Friday, June 12, 2009

Korean Comfort Food

Last night I was home alone, cooking for one and didn't really feel like putting a lot of time into cooking a huge dinner. I wanted something quick and easy, but I'd also been craving some Korean food since I haven't been to my parents' place in a few weeks. Then I realized that I STILL hadn't gotten around to actually trying Sujaebi by myself at home. Perfect!

Growing up, comfort food didn't mean chicken pot pie, mac 'n' cheese or any of the other things that might immediately come to mind. It meant sujaebi, a ridiculously easy potato broth soup with hand-pulled dumplings. The broth makes it seem like a light dish but really it's full of starchy, salty dumplings and yummy potato chunks.

There are a number of variations of this dish, with different combinations of vegetables, kimchi, spicy sauce and seafood. But I didn't like any of those things as a kid, so my mom made my sujaebi with the most basic ingredients. And it's still the way I eat it. So simple but delicious.

Note: Though I tend to follow very specific recipes and instructions when I cook, the Korean dishes in my mental recipe file are the exception. My mom has never used a recipe as far as I know so I've also never tried to write them down. But even if I had, this dish is so easy that it really doesn't matter. The only thing is that the scale of the recipe can really vary. The measurements below make about two bowls of sujaebi.

Mom's Sujaebi

Dumpling dough
1 cup flour
1 egg

1. Measure out the flour into a small mixing bowl. Add some salt and a bit of oil (really you can use as little or as much as you want - I'm not really even sure what it's for).
2. Make a well and add the egg and some water. This is where the measurement is really sketchy. I usually just add a small amount and add as I stir...
3. Stir with a wooden spoon or your fingers until a sticky dough forms. Knead in the bowl for a couple of minutes, adding more water or flour as necessary until you have a fairly tacky but firm dough. Wrap with saran wrap and put in the fridge while you make the broth.

Anchovy Powder*
1/2 a Potato (I used Yukon Gold)

*I think you can find Anchovy powder at Asian supermarkets. To me, this is an essential ingredient that defines the flavour of the dish, but I'm sure you could use your own flavourings and spices to your preference

1. Put some water in a pot. I think I used about 3 cups. Salt and turn on the heat to high.
2. Cut up the potatoes into 1/4 inch-ish slices, cutting up the larger chunks into halves or quarters. It doesn't really matter as long as the slices are somewhat even. Add to the water in the pot.
3. Boil until potatoes are still just a bit firm, but starting to soften.
4. Add Sujaebi dumplings. This is probably the hardest part. I always had issues with pulling the dough, and it's only over time I've gotten better at creating the flat, thin dumplings that are ideal for Sujaebi.
  • Take the dough ball out of the fridge - divide in half (it's usually easier to work with a smaller ball)
  • Holding the ball in one hand, pull out a bit and flatten so it's pretty thin
  • Pull the flattened bit off the ball, and use your other hand to stretch it out some more so that it's kind of like a thick potato chip in shape - drop into the boiling broth
  • Repeat until both dough balls are in the broth

5. Give the Sujaebi a stir so that all the dumplings are wet. Add more salt and anchovy powder to taste. Continue lightly boiling for about 2 minutes, until the dumplings are cooked through.

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