Category: Korean (Page 2 of 4)

That Time I Was On The Radio & A Recipe For Korean Tofu-Pork Patties

Cooking Korean food in North Iowa is often an adventure.

This weekend, Twin Cities food critic, James Beard award-winning writer and author Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl invited me to pop into her radio show/podcast Off the Menu to talk about food and community in North Iowa. She is one of the first food writers I ever followed and her writing inspired me to be curious about exploring our local dining scene. The invitation was very much an honor.

I felt like a North Iowan ambassador. We discussed ham balls, the low ceilings in the Frank Lloyd Wright hotel, Greek influence on our culinary scene, Casey’s gas station breakfast pizza, and North Iowa blogging community. You can actually download the podcast on iTunes later this week.


Our conversation made me reflect upon the challenges that arise from having access to a smaller variety of multicultural grocery stores and food products.

On one hand, I can’t just make Pad Thai or vegetable korma on a whim. Obtaining the ingredients to make these dishes requires enough forethought to grow the ingredients (such as Thai basil) or purchase them online or while visiting a bigger city. Don’t try to find tamarind paste here, it’s basically impossible. On the plus side, I’ve learned how to be more creative and replicate certain flavors with the ingredients that I can find.

We may not have an Asian market or Indian restaurant in town, but friends continue to eagerly introduce me to their favorite food traditions and restaurants. Ham balls, pork burgers, pork tenderloins, loose meat sandwiches, old school supper clubs like Half Moon Inn in Clear Lake, Iowa, gas station breakfast pizza, it’s all been fun. As Deb Brown, the Executive Director of the Webster City Chamber of Commerce said, “We make magic out of small towns because we have to.”

Here’s a simple recipe for pork-tofu patties. I riffed on a recipe from The Korean Kitchen: Classic Recipes from the Land of the Morning CalmI served the patties with a soy sauce dip, marinated zucchini strips, steamed rice, and kimchi.

Korean Pork-Tofu Patties
Adapted from the recipe for Gogi Chun (Bean Curd and Pork Patties) from The Korean Kitchen: Classic Recipes from the Land of the Morning Calm 


1 package of firm tofu. Crumble, squeeze out in towel
1/2 pound ground pork
1 egg
Handful of finely diced onion
1 clove of garlic, minced or grated
1/3 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
Panko break crumbs. Enough to bind mixture, about 1/2 cup.

Dipping sauce:
Soy sauce
Grated ginger
Crushed garlic clove
Brown sugar


  1. Remove tofu from package. Crumble with your hands. Wrap tofu crumble in a clean towel and squeeze out excess water.
  2. In a large bowl, combine crumbled and drained tofu with ground pork, one egg, handful of minced onion, minced garlic, salt and pepper.
  3. Add enough breadcrumbs to bind the mixture. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes before adding more breadcrumbs. It will tighten up as the breadcrumbs absorb the moisture.
  4. Form into small patties.
  5. Fry on each side in a thin layer of hot vegetable oil (I used peanut) until the pork is cooked through. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in the oven on a cooling rack set on a sheet pan until you are ready to serve.
  6. To prepare the dipping sauce, season soy sauce with grated ginger, crushed garlic, brown sugar and vinegar. I did not have rice wine vinegar, so I used a splash of plain vinegar.

Recipe: Gingery Korean Beef

I’m mad about bulgogi.

For picky eaters, it’s probably the “safest” dish people can order at a Korean restaurant. There’s really nothing to dislike about thin slices of beef cooked in a sweet and savory soy-based sauce. It’s kind of like chicken teriyaki. My family occasionally visits Dong Yang in Colombia Heights, MN, and, while the rest of us go for spicy squid or seafood pancakes, my dad always orders beef bulgogi. I’d totally make fun of him if beef bulgogi wasn’t so delicious.

Back when I was a new college grad living in a little studio apartment in Uptown (Minneapolis), this was my favorite meal to prepare. I’d also make a big batch of cream cheese wontons that I’d enjoy with the leftover beef over the course of the week. Now that I have to share with Jake, the leftovers don’t go quite as far these days. This makes this meal even more of a treat, I suppose.

My batch of Korean beef tasted especially delicious because I prepared it with beef raised on Sugar Creek Farm located in the neighboring town of Osage, Iowa. The wontons pictured below are baked, but you can also try the steam-fry method.


Gingery Korean Beef
I always wing this dish, so the measurements are not exact. Don’t worry because you really can’t go wrong with this combination of flavors. Plus, you can adjust the seasoning after the beef is cooked by adding more soy or honey. Just go easy on the sesame oil because too much can overpower a dish. 


About 1 lb. of steak (I used two small ribeyes)
Soy sauce or tamari
1 small onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
Honey or brown sugar
1 clove garlic, grated
Fresh ginger, grated (about a teaspoon)
Black pepper, to taste
Rice wine vinegar, a splash (or whatever you have)
Toasted sesame oil
Optional: Cayenne, rushed red pepper or fresh chili.
1 package of mushrooms, large ones quartered, small ones halved
Sesame seeds


  1. Trim steaks of excess fat (I leave a little for flavor). Slice thinly, against the grain.
  2. Place steak in a plastic or glass container. Drizzle with enough soy sauce to coat the slices of meat.
  3. Add the slices of onion, a drizzle or two of honey, grated garlic, grated ginger and as much black pepper as you’d like.
  4. Add a splash of rice wine vinegar, a small drizzle of sesame oil, a small drizzle of vegetable oil (I like peanut) and cayenne.
  5. Marinate in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or longer.
  6. When it’s time prepare your meal, remove beef from the refrigerator and set aside on the counter.
  7. Saute mushrooms in a large skillet over medium heat in some vegetable oil. Season with a little salt. When the mushrooms are cooked, set aside.
  8. Add a little more oil to the same pan and cook your marinated beef and onions. When the beef’s halfway cooked, add the mushrooms back to the beef.
  9. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve with steamed rice and your favorite vegetable.

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Grilled Korean Chicken Sandwiches For Two

White meat or dark meat?

Jake and I differ in our preferences. While Jake is far from a picky eater, he prefers boneless skinless chicken breast while I prefer the drumsticks and thighs. I often find boneless skinless chicken breasts inedibly dry unless they are heavily marinated or fried.

One evening, Jake asked me if I could make a Korean version of a blackened chicken sandwich with the gochojang I brought back from United Noodles in Minneapolis, MN. Gochujang is a fermented chili-soybean paste that’s frequently used in Korean cooking. It’s widely available in most Asian grocery stores.


This spicy chili paste is intensely flavored and adds a Korean flavor to any dish. I’ve used spoonfuls of gochujang to season fried rice, ramen noodles, beans & rice, and short ribs. I am dreaming of more gochujang possibilities like chicken wings or a spicy gochujang-mayo. Maybe gochujang will become the next Sriracha.

The marinated chicken in our sandwiches tasted more like a Korean twist on teriyaki than anything blackened, but dinner a success. I soaked the chicken in the marinade for four hours. This process helped it remain juicy and flavorful after we cooked it on our little Foreman grill.

Korean Chicken Sandwich

Garnish your grilled chicken sandwiches with lettuce, tomato and red onion and a little mayonnaise. This combination may sound a little strange, but will hit all of your favorite sweet, savory, and spicy notes.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (our pack contained three)
Soy sauce, enough to coat the chicken breasts
Brown sugar or honey, a little less than the amount of soy sauce used
Sesame oil, a small drizzle
1 clove grated garlic
Grated ginger with the juice, about a teaspoon
Black pepper
Gouchujang paste, about one tablespoon
Garnishes: Lettuce, tomato, onion, mayonnaise


  1. Place the chicken breasts in a ziplock bag.
  2. Add the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, black pepper, and gochujang.
  3. Squish the bag together so that the marinade combine and coats the chicken. You can also whisk the marinade in a bowl first and then marinate the chicken in a container. Allow the chicken to marinate for several hours or a day.
  4. Grill the chicken breasts and create a sandwich with your favorite garnishes.

Three Thanksgiving Weekend Bites: Seafood Pancake, Biscuit Sandwich & M Burger

The Mr. and I spent the past holiday weekend in the Twin Cities with our families who made sure we were happy, full, and warm.

Between home-cooked meals of roasted turkey, sweet potatoes made every which way, and kielbasa-flecked stuffing, we grabbed a few memorable bites.

1.  Seafood Pa Jun, Dong Yang, Colombia Heights, MN

I last wrote about Dong Yang last March. We returned and shared a notably fresh spread of banchan,  spicy pork stir fry, and seafood pa jun.

Koreans make delightfully savory pancakes. Before there was Jake, I used to treat myself to Dong Yang’s seafood pancakes. On my very first visit, back when the menu was written in Korean on sheets of dangling construction paper, I saw my first seafood pa jun. I curiously watched a table of friends delicately dab the fluffy squares in a scallion-soy sauce. Then, I ordered one for myself. 
This pancake is thick. It’s stuffed with lengths of scallion and seafood that may include any combination of clams, shrimp, crunchy octopus and/or calamari. Sure, the pancake can be a little doughy in spots and it’s slightly oily exterior will remind you it’s been pan-fried, but I really like this seafood pancake and return for it time and and time again.
The service is like the best kind of stern Korean grandmothering. Just don’t try to pay with an American Express card and remember to bus your own dishes. If you are lucky, you may still get hollered at (on this visit, it was “Don’t bother! Don’t bother!” when I tried to bus my dishes). Totally worth it for our favorite Korean food in the Twin Cities. 
2.  Basic Biscuit Sandwich, Sun Street Breads, Minneapolis, MN

I learned that $5.25 can buy the most delightful biscuit sandwich.

I chose a simple sandwich of ham and white cheddar while Jake splurged on the addition of a runny egg. The amply-sized biscuit was light and fluffy on the interior, and its exterior was crusty enough to provide support and structure. Somehow, the sandwich tasted light and never ended up feeling too rich. I ran my biscuit through the runny egg that dripped on Jake’s sandwich wrapper until he noticed.

3. The M Burger, Mezzaluna, Fargo, ND

The M Burger appears on my list of favorite Fargo things.

Especially at happy hour, when the M Burger and tots only cost $7. Mezzaluna describes their burger as house-ground, and I believe them. The meat is course and arrives medium rare. It’s served on a griddled bun and accompanied by grilled onions and thick slices of sweet pickle that please even those of us who don’t usually enjoy sweet pickles. On our first visit, the burger tasted of a mysterious steak sauce and on the second, was served with dill Havarti cheese.

The tots aren’t bad either. Crisp and savory. Did I taste the funk of truffle oil? My favorite burger in Fargo and possibly anywhere. 

Return To The Green Market

At the very end of August, we treated ourselves to dinner at Green Market Kitchen with friends.

We last dined at The Green Market not quite a year ago when we tried their special Dia De Los Muertos-inspired menu.  On our most recent visit, the Green Market featured a menu made with produce from the local Probstfield farm.

Probstfield Farm is a part of the Probstfield Living History Foundation, donated by Randolph Probstfield’s family to avoid falling to commercial development.  It is currently being restored as a working farm that provides opportunities for new farmers to learn and be mentored in sustainable agriculture.  This summer, the farm has been selling its produce at the Old Trail Market in Moorhead, MN.  When I visited the market, I chose from tomatoes of all sizes, eggplants, shapely squashes, and melons.

I stopped at Cash Wise, afterwards, to pick up some pantry essentials and couldn’t help but feel sad for those who were picking over a selection of melons grown from a far.

The Green Market seems to be one of a few in Fargo-Moorhead that sources local products and offers a menu based upon what’s fresh and seasonal.  Of the area’s restaurants that do offer a seasonal menu, Green Market’s menu differs day to day.

We split this vibrant cheese plate, $15, while the co-owner picked out a mean red wine to go with our meals (and mean is good).  Please take away my laptop if I start describing food as “bananas.”

This was my favorite cheese plate I have tried, thus far.  I don’t remember the exact cheese selections, but they ranged from a lush triple creme brie to Gorgonzola dolce to crumbly cheddar.  The plate was sprinkled with micro greens, dried and fresh fruits, and sweet cubes of quince paste.  We scooped up the contents of this plate with a thoughtful selection of focaccia, crostini, and flax seed crackers.  Cheeses are also available for purchase from the restaurant’s small deli case.
We also nibbled from a plate of smokey baba ganoush and slightly spicy green beans in a tomato sauce, garnished with olives, giant capers, and more breads. 
Jake ordered a cup of beef soup and the ND 28 day-dry aged beef burger on foccacia with cheese, $12.   
The soup’s broth was round and subtly sweet, containing pulled beef and crisp bites of corn.  My only small quibble is that the beef had a little more bite than I’d prefer.

Jake’s burger was served on toasted focaccia.  We enjoyed the burger patty’s beefier than average flavor.  Plus, it was juicy and cooked to medium rare. 

The adopted Koreans chose the Korean chicken.
The boneless chicken pieces were tender and moist.  Even the breast meat, which I usually avoid since it’s usually dry.  This chicken tasted like it had been brined and a thin layer of crispy chicken skin sat on top.  The sauce was a little bit sweet and nutty with sesame.  The heat level was slightly spicy.  I could have used more heat, but I can usually use more heat.  Overall, the dish was a fun interpretation of Korean flavors.  
The Koreans liked the Korean chicken. 
Last, we all shared a couple orders of this sweet corn cake with ice cream and caramel sauce.  The cake was light in texture and just sweet enough.  Chewy kernels of corn dotted the cake.  We also enjoyed the caramel sauce that was also sweet enough with a slightly bitter note.  I’m not typically one who leaves room for dessert, but I know that I ate more than my fair share.  
This Sunday, September 16th, 2 p.m., the Green Market is hosting a fundraiser to raise money to restore the Probstfield family’s original log cabin, which is possibly the oldest structure in the Red River Valley.  Bernie’s Wines & Liquors is donating wine while the Green Market is providing cheese and fruit platters.  I’m honored to be among a few others who will briefly speak about the farm, herbs, and food blogging.  Join us if you can.
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