i got tired of not drawing pictures, so here’s the first of a new project to document my quiet life. i’ll try to post one new comic per week ♡
i got tired of not drawing pictures, so here’s the first of a new project to document my quiet life. i’ll try to post one new comic per week ♡
Almost a year ago, when I started cooking more Korean food, my husband and I came to the decision to stop cooking with 고추장. It started when I casually glanced at the list of ingredients and noticed the very first one listed was high fructose corn syrup, and that there were several other ingredients whose names I couldn’t even pronounce. What was in our 고추장? What should be in our 고추장?? So I started researching.
I read that sometimes the corn syrup on the English language ingredient list is a mistranslation of rice syrup, which is more commonly used in Korean cooking. I understand rice syrup because I know that sugar is necessary for fermentation, but I didn’t like the possibility of corn syrup (especially when listed as the first ingredient) or the presence of weird preservatives.
I also learned that although families back in the day had their own recipes for 고추장, these days a good quality 고추장 is generally agreed to contain the following ingredients:
-red pepper powder (고추가루)
-fermented soybean powder (메주가루)
-rice syrup (쌀엿)
Armed with this information, I asked my husband to check the 고추장 options the next time he went HMart in Atlanta for better quality one that didn’t contain questionable ingredients. To be honest, I thought he would just shrug off the corn syrup, the preservatives, the unpronounceable ingredients and just say we should go ahead and continue to use it, but he jumped into the project with as much enthusiasm as I did. He read all the labels, and even the organic and expensive 고추장 did not pass the test. Some even contained MSG.
Now, obviously there is high-quality 고추장 available for sale in Korea, but it’s very difficult to find good 고추장 in the US, even though many Koreans live here. So we started thinking about alternatives, and came up with a few options.
1. Spend a small fortune on a small amount of homemade or “artesinal” 고추장
There is a Korean 아줌마 living in our area who makes her own 된장 from scratch. This is actually so impressive to me because there are not many Korean people living here. My mother-in-law started buying from her instead of purchasing mass-produced 된장 a while back, and it is is delicious. It tastes so much better than conventional stuff. She sells it in a huge glass kimchi jar, and it’s too much for my mother-in-law to eat by herself, so she gives us a generous scoop or two whenever we are running low.
This system is great for us, since my husband told me that conventional 된장 contains the same kind of preservatives as 고추장 , so we are very happy to be eating super healthy homemade 된장. This lady also happens to make homemade 고추장. She called my mother-in-law a few weeks ago to try to sell her some, and guess how much she was asking for a quart sized bag full.
EIGHTY DOLLARS?!!! Even if you grow the red peppers yourself, harvest and dry them, and then make the paste from scratch like she apparently does, that $80 price tag is out of control.
Next, we turned to Amazon to see if we could access any of these high quality 고추장, but all we could find were a few “artesinal” 고추장 options. True, these had a much shorter list of high quality ingredients, but their price ranges from $13 to $30 for a 7 ounce container, and that is just crazily expensive as well.
So we quickly tossed those options by the wayside.
2. Make our own
Maangchi has a great article about how to make 고추장 from scratch, which you can read here. If you had any thoughts that it’s a simple, hands-off process, this will illustrate just how involved it is at every step of the way. I had neither the time, the space, nor the patience to delve into the world of homemade 고추장 and so that was simply out of the question.
As a side note, this article has a great picture of homemade 고추장 vs store-bought and there is a huge difference in the texture and color. It’s so interesting.
At this point, it was clear that our only recourse, other than just give in to the super-processed 고추장 available to us was to make substitutions, and the only possible substitution is a combination of 고추가루 and soy sauce.
So when we cook a dish that calls for 고추장, we simply dump a load of 고추가루 and some spoons of soy sauce in there until the dish has a desired level of spiciness. We will sometimes have to add extra garlic or onions or mashed green apple (which we use as a substitute for sugar or honey) to add some more robust flavor to the dish to make up for what we’ve taken away by removing the 고추장, but it seems to work pretty well.
We’ve been cooking with a combination of equal parts soy sauce and 고추가루, and less of garlic and black pepper. For example, today we made a big batch of 체육볶음 with 3 spoons 고추가루, 3 spoons soy sauce, 2 heaping spoons minced garlic (다진마늘), one spoon of 참기름, 1 minced Granny Smith apple, and a generous amount of black pepper (to take away the pork smell).
And it was delicious.
Unless we are able to find a good AND REASONABLY PRICED brand of 고추장, I think this is how we will cook from now on. It’s an easy and cost-effective alternative, it’s just as tasty as if we had used 고추장, and most importantly we aren’t putting weird things into our bodies.
If you have any suggestion for healthier 고추장 that won’t cost an arm and a leg, please let me know! I’m always looking for alternatives~
My husband made this for me when I lived in Korea and it ended up being a very valuable resource as I learned the ins and outs of the various appliances around my officetel. I came across it recently and thought I’d share it here because it’s too helpful to keep for myself, especially considering I no longer live in Korea ｡◕‿ ◕｡
They are, from top to bottom:
▽How to use your washing machine
▽ How to set your rice cooker to cook while you’re sleeping (I’m still startled to this day when the rice is cooking because the ENTIRE apartment smells like popcorn and it shakes and steams and it’s 4 AM)
▽ How to use the ondol heater (mine was broken all winter long so this didn’t really end up mattering to me)
▽ How to get into your home if the door lock is out of power (luckily I never had to use this).
I fell in love with 단무지 in 2011. At first I was afraid to eat it because what was it? So bright yellow and weird looking. But I was in Korea for the first time, and I’d spent all of my money to get there, so I was determined to be open to all the new experiences. From the first tangy bite, I realized that not only was it much tastier than it looked, but that I really liked it. A few weeks later I discovered that it is infinitely more delicious when paired with Korean Chinese dishes. 짜장면 and 단무지 really should get married, don’t you think?
A few years later, my husband told me that conventional 단무지 like the one I had fallen for actually contains a lot of bad ingredients (MSG, saccharine) and preservatives. He also shared several horror stories about how it is produced and what may or may not go on behind the scenes, and from that day I knew that I could never buy 단무지 again. This was very disappointing news. How could I make 김밥 without 단무지??? I was sad for a long time, even though I’ve never made 김밥 before (It was always so nice to have the option, right?).
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when my husband brought some big 무 home from a trip to Atlanta and a lightbulb clicked on in the air above my head. If I wanted 단무지 so much, why didn’t I just MAKE IT?? And so that’s what I did.
Luckily, it is so easy to make, contains only a handful of ingredients, and pickles very quickly. I left it sitting out overnight to expedite the pickling process, and then set the container in the refrigerator for about 20 hours, and when I decided to check in on it, it was ready to eat!
I used this recipe (minus the peppercorns and 치자) and it turned out splendidly. Thanks to the turmeric, the color was almost exactly like store-bought 단무지 and the taste was great. Clean and refreshing.
My husband was almost as impressed with me as I was (I was VERY impressed with myself) and he ended up eating so many of them. It made me happy to see him eating MY 단무지, and I felt so proud of myself for having successfully learned this new recipe. And now that I know how to make a healthy 단무지, I can make a healthy 김밥 too!
NEVER EVER in all of my life did I imagine I’d find so much pleasure making pickled radish in my kitchen on a Friday night, and I love it.
I found two person set of bowls, 접시 and eating utensils for about $1,400 on Ebay. Oh, that price seems outrageous to you? How about $700 for a single setting? No? Then how about just some chopsticks and spoons? NOPE. $70 for 수저? Pfffft. You can “buy now” a set of spoon and chopsticks for about $40. That is still so insane so I looked on G-Market and found one person 수저 for 20,000원. Still pricy. Le sigh.
Obviously this 방짜유기 is cheaper to buy in Korea, but as I found from my G-Market searches, they’re still quite pricey there too. Traditionally they were used to set the royal table, and in 1983 were named an “Important Intangible Cultural Asset” — so it’s an artesianal, traditional art and of course it’s going to cost a lot. If I ever become disgustingly wealthy, the first thing I’m going to do is buy myself a whole ton of Korean brassware. But for now, I’ve adjusted my expectations and have settled on finding some decent bronze-colored chopsticks and spoons instead.
The other day, my husband and I were listening to the Melon playlist in the car together, and my ears perked up at a curious phrase: 못 먹는 감. I was so excited because if I’d heard this song earlier in my Korean studies, it would have just slipped past me. This is why I love listening to Korean music–I seem to hear and pick up on different things each time. Anyway, I understood the phrase to mean, “the 감 (persimmon) you can’t eat” but it seemed like there was more to it than my basic translation. So I asked my husband to explain.
못 먹는 감 comes from the idiom 못 먹는 감 찔러나 본다, which is kind of tough to explain. It essentially means to pierce the 감 that you can’t eat. 찔리다 means to get/be pierced or poked. I don’t understand the grammar of 찔러나 본다, but idioms can’t be understood by simply translating and breaking down the grammar. My husband instead focused on explaining the meaning behind this seemingly bizarre phrase.
Essentially, 못 먹는 감 찔러나 본다 is rough equivalent to the English expression, “sour grapes”. Just as the phrase “sour grapes” refers to someone who is bitter because they can’t get something they want (grapes, in the original fable), the Korean idiom uses the persimmon to stand for the object of desire. However, a small difference is that in the Korean idiom, you know you can’t have it but you still give it a try (poking at it).
My husband told me that people often use this phrase in the situation where a guy is trying to get a girl who is just way out of his league, just trying anyway even though he knows he’ll fail. So the song which started this whole discussion (못 먹는 감 by 산이 & 매드클라운), is describing someone doing just this. The song is about completely striking out, and the girl in question becomes a case of “inedible persimmon” to the narrator.
So interesting. Aren’t you SO INTERESTED???! Why aren’t you as interested in this as I am? Ugh I could really go for a persimmon right about now.
I’m back with another round up of my Korean mom cooking challenge. This week, I really didn’t want to do any cooking. I spent most of Sunday doing…other things, and when my husband came home from his day trip to Atlanta, he was like, “Wait, you didn’t cook yet?” and shook his head and rolled up his sleeves. He helped me knock out this week’s meals with some ingredients he’d bought at H-Mart. God I miss H-Mart.
What I made this week:
♡ green curry
♡ baby bok choy
♡ stir fry medley of yellow squash, onions, and mushrooms
♡ 동그랑땡 (leftover)
♡배추 겉절이 (leftover)
♡ Recipe source♡
The recipe for green curry basically involved us emptying the contents of our vegetable drawer into a pot and mixing with chicken and coconut milk and this curry paste. It’s a super-easy dish to prepare, and it is especially useful because you can get so many servings from a single batch. And we just stir fried the vegetables the same way we always do, with lots of garlic and olive oil. I don’t really like yellow squash much–it’s too transparent and floppy when you cook it–but the mushrooms were so good. I don’t remember what they’re called, but we can only get them at H-Mart, and they are so meaty and delicious.
♡ Favorite side dish ♡
This week it was the green curry. It’s so satisfying. My husband loves the bok choy, but he couldn’t eat it because it got stuck in his braces. Can’t wait till he gets those removed.
♡ Final Thoughts ♡
I didn’t cook much this week…and I found myself not quite eating enough at dinner most nights, and although I didn’t cave, I was tempted to eat poorly because of this. It all circles back to lack of proper planning and preparation.
My husband, on the other hand, really has been eating well and eating most meals at home ever since I started this challenge. It makes me so happy to come home from work and see dirty dishes in the sink.
This week I have plans to make 돼지김치볶음 and 계란말이 and some kind of 파전 and 두부조림. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.
Week 1 of my Korean Study Challenge is complete! I spent less time studying than I had intended (I did about 3.5 hours instead of the 5+ which I had aimed for), but it was a great week of learning. I made my way through Unit 5, picking up a lot of new words in the process, and ended up scoring a 94% on the end-of-unit test. Not too bad.
A few notes:
1. 잡수시다 vs. 드시다
These two words are synonyms, but there is a specific case for using 잡수시다 over 드시다.
Use 잡수시다 when you’re saying “진지를 잡수시다” — 진지 is the honorific for a meal, and it can only be used with잡수시다.
In other cases, you can use 드시다.
2. 자녀 vs 자식
Again, both words are synonyms, but each has a nuanced meaning.
Use 자녀 when you’re talking about your children, sons and daughters. 자=son (like 효자) and 녀=daughter (효녀). Use 자식 to talk about the children in your family. Like, to say how many children you have.
My husband told me that 자녀 is the more common usage.
Now, let’s move on to this week’s study material.
♡ Unit 6 Vocabulary♡
6-1: 감정, 생각
6-3: 자세, 움직임
Recently I have been motivated to up my Korean study, which for the past year or so, has pretty much been nonexistent. And so now in addition to my Korean cooking challenge, I am issuing myself a Korean study challenge.
Should I call it “Study Like a Korean High School Student?”
No because that means I’ve got to do things like memorize hundreds of words per day and eat pages out of the dictionary. Actually my Korean co-teacher once took it upon herself to tutor me in Korean and gave me a huge list of words I should learn by the next day. The words were in no way related, simply listed alphabetically, and I could only learn about 10 or 15 words by the next day, and she was so disappointed. So no, I will not be studying like a Korean high school student. But I will be spending at least an hour per day studying and practicing with my husband.
Text: 외국인을 위한 한국어 어휘 연습 : 초급
I’ve been working my way through this book over the past two years and for various reasons I have not gotten very far, but it’s seriously such an excellent textbook. So many new words in each chapter. For each word there might be synonyms and antonyms and example sentences full of new words and grammar patterns. It can be a bit overwhelming, but I’ve ended up learning a lot from using it. I’ll be sharing the a unit’s new-to-me vocabulary words at the beginning of each week, and at the end of the week, the results of the unit wrap-up test. Woo 화이팅 here we go!
♡ Unit 5 Vocabulary ♡
5-1: 가족, 친척
5-3: 이름, 나이, 성별
5-4: 외모, 성격
We have successfully completed week two of my Korean mom cooking challenge and it was fantastic. We started the week at my mother-in-law’s house, where we cooked most of our side dishes together. I hadn’t yet planned the dishes I was going to make, so it was really great to show up and just be thrown into the kitchen, where the dishes had already been determined and all I had to do was follow directions.
What we made this week:
♡ 배추 겉절이
♡ baby bok choy
♡ Recipe sources♡
The majority of this week’s recipes came straight from the mind of my mother-in-law. She always likes to make 동그랑땡 when we’ve got extra people in the house because although it’s simple enough to make, it’s labor intensive. Since my brother-in-law came up for the holiday weekend, she took advantage of the extra pair of hands to make this delicious dish. We made the bok choy and 닭죽 when we got home. My husband guided me through the 죽 making, and it turned out to be so delicious, we had to bring a bowl over to my mother-in-law to get her seal of approval.
♡ Favorite side dish ♡
동그랑땡 of course~~ but then, it’s always so delicious. Impossible not to be yummy when you’ve got all hands on deck preparing it. The 오이무침 was a close second. A bit sweet for my taste but very refreshing for the summer.
♡ Additional Thoughts♡
Since the dishes were not made by me all by myself, I don’t really have much else to report. My mother-in-law cooks with a limited range of ingredients, using very little salt or sugar, so the dishes were all healthy–no modifications or substitutions needed this week–and since mom’s cooking is so good, my husband of course loved them.
The 죽 was really simple to make, and tasted amazing. I searched the Internet for some easy recipes, and was on the verge of using all of the leftover rice in our rice cooker, when my husband jumped in and said no no no don’t do it like that you have to start with uncooked rice and offered to teach me. It was his first time making it, but he knew what to do as if he’d done it a thousand times. I don’t think I could say that about any recipe I grew up with. It’s amazing to me that he could be able to whip something up from scratch just like that from memory, without consulting his mom or checking a recipe. After walking through it together like that, I do feel very confident that I’ll be able to make it myself next time, without a recipe in front of me. And so I’m considering this second week of Korean mom cooking a big win.