Cookbook Review: The Kimchi Chronicles

Friday, November 16, 2012

Title: The Kimchi Chronicles
Subtitle: Korean Cooking for an American Kitchen
Author: Marja Vongerichten
Pages: 248 (including index)
Genre: Cookbook
Publisher: Rodale (Macmillan)
Pub. Date: August 2, 2011

About a year and a half ago, Jason and I got really into the documentary/food mini-series, The Kimchi Chronicles, which took viewers all over South Korea and showcased various foods. The show's star, Marja Vongerichten, is a Korean-American adoptee who, after being reunited with her birth mother, took on a greater interest in Korean cuisine and culture. Each episode of the show features a type of dish(es) and then shows how to cook it. They talk to locals, go through the markets, try out popular restaurants, etc. Vongerichten's husband, renowned French chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, simultaneously cooks up his own Americanized version of the dish. There are also some guest stars, real life friends of the Vongerichten's such as Hugh Jackman and Heather Graham, that show up in various episodes. Being half-Korean myself, I have fortunately been very exposed to Korean cuisine of all kinds and it is seriously my favorite thing to eat in the world! My husband (who happens to be half-Thai and, therefore, has also been exposed to some delicious food also loves Korean food almost as much as I do). So, not only did we adore the show, we knew we had to buy the cookbook. We got our copy of it probably last year around this time and have made several recipes from it (which I think is the most we have ever made from one cookbook).

Along with gorgeous pictures, Vongerichten spends time explaining the various foods that are commonly used in Korean cooking and what should be stocked in the pantry. She includes interesting tidbits throughout the book about culturally related information and also Korean how to's such as setting the table and picnicking Korean style. (Gangname Style??  LOL... sorry that just popped up in my head when I said "Korean Style", haha)

If you're not familiar with Korean cooking or Korean markets, it may be a little challenging obtaining the ingredients, but I think she does a good job of explaining everything and providing pictures, and the ingredients really are so common that anyone in a Korean market could help you. Korean cooking is something that has always intimidated me because of the complexities of much of the meals. But after trying out the recipes in this book, my confidence was significantly increased; I'm not much of a cook but I was able to follow along just fine! And the food turned out Amazing! I'd say not quite like my mom's cooking but close enough that this cookbooks is very valuable to me!

The first recipe I made was the Easy Braised Chicken... it's sort of a stew with chicken, potatoes, and carrots. This isn't a meal I had really eaten before since it's quite Americanized, but it is packed with that Korean flavor I know so well and was DELICIOUS! We both love this meal. I've made it a few times and have also had my family over to eat it as well. I absolutely love this recipe and found it really easy to follow. The book's picture is up to the right, and my version is on the left.

The next thing I made was the traditional New Year's meal (that I eat throughout the year!) that Marja calls "Rice Cake Soup with Brisket" or as it's called in Korean, Dduk Guk (떡국). (Ironically, my mom makes her own Americanized version of this that is ridiculously amazing). But this was another that I just never saw myself making because I always saw my mother (when cooking this the traditional way) boiling an ox-tail in water for HOURS to make the soup stock and I just didn't see myself doing that. But this recipe actually is much simpler than that but still very good.

I've made various other meals such as the kimchi hot dogs that Jean-Georges came up with, kimchi fried rice, and (geez, can't forget this!) the Korean short-ribs (galbi-갈비) that are so popularly known as "Korean BBQ". It's so exciting to be able to cook these recipes for myself if I want rather than have to ask or expect my mom to do it or run out to a restaurant. This is my absolute favorite cookbook, and I highly recommend both this and the show! Check out the website The Kimchi Chronicles to see videos from the show, check out some of their recipes, and even buy a Korean spice kit in case shopping on your own in an Asian market makes you nervous!


Ti said...

I love Korean food. When I was growing up, a very close friend, who happened to be Korean, introduced me to the food and I have loved it ever since. Her dad fermented his own Kimchi and forgive me if I sound like a 16 year old but it was the bomb!

Juju at Tales of said...

This show is on Hulu! :)
I don't do kimchi but I love Korean food.

Meg @ A Bookish Affair said...

My sister's boyfriend is half-Korean and his mom is a really fantastic cook. She's sent a lot of food with him to bring to my family and it is absolutely delicious!

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