My father is from a province in Korea called Kaesong (개성). It is just north of the 38th parallel and there are spots in South Korea where you can just see pieces of it. He has not been able to go back since leaving during the Korean war, and I think it is his hope that someday in the immediate future he can go back and see where he was born. Along with an intense love of his birthplace, my father still loves the style of cooking of that province. Kaesong food is incredibly refined and is considered one of the great culinary provinces of Korea. My paternal grandmother was a master of this food and heavily influenced my mother's cooking and consequently influenced the palates of brothers and me. While young, my grandmother lived with us and cooked all these wonderful special things for us and we enjoyed her food immensely. But this post isn't about Kaesong food, because although I love it, many of the foods are far too time consuming for me to cook, and I am forced to live only with the memories of my grandmother's amazing food.
While I was young however, there was always this plate of green leaves that would appear at the table that was eaten by my father, enjoyed by him. I even remember one day, there was a visitor at our house, a friend of my father, who was curious about the green leaves and asked my mother and father what it was. My mother responded, "It is go-soo (고수)." He wanted to try it so he took a leaf, dipped it into some spicy chili sauce, and popped it into his mouth. His facial expression after he began chewing it was something of sheer disgust and amazement that something that tasted so bad was actually in his mouth. My mom started laughing and handed him a napkin and told him to spit it out and he must not have liked it one bit, because he didn't hesitate and spit it out. Meanwhile, my father sat beside his guest, dipping the leaves into the sauce and chewing it with such clear relish. The leaf? Cilantro. The Korean word for it? Go soo (고수). Cilantro, or its very very close cousin of it, exists in Korean cooking, and people are often rather surprised by the fact. I'm not sure if this is a traditional Kaesong type salad, but it's one that my mom made while we were growing up and it is just yummy and delicious. I used it in my Korean tacos as one of the toppings but it goes with so much more than that. Try it with:
Korean Marinade Flank steak
Ginger Soy Chicken
Cucumber Cilantro Salad
2 cups chopped cucumber (I used the Persian cucumbers but an English/hothouse/kirby cucumber with the seeds removed would be just fine)
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro (do not be afraid to use some of the stem for this - the stem is YUMMY)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon Korean chili powder (gochu gahloo) or crushed chili pepper flakes
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
In a small bowl whisk the ingredients for the dressing together. In another bowl place cucumber and cilantro. Pour dressing over and toss gently to coat.