I'm happy to be surrounded by so much ethnic food in Los Angeles, but trying to navigate all the different neighborhoods, cuisines and ingredients can be a bit daunting. I haven't even exhausted all the ways to use kale yet, so where do I begin with food from Armenian, Korean and Ethiopian, oh my. Luckily one of my food blogging groups provides a wealth of culinary information and on a recent Saturday, Christina from Christina's Cucina was our gastro guide through the Korean Galleria and Market.
How many times had I passed the Koreatown Galleria on Olympic and Western and wondered what mysteries lay inside. Well it was finally time to discover.
Wandering the well-stocked market, I was wide-eyed at many of the different ingredients, smells and preparations. Subtle, Korean food is not.
I say preparations because there were samples being given out every few feet, which was a good thing since many ingredients were foreign and it was nice to to taste before buying.
Christina pointed out some of her favorite items and one brand in particular, Pulmuone, she often looks for when she hasn't used a product before. They don't tend to use MSG or a plethora of other unnatural products, so it's usually a fairly safe option.
Like 99 Ranch were I recently visited while doing some Thai cooking, the selection of cuts used in the meat department swung the gamut and again, had great prices. Local wild caught black cod was only $4.99 a pound, and they will filet the fish for you if taking a whole fish home is too daunting.
After sniffing, sampling and stacking a load of new ingredients to take home, I was eager to try a few new things out, but not before having an enormous bowl of bibimbap from the food court upstairs. It was a best-of compilation of many of the items we had just seen at the market. It's great eating for those who can't decide what they want. It's all here.
Christina had told me about one of her favorite Korean recipes for Mung Bean Pancakes, and I thought that was as good a place as any to being experimentation. The one thing I worried about with the Korean fare was the amount of sodium I was consuming. I could barely get my rings off my swollen fingers by the time I got home from our taste testing and lunch, so in came the not so Korean, but gluten free, non-GMO Braggs Liquid Aminos.
I had never purchased korean mung beans before, but I'm always game to try anything, once, especially when they're a superfood. Mung beans are high in fiber and protein making for a powerful duo to help fight diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
I soaked the beans overnight and then gave them a whiff and chew in the morning and thought, this can't possibly the basis for anything that tastes good. I blended the beans with some water and threw in a little almond flour to make a pancake like batter.
Then I got out the kimchi. I'm not a kimchi fan, but Christina told me she wasn't either, but that she found them tolerable, and even lovable in this dish. With these two smelly ingredients on my counter, I quickly scanned the fridge to see what my back-up meal was going to be after this pungent one failed.
I threw in some marinated shrimp and mushrooms into the kimchi laced batter to make for an easy, all-in-one meal, and gave it a stir while holding my breath - for many reasons. I scooped small disks into a hot pan, flipped when ready and then grabbed a fork with my liquid amino acid. I didn't even sit as I had one hand on the trash can, ready for the toss.
Then there was this interesting, refreshing taste. There was heat from the kimchi, freshness from the shrimp and ginger, and the liquid amino provided the umami for an all around really good mung bean pancake. Who knew?
Now I'm making batches of these and keeping them in the fridge to throw in the toaster oven to eat with a salad for lunch, and I just had them for dinner with a side of my $2 oyster mushrooms from the Korean market. A great, nutritious recipe that will now go into rotation!
Shrimp Mung Bean Pancakes
Makes 6-8 pancakes
1/2 cup dried, peeled, split mung beans
1/4 cup water
4 large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined and coarsely chopped
1 clove diced garlic
1 teaspoon diced ginger
1 teaspoon Bragg's Amino Acid
1/2 cup kimchi
1/2 cup chopped oyster mushrooms
2 chopped green onions
Cover the mung beans in water and soak overnight or a minimum of 6 hours
Drain mung beans, rinse and repeat.
Place raw shrimp, garlic, ginger and 1/2 teaspoon of the amino acid in bowl and stir. Let sit for at leat 20 minutes.
Place beans in a blender and slowly add water until slightly thick consistency is reached.
Add kimchi and pulse to incorporate. Batter will still be chunky. You don't need to form a puree.
Stir in the marinated shrimp, spices, mushrooms and green onions.
Place a large pan over medium heat and coat with coconut oil or other non-stick spray. Pour a 1/4 cup of batter in the pan and allow to cook until brown on one side, about 3-4 minutes, and then flip.
Once both sides are brown, remove from pan, top with additional green onions and serve with liquid amino acid.