4.084 Taste Test: A vs Z

Cycle 4 – Item 84

30 (Sat) March 2013

Aehobak Jeon vs Zucchini Jeon


by me

at home

-Oksu, Seongdong, Seoul, Republic of Korea-

with W and DJ

Aehobak (애호박) is a type of summer squash.  Cucurbita moschata.  Cylindrical.  Light green skin, yellow flesh.  Sweetish in flavor.  The term means “child/young (ae) squash (hobak).”  The most popular squash in Korea, used for soups, stir-fries, and jeon.  (I encountered something very similar to aehobak in Hong Kong (see 3.140 Noodles with Shrimp and Squash), but I’ve never seen it otherwise outside of a Korean context.)

Aehobak (below) / Zucchini (above) – roughly the same price.

Zucchini is also a type of summer squash aka courgette.  Cucurbita pepo.  Cylindrical.  Dark green skin, whitish flesh.  Sweetish in flavor, with a slightly bitter edge.  Commonly available in Korea, referred to as “zucchini (쥬키니)” or “dweji (pig/fat) hobak (돼지호박),” though usually used in non-Korean dishes (e.g., pasta).  (I can’t recall ever seeing it used in Korean cooking except for a few slices tossed into a pot of complimentary doenjang jjigae provided with a barbecue spread.)

For the sake of comparison, I made both aehobak and zucchini into jeon.  The idea was inspired by reader GK, who’d prepared a plate of zucchini jeon as part of our on-going Korean-Swedish-cross-culinary exchange (see 4.069 Kroppkakor in Zucchini-Picada Cream Sauce).  As far back as college, when aehobak could only be obtained at large Korean markets far away from campus, and I would substitute zucchini where aehobak normally would be used, never really noticing a huge difference, I’ve always wondered how they would match up in a side-by-side appraisal.

I estimated the weight of the zucchini to be around 400 grams, and the scale verified exactly, and I mean exactly, 400 grams – this is the kind of childish thing that makes me so proud of myself.

In the present experiment, I kept everything the same between the two, applying my basic jeon recipe to each simultaneously, even cooking them in staggered batches so that they’d be exposed to the ever-browning oil at every other stage.

In a blind tasting by myself, W, and DJ, the unanimous favorite was the aehobak.  They didn’t even hesitate.  I also preferred the aehobak, which I found to be somewhat sweeter and firmer.  However, I didn’t consider it to be categorically distinct or significantly superior to the zucchini, which I found to be just slightly more bitter and flabby (more moisture within).  Perhaps if sliced a tad thicker and/or cooked less and seasoned with a touch of sugar, the zucchini could constitute a virtually indistinguishable replacement for the aehobak.  Mystery solved.


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