Carrots Korean Style
2.5 lbs carrots
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider or wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
A few coriander seeds
4 cloves garlic
3 oz vegetable (sunflower) oil
This dish is popular among the Soviet Koreans: the descendants of North Koreans that moved to Russia before the Revolution of 1917 and were later deported by Stalin from the Far East to the Central Asia and Sakhalin Koreans that were brought by the Japanese colonists from South Korea to the Karafuto Prefecture (the southern part of the Sakhalin Island that belonged to the Japanese since 1905 till their capitulation in the World War II in 1945). A part of these Japanese Koreans never made it back to their country and live in Russia to this day.
In the traditional Korean cuisine fresh meat or fish is marinated with radishes, vinegar and spices. However, carrots gradually replaced radishes since it was much more readily available in the USSR.
Besides, there were shortages of both meat and fish during the Soviet years which caused the salad called “khe” (or “khve”) to consist solely of carrots.
The dish became very popular among Russians, and in the markets you can almost always find the ladies selling various Korean spices and salads in narrow clear plastic tubes. The Sakhalin Koreans were especially talented in marinating everything that grew or swam, even odd things like burdock and beet or carrot greens.
Many people tried to reproduce this salad at home and alas the result was good but nowhere near the deliciousness sold at the market.
In truth, there isn’t one “correct” recipe for this salad. There are some general rules and steps to follow, but it really depends on the individual taste and preferences. Just like making sauerkraut: no matter how meticulously you follow the recipe, you result will be unique. So when making this carrot dish you can select the spices that you like. One prefers a very spicy salad while someone else would opt to go easy on their taste buds.
The main ingredients here are carrots, sugar, salt, vinegar, vegetable (sunflower) oil and ground red pepper. The Koreans prefer to use red pepper flakes.
We’ll make this salad without the pepper but with the soy sauce.
Peel the carrots and julienne them using a special grater.
Sprinkle with the salt.
Add the sugar.
Pour in the vinegar and soy sauce.
Mix well, squeezing the carrots with your hand.
Let the salad sit for 10 minutes to let the carrots marinate.
Crush a few coriander seeds with a side of a knife.
Add the crushed seeds to the carrots.
Roast the sesame seeds on a dry frying pan.
They should become light brown in color and release a bit of oil and nutty aroma. Stir constantly while roasting otherwise the sesame seeds can quickly burn.
Add the roasted sesame seeds to the bowl with the salad.
Finely chop the garlic, or pass through garlic press.
Pour the oil into a frying pan and heat till smoking hot. The secret of the majority of “Korean” salads is in the well-heated oil.
As soon as the oil starts smoking, take the pan off the stove and pour over the carrots right in the bowl.
At this point you can add the garlic. If you add it before the hot oil it’ll make the garlic turn green.
Therefore the garlic is the last ingredient. After adding it, stir thoroughly.
The salad is ready for serving.
However, if you let it sit to allow the flavors to meld together it will be even better.
This dish can be refrigerated for a few days.
If you wish to add heat to this salad, add a teaspoon of ground red pepper (or red pepper flakes) together with the sesame and coriander seeds.