A number of months ago my cousin took me out for Korean food and, although I had eaten it before, I have never consumed a Korean meal that resonated with me as this one did. I’m certain that the wonderful, unfamiliar combinations of flavors and textures are what initially drew me in, but now, a year later, I find that I eat Korean food at least once a week and have an almost constant craving for it (many venture to call it an obsession or an addiction and I have to say that I don’t disagree). I find this phenomenon curious as I’ve never been the type to regularly eat any one cuisine, nor have I been the type to want to eat the same foods over and over again, but that has all changed now.
In addition to my now regular forays to Korean restaurants, I also keep my kitchen stocked with a larder of products purchased at local Korean markets. I became convinced that this was more than a simple appreciation when I noticed that my once comfortably situated condiments, like ketchup and vinegar, were starting to jockey for space in my cupboards with new competitors like Korean chili powder and dark, fermented sauces. My obsession was indisputably confirmed one recent afternoon as I realized that my fridge now emits a perpetual, odoriferous ‘funk’ stemming from containers of fermenting cabbage, fish based sauces and the slightly sulfuric essence of pickled daikon radish. I still often find myself crinkling up my nose a few minutes after closing the fridge, wondering if the cat has perhaps left an undesirable gift nearby, before I recognize the smell to be the residual waft from my apartment sized Frigidaire.
Anyone keeping up on food trends knows that it is not just me whose recent passion for Korean food has been ignited. The Kogi taco truck in Los Angeles has reached iconic status with its short rib (Kalbi) tacos. Chef David Chang, of Momofuku Ko and Ssam Bar in New York, has become a Korean-fusion luminary with such dishes as kimchi consomme with oysters and house baked bread with kimchi butter. If you’re interested in getting in on the action yourself it’s easy to do so at home too. Check out blogs like Zen Kimchi, featuring fusion recipes for Korean sloppy Joes and sesame leaf pesto, and for more traditional recipes, and a great deal of useful information, take a look at My Korean Kitchen.
Even if the thought of new foods scares you and you think you won’t know what to order at a Korean restaurant, you should still step outside of your comfort zone and give it a try. I think you’ll find that there is plenty of familiar fare (especially if you go for Korean bbq) and the unfamiliar stuff is not as scary as it appears. You may just find yourself as addicted as I am.