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I got goodies in the mail this week. Score! It was a massive package of unexpected food-related goodies from my brother and his wife in Korea. Hat trick! In this magical box, Nate and Sun Hwa packed ramen, Korean coffee, laver, spicy tuna and a fantastic Korean foods cookbook. I promise I will cook my way through the book eventually, but the thing that jumped off the pages and screamed “EAT ME!” the most was the luscious looking Jangsanjeok.
There was no accompanying description of the dish, but the ingredients spoke for themselves; beef, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, green onions, honey. Oh my, yes. When someone says, “What sounds good to you for dinner?” my brain steers -on auto pilot- to some combination of those tastes. Those are my flavors.
There might not have been a description, but there was a photo and it was glorious. Small squares of beef in a sticky, dark mahogany sauce dusted with chopped nuts. Heck to the yes. The sauce was so deeply colored that it was almost black. I needed this badly. A closer study of the ingredient list revealed that I had everything (or a decent substitute for everything) required by the recipe.
My first attempt was, while satisfactory, not spectacular. I found the quantities specified to yield a dish that was too salty for my tastes. I love salt. I’m obsessed with salt. I collect varieties of salt. I bleed salt. But the way I wanted to eat the dish -pretty little sticky squares of garlicky beef perched atop a bed of steamy rice- didn’t work. When the beef was nibbled at delicately in between bites of banchan and rice, it worked just dandy.
Delicate nibbling does not seem to be the favored approach at our dinner table. I liken my boys’ eating more to a contest. It’s not a contest between brothers, oh no. It’s a personal challenge. You can almost see them thinking, “If I eat this quickly and quietly, she will keep giving me more food. Need more food.”
This is hogwash as my children eat nearly constantly from waking to sleeping. I regret introducing them to Lord of the Rings so early in life. They now feel it is their birthright to eat breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner and supper. If one of the seven is omitted the weeping and moaning and gnashing of teeth is Biblical in proportion. I’m fairly certain they all must have tapeworms. And this brings me to my point…
Eaten in the mode of my sons, the salt in the most classical version of Jangsanjeok was overwhelming. I modified the recipe to reduce the salt content in the sauce and was thrilled. The raw sugar I prefer in Jangsanjeok it a subtle molassesy flavor and contributes to the gorgeous lacquered appearance of the beef patties. Finally, I threw sesame seeds over everything for a little pop of that wondrous toasty, nutty sesame flavor.
Redolent with flavor, beautiful to the eye, family-friendly, simple and economical to prepare, and made with ingredients that are easy to find, Jangsanjeok is now a part of our regular meal rotation.
I think everyone should blow a collective kiss toward Daegu, Korea right now. Thank you, Nate and Sun Hwa!
Mix well with your hands until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Divide the meat into two portions. Pat each portion into a square or rectangle that is about 1/2″ thick on a rimmed baking sheet. The patties do not have to be shaped perfectly, but try your best to get them evenly thick in order to promote even cooking.
Jangsanjeok | Korean Simmered Teriyaki Style Beef Patties
- 2 pounds lean ground beef
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon finely minced green onion
- 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic or pressed in a garlic press
- 4 tablespoons raw sugar can substitute white granulated sugar if necessary
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Ingredients for Simmering Sauce:
- 5 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened apple juice
- 6 tablespoons raw sugar can substitute white granulated sugar if necessary
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 10 cloves of garlic peeled and thinly sliced
- 1-1/2 " piece of ginger thinly sliced*
- 3 whole small dried red chilis can substitute 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, can also reduce to suit heat preferences.
- 2 whole green onions ends trimmed
- Optional for Garnish:
- Toasted Sesame Seeds
- Minced Green Onions
- Preheat oven to broil (High Broil if your oven allows you to differentiate) with the oven rack between 6 to 8 inches from the heating element. (Alternately, you can heat your gas grill to High or lay a bed of hot coals in your charcoal grill.)
- Combine beef with all the other patty ingredients in a medium size bowl. Mix well with your hands until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Divide the meat into two portions. Pat each portion into a square or rectangle that is about 1/2" thick on a rimmed baking sheet. The patties do not have to be shaped perfectly, but try your best to get them evenly thick in order to promote even cooking.
- Broil or grill the beef for about 3 minutes on the first side. Carefully flip to prevent breakage. One spatula underneath and one spatula pressed lightly against the top works well for the manoeuver. Return the patty to the broiler or grill and cook until cooked through. This took 4 more minutes under my broiler. Remove the pan from the oven and cool completely.
- While patties cool, combine all of the sauce ingredients in a large skillet or braising pot.
- When the patties are completely cool, cut into squares that are about 1-inch to 1 1/2-inches in size. Bring the sauce ingredients to a boil over medium high. Stir well, then add the patties to the sauce. Lower heat to medium low and simmer, basting the patties and turning occasionally, until the sauce has been reduced, is thick and syrupy and has been mostly absorbed.
- These can be served over rice with ginger scallion sauce, as a snack, or as part of the banchan in a traditional Korean meal. I like them with a sprinkling of sesame seeds on top.
If you like the idea of having fine threads of cooked ginger adhered to your food with a sticky sauce (and I do, oh, I do!), peel and julienne the ginger before adding to the pot. If you'd prefer no 'stuff' sticking to your food (alas, this is my three youngest children's preference...) simply slice the ginger into thin coin-shaped pieces before adding with other ingredients.