Just a heads up, this post has LOTS of photos because this was such a special evening. My friend Melissa and her husband Kenny moved to West Philly a few weeks ago, and although I have known them for several years, there is something extra special about having them live in the same neighborhood! Melissa is a wonderful cook, and she is also Korean. She generously offered to host dinner and teach me and friends how to cook Korean food, and we had such a great time. They just bought a beautiful home, with a drop-dead gorgeous kitchen (yes, kitchens can be drop-dead gorgeous 🙂 and it was so fun to cook there. We were actually the first ones to eat at their new dining table with pretty place settings.
We made three dishes: hamaeul pajeon, a seafood scallion pancake served with chili sauce for an appetizer; mi-yuk-guk, seaweed soup served as a side dish and palette cleanser; and bibimbap, a mixed rice main dish. I won’t be able to capture all the steps of the process, but will provide glimpses of it. It was so much fun to cook with Melissa, she’s such a good teacher and so enthusiastic about it. She explained that key elements of Korean cooking are sesame oil, minced garlic and sesame seeds. You eyeball a lot with Korean cooking, and it is very forgiving – not a lot of precise measurements.
Here are the beautiful ingredients, that Melissa so generously provided.
The prep work took awhile, and it was so fun to do it together, with Angela and Rae joining us for the fun.
Melissa was so adept with this big knife and precisely cutting thin strips of carrot. I was much slower with the carrots and couldn’t quite handle the big knife.
There are a lot of components to the dishes, so I won’t be remembering everything exactly right. For seaweed salad I think we sauteed sesame oil and vegetable oil with minced garlic, then added seaweed that had been soaked in water and cut with scissors to make bite-size. We added water and pepper and simmered for awhile. This is often served alongside dishes to eat between bites of the main meal, and has lots of good flavor.
The seafood scallion pancake was made with a Korean pancake mix, shrimp, imitation crab, scallions, and zuchini, and I believe we added salt and pepper. Fry the batter in vegetable oil until nicely browned on both sides. Serve piping hot with chili or soy sauce. It was absolutely delicious!
For the bibimbap, we cooked rice in the rice cooker, sauteed zucchini and carrots, blanched spinach, steamed bean sprouts, sauteed beef, and fried eggs. The zucchini and carrots were sauteed in sesame oil, vegetable oil and minced garlic until mostly tender but still with a bit of bite. Throw on some sesame seeds.
Once the bean sprouts and spinach are cooled a little, use your hands to rub the minced garlic in and add sesame seeds and a bit of sugar.
Cook beef that has been marinated (I forget what the marinade is! Melissa bought the beef already marinated) and add scallions. She said the cut of beef is similar to what is used for Philly cheesesteaks 🙂
Fry eggs in vegetable oil and add sesame seeds on top.
The meal was absolutely delicious and so much fun to prepare, especially with wonderful friends. We finished the meal with Angela’s dessert of Asian pair sauteed in butter, ginger and brown sugar over ice cream, a perfect ending to a delicious meal.
And a pic with me in it (Melissa is definitely a better photographer than me!):
Notes for Next Time:
Cook with Melissa again, she’s wonderful 🙂