While doing their part to maintain social distance, home cooks everywhere are honing their skills in the kitchen. Feast consulted with some of St. Louis' finest chefs and business owners for their best advice on how to make easy, wholesome meals using simple pantry staples. Find out how to make the most of your groceries in this Q&A series, which outlines some pro tips for creating nutritious and comforting from-scratch meals, snacks and more.
Munsok So is the president and CEO of So Hospitality Group, which owns and operates local Japanese sushi staple Drunken Fish, Korean fried chicken restaurant Kimchi Guys and event space/catering company 612North. Drunken Fish and Kimchi Guys both currently offer online ordering. Check out their respective websites, drunkenfish.com and kimchiguys.com, for menus and options for pickup or delivery.
What are some pantry staples commonly used in Korean cooking that home cooks can use to take their cooking to the next level? Gochujang (Korean red pepper paste), gochugaru (Korean red pepper powder), ganjang (soy sauce) and sesame oil – probably the four most commonly used ingredients in Korean cooking. But the fifth most used ingredient is garlic. Koreans consume some of the most garlic in the world. You won't see any vampires anywhere near Korea. First dates are mostly ruined by this stat as well.
Do you have a secret weapon ingredient? Kimchi would be my sword of choice. It’s a fermented spicy pickled cabbage, the national dish of Korea. It’s spicy, garlicky, bold and funky. It’s got tons of probiotics, so it is great for your gut health. It’s so versatile, you can add it to anything – ramen, stir-fries, soups, Korean BBQ or just simply eat it by itself. Just make sure not to kiss anyone directly afterwards.
What are some of your best pro tips for making kimchi at home? Right before winter, the Korean cabbage is the best quality. Head to your local Korean market and snatch you some. Watch one of 8,000 YouTube videos on how to make kimchi and go at it. My personal umami bomb for flavor-enhancing kimchi is combining fish sauce with fermented shrimp paste to really put the funk in FUNK!
After you have made your kimchi, just let it sit in your refrigerator and ferment. Each day that goes by, you will see less visitors come to your home as the intensity of smells coming out of your refrigerator from your kimchi ferments. The decision you have to critically make is how much you love eating kimchi over having a social life! Seriously, though, kimchi is some of the best kinds of food you can consume for your health. I highly recommend it.
When you're cooking at home, what are some of your go-to comfort dishes? My all time go-to dish to make at home is spicy pork rib and tofu soup. Serve it with a side of kimchi; pork and kimchi is an amazing combination together!