Greetings! Sunnie and I have been very bad bloggers lately…. I thought I would break the drought with a long, long overdue post, and a first of its kind on Vegan8Korean – a product review!
One of the biggest challenges of being vegan and eating Korean is the kimchi. You’ve got to have kimchi, but so often, the available kimchis in stores are not vegan – they have shrimp or other sea animals in them. This isn’t always the case, and you can find vegan kimchi, but things get even more complicated if you’re trying to find kimchi that doesn’t have msg in it either (seriously, why do we need that crap in our healthy, pro-biotic kimchi?!).
We were contacted by the good people at Granny Choe’s to see if we’d be interested in trying out their kimchi. They are available in some stores, but not around here, and so they mailed us over three sample jars in a cold pack. You can buy their kimchi directly from them online, so this was a good opportunity for us to check out how their shipping process works too as they aren’t yet available in stores in our area.
As you can see in the picture above, their kimchi is actually labeled vegan! Right there on the label! You don’t have to look at the ingredients to figure it out yourself – what a brilliant concept! Right away we can tell these guys are onto something here. They also don’t have msg or artificial preservatives in any of their kimchis. You’re getting legit, healthy kimchi from them.
The three samples they sent us arrived in a cold pack, and we received a jar of the traditional cabbage kimchi, a white kimchi (this is the traditional, non-spicy kimchi that was in Korea before the chili pepper was introduced and transformed Korean cuisine), and one of my very favorite kimchis, ggakdugi, radish cube kimchi.
The first kimchi we sampled was the traditional, cabbage kimchi. Sunnie’s mom and dad were visiting us (well, visiting their grandson – but we were here too), and so we had some hardcore kimchi experts lending their opinions to our review.
Our conclusion – yummy! This was a good, solid kimchi. It is definitely a more traditional kimchi, meaning that some kimchis you find in restaurants are quite young and not aged, which makes them less sour, but your traditional kimchi will have a bit of that sour flavor and bite to it – and that’s a good thing. We had that here and really liked it.
The second kimchi we tried was the white kimchi. Now this is a very mild, non-spicy kimchi. Sunnie loves this kind of kimchi, but I’ve never been a big fan of it. I like it better if it is sauteed, which gives it an almost buttery sort of flavor, but otherwise, it’s a bit mild for me. I go more for big flavors.
However, Sunnie, being a fan of these kind of kimchis, liked this one best of our three samples. Her mom also was a fan of it. The two of them went through this jar pretty quickly, and it was gone first.
The final kimchi we reviewed is one of my favorite kimchis, ggakdugi – radish kimchi. This is one that I seldom get because it’s hard to find a vegan version available locally, and we don’t make it as often as we make our regular, cabbage kimchi.
Unfortunately, this one, while very pretty, was our least favorite amongst the three. The main issue was the texture was a little too soft. We want some bite and crispness to it. We were all unanimous in this. I don’t know if the softness was from being too warm in shipping, aging (kimchi is probiotic – so the bacteria continues to culture and the kimchi changes as it ages), or just preparation, but we definitely wanted more crispness (that being said, I still ate the whole jar).
So, many thanks to Granny Choe’s for letting us review their kimchi (and apologies for taking so long to get the post up). It’s great to have a company making healthy, vegan kimchi available. Check out their website to see if their products are available near you or to place an order directly from them!
Namul is the Korean macrobiotic way of using minimal spices and sauces to create yummy dishes with vegetables and weeds that grow in the fields. Namul dishes use very gentle seasoning, trying to appreciate the main ingredient’s natural flavor. Koreans make namul with literally everything, including spinach, radish, cucumber, bean sprouts, fern-bracken, perilla leaves… etc. You can read more about namul at my Chwi namul recipe post!
This is another one of the namul series – I’ve posted nine namul recipes so far, and this is the tenth namul post. Really, namul is probably the most “traditional Korean” dish that you can make! Korean cuisine make namul with literally everything. It’s summer and it’s easy to get good cucumber – so it’s time for some cucumber namul! Cucumber namul is always served at mountain restaurants that are close by to temples, as it is a very common temple side dish.
It’s soooo easy and yummy – satisfying with rice and other Korean food. And again, it’s always good in bibimbap as well!
Oi Namul (오이나물) Recipe!
2-3 cucumbers, cut into matchsticks
2 tsp canola oil
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp perilla oil (or more to taste)
salt to taste
generous amount of sesame seeds
1. Wash and match stick the cucumbers.
2. Mix the three oils and add to medium high heat pan.
3. Stir fry until the cucumber gets fairly translucent. Don’t fry it too long as it will get mushy!
4. Season with salt and add more perrilla oil to taste.
5. Sprinkle a generous amount of sesames seeds , mix it well and enjoy!
Match stick the cucumber!
Mix the three oils. I like to have a generous amount of perilla oil.
Stir fry it in medium high heat!
Be generous with sesame seeds – a good source of calcium too!
Enjoy by mixing in the sesame seeds in well! So yummy and satisfying. And most of all, so easy and quick!!
I’m a BIG fan of doenjang jjigae (된장 찌개). I could eat it almost every meal. At the multi-course full meals served by han-jung-shik restaurants, doenjang jjigae is often treated almost like an afterthought, but it’s always been a star attraction dish for me. My mother-in-law makes a really yummy doenjang jjigae. The problem with her cooking is that she so strongly uses son-maht (hand-taste) that she always says she doesn’t have a recipe. So the last time we were in Korea (wow, it’s been almost exactly two years now, due to the preparation and arrival of the baby), I made sure to watch how she made her doenjang jjigae so that I could do my best to replicate it. Sunnie also make me doenjang jjigae all the time, so she also had a secret ingredient to add an additional depth to the stew – pickled peppers!
So this recipe is my take on a recipe after watching Sunnie and her mom make me doenjang jjigae. However, there is definitely a son-maht approach to this dish as the strength of the jjigae depends on how much doenjang you put in it at the end. I tend to like really strong flavors, so I use a lot. Sunnie usually prefers more simple flavors, so she might use less. It’s entirely up to you, but there are a couple of tricks I figured out to make this simple dish fantastic!
Vegan Doenjang Jigae Recipe
(serves 2 as a main dish, or 4 as part of a multi-course meal)
1/2 an onion, chopped
1 medium potato, chopped
1 medium korean squash (hobak) or zucchini, chopped
1 bunch of enoki mushrooms, with root end chopped off
1/2 block of medium firmness tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 pickled pepper
water or kombu broth to cover
doenjang to taste (approximately 2-5 Tbs, depending on desired strength of flavor)
- Put chopped potato and onion in a pan, cover with water or kombu broth, and bring to a boil. We usually just use water, but if you want a bit more flavor, you can first boil a piece of kombu sea-weed, something we do with many of our jjigaes to create a broth. Alternatively, if you are short on time you can just add the piece of kombu and bring to a boil with the other ingredients.
- Once the potatoes and onions are nearly cooked, add the hobak (or zucchini if you don’t have access to Korean squash) and the pickled pepper. This is Sunnie’s secret ingredient; it is optional if you can’t find it but definitely adds more depth to the flavor. If you can’t find it, you can use a regular green Korean pepper or a jalapeno if you have nothing else. Continue to boil until all ingredients are cooked. Here is omanim’s secret: you want to boil the potatoes and onions quite well until the potatoes are soft enough to almost be breaking apart. This adds potato starch and thickens the stew.
- Turn down the heat and add the desired amount of doenjang. Mix in the doenjang well. Doenjang is very good for you and super high in probiotics, so you don’t want to boil it too long in high heat, as it will kill the beneficial bacteria.
- Add the mushrooms, tofu and bring it briefly to a boil.
- It’s ready to serve with rice and other banchan!
This is the doenjang we use. There are multiple good brands, but you really have to just kind of taste to see what you like. Even the same brand’s doenjang can taste significantly different as it continues to ferment, so it can taste different depending on when you buy it.
Remember to cook the potatoes and onions first so that they are well done. If you add the other ingredients too soon, they will get overcooked. Cooking down the potatoes and onions will produce a strong flavor and enough starch to thicken the stew.
Remember not to boil the doenjang at too high of a heat too long in order to preserve the vitality of the priobiotic bacteria. Add it and taste to get the desired strength of flavor – a lot of doenjang to make it very strong if you’re like me or less to have it more mild if you prefer more simple flavors like Sunnie. Enjoy!
So there are quick and easy recipes and then there are lazy recipes. This is my “I’m too tired or lazy to put anything into fixing a meal” recipe. Around our house, I don’t tend to cook if I’m only cooking for myself, and Sunnie is the same way. But sometimes there is nothing in the fridge, and you have to eat. So this recipe, which I call Bachelor Bap because it’s so easy to prepare and perfect for lazy vegan guys (or girls) or a late night snack, arose out of one of my lazy episodes. At first, Sunnie would make fun of me for eating it all the time, but I started to notice that suddenly I wasn’t the only one eating it when I made and soon she was making it for herself all the time too. Now it’s become a frequent option at our dinner table, and not just because Tevyn is keeping us so busy all the time – it’s because it’s seriously yummy.
There’s not really an equivalent in Korean, but we had a request for hangul in our recipes from David on our Facebook page, so much like bachelor’s kimchi (총각 김치), bachelor bap is 총각 밥.
This is a lazy man’s bibimbap, as you just toss in the ingredients with rice and stir it up. The ingredients are really simple – sheets of kim (roasted seaweed or nori in Japanese), perilla (kkaennip) oil, and perilla (kkaennip) rice seasoning mix.
Bachelor Bap (총각 밥) Lazy Vegan Recipe
Enough rice for each serving (fresh or reheated if you’re feeling particularly lazy)
2 or more sheets of roasted seaweed (kim, 김)
perilla oil (들기름) to taste
perilla rice seasoning mix, called shiso in Japanese, to taste
- Scoop enough rice to fill you up into a bowl (reheat if you’re too lazy to make fresh rice and there is some in the fridge).
- Tear sheets of kim into roughly bite sized pieces. Don’t try too hard; it’s good enough.
- Sprinkle perilla rice seasoning mix on top to taste (you can always add more later if it’s not strong enough).
- Drizzle perilla oil on top to taste (you want a decent amount, I’d say at least one and maybe a couple of tablespoons). Again, you can always add more later.
- Stir up until the seasoning and oil are well mixed in and the kim shrinks down.
This is the perilla oil that we use. Kkaennip is traditionally more of a peasant food. Sesame oil was preferred by the court and is more commonly used in bibimbap, but we definitely prefer perilla oil in bibimbap as well as bachelor bap!
This is the perilla (called kkaennip in Korean, shiso in Japenese) rice seasoning mix that we use. It is essentially just dried and crumbled kkaennip leaves, salt, and sugar. You could probably make your own, but this is bachelor bap, and that’s too much work.
If you travel outside of Seoul like Bill and I do when we visit Korea, you will see a lot of really cute Ssam-bap restaurants in the countryside. It is like a staple country food dish. While many restaurants serve the dish with a small plate of meat these days, the main focus is on the Ssam.
Ssam (쌈) means “wrap” in Korean. So you use various leaves as a wrap to wrap rice and ssamjang (wrap sauce, a yummy bean paste). This is another great Korean peasant food dish. Very simple yet satisfying. The funny thing is that nowadays these peasant dishes are served at classy, up-scale han-jung-shik (Korean full meal) restaurants, as they are considered healthy, well-being food. We have it when we are being lazy and don’t want to cook. It’s not fancy but its healthy, easy, and satisfying!
korean green peppers
napa cabbage leaves
1. Make white or brown rice. Prepare ssamjang and kimchi.
2. Clean korean green peppers, perrilla leaves, red lettuce and cabbage leaves. Leave all of the leaves whole and slice the peppers.
3. Steam cabbage until the leaves start becoming clear, but not mushy- takes about 15 minutes when I cook them!
4. Rinse the steamed cabbage immediately in cold water so it stops cooking. If you don’t rinse, it will keep cooking and will be over cooked. It will not taste good!
5. Arrange the korean green peppers, perrilla leaves, red lettuce and cooked cabbage leaves on a plate and serve with rice, ssamjang and kimchi.
6. Wrap the leaves with ssamjang, kimchi and rice like a taco and enjoy!
Ssam-bap: a simple, healthy, and delicious Korean peasant food!
새해 복 많이 받으세요! Happy lunar new year! It’s the start of the year of the snake and the end of the year the dragon. 2012 was a crazy year for us. Sunnie started a new job, we moved, and then welcomed our son, Tevyn, into the world less than a month after relocating!
In Korea, the traditional first big celebration for a new baby is the 100th day celebration, 100 days after the baby is born. Families have a big feast and invite friends and family over to celebrate the birth. We of course had to do the same and cooked up a vegan Korean feast for our guests.
We had many of our favorite dishes at the celebration, including japchae
and soy curl bulgogi
and green onion pancakes
kim-mari, fried seaweed rolls
and a variety of rice cakes, along with yak-gwa cookies
and finally some yoo-boo cho-bap (tofu pockets stuffed with seasoned rice).
What a year for us 2012 was! Tevyn is also my excuse for not posting as much as we’d like to. My nickname for him (among others) is Captain Timesuck! That’s his official superhero name until he gets old enough to claim his own.
So, his 100th day celebration was all about the food and friends. I’ll post about his first birthday celebration later this year and some fun Korean traditions we’ll be observing then.
Best wishes and blessings for a wonderful year of the snake!
My parents came to visit us from Seoul and then my brother came from LA to visit us during the last several weeks, so we’ve been super busy. We had so much fun with them. Bill and I have been having a lot of ddeokbokki lately, and we’ve been making various versions. The other day, we made Goongjung ddeokbokki, which literally means, palace ddeokbokki – so the idea is that it’s a royal dish, rather than an every day person’s dish. Its main flavor is soy sauce, rather than pepper paste, like the more popular ddeokbokki. It’s a really nice option to have for ddeokbokki!
Vegan Goongjung ddeokbokki (Palace ddeokbokki, Soy sauce rice cake) Recipe!
3-4 pieces of kelp/kombu
3 big, dried shitake mushrooms
1 pack of rice cake
3-4 Tbs of soy sauce
3-4 Tbs of sugar
1 Tbs of diced garlic
1 cup of sliced onions (you can always substitute with onion powder and garlic powder if you don’t have onions and garlic handy)
veggies (such as carrots, cabbage, chives, green onions)
1. Soak the kelp/kombu and shitake mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes and reserve the water. Slice the mushrooms into bite sizes after soaking.
2. Slice the onions, cabbage, carrots, chives, green onions (I just throw in whatever I have!).
3. Heat the pan and add the reserved kelp/kombu and shitake mushroom water, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, onions (or garlic/onion powder), black pepper, salt, and sesame seeds. Bring to a boil and let it boil for several minutes.
4. Put the rice cakes and sliced veggies into the pan and boil until the rice cakes are soft. The veggies will become nice and soft too! Let the sauce soak into the rice cake which should turn darker brown.
6. Add some sesame seeds, salt and black pepper to your liking and continue to briefly stir over heat.
7. It’s ready, enjoy!!
Slice up whatever veggies you have, but one thing that I wouldn’t skip is cabbage!
You need your kelp/kombu and shitake mushroom water too – it can improve most vegan Korean dishes, super important!
Add your sauce ingredients and bring to boil.
Add your veggies and rice cake!
The rice cake needs to become soft and brown. The veggies will turn soft as well.
Add some more salt, black pepper and sesame seeds to taste. And it’s ready!
You have palace style ddeokbokki – super easy! :)