Late August and I’m still reaching for quick and easy, no cook dishes that don’t skimp on flavor. And this Korean Cucumber Salad, known as Oi Muchim, is a favorite. It’s cooling and crunchy, a little spicy, and it has an amazing umami packed dressing. You read more
We can’t get enough of watermelon in our house. The crunchy refreshing taste and beautiful red flesh is the complete package. We buy two whole watermelon each week just to tame our appetites. But what happens when you cut into a watermelon and discover that you picked a dud? Instead of bright red, you’re met with a dull pink. Well you get creative….Since there’s nothing more important in these hot summer months than staying hydrated, a watermelon drink sure would hit the spot. And so I present to you this classic Korean drink, Watermelon Soju. Icy cold, refreshingly sweet, and just enough boozy kick to make you forget how sweltering it is outside. This recipe is so simple, and as an added bonus you can turn the leftover watermelon rind into this delicious kimchi.
Soju is Korea’s most popular spirit. It is the center of their rather robust drinking culture. Soju was traditionally made from rice, but now is frequently made with sweet potato, barley, buckwheat, wheat, or any combination of these ingredients. It is distilled like vodka and has a similar neutral flavor. Soju can be found at most well stocked liquor stores or online. If you see shochu at the store, you can go ahead and get that instead.
Japanese shochu is a similar distilled spirit and probably came to Japan from Korea, which already had soju in production starting in the 13th century. The origin of the names is the same for both languages. ‘So’/’Sho’ means burned to reference the distilling process and ‘ju’/’chu’ means alcohol. Although there are some distinctions between the two, with shochu having more strict rules on production and allowances for additives, mass produced soju and shochu can be used interchangeably. Since we’re using the soju/shochu in a blended drink, use a budget minded brand. A high quality, hand crafted spirit would be delicious too, but a bit of a waste.
Finally, most sojus are light with a low alcohol content while shochus tend to be purer and also higher in alcohol. Depending on the brand, the alcohol content can range from similar to wine’s to almost 3 times as much! Just keep that in mind when choosing your bottle.
Making Watermelon Soju
This recipe is a breeze to make. I start by cutting up the watermelon. Like I mentioned earlier, this is a great time to use less than prime fruit. Whether it’s a disappointment you purchased, fruit that’s out of season, or maybe something sitting in the fridge just a wee bit too long, this drink will put the zip back into that fruit.
Cut the fruit up and then store it in a container or ziptop bag in the freezer for at least 2 hours until it’s frozen.
While the watermelon is in the freezer, we are going to make a simple syrup. (Any leftover syrup is excellent in iced coffee, thai tea, really any cold beverage that could use a little sweetness.)
Let the syrup cool to room temperature. And once the watermelon is frozen, it’s time to make the Watermelon Soju!
Repeat with the rest of the watermelon and your cooling, slushy, summer delight is ready! Garnish with some mint and a wedge of lime. A pitcher of Watermelon Soju is just the perfect afternoon pick me up for a hot day: cold, refreshing, with a touch of sweetness and alcohol. But if you do want some food to serve with Watermelon Soju, this kimchi pancake or some salt baked shrimp would keep the summer vibes going.
I hope this Watermelon Soju cools you down and keeps you hydrated all summer long. Take a moment and tell me what you think by rating and commenting on the recipe below. And show off your gorgeous drinks by tagging us @funkyasiankitchen, we love seeing your creations!
- ¼ whole watermelon, about 3 pounds
- 1 cup soju
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- Lime slices/wedges
- Sprigs of mint
- Dice the watermelon into 1 inch cubes. You should yield about 2 ½ pounds. Use the rind for another purpose or discard.
- Freeze the watermelon until frozen, about 2 hours.
- In the meantime, combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and stir over medium high heat until the sugar is dissolved completely. Set aside to cool.
- Add half of the frozen watermelon, ½ cup of soju, and a couple tablespoons of the simple syrup. Blend until smooth. Repeat with a second batch.
- Serve watermelon soju immediately with your garnishes.
Keywords: summer, soju, korean, cocktails, drinks, watermelon
Tteokbokki is the latest Korean culinary import to start trending in the states. In the last week alone I saw Bon Appetit feature a Tteobokki recipe, and even Trader Joe’s rolled out a frozen version. One of the most popular street foods in Korea, Tteokbokki is a cylindrical rice cake cut into little logs and eaten like noodles. They sort of look like rigatoni, but they are solid. And they have this amazingly fun chewy, bouncy texture. They are naturally gluten free, and they are as versatile as wheat pasta. You can find them at Asian grocers that have a lot of Korean items, either fresh or frozen. While they can be served with really any kind of pasta sauce, (Bon Appetit used them to replace the noodles in a lasagna!) I make mine in a more traditional Korean style. A little sweet, a little spicy, a little funky, and so much fun to eat!
Tteokobokki don’t have much flavor on their own, so I like to really make a very punchy sauce for them. I tried TJ’s and found it to be a little one note, mostly just cloyingly sweet, and I wanted to avoid that in mine. So I used some dried anchovies, gochujang paste, kocharu flakes, soy sauce, kombu, and a little sugar combine to create a super flavorful and balanced sauce. I start by prepping the anchovies.
Scoop out the anchovies and kombu and you’ll have about two cups of broth. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients to the broth and whisk to combine.
Finishing the Tteokbokki
As the tteokbokki cooks, the sauce will thicken. It’s important to keep stirring it so that the noodles don’t stick to the bottom.
The sauce should be thick, almost like ketchup. Depending on the size of your noodles, it can take anywhere from 8-15 minutes to finish cooking.
Try these Tteokbokki and see why this Korean favorite is becoming such an international favorite. Take a moment and let me know what you think by rating and commenting on the recipe below, and tagging us in our pics @funkyasiankitchen, we love hearing from you!
Love Korean food? Try these favorites:
- 1 pound tube shaped fresh Korean rice noodles
- 6 ounces fish cakes
- 3 scallions, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces, thick pieces cut in half
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 3 cups water
- 8 large dried anchovies (or 10 medium)
- 4”x6” piece of dried kombu kelp, about the size of your hand
- ¼ cup gochujang hot pepper paste
- ¼ teaspoon Korean chili flakes (kocharu)
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
Make the sauce:
- Remove the head and then intestines of the anchovies by gripping the lower neck. The guts will come out in one hard black piece. Discard the heads and guts.
- Combine the water, anchovies, and kelp in a deep skillet or pan (mine was a heavy bottom 3 quart pan). Set the pan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes and then turn off the heat.
- Strain out the anchovies and the kelp. Either save them for another use or discard them. You will yield about 2 cups of broth. Add some cold water to make up the difference if you are short.
- Add the gochujang, the soy sauce, and sugar to the broth and use a whisk to combine.
For the Noodles:
- Cut the fish cakes into small pieces approximately the same size as the noodles you are using. Set aside.
- Next add the fish cakes and noodles to the broth. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat. Cook the noodles for 7 minutes, stirring regularly. As the noodles cook, the sauce will thicken so it is important to stir it regularly to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Add the scallions and continue to cook for a couple minutes until the noodles are soft and chewy. Taste one to check and adjust seasoning with salt and ground pepper if needed. Add the sesame oil and stir.
- Depending on the thickness of the noodles, the total cooking time may take anywhere from 8-15 minutes. If you see the sauce getting too thick, add a little water. The sauce should be thick, like ketchup when the dish is done.
- Remove the pan from the heat, transfer the noodles to a plate and serve immediately.
Keywords: topokki, tteokbokki, korean rice cakes, noodles, gochujang, fish cakes,