Atlanta social media star co-authors book on contemporary Korean food to cook at home

Read this cookbook: “Everyday Korean: Fresh, Modern Recipes for Home Cooks” by Kim Sunee and Seung Hee Lee” (Countryman Press, $29.95)

  By Wendell Brock

In 2008, Kim Sunee, a Korean-born food writer who was raised in New Orleans by adoptive parents, returned to Seoul, where she was abandoned in a market by her mother at age 3.

She was on book tour with her best-selling memoir, “Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home” (Grand Central Publishing, 2008).

Her interpreter for the journey was Seung Hee Lee, a 25-year-old Korean woman about to head to the states to pursue a PhD in human nutrition at Johns Hopkins University.

Bonding over food, the women became fast friends, and their friendship spawned a book, “Everyday Korean,” a collection of recipes that interpret Korean classics for modern American audiences.

Today, Lee lives in Atlanta, where she is an epidemiologist for the CDC, teaches cooking classes and maintains a lively and engaging social media presence that includes 33,000 Instagram followers.

For some time now, I’ve been mesmerized by her Instagram account, where she posts pictures of her adventures in food and wine. So it’s a delight now to discover her book, with its fusion recipes for the likes of Kimchi Bacon Mac and Cheese, Roasted Pepper Queso Fundido with Gochujang Sour Cream, and Focaccia with Fried Kimchi.

Though many of these creations are grounded in tradition (kimchee, banchan, soups), many others suggest ways to transform Korean staples into satisfying dishes that are easier for everyday cooks to manage.

Bulgogi, thin slices of beef that are usually sizzled on a tabletop grill, isn’t easy to make at home. So the authors pack those same flavors into bulgogi meatballs, which can be served on skewers, tucked into sliders or used in poutine the next day.

Recipes are as simple as two-ingredient sauces and easy banchan (the little dishes that accompany every Korean meal)--and as involved as Traditional Napa Cabbage Kimchi, which takes days to salt and ferment. (Not to worry kimchi lovers: there are recipes for kimchi slaws and salads that can be assembled and served the same day.)

Some of the recipes that intrigue me most are for main courses that can be the focus of a meal, by simply adding rice and a vegetable or salad.

Roasted Salmon with Gochujang Mayo would make a quick supper or dinner-party showstopper. Braised Short Ribs with Cinnamon and Star Anise is a stunning, long-braised dish to warm you up on a winter day.

“Everyday Korean” is not a go-to textbook on classic Korean, but a lovely and highly personal look at how two smart Korean-American women cook for family and friends.

Lucky for us that Lee and Sunee found each other and decided to share.

AUTHOR APPEARANCES: Seung Hee Lee will hold cooking demos at The Learning Kitchen in the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. 5:30 p.m. Jan. 5 and 4 p.m. Jan. 6-7. Tickets are $50 and include a copy of the book, welcome drink, cooking demo and tasting, and Korean ingredients to take home.

On Jan. 13, she’ll host a five-course pop-up dinner with wine pairings in collaboration with Tipsy Gourmand Supper Club at the Atlanta United training facility, 861 Franklin Gateway S.E., Marietta. Future events will be listed on her website as they are scheduled.

Wendell Brock is an Atlanta-based food and culture writer, frequent AJC contributor and winner of a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award for journalism. Follow him on Twitter (@MrBrock) and Instagram (@WendellDavidBrock) .

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