Which will win this time? The briny-savory-crispy-creamy tapas of Spain, or the spicy-sweet-sour-salty banchan of Korea? You decide!
THE RAMBLE: WHO IS YOUR WINNER?
LET’S TALK ABOUT Spain and Korea. I think these two countries have the most in common, cuisine-wise. They both have “small plates,” some of which are almost the same (brined/pickled anchovies, fried green peppers, pulpo a la gallega and sannakji, etc.), they both use their own pepper flakes in most dishes (pimentón, espelette and gochugaru), most things have pork (jamón and bulgogi) and/or seafood. They even have the same (semi-national) dish, meat/seafood and veg mixed rice (paella and bibimbap). I love it. Maybe that’s why my husband and I connect, I’m just the Spanish version (in my heart) and he is the Korean version (in his genes). Tapas are eaten in a “tapas crawl,” going from bar to bar and trying all kinds of great things, and banchan (“half-plates”) are usually just accompanied with every meal as the side dishes, so they’re a little different in how they’re served.
I loved going through Calle Laurel in Logroño, La Rioja while I was studying abroad there in 2011. In Casco Viejo, in the old, traditional part of the town, little bars are in historic buildings with cobblestone walkways, juxtaposed with amazing graffiti art, most done by incredible Spanish artist Suso 33:
(Conexión, Identidad, Información, Lateralidad, Mancha, Observación, Voces)
He has done art all over Spain, Europe, Shanghai and New York. I was also there in the summer of 2008 as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints while he was doing most of these, and a new one would pop up every now and again. On our prep days, my companion and I would treasure hunt Casco Viejo in search of new pieces. It is an intoxicating place.
LET’S TALK ABOUT these dishes. I chose these dishes to capture a full spectrum of flavors and textures from each country. Tapas are always at different temperatures while most banchan are chilled or at room temp. There are so many dishes from each country, but here are some great ones to get you started, and all are great with a favorite chilled beverage. Sparkling cider, of course, for a Mormon! Typical Spanish flavors and ingredients include: paprika and smoked paprika, roasted peppers, olives and briny things, olive oil, seafood, especially tuna (their preserving method is COMPLETELY different than ours, theirs has an incredible umami in every can of tuna and it just gets better with time!), fresh herbs, citrus, honey, cheeses from all different milks, nuts, etc. Korean flavors and ingredients include spicy pepper flakes, fermentation-y preservation, tangy, tart vinegars, caramelized sweetness, seafood and fish to preserve and season, soy sauce, sesame oil and seeds, scallion, dried seafood, apple and pear. We’ve got quite the lineup with a mix of these flavors.
Check out other amazing pieces from all over the world by Suso 33!
WHO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT making great Spanish food: Sandee A @sandeea of her blog La Receta de la Felicidad and book Chocolate (y sorteo!) (can be translated to English), Asun @recetashuga of her blog Las Mejores Recetas de Huga, Miriam of her blog El Invitado de Invierno, and Donostia Foods, Sonia of her blog L’Equisit.
WHO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT making great Korean food: Hyosun of Korean Bapsang, Sue from My Korean Kitchen, Maangchi @Maangchi of Maangchi, Julie of KimchiChick, Judy Joo @JudyJooChef of Cooking Channel’s Korean Food Make Simple and Jinjuu in London and Hong Kong, food truck pioneer Roy Choi @RidingShotgunLA of Kogi and cookbook L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food and LA restaurants Chego, Alibi Room, Sunny Spot and A-Frame, Holly @beyondkimchi of Beyond Kimchee, David Chang @DavidChang of PBS’s Mind of a Chef, his NYC restaurant and books Momofuku, and recipe/culture online magazine Lucky Peach @luckypeach, Robin Ha @RobinHaART of her recipe blog/Tumblr Banchan Comic and recipe-comic book Cook Korean! A Comic Book with Recipes, HJ @haejn of the blog Yobodish Korean Recipes, James Strange and his YouTube recipe videos.
Spanish Tapas Quartet
These recipes are in order of the title picture, from top left clockwise, however, I would make the rice and piquillos first (can be made way ahead also), then tomatoes, then zucchini while the tomatoes are roasting to have them all done at the same time.
Fried Zucchini with Pine Nut Sauce
Adapted from Spanish a collection of over 100 essential recipes Parragon recipe book, serves 4, medium-level fuss, about 25 mins to make.
1 lb zucchini, cut into 1/4″ diagonal slices
3 TBS AP flour
1 tsp paprika
1 large egg, beaten
2 TBS milk
neutral oil, such as sunflower, for pan frying
course sea salt (ideal)
Pine Nut Sauce:
1/2 heaping cup pine nuts (make sure they’re fresh or they will be bitter)
1 garlic clove, peeled
3 TBS olive oil
1 TBS lemon juice
3 TBS water
1 TBS chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper, to taste
- To make the sauce, add pine nuts and garlic to a food processor and blend until a smooth paste forms. Keep motor running and gradually add olive oil, lemon juice, and water until it forms a smooth sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the parsley. Move to a small serving bowl, set aside.
- For the zucchini, add enough oil to fill skillet or pan about 1/2″, then heat to 350 degrees F. Mix egg and milk together in a large bowl. Add flour and paprika to a zip top bag or a pie dish. Stir to combine, then add zucchini and shake bag or flip zucchini to make sure each piece is evenly coated. Once oil is hot, one at at time, shake off any excess flour, dip into the egg mixture, then drop carefully into the pan in one layer. Cook about 1-2 minutes, or until golden brown, on each side.
- Remove zucchini and let drain on a baking cooling rack or paper towels, sprinkle with salt. Repeat with remaining zucchini, then serve with the Pine Nut Sauce.
Chilled Rice Salad
Adapted from L’Exquisit, easy fuss, serves 4, about 10 mins prep, then chilled 2+ hours.
2 roasted red peppers (or jarred piquillo peppers), medium dice
2 cups cooked basmati rice, cooled
3 TBS capers, chopped
1/2 cup sliced green olives
about 12 oz good canned/jarred tuna in oil, such as Ortiz (or Bumble Bee solid albacore, water drained, then drizzle olive oil into the can and let tuna soak up the oil. US tuna SUCKS compared to Spain…***)
2 TBS chopped fresh parsley
3 TBS olive oil
1 TBS lemon juice
about 1 tsp salt, or to taste
- Add parley, olive oil, lemon, and salt to a large bowl. Mix together, then add the rest of the ingredients. Toss everything until evenly mixed, cover and put in fridge until chilled, at least 2 hours, then serve.
Adapted from Spanish a collection of over 100 essential recipes Parragon recipe book, easy fuss, about 45-50 mins to make.
8 tomatoes, such as on the vine
6 sprigs of fresh thyme, divided
8 large garlic cloves, en chemise
about 1/4 cup olive oil
salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Cut tomatoes pole to pole, then coat each half evenly with a little olive oil. With your oily hands and any remaining oil, rub the garlic and half the thyme springs to lightly coat them with the oil. Place thyme and garlic in an ovenproof dish, preferably with high sides, then nestle the tomatoes on top and in between. Season everything with salt to taste, about a half of a tablespoon, then bake for about 40-45 mins, until soft and the edges have some char.
- Remove from oven and discard thyme sprigs. Move tomatoes to a serving dish. Once cool enough to handle, squeeze the soft garlic over the tomatoes, about a half clove per tomato half, then garnish with remaining fresh thyme, sprigs or picked leaves. Can be served warm or at room temp. Serve with a really great bread.
Stuffed Piquillo Peppers
Adapted from SousChef, makes 4, easy fuss, 10 mins prep, then chilled 2 + hours.
4 jarred piquillo peppers
about 8 oz good canned/jarred tuna, such as Ortiz (***), or good crabmeat
about 2 tsp mayonnaise, or enough to evenly coat, or to taste
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 small shallot, minced
salt, to taste
- In a medium bowl, add mayo, lemon, and shallot. Mix until smooth, then add tuna or crab, and break pieces apart until an even texture. Toss until evenly coated, then taste for salt, add to taste, if needed.
- Gently open the piquillo and slide the tuna mixture into the opening with a spoon, until full but not bursting. Place on a plate/serving platter and chill for at least 2 hours, then serve.