For me, comic books were something my older brothers and cousins collected — first-edition superhero ones that surely would be worth a fortune now, had my aunt not thrown them out years ago, alas.
But to cook out of a comic book?
Now, that’s a new one on me.
But Robin Ha’s delightful “Cook Korean! A Comic Book with Recipes” (Ten Speed Press), lured me to do just that. The unique, whimsical cookbook, of which I received a review copy, was both written and illustrated by Ha, a professional illustrator and creator of the blog, Banchan in 2 Pages, who was born in Seoul and now makes her home in New York.
The 175-page book is hard to put down because the illustrations alone are so captivating. The recipes may require a trip to the Korean or Asian market, but they are straightforward home-style ones. Ha shows you how to make many variations of kimchi, everyone’s favorite grilled beef short ribs (kalbi), comfort dishes such as sweet pumpkin porridge, and even killer cocktails such as yogurt soju.
“Kimchi Pancake” is one of those last-minute dishes you can throw together in a flash when there’s barely anything in the fridge. Well, granted, if you keep a ready supply of kimchi, which you ought to do because the fermented pickles come in so handy for so many things.
Mix up kimchi, some of the kimchi liquid, flour and water to make the batter. Ha wisely adds ground pork to make the pancakes richer and a little more substantial tasting. As an alternative, she says, you could also use canned tuna or canned oysters. My husband, aka Meat Boy, went one further, recommending pulled pork or Spam. And yes, they would be awesome additions.
Ladle in some of the batter in a hot frying pan, flipping the pancake over once it’s set, to brown the other side. It’s that easy.
Turn it out onto a plate. A pizza cutter makes quick work of cutting it into slices. The pancake is crisp, with the kimchi adding delicious spiciness, as well as tangy, fermented character.
Enjoy it as an appetizer or even a main course with a bowl of steamed rice and some sauteed greens.
You’ll marvel at just what a comic book can teach you.
(Makes 4 to 6 servings)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup water
1/3 cup kimchi juice
1 1/2 cups kimchi
1 Korean green chile pepper (optional)
1/4 cup ground pork
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, water, and kimchi juice until there are no lumps.
Cut the kimchi into small pieces. If you want it extra spicy, cut a green chile pepper into thin rings, too. Then, mix the kimchi, ground pork, and green chile into the batter.
Heat a large nonstick pan with plenty of oil over high heat. Pour one big ladleful of the batter in it. Quickly spread the batter evenly with a ladle or spatula and reduce the heat to medium. Leave it to cook for about 5 minutes. When the bottom of the pancake has formed a golden brown crust, flip it with a spatula. Drizzle a bit more oil around the edges and shake the pan to spread the oil. Cook the pancake until the second side is crispy. Then, turn the heat down to low and leave it for a minute or two to cook through.
Transfer the pancake to a serving plate and cut it into easy-to-share pieces.
From “Cook Korean!” by Robin Ha
More Korean Recipes to Try: Joanne’s Mom’s Korean Pancake