This past Friday, we held a small party for our friends in Seoul who helped get bburi kitchen off the ground. We put together a menu based on ingredients that we’d gotten at farms and markets around Korea over the past couple of weeks, including a bottle of live grasshoppers that I impulsively bought the day before. Seoyoung, who doesn’t flinch when handling the slimiest, pointiest, craggiest sea creatures, blanched when I pointed out the grasshoppers at the market in Hongcheon, Gangwon Province. “Unni, look! 메뚜기! LET’S SERVE THEM AT THE LAUNCHING PARTY.” She looked at me dubiously. I swore up and down that grasshopper cooking would be under my sole purview and we bought a bottle for 10,000 won (with a discount from the bemused stall vendor).
The next day, it was time to start prepping. The evening’s menu:
fresh ginseng shake
grasshoppers sautéed in perilla oil
dotori muk muchim (도토리묵 무침, acorn jelly salad)
nogak muchim (노각 무침, aged cucumber salad)
godeulbbaegi muchim (고들빼기 무침, godeulbbaegi blanched salad)
japchae with noru-gungdaengi mushrooms (노루궁뎅이 버섯 잡채)
dubu kimchi (두부김치, tofu & kimchi)
fresh gondeurae bap (곤드레밥, rice with a kind of mountain herb)
Seoyoung’s grandmother’s gamja jeon (감자전, potato pancake)
seasonal, local fruit
Hongcheon yakgwa (약과, honey cookie) made with Korean wheat and jocheong (조청, grain syrup)
puffed rice hangwa (한과, traditional cookie) made with jocheong
puffed millet hangwa made with jocheong
We don’t have the recipes for all of these, but here’s quick overview of the starters:
Fresh ginseng shake: Blend 500ml milk with around 200g fresh, peeled ginseng (more or less, to taste). This is Seoyoung’s mom’s recipe. Her mom also sometimes adds honey or a little apple for sweetness, but we went without. As Seoyoung explained, the touch of bitterness from the ginseng brings out your appetite.
Maeddugi fried in perilla oil: Quick note to keep in mind: grasshopper poop smells really bad. I transferred them to a clean bottle before popping them in the freezer (“the freezer of death,” our friend Sam calls it, see crabs) for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, we heated some perilla oil and grapeseed oil in a pan, and added batches of maeduggi, about 20 at a time, setting them aside on a paper towel. Their green shells turn a shiny amber brown after about 30 seconds in the pan. Finally, we turned off the heat and tossed them all in the pan with a large spoonful of yangjo ganjang and a handful of toasted sesame seeds. They were crunchy, savory and delicious. The flavor and texture is reminiscent of dried shrimp, without the fishiness.