Earlier this week, the Korean boyband Bangtan Boys (BTS) won for Top Social Artist at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards. Even if the Billboards are not your thing, you may have caught the super racist responses to their win on social media (like super racist. A quick Twitter search of #BBMA can get you up to speed).
BTS’s win revealed two things:
— South Korean culture has a huge global presence and
— As a collective, we can be embarrassingly unaware of our racism.
My response to this mess? Find good introductions to Korean culture and then recommend them to everyone else. Hopefully, we can help each other grow into better, more informed human beings. Which is why Robin Ha’s Cook Korean! is my pick for this week!
Robin’s comic cookbook not only introduces us to Korean cuisine, but makes the adventure totally not scary and welcomes the uninitiated into an inner circle of cultural awakening.
Aimed at non-Korean readers, the cookbook allows those of us with little to no experience try our hands at a huge range of Korean staples. Robin opens the book listing common Korean ingredients in a stylish infographic. These pages are gorgeous, but also ridiculously helpful when you show up at H-Mart (your local Korean supermarket) dazed, confused, and struggling to find your ingredients. If you’re a fan of Korean cooking, there are a few dishes that you definitely want to learn, including fan favourites like Kimchi and pan-fried tofu. She also adds the not-so-familiar like watermelon soju. I have to admit, I’ve never had watermelon soju, and I may not have heard of it… but we all know that watermelon soju is going to be a winner.
Robin balances her crisp writing with delicious illustrations. She walks us through the preparation of each of the 65+ recipes in an easy-to-follow step-by-step format. She also includes fantastic intros to each of her chapters. In these intros, she shares personal anecdotes, the history of each dish, and some of the food’s cultural significance. Although we’re by no means experts at this point, Robin shares these intimate and personal moments with us, building a bridge to connect these experiences with ours.
Robin guides us through Korean cooking and culture from a perspective where we are all welcome to her dinner table. I was lucky enough to meet Robin at TCAF this year and she is as cheerful as her illustrations and a great writer to look out for in the future! Cook Korean! is a unique and flamboyant addition to your comics and cookbook library. I hope everyone can enjoy happy days cooking!
Jean Mathew is an editorial assistant at Broken Pencil.