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korean acorn jelly (tot'ori-muk)

  • j

My daughter had acorn jelly while in korea recently and craves it. She said its a brown jelly made of ground acorns which is cut in squares and served with sesame seeds sprinkled over. I believe its a savory rather than sweet dish.

Does anyone know of a restaurant in NY that serves this dish, how to make it? (the korean grocery on 32nd sells acorn flour or starch, but I don't have a method).

Many thanks!

ps she liked the vegetarian korean food very much - the korean kids they were with got a kick out of grossing out the americans by eating fried cockroaches (!) and silkworms sold on the street.

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  1. I think I know what your daughter is talking about, although in my experience the squares were sort of whitish opaque (but definitely acorn-derived). I would eat it all the time at my friend's house in high school, and the Korean restaurant in Cleveland that I love always has it as part of the banchan. It is a savory - the pieces of gelatin are marinated in soy with sesame and scallion, which is where most of the flavor comes from. I just emailed a friend of mine to see if she can help out with a source or recipe, so I'll keep you posted.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Lauren

      these posts are all very helpful and suggestive - Emma only saw the (brown) end product of course - I think I will cruise up to the Korean Supermarket (Han Am Rheung?) again and look more closely at their prepared foods.

      1. re: jen kalb

        I just heard back from my friend. She said that the clear stuff should be available and usually comes wrapped in styrofoam tray containers. She also recommends buying it as opposed to making it, which she said is complicated and takes "a damn long time". Hope this helps!

        1. re: Lauren

          thanks so much! The one recipe I saw for the jelly started off with pounding the acorns...

          1. re: jen kalb

            Jen,

            Before you go out to gather acorns, I should tell you I do not know anyone here in Korea who actually makes their own "mook." The stuff is readily available in the supermarkets here, and the people who have chimed in are correct. There is the brown stuff and the less nutty tasting white one. The mook itself is used in several different ways. One is to have squares sitting with some soy sauce, sesame seeds, scallions...a very light, mild marinade. Another is to have a small portion sitting in bibimbap...which if any of you have not figured out by now, is a conduit for most Korean restaurants to get rid of semi-old banchan... One key ingredient people have looked over is that mook commonly comes with a small amount of ground beef on the top. For me, being the meat-eater that I am, I think its sort of important. Also, shredded nori/seaweed is commonly sprinkled over the banchan too.

            On a different vein, yes there are vegetarians in Korea and Buddhist cuisine can actually get REALLY good. I stayed at a temple once and had a revelation about duenjang chiggye made with potatoes. Most vegetarians in Korea will unknowlingly break their regimen because they overlook the fact that most seasonings/stocks are fish or meat based. That's why miyuk gook (seaweed soup) would not be a vegetarian dish, the same for binddaeduk (very often there is pork in it)...in any case most soups are off the list.

            For those seriously interested, there is a chain of restaurants in Hannamdong in Seoul called "Pulhyanggi" meaning "the scent of grass" which serves ALMOST vegetarian food. One of their trademark dishes is a sweet and sour mushroom rendition close to tangsuyook. Another is a mushroom stew (buhsut jungol) that again brings up this super mildness in Korean food that I love...and which most people overlook because they are entranced by the kimchee.

            Michael Yu

    2. This is a super-common panchan -- I've had it in just about every Korean place I've been to. I only remember seeing it specifically offered on a menu (listed in the appetizers) at Choga on Bleecker St., but you can probably find it in many other places as well. I didn't know it was vegetarian!

      1. BTW, since my S.O. is a vegetarian and we both really like Korean food, we've been experimenting with veggie adaptations of some Korean standards. I've made kimchi, which is really simple if you're patient, adapting the recipe from the Flavors of Korea cookbook (omitting fish sauce/juice), and have come up with a passable stir-fried TVP "pork" with kimchi (veggie kimchi bokeum, I think), and an okay chigae (bean paste stew) with the same TVP and tofu.

        For meat, we use the flattish, dry TVP shreds available for $2/lb at any decent oriental grocery (we LOVE, and sorely miss, CyberVege, the Buddhist fake-meat outlet on Centre St). I break up the slices a little, then reconstitute them (I just nuke for a minute or two) in half water, half soy sauce, with some garlic slices thrown in. Discard any soaking liquid that's left over because it will be full of that characteristic off-flavor of TVP. Won't fool anyone into thinking it's the real thing, but as close as you can get, critter-free.

        Boy, do I miss Asia Garden in Tappan right about now. Very few Koreans in Maine...

        21 Replies
        1. re: MU
          j
          Jason "Kalbi Rulez!" Perlow

          BLASPHEMER!!!!!!!! VEGGIE KOREAN????????? BURN IN THE FIRES OF COAL FUELED BULGOGI GRILLS, EVIL SPAWN!


          This is a culture which eats barbequed meat with reckless abandon, and you wanna do vegetarian interpretations?

          Ay caramba.

          For crying out loud... leave it alone... go with Thai or Indian ...

          1. re: Jason "Kalbi Rulez!" Perlow

            Why should I stick with Thai or Indian? I'm not making YOU eat the food. Just stay away from Hangawi. It might offend you.

            1. re: MU
              j
              Jason "Hey... it cant hurt to try" Perlow

              Well.. tell you what... call up any Korean grocery in Flushing and see if they'll pack you a care basket in dry ice and fedex the sucker to Portland

              Jason

            2. re: Jason "Kalbi Rulez!" Perlow

              Cmon.

              Probably millions of Koreans (buddhist and otherwise) are vegetarians, my vegan daughter found plenty of delicious stuff to eat there. Hangawi in NYC is reputed to have exquisite, wholly vegetarian cuisine tho we havent made it there yet.

              As much as I love the Korean BBQ meats, thats all it is - sort of primitive, lets play with fire at the table, don't you think? Its a shame to limit your concept of the cuisine to that.

              1. re: jen kalb

                Jen, does your daughter know of any resources for vegetarian Korean recipes?

                1. re: MU

                  no. I trolled around the Koryu bookstore on 32nd and there are probably vegetarian books in there - but I cant read Korean! - there was really only one cookbook in English, but not vegetarian. Madhur Jaffey's books (Vegetarian world of the East) have some few Korean vegetarian recipes, and other Korean recipes can certainly be modified to omit meat or use a meat substitute, as you suggested in an earlier post. Im keeping my eyes out.

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    What about Flavors of Korea: Delicious Vegetarian Cuisine? It's available through Amazon. Also, try the link below (has both meat and veg. recipes).

                    Link: http://soar.berkeley.edu/recipes/ethn...

                    1. re: Lauren

                      Amazon... well, duh! Thanks!

                      1. re: Lauren

                        Also, If you look through the reviews for Practical Korean Cooking on Amazon, you will see that B&N carries the book at $18or so rather than $46.50 at Amazon - and it still does, and I ordered it. Sorry, Jim!

                      2. re: jen kalb

                        I love a lot of Madhur Jaffrey's stuff, and spent several years cooking out of nothing but her "World of the East" cookbook, but her plain kimchi recipe is pretty lame -- pale and watery (unless she's going for that white liquidy summer kimchi, which isn't immediately evident). I think bright-red everyday kimchi should be salted, but not brined, as she instructs. It should produce its own liquid. She also omits the step that activates the color in the chile pepper -- you have to mix it with water to form a paste, and let the paste stand a bit before using it. I got much better results from adapting a fishy recipe.

                        I think Michael Yu mentioned "Flavours of Korea" by Mark Millon as being somewhat rudimentary, but it's a good book for a beginner like me.

                        Anyone experienced with actually making this stuff, vegetarian or not?

                    2. re: jen kalb
                      j
                      Jason "BARBECUE!" Perlow

                      Yeah, I meant that mostly in jest. There are a lot of things you can eat in Korean if you are vegetarian, but you gotta admit, they are -really- into meat.

                      To me, aside of the banchan, veggies are a freakin condiment in Korean cusine. You -need- the kimchi on rice, you -need- frizzy green onions and nice leafy lettuce to roll up your bulgogi and chadol bagi and spicy pork loin with, but its just that, a condiment.
                      The only exception to this rule may be garlic, which is probably just as important as the meat!

                      By the way.. on the subject of frizzied scallions for use on bulgogi... how the -hell- do you make those things? I know you gotta cut them a certain way and put them in ice water... but the method eludes me as one of the wonders of the universe.

                      1. re: Jason "BARBECUE!" Perlow

                        I think it's important to not overemphasize the importance of meat in Korean food. Of course, aside from kimchee, Korean cuisine is probably best known for its barbecue meat. And perhaps deservedly so. Grilling meat on the table and adding condiments to taste is perhaps one of the best ways to enjoy it. However, I think that the idea that Koreans are "really into" meat needs qualification.

                        Until recently, eating large quantities of meat was reserved for special occasions, maybe a few times a year. I think the prevalence of Korean restaurants serving meat is a result of the immigration of Koreans in the 1970s and 80s from Korea, the land of scarce meat, to the US, the land of plenty meat. In Korea, there was a similar rise in meat-eating habits in the 1980s and 90s as salaries rose and America began in earnest the exportation of cheap meat for profit. I think also that the popularity of meat also has something to do with the fetishization of meat in America that lasted until the days when concerns over high-cholesterol, saturated fats and the rests rose to a fever pitch. This image of meat, I think, made it over to Korea and remains today.

                        This, then, begs the question, are Koreans today "really into" meat. Yes, but they're also "really into" other things as well. I think that the typical Korean also eats a range of grains and fruits and vegetables that would make an average health-conscious American look boring. Jason's "lettuce-as-condiment" characterization is a half-truth. There are popular restaurants both in here and there that serve these "condiments" as a main course -- a large platter with a bunch of leafy greens heaped on is accompanied by some barbecue meat and other panch'an, some chigae, and sauces. I would also add that most Koreans don't raise such a big fuss about meat vs. vegetables. Someone sitting down to a bowl of sanch'ae (mountain vegetables, Japanese: sansai) pipimpap is probably psyched about the tasty bowl of sanch'ae pipimpap he or she is about to partake of, and not about the fact that it contains no meat.

                  2. re: MU

                    Rather than do phaux meat interpretations, why not concentrate on panchan (the various mostly-vegetable dishes served before korean meals)? like turkish cuisine, korean divides very nicely between veg/meat extremes if you concentrate on appetizers rather than entrees. That way you don't have to suffer through pale imitations, and you can eat as authentically as you'd like/care to (there are probably thousands of different vegetarian panchan recipes out there). You might also want to explore the strictly vegetarian korean buddhist cuisine, of which I know regrettably little (I know more about chinese buddhist chow).

                    "okay chigae" cracked me up.

                    1. re: Jim Leff
                      j
                      Jason "Kimchi.. the funkier and hotter the better" Perlow

                      What he said -- there are lots of banchan dishes that are strictly vegetarian, although a lot of em are pretty spicy.

                      You can probably also make vegetarian mandoo (heck you can buy veggie mandoo) and if you arent strictly vegan and can take a walk on the wild lacto-ovo side, theres those great mungbean pancake thingies (like the ones they used to make at Bo before its untimely demise.)

                      And then you got Chap Jae, which doesnt need meat if you dont want it.

                      1. re: Jason "Kimchi.. the funkier and hotter the better" Perlow

                        Nothing against spicy. Nothing against panchan. Nothing against pa-jun, except they seem like an awful lot of work. Nothing against veggie mandoo, which we can sometimes buy at the Japanese/pan-Asian store, but if they have kimchi, there's probably some fish essence in there somewhere. Likewise for any store-bought kimchi product.

                        1. re: MU
                          j
                          Jason "If at first you cant find the ingredients, say to hell with it" Perlow

                          I know, they are a pain in the butt to make unless you have a korean grocery around.

                          Like I said, if asian and veggie is your predilection, you will have a better time of preparing Thai and Vietnamese stuff, I think. Besides it is probably easier to get the spices and such on the internet (hhtp://www.thaigrocer.com) and virtually any thai or vietnamese dish can be adapted to vegetarian (although, fish sauce, ie nuoc mam, nam pla) can be a problem for both of these cuisines, since they use a lot.
                          )
                          I picked up a cool looking Veggie thai cookbook at barnes and noble, I'll get you the title of it when I get home.

                          Jason

                      2. re: Jim Leff

                        Why not concentrate on panchan? I'd love to, but I'm an American, with all the time-management issues that implies. In other words, I go grocery shopping a couple of times a week and don't have very much time to spend cooking lots of different things. Since we don't eat Korean-style every day, it's pretty tough to have a big, satisfactory assortment of panchan on hand, but feasible to whip up one or two dishes. I think many urban Koreans buy their panchan from those nifty deli counters at Korean grocery stores. (Oh, Food World! Sigh.) Unfortunately, we don't have any Korean stores in Portland, and only one disappointing restaurant that has any Korean food at all, but they don't even give you panchan.

                      3. re: MU

                        Try locating the book ; Practical Korean Cooking, ISBN# - 0-930878-37-x. By Noh Chin-hwa. It is a very fine reference and contains many dishes which can be veggied-up. By the way, have you tried locating a Chinese grocer in your area? They may stock products such as vegetarian squid, prawns, and more varied bean curd products which could help expand your repertoire. PS, there are many varieties of kimchee, and not all of these require fish sauce or oysters to do properly.

                        1. re: Maria Eng

                          yes. That is the one Koryu had and it looked very good. But it was 50 bucks. And it failed my criterion of having the acorn jelly recipe...

                          1. re: jen kalb

                            WOW! they were probably marking it up a little too much. I bought it in 1993 for only $30 at Borders Books.

                      4. jen,

                        you probably won't find muk on any menu. if anything, you'll be lucky to get it as panchan one time or another.

                        i'll try to ask my mom how to make the stuff - i don't believe it's very hard, or you should try to hunt down mike yu as well.

                        the little bugs in a paper cone are called bundaegi. kids love em and my friends who grew up there remember that stuff fondly all the time. i think they're fried larvae though, i'm not sure. again, mike would know better. take care.

                        wonki

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: wonki

                          Wonki and Jen,

                          You're not going to believe this but those larvae (bbundaegi) have been reconstituted as hip anju in some drinking places... You take the little critters out of the newspaper cones, off the streets, put them in a nice Rosenthal plate, add a dash of Tabasco and suddenly they have become the trendy Anju to have along with Cranberry Juice and vodka. Go figure.

                          Vis a vis mook, see below...

                          Michael Yu

                          1. re: Michael Yu

                            I looked again and found acorn jelly (its beige in color) next to the fresh bean curd at the grocery on 32nd street. Someone in this thread thought it might be white - but Im thinking they may have been talking about konnyaku instead. Then, I luckily found a preparation method on the back of one of the packs of dry acorn starch. So I bought both (my daughter was thrilled) and this weekend will give it a try.

                            Now she's begging for barley tea...

                            thanks to all!

                            1. re: jen kalb

                              Konnyaku is different from white mook. The former is made from sweet potatoes and is often cooked, whereas the latter is often served cold. The white mook is apparently not made from acorns but some sort of grain which I cannot seem to find the English translation for. All of this is on the authority of a Major in the Korean military, so I would trust it...

                              Michael Yu

                              1. re: Michael Yu

                                Been meaning to ask, Michael: what's YOUR rank, anyway?

                                You are, of course, a general among chowhounds...

                                1. re: Jim Leff

                                  I would be a Captain in the Air Force. Which is different from Captain in the Navy. A captain in the navy is like a Colonel in the Army or Air Force. I am three ranks below that. Confused?

                                  Michael Yu

                                  PS I am a Captain in the Republic of Korea Air Force, not the US Air Force as many may think...