Inspired by Korean food

I recently discovered the fabulously awesome Korean cooking website and YouTube channel of Maangchi. Maangchi (aka Emily Kim) is a friend of my friend Youngja, who I met through Chris when we first started dating. She lives in New York and apparently has a worldwide following. It’s not hard to see why either, her videos are charmingly quirky and she makes cooking Korean food seem easy-peasy!

Ever since I met Chris, Korean food has been central in our lives. Youngja’s husband, Bruce has been friends with Chris since university, and Chris has been to South Korea twice to visit them when they were living there (including for their wedding). Later they lived here in our house with Chris for a few years, and were here when I first met him. Now they live in Ottawa and we try to visit them whenever we can.

I had never tried Korean food before I met Chris, always believing it was out-of-this-world spicy and that I’d never be able to handle it. How wrong was I! Chris took my for my first BBQ experience and I was hooked. All the lovely side dishes, each one a flavour explosion, and kimchi — what a glorious form of pickle that can be made innumerable ways.

A few years ago Youngja taught me how to make my own kimchi, as well as jap chae (or chap chae — one thing about Korean food is that there are also innumerable ways to anglicize things). I don’t make it all the time but once in a while I do. The problem with kimchi is how it makes your entire refrigerator stink like garlicky cabbage. Bruce insists it makes the milk taste off. Sometimes I store it in the keg fridge since it doesn’t get opened as often and the beer is in kegs so presumably doesn’t take on the kimchi flavour. Apparently Koreans typically keep separate fridges for their kimchi — something I can totally get behind!

Yesterday I came across Maangchi’s video for making your own gochujang — the spicy fermented hot pepper paste that is a fundamental ingredient for a large number of Korean dishes. The process takes about a day to start and then 2 to 3 months to ferment in a large earthenware jar, outside in the sun. I’m totally intrigued. I’ve been dreaming about it all night. God knows what I’d do with such a huge quantity of the stuff — I assume it lasts a while (I don’t cook Korean food exclusively after all). Anyway, I’m thinking about giving it a try, although I may try to halve or even quarter Maangchi’s recipe. Either that or I need to plan to take a truckload of it to Youngja’s house next time I visit!

I wonder if they carry the earthenware jars at the Korean grocery store down at Bloor and Christie…