“I always look forward to Lunar New Year, but New Year’s Eve seems to just creep up on you, especially when you have restaurants,” says Sohui Kim, chef and co-owner of Insa (as well as The Good Fork, which closed in 2020, and Gage & Tollner, which is due to open in 2021). “It’s a big deal at the restaurant, and I’m usually at work—so I never get my act together to celebrate it properly.”
Still, she always finds a way to make the holiday special, usually by cooking a meal for extended family at her home in Brooklyn. This year, Kim says the celebration will require some improvising—and some Zoom time. “The shadow of the coronavirus is pretty dark—so we have to be strategic in how we do it,” she notes. Having video guests may make this Lunar New Year feel a bit different than those in the past, but in terms of menu, Kim says it will be mostly the same—and leaning into tradition can be a comfort in a time of tumult. Here’s what she’s serving.
This good luck rice cake soup, Kim says, “is the one thing that has to be on the table. The idea is that it makes you a year older and wiser. When I was a kid in Korea, the grown-ups would say, ‘If you don’t eat this rice cake soup, you won’t get to turn a year older’—so we always ate the soup.”
In Korea, beef is usually reserved for special occasions, Kim says. That tradition relates to “the history of not being able to afford expensive cuts of beef or any beef for that matter—so it’s very celebratory.” The broth makes a hearty soup base, to which Kim likes to add rice cakes and dumplings. “As the soup cooks, the starch from the dumpling skin and rice cakes thickens the broth, giving it a nice viscosity—it’s smooth, luscious, and soul-satisfying,” she says. If you don’t eat beef, though, Kim says you can substitute a savory anchovy broth: “Koreans often use a sort of master anchovy stock made using dried anchovies, dried mushrooms, and a little bit of kombu.”
Tteokguk (Good Luck Korean Rice Cake Soup)Sohui Kim
Bon AppétitInsa; Brooklyn, NYC
Kim keeps kimchi in her refrigerator at all times and eats it with almost every meal. “Even when I’m not making Korean food, I’ll shove it into a grilled cheese sandwich,” she says. For Lunar New Year, she’ll set out a big bowl of kimchi for everyone to enjoy how they please: “They can put some in their soup, or eat it alongside if they want,” Kim says. Since the soup itself is not fiery, “adding a little kimchi to spike it is highly recommended; that’s how I eat it.”
The best part about Kim’s kimchi recipe is that it works with any vegetables you have on hand, you can use “cabbage, cucumbers, fennel, anything really—it’s best with in-season vegetables,” Kim says. But there’s one other essential ingredient for making great kimchi: gochugaru, a red pepper powder that has a “floral flavor with a sweet afternote.”
“Don’t be afraid of the fermentation process,” she urges. Simply toss your vegetables in a bowl with salt and sugar, and let them sit at room temperature a few hours. Then toss in some scallions, gochugaru, garlic, fish sauce, and fresh ginger. At this point, you can serve it right away, or store it in a jar and let it ferment for a couple more days. “The flavors will deepen over time,” Kim says.
Bon AppétitSohui Kim of Insa; Brooklyn
Pork and chive dumplings
These dumplings were among the first dishes Kim put on The Good Fork menu over a decade ago. “In my opinion, dumplings are one of those perfect foods—they are soulful, flavorful, and comforting,” she writes in The Good Fork cookbook. She loves this recipe, in particular, because it’s a hybrid of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese dumplings.
The combination of pork, chives, and tofu—traditionally found in mandoo—in the filling lends a silky texture that’s less meatball-like than many dumpling fillings, Kim says, and the hoisin and dark soy sauce bring the perfect sweet and salty flavors. Kim recommends prepping a big batch of dumplings for Lunar New Year and stashing any extras in the freezer by the dozen.
Pork and Chive DumplingsSohui Kim
Originally Appeared on Epicurious