Sunday, March 7, 2010

Book review: The Complete Book of Korean Cooking

I recently purchased The Complete Book of Korean Cooking (follow the link to be able to see sample pages) and am quite pleased by it. As you can tell from the blog, I cook Korean food pretty regularly and wouldn't have thought I needed another Korean cookbook (I already had four or five), but this one caught my eye. I used it to make guchujang chicken stew the other night & it was delicious!

I definitely liked the look of the recipes--I had a feeling that they would result in tasty results. But I also liked the look of the photographs. The book is beautifully illustrated (800 color photographs), but is not meant just as a coffee table book. Many of those photographs are used to help with the cooking--most recipes has 4 photos showing cooking steps plus a photograph showing the finished dish. It also has some nice, but cursory, introductory chapters on Korea, Korean cuisine, and Korean ingredients & cooking techniques.

One drawback is that most recipes do not include the dish's Korean name. For example, there's a recipe for "spinach and clam soup," but until I did a google search, I had no idea that it was called "sigumchiguk" in Korean. A worse oversight is rice rolls with beef and sesame. The book explains that it is similar to the Japanese maki roll, but never gives the Korean name for the dish (gim bap).

Another issue is that while the recipes seem clear & well presented, they're probably best suited for cooks who are able to read between the lines. For example, that guchujang chicken I made the other night called for 1 3/4 lbs. chicken, 3 potatoes, & 2 onions. Depending on the size of the potatoes and onions, the recipe could vary quite greatly. Most cookbooks would give an indication of the volume (e.g., "1 chopped onion, about 3/4 cup") or weight or a rough idea of the size (e.g., "2 medium onions). The recipe gave no real indication of the correct amount and I ended up deciding that it only called for 2 potatoes and 1 onion. Folks who aren't comfortable going off recipe, might be a little bit stressed by the book. Incidentally, all the ingredients are given both in metric & imperial units--which I find a little distracting, but I guess helps with its international appeal.

Overall, I'm quite please with the book, think the recipes look great, & plan to cook from it a lot. For some just learning Korean cooking, I'd probably recommend Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee's Eating Korean over this one because the recipes seem a bit more straight forward and fool proof. However, Eating Korean is a bit skimpy on the illustrations, so perhaps having both books on hand would be the ideal.

No comments:

Post a Comment