When attorney-turned-TikTok star Joanne Lee Molinaro (a.k.a. the Korean Vegan) decided to switch to a vegan diet, she grappled with the question, “Well, how Korean can I possibly be if I’m eating this kind of food?” In a recent interview with the LA Times, Molinaro revealed the challenges she initially faced becoming a vegan, as well as the ways Korean food and culture shaped her debut cookbook, The Korean Vegan Cookbook: Reflections and Recipes from Omma's Kitchen, which is available for pre-order now on Amazon.
Well-known for its barbecued meats, seafood broths, and of course, pork belly, Korean cuisine doesn't match up with preconceived images of veganism. As Molinaro began to explore a plant-based diet, she decided to recreate the Korean comfort foods of her childhood in order to make it work for her. In 2016, she started a blog to document her journey, and in July 2020, created a TikTok account to cope with the loneliness and isolation caused by COVID-19. Her social media presence is now vast: She has about 2.6 million followers on TikTok and more than 536,000 followers on Instagram.
Molinaro's debut cookbook, which retails for $29.99 on Amazon, features striking visuals and much of the same intimate storytelling that made her popular online. In it, she reimagines childhood favorites like Jjajangmyun (the Korean-Chinese black bean noodles), Gamja Guk, (a potato-and-leek soup her father makes), while also including her own, like Chocolate Sweet Potato Cake and Kale and Ramen Salad with noodle “croutons," which pay homage to classic recipes.
The cookbook could be a wonderful way to introduce Korean cuisine to vegans, or to help Korean food enthusiasts explore vegan alternatives to their favorite meals. With Molinaro's distinct style of storytelling and photography, fans of @thekoreanvegan and newcomers alike could find something to love about this cookbook.
Get your preorder of The Korean Vegan Cookbook: Reflections and Recipes from Omma's Kitchen on Amazon.
[h/t LA Times]