Thursday, July 27, 2006

Fusion Cuisine 2: Cajun Seoul

Another idea I once had was for a restaurant which I tentatively titled Cajun Seoul. Get it? Catchy, no? Hey, I only knew two words of Korean at the time, so my choices were limited. One could always go with Kimchee Cajun, but if there isn't already a Korean-Louisianian blogger with that name, I'd be shocked. This idea comes from the same time period as the legendary chilibo, which caused all of you to salivate or was that vomit? Anyway, I picked up a Korean cookbook a few years ago - before Hawaii - and had gotten into trying things out. Most of my readers are from Louisiana or at least know what Cajun and soul food are like, so I won't go into that. So I will focus on describing Korean cuisine, since it isn't all that common yet on the Mainland.

So, like Chinese and Japanese food, Korean food is based around rice and the noodle as the starches. My first Korean dish was Bi Bim Bap, which just means rice with assorted things. Bap is rice. You have rice and then you place various items in a circle on top of the rice in small piles. There's always some stir-fried beef plus lots of different cooked vegies. Bean sprouts, cabbage, watercress, and other items that I don't know the name of. On top of all this is a fried egg as well, usually runny. Finally, you have a little bowl of Gochu Jang paste which is a chili / bean paste.

From the description of this dish, you can get a basic idea of Korean cooking. The chile is the number one seasoning period. Everything can come with chili powder on it, and so you have to eat spicy to eat much. Other primary seasonings are green onion, sesame seeds and oil, and soy. At a nice meal, such as at a restaurant or when guests come over, variety is a critical component. You will have a main dish, but before that dish arrives you have small bowls of all sorts of appetizers / side dishes, mostly vegetables. One of these side dishes is the ubiquitous kimchee. Kimchee is actually a whole bunch of different things, but the most common variety is bok choi or cabbage. Kimchee has chili powder to make it spicy, some salt, and usually it is pickled for some time to give it a sort of sour bite as well. It preserves the food for many months, is cheap, and is thus a great way to get through a Korean winter.

Anyway, I like Korean food and I like Cajun, so I was going to try to blend the two in some way. There are some overlaps to work from - the presence of rice, chili powder for cayenne pepper, shrimp. Some ideas might be:

1) Crawfish boil with emphasis on chiles, sesame, and green onion flavors for the crawfish.

2) Grits Jun - Jun are Korean style pancakes, and it seems you could take a spicy fried grits pancake and add sesame and soy flavorings to it.

3) Cajun Kal Bi - Kal Bi are rib like things that are barbecued and very enjoyable to Korean food novices. Unless you are just adventurous in what you eat, this is a great choice for your first time. Anway, you could certainly give them a cayenne/file boost.

4) Ragin Cajun Bap - A bed of rice with various things on top in a circle. Fried up spicy crawdad tails or shrimp, mustard greens, black-eyed peas, and the egg.

You get the picture. You could also just do a style blending of the two. So mostly Cajun type foods, but you get small portions of a large number of them Korean-style.

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