In order to get my head around Korean food, I purchased this book before a 2 1/2 week trip to Korea. Not just a cookbook, it has a lot of information, including an introduction before every recipe and short essays like "How to Cook Korean Food at Home Without Pissing...
In order to get my head around Korean food, I purchased this book before a 2 1/2 week trip to Korea. Not just a cookbook, it has a lot of information, including an introduction before every recipe and short essays like "How to Cook Korean Food at Home Without Pissing Off Your Neighbors." The book also has commentary (and in some cases, recipes) from culinary superstars such as Eric Ripert and David Chang.
Bear in mind that, as Hong states, this book focuses on the food found in K-towns and Korean-influenced restaurants around the US. So you''ll find that the some of the recipes are riffs on Korean food rather than traditional recipes. But they are all true to the source - this isn''t a "fusion" cookbook containing recipes for Korean Tacos and the like.
The Bossam (crispy pork belly) recipe is "the bomb", and the cooking technique really makes it happen. Rather than cooking small chunks on a tabletop grill, which was what I experienced in Korea, Hong''s method calls for boiling and then roasting a 3# piece in the oven. What makes the end result so killer is his method of pricking the skin with hundred of holes to help render the fat and crisp the skin. Cooking it in the oven also means that a tabletop grill is freed up for bulgogi or kabli or a hotpot or whatever.
If you plan to make the Bossam (and you should), here''s a tip that worked for me. Hong recommends using the point of a sharp knife or skewer to poke the tiny holes in the skin. However, you aren''t supposed to push through the skin and into the meat. I found this difficult to accomplish given the amount of pressure required to penetrate the tough pigskin. My solution was to use an oversized safety pin to do the job. I took a large, 2.5" safety pin and bent the prong to a 90 degree angle. I then gripped the pin by the body, placing my thumb on the end directly above the prong. From there, it''s fairly easy to puncture the skin by focusing your force on your thumb. In addition, using the short safety pin gives you more control than something longer like a skewer or knife, and once you puncture the skin, your knuckles will stop you from penetrating deeper into the meat. I''ve attached a few pictures of what I did; I purchased the safety pins through Amazon.
So anyway, it''s a great, fun-to-read, cookbook. And I know I''ll be returning to the pork belly technique for the rest of my life.
FYI - If you are planning a trip to Korea, or are just really interested in Korean food, I found the following resources useful during my trip:
- For traditional Korean cooking, I have enjoyed "Maangchi''s Real Korean Cooking." If you doubt her quest for authenticity, she suggests fermenting kimchi in jars that are placed on top of an electric blanket. This mimics the conditions of the heated floors that are found in traditional Korean homes. Despite this attention to detail, her recipes are simple and straightforward.
- "Eating Korea" by Graham Holiday. Having lived in Korea in the mid-90''s, the journalist/author returns and travels across Korea to document traditional foods and dying culinary techniques.
- Smart phone app: "Korean Food Guide Book" published by the Korea Foundation. It has some basic information about ingredients, methods, and tastes, but I found the alphabetical listing of ingredients to be invaluable. The press of a button translates an ingredient name from English to Korean characters (Hunminjeongeum) to the Romanized word/pronunciation. Many times I didn''t know exactly what I was eating, so I''d hand the server my iPhone, they''d select the word from the Hunminjeongeum list, and then I''d translate their selection into English. It was also great because I could then take a snapshot of the screen for future reference.
- Final tip if you travel to Korea: drink as much makgeolli as you can! Pronounce it like "broccoli" without the "r" and they''ll understand you well enough.