Monday, April 19, 2010

GAStronomy - a campstove cooking tour: South Korea

We have a simple aim: as we cycle through different countries, to cook the national dishes using a simple campstove and some gasoline.

The venue for our Korean cook-up was the fitting Juwangsan National Park. After a pleasant ride in the sun we realised you play with fire when you cycle towards a national park as there's an abundance of outdoor-hungry Koreans packed into buses and of course, mountains. A friendly campground complete with the towering rocky Juwangsan peaks made for an atmospheric kitchen. We were hungry with tired legs and a large array of foods to cook-up...the ideal first episode. Read below for a background into Korean cuisine and more importantly the first recipe of the much our anticipiated blog series: Hanjeongsik with Bul go gi (Korean BBQ – Beef)

Korean cuisine - background

Experiencing Korean cuisine is an adventure in itself. Evolving over many centuries and different provinces it is a gastronomical culture quite unique to Korea.
Dishes are largely based on rice, tofu, vegetables and meats with garlic, ginger, green peppers, sesame oil, soy and vinegar playing leading roles. However, the Korean meal is characterized by the side dishes or banchan. Up to 25 banchan can accompany a meal and when a side-dish is nearing completion it is custom for it to be whisked away and rapidly re-stocked by your host...

The most famous of banchan, and the side which is present at almost every meal from breakfast to supper is kimchi. This national dish is pickled vegetables usually made from cabbage, daikon or even cucumber. It is fermented in a brine of ginger, garlic and chili. Traditionally, kimchi was used to preserve vegetables and to provide a sustaining diet over the long 13th century winters.
As an example of what many Korean families undertake each year, Will (‘warmshowers’ host in Seoul) explained how his parents grow vegetables on their own plot for their kimchi cook-up before winter. Over the course of a week neighbours will congregate to help each other cook, pickle and ferment enough kimchi to last the year. The kimchi is stocked in its own dedicated freezer, in part for convenience, yet also to help prevent the characteristic odour from burrowing its way into nearby foods.
During our ride through the rural Korea we found the countryside to be dotted with large semi-cyclindrical hot-houses nurturing the next year’s kimchi. Not only are the varieties of kimchi seemingly endless, it can be incorporated into almost any dish and there’s a kimchi museum in the northern aspects of South Korea. One of our western friends in Australia upon hearing of our planned South Korean trip told us of a phrase that might come in handy: “It’s not all about the kimchi you know”….seems a bit sacrilegious at the moment, but it’s at the ready.
While including the obligatory soup and soju (rice-water alcohol) shots, our camp-stove cook-up was centred around the Korean BBQ, literally. Whether fueled by coals, gas or gasoline the communal table-top grill is an exciting way to get your source of iron. Beef (bulgogi), pork (samgyeopsal), chicken (dak), seafood or vegetables are grilled by the consumers. When cooked, the serve is eaten with the banchan before another batch is placed gracefully on the barbi.
Our feast was a collage of Korean dishes (Hanjeongsik - traditional Korean meal with rice, soup and side dishes) If we were being completely traditional we’d have used cabbage or lettuce leaves to roll up the meat and rice into parcels instead of seaweed leaves. Regardless, we cooked it with gasoline on a camp-stove in a national park on a Sunday. I think the traditionalists will let this one pass.

Hanjeongsik with Bul go gi (Korean BBQ – Beef)

  • Stove: (we used an MSR whisperlite international, due to South Korea’s love of hiking, actual gas canisters are readily available and so a suitable stove connection like an MSR pocket rocket would do nicely)
  • Fuel: Gasoline from petrol station (gas canisters available)
  • 2 pot set (1.5L and 1L)
  • 4 small tuperware containers
  • Chok ka rak (chopsticks)
  • Spoons for stirring
  • Chopping board
  • Knife (eg from multi-tool)

  • Brown rice 250g (if limited by time or fuel precooked rice is a good substitute)
  • Water
  • 1 packet of seaweed flakes
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sesame oil
  • 1 x packet of Omu (seafood sheets) – sliced into 2cm squares
  • 500g marinated beef (sliced)
  • Side dishes (banchan) including kim chi (pickled or fermented vegetables)
  • 1 x packet seaweed squares
  • 1 x packet of sliced radish
  • Soju 250ml


Cook brown rice
  1. Using absorption method add water at ratio 1 cup rice: 1 cup water
  2. When cooked set aside in Tupperware containers

Prepare seaweed soup
  1. Add 2 tsp salt and tsp of sesame oil to 500ml water
  2. Add generous handful of seaweed flakes
  3. Bring to boil then simmer for 2-3 minutes
  4. Eat as entrée or if you have enough pots, set aside to eat with main meal

Prepare Omu
  1. Fry omu with sesame oil, salt and pepper for 30sec to 1minute
  2. Fry a handful of squares at a time
  3. Set aside in one of the pots

Set up your eating space for dinner
  1. Arrange side dishes ( kim chi & others), rice, radish, seaweed squares, omu
  2. Fry up batches of marinated beef and eat together with other dishes once each batch is ready

Drink soju
  1. Your partner fills your glass and vice-a-versa
  2. Shot your glass once the first round of beef is cooked, then drink when the soju calls

By cooking a little more of each dish you can store some away for lunch the next day. This will make even the harshest of hills and head winds seem bearable!


Katy said...

Yum! This sounds like an effort in a kitchen with all my stuff waiting in drawers, water on tap and enough plates and bowls to recklessly use as the mood takes me... I'm impressed, envious and more appreciative than ever of the equipment at my finger tips as I think about cooking tonight's dinner :-)

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