So you find yourself in the middle of somewhere in Germany, and you want to make some Korean food. Welcome to my club, first of all! The good news is that it can be done. There are certain limitations such as sourcing specific ingredients, particularly non-staple ones, and freshness due to low turnover, but luckily, many of the essentials in Korean cuisine are not too hard to find. Just be prepared to pay for it!
Here are the staples in my cupboard and refrigerator and where to find them:
- Soy Sauce (Soja Sauce) – you can find this at any grocerty store. Even a discounter like Netto sells Kikkoman, and Alnatura makes an organic product available at DM.
- Sesame oil (Sesam Oel) – you can find sesame oil in larger normal grocery stores and definitely in any Asia shop. Not all stock Korean brands, but I have found that the Thai brands are OK.
- Gochujang – many Asia shops will sell this, even in our small city here. Otherwise, you will have to either go to a Korean grocery store or order online.
- Doenjang – same as above.
- Gochugalu – Korean grocery store or online. You can of course make your own if you plant and dry your own chili peppers and then chop in your food processor, something my family did when I was a kid.
- Garlic (Knoblauch) – widely available.
- Ginger (Ingwer) – just as in the US, this was an exotic product back in the 70s and 80s. Thankfully, you can find ginger in grocery stores and market stalls anywhere. The price tends to be cheaper at Asia shops though so be sure to compare.
- Spring onions/scallions (Fruehlingszwiebeln)- widely available.
- Gim – For us, this crisp laver is like a jar of peanut butter is in some households I guess. My kids inhale it, and it’s our main vegetable. You can get this at Asia shops, even here in Aalen. It is pricey though compared to the US or Korea.
I find that with kids, I use a lot less gochujang, so to me that is on the fence as an essential agreement. Having said that, my oldest now prefers to have gochujang in her bibimbap rather than soy sauce/sesame oil.
You will have to work a bit harder for some more specific ingredients. For example, my kids love dduk (rice cake ovals), kongnamul (soybean sprouts) and gosari (fiddlehead ferns). Maybe some day, but really in the distant future, I will make my own dduk and forage in the forests and mountains for gosari. (Let me spell out that at this writing, I am the mother of three children under age six. I have my limits!) Until then, we stock up enough whenever we go to Duesseldorf, Frankfurt or when somebody from the US or Korean comes for a visit. Then we freeze our dduk, and the dried gosari has a long shelf life.
Though I still have to make my own kimchi, there are some fresh ingredients that are really delicious here such as spinach, Chinese cabbage and oxtail. I’m going to post all about making oxtail stew next time my butcher has some freshly slaughtered so stay tuned for more! There will also be future posts on shopping in the bigger cities with more significant Korean populations as well as what and where to buy products online.