|My random ingredient bibimbap. It's bean sprouts, Japanese sweet potato, green onions, egg, and rice.|
The more immediate issue is that, for the last week or two, I've been going absolutely bonkers for Korean food. When I start learning a new culture's food I tend to go a little nuts with it. Like when I started learning Thai food I thought it would be a great idea to raise a Kaffir lime tree so I would have fresh leaves. That didn't work out, and I only made a dish or two before I moved on to something else. It's been different with Korean food. I've not cooked anything besides Korean food since my current binge started two weeks ago. I woke up one day and decided I needed to learn to make dukbokki. Dukbokki is a dish made with rice cakes. Not the nasty American coasters that we're all used to; this rice cake is tube shaped and chewy and yummy. Never having made Korean food before, I started hunting for recipes online and that is where I found more than I bargained for. At first I was only comparing dukbokki recipes to see what I really needed for them, then I found Maangchi. This woman is fantastic and her website is awesome. Her videos are insanely helpful and she has all kinds of links to show you what you should be looking for when you go shopping. Anything Korean that I make and rave about is probably from her recipes unless I make a note otherwise.
I used her recipe for dukbokki and promptly lost my mind. It was so good I immediately picked another recipe and it was just as good. Things have been spiraling out of control ever since. I'm pretty sure at this point that I'm going to cook my way through her whole site. Well, maybe not the kimchi. I've never been terribly fond of it, which is weird because I love all other forms of pickled cabbage that I've had. More impressively, I've even been eating things that I hate. No, really, I have. I've been gobbling down large quantities of food that I have always despised. Korean food is so good that I've been eating zucchini, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and even Korean chili paste whenever they're called for. All those foods have been on the poison list for time out of mind(I call foods that I hate poisonous, I'm not sure why. It's just something I do) and I am the biggest wimp ever when it comes to spicy food. I mean, I have a hard time with salsa that's hotter than mild. There are some brands that I can eat the 'medium' rating on, but not many. I even have a hard time with the spicy Japanese mayonnaise used for sushi. The Korean chili paste (it's called gochujang, if you're curious) is a lot hotter than the spicy mayo and for whatever reason I just can't get enough of it. I actually managed to go through something like half of a 500 gram package of the stuff in less than 2 weeks and I think I'm going to have to buy more soon. And don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that it's easy to eat food slathered in gochujang because I'm a wimp and can do it, because that isn't it at all. Gochujang hurts. It hurts a lot. Dukbokki is covered in the stuff and I've been eating it something like every other day. It burns with exquisitely delicious pain. We're talking tears streaming down my face spicy (for a wimp, remember), but I can't stop eating it. I've been eating so much dukbokki that I think I'm starting to get used to the spice level which is terrifying.
I'm even branching out my kitchenware because of this epic food. I've always hated not having a gas range and I've finally decided that I need a single burner butane stove. Butane because it's safe to use indoors and propane isn't. With said stove I can use things like the Korean BBQ grill pan. Amazing little buggers, those. They're cast iron and shaped in such a way that the grease runs off into a collecting area. I know what you're thinking, and you'd be wrong. I can't just use a George Foreman grill. Unlike a George Foreman, you can get the grill pan hot enough to brown the meat correctly and it doesn't smash all the yummy juices out of the meat. I also love fun new kitchen toys. I won't lie, that was a big deciding factor in getting the butane stove. Well, that and emergency use. It's hard to cook during a power outage if all you have is an electric stove and a microwave.
The part I've been enjoying most, besides eating amazing new foods, is finding out what to do with some of the bizarre things you can find at Asian markets. I've always wanted to know what I could do with dried squid or what the different sizes of dried anchovy are for. Sadly, I still haven't found a recipe to use with pork uterus. I've been burning with curiosity ever since I saw those packages in the meat fridge. Most other meats I've either had or are similar enough to things I've had that I can guess, but not pork uterus. Even the internet doesn't have an actual recipe. The best I've been able to find is vague directions to stuff them with pork, leeks, spices, and fish sauce then boil the resulting 'sausage'. Now that I've totally killed your appetite, I believe I shall go have a delightful dinner. All this talk of food, yes, even the uterus, has made me hungry!