New York Times food writer Eric Kim explores his “Korean-American” heritage in his debut cookbook

Now here‘s Jane Clayson talks to the New York Times food writer Eric Kim about his new cookbook, Korean American: Food That Tastes Like Home.

Kim grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Korean immigrants.

Recipes from ‘Korean American’

By Eric Kim

Roasted Seaweed Avocado Toast.  (Jenny Huang)
Roasted Seaweed Avocado Toast. (Jenny Huang)

Roasted Seaweed Avocado Toast

SERVICES 1

½ medium avocado, roughly diced
½ (5-gram) packet of Gim, crushed with hands or cut into thin strips with scissors
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Splashes of rice vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 slice of thick, chewy bread, e.g. B. Farmer’s sourdough, toasted

In a small bowl, gently whisk together the avocado, most of the gim, sesame oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Heap on the toasted bread and top with the reserved gim.

Eric’s Kimchi Fried Rice with Egg Yolk

With fried rice dishes, it helps to have a mise en place: that is, having all the ingredients prepared and measured out before you start cooking. Because once you start, it all comes together very quickly. The only thing you don’t want to do is burn the gochugaru or kimchi, which will make you lose the bright red flavor characteristic of kimchi fried rice. I love the taste of the raw kimchi juice and all of its red pepper glory here; As a result, this dish tastes, as my father said, “like fire”.

SERVICES 1

Eric's Kimchi Fried Rice with Egg Yolk (Jenny Huang)
Eric’s Kimchi Fried Rice with Egg Yolk (Jenny Huang)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large spring onion, thinly sliced ​​diagonally
½ teaspoon gochugaru (less if you don’t like it too spicy)
½ medium yellow onion, diced
1 cup finely chopped, very ripe (like the spiciest you have) napa cabbage kimchi, store-bought or homemade (page 68)
1 cup cooked white rice (page 128), fresh, day-old, or cold
2 tablespoons kimchi juice
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
½ teaspoon fish sauce
1 (5-gram) packet of Gim, crushed with hands
1 large raw egg yolk (one you’re comfortable with)

1. In a large nonstick or cast iron skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the spring onion and gochugaru and sauté for 30 seconds to allow the chili flakes to bloom.

2. Still over medium-high heat, add the onion and sauté until just beginning to sweat, about 1 minute. Stir in the kimchi and sauté for another minute. Place the rice on a mound in the center of the pan, on top of the other ingredients, and drizzle with kimchi juice, sesame oil, and fish sauce. Then mix rice and kimchi and cook on high heat for 3 minutes. Using the back of your spoon, gently push the rice into the pan (like making a large kimchi fried rice pancake); Reduce the heat to medium and let the rice crisp for 2 minutes.

3. Serve in a bowl with the gim (I like to shape it into a nest) and the egg yolks, which should be placed in the gim nest very carefully. To eat, stir the egg yolk into the hot rice.

Jean’s perfect jar of kimchi

I would argue that this is the most important recipe in the book. Again, there are other kimchis besides this spicy Napa cabbage variety, but if you only want to make one recipe on these pages, I would start with this one. Allow about four hours for the project, most of which will be idle time, and it will also take a couple of weeks for the kimchi to ferment. There’s a lot to wait for. But if you make this kimchi now, you can use it to make a thousand other things later, like kimchi jjigae (page 98), the homeiest of all Korean stews, and kimchi fried rice (page 136), the pinnacle of Korean comfort food. Consider this recipe the key that unlocks all other levels of Korean home cooking (or at least the ones in this book). Jean worked especially hard to get this recipe to fit snugly in a one-gallon jar with her tong baechu kimchi, or whole Chinese cabbage kimchi (where the leaves are held together by the core rather than being chopped into pieces first be; in my opinion, this results in a much better tasting ferment). She did this mostly out of obsession, but also because: Is there anything more satisfying than a recipe that makes a perfect glass of a really good thing?

There were a few weeks where she tested this once-a-day recipe. That’s five pounds of kimchi, every single day. My breath smelled like garlic for months (it was wonderful). She would tweak things here and there, removing ingredients and adding them back in. Ultimately, some difficult decisions were made. For example, you would normally cook a mixture of water and glutinous rice flour to create a slurry that adds volume to the kimchi sauce and allows you to evenly coat all of the cabbage leaves. At one point, she used a grated potato instead of the sticky rice flour, which actually worked really well and tasted great. But everything changed when she developed a version with no strength at all, just to see what would happen. Not only did the omission of the slurry greatly simplify the recipe; This also made the kimchi taste better and more concentrated in taste.

It was fun watching Jean perfect her own signature kimchi, a recipe she can now call The One. Not least because a Korean mother’s kimchi is her bread and butter, her secret sauce. Therein lies all her powers, decades of experience and the secrets of the Korean mother. There’s a saying in Korean culture that if your kimchi is good, your whole cooking is good. This will make your kimchi jjigae and kimchi fried rice taste the way they taste.

Jean made her best jar of kimchi yet on March 5, 2021. It had a post-it on it. It’s the kimchi that you see in many of the photos in this book. We used it because it was the lightest, reddest, and most flavorful. The resulting recipe – reprinted here – is in many ways an extension of my mother, a family heirloom that she wants to pass on to us. So please take care of it, use it wisely and share it with the people you love the most. And call your mother.

FOR 1 GALLON (SEE NOTE, PAGE 70)

1 cup kosher salt
2 medium heads of Chinese cabbage (about 2 pounds each), all dirty outer leaves removed, quartered lengthwise (see Korean Mom Tip, page 70)

For the perfect sauce

Jean's Perfect Jar of Kimchi (Jenny Huang)
Jean’s Perfect Jar of Kimchi (Jenny Huang)

½ medium yellow onion, peeled
½ medium red apple, peeled
½ medium Korean pear (aka Asian pear), peeled
10 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
¾ cup gochugaru
½ cup fish sauce
½ cup saeujeot (salted fermented shrimp; see page 25)
3 tablespoons maesil cheong (green plum syrup; see page 22)
1 pound Korean radish, peeled and cut into matchsticks
5 large spring onions, cut into ½ inch pieces

1. Fill a large, wide tub with 6 cups of cold tap water. Add the salt and stir to dissolve. Place the cabbage quarters in the water, making sure the inner leaves are completely soaked by opening them slightly. Soak the cabbage, cut-side up, in the water until wilted and flavored, about 3 hours, turning once halfway through. The bowl will fill with more water as the salt draws the liquid from the cabbage.

2. Meanwhile, make the perfect sauce: In a food processor, combine the onion, apple, Korean pear, garlic, and ginger and blend until smooth. Place in a large bowl – about the largest you have – and add gochugaru, fish sauce, salted fermented shrimp, plum syrup, radish, and green onions. Stir to combine.

3. Drain the salted cabbage quarters and rinse in the sink by running them under the cold tap and squeezing out the excess liquid. Place a cabbage quarter in the large bowl with the sauce and spread over the cabbage and between all the leaves. When it’s fully foamed inside and out, gather its wide leaf ends together and drape them over its root end like you’re changing a baby, essentially folding the whole thing in half. Place this gorgeous new kimchi baby in a 1-gallon jar. Repeat with the remaining quarters of cabbage, placing one finished and wrapped bundle at a time tightly into the jar. You should be able to fill the entire jar with this amount of kimchi. Top up the jar with the remaining kimchi sauce and cover loosely with a lid.

4. You can eat this kimchi immediately after making it, although it doesn’t get its signature acidity until you let it sit. To do this: Store at room temperature until it begins to ferment and turn sour, 2 to 3 days depending on the time of year and the temperature of your kitchen. After that, refrigerate for 2 to 3 weeks until fermented and up to 6 to 8 months.

NOTICE: To store your kimchi during fermentation, the best option is a one-gallon jar with a loose-fitting plastic lid. It’s available online and in every Asian store. A stainless steel jug with a metal lid comes in second place. The only thing you shouldn’t use is a mason jar with an airtight lid. When it comes to kimchi, the air has to escape somewhere—to the “fart,” as I like to say.

Regardless of which jar you use, you should check your kimchi every 2 to 3 days during the initial stages by opening the lid and using a sterile utensil to press the top of the kimchi to release some gasoline. This isn’t strictly necessary, but it’s a useful way to learn about the fermentation process and what’s going on in your kitchen. It is also an additional insurance. Your jar might explode (although that has never happened in my life, nor my mother’s, so I don’t know why it keeps happening to people).

Korean mom tip

When you quarter Chinese cabbage, there’s a way to make your leaves look natural and tousled (as opposed to straight and narrow from a sharp knife cut). Jean suggests carving a 2 inch deep cross into the root end of the cabbage to start it and then from there spreading the rest of the head apart with your hands to allow the leaves to separate organically like Assassasa –

“Like WHAT?” I asked when she showed me the movement.

“Assassassassa,” she repeated. (Apparently that’s the sound cabbage leaves make when they’re torn into quarters.)

It’s 7am and we’re both cackling with our coffee at the kitchen table. I love how onomatopoeic the Korean language is. There is a word for every sound.

Variant: Baek Kimchi with turnips

This pink kimchi dream tastes incredibly refreshing and looks as pretty as a Vermeer painting. My mom made it up one morning while juicing a beet.
To do this, follow the recipe for Jean’s Perfect Jar of Kimchi (page 68) with these modifications: Add the gochugaru to the sauce and replace with 2 Asian probiotic yogurt drinks (like Maeil Biofeel or Yakult) and ½ large beetroot (about 6 ounces), peeled and cut into very thin matchsticks. Enjoy watching the kimchi turn pink and pink the longer it ferments.

Reprinted from Korean American. Copyright © 2022 Eric Kim. Photographs copyright © 2022 Jenny Huang. Published by Clarkson Potter, a Random House imprint.

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