Morchovka is a delicious dish developed by Korean migrants living in the Soviet Union. My partner and I stumbled on this delightfully fresh and tasty side dish at our local Russian market and I decided to take a closer look at where it originated and how to make it at home.
Korean people traveled to what was then the Soviet Union in both the 1860s and also the 1900s, as refugees from famine in the former, and from an oppressive Japanese regime in the latter. They settled in what was called the Far East of the Soviet Union, the Maritime region which bordered Korea. Koreans played a large role in the development of this region, though they struggled to gain citizenship and land ownership under Soviet rule.
By the 1930s around 200,000 Korean immigrants lived in the Far East area of the Soviet Union. In 1937, Japan began a war with mainland China, which Soviet leaders took as a threat to their security, and in response they began deporting ethnic minorities, including families with Korean heritage. (Ironic, since the Koreans were also against Japanese rule!) This was called the Great Purge, and it involved the relocation of entire populations of not just Koreans, but also Chinese, Poles, and Germans. Many Koreans ended up in present day Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan, as well as other areas of Central Asia.
Today the former Soviet Union is home to over 500,000 ethnic Koreans living mostly in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Russia. This dish is called Morchovka in Russian and means “Korean Carrots”. Koreans living in Central Asia didn’t have the ingredients normally found in Korea, so they improvised with what they had. The result was a dish with distinctly Uzbek ingredients, carrot, coriander, and fresh cilantro, with the pickled and spicy flavor you’d expect from a traditional Korean kimchi. Today the dish is well known throughout the former Soviet Union and is a popular staple sold at markets and even eaten on holidays.
Adapted from Moscow Times Morchovka recipe
6-8 large carrots, shredded or very thinly sliced
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, grated or minced
⅓ cup avocado oil
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup white or rice vinegar
1 Tbsp honey or maple syrup
2 Tbsp coriander
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp salt (for brining carrots)
1 cup fresh cilantro, mint or parsley (any fresh soft herb will do)
4 scallions or bunch of chives finely minced
- Add salt to carrots and place in a colander to drain for 30 mins to an hour.
- Heat the avocado oil in a pan over medium heat and add the onions, cooking until caramelized. Remove pan from heat and set aside. (The onions won’t be used in this recipe but you can save them for another dish)
- Toast the dried spices in a clean skillet until fragrant. If using whole coriander, crush the seeds in a grinder or mortar and pestle after this step.
- Rinse the carrots to wash off some of the salt and pat dry. Place carrots in a heat safe bowl.
- Return the infused avocado oil to heat and add the toasted spices. Stir to prevent burning for about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and pour over the carrots and then mix well to coat them.
- Mix together the vinegar, garlic, sweetener, and olive oil and add to the carrots. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or vinegar if necessary.
- Let the carrots chill and marinate for 4-6 hours for the best flavor. When ready to serve, mix with fresh herbs and scallions. Enjoy!
This dish will keep well for a few weeks in the fridge thanks to the vinegar and spices. Toss it with some greens and your bean of choice for a tasty and easy to make salad, or add it to a grain bowl with some quinoa, avocado, braised greens, and protein of choice for a tangy and fresh kick.
About Author: Stephanie is the current fulfillment director and kitchen supervisor for Organic Pharmer. She studied Neuroscience at University of California, Irvine