Awesome Korean Food with Sarah Petchell
Sometimes it feels strange to be a person of Italian decent, whose Nonna was a chef, and yet be so interested in learning to cook Korean food. It’s even stranger to think back on where the urge to learn more about Korean food came from.
The first Korean dish I ever cooked was bibimbap. And the only reason I made it was because I was looking for dishes that my incredibly fussy partner would eat. He has very specific requirements as a vegetarian who doesn’t really like vegetables. Nor does he like plain rice. No tofu. No mushrooms. No eggplant. The list goes on…
So a bowl of rice, with some sautéed beef and zucchini (for me only), with carrot, bean shoots, roasted broccoli (for him) and other stuff I can’t remember, as well as a spicy sauce made of soy, gochujang and sesame oil. But not too much gochujang because, at the time, the spice tolerance was super low.
Fast forward five years, and I take my first trip to Korea for work. My life – and my palate – changed. When I got back to Australia I was craving the chewiness of tteokbokki and the spiciness of dakgalbi and the joy of slurping tofu from a dolsot full of bubbling, molten jiigae. With no one to share these flavours with, it became clear that the only way I was going to be able to taste these things was if I made them myself.
And that was where the adventure began. I’m a more than decent cook – the family joke is my Nonna’s cooking skills passed on to me after she died. And I’m also an obsessive knowledge seeker so when I want to know something, I need to know everything. I scoured blogs and YouTube for recipes and techniques. I read Maangchi’s cookbooks back to front, trying to learn the techniques behind the dishes. I made friends with the lady that runs the Korean grocer a couple of suburbs over.
So over the last few years my Korean cooking repertoire has slowly gotten bigger. My bibimbap improved when I started seasoning my vegetables in sesame oil and doing more than just blanching them. I discovered that throwing rice cakes into your galbi jjim takes it all the way to 11. I can throw together a quick lunch while working from home of baechu doenjang guk, or dakjuk, or kongnamul bap with a little beef and an egg yolk in less than half an hour.
Rainy, Melbourne days can be warmed by making a few different types of jeon and happily drinking makgeolli along with them. I’ve made my own noodles for kalguksu, and learned that if you render the fat out of your pork belly and THEN fry your rice in it for kimchi fried rice, your tastebuds will thank you (Thank you Suga and this clip from Run BTS x Game Caterers ).
But most of all, I’ve learned the infinite number of ways that instant ramen can be pimped up and it’s deliciousness maximized. And I’m talking beyond the jjapaguri made famous by Parasite. Ever had an hour long discussion with your Korean tattoo artist about the best additions to instant ramen? I have …
And you can definitely hit me up for my recipes and recommendations!
Written by Sarah Petchell - MKS Student
Follow her for more Korean cooking on Instagram @honeycombroadmap