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Lapu-lapu pancake: BTS inspired me to learn Korean cooking

I really had fun in this Korean Cultural Center session—soup disaster notwithstanding

From left, Anna, Rona, Ms. Lily Min, and the author who didn't get to wear her In The Soop apron because the KCC provided all students with these beautiful aprons. (Photo by Nikko Dizon)

The finished products! They are all so good, objectively speaking. (Photo by Nikko Dizon)

I recently joined a Korean cooking class hosted by the Korean Cultural Center (KCC), eager to jumpstart my interest in cooking anew. The last time I tried my hand at making dishes was during the lockdowns, when I cooked on my birthday and on the birthdays of each of the seven BTS members. For a non-cook like me, the dishes were surprisingly edible that I thought I might have some gift for cooking. But when life slowly went back to pre-pandemic normal, I was hardly in the kitchen.

When the KCC class opened, I signed up right away to learn how to cook Korean dishes using local Filipino ingredients. That Thursday afternoon, I wore a black BTS shirt and brought my In The Soop apron. I couldn’t help but channel BTS who have given ARMY countless mukbang and cooking lives and episodes on Run, BTS! Of course, Jin’s hilarious food blog was playing in my head, too, as I began to cook.

https://bts-trans.tumblr.com/post/105017203045/141212-jins-blog-post-thanks-father-for-the

Our seonsaengnim was Ms. Lily Min (Of course, ARMY, I wondered if she was related to Min Yoongi!). After demonstrating how to make the dishes, she checked on each group and helped our three-person team bounce back from a disastrous soup. Maraming Salamat, Ms. Lily! Our maewuntang still ended up tasting good!

Some of the ingredients for the maewuntang (spicy lapu-lapu stew). (Photo by Nikko Dizon)

For KCC’s Korean Home Cooking with Sangkap Pinoy edition, we made maewuntang or spicy fish stew and lapu-lapu jeon. Both dishes are an anju, or food served and eaten with alcohol drinks. The jeon or fritter can also be served as appetizer or banchan (side dish).

Anna and Rona deboning the lapu-lapu before slicing it for the jeon. (Photo by Nikko Dizon)

The lapu-lapu was the star Filipino ingredient in these two dishes. If you Google maewuntang, Koreans usually use black sea bass, red snapper, or cod fish. But since we are in the Philippines, lapu-lapu it is!

I was an attentive student—until my phone pinged and I saw that it was the Weverse notice for Yoongi’s Suga|Agust D concert in Asia. Since I promised to help Ma’am Thelma and Alya with the sign-ups, I was only half listening to Ms. Lily (sorry, Ma’am!) while she explained the steps to making maewuntang.

This is why you don’t peel the shrimps for the maewuntang.(Photo by Nikko Dizon)

I thought removing the guts of shrimps meant peeling off the shell. Ms. Lily was quite horrified when she saw what I had done, and I realized why I should’ve not peeled off the shell after seeing our finished product. Sorry, shrimps! Until now, I don’t know how to remove shrimp guts.

I volunteered to make the seasoning since my teammates, young reporters Rona and Anna from The Philippine Star (where I started my journalism career in 2001!) were busy gutting, scaling, and slicing the lapu-lapu for the fritters.

In a video taken by Anna, you can see me putting together the chili powder, chili paste, anchovy sauce, and other ingredients. The disaster didn’t make it to the video: I had poured a 500 ml bottle of water in the bowl, belatedly remembering that I was supposed to pour the anchovy broth that had already been prepared for the students.

Help, Ms. Lily! She instructed us to transfer all the other ingredients into a bigger pot and mix in the pre-prepared anchovy broth. She taught me how to fix the seasoning: multiply all the measurements by two, and taste until we reach the right flavor. Thankfully, I managed, and I must say our team ended up with a gustatory delight.

Ms. Lily said aside from lapu-lapu, we can also use cream dory for the maewuntang. She also shared a tip: Soju or mirin (rice wine) is added to the broth to remove the unique smell of the fish and vegetables.

Ms. Lily Min prepares the lapu-lapu for the maewuntang. (Photo by Nikko Dizon)

For the lapu-lapu jeon, the fish should be sliced diagonally and with the right thickness (about 1.5 cm) to make a proper jeon. Rona and Anna cooked the lapu-lapu jeon well and even put the red chili rings and crown daisy properly on the fritters while frying them.

KCC chef, Ms. Lily Min, explains to the students how to make the lapu-lapu pajeon. (Photo by Nikko Dizon)

Ms. Lily also said that for a sauce to be a dipping sauce, it should have sesame seeds sprinkled on it. Otherwise, it would be sauce for cooking.

Ms. Lily already made the sayote jangajji or sayote pickle for all the students. The vegetables are pickled using water, soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar. Jangajji is different from kimchi in that it is not fermented. Sayote is a popular and affordable vegetable in the Philippines so it’s a good choice for pickles. Ms. Lily said the sayote pickles can be stored for a year!

For my first ever cooking class, I really had fun, the soup disaster notwithstanding. KCC regularly offers cooking classes, aside from their Korean language classes (which, I was told, continues to be extremely popular). Check out the KCC website the classes offered.

https://phil.korean-culture.org/en

To end, I think the link below of BTS’ maknae Jungkook loving food is the proper representation of anyone loves Korean dishes, including myself.

Maewuntang (Spicy Lapu-lapu Stew)

The maewuntang cooking really well as if disaster didn’t happen just a few minutes before. (Photo by Nikko Dizon)

Ingredients
  

Main ingredients:

  • 800 g lapu-lapu
  • 4-5pc (1C)  shrimp (or clam)
  • 250 g  radish
  • 150 g  bean sprout
  • 70 g water parsley
  • ½ stalk green onion
  • 1 ea red chili
  • 1 ea  green chili
  • 3 Tbsp  mirin or soju
  • 6C anchovy broth or water

Seasoning:

  • 1.5 Tbsp chili powder
  • ½ Tbsp chili paste
  • 2 Tbsp anchovy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp garlic
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • A pinch black pepper
  • 2 or 3 tsp salt
  • 1.5 L  water
  • 20 g anchovy
  • 2 pc  kelp

Directions
 

Directions:

  • Remove guts, scales, and fins of the lapu-lapu. Cut it into 5 cm long pieces and rinse with water.
  • Remove the guts of shrimps and wash them clean.
  • Trim the head and tail of the bean sprouts.
  • Remove the leaves of the water parsley and prepare only the stems.
  • Clean the vegetables.
  • Cut the radish into bite sizes of flat square.
  • Slice the green onion, green chili, and red chili diagonally.
  • Cut the water parsley into 5 cm long pieces.

How to cook:

  • In a small bowl, combine all the seasoning ingredients and mix well.
  • Put the broth to a pot along with the radish and the seasoning mix.
  • Bring it to a boil over high heat. Cook until the radish turns soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Drop in the fish and bean sprout. When it comes to a boil again, reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the fish is cooked about 5 minutes.
  • Add the water parsley, green onion, and chilies and boil for a minute. Turn the heat off.

Lapu-lapu Jeon (Lapu-lapu Pancake)

Anna and Rona did a fantastic job making the lapu-lapu jeon. (Photo by Nikko Dizon)

Ingredients
  

Main ingredients:

  • 500 g lapu-lapu fillet
  • 1C flour
  • 3 pcs eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cooking oil

Dipping sauce

  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • A pinch sesame seed

Garnish optional

  • 1 pc dried red chili
  • 3-4 stems crown daisy

Directions
 

  • Rinse lapu-lapu fillet in cold water and pat it dry with paper towel.
  • Cut the fish fillets into big bite sized pieces. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the fish.
  • Prepare the crown daisy by removing the leaves one by one, and cut the red chili into thin rings.
  • Break eggs and whip well with two pinches of salt.
  • Lightly dredge fish in flour.
  • Coat the flour covered fish pieces with egg. Remove excess dripping.
  • Heat the pan and coat with oil.
  • Place fish fillet in pan and top with crown daisies and red chili. Pan-fry fish until light golden brown.
  • Make some dipping sauce
  • Serve the lapu-lapu pancake warm with dipping sauce.

Sayote Jjangajji (Sayote pickle)

The pickled sayote prepared by KCC chef, Ms. Lily Min, for the students. (Photo by Nikko Dizon)

Ingredients
  

Main ingredients:

  • 500 g  sayote
  • ½ pc (100 g) onion
  • 100 g (1 pc) cucumber
  • 2 pc   labuyo
  • 2 pc  green chili

Seasoning:

  • 1C soy sauce
  • 1C vinegar
  • 1C sugar
  • 1C water (optional: anchovy stock)

Directions
 

  • Peel off the sayote and cut them into bite-sized pieces of flat-rectangle.
  • Cut onions into bite-sized pieces as like sayote.
  • Cut the cucumber in lengthwise and remove the seeds and cut them into bite-sized pieces.
  • Prepare the red and green chilis according to your preference and cut them.
  • Put the ingredients for the pickle in a pot and boil until the sugar dissolve.
  • Place the vegetables in a container and pour the prepared sauce.
  • Store pickled soy sayotes in an airtight container when it cools down.
About author

Articles

Nikko Dizon worked as journalist specializing in security and political issues for nearly two decades. She is doing consultancy work during her time-off from journalism and remains immersed in the Korean Wave, in particular with BTS, actor Ji Chang Wook, and K-drama.

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