Monday, August 16, 2010

Korean-Style Romaine

Thinking it looked interesting, I cut a Korean-inspired recipe out of the March 2009 issue of Gourmet magazine. And then I filed it away with all of my other interesting looking magazine recipes… where I promptly forgot about it. You see, the problem was, at the time, I had no idea that I liked Korean food. Probably because I’d never tried it. That all changed in the past year, however, thanks to my discovery of an excellent Korean restaurant here in town. And let me tell you, I am happy I found that restaurant and learned that I like Korean food. One, because it is delicious, and two, because it made me remember I had this salad recipe filed away waiting to be tried. And oh, I wish I hadn’t waited so long because this salad is awesome.

Crisp romaine lettuce is tossed with a warm, flavorful dressing that manages to be garlicky, salty, and a little spicy all at once. The heat of the dressing causes the romaine to soften, but it doesn’t wilt into mush the way other lettuces might. Crunchy toasted sesame seeds stick to the dressing, coating the leaves in little bursts of nutty flavor. The flavors in the dressing, combined with the mostly crunchy lettuce, remind me of the flavors and textures of the fresh kimchi I have enjoyed at my favorite Korean restaurant. (One day soon I hope to try making my own kimchi, too!) I served this salad alongside a tofu and vegetable stir fry. It would also be a great, unique dish to serve alongside some grilled chicken or steak, or of course, authentic Korean food.

P.S. I seem to have taken all of my pictures pre-sesame seeds. I think I was too busy eating the salad to remember to take more pictures later. I could have held off on posting this recipe until I made the salad again, but I just couldn't wait.  I hope you'll forgive me!

Korean-Style Romaine
Adapted from Gourmet

Note: As written, this recipe only makes enough for 1 to 2 people. I left the proportions as is because they are very easy to multiply for however many people you need to feed. I make a double batch for Stan and me, and we don’t have any trouble finishing it.

1 heart of romaine, washed and dried
1 T. Asian sesame oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. peeled, grated ginger *
1/4 tsp. coarse Korean hot red pepper flakes **
1 T. soy sauce
2 tsp. water
1 tsp. sesame seeds, toasted ***

* If you are out of fresh ginger, you can substitute a pinch of ground ginger powder.

** You can find these at Asian markets. You could also try substituting a pinch of cayenne pepper powder, but you won’t get the same look or texture in your dressing.

*** To toast sesame seeds, heat them in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant and lightly golden brown.

Cut the romaine crosswise into 2-inch wide pieces. Place the lettuce into a large bowl and set aside.

Heat the sesame oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and chili flakes. Stir constantly until the garlic is sizzling, about 30 seconds. (The mixture will bubble up a lot.)

Stir in the soy sauce and water. Bring the mixture to a boil.

Pour the hot dressing over the lettuce and toss well to evenly coat the leaves. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the lettuce and toss again.

Marinate at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for at least 30 minutes before serving. (Feel free to give it a taste right away though – it’ll be tasty from the get-go.)

Serves 1 to 2

Note: You can make this salad 1 day ahead and keep it in the fridge. Bring it to room temperature before serving.


  1. hi! just found your blog a few weeks ago...thanks for the great recipes! i made this salad and now i am hooked! it is so delicious i find myself craving it! im making it again tonight for the 5th time. i have liked to add some avocado and green onions! yum!

  2. Beren - Hi there! It's nice to "meet" you! I'm glad you're enjoying the recipes :)

    I looove the idea of adding some avocado and green onions to this salad. It may not be traditional, but really, what doesn't taste better with a little avocado?!



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