Here American-Korean chef Judy Joo describes how she switched from a working on Wall Street to championing Korean cuisine – and why kimchi is a wonder ingredient (not to mention super-healthy too)
The chef: Judy Joo, 43, chef patron of Jinjuu
The story: Born in New Jersey to Korean parents, Judy Joo had an epiphany after working in Wall Street – embracing the fact that life is short, and that we all should try to pursue our dream. She decided to step away from her stable career in finance and enter the world of cooking, pursuing her passion for food. Judy worked in a number of Michelin starred restaurants around the world, and – excited about the thriving UK food scene – she moved to London in 2007. In 2015, Judy went on to open Jinjuu, the Korean restaurant in the heart of Soho.
The philosophy: For Judy Joo, it’s all about making cosy, comforting and casual food and combining her multicultural heritage with her international training, Judy believes in being creative whilst also preserving strong traditional flavours. Her philosophy is evident in her menu at Jinjuu, from ‘disco fries’ influenced by highway diners, and topped with spicy cabbage kimchi to classic Korean dishes such as Bibimbap and French desserts that incorporate traditional Korean ingredients.
The plan: ‘It’s hard to say, although I’ve always dreamed of doing a product range – watch this space…’
How to perk up a lunchbox: ‘Kimchi is the perfect way to perk up a lunch box. Hailing, from my ancestral Korea, kimchi is similar to sauerkraut, a fermented cabbage, but with a serious kick of red chillies. It’s Korea’s most beloved dish and is eaten with every meal. Although there are officially over 180 different types of kimchi, the term most commonly refers to the spicy napa cabbage variety. Its deep flavour comes from the addition of anchovy sauce and salted shrimp.’
‘I’m a kimchi addict and find myself throwing this tart, spicy, sour, sweet, crunchy ‘condiment’ on almost everything. I am not alone, you’ll see that kimchi has truly gone global, popping up on Michelin starred menus all over the world. It’s a good thing that it is also a superfood, packed full of antioxidants and good bacteria for your gut, and it’s considered by many to be anti-ageing too. Throw some chopped kimchi in with your cheese toastie, mac & cheese or on a burger. You’ll never go back.’
The can’t-live-without ingredient: ‘Hot sauce. I’m addicted to spice.’
Easy way to impress: ‘Use one unusual ingredient to jazz up a familiar dish. Even if it is just adding a dash of soy sauce to your burger mix or sprinkling a bit of za’atar on your pizza – these little international twists add serious flavour and make the ordinary truly exciting. For example, I like to use yuzu instead of lemon when making English posset. The fragrance from the citron fruit transforms this humble dessert into something quite elegant.’
Why we love Judy: Judy’s passion for Korean cuisine shines through in her wonderfully buzzy and fun restaurant, and its fabulous menu. We loved the contrasting flavours – the sweet and sour, and the buzz we got from the spiciness of many of the dishes too – and recommend going for brunch with friends. You can share playfully-presented starters such as Sae-Woo Pops (crispy fried round prawn cakes served on sticks) and Vegetable Chips and Dips (including kimchi guacamole, which gives the avocado a nice kick). We loved the Steamed Seabass with its soy jalapeno glaze and Jinjuu’s KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) is wonderfully tender and moreish. Continuing the playful theme, you get to sprinkle the shaved ice desserts with as many toppings as you like from a tempting tray of everything from fresh berries to candied almond and grilled rum pineapple.
The recipe: Kimchi fried rice
‘My sister used to make this for me when we lived together in New York, and I loved it! Fried rice is the perfect way to use up leftovers, so feel free to improvise. Any kind of veggies or meat you have in the fridge – just toss them in. This is a great lunch or side dish. A variation, called omurice, is to make omelettes with the eggs and wrap them around the fried rice like a burrito. At Jinjuu, we like to fancy up our kimchi fried rice with a garnish of julienned roasted seaweed (kim) and lotus root chips (you can also use thinly chopped spring onions and sesame seeds.)’
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 clove garlic, grated or finely chopped
9 button mushrooms, destemmed and diced
1⁄2 courgette, diced
3 spring onions, thinly sliced on an angle
225 g (8 oz) kimchi (see tip) chopped
700 g (11⁄2 lb) steamed white rice (see below), at room temperature
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 soft sunny-side-up fried eggs
1. In a large pan, heat the oil over a medium to high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy (about 2 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a kitchen paper-lined plate to drain.
2. Reduce the heat to medium, add the carrots and garlic and cook for 2–3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the carrots are just softened. Add the mushrooms, courgette, two-thirds of the spring onions and the kimchi and cook for 4–5 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Add the rice and drained bacon, breaking up the rice with a wooden spoon and combining it with the other ingredients. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice is hot. Season and spoon the fried rice into four bowls and top each with a fried egg and the remaining spring onions.
FOR THE STEAMED RICE
In Korea, we always wash our rice to remove the excess starch. In a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, combine the rice and enough cold tap water to cover it. Swish the rice around with one hand until the water becomes cloudy and then slowly pour the water out, using your hand to keep the rice from falling out of the pot. Repeat two or three more times, until the water runs mostly clear; drain well. Add 475 ml (16 fl oz) of water (add up to 60 ml/2 fl oz more if you like softer rice). Steam, covered, over a medium-low heat until all the water has been absorbed (about 30 minutes). It’s important to refrain from lifting the lid while the rice cooks. I like to set a timer so I can go about my business and not worry about forgetting it. Remove the saucepan from the heat and leave it to stand, covered and undisturbed, for 10 minutes. Uncover the pot and gently fold the rice over itself with a rice paddle or rubber spatula a few times before serving.
TIP Shop bought Kimchi can be ordered from japancentre.com or Bibigo Kimchi can also be bought on Amazon. Kimchi can stain your chopping board and the smell has a habit of lingering, too. To avoid this, put the kimchi in a bowl and use kitchen shears to cut it into smaller pieces.
Interview by Rosalind Lowe