I watch a lot of kdrama. I would say almost all my television watching happens in Korean these days, so much so that I have picked up a fair amount just from the shows. I enjoy them when I have a few minutes to relax and don’t have much energy for something more productive. They are generally speaking a lot more family-oriented than American shows, if only because Koreans seem to value family relationships dearly.
One thing that shows up a lot in the dramas is the traditional memorial meal. Now, I’m pretty much just describing what I’ve seen on tv, and I don’t really know exactly what is going on, but the children get together on their parents’ death memorials and other people also show up to remember them. They put out a big spread of the person’s favorite food, plus a few things that seem to have some cultural significance, by the commentary of the actors. I probably sound pretty silly to any actual Korean, but that’s what I’ve picked up. There is something very… Orthodox… about the Korean tradition of remembering the dead.
My daughter sometimes watches bits of them with me and she is fascinated by the memorial ceremonies. My daughter is good at seeing patterns and connecting things that at first glance don’t really seem to go together. So when we had a Soul Saturday Liturgy last weekend at our church, I explained about giving Daddy a list of our departed loved ones for him to pray for during the service. She said, “Like the Koreans?”
Well, yes, I suppose something like that. So we got to talking about it and she thought it would be fun to celebrate with a special meal. I decided to make mussakhkhan, mainly because I had all the ingredients, but also because it is a one of the few traditional Palestinian dishes my taita made for me. As I was preparing it, it became even more appropriate to the occasion. I found myself doing things I know she does, as well as doing things other loved ones do. I have smart, thrifty women on both sides of the family, and most of my good friends are the same way. Lots to learn from.
So this is how a tradition is born, I guess. I think we’ll continue it. Perhaps mussakhkhan on some, and Welsh pasty on others.
Anyhow, how’s about a recipe?
Mussakhkhan (for a family of 5) – I used the recipe from “From the Lands of Figs and Olives“, because my taita wasn’t around for consultation. It tasted pretty close to authentic. (And that’s a great cookbook, by the way. No photos, just great recipes.) I’m going to write this up as I made it, but I followed the directions more or less.
- 4ish pound chicken, cleaned and cut
- 6 cardamom seeds, crushed
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 4 large onions, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup sumac
- pita bread (about four)
I cleaned the chicken. My friend gave me a couple breasts that she had already removed from a carcass, so all I had to do with remove the fat and tendon/membranes that I saw. Then I cut it into small pieces. (The recipe doesn’t say to do this.) I put the scraps in the freezer for the next round of stock. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the chicken for about 45 minutes on medium with half the cardamom.
While that’s doing its thing, I placed half the oil in a saucepan and added the onions, salt, pepper, allspice, and the rest of the cardamom. I set it over medium-low to cook and stirred it once in a while (the recipe says cook it for 1 1/2 hours, and I probably did.)
While that’s cooking, you fry the pine nuts in the rest of the oil. (This happens very quickly. When the pine nuts just start turning color, remove the pan from the heat. They will continue to cook in the oil.) When the onions are almost done, add the nuts and the sumac and let it sit.
Open the pita bread and lay a layer in a greased baking pan (inside-side up) spoon a little of the onion mixture over everything and then place another layer and repeat. Put the chicken on top, then add the remaining onion mixture over that. Cover and bake 350 for 40 minutes. Serve some bread with the chicken.
This is awesome with yogurt, as well as with an Arabic tomato/cucumber salad.
Sorry I posted this during cheese week, but maybe you’ll come back to it a couple months from now. ;)