May 25, 2010

Korean Cuisine!

"pasta salad" additives

dumpling stuffing

I don't have any recipe this time, but I thought I'd share with you an amazing culinary experience I had recently.
At my dad's work place, they were having this Korean dinner, so my mom, brother and I went to help with the food preparations. I'm so glad we did. It was a great opportunity to have fun and expand my culinary horizons. And boy did I do both. We were the only ones helping out.

When we got there, we met the two Korean ladies who were in charge of the cooking. They were very busy, trying to prepare enough food for about 70 people, all in the next few hours. So we were immediately put to work upon arrival. I got a few menial tasks at first, such as grating carrots or stirring them gently as they sauteed in olive oil. But then, when I was done all that, I got to help make dumplings! The stuffing for the dumplings was make out of leafy greens, pork, kimchi (a marinated, spicy, cabbage, staple in the Korean diet), carrots, noodles, and a few other things.
To make the dumplings, you take a small, disk-shaped "wrapper" (can be found at the Asian market in Philly) and put a spoon-full of the filling in the center of it. Then you dip your finger in cold water and run it all around the edge of the "wrapper". Then you fold the "wrapper" up around the filling in a special way to make the dumpling look gourmet and all, and the dumpling is ready to be boiled.
Halfway through the dumpling-making, we ran out the the wrappers. It was my mom who saved the day, suggesting that we make balls out of the stuffing, dip them in egg yolk, and roll them in bread crumbs. It took a little while for the Korean ladies to fully understand the idea, as it was unfamiliar to them, but once they did they were dipping and rolling happily as were the rest of us. Granted, they didn't come out looking like traditional dumplings, but they passed.
Next I had another small task. I helped make pasta salad. Okay, that's not what it was called, but it was certainly similar to one. It contained the most interesting noodles ever. They were called glass noodles, because they looked like long, smooth strands of glass. And they were long. I'm guessing they were about a foot and a half. These noodles were also used in the dumplings. They were mixed with the same ingredients that went into the dumpling stuffing, plus so much soy sauce I feared the dish would be saltier than one hundred pounds of McDonald's french fries. The lady kept shaking it on there.
Then there were the rice balls to make. The rice balls were made out of rice (duh) with tuna fish, carrots, and I forget what else mixed in. And they were fun to make, too. All you had to do was take a small handful of the rice mixture and shape it into a ball. Lastly, a whole kimchi was brought out and sliced. It looked like something from a sci-fi movie. Okay, that's not a very nice thing to say. I should just say it was very unusual-looking, with the reddish-orange color and all the juice oozing out. It looked a lot better in the dumplings, where I couldn't really see it. But I guess you get used to it. (I wish I had thought to snap a picture of it!)
Now all the food was ready to be served. Mom and I helped, mom serving the dumplings and myself serving the rice balls. We had vegetarian versions of everything, so when I served the rice balls, I had to ask "Vegetarian or non-vegetarian?" Surprisingly, no one commented on the unusual dumplings.
Finally everyone had been served and I could finally taste the food for myself. Was it good? You bet. In fact, it was delicious. I had everything except the plain kimchi. As for the noodles, I was surprised when they didn't turn out to be too salty. I mean, they were salty, but not unreasonably so. I was a bit disappointed that all the traditional dumplings were taken before I got a chance, but the bread-crumb ones were scrumptious. They were a little spicy due to the kimchi, but not overpowering. And one bite of the rice balls told me they were absolutely fabulous. It was a very hearty meal, requiring no more than one serving to make you comfortably full.

1 comment:

Erin said...

Thanks for the interesting post, Meghan!