Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | korean cooking
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We're addicted to the Food Network because we're amateur foodies who believe deeply that food is the gateway for most people to learn about other cultures. I'm always amazed when I find people who are closed-minded about trying different types of cuisines, and I've always lived by the rule that if somewhere in the world, someone eats a dish, I'm willing to try it... at least once. Living by this rule, I've had some funky food, including insects, plants that you wouldn't think are edible, slimy sea creatures that I'm not sure other sea creatures would eat, and animal parts that would probably make a PETA supporter faint. We love all kinds of cuisines from around the world, and obscure indigenous specialties from around the U.S. One of our favorites is Korean cuisine. You can trace a lot of Japanese culture to China or Korea, including food. Yakiniku, grilled marinated thin-sliced beef, is Korean bulgogi (my favorite). Gyoza dumplings are either Chinese potstickers or Korean mandu. Kimchi is, well, it's a purely Korean original: Pickled napa cabbage that's deeply infused with hot chili pepper and briny salt. It's a staple of Korean cuisine, an ubiquitous side dish, delicious and really healthy to boot. My mouth starts watering just thinking about it. Erin and I even cooked up our own Soon Doobu Jjigae spicy tofu soup one night, and look forward to trying more Korean recipes. Growing up in Japan, we had kimchi pretty regularly. My mom used to make it (she hardly cooks anything anymore) when I was a kid. Its pungent odor would fill the house and embarrass me once we moved to the states if my white high school buddies visited, but I even got my giant football player friend Bubba to try kimchi. Like some other Asian dishes, it doesn't taste as stinky as it smells. A new PBS series, "Kimchi Chronicles," explores the richness of Korean food in a fascinating way that's part-travelogue, part food program and part a journey about identity. The series has been rolling out in some markets, but here in Denver it premieres July 2 on Rocky Mountain PBS (Channel 12 in Denver) What makes the show so intriguing to me is the star, Marja Vongerichten, who is wife of superstar New York chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Soon doo bu, a spicy Korean stew with tofu, with chicken and kimchee Erin and I made soon doo bu jjigae, a Korean stew for the first time the other day, and had a blast cooking it up. Food is a foundation of culture, so we love enjoying different cuisines from around the world. People who follow our Twitter tweets that are marked "#twEATs" which are copied to our Facebook updates tell us we eat out too much, but what can we say? We love food! We don't just go out -- we eat in a lot more, to save money. We cook a lot of ethnic dishes at home: some Italian, Mexican ... the usual. And of course, Japanese food. But we haven't made Korean food other than cooking up pre-marinated bulgogi, the delicious thin-sliced beef that's my favorite at Korean BBQ restaurants. We just happened to have a gallon jar of spicy kimchee from my sister-in-law from Colorado Springs. Several times a year, she makes a jar of kimchee for us. We love it, though sometimes there's so much it goes quite sour before we can finish it. Koreans use old kimchee as ingredients in soups and stews, so that's what got us started. So we got this crazy idea last week to try making soon doo bu jjigae, a tofu stew that we love. We were turned on to it at a restaurant in San Francisco's Japantown called Doobu that specializes in the dish. Soon doo bu is a rich combination of a lot flavors and textures, starting with silky tofu in a spicy red chili broth, with meat, seafood and vegetables added. We thought this would be a terrific way to use some of a huge jar of kimchee that my Korean sister-in-law, Pok Sun, had given us.