It’s not your imagination, Korean restaurants seem to be popping up everywhere these days. It’s a thing and alongside that development, more people than ever want to learn how to cook Korean food at home. Korean food is one of the healthiest and most delicious cuisines in the world and cooking it at home can be as simple or fancy as you want to make it.
One of the best things about Korean cuisine is the fact that so many different dishes can be made with the same handful of tools and ingredients. However, novices and serious home cooks alike will need some essential items to properly prepare the dishes. Here are our picks for the best gifts to get for people who love to eat and cook Korean food.
1. Cook Books
A terrific cookbook for both vegans and for anyone who wants to make some meat-free dishes. Joanne Lee Molinaro has captivated millions of fans with her powerfully moving personal tales of love, family, and food. In her debut cookbook, she shares a collection of her favorite Korean dishes, some traditional and some reimagined, as well as some poignant narrative snapshots that have shaped her family history.
New York Times staff writer Eric Kim grew up in Atlanta, the son of two Korean immigrants. Food has always been central to his story. Recipes abound, from Friday-night Korean barbecue with his family to hybridized Korean-ish meals for one, like Gochujang-Buttered Radish Toast and Caramelized-Kimchi Baked Potatoes, that he makes in his tiny New York City apartment. In his debut cookbook, Eric shares recipes alongside insightful, touching stories and stunning images shot by photographer Jenny Huang.
Here’s a classic, a wonderful collection by Chang Sun-Young, that came to be when her sons and daughters-in-law begged her to write down her much loved recipes. The family project soon had enough recipes to become a book, and Mrs. Chang became a bestselling author in Korea. This full color cookbook includes sections on rice, soups, stews, meats, vegetables and the full range of Korean cuisine. The author’s personality shines through in the additional notes about friends, entertaining and foods for special days and holidays.
An Internet sensation, Maangchi has won the admiration of home cooks and chefs alike. Her trademark combination of good technique and good cheer shines as she demonstrates the vast and delicious cuisine of Korea. In Maangchi’s Real Korean Cooking, she shows how to cook all the country’s best dishes, from few-ingredient dishes (Spicy Napa Cabbage) to those made familiar by Korean restaurants (L.A. Galbi, Bulgogi, Korean Fried Chicken) to homey favorites like Bibimbap.
David Chang relays with candor the tale of his rise to superstardom, which, though speckled with mishaps along the way, still happened quite swiftly. Needless to say, the dishes shared in this book are coveted by those who’ve dined at, or merely daydreamed about dining at, Momofuku. (And yes, the pork buns are here).
In Korean Home Cooking, Sohui Kim shares the authentic Korean flavors found in the dishes at her restaurant, along with recipes from her family. Sohui is well-regarded for her sense of sohnmat, a Korean phrase that roughly translates to “taste of the hand,” or an ease and agility with making native food taste delicious. With 100 recipes, Korean Home Cooking is a comprehensive look at Korean cuisine.
2. Kitchen Gadgets to Cook Korean Food
A staple in absolutely every Korean kitchen is a good rice cooker. Cuckoo is the number one brand in Korea. And this model talks you through the entire process of making any kind of rice the best it can be.
Many Korean recipes require long cooking or simmering times which can be cut in half or more with an Instant Pot. From galbi jjim to japchae, this tool will come in handy for many different dishes.
Korean fried chicken is just the beginning of what you can cook in an air fryer. Cut down on the amount of time and the amount of oil you normally need to make your favorite dishes. Reheating everything from jeon to pastries is a dream in this powerful work horse of an appliance.
Steam, boil, and braise in this beauty that does it all. Then pause to appreciate your good judgement in purchasing one when your sweet vessel switches hats and gorgeously goes from oven or stove to your tabletop.
Korean Clay Pots, $17-43
Get these authentic Korean pots in a variety of sizes. Making jjigae, steamed egg, and more in this distinctive pottery can’t help but elevate them to a higher level of ultimate comfort food.
Sure you can make ramen in any pot, but why when it tastes so much better in this old fashioned favorite? Use the lid as a dish as you slurp away on a midnight snack.
Great for quick stir-fries as well as all kinds of jeons and even steamed dishes. It also doesn’t hurt that the cookware looks as good as it cooks.
Nothing cooks a great stir fry like a high-walled wok. Then no sticky mess to scrub off afterwards? Winning.
Your local grocery doesn’t have bulgogi meat? Slice up your own from a ribeye roast with this professional meat slicer.
Koreans love Henckels knives, especially the super deluxe ‘ssangdungi’ (twins) brand. This set is an incredibly useful gift for home cooks but keep in mind that Koreans traditionally don’t like to give knives or scissors as gifts. A native tip that Koreans use as a workaround is to take one dollar from the gift recipient to “sell” the item to them.
Garlic is essential when you want to cook Korean food. Easily crush garlic or herbs with this handsome and handy tool.
Mandoline Slicer, $40
Lots of Korean dishes call for sliced or julienned vegetables, which you can prep with ease using this mandoline. Knives will seem so quaint, and not in a good way, after you’ve prepped a few meals with this wonder.
Up your rice scooping game with this non-stick silicone rice paddle. Keep the rice on your plate, not your paddle with this pretty, essential tool.
Sesame Grinder, $10
Garnish like a pro with freshly ground roasted sesame seeds using this ingenious grinder. It’ll be a whole new seed game with this bad boy.
For K-BBQ night at home, this pan will bring the heat to everything from meat and veggies to corn with melted cheese. Who needs the restaurant when you can sizzle up your own BBQ right at home?
A must-have tool for Korean table cooking! Great for jeongol, BBQ, and so much more, especially when you take the party outdoors for your smokier dishes.
Spoons and chopsticks are the only utensils that Koreans traditionally use when dining. Give the gift of a personal set to someone who loves to cook and/or eat Korean at home.
The ultimate gift that completely redefines the Korean home dining experience. This brass dinnerware will be treasured as it elevates every mouthful in each bowl or plate.
Keep hands safe while cooking up super hot Korean dishes. They would make a great add-on gift to one of the Korean cookbooks above.
Kimchi is delicious but it will stink up your refrigerator. Keep kimchi odors in check with this vacuum-sealed container.