Customer Reviews: The Kimchi Chronicles: Korean Cooking for an American Kitchen
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My family had the pleasure of living in Pusan, SK for three and half years. One of our favorite weekend things to do was get on the subway and just ride, getting off randomly and explore the area. The food was fabulous and different, spicy and fragrant. We would see the older women sitting on curbs rinsing giant bunches of cabbage for kimchi. None of the four of us spoke more than the most basic of Hangul, thank you, please, etc, but everyone was gracious and willing to help us.

We'd stand at the rolling carts eating hot food off a stick or go into little holes in the walls (literally,it would not be unusual to go in somewhere that had maybe three tables and someone sleeping in the back separated only by a curtain) hand over some won and be fed. Half the time we had no idea what we were even eating but it was delicious.

The Kimchi Chronicles bring back those wonderful ingredients, memories, and the unique individuality of Korean food. We haven't had the pleasure of seeing the PBS series yet, but Marja Vongerichten evokes the feeling of Korea in her cookbook. She does an excellent job of explaining the ingredients. The book is full of pictures of finished recipes which is very helpful when exploring a new cuisine.

Chapter one, which is on Kimchee, might be surprising for anyone unfamiliar with Korean food. Kimchee is not just the pickled red cabbage we associate with the word. Marja (not spelling out the last name every single time, sorry) shows how different food works together to make an entire experience, not just a meal.

Okay, so the book's pretty, has pictures, and food in Korea is yummy, none of that really matters if the recipes don't work.

If you want to start with the more familiar there are recipes for bulgogi and spiced pork chops. The pork chops were delicious. The seafood and scallion Pajeon (crispy seafood and scallion pancakes) taste like we are standing in the middle of the street eating them straight off a vendor cart in Korea.

The ingredient list and instructions are well written out and easy to understand. The Ingredients can be found in most grocery stores plus a few in a market for Asian foods. Nothing so far has been at all hard to find.

Excellent cookbook with delicious recipes, try Korean Cuisine, your taste buds will thank you.
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on November 6, 2011
I'm Korean and come from a long line of Korean cooks. While I am thrilled that Marja spreads awareness of how amazing Korean cuisine is, these recipes don't reflect that. How can she go to the best places in Korea for the creme de la creme of dishes and put the most ghetto, fast food type recipes in this book? Only the McDonald's type restaurants in Korea would serve this. Jean Georges' fusion recipes are great however and I give a star for that. I'm sorry, Marja. I absolutely LOVE your show, it's just super disappointing you could not put the same effort into an equally stellar cookbook. Please don't use ingredients like dashida and 7-UP in your recipes. Good Korean cooking is about the freshest, most wholesome ingredients.
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on November 21, 2011
Written for American tastebuds, The Kimchi Chronicles is a great segue into Korean cuisine. The recipes are simple and easy to follow. While some may not agree with some of Marja's breaking down of certain recipes into their most simplistic and basic ingredients, I argue to say that it is a good thing, in that the core Korean flavor profiles will become well understood by readers/Korean cuisine inductees.

Comprehending basic tastes is integral to being able to produce any kind of complex flavor and I appreciate the amount of care and warmth Marja uses to approach each ingredient and element of the cuisine. Being a biracial asian-american myself, growing up essentially all-american, I also found myself completely relating to her search for connections to her cultural roots during early adulthood, particularly via food. I did much of the same when I was growing up.

Many of the dishes presented in this cookbook are among the most basic in Korean cuisine, while others, by her husband, are somewhat fancy fusion creations. I even got some validation from my wife (native Korean) that the kimchi hotdogs that I had been making over the past few years were not just a product of my insanity, and that there were actually others who thought it was a good idea too. While I enjoyed Jean-Georges' recipes, I do feel that they tended to dominate the cookbook, and I wasn't able to see enough of Marja's cooking. If I were to improve anything in future volumes of her "Chronicles" series, I would recommend that we see more of her recipes, instead of her husband's.

Overall, a very enjoyable cookbook. I recommend it to American and Asian-American audiences who are relatively new to Korean cooking.

(I received this cookbook as a part of my local public radio station's cookbook club)
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on August 12, 2011
This is my 1st Korean cookbook ever. I myself am Korean but have yet to try any type of cooking of my native foods. I usually go out to eat at Korean restuarant whenever the urge for Korean food comes up. This book has definitely inspired me to try Korean cooking at home. It's true some of the recipes are decidedly not Korean rather Korean inspired. The recipes are much more approachable to a novice Korean cook like myself.

I love all of the personal touches in this book, little anecdotal stories, photos and a really great foreword from Jean-Georges. The photos are absolutely beautiful. The stories are great because you learn a lot about Korean food and Korean culture. Reading the Marja's introduction literally made me cry. (I'm a total sucker for stories about children.)

I think even if you are a seasoned Korean cook this would be a wonderful addition to your library.
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on May 2, 2012
My husband and I knew how to make three (count 'em, three) Korean dishes altogether--galbi, bulgogi and barbecued eel. We are always expanding our pan-Asian cookbook library, and recently decided it was time to try Korean cooking. After looking through many Korean cookbooks, I decided on this one because a) it didn't look like Japanese versions of Korean food, b) it had some very good-looking veggie recipes, and c) it was under $30. We tried the veggie recipes right away, and were beyond pleased that they tasted very different from our Japanese/Chinese/Thai/Indian recipes. Try the simple but amazing scallion salad, or the carrot/butternut squash slaw. We have also tried the bulgogi recipe from the book. It's...very different from the one we had, which was spicy and salty. This one was earthy and sweet. I do resent the use of cola in the sauce when there's already Asian pear and sugar at my disposal--I feel it didn't add much flavor and I wasted the money spent on cola I wouldn't drink otherwise. The use of shitake mushrooms was nice, though. The sweet and spicy fried chicken was amazing--so amazing that I don't care whether it's authentic or not. So was the corn on the cob w/ mayo and red pepper powder. There's a promising-looking glass noodle beef dish in there, too... At some point we may buy a more upscale Korean book, but for starters I'm sold.
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on August 22, 2013
I've been a huge fan of the Kimchi Chronicles series, especially when Marja's trips to Korea are showcased. However, the cookbook was very disappointing - I should have paid closer attention to the title - "Korean Cooking for an American kitchen." The first part of the book gives a wonderful introduction to Marja, her personal story, and the basic ingredients of Korean cooking. However, the rest of the book is really written for the American interested in dabbling with a fusion style of Korean cuisine. Recipes featuring Jean George's (Marja's French husband) interpretation of Korean dishes frequently appear, as do those suggesting American ingredients (Kimchi jjigae (stew) with a slice of American cheese; Grilled corn with Mayo/Gochugaru; HOT DOGS with kimchi relish). Other recipes present dishes that could easily lend themselves to other Asian cuisines - Spinach sauteed with garlic/soy sauce, cold broccoli salad, tuna tartare, raw scallops with green tea.

Overall, most of the recipes are simple, with a short list of ingredients that won't require access to an Asian market. If you're looking for an American introduction to Korean/fusion dishes, this book may be helpful. However, if you're seeking authentic, traditional Korean recipes, look elsewhere. is a good place to start (I have no affiliation with her but have found her online videos and recipes to be very helpful and easy to follow).
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on September 20, 2014
Just got the book for two week, but already tried a number of recipes, all coming out quite well. I plan to try to more. One issue I have so far, though, is the recipes ask for too much meat. "Easy Braised Chicken" and "Spicy Pork Stir-Fry" would taste best with half the meat.

The book vendor is great. I got the book for half the price, and it is as new as a new book.
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on July 31, 2014
The story of Marja is interesting, but the recipes we've tried so far have been very bland. We've thrown the food out. Yes, I recognize these recipes are not authentic, but they could at least be tasty. My husband who is Korean is very disappointed with this purchase. We can only hope to see his mom again soon to get some more recipes from her.
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on October 29, 2011
I bought this cook book for my husband after watching the authors who were featured on a NPR show called the Kimchi Chronicles. My husband, who is a newbie in the kitchen, loves spicy Korean food. His first dish from the cook book was spicy grilled chicken - the best chicken I've ever tasted. His second dish was stuffed squid which was also excellent. Most of the ingredients are easy to find in the Asian section of our stores here in Hawaii. The book is interspersed with tidbits of the authors lives I find fascinating - all in all my favorite cook book I've bought in a long time.
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on March 17, 2012
I was in Korea in 1971. I loved the kimchi that was made for me. It had the preserved salted shrimp not some other fish. Now I am in Korea retired and I only taste Kimchi made with oysters. The oyster variety ranges from very good to nothing to write home about. The kimchi recipe in this book is exactly what I have been searching for. I upped the garlic and ginger root and used the sand lance fish sauce. I used one cabbage that was large but 8 inches by 16 inches. I ended up with about 5 quarts of Kimchi with this one cabbage. When she talks about large she should give more exact measurements by weight. I am in love with this recipe. It is the taste that I wanted but was kept from me for years. Cutting up the cabbage instead of preserving the cabbage and folding in the seasoning might not be authentic but it works well for me. I can't get enough of this kimchi. My wife likes it sour and it may not last that long. This kimchi was made with quality ingredients and it was well worth the money. While it was there was no savings to make it myself the result was no comparison to what I could buy.

I like the book and started reading it. It was interesting. Other recipes in the book looked like they should be tried out. To me when a cookbook has a recipe that is great then it is worth the price of the cookbook. This recipe really is worth the price of the whole cookbook. I know I will be making the bean pancakes with the kimchi if the kimchi lasts long enough to get sour. This cookbook is definitely worth recommending. It will be one of those cookbooks I use to get ideas for cooking.
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