My Kimchi Pancake Scar

September 28, 2011 § 2 Comments

I decided to take a break from my final Montreal post and focus on what I made for dinner tonight. So, here it goes.

There’s something wonderful about making a dish so familiar that cooking it comes naturally. You don’t have to scramble through dog-eared pages of a magazine or drag your laptop to the kitchen counter with the recipe up on the screen. You know exactly which ingredients you need and how much, how high the heat and how long in the pan. As you toss in the carefully chopped vegetables and confident dashes of spices, you begin to fine tune where needed, so it comes out better than the last time. When it comes to whipping up that tried and true dish, it’s like knowing the back of your hand.

That one dish left a scar on my right hand.

The scar

The scar

Light brown and shaped like a fat tadpole, the scar has faded in the past few months, but I clearly remember the first time I made that dish – kimchi pancake.

During the insanely cold winter last year, I craved hot and spicy foods, perhaps thinking the heat on my tongue would trickle down the rest of body. Kimchi pancake would do the trick, I thought as I read Kunjip’s recipe on The New York Times and knew I had to give it a try. So, late one Monday night, my boyfriend stayed after our usual club meeting and we got cooking.

Knowing he’s not into vegetarian dishes, I stirred into bite-size pieces of shrimp into the coral-colored mixture of cornstarch, flour, egg, chopped stalks of scallions and bits of kimchi. Once it formed into a pink glob, I placed a pan on the stove and turned it to high heat. I waved my hand over the pan and, sensing the right amount of heat, I poured what I thought were just tablespoons of vegetable oil. Guess I was a little too generous. As I slowly turned the pancake over, this pool of hot oil caught it and drama ensued. In a horrific instant and seeming slow motion, oil splashed onto my apron, flecks fell onto my feet and a splotch of it seared itself onto the skin of my right hand.

I yelped and my boyfriend followed as I ran into the bathroom to run cold water over my extremities. But, the damage was done. The next day at my internship, I spent most of my time squeezing vitamin E onto my blistering scars. However, it wasn’t too bad once I took a lunch break to finally eat my kimchi pancake. It was pretty good.

Ever since then, I’ve sort of admired my kimchi pancake battle scar, the remains of an adventurous night of cooking. It seemed to prove that I can cook, as odd as it sounds, or at least that I’ll cook even in the midst of pain, which chefs like Anthony Bourdain can commend me for at the very least (he probably wouldn’t though). Now, this kimchi pancake has made its way into my cooking repertoire.

Tonight, after interviews on the phone and hours in front of the computer writing, I was suddenly in the mood for my tried and true dish.

I slipped on the same apron, now with many more stains and started chopping the kimchi. Slivers of pickled cabbage found its way into a bowl along with flour, cornstarch, egg and, I almost forgot, scallions. This time, I was more modest with the oil; yet, as I was ready to turn the pancake, I winced slightly, wondering if it would end like the first time.

Of course, it didn’t.

Kimchi pancake with dipping sauce

Kimchi pancake with dipping sauce

Crisp on the outside and dense with kimchi and its juices on the inside, my kimchi pancake turned out much better than the others I’ve made. Except, there was no need to look at a recipe this time and no scars.

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