burned my tongues umpteen times. Tradeoff.


 

What is exactly a Hotteok?

Hotteok is a sort of brown-sugar filled Korea pancake.

Where is Hotteok Origin?

The name Hotteok is combination of ‘Ho’ meaning barbarian and ‘tteok’ meaning rice cake. In other words, it literally means ‘barbarian rice cake’.

It was believed to be originated from middle Asia including Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan or Turkey and India. Researchers assumed the hotteok was derived from ‘Nan’, the typical bread in those areas. It was introduced to China through the silk road and became popular in China. Later, in 1882, hotteok was introduced to Korea by chinese merchants who immigrated to Korea. They started selling it in Jemulpo, Incheon at the beginning, and then moved to Jongno and Myeongdong in Seoul. Now it’s sold everywhere throughout Korea.

First introduced Chinese hotteok contained savory meat fillings, but it was replaced by a sweet mixture to meet Korean tastes. The basic ingredients of sweet filling are brown sugar, honey, chopped peanuts, sunflower seed and cinnamon.





How Can I Make Hotteok?

1. Mix wheat flour, water, milk, sugar and yeast in the bowl.
2. Kneed the dough.
3. Let dough lie for several hours.
4. After dough arising, tear off handful sized balls from the dough.
5. Make it round shape and fill it with sweet mixture.
   (brown sugar, honey, chopped peanuts, and cinnamon.)
6. Place the filled dough on a greased griddle.
7. Press it flat with a circle shaped metal spatula.
8. When one side cooked, turn it over and fry another side.
9. After both sides fully browned, let it off the pan.
10. Serve when it’s hot.


<Good News>

In supermarkets or discount stores, You can buy ready-made dry hotteok mix with a filling of brown sugar and ground peanuts or sesame seeds. Easy and Fast!
 



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Korean Food : Did you buy Baked sweet potatoes today, Mom? 


“Did you buy sweet potatoes today, Mom?”

It was the first question that I asked when my mom got home from work.
 I was happy when she answered me back ‘Yes’.
But regardless of my wish, she sometimes said to me.

“No, today the sweet potato vendor didn’t come out there."


















Some vendors are not stable like in-store merchants.

In Korea, sweet potatoes were sold like a street food.
But, some vendors are not stable like in-store merchants. Most of vendors are the elderly who work on the street for their living. Even stray adolescents or high-school students sell them for fun. Moreover, in Korea, vending is not legitimately allowed in most areas. Due to these conditions, they don’t come out or they change selling places very often. So, Mom couldn’t buy me sweet potatoes at times and I felt so disappointed and even sad..

 

 

How about home baked sweet potatoes?

No, It doesn’t satisfy me as much as street one.
There’s something special to street sweet potatoes.

Street vendors roasted sweet potatoes in an specially devised equipment. What is that? It is a drum. Do I mean a real drum? Yes, I meant that. The drum is modified to roast sweet potatoes. There is one wide door at the side of the drum so that you can put firewood to set a fire. There are also a few narrow long drawers inside to put raw sweet potatoes. The metal cover helps keep heat inside as like an oven. Few minutes later adding them, you can smell the baking. Sweet potatoes are roasted enough to eat. It’s time for you to enjoy the nature given sweets.  




Homebaked vs Streetbaked


That is because there are several differences in tastes.

A street sweet potato has a secret ingredient. You will taste sweet and nutty flavors in sweet potatoes and those are created by starch and amino-acid. But the most delicious part of street one is the caramel flavor that is generated by heating sugars.

What is the secret ingredient? It is firewood inside the drum. It sometimes burns parts of sweet potatoes and those parts are attractively caramelized. It also gives distinctive woody flavors to sweet potatoes, that makes them distinguished from home baked. This combination of all flavors makes you indulge in street sweet potatoes.

Technically, based on science research, the street one is proved to be sweeter than homebaked one thanks to less water contain. On the process inside the drum, the water evaporates from sweet potatoes, so sugars condensate. It makes the texture differences as well. The home baking one has rough and dry texture, street one has hard and chewy since starch and sugar tangle into firm string-like texture.


Few days ago,
 
I read thatthe sweet potato vendors are disappearing owing to the fire wood price-risin. That is sad news. As it is hard  to bake sweet potatoes at home, there should be vendors who specialized in making them. Also, Many Koreans long for the memory Mom brought them home just I do. 


I know there's no sweet potato vendors in my town anymore.
I murmur myself.

Did you buy sweet potatoes today, Mom? 


 

 
 
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Korean food : In Winter, My Mom's Best Udon

In winter, shivering with cold and hunger, I just arrived home.

There is just one thing that comes to mind.

udon
I look for Mom taking off my shoes.

“Mom, can you fix me a bowl of Udon?”











When I feel cold, I want to eat something that can warm my body. Noodle soup would be the best choice. I place my hand around the noodle bowl and melt my pinky frozen fingers. I grab my chopsticks and hold some string of noodles and suck it. After delight my mouth with chewy noodle and sip noodle warm soup embracing the bowl with both hands. It warms my hands as well as inside my body. 



Udon in Korea

Udon is a thick wheat flour noodle with hot noodle soup originated from Japan. It became popular in Korea long ago, so there are some Korean who think Udon is Korean traditional soup. Korean Udon has fewer variations compared to Japanese Udon.

Popular in Winter

The Udon popularity in winter in Korea is proved by the sales records. Instant udon sales in winter is twice as much as that in summer. The companies produce almost twice many products in winter. No doubt Udon is representative winter food in Korea.



There are three ways we, Koreans, consume Udon
Snack bar, Udon restaurant, Instant Udon at home.

The first place we eat udon was at a snack bar. These bars carry not only Udon, but also other snacks such as Ramen, Cold noodle, dumplings, rice and so on. It means they regard Udon as one quick prepared snack. You can eat Udon in high way station(휴게소). They serve instant Udon cooked in a short time and fill a driver’s empty stomach. The taste of Udon are not delicate at all, but quite satisfying considered as a fast food.

Second,  at Udon specialized restaurant. we started pursuing more valued noodle taste there. Franchise Udon restaurants such as Jang-udon appeared in Korea and introduced various kinds of Udon to Korea. Later on 2000, customers began to want more sophisticated Udon. To meet the market needs, individually own restaurants were opened by chefs trained in Japan or who benchmarked Japanese Udon restaurants. They provide high class Udon satisfying Korean consumers taste-buds.

Third, Instant Udon intruded into Korean kitchen. Instant Udon, Saengsaeng Udon(생생우동), was approached by Nongsim company in November, 1995, and it has been continuously highly sold till now. Almost Koreans around my age must know the well-known ad copy, “The soup is finishing(국물이 끝내줘요.)”.It literally means that soup comes to the end(full) of your satisfaction, so it finishes you. Implying, the soup is awesome. Through this commercial copy, Saengsaeng Udon(생생우동) became the number one instant udon in Korea.(If you say ‘Gukmul is keun-nae-jueo-you’, your Korean friend will definitely be atonished.)

udon

Saengsaeng Udon Commercial Copy Link


After Saengsaeng Udon has hit the market

There appeared follower items from competitor companies. Most of them couldn't break the dominance of the leader product, so CJ launched Japan traditional instant udon targeting at the niche premium market in 2000. It was carried and stored in the fridge compared to Saengsaeng displayed in the room temperature. It was fresher and more chewy than preserved products. 4 years later, it attained the top of korean udon market having sold 10 million for 4 years. It still stay on the best selling instant Udon and plan exporting to adjacent countries.

udon
My mom’s instant noodle

I remember all types of Udon that I said above
;a snack bar udon, highway udon, restaurant udon, and instant udon. What do I like the best? In terms of the taste, undoubtedly, udon restaurant serve the savory udon bowl with well harmonized flavors.

But, I would say, to me, my mom’s instant noodle in the evening is the best udon. After coming home from school shuddering in the freezing cold day, I eat mom made Udon. Although it’s instant mass produced by a company, my mom adds her warm-hearts to the udon, and yummy small talk as a side dish. It is my best family udon of my life.   


This Winter,
I hope you have your best Udon with your family!



 

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Korean Food : New Year, We Talk Dumplings! Seollal tradition




Around new year, all my family gathered together to celebrate the new year. In spite of the long journey to another province to visit relatives, I waited for the day for two reasons. 



The first reason is that I could get some pocket money from the eldery. They gave me more or less 10,000won each, and it’s come to around 100,000won or 300,000won at most, if I could meet all relatives.

As a student who receive the allowance of 40,000won for a month, it was a fortune. I bought what I wanted to buy before, saved money in the bank or sometimes be taken over by my brainy parents. However I used my money, I was just glad that I could touch or have that amount of money at that age.

The second reason is that I could make Mandu with my family altogether. We sit around making a circle on the floor with the ingredients in the center of us. We usually talk about what happened during last year, feelings, the plans for the future or trivial issues occurring around the world. I liked that moment with laughter, and I also loved the Mandu making procedure.


Now, you might’ve become intriguing about mandu.
What the hell is it?



This is Mandu. It is that Mandu that the protagonist Oh Dae-Su is fed a steady diet in the film Old boy, If you watch it, you can recall what it is and how it looks exactly. Briefly saying, Mandu is a dumpling in Korean cuisine. We make it every new year day, especially on chinese(lunar) new year day.




“Do you want to have a pretty baby?”

When I made my dumpling with my mom, I tried to make it as pretty as possible. It was not that easy. The size and shape of my dumplings are not steady owing to my lack of skill. Some of them even exploded horribly showing its fillings outside. It’s mainly because I added too much amount of filling inside and it couldn't bear that, and bombed out. I tried, tried and tried to make it neat and nice.


In Korea, it is said that
you will have a pretty baby
if you make the dumpling pretty.


Every girl or woman wants to make a dumpling look good for that reason. It doesn't have any scientifical facts at all but it makes fun whiling making them. The eldery sometimes praise the young for their elaborating handwork, or laugh at the funny shapes and make a joke at it. This traditional joke(or rumor) vitalizes the dumpling making process.


Do you want to have a pretty baby? Then, try to make your dumpling beautiful. 
I just put some filling on a small  dumpling dough and fold it to make a half moon shape. 
Very simple and easy.
Haha, moreover, a rumor has always its covered reason, 

so, what if it’s true?

 

 
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