My husband is half Korean. I am descended from Scandinavian farmers – white as white can be. When we got married Jonathan’s mom and aunts lived 1,000+ miles away. I knew if he was going to have the Korean food he loved I (the white girl) was going to have to make it. To be fair Jonathan is an excellent cook in his own right but I wanted to be able to make the home cooked Korean food my husband loved. At the time I was unaware of the adventure I had embarked on.
I asked my mother-in-law for recipes over Skype and she would list off ingredients I had never heard of followed by the instructions to add “the right amount!!!!” I have been teaching myself to cook since I was a little girl but this was daunting. Ingredients I have never tasted, food I have never seen or eaten, and recipes with no measurements. But Jonathan is the great love of my life and I was determined.
I packed up my ingredient lists and went down to our local Korean market. I would get a basket and hand my list to Mr. Hong. He would take me up and down the aisles filling my basket with every item I needed. He made sure I had the Korean version of each item on my list. Many items have different versions based on the Asian country they are used in. I will never forget the kindness of Mr. Hong and all the time he spent helping a new bride learn to cook new food.
I took the recipes Jonathan’s mom gave me and searched the internet for similar recipes that had measurements. In my searches I stumbled upon Beyond Kimchee. This was my salvation. Holly wrote Korean recipes in a way any American girl could follow. Many of her posts included photos of the ingredients I would need! I experimented with various recipes and tried measurements Holly suggested in her recipes to approximate what Jonathan’s mother might be doing. Jonathan faithfully stood by the stove tasting and advising until the food tasted like his mother’s.
Three years later my kimchee is as good as the aunts’ and I can make a wide selection of Korean food. I am so grateful for the time Jon’s mom, Mr. Hong, and Holly took to teach me Korean cooking. If you want to learn about Korean food check out what Holly is up to at Beyond Kimchee. Enjoy!