I miss so many things about LA–and given that I’m in the middle of yet another sticky and humid Korean summer, the weather is #1 on my list. However, multi-cultural cuisine is definitely a very close second! I miss being able to head out and eat Ethiopian injera, Indian samosas, or Middle Eastern falafel on a whim, and an inexpensive whim at that. Compared to this ethnic food oasis, my current home of Icheon, Korea is akin to an ethnic food desert!
Things might be different if I lived in Seoul– the Itaewon neighborhood certainly provides tons of opportunities to escape Korean cuisine now and then. But I live in a semi-rural city nearly an hour and a half away from Itaewon. So what’s a girl to do? As much as I love Korean food, I feel stir crazy when I have to have it all the time. Luckily, I’ve always loved to cook, and I’ve tried ethnic foods before. But, it wasn’t until I moved to Icheon that I really started to cook multi-cultural cuisine in earnest.
Surprisingly, there is a small foreign food mart in downtown Icheon which caters to the large number of migrant workers in Korea. Since most of them are from Southeast Asia, I can easily keep my pantry stocked with spices like cumin and tumeric. While they have fresh ingredients like lemongrass, galangal and keffir leaves, I actually don’t bother to get them anymore. I’ve substituted these ingredients with things I usually have in the fridge, and I’ve been pretty satisfied with the results. Plus, it also saves me from making a trip downtown :)!
Here are some of the substitutions I’ve used:
- lemon juice for lemongrass
- ginger for galangal
- 새우젓/”saeujeot” (Korean salted shrimp) for shrimp paste
Fortunately, I’m not a big fan of keffir leaves, so I don’t mind leaving it out of my Thai dishes (is it just me, or is anyone else reminded of soap when they taste keffir leaves?).
The following fish curry recipe is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the original source, though… The ingredient list may seem a bit long, but the recipe itself is really easy. You can easily switch out the fish for another meat like chicken.
Thai Fish Curry
- 1.5 – 2 lbs of firm fish, cut into chunks (I used salmon)
- 2-3 potatoes cut into chunks
- 1 cup stock
- chopped cilantro, for garnish
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced thinly
- 1/4 cup red onion, chopped
- 1 sliced red chili
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp tumeric
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/ 3 tsp ground white pepper
- 3/4 tsp shrimp paste (I use salted shrimp, 새우젓, since it’s readily available in Korea)
- 2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1 Tbsp lime juice
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp ketchup
- 1 can coconut milk
- Place all of the curry sauce ingredients in a food processor, and process until blended and fragrant.
- In a large pot, add the curry sauce, fish, potatoes and stock. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 25 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through.
- Garnish with cilantro and enjoy!