Cooking Vacation: Korean Dinner For Friends

Korean Dinner for Friends
Kalbi - Korean Spare Ribs
Weldon and I are cooking together again. Another friend of ours has a toddler and a second child on the way, so we arranged to make their family dinner. Our theme was Korean food (it's one of Weldon's favorites to make and I was dying to learn) including Kalbi, Kimchi Dumplings and Japchae.

I've been a fan of Kalbi (Korean spare ribs) since I first had them in a NYC restaurant years ago (ironically, with Weldon). If you are looking to make them yourself, you'll need to buy the beef at a Korean market, since these ribs are cut crosswise and aren't easily found outside of Korean shops. The meat gets marinated for 24 hours in a slurry of pureed onions, pears, ginger, garlic, and more before being grilled. The meat is tender and flavorful with a sweet richness from the fruit and a smokiness from the grill that is hard to beat.

Kimchi Dumplings

We started the dinner off though with a new dish for me, Kimchi dumplings. If you aren't familiar with Kimchi, it is a whole series of fermented vegetable dishes, often made with cabbage, that have a distinctively sour and spicy flavor profile. Kimchi itself is an art form, and tonight's dumplings were made by simply chopping Korean cabbage kimchi finely, stuffing into wontons, then pan frying. Spicy and addictive, the heat made a nice contrast to the Kalbi.

Japchae - Sweet Potato Noodles with Vegetables in Sesame Oil
And lastly, the primary starch came in the form of the noodle dish, Japchae. I had never even heard of Japchae before, and immediately fell in love. Sweet potato noodles (with a texture like thick bean curd noodles) are cooked then tossed with sesame oil and a variety of sauteed vegetables including carrots, onions, spinach and mushrooms. It is flavored with soy and a little sugar and can also be made with meat, but we opted to stick with vegetables.

The three dishes together were a hit, and we also included a side of simple quick pickled cucumbers to just refresh and cut the richness. I can't wait to play and make these dishes again in my own kitchen.

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