So, for the last year or so I have been experimenting with Asian cooking. Having grown up in a household where a stir-fry was about as Asian as the cooking got, and since I hated Asian food when I was a kid, I’ve had little first-hand interaction with the entire Asian world of food. Now that I’m older, though, the flavor profiles of Japanese and Korean food in particular have grabbed my attention, and I’ve been doing my best to re-create some of my favorite dishes.
My most recent attempt was to make a Korean beef rib main course called Kalbi Jjim (갈비찜). I was extremely excited to make it, and I spent most of the day Saturday to cook it (it’s cooked using a braising technique so it takes hours). Unfortunately for me, the butchers misunderstood my request as to how to cut the ribs, and so rather than cutting them in thirds they cut them for LA Kalbi, which means the meat was about 1/4 inch thick with tiny bones spaced throughout. I did realize before beginning to cook that this would be a problem, and normally I have a pretty good 6th sense about what to do in a food-crisis like that, but for whatever reason my brain deserted me this time. Rather than simply deciding to cook LA Kalbi (which would have made perfect sense and not been too difficult) I went ahead and cooked the meat Kalbi Jjim style. HUGE mistake – the meat taste fine but completely fell off the bones, and ended up resembling nothing so much as a dish of dog food. Ugh.
Thankfully the side dishes I prepared to go with the meat weren’t all terrible (although even those weren’t what I had hoped they would be), and the sweet Korean pancakes called hodduk (호떡) we made together after dinner were extremely tasty and nearly made up for it all. Also, my guests were ridiculously polite and managed to refrain from criticizing what I knew full well was a disastrous meal. Sometimes having Korean friends whose culture requires endless levels of kindness and flattery comes in handy, even if you do know it’s a lie!
Next time I think I’ll stick to cooking what I know. I need a successful dinner party after this one!
Addendum – I was just talking to a Korean friend of mine and she reassured me that I am not, after all, an idiot. She herself has apparently done the same thing at times. Still, though, I’m determined to make it the correct way next time and see what it’s supposed to be like when it’s done right!