Eric Kim’s Essential Korean Recipes (Published 2022) – The New York Times

“If I could have only 10 Korean dishes for the rest of my life, these would be the ones.” The Times Magazine columnist, cookbook author and son of South Korean immigrants shares the dishes that define the cuisine for him.
Credit…Bobbi Lin for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Sue Li. Prop Stylist: Sophia Pappas.
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“Daebak!” — pronounced DEH-bahk, often with a long, guttural emphasis on the first syllable — can be a noun, an adjective or an interjection that expresses approval when something is truly great.
It’s the Korean word my mother blurted out when she recently tasted my doenjang jjigae, a soybean-paste stew that has taken me years to perfect.
Some might measure a Korean cook’s prowess by their kimchi, an intimate way to get to know someone’s sohn mat, or hand taste, the immeasurable quality of a cook’s personal touch. But I would argue that doenjang jjigae, the humblest and most basic of Korean stews, is a window into a cook’s soul. The precision with which the vegetables are cut, the ratio of broth to soybean paste, and the clarity and balance of flavors can reveal a lot about a cook’s palate, as well as their priorities. Are they showing off or aiming to nourish? Is the stew in your face, or soothing you throughout the meal like a weighted blanket?
When my mother said my doenjang jjigae was “daebak,” I finally felt that I had graduated from her master class in Korean cooking. As the son of South Korean immigrants, I’ve been attending it since I was old enough to walk, a little shadow following her around our suburban Atlanta kitchen, tasting her kimchi for sugar and salt; helping her pick and wash perilla leaves from the garden for a family dinner of ssam; or, later in life, sitting at the kitchen island watching her crush gim, that glorious roasted seaweed, over a homecoming plate of kimchi fried rice.
I am no longer my mother’s shadow, but the way I cook now, the way I move and breathe in my New York City kitchen, has echoes of her movements, her breaths. So much of cooking is using your senses and following your gut, and I never experience those instincts more acutely than when I am making Korean food.
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