Sunday, September 11, 2016

Cook Korean!

Title:  Cook Korean!
Author:  Robin Ha
Publication Information:  Ten Speed Press. 2016. 176 pages.
ISBN:  1607748878 / 978-1607748878

Book Source:  I received this book through the Blogging for Books program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "My mom was a busy working mom but she always made sure that I ate healthy homemade meals."

Favorite Quote:  "Don't be afraid to fail on the first try! Sometimes even the package directions are not perfect. Try a few recipes to find the one you like!"

My introduction to Korean food comes through a Korean friend and through food at local restaurants. I am experienced in the kitchen and enjoying cooking and trying foods from different cultures. I do not cook Korean food often, but I am learning to incorporate the flavors and techniques through books like Koreatown and this one.

The author Robin Ma was born in Korea and moved to the United States at age fourteen. Her educational background is in the arts. Her food experience comes from her cultural heritage and her mother. Make sure you read that story in the acknowledgements section! She has documented these experiences on her food blog. The copyright on this book in fact states that "Many of these recipes appeared in an earlier format on the author's blog Banchan in 2 Pages." This background gives the book a very casual, conversational tone and a homey feel which is enjoyable just to read.

A comic book makes everything more fun and more approachable, even food it seems. One of my concerns with Koreatown was its busy layout and organization. This book is just as busy in its layout, if not more so. However, by introducing it as a comic book, it sets the expectation. I expect the illustrations and the nature of its layout. So, it works.

The book does have two issues with usability. First, the print version is a trade paperback. As such, it does not lay flat or stay open to a particular page without being weighted down. That makes it difficult to put on a counter and use to follow a recipe. Second, the comic book format means that the steps in the directions are not numbered or laid out in sequential paragraphs. Dotted lines and arrows indicate the sequence, but I will likely number the steps in my copy to make it easier to follow.

The book is organized into food groups as a typical cookbook would be:  Kimchi and picked, vegetable side dishes, meat and poultry, seafood, soups and stews, porridges, noodles and rice cakes, snacks and street food, cocktails and anju (snacks that accompany alcohol), and Korean fusion.  A detailed table of contents provides a list of recipes with English and Korean (phonetically written in English) titles. Since most recipe titles include the main ingredients, recipes are easy to find. The book also includes an index, but I find the table of contents easier to use.

Don't let the comic book approach fool you. This is a serious cookbook. It only has about 70 recipes, but does pack in a lot of information. It includes personal stories, some Korean food history, descriptions, definitions, and, of course, recipes. For those not familiar with Korean food, the book also contains about a ten page section on key ingredients, the contents of a Korean fridge and pantry, a meal guide, and some background on Korean food by region. Each recipe also includes tips and definitions set apart by the colors of the illustrations. Again, the conversational tone, the illustrations, the colors, and the format make the food and the unfamiliar ingredients more approachable. Having read Robin Ha's stories, I look forward to incorporating her flavors in my cooking.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment