Two of the three most recent cook books to cross my threshold have been:
Maangchi, Real Korean Cooking: Authentic Dishes for the Home Cook (2015)
Russ Crandall, Paleo Take Out: Restaurant Favorites without the Junk (2015)
(The third was a seafood cook book.)
I regret none of these purchases!
Crandall’s book is largely focused on Asian cuisine, and he’s got a Korean section. He’s traveled extensively, and has had some chef training, and a good sense of taste. While I don’t believe Korean food has been Americanized to the extent that Chinese food here has, he basically creates gluten-free, and more healthily-sweetened recipes from items which are often associated with “take-out”.
Maangchi was born in South Korea, and now lives in New York City, and has an engaging You Tube presence with many videos, which is great for watching techniques. Her book brings out many ideas for a wide range of food possibilities.
Both Russ Crandall and Maangchi tackle Korean Spinach Salad, with a few minor differences. Maangchi mentioned in her write-up that the salad prep method is effective with other vegetables, such as bok choy. The dish is a very common Korean side.
Bok choy was in my fridge. So… here we go, basing this on a combinations of ideas from both chefs!
One note before we get started — sesame oil (toasted or otherwise) is a MUST if you want this to taste right. No other oil brings in the same flavor profile.
Prep Time: 20 minutes. (I am counting blanching time in here.)
Rest Time: Eat immediately or serve after refrigeration — it lasts several days in the fridge.
Serves 4 as a side.
KOREAN SESAME BOK CHOY SALAD
* About 1 pound bok choy (this is about two full-sized bok choy plants)
* 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
* 2 scallions/green onions, peeled and de-rooted
* 1 tablespoon tamari (or coconut aminos)
* 1 teaspoon + 1/2 teaspoon (toasted or not toasted), divided.
* 2 teaspoons white sesame seeds (toasting is optional, see below)
* optional 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (Russ uses Korean red pepper powder, or he uses togarashi powder, neither of which I had. Maangchi leaves out the heat; her mains often have the heat!)
Get everything chopped up ahead of time. The garlic is as above.
For the bok choy: pull off any bad bits, chop off the stems, and for the thicker white part, chop in about 1 1/2 inch segments and set aside. This will cook longer than the leafy greens, which you will quickly blanch. Chop up the greens separately, and set aside.
For the scallions: cut the white bulb parts into 2 inch lengths, then cut them lengthwise about 3 times, holding each of these lengths together while cutting. Then, rotate 90 degrees, and cut them again, leaving you with nice slivers. For the leafy green tops, cut on a bias of 1 1/2 – 2 inches in length, then slice those in half lengthwise.
Boil water in a large enough pan to cook/blanch the bok choy.
When it is boiling, add the bok choy stems, make sure everything gets submerged.
Wait 40-45 seconds, add the bok choy greens, make sure everything gets submerged.
Wait 30 seconds, drain and run cold water over them in a colander to stop them cooking. Keep running the water and mix around with your hands. Then, drain thoroughly. Set aside.
Traditionally and authentically, now you add the tablespoon of oil, tamari, garlic, scallions and the optional red pepper flakes to a bowl, mix quickly, and then add all that well-drained bok choy. I opted however to saute the garlic in that other half-teaspoon of sesame oil, over medium high heat for 1.5 minutes before using — I figured this might mitigate a bit of “garlic breath”. If you do the latter, don’t let it even begin to brown, even if your minute and a half isn’t up.
Mixing is best accomplished with the hands.
At the end, add the sesame seeds over the top.
For toasted sesame seeds: Heat up a dry skillet to medium heat. Add in the seeds and watch carefully — they will turn brown fast. A nice tan is fine, black is not. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside the seeds until use.
For Spinach: If you do choose to use spinach instead of bok choy, do everything as above, but blanch the leafy greens for 30 seconds total. I’d recommend fresh over frozen in this dish.