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Korean Store Shopping List
Staples to purchase at the Korean grocery store (may also be available at general Asian markets). I've limited this list chiefly to items that are tricky to find in regular grocery stores.

  • Korean red pepper paste (gochujang, a thick deep red paste made up of red pepper powder and syrup, gochujang is both spicy and sweet)
  • Korean dwenjang paste (similar to miso paste)
  • Korean bbq marinade
  • Korean bbq paste
  • Korean red pepper powder (coarse)
  • Korean rice
  • Rice vinegar
  • Dark sesame oil
  • Dried shiitake mushrooms
  • Roasted Korean sesame seeds
  • Silken soft tofu in tubes or non-refrigerated blocks (soon dubu)
  • Instant miso soup packets
  • Seaweed (laver)
  • Jar of pre-made kimchi
  • Daikon radish

Is MSG a Great Evil?

I have come to embrace MSG. After having eaten it so regularly in China, it is much less scary. And the fact is, MSG is still very present in American packaged food. Do you ever use the Spanish seasoning "Sazon"? That stuff is pure MSG.

Or just buy it in its weird, crystalized form at your local Asian market:


My mother used to eat a canned soup with MSG. She loved it. A few months ago, the producers removed the MSG to make it seem ("seem" being the key word) healthier. She stopped buying it.

There are people who are sensitive to it in the way that some people are lactose intolerant. Typically they report feeling high, sweaty, etc. when they eat it. I have definitely ODed on MSG while in China (this involves eating way more MSG than you can probably imagine). The result is unprecedented thirst and rowdy dreams. One benefit of the MSG is that you don't have to use as much salt.

So, a confession. I dumped an ENORMOUS amount of MSG into the stir-fried tofu skin I just made for lunch. Yikes. About 5 or 10 minutes later, I felt high as a kite. My body felt really heavy, sort of drunken, but my mind felt alert. I also had a weird sensation in my mouth. This has never happened to me before. I can't say for certain it's the MSG, but…? Anyway, it passed within 10 minutes. I'm fine. Just thirsty. Kind of hungry…maybe I'll eat some more…

Recipes where I have used MSG:
Spicy Soft Tofu
Stir Fried Yuba

According to this NYTimes article: "virtually all studies since then confirm that monosodium glutamate in normal concentrations has no effect on the overwhelming majority of people."

New York Times
Yes, MSG, the Secret Behind the Savor
Published: March 5, 2008
If you live in the United States and like spicy tuna rolls, Puerto Rican roast pork or Thai noodles, there is a good chance you are eating, and enjoying, MSG.

Rice Balls
Chinese Tang Yuan


These are delicious treats that can be eaten during or after a good Chinese meal. Sometimes I add them to the meal as variety. When you eat it, you will experience a delicious gooey mass in your mouth.

Unfortunately, I don't know how to actually make these. However, I thought you might find useful these buying and preparation tips.

First, take yourself to your local Chinese or Asian market. Then, make for the freezers. You will see a collection of rectangular plastic packages with small white circular treats inside. They will most likely be labeled "rice balls" or "tang yuan." Now, select your flavor. The most common will be red bean. Highly recommended! What's inside is a paste of sweetened red beans. It doesn't really taste beany. More of a dessert thing. Another option is sesame. It will be filled with a sweet black paste. Then there's peanut. Frankly, they're all delicious.

Once you get them home, boil some water in a pot. At the last second, take the rice balls out of the freezer and add them to the boiling water. Cook over a low boil until the balls float to the top of the water, about 10 minutes. Serve in bowls with the cooking liquid. Eat with great caution! The inside can be quite hot.

See also:
Wikipedia's Entry

Tofu Skin
I love yuba, or tofu skins. This is ironic, given that I'm disgusted by their origins.

I'm the kind of person who will not drink hot chocolate or coffee if the scalded milk has formed a skin on top. I carefully insert my spoon and lift it out. If a skin forms again, I will insert a new spoon and repeat.

So what is tofu skin? It's precisely the skin that forms on top of cooking soy milk. Do you have to see it to believe it? Check this out:

The nice music doesn't do much to enhance its appeal. But eating it may. The stuff is delicious. It has a really nice texture. It's great in soups or pan fried noodles, or served alone.

See my recipe:
Stir Fried Yuba

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