Kkaennip, it’s not really sesame

Kkaennip is a staple food in Korea. It’s rolled in many kinds of kimbap. It’s usually one of the leafy varieties to choose from to wrap your barbecue beef, pork, chicken or even sashimi style fish with. It’s served fermented and pickled, like every other vegetable in this country. It’s even draped around pieces of fried chicken, drizzled in honey mustard sauce and covered with shredded lettuce in Paris Baguette’s overpriced chicken wrap sandwich.

I have lived here close to a year now, and love Korean food. Just about everything I eat, I enjoy. But kkaennip has taken me a while to warm up to. It’s such a dominant flavor, that seems to take over whatever you eat it with, and I’m usually not down with that. My girlfriend loves to wrap her barbecued beef in it, with onion, garlic and Korean fermented veggie goodness. I’ve always preferred the red lettuce leaf, or pretty much any other leafy vegetable, to the kkaennip leaf.

However lately it’s creeping in to the beef galbi rotation, and I’m not as put off by the dominant, herby, almost minty flavor. So I thought I’d try it again with chom chey (tuna) kimbap. Originally I was turned off by the kkaennip and the excessive mayo in this kimbap, so I stopped ordering it, preferring less goopy, kkaennippy varieties. But now I order it sans mayo, and it’s damn delicious. If I could get them to give a squirt of gochujang down the middle…

And just as I start to warm up to it, I find out that it’s not really what I thought it was. Whenever I ask Koreans what it is, they always say sesame leaf. The translation function on Korean cell phones also responds with sesame leaf. So I just assumed it was from the plant that produced sesame seeds. Mistake. Turns out, it’s not that at all. It’s actually Perilla. In Korean, the name of the plant is deulkkae, which translates to wild sesame. Kkaenip translates to sesame leaf. Just when you thought you knew what you were eating.

I’m pretty open minded when it comes to food, but there are certain tastes we just don’t like. It was starting to bother me that I couldn’t fully Koreanize because of my disdain for kkaennip. Because of this, I’m glad to see that after being here for a while, the few things that I wasn’t huge fans of, have grown on me.

Learn Korean with KoreanClass101.com

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~ by ripcitytoseoul on March 20, 2010.

One Response to “Kkaennip, it’s not really sesame”

  1. I wish I had some of this right now. Love that leaf 🙂

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