Cookbook Review: Cook Korean! by Robin Ha

Cover of the cookbook Cook Korean!

I’ve been wanting to review my many cookbooks since… Well, since tofucado started. Reviewing cookbooks mixes two of my passions: books and food. That is why, in 2020, I shall be reviewieng and analyse more of this type of content that is related to food. The first cookbook Review that I’m covering today is a Korean Cookbook called “Cook Korean!“, written by Robin Ha.

Close up of the cooking rice section of the Korean CookBook "Cook Korean!"

About the author

This cookbook is not your usual cookbook, it is actually a graphic novel. The author describes her journey to Korean food through drawings, and she does the same with the recipes. I found this very original and a way to stand out from other Korean cookbooks. Also, I’m a bit of a visual learner, so it was really cool to see “the actual cooking” in drawings. 

Robin Ha is the author of the book, she is a South Korean cartoonist, illustrator and painter living in the United States. She is known for her tumbler “Banchan in 2 pages” where she regularly posts her drawings and updates. Her art is quite fun and I quite enjoy it, I didn’t know who she was before I got her cookbook, but I’ve been following her ever since. She has a new graphic novel coming up in 2020, but this time it isn’t food related, but rather a teen graphic novel memoir on immigration, belonging and how arts can save a life. Even though it isn’t food per se, I will still check it out because I really like her storytelling and art style. 

Cookbook review: The structure of Cook Korean!

One thing I really liked about this cookbook is the small stories before every section, it feels like reading a comic book rather than a cookbook with a bunch of text and paragraphs, and it was nice for a change. The book has a total of 10 chapters with an introduction that covers the basics of Korean food and culture

The introduction has one of the sections that I probably check all the time (even though now I kinda know it by heart). It is the “7-key ingredient” and the “Rice and its delicious by-products“. These two sections are really well-done and they give you the basic knowledge to cover most of the cooking in the book. The 7 key ingredient can be applied to a lot of Asian cooking because it talks about soy sauce and sesame oil. The author even says this herself.

Close up of the 7 key ingredients section of the Korean CookBook "Cook Korean!"

The chapters cover the following topics: Kimchi and pickles, vegetable side dishes, meat and poultry, seafood, soups and stews, porridges, noodles and rice cakes, snacks and street food, cocktails and anju, and last but not least, Korean fusion

Should I get this Korean Cookbook if I’m vegetarian/vegan?

By my own experience, Korean food is not the most vegetarian friendly cuisine out there. I stayed in Korea for a full year during my exchange year and I had to stop being vegetarian because:

  • Korean cooking involves a lot of fish broth/meat broth
  • I mostly ate at the dorms cafeteria or in restaurants (Restaurants are so cheap in Korea).
  • Vegetarian restaurants were triple the normal price.

This cookbook covers and talks about traditional Korean food, so yeah, there are a lot of meat and fish recipes. However, I’d like to say that there is a fair amount of vegetarian recipes, and I usually adapt the meat and fish recipes with vegetarian alternatives. 

There are over 50 recipes in the cookbook and I’d say rougly 1/4 of those are vegetarian with just one small modification (not using fish sauce or anchovies). Another 1/4 of the recipes are exclusively meat or fish/seafood. And the rest is a mix of recipes that can be vegetarian if the meat or the fish are replaced by a vegetarian protein (tofu, seitan, tempeh, “meat”, …)

If you are discovering Korean food, this is a great introduction. I am vegetarian now and I still use it for almost every Korean recipe I do just to get some inspiration or some extra tips.

Omurice recipe of the Korean CookBook Cook Korean!

Cookbook review: My favorite Cook Korean! recipes

Kimchi Stew

This is one of the non-vegetarian recipes that I adapt to make them vegetarian. It is one of my favorites in the book and its a Korean staple food. It is delicious, it is easy and you just make everything in one pot. 

I posted my own version of a kimchi stew recently, check it out here

Spicy cold noodles

Super delicious and it literally takes 10 minutes. Perfect for summer. 

Black Soybean noodles

I need to feature this one on the blog soon cause I just love it so much. I obviously don’t use the pork shoulder mentioned in the recipe and I swipe it for either smoked tofu or tempeh.

Steamed Asian eggplant

Alright, if you don’t love eggplant you will with this one. When I was in Korea I would eat this side dish so often. I love eggplant already so you can imagine. it takes around 15 to 20 minutes to make this steamed eggplant and the result is always outstanding. 

Radish cube kimchi

Obviously. My boyfriend and I love Kimchi and we have a slight preference for the radish cube kimchi. it’s crunchier and it has a bit more body than your basic kimchi (even though basic kimchi is also really good and now I feel bad for saying I prefer another kimchi). It all comes down to the vegetable you using. 

Close up of the steamed eggplant recipe of the Korean CookBook "Cook Korean!"

If you want to cook vegetarian Korean food…

One of my all time favorite resources for vegetarian (well, in this case, vegan) korean food is the Cheap Lazy Vegan youtube channel. She even published an Asian Vegan Cookbook recently. You should definitely check her out!

Do you have any Korean cookbooks? Which ones? What is your favorite resource for korean food? Tell me all in the comments!

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