Dduckam, Seoul

Dukkam will forever be remembered for where we first fell in love with gamja-tang. The thin, spicy soup is our number one Korean must-eatl, and the consummate soul food. Laden with potatoes and the spine of pork, and distinct with crushed perilla seeds and perilla leaves; there's an anise-like, somewhat minty herbaceous aftertaste to the robust heat of the stew, resulting in a hearty, fiery yet refreshing broth. Surprisingly though, it's delicate and light, and not at all oily. You know how it is with bak kut teh, you feel weighted down with that heavy oily feeling after drinking the soup? It's not ever like that with gamjatang. For rustic fare rooted in peasant provenance, it's incredibly exquisite.

Duckkam is a short stroll from the Four Seasons Seoul, and because it's open 24/7, our supper go-to de rigueur during our annual sojourn to Seoul.

The Gamjatang (6,500KRW) at Duck Kam, generously stocked with a massive hunk of pork spine, was potent and lively. The meat, while sparing (it IS, afterall, the spine of a pig) was fall-off-the-bone tender, fresh with nary a whiff of that 'porky stench'.

A couple of banchan, kimchi and kkakugi, served to refresh the palate, paired with steamed rice, fresh green chillis, chives, and a vinegared mustard emulsion dipping sauce.

The shop front in the day.

and the night for reference.

Jongro-Gu, Saemunan-ro 3-gil 21 (tangju-dong)
Tel: +02 722 5894

Han Wa Dam, Seoul

Han Wa Dam is one of our two favourite (together with Two Plus) Korean barbecue restaurants in Seoul. Serving only Korean Hanwoo beef known for its rich marbling and full-bodied flavour (think Australian wagyu), Han Wa Dam is also distinguished for having the best kimchi I've ever eaten in my life. Really, if you were looking to introduce kimchi to someone with a pre-disposed aversion to kimchi, just bring them to Han Wa Dam. I promise you, the kimchi here will make a lover out of even the most hardened of kimchi-haters.

The beef at Han Wa Dam weren't marinated, and it need not be. It was delicious on its own. Recommended specialties were the Sirloin (42,000KRW for 150gm) and Tenderloin (43,000KRW for 150gm), juicy and sumptuous and insanely good simply burnished with a heap of beef fat. 

The Pollack Roe Steamed Egg (5,000KRW) fluffy like a souffle, and dotted with sweet diced carrots and spring onions, was scrumptious.

Another must-try, the Sirloin Kimchi Stew (8,000KRW) was exquisite, and absolutely comforting in the frigid cold of the Seoul winter. Heck, this'd be comforting even in the sweltering heat of Seoul's crazy-hot Summers.

There weren't a lot of banchan in Han Wa Dam, but what they lack in variety, they make up for in excellence of quality.

The Kimchi here was outstanding, punchy and potent. If there was just one reason to return to Han Wa Dam, this'll be it.

The Lettuce Salad, or sangchu geotjeori, laced with peppery watercress, was refreshing and a wonderful counterpoint to the beef.

Ditto for the piquant Pickled Radish, studded with the bite of garlic, and sweet of onions.

The Shredded Chives Salad, topped with a fruit jelly, was a lovely zesty contrast too.

The Cold Radish Soup, or dongchimi, was spiked with chilli for a mild heat.

We were trying to stay away from carbs, but the multigrain rice was just too yummy to resist. This was amazing paired with the kimchi jjigae.

The restaurant front for reference.

Han Wa Dam
61-21 Taepyeong-ro 1-Ga
Tel: +82 2 730 7905
Open daily from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; 5pm to 11.30pm for dinner


Portobello & Egg Pesto Pasta Salad

So I picked up a jar of mushroom pesto during our recent visit to Melbourne at the farmers' market. I thought I'd do a vegetarian-friendly warm mushroom salad to pair with that pesto for #meatlessmondays.

Ingredients (feeds 4):
1 box arugula leaves, about 125gm
5 eggs
2 cups rotini pasta
6 large portobello mushrooms, diced roughly
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp herbed cooking olive oil
3-4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
3 tbsp mushroom pesto (regular pesto works in a pinch)
Salt to taste
a handful of pine nuts (get those best possible quality organic ones, avoiding those from China, I once ended up with 'pine nut syndrome', resulting in my palate having a bitter aftertaste that lasted a week, after eating some at Hai Di Lao. It was a convenient tool for inadvertently being on a diet, but I was completely miserable.)

1) Fry garlic on low heat with 1 tbsp herbed cooking olive oil, about 1 minute.

2) Turn the heat up to medium-high, and add portobello. Toss until water released is completely reduced. Salt to taste. Set aside.

3) Boil eggs for about 7 minutes. I wanted mine a little runny, but feel free to boil yours longer if you prefer hard-boiled ones.

4) Peel under cold running water, and set aside.

5) Cook pasta in salting boiling water, according to package instructions, until a minute and a half before its supposed cooking time. Drain.

6) Drain into pre-mixed pesto and EVOO, tossing it all over.

7) Assembly time: layer the rocket leaves at the bottom, and top with pesto-ed pasta, sliced eggs, cooked garlic portobello, and pine nuts. Optional: sprinkle grated parmesan or pecorino to finish.


Spicy Seafood Japchae

This is a spicy seafood variant from the japchae I made sometime ago. It's just as much work, but note this can be pre-cooked the day before and re-heats beautifully.If you're strapped for time on the weekdays, this is an excellent dish to prep over the weekend and for eating on the weekdays.

Ingredients (feeds 4):
1 head garlic, about 10 cloves, minced
4 cups julienned carrots
300gm baby kailan, stalks trimmed (makes about 8 cups)
400gm sliced white button mushrooms (makes about 5 cups)
1 large onion, sliced thinly
seafood (I used about 15 medium-sized Tiger prawns, and 10 whole fresh sea scallops, quartered)
canola oil
sesame oil
guk-kanjang (or light soy, or salt will do)
4 spaghetti-ring measures of dangmyeon (Korean sweet potato noodles)
sesame seeds to serve

Sauce for noodles:
2 tbsp guk kanjang (regular light soy sauce will do in a cinch)
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar

2 tbsp gochugaru (Korean ground red pepper powder)
Optional: dashi stock to cook the dang myeon

1) Fry 1 clove of minced garlic in 2 tsp canola oil and 2 tsp sesame oil, about 1 minute on low heat.

2) Add mushrooms, turn heat up to medium-high, fry with 1 tbsp guk kanjang until water released is completely reduced. Set aside.

3) Fry another clove of minced garlic in 2 tsp canola oil and 2 tsp sesame oil, about 1 minute on low heat.

3) Add carrots, turn heat up to medium-high, fry with 1 tbsp guk kanjang until wilted, about 1 minute. Set aside.

4) Fry another clove of minced garlic in 2 tsp canola oil and 2 tsp sesame oil, about 1 minute on low heat.

5) Add kailan, turn heat up to medium-high, fry with 1 tbsp guk kanjang until wilted, about 2 minutes. Set aside.

6) Fry onions in 2 tsp canola oil and 2 tsp sesame oil, about 1 minute on medium-high heat.

7) Add 3 cloves garlic, toss through until fragrant, about 1 minute.

8) Fry seafood in 2 tsp canola oil, on medium-high heat with 1 tbsp guk kanjang until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Set aside.

9) Cook dangmyeon according to package instructions, in boiling dashi stock. Drain and set aside.

10) In the meantime, fry gochugaru with 3 cloves of garlic on low heat in 2 tsp canola oil and 2 tsp sesame oil.

11) Add cooked dangmyeon.

12) Add the sauce, toss through.

13) Add mushrooms, carrots, kailan, and onion-garlic that were pre-cooked and set aside earlier.

14) Toss through.

15) Add cooked seafood, and toss through.

16) Serve with a sprinkling of sesame seeds

Haemul Pajeon

Pajeon is a Korean pancake, or as the Hubs calls it, "Korean chai tow kway". Typically eaten during birthdays and festive periods, I thought I'd make Seafood Pajeon (or 'Haemul Pajeon') for the Hubs over the weekend. It wasn't his birthday, but I needed to make "restitution"; I'd accidentally whacked him with an iron at the range and felt awful about it.

You'll need a small frying pan, like those cute little tiny ones you use to fry up a single egg, together with a larger one, to cook this. This makes flipping the pancake over a tonne easier.

Those of the domestic goddess sort may want to make their own pancake batter, but because I'm far from ever being one, I took the shortcut and bought the ready-mix batter "bisquick" from koryo mart.

Ingredients (makes one of a 3.5"-wide pancake, and we ate about 2-3 pancakes each, so multiply accordingly):
2 tbsp pancake batter
2 large fresh Tiger prawns, diced into half
1 large fresh sea scallop, diced into 4 quarters (you can opt to use other seafood like clams, mussels, or squid, it's entirely up to you)
a handful of spring onions, sliced into 2"-lengths (I used about 20 spring onions lengths for each pancake)
1 tbsp of a beaten egg, salted
2 tsp canola oil
Optional: sliced de-seeded large fresh red chilli

Cho-Gochu-Jang Dip:
1 tbsp gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp sesame seeds

1) The pancake comes together really fast, so set everything out by the stove.

2) Using the small pan, fry spring onions in oil until it's all toasty, almost crispy, on medium heat, about 2 minutes. If you like it spicy, add a couple of sliced red chillis here.

3) Add batter, barely covering the spring onions. You don't want it too thick, so batter sparingly.

4) After about 30 seconds, dot the seafood on top of the pancake.

5) Add the egg, a thin layer will do, as it acts as a "binding agent" to keep the whole thing together. Turn the heat up to medium-high, leave the pancake bottom to brown, about another 3-4 minutes.

6) Pre-heat the big frying pan with 1 tbsp canola oil. In one smooth swift motion, turn the pancake in the small pan over, and into the big frying pan. Leave to brown, another 3-4 minutes on medium-high heat.

7) Serve with cho-gochujang dip.

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