During my first two years in Busan, improving my ability to prepare the foods that I so missed from home became a priority. Yet, finding the right ingredients or acceptable substitutes was akin to a scavenger hunt. One week Megamart would have chic peas, and then they would disappear from the shelves for months.
A small supermarket in Namcheon-dong was known amongst my friends as ‘the sour cream place,’ as it was the only market that regularly carried it. As Busan continues to further cast its international food net, and with the welcome addition of Costco, western ingredients are easier to come by.
Of course, many of us who are ‘repeat offenders’ have learned to bring back, or have sent from home, certain spices and treats that are impossible to come by. For me, chipotle powder, sage, dill and powdered ranch dressing mix always take precedence in my suitcase over anything else.
Once you have absconded from home with the right ingredients, or managed to scavenge worthy items here, there is then the problem of how to prepare them. For a lot of you living here the kitchen situation in a studio apartment is less than ideal. Here are some suggestions to improve your chances of conquering some great meals.
Buy a large toaster oven and a decent Teflon or Pyrex dish. An oven large enough to fit a whole chicken will run you 50-70,000 won.
The searchable ‘groceries’ department has spices such as cumin, sage and various chili powders. If you only have a two burner stove, invest in either a freestanding electric burner or a rice cooker. You can find either for about 30,000 won if you look around. Buy yourself a good knife and an apron, if for nothing else, you’ll take yourself more seriously in the kitchen. In sharing my recipes and divulging my ‘ingredient finds’ around the city, I will try not to use items that are hard to come by, and for now, I’ll stick to dishes that can be made without an oven.
My recipe for tuna burgers was born by improvising on my mom’s famous Salmon Croquettes. The first time I made them I did, in fact, used canned salmon, which is available at Costco, but fairly expensive. Do with that information what you will. With the exception of the big, fluffy burger buns, which I have only been able to locate at a small bakery (Kim Yeong Pyo Patisserie) in Namcheon-dong, all of the ingredients should be easy to track down all in one spot.
-2 250g cans of Ottogi Mild Tuna
-1 100g cup of Denmark Plain Yogurt (Or sour cream, if you don’t mind the calories and love the great taste)
-2 medium sized eggs
-15ish Jalepeno rings, finely diced (20 if you dig the heat, 10 if you’re a wuss)
-1/2 Red onion, grated or finely diced
-2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
-2-3 cups (or handfuls) of Ottogi breadcrumbs (Bang-Ga-Roo)
-100 grams (or an empty Denmark Yogurt cup full) of grated cheddar or parmesean cheese (optional)
-Cooking oil (I prefer grapeseed oil)
-Salt and Pepper to taste
The Special Sauce:
50 Grams Denmark Yogurt, 50 grams Mayonnaise, 2 Tbsp. Macrocom Spaghetti Seasoning Mix (available at Lotte Supermarkets), 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard, 5-6 dashes of Bulliard’s Louisiana Hot Sauce (available at most big marts).
A Little Garnish:
Lettuce, Tomato, Farman’s Baby Dill pickles
Large bowl, Frying Pan, Spatula, Paper towels
Mix all the ingredients in the bowl, except for the breadcrumbs and cooking oil. Use a fork to mix and mash. Add breadcrumbs, a handful at a time, and use your hands to mush it all together. Keep adding breadcrumbs until the consistency of the mix is still moist but able to bond together. Form each patty by grabbing until it is about 3/4 inch thick and as wide as the tuna can.
On a medium flame, heat a healthy layer of oil in the frying pan. When it starts to sizzle, CAREFULLY place 3-4 patties in the pan. Flip the patties every 3 minutes, until they are a nice golden brown on both sides. Keep adding oil as you go to avoid burning. When the burgers are done, place them on 2-3 layers of paper towels, and cover with the same to extract excess oil.
Layer the buns with sauce, lettuce and thinly sliced tomatoes and pickles. I think you know what to do next… and you’re on your own for the clean-up.