When Suezy Kim gets grilling, there's not a hamburger or hot dog in sight. Instead, Kim's barbecue is filled with thin slices of marinated steak, butterflied short ribs and small hot chili peppers. On the table, waiting for the meat, are bowls filled with vegetables, salads, hot and sweet sauces and platters of lettuce leaves. The setting is American, but the barbecue is all Korean.
Kim, who lives in Rockville, comes by her talent for Asian cooking honestly. Born in Korea, Kim moved with her family to Tokyo after World War II--her father was a journalist covering Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the U.S. occupation of Japan. When Kim arrived in America as a young college student, she already had a handle on both Korean and Japanese cooking.
She met her husband, Theodore, who's also from Korea, on a blind date. A student at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service, he planned to go back to Korea after graduating and pursue a career as a diplomat. They married in 1961. "Children and a mortgage changed the plan," says Kim, and they settled in Maryland.
Over the years, Kim raised her family and ran a small restaurant and a gift shop. She also cooked for family, friends and business associates. Her reputation for fine Korean and Japanese cooking spread, and she began giving cooking classes in Annapolis and at the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Bethesda.
Now retired, she's given up most of her classes in favor of golf and her grandchildren. But Kim still spends plenty of time cooking. "When I'm at home, I'm always in the kitchen," she says. Although she's been in America for more than 40 years, she's stuck mainly to Japanese and Korean cooking because that's what she's known for. "When people come to our house, they expect gourmet Asian food."
Kim doesn't disappoint. Especially not with the traditional Korean barbecue. Kim makes everything herself right down to the kimchi--the spicy preserved cabbage that's a must at any Korean meal. But she has made a few adjustments in the United States. In Korea, grilling is done on small tabletop grills and always indoors. Kim uses a outdoor barbecue or the broiler. Back in Korea, beef is very expensive and would be saved for special occasions. Here, Kim can use beef all the time. And while Kim fills the table with the traditional--pickled vegetables, sauces and lettuce leaves--she also adds fresh vegetables like corn and large sweet bell peppers. "Winter is long in Korea and people rely on pickled vegetables, here we can get fresh vegetables year-round so I use them too," she explains.
Kim's husband helps start the grill, but that's the full extent of his involvement. "In Korea the mother or daughters do the cooking, men don't," she says.
Kim grills short ribs (kolbi gu) and thinly sliced steak (bulgogi), the most popular meats to barbecue in Korea. The meat is marinated in a combination of soy sauce, sugar, sake, garlic, scallions and sesame oil. Kim has her own tricks--she drizzles kiwi juice over the meat before adding the marinade and rubs a pinch of sugar into the meat--to help tenderize. The thinly sliced steak is ready to cook in 30 minutes, the short ribs are best if allowed to marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
The meat is cooked on the grill and then served. The short rib meat, which has been butterflied before grilling, is cut into small strips and the meaty bone is served on the side. A lettuce leaf is filled with a small serving of beef slices or strips, some of the pickled vegetables or vegetable salad--daikon radish salad is common--and a sweet or hot sauce, depending on the eater's preference. Then the leaf is wrapped around the meat and vegetables forming a packet. Kim also always serves rice and the salads are served on the side as well as in the lettuce "packages."
When Kim and her husband want to eat American they tend to go out. "My daughter cooks more American, lots of pasta. But if Ted and I want pasta, we go to a restaurant. After all, I don't want to cook all the time."
Staff writer Stephanie Witt Sedgwick will be live today at 11 a.m. at washingtonpost.com discussing grilling and other food topics.
Short Ribs & Side Dishes
(Barbecued Short Ribs)
Try this once and you'll be hooked--the meat is that flavorful and tender. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 pounds of short ribs, which isn't a lot of meat. Traditionally, small portions of the meat are combined with vegetable salads and sauces and rolled in a lettuce leaf. For hearty meat eaters, double the amount of short ribs.
To make this dish properly, you'll need to butterfly open the short ribs so the meat is between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick. Or, buy boneless very thinly sliced short ribs available at Asian markets.
The kiwi is Suezy Kim's secret trick to help tenderize the meat.
If you don't have a grill, you can use your oven broiler.
For the ribs:
2 tablespoons sugar plus additional for sprinkling on the ribs
2 tablespoons sake plus additional for sprinkling on the ribs
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 scallions, tough green tops removed, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 1/2 pounds meaty short ribs, butterflied (see note above)
1/4 kiwi, peeled
Oil for the grill
Flavorful lettuce leaves, such as romaine and Boston
1 recipe Korean Radish Salad (recipe follows)
1 recipe Korean Cucumber Salad (recipe follows)
1 recipe Ssam-Jang Sauce (recipe follows)
1 recipe Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)
Stir together the sugar, sake, soy sauce, garlic, scallions, pepper and sesame oil until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.
Score the meat with a sharp knife, then lightly sprinkle it with some sugar and rub the sugar into the meat. Then squeeze the kiwi over the ribs so the juice falls onto the meat. Place the ribs in a shallow dish. Sprinkle the meat with sake and let it sit for 3 to 4 minutes. Then add the marinade to the ribs, turning the meat to coat. Refrigerate and marinate for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.
Prepare the grill. Lightly oil a grill rack and place on the heated grill. Remove the short ribs from the marinade. Spread the ribs out on the grill and cook, turning once, until meat is cooked thoroughly. Remove from the grill and use kitchen scissors or a knife to cut the meat into small strips.
Holding a lettuce leaf in your hand, place a spoonful of either the radish or cucumber salad in the center of the lettuce, add a few strips of meat and one of the sauces. Fold the edges of the leaf over to form a packet. Let guests form their own lettuce packets, adding salad and sauce to their liking. Serve the bones on the side.
Per serving: 149 calories, 14 gm protein, 4 gm carbohydrates, 8 gm fat, 33 mg cholesterol, 3 gm saturated fat, 182 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber
Moo Namul Saengche
(Korean Radish Salad)
This salad pairs beautifully with the marinated meat.
1 daikon radish, about 12 ounces*
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
Peel the radish. Using a mandoline or food processor, cut the radish into long matchstick-thick strips--the longer the better. Place the strips in a colander and sprinkle with the salt. Let stand for 5 minutes. Drain off any liquid and transfer radish strips to a bowl. Toss them with the vinegar, red pepper and sugar. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
*Note: Daikon radishes, also called mooli, are white, 6 to 15 inches long and usually 2 to 3 inches in diameter. They can be found in Asian markets and the specialty produce section of many supermarkets.
Per serving: 42 calories, 1 gm protein, 8 gm carbohydrates, trace fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 594 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber
(Korean Cucumber Salad)
Perfect with Korean barbecue, this salad also suits almost any summer menu.
4 small unwaxed pickling cucumbers or 1 English (hothouse) cucumber
1 scallion, tough green top removed, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Trim both ends of the cucumbers. Slice each cucumber in half lengthwise. Using a small spoon, scoop out the seeds. Thinly slice each half. Add the scallion, oil, vinegar, salt and sugar to the sliced cucumbers and toss until thoroughly mixed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Per serving: 25 calories, 1 gm protein, 4 gm carbohydrates, trace fat, 0 mg cholesterol, gm saturated fat, mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber
Ssam-Jang Hot Sauce
(Makes about 1 cup)
This thick sauce is served alongside the short ribs. You can dip the meat into the sauce or add the sauce to a lettuce leaf wrapper along with some vegetable salad and meat.
2 tablespoons finely minced scallion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
Dash of freshly ground black pepper
5 ounces Korean soybean paste (Den Jang)*
1 tablespoon hot bean paste (Kochi Jang)*
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine)*
Mix all of the ingredients together.
* Note: Korean soybean paste and hot bean paste can found in the refrigerator case of most Asian grocery stores. Mirin can be found at Asian stores and in the Asian sections of large supermarkets.
(Makes 1 cup) 1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup rice wine
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 scallions, tough green tops removed, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
Mix all of the ingredients together.
CAPTION: Suezy Kim, who ran a restaurant and taught cooking classes before retiring, has gained a reputation for fine Korean and Japanese cooking.
CAPTION: A lettuce leaf is formed into a packet filled with a few beef slices or strips, some pickled vegetables or vegetable salad and a sweet or hot sauce.