Soul for Real was a very talented R&B singing group that I listened to as a kid. And I admit to having mix tapes with “Candy Rain” that I still listen to today. Great record.
Anyway, my first introduction to Korean cuisine was less than great. My family and I were headed to the Philippines for vacation. (Keep in mind I was 13 years old at the time and my palette wasn’t as sophisticated as it is today.) We flew via Korean Air and had an 8-hour layover in Seoul. (Despite how long the layover was, the shopping at the airport, however, was very exciting!)
Our mid-flight meal consisted of a menu I honestly cannot remember in great detail. But the food that me, my brother and cousins ordered was what was labeled as, “Pancakes and Sausage.” Of course, to kids we were overwhelmed with excitement. “Pancakes?! YESSSSSSS!” <hands in the air> Little did we know, the airline’s interpretation was not what we had imagined. I remember the pancakes being super thin and pale, and the sausage being white in color. “White sausage?!!” Us kids complained. We didn’t know any better, of course. Remember, we were just kids. So we refused to eat it. Looking back now, I really do wish that I did at least try it.
So now that I’m older and wiser (haha) I’m lucky to have been exposed to several different cuisines and foods that I would have never tried before. Culinary school and my genuine curiosity is to thank. But my favorite current Korean-style meal right now is Beef Bulgogi (Korean bbq) and Hobak Jeon (savory zucchini pancakes). Check out the following links for these very delicious and worthwhile recipes!
1 lb. lean steak, frozen
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons sesame seed oil
3 ea. cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
1 bunch green onions, chopped, whites and greens separated
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
While the steak is still frozen, trim the excess fat and slice into thin strips. (Cook’s note: the steak is easier to cut through when it’s frozen.)
Place the steak into a large bowl with the next 7 ingredients. Toss all of the ingredients to coat, and then adding the white parts of the onion. Allow the steak and marinade to thaw for about 1 hour.
Heat a large skillet or wok to medium-high heat. Using a pair of tongs, place the meat onto the heated skillet. Spread the pieces of meat evenly to allow all pieces to cook evenly. After about a minute, add the marinade onto the pan. Toss to coat and allow the sauce to caramelize. Once the marinade is cooked down and the steak is cooked to desired temperature, turn off the heat.
When ready to serve, garnish with sesame seeds, green onion.
Hobak Jeon Korean Zucchini Pancakes
Recipe adapted from Insanity Theory Yields about 6 pancakes
1 ea. zucchini and yellow squash
2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 ea. medium onion, peeled and minced
2 cups AP flour
2 large eggs
2 cups water
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cut off the ends of the yellow squash and zucchini, and then slice into 1/4-inch rounds. Then julienne the rounds.
Toss the squash with the salt, and then place into a bowl for about 30 minutes to drain out the water from the squash.
While you’re waiting for the squash to soften, beat the eggs together till combine. Slowly add in the flour and whisk till incorporated. Then add in the water slowly to thin out. You want the mixture to resemble pancake batter. Add in more water or flour accordingly.
Place the shredded squash into a kitchen towel or cloth, and squeeze out the excess water. Add the squash into the batter, discarding the water. Add in the minced onion.
Heat a cast-iron skillet or non-stick frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat. Once the oil starts to haze, add in a scoopful (I used a 1/2 cup) of the pancake batter to the pan. Swirl the pan to evenly coat.
Cook the pancake till light brown on one side (about 2-5 minutes, depending on your pan), then carefully flip over using a spatula and finish cooking, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer the cooked pancake onto a paper towel-lined plate, then repeat till all batter is used. Reapply oil as needed. Serve with hot dipping sauce. (I mixed 1 part Sambal 1/2 part soy sauce.)