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Top 5 Korean Cookbooks

The Best Korean Cookbooks Written in English

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It's difficult to find good Korean cookbooks written in English. There are acclaimed cookbooks written in Korean, of course, but there is very little out there for the amateur Korean cook who doesn't read Korean. In the past, the few cookbooks and recipes circulating online were a start, but they were often difficult to follow with imprecise measurements and hard-to-navigate instructions. With the rising popularity of Korean cuisine, there are now at least some really good Korean cookbooks that are widely available in English today. These are the five best Korean cookbooks for English speakers on the market right now:

1. "A Korean Mother's Cooking Notes" by Sun-Young Chang

This slim but mighty volume should be a staple for those learning how to cook Korean food. It's easy to understand and explains everyday ingredients, has basic recipes from white rice to spinach soup, and includes fancier fare and menu suggestions for guests and celebrations. The dishes all seem to be meticulously tested, as everything I've made from this cookbook comes out just about right. There are small but attractive pictures, and over 120 recipes including perfect ones for tofu stew (tubu chigae), rice cake soup (duk gook), and scallion pancake (pa jun). This is a good choice for people interested in Korean home cooking and for Korean-Americans who want to learn how to cook Korean. The Korean edition was a bestseller in Korea.

2. "Growing Up in a Korean Kitchen" by Hisoo Shin Hepinstall

Part memoir and part cookbook, Growing Up In a Korean Kitchen places the food in its cultural context through photographs and stories by the author. Hepinstall, a prize-winning Korean novelist, gives us a masterpiece of 175 recipes from everyday dishes to fancy feasts to beverages and desserts. It's an ambitious work, showcasing Korean cuisine as more than just barbecue and kimchi (as its commonly thought of in the West). From her family's recipe for soy sauce to lovely dishes like crab cakes and delicate soups, Hepinstall writes to present and preserve family recipes that are disappearing even from Korea (even most Koreans buy their soy sauce and fermented bean paste these days).

3. "Doksuni" by Jenny Kwak and Liz Fried

The Doksuni cookbook focuses on Korean-American favorites, which is understandable since Kwak and her mother own a popular Korean restaurant in New York City. Along with some touching personal stories and interesting cultural anecdotes, there are good recipes for the familiar noodle and barbecue dishes, and even some exciting things like the restaurant's popular jalapeno fried chicken and spicy stewed crab (kotgye tang). Since this is a great Korean cookbook for beginners to the cuisine, I do wish there were more photos to illustrate steps and clearer explanations in the 77 recipes in the book. But the respect Kwak gives throughout the book to her mother, an immigrant and female restaurateur, is as authentically Korean as kimchi.

4. "Discovering Korean Cuisine" by Allisa Park (editor)

Another cookbook centered on Korean-American cuisine, Park goes to the opposite coast for California-style Korean food. Most agree that Southern California has the best Korean food in the country, with a sprawling Koreatown and hundreds of eateries. So alongside a lovely homey chicken ginseng soup (samgyetang), there are also dishes like a pine nut porridge (jat juk) and a bulgogi salad with lemon dressing. An exciting cookbook that goes beyond homecooking, almost every recipe is illustrated with beautiful photographs. With explanations about important ingredients, detailed recipes, and hints from top Los Angeles chefs, this cookbook is a must for all lovers of Korean cuisine.

5. "Eating Korean" by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee

This 100+ recipe cookbook gives us tried-and-true dishes along with some touching and funny personal anecdotes and interesting cultural history. Written by a Korean-American food writer, Lee concentrates on home cooking and practical dishes for everyday life.
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