I always enjoy sniffing up the pungent smells in Asian supermarkets. At the moment the Korean kitchen is my favorite and I spend a lot of time wandering through aisles with colorfully printed boxes, cans and packets with indecipherable texts. With a well prepared shopping list (Google translate!) and the help of a patient shopkeeper I usually manage to find what I want. The sharp tastes of fermented cabbage (kimchi), red pepper paste (gochujang) and fermented soy bean paste (chunjang) are no strangers in my kitchen any more but I had never made a Korean cookie. Many Korean sweets or hangwa are made with rice, dried fruit and honey and I always felt daunted by the complicated shapes and the multitude of ingredients and processes needed to make them. But this fried maejakgwa cookie from Korea with ginger and pine nuts is easy to make and the ingredients can be found in any ordinary supermarket. They say the cookie gets its name from the resemblance to a sparrow in an apricot tree. I cannot see it myself, but this tasty and crunchy Korean cookie certainly deserves a poetic name. If you like this cookie try my own variation: sesame cookie with hibiscus glaze.
Maejakgwa cookie from Korea
2 inch piece of ginger root
250 grams flour
large pinch of salt
15 grams sugar
135 milliliters water
25 grams pine nuts
vegetable oil for frying
for the syrup
150 grams sugar
150 milliliters water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Grate the ginger with a fine grater.
Put the grated ginger in a sieve and press out the juice. Use 2 tablespoons of the juice for the dough.
Mix the flour with the salt, the sugar, the ginger juice and the water and bring together in a ball. Add some water if the dough is too dry.
Knead for about 15 min. into a nice elastic dough. I used my food processor with a dough hook for this. Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for about 30 min.
Roll out the dough very thinly to about ¼ cm (⅛ inch) and cut into a rectangle. Use a pizza wheel to make rectangles of about 2 by 6 cm (¾ inch by 2½ inches).
Fold the rectangles in two and make 3 slits with scissors or a knife. The middle slit should be a little bit longer. Fold 1 of the short ends into the middle slit. Pull the end through the slit. Straighten the strip of dough. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
Chop the pine nuts.
Fill a wide pan with about 10 cm (4 inches) of oil and heat to about 160°C/ 320°F. A piece of bread or some left over dough that is dropped in the oil should start bubbling immediately. Put a few strips of dough in the pan. Bake them golden brown in a few minutes. Turn them to get a nice even color. Take the Maejakgwa cookie from Korea out of the pan with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on a plate with some kitchen paper
In a saucepan bring the sugar and the water for the syrup to a boil. Leave to boil on low for about 15 min. until you get a thick syrup
Add the cinnamon and stir well.
Dip the Maejakgwa cookies in the syrup. Sprinkle with pine nuts and eat immediately while they are warm or leave to dry for a crunchy cookie.
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