11/6/2009 – IN THE KITCHEN: Korean cuisine: The next big thing?


By Faith Bahadurian Special Writer
Posted: Friday, November 6, 2009 1:24 PM EST
Members of the Korean Women’s Club cook with Sue K. Choo. From left: Sookyoung Chon, Janelle Baik, Jennifer Lee, Sue K. Choo, Sooha Lee, Julie Oh, and Alice Yi. ‘Korean flavors tend to be bold and savory, with various forms of chilies as important ingredients.’

Korean food is in the news. First came a press release about a Korean cooking demonstration at the Princeton Fitness & Wellness Center of the Princeton HealthCare System. Then The New York Times wrote about the first lady of South Korea doing a cooking demonstration with Jean- Georges Vongerichten. Next came an article in The Wall Street Journal about Korean chef David Chang’s new cookbook (he owns the Momofuku empire), and the weekend right before the demonstration, I happened across a PBS show on Korean food. Then, just today, I found a feature article about kimchi, “Korea’s Miracle Food,” in my brand new issue of Saveur.

Korean cuisine can be very healthful, and was largely seafood-based until recently, when meat became more available in prosperous South Korea. Korean flavors tend to be bold and savory, with various forms of chilies as important ingredients. Rice is a part of nearly every meal, as are myriad side dishes, or panchan, which are often pickled or fermented.

The event at the Fitness Center was led by the Women’s Club of the Korean Community Center of Princeton, an organization with about 450 members. The vivacious ladies at the event were obviously excited to share their cuisine through local chef and cookbook author Sue K. Choo, whose grandmother founded Korea’s first cooking school. Ms. Choo was a well-known culinary personality in Korea until she moved to the States in 2002, where she has been teaching Asian cooking and contributing cooking columns to Korean newspapers and magazines.

During Ms. Choo’s demonstration, Anthony Dissen, RD, the Medical System’s Outpatient and Community Education Dietitian, commented from the sidelines. His sophisticated grasp of what makes food taste good made me reassess my foodie attitude that dietitians just take the fun out of food. He’s a foodie himself: When I later e-mailed him about kimchi, he wrote back about how “wonderful kimchi and other fermented foods are for your overall and digestive health, which is why I love to make kimchi at home as much as possible, I suspect.”

As Ms. Choo prepared the jap-che, he pointed out the importance of sautéing each ingredient separately, saying that when everything tastes the same in a stir fry, it is because we’ve cooked all the vegetables together, so we don’t get the layers of flavor. (At this point the Korean lady sitting near me leaned over and whispered that that extra effort is why jap-che is a special party dish.)

Mr. Dissen also pointed out that sautéing vegetables in a little oil produces tastier results than steaming, and that as long as the pan is good and hot, the oil is not absorbed by the food.

Dried shitake mushrooms add an especially healthful benefit. Sold in bags in Asian markets; good quality ones are not cheap, but I’ve found their flavor and meaty texture are incomparable. Mr. Dissen said that when you dry mushrooms, the beneficial compounds in the spores are concentrated, and are not lost during reconstitution. Be sure to completely reconstitute them, he added, or once you’ve consumed them, they’ll suck up moisture, making you thirsty.

I was not able to stay for the entire cooking demonstration, but between Ms. Choo and Mr. Dissen, I still left far the wiser!


(Clear Noodles with Beef and Vegetable)

adapted from Sue K. Choo

Serves 4.

½ pound starch (sweet potato) noodles

1 bag fresh spinach

4 chili peppers (red and/or green), cored and julienned

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 carrot, julienned

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

4 scallions, chopped fine

1 tablespoon cooking wine

½ pound sliced beef, julienned

8 dried mushrooms, soaked until tender, julienned

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Soak noodles in cold water for one hour. Bring a pot of water to boil, and cook them for about 2 minutes. Wash with cold water and drain. Combine the half each of soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil in a bowl and toss with cooked noodles. Allow to marinate while preparing the rest of dish.

Bring another pot of water a boil and cook spinach 1 minute. Drain and wash spinach with cold water. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess water and roughly chop.

Combine the garlic, scallion, cooking wine, black pepper and remaining soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil in a small bowl. Cut beef and mushrooms into julienne strips and add to marinade (but don’t mix together).

Add a small amount of oil to a pan and stir fry carrot, onion, peppers, and spinach separately, removing each as done. Season each vegetable with a little salt and pepper while cooking.

Stir-fry marinated beef and mushrooms separately over high heat. Stir-fry marinated noodles in the pan. Once all the ingredients are cooked, mix in a large bowl.

Pan-fry the egg, and slice it into julienne strips. Sprinkle egg and sesame seeds on top of all and serve.


adapted from Sue K. Choo

Serves 4

(Note: Anchovy broth is made by simmering dried anchovies from the Asian market in water for one hour and draining. FB)

½ pound cleaned squid

4 ounces peeled shrimp

4 ounces crab meat

1 bunch scallions

2 chili peppers

2 cloves garlic

½ inch piece of ginger

1 egg

½ cup white flour

½ cup rice flour

Salt to taste

½ teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons fish sauce

½ cup anchovy broth

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Cut the scallions into 3-inch long pieces. Cut the chili pepper, garlic and ginger into julienne strips.

Cut squid in half lengthwise, and then slice into thin strips. Cut shrimp into small pieces. Mix all seafood, plus the pepper/garlic/ginger mixture in a small bowl.

Mix egg, flours, salt and pepper, fish sauce, and anchovy broth in a large bowl. Add scallions.

Put 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan over medium heat. Add half of egg mixture. Add mixed seafood. Add rest of egg mixture. Cook, turning once, until lightly golden. Serve with vinegar and soy sauce dressing.

Sue K. Choo’s “Asian Cuisine,” is just being published and should be available on Amazon.com before the end of the year.

Read Faith Bahadurian’s blog at www.packetinsider.com/ blog/njspice (also www.twitter.com/njspice).

‘Film for Foodies’ at Princeton library

The film “Big Night” will inaugurate a new series, “Film for Foodies,” at Princeton Public Library on Tuesday, Nov. 10, at 6 p.m. Continuing throughout the winter with the movies “Babette’s Feast” and “Like Water for Chocolate,” the series is co-sponsored by Mediterra restaurant in Palmer Square.

Set in a small town at the Jersey shore in the 1950s, the comedy “Big Night,” directed by Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci, who also appears in the film, tells the story of two immigrant brothers from Italy who own and operate the Paradise restaurant. One is a perfectionist chef who chafes under their customers’ expectations of “Americanized food.” The other is the manager who embraces the opportunities of life in America.

The Danish film “Babette’s Feast,” which will be screened Dec. 15 at 6 p.m., takes place in 19th-century Jutland and is based on a story by Isak Dinesen. The story centers on a meticulously prepared French meal that changes the lives of the people who partake of it. The film won the Best Foreign Film Academy Award in 1987. “Like Water for Chocolate,” which will be screened Jan. 20 at 6 p.m., is a love story based on the novel by Laura Esquivel. Love and desire are sublimated into cooking when two young lovers are kept apart during the Mexican revolution.

Those attending the films will receive a voucher redeemable for discounts on post-screening dining at Mediterra. Wine and tapas in the restaurant’s Taverna will be discounted and the mid-course of a film-inspired dinner will be included at no charge. For details and reservations, call Mediterra at 609-252-9680.

All Princeton Public Library programs are free and open to the public. The library is in the Sands Library Building at 65 Witherspoon St. in Princeton Borough. Convenient parking is available on neighboring streets and in the borough-operated Spring Street Garage, which is adjacent to the library.

For more information about library programs and services, call 609-924-9529 or visit www.princetonlibrary.org.