Sunday | November 19, 2017
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Cookbook focuses on Korean food

The Honolulu Star Advertiser and Mutual Publishing are doing a series of cookbooks exploring Hawaii’s ethnic foods. The first cookbook launched is “Hawaii Cooks: A Korean Kitchen” cookbook by Joan Namkoong. Joan, a fellow foodie and member of Les Dames d’ Escoffier, worked for the Honolulu Advertiser and is currently a freelance writer living on the Big Island.

Joan traces back her family from her maternal grandparents coming from Seoul, South Korea, and her father from Hongchun, Kangwondo Province. Her parents were married in San Francisco in 1943 and moved to Hawaii after World War II.

On July 26, 1952, Joan’s father opened Korean Garden Restaurant on Ala Moana Boulevard, one of the earliest Korean restaurants in Hawaii.

“A Korean Kitchen Cookbook” is fun to read because Joan has a story with every recipe. One story that was interesting, on page 34, is about the tofu lees or dregs. It is called “okara” in Japanese and is one of my favorite, inexpensive dishes. In Korean, “okara” is called “piji.”

“I remember my dad bringing paper bags full of piji home like a prize find from the tofu factory where it was to be discarded or given to pig farmers. My mother would cook it with pork and sour kimchi; eaten over rice it is a hearty and delicious dish that is often overlooked today,” Joans says in her book.

Soybean Dreg Stew

Serves 2

Joan Namkoong

3 ounces ground pork

8 ounces tofu lees

1 cup sour kimchi

2 cups pork stock or water

2 tablespoons (or more) kochu jang (chili pepper paste)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 green onions, coarsely chopped

In a medium saucepan, brown the ground pork over medium high heat. Add the tofu lees, kimchi, and water and mix together. Add the kochu jang and soy sauce and blend well. Bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the green onions and cook an additional 2 minutes. Serve with hot rice.


When you think of Korean food, you automatically think of kimchi. Joan says kimchi came with the Korean immigrants in the early 1900s. I can only imagine how the ships smelled after the long voyages!

“The first company to make and sell kimchi in Hawaii as Joe Kim. Joe was the oldest som of Chin Wha and Theresa So Chun Kim, he was an immigrant sugar plantation worker, she his picture bride. The family grew won bok in Kalihi Valley in the 1930s. One day, a freak hailstorm damaged the crop and Joe suggested that his mother make kimchi with the cabbage that could be salvaged. Theresa Kim did just that and began peddling her kimchi to vegetable stands. Eventually they bottled the kimchi under the name Diamond Kimchi, later renamed Joe Kim’s.

“In 1949, Hannah Liu founder Kohala Kimchi in Kapaau on the island of Hawaii. Keaau Kimchi, started by Ya Mul Kim, began around the same time on the opposite side of the island. In 1955, Helen Hahm started Halm’s Kimchi and expanded her market to the U.S. mainland.”

The most popular kimchi at the market is the won bok kimchi or “paechu kimchi.”

Won Bok Kimchi

Makes 1 quart

1 head won bok, (Chinese cabbage) about 2 pounds

2 tablespoon salt

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 teaspoon finely minced ginger

¼ cup green onion, about 2 stalks

2 tablespoon kochu karu (chili pepper powder)

1 tablespoon fish sauce

Remove outer leaves of won bok and rinse. Cut won bok crosswise in 2-inch pieces. Place won bok in a large bowl, sprinkle with salt and toss together. Let stand for 3 to 4 hours or until won bok is wilted and has lost some of its crunchiness.

Drain the won bok in a colander and rinse, tossing well under the water to remove the salt. Drain and return won bok to large bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients to the won bok and mix well. Pack kimchi into a jar and cover. Let stand on kitchen countertop for a day before refrigerating. If you want your kimchi to sour quickly, do not refrigerate but leave on the counter. Within a couple of days the kimchi will turn sour.


Joan’s interpretation of the famous one-dish Korean meal “pibimpap — literally, mixed up rice — is a popular dish today: an assortment of vegetables and meat served on a bed of rice, topped with a sunny side egg and garnished with kochu jang. It is served with flourish, sometimes in a hot stone pot that makes the rice sizzle at the bottom, turning the rice into a brown, crusty crust.

“While some might say this was a dish of the royal palace, pibimpap could have started more humbly like the Korean fried rice I grew up on. Consider that a Korean meal consists of many pnachan or side dishes. What to do with all those leftovers after the meal? Arrange them attractively on top of rice, of course, fry up an egg to add a little more protein and serve it with a spicy sauce. The Korean diner, of course, mixes it all up before eating it with a spoon-just like mom did in the frying pan!”

Foodie Bites

Hawaii Community College’s Hilo Cafeteria is a great place for a great, inexpensive lunch. Call them at 934-2559 for “spooky” specials for Halloween on Thursday.

This Saturday is the Lilikoi Festival at the Hawaiian Paradise Park Activity Center in Keaau. Come to check out the food and fun from 10a.m. Contestants start bringing their dishes from 8 a.m.

Sunday is the KTA Super Stores Kona Coffee Festival Recipe Contest being held at the Sheraton Kona Resort and spa from 12:30-3:30p.m.

Sunday evening, the Hilo Hospital Foundation’s Annual Wine and Cheese event is being held at Hilo Hawaiian Hotel at 6 p.m.

It’s a busy weekend for foodies!

The Hawaii Honey Festival is Nov. 23 at Nani Mau Gardens from 11a.m. to 5 p.m. Check out for details.

Happy Halloween!

Please feel free to e-mail me at if you have a question. Bon appetit until next week.


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