My friends tease me that I like to say words in pairs … it must be an Indonesian thing: photo photo, jalan jalan … so yeah, I like the sound of namul, namul.
So what’s namul you ask? Namul is a general term for a wide variety of Korean vegetable dishes.
The vegetables may vary, as well as preparation methods and seasonings, but they are all namul. Vegetables of all shapes and sizes can be used–be they herbs, roots, leaves, stems, seeds, sprouts, petals, or fruits. Preparation methods and seasoning also run the gamut: the vegetables can be left raw, dried, sautéed, blanched, or steamed; seasonings range from garlic, salt, vinegar, sesame oil, to Korean red pepper paste (goch’ujang).
An assortment of namul is typically served as banchan–small side dishes–served alongside rice and the main course. If you’ve ever been for Korean barbecue, you know what I mean! Examples of namul include chwinamul (wild leafy plants), shigeumchi (spinach), and kongnamul (soy bean sprouts.)
This namul recipe is a slight variation on a recipe given to me by Yangja Im, my friend Soyon Im’s aunt.
Hobak Namul (green and yellow zucchini thread salad)
Hobak namul is Yangja’s favorite of all namul. (Hobak, I’ve read, is actually a Korean squash which is round. Anyone have a picture?) Not only is it tasty but this is a colorful and elegant dish that complements any Korean meal. This everyday dish has a gentle and mild flavor that is especially calming with spicy food. Blanching is optional and is not necessary if the zucchini and carrots are sliced thinly and if you prefer your vegetables crunchy. If preparing this dish in advance, she suggests adding the sesame oil right before serving to keep the colors bright and the flavor fresh.
Time: 1 hour (from start to finish)
Makes: 4 servings
4 medium zucchinis (2 green, 2 yellow), rinsed, dried, trimmed at both ends
1 large carrot, peeled
1 Korean hot green pepper or jalapeno (optional)
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/8 teaspoon white pepper to taste
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Juice from 1/2 large lemon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger root (about 1-inch) [I like to peel the root by scraping it off with a spoon before grating but it's up to you]
Toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Halve zucchinis. Discard seeds in the center with a spoon.
Using a shredder or a very sharp knife, slice the zucchini lengthwise as thinly as possible into threads. Thinly slice the carrot and green pepper to the same length as the zucchini.
Place zucchini in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and let stand 15 minutes. Wrap zucchini in a nonterry dish towel and gently wring out excess moisture. Do this 2 or 3 times to extract enough water from the zucchini yet not completely crush it. Repeat with carrot.
Place vegetables in a medium bowl and fluff them up. Add white pepper and sugar. Mix well. Add salt to taste if desired. Add lemon juice, sesame oil, and ginger. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if using. Toss and serve.