The fairies have been hard at work ushering in the season of spirits. My garden is ready for harvest, the reward for months of effort and care. I have been out gathering the bounty of wild foods nature has provided, preserving summer sunlight for darker days ahead.
I was born in the fall, so this is my season for reflection and resolutions, and when I feel most aware of my position in the passage of time, and of my connection to the earth and my family.
This past weekend was the Korean thanksgiving holiday, Chuseok. Along with the delicious meals and festivities, some observe a traditional ceremony to honor departed ancestors with an elaborate offering of food and drink, and a deep bow of reverence and gratitude. It is also common to prepare a small offering of foods to be left just outside the house for the spirits of strangers who may be nearby.
I always love an opportunity to practice my Korean recipes, so I prepared a Chuseok feast for just the three of us, and it took all day to make our many side dishes.
I was gifted solitude while I prepared, and so had plenty of time to recall memories of my departed loved ones, and to recognize the many blessings of my life in the spirit of the holiday.
I haven’t yet successfully made the quintessential sweet rice cakes, but I served plenty of the fried pancakes that are also traditionally on the menu, as well as the last of my homegrown kimchi, now quite ripe.
It is still hot in Korea, so this savory stew isn’t exactly traditional for the holiday, but it was perfect for our drizzly Chuseok celebration. This dish is often served with a few extra ingredients that are hard to come by, like chrysanthemum greens and enoki mushrooms, that I excluded from my recipe.
1 pound beef steak (tenderloin or skirt steak work nicely) sliced very thinly
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
4 large garlic cloves, minced fine
About 2 ounces potato starch noodles, soaked in cold water for 1 hour
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup white onion, sliced
½ cup carrot, julienned
4 stalks green onion, sliced
1 egg per person
Mix your honey, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, minced garlic and black pepper.
Pour the mixture over your sliced beef and mix thoroughly. Cover and allow to marinade in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Soak your potato starch noodles while the meat is marinating.
In a heavy-bottomed pan bring about 4 cups of water with the salt and fish sauce to a boil.
Turn the heat down to medium to bring the liquid to a simmer before adding your meat, onion and carrot.
Allow the meat and vegetables to cook for 10 minutes, uncovered. Be sure to skim the foam off the surface of the soup as it cooks, but try not to stir too much, which will cause your soup to be cloudy.
Add the soaked noodles and gently stir.
If you want to add egg, now is the time to do it. Crack the egg directly into the simmering soup. Do not stir or disturb whatsoever while you let the egg poach in the soup for 5 minutes.
Portion out your soup carefully, being sure each egg arrives in a bowl intact.
Top with the green onion immediately before serving.
Serve with steamed white rice and kimchi.
Tressa Dale is a culinary and pastry school graduate and U.S. Navy veteran who lives in Nikiski, Alaska.