I went to Seoul and had such a good time that I spent much of the train ride back from the airport trying to figure out when I could fly back to Seoul. It’s about an hour and ten minute flight from Fukuoka, a scant 348 miles, but oh what a difference.
Right off the subway, Dane and I stopped into one of the first bulgogi places we saw in Hongdae. Turns out we stumbled into a well-known restaurant, “Mountainous Bulgogi,” that serves steaming plates of meat 24 hours a day. We chose a kalbi and tteokbokki soup that was, well, really spicy. I wasn’t sure if Dane would make it, but he made me proud. He even managed to say something about how delicious it was in between gasping noises (I’m likely dead inside so spice doesn’t affect me as much). And check out the banchan (side dishes): salad with black sesame dressing, fermented fish cake, soup, pickles, and of course kimchi.
In a flight of feverish post-barbecue fancy, I told Dane I wanted to cook nothing but Korean food for the rest of my life. Given the amount of time it’s taken for me to reign in J-food, I think K-nosh will have to come gradually. Luckily, it’s relatively easy to make basic Korean-inspired dishes in Japan, thanks to the proximity of the two countries (seriously, Seoul and Fukuoka geographically as far apart as San Francisco and Los Angeles). A popular “Korean-style” dish here is “buta kimchi,” pork in a sauce of kimchi, onions, and ginger. Here’s my tofu version, which happens to be vegetarian/vegan.
Tofu Kimchi (serves 4)
- 2 tbs cooking oil
- 2 tbs mirin
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup katsuoboshi flakes
- 1 package shirataki konnyaku noodles, drained
- 1 leek or onion, cut in half and sliced
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 50 g ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 handful shimeji mushrooms (or your favorite mushroom, I’m not a mushroom authoritarian)
- 1 whole block firm tofu, diced into 1.5 in/2 cm cubes
- 3/4 cup kimchi (about 150 g)
- 2 cups bean sprouts
- Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru) or hot red chili pepper
- In a large frying pan on medium heat, heat the cooking oil until it slides around the pan easily. Add the garlic.
- Add onion, carrot, mushrooms, shirataki noodles, ginger, mirin, soy sauce, and katsuoboshi flakes. Sautee 1-2 minutes. If mixture looks a little dry, add a few tablespoons of water.
- Add kimchi, tofu, and bean sprouts. For spiciness, add Korean red pepper flakes to taste.
- Mix the ingredients together until they are well coated in the kimchi and red pepper flakes. Cover and let cook on medium heat, about 8 minutes or until bean sprouts are soft.
- Serve atop a bed of hot rice and drink with makkgeoli, Korea’s alcoholic rice drink, or whatever red wine you found at Family Mart.
Tastes better the next day reheated or in a cold lunch box. Enjoy!