Korean food has a place in America’s restaurant and recipe book pantheon but it’s a newcomer on the European food scene. There are more and more restaurants to be found but they are not as common as Indian restaurants, or even fish and chip shops, those bastions of traditional British dining that seem to be a dying breed.
Koreans love Korean food, that’s evident, but it’s a cuisine that travels well. It should hold no terrors for the European home cook as the techniques are simple and the ingredients (apart from a few spice mixes) can be found in your regular supermarkets. The end result of your efforts will be, however, a dish that is uniquely Korean, with all that it implies.
So what does that imply? Flavour. It’s been rumoured that Korean food can bring tears of chilli-induced pain to the eyes of seasoned spice eaters but that’s an exaggeration. Yes, there are robust flavours aplenty but you can season to taste.
Quick and Easy Korean Cooking is written by Celia Hae-Jin Lee who is a first-generation Korean American. Her first cookbook, Eating Korean, was selected as one of the Best of the Best by Food and Wine Magazine. She writes extensively for American papers and periodicals.
All the recipes here are easy to follow. There are lots of photographs by Julie Toy to give you a bit of confidence and the book gives an overall impression of style. Pages have been thoughtfully designed to give a hint of Korean culture and taste without being overtly themed.
This volume boasts 70 or so recipes that are truly quick. They should take you 30 minutes or less to prepare. It could be a popular book for that fact alone. If you are embarking on a new culinary escapade then you won’t want to be spending a good part of your day waiting to try your creations. We are talking fast family meals that you don’t have to reserve for special occasions.
Family recipes they might be but this list includes lots of celebrated dishes. Bibimbap (a bowl of rice with various toppings) is ubiquitous in Korean restaurants. Kimchi (traditional pickled vegetables) is the dish that has made grown men cry but you can choose your heat level. Boolgogi is seasoned slices of beef and typically Korean.
The charm of Korean food is that there are so many authentic dishes that are quick to prepare with inexpensive vegetables and spices. Add some fish or meat and you have a feast. Celia has provided several menus to enable the novice to combine dishes for various meals. You can start with the Tummy Warmer Breakfast (Black Sesame Porridge and Hot Ginger Tea) and finish with the Elegant Dinner Party (Soju Cocktail, Skewered Beef, Spicy Sashimi Rice, and Poached Asian Pear).
Quick and Easy Korean Cooking is a lovely and gentle introduction to Korean food. It’s an attractive book that will encourage you to try for yourself this marvellous but overlooked cuisine. Delicious!
Quick and Easy Korean Cooking
Author: Celia Hae-Jin Lee
Published by: Chronicle Books
Price: $22.95US, £11.99
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018