Korean-Mexican Burritos with Kimchi and Red Rice

Korean-Mexican Burritos with Kimchi and Red Rice

Korean-Mexican Burritos with Kimchi and Red Rice

I’ve always been curious about different cultures and peoples—their ways of life, their world views, and yes, their food. Even just looking at America, there are huge regional differences between parts of the country, and complex ethnic tapestries make up our cities. Now more than ever, it’s important to recognize and celebrate that diversity. It’s what makes this country great.

One day you can pick buckets of Georgia peaches in the blazing summer sun, pausing under the shade of a tree to taste the sweet, succulent fruit. Meanwhile, just across the border in Florida, you can walk into a Cuban restaurant and experience Caribbean flavors. Or try cooking Korean bbq for the first time—it’s fun and tasty even if you don’t know what you’re doing. When I went with my friends in Chicago, we had to figure out what order to cook everything in on the fly, with the server demonstrating as new platters of meat were brought out and placed in the thick stone pan in the center of the table. In New York, you can try a dim sum place in Chinatown, where you’ll be offered tray after tray of strange delicacies. When we went, we were seated in a large, crowded banquet hall; carts whizzed by, stacked with metal steamers containing all sorts of dumplings, steamed buns, custard tarts and puddings, and a variety of vegetable, meat, and seafood dishes. The carts momentarily paused by our table; the servers opened the lid to the steamers to reveal the mysteries inside. Half the time, we didn’t even know what we were taking!

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Korean-Style Tuna Tartare + Why I Love Food

Korean-Style Tuna Tartare

Korean-Style Tuna Tartare with Avocado and Radish Slices and Ginger Dressing

Before I talk about this fresh and vibrant Korean-style tuna tartare, I’d like to share what fuels my passion for food. The sheer pleasure of it certainly plays a part, but it’s not the heart of the matter.

People, places, cultures, and connections inspire me to seek out world cuisines. Through food, one can gain insight into another culture and share an experience with the people who live there: “Food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture.” – Mark Kurlansky

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Korean Roasted Barley Tea

Roasted Barley Tea

Korean Roasted Barley Tea and Buddha Board

I love drinking tea, especially during the long winter months. There’s something comforting about sipping hot tea on a cold day–it has a calming effect that forces me to slow down and appreciate life. I usually drink black tea in the morning to energize me for the day ahead, but when I have a bit more time, I like to sit down with my Buddha Board–a painting surface upon which you can paint temporarily with water–and a cup of roasted barley tea.

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Apricot-Glazed Corned Beef with Kimchi

Apricot-Glazed Corned Beef with Kimchi and Potato Crisps

Apricot-Glazed Corned Beef with Kimchi and Potato Crisps

I really like authentic dishes that represent their native lands. But, I also like it when chefs fuse two disparate cuisines and pair them in an exciting way. This apricot-glazed corned beef with kimchi does just that.

I took the classic Irish-American corned beef and cabbage dish, and gave it a Korean twist. The corned beef is roasted slowly in the oven with ½ cup of kimchi juice (the red liquid that accumulates inside the kimchi container). This infuses the kimchi with a hint of spiciness; it’s subtle as corned beef has a very strong flavor on its own. If you don’t have easy access to kimchi, you can still make the apricot-glazed corned beef; just substitute water or beer for the kimchi juice. Slow-roasting the corned beef at a low temperature in the oven ensures the meat will be nice and tender.

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Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi-Bokkeumbap)

Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi-Bokkeumbap)

Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi-Bokkeumbap)

When it comes to Korean food, living in Chicago has really spoiled me. One of my favorite haunts is the King Spa and Sauna—a Korean spa that’s pretty much paradise on earth. On top of their spa amenities, they have a food court that features authentic Korean dishes, including eggs cooked in the hottest sauna at the spa! Despite, or I guess because of, the extreme heat, it’s my favorite sauna.

Right next to the King Spa is one of the best Asian grocery stores I’ve seen: H-Mart. It’s an Asian (primarily Korean) grocer the size of a big-box retailer, and its tremendous selection always spurs me to experiment with Korean cooking at home. Out of these experiments have emerged several favorites, one of those being kimchi fried rice.

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