Namuls- Korean seasoned vegetables

As discussed here, a traditional Korean meal consists of rice, main dish and a selection of banchans.  Banchans can be a few or many, ranging from namul (seasoned vegetables) to grilled fish.  I tend to make namuls.  They can be relatively simple to make and the ingredients more readily available.

Namuls generally require the vegetable to be seasoned, salt, garlic, scallion, sesame oil, crushed toasted sesame seed, soy sauce and Korean crushed red pepper.  The key is that the sesame seeds must be toasted and crushed.  This process brings out the best nutty flavor of the seeds.  My mom still makes her own by dry toasting the seeds in a large wok.  Then she uses the ancient Korean method of crushing the seeds.  She carefully pours the seeds to into a thick, as in like 5 or 6 layers of cotton thick cotton cloth sack that she makes herself.  Then she hammers the crap out of the sack.  That was my job when I was a child.  Ah hem… It was a particularly satisfying chore during the turbulent teenage years.

Some namuls like Kong Namul (seasoned bean spouts) and Sigeumchi Namul (seasoned spinach) can be used in Bibimbap.  Kong Namul can be eaten as a side or put back into Kong Namul Soup.  Sigeumchi can be used in Kim Bap (Korean Rice Roll) and in Jap Che.

My recipes are simple and authentic in the sense that this is how my mother made them.  But like any other dishes, there are many variations out there and several good websites that provide pretty pictures as well.  As I stated in my introduction, I write these recipes to record for my daughter, for her to be able to replicate the tastes from her childhood.

Seasoned Spinach – Sigeumchi Namul

Time:  Prep 5 min, Cooking 10 min

Serving size: 2-4

Serve with: As a side dish or be added to Bibimbap or Kim Bap

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound spinach
  • 1 clove garlic finely minced
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 1 tbs crushed toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp salt to taste
  • 1 tsp soy sauce (optional)
  • 1 tsp sugar to taste (optional)

Directions:

  • Prepare the spinach if bunched by separating the leaves, trimming the stems and washing thoroughly several times in cold water.
  • Blanch the spinach in boiling water for 30 seconds.
  • While waiting, prepare a large bowl of icy water.
  • Remove spinach quickly and rinse in cold water in to order to stop the cooking process.
  • Gently squeeze the spinach to remove excess water.
  • Mix soy sauce, sesame oil, seeds, salt, garlic, and sugar and mix into spinach.
  • Serve with an extra dash of sesame seeds on top.

Seasoned Bean Sprouts – Kong Namul

Time:  Prep 5 min, Cooking 30 min

Serving size: 4 – 6

Served with:  As a side or added to Bibimbap

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound or 1 bag soy bean sprouts
  • 1 clove garlic finely minced
  • 2 scallions chopped
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 1 tbs crushed toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • a dash of crushed red pepper (optional)
  • salt

Directions:

  • Rinse the sprout gently in cold water.
  • Put the sprouts into a medium size pot and add enough cold water to cover the sprouts.  Add some salt and set to boil with lid on for about 20minutes.
  • Remove the sprouts with a metal pincers into a colander to drain thoroughly and reserve the “soup” if making Kong Namul Guk (soup).
  • Mix soy sauce, sesame oil, seeds, salt, garlic, and scallion in a large bowl.  Add the sprouts and mix gently.

This can be served as a side warm or cold, added to bibimbap mixture or added back to the reserved water to make soup.  If making soup, you can reheat the broth add more salt to taste.  The soup is served with rice.

Alternatively, you may replace the soy bean sprouts with mung bean sprouts.  These sprouts can be blanched in boiling water, rinsed in cold water and mixed with the same ingredients.  Mung bean sprouts have a slightly different taste.  I actually prefer soy bean sprouts.

I don’t think broccoli traditionally grows in Korea and for all I know still doesn’t.  How do I know?  Because there isn’t a Korean word for it.  Whenever you see an English word being used by Koreans, chances are it’s because there is no Korean equivalent.  My mother just decided to make it this way one day and we really enjoyed it growing up.  So much tastier and healthier than plain boiling or with melted cheese thrown in.  Blanching keeps more of the nutrients!

Seasoned Broccoli Namul

Time:  Prep 5 min, Cooking 10 min

Serving size: 2-4

Serve with: As a side dish or be added to Bibimbap but chopped up finer

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound broccoli cut into smaller florets 1.5 – 2 inches
  • 1 clove garlic finely minced (optional – I don’t like raw garlic but my mom does)
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 1 tbs crushed toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp salt to taste

Directions:

  • Cut the broccoli into smaller florets.  If you like the stem you can cut that as well.  I would just cut off the tough skin first.
  • Prepare a large bowl of icy cold water.
  • Blanch the florets in salted boiling water until just tender, about 2-5 minutes.
  • Immediately remove and plunge into the icy cold water bath .
  • After the broccoli has cooled down, drain in colander, shake off excess water and set aside.
  • In a large bowl mix sesame oil, seeds, garlic, salt to taste.  Add the broccoli and toss well.
  • Serve with an extra dash of sesame seeds on top.
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