Clever Cooks, Glut(tony), Thrifty Asian

Kongnamul banchan (soybean-sprout side dish from Korea)

My mother uses bean sprouts in her rice paper rolls, salads, noodle broths, stir fries and savoury crepes. Like Metamucil, it keeps her regular and she’ll happily crunch through kilos of the stuff.

Unfortunately, I’m not so keen on bean sprouts, which means that a packet from the supermarket usually goes slimy before I have the chance to finish it off.

Bean-sprout shelf-life can be extended by blanching them (yuck)* or turning them into Korean kongnamul banchan (nom). Unlike its southern neighbours, Korea has a temperate climate, hence its people are very good at preserving the glut of the warmer months for the leaner periods. Bean sprouts can be cultivated at any time of year, which is probably why they became the staple for starving Korean soldiers during the early Goryeo period (another random fact from Wikipedia), but being thrifty becomes a habit I guess.

Until recently, I was making things up as I went along with this dish, blanching bean sprouts and then drizzling them in soy sauce and sesame oil, but according to Joanne Choi’s Korean mum, the more authentic (and tasty) version steams the sprouts in the tiniest amount of water. In my rendition, I’ve cut down on the water and substituted salt with a drizzle of soy sauce:

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* ‘Freeze sprouts for the longest storage. Wash sprouts…Then heat one layer at a time in steam for three minutes. Cool right away in icy water and drain. Put the sprouts into plastic containers and seal.’ (via eHow)

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