Despite my blended British, Native American and Nordic heritage, I grew up feeling just a little bit Korean.
Mom lived in South Korea from elementary age until she was 18. My grandparents have since moved around the states settling next door to my parents here in the Northwest, but still frequently read a Korean newspaper sent to them by friends.
When my husband brought home an official DMZ — Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea — Tourism chocolate souvenir, we headed over to have them read the package.
Kimchi and bulgogi have been an integral part of my life. It wasn’t uncommon to enjoy blugogi grilled beef alongside our more traditional Thanksgiving turkey and with it’s spicy peanut dipping sauce.
Near New Years, Mom would often hold a “Mandu Day” when she, my sister and I would spend the day in the kitchen blending, folding and frying up (and eating!) these Korean dumplings — think Japan’s gyoza or China’s wonton.
I grew up calling soy sauce “kanjang” and declaring “aigoo cham” or “aigoo chamna” — an “oh, good grief” of sorts — whenever I couldn’t get a Lego to fit just right.
All this to say, the small integration of Korean flavor into our family and my affinity for Korean comfort food makes Koreatown an automatic rise to the top of my “must read/cook” list for 2016.
Koreatown by Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard
This is not your average soft-focus “journey to Asia” kind of cookbook. Koreatown is a spicy, funky, flavor-packed love affair with the grit and charm of Korean cooking in America. Koreatowns around the country are synonymous with mealtime feasts and late-night chef hangouts, and Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard show us why with stories, interviews, and over 100 delicious, super-approachable recipes.
It’s spicy, it’s fermenty, it’s sweet and savory and loaded with umami: Korean cuisine is poised to break out in the U.S., but until now, Korean cookbooks have been focused on taking readers to an idealized Korean fantasyland. Koreatown, though, is all about what’s real and happening right here: the foods of Korean American communities all over our country, from L.A. to New York City, from Atlanta to Chicago. We follow Rodbard and Hong through those communities with stories and recipes for everything from beloved Korean barbecue favorites like bulgogi and kalbi to the lesser-known but deeply satisfying stews, soups, noodles,
DEUKI HONG is chef of the smash-hit Korean barbecue restaurant Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong in Manhattan’s Koreatown. He began his cooking career at 15 as a line cook under Aarón Sanchez at Centrico before heading to the Culinary Institute Of America. After graduating near the top of his class, he cooked under David Chang at Momofuku Noodle Bar before spending two years on the line at Jean-Georges. He’s recently been recognized as an Eater Young Gun and named to the Zagat 30 Under 30 list.
MATT RODBARD has written about restaurants, chefs, drinks, cooking and music for the past decade. His writing has appeared in Bon Appétit, Travel & Leisure, Men’s Journal, Tasting Table, SPIN, and he currently serves as Contributing Editor at Food Republic. He’s the author of Korean Restaurant Guide: New York City, a comprehensive guidebook detailing the 40 best Korean restaurants in New York City.
— Penguin Random House