Adventures in Korean cuisine

When I dived Ishigaki (Japan) in January, the shop owner let us sample some 10 year old liqueur, stored in huge 5l plastic jars. The content looked pretty vile: rotten fruit and brown juice but boy oh boy, was it tasty!

During the hot summer months you can see large bags of green plums being sold everywhere in Korea. Curious, I asked my co-teacher about it and she explained that this plum variety, maesil, is used to make liqueur, maesil ju! Home made booze??! It was a challenge that simply had to be accepted.

I found a good recipe online for short-cut maesil ju- use equal amounts of plums and sugar and add 1 or 2 bottles of soju (I left out the honey). I filled 5 sterilized jars back in June, popped them in the back of my food cupboard and forgot about it until last week. You should let the concoction brew for at least 3 months.

Maesil has a few health benefits: it fights fatigue and aids digestion (good for a dickey tummy). It’s not just used to make booze though! You can also leave out the soju and just use sugar and plums, layered alternately and left for 1-3 months- maesil cheong.

On a recent cycling trip to Gyeongju I stopped off for lunch at a quaint Indian restaurant, Hawa Dhaba. The owner, ayoung Korean woman who spent some time in India, made me an amazing side salad, simple but punchy: shredded cabbage mixed with sunflower and pumpkin seeds, with a drizzle of citron syrup. It blew my mind. The next weekend, this citron syrup came my way again, this time in Busan. Our host made us citron tea in the morning and it was a sign that couldn’t be ignored any longer. I had to make citron syrup myself.

It’s the same idea: equal amounts of sugar and chopped lemon alternately layered in a jar and leave it for at least a month. You can also add honey to this mix. And hell, if you don’t like cooking and shit, just go to any supermarket in Korea and buy a jar, pre-made.

With winter soon approaching, this tea is a really tasty, hearty way of making sure you get a vitamin C boost your immune system.

I made my batch today so it will be ready just before winter really starts biting.

And since my inner ajumma took over today I also made ginger beer, because, why not?! 😉

I love these autumn days, getting everything ready for winter! I love the Korean traditions I’ve learnt about that I have been able to incorporate into my own life. Heck, I might even make good kimchi one day!

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4 thoughts on “Adventures in Korean cuisine

  1. Love this post! Been making a lot of things homemade since moving overseas. I’m ready to make my maesil ju, but I would like to know how much soju you use. What’s considered a small bottle? Thanks in advance!

    1. Haha, awesome Kristen! Just buy the standard bottles you find in the shop- something like 330ml. It’s all even quantities of everything anyway- think of the soju as a kickstarter to the process. My maesil tasted REALLY nice 😀 Have fun making it x

      1. Really? Can it be true? Just 2 bottles of soju for 10lbs of maesil and 10lbs of sugar? When I make umeshu, it’s 2.2lbs ume, 2.2lbs sugar and 1.6L shochu.

  2. Yeah, it worked but you’re welcome to use more soju…. I didn’t have 10lb of maesil, more like 2kg so 4.4lb and 2kg/4.4lb of sugar with 2 bottles of ‘ju!

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