Koreatown by Deuki Hong & Matt Rodbard
This is a cookbook by Korean-American chef Deuki Hong, first published in 2016, that introduces the basics of Korean cuisine and provides the recipes for the more common dishes.
There are approximately 10 pages of introduction that discuss the ingredients and equipment. After that, the recipes are categorized as follows, spanning about 250 pages:
Kimchi & Banchan
Rice, Noodles & Dumplings
Barbeque: Grilled, Smoked & Fired
Drinking Food: Pojangmacha
Soups, Stews & Braises
Guest Recipes (by various individuals)
Sweets & Desserts
To those who are already familiar with Korean cuisine, it’s probably nothing you don’t know. But for those who aren’t and want to get into it, then this is a good start. The basics such as cooking rice, porridge/congee, soups and stocks are included in case one needs to know.
Hong does include a quick kimchi recipe but I especially appreciate his proper recipe for Baechu Kimchi. Instead of the common practice of rubbing salt onto each individual leaf, he uses a saltwater brine instead. It’s more efficient, cleaner and arguably tastier.
To those who want a comprehensive book, then this may not be the book for you. For example, it is assumed that one buys the mix for the pancakes, and one buys the noodles. Also, at least some of the recipes are, as the authors admit, slightly Americanized. But that is not to say they are unauthentic.
For people who cook, nothing is particularly difficult but, as far as I can tell, there are no shortcuts either. And one can make their own adjustments anyway. The occasional page(s) with an interview of some guest and the guest recipes are not really necessary. Marketing ploy? Don’t know. Maybe that just the authors’ attempt to keep things interesting and be grateful to the community. I simply skip over things that I am not interested in but some may find this a distraction.
The layout is nice. Every recipe has an introduction with the instructions below. The line spacing is generous. The ingredients are listed in their own column, like a wide margin on the outside edge of the page. The corresponding photos are on the opposite page. So perhaps there are not as many recipes as the page count suggests but there are enough. Either way, the layout is modern and clear, but not pretentious.
I do appreciate that the names of dishes are in Hangul instead of merely the romanization. If I want to nitpick, then I prefer the Korean ingredients to be in Hangul as well. It may make shopping easier for some. I can spot two typographic errors but they are of little consequence. The (subject) index is sufficient, but there is no recipe list in the contents at the front or in its own index at the back. I also would have preferred more recipes of stews. These two latter points are my only real complaints.
On balance, this is a good cookbook, especially since it is Hong’s first effort. I would like to see him write a more comprehensive one in the future.
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