Six simple recipes from a Korean kitchen (2024)

Mixed rice with vegetables and beef (bibimbap)

It is hard not to fall in love with bibimbap. The bed of pearly white rice adorned with a ring of colourful vegetables and beef, and a bright yellow egg, the shining star in the centre. It is almost hypnotic. Like a lot of Korean dishes, individual ingredients are plated up beautifully so you can appreciate each one, and then, with gleeful abandon, you madly mix everything together. The possibilities for toppings are endless, so feel free to use your favourite ingredients.

Serves 4
For the marinated beef
beef sirloin 300g, very thinly sliced
soy sauce 2½ tbsp
roasted sesame seed oil 2 tsp
garlic 3 cloves, crushed
spring onions 3, very finely chopped
ground black pepper ½ tsp
short-grain white rice 400g

For the toppings
carrots 150g, cut into very thin strips
courgette 300g, quartered lengthways and thinly sliced
cucumber 150g, halved lengthways, deseeded and thinly sliced
daikon radish 150g, peeled and cut into thin strips
bean sprouts 150g
roasted sesame seed oil to season
soy sauce to season
sunflower or vegetable oil to fry
shiitake mushrooms 200g, sliced
spinach 300g
eggs 4
toasted sesame seeds to serve
salad cress a few leaves, to serve

For the gochujang sauce
gochujang chilli paste 3 tbsp
soy sauce 1 tbsp
roasted sesame seed oil 1 tbsp
garlic 2 cloves, crushed
sugar or maple syrup 1 tbsp

In a bowl, combine together all the gochujang sauce ingredients and set aside. In another bowl, mix together the ingredients for the beef marinade, add the sliced beef, cover and set aside for 30-60 minutes.

Cook the rice according to the packet instructions. Keep warm. Meanwhile, fill a large pan with water and bring it to a rolling boil. One by one, blanch the carrots, courgette, cucumber and radish for 1 minute and the bean sprouts for 2½ minutes. Use a slotted spoon or sieve to remove them and drain fully. Season each vegetable with ½ a teaspoon of roasted sesame seed oil and soy sauce, keeping the vegetables separate at all times.

Heat 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil in a pan. Add in the mushrooms and stir-fry over a high heat for 4-5 minutes until softened. Remove from the pan and season with ½ a teaspoon of roasted sesame seed oil and soy sauce.

In the same pan, add in the spinach and sprinkle over 2 teaspoons of water. Fry over a high heat for a few minutes, stirring all the time, until the spinach has wilted. Remove the spinach, squeeze out any excess water and season as before with the ½ teaspoon of roasted sesame seed oil and soy sauce. In Korea, these vegetables are served at room temperature so don’t worry about keeping them warm.

In the same pan, add the marinated beef. Stir-fry over a high heat for 3-5 minutes, until the sauce has reduced and the meat is cooked through. In a clean frying pan, fry the eggs to your liking.

Serve the hot rice in 4 individual bowls. Place 1 egg onto the centre of the rice, then arrange the vegetables and meat around it. Sprinkle over some sesame seeds and salad cress and serve with the gochujang sauce. Start with a couple of spoonfuls of the sauce and mix everything together well. Add more gochujang sauce to taste.

Warming chicken and potato stew

This was Jina’s favourite childhood dish to cosy up with after school. The warmth of the spices and sesame oil, together with the comforting potatoes, are perfect on a cold winter evening. It’s a one-pot dish and really easy to make, so it is a good recipe to add to your weekday dinner repertoire. You may want to reduce the quantity of chilli paste and powder to taste.

Serves 6
vegetable oil 1 tsp
chicken thighs and drumsticks 800g, skin on
gochujang chilli paste 2½ tbsp
gochugaru red pepper powder 3 tbsp
soy sauce 2½ tbsp
garlic 6 cloves, crushed
honey 1 tbsp
potatoes 3 medium, peeled, cut into chunks
onions 2 small, cut into wedges
carrot 1, peeled and cut into chunks
green chilli 1, deseeded and finely chopped
red chilli 1, deseeded and finely chopped
roasted sesame seed oil 1 tbsp
spring onions 2, thinly sliced
toasted sesame seeds 2 tsp

Heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy-based pan over a high heat. When hot, add the chicken and brown on all sides for 4-5 minutes. Carefully pour off any excess oil.

In a bowl, combine the gochujang paste, gochugaru powder, soy sauce, garlic and honey. Add this to the pan along with 400ml of water. Stir to combine and pop the lid on. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

Add the potatoes, onions, carrot and most of the chillies. Bring to the boil again, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes until a sharp knife glides into the potato and carrot. Stir in the sesame seed oil and cook for a further minute.

Serve in bowls with the remaining chilli, spring onions and toasted sesame seeds scattered over the top.

Almost-instant cucumber kimchi

Six simple recipes from a Korean kitchen (2)

This is for those days when you open the fridge and realise that you are out of kimchi! All is not lost, however, as this almost instant cucumber kimchi can be made in no time, omitting the fermentation process.

The shorter, squatter Persian cucumber – sometimes labelled as pickling or baby cucumber – is ideal for this recipe, being less watery with a more pronounced flavour. Persian cucumbers are easily available in good supermarkets and fruit and veg markets. If you can’t find them, you can use normal cucumber, but it will be a little more watery.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish
Persian (pickling) cucumbers 3, or regular cucumber 1
fine sea salt 1 tsp
garlic 1 clove, crushed
gochugaru red pepper powder 2 tsp (or a little less if you prefer)
unrefined sugar or coconut palm sugar 2 tsp
rice wine vinegar 2½ tsp
roasted sesame seed oil 2 tsp
toasted sesame seeds 2 tsp

Wash the cucumbers and pat them dry. Halve them lengthways then slice into very thin half-moon shapes. Put the slices in a bowl with the salt and mix together. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Combine the remaining ingredients, apart from the sesame seeds, in a bowl. Drain the cucumbers of any liquid then add to the bowl. Gently, but thoroughly, combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least half an hour or until chilled.

Serve sprinkled with the sesame seeds. It will keep for a week in the fridge if stored in an airtight container.

Scallops with salted sesame oil

Six simple recipes from a Korean kitchen (3)

The sesame salt is unadorned here, so make sure to use good-quality roasted sesame seed oil.

Serves 6
scallops 12
vegetable oil 1½ tbsp
garlic 1 clove, crushed
lemon juice a squeeze
toasted sesame seeds 1 tsp
chopped chives 1 tsp
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salted sesame oil
roasted sesame seed oil 1 tbsp
sea salt ½ tsp

Soak 6 wooden skewers in water for 15 minutes. In a small serving dish, mix together the sesame seed oil and salt.

Rinse the scallops and cut off the tough white muscle tissue on the side. If preferred, you can also remove the orange-coloured roe, but we think that they taste great and have a brilliant colour.

Heat the oil in a pan over a high heat. Thread 2 scallops onto each skewer. Lightly season both sides with salt and pepper. When the pan is very hot, place the skewers flat onto the pan (cook in batches if there is not enough space) and fry, undisturbed, over a high heat for 1 minute until golden. Flip over and fry for 40 seconds. Then add the garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice. Fry for another 10 seconds, just to allow all the flavours to come together, making sure the garlic does not burn. Then remove from the heat.

Serve immediately with the sesame seeds and chives scattered over the top and the salted sesame oil on the side to dip into.

Pan-fried mackerel

Six simple recipes from a Korean kitchen (4)

In Korea, there is a kind of salted yellow corvina fish that is adored by all, lightly grilled and eaten in small mouthfuls with rice and other side dishes. It is really excellent, but alas, you can’t get that kind of fish here. This mackerel recipe is a very good alternative however – it is not pre-salted in the same way but you can achieve something similar when seasoning. We love eating this with rice, kimchi and seasoned lotus root.

Serves 2
vegetable oil 2 tsp
mackerel fillets 2 or whole mackerel 1
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
roasted sesame seed oil 1 tsp
spring onions 2, sliced into very thin 5cm lengths and covered in ice-cold water until curled up
dried chilli threads 2 tsp or red chilli 1, finely sliced (optional)
cooked rice to serve
kimchi to serve

Heat the vegetable oil in a pan over a medium-high heat. Season the fish generously on both sides with a good pinch of salt and pepper. When hot, add the whole mackerel or fillets skin-side down. Fry for 2-3 minutes on one side, using your fish slice to press down on the flesh to prevent it from curling up, then flip over and fry for another 2-3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, until just cooked. Remove from the heat and drizzle over a little sesame seed oil.

Serve straight out of the pan with the drained spring onions and chilli threads tangled on top and bowls of rice and kimchi alongside.

Chilled tofu, cucumber and kimchi broth

Six simple recipes from a Korean kitchen (5)

Traditionally, acorn jelly is used in this Korean dish. It can be found freshly made in some good Korean stores, but we also make this with tofu and find it to be just as delicious.

Serves 4
firm tofu (or acorn jelly) 400g, drained and cut into 1cm wide x 5cm long strips
kimchi 200g, homemade or shop-bought, cut into bite-size strips
cucumber 120g, halved lengthways and cut on the diagonal into thin slices
roasted crispy seaweed 4 sheets, cut into thin strips
toasted sesame seeds 2 tsp

For the sauce
soy sauce 1½ tbsp
honey 1½ tbsp
roasted sesame seed oil 2½ tsp
rice wine vinegar 4 tsp
wasabi paste ½ tsp
spring onion 1, very finely sliced
garlic 1 clove, crushed

For the stock
dried anchovies 6 large
dried kelp 2 x 7cm pieces
onion ¼, roughly chopped
red chilli ½, halved and deseeded

In a small bowl, combine all the sauce ingredients and set aside.

For the stock, pull the heads off the dried anchovies, then gently tease open the underside of the belly and remove the guts (little black pouches). Put all the stock ingredients into a pan, cover with 800ml of water and bring to the boil. Remove the lid, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes until the stock has reduced by about a quarter. Strain the stock through a fine sieve, into a bowl, and leave to cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled.

Divide the chilled broth and tofu strips between 4 bowls, with the kimchi and cucumber piled on top in mounds. Place the seaweed on top, scatter over the sesame seeds and drizzle over all the sauce between the 4 bowls. Serve immediately, mixing everything together until well combined.

Where to buy Korean ingredients

It is becoming increasingly easy to get your hands on Korean ingredients these days. So much so that even some good supermarkets are getting in on the act. However, the easiest place to find the Korean food stuffs used here will be in a Korean or Asian supermarket, which are dotted around all over the place. If you live in an area without access to a good Asian supermarket, fear not, as everything is available online, from places such as:;;;;;;;;;;

Extracted from Our Korean Kitchen by Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £25); Click here to order a copy for £20 from the Guardian Bookshop

Six simple recipes from a Korean kitchen (2024)
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