By pure coincidence, Ren whipped up this fantastic two-part Korean-themed dinner on the very same day North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il passed away. The fact that she rarely prepares Korean food makes this chance occurence even more surprising, which got me curious as to the differences between North and South Korean cuisine.
Apparently, North Korean food in general is known to have a purer and cleaner taste than its South Korean counterparts, so if you’re used to a lot of spices and seasonings in your food, then you might find it relatively bland. Their kimchi, for example, tastes quite sweet and mild in comparison to the spicy South Korean variety, and it doesn’t contain heavy amounts of garlic.
One of the more famous North Korean dishes, particularly in the capital of Pyongyang, is mul naengmyeon. Served in traditional brassware, it consists of thin, chewy buckwheat noodles served in an extremely cold broth. It’s mixed in with watery kimchi and meat stock for just a hint of mild flavor, then topped with a slice of sweet Korean pear. Traditionally eaten during the cold winter, it is also humorously called Pyongyang deoldeori, which literally means “shivering in Pyongyang.”
This may be an oversimplification, but what a contrast! Shivering and bland up north, spicy and flavorful down south. Not to be insensitive since I’m hardly an expert, but it seems to me that even the personality of their food is representative of the dissimilarities in character between these two very like, but starkly different regimes, truly giving credence to the old adage: “You are what you eat.”
Part I of this two-part Korean mini-feast, Ren made this scrumptious Galibi Pajeon. Galibi in Korean means “scallop”, pa- means “green/spring onion”, and -jeon refers to any number of these pancake-like dishes. Absolutely dee-licious!
CLICK HERE for Part II.
You can’t see them, but this pajeon is teeming with little Chinese scallops.
Beautiful onions evocative of spring.
This sesame-licious sauce is magnificent.
Original recipe from Maangchi
Ingredients (for 1 rectangular pancake about 6 x 7 inches)
- 100 g Chinese scallops
- Approximately 10 stalks green onions
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp soybean paste
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 3 Tbsps Vegetable oil
- Clean, wash, and drain green onions. Cut into 5-inch long pieces.
- Mix flour, water, soybean paste and sugar in bowl to make batter. Mix well until batter is smooth.
- Heat non-stick pan on stove. Add vegetable oil to heated pan.
- Put green onions in pan parallel to each other, in the shape of a rectangle. Put scallops on top of green onions. Pour batter over scallops and green onions evenly.
- While pancake is cooking, keep patting and pressing it slightly with spatula to retain shape.
- After a few minutes, check bottom of pancake and turn over when crisp and golden brown.
- Cook for a few more minutes until other side of pancake turns crisp and golden brown, then flip over again.
- Cook for another minute then transfer it to serving plate. Serve hot with sauce. (recipe below)
- 2 Tbsps soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp vinegar
- 1 tsp sugar or honey
- Chopped onion
- Chopped green onion
- Chopped green or red chili peppers
- 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
- Combine all ingredients in small bowl.
DID YOU KNOW?
That Pajeon, in Korea, is usually eaten while drinking Makgeolli? Referred to in English as “Korean rice wine,” Makgeolli is a sweet alcoholic beverage made from a fermented mixture of wheat and rice which gives it a milky, off-white color.
JB and Renée are the Traveleaters behind Will Fly for Food, a travel blog for the gastronomically inclined. They enjoy experiencing food from different cultures so they’ve made it their mission to try every country’s national dish. Read more about them and their National Dish Quest here.