Saturday, July 11, 2009

Home Cooking

When I first moved away from home, I didn't make or eat a lot of Korean food. I'd been eating it all my life, I still went back to my parents' place every couple of weeks so I didn't really feel the need to make it myself. However, the older I get the more I feel that changing. I still visit my parents quite often, but I find myself craving more and more of those home cooked meals from when I was a kid. I guess I've come to appreciate Korean cuisine a lot more (I was quite a picky eater as a child, so there were a lot of foods that I wouldn't eat) and now these dishes don't all fit into one weekend of meals. Either way, I've been trying to cook more of this myself at home and the best teacher for this is obviously my mom.

The problem with Korean food is that, unlike North American (or any other) cuisine, I can't just search for recipes online that seem to fit what I'm looking for. I need it to taste like what MOM made, so for that I need to go to the source. And since my mom (and I think this is the case with a lot of moms, or grandmothers that have been cooking for a long time) doesn't exactly write her recipes down, it's all about learning the techniques involved, or just how to eyeball the right amount of ingredients. For this reason I've started with the simplest recipes that a fairly small number of ingredients, to lessen the chance of messing up.

Hobak Jeon, or Korean Zucchini Pancakes, is one of the many popular street foods in Korea. There are only 5 ingredients involved and it's all about judging how much water to use - you want it to be fairly runny, not like a regular pancake batter at all (I'll admit - I DID try making these myself once previously using an online recipe. The pancakes were way too thick and puffy from not enough water in the batter) They don't taste anything like a North American pancake either - savoury and crispy, these are a tasty snack that is usually enjoyed with soy sauce.

Hobak Jeon (Korean Zucchini Pancakes)
1 zucchini
1 egg
1 cup flour
2 cups water
1 tsp salt

1. Slice up zucchini into thin discs (the thinner the better!) and then slice the discs into thin strips. I admit, this takes awhile. You could probably use some sort of machine for this that I don't own.

2. Make the batter - Dump flour, salt and the egg into a medium sized bowl. Add 1 cup of water and stir. Continue adding water until you get a runny batter - how runny, it's hard to say. I can't think of a good comparison - like syrup? Or something like that. Add the zucchini and mix in.

3. Heat up your skillet or frying pan to medium heat with a good glug of canola oil. (My mom really emphasized that you should make sure you have enough oil to cover the pancake once you flip it as well) You don't want the heat to be too high or the pancakes will burn before cooking through the zucchini.

4. Using a ladle, pour in some batter. Make sure it's not too thick (the runniness will help with this). Cook for a couple of minutes, then flip over and continue cooking until both sides are browned and crispy. Cut into wedges and eat with soy sauce.

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