Korean cuisine consists of rice, soup, and side dishes. Next to a full bowl of rice, there is a bowl of steamy soup. And there are a couple of tasty side dishes. The savory soup creates a great harmony out of bland rice and salty side dishes in the mouth and helps swallow them easily.
According to how it's made, there are many types of soups, mostly depending on the amount of the liquid: Guk, Tang, Jjigae, Jeongol, etc. There are various kinds of soup as the season changes.
No matter what type of soup it is, the taste of the liquid part is essential. The more and clearer the liquid part is, the more distinctive its taste becomes. To make a soup, we pour water over the main ingredients like vegetables, seafood, or meat. We season and boil them. To make it tastier, we add more ingredients or use the ingredients to make broth and use the broth in place of the water.
Dried anchovy and Dashima(a.k.a. Kombu) are commonly used ingredients to enhance the taste of soup in Korea. Drying anchovy and Dashima enrich their flavor and help them last longer. Korean basic condiments like Doenjang, Gochujang, and Ganjang go well with them. Soaked in the water, they embrace all the flavors throughout all seasons.
Boiled and dried anchovy. When making broth, big and medium-size anchovies are used. The smaller ones are mostly for side dishes.
It adds umami and sweetness to soups, seasoned soy sauce, kimchi, etc. It's used not only for broth but also for side dishes, thanks to its savory flavor. We often dry-fry them crispy and enjoy them with alcoholic drinks.
There are some well-known ways to enhance broth with anchovy. You can cook something with whole anchovies in it. You can make an anchovy broth first and then use the broth for cooking something. Or, you can grind the anchovies and put the powder in the food. They all have pros and cons.
If you put the whole anchovies, you can save time, not making broth. When you eat the soup, it's fun to pick and eat the anchovies. As you make the soup, the spices you put for the soup go into the anchovies, and its originally tough texture (because it was dried) becomes tender and properly chewy. However, it's not a good fit for food you need to cook for a long time. The anchovies will become mushy, make the soup unclear, and make it taste bitter. Before using the anchovies, you need to prepare them first. First, get rid of the head and intestines, which makes a bitter taste. Then, dry-fry them to get rid of the moisture and the odor. However, even if you prepare them well, if the anchovies get heated for a certain amount of time, it makes a bitter taste.
If you make broth first, it takes time, but you can make a consistent taste regardless of cooking time. As said before, if you cook anchovies too long, it makes a bitter taste. However, if you cook it too short, you can't get enough taste out of it. How can we make anchovy broth which isn't bitter? A good way is to soak anchovies in cold water for a long time and boil them for a short time. After you soak them in cold water for 10 hours in a fridge, it will have a light and pleasantly sweet taste, almost like green tea. Now put them in a pot on medium to high heat. When it's about to boil, turn down the heat to medium to low. Heat them for 10 to 15 minutes without boiling. After that, strain them through cotton clothes. It will have a deep and clear taste. Once cooled, freeze them in ice cube trays or small containers. You can use them later with water.
If you grind anchovies, it's easy to bring flavor to food. It's convenient to have a batch of ground anchovies prepared. However, the powder spreads in the soup. So avoid using it in a soup with clear and lots of liquid. It works well with thick soups or heavy food like Jjigae.
Seal and freeze them.
[How it's made]
Boil freshly caught anchovies in salty water. Then spread them on a fishnet and sun-dry them, or use a dryer machine. The boiling process is necessary to get rid of excessive oil and bacteria and stop enzyme action. And by boiling, the fresh becomes more solid, which makes it easier to dry.
Dried Dashima (a.k.a. Kombu)
It adds subtle umami, sweetness, and the scent of the sea to soups, seasoned soy sauce, kimchi, etc. We also deep-fry it to make Twigak, which is a good snack, or braise it for a side dish. When you cook rice, if the rice is not fresh and a bit old, you can put a small piece of Dashima in the pot, and it will make the rice shiny and sweet in a subtle way.
Dashmia is usually used as in broth. It doesn't have a deep taste like anchovy, but its lightness also can be advantageous because you can use it widely without affecting the taste of the food too much. Compared to anchovy, Dashima takes a shorter time to make taste. If you soak it in cold water for too long or boil it for a certain amount of time, slimy water will come out of it, making the soup unclear and thick. To avoid it, I recommend you make broth first. The process is similar to the anchovy broth. Soak it in cold water for 15~30 minutes. Put them in a pot on medium to high heat. When it's about to boil, turn down the heat to medium to low. Without boiling, heat it for 5~10 minutes. Pick and throw away the Dashima. You can also skip the cold water part and boil it. Or, you can soak it in cold water without boiling it. Both ways work but make less deep taste.
Cut them into small pieces. Seal and store them in a shady place, in the fridge, or even in the freezer.