Cycle 14 – Item 179
3 (Mon) July 2023
-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-
with W and IZ
The Gamja Project (1)
In this series, I cook potato dishes using freshly harvest gamja gifted to us from a neighboring farmer at the cabin (for more background and related posts, see THE GAMJA PROJECT).
Gamja (감자) is a potato, in Korean. Although various sources suggest that several (supposedly as many as 40) varieties are available in Korea, the only one that’s generally available is the “sumi (수미)” variety. Typically about the size of a flattened tennis ball, about 150 g in mass. Thin-skinned, white, starchy. The most common usage is in stews/soups/hotpots (see for example 14.130 Baeksuk with Extra Chickeny Soup; 12.135 Gamja Sujebi, 10.148 Chicken and Potato Kalguksu, 14.109 Daegu Maeun Tang, 12.230 Daegu Doenjang Jjigae, 13.271 Gochujang Jjigae, 12.207 Dubu Jjim), including the eponymous gamja tang (see for example 10.340 Gamja Tang), as well as braises (see for example 13.240 Galbi Jjim, 10.101 Dak Dori Tang, 11.302 Godeungeo Jorim, 4.187 Braised Byeongeo), sometimes stir-fried (see for example 7.302 Gamja Chae Bokkeum) or pan-fried (see for example 12.094 Gamja Jeon). I vaguely recall having seen “hong (홍) (red)” potatoes at a supermarket somewhere, but I’m beginning to think that it was in a dream.
In Hoengseong (where our cabin is), a predominantly agricultural province, a common sight this time of year is an afternoon gathering of old women (never men, who are presumably out in the fields), sitting on a mat under a pergola, gabbing away, munching on steamed (or boiled) potatoes, which are fresh, abundant, and cheap in early summer. Of course, as do all Koreans, old and young, they discard the skins of the potatoes [GASP!] as they eat them.
For this first application, I kept it as simple as could be: steamed (jjin), served with salt. As Korean potatoes are delicate, steaming is preferable to boiling because the agitation of boiling water tends to make the surface of the potato crumbly. I kept the skins on, despite W’s protests.
Very nice. Rich, sweet potato flavor, plus a strong note of earthiness from the skins. The flesh was soft and creamy, with a contrasting chewiness from the skins. W admitted, in disbelief, that the skins were better left on.
After tonight’s meal, I still have 11 kg left.
Korean-Swedish Culinary Exchange (25)
In this series, Number One Swedish Fan GK and I collaborate to cook dishes in our respective kitchens on a specific theme – most commonly, I make something Swedish, while he makes something Korean – then share photos and comments (for more background and related posts, see KSCX).
This was a perfect opportunity for another installment of KSCX. Swedes do love their potatoes.
[The italicized comments below are GK’s own words, with minor typographical edits from me.]
I’m so glad to once again start up our cooking exchange.
Here is the selection of potatoes at the supermarket close to work. As seen, there’s several different varieties available. The potatoes you can pick yourself are “Swedish fresh potatoes” – it’s harvest season. Earlier in the summer, you can often get potatoes crazy cheap due to the abundance.
- Almond potatoes
- Amandine potato
- “Delicacy potato” (not sure what qualifies as “delicacy'”maybe they are smaller and of a more “noble” variety?)
- “Floury potatoes” (one of the basic types of potatoes you can buy here)
- “Firm potatoes” (the other basic type)
- Organic (called “Ecological”) potatoes
- And combinations of the above (e.g., organic almond potatoes)
To start it off, I cooked something very basic, an “everyday meal” kind of thing: Swedish potato buns. Actually, I eat it a lot, especially when I don’t have the time and/or the energy to cook something “real.” In those cases, I just buy a pack of pre-made frozen buns and heat them up in the oven. I have probably only made potato buns myself from scratch once.
The recipe is extremely simple: potatoes are peeled, cut into smaller pieces, cooked until soft, water drained, and mashed. The mashed potatoes are then mixed with eggs, pepper + salt, and flour.
The batter is formed into balls/pucks and fried in a pan with butter. I tried at first to just scoop out some batter, which created a pretty uneven shape (as seen in the photos). I then made actual balls with my hands.
To save time, I finished the buns in the oven after getting a crust on both sides. I was a little too eager to take them out of the oven due to hunger, so in the end I needed to put them into the oven for another round.
To show the difference between homemade and premade, I prepared both.
You can clearly see the difference in texture and shape between the buns from the store and the ones that I made.
They were served with lingonberry jam and a glass of milk.
I was thinking of also frying up some bacon to have with the buns, and maybe also some vegetables, but I decided not to, partly because the serving suggestions on the package for the frozen buns didn’t mention bacon – they are often served that way though.
In the end, the homemade buns turned out decent, but not much more than that. They felt a little too soft on the inside, maybe due to too much moisture in the batter? Or maybe I have just had potato buns too many times and I’m getting tired of them?
On my effort:
- Obviously, I wasn’t making a “dish” – just wanted to highlight the potato in its purest form.
- Surprisingly, the issue of potato skins had never come up between W and me in the 16+ years of our marriage. (Apple skins, yes – Koreans also don’t eat apple skins, or banana peels, believe it or not – but these had previously been resolved.) As such, she was shocked when I dug into a potato without peeling it. “Remember apples and bananas? This is the same thing,” I reminded her. So, despite the simplicity of the steamed potato, W learned a valuable lesson from it.
On GK’s effort:
- Can’t recall ever having leftover mashed potatoes, so I would never “need” to make this dish.
- Having researched and cooked many Swedish dishes involving potatoes (see for example 4.007 Raggmunk with Köttbullar, 4.069 Kroppkakor in Zucchini-Picada Cream Sauce, 5.126 Creamy Sailor Potatoes with Pan-Fried Halibut, 12.035 Jansson’s Medley, 12.093 Pytt i Panna, 12.190 Rårakor), I can’t believe that this seemingly most basic application had escaped my attention until now.
- If I had to choose based on appearance, I’d opt for the uneven homemade buns.
- The packaged buns look like American “hashbrowns” – which is a good thing.
- As GMTD readers should know by now, I respect lingonberry jam to the utmost, but I can’t help but think that this would be better with ketchup, or sour cream, or hot sauce.
The challenge in moving forward will be to use up all the potatoes in a wide variety of contrasting cuisines, dishes, tastes, and textures that allows us to enjoy and appreciate the spud with every meal – perhaps 10 meals, perhaps consecutively – without getting sick of them.
As GK has suggested: “For the next exchange, I will cook one or two Spanish-origin dishes, dishes that are a little more ‘refined’ perhaps….”
(See also HANSIK)
(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)