mŏkbar is about spreading Korean food and culture through an easy vessel - ramen noodle soup.
My favorite dish...
The kimchi ramen holds a special place because it is inspired by my favorite childhood soup, kimchi jjigae. Turning it into a ramen has instantly made it my favorite ramen. However, it is important that you have a hocake because this crispy pork bun had a big part of my younger years in Korea. It only took me a few minutes to come up with the name ‘hocake’ which is based on ‘ho-tteok’ directly translating into ‘ho- ricecake’. (ho having no meaning at all in this context).
The biggest misconception about Korean food...
People think Korean food it is only Korean barbecue. Korean barbecue (where you grill your own meat) is actually a modern kind of Korean food compared to the actual traditional Korean dishes and flavors that the kings and queens used to enjoy thousands of years ago. Korean cuisine has so much more to offer than just barbecuing your own meat. It is actually very complex and there are many different types of dishes to be enjoyed. Most of which a lot of Americans have yet to discover. I hope to spread the gospel one day.
The biggest learning curve cooking a combo of Korean and Japanese cuisines...
That I actually have never cooked or learned Japanese food, particularly ramen. I have always enjoyed Japanese cuisine very much, in fact it is definitely my top choice of cuisine to eat next to Korean. Never have I really thought I would be cooking it in anyway, but it makes sense because I always end up cooking what I love to eat.
It’s sort of funny because I have cooked various different cuisines professionally including Lebanese and Mexican but never have cooked in a Japanese kitchen. I had to do extensive research, studying and testing to come up with my menu. Also designing the kitchen to fit my menu model. Having to do this without any guidance was a challenge but something that I realized can be done as long as you believe in yourself.
Other chefs & restaurants doing modern interpretations of Korean cooking...
Definitely Chef Hooni Kim from Danji and Hanjan. He really brought the modern-esque Korean tapas style dishes to a new level which definitely helped with the Korean food movement in New York. Also Korilla BBQ (originally a food truck, with its first brick and mortar now in the East village) brought a new light onto Korean food by packaging it in a fast casual format.
mŏkbar - Chelsea Market, 75 9th Avenue, New York, NY 10011| T: 646.964.5963 | mokbar.com
Danji - 46 West 52nd Street, New York, NY 10019 | T: 212.586.2880 | www.danjinyc.com
Hanjan - 36 West 26th Street, New York, NY 10010 | T: 212.206.7226 | www.hanjan26.com
Korilla BBQ - 23 3rd Avenue, New York, NY 10003 | T: 646.823.9423 | korillabbq.com
Chef Esther Choi
Chef and owner of mŏkbar in New York's Chelsea Market. She grew up cooking traditional Korean food with her grandmother in New Jersey, went on to cook Middle Easter cuisine at ilili, and Mexican cuisine at La Esquina before opening her own restaurant.
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