Food Focused: In the Kitchen with Korean Chef Andrew Do
K-pop, Soju, BBQ – there’s been a rapid emergence of Korean culture in the mainstream, and we couldn’t be happier. Much of this is a manifestation of the second generation Korean-Americans who are opening the doors of Korean practices and establishments to the public, in quite a literal way. This exposure has consequently been amplified through the connectivity of social media. Luckily, we’re only a few miles away from Koreatown, which boasts the largest population of Koreans in the United States. This means we have access to a seemingly endless number of both traditional and newer Korean restaurants. But let’s face it – Korean food can be very intimidating; often times menus have no English translation and there’s a whole world of intricate, bewildering dishes beyond all-you-can-eat BBQ and Bulgogi. We recently spent some time with second generation Korean Chef Andrew Do, who has been hosting monthly pop-ups named Issé, a slang term for second generation Koreans. The dishes Chef Do offers at Issé are dedicated to balancing the old and the new, paying respect to the traditional roots of his culinary heritage but making food familiar and approachable as the street food you’d encounter on the sidewalks of Seoul. We hungrily joined Andy in the kitchen where he shared with us some tips and revelations about ordering and eating Korean food.
“I truly love Korean food. It has always been a huge part of my childhood. We ate Korean meals three times a day; it was even packed for our school lunches. When other kids ate sandwiches and milk, my brother and I ate Gimbap (vegetable rice roll). As a second generation Korean-American child growing up with only homemade food, it was a treat to get soft tacos from Taco Bell! My grandmother often took care of us while our parents were working and she introduced me to the traditional flavors of Korean food.”
As Korean food is beginning to be popularized, I’ve noticed that most places are pitching Korean BBQ or Bimbimbap, and although both are delicious types of Korean cuisine, many of these places didn’t have staple dishes that represent the traditional Korean flavors like my grandma’s cooking. It was here I realized if I wanted to enjoy the more formal flavors I grew up with, I had to make it myself. I went to the New School of Cooking for culinary training, and soon after became inspired to form Issé. This is award that perfectly describes my cuisine; it showcases the Korean food culture through the lens of a second generation Korean-American.”
“Kimchi, one of the most recognizable of Korean food, is a staple served at every meal. However, not all Kimchi is spicy and red. People typically refer to it as ‘white kimchi’, Baek Kimchi is a non-spicy fermented napa cabbage. This is a great stepping stone for people who are still getting used to the intensity of red Kimchi. I love taking the broth of white Kimchi and using it as a could soup base for a cold noodle dish called Dong Chi Mi Gook Soo. Definitely eat your noodles with some Baek Kimchi for full flavor effect.”
“Rice is also a staple at every meal, and comes in all colors in the Korean cuisine. Do not fear the purple rice. My grandmother and mother often cooked Japgok Bap, this colorful mixed grain rice because it is actually much healthier for you to eat than white rice. Even though many places automatically bring you white rice, definitely ask your server to bring you Japgok Bak instead!”
“Despite the recent popularization of All-You-Can-Eat BBQ, red meat plays a different role in traditional Korean culture. Dishes like Galbi Jim, a braised beef stew, is typically served during celebrations and holidays because it’s considered a more expensive and decadent meal. Galbi Jim tastes like Bulgogi on steroids. You’ll find this on the top of the price list at Korean restaurants, and usually it’s well justified not just because of the quality of meat, but also the blood, sweat and tears it takes to make this dish. Order this and you’ll gain instant street cred from the first generation and the people at your table will thank you, trust me.”
“Korean drinking culture goes hand in hand with their food culture. No Korean meal would be complete without Soju (Korean rice wine). Soju is a common drink that accompanies Korean dishes because it compliments its bold flavors. To enhance my dining experience, I often have Soju and Korean pale ales with my meals. It makes the dining experience a more authentic one where you have good food in good company for some good times; just make sure you say ‘Gun Bae’ when you cheers!”
Visit www.isselosangeles.com for updates and information about upcoming events.
Andrew wears the Louis optical frame in Dusk.