When I was growing up in LA, treat eating Korean food meant one thing: an all-meat dinner cooked over the grill at the restaurant, Woo Lae Oak. Each visit was pretty much the same experience — billowing clouds of meat-scented smoke, sharp, vinegary kimchi, marinade-drenched bulgogi or kalbi and the sizzling sounds from the grill complemented with the loud, sucking vacuums above each grill. Little did I know, I had only skimmed the surface of Korean cuisine.
Earlier this month, I was asked to help in the Korean government’s latest efforts to promote and globalize their cuisine at a celebration of National Day and Armed Forces Day at the Ambassador’s home in D.C. And this time there was no grilled meat involved… Ok, maybe a tub or two of bulgogi.
Apart from the bulgogi, there was a huge spread of other Korean eats and treats to be offered, including a wooden bucket of bibimbop, spiraled with colorful piles of julienned vegetables, which was then mixed with a paddle and served.
Scallion pancakes on the griddle were freshly made ready to order.
Jay Weinstein, culinary instructor, cookbook author and friend, recently returned from a trip to Korea and joined us from New York to assist in cooking and explaining the dishes.
Cucumber kimchi sprinkled with pine nuts
Stir-fried cylindrical rice cakes (tteokbokki)
Jay makes Gujeolpan, a traditional Korean wrap filled with 9 ingredients.
Sweet korean rice cakes, or tteok, were freshly rolled and cut, then rolled around in soybean powder and crispy rice bits.
Cucumber and lemon soju, or Korean rice wine.
Korean Ambassador (center) with his wife (right).
Many guests arrived in formal or military attire, while some opted for hanboks and other traditional Korean dresses.
My favorite outfit of the night:
The night ended with a full moon, welcoming us to the beginning of Autumn. In celebration of the arrival of Autumn, Koreans often eat Songpyeon, a sweet glutinous rice cake traditionally eaten during the Korean autumn festival, Chuseok. They come filled with sesame seeds, honey, red bean paste, or chestnut paste and steamed over a layer of pine needles, to give it an aroma of pine trees. Try out a basic recipe I found from Agrofood Magazine: