I have eaten Korean food but being honest do not have an understanding of it so receiving this book has been very educational. My first impression was one of appreciation as the first 16 pages contain only photographs depicting life and food in Korea. I loved this aspect as food is emotional, seeing images of street vendors, consumers, markets and the food itself helps awaken my senses to the environment within Korea. The vibrant colours indicate the freshness and happiness that is derived from food in Korea is very evident.
Judy Joo, the author is best know for her restaurant Jinjuu in London and her Food Network TV series. Her entry in Wikipedia gives the following background information :-
Joo graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research. She began a career in the banking industry working at Goldman Sachs and then Morgan Stanley as an institutional fixed income derivatives saleswoman.
However, she switched careers and began working as a chef after attending The French Culinary Institute, (Pastry Arts) in 2004 and graduating at the top of her class. She then went to work at Saveur magazine in the test kitchens as well as in editorial. She also worked at Slow Food USA, where she founded their first inner city Slow Food in Schools program, “Harvest Time in Harlem”.
A move to London led her to restaurants, where she worked at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, including Maze, Petrus, Gordon Ramsay Restaurant, Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s and The Boxwood Café. She has also completed “stages” in the restaurants The French Laundry and The Fat Duck. In January 2015, she opened up her own restaurant in London called Jinjuu in Soho. Prior to that she was the executive chef for the Playboy Club London. In December 2015, Jinjuu launched a second location in Hong Kong.
It is no wonder that Joo ended up in food given here upbringing in New Jersey. She recalls in the introduction her back porch would have half a dozen clay pots with fermenting delights in, whilst the laundry room teemed with jars and containers that included tripe, mung beans or rice. The garage had rows of drying seaweed on hangars…With this amazing connection to food from childhood it is no wonder that her professional path has evolved from banking to food where her passion clearly lies.
The book starts with a very useful store cupboard section. These can be quite sparse in detail in other books but here no less than 41 are listed with informative descriptions and their English and Korean names which proved not only useful but educational. It will become a goto reference guide I am sure.
As you would expect some dishes do require a number of ingredients but do not let that put you off. They are obtainable from specialist retailers or online and the dishes are not too complex that you cannot prepare them. Amongst the more elaborate (but not difficult) menu suggestions there are plenty of simple concoctions that surface. One is the delicious broccoli, mushroom and sesame salad which was quick to prepare and thoroughly delicious with sesame oil flavouring the broccoli sublimely with my homemade apple vinegar counteracting it. It is case of balance as always.
I found the Doenjang Glazed Aubergine to be really delicious. I used a standard Aubergine as I could not find a Asian one which are longer and thinner. I served it with some plain rice with some chopped left over chicken added to make this into a more substantial meal.
Moving onto chicken one of my favourites was also one of the simplest to make – Mums BBQ Chicken. Made with thighs it was very tasty served with a grilled corn on the cob and Doenjang butter as recommended. I also served some cold mash with spring onions running through it.
I was taken with the idea of a red bean lollipop in the pudding chapter but have not had the opportunity to try it yet, but have the Green Tea Chiffon Cake which was light, delicate and unusual yet very moreish.
This book gave me a lot. I feel my knowledge of Korean food and techniques now has a base level from which to work from and extend. I look forward to making more of Joo’s recipes and encouraging my son to try too. In fact I may sit down with him to watch the TV show and then cook a recipe from that.