We're at the end of March, but I feel like we've been lost somewhere between winter and spring for a while. It's getting close, and I'm looking forward to some colorful vegetables. But in the meantime, I turn to my faithful sea greens, tucked away in the cupboard looking like my dance moves captured as its dried permanence.
Miyeok (미역), aka wakame, is a common ingredient in Korea, especially for miyeokguk (미역국). It is also often referred to as 'birthday soup' because of the tradition of eating the soup on birthdays in Korea. With its high content of calcium and iodine, women after giving birth eat the soup for days on end.
You can also make a quick salad with miyeok. Only after soaking it for about 15 minutes in water, miyeok should double, triple in size and be soft enough to handle. A quick dip into boiling, salty water will bring out its bright green color, and you're ready to mix in the addictive dressing of spicy, sweet gochujang (고추장, Korean red pepper paste) and rice vinegar.
The simple gochujang vinegar sauce is a versatile one to have ready for other dishes as well. Spicy, sweet, salty, and tangy flavors from one simple sauce - what's not to like?
If you find that the simple combination of miyeok and gochujang vinegar dressing is not enough, mix in cucumber slices for crunch which is a common addition to the dish. I added thin red onion slices along with a spoonful of sweet fish roe (은어알 eun eo al) for this recipe. Feel free to substitute the sweet fish roe with tobiko, flying fish roe, if it's easier to get.
Now it looks more like a complete salad, try it on its own. Then try it with a hot bowl of rice or use it as a part of another salad. Whatever way you decide to enjoy this miyeok salad, you'll have a new delicious green salad in-between seasons that's just a little cooler than other everyday green salads. Oh, did I mention the dressing is pretty addictive?
MIYEOK SALAD WITH GOCHUJANG-VINEGAR DRESSING
(미역 초고추장 무침 mi yeok cho go chu jang mu chim)
Yield - 1 pint or 2 cups
20 grams (0.7 oz.) dried miyeok (미역), aka wakame
Water to soak and blanch
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt for blanching
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 ~ 2 tablespoons gochujang (고추장, Korean red pepper paste)
1 clove garlic, grated
2 teaspoons turbinado raw cane sugar or regular sugar
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
Optional) a few thin slices of red onion or regular onion for crunchy texture
Optional) 1 tablespoon sweet fish roe (은어알 eun eo al) or tobiko
1. Soak dried miyeok in water until soft enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. While miyeok is soaking in water, make the spicy-tart gochujang dressing by mixing together rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon gochujang, garlic, turbinado sugar and sesame seeds.
3. Bring water and salt up to a boil over high heat. I used about 4 cups of water to 1 tablespoon of salt for blanching miyeok. Add soaked miyeok from #1. When its color turns bright green, about 10 seconds, drain and rinse in cold water. Cut miyeok into small pieces with kitchen scissors or a knife. Squeeze to remove excess water and set aside.
4. Mix together blanched miyeok with the gochujang dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. If you want more spicy heat, add more gochujang.
5. If using, mix in thin slices of red onion. For the fish roe, mix in 1/2 tablespoon in the salad and garnish with the rest on top of the miyeok salad.
6. Eat the salad with rice or mixed in with another salad. Any leftover can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
봄 (bom) spring season
곰 (gom) bear