Korean cuisine: our guide to getting started

After the K-pop wave, it’s the turn of K-food to sweep across France, in restaurants but also at home. But for the uninitiated, nothing is more confusing than the shelves with shimmering colors and unknown products in a global grocery store. To help us decode the mysterious packaging and guide us through the plethora of condiments, sauces and kimchi, we called chef Juliette Ju. This daughter of restaurateurs from Suncheon, South Korea, gave up her medical studies to learn French cuisine in prestigious institutions: at Joël Robuchon, at the Bristol, at the Park Hyatt… William Ledeuil spotted her sense of detail and entrusted her with the culinary styling of his book “La Cuisine de William Ledeuil”. Since 2021, it is in her own restaurant, Octave*, that she has introduced Parisians to the complexity and unique flavors of her native Korea, enhanced by French gastronomy techniques. She arranged to meet us at Ace Mart**, a Korean and Japanese grocery store in Paris that delivers everywhere in France.

* 23, rue Saint-Didier, Paris-16th. Such. : 01 73 74 57 57. octave-paris.com ** 3, rue du Louvre, Paris-1er. acemartmall.com

The 5 pillars of Korean cuisine according to Juliette Ju


Favoring seasonal vegetables (cooked quickly to preserve vitamins) and giving as much space to fermented foods as to rice, cooked without salt and in small quantities, Korean cuisine, an ultra diet model, is qualified by the WHO as nutritionally balanced and promoting longevity.


Ultra-creative, K-food differs from those of its Asian neighbors by its numerous sweet and tangy seasonings (based on pear, apple or rice syrup) which tenderize any grilled, marinated or fried meat.


With the exception of the bowl of rice and the soup, which are individual, the dishes are prepared simultaneously at the table and shared without order of tasting. Dessert is rare since the meal often ends with tea or fruit.


Respectful of the balance of flavors (spicy, sweet, salty, sour and bitter), it is also joyful by combining, in equal proportions, the five colors, symbol of vitality and harmony between yin and yang. Thus, in a bibimbap we will find red (chili pepper), green (zucchini, spinach, etc.), yellow (egg), white (radish, etc.) and black (mushrooms, etc.).


The secret of its intense flavors? Fermentation, a marker of Korean gastronomy. Long practiced in terracotta jars buried in the earth, it is now done in more modern pots or jars. Fermented products are seasoned with one of the three basic seasonings of Korean cuisine: soy sauce, miso and chili paste.


In Korea, it is on the menu three times a day, seven days a week, and each family grows its own recipe. In the restaurant that Juliette Ju’s mother still runs, at 75, in Korea, “it’s very, very red! “. Here is the chef’s homemade recipe: Immerse the cut leaves of the same size from a Chinese cabbage in salted water (150 g of coarse salt for 1 l of water) for 3 hours. Rinse the cabbage leaves with clean water. Wring until there is no water or salt left at all. Mix 3 cloves of garlic, 1 half onion, 30 g of ginger, 3 tbsp. tablespoon of fish sauce. Add 1 tbsp. tablespoon of chili powder and 1 tbsp. teaspoon of salt. Massage each cabbage leaf with this paste. Store in a glass or plastic jar and seal tightly. Leave to ferment at room temperature for 24 hours and place in the refrigerator.


Beef bulgogi (Beksul), a marinade made from soy sauce, fruit puree, garlic, ginger. Ideal for giving a sweet touch to meat and vegetables. Light soy sauce (Sempio), the alternative to salt for seasoning a broth. Gochujang (Chung Jung One), a fermented red chili paste. Sweet and spicy, it goes with fried rice, kimchi and marinades. Small dishes of meat or sautéed vegetables are soaked in it. Ssamjang (O’Food), a spicy soy paste with fermented vegetables to accompany grilled meats, to be wrapped in a salad leaf.

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