Sura - Providence, RI

A quick post about this spot in Providence, RI we came across while walking around. If you know anything about me, I get that itch for some comfort food while I'm on the road. While I'm all for some bacon mac and cheese, nothing can replace my craving for some good ole Korean food. Sura, fit the bill for some good ole deliciousness.

What is "bibimbap"? It's rice topped with all sorts of goodies from spinach, roots of various kinds, some sort of protein, and an egg. Then you pour over it a sweet and spicy pepper sauce. It's a great one bowl meal.


Recipes: Mama Kwon's Kimchi Fried Rice (김치 볶음밥)

Mom was over at the house yesterday and I couldn't resist having her make me some kimchi fried rice before she left. She explained to me that kimchi fried rice is a dish that everyone loves in Korea. It is a dish probably originated, yet again, in the poorer communities of a way of using up every bit of resource. Kimchi is a fermented cabbage that has iconic state in Korea. There are hundreds of different permutations of the side dish, and every family has their own recipe.

Unfortunately, I don't have the space or time (or permission) to post mama Kwon's kimchi recipe, but I can post this simple recipe for when your stash of kimchi goes past it's prime.

Behchu kimchi (napa cabbage kimchi) is what we're working with here. Kimchi has several stages in it's life cycle. Once it's past it's prime is when there are a couple things you do with it. Make kimchi chigeh (kimchi stew) or make kimchi bokumbap (kimchi fried rice). The dish centers around this over fermented kimchi, and some sort of protein.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

1 lb over fermented kimchi
1/2 lb chicken, beef, pork, or tofu (any protein will work)
4 cups day old steamed jasmine or Korean medium grain rice
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

1 egg per person

Start by cutting up the protein into small half inch cubes removing all the fat and connective tissue. Next chop up the kimchi to small chunks as well, and set both aside. Bring a large frying pan to medium high heat, and add the oil and protein. Cook through. Add the kimchi, and stir fry all of it together for about 2 minutes. Add the cold rice, and incorporate into the kimchi/protein mixture. Stir fry for several minutes until the rice is heated through. Remove the pan from the heat, drizzle the sesame oil over the rice, stir, and eat right away, or heat up another frying pan to fry up your egg. The egg isn't essential to the dish, but is totally worth it.

Bon Appétit!
많이 드세요
-Joe Kwon

Some of you may be asking where to get said ingredients. Well if you find your local korean market you can find both toasted sesame oil as well as kimchi. Make sure you're buying the right kind of kimchi though. There are more than you can imagine.

A festive meal

This is a composite of our family's Thanksgiving meal of 2011. I know it's a little late, but I often get the questions "What is a traditional Korean Thanksgiving meal like?" so I hope this satiates that query. You can see it's a mix of western and eastern foods. All of it delicious, not only because of the food, but mostly because of the company that comes along with it.

Joe Kwon

Recipe: Braised Tofu?

I found it difficult to name this dish because I don't know what the actual translation would be of the Korean word. For all your speakers out there this is my version of 두부 조림.

I took a sort of Japanese take on one of my favorite Korean side dishes. The process takes a while but it's not difficult at all. If you've never been a big fan of tofu then this is definitely the way to try it.

Prep Time: 40 minutes
Rest Time: 6 hours
Cook Time: 10 minutes

1 pack firm tofu
3 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp high quality soy sauce
2 cloves of garlic
1 green onion some reserved for garnish
a dash of toasted sesame oil
red pepper flakes or sriracha to taste

The reason this dish takes as long as it does is that you have to remove as much water from the tofu as possible. I do this by taking the whole block of tofu with paper towels on both sides and putting it between two cutting boards with a can of tomatoes on top for at least 30 minutes to an hour.

That's it for now, just let it rest and you can get the rest of the ingredients ready. Coursely chop up the garlic and makes little rounds with the green onion. Put the soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and green onion along with 1 tablespoon of water into a small bowl and set it aside, you'll be using this later.

Remove the tofu and cut it in half making two blocks of tofu the same size as the original piece just half as thin. Now cut those in half width wise and making 4 smaller rectangles. Now cut those four pieces in half again making 8 pieces. Now cut along a diagonal making 16 triangles. Shoot me a message if that doesn't make sense. Pretty much just try to make the shape I have in the picture.

Now put the canola oil in a nice non stick pan or well seasoned cast iron and bring it up to heat on medium heat and drop in the tofu all on the same side. You may have to work in batches. Evenly brown all 5 sides of your triangles and remove the tofu onto a plate and let them cool to room temperature.

The last and final step is the part that I guess is like a quick braise. I know that's kind of an oxymoron but I just don't know what I'd call it. In a medium sauce pan make a layer of tofu with your fried tofu and spoon over your soy mixture from before. Now put another layer of fried tofu on top of that and spoon over some more of your soy mixture. Repeat this process until you've put all your tofu in the sauce pan and you have used up all your soy mixture. Now put the pan on the stove on medium heat and heat the tofu through spooning the mixture over top of the tofu from the bottom of the pan. 10 minutes later you'll have a nice salty/spicy tofu dish that'll be great with a side of rice and kimchee!

Hope you like the dish. It's a bit much for some tofu but I find pleasure in the dishes that take me a long time to make.
--Joe Kwon

Local Eats: China Express - Durham, NC

짜장면 - Jjajangmyeon - Noodles in Black Bean Sauce
Between China Express and Thai China I don't think there is a more frequented restaurant for me, Em, and my cousins. We love these "comfort foods" and we love that they are in our town.

Jjajangmyeon is a dish I remember eating as a child and loving instantly. I can't remember the first time I had it but I remember being a kid and finishing my noodles and adding rice to the black bean sauce. The dish isn't much for looks but it's a huge punch in the face of flavor. Salty, earty, and smooth, that's about the best way to describe it. The flavor is very unique, so it's impossible to describe it well. The black bean sauce is obviously the highlight of the dish so it has to be prepared just right. I'll make sure to post a recipe sometime soon for this dish. In the mean time, try to find it in your area!

짬뽕 - Korean-Style Jampong - Spicy Noodle Soup
It's rare that I will go on tour and I will not start craving some good "jampong." It may be one of those ultimate comfort foods for Koreans. It's spicy, it's full of vegetables, it's very filling, and it's cheap. I've eaten this dish at a LOT of restaurants all around the country, and outside of mom making this for me at home, this is the best I've found.

Jampong is a spicy noodle dish that is usually based around a beef or seafood broth. The rich flavors of the broth are enough to cut through the spice from the peppers. A good jampong will have chewy noodles, scalding broth, a generous amount of peppery spice, and a lot of vegetables/protein. Without all of these facets the dish is just not accomplished.

Chinese-style Jampong
The Chinese style of this dish is a bit different. The broth is lighter in color and tastes a little sweeter as well. I often bounce between these two styles a lot to change it up but lately I've found the subtleties of this dish appealing. However, on a deserted island, if I could only take one of these dishes it'd be the Korean style.

깐풍기 Kamponggi - Sweet and Spicy Chicken
This dish is one I remember I'd get as a treat. It takes too much preparation and makes too much of a mess to make it all the time, but my mom would make it for me for my birthday or for special events. It's not terribly difficult, just timing consuming. The sauce is based with soy, sugar/honey, red peppers, and toasted sesame oil, a common combination of flavors for Korean cuisine. It's sweet and spicy in all the right ways.

Anyways, go check this place out. I'd say tell them I sent you, but as many times as I've visited they seem to never remember me. Oh yeah, that reminds me. Don't expect any nice decor or service in a place like this. China Express solely stays open because they offer dishes that the clientele come back for regardless of looks or treatment.

--Joe Kwon

If you want more info on China Express click here.

Seoul Garden - Midwest City, OK

This place is located about a quarter mile from where we were playing and I'm gonna be completely honest, but the first time I went to Seoul Garden I didn't like their food. Back a couple of years ago, Justin and I were driving across the country from CA to NC and one of our stops happened to be Midwest City, OK. I didn't realize this of course until I went to Seoul Garden again today and recognized the plain interior design. I almost didn't go in today. I was so turned off the first time I thought to myself I better not even waste my time. Ban Chan are little side dishes that come with all Korean meals. They differ from day to day. Lucky me I chose that some Korean food is better than none. Much to my surprise Seoul Garden has stepped up their game. My experience today was much different from two years ago. The banchan was tastey, the bibimbap was hot and perfectly caramelized. It was like down home cooking for under 7 dollars an entree. How on earth did this happen? I guess it doesn't really matter. What does matter is that I got my fill of comfort food today. So I left happy and full!

Dolsot Bibimbap is a rice dish with assorted veggies and meat in a stone bowl that is heated to a very high temperature.

Do not go to this place expecting nice decor and ambience. It's about as charming as a grocery store. I must say though I'm quite partial to places that lack decor. It means instead of paying for two large terra cotta horses in the front of a restaurant, you're saving money on the food. There it is folks. One of my secrets for finding cheap dining. The less ambience, the cheaper the food(and sometimes better the food).


For more info click here.

Recipe: Galbi (Korean BBQ Short Ribs)

Galbi - Korean style BBQ Short Ribs

5 lbs beef short ribs
10 tblsp sugar
3/4 c soy sauce
1/2 onion finely minced
2 stalks green onion diced
8 cloves of garlic
2 tblsp toasted sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste

This is one of those "last meal" dishes that I grew up with. My momma would make this for me during college because it keeps so well in the freezer and is so simple to finish off. The best way to finish this dish is on the grill but if you don't have access or permission just plop it in a frying pan and cook it through.
Photo courtesy of Leon Godwin.

I highly recommend using as high a quality ingredient you can find when you're cooking at home. For starters it makes for a pleasurable experience, and more importantly it makes for tastier food to get the freshest ingredients. So for that reason I don't ever buy pre-minced garlic or dry herbs and spices.

Start by peeling and mincing the garlic and onion. In a small mixing bowl or cup combine soy sauce, 5 tbls sugar, sesame oil, green onion, half the minced garlic, half the minced onion and mix well. Let the marinade sit for a bit and in the mean time lay out the spare ribs in a large dish and evenly distribute the sugar, salt, and pepper on all the ribs. Layer in the left over onion and garlic and then let the beef sit. After 15 minutes pour the marinade over the beef coating each piece and let it sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before grilling. Grill to a nice medium and serve with short grain rice and kimchi. Enjoy!

I love garlic!
Photo courtesy of Leon Godwin.

Put your onions in the fridge an hour before you are going to cut them. This will reduce the tear factor. Photo courtesy of Leon Godwin.

Short ribs are fatty cuts of flavorful meat.
Photo courtesy of Leon Godwin.

Photo courtesy of Leon Godwin.

Now's a good time to get your rice ready and to turn on that grill. I use a high quality japanese rice that you can find in most asian supermarkets. I like to wash the rice at least three times (till the rinse water runs clear). Making rice is a difficult task so don't be discouraged if your it doesn't turn out perfect the first time.
Photo courtesy of Leon Godwin.

When the rice is almost done cooking you can start grilling up the meat. Short ribs don't take a long time so watch them carefully to make sure they're not drying out too much.
Photo courtesy of Leon Godwin.

Doesn't that just look divine!
Photo courtesy of Leon Godwin.