(Notes from this weeks lesson at the Cultural Office)
Korean food is startling because of its variety.
This weeks lesson involved a food borne of necessity and ingenuity.
Not the tastiest foodstuff but ask any Korean and they’ll recognize the word “mook”- ” 묵 ”
The famous acorn jelly.
A food that originated from hard times, lean times. You find what you can, wherever you can – even on the ground!Acorns! – usually eaten by squirrels. (See stock photo of squirrel enjoying an acorn “in a squirrel style”)
Probably not great eating – in terms of flavour – although some outspoken girl squirrel may disagree.
“It’s what I like to eat, it’s not nothing. Is a delicious nibble. ” her little voice might squeak – probably in Korean, if I let my wild squirrel imaginings scamper out of control. Anyway…
If you grind those nuts up, mix with water – and heat and stir for one half hour – you “break the peptide” – the protein chains holding the water making thicker and thicker “goo” – let it set overnight – and you have firm yet wobbly dark brown jelly, ready to shape any way you please. (Again, see photo)Today’s lesson bought to us by our respected teacher Heather Jeong – might be called “Korean food in a vegetarian style”. (see header)
One recipe is “Acorn Jelly Salad” – Dotori mook muchim.
Involves another unfamiliar ingredient – chrysanthemum leaves.
“Probably taste a bit flowery” I quip, slightly repulsed by the thought of the acrid taste of plants that bear flowers.
“Remove the stems” 선생님 (much respected) H. Jeong advises,
“This is how you eat Chrysanthemum” she struggles to say – is a difficult – 힘든 – word at the best of times. (no disrespect to teacher)
선생님 (respected teacher) holds up the variegated leaves, split in three, and folds them back – and in three again and so on.
In Korea we call it 국화 (kuyk hwa)
Flowers just as pretty but easier to pronounce.
“This taste like celery” C1 insists.
And C2 sitting next to her agrees. “It does taste like celery!”
For mine it tasted like Chrysanthemum.
I’m not convinced – it’s not as sharp as I thought.
“I’m not convinced” I say out loud.
Not as sharp as celery leaf at least.
“It tastes like grass” C1 asserts.
We three pause to look at each other – and wonder how C1 knows what grass tastes like.
There is an awkward silence.
도토리묵무침 (recipe by Heather Jeong)
400g carton 도토리묵 (acorn jelly) sliced into 4cm by 3 cm rectangles
1 cucumber, julienne
2 sheets toasted nori, crushed
5 kaettnip (wild sesame leaves) julienne
¼ cup chrysanthemum leaves, ripped
¼ onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp sesame seeds
½ garlic head, minced
1 green onion, chopped
3-5 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp fish sauce, necessary
1-2 tbsp kochugaru
2 tsp sugar
1-2 tbsp brown rice vinegar
1 tbsp plum vinegar
2 tbsp sesame oil
- Mix alll the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
- Put dotori mook (acorn jelly), cucmber, onion, kaettnip (wild sesame leaves), chrysanthemum leaves in a bowl.
Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and gently mix. Sprinkle nori and sesame seeds on top.