|You can't go wrong with brown sugar and cinnamon.|
So that finally brings us to my menu today: North Korean food. To be honest, I think most people imagine North Korean food to consist mainly of fried dog meat (or cats) and gruel. But I found out it’s far more than that. Perhaps not a culinary hotspot, but I did manage to find a few palatable recipes. The first thing I made was called Ho Dduk. In a bowl, I mixed together 2 Tbsp sugar, a packet of yeast, and 1 ½ c of warm water, and I set it off to the side. In a different bowl, I mixed together a cup of cold water and ½ c of potato flakes (I used instant mashed potatoes). I mixed it slowly until it actually became mashed potatoes. Then in a larger bowl, I stirred together 4 c of all-purpose flour, 2 tsp salt, ¼ c sugar, and ¼ c powdered milk before adding in 10 Tbsp of softened butter (it’s almost Paula Dean approved!), 2 beaten eggs, the potato mixture, and the yeast mixture until it all came together. Once I got everything to start looking like a dough, I dumped it out on my floured pastry mat and kneaded it, adding in another 1 ¼ c of flour. Greasing a bowl, I placed my dough back in and covered with a cheesecloth for 45 minutes. After this time, I kneaded it just a little bit more before I divided it into 36 balls. Taking each ball, I made a thumbprint in the middle and filled it with brown sugar and cinnamon. Then I folded the ball back up together and re-rolled it, flattening it with my palm. I took each flattened “ball” and placed it in a skillet with heated oil, flattening it again with a skillet. It didn’t take very long to brown each side. I had some leftover brown sugar/cinnamon, so I sprinkled some on top of each one when it was finished. I thought these were really good. The potato (I think) made it kind of squishy on the inside, but the flavor was good. I wished that I had put more cinnamon and sugar on the inside of them. Otherwise, it was good. I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten way too many.
|Some aren't a fan, but I enjoy cold noodles.|
The second dish I made was Mul-naengmyeon, a cold noodle soup. I started with the broth. Now, the noodles came with its own broth base, but I took them out and saved them for later. I made my own broth by mixing 8 c of water, a few anchovies rolled with capers, 2 pieces of nori (seaweed), and a handful of mixed mushrooms (shiitakes, oysters, and cremini). I let it boil for about 10-15 minutes, strained it, and put it in the freezer. I took it out when it had cooled off and added in some pear juice from a can of pears and put it back in the freezer (the pear juice from a can was way easier than grating a pear and straining it for the juice). I actually did find naengmyeon noodles—they’re super long! I was going to substitute Japanese soba noodles (which are slightly thicker), but these were right next to it. I boiled the noodles then rinsed them in cold water. I served the cold noodles in the cold broth, topped with pickled cucumbers (I sliced them and added sugar, salt, and apple cider vinegar and let them sit for about an hour) and sliced pears (that I let sit in sugar water). I also added in a half of a hard boiled egg. I was missing the mustard oil because I didn’t realize I ran out of dry mustard. I also didn’t toast and grind any sesame seeds to top it with, so I just sprinkled some black sesame seeds on top. It was actually pretty good. Perhaps a little on the bland side, if anything. I was a little leery about the pear, but eating it together with the cucumber really was pretty good. Who knew?
|This was unbelievably good. I could do this again.|
I had some doubts as to whether I was actually picking recipes that were more authentic to North Korea vs. South Korea, but sometimes I just had to take a chance. And just because it sounded good, I picked Korean Barbecue Beef. I used stew beef, even though the recipe called for rib eye. I trimmed off any fat that was on there, and I sliced it as thin as I could. I sprinkled some sugar on top of it and let it sit for a few minutes. In a small bowl, I mixed the marinade: soy sauce, minced garlic, sesame oil, sugar, black pepper, and some chardonnay (in lieu of sake—it was all I had on hand, and Indiana thinks you’ll go to hell if you purchase alcohol on Sunday). I put my beef in a bowl and squeezed the juice of one kiwi on it. Kiwi apparently is used as a tenderizer. Then I poured on my marinade, stirred, and let sit for about 10 minutes or so. Because it was easier, I browned the meat with the marinade in a skillet. While it was cooking, I made the dipping sauce: minced garlic, vegetable oil, water, sriracha, soy sauce (it called for soybean paste, and I bought miso instead; however, it had MSG in it, so I couldn’t use it). I put this on the stove and brought it to a boil. I let it boil for about a minute before taking it off. I thought this was probably the best part of the meal. The meat was tender, and the flavor was absolutely wonderful, especially with the dipping sauce. The sriracha was just enough for flavor but there was very little heat.
|Overall, I was fairly impressed with these recipes.|
For a country that I had some preconceived notions about, and certainly seemed backwards from a Western point of view, I did learn some new things about this country. I still cannot get around how much the government controls every aspect of people’s lives and how the people have been brainwashed into the idea of juche and singing praises to the leaders. They try to portray the country as some kind of wonderful place, but it all seems so fabricated. As I watched documentaries on this country, I start to see parallels in some of the things that are happening in this country. If this über-conservatism isn’t checked, we’ll end up like North Korea. I do worry about their stability, and I wonder if that’ll ever change during my lifetime.
Up next: Oman