Archive for ssamjang

Addendum re Lentil Soup and Umami

Posted in cheese, condiments, lentils, soup, vegan, vegetarian with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2014 by oskila

Yesterday I hurried to get my first post in months done and forgot to include lots of things in the text. Rather than editing the post I decided to do a new one with some explanation and deeper analysis. Before writing the post on lentil soup I had planned to give suggestions about what else to add and elaborate on veggie umami stuff a bit more.

Lentils, even beluga lentils, aren’t that rich in umami stuff themselves, and may need a helping hand. Stock usually gets the task done, but people are often wary of MSG these days (mostly without reason, since it doesn’t cause migraine, ADD or cancer at all, at least not when used sensibly. Read up on ‘Chinese Food Syndrome’ for more fun facts).

My soup didn’t contain lots of tomato, but it’s high in glutamic acid, another umami agent. Especially sizzled tomato paste or ‘sun dried’ tomatoes are handy tools in this aspect. Even a dollop of ketchup in the right place can enhance many a bland dish.

Onions are another useful umami vegetable as long as you let them cook properly to give off maximum flavor. In the soup I used fried onions because it’s a rather odd thing to do, but also because they’re more thoroughly fried than one would ever bother to do at home and packed with flavor, both from natural umami compounds and from maillard reactions associated with frying. The batter also acts as thickening – it’s funny how things work out sometimes.

Mushrooms are also a classic umami ingredient, but the combination with lentils in soup felt a bit out of place.

Ssamjang, Korean chili paste with garlic and soy beans, has been a trusty companion in the kitchen for several years. The umami content is largely due to fermentation, one of the common methods for getting more umami.

Enough about umami. The other thing I forgot to write at the end of the last post was the suggestion of adding a splash of wine, either red or white, to deepen the flavors in general. Those of a less vegan persuasion can add for example grated cheese, a splash of cream or fish sauce, especially if you’ve made a large batch and are having it for lunch for the fifth day in a row…

I’ve had the images for the next post ready for publication since just after Christmas, but other things got in the way. Hopefully that post will be up soon.

Meat Lover’s Vegan Lentil Soup

Posted in indian, lentils, soup, stew, Uncategorized, vegetarian with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2014 by oskila

Turns out this parenting thing takes quite a lot of time, which means the blog has been on backburner to say the least. A strike of genius (if I might humbly say so) just yesterday prompted at least an attempt to squeeze a bit of blogging in. Since we have to eat anyway it’s mostly a question of scaling back on photo editing to shorten the amount of time spent on a blog post considerably. Now to business.

I’m far from vegan myself, but unlike a lot of people I meet I don’t obnoxiously defend meat eating as some kind of human right or whine about unappealing veggie food. Although vegetarian/vegan food made by nonvegetarians or the uninspired or untalented can be on the bland side some times. My solution to this is to add more umami. And not in a way that attempts to substitute meat for something almost similar to meat or downright ghastly (hello tofurkey). To celebrate the occasion and compensate for the lack of images I’m going to give a proper list of ingredients.

Lentil soup (serves 2-4)

1 tsp cumin, coriander, Sichuan pepper, mustard seeds (1 spoon in total. Add more if you like)
1 tsp turmeric
1 bayleaf
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tbsp ssamjang or other kind of chili paste
2 cups beluga lentils
6 cups vegetable stock
1 cup crisp fried onion (yes, the store bought crunchy stuff you put on hot dogs)
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup finely grated beetroot
minced garlic to taste
ginger to taste
salt, pepper and vinegar for final adjustments

Toast cumin, coriander, Sichuan pepper and mustard seeds in a dry pan and grind. Sizzle along with turmeric, ssamjang and tomato paste in some oil. Add carrots, beetroot, bay leaf, ginger and garlic and cook for a few minutes. Then add stock, lentils and onions and simmer for about 40 minutes while watching closely since lentils have a reputation of sticking to pots. Add more water if  necessary, especially since the soup gets quite thick and curryish after a while (which is also nice of course). Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and vinegar (or lemon juice) and serve with flatbread or similar.


Bacon and Eggs. And Mushrooms. And Rice Noodles and Ssamjang. And Kimchi?

Posted in asian, bacon, cabbage, condiments, eggs, korean, leeks, mushroom, noodles, preserve, salad, side dish with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2013 by oskila

OK. New food instead of backlog, because I want to, and I can do what I want with my blog. I started out by trying to figure out dinner and found eggs and bacon. Then I found a couple of mushrooms at the back, along with a leek. Reaching for the granulated garlic in the cupboard next to the fridge I saw the new rice noodles. While the kettle was on to make noodle water I checked the fridge again and found the trusty old ssamjang and the spanking new packet of kimchi. Behind the kimchi I found the cabbage I pickled myself some time ago (back in March).


Fried all the fryable stuff and tossed it together, then put some proper kimchi next to my ko-jaeng-i stuff. I have to say my feeble attempt is rather good considering I hadn’t tried the real stuff before making it. For future reference, this real kimchi is a bit less sour, a lot less sweet and heaps, plenty, lots spicier. I hear Koreans eat kimchi for breakfast and I secretly hope the breakfast variety has a bit less chili in it. On that bombshell we end tonight’s post :)

Eight Minute Lunch Box

Posted in asian, condiments, eggs, noodles, okra, vegetarian with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2013 by oskila

Tram to work leaves in half an hour, you forgot to pack lunch the night before and the takeaway opportunities at work are sketchy at best? Fear not. Do like this:

1. Put on kettle with just enough water to soften a block of noodles.

2. Heat a pan

3. Chop some garlic sprouts and put in pan with oil. Add some kind of spice that benefits from a bit of sizzling, like Sichuan pepper.

4. Toss some frozen okra in the same pan. Be careful, because the oil will not like this at all and end up everywhere.

5. When the kettle is boiling, pour water over noodles in bowl.

6. Keep stirring pan.

7. Drain noodles and add to pan. Season some more.

8. When the sear on the okra is satisfactory, scrape everything into a box.

9. Fry an egg and put in the box.

10. Finishing touches such as condiments.

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The lunch in all its glory. I got hold of some Taiwanese wheat noodles that are spinach flavored according to the label, but only contain flour, water, salt and food coloring E102 and E133. Those colorants happen to be Tartrazine and Brilliant Blue FCF, both of which are synthesized from petroleum and may be harmful to people with allergies or asthma (And therefore used to be forbidden in Sweden until the EU made a fuss) The two condiment dollops are ssamjang (top) and sambal oelek (bottom).

All of this can be done inside eight minutes. Remove the egg (and perhaps add more vegetables) and you’ll have a vegan lunch instead.

More Noodly Frolicking: Soba

Posted in asian, cabbage, condiments, crossover, discount, eggs, japanese, korean, mushroom, noodles, preserve, side dish, vegetarian with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2013 by oskila

As said before, I got hold of a lot of interesting stuff at that Asian store recently. One of them was Soba noodles, which are made with buckwheat (perhaps something for gluten sensitives to look into?) In addition, the little supermarket on the way to work had dirt cheap button mushrooms. Like so often before, the resulting food is  some kind of general fusion of Japanese and Korean, interpreted by someone with limited actual experience of either.

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Frying up a considerable amount of sliced mushrooms, along with a bit of carrots, shallots, garlic sprouts and a little bit of celery

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Plop slightly undercooked noodles into pan. Season a bit, with for example light soy and Worcestershire sauce (sitting in for mirin. That stuff is really expensive)

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Served up with a fried egg and a knob of ssamjang. For a proper Korean meal one should have kimchi. I didn’t feel like doing a weekend of fermenting napa cabbage, so I cheated a bit and just pickled some white cabbage. Just mix up one part distilled vinegar with two parts sugar and three parts water. Add salt, chili and garlic to taste and chuck in cabbage, onions or whatever tickles your fancy. The resulting condiment could be regarded as something halfway between Korean kimchi and Japanese tsukemono.

Exploring Udon and Dashi

Posted in asian, condiments, crossover, japanese, lotus root, mushroom, noodles, peppers, soup, stock, vegetarian with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 3, 2013 by oskila

Raided the recently mentioned Asian grocery store again, and came home with five different kinds of noodles, frozen okra, some instant dashi granules and ssamjang. Since noodles obviously are one of my favorite kinds of food I thought I’d make some.

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Leek, dashi, mushrooms, red chili pepper, carrot, garlic sprouts, ssamjang, udon noodles and lotus roots. Since udon noodles are commonly served in soup that’s what I’m going to do. Ingredient-wise this dish has roots in Japan, Korea and probably China too, so I’m ending up with a general Asian concoction again. This doesn’t really bother me, since the main objective is to simply make tasty food.

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Noodles boiling away. I put them in a sauté pan only in order to be able to put them in whole. Most of my other pots except the really huge ones aren’t wide enough to do that. Save a pint or so of the water after the noodles are cooked, in order to save time and power when making the broth.

For some reason I forgot to take pictures of the broth, but on the other hand it wasn’t very visually enticing. Simply put the hot liquid back in the pan on the hob and sprinkle instant dashi in it to taste. Season with soy and vinegar (ideally rice vinegar, but I used white wine vinegar and a hint of sugar.)

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Meanwhile, the vegetables are jumbled together in another sauté pan. I only used a bit of the green part of the leek and sliced the carrot with the help of a vegetable peeler. Since the lotus root slices were still frozen I simply microwaved them along with a spoonful of water for some time instead and then chopped them up a bit.

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To assemble dish, simply scoop noodles into bowl with vegetables on top and then pour dashi broth over the whole thing. I topped with a dollop of ssamjang and black and white sesame seeds for additional tastiness.

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