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Cooking in a Korean Motel w/ Only Boiling H20

Just like it sounds...I'm stuck living in a motel in a very rural part of Korea. The only supplies I have are filtered hot water and a VERY mini-fridge. I plan to buy an electric tea kettle so I can heat the water to boiling, and hopefully have a few more options for cooking.

So far, I've been buying pre-cooked rice that is meant to be microwaved (Doesn't heat well under hot, un-boiled water) and I eat that with some pre-made panchan (kimchi, etc) and/or tuna mixed with mayo, salt and pepper, and roasted seaweed. I also found some lower-calorie Ramen to which I add dried seaweed and shitakes and quail egg.

I'm getting sick of Ramen and Rice/Tuna though! Any suggestions that only use boiling water would be much appreciated! Please keep in mind that I'm in rural Korea so lunch-meat (other than Spam), cheese, and bread and many other Western goods are either unavailable or over-priced...

Thanks ahead of time!

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  1. Hi Vestavenus

    If you are allowed a hot plate you can cook what my husband cooked when he was young in college
    He put some chicken in some water and cooked it and then added tomatoes and corn and salt and pepper. It was very tasty. You can add any vegetables you like if the ones I mentioned aren't available. I am in the US so don't know what is available there. But if the above ingredients aren't available, let me know what is and I will try to help you.

    Hope that helps you.


    1. Wow, that's tough. Kind of reminds me of the setup I had sophomore year.

      Some ideas
      - Kimbap - If you can make rice, then you can add kimchi + al (pollack roe) and roll em up
      - Seaweed soup / Miyeok guk - pretty simple, you can just add some dried seaweed and perhaps buy some soup base at the store. Throw in some rice cakes too if you feel like it.
      - Hiyayakko - Raw tofu cubes with soy sauce, grated ginger, scallions and dried tuna flakes on top
      - Slice cucumbers and dip them in a gochujang/doenjang mixture
      - Buy dumplings and boil them in the kettle?

      1 Reply
      1. re: asiansupper

        The seaweed soup is a great idea--it's one of my favorites! Is doenjang fermented soybean paste? Also, I LOVE hiyayakko, but I haven't seen bonito flakes. Are they common here?

      2. I know probably a lot of people are going to recommend that "one" appliance you must have to help you cope without a stove... An electric kettle is a great idea. Another great multitasker would be a toaster oven. You can go as simple or as elaborate in one of those from plain toast to roasting a single portion of meat to perfection.

        You're gonna have to see what is regionally available but I imagine you'll be enjoying a lot of noodles. That can be quite an experience. Peek over local people's shoulders to see what they're putting into their noodles. My guess it'll be locally available cheap ingredients that you'll be able to purchase and stash in your tiny fridge and toss into a bowl of steaming brothy noodles!
        Hope this helps.

        1. If you cut/slice any meat thin enough, it will cook perfectly fine in boiled water.....or boiled water poured over it. Also consider small shrimp, scallops or fillet fish.

          1. Since you're living in korea, i would suggest denjang chigae. One pot of that soup and some rice is all I need for a delicious meal.

            3 Replies
            1. re: joonjoon

              is denjang chigae tofu and fermented soybean paste chigae?

              1. re: vestavenus

                Yes it is! Super hearty and delicious. Instead of getting an electric kettle, why not get a hot plate? That way you can cook almost anything you want.

                Along similar lines, Kimchi chigae is also super delicious and in a pinch can be made literally with just two ingredients - kimchi and pork (or spam).

                In Korean grocery stores they have little dried soup packs that you can just add hot water to also. When it's late and i'm in the mood for hot soup i'll often go this route.

                Just curious, what brought you to Korea? Hope you're having a good time there. :)

                1. re: joonjoon

                  Well, I already bought the tea kettle, but I may invest in a hot plate as well, since that would infinitely expand my cooing options! If I get a hot plate, I'll def go for the kimchi chigae--I think the kimchi I purchased at the store was there for a while and it's pretty damn sour...

                  I'm in Korea teaching English for a year and catching up on my cultural heritage. I was born in Korea, but was adopted and grew up in the US. So far, it's been great!...Other than not having a kitchen :(

            2. My go-to one pot meal is noodles, shrimp, and broccoli (a lot of other veggies would probably work too). You can cook them all in there together, you just have to add the noodles first, the broccoli halfway through, and the shrimp close to the end.

              1. I did this for four months living in a hotel room in Hong Kong! I ate a lot of instant rice noodle soup and generally took advantage of the wide variety of instant noodles available. I also found a restaurant at which I could buy a kilo of cooked rice for under a dollar (equivalent) and ate that hot and cold with whatever I could find at the market -- veggies, chilies, pre-cooked meat (roast pork and the like)... I would highly recommend that to you. Surely there's a restaurant that would be willing to sell you some plain rice cheaply.

                You can definitely steam/boil veggies, noodles, and dumplings in the kettle, and cooking thinly-sliced beef or fish is no problem with boiling broth or water. And eggs, of course. Soft-boiled eggs and rice are a major comfort food for me even now!

                A few bottles of shelf-stable seasonings -- chili sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, etc. -- will go a long way toward making your food more appetizing.

                1 Reply
                1. re: LauraGrace

                  Laura, I definitely thought of the rice idea! My boyfriend tried it the other night and got conned into buying a whole meal to go. I guess the request for JUST rice got lost in translation.

                  How would you recommend steaming in the kettle? Use cheese clothe or something suspended over the water?

                2. I would forego the tea kettle for a rice cooker. I was stuck in a North Dakota hospital for over a month and was lucky enough to have my mother with me. She was able to cook nearly everything in that little rice cooker. Stir-fries, soups, boiled eggs and, of course, rice. Definitely safer than a hot plate since it's completely enclosed with the added bonus of being readily available there.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: soypower

                    Hi Soypower,

                    I believe you are right about the safety of a rice cooker. Vestavenus couldn't go wrong with that. Just depends on what is to be cooked but rice cookers can make a lot of things.

                    Take Care

                  2. Some more thoughts for you...

                    With only the hot water kettle, you could make an approximation of anchovy broth (assuming that the instant packs are not available at your market). Buy dried anchovies (the ones that are about 2" long) and kelp/kombu. Use 1 anchovy and a 1x2" square of kelp per cup of broth. Soak dried anchovies and kelp in cold water for a few hours, them drain them and pour the boiling water over them & let it steep for about 10 minutes. If you add your thinly sliced meat, fish, etc and some veggies to the bowl too, you will have a nice soup right there - just fish out the anchovies and kelp before you eat it. Otherwise you can use the broth in soups, stews, jook, etc.

                    Those thin-sliced rice cakes should cook in boiling water, too. The ones I buy here say to add to boiling water and wait 3-5 minutes, so you could use them in a soup.

                    Korean radish lasts a long time in the fridge - I buy a big one and just hack off bits as I need it. Thinly sliced radish is really good in soups too, with or without the fermented soybean paste. Try it with white fish and lots of green onions.

                    If you want to invest in a rice cooker, look for a Cuckoo - my friend from Seoul told me that it's the most popular brand in Korea so hopefully they have them even in rural areas :-) It's expensive but might be worth it for the year...ours has a porridge setting, and something called "multi-cook" which is like a pressure cooker. I use that all the time to cook pork, beef and chicken (see below for simple chicken recipe). It also keep the food hot for a long time after it's done, so you can put the ingredients in, go away and have a nice hot dinner waiting for you when you come home.

                    If you get a hot plate, you might be able to put a griddle on top of it & then you could make jeon with whatever bits of meat & veggies you have, including the sour kimchee. Do you have a knife to cut up chicken,etc? Here's a really simple recipe for braised chicken...the original recipe says to use boneless chicken cut into bite-sized pieces, but I usually make it with chicken legs ('cause that's what we get from our meat CSA). You can estimate the amounts of soy sauce and pepper, etc - it doesn't have to be exact. I think it would work with a whole chicken, too - just let the chicken cook for a while before you add the vegetables:

                    ~1 lb chicken thighs, cut into pieces
                    6 cloves of garlic
                    1/2 lb of potatoes and/or carrots, cut into pieces
                    1 cup each of chicken broth and water (I sometimes use anchovy broth)
                    4 teaspoons soy sauce
                    2 teaspoons sugar
                    2 teaspoons red pepper powder
                    1 slice of onion
                    1 green onion, cut into sections

                    Stir-fry the chicken in a little oil until it's golden brown (note: when I make this in the rice cooker, I skip this step). Add the garlic and vegetables and stir together. Add the water, broth, soy sauce, sugar, and red pepper and bring to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes (or 30 minutes if using whole chicken legs, ~40 minutes for a whole chicken). Add the slice of onion and green onion and cook 5 more minutes.

                    there was something else but now i can't think of it! You didn't say if you cooked much Korean food before you arrived, so it's hard to know what else to suggest. I make a lot of stews, jeon, and jook for my boys (who were both born in Korea, too!).

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: gimlis1mum

                      Hi gimlis1mum,

                      Those are some great ideas for Vestavenus. I am thinking of using a few myself and I have a full kitchen with the typical appliances etc in it. I like the simplicity of the dishes.

                      Thank you

                      1. re: gem_of_cali

                        You're welcome, gem! My cooking has gotten pretty pared down to simple things these days - I love, love love to cook, but it's so much harder to get dinner on the table, now that we have two kids running around instead of just one.