Elwood 5566

Monday Market – Dried Chillies

Posted in Food and Drink, Monday Market (Theme) by 노강호 on October 31, 2011

red chillies being dried

Every autumn I intend buying a large bag of dried chillies and eventually, this year, I did. With a sweet aroma, rather like cherry tomatoes, they smell wonderful but ground, the powder is far hotter than that I usually buy in the supermarket. I suspect this is because I procrastinated buying a bag, as they are usually sold in large plastic sacks, and waited until the very end of the season. The bag I bought was about a quarter of the usual size and the chillies slightly smaller and perhaps more potent. They cost 20.000 won (c£10).

my end of season bag

Of course, the drawback is you need to grind them and I suspect you are supposed to de-stalk them prior to this process. Being lazy, I haven’t bothered with this and simply grind whole chillies complete with their little green appendage. Koreans eat chilli leaves so I see no point in removing stalks.

seriously big bags of red chili

I have had to seriously curtail the amount of powder I use in kimchi and my most recent batch, made this weekend and which consisted of about 1.2kg of salted cabbage, used only 1/3 of a cup of ground chili. In the past I have used as much as two cups of powder for this process. My Koreans friends found 2/3 of a cup too spicy. I was going to buy another bag, a large one, to last me the year but it seems the dried chili season is over. Buy the time I’ve used my current supply I’d imagine the novelty of dried whole chillies, something you never see in the UK, will be over and like most of my female friends, I’ll return to the convenience of packeted supermarket chili flakes.

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Monday Market – A Mixed Bag of Seasonal Interests

Posted in Monday Market (Theme) by 노강호 on April 7, 2011

For the last month I’ve been waiting for the appearance of mistletoe and durup in the street markets. Durup (두룹), aralia elatia can sometimes be found in places like E-Mart but it is usually on the expensive side if out of season. Mistletoe (겨우사리), viscum album coloratum, is something I’ve never seen in supermarkets, not even in tea bag form and many Koreans don’t even know what it is.

fresh mistletoe – 10.000 won (five pounds UK) which I’m told is a little expensive.

I’ve had a bag of mistletoe (dried branches and leaves) in my fridge for the last year and used it regularly during the summer when made as a tea, and chilled, it is wonderfully refreshing. Last year’s bag I purchased in May and it was already dried. Yesterday however, I saw the first bags of mistletoe and they were fresh so this morning I boiled the last of my old batch and will try the new ones in a few days. After which I will simply lay them on newspaper on my veranda and dry them out for the forth coming year.

Warning – there are many varieties of mistletoe and I’ve read the berries, possibly in European varieties if not further afield, are poisonous.  Apparently, ewes abort their young if they graze on fallen mistletoe! If you are a reader outside Korea I would be very cautious about making tea out of the next batch you see.

durup (두룹) aralia elatia

Durup, for which I can find no common English name, costs between 3000-5000W (£1.50 – £2.50) a bowl and is surprisingly tasty with a mildly nutty taste. I generally blanch them and eat them with red pepper sauce (초고추장), which can be bought ready made like tomato sauce, or with swirled in sesame oil, minced garlic and sesame seeds with a little soy sauce. I use them as a side dish. They can also be used in kimbap and pancakes but I have not tried such variations. I would imagine there are numerous other ways of using them.

a street vendor selling durup

Durup and Misteltoe will appear in street markets until about mid May after which they are difficult to find though I would imagine large markets will have dried mistletoe all year. Both are worth trying.

Don’t forget that mugwort (쑥 – sook), artemesia asiatica and mong-gae (멍개), ‘sea squirt,’ are also currently prolific.

mong-gae, or sea squirt (멍개), a delight of the deep?

For my previous posts on posts on these seasonal items, click:





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Mistletoe Magic (Telegraph Newspaper. UK.  Dec. 2010)

Monday Market – Shepherd's Purse (냉이)

Posted in herbs and 'woods', Quintesentially Korean by 노강호 on March 8, 2011

a tasty weed

I now realise I have an intimate relationship with this weed developed through years of mowing lawns. Shepherd’s Purse, which has tiny white flowers, is considered a lawn pest in the UK and numerous British gardening websites devote space to facilitating its annihilation.

the plant usually stands higher than surrounding grass and is easily identified

Such a shame! All I needed to do to clear my lawn of this ‘pest’ was to pull it up and consume it. I have never tired it in British cooking but I’m sure with creativity it could have uses. In Britain, there is a long history of Shepherd’s Purse as an herbal remedy and in China it is used in both soup and as a wonton filling.

Korean 'naeng-i' (냉이)

I wrote a brief post on Shepherd’s Purse (냉이) last year and made it clear I wasn’t sure how much I liked it. However, I actually bought several bundles and froze them and there was ample to last the entire year. Like many seasonal oddities, especially ones used by grandmothers, as is naeng-i, it’s a case of ‘here today – gone tomorrow.’  Only a few weeks after noticing it, it will have disappeared until next year. Naeng-i really livens-up a bowl of bean curd soup (됀장찌게) and I was quite excited to buy it fresh yesterday. I can’t  be bothered trimming off the roots and have one of those mesh balls in which I put whole plants and simply immerse the ball in the soup. Quite a few of my students love naeng-i and apart from telling you how their grandmothers use it, are often excited recounting its flavour.


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Death Could Hardly Taste Fresher – Smelts (빙어)

Posted in bathhouse Ballads by 노강호 on February 18, 2011

The bing-oh ‘van’ (빙어). A great place to contemplate the meaning of life.

Podcast 71

Last night, on my way home from school, I noticed the smelt van pulled up on the side of the busy cross road which I use several times a day. Every few months this small van appears and it’s always noticeable, perhaps more so for the waygukin (foreigner) because of its strangeness. Patches of snow and ice, from the recent nuclear winter, lay on the sidewalk and the air had an invigorating nip. From the smelt van interior steam, illuminated by the little bright lights around the van, intermittently billow out into the evening air, wafted away by puffs of chilly wind.   On the back of the van sits an enormous aquarium on which a couple of small lights focus and the  light, refracted from the  furthest glass panel,  makes it appear as if you are looking horizontally into a vast expanse of blue water in which a  thousand  small silver fish frantically swim like  slivers of glass.


Koreans call them bing-oh (빙어) and they one of the less common streets foods whose western name, smelts, has a rather ironic foreboding.  Smelts are the name for a family (Osmeridae) of  fish (probably the hypomesus japonicus) which inhabit the water between Korea and Japan and which swim in large shoals. Various species of smelt exist both in the major seas, oceans and in freshwater but the Korean specie is one of the smallest, only a few centimeters long.  Stood watching them is mesmerizing and it’s easy to see the therapeutic  use  aquariums have as a means of inducing relaxation and lowering blood pressure; a couple of seats in front of the tank would surely attract customers.

carnage under the canopy – but it’s tasty

However, the hypnotic lull into which you might be drawn is shattered when a large sieve suddenly invades the watery expanse and scoops up a few hundred unfortunate smelt, quickly folds them in batter before immersing their twisting bodies in the scorching oil of the deep fat fryer in which they instantly expire amidst spitting fat and a sigh of steam. From a vibrant alive to a crispy, and rather tasty, cooked and dead,  in less than two minutes.

waiting for the sieve

The smelt van is a holocaust on wheels and it doesn’t do to ponder too long on how a fish might perceive the various processes practiced. Being tossed in batter and chucked in the fryer is a fairly horrible way to go. However, the smell of fried fish quickly rescues one from contemplation and their tasty crunch has the capacity to banish both empathy and sympathy. You have to eat tempura at the cooking source because  by the time you get home the batter is cold and soggy but eating those delicious little morsels under the van’s canopy reminds me of how little respect we have for fish. Imagine a van with a small chicken pen perched on its tail, the chickens contentedly pecking away at  grains of corn strewn over the pen’s grass floor. And then, a hand grabs a chicken, chops off its head and expertly plucks the feathers and while still in the throes of death, drags it through some batter before committing it to the fryer. No tantalizing aromas could banish my horror nor  the tastiest, succulent flesh extinguish guilt. With warm blooded animals, even a stupid chicken,  the point and location of death and the culinary process have to be  clearly separated.  Many of us are so mortified by warm blooded death that we can’t even buy the flesh in the same location in which  it was killed and in the English language have to partition the meat for the animal;  personally, ‘pork’ is infinitely more palatable than ‘pig’ and a lot less likely to incur pangs of guilt. At least Koreans appear less troubled by canivourism when they are able to suck on a pork bone in a restaurant in which the walls or menu are adorned with  photos, paintings or  other images of piggies, in some cases bizarrely anthropomorhphised.

a pig restaurant

But I can quite easily enjoy a mouthful of bing-oh while watching them swimming about and romaticise that puff of steam which  is lifted into the city’s air as each batch is annihilated. Few, if any animal right exist  for the  bing-oh or indeed most other types of fish and able to watch the entire process from fish to food, with no remorse,  I am aware of not only how callous I am, but how smelted in the deep fat fryer, death could hardly taste fresher!

a fresh batch of bing-oh

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Yellow Curd (노랑 묵) – Monday Market

Posted in Regionalism by 노강호 on January 28, 2011

Yellow curd, made from mung beans

I wrote about the standard curds, oak, back wheat, etc, last year. However, there are a number of other curds which you will often find and this one is a regional variety from the Cheolla province. Yellow Curd (노랑 묵), is also known as: mung bean curd, and honeybee curd (황보 묵) and is especially noticeable because of  its bright yellow colour.  It is an important ingredient in the Cheolla regional bibimbap (mixed rice).

Cheolla bibimbap (mixed rice)

yellow curd accompanied with typical soy based sauce

In Daegu, this curd isn’t easily found but occasionally appears, sold by ‘specialist’ street vendors who do not tend to appear on a regular basis.


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Interlude (8) Pojangmacha (포장마차)

Posted in Interlude (Theme) by 노강호 on January 12, 2011

a typical snack-type pojangmacha


Like most of Korea, the area which I first visited 11 years ago has changed significantly and in Song-so, Daegu, where there now stands Mega Town with the Lotte Cinema Complex, the 24 hours jjimjilbang and a host of restaurants, I remember an enormous vacant lot, uneven and with patches of grass and bushes springing randomly across its expanse. Especially in winter, this was home to numerous large pojangmacha (포장마차).


huddling around the steam on a cold evening


Now, pojangmacha are basically tents which a range of guises from small to large,  basic to elaborate, some selling snacks, other alcohol and which can stand on their own or be ‘tethered’ to a small van. I particularly remember the tents in the  Song-so lot because they were large, heated and open all night and were what many refer to as a ‘soju tents.’  I remember quite a few evenings where we sat until the early hours wrapped  in thick coats, even though the interior was warm, drinking soju or rice wine while enjoying a bowl of spicy  cod roe soup. Maybe it’s just my imagination, because pojangmacha are around all year, but their bright lights and cozy interiors seem to associate them with winter. Even the more open versions which sell spicy cabbage and rice cake (ddeokkboki) and around which people huddle bathing in the steam wafting off the hot food, warm your spirits on a cold evening.


pojangmacha (포장마차)


If you walked from Song-so to the main gate of  Keimyung University, 11 years ago, there were a number of vacant lots between  high-rise buildings and often  large pojangmacha would occupy them. Today, they are gone, the lots occupied by new buildings to such an extent that in the entire stretch of road there are no longer any soju tents.


snack time


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Street Vendors

Posted in Photo diary, seasons by 노강호 on December 10, 2010

One of the most common sights in Korea are the street vendors who peddle everything from snacks and vegetables, to meat, fish and bicycle repairs. There are many different kids of street vendors from the ones who travel around an area with a street market to people who pull up on the side of the road in small trucks from which goods are sold to the little old ladies who sit around towns with a selection of vegetables strewn  on a sheet on the ground.

I’m a total sucker for the old ladies and will often stop to buy something though I’m told they’re not poor. Last week, I saw a woman from whom I regularly buy spinach, unload her groundsheet from the back of a new range rover-type vehicle, probably owned by her son, and then start laying out her cabbages and lettuces.

the crossroad by my school where the Monday Morning market meets E-Mart

the grandmas are always laughing and a bottle of makalli (rice wine) is usually in the background

in the hear of Monday Morning market

This side streets specializes in vegetables, curd, and beansprouts

Late summer

The market directly outside my school

garlic in the Sunday market, the surrounding air was tainted with it’s smell

The street market outside Lavender Sauna, near Dong-Daegu KTX Station

in the rural town of Gor-Yang

cabbages in a more abundant season – winter 2008

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Monday Market – Apples (사과)

Posted in Comparative, Daegu, Food and Drink, fruit, seasons by 노강호 on November 30, 2010

early autumn apples

When I first visited Daegu in 2010, the city’s link with apples, a local product, seemed very strong. Ten years later, and on the odd occasion I have mentioned Daegu in relation to apples, and some people look at me blankly. Regardless, apples in Daegu, and perhaps further afield, are delicious. I rarely  buy apples back home partly as the varieties are never constant  and the taste and texture never guaranteed. Like many fruit and vegetables in Britain, they are rarely home produced. There is a lot to be said for seasonal fair as the quality is far superior and at the moment, cabbages (배추), apples, Asian pears (배), persimmon (감) and oranges (귤) from Jeju-do) are all in season. I have become quite used to watching the passing season through what’s available in the street markets and am currently waiting to see an abundance of of ginkgo nuts (은행).

Crispy, sweet and delicious

Korean apples are big, crispy, sweet and juicy. I’ve never had an apple that is soft or sour and would imagine sweetness is guaranteed because of the hot summers. Most apples are best about Christmas time and there are five popular varieties all grown in Korea:

‘National Glory’ (국광) – deep red with green stripes

‘Golden Delicious,’ (골덴 딜리셔스) – clear yellow

‘Huji’ or ‘Pusa’ (후지 / 부사) –  light red

‘Indian’ (인도) – green

‘Red Jade’ (홍옥) – bright red which is best slightly earlier than Christmas.

Monday market

However, as I write, I read that in the UK, this years season of apples, though outstripped by imports, are especially delicious as they generally tend to be approximately once every seven years.

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Monday Market -Oriental Quince (모과) Chaenomeles sinensis

Posted in Nature, oriental Medicine, plants and trees, seasons by 노강호 on November 16, 2010

oriental quince bonsai

Another portent that winter is approaching is the appearance of the oriental quince, mo-ghwa (모과). Unlike the quince found in parts of Europe and North Africa where its uses, depending on climate and hence proportions, span from making jams and jelly to a substitute potato, the oriental quince is mostly used in oriental medicine and as tea. However, the mo-ghwa’s predominant use is as an ornamental air freshener. Don’t expect wonders! It won’t clear the smell of fried mackerel or unpleasant toilet odours and neither is one potent enough to scent an entire room but for scenting corners or enclosed spaces, a car being ideal, they are successful. I have one sitting on my desk and  it subtly scents that corner of my room.

moghwa (모과)

by the bowl

Moghwa have a very waxy skin in which the scent is contained and they sort of look quite attractive. The scent is similar to that of a fruity apple. The cost varys from about a 1000 won upwards and ideally you should buy one unblemished as these will last well into spring. Supermarkets often sell them in a small basket.

oriental quince tree and fruit

At this time of year one can see many trees bearing fruits, dae-ch’u, unhaeng (ginkgo), persimmon and Asian pears, for example. However, it is illegal to pick fruits from any tree on sidewalks or parks as the trees are not public property.

When buying one, especially from street vendors where they are much cheaper, avoid ones with blemishes or other forms of damage. A good moghwa will last the entire winter and into spring but a badly chosen one can be brown and rotted within a few weeks!

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Monday Market – Peaches 복숭아

Posted in Diary notes, fruit, seasons by 노강호 on October 20, 2010

Like the persimmon, which is just starting to appear, peaches have different names for different types: some are hard, some medium and the most prized, very soft, is white.

Peaches towards the end of the season

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