Cookbook Tester: Quick and Easy Korean Cooking


Left: Sauteed eggplant; Right: Spicy buckwheat noodles topped with boolgogi

Quality, accessible, authentic Korean cookbooks are hard to come by. Ably filling that gap is Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee’s Quick and Easy Korean Cooking, which just came out in March. It’s filled with more than 70 recipes, most of which only call for about six ingredients.

If you’re skeptical that such simple recipes can produce the flavor bombs that are Korean dishes, know that three recipes were tested, and all worked perfectly as written. Each one was lively with the flavors of garlic, chiles, soy sauce, and sesame.

Since the recipe for spicy buckwheat noodles (bibim naengymeon) noted that one could top the dish with slices of beef, a try-out of the seasoned sliced beef (boolgogi) seemed appropriate. Add in the sauteed eggplant banchan (gaji namool), and you’ve got yourself a feast out of proportion with the small effort it took to make it.

Sauteed Eggplant
(Gaji Namool)
Yield: 5 or 6 small appetizer (banchan) servings
From Quick and Easy Korean Cooking by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 medium Asian eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch thick strips, 2 to 3 inches long
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1 green onion, chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Korean chile powder
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, crushed

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the vegetable oil. Add the garlic and the eggplant, and stir-fry until the eggplants are limp and starting to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the sesame oil, green onion, soy sauce, and chile powder, and stir-fry for another minute or so. Remove from the heat.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve either warm or at room temperature.

Spicy Buckwheat Noodles

(Bibim Naengymeon)
Yield: 4 servings
From Quick and Easy Korean Cooking by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee. Keep in mind that you can sub out the eggs for slices of beef (or use both). If you don’t have Korean-made buckwheat noodles, just use Japanese soba noodles.

2 pounds Korean buckwheat noodles
1 small pickling cucumber, grated or julienned
2 large eggs, hard-boiled, peeled, and halved
vinegar chile sauce, recipe below

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the noodles, and cook the dried noodles for 3 to 5 minutes. If using frozen or refrigerated noodles, cook for 2 minutes, taking care not to overcook them. Rinse under cold water and drain.

Divide the noodles equally among 4 bowls. Top each bowl with some cucumber and half of a hard boiled egg [or beef slices]. Serve with vinegar chile sauce, letting each person add it to their taste, and mixing as they eat.

Vinegar Chile Sauce
(Cho Gochujang)
From Quick and Easy Korean Cooking by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee

4 tablespoons Korean chile paste (gochujang)
4 tablespoons white, cider, or rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Sauce will keep in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for about 1 week.

Seasoned Sliced Beef
Yield: 5 or 6 servings
From Quick and Easy Korean Cooking by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee

2 pounds rib-eye or other tender beef, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 bulb garlic, minced
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
toasted sesame seeds for garnish

In a bowl, combine the beef with the soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and garlic. Marinate for about 30 minutes (or up to overnight, if you like).

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef, and stir-fry until browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the black pepper and green onions, and cook until the onions are slightly limp, but still retain their color, 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve immediately.