Wednesday, December 21, 2011

mee ori, multi-brand fashion shop in samchung dong

i rarely shop now since it was incredibly tedious to clear out my belongings in the last years. as to the wardrobe i want to have a light, versatile one that fits into several suitcases! that will be a great day to come. meanwhile, like any serious foodie, i encourage food gifts for christmas because they will never end up as rubbish :)

whew, having said that i introduce a shop today. i have been strolling around in seoul which i think is the greatest shopping city in the world - compared to other popular capitals prices are still low and for every class of goods there are so many co-existing price levels that one will always meet one's budget. the only place with horrifying price tags are the department stores. it makes gasp to see how many items can break the 1 million mark that seem to be sold to people who don't look like millionaires (we are talking about wons but still...). however, there are serious alternatives in this city!

when passing the lovely window of mee ori that describes itself as a "multi-brand fashion shop" in the historical neighborhood of samcheong dong, i couldn't help but enter. jeong seo kim is the owner and offers selected as well as self-designed apparel together with dazzling accessories (footwear unfortunately for the last time now). ms. kim describes her style as "lovely avantgarde" :) and as far as i can judge, every single item met the requirements of being up-to-date, ravishing and comfy. (it's worth mentioning that being edgy seems not to be a virtue among the fashionistas here. the great majority of the street-looks is demure.)

and she really has the talent for making you think that she worries about your appearance without haunting you.

"your coat is NOT CASHMERE!! how could that happen??? you should change that!!!! " (until that pitiful statement of hers i took much pride in the coat as being my best one - jil sander for uniqlo, fall/winter 2010... so that came as a shock.)

"elsewhere you can get this kind of coat only at
max mara, i assure you." (sounds good to me and i want to believe she is right.)

"in abgucheong dong it is already sold out" (sounds even better - for korean women it still is the reference area for elegance...).

"do you know alexander wang?? this one is inspired by his coat..." (i have no idea. but isn't alexander wang always supposed to be black?)

seeing the price tag was another shock.
but when taking into consideration how these items are made it is comprehensible that it must cost significantly more than the average zara-duplicate: ms. kim constantly watches international designers (other names dropped were marc jacobs and maison martin margiela) and personally reinterprets their works - influenced by the colors and history in her neighborhood and by the requirement of suitability for daily use. the fine fabrics are carefully selected, often they are bought on inspirational travels in bali and thailand. and she has a soft spot for the patterns of japanese producers.

i tried to bargain (which is a must at retailers in korea, especially when you buy more then two items):
"eonnie! i know you want me to have this and me too but simply i can't afford... pleeeease give me further reductions... btw, i am from busan, too!"
- "where have you been to high school??"
- "dongnae..."
- "i am from haeundae! do you (at least) live there?"
- "nope..."(that marked the end of our similarities because for koreans not only your hometown but also your home district and your school, that is called "motherschool", are crucial.)

in the end i still got a further reduction on the sale and took away a new coat and a white blouse with bliss. i am done with shopping for this season and hopefully for the next winter to come (check this post again then for a long-term review :) ).

get interesting fashion insights of ms. kim in a magazine interview here.

mee ori

opens daily from 11 am - 7:30 pm
Chongno Gu,
Yunboseon Gil 65.

Anguk Station, Subway Line No. 3

phone: 02 722 7660

Sunday, December 18, 2011

slowly roasted kimchi risotto with trout and spinach frittata

I. kimchi and holidays

does kimchi come in handy during
christmas season? absolutely!

whenever you suffer a butter and sugar overkill nosh some tangy, crisp and juicy kimchi and you will be fully revived for the
christmas cookies, stollen and ginger bread front again :) i was amused to read that in these precarious situations of craving for sweets yet being overfull with them, germans tend to eat a cheese sandwich.
well kimchi would be an equally effective, less filling alternative :)

it is also great to have between opulent holidays because the secret behind is: the more kimchi you eat, the lighter you will feel afterward...

II. kimchi at any time

this could be the reason why koreans have the urge to eat kimchi all the time - like the
swabian sauce it makes it easier to devour any other component of a dish when eaten together with kimchi. the younger generations might be different but for the older korean people this is still valid.
i once accompanied some korean businessmen in the rhine-main-region and whenever we visited a non-korean eatery they asked the waiter if it would be ok to unpack their kimchi they had brought with. it was not because they were too narrow-minded to
try the different cuisine on its own. but without kimchi and any other "fresh" component they hardly could swallow more than a bite of the plate that oozed with butter and heavy cream.
once we went to a restaurant that was too chic to ask for the allowance and guess what, the evening ended up with leaving the plates mostly full. the only person who could eat the whole serving was me :)

III. what i like about kimchi

kimchi is the evidence that you can yield the
utmost umami flavor out of the humblest ingredients by letting time do most of the work. in many situations in cooking where bacon or cheese is added to make a dish tastier, koreans would add kimchi. and because kimchi changes its taste with the ongoing fermentation, it is slow food in the best sense of the word.

so let it be said:

if you have never had kimchi before, don't wait too long until to try it. it will bring a complete
new, complex umami taste into your life!

if you have tried kimchi and didn't like it: don't give in, you probably didn't got the right one.
to make good kimchi isn't magic but it demands some
sensitivity in finding the right balance of the components. this seems to be hard enough to achieve and unfortunately a lot of kimchi end in bland or oversalt results (i screwed my first exemplars, too).

IV. a kimchi meal for beginners

since the authentic way of preparing
banchans along with kimchi is so laborious that i think only really crazy fans of korean cuisine can do that, here is my suggestion that involves fresh as well as cooked kimchi. the great thing is that once you have good kimchi, no additional garlic, onions or spices will be needed.

spinach frittata with fresh kimchi

eggs in any form goes well with fresh kimchi.

pan-fry a vegetable of preference (i took spinach for some chlorophyllic green).
pour lightly beaten eggs with salt and pepper over it and let sit.
after it gets firm, turn it over with the help of a plate.
serve with fresh kimchi (wrung out so that there is no excess kimchi juice and drizzled with olive oil).

risotto with slowly roasted kimchi and white fish

the classic rice dish with cooked kimchi is kimchi fried rice but if that is too simple, here is another option. who would have thought but kimchi goes well with butter and white wine, too :)

chop 2 handful
fermented (!) kimchi and roast it in the oven (180° C) for 1 hour with 1 tbsp of butter. the oven-roasting will turn out all flavors and result in a shiny mellow kimchi. this method will meet those people, who aren't yet used to the harsh and tangy taste of fresh kimchi.

for 2 servings
sweat 200 g carnaroli rice in 1 tbsp butter.
deglaze with 200 ml white wine and stir.
add the roasted kimchi.
successively add 800 ml kimchi broth (kimchi juice with boiled water and additional salt).
add 1 tsp of butter and optionally 2 tbsp grated parmigiano at the end.

serve with pan-fried white fish (i took trout), black pepper and chopped basil.

V. a special invite

it's a great pleasure to release my musings on kimchi for my dear fellow blogger
miss boulette: not only do i share her love of everything "classic" and of sweet yeast breads, her blog keeps me marvel at how sensational authenticity is paired with modernity in presenting korean cuisine.
thank you for the dinner invite - i am so looking forward to it!! :)

Friday, December 16, 2011

my kimchi background or not my kimchi background

in the course of finding a reason why i am still a beginner at kimchi-making i could have come to the conclusion that it is that it was a grown-up-thing. then i read this excuse at orangette and couldn't repeat what had been said already :)

so here is the other explication:

my parents actually never got into western cooking when living in germany (not that they didn't like it but because every time & energy left was spent to prepare & procure korean ingredients, which was tough in those days in a small west german town :)). thus normally i would have got normal korean taste buds.

it was our german daymother then, a dedicated housewife, who introduced me and my sister to what we referred to as german food. in retrospect it was typical middle-class cooking of the early 90ies:
potatoes every day in every form, creamed spinach, stuffed red pepper, cucumber salad, homemade yogurt and streusel cakes... pizza with a thick bread crust (which we loved and would have never questioned), spaghetti bolognese (made with the infamous industrial condiment...). no bufallo mozarella, no dijon mustard. no sea- nor fusion food.

there was not a single exotic or exclusive produce in her kitchen but also we don't remember a single dish that wasn't delicious. not only did she cook every day but also there was desert every day :) one of my favorites was her "stuten" - a dense white yeast bread with a hint of sweetness that was served with lots of butter every second week - when we came back from swimming courses with a great appetite.

i think, she cooked the best that she could with the produces and circumstances given (among the suppliers was a discounter that is so disdained among today's foodies but that recently opened a successful branch in queens, nyc and also runs the popular trader joe's - just to put that into context :)). and apart from my family background it could be the influence of her cooking why until today, it is still the humble stuff that takes my heart. while everything fancy and glamorous, i just seek out of curiosity.

after leaving this culinary home behind and moving to korea, i was craving for pasta, breads, cakes and anything else "western" all the time. and as banchans were always abundant and western food totally deficient at our home, it never came to my mind to make anything else than the latter after i left home for studies. for a long long while.

but since last year i felt it was about time to get back to the roots and to finally make kimchi by myself - grown up or not :)

II. preliminary notes on kimchi:

1) it can be
incredibly elaborate to process 40 kg of chinese cabbage at once which is a normal family batch for gimjang. while in germany my mother had to preorder her supply of cabbages before the day of the farmer's market. it must have seem so excentric for the market people, who did not know anything about kimchi, to see how many cabbages one woman alone could take away in a day :)

2) on the other hand: it is a
piece of cake when processing just a single cabbage.
it was hilarious to see the first jars with tiny batches of kimchi popping out in blogs and it made me giggle. but now i think little batches totally make sense in a beginner's stadium.

kimchi making is like bread making: it is all about finding your happy medium in a universe of variable coordinates. the quest will never end but also, it won't take long to get the first satisfactory, if not mind-boggling results!

4) possibly there are as many sorts of kimchi as there are of bread. (think of how endless variations exist of turning flour, water and salt into a delicious bread. kimchi includes a couple of more components...)

5) you can add
radish, spring onions, chili, pears, seafood and other extras but in order to make good kimchi it is no more necessary than:

chinese cabbage
- garlic

- ginger

- gochugaru
(korean red chili flakes)
- fish or
shrimp sauce- glutinous rice flour
- salt, sugar.

- rubber gloves and a food container.
- no other condiments at this stage, please.

my beginner's recipe for one chinese cabbage

(prep time 30 min. waiting time 2 hours)

1) half one very small
chinese cabbage (1 kg)

2) dissolve 200 g salt in 2 l water

3) soak the cabbage in the salt water and let it sit for 2 hours. turn the cabbage around once every half an hour so that it is soaked evenly.

4) prepare the chili paste:

a) puree

  • 4 garlic cloves (except for the very young garlic i remove the root parts),
  • 60 g peeled and cut onions
  • 13 g peeled ginger
  • 80 ml fish sauce
  • 13 g sugar

b) in a separate huge bowl mix

  • 20 g glutinous rice flour with
  • 100 ml boiling water and
  • 30 g gochugaru

c) add the puree to the gochugaru mixture and mix well until it becomes a smooth sauce

5) slice 100 g onions very fine and add into the sauce.

6) put on the rubber gloves. wash the cabbage under running water and wring it out.

7) throw into the bowl and coat the cabbage with the chili sauce.

8) fill the cabbage in a food container as airtight as possible but leave some free space. pour all remaining sauce over the kimchi.

9) keep it one day at room temperature, afterwards stored in the fridge.

10) after five to ten days it will be fermented enough to cook with it. raw kimchi can be eaten at any stadium.
if well covered with the kimchi liquid it will last several months.

more praise on kimchi and a meal suggestion in the next post!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

salad for a deli owner

do you own a deli? are you uninspired about what to offer the crowd for lunch? do you offer the same dreary whishy-washy sandwiches or greasy pasta gratins every day?
here is a hint: a lentil (but cooked until soft,
not al dente!) salad with beetroots, radicchio, any other fresh and colorful thing that you have, coriander and a fine dressing.
veeeeery cheap ingredients. nooooo cooking involved. and the crowd will thaaaank you because they feel good after lunch. and they will come back. so offer some sort of this soon, be happy with the reactions and don't hesitate to consult me for further ideas.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

advent calender

anne & annette: THANK YOU!!!!! :) :)

fruit aroma bread

i never understand the saying that contrary to cooking, you have to be precise in baking. so you must stick to a recipe a 100% in the latter.

naturally speaking you will yield to the closest results when sticking to a recipe (and if i don't run out of some ingredients or the recipe turns out not trustworthy i always do...).

but taking 247 gr of four instead of 250 gr is as discretionary as it would be in cooking, i think.

and also i don't get why measuring by volume should be trickier than measuring by weight. american baking recipes with cup measurements are great fun to me. i always use a little glass as utensil and it never failed.

sometimes i make a dough on a gut level which is practical to use up some ingredients.

for this sweet bread i stirred up apple puree (selfmade and passed over), quince jam, mashed banana, two eggs, a hint maple syrup, little canola oil, baking powder, baking soda, pinch of salt with whole spelt flour. and out came a wonderfully moist cake bread with a complex fruit aroma.

the only disadvantage of intuitive baking - you can't make the exact same thing again although you wished :)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

takeaway salad & one olive oil address

life is too short for bleak lunch boxes.

unless you

a) don't have a canteen with a star rated chef

b) can't whip up
enviable in between meals at home or

c) don't have the time to eat anyway,

take your own salad every now and then.

it cannot be stressed enough that the dressing is the key.

take the finest oil and vinegar that you can get (and that you hardly get in the supermarkets here) and they will turn the most trivial salad components into a top notch dish.

especially when some vegetables aren't in their peak season.

in this context i must thank my dear friend LEA (advent greetings to the big apple!!) who indicated this very charming
olive oil dealer. after missing the opening hours several times i finally made it there.

(and now that i passed on an oil supplier, any suggestions where to get sherry vinegar? anybody??)

a tip beforehand:

when filling the storage container begin with the "firm" components like pulses or grains and it won't be necessary to take the dressing separately.
i make a dressing by shaking it in a twist-off glass in which it can be stored for several servings.

once you get used to this little procedure, it will be done so quickly that you can do it while brewing your morning coffee. promise.

an ordinary suggestion:

layer chickpeas (a couple teaspoons, precooked and frozen), carrots, (would have liked stalk celery, too but had none), tomatoes, shallots and herbs (chopped in with a scissor; never waste the stem parts just cut them very thinly). pour the dressing in and layer salad lettuces (don't have any preferences here as long as they are pretty) on top. shake the container before eating.

a treat like this once or twice a week and i am no longer upset about my checkless intakes of sweat white yeast breads! :)