Still binging on K-drama, but wanting a Stress Free K-Drama Dinner Party to share some of the food I’m seeing.
I’d especially like to try Haejang-guk (Hangover Soup), but that’s not a dinner thing. I’ve tried Jajangmyeon (Noodles in Black Bean Sauce)
(yum!) but that’s more of a lunch thing. And I’ve had Tteokbokki (Spicy Stir-fried Rice Cakes), though they’re more of a street snack.
In K-dramas, you’ll generally find two kinds of meals:
- Western-style food (e.g., steak and veg) eaten by rich people with knives and forks, or
- A communal meal based on a soup or stew with side dishes, eaten with a spoon or chopsticks.
We’re going with the communal meal because we’re celebrating something strange and unusual for us. This type of meal always includes rice and kimchi, but the other sides can vary.
And I have to mention that Korean food can be very sweet, salty and spicy, so make sure you do some trial cooks and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
There’s always water.
While rich characters seem to prefer Western wines and whisky, poorer characters drink soju (neat).
Coffee seems universally popular, along with many varieties of tea. Many of them with medical properties.
Most characters sit on the floor and eat from a cloth on the floor or low tables. That makes this a handy dinner party if you don’t have much furniture.
Though of course, some sit at Western style tables too, so you can take your pick.
Unless you’re watching something historic, it will appear that the characters are wearing quirky versions of Western clothing. I recently wrote a K-drama inspired outfit.
The usual dinner for six people, arriving 6.30 for 7 pm.
With this type of meal, all the dishes are brought to the table at the same time, and generally, people pick bits and pieces from the shared dishes and add to their own bowl of rice. Depending on your guests, you might like to serve the stew in individual dishes too.
Yukgaejang (Spicy Beef Stew) with soju
Add 450 g (1 lb) beef brisket to 3.75 L (4 quarts) of water and bring to the boil in a large stockpot. Reduce heat and simmer for an hour, skimming off the fat and foam.
Remove the meat, and shred it with a couple of forks. Combine it with a cup of bean sprouts, eight spring onions (scallions) cut into thirds and 3/4 cup dried and presoaked gosari (dried fernbrake). Then add two tablespoons of minced garlic, two tablespoons of toasted sesame oil, two teaspoons gochugaru (Koran chilli powder), two tablespoons of gochujang (Koran chilli paste), two teaspoons soy sauce and a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.
Add to the broth, bring back to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Taste, and add more soy if you think it needs it. Lightly beat two eggs and stir into the mixture. If you like, you could also add a cup of cooked glass noodles.
Banchan (Side Dishes)
Obviously, TV is not real life, but in K-dramas, you’ll often see a bunch of people preparing the meal together. Some chopping, some cooking, some pouring things from jars. So, the dishes that follow (aside from kimchi) are all things you can whip together in half an hour of chopping and cooking
rice: The easiest way is to use a rice cooker to get the correct texture. Most rice cookers come with a keep warm function, so you can make it well ahead of time and keep it until you need it.
kimchi: in a big glass, ceramic or plastic bowl, dissolve half a cup of salt in 5 cups of water. Chop a Chinese (napa) cabbage into 5 cm (2″) chunks and submerge it in the water. You may need to weigh it down with a plate to keep it under the water. Leave it for five or six hours, then remove, rinse and squeeze out the excess water. Mix 1/2 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic, 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped ginger, one tablespoon of sugar, one tablespoon fish sauce, three spring onions and 1/4 cup gochugaru in a large bowl, and then add the cabbage and toss to coat the cabbage thoroughly. Pack into an air-tight jar, leaving a gap for expansion, and leave to ferment for two or three days in a cool dark place. Then store in the fridge for up to six months. Serve cold.
gyeran jangjorim (braised eggs): Mix 1/4 cup soy, two tablespoons light brown sugar, 2 1/2 tablespoons mirin, one spring onion (scallion) and a cup of water in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and remove the onion. Add six peeled hard-boiled eggs and simmer for ten minutes. You might need to roll them around to ensure they are evenly coated. Remove the eggs, leave to cool, then slice them in half.
spicy green beans:
You don’t often see a dessert course in K-drama, and when you do, it’s usually fresh fruit, peeled and eaten at the table with tea or coffee. Sometimes there will be biscuits too.
But there is very often a romantic scene involving ice cream, or shaved ice, so my suggestion is a container of an Asian flavoured ice cream or sorbet like green tea, red bean, black sesame, coconut or lemongrass.
This Dinner Party was put together using the techniques I describe in my book Stress Free Dinner Parties. It covers how to choose guests, develop your menu, prepare your home and plan your schedule, all so you can relax on the night and enjoy the party too.
If this Dinner Party is not quite what you are looking for, here are some I prepared earlier. When it comes to Dinner Parties, your only limit is your imagination; if you’d like to challenge me to develop a menu for your theme tell me in the comments below.