Korea’s All-Conquering Carrots

15 February 2018

Happy Lunar New Year to all our readers – wishing you all many culinary adventures in the Year of the Dog!

With both South and North Korea back in the headlines with the Winter Olympics in full swing in Pyeongchang and the ongoing tensions on the Korean peninsula, this week Knidos Cookery Club will be making a dish that has become a hit in the former Soviet Union and beyond – spicy Korean carrots.

20180209_122129
Spicy Korean Carrots

It’s a dish that’s not really from Korea, north or south – largely unknown outside of the countries of the former Soviet Union until recently, this simple dish has now gone full circle and can now be found on tables in South Korea.

It originated with the Koryo-saram, Korean people, who were deported en masse from the borderlands of Russia’s far east to Central Asia in the late 1930s. Fearing a Japanese fifth column in the Soviet Union via this Korean community, Stalin ordered the mass deportations in 1937.

20171117_170001
Korean carrots and other salads on sale in Almaty’s Green Bazaar, Kazakhstan

The deportees adapted their cuisine to local conditions and replaced traditional ingredients with carrots to create a spicy, coriander-rich side dish and it remains a popular choice on dinner tables in Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which are still home to around 300,000 ethnic Koreans, descendants of the deportees from the 1930s.

There’s a Turkish connection with the Koreas as well. With Turkey on a war footing once again, wading into battle against the Kurds in northern Syria, a recent film has brought a mostly forgotten war involving Turkey from the 1950s back into the spotlight. Can Ulkay’s “Ayla: The Daughter of War” tells the story of a Turkish soldier who saves a young Korean girl during the Korean War of 1950-53.

Turkey sent troops as part of a United Nations led brigade to defend South Korea against North Korea in the war. The soldier finds himself unable to take the orphan back to Turkey so the pair lose touch after the war, but in a fairytale ending are reunited 60 years later. Put your feet up and enjoy the movie with a bowl of spicy Korean carrots!

Ingredients (serves around 4)

200 g carrots peeled into thin slices – use a julienne peeler or a sharp knife

One garlic clove minced

One small onion minced

One teaspoon crushed coriander seeds

Half teaspoon red chilli flakes

Dash of olive oil

Two teaspoons cider vinegar

Half teaspoon honey

Pinch of salt

One teaspoon sesame seeds

Method

Mix the julienned carrots with the garlic and leave to marinate in a container with a tight-fitting lid (this carrot salad can get quite pungent, so this is important!).

Heat the olive oil and fry the onion until just beginning to brown. Mix the vinegar with the honey and salt and then pour over the carrots, add the coriander and chilli and the fried onions and mix well.

Leave the carrots to marinate in the air tight container in the fridge for at least four hours, the longer the better, to allow the flavours to blend fully.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve as a side dish with fritters such as our mücver.