Responding to a pop-up email, I went to a (South) Korean evening on West 35th. Welcomed by three lovely women in gorgeous hanbok, (their national dress), our small group saw two documentary films – one about the wonders of the country including a sacred bell that out- rings any bell anywhere; the development of the Korean alphabet that based the consonants on sounds made by our speech organs and astronomy with constellations like the “Celestial Orchard,” a new one for me as someone who has always had trouble finding Orion’s belt. The second short film heralded Korean medical care and shipbuilding. Yes, proselytizing but very low-key. The sponsoring organization is a Buddhist group but other than a brief mention religion didn’t come up.
The Korean women “modeled” their handbok complete with norigae, a hanging decoration that used to have a function but today is a good-luck decoration—each different. The skirts are
puffed out by a sort of crinoline beneath; these were silk but fabric choice is dictated by the season.
Afterwards, we shared a really good Korean meal, piling our (disposable foam—too bad, planet) plates with sweet potato noodles, kimchee, something like a scallion pancake, Korean barbeque, rice, salad and a bean sprout dish and washing it down with a drink of fermented barley that tasted much better than it sounds.
Dessert was various nibbles including caramelized walnuts.
The group was interesting, especially a young Dutch couple visiting the U.S. for a few weeks. Emma could be from anywhere; Bass (‘Boss’), her boyfriend, is straight out of Rembrandt if you take away his contemporary clothes and haircut. The pair loved being in NYC and Boston; their education (paid for almost entirely by their government) sounds exemplary and both have good jobs. Oh, and speak Dutch, English, German and French. They wish the Netherlands were less homogeneous. I almost wept.
I’m not about to attempt a Korean recipe nor are you. This for candied walnut is a cinch— and makes a great snack, nibble with drinks, delicious on ice cream etc.
½ cup sugar
½ cup walnut halves
1/8 tsp kosher salt
(Some recipes call for cinnamon as well but that gives a very different taste.)
Preheat oven to 350°. Lay walnuts out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 5 minutes. Test for doneness. If not quite toasted enough, toast for 1 or 2 more minutes. Be careful not to burn. Remove from oven and let cool in pan on a rack. (Frankly, this toasting step is not entirely necessary. Your call.)
Pour sugar into a medium heavy saucepan with a thick bottom. Cook sugar on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until all the sugar has melted and the color is medium amber. Then add walnuts to the pan, stirring to coat pieces as sugar thickens. As nuts coat, spread out on baking sheet lined with parchment (or a Silpat non-stick mat). Sprinkle with salt, let cool and that’s it.
Makes 1 1/2 cups. Store in a tin box but you won’t as they’ll be eaten in no time.