A taste of Korea with three regional delights
Among the culinary masters who will be contributing to the event are celebrity chef Raymond Kim, who has developed a few new recipes. The JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, is pleased to introduce a few simple dishes that anyone can easily whip up at home. For more information about the Food Truck Festival, call (061) 288-4242.
BY BAEK JONG-HYUN[email@example.com]
Rite of spring
Gwangyang in South Jeolla is known for its plum blossoms, also called maehwa. Every spring, visitors flock there to enjoy the blossoming flowers, and one of the most popular destinations around this time of year is the Cheongmaesil Orchard.
This area is planted with about 20 hectares (50 acres) of plum trees, or over 100,000 specimens. Located on a hillside along the Seomjin River, the orchard is blessed with exceptionally fertile soil. The region also experiences dramatic temperature fluctuations from morning to afternoon, which is ideal for plums. Hong Ssang-ri, a 74-year-old orchardist who works at Cheongmaesil, likens the area’s ripe plums to “green pearls that embrace the fog of the Seomjin River at dawn.”
After all the flowers have fallen, a greenish fruit begins to grow from the same place, swelling in size until summer, when farmers pick the fruits in early June and put them in pots to mature them further. At the farm, there are 2,500 baked clay containers called onggi, each filled with succulent plums.
Plums are consumed in many different ways. One popular recipe is plum syrup. This is called maesilcheong, as maesil means “plum” in Korean. In one onggi, simply mix plums and sugar together, and then leave them for about 100 days. After that, remove the plums and mature the batch for a year or more.
The dense juice is often consumed alongside hot pepper paste, or freshly made kimchi.
If you want to eat the fruits, put plums and sugar together in a container and leave it for about a year in a refrigerator. The plums will have a crisp texture combined with a deliciously sweet, yet also sour, taste.
Maesaengi, a type of seaweed, only grows in the seawater of the South Sea, roughly around Gangjin County, Jangheung County, Goheung County and Wan Island in South Jeolla.
Jeong Yak-jeon (1758-1816), a scholar from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), states in his book “Jasaneobo,” which provides detailed descriptions of sea creatures, that seaweed is even slimmer than silk. He further says that this dark-green seaweed is incredibly soft and never tangles itself when dropped into soup and boiled.
It is delicately sweet, he adds, and fragrant.
This precious ingredient is gathered from December to March, when the water temperature falls below 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit). In Gangjin County, locals from the towns of Sinmi, Sumi and Habun wade out into shallow water and gather up armfuls of the plant.
The process is easy enough, but labor-intensive. Harvesters place bamboo nets in the water in order to collect the seaweed and later return to gather them up. Then they rinse the maesaengi in seawater and roll them into balls the size of a fist. One fist-full usually sells for about 2,500 won ($2.20) at a market in Gangjin County.
Maesaengi, which used to be available in the southern region only during the colder months, is now more commonly available year-round and all across Korea, thanks to technological developments in refrigeration that enable longer storage. It may look very dry when it’s processed for longer storage, but its nutritional content and flavor is retained, and as soon as you put it in water, it blossoms into a fresh, vividly green silk-like ribbon.
Song of the earth
Jangheung County in South Jeolla is known for its shiitake mushrooms, known in Korean as pyogo. The area produces about 30 percent of all of Korea’s shiitake. This type of mushroom grows well on hillsides where daytime and nighttime temperature vary widely. Jangheung County, therefore, is the perfect place for pyogo, as the cool South Sea breeze washes over the dense forests of Mount Ukbul and Mount Cheongwan.
Jangheung shiitake farmers choose oak trees that are over 20 years old and place mushroom spores on the trees. The mushrooms grow naturally in the area wherever there is a shade, and those cultivated outdoors are generally more appreciated by shoppers than those grown in a greenhouse, as they tend to have a richer taste and denser smell. They are also somewhat bigger and more chewy. Shiitake are mostly harvested in the springtime, from March to April, and in the fall, from October to November. This year, the price for shiitake grown outside ranges from 10,000 won ($8.75) to 20,000 won per kilogram.
Yun Yong-jin, the president of an association of farmers growing shiitake in Jangheung County, says farmers have seen an extraordinarily fertile harvest this year, not only making their harvest more abundant, but making each mushroom more fragrant as well.
Jangheung County is especially known for one dish, called Jangheung samhab, or the Jangheung combo, which includes Korean hanwoo beef, scallops and shiitake. To make the dish, you simply place all the ingredients together on a pan and grill them.
The earthy character of the mushroom beautifully balances with the creamy texture of scallops and the hearty taste of Korean beef.
Chef Raymond Kim’s recipe
1. Clean and remove the oysters.
2. Cut hot peppers, salted plums and garlic into small pieces, and add maesilcheong, lemon juice and orange juice on top.
3. Mix the oysters together with the plum sauce. Season with salt, pepper and coriander. Leave for 15 minutes in the refrigerator.
4. Add a bit of olive oil and salt, if necessary.
Crab seaweed soup
Chef Kim Ho-yoon’s recipe
1. Put radishes, onions, garlic, hot peppers and kelp in cold water. Bring to a boil.
2. After boiling for some time, remove the kelp and add crab. Boil some more.
3. Remove all the floating ingredients, and leave the soup.
4. Add crab meat and acorn jelly, and season with salt. Add dried maesaengi and swirl. Serve in a separate bowl.
Mushroom and burdock soup with perilla
Chef Maeng Hyun-ji’s recipe
1. Cut the shiitake and burdocks into smaller pieces.
2. Add perilla oil to the pot, and stir in the mushrooms. Then add water and perilla powder. Bring to a boil.
3. As you boil, add tteok (rice cake) and pieces of kelp.
4. Reduce the boil, and season with salt.