Koreatown, 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. Traditional recipes (Pajeon- Scallion Pancake, Japchae- Wok Fried Glass Noodles with Crispy Shiitakes, Bulgogi- Soy Marinated Grilled Rib Eye, Kimchi Jjigae- Kimchi Stew) are included along with a chapter devoted to guest recipes by chefs using Korean ingredients and flavors in nontraditional ways such as the Kimchi Triple-Cream Grilled Cheese, Stuffed Kimchi and Pork Shoulder Lasagna Style, Korean Sloppy Joe, and Red Cabbage Bacon Kimchi.
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. He now runs his own kitchen at Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong in Manhattan’s Koreatown. 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 also helpful.
In addition to the over 100 recipes, you will also find 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.
This book is a great pick whether you are new to Korean cuisine or have already developed a love for the food. There are plenty of recipes to help ease you in to the flavors plus a few for the more adventurous such as Jjampong (Spicy Seafood Noodle Soup), Buldak Bal (Fire Chicken Feet), or Ojingeochae Muchim (Spicy-Sweet Shredded Squid). 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 many ingredients and 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. Drink lovers will enjoy the variety of mostly alcoholic offerings. I personally have the Subak Soju (Soju Watermelon Punch) bookmarked for when summer finally rolls around. Having access to an Asian Food Market specializing in Korean food will be helpful in completing the recipes. The authors also include tips on how to reduce the smell of some of the stronger ingredients during storage.
Hodduk (Hotteok), pan-fried pancakes stuffed with a gooey cinnamon nut filling, have been on my bucket list for quite a while. I am so happy I finally made these addictive little pastries. 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.
I used walnuts for the filling, but pine nuts and peanuts are also popular. Other traditional fillings include red beans or 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. If you have it available, you can also use this special tool: Hanason Hotteok Circle Shape Stainless Steel Spatula 2 PCS Stamp Tool. They are lightly fried in the pan until puffed and golden on each side with a melted, gooey center.
I served them 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 Korean 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. As a side note: I used premade, previously frozen wrappers for the first time since making my own for a previous cookbook review and may stick to homemade from now on. The freshly made wrappers are just so much easier to fill and fold.
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. I served them with romaine lettuce and rice.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All statements and opinions are my own.
Hodduk (Korean Sweet Fried Pancake)
Adapted from Koreatown: A Cookbook
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, roughly chopped
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
To make the dough: In a large bowl, combine the all purpose flour, rice flour, yeast, granulated sugar, salt, and milk powder.
Heat the water in the microwave or on the stove until steaming. Remove from heat and allow to cool until about 115 degrees F. Pour over the dry mixture and knead until the dough comes together and is smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic and allow to sit at room temperature until puffy, about 20 minutes.
To make the filling: In a medium bowl, combine the chopped nuts, brown sugar, honey powder, and cinnamon. Divide on a plate into 8 equal piles.
Divide the risen dough into 8 equal pieces. Lightly flour your hands and roll one piece of dough into a ball. Flatten into a pancake and press down in the center to form a cavity the size of a silver dollar. Add a pile of the filling to the center and gently cover with the edges of the dough. Seal the edges together and roll to form into a smooth ball. Pat the ball into a disc, thin enough to fry without breaking the dough open and allowing the filling to escape. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
In a large frying pan, add oil over medium heat. Place a towel lined plate nearby. Once thoroughly heated, add pancakes sealed-side down in batches without overcrowding. Cook until puffed and golden brown, 2-3 minutes, then flip to cook other side. Once cooked through and golden, remove to the towel lined plate. Repeat with remaining pancakes.
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.