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Jan 29, 2009 06:35 PM

Korean/asian cooking

I have always been a huge fan of asian foods. I have not been able to go out to eat as much anymore though becuase ive been kinda broke lately. I recently discovered this amazing international market by my house called "Korean Korner" which has tons of asian foods that are compleatly affordable. the only thing is i need to learn to cook the stuff myself, and most of the packages dont even have english or instructions on them. I saw things like dried squid and other dried fishes, aloe, guava, so many different types of noodles and sea weeds, tiny shrinps in jars, kimchi and so much stuff i cant even identify. can anyone direct me towards a good place to find a ton of recipes and explinations for a lot of the foods that i dont even know what to do with? I love to cook and want to learn to do this on my own but i was so confused in this store. :)

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    1. Hi six shooter, one good strategy for shopping and cooking at an unfamiliar market is to go in when they are not too busy and quiz the staff. If you see some interesting looking vegetable or seasoning, ask a staff member how to use it. (I just did this at my local Chinese market and was blown away at the results.)

      Or, pick out one of your favourite things to eat that looks simple to prepare, go in with a recipe, and ask what you will need and how to make it. If you make a good contact there you can even take a sample of what you made back to the store and ask them to critique it.

      Suggestions to start: kimchi chigae, bindaedok, spinach or seaweed soup, jajiang noodles, cucumber pickles...

      7 Replies
      1. re: pepper_mil

        hmmm i will look into those. the thing is ive tried to ask questions but the people there speak hardly any english. It was hard enough to get them to show me where the bamboo rolling mats for sushi were

        1. re: sixshootergirl

          Don't make the mistake of lumping all Asians into one group. If the workers in the store are Korean than maybe they weren't very intrigued by the fact you wanted to make sushi

          1. re: KTinNYC

            when did i lump them into one category? all i said was that they didnt speak english.

            1. re: sixshootergirl

              You started your post by saying, "I have always been a huge fan of asian foods". There are over 50 countries in Asia and there are many, many regional differences. I'm not coming down on you but it would be like if someone posted, I have always been a huge fan of European food, please teach me how to cook it.

              1. re: KTinNYC

                well instead should i have said "i have always been a big fan of chinese, japanese, korean and indian food"? would that have been easier for u to comprehend?

                1. re: sixshootergirl

                  Absolutely, all 4 cuisines are different and there are scores of regional differences. How are we suppose to know you weren't talking about Armenian, Turkish or Cambodian food?

                  1. re: KTinNYC

                    While restaurants tend to specialize by country, or even regions within a country, groceries often have stock that reflects the local immigrant mix (though often with a focus that reflects the owner's nationality). The OP talked about shopping at a Korean grocery, and asking for a sushi mat.

                    A big NJ based Korean chain just opened in my area, adding competition to the local Japanese oriented chain, the California based Chinese oriented chain, and several medium size Korean oriented stores.

                    Among the baked goods near the checkout counters, H Mart sells Korean style sushi rolls. In the frozen section they having handing out samples of Oden fishcake. Oden is a Japanese one-pot dish, but these samples come from oden sets produced in Thailand.

                    When I shop at Trader Joes I usually stop at a nearby pan-ethnic produce stand. I believe the owners are Vietnamese, but there are aisles with Chinese items, SE Asian items, hispanic items, Middle Eastern, and east European sections. I haven't seen African imports, though some of the customers appear to be from there. Fresh breads include pan dulce, torta rolls, Vietnamese style rolls (sorry, I forget the proper name), east European ryes, and Armenian sweet and flat breads.

                    I don't think the OP needs to be pinned down as to her interests. They could be as eclectic as the store's stock.

      2. There is a book "The Asian Grocery Store Demystified" by Linda Bladholm that does a pretty good job of explaining what everything in the store is. It isn't as good as her Indian Grocery book but still very worthwhile for the newcomer. She also did one for Latino markets.

        You can pick them up on ABE Books for under $10.

        1. your public library, or local used book store. My local Borders has some Hermes House cookbooks at prices around $5.

          It is easier to find Japanese and Chinese oriented cookbooks than Korean ones.

          This looks like a promising book

          I've just been reading this from the library

          which is written by a woman who grew up in both Korea and USA.

          1. Dried squid is for snacking on. You can run it over your burner to "toast" it up or I like to boil it in some water for a few seconds to soften it up. It's great dipped in sriracha or kewpie mayo.

            Dried fishes are generally used for making stock (if they are small tiny dried anchovies).

            Aloe is probably used as health food and I have no idea what guava is used for, bc I'm sure it's not native to Korean food.

            Tiny shrimps in the jar are used for several things. They can be added to kimchi as a fermenting agent or if they are mixed with other things can be made into a great dip for things like pigs feet (joekbal) or blood sausage (soondae).

            I say the easiest thing for you to do is to start out slow and try kimchi chigae. You can buy a jar of good kimchi and leave it out to "sour". Kimchi chigae has to be made with sour kimchi, not the fresh stuff.

            you can also try your hand at making banchan (side dishes). I would make a bunch of each and plate them at every meal as needed. Koreans tend to do this, and fresh banchan isn't usually made for every meal...too time consuming. If the korean grocery store is good, then they will have premade banchan for you to take home and eat.

            You can also try your hand at making kalbi or bulgogi. Thats pretty easy to make/eat and is a real crowd pleaser.

            If you have any other questions please ask (:

            5 Replies
            1. re: bitsubeats

              when you say leave u mean buy the kimchi and just open it and not refridgerate it? i saw jars of it at the store. ive had it befor. there is a sushi place near me what makes a roll called the "seuol train roll" and it has kimchi in it. its really good. how do i leave it out to"sour"? is this safe to do? thanx for all your help everyone this is really cool :)

              1. re: sixshootergirl

                Check the housewares part of that store. You might find large clay jars. Traditional homes have an assortment of jars like this in the yard, storing kimchi are various stages of fermentation. The new Korean megamart (H Mart) that just opened in my area also sells 'kimchi refrigerators', sort of the Korean equivalent of a home wine cooler.

                Also keep an eye out for the Korea episode of No Reservations. I believe that has a segment on tranditional kimchi making (stuffing a spice mixture between the leaves of napa cabbages, and stacking them in jars to ferment).

                1. re: sixshootergirl

                  When we make kimchi I refrigerate a small portion for myself immediately, because I like fresher, more salad-like kimchi.
                  The rest we let sit out on the counter for about 24 to 48 hours to jump start the fermentation/souring process.
                  Store bought kimchi should already have the fermentation/souring started, but if what you buy isn't sour enough for you, you can leave it out for a while (6 to 12 hours) in a cool, shaded area.

                  1. re: hannaone

                    I find that the store-bought kimchi I can find in my city is always sold way under-ripe. I have had to leave kimchi out on the counter for 2-3 days in the winter (shorter time periods in the summer) to get the level of fermentation to what I like. I just leave it in the jar I got it in, with the lid on. And I taste and smell it daily to determine if it has fermented enough. But boy does it stink up the house! Hannaone or others, any trick for avoiding the stench?

                  2. re: sixshootergirl

                    What Hannaone said. If you want it to sour quicker then leave it out at room temp for a day or two and yes it'll be fine. (: