Editor’s Note: This is the 8th installment of Alan Lake’s Home Cookin’ series on home cooks–their stories and recipes. Read part one here for insight into what Home Cookin’ is all about.
Un Hee Han has worked around 70 hours a week for the last 40 years. The land of opportunity has been a brutal mistress. Her version of the American dream plays out in the storefront of a small dry cleaner on Division Street from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Originally created for a king, this mixture of vegetables, glass noodles and (in this case) pork has become a mainstay of the Korean kitchen. It can be served hot or at room temperature.
12 oz. sweet potato vermicelli glass noodles, aka “dangmyeon” (available at Korean Markets)
4 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms (approx. 20)
1 medium zucchini, washed and massaged with coarse salt, then julienned
2 medium carrots, washed, finely julienned
1 lb. onion, julienned
1 medium red pepper, julienned
1 medium green pepper, julienned
1 lb. broccoli, small florets, stems trimmed on all sides and julienned *
1 lb. pork loin, julienned
10 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbs. dark sesame oil divided into two portions
13 Tbs. soy sauce, divided 5/5/3
4 eggs, separated
1. Soak dry noodles in warm water for one hour. Bring water to a boil and cook 8-10 minutes until “soft and slippery,” not al dente. Cut into smaller lengths with a scissors, add 3 Tbs. soy sauce to coat, mix well, reserve.
2. Place dried shiitakes in a small sauce pan, cover with water, bring to boil, and let steep until soft. Strain, reserving water for another use. Trim stems and discard. Julienne mushroom caps and add 5 Tbs. soy sauce. Mix well, reserve.
This savory Korean seafood pancake is simple to make, great for parties and pairs well with alcoholic beverages like makgeolli or shoju. For whatever reason, it’s considered food well-fit for a rainy day.
2 cups Korean pancake mix, aka buchimgaru, available at Korean markets or online
2 1/4 cup water
1 cup carrot, julienned
1 cup zucchini, washed, then massaged with coarse salt and julienned
1 cup onion, julienned
1 large jalapeño, seeded and sliced (optional)
12 oz. assorted cleaned seafood such as shrimp, clams, mussels or squid, chopped
1. Make batter with pancake mix and water, mix well, reserve.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in an 8-inch nonstick skillet until oil shimmers. Add 1/4 of the vegetables and sauté until barely softened, about 1 minute.
3. Add 1/4 of the seafood, scatter evenly around the pan and sauté for another minute or so.
4. Pour 1/2 cup of the batter into the hot pan, tilting it to spread evenly through the mixture.
5. Cook over high heat until the bottom is brown and crisp, about 3 minutes.
6. Flip the pancake and cook until the other side is set, around 1 minute more.
A working-class dish traditionally served at weddings, this mung bean, pork and kimchi pancake is an example of the North Korean style, with beans and kimchi instead of flour and seafood as in the South. Most often it’s washed down with an unfiltered rice wine called makgeolli–a favorite of farmers and, these days, rappers. Besides that, it’s Un Hee Han’s daughter’s favorite comfort food.
1 lb. dry yellow mung beans (needs advance preparation)
1 lb. pork loin, minced
1/2 lb. cabbage kimchi*, drained, julienned
Garnish: sliced hot red chili or scallion
*Available at Korean markets
1. Place mung beans in a bowl. Wash repeatedly until water runs clear and bubbles disappear, maybe 5-6 times. Cover with about 1 inch of water (Un Hee Han uses the top joint section of her index finger to measure). Let soak 4 hours. Strain and puree in small batches until smooth, adding some of the soaking water to reach a light batter consistency.
2. Mix all ingredients together. In well-oiled small skillet, ladle 4 oz. of batter (about 4 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick) and sauté in batches over medium-low heat until it solidifies and browns around the edges, 5-7 minutes. Flip and repeat. Makes 10-12 pancakes.