“Wait, How much or how little is 1500mg of sodium?” is the question that I asked my doctor during my last annual check-up. To give you a better idea, that’s less than 1 tsp of salt. If you have one cup-a-noodle, you are pretty much done for the day. To be perfectly honest, I dreaded writing this post. I waited until I was actually in the “mood” to write it. I don’t feel totally comfortable talking about something personal (like my health) here but I feel the need to bring it up since I cook and share recipes here on my blog, the way I eat, the way I choose to cook has everything to do with it.
After going through the round of blood tests, my doc tells me the bad news. That I have hypertension, a high blood pressure. I don’t need to go into medical details to explain but basically, if I don’t take good care of it now, it can lead to something more serious. She said I need to be on a pill everyday to keep the blood pressure down and focus on 3 things that can help me (other than pills) to get back on track. Reduce stress, walk at least 30 min everyday and reduce sodium intake drastically. Now that I quit my full time job, I think I can take care of first two without any excuse but how about the last one? 1500mg of sodium per day? Is that even possible? That’s like saying don’t use any salt in your cooking, don’t go near any processed food. This is going to be a challenge as someone who cooks Korean food on a daily basis, someone who develops recipes and shares them online, someone who cooks and serves at events. “Ugh, my food will taste terrible, everything will taste blaaaand and nobody would want to try my recipes again.”…is the initial thoughts that went through my mind. But I’m beginning to accept this change and hoping to make a positive impact in my life. Yes, it’s going to be extremely hard. It is about taking baby steps, long-term goals and a life style change. It just took a doctor’s ultimatum to make a change but I feel good about it. I already started making small changes at home and instead of using salt and sugar, I use Shim’s homemade savory and sweet sauces to season. Check it out!
So if you notice that I write ‘adjust to taste’ repeatedly in my recipes, this is the reason. I think of recipe as just a guide, never really to follow down to every teaspoon. Having more flexibility to cook is the fun, creative part and it’s what got me into cooking in the first place. So if you have any ideas about low sodium cooking (cookbooks, blogs, articles…etc.), please please send it my way. Appreciate any help I can get here!
Photography by Selina S. Lee
Happy New Year! Happy 2017!
As a new years tradition, I had another great Korean holiday meal with my family last night. It was one of few opportunities where I can pig out on mom’s home cooked meal. My sisters and I brought some dishes to add to the table. I made one of my holiday favorite, Mung Bean Fritters (녹두 빈대떡). It brought back memories of all those years helping mom on the side of the kitchen making these. Not to mention sneaking in a few bites while I was helping her. So happy I can make my own now and to share this recipe. Hope you get to try it too!
MUNG BEAN PANCAKE (녹두 빈대떡) – 4-6 servings
recipe adapted from Korean Bapsang
2 cups peeled mung beans
1 cup mung bean sprouts (숙주나물)
1 cup washed kimchi
1 cup pork belly for shabu shabu
1/2 cup crown daisy leaves or parsley leaves (optional)
1/2 cup thinly sliced seeded red pepper (optional)
cooking sake or white wine
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp vinegar
1 tbsp water
1/2 tsp sugar
pinch of black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes (gochugaru)
Rinse and soak the mung bean in cold water for 3-4 hours. Drain leaving little bit of water to be used for blending (approx. 1/4 cup). In a blender, grind 2 cups of soaked beans. Adding little bit of water will help blend them smoothly. Add little bit of salt for seasoning. The the batter should be thick and coarse consistency. Prepare mung bean sprouts by boiling it for just 2 minutes to cook but still crunchy. Rinse it in cold water, drain and set it aside. Cut pork belly in small bite size pieces and season with salt and pepper and cooking sake (or white wine). Prepare kimchi by cutting in small bite size pieces then wash it in running water on a strainer, squeeze out excess water and set it aside. Chop scallions and set it aside. In a large mixing bowl, add the mung bean and combine all ingredients by mixing gently so it’s evenly mixed. Prepare the crown daisy leaves and red pepper slices to add. I like to soak the red peppers in cold water to take the heat off a little and to take the seed out easily.
On a non-stick pan, heat oil on medium-high heat using generous amount of oil. Use the spoon to put the mixture into the pan and spread it down into a thin round shape. Add crown daisy leaves and red pepper on top. Cook until the bottom is golden brown (2-3 minutes), and turn it over. Lower the heat, Gently press it down with a spatula, and cook for another 2-3 minutes then flip it over one last time and cook for 1 min. Repeat the process with the rest of the mixture. Serve hot off the pan with the dipping sauce.
Lately, I’ve been working on making my own stock and sauce that I can use daily. I know, this sounds time consuming but I can honestly say that it may be worth the time if you make your own banchan (side dishes) or do a lot of Korean cooking at home. By learning to cook using homemade stocks and sauces, you can easily add a depth of flavor without adding too much seasoning. Let’s just say the amount of sugar, salt and soy sauce that was being added to deepen the flavors seemed…well, bit alarming. The idea of it came from this one Korean cooking expert and recipe developer named Shim Young Soon (심영순). Now in her late 70s, she’s been developing recipes and teaching Korean home-cooking for past four decades in Korea. She is currently on Korean cooking battle show called Taste of Korea (한식대첩) as part of judges panel and still actively promoting the art and culture of Korean food. The sweet and savory sauce recipe is from Ms. Shim and it has changed the way I cook and eat around here. I hope it comes in handy for you as well.