This is my interview with Ryan and the photos of Korean dishes that he made. I recently met him in NYC and wrote about it on my blog.
One day in January this year Ryan emailed me this photo.
“This is a vegetarian version of dakgangjeong that I made, from your recommendation for vegetarians. Good thing I made it! Everyone loved it, with the peanuts and candied ginger and crushed red pepper! I would definitely make it again! They couldn’t stop eating it!…”
Vegetarian version of a chicken dish? Is it possible? : ) Why not? My readers make vegetarian version fish sauce!
When I posted my dakgangjeong recipe, some vegetarian readers must have been disappointed because they couldn’t eat it! But I guessed that the chewy ginger and crunchy peanuts would be delicious without chicken. One of my readers asked me if he could make it without chicken. I told him to give it a try. In Korean cuisine, there’s a dish named saenggang kangjung which is similar to what he was suggesting.
That reader was Ryan.
He makes Korean food and shares with his friends and family. The anchovy story in our interview is very funny! His friends hesitated to try his tiny anchovy dish first. “These anchovies are looking at me!” But after trying it out, they loved it.
Check out my dakkangjeong recipe if you want to make vegetarian version like Ryan, skip chicken in the recipe.
1. What is your name and where do you live?
My name is Ryan and I live in Bridgeport, Connecticut, U.S.A. I first got introduced to Korean food after a night of clubbing in Manhattan. Luckily they have a lot of 24 hour Korean restaurants there! Starting with the moment they brought out the assortment of banchan, I was instantly hooked. My interests include cooking, languages, the gym, clubbing, meditation, and travel among others.
2. What do you do and how many family members do you have?
I work in an Italian restaurant and I am the eldest of four children.
3. How often do you cook Korean food following my recipes?
That depends on if I have been to the market or not. There are a couple key ingredients that you really need to make Korean food, such as scallions, hot peppers, sesame oil, etc. Luckily, I have an awesome Korean grocery store near me, I go there often, so I would say I usually cook Korean about 3 times a week. I go through phases though. Sometimes I will cook nothing but Korean food for 2 or 3 weeks, then I will switch to Indian food or Mexican food, etc. I like to change it up!
4. What are your favorite Korean dishes? Choose 3, please!
Hmmm… I really like seafood, chicken and tofu the best and don’t eat a lot of beef or pork. I also frequently cook and eat vegetarian meals. Some of my favorites are: soondubu jjigae, doenjang jjigae and ojinguh muchim, but it depends what I’m in the mood for really and my tastes frequently change.
5. What’s your best Korean dish, the one that everybody compliments you on when you make it?
Well, on Maangchi’s suggestion, I made a meatless version of dakgangjeong, using peanuts as the main ingredient, it came out great! If you are a ginger lover or a vegetarian, you have to try it this way! Everyone loved it! They were so surprised by the bite of the candied ginger and the kick from the crushed red pepper, against the sweet and savory candy. This isn’t your mother’s peanut brittle! Thank you Maangchi for this great recipe for peanut and ginger gangjeong!
I also like introducing new foods to people. I made the spicy myulchibokkeum (stir fried anchovy) recipe one day and my friends were reluctant to try them, because as tiny as they are, they still are whole fish, eyes and all. They said, ‘They are looking at me!’ or ‘You just eat the whole thing?!’
After they tasted them, they couldn’t believe how delicious, spicy, sweet and crispy they were! Plus, I told them, they’re full of calcium! They really liked them! It pays to be adventurous and step out of your comfort zone!