9 (Tue) February 2021
-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-
Another Korean-Swedish culinary exchange between Number One Swedish Fan GK and me, wherein he does something Korean, and I do Swedish (see most recently 12.020 Pasta and Salmon Pudding).
(Incidentally, GK has recently joined the culinary exchange between Number One Fan LJY and me, which is about cooking dishes centered on a common ingredient (see most recently 12.026 Pekish Duck).)
My entry this time was the dish Jansson’s Medley. Another recipe from the cookbook Traditional Swedish Cooking by Caroline Hofberg. When I asked GK for background on the dish, he replied:
I have never heard of Jansson’s Medley before, and tried to google it to no avail. There’s a really famous and traditional dish called “Jansson’s Temptation,” which is made out of potatoes, onions, pickled anchovies/sprats, bread crumbs and cream (normal cream, not sour cream): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jansson%27s_temptation. So it could be the author’s own variant of that dish.
If my guess is true that “Jansson’s Medley” is a variation of the classic “Jansson’s Temptation”, there’s two possible (probably apocryphal) stories about the origin of the name, both found in the Wikipedia article above. One being that it got its name from a famous opera singer who was a big gourmand. The other being that it got its name from a silent film from the 1920s with the same name. Before you asked me who “Jansson” is, I hadn’t even reflected if “Jansson’s” was referencing an actual person, Jansson being a really common last name here.
Aside from the similar name, and similar ingredients – though as previously noted, potatoes and anchovies and cream are common to many/most Swedish dishes – Jansson’s Medley doesn’t appear to be anything like Jansson’s Temptation. Whereas the latter is a casserole, the former is a salad.
The recipe in its entirety is as follows: 10 oz (about 285 g) cooked cold potatoes + 1/2 yellow onion, minced + 2 oz (about 55 g) anchovy fillets, plus 2 tsp of anchovy oil + 4 tablespoons chopped chives + 1 1/3 cup sour cream + salt and white pepper. Mix all ingredients together, set in refrigerator for at least 1 hour, serve.
Awesome. Essentially, the dish is an excuse to eat lots of sour cream, while the other ingredients are there to enhance that experience. The potatoes provide the platform – in my impatience, I cooked the potatoes just barely to doneness, leaving them still a bit firm, which turnout to be a good thing; if cooked longer, softer potatoes might’ve made the overall dish kinda mushy – onions for crunch and sweetness, chives for brightness, and anchovy for intense umami. The best potato salad that I’ve ever had, way beyond what I could’ve imagined possible for potato salad. A dish that I probably never would’ve tried, if not for this exchange.
I would be very curious for GK to try the recipe and tell me his impression of the dish.
At GK’s suggestion, I served the dish with grilled fish. Salmon fillets purchased at IKEA to further authenticate the Swedishness of the meal. It was a seamless pairing, though I can envision Jansson’s Medley making an ideal accompaniment for so many other things.
Part 2 : GAJI JJANJI
Me: Because GK had cooked a full spread, and I wanted to make sure that his efforts were fully appreciated, I am presenting his dishes in 3 parts. Last time, his handmade kimchi was featured. This time, gaji (eggplant) jjani (pickle).
GK: The first thing I tried to cook was the gaji jjanji (가지짠지).
GK: The recipe was a little confusing. It told me to cook the eggplant in salted water, but how long? I boiled them a while until they were a little softer. It also told me to make some kind of “cut” in the eggplants (“칼집 넣다“) but how deep? I make my own guess here as well. Since the recipe called for the eggplants to ferment in water for a while (something I had overlooked when I picked the recipe for this weekend), I decided to steam one of the eggplants, while the others are waiting to “mature.”
GK: The eggplants I bought looked way bigger than the ones in the cookbook. Are there several different types of eggplant?
GK: As for the steamed eggplant, it was ok. I guess giving the eggplant more time to absorb the seasoning would give it more taste. I was also unsure how I was supposed to eat it. Rip off parts of it? Cut it up?
GK: Below is also a photo of the eggplant after it was fermented for a few days. I frankly didn’t like it that much. It felt kinda rubbery and without that much taste. The fact that it was cold didn’t make it better. Maybe I’m not a big fan of eggplant, but I liked it much better steamed.
Perhaps for the first time, I seem to have come out on top, way over the top. In Jansson’s Medley, so simple, so versatile, so tasty, I’ve discovered a dish that is sure to become a permanent part of my repertoire. GK, on the other hand, kinda flopped on the eggplant. In any case, we both learned a lot and enjoyed the experience.
A few comments on GK’s dish:
Generally, so-called modern North Korean cuisine can be tricky to authenticate, given the dearth of direct verifiable evidence and the small sample of indirect sources. So, we don’t really know if this “gaji jjanji” per se is really a thing these days and, if so, whether the recipe is an accurate representation.
According to the recipe – a single red chili, a tablespoon of soy sauce, a teaspoon of red chili powder (gochugaru), a teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of minced scallion, and 1 tablespoon of minced garlic – this would be a very simplistic and bland pickle. In fact, I’m wondering how 1 tablespoon of liquid (the soy sauce) could possibly be enough to cover 500 grams of eggplant, especially knowing how absorptive eggplant is. The shot of the fermented eggplant above shows that it’s barely seasoned.
The seasoning was probably even more lacking due to the size of the eggplants GK used, which look triple in volume to Korean eggplants, which are much thinner. (Have you ever seen the short and round variety of English eggplants? They look like actual chicken eggs, especially the white ones – hence the name.)
The instructions call for the eggplant to be cut in half lengthwise, leaving about 3 cm towards the base, then again at 90 degrees, so as to create 4 long quarters attached at the end (I’ve spent 20 minutes trying to write this sentence and still uncertain if it makes sense). The stuffing would be distributed between the quarters to maximize penetration. This is the same technique used in making cucumber kimchi (oi sobagi).
I would imagine that the eggplant, once fermented, would be cut cross-sectionally every 3 cm or so, such that each slice results in 4 separate bite-sized pieces with a bit of stuffing in the middle.
Anyway, I hate eggplant – both taste and texture – so I probably wouldn’t have liked the dish no matter what. No offense!
For my next dish, I’m thinking of challenging myself to bake a dessert. Stay tuned!
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