8 (Thu) April 2021
Pytt i Panna
-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-
with the Family
Korean-Swedish Culinary Exchange (13) (see also KSCX)
During our prior exchange, when GK had made bibimbab, he commented that the dish reminded him of pytt i panna in the sense that both can be made from leftover ingredients (see 12.063 Kåldolmar). I take the point that bibimbab is sometimes improvised at home with various “leftover” namul in the fridge, but I would say that a proper bibimbab is prepared from scratch with great consideration, care, and labor – historically, a dish for royalty – so it seems quite the opposite in nature to pytt i panna, which is meant to be thrown together with whatever’s available.
Pytt i Panna is a Swedish dish. As per GK’s general description: “essentially a dish that originally just consisted of left-over meats, potatoes and vegetables that were minced, pan-fried, and served with a fried egg plus slices of pickled beetroot. Nowadays people normally buy it frozen pre-made.” In other words, it’s a hash.
My first attempt at the dish, I started with a recipe from SwedishFood.com (see Swedish Hash – Pyttipanna).
In my arrogance, however, I couldn’t accept the recipe’s ratio of potatoes (400 grams) to meats (225 grams in all), so I doubled the amount of meats: 150 grams of bacon + 150 grams of sausage + 150 grams of pork – all “leftovers” from the freezer. I also included carrots.
Most sources, including GK, insisted that pickled beets (inlagda rödbetor) were essential as a side dish.
Raw beetroots can be found in local supermarkets these days in Korea – I don’t know what people do with them – but pickled beets are not readily sold in stores. Tasking W to acquire pickled beets on-line, she ordered pickled beets that came julienned in the can, which initially seemed odd, but ultimately worked better in the presentation.
While preparing the mise en place, I couldn’t find the can opener. I asked W, whose daily contribution in the kitchen is cleaning up after the meal, where she’d put it.
Her: “What is a can opener?”
Me: “The thing that opens cans.”
Her: “What does it look like?”
It suddenly dawned on me that she has never opened a tin can in her life. When pressed further, she was proud to confirm that she has also never used a food processor or a gas oven, never deep-fried anything, never made a sandwich, never cut a tomato.
Recalling that she had once set fire to something in the microwave, which would seem physically impossible – looks like a carton of eggs in the photo, though I can’t imagine why she was cooking a carton of eggs in the microwave (see 4.048 W’s Mother-in-Law’s Birthday Hansang) – I should be grateful that she prefers to clean.
The pytt i panna turned out good. Perhaps the dish is meant to be heavier on the potatoes, but I preferred having more meat, especially the salty bacon and smoky sausage, which added flavor to an otherwise simple dish seasoned only with salt and a splash of worcestershire. The runny egg yolk added a creamy warmth to the texture – alas, I’d realized at the last minute that I only had 2 eggs on hand, so each of us got a half. At the outset, I had been unsure how the beets would fit it, but I enjoyed the contrasting tanginess – kinda like lingonberry jam with meatballs.
What I really appreciated in making the dish was the all-in-one opportunity to use up bits of meats in the freezer, exactly as the dish is meant to do. Usually, when I have critical mass of odds and ends, I toss them into a Japanese curry, but pytt i panna now provides a second option.
GK: I made kalguksu yesterday. I mostly followed this recipe: https://mykoreankitchen.com/kalguksu/ with the addition of minced onion. I also didn’t use kelp or anchovy stock (since I didn’t have it). I also switched the “littleneck clam” (not sure what that is, or if it’s available here). Instead I used blue mussels (Swedish grown), since that was the only clams/mussels that were available fresh and not frozen at the supermarket. I followed the instructions in the book with international vegetarian dishes for making the actual kalguksu from scratch.
GK: I boiled the noodles separately, drained and set aside to wait. Boiled the minced/julienned vegetables with garlic + soy sauce to make the stock. Added the mussels and finally the noodles.
GK: I found the noodles to be a little “dough-ey”… Maybe I should have boiled them longer? (the instructions called for just 30 seconds). Or I didn’t do them thin enough… Or maybe didn’t knead them for long enough. If I try making them again, I might consult a another instruction or even a video… The stock was also kinda bland. I guess I might be more fond of spicy broths. If I try making the dish again, I will also try to get a better balance of the taste of the broth. My mistake was not tasting the broth before serving to see if it needed some additions.
GK: A final note is that I don’t remember eating kalguksu served at a restaurant. I probably have tried it at least once, but I don’t remember. The lack of reference makes it even harder to know how “off” my dish was from the “genuine” thing (I understand your frustration with cooking Swedish dishes).
In pytt i panna, I enjoyed learning how Sweden evolved the dish as a thrift measure, now embraced in its own right. Rather than bibimbab, I am reminded of a post on ugeoji tang 10 years ago that led to a very long discussion in the comments between GK and me about how our respective culinary cultures developed under hardships, including how starving Koreans foraged in the mountains for weeds and starving Swedes resorted to eating wild badgers (see generally 2.007 Ugeoji Sagol Tang) – ha! Important to remember these lessons, especially as both countries are now quite affluent.
“Pytt i panna” takes over as the cutest name for a dish that I have cooked. The previous champion was “raggmunk” (see 4.007 Raggmunk).
A few observations on GK’s dish:
I can’t recall the last time that I made kal guksu from scratch, maybe never since the launch of GMTD, but perhaps I should. So, I’m no expert, and nobody really needs to be an expert, as kal guksu is meant to be a simple, cheap, easy dish.
That said, GK’s noodles look perfectly legit, whether they were kneaded long enough or rolled thin enough, both matters of personal preference. Personally, I would’ve cut the noodles narrower, like tagliatelle; GK’s look more like pappardelle, which is fine of course. But doneness is important, as Koreans tend to like their noodles overcooked, soft and squishy, never al dente.
Mussels would be unusual for kal guksu in Korea, but nothing wrong them per se. Koreans would use “little neck” clams, any variety of short, round bivalves (see for example 11.346 Cyclina v Orient), most commonly Manila clams (see for example 2.203 Bajirak Kal Guksu).
My only advice on improving the dish would to amp up the broth. The care package that I sent GK – due to arrive in the next 1 to 4 months – includes sachets loaded with ground anchovies, kelp, mushrooms, etc, that are boiled in water for a few minutes to make a rich, flavorful stock. Also add minced garlic and/or sliced potatoes. Cooking the noodles in the broth works to thicken it – potatoes, too – the broth should be comfortingly goopy.
In any event, GK’s kal guksu this time looked great, even if he didn’t sound too keen about the outcome.
As for the next exchange, I’m wondering if we should flip it around: I make kal guksu, and GK makes pytt i panna?
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