Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Judy Joo's Korean Soul Food: Authentic dishes and modern twists

Judy Joo's Korean Soul Food is a new cookbook and tutorial by Judy Joo. Released 1st Oct 2019 by Quarto on their White Lion imprint, it's 224 pages and available in hardcover and ebook formats.

I love Korean food but always felt somewhat intimidated and full of excuses: "It's too complicated", "the ingredients are hard to source", "it requires too much special equipment", and maybe the lamest of them all "it's culturally insensitive for a lily white Irish girl to make Korean food".

Well, soul food and street food is 100% -me-, plus I love the author's media appearances I've seen, so I thought I'd give the book a try and I'm glad I did. The author's style of writing is intelligent and accessible. She clearly has a passion for food and culture. She's also clever and it shines through in the recipes and tutorials.

The book starts with a short author bio and pictorial introduction to Korean seasonings and ingredients. Some of these are readily sourced from a well stocked international/Asian grocery store. Some of them will probably need to be ordered online.

The book continues in a logical fashion through salads and banchan (side dishes), pickles and kimchi (more on this later), dumplings, street food, rice, ko-mex, meat & seafood, soups & noodles, breads and desserts. The chapters are packed with recipes (most with photographs) which are clear and easy to follow. Each of the recipes include sidebar with ingredients listed bullet point fashion (given in US standard measurements and some metric), yields, and step-by-step instructions. 

If you search for kimchi recipes, there are literally millions out there. I've tried most of them (ok, not really, but almost). I have never been quite satisfied with the results; they never quite achieved the taste and texture made by my friend's Korean grandma. The chonggak (radish) kimchi (p. 39) comes really close to my remembered experience. It's got a really nice crunch and a spicy bite along with the tangy fermented taste I adore.

We tried a couple of other recipes from this book as well, and all were appetizing and successful. The cucumber salad (oi muchim, p. 25) was delicious and we've made it twice since then. The sweet potato pancakes (goguma jeon, p. 80) were a little gooey, but I think that was user error on my part, and they were still enthusiastically demolished by my 'testers'.

All in all, this is a beautifully written and presented Korean cookbook full of delicious food. The photography is top notch, the dishes are appealing and the recipes reflect a love and respect for culture and good food.

Five stars. Love this one.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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