No, the title is not a typo, but echoes the clever type layout for one of the cookbooks authored by two of the panelists at the program, “Cooking Korean in America.” Last month, one of the History After Hours sessions at the National Museum of American History tracked the latest hot trend in eating: Korean food, both traditional and adapted.
The line snaked around the lobby of the Constitution Avenue entrance. As guests entered the big space in front of the “barn doors” of the demonstration kitchen, we noticed an exhibit of cultural artifacts from the Smithsonian’s collection. They were nice, but most folks’ attention was captured by the buffet tables and side tables of food and drink.
A greeter in Korean traditional dress was matched by several others at the tables, dispensing tastes of Korean pancakes, bibimbap, makgeolli (rice wine), and the popular combination of soju and beer.
And off in a corner, a very picturesque tea ceremony.
The main attraction’s buffet of Korean specialties and, later, desserts, could be enjoyed at tables (if you were early enough) or from your lap on rows of chairs in front of the demo kitchen.
Some folks had to stand or find improvised seating around the room. Shouldn’t the organizers have anticipated the number of guests and provided seating for all, ideally at tables?
Several Koreans I spoke with mentioned that the food was rather more bland than authentic. I guess that’s what the rooster sauce was for!
While we ate, the program started with a kimchi-making demonstration. Danielle Chang, author of Lucky Rice, showed us how to cut up Napa cabbage in the approved style; and mentioned that kimchi can be used as a verb: “What will we be kimchi-ing today?” It’s a great use for any surplus vegetable.
Next came a panel discussion with Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard, moderated by Maria Godoy of NPR’s food blog, The Salt. It’s Deuki and Matt’s cookbook, Koreatown, that’s responsible for the odd spacing in this article’s title.
As they finished up their discussion of the spread of Korean food across America, they naturally had to indulge in a group selfie.
In the book-signing line, a funny tee-shirt seemed appropriate to the event.
This event, presented in partnership with the Korean Heritage Foundation, was part of the series “American History (After Hours)” on various aspects of food and drink. The NMAH is also sponsoring a series of demos by local chefs on Fridays. It’s good to see them putting that kitchen to use!
P.S. I will be reviewing both Lucky Rice and Koreatown very soon.