Korea Town–A Book Review

Learning the art of fermentation is one thing. Learning how it is done around the world, in other cultures, is something else entirely. Because we believe in education at Fermentools, please read this review to see how the Korean people ferment their foods.

KoreaTown Book Reveiw- A Fermented Tour Through Korean American Food

Any cookbook that kicks off its recipe section with “Five Quick Kimchis to always keep in your fridge…” and ends 263 pages later with a recipe for “Kimchi White Chocolate Snickerdoodles” should have a place on any avid fermenters book shelf.  One critic’s description is pretty much on point, and could be said of both the book, and of Korean food in general as it’s presented here: “It’s spicy, it’s ferment-y, it’s sweet and savory and loaded with umami.” 

Korean food gives cultural context to fermented food, with fermentation helping to preserve fresh ingredients and enhance every meal.  And I do mean every meal.  The authors Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard begin Korea Town with a section on Kimchi, and makes sure that you know they’re not just talking about a cabbage-filled side dish.  They’re talking about all things fermented, and the foundation of every Korean meal.

A common perception is that kimchi refers to the spicy pickled cabbage you find anywhere grape jelly, Coke Zero and sriracha are sold, which is basically every store these days.  Indeed, napa cabbage kimchi is one of the most popular types, and you will find our recipe on page 41.  But really, kimchi is simply a pickling technique, not a single item.  Many things, like cucumbers, chives and apples, can also be kimchi’d.

Realizing that the term “Kimchi” didn’t just refer to a cabbage condiment was eye opening for me as I paged through to find recipes for Kimchi Pancakes, Radish Quick Kimchi, Water Radish Kimchi, Pineapple Kimchi, Garlic and Spring Onion Kimchi, Kimchi’d Persian Cucumbers, Daikon Radish Kimchi, Bok Choy Kimchi, Kimchi Fried Rice, Aged Kimchi Dumplings, Kimchi Salt, Kimchi Stew, Kimchi Triple-Cream Grilled Cheese, Spicy Kimchi Yuba “Noodles” with Poached Eggs, Kimchi Vinaigrette, Kimchi-Style Vegetables, Kimchi Stuffed Pork Shoulder, Red Cabbage Bacon Kimchi, Doenjang and Kimchi-Braised Kale, and yes, even a Kimchi-based dessert in Kimchi White Chocolate Snickerdoodles.

I know what you’re thinking.  Fermented Kimchi-based desserts sound, well, horrible.  But the author asks you to hear him out:

Ok.  We know this dish is a little dare-worthy, and not really for your fourth grader’s bake sale.  You might have questioned this recipe from the start.  You might still question this recipe.  But the blending of flavors (funk, sweet, umami) is pretty much on point.  Kimchi actually works in the sweets arena.

Personally, I’ve never been particularly adventurous with Kimchi.  I love fermented foods as much as anyone who has a taste to appreciate salty umami, but in my mind their place was always at the side, rather than at the forefront of the meal.  After reading this cookbook, I’ve realized that I haven’t been using my ferments to their full potential.

While I still might not be ready for Kimchi Snicker Doodles, the recipe for Kimchi Triple-Cream Grilled Cheese with Brie and sliced apples might be my first step on a whole new adventure into incorporating fermented foods into my daily life.


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