Mott St chef Edward Kim's stuffed kimchi and pork shoulder lasagna Credit: Sam Horine

I’ve been whinging about the balkanization of Chicago’s Koreatown for years. Most of the good old mom-and-pop places have closed shop or moved out to burbs like Niles and Mount Prospect. And yet next-generation restaurants, while not centralized, are doing their own thing in the city, and doing it reasonably well. Taking into account the groundbreaking work of places like Parachute, Bill Kim’s mini empire, and Mott St, to say nothing of BopNGrill, Crisp, and other fast-casual options, it’s safe to say that hallyu, or “the Korean Wave,” has pretty thoroughly drenched us, culinarily speaking. 

That’s pretty much the subject of Koreatown: A Cookbook, by Manhattan chef Deuki Hong and food writer Matt Rodbard, who quested across the land to document Korean food culture’s current state of affairs, producing probably the best cookbook I’ve seen on the subject.

All of the essential dishes are here, from jjampong to gamjatang to bossam to  japchae, plus a fascinating selection of forward-thinking recipes by accomplished chefs, like Danny Bowien’s seollontang with smoked brisket and sea urchin, Sean Brock’s cornmeal and shrimp pajeon, and Edward Lee’s red cabbage-bacon kimchi.

The authors paid a visit to Chicago (friend of the Food Chain @chicgaoagashi makes a cameo), where they dropped in on Slow City MakgeolliDancen, where they picked up a recipe for a filefish, peanut, and frito snack mix (What? No bul dak?); and Mott St, where Edward Kim submitted the recipe for his stuffed kimchi and pork shoulder lasagna. That’s easily my favorite thing on the restaurant’s menu: crispy seared rice layered over braised pig, bound by thin layers of whole cabbage kimchi.

My only hang-up with this recipe is that it calls for a whole cup of kimchi juice to make a buttery sauce. I keep more kimchi on hand at any given time than most people, and it was a real challenge to summon that amount. But you know what’s a good substitute? The new Kimski All Purpose Hot Sauce collaboration between Coop Hot Sauce and Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar. Other recipe notes: I made this with brown instead of white sticky rice, and that worked out just fine. One other improvement I’d make in the future: a layer of good melting cheese.

This is two-day recipe, and while I think it’s well worth the time, you can easily get it at the restaurant tonight, which is hosting a multicourse dinner in honor of the book’s release. Hong and Rodbard will be there. For $48, you get six courses and a signed book. Here’s the menu:

Aperitif Shot of Sudachi Shochu
Shrimp and Pork Belly Skewer
Miso Eggplant Skewer
Brussels Sprouts with Lamb Pancetta and Maple Brown Butter
Dakbokkeumtang: Sweet And Spicy Braised Chicken
Napa Kimchi Stuffed With Pork Butt and Sticky Rice

And here’s an edited excerpt from Koreatown:

Edward Kim’s stuffed kimchi and pork shoulder lasagna­ 

Serves 4­-6

At his Chicago restaurant Mott St, chef Edward Kim does this amazing thing where he effortlessly bridges the cuisines of Italy and Korea. A kimchi and slow­-roasted pork shoulder dish is one of the restaurant’s signatures. Preparing this takes some work and planning, with two 12-­hour or overnight steps. But it’s mostly unattended, and as a weekend project, the set piece for a large Sunday supper or dinner party, we think you will love the results. In layering well­-seasoned pork shoulder, kimchi and rice, each bite gives you a unique mix of flavors and textures: tender meat, crisped, chewy rice, richness and a sour kick from the kimchi­ butter sauce. Kim sells out of the dish every night before the last reservations have even left their house.

6 cups cabbage kimchi, whole leaves
1 small bone­-in, skin on pork shoulder (5­-6 pounds)
1 gallon pork stock or vegetable stock
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 1⁄2 cups short grain rice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
Unsalted butter, as needed
Vegetable oil, as needed
1 cup kimchi juice

1. Pre­heat the oven to 250. Generously season the pork shoulder all over with kosher salt and pepper and place in a large Dutch oven. Cover at least three-quarters of the way up with the pork stock. On the stovetop, bring the stock to a boil over high heat, then cover tightly with foil and then the lid, and place in the oven for 12 hours.

2. Remove the shoulder from the pot.­­ It should be falling off the bone­­. Let it cool on a large baking tray. Strain and reserve the stock for another use, or the next time you make a shoulder. (Stock may be frozen.)

3. Once the meat is cool enough to handle, break it up with your hands, removing bones and shredding up the skin as well until it’s one uniform mixture. Transfer the meat to a large bowl and season it with salt and pepper to taste.

4. In a rice cooker, or on the stove, cook the rice. Measure out five cups of the cooked rice (reserve the rest, if any, for another use). Transfer the rice to a large bowl and gently fold it to release steam. Season it with the rice vinegar, and then salt to taste. Spread out on a baking sheet and set aside to cool.

5. Find a large and deep casserole pan (in the restaurant they use a 10-by-13-by-six-inch pan). The deeper the better here (this thing has got some serious layers). Spray the pan with a nonstick spray or butter it, line the pan with parchment paper, and spray or butter it again.

6. In the paper-­lined pan, lay a layer of kimchi, one leaf at a time, with the leaves slightly overlapping each other. Add half of the shredded pork shoulder. Layer on half of the cooked rice. A few drops of water on your hands or a large spatula will help you smooth out the rice. Repeat with the kimchi leaves, pork, and rice. Refrigerate overnight to set the “lasagna.” If you can, fill a second pan with some weights and wrap plastic around it. Place it on top of the stuffed kimchi to help compress the layers for easier crisping the next day.

7. About an hour before serving, preheat the oven to 350. Turn the “lasagna” out onto a clean work surface and remove the parchment. Cut the chilled stuffed cabbage into uniform squares. Place a large, heavy skillet over medium­ high heat and slick with vegetable oil. When the oil is wavy ­hot, place in a few squares of the lasagna, rice side down. Lower the heat to medium and let rice crisp up; as the rice crisps, add a teaspoon or two of butter to the pan to help color the rice more evenly. When the rice is golden brown, flip the pieces onto a large baking sheet, kimchi ­side down. Repeat with the rest of the lasagna. Place the baking sheet in the oven to heat through, about 30 minutes.

8. While the lasagna warms, heat the kimchi juice in a small saucepan over medium-low until it simmers. Whisk in two tablespoons of butter to create a sauce. Keep warm, off of direct heat.

9. Serve the lasagna with the kimchi-­butter sauce drizzled around the plate.

Reprinted with permission from Koreatown: A Cookbook by Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard (Clarkson Potter).