It is often the case where I should just let the ingredients speak for themselves. Gather together a few seasonal ingredients in a pot and boil down with water. Season with soy sauce. One spoonful with a piece of vegetable and hot, earthy broth, you will see how quickly you can put together autumn in your bowl.
Jeongol (전골) is something in-between hot pot (thinly sliced meat and vegetable ingredients are dipped in hot broth) and stew (ingredients are simmered for a long time). Water or stock is added just enough to bring out the flavors of ingredients – usually lots of vegetables in addition to a few main ingredients, which define the name of jeongol from seafood (해물; hae mul) to cow or pig intestines (곱창; gop chang) to mushroom (버섯; beo seot). Its most fun feature is that jeongol is cooked at the tableside to be shared with everyone.
A proper – as commonly described in cookbooks – mushroom (버섯; beo seot) jeongol would start by sautéing ground beef. Add stock. Sliced Napa cabbage leaves are another common ingredient, along with a variety of mushrooms and other greens.
I was lacking a few things to make a ‘proper’ mushroom jeongol for this unplanned dinner, but that wasn’t going to stop me. Luckily I had just gone to Chinatown for my big grocery shopping, so I had fresh shitake mushrooms (표고버섯; pyo go beo seot), button mushrooms (양송이; yang song e) and enoki mushrooms (팽이버섯; paeng e beo seot) to use as feature ingredeints. For greens, I had scallions, garlic chives and perilla leaves. I also took out a block of tofu and cut to thin slices. Sprinkle of chili powder on top. This would be more than enough.
With some extra time I had, I made mushroom tofu pockets. I poured hot water over frozen tofu skins (유부; yu bu) to get excess oil out and quickly thaw them. Press tofu skins with paper towel and cut off one end, which allows the skin to open like a little pocket. With the stems I had after cleaning the mushrooms, I chopped them finely and sautéed with onion which would fill the tofu pockets. I tied the pockets with garlic chives after quickly blanching in boiling water – this makes the garlic chives easier to handle but still sturdy enough to tie the tofu pockets.
I found a packet of udon noodles which, of course, was added to the pot. After a bowl of udon noodle soup with mushrooms, I added some tteokguk tteok, thin oval shaped rice cakes, most widely used for the New Year’s Day rice cake soup in Korea. After a bowl of mushrooms and rice cakes, we felt all warm and full and happy. Sorry, no pictures of those as I was too busy eating.
Yet if you are familiar with the Korean jeongol process, the end is only marked by rice.
I reduced the rest of the broth and chopped up a couple of mushrooms that were still in the pot. I added a big handful of finely chopped kimchi. A bowl of steamed rice goes in. Enter eggs, chopped scallions and toasted laver flakes. Finish with sesame oil, ground pepper and toasted sesame seeds.
I see long winter months with many variations of jeongol coming my way…
scallion 파 (pa)
garlic chive 부추 (bu chu)
perilla leaf 깻잎 (ggaenip)