The other day as I was walking out of the gate of my house I came across my next-door neighbor holding a basket filled with green vegetables. When I figured out what she was carrying I was surprised because it was naengi (Capsella bursapastoris, or shepherd’s purse). This plant suddenly reminded me of the fact that spring is just around the corner.
In spring on Jeju — and especially in my village in Seogwipo — there are lots of edible greens like naengi and dallae (wild chives, Allium monanthum) that sprout on farms, in the hills, and even near the coast.
Traditionally for the women of Jeju, picking sprouts while on their way home from work was part of their daily routine. These days you can find women — most commonly grandmothers — in traditional open markets selling these greens. If you walk by one of these markets in your town or village, consider buying some spring sprouts to add to your meals. They are certainly healthy and delicious.
Nansiguk* (Korean: Naengiguk, English: Spring sprout soup)
Naengi is a Jeju spring sprout. It has lots of calcium and iron, and its nutrition is not affected even when boiled. It also has lots of vitamin A and C, which is effective in alleviating fatigue. If you consult the classic Korean medical text called “Dongui Bogam,” written by Heo Joon, naengi in a soup is touted to be especially good for liver and eye conditions.
Ingredients 12 to 15 medium-size (between 15 and 25 cm) naengi, 10 to 12 large dried anchovies, A piece of kelp (approximate width: 20 cm, length: 10 cm), 1 tbsp of doenjang (soy bean paste), 1 tsp salt, 400 ml water
1. Prepare the naengi by scraping off the soil from its roots and wash carefully. Leave the roots on the plant.
2. Put the kelp, dried anchovies (organs removed), and water into a pot and boil for 20 to 30 minutes over medium heat.
Pro Tip: If you use the water you washed your rice in, the soup will be thicker.
3. Remove the kelp and anchovies from the pot with a ladle.
4. Put the doenjang into the broth and boil for 3 minutes. If the doenjang is homemade, it should be boiled for about 10 minutes.
5. Add the washed naengi and boil for 3 minutes. Add salt to taste. Serves 4.
Wild dallae picked on the mountain-side is known for its strong, spicy flavor. It contains lots of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C. For this reason, it is recommended that it be consumed raw. If you do cook the dallae, add vinegar to minimize the deterioration of vitamin C.
Ingredients 20 dallae, 1 tsp of red pepper powder, 1 tsp of salted anchovy sauce, 1 tsp of ground garlic, 1/2 tsp of sugar, 1/2 tsp of vinegar
1. Prepare the dallae by peeling the thin outer layer of the root and wash the fibrous roots in running water.
2. Cut the dallae in half.
3. Add the red pepper powder, salted anchovy sauce, ground garlic, sugar, and vinegar. Stir and serve.
Pro Tip: If the strong flavor is unnerving, store the salad at room temperature for 2 to 6 hours.
References: “Jejudo Food” by Kim Ji Soon and “200 Healthy Foods” by Kim Jeong Sook
(*) These are the Jeju names for the dishes.
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