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Vegan Chwi Namul Recipe

February 13, 2011

Chwi-namul

You can’t get any more traditional with Korean food than namul!

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. We make namul with literally everything, including spinach, radish, bean sprouts, fern-bracken, perilla leaves… etc. (I am planning on doing a series of namul recipes).

The flavors of namul are truly amazing. It is just so healthy for you, and it’s really amazing to learn to enjoy the burst of flavors of these veggies that are around us. This one is namul banchan made of “Chwi” aka “aster scaber”. It grows naturally in the mountains of Korea.

Aster scaber in Jeondeungsa, Korea

Aster scaber in Jeondeungsa, Korea. Source: Wikipedia

Last winter, when my mom made chwi namul for Bill for the first time, he loved it so much, he made me buy 6 bags of dried chwi, so we could them bring over to the States. And when we got back to the states, he was so thrilled to find that you can get them at almost any Korean grocery store!

Chwi namul has a very high nutritional value with a lot of calcium, iron, protein, vitamin b1, and b2. It’s also very good for flus and headaches therefore is often used in oriental medicine. If you like bibimbap, you can also put this in bibimbap as well, you wil love it – you can’t compare bibimbap that has namul in it, compared to those that are just stir-fried veggies. I hope you try this sometime, you’ll be very surprised at the wonderful flavor, and you’ll be following the namul tradition, the best of the best of Korean cuisine!

Vegan Chwi namul Recipe (Serves 6-8 as banchan)

Ingredients:
1 bag of dried chwi
1 Tbsp diced garlic
1-2 chopped scallion
2 Tbsp soy sauce
sprinkle of salt (to taste)
1 tsp sesame seeds (for garnish)

Directions:
1. Rinse and boil the chwi for 20 minutes (not too long, as they will get too soft), and soak in water overnight.
2. Rinse the soaked chwi three-four times and squeeze out the water. (You need to rinse it out well, or it will be a bit too strong.) Cut the chwi into 2-3 inch pieces.
3. Heat oil in wok/pan and add garlic.
4. When the garlic turns slightly brown, add the chwi, soy sauce, scallions and stir fry for several minutes.
5. Add a splash of water, cover with a lid, and cook for around 3 minutes until tender. Taste and see if you need a bit of salt.
6. Remove lid and stir while cooking for a minute or so to cook off excess water so it is not soggy.
7. Remove from heat and cool. Mix well with your hand (namul are all supposed to be gently mixed/squeezed/seasoned with your hand. Kind of hard to explain, but you want it to be seasoned well. Again, Korean cooking is all about Sonmaht – hand taste!).
8. It’s ready, serve as banchan! OR – make a quick meal by using it to make a simple bibimbap (just the 4 ingredients: kimchi, chwi-namul, sesame/perrilla oil & rice makes a fantastic bibimbap)!

Chwi-namul

This is the dried chwi that you can get at any Korean grocery store (note that this brand labels it as wild greens)! I’d ask the owner for chwi namul (most Koreans refer to chwi as chwi namul), just to make sure.

Soaking chwi-namul

Boil and soak the chwi. If you don’t boil it long enough, the chwi can be quite tough. If you boil it too long, it can be too soft. So after 20 minutes, start checking if it’s soft enough!

Stir-frying chwi-namul

Stir-frying the chwi!

Chwi-namul

Yummy! So simple and satisfying, you’ve got to try it! ;)

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