Korean American

Food That Tastes Like Home


Award WinnerBestseller

March 29, 2022 | ISBN 9780593233498

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Award Winner

March 29, 2022 | ISBN 9780593233504

AmazonApple BooksBarnes & NobleBooks A MillionGoogle Play StoreKobo

About the Book

NEW YORK TIMES AND LOS ANGELES TIMES BESTSELLER • An homage to what it means to be Korean American with delectable recipes that explore how new culinary traditions can be forged to honor both your past and your present.

SHORTLISTED FOR THE ART OF EATING PRIZE • IACP AWARD FINALIST • ONE OF THE BEST COOKBOOKS OF THE YEAR: Bon Appétit, The Boston Globe, Saveur, NPR, Food & Wine, Salon, Vice, Epicurious, Publishers Weekly, Simply Recipes

“This is such an important book: an enquiry into identity, and a rich repository of memories and deliciousness.”—Nigella Lawson, author of Cook, Eat, Repeat

New York Times staff writer Eric Kim grew up in Atlanta, the son of two Korean immigrants. Food has always been central to his story, from Friday-night Korean barbecue with his family to hybridized Korean-ish meals for one—like Gochujang-Buttered Radish Toast and Caramelized-Kimchi Baked Potatoes—that he makes in his tiny New York City apartment. In his debut cookbook, Eric shares these recipes alongside insightful, touching stories and stunning images shot by photographer Jenny Huang.

Playful, poignant, and vulnerable, Korean American also includes essays on subjects ranging from the life-changing act of leaving home and returning as an adult, to what Thanksgiving means to a first-generation family, complete with a full holiday menu—all the while teaching readers about the Korean pantry, the history of Korean cooking in America, and the importance of white rice in Korean cuisine. Recipes like Gochugaru Shrimp and Grits, Salt-and-Pepper Pork Chops with Vinegared Scallions, and Smashed Potatoes with Roasted-Seaweed Sour Cream Dip demonstrate Eric's prowess at introducing Korean pantry essentials to comforting American classics, while dishes such as Cheeseburger Kimbap and Crispy Lemon-Pepper Bulgogi with Quick-Pickled Shallots do the opposite by tinging traditional Korean favorites with beloved American flavor profiles. Baked goods like Milk Bread with Maple Syrup and Gochujang Chocolate Lava Cakes close out the narrative on a sweet note.
In this book of recipes and thoughtful insights, especially about his mother, Jean, Eric divulges not only what it means to be Korean American but how, through food and cooking, he found acceptance, strength, and the confidence to own his story.
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Praise for Korean American

“[Korean American] has a bildungsroman quality—an annoying word to convey that you can feel Kim growing up as he writes the book, telling his mother’s story alongside his own, finding his way in the kitchen while charming his way into ours. I can’t wait for the next chapter.Bon Appetit

“. . . an artful coming-of-age (and coming-out) story that is largely told in the metaphorical language of food.”The New York Times

“Kim is very aware of the expectations Asian Americans face working in media—to be the expert in the cuisine they represent. But as he continued the process of writing his book, he gained the confidence to shed that burden.”Today Show

“Drawing heavily from his Atlanta family’s culinary heritage, New York Times food writer Kim maps out the intersection of Korean and American fare in this bold and delicious debut.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“This is such an important book: an enquiry into identity, and a rich repository of memories and deliciousness. And, as deeply personal as it is, it invites everyone into the kitchen with such brio. I savored every word and want to cook every recipe!”—Nigella Lawson, author of Cook, Eat, Repeat

“Eric Kim is a triple threat: great writer, elegant innovator, and sublime aesthete. Korean American is far more than a collection of essential recipes and deeply felt memories; it is an important ode to a beautiful family.”—Min Jin Lee, author of Free Food for Millionaires and Pachinko, a finalist for the National Book Award

“Eric’s book is wonderful. Every page shows his personality and good taste, and the recipes are inventive, fun, and traditional all at the same time! Very Korean and very American—with lots of kimchi.”—Maangchi, author of Maangchi’s Big Book of Korean Cooking

“In Korean American, Eric Kim gives his readers bold new recipes and expansive yet grippingly personal essays, but also a model for the dream mother-child relationship in Jean and Eric: mutually adoring and understanding, with unlimited room for connection and growth. I’ve never read a book like it, and didn’t know how much I needed it.”—Kristen Miglore, author of Genius Recipes and Genius Desserts

“The recipes in Korean American are nuanced and multi-layered, flirting constantly between harmony and tension.”Cool Hunting
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Korean American


When I was seventeen years old, I ran away from home. College acceptance letters had just come in, and my mother, Jean, had torn into all of mine before I could come home from school that afternoon. I was so angry with her for opening my mail that I packed a bag in the middle of the night, took the car with the GPS, and drove from our house in Atlanta (where this story begins and ends) to Nashville (where my cousin Semi lived, four hours northwest). In the morning, when Jean saw that my bed was empty and my toothbrush gone, she called me, over and over. In my very first act of rebellion as her son, I didn’t pick up.

I remember that trip to Nashville distinctly because Semi and I cooked coq au vin together. By then, as an avid watcher of the Food Network, I had tried my hand at a variety of non-Korean dishes, mostly flash fries and quick pan sauces, but never a proper braise. It was liberating to braise chicken with red wine on Semi’s tiny stove, not least because that just wasn’t how we cooked back in Georgia. My mother’s Korean soups and stews were vociferously boiled, the meat made fall-apart tender in stainless-steel stock pots or burbling earthenware called ttukbaegi. Slow-cooked dishes in general were a whole new frontier for me and wouldn’t become a fixture in my home cooking until years later in New York, where I would eventually go to college, take an internship at the Cooking Channel, and buy a yellow Dutch oven with my first paycheck. But for now, at seventeen, tucked away in Semi’s Tennessee bachelorette pad, I tasted freedom for the first time in my life. A vast world of pleasures had opened up to me, pleasures that had, until then, been reserved for adults who get to cook whatever they want, however they want, in kitchens that aren’t ruled by their parents.

When I came home a few days later, Jean brushed it off, pretended it was a nonissue that I had run away. But she did bring it up at dinner that night: “So, did you have a good trip?” Even then I could tell that she was practicing her loosened grip on me, her second son, the one who never got into trouble. Over a plate of her kimchi fried rice, which she had made for my homecoming (and would continue to make for many homecomings to come), I told her how I had been feeling, paralyzed at that great nexus between childhood and adulthood. I ran away because I needed some space, I explained. Though I didn’t say it at the time, she knew what I really meant: I ran away because I needed some space from her. This hurt my mother greatly, I could tell. But she smiled and nodded and listened anyway. Seeing that effort—and the hidden worry in her face—was enough to thaw my cold, ungrateful heart. I burst into tears and apologized.

In many ways, I feel that I’ve been running away from home my whole life. I’m only just now, as an adult, starting to slow down and find my way back to Atlanta, where I was born and raised, to understand its role in my overall story. After a lifetime of running around, I’ve come to appreciate the stillness of rootedness. It took spending more time, too, in the kitchen as a food writer and journalist, first as an editor for publications like Food Network online and Saveur, and now as a columnist for The New York Times, to make me realize that we can never really run away from who we are. Not easily, anyway. This lesson was expounded for me during the pandemic, when I moved back home for one year to work on this cookbook with my mother. I wanted to write down her recipes, but as I got deeper and deeper into the project, I came to the conclusion that my recipes are an evolution of her recipes, and the way I cook now is and will forever be influenced by the way she cooks. This book, then, tells the constantly mutating story of how I have come to understand my identity not just as Jean’s son, but also as someone who has always had to straddle two nations: the United States (where I’m from) and South Korea (where my mother is from). Too often I have felt the pangs of this tug of war: Am I Korean or am I American? Only recently have I been able to fully embrace that I am at once both and neither, and something else entirely: I am Korean American.

As is often the case with cooking, there are many answers to be found in the kitchen. The recipes in here explore that tension, and the ultimate harmony, between the Korean in me as well as the American in me, through the food my family grew up eating and the food I cook for myself now. At the end of the day, this is all, for me, food that tastes like home, from the Very Good Kimchi Jjigae (page 98) that fuels my weary soul to the Crispy Lemon-Pepper Bulgogi (page 240) that feeds my friends when they come over, or the Gochugaru Shrimp and Roasted-Seaweed Grits (page 40) I make for myself whenever I’m feeling especially homesick for Georgia, and for my mom. This book navigates not only what it means to be Korean American but how, through food and cooking, I was able to find some semblance of strength, acceptance, and confidence to own my own story.

This story is mine to be sure, and my family’s. But it’s also a story about the Korean American experience, one that in the history of this country is often never at the center. It’s about all the beautiful things that come with being different, and all the hard things that come with that, too. My hope is that in reading this book, you’ll see yourself in it, whether you’re Korean, Korean American, or neither, whether your family immigrated to Atlanta, Los Angeles, or Little Rock. Because at the heart of this book is really a story about what happens when a family bands together to migrate and cross oceans in search of a new home. It’s about what happens when, after so much traveling and fighting and hard work, you finally arrive.

There’s a pivotal moment that occurs whenever I’m on a long drive home from somewhere distant. The blurry picture starts to come into focus. I can let down my guard and turn off my GPS. The roads are familiar again. I don’t need a robot telling me about my own city, my own street, my own hometown. But sometimes, after that long drive, I’ll forget to turn off the GPS because my mind is wandering, or maybe I’m listening to a really good song or an especially juicy podcast. And as I roll into my mother’s driveway, eager to walk through those doors and crash into my old bed, it’ll talk back to me.

“Welcome home.”

About the Author

Eric Kim
Eric Kim is a New York Times staff food writer born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He worked his way through the literary and culinary world to eventually become a digital manager at Food Network and a senior editor at Food52, where he amassed a devoted readership for his “Table for One” column. He now hosts regular videos on NYT Cooking’s YouTube channel. A former contributing editor at Saveur, Eric taught writing and literature at Columbia University, and his work has been featured in The Washington Post, Bon Appétit, and Food & Wine. He lives with his rescue pup, Quentin Compson, in New York City. More by Eric Kim
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