Elwood 5566

Curds (묵) – Monday Market

Posted in Uncategorized by 노강호 on July 6, 2010

Stunted by the rocky soil, you will rarely see an Oak as magnificent as those found in England

A few years ago a former boss took  me to lunch at restaurant, the usual formality for talking shop and often a sign that your schedule is about to change or that you’re going to be asked to do something not in your contract. Other than it was ‘Klingon’ in style, I can’t remember what we ate. My first encounter with any form of Korean food was in 1997 when I visited several restaurants in both Hong-Kong and Manilla and I can’t remember too much about those experiences either other than there being many side dishes, one of which was some strange, but inoffensive jelly-like food served in slices.

Acorn curd - 도토리묵

Enjoying many Korean foods are dependent on an acquired ‘taste.’ Kimchi, for example, both stinks and tastes pretty gross to most people first time, but with continued exposure one begins to realise the subtle variations between different kimchis.  Eventually you begin to develop a preference for one particular form of kimchi. In one sense the multi-faceted aspects of kimchi, the combinations of heat (chilli), saltiness, sourness, tartness, sweetness, the viscosity of the sauce,  the fracturability of the cabbage, the blend and persistence of fish sauce, garlic and ginger, the aroma, and these are only some of the features, make its enjoyment every bit as sophisticated as that of wine.

Supermarket curds - more expensive and watery than the market varieties.

While kimchi has taste there are a number of Korean foods which are tasteless and which on first exposure prompt the question, ‘why?’  Most first timers to Korean cuisine, for example, will find those watery soups ornamented with a few strands of bean sprout, totally pointless until you realise the way intermittent spoonfuls cleanse the palate and transform the texture of rice in the mouth.  A few Korean foods initially have no taste at all but if persevered with, an appeal begins to develop. Other foods, such as cold noodles (냉면) require exposure to the energy draining Korean summers to initiate an appeal much in the same way Pimms No 1 does in the UK. I can no more enjoy a Pimms No 1 in winter than I can cold noodles. And then there are those seemingly pointless curds or jellies.

In the restaurant with my boss, and amidst some of the Klingon delicacies, was a plate of what looked like the jelly thing I’d last eaten in a Korean restaurant in Hong-Kong. Sliced into slippy cubes, I remembered the dexterous chopstick skills required  to pick it up; too much pressure on the cube and it is cut in two and too little and it flops onto the floor or cascades down your shirt. My boss was quite impressed, in fact he was very impressed, but not with my chopstick skills, more with the fact that I’d just eaten a slice of raw liver! That too was tasteless but there is a limit to how far I want to go initializing new appreciations and raw offal is not really one of them.

Acorn curd (도토리묵) in the market

Curds or jellies appear in various guises and while they are fairly tasteless, their appeal lies in their texture which in the context of a Korean meal with numerous side dishes, can be ‘interesting.’ The most common curd is probably acorn (도토리묵) and it is often accompanied with a tangy soy based sauce. (도토리묵 무침). Personally, I find the market produced curd both cheaper and tastier looking than the somewhat more watery-looking packeted varieties produced by supermarkets. On more than one occasion I have muddled my Korean words and asked for ‘eagle curd’  (독수리묵).

Buckwheat curd mu-ch'im (메밀묵 무침)

Other curds include:

Buckwheat (메밀묵) which is often slightly heavier in texture

Supermarket seaweed curd (미역묵)

Black rice

Mung Bean (녹두묵)

Yellow Mung Bean (노랑묵 or 황보묵) this version, coloured with gardenia, is traditionally associated with the Cheolla province.

Curds are fairly easy to make and powders can be bought in most supermarkets.

Acorn powder

Acorn curd in particular is seen as a very healthy food and is believed to be beneficial in weight loss. Not a great surprise really as I doubt anyone would want to eat it alone and it’s hardly a food to pig out on! It probably has the same diet potential  and calorific content as water! The Korean company Skinfood market an acorn face pack. If you are keen to start investigating the secret power of acorn, here is a jumping off point….

Creative Commons License
© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.

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One Response

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  1. Hamish Nelson said, on July 6, 2010 at 3:05 am

    I like some of the curds in South Korea but really had no idea what each one was until now. Thanks for the insight.
    Is it because of the fact that you use more energy eating it than you do actually get calories from curd that you lose weight? Imagine a diet of just curd? Now there’s something to put you off eating (well me at least). Food for thought.
    As a side dish though I enjoy it, as long as I can get it from table to mouth 🙂


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