This kind of transparency is refreshing; most food writers and authors keep this kind of thing quiet as if it somehow it might sully their image to be seen to working with businesses. In truth, many are happy to do so and take their money, too.
But then Judy Joo has always come across as honest; much as she loves Korean food she is not averse to making money either. Growing up in a Korean family in New Jersey she was as says put on a’typical Asian fast track to achieve’ and she ended up on Wall Street selling derivatives and banking the lucrative results.
Then came the call of cooking and time at culinary school followed by Iron Chef and the food show of the same name as this book, plus of course the restaurant in London, Jinjuu where the food (and Joo herself) so upset sensitive Observer critic Jay Rayner that his review was mostly an angry diatribe about her and her lawyers.
Well who knows? This reviewer has never been to eat there, so let’s just stick to the book. Can Korean food ever be simple? Well it depends, you do need to get hold of quite few exotic ingredients but that has become easy these days; even if you don’t have a Korean grocer nearby the interweb can supply just about anything.
The book begins with kimchi, ever present, omnipresent in Korean cooking. Here there’s a recipe to make it yourself, as I once did. It tasted pretty good but the smell was very strong, as my neighbours remarked rather testily and they’re Mongolian so well used to pungent cooking. I’d recommend doing what Joo says many Korean households now do and that is to buy the evil stuff in as required.
A section on pancakes, dumplings and small bites has kimchi pancakes, as it happens. They sound rather good, as do seafood fritters, a simple mix of crab sticks (!) and prawns with rice flour. The main flavour coming from the dipping sauce of sesame oil and Korean chili flakes.
Black pudding in a blanket sounds tasty if you can get hold of the steamed Korean black pudding. It only needs wrapping in puff pastry, baked and served with Korean mustard (or good old Colman’s).
You can see Joo’s shtick as you go along; she mixes in-yer-face blogger/hipster friendly food such as Kimchi Pulled Pork Disco Fries and BBQ Beef Short Ribs, with more refined and classical Korean dishes such as Doenjang-glazed lamb lettuce wraps or stir-fried Sweet Potato Noodles for a subtler taste experience.
And there’s a recipe for KFC, Korean Fried Chicken that is always delicious wherever I have it and this one uses vodka, corn flour and Matzo meal to make it’ultimate’ (Joo does have a habit of falling into bloggerese, but here she can be forgiven).
There’s a lot to like in this well-illustrated book with over a 100 recipes including, beef and vegetable rice bowl (bibimbap), Spicy Pork Belly Cheese Steak, Krazy Korean Burgers, and Fried Fish with Kimchi Mayo and Sesame Mushy Peas.
Plus there are chapters all about sauces, desserts, and drinks as well as a list for stocking a Korean pantry.
Simply put, this is a perfect primer to get you kooking Korean style.
Published by Jacqui Small (£22)