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Oct 5, 2008 03:41 PM

cookbook for korean food?

any recommendations?

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    1. Eating Korean by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee is BY FAR the best Korean cookbook I've found:

      The recipes are delicious yet still user-friendly. She provides a nice context for the recipes and information about the culture. I've cooked countless recipes and consult it regularly. Buy it now. I've looked everywhere for Korean cookbooks in English and nothing else compares. This book is a gem!

      20 Replies
      1. re: fets

        I agree. This would be my first choice. This book's recipes are easy and has the recipes that most people encounter at Korean restaurants.

        I also have Discovering Korean Cuisine and Hepinstall's book. Discovering Korean Cuisine is not very comprehensive -- covers some of the best dishes at a few LA Korean spots. But really won't give you basic recipes. And Hepinstall's book is all right. It actually goes further in depth than Cecilia's book (having recipes for gochujang, jellied ox hoof, etc). But for a novice to Korean cooking, I recommend the Cecilia one as I find her recipes to be better and the book to be more concentrated on the main dishes that you'll find at a Korean restaurant. Sometimes the more stuff a book has, the more confusing it is. However, the Hepinstall book is a good second book once you have Cecilia's book.

        1. re: Miss Needle

          i'm hesitant, as a few of the reviews say the recipes in this are toned down for a "western" palette, and that is strong on stories but lacking in the recipes.....

          1. re: thew

            I took a look at some of the recipes that are available through the preview feature on Amazon, and they don't seem to be toned down to me.
            Most of what I was able to view were for mild dishes rather than spicy, so maybe that's what the reviewers meant. They could have been under the mistaken impression that ALL Korean food is boldy flavored/ and-or spicy, and unaware that that Korean food covers the whole spectrum of mild to over the top spicy.

            1. re: thew

              I agree with hannone. A lot of people have the misconception that all Korean food is spicy (along with the misconception of Koreans eating beef all the time). And there are variations in families of how to prepare their items. So if one grew up in a household where they put a ton of hot chili pepper in bean sprouts, they may think it's not "authentic" if they come across a version without the pepper. And if the spice is not to your personal satisfaction, you can always add more kochugaru (Korean red pepper).

              Cecilia's book covers the basics. It certainly has enough recipes, and probably most of the ones people are looking for. It definitely goes beyond bi bim bap, Korean "BBQ" and jap chae. Sometimes people mistake quantity for quality (kind of how like a lot of people are enamored with Spain's 1080 recipes). All of her recipes work (though I can't say anything about her kimchi recipes as I've never made kimchi before but have watched my mom do it many times). Growing up in a Korean household, I've grown up eating every single dish in that book, and it is pretty authentic.

              As one gets more familiar with the cuisine and Korean cooking, I'm sure one will make their own variations to suit their taste. My family has not made all of their foods the traditional way -- eg. instead of boiling sprouts like most Koreans do, we steamed them to retain more flavor, we used fish sauce instead of salt in a lot of our namul, as we didn't use refined sugar in our cooking, white sugar was replaced with other sweeteners. Hepinstall's book is an example where many recipes have been slightly altered. I believe she's studied cooking in France, and her recipes reflect that a bit. Some of her recipes are not very traditional -- not that there's anything wrong with that. But if it's your first cookbook for a cuisine that you may be unfamiliar cooking with, I believe you should get one that's pretty basic and "authentic" as opposed to one that's a bit stylized.

              My only quibble with Cecilia's book is that there are no pictures, and some people may have trouble picturing what their dish is supposed to look like. I would just google the dish and try to find a pic.

              I ordered a Korean Mother's Cooking Notes a couple of months ago, but still haven't received it as they were out of stock. Looks like it's finally in the mail. If I receive it before you buy your book, I'll let you know how that one is.

              1. re: Miss Needle

                It is (or was) pretty easy to get the impression that Koreans eat a lot of meat (beef).
                Since serving meat was a sign of wealth and affluence, whenever guests (other than family or close friends) were invited into a Korean home for a meal, a large and plentiful meat dish was the prominent feature.

                1. re: hannaone

                  Yeah, I believe in the Korean soap opera Dae Jang Gum, the main character won a contest and received beef as a prize. When we had guests over, beef was always served -- though we didn't eat it very often.

                2. re: Miss Needle

                  how did you like a Korean Mother's Cooking Notes? I'm debating between that and Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee's book

                  1. re: patz

                    Well, here is my analysis of both of these books:

                    Korean Mother's Cooking Notes
                    color pics
                    good overview of "standard" recipes plus more
                    not as many personal stories as Cecilia's book
                    no recipes for Korean-Chinese dishes like jjamp-pong or jia jiang myun
                    translated from Korean -- so not as well-written if you're a native English speaker

                    Cecilia's book
                    no pics
                    good overview of the "standard" recipes
                    more personal stories
                    no recipes for Korean-Chinese dishes
                    better written

                    Personally, I like having both (but I have a wee bit of a cookbook addiction). But if I had to just pick one, I would say Korean Mother only because there are more recipes. But I find myself going more to Cecilia's (who is Korean-American) book because it's better written.

                    Both of these books are homestyle cuisine. Once you have one of these books, I think a great second addition would be Discovering Korean Cuisine which I talk about in another post on this thread. I find the quality of the recipes to be much better. But this book generally won't cover the basics which most people are probably looking for.

                    1. re: patz

                      I also received my copy of "...Cooking Notes".
                      It is a good solid book for those interested in learning some basics.
                      The first section of the book has notes on some of the most often used basic ingredients, and tips for preparing them ahead of time.
                      The next section covers some often used sauces and pastes that can also be prepared ahead.
                      The recipes are for home cooking, so if you are looking for the high heat restaurant style grill and stir fry dishes, this isn't the right book.
                      The final section of the book is "Foods for Special Days" and gives an idea of menus for those days.

                      All in all, this is a good starter book to begin learning how to cook Korean.

              2. re: fets

                I own a number of korean cookbooks and Hae-Jin's is probably the one I use the least. I find that too many ingredients are used when it isn't needed and find the end product not great.

                One issue I have all korean books are that they seem to basically have the same dishes. There isn't a book that looks outside the standard dishes that most westerner associate with korean cooking. How many kalbi recipes do you need? I wish they stop writing the same cook book over and over and branch out a bit.

                I do like my "korean mother's cook book" a lot. It gives me consistantly good dishes that taste fairly authentic. I also really like the Maangchi website and her recipes. I think she has a cookbook and a dvd. I've made a lot of her recipes and they have been good to phenominal . Search Maangchi on Youtube.

                1. re: Soup

                  Interesting you say that you find that Cecilia's recipes having too many ingredients. I find it pretty simple, and this is close to what we did at home -- in fact, I think our family made things a bit more "complicated" than those recipes. Can you please give me an example where you feel that there are too many ingredients?

                  Your issue with Korean cookbooks -- are you just talking about Korean cookbooks in English? I think the market for Korean cookbooks is relatively small. So I can totally understand why the dishes are geared for what most Westerners associated with Korean cooking. I don't know if you read Korean. But if you do, you'll probably find many more cookbooks with a greater variety of dishes than what you've been encountering.

                  I'm glad that you like Korean Mother's Cookbook. I'm looking forward to receiving it! And thanks for mentioning Maangchi. I'll be on the lookout.

                  Thew, you should also look at Hannone's recipes he's got on Chowhound. He used to own a Korean restaurant.

                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    As an example her recipe for Chapchae has over 20 ingredients in it. Fired pork has over 15. I do my recipes with less then half.

                    I also find two ingredients she uses in her recipes to be odd. I am not a expert in korean cooking but probably know a bit more than the average joe. I find the use of walnuts and lemon juice a bit odd.

                    Lemon is not a native fruit and it can only really grow in the very southern islands. I'm not sure that it is a pervasive ingredient used in korea. However, it appears quite a bit. I would bet that the use of lemon in cucumber kimchi (stuffed) is something that is not very common. I have at least 5 different version of the cucumber (stuffed) recipe, and Lemon never come into it.

                    Second and more odd is the use of walnuts in many recipes. Koreans generally love nuts and behind chestnuts, walnut does occupy a very special place. However, I have never encountered them in so many dishes as she uses them. Almost all the meat dishes seem to have chopped walnuts. Has any one ever seen walnuts in their sauce in Karbi? Her recipe has it. BTW, she also uses walnuts in KKagdugi kimchi. It is different.

                    A small nit, but close to my heart, is her recipe for Ssundae (korean blood suasage). One of my eariest memories is eat this at the market with my grandmother in the 60's. I still enjoy it at resturants that specializes in dish dish. I've had it in LA, korea, NY, washington and other cities. They all have a few things in common. However, her recipe is missing what most koreans would consider key ingrediant for this dish, Rice, blood and potato noodles. She does have kimchi (which I have seen before used in stuffing) and tofu (which I've never seen in the stuffing).

                    I'm not saying that her book is not great. It is for me not very authentic nor did it produce the end results that justified all the fuss of those large ingrediant lists.

                    Yes, I've use Hannone's recipes. They are great. Thanks for posting. Will making gaejang when I can work up the nerve. But my main issue is that what ever book I buy, the recipe list do not do justice to a wide variety dishes korean have. Every book spends its pages covering the same basic dishes, unless you go to cook book written in korean. I think that is basically where I'm going. I wish I was a better translator. ..

                    1. re: Soup

                      Soup, I just had a discussion about lemon with my mother. She has started using it in place of vinegar in some of her recipes, in particular some of her salads and her cho-bab recipe (korean inari sushi). She has started using it because she likes the flavour, and thinks it has health benefits. But she agreed this is not a traditional ingredient. She has not started using it in her kimchi though.

                      1. re: Soup

                        Like any food culture, Korean cuisine is constantly evolving. With the ready availability of many ingredients that were rare or unknown in the past, Korean chefs and home cooks are adapting old dishes and creating new.

                        Another thing that I have seen (in my recipes as well) is that when laying out recipes and dishes for non-Korean cooks, ingredients for a lot of things that Koreans already have pre-made in their fridge or pantry are included. Some examples are ingredients and directions for Ssamjang included with meat dishes, or one or two ban chan dishes to accompany a meal.

                        1. re: Soup

                          I really think we're talking about different books here. I've got Cecilia Hae Jin Lee's book right in front of me. There's no lemon in any of her recipes. Her fire pork only has nine ingredients (including black pepper). And her jap chae recipe definitely is under 20 ingredients (including salt and pepper and the two different types of oil). Her kalbi and radish kimchi recipes do not call for walnuts. And her recipe for soon dae has blood and rice, but no potato noodles. I really think you're talking about Hepinstall's book, not Hae Jin's.

                          And if you're talking about Hepinstall's book (which I'm pretty sure you are), I totally agree with you that it's not the best book for a beginner to Korean cuisine. It's not totally authentic. I don't think it's bad in its own right. But if you are going to pick just one book to have, the Hepinstall book wouldn't be it.

                          1. re: Miss Needle

                            And thanks for hipping me to Maangchi. Her website is very interesting!

                            1. re: Miss Needle

                              I believe you are correct. I was refering to Growing Up in a Korean Kitchen" by Hisoo Shin Hepinstall. I erred on the name. I do stand by my assessment on the Hepinstall's book.

                              I cook korean about 3 or 4 times a week. (we eat korean about 7 or 8 meals: left overs). What does your rotation look like? I'm getting bored, although I think I am making a big jar of kkackdugi this weekend.

                              1. re: Soup

                                I think when I first left home (18), I didn't eat much Korean food. As I got older, I started eating Korean food more. I've recently gotten into making kimchi. Actually, the video on Maanchi's website was very helpful as it's sometimes difficult to follow directions written in a book. And I caught a part of Blaine's Low-Carb Kitchen on Fit TV last night where he made kimchi cutting up the cabbage into small pieces and using Splenda -- not my idea of what kimchi should be. My first batch was OK. Second batch better -- just a bit too sweet. One day, I'm hoping to emulate my favorite kimchi -- Gahm Mi Oak in NYC. I've learned that once I get my kimchi to the fermentation level I like, I seal it in a mason jar with my vacuum sealer. Then it stays at that level a lot longer as opposed to having it getting sour.

                                Korean foods that I usually eat at home include soon tofu, daen jang jigae, tofu jorim, kongnamul bap, bi bim bap and gim -- you know, the more simple stuff. Things that I make not as often include jap chae, ojingo bokkum, yuk gae jang. I want to get into trying to make a decent bin dae duk -- I also like Gahm Mi Oak's, and it's quite different from most of the bin dae duks I've had in the past. We would probably eat more Korean food if it wasn't for the fact that DH isn't the hugest fan of it. And I also love all different types of food -- Chinese, Italian, Spanish, Vietnamese, Thai, etc. So I don't cook or eat Korean food as often as you do.

                                If you don't have the book already, Discovering Korean Cuisine may not be a bad one for you. It has some recipes that are a bit more "unusual" like eundaegu jorim, kimchi stir-fried with pork belly and tofu, seafood jim, squid gui, yeongyang sotbap, chicken vegetable stew, dol sot kimchi albap, a bunch of different types of jooks, etc. They feature a bunch of recipes from some of the top LA restaurants. The soon tofu paste that I use for my soon tofu comes from that book. Combining the two different types of gochugaru and making a pre-made paste makes the soon tofu taste much better than adding gochugaru straight to the broth.

                                What do you usually end up cooking?

                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                  First, I love Gahm Mi Oak in NY. One of my ususal stops when I visit. Their kimchi rocks.

                                  As for what I make, it really depends on the weather. My favorite season for korean food is fall and winter. Lot of soup, chijae and braises. This week, I'm going to make a new batch of kimchi. I'm doing soon doo bu on Friday and have promise my kids BeeGee (sp?) (I think its like s korean soy bean version of grits with pork and kimchi). It might be good mae un tang weather if I can find some decent cod at a good price. I see karbi jim and kori gom tang in the very near future as they are calling for cold and wet weather. Yum.