Thursday, March 21, 2013
I had never sampled Korean cuisine before moving to Los Angeles. Casual as a boisterous group trip to Soot Bull Jeep for KBBQ may seem now, I am well aware of the benefit we have living in this city to enjoy such motley experiences. To many though, even LA denizens, the overwhelming bounty that is our Koreatown (with one of the highest population densities of all neighborhoods in Los Angeles and the United States) remains still an indecipherable mystery. Determined to enlighten international diners about the diverse flavors and health benefits of Hansik (Korean cuisine), The Korean Food Foundation has launched a series of city restaurant guides, including a slick 200-page guide to LA's Korean restaurants, from Koreatown to Marina del Rey, Buena Park, Garden Grove, Pasadena, and Los Feliz. Edited by legendary LA Times & LA Weekly food writer and cookbook author Barbara Hansen, and written with the help of many top local bloggers, the guide is now available at The Korean Cultural Center, through PDF download on The Korean Food Foundation's website, and as a handy iPhone app available in iTunes. To put the guide to the test, I teamed up with my recurring foodventure cohort Kristin "the Cuisinerd" to embark on a mini K-town food marathon. Bibambap, we don't stop!
Check it out over at theCuisinerd.com.
During our walkabout through K-town and its eateries, pubs, markets and banchan delis, I became inspired to craft a cocktail from Hansik ingredients, with a fresh profile to compliment its flavors, and involve the Korean concept of Ssam (literally meaning "wrapped," in which edible leaves are used to wrap meat, condiments, and banchan).
Perusing Han Kook Market, I decided to start with the obvious base spirit - Soju (소주). Known mostly to me these days as the cocktail spirit of choice for restaurants with a beer/wine license, this clear, slightly sweet distilled spirit is made from grain or sweet potatoes and typically has an alcohol content of 40 proof (20% ABV) - Half that of, say, most vodkas. Nevertheless, it is the most popular traditional Korean spirit, deserving of a second chance. I was also intrigued by Makgeolli (막걸리), a milky, sweet low-alcohol (6% ABV) beverage made from sticky rice, known for its high fiber, protein and vitamin levels. With some fresh produce and a lucky hand, Shiso Lovely practically made herself.
1 1/2 oz Jinro Soju
1 oz Jinro Makgeolli
1/4 oz Maraschino Liqueur
1/2 oz Honey Tangerine
1/2 oz Lemon
1/4 oz Honey Syrup
3 Shiso Leaves
Add shiso leaves and honey syrup to a shaker and muddle. Combine remaining ingredients, pack with ice and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass lined with a slapped shiso leaf.
Shiso Lovely also works well as a long drink. After shaking, strain instead into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with soda and garnish with a green maraschino cherry, candied lotus root and shiso leaf ssam.
*For the Honey Syrup:
Combine 1/2 cup of water with 1/2 cup of honey in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently until honey has dissolved. Remove from heat and cool completely. Keeps in the refrigerator for up to a month.