I’m on vacation this week (you can follow our travels in pictures on instagram), and I’ve asked a number of up-and-coming natural foods bloggers to take my place and keep you completely sated with all sorts of mouthwatering recipes. This recipe comes from Sarah Atshan, who blogs at Nutrients You Fools! Hope you love it as much as I did. – Jenny
Korean soups and stews are some of my favorite dishes to eat. Like last meal favorite. I used to frequent local restaurants for my fix, but as I became more concerned with the quality of my food and discovered just how bad all the nasties in restaurant food were (MSG, rancid vegetable oils), I set out to learn how to create my own. I hope this recipe satisfies the cravings for fellow Korean soup addicts.
One of the many reasons I love this dish is because I can enjoy it year round. In the winter and fall, it is comforting and medicinal. In the spring and summer, it replenishes lost minerals. For that reason, this soup is very versatile – no matter the season, you can find vegetables that work. It also works well as an “empty the fridge” soup for any vegetables that haven’t gotten used up during the course of the week. (If you participate in CSA or farm share programs, you know exactly what I mean.)
Korean Pantry Essentials
There are just a few must haves and unfortunately no good substitutions. So get out there and find an Asian grocery store, and for those of you who don’t live near a good Asian grocer, you can typically order them online.
Korean red pepper paste (gochujang) – This is a spicy, savory, fermented product that should ideally only have 3 ingredients: red peppers, rice and salt. Today lots of companies add high fructose corn syrup, maltose, wheat, MSG and other stuff we don’t want. Look for a paste in a glass container and check the ingredients. Some Asian grocery stores have their own homemade versions sold in the refrigerated section that can work.
When you get your paste, take a tiny taste of it, as different brands have different heat levels. The heat level can even vary within brands at certain times of year. Tasting it before you cook with it will allow you to adjust the heat levels of your final dish. You can find Korean red pepper paste here.
Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru) – Look for a brand made in Korea and store it in the freezer between uses. Please avoid the temptation to replace gochugaru with cayenne powder, Mexican chile powders or even Thai chile powder. They are all very different flavors and aren’t interchangeable in this recipe. You can find Korean red pepper flakes here.
Fish sauce – I’m sure most of you know this ingredient very well. It’s a staple of Southeast Asian cooking. You should look for a brand that has simple ingredients. Anchovy, salt and sugar are the most a fish sauce should have. The small amount of sugar in the Thai fish sauce is of no concern since it’s fermented, so the live culture gobbles most of that up. You can find good quality traditionally fermented fish sauce here.
I went to the farmers market and the Asian grocery store this past weekend. Since I cook so often, it’s not unusual for me to walk out with a healthy dose of fresh produce. While I have included the produce I used to make this soup I encourage you to explore what’s in your neck of the woods. A good rule of thumb: include something green, something colorful, something earthy, and something astringent. I’ve also listed a range of amounts for the produce I used and optional vegetables. You can make this as veggie-ful as you like. I went for the full effect and they all added a great variety of texture and aromas to the broth.
Most Asian vegetables are easily found at farmers markets and standard grocery stores. But it’s worth it to explore the options available at an Asian grocery store. I like their mushroom selection and hard to find veggies like water dropwart (also known as Korean watercress or minari).
As for the fresh chiles in this recipe, know your limit. If you love spicy food (let’s hang out) then go for the three like me. But I won’t make fun of you if you deseed your chiles and I won’t even make fun of you if you skip all of them. Keep in mind we are using powdered chile powder and paste as well.
For this stew I like a mix of fish and shellfish. I head to to the fish market and see what looks good and fresh. Select a firm white fish (like snapper, grouper, rockfish, or even monkfish – though note monkfish would take a bit longer to cook). The tautog is delicious. They feed on crustaceans and their flesh has a light shellfish flavor. I would recommend shrimp with the head or at the very least with the shell. It adds a lot of flavor and nutrients to your soup. Note about clams – never use clams that are open or chipped. If opened, slightly tap against counter and if they don’t close up, then toss them. You also want to soak the clams in the fridge with fresh cold water for 20 minutes prior to cooking to help them purge any sand.
Where to Buy Sustainable Seafood
- 4 tablespoons lard (purchase it here)
- 1 small white onion, sliced thin
- 2 fresh red or green chiles, such as finger chiles
- 5 scallions, white portion sliced thin and green portion reserved
- ¾ tablespoon finely chopped ginger
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- 6 cups warm seafood broth (this is a good option, if you can't make your own)
- 1 tablespoon Korean red pepper flakes (available here)
- 1 tablespoon Korean red pepper paste (available here)
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce (available here)
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Unrefined sea salt, as needed
- 2 small young white radishes, preferably Korean or Daikon radish, sliced into ¼ inch thick coins
- 3 medium shiitake mushrooms, sliced ¼ inch thick
- 1 medium carrot, sliced into ¼ inch thick coins
- 1 handful enoki mushrooms, roots trimmed and separated
- 4 baby tatsoi
- 1 handful of pea shoots, if available
- ½ bunch of water dropwort or watercress, if available
- reserved scallion greens cut in to 2-inch pieces
- 1 pound firm white fish cut in to large chunks
- 1 pound shrimp
- 1 pound clams
- fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- fresh mung bean sprouts
- reserved sliced chile
- In a heavy pot, heat lard over medium-high heat until it melts. Add onion, sliced chile peppers, and sliced white scallion. Fry them gently in the hot fat, until they begin to brown slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Add garlic and ginger, stir continually until very aromatic, about 2 minutes. Take care not to let the aromatics burn. Ladle in warm broth, scraping up any bits of aromatics they may have accumulated on the bottom of the pan with your spoon. Bring to a light simmer, and add Korean pepper paste and flakes, fish sauce and honey. Stir, taste and add salt as needed. If it's a bit too spicy for you, tone it down with more honey.
- Bring broth to a boil and add radish, shiitake, carrots, enoki and baby tatsoi. Once at a boil, decrease the heat to its lowest setting, cover, and then let it cook about 15 minutes. We want the vegetables to soften and add flavor to the broth.
- Add the water dropwort or watercress, pea shoots and reserved green scallions. Bring back to a light simmer for 5 minutes, then lower the heat again.
- Add shrimp and clams, cover and allow clams to open, and then add fish chunks. Careful not to overcook the seafood. Once the seafood is cooked, taste one last time, making any necessary adjustments for spice and salt.
- Remove from heat, add garnishes, and serve with rice.
This seafood soup is traditionally served with a variety of banchan - traditional Korean sidedishes.