I am convinced that Korean food will be the next big food trend. It has an appealing mix of tongue-tingling spice, light freshness and an array of textures. It’s generally low in fat and high in fibre so will be welcomed by all of us who enjoy robust flavours but yet seek healthful meals. The Complete Book of Korean Cooking is full of flavour and texture.
The author of The Complete Book of Korean Cooking, Young Jin-Song, is the owner of several Korean restaurants in Asia as well as Shed in London. His first book, Korean Cooking, won the Best Asian Cuisine Cookbook at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in 2006. The photography (800 step-by-step pictures) is supplied by the celebrated food photographer Martin Brigdale. He is a prize winner who has contributed to more than 50 cookbooks.
The Complete Book of Korean Cooking does not assume you know anything about Korea, its culture or its cooking. It offers an introduction to Korea, its geography, people, festivals and religion, and gives an overview to help put food into context. It’s evident that Koreans take their food seriously and enjoy not only formal and family meals but also take advantage of snacking opportunities.
There are 150 or so recipes here and, no, dear reader, they are not all mouth-numbingly spicy. Kimchi is well spiced but you can choose from several different varieties, from the classic cabbage Kimchi to Spring Onion Kimchi which is not as fiery, although it is still packed with flavour. If the cabbage Kimchi proves a bit too strong then use less chilli next time or make the ever-popular Pan-fried Kimchi Fritters. These are small cakes of kimchi and tofu and are served with a soy dipping sauce. They work well as either a light lunch, a starter for any Asian meal or a snack with drinks.
Stuffed Squid with Soy Dipping Sauce is traditional market food and a world away from dubious hot dogs that are ubiquitous in the West. This is surprisingly simple to make but it looks amazing and very chic. Very little work for maximum impact. Seafood Salad in Mustard Dressing is another dish that is simple, flavourful and smart and, at last, I find a decent recipe that includes whelks. A must-try dish along with Spicy Whelk Salad.
Braised Tofu might be the dish to persuade carnivorous westerners that tofu is something more than white, flavourless jelly. Consider it a healthy vehicle for flavour. The cubes of tofu are cooked in a sauce which gradually reduces to a thick glaze. It’s rich and delicious.
The Complete Book of Korean Cooking has a good selection of seafood, noodles, vegetables and rice but meat is also popular in Korea. Grilled Beef in Sweet Soy Marinade is not at all spicy but uses garlic and sesame seeds to add flavour. Sweet and Spicy Chicken is a dish appreciated by those who love some heat. This recipe has garlic, chillies and chilli paste to provide spice and colour to the chicken. The resulting dish is red and impressive, and could be served with some plain rice for a quick meal.
This book is a visual stunner. Its step-by-step photographs show every element of preparation but that preparation is, for the most part, simple. Buy a couple of jars of chilli paste and you’ll be cooking authentic Korean food in no time. A lovely book and great value for money. I thoroughly recommend it.
The Complete Book of Korean Cooking
Author: Young Jin Song
Published by: Lorenz Books
Price: $35.00US, £16.99
Asian cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018