Country Number Two On My Food Journey Is

Korea

North Korea

South Korea

For these regions I chose

Beef Bulgogi

Several years back when I was watching food travel shows, there were a few that featured Korea and their mouth watering cuisine, especially their BBQ. I really wanted to try it. It just looked so tasty and was something that I had not tried before. You know those moments when you’re watching something about food and you find yourself mesmerized and salivating, like you’re a hairs breath away from licking the screen because it just looks that good? That’s how much I really wanted to try some of the BBQ. I mean, how can you not be lured by the sight of meat being grilled to smoky perfection. Then later I started hearing about Bulgogi. I admit, I had never heard of bulgogi…much less knew how to pronounce it… until I started watching Korean shows on Netflix (oh, how I miss you Sisyphus now that I’ve binged watched all of your season 1). Bulgogi most often would come up as a favorite dish or a must dish to try. It sounded so tempting. So when I started doing this food journey, I looked it up and oh my did it look so tasty, not to mention so easy. I knew I had to try this one for sure.

Bulgogi literally means fire meat. It is a dish of thinly sliced marinated meat that is traditionally grilled, but can be pan fried in a very hot pan as well. Bulgogi is believed to date back to the Goguyeo era (37 BC-668 AD) and was beef that had been grilled on skewers. During Joseon Dynasty it was called neobiani meaning thinly spread and was prepared for the wealthy and the nobility. Even though bulgogi originated in North Korea, It is now very popular in South Korea as well. It now can be found anywhere from upscale restaurants to pan ready kits at the local supermarket.

I can understand why it has become so popular. The flavor of the marinated meat is amazing. The marinade is a mixture of soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, and garlic. This gives the marinade that nice slightly sweet garlicky flavor. Some recipes also include ginger, scallions and a grated Asian pear. I didn’t include the pear in mine because I don’t like pears and I’m sure an Asian pear is hard to find here. Although some substitute a grated apple or kiwi. This marinade is also what helps tenderize the meat after it’s cut into thin strips, which helps the meat to cook quickly and still have that wonderful tenderness. The meat is usually made from Sirloin or other cuts of prime beef. Ribeye seems to be commonly used as well. Some recipes, as all seem to do, vary from chef to chef, but the basics are pretty much the same. This dish is sometimes served with rice, and accompanied by egg soup or Kimchi. I just served mine with rice.

I highly recommend try this dish. Not only is it delicious, but it is so easy and does not take long to cook. I used a cast iron pan to cook mine, but you can grill them as Bulgogi was first intended.

Here’s what you need:

*1 1/2 LB sirloin or ribeye steak

*1 TBS canola oil

*1 onion coarsely chopped

*1 green onion thinly sliced +more for garnish

*1/2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds +more for garnish

For the Marinade:

*1/4 cup soy sauce

*2 large cloves of garlic, grated or minced. I preferred grating this with a microplane grater

*1 1/2 TBS brown sugar

*1/2 tsp. sesame oil

*1/2 tsp. dried ginger or 1 tsp fresh grated ginger

Wrap steak in plastic wrap and freeze 1 to 2 hours. This will help with cutting the steak.

Right before the steak is ready to come out of the freezer, in a small bowl combine the ingredients for the marinade; set aside.

Take out the steak and blot dry with paper towels.

With a sharp knife slice against the grain in thin strips.

Place the steak strips in a deep dish or a zip top bag.

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Pour the marinade over the steak.

Mix the marinade well covering all of the beef.

I like to use my hands to do this because I feel I can get all of the beef covered better this way….not to mention it’s good to play with your food sometimes.

Cover the dish and marinate for at least 4 hours or over night.

In a cast iron pan add the canola oil and heat to medium high heat; add in the onions and green onions.

Cook for about 3 minutes stirring frequently or until onions are at desired tenderness.

Add in the beef with the marinade and the sesame seeds.

Continue to cook stirring frequently for about 5 minutes or until the beef is just cooked.

Garnish with more sesame seeds and green onions.

Serve with rice is desired.

Enjoy!

The First Country On My Food Journey Is….

Guatemala

Guatemala holds a special place for me because, if you’ve been following me for a while you know this is where my husband was born. I have always wanted to go there, but when we plan to take a trip, something always gets in the way. I have seen so many pictures and home movies that my hubby has shown me, that I feel like I’ve have been there. It is such a beautiful country. I have learned so much more about Guatemala’s cuisine from my hubby and his mom that I wanted this to be my first dish. So the dish for this region I chose

Pepian

Pepian is one of the oldest dishes in Guatemala and by many considered to be one of the national dishes. It is a fusion of the country’s Spanish and Mayan heritage. It is a thick, rich spicy stew that consists of onions, tomatoes, chilies pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds that are roasted and then blended to create that wonderful tasting sauce. I highly recommend to not skip the pumpkin and sesame seeds because they give the sauce a very distinctive flavor. This stew typically contains chicken, but beef and pork can be used instead. Some variations have potatoes and carrots in it as well.

I did do my own variation of the chicken. In the traditional dish, the chicken is cooked in a pot of water then added to the stew. I wanted to incorporate more flavor to the chicken so I mixed it with some herbs and seared it in a pan, just to give it that extra added flavor. I used the slow cooker so the flavors had some extra time to develop. This dish does take a bit of time to prepare, but it is so worth all of the love that is put into it. The chicken came out so tender and flavorful with all of the added spices. The sauce…wow that sauce….it’s so rich and tasty with just an added kick with the jalapeno and chili powders that I added. I didn’t add as many chilies as the traditional recipes call for, but it’s still delicious just the same. The potatoes and carrots help make it a very hearty stew. It’s usually served with rice and tortillas on the side. This dish certainly did not disappoint.

Here’s how I made my version of Pepian (slow cooker)

*1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into bite size pieces

*2 TBS flour

*3/4 tsp. cumin

*1 tsp. coriander

*1 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder

*1/2 tsp. paprika

*1 tsp. onion powder

*1 tsp. garlic powder

*1 tsp. salt or more to taste

*1/2 tsp white pepper; you can use cracked black pepper instead

*2 TBS canola oil

*1 Jalapeno; if you prefer it spicy leave the seeds in, if not then scrape the seeds out. I scraped half of the seeds out and left some in.

*4 tomatoes; cut in half

*1 onion, cut in fourths

*4 garlic cloves

*2TBS sesame seeds

*2 TBS pumpkin seeds; shelled

*2 potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size pieces; I used russet because the starch seemed to help thicken the sauce better

*1 carrot cut into pieces

*2 cups chicken broth, divided

*1 TBS or more of cornstarch (if need)

In a large bowl, add the chicken

Next add the flour, cumin, coriander, chipotle chili powder, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Toss the chicken pieces with the flour mixture until the chicken is evenly coated.

Heat a large skillet, preferably cast iron because it gives a great sear, to medium high heat and add in the oil.

When the pan is hot, add in the chicken, but do not over crowd the pan. You will have to do this in batches.

Cook for about 2 minutes and turn the pieces over and cook for another minute. Do not leave the chicken in too long or the spices will burn. If the skillet becomes too dry, add in more oil.

Place the seared chicken pieces in to the slow cooker.

Wipe the skillet out and place the tomatoes in skin side down. Add in the onion, jalapeno and garlic cloves. Cook until it all begins to char, abut 5 minutes and then turn them over and cook until the other side begins to char.

Take out the garlic cloves before they become too brown or they will have a bitter taste.

While the vegetables are in the pan, in another small pan or sauce pan, toast the sesame and the pumpkin seeds.

I found pumpkin seeds that were already roasted, to I just had to toast the sesame seeds. Be careful not to burn the seeds, they toast quickly.

Add the charred tomatoes, onions, jalapeno and garlic cloves to a food processor or a blender, then add in the sesame and pumpkin seeds.

Pulse a few times to start breaking everything down.

Pour in 1 cup of the chicken broth and blend until everything is pureed.

To the slow cooker add in the potatoes and the carrot.

Pour in the pureed mixture and the remaining cup of chicken broth. Stir to combine all of the ingredients.

Cover and cook on low for 5 hours or until vegetables are tender. If sauce needs to thicken, add equal amounts of the cornstarch and water to make a slurry. Pour into the slow cooker and stir. Cook on high for about 5 minutes or more until sauce is thickened.

Serve with rice and tortillas.

A Journey Through Food

I want to go on a journey, a food journey that is. For a while now I’ve had this idea in my head about choosing random countries and learning more about their food and creating a dish honoring that certain country or region. I’m not a world class traveler by any means. Sad to say, this woman has never left the U.S. I have traveled to many places around the country…well…ate my way around the country I should also say. In the past I have always wanted to travel outside of the U.S, but I had a fear of flying. Well, that changed quickly when I met my now hubby I met my now hubby and some cherished friends that we all met through a sci-fi show online. With some prodding and planning from those friends, I flew for the first time to what would be a start of my own personal journey. After that my now hubby and I started dating. He lived in Boston and I’m here in SC so, yes I had to get over my fear very quickly.

I have always been intrigued and wanted to experience the food in other countries and learn about their food cultures. So now that I don’t mind flying….ok it still scares the heebijeebies out of me still but I will do it. I still haven’t been able to travel, but maybe one day. But until then I really would like to try to do this. I kind of think of this as my own personal challenge. Maybe I’m being a little too ambitious. Maybe I’m biting off more than I can chew…no pun intended…ok maybe a little. When I told my hubby what I was thinking he was already looking up what Ethnic grocery stores we have near us. He was born in Guatemala and still has family there so I have already learned so much about that region of foods and flavors. But there is so much more I’d love to learn and what better way than to do it through cooking.

I will still post some of my regular food posts, but I would really like to include you all on my journey and see what you think. So with a deep breath and fork in hand I will begin planning.