Korean Kimchi Stew with Canned Tuna and Tofu

tunastewpNot so long ago putting canned tuna into a soup would have never crossed my mind. Yet, together with “scary” tofu and matured, very sour kimchi, it creates one of the most delicious and quickest soups I know. No wonder I now make it sometimes twice a week!

I first heard about this kimchi stew from my friend C.. I must say the first time I read “tuna”, I understood raw fish and found it very surprising its canned version was involved, but my friend was so enthusiastic, I decided to try it as soon as possible. The result has exceeded all my expectations (which, given my friend’s sophisticated taste, were quite high already…). The flavours are so complex, you will find it difficult to believe there is no stock and chilli flakes as the only – moreover optional – seasoning. The canned tuna brings something “meaty” but also slightly fishy (in the positive sense of the word), while the tofu mellows all the flavours and becomes – at least in my opinion – an obligatory ingredient. In short, the mixture of ingredients is just perfect.

If you have never tasted kimchi (김치), it is a Korean preparation of seasoned fermented vegetables, the most popular being Napa (Chinese) cabbage and daikon (white long radish). Apart from the fiery kimchi there is also a mild, chilli-free version, which is however less popular. Kimchi has a very powerful smell, but once you taste it and love it, the smell will never be associated with anything unpleasant (my fellow cheese fans, think here about smelly matured cheese!). It is spicy, hot, sour and, like most fermented vegetable preparations, very healthy. High in fiber, low in calories and fat, it is packed with vitamin C (thanks to the fermentation) and carotene. It also contains several other vitamins, helps digestion, is said to prevent certain cancers… In short: it’s wonder food. Its importance in the Korean cuisine cannot be compared to anything in any European food culture I know.

Kimchi is not only eaten as a side dish, but also – especially at the mature, “older” stage  – put into warm dishes, for example fried rice or… soups. If you have only “young” kimchi, you can also prepare this soup, but older, very sour and strong kimchi will definitely be better here. I have been making kimchi for several years now and – since I prepare the “lazy”, easier version – I consider it one of the easiest things in the world. I no longer weigh or count the ingredients, adding them at random and the result is always delicious, the best flavours being obtained with very fresh and firm vegetables. Here you can see my adventures with Kkakdugi 깍두기, or Cubed Radish Kimchi and Mak Kimchi, or Easy Chinese Cabbage Kimchi)

Going back to the stew, or “kimchi jjigae/chigae”, its traditional version is made with pork and tofu, but of course canned tuna is a perfect emergency, last minute substitution and suits so well this dish, for now I am not tempted yet to try it with pork. Among the numerous sources for this popular recipe I chose the infallible Food and Cooking of Korea by Young Jin Song, one of my best buys among cookery books. I have skipped the shiitake mushrooms and adapted the amounts to a dish for one, so I encourage you to check this fantastic book for the original version. As my own – maybe also crazy – touch, I have sprinkled the bowlful of soup with raw red chilli slices for a fresh additional hot kick. I also like a splash (about one teaspoon per person) of toasted sesame oil added just before serving.


I have chosen to use water here, but the author gives also vegetable stock as an alternative. In my opinion kimchi is so rich with flavours, no stock is necessary, but feel free to substitute with good quality stock, if you have it.

Whether you add chilli flakes or not depends on how hot your kimchi is and of course on your preferences. Apart from the heat, chilli flakes add a beautiful hue and more taste too, so if you like fiery dishes, don’t skip them.

Preparation: about 20 minutes

Ingredients (serves 1):

half a can of tuna (about 60g, drained; I prefer by far the white albacore tuna, but any canned tuna is ok)

1 small garlic clove, chopped

1 teaspoon oil (sesame oil is the best here)

250 ml (about 1 cup) loosely packed, matured Chinese cabbage kimchi, cut into bite-sized pieces + some kimchi juice (I have added about 50 ml)

about 50-60 g (about 1.8-2 oz) firm tofu

Korean medium-hot chilli flakes (skip them if your kimchi is very hot or if you don’t like very hot dishes)

300 ml/ about 10 fl oz water

chopped green onion

(fresh red chilli to garnish, sesame oil)

Drain the tuna and cut up into several pieces (don’t shred it).

Stir-fry the tuna and garlic in sesame oil for 30 seconds.

Add the kimchi (and chilli flakes, if using) and stir-fry it for one more minute.

Add the water, the tofu and simmer the stew for 10-15 minutes.

Sprinkle with green onions and serve. (You may also sprinkle it with fresh red chilli slices and with a splash of sesame oil).

Serve either with bread or steamed rice.

Korean Dried Radish in Spicy Sauce (무말랭이무침)

radishkIn my previous post I have scared or disgusted some of you with black pudding, so now how about seasoned worms? Seriously, this is the first thing I thought while browsing through my photographs… I hope you will believe me these are not animals, but a seriously addictive, utterly delicious dried radish dish, laced in typically Korean hot and sweet sauce.

As you might remember, I am a regular pickler and, in general, a big food preserving enthusiast. Obviously, summer and autumn are the busiest seasons for this activity, but winter is the perfect time to dry fruits and vegetables. You put or hang them close to a source of heat (or leave in a hardly warm oven) and you obtain a homemade delicious product, often saving wrinkled, dying produce from the bin. I have been drying apples, pears and mushrooms for years, preparing my own dry mixture of vegetables for chicken stock… but without Hiroyuki’s blog I would have never even considered doing the same with daikon. I am glad I did because Pickled Dried Daikon (Harihari zuke) proved so delicious, I make sure I always have some dried radish. Now I have another, this time Korean, reason to dry more daikon!

Since I am particularly fond of the chewy and slightly crunchy texture of rehydrated dried radish, I was thrilled to discover a new way to prepare it. The result is so addictive, I feel like having it for every single meal of the day (including breakfast). Hot and sweet flavours with a garlicky kick, combined with the unique texture of dried daikon create one of the best side dishes or vegetable snacks I have ever tasted. If you also appreciate chewiness in food, as well as a mixture of sweet & hot flavours, you will not be disappointed. This dish alone is worth preparing your own dried radish.

I have found this recipe at the wonderful Maangchi’s blog, highly recommended to all those who already know and “practice” Korean cuisine or those who are simply intrigued by it. Maangchi’s delicious and foolproof recipes are also filmed, so you can choose the form you prefer. This radish treat (Mumallaengi-muchim 무말랭이무침) is one of many Maangchi’s banchan (Korean side dishes), which are quite versatile and can also be served with other Asian dishes or as drink snacks. As Maangchi suggests, since it’s quick to prepare and has some of kimchi ingredients, you can serve it instead of kimchi, if you have run out of it. I simply have it with everything… Steam some rice, put a fried egg on top, add some of this radish and you obtain a fantastic meal!

I have slightly modified Maangchi’s recipe, mainly adjusting the balance of sweet & hot flavours to my own preferences. I have also soaked the radish a bit longer because mine was horribly dry. I have changed the amounts, adapting them to my stock of dried radish. Check Maangchi’s original recipe here.


Click here to see how to dry radish and how to prepare the Japanese radish pickles.

If you buy dried daikon, soak it in water 7-8 minutes, just like Maangchi advises. If you have dried it on your own, soak it, tasting every ten minutes until the texture is soft enough to be eaten. (It took me 30 minutes to obtain an edible degree of softness). In general, I advise tasting the radish strips every now and then until you like the texture (some people prefer chewier food, some softer).

Preparation: 20-30 minutes

Ingredients (yields approximatively a 250 ml jar):

2 big handfuls of dried radish strips

1 teaspoon oil

2 tablespoons Korean chilli powder (or other medium hot chilli powder) or more

2 tablespoons delicately flavoured honey, such as acacia (or sweet syrup, such as corn or agave or, as Maangchi suggests, rice syrup)

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 green onion, chopped (I didn’t have green onion and used chives instead)

1 big garlic clove, grated or crushed 

Soak the radish in a bowl of cold water.

Maangchi advises 7-8 minutes only, but she uses bought dried radish, which is maybe not so dry…

Mine was particularly tough, so I soaked it for 20 minutes, until it was possible to eat.

(Check the TIPS above).

In the meantime in another big bowl combine all the sauce ingredients.

Taste the sauce and adjust the heat, the saltiness or the sweetness to your preferences.

The sauce should be most of all sweet and hot, and a bit salty.

Drain well the radish on a sieve and squeeze well.

Heat the oil in a pan. Stir-fry the radish for one minute.

Combine with the sauce.

Serve immediately or refrigerate and keep for many weeks in a closed jar.



Filo Rolls with Black Pudding

filobpAs you might have noticed, I have a soft spot for filo… I have been experimenting constantly with this delicate Greek pastry, especially with roll-shaped snacks, which are easy, quick and deliciously crisp. Meat-filled rolls are already a staple, especially for my office lunches, so when one day I bought some black pudding, I thought I’d try combining it with filo and obviously rolls where what first came to my mind. I have combined my soft, delicate French pudding with buckwheat and spices and obtained what I believe to be a fabulous treat for all the black pudding lovers.

For those who have never tasted black pudding (aka “blood sausage”), it is a sausage containing blood which is actually the only recurrent ingredient. The shape, the binding agent, the spices or the casing depend on countries, regions or even on particular butchers. In France, where I buy my black pudding (the Swiss ones have always been disappointingly bland), onions and fat (and sometimes bread crumbs) act as “binders”, but some regions (for example Bordeaux region) use rice, which is also popular in certain Spanish regions and in Hungary. British black pudding contains oatmeal, while barley and buckwheat are Polish kaszanka’s fillers. Not to mention various spices, herbs or offal cuts used to fill the casings. My favourite ones are the two last ones because of their thick “sausagey” texture which enables me to fry them till crunchy and most of all the bold seasonings.

Since I usually have access only to soft “moussy” French black pudding, I always combine it with cooked buckwheat, which makes the rolls somehow less fatty, adds nice nutty flavours and a more pleasant texture (for me at least). If you don’t like buckwheat or cannot find it, barley or rice are a good substitute. These rolls are an excellent snack or a full meal, if served with a salad. I also love them as a snack, served with pickled chilli. They are excellent with sweet and hot sauces.

If you look for other ideas to use black pudding, you might likes one of these:

Upside-Down Tart with Black Pudding

Upside-Down Tart with Black Pudding

Black Pudding and Gochujang Toast

Black Pudding and Gochujang Toast

Baked Wonton Dumplings with Black Pudding

Baked Dumplings with Black Pudding

TIPS: If you use Polish or British black pudding or any other thick black pudding, you don’t need to add any rice or buckwheat.

Chilli powder is of course not obligatory. Add whatever spices you wish.

Cooking buckwheat is not easy, so if you choose it as a filler but don’t have experience with it, check the tips here.

Preparation: about 30-40 minutes

Ingredients (serves 2 as the main course, with a salad):

6 sheets of filo/phyllo pastry

200 g (about 7 oz) black pudding, without casing + about 6 heaped tablespoons of cooked buckwheat or rice or barley or 350 g (about 12 oz) black pudding with a thick texture (already containing oats, rice, buckwheat or barley)

chilli pepper (I have added 1 flat tablespoon of medium hot Korean chilli flakes)

black pepper, salt

1 tablespoon of oil

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Combine the black pudding filling with the grains and spices.

Spread one filo sheet on a big chopping board.

Place horizontally, about 2,5 cm/1 in. from the filo sheet’s shorter edge which is closest to you, a portion of black pudding mixture.

Roll tightly but delicately, starting from the edge which is closest to you, folding the two lateral edges into the roll (I have folded here about 3 cm/about 1,2 in on each side).

Proceed in the same way with the remaining rolls.

Brush the top of the rolls with a tiny amount of oil, place on a baking tray or baking paper and bake in the oven until golden (about 20-30 minutes in mine). Watch them often as they tend to burn quite quickly.

Serve either with a salad as the main course or as a snack, with pickles and a hot and sweet sauce or yogurt/sour cream mixed with gochujang. I have also sprinkled it with the Japanese spicy seasoning (shichimi togarashi).

Korean Chicken and Gochujang Stew (Dak Dori Tang 닭도리탕)

chick_gochAfter all the festive food and excellent wines I have been drinking during the holiday season I found it very difficult to choose what recipe should be the first one posted in 2015. The food I’ve been preparing is particularly simple since I’m busy at work and these short winter days make me all sleepy and lazy… Does chilli wake you up from winter lethargy? It gives me such a big kick of energy I sometimes feel like eating chilli seasonings by tablespoons! In such periods, obviously, Korean dishes are frequent visitors to my table.

I have cooked this fiery stew several times and each time I wondered how at its rich and complex flavours obtained without any stock. The chicken, the gochujang (Korean chilli paste) and the ground sesame seeds do it all. Even though this dish makes a filling, rich one-course winter meal, it is not high-calorie nor high-fat, therefore totally safe for all of you who try to eat healthier after holidays’ indulgence. As always, I’m thrilled to discover one more way to use my beloved gochujang!

The recipe comes from my well-tested and still surprisingly excellent Food and Cooking of Korea by Young Jin Song. I have adapted the recipe to a meal for two and slightly modified the preparation process.

TIPS: Gochujang is a Korean chilli paste. It is smooth, sticky and slightly sweet and cannot be substituted with anything else. You can buy it in Korean and Japanese grocery shops (and often in more general Asian shops). It is east to recognise because most brands sell it in plastic red rectangle-shaped boxes. If you cannot get it, add more chilli powder and 2 tablespoons of a syrup (for ex. agave syrup). The result will not be the same, but the stew will still be delicious. (Don’t bother buying other chilli pastes; nothing is similar to gochujang).

Bones are here necessary to makes a flavoursome stew, so if you don’t like meat with bones, debone but cook the stew with the bones too. Remove them before serving.

I don’t recommend this dish with chicken breast which will become dry.

The recipe calls for chicken with skin, but since it makes the whole dish fatty and I don’t like soft boiled chicken skin anyway, I prefer to skin the chicken pieces before cooking. Choose the option you prefer.

Click here if you look for other ideas of gochujang use in your kitchen.

Preparation: about 1 hour – 1h30

Ingredients (serves two as the main course):

1 big chicken leg or two small ones (with bones), cut in two or the equivalent of other chicken cuts with bones; I prefer the chicken skinned (see above)

2 medium potatoes

1 big carrot (or another winter vegetable of your choice, such as pumpkin or parsnip)

1 big onion

1 big garlic clove

2 fresh green chillies, sliced

1 fresh red chilli, sliced

1 tablespoon sesame oil

salt and pepper

1 tablespoon chopped spring onions


2 tablespoons rice wine (or mirin); I have used cheap Japanese sake

salt and pepper

Gochujang paste:

1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds (ground)

2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean chilli paste) or more if you like very hot food

2 tablespoons Korean chilli powder (or more) or any other medium-hot chilli powder

Combine the marinade ingredients and marinate the chicken pieces for at least 10 minutes.

Peel the potatoes, cut into cubes and soak in cold water for 15-20 minutes.

Peel the garlic and chop finely.

Cut the onion in two and slice it.

Heat some oil in a pan and stir-fry the garlic.

When it starts changing colour, remove it with a slotted spoon, add 1 tablespoon oil and stir-fry the chicken until it browns slightly. Add the onion and stir-fry for 5 more minutes.

Add the potatoes, the cubed carrot, the fried garlic and pour enough water to cover the ingredients.

In the meantime prepare the gochujang paste, combining all the ingredients.

Add the gochujang paste to the stew, as well as sliced chillies, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Uncover the stew, season with salt and pepper and simmer it until the liquid thickens slightly and the chicken meat falls off the bone.

Serve in bowls with chopped green onions and a splash of sesame oil. (I like to sprinkle it with some uncooked green chilli too).

Last-Minute New Year’s Eve Treats

Christmas is over, but I still have several days of lazy home holidays. I keep on reading for hours in bed, sipping wine and eating the remains of my – as always excessive – food stock. I don’t feel particularly keen on cooking anything new or complicated, especially since I don’t organise any party this year. Nonetheless, for the last night of 2014 I’ll certainly find the courage to prepare several festive treats, as long as they are quick, easy and don’t require much shopping (or, ideally, can be prepared with pantry and/or fridge contents). I suppose some of you feel the same, so I thought I’d share with you a choice of last-minute New Year’s Eve savoury and sweet dishes, which are effortless and quick, but still have a festive touch. Happy New Year, my dear visitors! May all your dreams come true in 2015!

You can start with these buttery cute tidbits:

Last Minute Crackers

Last Minute Crackers

and carry on with these aromatic olives:

Seasoned Olives

Seasoned Olives

Add vibrant colours to your table with this sunny-looking salad:

Mango, Chicken and Cucumber Salad

Mango, Chicken and Cucumber Salad

If you have already made maki sushi, you know how easy and quick they are.

Maki with Shrimp, Avocado and Cucumber

Maki with Shrimp, Avocado and Cucumber

Maki sushi with Canned Tuna and Cucumber

Maki sushi with Canned Tuna and Cucumber

These “baskets” are perfect containers for Guacamole or Shrimp Salad:

Wonton Cups (Edible Snack Containers)

Wonton Cups (Edible Snack Containers)

Home-made taramosalata doesn’t even compare to the supermarket-bought one…

Taramosalata (Fish Roe Dip)

Taramosalata (Fish Roe Dip)

If you have never had smoked mackerel, this spread is a good occasion to try it:

Smoked Mackerel and Egg Spread

Smoked Mackerel and Egg Spread

Savoury cakes are easy, foolproof and, served cold, they feed crowds for hours:

Savoury Cake with Goat Cheese and Dried Tomatoes

Savoury Cake with Goat Cheese and Dried Tomatoes

Surprise your guests with these fabulous tofu snacks:

Tofu and Bacon Snacks

Tofu and Bacon Snacks

The quickest and easiest chocolate mousse ever (delicious even without raspberries):

Quick Eggless Chocolate Mousse

Quick Eggless Chocolate Mousse

I will never thank enough Katerina (from Culinary Flavours) for this fantastic, incredibly easy chocolate treat I never tire of:

Unbaked Chocolate Cake

Unbaked Chocolate Cake

Easiest and most addictive chocolate treat I know (accidentally, it’s quite healthy too…):

Prunes in Chocolate

Prunes in Chocolate

and, last but not least, something cute for coconut lovers:

Bounty (Coconut, Chocolate and Rum) Truffles

Bounty (Coconut, Chocolate and Rum) Truffles