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Sticky and sweet – finger lickin’ good

I recently made a batch of these chicken wings for a Super Bowl party after hearing there was a Buffalo wing shortage in the area.  Of course, these are not Buffalo wings, but I snatched up several packages of chicken wings just in case.  Korean style chicken wings can be spicy, although they usually are sweet and sour (and almost always delicious).  This recipe is always a big hit at any party or potluck for adults and children alike.  Just be sure to keep plenty of napkins on hand.


Korean-style Crispy Chicken Wings with Sweet Ginger Glaze

30 pieces of chicken wings, rinsed and patted dry
1 medium onion, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1″ piece of ginger, finely minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2  tsp.  salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 C. flour
1/2 C. corn starch

2″ peeled ginger, thinly sliced
3/4 C. water
3/4 C. packed dark brown sugar
1/2 C. vinegar
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1/2 C. corn syrup
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)

oil for frying

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Heat oil on medium high  in large skillet or pan.  Combine minced onion, garlic, ginger, egg, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Add chicken wings and coat thoroughly.  Then add flour and corn starch to chicken mixture and coat well.

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Cooking in batches, fry chicken wings in oil over medium to medium high heat for about 15 minutes until golden brown.

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In the meantime, bring water, brown sugar, soy sauce and ginger slices to a rolling boil in small sauce pan.  Boil vigorously for 15 minutes.  Lower heat to medium and add corn syrup.  Cook until mixture thickens to the point where the glaze stops half way when dripped from a spoon.

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Take out ginger slices with a slotted spoon and set aside when slightly thinner than you want.  It will thicken significantly as it sits.

The key to crispy chicken is cooking it twice, so after you cook all the chicken wings once, refry briefly (about 3 minutes or so) right before you are ready to serve. 

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Pale and limp looking once-cooked chicken

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Deep golden brown and super crispy twice-cooked chicken

Drizzle glaze over the chicken and toss carefully.  Serve immediately and be prepared for to be asked for the recipe.


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The mercury is hovering above the 90 degree mark and the humidity is palpable.  Ahhh, time for … a steaming bowl of chicken soup?  Yes, Koreans eat a special chicken ginseng soup on the hottest days of the summer, which counterintuitively is believed to cool and rejuvenate the body.  According to tradition, sam gae tang replenishes the body of essential nutrients while sweating out the toxins.  So in sweltering weather, the hotter the soup, the better.  (We’re an ornery people).

I like to eat sam gae tang both in the winter and the summer, especially if I feel a cold coming on.  And when they’re sick, both my husband and children can only palate a bowl of chicken soup to nurse them through a cold – it’s Korean penicillin and cold-eeze, all rolled into one. 

To be honest, I never cook sam gae tang with the ginseng root since it is commonly believed that ginseng is potentially harmful to young children or to people with hypertension.  While neither I nor my husband have high blood pressure, my mother does and never uses it in any of her cooking, and consequently, neither do I.  I did include some in this batch since I thought it was only proper as the name of the soup is “chicken ginseng soup.”

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Precooked whole chestnuts may be hard to come by in some areas, but try your local Asian market.  I get a vacuum sealed packet (back of above photo) for $.99.

Korean Chicken Ginseng Soup (Sam Gae Tang)
serves 3-4

3 Cornish game hens, rinsed and patted dry
1 1/2 C. glutinous sweet rice, rinsed and soaked in water for an hour (chap ssal)
8 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
8 dried jujube red dates
8 precooked or dried chestnuts
2 fresh or dried ginseng root
salt and pepper
6 round coffee filters
kitchen twine
3 toothpicks
2 scallions, sliced

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Place about 1/4 C. of pre-soaked glutinous sweet rice in a coffee filter, being careful to leave room as it will expand during cooking.

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Place one garlic clove, jujube date, and chestnut inside the Cornish game hen’s cavity. 

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 Follow with a bag of glutinous sweet rice.

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Close the cavity up with a toothpick.

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Place stuffed hens, ginseng, remaining garlic, jujube dates, chestnuts, 3 remaining packets of sweet rice and enough water to cover the hens in a large stock pot.  Bring to a boil and skim off fat and foam.  Lower to low heat, cover and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours.

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Season the broth lightly with salt and discard the ginseng.  Ladle the soup into large bowls, including a whole chicken, jujube, garlic, chestnuts and an extra packet of the cooked sweet rice per bowl.  Garnish with sliced scallions.  Serve with salt and pepper mixed in a small bowl on the side so you can dip the chicken directly into the seasonings.  Kim chi is also a must.  (An empty bowl for the skin, bones, date pits and coffee filters is helpful).

I hope you give this soup a try and if you’re not up for chicken soup in the summer, give it a whirl this winter.  I know you’ll love it.

A bumper crop

July 25, 2008

It happens every July.  Suddenly, almost overnight, the far corner of my backyard looks like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors has taken up residence.  Those two small squash plants overtake a raised bed garden and produce large fruit that needs to be picked on almost a daily basis for the next month.  I plant Korean squash, which is different than zucchini, both in shape and taste.  Korean squash is rounder (although my current batch is extremely round, rounder than normal), the texture is slightly softer, and the taste is milder.

So the dilemma facing all home gardeners is what the heck to do with all that zucchini?  I don’t have a magic answer – I do what almost everyone does.  I make zucchini bread, pasta with zucchini, grilled squash, steamed squash with Korean dipping sauce (so simple and delicious), and of course, I give it away.  But my husband’s favorite recipe is a staple of Korean kitchens during the summer months, denjang jigae (Korean bean paste soup).

Denjang is fermented soybean paste, different than the Japanese version miso. Denjang has a much stronger taste (and smell!) than miso and has bits of soybeans in it.  While it is available in Korean and Asian grocery stores, I am lucky enough to have an aunt who makes homemade denjang.  Homemade denjang is about as common as homemade ketchup these days, extremely rare but exceptionally delicious.


Denjang jigae can be made so many different ways with different ingredients.  Use clam broth, chicken broth, or even vegetable stock.  Add mushrooms, potatoes or carrots.  This is the way I make it.

Denjang Jigae

8 oz. sliced pork belly
6 C. water
3 Tbs. denjang
1/2 to 1 tsp. dried chili powder (gochu garu) optional
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, quartered
1 small zucchini, sliced
1/2 cube of tofu (about 7 oz.), cubed
3-4 scallions, sliced
1-2 Korean hot peppers, sliced (optional)

Bring water to a boil in a large pot (I use a traditional Korean clay pot).  Add sliced pork belly lower to medium high.  Skim off fat and foam. 

Add denjang, chili powder and garlic and let simmer for 10 minutes.  Add zucchini, onion and hot pepper and simmer for 10 minutes more.  Add tofu and scallions, cover and let sit for a few minutes. 

Serve with white rice, kimchi and any other banchan you have on hand.

 My personal favorite:  Korean mung bean pancakes (bindae duk)

As with many other Korean special occasion foods that are made in large quantities or not at all, mung bean pancakes (bindae duk) are not something one decides to make on a whim.  Two ingredients require overnight soaking and the resulting quantities are usually sufficient to feed the entire Duggar brood(although something tells me Korean food isn’t a fav in the Duggar house).  For me, however, it is one of those foods evocative of large festive gatherings, the smell delicious foods wafting through the house overheated by cooking and bodies, ending inevitably with the need to unbutton one’s waistband. 

One can buy freshly made bindaeduk at Korean mega-marts like Assi and H-Mart, but they never look like this version.  Fernbrake, as known as bracken, is relatively expensive and often eschewed for cheaper ingredients like cabbage and carrots.  My mother always puts fernbrake (kosari ) in her bindae duk and this recipe is a variation of the kind I grew up with. 

In order to make this dish, you need to buy the smallest bags of dried mung beans and fernbrake you can can find at your Korean or Asian grocery store.  This recipe calls for 8 C. of soaked mung beans which was an entire bag (sorry, I didn’t note the weight of the bag).  One bag of dried bracken makes a shockingly large amount.  You can soak the entire bag and use the remaining fernbrake for bibim bap, or just soak what you need.

This bag wasn’t even labeled as “bracken” or “fernbrake.”  “Wild Greens” and “Well-being Food” are the only words in English on the package.  Gotta love cryptic labeling.

That 100g bag of unpromising dark bracken expands to this soft, uniquely fragrant “meaty” vegetable.

Mung bean pancakes are a great source of protein, gluten-free, and if omitting the pork, can be vegan.  The beans give the pancake a heavier texture and you’ll feel full after just a couple (although you will keep eating since they’re so tasty!).


 Korean Mung Bean Pancakes (Bindae duk)

Yields 35-40 3-4″ pancakes

8 C.  mung beans, soaked overnight with any green casing picked over and discarded

1½ C. hydrated fernbrake, cut 1-2″ long

1 bunch sliced scallions, cut 1-2″ long

1½ C. chopped kimchi

8 oz. thinly sliced pork

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ C. sesame seed oil

salt and pepper to taste

oil to fry

(you can add up to 4 lightly beaten eggs to this recipe if you wish to make your pancakes less dense.)

Working in batches, liquefy mung beans 2 cups at a time in a blender, adding about 1/4 of water used to soak the beans each batch. 

Combine pureed mung bean, fernbrake, scallions, kimchi, pork, garlic, sesame seed oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. 

Heat oil on griddle or large frying pan on medium to medium high.  Ladle about 1/4 or 1/3 C. on griddle, making sure not to make the pancakes too thick.  I like to keep them between 3 to 4 inches in diameter.  Turn over when golden brown (about 4-5 minutes) and add more oil as needed.  Serve hot with Korean dipping sauce.

Mung bean pancakes freeze very well, so go ahead and make that large batch.  Just defrost and refry when you have a hankering for these delicious pancakes.



Spicy Korean-style pork spare ribs and cool watermelon salad


My version of spare ribs are spicy and sweet, using Korean red pepper paste (gochu jang).  I measured out this recipe for the first time since I’ve always made this to taste, depending on how many ribs I was cooking.  This recipe should feed 4 very hungry people (or 6 people who had a snack before dinner).

Gochu jang is available at Korean and Asian grocery stores (and online, apparently).

 This red pepper paste is not for the weak-hearted.


Spicy Korean pork spare ribs

1/3 C. Korean red pepper paste (gochu jang)

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 C. sugar (or less, depending on how sweet you like it)

3 Tbs. sesame seed oil

1/4 C. water

4-5 scallions cut into 3 inch long pieces

1 medium onion, sliced

2 Tbs. crushed toasted sesame seeds

4-5 lbs. pork spare ribs

toasted sesame seeds for garnish


Combine red pepper paste, garlic, sugar, sesame seed oil and water in a large bowl until smooth and runny. 

Add scallions, onions and crushed sesame seeds to mixture.  Add spare ribs and coat well. 

 Refigerate for at least a half hour (I like to put them in for an hour).  Heat up grill and cook on medium high, covered for about 6-8 minutes on each side, depending on your grill and the thickness of the ribs.  You can cook the onions and scallions on the grill (they will fall through unless you use a grill pan), or discard.  Sprinkle cooked ribs with sesame seeds, if desired.


 Serve with lots of moist towelettes.



Something this spicy must be served with something to cool the tongue, and this watermelon salad fits the bill.

Watermelon Salad

3 C. cubed watermelon

1 1/2 C. cherry tomatoes, halved

1/3 C. thinly sliced red onion

1 C. diced seedless cucumber, peeled

3 Tbs. lime juice

2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

fresh ground pepper to taste

Combine watermelon, cherry tomatoes, red onions, cucumber, lime juice and olive oil in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper and toss lightly.  Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.  Serve chilled.

Pan fried mandoo with Korean dipping sauce



Some of my fondest memories of childhood involve a kitchenful of women, all sitting around the table making mandoo, gossiping and laughing.  My mother, grandmother, aunts and female cousins would gather together in the kitchen, making short work of a big bowl of dumpling filling.   Mandoo, Korean dumplings (also called pot stickers and gyoza) is rather labor-intensive and is best when made with a lot of hands (and a lot of love).  Today at age seven, my daughter is now eager to help in the kitchen and join the tradition. 

I’ve modified this recipe to a manageable amount – I usually make about 150 at a time and either freeze or give away the extras.  (The photos do show a larger amount than the recipe calls for.)  This is a very basic, traditional recipe, although I have modified it many ways over the years.  Take out the meat, double the tofu and bean sprouts and add some shredded carrots to make it vegetarian.  Or, use ground turkey instead of beef and pork for a more heart-healthy version.  My favorite variation is adding chopped kim-chi – yum!

Mandoo – Korean dumplings

8 oz. bean sprouts, coarsely chopped

6 oz. ground beef

6 oz. ground pork

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1-2 tsp. minced ginger

1 block of tofu

4 scallions, chopped

1 egg

1 Tbs. sesame seed oil

1 tsp. salt

pepper to taste

50 gyoza or Chinese dumpling skins (available in the frozen section of Asian grocery stores and some über-hip suburban grocery stores)

1 beaten egg for wash

 Boil chopped bean sprouts for about 3 minutes – do not over cook.  Place cooked bean sprouts, meat, minced garlic, ginger and onions, tofu and scallions in a cheesecloth. 

 Squeeze the dickens out of it.  (For those with weak upper body strength – you can place a heavy pot filled with water on top of the cheesecloth-wrap and let the moisture ooze out for a half hour or so). 

 Add sesame seed oil, egg, salt, and pepper.  Combine well, making sure to break down the tofu into little bits.

 This size package contains approximately 50 skins.  Make sure to defrost fully.

Lightly beat one egg in small bowl, adding a tiny bit of water.  Dip you finger in the egg wash and moisten the entire outer edge of the dumpling skin.  Then take a heaping teaspoon of the filling and place it in the center of the dumpling.

Make sure to NOT over-stuff!

 Fold dumpling in half.

 And pinch close tightly.

 Repeat 50 times.  My daughter made the bottom right ones – ignore the filling coming out the edges.


Ok, from here you have several options.  You can 1.) steam them right now and eat them (healthiest option), 2.) steam them right now, then pan fry them (the tastiest option),  3.)  put them in beef broth and make mandoo soup, 4.) steam them now, then freeze them to fry at a later time, 5.) simultaneously fry/steam them, or 6.)  drop these babies in the deep fryer (easiest but least healthy option).

If you opt for the time-saver #5 option, you need to coat a heavy frying pan with oil and place on medium high.  Add raw dumplings and fry for a few minutes, then turn and fry for a couple minutes more.  Turn up heat to high and carefully add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan about 1/4″.  Cover tightly and steam for about 4-5 minutes, lowering to medium-low once the water boils, making sure not to burn.

I like to steam them separately then pan fry them, mainly because I have the mother of all steamers.  Check out my double-decker steamer (the bottom layer is covered):

 Always place a wet paper towel on a metal steamer (not necessary on bamboo).  Otherwise, the dumplings will stick and rip when you try to take them out.  You do not want to over steam – the edges will get very dried out.  It should only take about 4-5 minutes to cook.  Look for the dumplings to puff up and after you take off the lid, it will sink back down and cling to the bumpy meat mixture. 

Pan fry the dumplings in oil and serve with Korean-style dipping sauce.  You can place the fried dumplings in an over-safe dish, cover in foil and warm in oven until ready to serve.  If you bring this to a party, expect them to disappear within five minutes (maybe less). 



Korean Dipping Sauce

1/3 C. soy sauce

1 minced garlic clove

2 scallions, finely chopped

1-2 tsp. sesame seed oil

dash of Korean red pepper powder (kochu garu) or cayenne pepper

dash of crushed toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Mix all ingredients well and serve with mandoo, scallion pancakes, or anything that tastes good dipped in soy sauce!