Recipe: Morkovcha (Russian-Korean Carrot Salad)


Morovcha (Russian-Korean Carrot Salad)

This Morkovcha (Russian-Korean Carrot Salad) prep is a hybrid of best practices from the wide variety of home cook recipes I’ve run across. It has a complex, distinctive flavor profile that holds its own on a plate with several other sides. The dish has an interesting pedigree: it originated in Siberia with Korean transplants, but then these immigrants were relocated by Stalin to central Asia, many thousands of miles away. In its current version it makes a frequent appearance on Russian¬†tables and has very little to do with Korea other than the name. Serves 4-8 as a side dish.

1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks*
1 T salt
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/8 t (a pinch) cayenne
2 T coriander seeds, crushed, or 1 T ground coriander
3 T rice wine vinegar or white vinegar
1/4 c neutral cooking oil (not olive oil or sesame oil)
1 small onion, peeled and sliced into half-moons (about 3/4 c)
Salt to taste (possibly 1/2 t)
Honey to taste (possibly 1 T)

Method: dissolve salt in 2 c water and add carrots; soak for 4 hours or more. Drain and press out excess water. Mix carrots with vinegar, cayenne and garlic. Heat oil to a low simmer and add onion and cook a few minutes until translucent; add coriander for 30 seconds at the end to intensify the flavor. Immediately pour the hot oil/onion mixture over carrots and mix well. Refrigerate at least 4 hours and taste for seasoning; add salt and honey as needed.

Options: rub the carrots with the salt and let them sit until a good amount of liquid is produced, then wash and drain; this will produce a less crisp, more pickle-y carrot. Sauté the garlic with the onions, rather than adding raw. (Actually I did this because my garlic was particularly pungent.) If you want a more Asian flavor profile add 1 t soy sauce and 1 T toasted sesame seeds.

*Several of the home cooks I ran across use a Thai tool called the “Kiwi” to make their carrot matchsticks by hand. It’s also used for making green papaya salad. If you get this (the picture is an Amazon link) be careful not to cut your fingers!

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