Temple Kimbap

Many years ago, I had a chance to learn about temple food for 2 months from a famous monk-chef in Korea. One of his teachings was what we eat and when we eat is very important.

In the morning, eat light food like porridge, for lunch have solid food, a full meal but asmall amount. For dinner in the evening eat just fruits. Eat seasonal food when you can because they are best fresh and most nutritious. Eat a little as you can and don’t eat meat.

Temple food is naturally healthy and vegetarian. It has become increasingly popular in Korea because people are concerned about their wellbeing.

Unfortunately, monks and nuns do not use onions, garlic, chives, spring onions or leeks, the most common five pungent, spicy vegetables. In Korea we call these five forbidden vegetables “o-shin-chae”. Their intense scent and spiciness may distract monks during meditation. Until recently, I always tried to avoid eating “o-shin-chae”.  I don’t why but I didn’t like their smells.

In keeping with the Buddhist principle of harmony with nature ,  Tofu is a vital source of protein for monks as well as one of the main ingredients in temple food. Seaweed has been a part of Korean diet for centuries as well as being a seasoning in temple food.



Kimchi guk(soup or stew)


In Korea if there is No Kimchi, then there is No meal!

For breakfast, lunch and dinner all year round it is on your dining table.

This means that a Kimchi refrigerator is a key appliance in Korean homes. I haven’t yet seen someone who hasn’t got one in their house.

Kimchi is the staple food in Korean cuisine.

It is made of fermented vegetables with a variety of different spices.

As Kimchi gets older, fermentation creates the different levels of flavour; at the beginning for the first 2-3 days, it is salty and spicy but as time goes on it produces a vinegary sharpness and the spiciness becomes milder and even sweet. Therefore, old Kimchi is the best ingredient for use in Korean stews, soups, stir fry, pancakes and spring rolls.

The most common ingredient of Kimchi is white Korean cabbage (Baechu) 배추. In the UK Chinese cabbage (Chinese leaves) are less firm, more watery and lighter (around 500-600 g) in comparison to the denser Korean cabbage (weighing around 3 kgs.)

Koreans often add fish sauce, fresh fish or oysters as ingredients of Kimchi depending on the region. This has its pros and cons. For example, Seoul people tend to make Kimchi without any fish sauce so when their Kimchi starts to ferment, the taste is very sour and it can only be kept for a short period. Whereas using fish sauce acts as a preservative and ensures the classic taste.

If you do not need to keep your Kimchi for more than few weeks then I would recommend that do not use any fish sauce.

If you are a Vegan then Kimchi will be a key starting place for exploring for other Korean dishes.

There are about 100 different varieties of Kimchi but typically people will keep the kimchi around 6-10 different Kimchi in their Kimchi refrigerator.

There is no doubt that Baechu Kimchi배추김치 has a deeper flavour and a better texture and you can keep it much longer.

Let me introduce some different Kimchi.

  • Baechu Kimchi (배추김치): “Whole Cabbage Kimchi” generally when we simply say kimchi we mean this type.
  • Dongchimi (Radish Water Kimchi): “Winter Kimchi”, big Korean white radish
  • Baek (White) Kimchi: without chillies,
  • Ggakdugi Kimchi (깍두기): “Chopped Radish Cubes”, Korean white radish but I always make it with Kohlrabi that actually approximates to the best quality Korean white radish.
  • Yeolmumul Kimchi (열무물김치): “Green Water Kimchi”, Tokyo turnips in UK
  • Nabak Kimchi (나박김치): “Red Water Kimchi”, Korean white radish
  • Chonggak Kimchi (총각김치): “Whole Radish Kimchi or Ponytail Kimchi”, a little bigger than Tokyo turnips in UK
  • Gat Kimchi: “Mustard Leaf Kimchi”, similar to Tat Soi with horseradish taste. I have made with Tat Soi. It is very similar to Gat Kimchi and this is from the southern provinces where I went to learn regional Kimchi. This is good with pork BBQ.
  • Mak Kimchi (막김치): “Summer Kimchi”
  • Oi Sobagi (오이김치): “Cucumber Kimchi”, this keeps only a few days.
  • Kkaennip Kimchi (깻잎): ”Perilla Leaf Kimchi”, my best favourite. It is the best with BBQ
  • Spring onion Kimchi


Jjin Kimchi Mandu

Kimchi dumplings with vinegar soy dipping sauce

Mandu (dumplings/spring rolls) are a versatile dish so they can be filled with only vegetables or with fish or meat with vegetables. There are many diverse ways of cooking mandu such as pan fried,deep fried, steamed and added to a soup.
Continue reading “Jjin Kimchi Mandu”

Tofu and Prisoners

The Story of Prison and Tofu
Did you know that when prisoners are released from a jail in South Korea, they are always given fresh tofu to eat at the prison gates by their families?

I found the reason for this is the blog of a Korean Prisoner Officer.

When Korea was ruled as an oppressed colony by Japan between 1910-1945, many Korean intellectuals and scholars were sent to political prison camps by the Japanese authorities.  Whilst in prison, some of the political prisoners went on hunger strike and in any case other criminal prisoners often did not get even a basic food allowance.

So prisoners were famished upon their release and their poor metabolism meant that there was a severe danger of death through overindulging in eating causing intestinal problems and choking and many died. You can read more here.

People understood that tofu was the best food in this case because it provided protein and soft tofu could suppress the released prisoners’ ravenous appetites and left them feeling satisfied. Most of all, it was made in most homes everywhere in Korea at that time. Additionally, tofu is white and white means purity, cleanliness and innocence. So a person coming out from a prison might consider living a purer live so that they do not return.

So even though prison food is very nutritious nowadays, this tradition continues. In any case even the law abiding may enjoy tofu so please enjoy tofu with your friends and family.

Try these two tofu dishes :

Deep fried Tofu in Spicy Sweet and Tangy Sauce

Tofu Jorim (Pan fried Tofu in Soy and Chilli Powder sauce)

Deep fried Tofu in Spicy Sweet and Tangy Sauce

Removing the excess moisture from the tofu is the key to achieving crispy fried tofu.

You can use any firm tofu. I bought mine from a Korean supermarket but I also use it from Waitrose. I find Waitrose’s tofu is much firmer than most Korean ones.

Place the tofu block on either a bamboo mat so simply on your chopping board onto layers of kitchen towel.

Lay more kitchen towels or a slice of bread on top of the tofu, gently pressing down with your hand to remove the extra moisture.

Leave a small weight on top and soak up any water from the sides.

Remove the paper towels or break and then repeat with new ones to soak up and soak out the moisture as much as possible without crushing or crumbling the tofu block.

Slice the tofu into about 1 inch cubes. Lay the tofu cubes on two or three layers of kitchen towels as shown in picture.

Again remove excess moisture using more towels or sliced bread, patting the tofu gently and drain away the water.

Season the tofu cubes by sprinkling a pinch of black pepper and salt.

The sauce we use is the same as sauce as in my Yangnyeom Tongdak recipe.

Prepare the sauce fully and then return to the tofu.

We are going to coat the tofu cubes three times in total.

Add 4 tablespoons of Korean flour (or my alternative) to a shallow bowl and coat each tofu cube by rolling carefully in the flour then remove and set aside for 5 minutes.

Repeat this process twice adding more flour each time.

Try to avoid the tofu cubes sticking to each other.

We are going to fry the flour coated tofu three times in total.

When the oil is heated to at least 170-180 degrees C, carefully drop the coated tofu cubes into the hot oil for 1 or 2 minutes stirring occasionally until the coated tofu cubes become a light brown.

Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Fry again and drain twice for one minute each time until the cubes are crisp and golden brown.

After the tofu is ready and placed in a serving bowl, reheat the sauce.

You have the choice of serving the sauce over the tofu on the side for dipping.
I like to provide both options so that there are two different textures available.

Sprinkle the some pine nuts or chopped pistachio and chopped chives on top of the sauce and serve immediately.

 Preparation time: Less than 1 hour

Cooking time: Less than 20 minutes

Serves: 2-4


  • Teakim garu (Mixed starch flour for frying) or alternatively flour (4tbs) +corn starch (4tbs)+ potatoes starch (4tbs)  + icing sugar (1ts) + cooking salt (1/2 ts)+  a pinch of white ground pepper + ground ginger powder + dried garlic powder
  • Firm Tofu
  • Vegetable oil

For the Yangnyeom ( sweet and spicy sauce)

Vegetables for the sauce

  • 15 g finely chopped mango or apple
  • 15 g finely chopped leeks
  • 7 g finely chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoon grated garlic
  • ½ teaspoon grated Thai chilli red peppers

Water and seasoning for the sauce

  • ½ tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon powder ginger
  • 100 ml water
  • 20 g tomato ketchup
  • 2 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 1 tablespoon red wine
  • 1 tablespoon Korean chilli paste

Thickening for the sauce

  • 1 teaspoon corn flour
  • 1 tablespoon water

Tofu Jorim (Pan fried Tofu in Soy and Chilli Powder sauce)


Jorim refers to dishes made of meats, seafood, vegetables or tofu in a mixed sauce cooked by simmering for a time.  The sauce for Jorim is mainly  Ganjang (soy sauce). In olden times in Korea during the hot summer weather this salty soy sauce could prevent food going bad.

You can buy Tofu from any English supermarket. I bought this from Waitrose. Our local Korean supermarket sells Tofu at a better price and I think it is much firmer in texture than the Waitrose one. This dish is so easy to make and the uncooked tofu contains only around 200 calories. By comparison, same amount of beef contains around 650 calories. So you can see how healthy this dish is.

If you never made a dish using “tofu” then try this dish first. You are going to love it! Try to prepare all the ingredients before you start cooking then it is easy to follow the instructions here.

Pan Frying Tofu
Pan fry the sliced Tofu until the colour becomes golden brown on both sides.You can sprinkle a little bit of salt and black pepper seasoning if you want.
Mix all these ingredients in a bowl except the spring onions and shallots which will be added after frying the tofu.
Tofu with Onions
Then add all the spring onions and shallots like this picture.
Finally sprinkle the sauce we made and simmer them for 1-2 minutes on a medium high heat.Serve with a bowl of rice and a glass of beer for yourself! Well done!

Tofu Jorim

  • Portion : 2 – 3 people
  • Type : Entrée or side dish
  • Time : 20 minutes

Main ingredients

  • 396 g,  one pack of firm Tofu
  • 1 shallot, finely sliced
  • 1/3 cup of spring onions, chopped
  • Some olive oil or vegetable oil for pan frying

Sauce ingredients

  • 2/3 tablespoon grated garlic (2 cloves)
  • 45m water
  • 2 tablespoons, dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon, toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon, chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon, red wine
  • 1 tablespoon, assume oil
  • 1 tablespoon, golden syrup
  • A pinch salt and white pepper if it is necessary


  1. Cut the tofu in 2 horizontal line and then slice them  into 8-10 pieces.
  2. Be preparing all the ingredients in separated bowls except some spring onions and shallots.
  3. Finely slice shallots and spring onions and be preparing them in a bowl.
  4. In a heated non-stick pan,  add 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil and then place the tofu in the pan on a medium and low heat(frequently change the heat from the low to medium or medium to low)
  5. Pan fry both side of the tofu until they become golden brown on medium low heat.
  6. Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients in a bowl except shallots and spring onions.
  7. When the tofu is golden brownish in both side then sprinkle shallots and spring onions and then lastly  the sauces.
  8. Simmering  them for 1-2 minutes on a medium heat.
  9. Serve it with a bowl of steamed rice or eat it as “ Anju”  with drinking.