Why I Write About Food 015: Sue Pressey of My Korean Kitchen

Sue has been writing about Korean food for close to a decade. From classic Korean staples to Western fusion creations, she shares her passion for the cuisine of her home country with the enthusiasm of a K-pop star. With detailed descriptions and instructive photos, her recipes effortlessly immerse you in the fascinating world of banchan, jang and jjigae. And let's not forget kimchi. 

Tell us about My Korean Kitchen.
My Korean Kitchen is the place to be for Korean food lovers. I share easy and delicious Korean food and Korean fusion food recipes with step-by-step pictorial instructions, practical cooking tips, and product and restaurant reviews.

Why do you write about food?
I started My Korean Kitchen back in 2006 to help foreigners living in Korea by providing some tips on living and cooking there. This was because my husband, who is Australian, often mentioned how he had difficulty finding out about Korean food before he married me. However, over time I learned that most of my blog readers are actually outside of Korea who want to learn about Korean cooking and its culture. So my focus naturally transitioned to share easier and more practical Korean recipes that can be made with limited resources, as some Korean ingredients can be difficult to find in some countries. When I first started out, even though I had the intention of helping others, it was a hobby to fill up my spare time. It was so fun having a creative outlet. Also it made me feel like I was an editor of a food magazine. I thought that was pretty cool. 

What are you currently reading? 
I don’t have much time to read books or other blogs regularly as I barely have time to keep up with my own blog schedules, but when I want a break, I visit Recipetin Eats and Just One Cookbook. They are my inspiration. I recently discovered Becky and Paula and am learning some blogging tips as well. Hopefully, I can implement some tips as I learn more.

You have been blogging about food for 10 years. What keeps you motivated?
10 years in the internet age sounds like an eternity! While my blog has been around for almost 10 years (I will be celebrating the 10th anniversary in September this year), there was about a five-year period where I didn’t blog at all. During that time I was busy with studying and building my career in the finance field. Though I wish I never had a break from blogging! That is one of the biggest regrets I have in my life. 

Things that motivate me now are the responsibility towards my readers and my daughter. I love interacting with my readers via comments, emails and social media channels. My favourite part is them trying my recipes and telling me how it was enjoyed by their friends and family. It’s very rewarding to share my knowledge and experience. Another primary reason I write is I want my blog to be a cultural and culinary resource for my daughter, so that one day she can learn about Korean food, cooking and culture through it. As we live in Australia now, my daughter has very little natural connection to Korean culture. So I think she will, or at least I hope that she will, appreciate my effort when she grows up, particularly if I’m not around her for whatever reasons.

What are some of the biggest changes in the world of food blogging that you've noticed?
The biggest change I notice is bloggers are able to make a full-time income from their blog. Well, I’m not one of those yet. The only monetisation method I knew of 10 years ago was Google Adsense and text link ads. Even then it wasn't enough to cover my website hosting fee. But now there’re so much more monetisation opportunities available for bloggers, including writing a sponsored post, participating in social media campaigns, etc. It’s really amazing to see how the blogosphere has changed. Another major change I notice is the rise of social media channels. When I first started, there was no Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. The only thing I did after publishing a post was visit a fellow blogger’s website and leave a comment, and we socialised that way. Growing the ever-evolving social media channels is probably one of the biggest challenges I have now.  

What, in your opinion, are some of the most versatile Korean ingredients that non-Korean kitchens can have to easily incorporate into their normal cooking routine?
I would pick Gochujang and Kimchi. Gochujang is a Korean chili paste that is very essential to Korean cooking. It’s used in marinade and sauce for cooking or dipping sauce. It's probably the most versatile Korean sauce. One thing to note is it is spicy, so it might not be for every one. A lot of people ask me whether they can substitute Gochujang with Sriracha sauce, but it’s a totally different sauce made with very different types of chilies. So my answer is NO, get Gochujang if you want the authentic Korean flavour.

Kimchi is fermented pickled vegetables (most commonly made with napa cabbage). Kimchi can be used in stir-fries and in soups or stews. Also just eat it as it is. I think it’s the most versatile Korean side dish you can have in your fridge. It lasts a long time as well. Some restaurants even serve years-old Kimchi as their specialty.

You created the Banchan cookbook because you were homesick for your mum's food while living abroad in Australia. Can you tell us how growing up watching your mum cook in her home and restaurant kitchen has influenced you as a cook?
My mum often took our family out to other restaurants so that she could broaden her experience by learning from others. It wasn’t necessarily the same kind of food she was selling at her restaurant. She would first check the presentation of the dish and then analyse the taste and guess the ingredients with her first few bites. She has a super sensitive tongue and can recreate a dish and make it even better than what we had at the restaurant. I think I inherited some of that habit. I tend to approach food in an analytical manner, whether it's served at a restaurant or it’s my food. It could be a habit I developed since I started food blogging but I believe that she influenced me in some way. Though I have to be very careful because it can really annoy my family or friends if I try to analyse food too much at the table.

What's your favorite recipe on My Korean Kitchen?
My favourite recipe is Bibimbap (Korean mixed rice). I love it because it has everything from meat, a variety of vegetables and, most importantly, an addictively delicious sauce! Personally I find this food very comforting probably because the sauce says "MADE IN KOREA". It’s spicy, sweet, tangy and savoury all at the same time. Another beauty of Bibimbap is that it’s very versatile. You can add pretty much any of your favourite vegetables to make it. It can be meatless too. It’s also the most popular recipe on my blog.

Question from Jane of The Hedge Combers: Sum up your blog in three words. (Click here to read Jane's interview)
Home sweet home. When I work on my blog, I feel connected to my mum, my home country and my daughter. Probably because it’s the only time I do anything “Korean” related. I also want my blog to be a sweet home for my blog visitors whether they are new or returning. I want to provide reliable and delicious food via my recipes just like my mum would.

Visit Sue's website at www.mykoreankitchen.com
Recommended Recipes:
Korean Sweet Pancakes (Hotteok)
Kimchi Jjigae (Kimchi Stew)
Bibimbap (Korean Mixed Rice)