Sigeumchi Namul (Korean Spinach Banchan)

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The best sigeumchi namul I ever had was during a hurried ten hour stopover in Seoul. My sister and I had just spent a week in Hanoi and were on our way back to San Francisco. Exhausted, we were determined to see — and eat — as much as we could during our day long excursion into the city. Our banchan spread during lunch in a nondescript Insadong restaurant included this spinach banchan. Jet lagged and half asleep, the bright, fresh greens perked me up and fortified me for the precious few hours we had in the city. The rest of the meal was just as good, but that’s another story.

Whenever I eat this simple but delicious spinach dish, I’m transported back to that rainy day in Insadong. This mild banchan comes together in less than 15 minutes. Perfect for when you’re exhausted but hungry.

Sigeumchi namul (spinach banchan)
Ingredients:

1 pound spinach, trimmed
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

1. Fill a saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the spinach and blanch for 1 minute, then drain in a colander and rinse under cold water to cool. Drain and squeeze out excess water, then chop into 1-inch pieces.

2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Add the spinach and toss to coat. Serve or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Korean-Style Mixed Green Salad

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This isn’t a green salad, per se. This recipe came about one evening when I had an abundance of Persian cucumbers and not being quite sure what to do with them, I turned to Maangchi, my favorite Korean food blog. Gutjuli, or mixed green salad, is typically leafy, but I adapted it to be heavy on the cucumbers and light on the leaves. Either way, this dressing packs a punch and works well with nearly any fresh salad vegetable.

Korean mixed green salad

Ingredients:

2 cups mixed lettuce greens
3 Persian cucumbers
1 green onion
1/2 clove garlic
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon gochugaru (hot pepper flakes)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sesame oil

1. Slice cucumbers thinly and add to a large bowl along with the lettuce. Thinly slice the green onion and add it to the bowl.

2. Prepare the dressing by whisking together soy sauce, gochugaru, sugar, sesame seeds, and sesame oil. Mix the vegetables with the dressing and serve.

Kimchi Salad

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Please don’t judge me, but this is a shortcut salad, meaning that it utilizes pre-made ingredients. That’s how it was taught to me though, and I’ve found that there are no whole ingredients that produce the same flavor in the final product. I first tried this kimchi salad at a Guamanian party, and I was hooked. Spicy, salty, sour and a little bit sweet, this salad incorporates all of my favorite flavors.

A little research revealed that this salad first became popular in Guam in the 1990s, as Guam’s Japanese and Korean communities introduced little bottles of kimchi base into the local cuisine. This salad is really easy to make but it needs a few hours to sit and let the flavors develop. Make sure its covered tightly as it develops a strong aroma.

Kimchi Salad

Ingredients:

2 Japanese or Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced into 2-inch matchsticks
1 large mango, thinly sliced into 2-inch matchsticks
1 6-inch piece of daikon radish, thinly sliced into 2-inch matchsticks
1/2 jar of kimchi concentrated base (about 1/3 cup)
1/3 cup rice vinegar

1. Add all the ingredients to a large glass or ceramic bowl and mix well. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Sunomono Salad

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“Sunomono” translates loosely as “vinegared things” in Japanese, and over the years I’ve tried a number of recipes to recreate restaurant-style cucumber sunomono at home. After several renditions, I’ve finally come up with my favorite version, which includes the addition of radish sprouts (not pictured but adds a really nice layer of texture and subtle flavor).

I’ve been making this salad a lot lately as the weather is finally warming up in the Bay Area, and we’re enjoying our “summer” as fall approaches.

Sunomono Salad

Ingredients:

2 ounces dried wakame seaweed, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes
2 Japanese or Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 bunch radish sprouts, cut in half
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 tablespoons dashi broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin

1. Lightly squeeze excess water from the wakame and roughly cut into bite-size pieces.

2. Mix the rice vinegar, dashi, soy sauce, and mirin in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer to evaporate the alcohol and sharpness of the vinegar. Immediately remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

3. Arrange the wakame in a serving bowl and garnish with the cucumber and daikon sprouts. Pour dressing over and serve.

Greek Salad

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Greek salad is so basic that I almost decided not to write about it. There are enough variations on this classic salad though that it warrants a post, and this one is my version.

I like my salads acidic, so I’ve upped the lemon content, and thrown in a few extra pepperoncinis and capers for good measure. Although I question the Greek authenticity of this salad, it’s become one of my favorites.

Greek Salad

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice (preferably from Meyer lemons)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper
2 tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, halved and cut into 1/2-inch dice
12 Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
6 pepperoncini, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 cup crumbled feta cheese

1. In a large serving bowl, whisk the olive oil with the oregano and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper.

2. Add the tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, olives, pepperoncini, capers and feta and toss.