The book offers over a hundred recipes, but it does more than encourage you to try a little Korean cooking at home. Through its exploratory narrative with a strong insider voice, mentions of food establishments in major Koreatowns around the US and interviews with Korean food enthusiasts, what authors Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard have done is extend an invitation into a fascinating culture with a complex cuisine that thrives even outside of its homeland. If you want to find out what these guys are about, listen to this 30-minute podcast interview.
With Koreatown holding a special place in the hearts of the chef and food writer, and being the heartbeat of the book, the recipes draw their inspiration not from the usual home kitchens but from the experience and traditions of Koreatown as a location and a mental space. This, in fact, gives the chapter on 'Guest Recipes' a pretty comfortable position in the book, featuring such inspired recipes as Kimchi Triple-Cream Grilled Cheese and Korean Sloppy Joe from the likes of Amanda Cohen and Eric Ripert.
So while the idea of a quick kimchi that involves pickling pineapple may sound absurd to some traditionalists, it should speak to the fusion home cooks in some of us. Definitely me. As David Chang of Momofuku fame says in an interview in the book: "There's no other food on the planet that better represents the culture of Koreans than kimchi."
And if making your own kimchi seems intimidating, start with this Quick Kimchi recipe from the book. It's easy, adaptable and quite fun actually, not to mention delicious and can be enjoyed in a couple hours if not immediately. According to the book, you can kimchi a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and after you do that with whatever you can find in the refrigerator, you may even develop the taste and confidence to give the classic Napa Cabbage Kimchi recipe a go!
Adapted from Koreatown: A Cookbook by Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard. This recipe is a good and fun introduction to homemade kimchi for beginners. It's easy, quick and tasty. Apart from the Korean red pepper powder or gochugaru, the other ingredients are available at most supermarkets. To find gochugaru, locate a Korean grocery store near you, and get it in mild heat.
The original recipe calls for fish sauce but I omitted it to make it vegan. I tried this recipe with daikon radish, English cucumber, baby bok choy and pineapple, and the book also suggests Persian cucumber, garlic chive or spring onion and apple. If you're only going to try one, I'd suggest starting with pineapple (irresistibly delicious!), with daikon radish (oh the crunch!) being a really close second.
1/2 cup peeled, cored and chopped Asian pear
1/2 cup ground gochugaru (Korean red pepper powder)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons minced ginger
In a blender or food processor, blend everything until smooth. Makes enough for at least 5 large mason jars of kimchi.
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons salt
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and salt. Makes 4 tablespoons.
4 pounds daikon radish, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound English or Persian cucumbers, sliced into 1/4-inch thick
1 pound baby bok choy, cut in half
1 large pineapple, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Place each ingredient in a large mason jar. Do not mix them together. To each jar, add 1 tablespoon of the cure mix, which will extract liquid from the vegetables. This step is not required for the pineapple. Set aside for 15 minutes and then drain the excess liquid. Add about 1 cup of kimchi marinade and stir well to coat. I find that it's easier to do this step in a bowl before putting the ingredient back into the jar. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours for daikon radish, cucumber and pineapple, and at least 1 day for baby bok choy. The kimchis will keep up to 1 week in the refrigerator. Have fun!