The month of October reminds me of my trip to Seoul two years ago when the leaves were a vibrant yellow, Si Heng asking me to be his girlfriend through email three years ago, celebrating my 25th birthday with desserts and champagne five years ago, and spending a semester in Bordeaux nine years ago. Here I am now starting my third decade, just passing my two year anniversary in Vietnam, and the only imprint of fall is the food I’ve been currently cooking.
Quinoa pudding, chili, banana bread, spaghetti bolognese, spicy chicken and potato stew (dakdoritang). These are all comforting foods, which are or can be a meal in itself. Then there is this banchan that packs a punch with its briny and refreshing flavors. It is an accompaniment to the Korean bapsang, rice with an assortment of side dishes eaten together.
It is a common element to my mother’s and grandmother’s bapsang. Just like when I was child, I can clear a bowl of freshly cooked rice with just this one side dish. The recipe is relatively simple, and the side dish can be enjoyed for several meals. Remember to have the seasoned perilla leaves with rice because it is too salty to eat on its own.[hr]
Seasoned Perilla Leaves
50-60 perilla leaves
1/2 cup of soy sauce
1/4 cup of water
1 tbsp. gochugaru (Korean red chili flakes)
1/2 tbsp. sesame oil
1/2 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. gook ganjang (Korean soy sauce for soup, can substitute with regular soy sauce)
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 small onion sliced thinly
1/4 cup of chopped green onions
1/4 cup of chopped chives
Wash each perilla leaf individually through running water. Pat the leaves with a paper towel to soak up residual water and set aside. In a bowl, mix all the other ingredients together. In a tupperware, take a spoonful of the marinade on the bottom. Add one perilla leave then put another spoonful of the marinade to coat the leaf. Continue alternating the layers with a perilla leaf and the marinade making separate stacks of 10-15. The stacks can be laid side by side or layered amongst each other. Store in the refrigerator and the banchan will be ready in 2-3 days. After the first day, you can bring the bottom stack of leaves to the top and then the top ones to the bottom so that the perilla leaves can marinate evenly. Enjoy with rice!