Koreatown: A Cookbook, written by Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard, is an introduction to the amazing food and culture found in Korean communities throughout America. This book is the product of over two years of research and travel to areas including New York, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. A few highlights include Dubu Jorim (Soy-Braised Tofu), Jjampong (Spicy Seafood Noodle Soup), Tongdak (Whole Roasted Chicken), Kimchi Triple-Cream Grilled Cheese, and Haejangguk (Hangover Stew). I will also be sharing their recipe for Hodduk (호떡, Korean Sweet Fried Pancakes) following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard
Deuki Hong started cooking professionally at the age of 15 as a line cook at Centric under Aarón Sánchez, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, cooked at Momofuku Noodle Bar under David Chang, and has also worked at Jean-Georges. In 2015, he was named on the Zagat 30 Under 30 list.
Matt Rodbard is a food writer in New York City. He is currently a contributing editor at Food Republic and has been featured in Bon Appétit, Men’s Journal, Travel + Leisure, and Tasting Table. He is also the author of the Korean Restaurant Guide: New York City.
Chapters are divided based on course: Ingredients and Equipment; Kimchi and Banchan; Rice, Noodles and Dumplings; Barbecue: Grilled, Smoked and Fired; Drinking Food: Pojangmacha; Soups, Stews and Braises; Respect: Guest Recipes; Drinks; and Sweets and Desserts.
The Ingredients and Equipment section provides an overview to products often used in Korean cooking. I love that the authors included their twitter handles (@deukihong and @mattrodbard) in case the readers have any questions about the ingredients or how to prepare the recipes.
You will learn all about the three jangs: Gochujang (Spicy Fermented Pepper Paste), Doenjang (Fermented Bean Paste), and Ganjang (Korean Soy Sauce), how to find/pick out the ingredients at the market, store them, and the best uses in cooking. The photo guide to vegetables and herbs is particularly helpful.
In addition to the over 100 recipes, there are also interviews by those immersed in the Korean food culture (including Adam Johnson, David Chang, Joe Hahn, and Jonathan Gold), plus a closer look into Koreatown markets and restaurants around the country.
The beautiful photography is provided by Sam Horine and Gabi Porter, with a handful from Matt Rodbard. I love that the photos were captured from over 125 Koreatown bars, markets, grocery stores, and restaurants as opposed to the norm of shooting them in a studio. Many of the dishes include a photo, generally of the finished product.
The names of the recipes are provided in English and Korean (Hangul and Romanization). Each recipe has a headnote with background information and tips. Measurements are listed in US Customary.
Hodduk (Korean Sweet Fried Pancakes)
Hodduk (호떡, Hotteok), pan-fried pancakes stuffed with a gooey cinnamon nut filling, have been on my list for quite a while and I am so happy to finally make these pastries at home. They are popular during the winter as a dessert or street food snack.
Even though the dough has yeast, this particular recipe’s rise time isn’t long at all. After bringing together the dough, it sits at room temperature for about 20 minutes. I used active dry yeast, so I proofed it for about 10 minutes in the warm water before adding to the remaining ingredients.
The filling for the Hodduk filling can be prepared with either walnuts or pine nuts, but peanuts are also popular. Other traditional fillings include red beans and sweet potato.
I placed a pile of filling into the center of a piece of flatten dough, then brought the edges up around it and sealed the dough tightly. I rolled it slightly to smooth, then flattened the dough again in the shape of a pancake. The Hodduk are lightly fried in the pan until puffed and golden on each side with a melted, gooey center.
I served the Hodduk warm with vanilla ice cream. Take care if you eat them straight from the pan. That melted filling will be very very hot.
I also made Sigeumchi Muchim (Soy and Sesame Spinach), Butter Mandu (Butter Dumplings), Seolleongtang (Beef Bone Noodle Soup), and Kalbi Meatballs.
Sigeumchi Muchim is a spinach banchan dish seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and a little sugar and black pepper. It was incredibly easy to make, but packed with flavor. My son always gets a huge kick watching a full pound of spinach shrink during the blanching process too.
Mandu (dumplings) are one of my favorite foods. I had never heard of mixing softened butter, a whopping 1 pound of it, into the pork cabbage filling, but it definitely worked and in a wonderful way. I steamed the dumplings and the richness of the butter dissolved into every bite. They were perfect with a little soy sauce and napa cabbage kimchi. Want the kimchi as a filling? The next page has a recipe for Mukeunji Kimchi Mandu.
Seolleongtang is a noodle soup with a oxtail bone broth base. This was perfect for the cold temperatures we had last week. The oxtail bones are slowly simmered for 8 hours with kombu (seaweed), ginger, and garlic. Thinly sliced beef and quartered daikon radishes are added to the broth and it is served with cooked rice, thin somen noodles, sea salt, gochugaru (red pepper powder), and sliced scallions. This one was a favorite with my son.
The Kalbi Meatballs come from the Guest Recipes chapter. Daniel Holzman, the chef of New York City’s The Meatball Shop, paired beef meatballs with the flavors of Korean barbecue. I love that the meatballs are baked. They are so easy to make and seasoned with honey, sesame oil, vinegar, pear, garlic, onion, ginger, white wine, and soy sauce.
Looking for more Korean recipes?
- Dak Bulgogi (Korean Soy-Marinated Chicken)
- Goguma Mattang (Korean Caramelized Sweet Potatoes)
- Gyeran Mari (Korean Rolled Omelette)
Koreatown is a great pick whether you are new to Korean cuisine or have already developed a love for the food. The recipes are well-written and easy to follow for the average cook with dishes ranging from incredibly simple to a the more complex with longer preparation time.
Those who want to learn how to make kimchi will appreciate the in-depth guide with Persian cucumbers, daikon radish, garlic chives or spring onion, bok choy, pineapple, napa cabbage, and water radish. Having access to a market specializing in Korean food will be helpful in completing the recipes.
Hodduk (Korean Sweet Fried Pancake) Recipe
Excerpt from Koreatown: A Cookbook
Hodduk (Korean Sweet Fried Pancake)
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup rice flour
- 1 tablespoon instant dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup milk powder
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup walnuts or pine nuts
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup honey powder or granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 pint vanilla ice cream for serving
To make the dough:
- Combine all-purpose flour, rice flour, yeast, granulated sugar, salt and milk powder in a bowl.
- On the stove or in the microwave, heat 1/2 cup water until it steams and let it cool until you can place your finger in it; it should be very warm but not hot (about 115˚F). Pour over the dry mixture.
- Knead dough in bowl with your hands for about 2 minutes, or until you form a smooth ball.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes so the yeast will work its magic and proof the dough.
To make the filling:
- While the dough rises, make the filling. Roughly chop the nuts and mix with brown sugar, honey powder, and cinnamon; divide the mixture into 8 piles.
- Portion out the dough into 8 equal-sized pieces and roll each into a ball with lightly floured hands. Using your hands, flatten each into a pancake. In the center of each pancake, lightly press down a pocket the size of a silver dollar.
- Add a pile of filling to this center pocket. Close the pancake so the filling is sealed to form a new ball. Gently pat the balls down to form disks (say that three times!).
- Add the vegetable oil to a large frying pan and heat on medium until shimmering-hot. Working in batches, place a few pancakes seal side down and fry for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until puffed, golden brown and cooked through. Place the finished ones on a paper-towel-lined plate to remove any extra oil.
- Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.