An indispensable new guide to the food of Korea from an MFWF alumnus.

Junghyun Park is an internationally acclaimed chef known for his pioneering approach to gastronomy. Born in South Korea, he embarked on a culinary journey that led him to Melbourne, Australia, where he immersed himself in the city’s vibrant food culture. During his formative years in Melbourne, Junghyun Park honed his culinary skills at prestigious establishments, working with Andrew McConnell and at restaurants such as Attica and Vue de Monde. It was in the diverse and dynamic culinary scene of Melbourne that he absorbed a wide range of influences and pushed the boundaries of traditional flavours. This experience in Victoria played a pivotal role in shaping his innovative culinary style, fusing global inspirations with his South Korean heritage – something that dazzled MFWF guests when he was last here for the festival in March 2019.

As the founder of some of New York City’s most inventive and critically acclaimed restaurants, including Atoboy and Atomix, Park has won recognition for his ability to push culinary boundaries, earning accolades and a devoted following from food enthusiasts worldwide. Now he has cemented his place in the firmament of international champions of Korean cooking, co-authoring a rich guide to the cuisine of Korea for Phaidon press simply titled The Korean Cookbook.

Here’s JP on what it took to write this epic doorstopper, and what he’d like you to take from it.

We wrote The Korean Cookbook over years of sleepless nights and editing sessions, navigating inverse time zones across Seoul and NYC. My co-author, Jungyoon Choi and I maintained a weekly meeting schedule on Monday morning NYC time during which we would discuss ideas, review our writings or edit notes; over the remainder of the week, we would work in between all of our full-time work commitments to make independent progress.

The pitch to the publisher was that now was the time for hansik, traditional Korean cuisine, to shine. The initial conversations about a cookbook centred around my personal cuisine, but I felt that it was more necessary to introduce the world to the beauty of hansik, especially when the general interest in it has risen in recent years.

The main thing I learned writing The Korean Cookbook was the palpable depth of hansik, as well as the amount of history or knowledge that has been forgotten, that needs to be uncovered. Korea’s cuisine has thousands of years of history, yet there are many techniques, ingredients, dishes, and regional specialities that have become rare or that have fallen out of practice. Many of these gems exist in oral history or in family techniques rather than on paper or even online. Our in-depth three-year research and writing journey showed me a glimpse of that wealth of knowledge that exists.

If you take one thing from this book, it should be that this book is not simply a collection of recipes, but it also tells the story of how Koreans eat, and how joyful it is. From the banchan and bansang culture, which shapes the story of hansik and our people’s way of eating, to the regional traditions and how they have come to be, Korean cuisine tells the story of our deep history and culture, and the way that we exist as people.

But I’d also love it if you tried to not just treat each dish as its own, but apply the Korean principle of “bap and banchan” – pairing dishes with rice. This way of eating is truly the pillar of Korean cuisine, and we encourage any reader or home cook to experiment with their own preferred pairings, creating balanced meals within their own definition.

If you’re a relatively new cook, give the spinach namul a try. This is one of the most popular namul banchan in Korea, and it can often be seen at any Korean restaurant’s banchan spread. It’s simple to prepare, delicious, and even healthy.

If you’re looking to extend yourself a bit more, meanwhile, try one of the many kimchi recipes. While fermentation is considered a more difficult or advanced technique, it’s also one of the most rewarding. One of the perks of making kimchi at home is the ability to enjoy its development and really explore that taste that only time can impart. Moreover, like with any technique, the more you practice it, the more intuitive and easier it becomes – we hope that anyone exploring kimchi-making can feel equipped and confident to explore using the techniques of kimchi to various ingredients, with the master steps outlined in the chapter opener.

When I’m weighing up buying a cookbook or a book about food for myself, I look for cookbooks that are inspiring – new combinations of ingredients or techniques, or to introduce myself to new cuisines. Cookbooks are a source of years of wisdom and commitment that the author has explored and painstakingly documented; to have that access in your home library is a great privilege.

The books I refer to most often when I’m cooking are everything. I look to really diverse books to combine new ideas, and often will combine different aspects from different books to explore new ideas and expand my boundaries of creativity.

When you’ve finished reading The Korean Cookbook, I hope you’ll visit Korea!

The Korean Cookbook by Junghyun Park and Jungyoon Choi (Phaidon, RRP $74.95) is available from good booksellers now.