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Enquirer Weekend editor Julie Gaw tends to order the same dish every time she eats at a restaurant, but periodically ventures out to discover something new and fabulous. After living in China, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Thailand for more than 8 years, she craves tasty Asian food. E-mail her at jgaw@enquirer.com.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

A Korea state of mind

I spent a year teaching English in South Korea, and I fell in love with the people, the culture, and most importantly, the food. Korea is where I learned to love spicy food, and that wonderful feeling that comes after your mouth is on fire. Pleasure after pain, it's a great feeling!

I'm lucky to live in Covington, where we have a delicious, authentic Korean restaurant,
But quite often, I get a hankering for Korean food at home.

Polly gave me this barbecue sauce the other day. Annie Chun's line of prepackaged products is pretty good, as far as processed food goes. There's no corn syrup in this sauce, and I can pronounce every ingredient. I tried it on vegetables and grains, and I liked it. It's tangy, just like the barbecue marinade I remember from the bulgogi (fire-meat) and kalbi (ribs) I ate there.
Barbecue in Korea is quite different than here. Year-round, groups gather at small tables, sometimes inside but more often outside, with a grill inside. Some restaurants have gas grill-tables, while at others, a man brings your table a can full of hot coals.
You line up meat, tofu, kimchi and vegetables -- ooh, and whole cloves of garlic on the grill and pull the goodies off as it's ready. The meat goes on in one piece, then is cut into bite-size pieces with kitchen shears as it cooks.
Wrap it up with a few seasoned scallions, a slice of pickled daikon radish, some hot pepper-bean paste and that roasted garlic inside a piece of romaine lettuce, pop the entire thing in your mouth and wash it down with a shot of soju or a sip of mekju. It's especially comforting food on a bitterly cold winter's night in Seoul. When you leave, your belly's full, and everyone on the subway can smell the meat, soju, kimchi and charcoal fumes still clinging to your hair and clothes.
Annie Chun's sauce would make a great marinade with your protein of choice. Here are some tips on making your own Korean BBQ at home! You don't need a grill table to do it. (Annie Chun's products are available at Kroger, Wild Oats, Meijer and more...)
Tonight, my childhood friend Sarah is coming to visit. She loves kimchi as much as I do. We taught in Korea together, and we shared my 300-square-foot apartment (yes, 30x10 feet!) for two weeks when she first arrived. And our friendship survived. We're going to Riverside for dolsot bibimbap and kimchi bokum and will no doubt test our spicy-food threshold.
Any other kimchi lovers out there?

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at 6:14 AM Blogger Earl said...

Because my wife is 1/4 Korean, I've tried to increase my spicy food tolerance over the years. I'll never catch up to her.

Since we're a bit North, we go to the Korea House in the Harper's Point area. We'll have to make a trip down to Riverside.

at 5:22 PM Blogger Stepf said...

And I'll have to make it out there sometime. Gamsahamnida, Earl! (thanks!)

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