I don’t know a thing about Korean cuisine let alone cooking it. But I wanted to try after watching a variety of Korean cooking shows like Three Meals a Day, Take Care of My Refrigerator, The King of Food, and the many, many references to Korean dishes in kdramas. And while I’ve eaten Korean dishes in restaurants that may well have been Americanized, I wanted to try my hand at it. I was incredibly attracted to Koreatown: A Cookbook’s colorful, mouth-watering pictures of fabulous looking Korean dishes and the chef-authors’ comfortable style of introducing Korean ingredients to a beginner such as myself with manageable instructions.
Armed with a new cookbook and a boxful of authentic Korean ingredients (ordered online) I dived right in. I took the advice of Koreatown’s chef-authors who freely offer that, “We use the packaged pancake mix in our jeon recipes.” That’s good enough for me.
Just opening the jar of black bean paste (chunjang) let me know that 1) there couldn’t possibly be a substitute for it, and 2) there is no way that I could or would ever make it. And, as my new guru chefs say, “While similar to black bean sauce, many Korean cooks are emphatic that there is no substitution for this funky product.” It’s the real thing.
Mix anchovy sauce, Korean pancake mix, scallions, black bean sauce, fresh baby shrimp
Heat vegetable oil, fry on both sides until browned and done, ta-da!
The dark, funky black bean paste certainly makes the finished product look burned but everyone agreed they tasted great and not burnt at all. Served with a light jeon dipping sauce, the batch was gone in no time! (Although some preferred the pancakes without the rice vinegar based sauce.) The flavors were stronger than we are used to but not in a bad way. It’s a taste (and smell) that may have to be acquired.
I feel adventurous and ready to go on to recipe #2. Here’s to Korean cooking and kdramas. Stay tuned!
Koreatown: A Cookbook is available at Amazon.