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Top 5 Tips For The Best Korean Food


1). Start with the best ingredients.  These lay the foundation for a delicious meal.  Some Korean cooking essentials would include quality dried anchovies and kelp for stock, quality {and I can’t emphasize that enough} fish sauce, unrefined toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, pastes and flakes.  I would recommend sourcing ingredients that are as natural and wholesome as possible without any artificial colors, preservatives, sweeteners, etc.  Ingredients for packaged sauces or pastes, in particular should comprise of what the actual ingredient is called.  For example, too often inferior soy sauces that moonlight as the actual thing are in fact, fakes.  A closer look will reveal that some “soy sauces” are actually just veggie protein, caramel color, corn syrup and sodium benzoate- not actual soy, so buyer beware.

2). This could be part of tip #1 but for killer soups and stews, make your own stock.  It makes all the difference in the world.  When I first started cooking Korean food, I would rush this step and that was a big mistake.  Take the time to develop the flavors here.  It is what all of your other layers of flavor will bloom from.  For most classic stews and soups, you start with dried, gutted anchovies.  Gutting these are important as without doing so, it can leach out a bitter aftertaste.  Combine these with carrots or Korean radish for a natural sweetness, lots of onion and garlic {with the inner bitter green sprouts removed} and pure, filtered water.  Simmer this for 30-45 minutes and skim off any foam that rises to the top.  In the last 15 minutes or so, add the rinsed kelp.  You don’t want to boil the kelp for too long as again, it can lead to a bitter aftertaste.  Seriously, making your own stock is crucial.

3). Low and slow.  Hot and fast heat can kill some of the essential nutrients from some ingredients like miso or soybean paste.  My father is a big fan of my hot and spicy stews and one of my secrets is to simmer it for most of the day to allow the flavors to mingle and merry.  By the time it reaches his bowl, the soup has reached a delicious depth and richness.  I make sure to garnish with fresh green onions right before serving for a soft sharpness from the onions and crisp texture.

4). Add a little something sweet to balance out the savory, salty and spicy.  For jajangmyeun, I sprinkle in just a bit of sugar, for kimchi, I add an Asian pear, for soups and stews, I add carrot or sweet radish and so on and so forth.  It’s like when you’re baking and add a pinch of salt to cookies or cakes.

5). Aim for different colors and textures.  Bibimbap is so popular for this very reason.  In one bowl, you experience so many different flavors, textures and colors.  The same idea translates to the many banchan or side dishes that can be found accompanying every Korean meal whether it be breakfast or supper.

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