Cook Korean!: When East Truly Meets West


It is a delight to see a cartoonist tackle cooking and laying out recipes in such a fun and engaging format. This fusion of a comic book/cook book is so right up my alley it’s not even funny, especially the Art work and nuggets of Korean language and cultural information contained in this book. Knowing that this was going to be in comic form having previewed it online, it truly piqued my interest. I have been looking forward to receiving this and I can say it’s everything I expected it to be.

Learning about languages and other cultures have always been an innate passion of mine so I appreciate Cook Korean! by Robin Ha in this regard. It teaches you what the recipe is called in Korean under the English titles which would really come in handy should one decide to go to a Korean Barbecue, plus it’s always a great idea to broaden one’s horizons. I wish it had a phonetic equivalent underneath for proper pronunciation but I realized it’s already almost phonetic as it is written. I wanted to see something like this- Bulgogi (pul-goh-gih) not bull-go-guy. Some people just have to remember the vowel “I” is always to be pronounced as a short “I” sound (as in “ih”) and this is common in most Oriental languages.

Dengki, the character who teaches the recipes, reminds me of myself apart from the traditional Korean garb she’s wearing. I probably sound a bit narcissistic but I assure you, that’s not the case. Oftentimes, I do my hair in a braid so it’s like seeing a semblance of myself in comic form. I learned a few basic Korean phrases but never got to learn about food except for Soju and Kimchi, and speaking of Kimchi, the first chapter is dedicated to making it with various flavors, although I must say I am a bit discouraged to make an attempt because of the fermentation process which takes 1-2 days, maybe even longer. I tend to be a little impatient when it comes to food prep time. I like recipes that don’t take days to make so I skimmed through and found four that I can see myself trying in the immediate future.

I skipped the part on how to make Bap (cooked rice) because I already have my own rice cooking technique without burning the bottom. It may not be cooked Korean style but rice is rice. I am looking forward to try Jeyuk Dupbap (Spicy Pork over Rice) and guess what? The cook time is only 30 minutes and I can make variations by simply substituting the pork with other kinds of meat as the recipe suggests. Then there’s Dakbokkeumtang (Chile Chicken Stew) which cooks in 45 minutes. I love spicy food. I wouldn’t be full-fledged Asian if I didn’t (j/k). Jogi Gui (Pan Fried Yellow Croaker) takes only 15 minutes to make so this will probably be the first one to try. This book happens to have a cocktail recipe with Yakult as an ingredient. I haven’t had one of those since my childhood (in Asia) so having that would be quite nostalgic for me.

There are ten chapters of various Korean recipes ranging from Side Dishes, Meats, Seafood, Soups, Street food and foreign influenced dishes to mention a few. This also gives glimpses of Korean customs on Social drinking but I especially enjoyed reading the author’s life story in a nutshell, the short and sweet comic intros and life reminiscences she incorporated into every food category and who knew Korea happens to be the third largest consumer of Spam in the world? For a people mostly slim, they don’t seem to exhibit signs of intaking too much Sodium although most of their dietary staples are vegetable based and muy picante, so that must be the reason they stay slim (aside from being built that way. What a lucky bunch!) I don’t know why cookbooks like this aren’t in much circulation because I can definitely see myself as an avid collector. This would make a fun “just because” gift for the foodie with a curious palate for exotic flavors and enjoyable to read maybe even for children and kids at heart alike.

[This is my unadulterated review for a complimentary copy of the aforementioned book which I received from Blogging for Books ]

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