Monthly Archives: October 2010

And Now, The History

(As noted in the previous post, the brief history of Korea that I included in the article got cut when it was published. However, the joy of having a blog is being able to salvage things like this. So here are the paragraphs that got cut.)

I had heard the Korean Children’s Choir when I was growing up. And I’d seen the Korean War filtered through the wry wit of the TV series MASH. However, it wasn’t until I became friends with a number of Koreans that I realized how little I actually knew about the country behind the cuisine. It was time to learn more.

“Korea,” the Western name for the country, is derived from the Koryo dynasty, and means “High and Beautiful.” To Koreans, the land was Choson, “Land of the Morning Freshness.” Today, this name is still used in North Korea, while South Korea has as its official name Taehan (Great Han, Han being another name for Korea).

Korea’s is an ancient culture: all evidence points to pre-Stone Age settlement of the Korean peninsula. As ages passed and civilizations developed, Korea absorbed law, Confucianism, and fine art from its neighbor, China, but remained culturally distinct, maintaining its own language, creating its own alphabet, and adapting borrowed elements to suit its own tastes or needs. Continue reading

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Intro to Korean Food

(When I wrote this article back in 2001, Korean food was well established in the Chicago area but still unfamiliar to most non-Koreans. I had titled the piece “The East that’s Known Least.” It was retitled “Some Like it Hot,” with the subtitle “Korean Food is Spicy, Savory and an Adventure to Eat.” The new title actually went better with what was left of my article, because the several paragraphs about Korea’s history were cut out in the published version. My title referred not just to the food, but to the entire story of Korea, so the change made sense. However, I’m a big fan of South Korea, so while I’ll cut those paragraphs here, so this matches what was published, I’ll post them later—because I think the story is remarkable. Not right for an intro to Korean food in a glossy magazine, I now realize, but still a story I love telling. So here is the article from North Shore Magazine. [The black patches on the page shown in the photo were side bars. One is the recipe that follows this piece. The other was a list of Korean restaurants and grocery stores. Alas, one of my favorite restaurants, Garden Buffet, has closed. The number of stores, however, has increased dramatically.])

“Want to try something new?” has long been a common question in my family. About a dozen years ago, a response of “yes” to my brother’s asking it landed me in a corner booth at the family-owned Mandarin House in Evanston. However, this time, the “something” wasn’t just a new restaurant, it was a new cuisine. This was to be my introduction to Korean food. Pleased to be sharing his latest discovery, my brother offered to do the ordering. Always appreciative of a good guide in new territory, I again said “yes.” Continue reading

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Gajar Halva

While many people in a wide range of cuisines cook their carrots, only a handful of cultures worldwide came up with the idea of making puddings out of carrots (and here we speak of the English kind of heavy, cake-like pudding, not the custardy, blancmange sort of dessert that we call pudding in the US). One such sweet derives from Ireland, where the carrot has been described as “underground honey.” A Jewish tzimmes, in which fruits and honey may be cooked with the carrots, is another. India’s gajar halva is the third, and is the recipe below. This delicious, rich pudding is the perfect end to a spicy Indian meal.

Gajar Halva
(Carrot Pudding)
1 lb. carrots, pared and grated
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup ground, blanched almonds
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 cup unsalted pistachios Continue reading

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