As the old Korean saying goes, “The coarser the foods you eat, the longer you live.” The most typical coarse foods are root vegetables, which probably are most overlooked and underappreciated foods in Western cuisine. In Korean cuisine, however, root vegetables have been staples on table as about 70 % of the Korean peninsula is covered by low and tall mountains where mushrooms, wild root plants, and wild ferns have naturally grown for ages. Korean people have collected and used them in dishes since you don’t know when until now. The ancient Koreans left records to show these natural foods are as valuable and beneficial as other expensive medicines (i.e. herbal medicines back then). Root vegetables are full of healthy nutrients as they are grown under the soil hence the nutrients, especially the stabilizing energy of the earth, are provided directly to the roots; they are rich in minerals and enzymes, have a stimulating, strengthening effect on body cells, and help purify the blood.
Ueong (우엉, “Korean burdock”) is one of the most cherished healthy root foods among Korean people, along with Insam (인삼, “ginseng”), Deodeok (더덕, “Codonopsis lanceolata”), Chik (칡, “arrowroot”), Doraji (도라지, “Korean bellflower root”), and Yeongeun (연근, “lotus root”). (The root of) Ueong is also called Arctium lappa or greater burdock. The plant provides the most dietary fiber of the above-mentioned root vegetables. According to The Medical Details of Herbal Plants (본초강목, Bonchogangmok), Chinese books (52 volumes) on traditional herb medicine, the plant (i) helps detoxify the heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys, (ii) improves weakness in the limbs (especially in the hands and feet), and (iii) has a curative effect for treating cerebral palsy, diabetes, anemia, beriberi, abscess over head, phlegm in throat, and lower intestinal pain.
1. Braised Korean Burdock Roots (Ueong Jorim, 우엉조림)
|A plate of crunchy, healthy Ueong Jorim, "Braised Burdock Roots"|
I always purchase at least two packs of Ueong whenever I make a trip to a Korean grocery store which is more than 40-minute drive away (on highway). Each pack usually contains three roots of Ueong. Immediately after coming home from the grocery store, I make Ueong Jorim (우엉조림), “braised burdock roots,” to get the most health benefits while they are still fresh. (FYI, six Ueong roots yield two plastic zip-lock sandwich bags chock full of Ueong Jorim.)
When the dish completely cools, I transfer half of the dish into a glass container to keep it in the fridge for immediate use and the rest into a plastic zip-lock sandwich bag to store it in the freezer for later use. When I want to use the frozen Ueong Jorim, for example, for breakfast, I put the dish (still in the plastic bag) in the fridge before bed the previous night. It will thaw overnight in the fridge and be ready to eat the next morning. When it’s completely thawed, I transfer into a glass container to keep it in the fridge.
Ueong Jorim, “braised burdock roots,” can be a great side dish served with a bowl of cooked rice, but you can also use it as the basis for many other Korean dishes such as Ueong Gimbap (우엉김밥, “Kimbap with Korean Burdock”), Ueong Japchae (우엉잡채, “Seasoned Noodles with Korean Burdock and Vegetables”), or Ueong Boggeumbap (우엉볶음밥, “Stir-fried Rice with Korean Burdock and Vegetables”) to name a few.
INGREDIENTS: ● 2 roots of Ueong, Korean burdock*
● 6 TBSP soy sauce
● 4 TBSP Jocheong or Ssalyeot, Korean rice syrup*
→Substitute: 4 TBSP honey or Oligo syrup*
● 5 TBSP water
● 5 TBSP water
● grape seed oil
*You can find the ingredients in your local Korean markets.
Jocheong or Ssalyeot is fermented Korean rice syrup which is made
from steamed rice and frequently used in Korean dishes instead of
sugar. (Beware Mulyeot is corn syrup.) As Korean rice syrup does
not affect your blood sugar levels, it can be a healthier substitute for
sugar or corn syrup.
1. Take a medium bowl and fill it with 2 cups of water. Add 1 TBSP vinegar.
2. Wash thoroughly the burdock roots and cut each into 4 sticks lengthwise. With a paring knife, peel off each burdock stick and place it in the bowl to prevent browning.
3. Cut each burdock stick into two to three lengthwise; cut each short stick into very thin slices, then cut slices into thin shreds. (My family prefers wider strips as they are much crunchier. Slice them into thinner shreds in the Japchae dish though as thinner ones look better.)
4. Soak strips in the above vinegared water for 10 minutes to remove the astringency and to prevent browning. Drain well.
5. Place a large frying pan over medium heat and pour enough grape seed oil to generously coat the pan. Add and fry the burdock strips for about five minutes, stirring frequently. Add in 6 TBSP soy sauce and 5 TBSP water and stir. (You can adjust the amount to achieve the desired saltiness.) Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the moisture almost disappears.
6. Add in 4 TBSP rice syrup and combine well. (You can adjust the amount to achieve the desired sweetness.) Remove from heat and let cool. Serve with rice and other side dishes.