If you’ve ever dined at a Korean restaurant, you know that every main course is served alongside a shareable spread of side dishes, known as banchan. In the spring of 2015, Shin Kim, a Seoul native and New York transplant, decided to bring these sides to center stage by launching Banchan Story, a culinary studio in lower Manhattan. Out of her kitchen start-up, she teaches the creation of traditional Korean dishes to home cooks at all skill levels, from fumbling beginners to second-generation Korean Americans eager to recover lost family recipes.
In 2008, a career switch from finance to food led Kim to enroll in New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Armed with her new degree, she refined her craft at several of the city’s finest French restaurants, where butter, cream, and salt abound. As for her path to becoming a small business owner, Kim says, “There are other ways of cooking that don’t sacrifice flavor or health”—which is why she returned to her roots for a little inspiration.
The seasonal ingredients Kim incorporates in her menus for hands-on classes are just as hearty and flavorful as they are steeped in Korea’s cultural heritage. Last spring, Kim shadowed Jeong Kwan—a virtuoso chef and longtime Buddhist nun—at her Chunjinam hermitage in South Korea. Under Kwan’s tutelage, Kim received a crash course in Buddhist temple cuisine, age-old fermenting techniques, and the merits of a plant-based diet. “As we foraged for spring herbs and planted vegetables in the fields,” Kim recalls, “it became clear that we were one step of a much larger process.”
CAULIFLOWER POPCORN IN SWEET GOCHUJANG GLAZE
Makes 4 side servings
Recipe from Vegetarian Dishes from My Korean Home, by Shin Kim
Sweet Gochujang Glaze
1⁄4 cup (60 g) Korean fermented red pepper paste (gochujang)
2 tablespoons Japanese apricot syrup (maesil aek) or agave syrup
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 tablespoon water
Batter and Cauliflower
1⁄2 cup (90 g) potato starch
1⁄2 cup (80 g) all-purpose flour
3⁄4 cup (180 ml) water
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch ground black pepper
Neutral vegetable oil, such as sunflower or canola oil, for deep-frying
1 (1 pound/450 g) head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
1 tablespoon toasted pumpkin seeds, for garnish (optional)
1. To make the gochujang glaze: In a large skillet, heat the gochujang, apricot syrup, sugar, soy sauce, and water over low heat, stirring often to combine thoroughly. Remove from the heat when it comes to a boil. Set aside.
2. To make the batter: In a large bowl, whisk together the potato starch, our, water, salt, and pepper to a smooth consistency.
3. Fill a deep, heavy pot about halfway with oil and heat over medium heat. Add a drop of the batter to see if the oil is hot enough for frying: when it is ready, the batter piece will sizzle and start floating right away.
4. To fry the cauliflower: Mix the florets into the batter to coat completely. In batches, without crowding, gently shake off excess batter from the cauliflower and carefully add to the pot. The battered cauliflower will drop to the bottom first, then float to the surface as it fries. When the florets look crispy all around, about 5 minutes, transfer to a plate. Repeat with the rest of the cauliflower.
5. Before serving, fry the cauliflower one more time in batches for about 3 minutes, until the pieces have a crispy texture and golden color.
6. Transfer the cauliflower to the skillet with the gochujang glaze. Over low heat, fold gently with a wooden spoon to nicely coat the cauliflower in the glaze.
7. Transfer the glazed cauliflower to a plate and garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds, if desired. Serve warm.
Shin Kim will be teaching “Korean Buddhist Cooking,” a four-week Tricycle Online Course set to run this April. To learn more and sign up, visit learn.tricycle.org.