Korea Town, NYC

Tucked away on 32nd street between 5th Avenue and Broadway in New York City is Korea Town. This is where my best friend from college took me to lunch yesterday. Mary immigrated to the United States from South Korea when she was 13 years old. We met as freshmen in college in the basement stacks of the library. The day we met she said to me that she wanted to major in astrophysics. We laugh now when we reminisce 37 years later, because as she puts it, “That was the major of the day”. She went on to become an architect and I became an electrical engineer.

Although Mary and I have very different cultural backgrounds, we share one very important characteristic: we are both immigrants to the United States. Over the years, our friendship has offered us the opportunity to learn about each other’s cultures. My friend is getting ready to move overseas so I quickly arranged a trip to see her before she leaves. After meeting me at the train station yesterday she took me to Korea Town. This visit gave me a newfound appreciation for our long-lasting and rich friendship. Our first stop was to the huge Korean food store, H-Mart, where Mary gave me a tour of all the sections.

The chili paste section

The chili paste section

The snack section

The snack section

Rice cakes that we would later enjoy in our soup.

Rice cakes that we would later enjoy in our soup.

She was in the market for Wasabi powder. However, as she approached the cashier she lit up when she saw the frozen treats freezer. She grabbed a red bean ice bar and said, “I grew up with these, let’s try this before lunch!”

Our purchases: Wasabi powder and red bean ice pop.

Our purchases: Wasabi powder and red bean ice pop.

I thought I would just take a bite but then she got a phone call and I held on to the bar while she talked, and by the time she finished her phone call I had managed to enjoy half the bar. The bar was was a mildly sweet refreshing custard with red beans interspersed throughout.

The yummy red bean ice pop.

The yummy red bean ice pop.

We then went to the Korean restaurant New Wonjo. The best part was letting my friend decide what we were having. We enjoyed a delicious spicy beef and vegetable stew called Yook Ge Jang and a milder dumpling and rice cake soup called DDUK Mandoo Guk.

The spicy beef and vegetable stew.

The spicy beef and vegetable stew.

Before the soups arrived they served us an assortment of kimchi (pickled vegetables), salads, and a dry fish. We ended our meal with a yummy cold cinnamon drink. What an amazing lunch!

Dumpling and Rice Cake soup.

Dumpling and Rice Cake soup.

 

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Little nibbles with lunch (Top left to right: green salad, garlic snapes with red pepper, broccoli, macaroni salad, Bottom left to right: root vegetable kimchi, cabbage kimchi, and dried fish)

The rest of our visit included a visit to fabric stores in New York City’s Garment district and a 45 block walk up-town to my friend’s place. The walk took us through Central Park where we stopped to see the tribute to John Lennon in Strawberry Fields. As always, it was a wonderful visit with an old friend which gave me a renewed sense of gratitude for our friendship.

I love everything international. I relish in meeting people from around the world and learning about their cultures. I feel this adds richness to my life. My friendship with Mary has added a wonderful dimension to my life. Exposure to different cultures leads to a better understanding and ultimately acceptance of those who are different.

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It is my hope for my children that they also have the opportunity to make friends from around the world. It is my continued hope that the United States continues to be a haven for immigrants from around the world because we all benefit from this.

Strawberry Fields, Tribute to John Lennon in Central Park

Strawberry Fields, Tribute to John Lennon in Central Park

Maybe it was not serendipity that our walk took us through Strawberry Fields. Maybe we needed to be reminded of John Lennon’s song, Imagine.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world, you
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Tía Mary’s Korean Korokkes (Croquettes)

Korean Korokkes

Korean Korokkes

Mary is my best friend from college. Mary, born in Korea, came to the United States when she was 12 years old. We took physics and drafting classes together at Queens College in New York City circa 1980. In 1984, I started my first job at GE in Schenectady, NY and she transferred to RPI only a few miles away in Troy, NY. We skied every weekend and hosted parties together.

Friends Cooking Together

Friends Cooking Together in 2008

She made her delicious Korean Korokkes or croquettes for one of our many social events. They were a huge success. We continued our friendship over the years. In 2008, Tia Mary (tia means aunt in Spanish), as my children have come to call her, made her Korean Korokkes again, but this time for our family. Tia Mary’s Korean Korokkes would become an instant hit with my children. So when Mary planned a recent visit, the first request from my children was for Tia Mary’s Korean Croquettes. And so a new food tradition was born in our family, cooking Korean Korokkes with our dear friend Tia Mary. With today’s healthy food trends, these croquettes would be frowned upon because they are fried. But my philosophy with food is everything can be enjoyed in moderation.

My daughter helping Tia Mary in 2008

My daughter helping Tia Mary in 2008

My daughter working side  by side with Tia Mary

My daughter working side by side with Tia Mary in October 2013

Tía Mary’s Korean Korokkes

Note about equipment: We fry our croquettes in a deep fryer however you can also fry them in a regular pan filled with enough canola oil to cover the croquettes.

Makes approximately 58 croquettes (2 ¼ inch by 1 ¼ inch croquettes shaped like logs)

Ingredients

  • Canola oil for frying
  • 1 lb of ground meat
  • 1 lb or 3 medium yellow onions finely chopped (2 ¾ cup to 3 cups of chopped onion)
  • 3 lbs of potatoes peeled, cooked, and mashed
  • 4 – 6 Tbs flour (or more as needed) in a container for dredging the croquettes
  • 2 – 3 eggs beaten and placed in a container for dipping
  • Breadcrumbs in a container for rolling the croquettes
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Tonkatsu sauce for dipping. Tonkatsu is a sweet and spicy Japanese sauce. Bull-Dog is a popular Japanese brand available in stores or on-line

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Preparation

  • Heat oil in deep fryer or pan to 350°– 375° Fahrenheit
  • Sauté the onions until well cooked but not brown. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Brown the meat. Salt and pepper to taste
  • Mash the potatoes. Salt and pepper to taste
  • Combine onions, meat, and potatoes. Adjust salt and pepper.
  • Set up an assembly line as follows: Bowl with meat and potato mix, container with   flour, bowl with beaten eggs, container with breadcrumbs, and empty tray.

    Form croquette and dredge in flour

    Form croquette and dredge in flour

  • Form a croquette by shaping into a small log approximately 2 ¼ inch long by 1 ¼ inch thick.
  • Dredge the croquette in the flour. Shake off excess flour.
  • Dip the croquette in the egg mixture.
  • Roll the croquette in the bread crumb mixture and set aside on tray.
  • Assemble the rest of the croquettes.

    Dip croquette in egg mixture and roll in breadcrumbs.

    Dip croquette in egg mixture and roll in breadcrumbs.

  • Start frying croquettes a few at a time. Do not crowd croquettes in pan or deep fryer. Drain on paper towel.
  • Complete frying all of the croquettes.
Korean Korokkes Assembly Line

Korean Korokkes Assembly Line

Serve korokkes warm or room temperature with Tonkatsu dipping sauce

Ready to Eat

Ready to Eat

Additional Comments:

The Korean Croquettes freeze very well. When ready to eat, defrost. Reheat about 8 at a time by microwaving for 1 minute then placing them in a toaster oven set at 400° as needed.

For homemade Tonkatsu sauce visit:

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/09/tonkatsu-sauce-japanese-barbecue-recipe.html

http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Tonkatsu-Sauce