Hooni Kim, of Danji in New York City, fully embraces heritage in his food, bringing French precision and flavors to traditional Korean cuisine. In two beef dishes, one prepared in a traditionally French style and the other in a traditionally Korean style, Kim put forth authentic Asian flavors.
The demonstration began with a steak tartar that combined both classic French and Korean tones. The rich Australian Wagyu tenderloin was prominently flavored by sweet notes of sesame oil, garlic and ginger, which fused well with hints of vinegar.
The dish had a great balance in texture - crunchy toasted pine nuts and sesame seeds were well integrated into the tartar, and the dish was garnished with a thin, crispy and refreshing slices of Korean pear.
Kim then featured a traditional Korean Beef Bulgogi, made from brisket that was marinated for 24 to 36 hours in a sauce of ginger, garlic sesame oil and pear puree. The bulgogi, topped with scallions and thinly sliced carrots, was incredibly tender. Kim adds pear puree to naturally tenderize the meat, so it can capture all the flavors of the marinade.
The tradition of Asian cooking is passed down from generation to generation, and this intergenerational connection serves as a powerful inspiration in Kim’s food. And to preserve authentic flavors that Kim aspires to, he relies on Korean imports for the majority of his staple ingredients – including soy sauce, sesame oil, and miso paste.
After the presentation, I asked Chef Kim what exactly was it about French food that lent itself so well to Korean cuisine. In his opinion, it was a matter of technique – in that precision and technique enhanced signature Korean flavors in a way that differentiates it from other Asian dishes.
Photos by John M. Sconzo, M.D.